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

Dec. 16 2021

In September, after a year of wrangling and amidst economic and fiscal crisis, a new governing coalition formed in Beirut, which gives Hizballah and its allies more clout than ever. A month later, the U.S. pledged $67 million in aid to the Lebanese military, along with other support. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, has for at least a year made clear that he is willing to cooperate with Hizballah officials, so long as his country’s economic interests are served. And there’s more, writes Tony Badran:

The Biden administration is pushing to revive stalled maritime border-demarcation talks between Israel and Lebanon. The talks were set in motion in the final months of the Trump administration, with the misguided belief that Lebanon’s economic duress, and the promise of revenue from potential offshore gas, would quickly lead to a deal. Predictably, the talks came to a halt as the Lebanese expanded their demands by several hundred kilometers to lay claim to Israeli fields and territorial waters.

The fact that the Lebanese government, indeed the entire political order, is run by Hizballah, does not temper the administration’s vision. . . . Naturally, any potential future revenues from offshore gas, assuming whatever is found is commercially viable, would be available to Hizballah.

The Biden administration would like to see more than just energy companies invest in the Hizballah-run order in Lebanon. The Biden team, in tandem with Macron, has been pressing Saudi Arabia to do just that. Even after the kingdom publicly declared it wanted nothing to do with Lebanon, [a senior official] reiterated the administration’s call for the Gulf states to give “political and financial support.” In particular, the Biden administration wants the Saudis to fund the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and other security agencies.

The LAF represents the flip side of the administration’s fictional take on Lebanon. The false distinction between Hizballah and so-called “state institutions” serves as cover for injecting funds to stabilize the Hizballah-run order. The Saudis recognize this as an American fantasy and have brushed off these requests, in the recognition that they would only be propping up an Iranian satrapy.

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Read more at Caravan

More about: Emmanuel Macron, Hizballah, Israeli gas, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism