Hizballah’s Religious Cleansing of Lebanon, and How Loosening Sanctions on Iran Will Make It Worse

Jan. 31 2022

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.

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Hizballah, Iran sanctions, Lebanon, Middle East Christianity, PLO

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy