Less than a month ago the Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, announced during his Ashura speech that Iranian oil shipments were on their way to Lebanon, they arrived this Thursday and the Western governments are furious. So now the propaganda begins, to take away as much as possible from Hezbollah’s achievement.
The current situation on the ground in Lebanon, a country which was one of the best in the Middle-East just a few years ago, is truly bleak for the majority of the nation’s populace. One third of the Lebanese population currently live in poverty, with rapid inflation and a governmental, financial system which has completely collapsed. Whilst the US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, regularly comments on how the country should act to get back on its feet, in reality, she spends more time attacking Hezbollah and attempting to exploit sectarian divisions than offering aid to the needy.
French President, Emmanuel Macron, visited Lebanon in 2020 following the infamous Beirut Port explosion, pledging to deliver aid and guidance to a new Lebanese government. However the much anticipated help offered by France was clearly conditional and has not materialized in any meaningful way for the country.
This Monday Lebanese lawmakers convened to affirm the country’s new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The new Lebanese PM made it clear in a speech he delivered, on Monday, that his government will work with UNIFIL to end Israeli incursions into Lebanese territory and confirmed that Lebanon has the right to defend against Israeli aggression and to liberate its occupied territories. For the West, the formation of this new government, if it manages to succeed, is a complete nightmare.
Meanwhile, as the West has sat back and allowed for Lebanon to further deteriorate, without meaningful action since the beginning of the crisis in 2019, Hezbollah continues to provide for the country on an unprecedented scale.
Although US and EU sanctions technically prohibit it, Iranian fuel has been successfully sent to Lebanon, arriving through the Syrian port of Baniyas. The first shipment arrived on September 14 and was transported to the Lebanese Beqaa Valley, before being transferred finally to Baalbek for distribution. Hezbollah have stated that the priority for the usage of the oil is to keep public institutions such as hospitals, the Lebanese Red Cross, Civil Defence forces, and orphanages afloat and will be donated to such institutions. The rest will be sold to the private sector at a price which the group will allegedly not make a profit from and these oil sales are being managed by a company which is suffering under US sanctions.
Hezbollah have also set up a system of co-op’s, containing primarily Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian products. Ration cards have been issued by the group for the poorest in society which are exclusively allowed to access the products free of charge. All Lebanese citizens who are unable to access these essential products are afforded the cards, regardless of their religious or political affiliation.
There is no doubt that Lebanese Hezbollah has grown significantly more popular in Lebanon as a result of its charitable efforts for the people, yet there is no indication this has been done with negative ulterior motives. But it is no surprise that Western media and governments have sought to raise the alarm over Hezbollah’s “takeover of Lebanon” with its “evil” acts of charity.
Western media, including Israeli media, have been quick to point out the absence of the Lebanese government involvement in the transfer of Iranian fuel into Lebanon. This has been used as “proof” of a Hezbollah takeover and also that the government has been held hostage by the Party, considered by the US and Israel as a terrorist group. However, the reason why there can be no official Lebanese government involvement is because the government will then be open to punishment for participating in breaking US-EU sanctions. So it is evident why the government of Lebanon has had nothing to do with Hezbollah’s charitable move, it cannot even provide for its own people and does not need to be sanctioned unnecessarily. In no way does this work as a “smoking gun” to prove a lazily put together argument that Hezbollah is holding Lebanon hostage.
The truth is that the US, EU and Israel are embarrassed about the success of Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria. Together they broke multiple sanctions regimes and overcame the threats of Israeli military aggression in order to deliver vital food and resources to a needy Lebanese population. The reason why the West is so embarrassed is because their false promises of becoming the savior of Lebanon have failed, whilst their enemies have prospered. Their sanctions have also proven fallible when faced with the threat of military retaliation to any attempt at preventing the Iranian fuel ships from aiding the Lebanese people.
Likely in reaction to such an embarrassment, the Israelis announced that they had granted US oil energy corporation Halliburton contracts for offshore drilling in waters potentially claimed by Lebanon. The Israeli and Lebanese governments have long been in dispute over the delineation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean. Lebanon currently seeks to excavate and unlock its offshore gas fields, which could hold the potential to lead its economy out of the greatest crisis in the nation’s history.
Lebanon’s representative to the UN, Amal Mudallali, quickly sent a letter of protest to the UN Security Council over the Israeli move. In the past, Hezbollah has made it clear that Israel will not be allowed to exploit Lebanese resources and threatened to act to protect Lebanese interests. If Israel goes ahead with extracting gas from disputed areas, this could easily be blown to pieces, literally, with a single missile, and cause a great escalation with Lebanon.
From the events which have transpired in the past months, between the West and Lebanon, it has been abundantly clear from the petty commentary coming from Western capitals that they have no interest in actually aiding the Lebanese people. Instead they care only about the destruction of Hezbollah.