How Hezbollah holds sway over the Lebanese state

Hybrid status means power without responsibility
Research paper Published 30 June 2021 Updated 7 July 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 480 8
Hezbollah members in uniform form an honour guard holding Lebanese and Hezbollah flags in Beirut

As a hybrid actor, Hezbollah has risen to become the most influential political organization in Lebanon. It enjoys legitimacy within the Lebanese state, but is able to operate without the accountability required of a state institution and without full responsibility to the Lebanese people.

Holding power without responsibility is ideal for Hezbollah. In theory, the group has the military capability to take power in Lebanon by force, but it is not in its interest to do so.

This research paper illustrates the various ways in which Hezbollah holds sway over the Lebanese state and its institutions, and how Lebanon’s political system enables Hezbollah and other actors to exercise power without responsibility. Although Hezbollah uses the rhetoric of anti-corruption, its politicians have not used their influence to push through reforms to clean up a state system that benefits them.

Western governments’ attempts to reverse Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon by focusing on curbing the activities of the group itself – such as through sanctions – are not sufficient. For as long as the current political system in Lebanon exists, it will not be possible to loosen Hezbollah’s hold over the Lebanese state. Wholesale reform is a complicated and long-term endeavour that must be Lebanese-led, and Western policies aimed at stabilizing Lebanon must support working towards this goal.