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A Tripartite Arrangement in Lebanon under Iranian Conditions

A Tripartite Arrangement in Lebanon under Iranian Conditions

Sunday, 4 October, 2020 - 14:00

I am not sure about the percentage of those who were optimistic of the French initiative’s success in saving Lebanon from collapse; but I am sure that those who were, did not know much about why it has failed.

It was interesting when Prime Minister designate Dr. Mustafa Adib announced, in the Baabda Presidential Palace at a Beirut suburb, that he was giving up his attempts of forming a new cabinet. Indeed, what happened then was similar to the ‘Iraqi Experience’ in the post Adel Abdul Mahdi cabinet.

In other words, what we saw then in Lebanon, and what we may continue to see until early November, is Iran’s maneuvering and playing for time as part of its long term strategy of gaining full control in Lebanon.

In Iraq, the maneuvers of Iran and its proxies ‘discarded’ two Prime Minister designates, Mohammed Tawfic Allawi and Adnan Al-Zurfi, before acquiescing to the appointment of Mustafa Al Kadhimi, whom Tehran regards too close to Washington. While in Lebanon, where Iran also enjoys almost full military and political control, Tehran’s pressure has managed to abort a high-powered French intervention; thus preventing a transitional political modus vivendi.

The most significant thing about this modus Vivendi is that it would lead to a ‘re-foundation conference’. This would be a ‘stopover’ from which Iran - and its Lebanese sectarian base - hopes to move forward from to killing of the ‘Taif Accords’; and later, go for a transitional ‘tri-partite’ Shiite-Sunni-Christian power-sharing deal that does not stipulate the disarming of Hezbollah. On the contrary, it would cement the victory of Hezbollah’s military ascendancy, along with all its political achievements, en route to full control.

Since 2003, Iran has treated Iraq as a satellite waiting to be fully incorporated into its expanding sphere of influence. In addition to Tehran’s bet on the numerical Shiite majority, several Iranian leaders have spoken openly of Baghdad as the ‘historical capital’ of Iran. This, at least, was the case before the popular uprisings against Iran and its Iraqi militias throughout the Shiite heartlands of southern Iraq.

These uprisings, that raged all over southern Iraq, including the two holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, have undermined the notion of the ‘purely sectarian nature’ of the Iraqi situation. This is the notion that has allowed pro-Iran leaders, like Nuri Al-Maliki to raise, exploit the ISIS issue in order to maintain the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide.

This blatant and divisive sectarian policy was ruthlessly adopted and implemented (by Iran) with full collusion of Iraqi politicians in Baghdad. In fact, it succeeded for a long time in silencing nationalist Shiites by blackmailing them with the ISIS threat; especially, after the latter’s atrocities in Mosul, Sinjar and the towns and villages of the Niveneh plain.

This policy was carefully designed to divert the attention of nationalist Iraqi Shiites away from their daily livelihood issues and demands, weaken their patriotic loyalty to a free, sovereign and independent Iraq, and push them to shun their inclusive Arab identity which brings together Arab Sunnis and Shiites.

In southern Iraq, as well as in Baghdad, the uprisings have proven the fragility of the intentional sectarian policy that is the core of Iran’s strategy of ‘divide and rule’. Subsequently, shaking the strategy of full control through militias created, armed and trained by the IRGC (Iran’s Revolutionary Guards), and forced on the Iraqis as a ‘legitimate’ player within their state structure.

What has been unfolding in Lebanon since last October’s popular uprising is almost a carbon copy of the above. The only difference, however, is that Hezbollah is not yet integrated within the Lebanese political and military state structure; although its military apparatus has been legalized thanks to the ‘innovation’ of ‘the people, the army and the resistance formula’ forced on the Lebanese by Hezbollah’s arms.

On the other hand, although Hezbollah is now a Lebanese reality, and possesses its own security, financial, health, educational, social services and communications institutions -functioning parallel to and independent from the Lebanese state institutions -, it still has its own share of the afore-mentioned institutions.

In other words, this militia simultaneously shares the Lebanese state institutions with other communities, but keeps its own ‘private state’, which is actually richer and more powerful than the Lebanese state.

Such a situation creates serious problems that complicate Arab and international approaches intended to deal with Lebanon’s rapidly deteriorating conditions.

The Arab world acknowledges the fact that Lebanon is now a ‘hostage’ of Hezbollah; thus, any aid given to the disabled Lebanese state is surely going to end up in Hezbollah’s coffers, or put at its disposal.

As for the European countries, namely France – Lebanon’s former mandatory power – they are also well aware of the reality, but still see a chance of doing something that would save Lebanon from impending demise. These countries, led by France, have so far regarded Hezbollah as a ‘Lebanese’ constituent that is a ‘legitimate representative’ of its sectarian community; hence, they must engage and agree with. Furthermore, these countries have continued to oppose Washington’s policies against Iran, since President Donald Trump rejected the JCPOA, and kept up the sanctions.

The conflicting US-European stances towards Iran have, understandably, given it enough breathing space, and subsequently allowed Hezbollah to further tighten its grip on Lebanon. Thanks to this tightening grip, the pro-Iran militia has been able to stage its coup against the ‘French initiative’, and undermine its idea of a government of non-partisan technocrats.

Finally, there is Washington.

From the outside, the American position looks tough and clearcut in defining Hezbollah. It regards it as a ‘terrorist organization’ controlled by Iran, a source of political instability inside Lebanon, and a lynchpin of terrorism throughout the Middle East.

However, Washington’s anti-Hezbollah actions have gone no further than economic sanctions. The problem here is that these sanctions are much more harmful and debilitating to the already disabled Lebanon than to the financially self-sufficient Hezbollah.

Moreover, Washington is now going through the countdown of its Presidential and Legislative elections; which makes any military action - whether against Iran or its Lebanese militia - quite unlikely. In the meantime, Iran with its mastery of blackmail and playing for time, is gambling on a change in Washington that would return its US ‘lobby’ to the White House, and regain control of America’s portfolio of Iran and its Middle East puppets.

This is the living example of the patient long-term strategy of a skillful carpet weaver!

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