When Saudi Arabia attempted to pressure the Lebanese prime minister Saad Harari to resign in November, the U.S. State Department, France, and the International Crisis Group for Lebanon (a body whose members include the U.S., the EU, Russia, and China) all condemned Riyadh’s “destabilizing” actions and stressed the need to protect Lebanon from the chaos that has seized much of the Middle East. These statements, writes Evelyn Gordon, simply preserve the fiction that Lebanon is not entirely under the thumb of Hizballah—itself a proxy of Iran—and in its present form is a major engine of regional instability:
[T]he West has shown no . . . concern for shielding the many Mideast countries which Lebanon’s de-facto ruling party has destabilized for years. Thousands of Hizballah troops have fought in Syria’s civil war, helping the Assad regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Hizballah also has troops in Yemen to support the Houthi rebels in that country’s civil war, and it may have been involved in firing missiles from Yemen at Saudi Arabia. It has trained Shiite militias in Iraq and fought alongside them. And, of course, it has built an arsenal of some 150,000 missiles—bigger than that of most conventional armies—for eventual use against Israel. . . .
Thanks to this fiction, . . . the West has repeatedly watered down sanctions on Hizballah to avoid harming Lebanon and also has repeatedly pressured other countries not to penalize Lebanon for Hizballah’s aggression. This has allowed Hizballah to wage its foreign wars without its own Lebanese constituency paying any price. If Hizballah knew its own citizens would suffer for its actions, it might think twice about foreign adventurism.
But aside from destabilizing other Middle Eastern countries, this Western policy is liable to boomerang on Lebanon itself. Serious observers currently rate another Hizballah-Israel war as somewhere between likely and inevitable. And because Hizballah has 150,000 rockets pointed at Israel’s civilian population, Israel would have no choice but to employ maximum force to end such a war as quickly as possible. Against a threat of that magnitude, protecting its own people would trump any international pressure for “restraint.”
The only way to prevent such a war is to reverse the Western policies that have enabled Hizballah to grow to its current monstrous proportions. This means exerting massive pressure on Hizballah, even if it also hurts Lebanon. . . . [I]t’s long past time to acknowledge that Lebanon is a fully-owned Iranian subsidiary and to treat it accordingly—not only for the sake of Lebanon’s neighbors but for the sake of Lebanon itself.