Iran’s Lebanon project

Friday 12/02/2016

With the 11th anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri fast approaching, it has become increasingly apparent — with the passage of each year — just how much this crime ties in with Iran’s regional expansionist project.
What we are seeing today in Lebanon is just another chapter of Iranian expansionism. This began with Hezbollah failing to abide by the rules of the political game in Lebanon, refusing to lay down its arms under the pretext of resist­ing Israel.
Since its inception, Hezbollah has rejected the Taif agreement, which marked the end of Leba­non’s civil war and provided the basis for its current political system. Since it first entered politics, Hezbollah was content to remain on the outside as long as Lebanon was under Syrian tutelage. It only took the initiative to participate in government after Hariri’s assassination.
Hezbollah initially participated indirectly in the government in 2005 and 2006 via Labour minis­ter Trad Hamadeh. Following this, Hezbollah participated in every Lebanese government until it controlled one-third of the government and held de facto veto power over any government action, until Lebanon reached the presidential vacuum witnessed today.
The death of Hariri was the turning point for Lebanon, domestically and regionally. This was a tragedy that exposed the true face of Iran’s regional project, which Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria today is an integral part of.
Is the alliance between Hezbol­lah and Maronite Christian politician Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement a coincidence, particularly given that these are the two parties that reject the Taif agreement?
Aoun served as acting prime minister during the vital time in Leba­non’s history that led to the signing of the Taif agreement and the drafting of a new constitution that culminated in the presidency of Rene Moawad.
Everything that Hezbollah has done since Hariri’s assassination has sought to end the Taif agreement. All the statements issued by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah are for domestic consumption. He seems to believe that time is on the side of the Iranian project, particularly given that President Bashar Assad remains in power in neighbouring Syria.
Hezbollah believes that the balance of power that led to the Taif agreement no longer applies. More than this, there is a belief among many in Lebanon and beyond that the Taif agreement should have come to an end with Hariri, particularly as there are no longer any Syrian forces in Lebanon to implement this based on their biased understanding.
It was the blood of Hariri that cleansed the Syrians from Lebanon. The difference between Iran and Syria is that Iran does not want to merely exploit the Taif agreement to serve its own interests, it wants to overhaul the deal and take control of every­thing in Lebanon, from its government to its banking sector.
Iran wants to completely hijack Lebanon, in the same manner that it hijacked the noble Shia sect, and turn this into a hostage. It wants an alternative to the Taif agree­ment that enshrines Hezbollah’s de facto veto power and a new election law that weakens Sunnis and Christians.
It is true that Hariri is absent, that little has worked in Lebanon since his assassination. It is true that Lebanon’s institutes, or what remains of them, are under threat. It is true that Hezbollah is seeking to spread across all branches of power in the country, while Lebanon’s foreign policy today is subservient to Iran.
But it is also true that questions remain as to whether Tehran will be able to follow through on its project in Lebanon and change the balance of power in the region in its favour.
What is clear is that Lebanon is in an unenviable position. With every year that passes since the assassination of Hariri, new dimensions of Iran’s project are revealed that are targeting more than one regional state to change the very nature of the Middle East.