Tillerson’s visit to Beirut fails to address simmering tensions

Radwan al-Sayed
Radwan al-Sayed
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Since Obama’s era, any US statement opposing Hezbollah is invariably followed by praise and support for the Lebanese army and security forces.

The reason for this stance does not stem from US support for Israel, but from the fact that US and France were the main promoters of UN Resolutions 1559 and 1701.

UN Resolution 1559 was issued in 2004 against the presence of Syrian military and of armed militias on Lebanese territory, while UN Resolution 1701 places the army and security forces on the border with Israel to protect Lebanon, and prevents the presence of any other force south of the Litani River.

Of course, Lebanon has committed itself to neither of the two resolutions and did not act as per Resolution 1680, which established the international tribunal for the prosecution of Rafik Hariri’s assassins.

A lot has happened since then as Hezbollah has established extensive sway. Since the time Michel Aoun became President, the high office is no longer neutral. The president’s statements repeatedly support the arming of Hezbollah and confers on it new assignments on the pretext of deterring Israel and fighting terrorism. The president has also stated that Hezbollah does not use its weapons internally, and so its weapon would remain in place “till the end of the Middle East crisis”!

Gebran Bassil came late to the reception of Tillerson, both at the airport and at the Baabda Palace. This was an Iranian message that it controlled Lebanon’s foreign policy — not Aoun, Bassil or Hariri

Radwan al-Sayed

A similar refrain is being made by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, even though many have reminded him that this stance contradicts international resolutions, and threatens the security of Lebanon. Neither Aoun nor Hariri has decided to talk even once on the issue of defense strategy, i.e. the disarming of Hezbollah.

Few weeks ago, leaders of the Iraqi and Iranian militias made an appearance on the Lebanese border, but the government did not take any action against them. In fact, Hariri complained that his opponents’ statements threatened stability.

On February 14, the 13th anniversary of his father’s assassination, Hariri viciously attacked his opponents, saying that they were serving Hezbollah’s interests and he would not forge alliance with them in the next elections. The supporters of Hezbollah were not upset and said that they secretly agreed with him in Beirut and Baalbeck-Hermel Governorate!

Last Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Beirut. Lebanon had two new problems with Israel because of the actions of Hezbollah. The Israelis had started to build a separation wall similar to the ones they had built in Golan, in contravention of the southern border with them (Block 9).

There is also the issue of extracting oil and gas in this sector. Lebanon wants to extract oil and gas from the region, while Israel claims to have right over it!

Iran’s subtle message to Tillerson

What has been Tillerson’s position in this regard. The US Secretary of State has said that Washington regards Hezbollah a terrorist organization and that there is no difference between the latter’s military and political wings (although he said something different on the subject in Jordan).

He said that Hezbollah and Iran were causing tensions in the region, and that Hezbollah’s actions bring instability to Lebanon.

As usual, he returned to the US after committing support for the Lebanese army and Syrian refugees. This means that he would not help resolve the Block 9 issue, nor discuss Lebanon’s other rights as long as Lebanon violates international resolutions and is under the threat of Hezbollah’s weapons! The prime minister asked Tillerson for possible US support for Lebanon at the upcoming conferences in Britain, Rome and Paris.

ALSO READ: Tillerson demands Iran-backed militias out of Syria

Meanwhile, the three leaders Aoun, Bassil and Hariri have said that Lebanon cannot keep up with its support for the US, as the circumstances are inappropriate, as elections are taking place, and the US continues with its biased support for Israel! Gebran Bassil came late to the reception of Tillerson, both at the airport and at the Baabda Palace. This was an Iranian message that it controlled Lebanon’s foreign policy – not Aoun, Bassil or Hariri.

There is no hope in this government, or in the prospect of it getting Lebanon out of the regional crisis with international support. There is also little prospect of the crisis-ridden economy recovering under the leadership of a corrupt government! Iranians are using Lebanon and turning it into a failed state, as they have done to Iraq and Syria.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Radwan al-Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.

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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