Hezbollah has recently received a Houthi delegation in Beirut’s southern suburbs. This represents a new and additional defiance of the Lebanese people who continue to yearn for a quiet and stable country.
Lebanon has been hijacked by Hezbollah, which is sacrificing its sons in order to protect Bashar al-Assad and his forces. Hezbollah is also boldly interfering in Yemen’s war as it is training the Houthis, allows their television channel to broadcast from Lebanon and receives their delegation as a guest of honor in its celebrations.
Hezbollah is setting with its Christian partner the broad parameters of foreign policy. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who aspires to succeed his father-in-law to the Lebanese presidency, is acting in accordance with the party’s desire. He demands normalization with Damascus because Assad, Hezbollah’s partner, needs legitimacy.
Support for Houthis
The foreign minister does not care about the dissociation policy. Under the pretext of returning Syrian refugees, he wants to coordinate with the Syrian regime and seeks normalization of relations between the two countries. Bassil has said this serves Lebanon’s interests. How can Lebanese interests be served by normalizing relations with the Syrian regime that has displaced millions of its own people and now claims it wants them to return?
How would Lebanon’s interest be served when the dominating party in the country is involved in the Yemeni war on the side of the Houthis? How is this foreign minister working for Lebanon’s benefit, when he allows his country to be part of such a war while still aspiring to have good and brotherly relations with Gulf states?
Lebanon has had a history of crises, wars and disasters. Its stability is now at risk because the dominant party’s actions along with that of its Iranian partner puts the country in great danger of coming under international sanctions, especially from the US. Lebanon, whether with the presence of Syrian refugees or without them, may confront the threat of fatal sanctions that it cannot tolerate.
The threat of US sanctions
The US administration had warned everyone against surrendering to what Hezbollah wants. Punishing Iran shows what can happen to Lebanon, which until further notice does not have oil, gas nor any basic products that it exports.
The economic situation cannot tolerate polices that take the country to the edge of the abyss just because some of parties want to flatter the Iranian axis believing that it is the strongest power in the region. Some who had ruled Lebanon before had placed their bets on Saddam Hussein in Iraq because they thought he was the strongest but their bet failed.
Similarly, even the gamble on supporting Iran might fail, if circumstances continue to be as they are today. The Iranian axis is fragile, and its survival in Syria is not guaranteed, even if Assad and his group remain in power as they are not free and their decisions are in Russia’s hands.
Believing that good relations with Syria gives Lebanon an opportunity to participate in its reconstruction is flawed reasoning. According to David Satterfield, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, President Trump told Putin in Helsinki that no US funds will be allocated for the reconstruction of Syria as long as the Syrian regime continues to hinder the Geneva negotiations and does not want to talk about transition as part of a political solution. Satterfield said that Putin had heard this clearly from Trump in Helsinki.
It would not be realistic for Lebanon to think that restoring normal and good relations with Syria would give it the opportunity to reconstruct Syria, as long as there is no political solution for the situation in Syria. Who would desire to reconstruct a country in the presence of the armies of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah in its cities?
The dissociation policy was the right one for Lebanon, but unfortunately the government is now controlled by a party that has hijacked its decision with the help of another party which it describes itself as “strong” and which is gambling on an axis which it believes is its path to the presidency. This “strong” party has placed this gamble even though it saw how the presidency would not have been attained without the support of Saad Hariri, who made a mistake when he chose to make a settlement to avoid vacuum.
Today, Lebanon still faces the same threat as long as Hezbollah and its axis have involved the country in regional wars, backed by Lebanon’s foreign minister who aspires the presidency under the umbrella of the Iranian axis.