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Stop Denying That Hizballah Controls Lebanon

Jan. 15 2018

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.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen