Hezbollah officials in Lebanon are lashing out at U.S. diplomats after U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly urged Lebanese authorities to move forward with scheduled elections on the basis of existing electoral laws:
Hezbollah’s Baalbek-Hermel MP Nawar Saheli denounced Sunday what he called “flagrant interference” by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly in internal Lebanese affairs when, he said, she demanded that “the forthcoming elections be held on the basis of the 1960 law.” “We in Lebanon do not accept [foreign] ambassadors or ministers to interfere in our internal affairs. She [Connelly] should have applied the law in her country,” Saheli told a sports event organized by Hezbollah in the northern Bekaa Valley town of Al-Ain.
At stake are a set of agreements hammered out between Lebanese factions in the early 1960s that set rules for how representation would be distributed across Lebanese communities. Hezbollah has been pushing to replace those agreements with a controversial “Orthodox Gathering” bill that would fundamentally change the electoral system in favor of Hezbollah’s March 8 Alliance, specifically, and of Lebanon’s Shiite community, in general. The bill was recently advanced and will now be voted on by parliament.
Foreign policy analysts have been increasingly pointed in explaining the degree to which Hezbollah plays a politically destabilizing role in Lebanon. In addition to participating heavily in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the regime — eventually drawing the Syrian opposition into fighting on Lebanese soil — Hezbollah has been making efforts to directly undermine Lebanese political institutions:
In reality, Hezbollah has thoroughly subverted the country and its citizens in virtually every aspect. Left unmolested, Hezbollah not only undermines Lebanon’s security, institutions, and political system, but is also set track to compromise its foreign relations, ruin its financial system, and destroy whatever remains of its social cohesion… the Party of God stands accused in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Four of its commanders and operatives have been named as suspects, but, naturally, the LAF would never consider moving in to apprehend them. Perhaps the EU would also prefer to abort justice and gloss over political assassination in order to avoid action that would ‘destabilize’ the country. It’s bad enough that suspicions over Hezbollah’s role in other political murders and assassination attempts have eaten at the core of communal coexistence and the political system altogether. But the Party of God’s penetration of state institutions has also implicated the Lebanese state in Hezbollah’s activities, both in Lebanon and abroad.
The investigation into Hariri’s death was recently thrown into disarray when a Lebanese newspaper published confidential details — leaked to them by unknown parties — of 17 witnesses likely slated to testify in any murder trial over his death. The details included names, passport pictures, dates of birth, and places of employment. A spokesman for the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal, which is supposed to prosecute the murder, noted that the publication put the witnesses’ lives at risk. The newspaper, Al Akhbar, is linked to Hezbollah.
[Photo: Paul Keller / Flickr]