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

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.

Read more at MEMRI

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

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations