Hezbollah sees chance to increase power

Hezbollah, already Lebanon’s most potent military force, is now making a bid to expand its political power by installing an ally as prime minister now that it has brought down the government.

BEIRUT — Hezbollah, already Lebanon’s most potent military force, is now making a bid to expand its political power by installing an ally as prime minister now that it has brought down the government.

If Hezbollah succeeds, the Shiite militant group and its patrons in Iran and Syria would have far more sway in this volatile corner of the Middle East — something Washington has worked to prevent.

“They would have proven that they can dominate Lebanon without using their guns,” Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

But success is by no means guaranteed. After Hezbollah and its allies quit the government Wednesday, causing it to collapse, lengthy negotiations lie ahead between Lebanon’s Western-backed blocs and the Hezbollah led-alliance known as March 8. And if those fail, Lebanon could see a resurgence of the street protests and violence that have bedeviled the country in the past.