Lebanon's loyalties exposed

How much longer will we fool ourselves that Lebanon’s loyalties rest with the Arab world? During a recent Arab League emergency meeting of foreign ministers, called by Saudi Arabia to discuss measures to be taken against Iran’s “terrorist acts” and its aggression against the kingdom, it was clear that Beirut stood with the enemy.

Ignoring the call by the League’s Secretary General Nabil el-Araby for all “to adopt a strong and clear position calling on Iran to stop all forms of interference in the affairs of Arab nations,” Lebanon abstained from voting on a resolution denouncing Iran’s threatening actions that was supported by all other member states.

Beirut’s failure to stand shoulder to shoulder with its Arab brothers proves that its independence has been squashed under the Iranian boot. This sorry state of affairs was well known, but now that Lebanon has taken sides, there is no room for doubt.

The Arab League statement is to be followed up by the formation of a committee to include representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt - countries that have either severed or downgraded relations with Iran - tasked with monitoring the crisis and proposing further measures against Tehran if necessary. Riyadh will also hold talk with its Arab allies on future steps.

I would call on Riyadh not to throw any more money Lebanon’s way, which could easily end up fattening Hezbollah’s pockets. The Arab League should reconsider Lebanon’s membership until the country is ready to pledge which side of the fence it is truly on.

Khalaf al-Habtoor

I was shocked and disappointed to learn of the Lebanese stance, apparently prompted by the statement’s admonition of Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah over its blatant interference in Bahrain’s domestic affairs.

“The statement that was made with regard to Bahrain does not reflect the position and the policy of the Lebanese government, nor that of the political party [the Free Patriotic Movement] I represent,” said Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil. Why some Maronite Christians are hand-in-glove with Iran’s puppet is beyond my understanding, unless their motive is to feather their own nests.

“Lebanon’s implicit position does not differ from that of the Arab states in their statement regarding non-interference in the affairs of Bahrain. However, the statement that was made was against Lebanon or a certain Lebanese party, which I certainly rejected,” said Bassil, who previously held ministerial posts in the cabinets of March 14 leaders Fouad Siniora and Saad Hariri.

Bassil poured salt on the treacherous wound, adding that “the statement was issued in contradiction with the principles of the Arab League and its charter, but we did not want to raise this point since we do not want to cause problems with any Arab state.” How considerate of him! The truth is that any suggestion of impropriety from him would have been shot down by all other member states, and he knows that.

Arab aid

He grumbled that promised Arab aid had yet to materialize. In other words, he slaps Lebanon’s traditional Arab benefactors, while expecting those states to prop up a paralyzed government unable to cleanse the country from mountains of rotting garbage, a parliament that has failed to agree on a new president in over 18 months, and an ineffective army dominated by Shiite militias with billions of dollars.

In 2014, Riyadh gifted the Lebanese army $1 billion, and April last year marked the first delivery of French-made weapons and military equipment under a $3 billion Saudi grant to re-establish “a Lebanese army capable of responding to new security realities.”

In my view, Lebanon’s army is in greater need of patriotism than weapons. Just as the political arena has stopped functioning due to Hezbollah’s blackmail, the infiltrated military machine has Hezbollah’s cog in its wheel, preventing it from doing its job. No amount of cash can buy love of country from those with a mandate to defend it from hostile entities, whether from outside or within.

It is true that Lebanon is financially burdened by a massive influx of Syrian refugees, in addition to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. However, if Hezbollah and its Iranian master had not thrown their backing behind Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his criminal regime might have collapsed years ago when there was a viable opposition waiting in the wings to form a caretaker government as a prelude to elections.

Interference

Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria has nothing to do with securing Lebanese interests, but is carried out on command from Iran’s ayatollahs. Hezbollah is contributing to the mass displacement of the Syrian people fleeing regime bombs, and for making Lebanon a target of terrorist groups.

Bassil says Lebanon has a policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries. If so, it is not worth the paper it is written on when the militia he defends did not think twice about tearing it up to serve its masters.

Hariri, head of the Future Movement, expressed his regret over his country’s abstention. A statement released by his press office read: “The abstention of Lebanon’s Foreign Minister to vote on the Arab League’s resolution does not reflect the opinion of the majority of the Lebanese who are suffering from the Iran interference in their internal affairs.” I believe Hariri.

I have many Lebanese friends, and almost all would celebrate the day Hezbollah disappeared. They variously refer to themselves as Arabs or Levantines, certainly not Persians. Most Lebanese I know are passionate about their country, but sadly the political and military establishments continue to thwart their ambitions of seeing Lebanon bloom, as it did in its glory days during the 1950s, 60s and early 70s before civil war halted its progress.

Let the good Lebanese stand up with courage and fortitude to ask for help in chopping the Iranian hand that strangles their children’s future. In the meantime, I would call on Riyadh not to throw any more money Lebanon’s way, which could easily end up fattening Hezbollah’s pockets. Moreover, the Arab League should reconsider Lebanon’s membership until the country is ready to pledge which side of the fence it is truly on.

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Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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