For centuries, the area now known as Lebanon has been home to Christians, Druze, and Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who have coexisted with varying degrees of tension. But the ever-growing dominance of the Iran-backed Shiite group Hizballah is contributing to a decline in the Christian population, one that mirrors the fate of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East. The situation is apt to deteriorate further, argues Alberto M. Fernandez, if American nuclear negotiators in Vienna offer Iran greater sanctions relief:
In Syria and Iraq, the ethnic cleansing happened under cover of war. But in Lebanon there is a silent, slow-motion ethnic cleansing happening before our eyes, driven by the economic crisis and benefitting Hizballah, the best funded (with hard currency from Iran) faction in Lebanon, while its local rivals are beggared. Such an operation will only accelerate should a new . . . nuclear deal be agreed to in Vienna between the United States and Iran. Ahead of any such deal, Iran and its proxies are already benefiting financially by decreased American pressure on the regime by the Biden administration.
Reducing the country’s Christian population is particularly significant for Hizballah. It is that population that traditionally has the most Western ties, and a part of that population once allied with Israel 40 years ago.
The new Lebanon that Hizballah is building with its cash, corruption, and its use of violence will be more homogenous and conformist than the country ever was. It will have fewer Christians, Sunnis, and Druze but also fewer Lebanese Shiites who are willing to stand up to [the Iran-backed terrorist group]. “Hizballah-land” will resemble in a way the “Fatah-land” that the Palestine Liberation Organization controlled in southern Lebanon in the 1970s, but on a broader and deeper scale. And just like the PLO used Lebanon to host like-minded revolutionaries from throughout the world, so Hizballah-controlled Lebanon—a reality that is almost complete—will serve as safe haven, training ground, and university for the terror and insurgent groups of tomorrow.