Is Lebanon Iran’s Hostage or its Lackey?

by Atousa Pilger
During Lebanon’s 15 years of civil war (1975-1990), despite foreign occupation, the Lebanese state fought to prevent its collapse, as well as sustain a healthy relationship with the international community and its Arab neighbors.

In his article for Al Arabiya, Makram Rabah, lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History writes, “At present, the same cannot be said about Lebanon and its defunct state, which has hit rock bottom due to the failure of its political elite to address a number of key issues that are pivotal for Lebanon’s future. These menacing challenges involve an abysmal response to the failing economy but more importantly to Iran’s growing influence over all aspect of the Lebanese state.”

Lebanon’s incumbent president Michel Aoun, is an alleged ally of Iran. It’s reported that he has exhibited laxity towards Iran’s expansions, further alienating Lebanon and exposing it to potential sanctions.

Foreign Policy recently ran an article that accused the Lebanese authorities of trying to sway the Paraguay to extradite a Nader Mohamad Farhat, who is accused of operating a drug trafficking and money laundering network in South America with ties to Hezbollah. The US publication writes that Lebanese charge d’affairs in Asunción, Hassan Hijazi, sent an official letter to Paraguay’s attorney general trying to influence his decision to extradite Farhat to the US where he will stand trial.

The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is headed by Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, released an official statement denying the charges, but provided no proof to the contrary. His denial might have been satisfactory if the Lebanese state practiced more discretion and foresight regarding its recent activities.

One of the measures is a presidential decree granting Lebanese nationality to some 400 individuals accused of corruption and who are believed to have acted as facilitators for the Assad and Iranian regimes. Aoun has full authority to grant these people citizenship, but this is a measure that threatens Lebanon’s national and financial security, inviting sanctions from the international community that will cripple Lebanon’s central banking sector.

Additionally, it has been reported that Iranian nationals entering Lebanon are no longer required to stamp their passports. This was construed by many as facilitating the entry of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that have been using the Beirut Airport as a hub for their Syrian operations.

The recent controversy surrounding the Iranian exemption from passport stamping complicates matters further, and reinforces the notion that Lebanon is not a hostage to Iran, but rather a partner. None of the senior members of government, including President Aoun and PM Saad al-Hariri, condemned the transgression.

While the Lebanese state is silent over these infringements, the Iranian regime is extremely vocal regarding its control over Lebanon. In fact, Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, recent stated that Hezbollah has clinched 74 out of 128 seats in Parliamentary elections.

If the Lebanese state wants to survive, it must adopt a policy that will restore Lebanon as a member of the international community, and relinquish its ties with Iran.