How the U.S. and France Are Propping Up Hizballah’s Rule in Lebanon

September 23, 2021 | Tony Badran
About the author: Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Levant analyst at Tablet magazine.

After over a year of political deadlock, Beirut earlier this month announced the formation of a new government. On its surface, it seems as if the decision resulted from Sunni Muslim and Maronite Christian factions reaching an accommodation. Tony Badran explains, however, that the compromise was brokered by the Iran-backed Shiite militia Hizballah, which is the sole group that has come out ahead:

The prolonged paralysis only highlighted both sides’ insignificance, in contrast to Hizballah’s position as ultimate arbiter. Hizballah not only controls the new government, as it did Lebanon’s previous governments, but it and its immediate allies also hold two-thirds of the governing portfolios.

The French president Emmanuel Macron launched an initiative last year to push for a new Lebanese government. But Macron always viewed Hizballah as his primary interlocutor in Lebanon. . . . Macron has apparently resolved that, because Hizballah and, behind it, Iran are the dominant players in Lebanon, partnership with them is a prerequisite for advancing French interests—both geopolitical and commercial. In addition to its existing investment in offshore gas exploration in Lebanon, France has also been eyeing other ventures.

French policy in the Levant is hardly at odds with U.S. policy. In fact, in July, in a highly unusual move, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon and her French counterpart jointly visited Saudi Arabia to urge the kingdom to reinvest in the Hizballah-dominated order in Beirut. Similarly, the U.S. secretary of state and his French counterpart have tried to press the Saudis on the matter.

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