BEIRUT: Opinions differ in Lebanon on the issue of US and Gulf sanctions against Hezbollah, the latest of which target members of its consultative council. However, everyone agrees that Hezbollah can always find ways to bypass the “American fist” around it.
A university professor, who would not reveal his identity because university regulations prevent him from giving statements, said that “sanctions against Hezbollah do not make a difference in its sympathetic environment. The more sanctions are imposed, the more support it gets from its cohorts. Its popular support has never diminished due to sanctions imposed on it. Rather, it received more sympathy from its supporters.”
The university professor added that “imposing sanctions on leading Hezbollah figures would not affect Lebanon, but it could cause trouble for Hezbollah and banking institutions that deal with it. This may have some effects.”
The university professor played down the possibility that the sanctions would affect the Lebanese political reality because “the (Hezbollah) has broad acceptance, popular strength and military power that prevent even the mere thought of removing it from the government or decision centers, over which it will increase its influence, either directly or through its allies.”
“The inclusion of Hezbollah leaders on US and Gulf terrorism lists is inseparable from the conflict between the United States and Iran,” said Qasim Hashim, a member of the Liberation and Development Bloc.
Moreover, according to journalist Mona Sukariya: “The US administration’s decision is interference in Lebanon’s sovereign political affairs. I understand that the American administration has not taken a decision over the years of the Arab-Israeli conflict unless it is in the interests of protecting Israel’s security. The issue of sanctions against Hezbollah, which has parliamentary and partisan legitimacy and has participated in the successive governments, raises concern and confusion. After the peaceful end of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon, we hope that these sanctions do not affect the Lebanese economy, provoke disorder and destabilize security.”
Sukariya stressed that “no party in Lebanon wants to get involved in any security confusion.”
Sanaa Farghal, a Hezbollah opponent, supports the claim that sanctions strengthen Hezbollah among its supporters and weaken its opponents because they cannot do anything against it. “What is happening now will not affect Lebanon,” she said.
“It may put pressure on Iran, but Lebanon will be treated as a violator of international law. The situation in Lebanon remains fragile and unstable because we are at a stage of regional attrition. Lebanon stands on the edge of the abyss and no one has decided to push it down. The balance between the United States and Europe preserves Lebanon’s stability.”
However, economic expert Louis Hobeika stressed that the new sanctions “weaken Hezbollah because they restrict it and cannot be ignored. It restricts all people who are with or against the party in the business sector because sanctions may affect them one way or the other.”
Hobeika stressed that the sanctions have caused “an atmosphere of confusion in the business sector. They are asking: ‘If America and the Gulf wanted to impose these sanctions, where do I find support if I ignore them?’ People are usually cautious.”
He believes that widening the sanctions may affect new known names that may not be from the Shiite sect, which means “they will affect all those who deal with Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Hobeika said that the term “dealing with Hezbollah” “is very flexible. Hezbollah is not a foreign party in Lebanon. Its members are Lebanese. Even if someone wanted to sell the party wood or iron, he would think 100 times about this step.”
The economic expert added noted that “the American president wants to punish everyone. He withdrew from the nuclear agreement and transferred the American embassy to Jerusalem. It’s a negative atmosphere that transcends Lebanon to the whole world. The economic climate may not be comfortable in Lebanon. Questions about remittances will be raised, causing a tense atmosphere.”
The governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, was quick to stress from the Presidential Palace the “stability of the Lebanese pound” after the sanctions.