Fear-mongering over what is being called an opportunity for Hezbollah and Iran to seize more power over Lebanon is again being ramped up, as former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri resigns from politics. Yet, despite such claims of an Iran takeover, recent developments may prove the very opposite.
Leader of the ‘Future Movement’ Party, Sa’ad Hariri, has resigned from his position and announced he is ditching politics, urging his Party to not participate in elections. What is being framed as his attempt to show dismay at the lack of support he has to combat the influence of Iranian backed Hezbollah is now being primarily attributed to Hariri’s decision. The Future Movement is the biggest Sunni Party in Lebanese politics and is notorious for taking its backing from Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf Arab States.
An analysis piece published in Reuters argues that the reason for his departure from politics is likely due to Saudi Arabia and other backers giving up on Hariri after his failure to effectively combat the role of Iran in the country. Although this theory does not have any evidence to back it up, it is nonetheless a reasonable speculative take. Yet what the author makes clear is that they coming from a place of seeking confirmation bias. The assumption that is made in the Reuters piece, as has been the case when looking at neoconservative think-tank perspectives in Washington, is that it is somehow a known fact that Iran is the de-factor ruler of Lebanon and that Hezbollah essentially has a full grip on the country’s political system.
In reality, not only is there no evidence to support the idea that Iran is somehow the primary foreign influence in Lebanon, but there are ample examples that Hezbollah is really not getting its way in the country.
For instance, Lebanese Hezbollah has taken the position that the judge put in charge of the investigation into the Beirut Port Explosion, of 2020, is politically biased and therefore should be replaced. Last October, when Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, organized a protest to march up to the court house in Beirut, gunmen belonging to the Lebanese Forces militia opened fire resulting in the deaths of 7 people. Not only did the Lebanese State refuse to side with Hezbollah against the judge following this incident, the demands of Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, were not fulfilled to quickly hold all those responsible for the shooting to account.
Although Hezbollah has been an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, since their memorandum of understanding in 2006, the relationship has been shaky. Whilst Aoun has visited Saudi Arabia in order to form a closer relationship with the Lebanese State and even allied with the fascist Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea, he has never visited Tehran for example. Whilst Lebanese ministers have been able to criticize Iran and accuse Hezbollah of all sorts of crimes, the resignation of George Kordahi for simply criticizing Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen before becoming a minister, shows the sort of relationship Lebanon has with both Riyadh and Tehran.
There are countless other examples of where Hezbollah has been let down, criticized, and even attacked in Lebanon and had little power to deal with it effectively. But it is always Hezbollah that comes under the spotlight for Western pundits, think-tanks and politicians, who oppose it not for humanitarian or even reasons based in fact, but because of a political bias.
When Hezbollah had coordinated with both Syria and Iran to bring in Tehran’s fuel, partially solving the fuel crisis at the time, this was supposed to be the moment where Iran would take the Lebanese State. Instead it simply broke monopolies that existed in Lebanon and proved that the fuel existed in the country to supply the nation, but was being hoarded for economic gains. What was painted in the West as a cynical attempt to takeover Lebanon, proved nothing more than a humanitarian gesture. The same has been the case with the food cards issued to the poorest in Lebanese society, which has enabled people to access food from cooperatives.
The food filling the bellies of the Lebanese, being handed out by Hezbollah, is primarily from Syria, Iraq and Iran, supposedly enemies to Lebanon according to the Western media. Now again, as Lebanon just signed a deal with both Syria and Jordan, the Syrian government is the facilitator of an energy transfer deal, which will see Jordan supply Lebanon with 250 megawatts of electricity. It is projected to begin around late February and depends upon World Bank financing. This was clearly not the doing of Hezbollah and in fact the United States is even providing an exception for Lebanon and Jordan, which ensures they won’t be punished by the ‘Caesar Act’ sanctions on Syria, when abiding by the electricity agreement. Although the Syrian government likely sees this as a way to slowly gain itself further regional legitimacy, it has to be noted that they are facilitating the deal and allowed for Iranian oil to pass into Lebanon which has aided the Lebanese people.
In a move which would most certainly be against the wishes of Hezbollah, there has even been talk of a gas supply deal to Lebanon. One which would aim to cut Iranian influence over fuel and would see Israeli gas in Egypt make its way to Jordan and then into Lebanon from Syria. It has been denied that any such deal of this kind has been agreed upon even behind closed doors, but the fact that this has been on the table means it has been subject to scrutiny. If that deal was to go ahead, it would essentially mean that Syria and Lebanon would be participating in a deal with a country they are technically in a state of war with.
It could be just as likely that Sa’ad Hariri’s move to resign from political life is an attempt from his handlers [primarily in Saudi Arabia] to stir up tension with Hezbollah and has been done strategically for this purpose. This is simply speculative, but it could very well make sense of the move.
All of this information however, is completely irrelevant to the anti-Iran sycophants that wish to blame Iran and Hezbollah if their coffee is cold in the morning. Despite having no evidence of a plan for a complete Iran-Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon, mainstream Western media continues to peddle this idea and present every single development in Lebanon as another step towards an “Iranian occupation”. Forgetting of course that the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, France and numerous others all directly interfere in Lebanon.