EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iran’s hard power in Lebanon is well-known. At its beck and call is the Hezbollah militia, the powerful military force through which it largely controls the Lebanese state. Its soft power, however, is limited to Lebanon’s Shiites, and even among them it is hardly overwhelming.
Iran’s hard power in Lebanon is substantial. It has the Hezbollah militia at its disposal – the most powerful military force in the state – and probably the Lebanese army as well.
This can be deduced from the behavior of the Lebanese army, which has on countless occasions used heavy-handed methods, indeed brutality, against Sunni fundamentalist groups of Lebanese, Palestinian, or Syrian origin. This sharply contrasts with its deep reluctance to interfere when Hezbollah infringes Security Council Resolution 1701, which forbids any armed presence other than the Lebanese army or UNIFIL south of the Litani River.
The army’s obeisance to Hezbollah reached its zenith in May 2008, when the organization’s fighters fanned out over Beirut and set siege to the Lebanese government complex, the Grand Serail, to induce the cabinet to make legislative changes that would allow Hezbollah veto powers over government decisions. The army stayed away from the fighting.