Persian Files ISSN 2975-0598 Volume 5 Issue 2
Author: Guido Keller
The establishment of the National Council to End the Iranian Occupation in Lebanon, a significant development within the country’s political landscape, shed the light on sentiments held by a portion of the population towards Iran and its influential ally, Hezbollah.
This move not only revealed the deep-rooted concerns and apprehensions regarding the Iranian presence and Hezbollah’s activities within the nation but also might indicate a desire for change and a reevaluation of the dynamics that have shaped Lebanon’s political and regional affiliations.
On Monday 10th, 2022, more than 200 Lebanese personalities gathered in Beirut for the launch of the National Council to End the Iranian Occupation in Lebanon (original name in Arabic المجلس الوطني لرفع الاحتلال الإيراني – al-majlis al-watani li raf’a al-Ihtilal al-Irani). According to the former Lebanese member of the Parliament Fares Antoun Souaid, the Council aims to find a solution to the Lebanese crisis resulting from Iran’s occupation of Lebanon represented in the country by Hezbollah.
The Council, according to its founding statement, comprises parties, individuals, opinion leaders, youth, intellectuals, expatriates and politicians, provided “full commitment to the principles, and based on the preamble to the constitution, which stipulates the finality of the Lebanese entity and its Arabness.” According to its founders, the Council’s goal is to break free of Hezbollah’s armed hegemony over a country that has always posed a threat to Lebanese sovereignty.
The launch of the Council gathered about 30 personalities in Beirut and 165 Lebanese from the Diaspora who participated through an electronic conference. Around 200 people discussed the foundations and program of the Council and chose the former member of the Parliament, Ahmad Fatfat, as Chairman of the Council for a transitional period until the internal system, and open elections are held.
The Maronite Lebanese politician Fares Antoun Souaid said in a statement to the media agency Asharq Al-Awsat that:
“The council’s launch from Beirut aims to lift the Iranian occupation because we consider that the national crisis in which Lebanon is floundering in terms of economic, political, living, financial and diplomatic, is due to Iran’s occupation of Lebanon and its control, through Hezbollah’s weapon, on the state-building process…the arms under the command of Iran abolished the Republic and the institutions that became unable as a result of its paralysis to solve the problems of the Lebanese.”
Fares Antoun Souaid explained that the newly formed Council does not deny that corruption and mismanagement are severe problems in Lebanese politics, although the current priority is to liberate the country from the Iranian grip and Tehran’s influence exercised through Hezbollah’s arms.
The Council includes Lebanese political, economic, human rights, and media figures, including former ministers Ahmad Fatfat, Mouin Al-Morabi and Hassan Mneimneh, lawyer Ghassan Mogagab, economist Tawfiq Gaspar, political activist Roderick Nofal, activists and academics Ruba Kabbara, Lina Tanir, jurist Edmond Rabat and others.
It is unclear how effective the group can be in reducing Iranian influence. Most experts believe that the disarmament of Hezbollah can only happen if there is an international and Arab step, which is currently outside the political sphere. On May 15th, 2022, Lebanon will host the parliamentary elections after a long period of economic and political crisis.
Lebanon-Iran Relations: A Brief Overview
The relationship between Iran and Lebanon is multifaceted and complex, with a key factor being the prominent role of Hezbollah, a powerful Shia militant and political organization. Iran’s influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah has deep historical roots and is shaped by religious, political, and strategic considerations.
Hezbollah, founded in the early 1980s with ideological and financial support from Iran, has evolved into a significant force within Lebanese politics and society. Tehran’s influence in Lebanon is often seen as an extension of its broader regional ambitions, aimed at countering perceived threats from Israel and the West.
Hezbollah’s relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran is characterized by ideological alignment and strategic cooperation. Ideologically, both entities adhere to the principles of Shia Islam, creating a natural bond that transcends national boundaries.
Iran’s financial and military support has enabled Hezbollah to build an extensive network of social services, gain popularity among Lebanon’s Shia population, and establish itself as a formidable military force. This support has allowed Hezbollah to resist Israeli influence in southern Lebanon and assert its influence within the Lebanese political landscape.
Tehran’s influence in Lebanon extends beyond Hezbollah’s military capabilities. Iran’s financial backing has allowed the organisation to operate social programs, including schools, hospitals, and charitable activities, which has earned it support from segments of the Lebanese population marginalized by the state. However, this dual role as both a political party and a militant group has generated divisions within Lebanon. While Hezbollah is celebrated by some as a resistance movement against Israeli aggression, others view it as a tool of Iranian influence that challenges Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The relationship between Iran and Lebanon, particularly through the lens of Hezbollah, has implications for regional stability. While Iran’s support has bolstered Hezbollah’s strength, it has also led to Lebanon’s entanglement in regional conflicts, notably the Syrian civil war. This involvement has further exacerbated sectarian tensions within Lebanon and strained its delicate political balance. As Iran’s influence continues to shape Lebanon’s internal dynamics, finding a sustainable equilibrium between the aspirations of Hezbollah’s supporters and the broader interests of the Lebanese state remains a challenging endeavor.
In conclusion, the establishment of the National Council to End the Iranian Occupation in Lebanon marks a significant turning point in the country’s political landscape. This move reflects the sentiments of a portion of the population who hold deep-rooted concerns about Iran’s presence and its influential ally, Hezbollah. By convening more than 200 Lebanese figures, both within the nation and from the Diaspora, the Council aims to address Hezbollah’s armed dominance and Tehran’s regional presence. By contrast, it should be noted that just a small portion of the society has supported the Council and its idea to contrast Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, Tehran has financially and military backed Hezbollah and Lebanon during the years avoiding, in some occasions, that Israel could be majorly involved in the country’s political landspace and security.
Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the National Council in reducing Iranian influence remains uncertain. Experts suggest that disarmament of Hezbollah would require international and Arab cooperation, extending beyond the immediate political sphere.
Conversely, it is imperative to acknowledge that the Council and its aspiration to counterbalance Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran have garnered support from a limited segment of society. Notably, Tehran has strategically provided substantial financial and military support to Hezbollah and Lebanon over the years, often deflecting potential instances where Israel might exert significant influence within the nation’s political sphere and security dynamics.
As Lebanon faces parliamentary elections amid economic and political turmoil, the nation stands at a crossroads where the pursuit of its sovereignty and equilibrium must contend with the enduring complexities of Iran’s involvement. In this delicate and intricate juncture, the aspirations of Hezbollah’s supporters and the broader interests of Lebanon converge, shaping the path forward for the country’s political future.
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