Iran

TIP Backgrounder: Parliamentary Elections Cement Hezbollah’s Hold Over Lebanon

Background

The Iranian-controlled terror group Hezbollah and its political allies scored significant gains in Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Lebanon, the first to be held in nine years, according to preliminary results published on Monday.
Hezbollah — and by extension, Iran — has achieved what amounts to complete political and military control of Lebanon. According to The Wall Street Journal, the pro-Hezbollah bloc is set to take at least 71 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which enables them to veto any laws the Iranian proxy opposes.

1. “Today, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government and therefore, if we will be forced to fight, the next war will be against the state of Lebanon, which will bear the diplomatic responsibility for Hezbollah’s actions,” Tzipi Livni, Israeli Foreign Minister during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, February 5, 2018

2. “Iran’s objectives are clear — use Hezbollah to achieve complete control in Lebanon, create a land bridge under a Shiite Caliphate to the Mediterranean Sea, and threaten Israel with sophisticated weapons capable of inflicting massive destruction on Israel’s largest cities. Hezbollah is armed with 150,000 missiles and rockets, effectively allowing them to saturation bomb Israeli population centers with 1,500 rockets and missiles per day for over three months.” – Joshua S. Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project

Key Facts
• Iranian-controlled Hezbollah exercises complete political and military control over Lebanon, including the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), political institutions, and intelligence agencies
• Lebanon used to be a diverse, semi-Christian country on the Mediterranean. It has been reduced to an Iranian client state to wage war against Israel.
• At the heart of the Trump administration’s Lebanon policy lies the fiction that the way to weaken Hezbollah is to build up Lebanese state institutions. However, strengthening a Hezbollah-controlled state is a pro-Hezbollah policy.
• The U.S. and Israel classify Hezbollah as a terror group in its entirety. Europe continues to make a false distinction between an “armed wing,” which is blacklisted, and a “political arm” seen as a legitimate actor in Lebanon’s government. Hezbollah itself says this division does not exist.
• The mandate of the Lebanese government is to defend Hezbollah and to represent the interests of its patrons in Iran. We must not recognize Hezbollah as a legitimate political actor.
• Iran and its proxies have structured their forces in Syria and Lebanon to guarantee mass casualties during the next conflict with Israel — a strategy meant to ensure swift international condemnation of Israel’s right to self-defense. Hezbollah’s military infrastructure is embedded in the civilian population. Rockets, bombs, and rifles are hidden in homes, schools, and hospitals – a war crime under international law.

Hezbollah’s complete control over Lebanon
• Recent reports confirmed that parts of the windfall Iran received from the nuclear deal flowed to Hezbollah.
• In January 2018, IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis accused Lebanese officials of allowing Iran to turn the country into “one big missile factory.”
• In November 2017, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri faulted Iran for fostering instability in Lebanon stating, “Hezbollah is not able to manage the country; its strength derives from weapons funded by Iran.”
• In November 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Hezbollah of having “kidnapped the Lebanese system” and denounced the group as “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”
• In October 2017, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman observed the LAF as “inextricably linked to Hezbollah,” and as having “become an integral part of Hezbollah’s campaign under its command.”
• In September 2017, a member of Hezbollah boasted to NBC news that without its support “the [Lebanese] army is nothing.”
• In June 2016, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated: “Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He continued: “As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it…”

Recommendations
• U.S. policy on Lebanon needs an urgent adjustment that reflects the changing reality on the ground. Every dollar we invest in the Lebanese state and LAF is a direct investment Hezbollah uses to its advantage.
• We need to stop seeing Lebanon as a free independent state on the Mediterranean and start coming to grips that we are seeing the emergence of Iran on the Mediterranean and to Israel’s north, and north west, as Iran franchises Hezbollah in Syria and beyond.
• Failure to confront Hezbollah over its violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 will make a future war between Israel and Lebanon more likely. The resolution stipulates that there be no armed groups in Lebanon except for the LAF and prohibits other nations from shipping weapons to any force other than the LAF. This mandate should be rigorously enforced by UNIFIL.
• Israel and U.S., along with Europe and allied Arab states in the region, must act together to eliminate Iran’s presence in Lebanon and counter Iran’s growing military presence in Syria. Iran is not just a threat to the Jewish State; it destabilizes and terrorizes the entire region.

Further Analysis

In a conference call hosted by The Israel Project, Prof. Eyal Zisser, rector of Tel Aviv University and an expert in modern Lebanese politics, said that in the wake of the elections “Hezbollah will continue to act, to behave as if there is no Lebanese state, as if there is no Lebanese government, as if it is an entirely independent entity.” Despite Hezbollah’s reinforced political strength in Lebanon, Zisser does not think that Hezbollah will be emboldened to attack Israel from Lebanon. He observed that Hezbollah has a presence in Syria and “they don’t need Lebanon as a battlefield against Israel.” Zisser expects that despite increased rhetoric from Hezbollah, the border between Israel and Lebanon will largely remain quiet for the foreseeable future.

[Photo: ILTV ISRAEL DAILY / YouTube ]