London, 31 May – The political situation in Lebanon is in turmoil. The recent parliamentary elections had the aim of selecting representatives. However, one other thing became glaringly obvious – the power that Iran and Hezbollah hold there.
Iran has gained considerable influence in the country mostly due to its political alliances, especially that of Michel Aoun – the Lebanese president – and several political parties including the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) party.
Not forgetting Iran’s use of brute force and violence that it employs to eliminate the threat from opponents.
Sanctions on the Lebanese Hezbollah were imposed by the Arab Gulf nations and the United States. This is no surprise given that Iran has been helped by Hezbollah in its expansion across the region.
Iran has become a major problem and threat in the Middle East. For years, US administrations have tried to contain the Iran threat and, over the course of decades, several presidents put in place sanctions that ended up crippling the Iranian economy. However, all the progress was undone when former president Barack Obama took office and lifted the sanctions and pursued policies of appeasement towards Iran.
Iran was given access to billions of dollars when the sanctions were lifted. Even before and during the negotiations for the 2015 nuclear deal, Obama turned a blind eye to much of Iran’s belligerence and blindly preached about how Iran would become more moderate and so on.
Iran did not become more moderate. In fact, it became emboldened and spread further across the region.
US President Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate the Iran threat and recently announced that he was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also delivered a speech in which he listed 12 conditions Iran must adhere to before there is any discussion about the United States re-entering the deal.
Pompeo and Trump reminded the world that the Iran threat is more than just nuclear. They warned that Iran’s heavy funding of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the numerous militias and proxy groups that it supports, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, are permitting Iran to reach further than ever.
The fact that the sanctions come at a time when a new Lebanese government is about to be formed is crucial. It is a warning to any potential leader in Lebanon, including current Prime Minister Saad Hariri, that the US and Arab nations are serious about curbing the threat. The message is that any future relations between the coalition and Lebanon will not involve Iran or Hezbollah.
Critics say that the sanctions are harsh on the Lebanese state, but they are in fact the perfect opportunity for any leaders to get rid of Hezbollah from the cabinet so that economic consequences are avoided.
It will also urge the President of Lebanon to undo the 2006 memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah with regards to the ridiculous claim that it is defending its arsenal.
Taking such measures against Iran, indirectly, are essential to putting the brakes on its spread of chaos.