Former Lebanese finance minister Mohammed Chatah, who was assassinated by a car bomb in central Beirut on Friday, wrote an open letter last week to Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, urging him to stop Iran’s influence with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Before his abrupt killing, Chatah had intended to collect signatures from members of the Lebanese parliament on the letter directed to the Iranian president.
Chatah was seen as an influential figure in Lebanon’s March 14 coalition, which is opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its Lebanese ally, Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
In a letter published by the Wall Street Journal, Chatah explained to Rouhani the crucial state at which the Lebanon is living under due to the support Hezbollah receives from Iran.
In his own words, Chatah said:
We are taking this exceptional step to address you and other regional and global leaders because these are exceptionally dangerous times for our country. Not only is Lebanon's internal and external security being seriously threatened, but the very unity of our state is in real jeopardy.
And today, more than ever before, the choices made by the Islamic Republic of Iran will play an important role in determining our success or failure. That's why we are writing to you, as the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Recalling Iran’s historic deal with world powers in November, Chatah told Rouhani that Lebanon still waits to see more commitment from Tehran in regards to the Lebanese state’s sovereignty.
“The recent interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1, and the statements you have made since your election, have raised expectations that Iran may indeed be taking the first concrete steps along that positive path. We sincerely hope that this is the case.
For us in Lebanon, the real test is whether Iran is genuinely prepared to chart a new course in its policies toward the rest of region, and most specifically toward Lebanon,” Chatah continued.
Chatah said that the support Hezbollah receives from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has helped in the establishment of the Shiite Lebanese armed group 30 years ago, still imposes a threat to the authority of the Lebanese state.
“Hezbollah continues to maintain an independent and heavily armed military force outside the authority of the state. This is happening with the direct support and sponsorship of your country,” Chatah stated.
The March 14 coalition, which Chatah hails from, implied after Friday's Beirut blast that that Damascus and Hezbollah were behind his killing.
The coalition is known to be an opponent of the Syrian regime and rejects Hezbollah’s interference in the Syrian crisis.
In his letter, Chatah told Rouhani:
“It is well recognized that the Lebanese public is divided regarding the war in Syria. We, as members of the broad March 14 political alliance, stand fully, both politically and morally, in support of the Syrian people.
However as representatives of the Lebanese people, our focus and main responsibility is to protect Lebanon from the grave danger of the fire raging next door spreading into our country. In fact, the conflict in Syria has already touched many of our border towns and villages and sparked sporadic violence…”
Towards the end of the letter, Chatah required “four concrete steps” from the Iranian president to be agreed or launched through the U.N. Security Council:
1. A declared commitment by all other countries, including Iran, to the neutralization of Lebanon as agreed in the Baabda Declaration.
2. Ending all armed participation by Lebanese groups and parties, including Hezbollah, in the Syrian conflict.
3. Establishing effective control by the Lebanese army and security forces over the border with Syria, supported by the United Nations if needed as permitted under UNSCR 1701.
4. Requesting the Security Council to begin the steps needed to complete the implementation of UNSCR 1701.
“This is Lebanon's cause. We will do all we can to mobilize all the support it needs and deserves. Ultimately, whether we succeed or not will depend on decisions taken, not only by the Lebanese people but also by others, including your good self,” Chatah said.