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Hezbollah drone raises alarm at home and abroad
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The repercussions of the Ayoub drone and the subsequent speech by Hezbollah secretary-general Hasan Nasrallah are still being felt in the Lebanese political arena, as well as regionally and internationally.

Last week, Nasrallah confirmed that his party had assembled the Iranian-made drone and sent it into Israel. He also proclaimed that it was the party’s right to send aircraft over the border as it wished.

In light of these remarks, Western states are beginning to question the role of Lebanon in the region, and there are renewed concerns of a potential confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel – one that could see the indiscriminate bombing of Lebanese territories.

On the local level, political sources said that Nasrallah’s position drew ire from officials who saw the Hezbollah’s leader speech as a challenge to the country’s laws and convention, as well as to the proposed national defense strategy that is currently under discussion.

A Baabda source said: “This operation reaffirms the view of President Michel Sleiman that it is necessary to adopt a clear strategy that would spare us from these futile discussions whenever Hezbollah does something controversial.”

Under Sleiman’s proposal, Hezbollah would be allowed to keep its weapons, but the decision to use them would reside solely with the Lebanese government.

“The president proposed his vision [for a national defense strategy] during the last National Dialogue session, and he is waiting for the response of political parties in the upcoming session on Nov. 12.

“All the parties stand united behind the resistance when it deters the enemy from violating our lands or waters or airspace, but this does not mean that the resistance and its arms are under the command of one party. They should be subject to exclusively political authority or else every group will consider itself the resistance and carry arms,” said the source.

“We will end up in a forest of arms and each state will have its own mini-state.”

The Baabda source added that Sleiman’s stance on defense is not new in this regard.

Meanwhile, March 14 sources said that the drone was intended to drag Lebanon into an open war with Israel and was carried out for three reasons.

They said it was an attempt to reduce international pressure on Syria, where there’s no end in sight to the conflict.

The depth of the quagmire is particularly evident in the difficulties that United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is facing, especially the opposition from Russia, Iran and China to his attempts to implement a political settlement under which Assad would step down.

The sources said that Hezbollah was also trying to deflect attention from the topic of its members fighting alongside the embattled Syrian regime. Reports that members of Hezbollah have taken up arms in neighboring Syria have been strongly condemned by many Lebanese groups, which urged the party to follow the government’s stated policy of dissociation.

And lastly, sending the drone to Israel was a message to the West that Iran is present and active in the region, particularly in Lebanon, and can use its allies to destabilize the region, the sources said.

It can be understood from Nasrallah’s last speech, the sources added, that he will continue to maintain his own state within a state, despite allowing the authorities to conduct occasional raids on the party’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 15, 2012, on page 3.
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