Lebanon is standing and deserves Arab support

If Lebanon had no importance, Iran wouldn’t have bothered to focus on it.
Thursday 01/03/2018
A Lebanese flag hangs from a building in downtown Beirut. (Reuters)
A Lebanese flag hangs from a building in downtown Beirut. (Reuters)

Around this time in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran. He also laid the conceptual foundations for Iran’s expansionist project. It is no secret that this plan kicked off in Lebanon after being rejected in Iraq.

It happened thanks to the close cooperation between Hafez Assad’s Syria and the new clergy regime in Iran. The basis for this cooperation was sectarian considerations regardless of whether the Alawites in Syria were considered Muslims or not.

Using Iran, Assad had become expert at blackmailing Arab regimes, especially in the Gulf countries. At the same time, he was taking advantage of Iran, which was looking for an Arab country to take its side in its war with Iraq.

Assad had truly bested the Iranians at their Machiavellian game but, in the end, the Iranians got what they wanted. He had given them access to Lebanon and they quickly established a foothold there. During Bashar Assad’s reign over Syria, that foothold metamorphosed into a real powerhouse in Lebanon.

When he rose to power in Syria, Bashar Assad, Hafez Assad’s son, placed all his eggs in Iran’s basket. He is suspected of being involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005 and paid dearly for that alleged involvement when he was forced to withdraw his troops from Lebanon. The Syrian withdrawal presented the Iranian regime with a golden opportunity to fill the void and Tehran quickly took it.

At first, Lebanon fiercely resisted Iran’s hold on Lebanon. The Lebanese faced Iran’s weapons in the hands of Hezbollah with their bare chests. A series of crimes followed Hariri’s assassination.

Lebanon endured a lot since the infamous Cairo Agreement of 1969. Thanks to the Syrian regime, the Palestinians went to Lebanon and established military bases. It was before Hafez Assad monopolised power in his hands. He had been minister of defence since 1966 and did everything that the Americans and Israelis wanted him to do in exchange for a free hand in Lebanon.

Hafez Assad wanted all of Lebanon; so, in 1990, he took the utmost advantage of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and joined the US-led coalition against Iraq. Most Arab leaders applauded but remained committed to Lebanon’s independence. The thing is that Iran is patient when it comes to its expansion project. Tehran is good at this waiting game, just as it is good at fomenting sectarian discord everywhere it goes.

Despite the many blows it received, Lebanon continues to resist. Every time it is knocked down, it gets up again and fights. It got up on March 14, 2005, and kicked the Syrians out.

It got up after the war of the summer of 2006. That war was ignited by Hezbollah and gave Israel the opportunity to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure.

It got up after the sit-in strikes in Beirut.

It got up after the crisis of the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared.

It got up after the bloody events in Beirut in 2008 and stopped Hezbollah from gaining a majority in parliament in the 2009 elections.

Lebanon is resisting because it is driven by a profound desire to stay within the Arab fold. Iran focused its efforts during these years on isolating Lebanon from its Arab context. It turned the media in the service of the Axis of Resistance and wants Beirut to become a hub for Iranian propaganda.

Lebanon remains standing on both feet. The Arab world has no choice but to support it. If Lebanon had no importance, compared to the fateful events in Syria, Iran wouldn’t have bothered to focus on it and on turning the forthcoming parliament into its puppet.

Lebanon is not down yet. During the second world war, Britain did not give up on occupied France and helped the French Resistance and General Charles de Gaulle. The Nazis had occupied Paris and a good portion of the local population was even happy to see them and cooperate with them.

Despite inevitable divisions, Lebanese resistance remains strong. Most of the population refuses to cooperate with the Iranian occupier. If the Arabs are serious about stopping Iranian expansionism, they should nurture this resistance and let the Iranians know that they, too, can play the waiting game.