ANALYSIS:
Lebanon’s unprecedented crisis exploited by Hezbollah and Iran

As Lebanon continues to slide toward total disaster, Iran and Hezbollah seem only interested in a total takeover of the country.

Yochanan Visser ,

Israel-Lebanon border
Israel-Lebanon border
Hadas Parush/Flash90

As the unprecedented economic, political and social crisis in Lebanon seems to worsen by the day, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are looking to exploit the situation and are vying for a complete take-over of Israel’s northern neighbor.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his caretaker government give the impression that they no longer have any clue as to what to do to tackle the country’s myriad problems.

Those problems include staggering inflation caused by the devaluation of the Lira, that has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar over the past year.

More than fifty percent of Lebanese are now living below the poverty line and Lebanon has defaulted on its debts while it can no longer import essential goods.

Israel, on its side, is concerned that the huge crisis will strengthen Iranian proxy Hezbollah and will lead to a complete takeover of Lebanon by The Islamic Republic, which is blocking the forming of a reformist government.

Lebanon is "in the heart of great danger" and needs "friendly countries" to save it, Diab said two weeks ago.

“Either you save it (Lebanon) now before it's too late or else no regrets will help," Diab said in his televised address to the nation.

"I call on political powers to present concessions, and those will be small, no matter how big they may seem, because that will alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese and stop this frightening path," Diab said.

Diab has been leading the government in a caretaker role since his cabinet resigned in the aftermath of the Beirut port blast on August 4 last year. That giant explosion devastated large swathes of the Lebanese capital and killed hundreds of people while injuring thousands.

France has now again stepped in and has organized a virtual conference that will be attended by twenty countries. The conference, however, will only deal with the problems of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) where the salaries of the personnel have decreased from $800 to less than $100 now. This, in turn, has led to an uproar among LAF soldiers and the twenty countries are concerned that this will threaten Lebanon’s security.

President Emmanuel Macron, however, now personally deals with the political crisis in Lebanon after no progress was achieved via extensive negotiations.

During a press conference, Macron suggested a “system under international constraint which would allow funding of essential activities and support for the Lebanese people.”

Michel Aboud, president of humanitarian aid organization Caritas Lebanon said recently that even hospitals are hard-hit by the crisis and reported that there is a chronic shortage of medicines and medical equipment in Lebanon.

“We can always find a piece of bread, that is not lacking, but not having medicines is terrible,” Aboud said.

“Hospitals can't pay doctors or operate the equipment. We are in a critical situation, but we don't want to die while waiting for a solution to the many problems,” the Caritas President added. This has now even led to the closure of entire hospitals.

And Aboud’s statement about “always finding a piece of bread” must be taken with a grain of salt.

Less than a year ago a food crisis began in what was once called the Country of Cedars, not long ago a hub of prosperity in the Middle East that attracted many tourists and businessmen.

The existing food crisis exacerbated after the government raised the price of bread for the first time in a decade in July last year. In one fell swoop bread prices rose by 33 percent causing a run on supermarkets where people tried to buy food essentials.

The food crisis led Al-Makhazen Coop, the largest food retailer in Lebanon, to close its branches in Beirut.

The crisis worsened further last week with many petrol stations closing due to a lack of fuel. This, in turn, caused electricity blackouts after which people tried to obtain generators but could not obtain fuel.

Diab then turned to the Iraqi government and asked for help, which he got. Baghdad decided to deliver a part of the needed fuel and then the real problem in Lebanon became visible.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah intervened and announced that he would request the necessary oil shipments from the Iranian regime.

Hezbollah’s dominance over Lebanon is a huge problem, but the Lebanese government and military don’t have the means and, in many cases the will to do something against the heavily armed Iranian proxy.

President Michel Aoun, for example, is an Iranian lackey who opposes the forming of a reformist government and serves the interests of Hezbollah and Iran.

Nasrallah is the de-facto leader of Lebanon and without his consent, nothing happens or will change in the country.

The exacerbating crisis in Lebanon is also a source of deep concern for Israel and is the reason the Israeli government of former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu launched a diplomatic offensive in Europe and in Russia more than two months ago.

Israel is increasingly concerned that Hezbollah and Iran will use Lebanon’s massive economic and social crisis to take over the country completely and then prepare for a massive multi-front attack on the Jewish state.

On Tuesday, March 16, outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Aviv Kochavi, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), arrived in Europe to speak with German leaders and with French President Emmanuel Macron about the growing threat from Iran through Hezbollah in Lebanon.

While Rivlin and Kochavi were in Germany, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Moscow to discuss the same subject with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The Russian Foreign Minister had received a high Hezbollah delegation two days earlier.

Lavrov spoke with Mohammed Raad, the leader of the Hezbollah bloc in the Lebanese parliament, and urged him to agree to the formation of a new government under the leadership of Sa’ad Hariri, who was also previously Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Lebanon has been without a government for a long time and that is mainly due to Hezbollah, which is blocking the formation of a technocratic government.

The Shiite parties in the Lebanese government keep blocking the forming of a government and any progress made meets new obstacles created by Hezbollah and the other Shiite factions in the Lebanese parliament.

The situation is now stuck again due to Shiite opposition against the proposal to appoint two Christian politicians to the post of minister in the new cabinet.

Influential Lebanese leaders tried to solve the deadlock by organizing meetings with members of the political parties, but they didn’t succeed either.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is using the huge crisis in Lebanon to get total dominance over the country, threatening not only the Lebanese people and Israel but also regional stability.

As Lebanon continues to slide toward total disaster, Iran and Hezbollah seem only interested in a total takeover of the country.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made this very clear in a recent speech from his bunker.

Lebanon’s true leader made threats to anyone pushing for reforms in Lebanon and even threatened the Lebanese people who have long protested the dire situation in the country.

IDF intelligence officers believe Iran and Nasrallah will further exploit the situation in Lebanon to carry out their plan to, eventually, transform Lebanon into a base from which to attack Israel.

Given the situation in Lebanon and the position of Hezbollah and Iran, it is now easy to understand why Israel launched a diplomatic offensive in Europe and Russia.

The recent war in southern Israel also showed that Iran, via its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and, Gaza pulled the strings in that war.

Hamas receives $30 million from Iran every month while Islamic Jihad openly admits that it is a de-facto branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Both terror organizations in Gaza received sophisticated weapons from Iran and their operatives are trained by Iranian officers in the local production of rockets and missiles.

In fact, there was a so-called war room in Beirut during the conflict where IRGC officers together with Hezbollah and Hamas operatives coordinated the battle against Israel.

Hezbollah was careful not to go too far by opening a second front in northern Israel, but it was involved in the war effort by shipping weapons and ammunition to Hamas and by provoking Israel via Iranian-backed Palestinian factions in Lebanon and Syria.

Those militias were responsible for the three times rockets were fired at northern Israel during the eleven-day war.

Hezbollah operatives, furthermore, led the demonstrations against the IDF near Metullah in northeast Israel. During these clashes, the Israeli army killed one of the Hezbollah terrorists.

The Iranians and Hezbollah are exploiting the crisis in Lebanon by doing nothing to alleviate the dire situation and by blocking the forming of a government that would be able to put things in order.

The forming of such a government is essential to receive foreign aid and to obtain a giant IMF loan which in turn would ‘save Lebanon’ as Diab put it.

The Lebanese people meanwhile, are fed up with the total collapse of their country and took again the streets. At the beginning of June, protesters in various parts of Lebanon blocked roads amid fears that the Lebanese Army (LAF) would use force or even live fire to reopen the more important intersections.

Citizens of Lebanon are becoming more desperate by the day but have no one to turn to.

The Arab countries are very reluctant to intervene in the crisis or to pour money into Lebanon. Europe and the United States, furthermore, demand structural reforms and an end to the bickering and infighting by the political parties before they will send much-needed aid.

There is, however, little chance that the political elite will implement those reforms as they keep on bickering about the forming of a technocratic government.



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