When Lebanon becomes an Iranian colony
The last two consecutive governments and the former president have failed to curb Hezbollah
I don’t think Saudi Arabia decided to halt its support to the Lebanese army, security forces and other institutions because it is angry about what some Lebanese media outlets are saying against it. The involvement of some newspapers and television stations in the campaign to promote hostile Iranian rhetoric – which opposes Saudi Arabia and incites against it and against other Arab moderate countries – is not pressing. I think Saudi Arabia halted its support for more dangerous and more significant reasons.
Saudi Arabia had allocated $3 billion to the Lebanese army and $1 billion to the Lebanese security forces to develop their capabilities and train them. It did not set conditions for Lebanon to get involved in foreign wars or join regional alliances. The aim was to strengthen the central authority in the country by supporting state institutions against militias’ intimidating acts and helping them fight extremist organizations. The whole idea was to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Syrian troops following a decision taken by the U.N. Security Council after the Assad regime was found involved in the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
As Saudi Arabia extended its hand of support to strengthen the Lebanese state, Hezbollah intensified its efforts to take over authority as it did not settle with the large share it already has. It employed Lebanese military institutions to serve its purposes in the war in Syria and exploited these institutions inside Lebanon. It also worked on using the Lebanese foreign ministry to support Iranian stances in international gatherings and dared exploit Lebanon’s banking system, which was well-known as the best in the region, for illegal trading activities, involving drugs and arms, across the world.
The last two consecutive governments and the former president have failed to curb Hezbollah. What’s more dangerous is that the army itself failed to dissociate its forces and it became exploited by Hezbollah to employ it in the Iranian war in Syria. Hezbollah dragged the army to have it deploy its forces in areas like Aarsal, and then it used these forces to pursue whom it described as terrorists from among the Syrian opposition.
Border with Syria
It also exploited conditions close to the border which the Lebanese and the Syrians used for funding and passing through. Hezbollah distanced the army from northern areas which its (Hezbollah’s) fighters use on their way to and from Syria. This is the case with borders and roads which lead to Syria. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah prohibited the army from entering Beirut’s southern suburb which it considers outside the authority of the Lebanese state. It has also been said that Hezbollah is building a military airfield in the Beqaa town of Iaat to carry out more of its suspicious activities.
Hezbollah also controls the security at Beirut airport and kidnaps and searches whoever it wants. Its militias have kidnapped peaceful Iranian opposition figures and threatened some media outlets for criticizing the supreme guide in Tehran and its proxy in Beirut’s southern suburb.
All this intimidation increased at a time when the U.S. Treasury and the Drug Enforcement Administration issued detailed information on Hezbollah’s involvement in drug trade and announced that a number of the party’s agents have been arrested in the past few weeks in Lithuania, France, Belgium, Columbia and the U.S. The American government said investigating Hezbollah’s network has been going on since February 2015 and it has turned out that it uses Lebanon as a center to manage its activities in many countries in Europe and Americas to launder money and buy weapons.
As Saudi Arabia extended its hand of support to strengthen the Lebanese state, Hezbollah intensified its efforts to take over authorityAbdulrahman al-Rashed
It said Lebanon has become one of the most dangerous centers for drug trafficking in the world, which has led to a number of Lebanese banks being placed under international supervision and their records reviewed. Hezbollah has deliberately weakened and humiliated army and security forces institutions to the extent that no one dare confront the shabiha (thugs) of Hezbollah and Amal Movement even when they attack people during demonstrations against the trash crisis.
It’s no longer logical for Saudi Arabia to support Lebanon’s military and civil institutions some of which now serve Hezbollah and thus Iran. Saudi Arabia had hoped to strengthen state institutions and the central authority in order to support the independence of the Lebanese state’s foreign and domestic political decisions.
Hezbollah has deliberately undertaken the role of the party sabotaging the state and obstructing its affairs. It has forced the exclusion of certain former or potential prime ministers, prevented the nomination of certain figures for presidency and halted parliamentary work to paralyze the institutions of presidency, government and army, placing the Central Bank in the circle of international suspicions and attaching the country’s foreign ministry to that of Iran.
Hezbollah wants to turn Lebanon into an Iranian colony. Its practices all complement the Velayat-e-Faqih’s project to dominate Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Under these circumstances, the policy of strengthening, training and arming the Lebanese army and security forces is no longer logical. Even though Saudi Arabia has halted its support, Saudi Arabia will remain the hope of moderate parties in their battle against the militias of Iran and their allies so the country is not up for grabs in this raging regional war.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 22, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.