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

December 16, 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.

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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