February 2, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10458

Criticism In Lebanon Following Iranian FM's Visit: His Statements Are False; Visit Is Meant To Clarify That No Lebanese President Will Be Elected And No Regional Agreements Will Be Made Without Iran's Involvement

February 2, 2023
Iran, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 10458

On January 12, 2023, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Lebanon for a three-day visit during which he met with senior Lebanese officials, including caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Foreign Minister 'Abdallah Bou Habib, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.[1] While in Beirut, Abdollahian also met with the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Al-Nakhalah, and reaffirmed Iran's continued support for the Palestinian resistance.[2] In statements he made upon arrival at the airport, Abdollahian urged Lebanon's political forces to hold a dialogue to agree on a new president, and added: "I have complete confidence that the Lebanese [political] forces possess independence and wisdom which enable them to manage their affairs themselves, far from [any] dictates and from any external interference." He added that Iran would continue to support "[our] sister, the Lebanese republic, it people, its army and its resistance."[3]

Abdollahian repeated his remarks at a press conference held with Lebanese Foreign Minister Bou Habib, and stated: "We spoke about the best ways to strengthen the bilateral ties in the economic and commercial sphere so as to further the interests of both peoples. Iran," he added, "will always remain a sincere and faithful friend of Lebanon, in good times and bad." He also repeated Iran's proposal to supply oil to Lebanon and help it build power stations in order to alleviate its energy crisis. He also said that "Lebanon's security and development are part of Iran's security and development." Regarding the crisis surrounding the election of a new Lebanese president, Abdollahian stated that Iran "does not interfere in the internal affairs of its sister Lebanon" and called on the political forces in the country "to meet and to hold a dialogue in order to fill the vacuum in the presidency," and expressed confidence that the Lebanese "have sufficient awareness, understanding and experience to find a solution to [this] crisis."[4]

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Bou Habib (right) and Iran's Foreign Minister Abdollahian at the joint press conference (image: Al-Nahar, Lebanon, January 13, 2023)

Iran's Foreign Minister Abdollahian at a meeting with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah (image: Al-Nahar, Lebanon, January 13, 2023)

Abdollahian's statements, and particularly his remarks that Iran does not interfere in the internal affairs of the "sister" country Lebanon and is willing to help resolve Lebanon's energy crisis, drew extensive criticism from Lebanese politicians and journalists who characterized them as nothing more than hypocritical and false political discourse. Former justice minister Ashraf Rifi tweeted, "We say to Minister Abdollahian that he can tone down his diplomatic humility, which is a fraud. Iran does not interfere in Lebanese affairs. It occupies it and controls its destiny and the decisions [made] within it. History will yet show that your regime, [which is] hegemonic and arrogant towards our countries [sic][5], is about to collapse, so heed our advice."[6]

Similar statements appeared in Lebanese press articles which claimed that Abdollahian's "sugary diplomatic discourse," his expressed hope for the quick election of a new president and his remarks in praise of "sister" Lebanon are nothing but "outright lies" and an attempt to deceive the public. Even his offer of Iranian oil and Iranian help in the construction of power stations are false, they added. They concluded that Abdollahian's visit was meant to convey a message to Lebanon and to other regional and international players, namely that no president will be elected in Lebanon and no regional agreements will be made without Iranian involvement.

The following are translated excerpts from these articles.

Editor Of Lebanese Daily: We Are Not So Naïve As To Believe The Lies Of The Iranian Foreign Minister

In a recent article, Bechara Charbel, editor-in-chief of the Lebanese Nidaa Al-Watan daily, claimed that Abdollahian's statements about Iran's willingness to help Lebanon with its energy crisis were outright lies, and that his visit was intended to convey that any arrangement regarding to the election of a president must be approved by Iran. He wrote: "[Even] Hossein Amir-Abdollahian himself, who has been visiting our country for the past three days, doesn't believe in what he is peddling, [namely the statements about] his country's willingness to help Lebanon with oil and with power stations to generate electricity. We do not believe this broken record either, which is intended to provide its allies in Lebanon with a rationale to continue selling illusions to their public.

"With all due respect to the Iranian foreign minister, we are not so naïve as to put our faith in promises which are part of a charade, [an attempt] to embarrass [Lebanon] and create trouble for it with respect to the sanctions [on Iran]. Moreover, his country is in no position to bestow gifts when 60 percent of its population is living below the poverty line, and when the data indicates a shortage of cash which is reflected in a terrible deterioration in Yemen and in Syria [where Iranian militias are present] and in a drop in the funds provided to the 'jihadi organizations' in Palestine and to [Iran's] proxies in other locations.

"The most conspicuous aspect of the statements made by this unexpected guest was not his sugary diplomatic talk or his expressed hope for the election of a [new Lebanese] president – which is an outright lie. Rather, it was his description of Lebanon as a 'sister country.' For the rules dictate that he refer to us as 'friends,' because the only thing that we and his country have in common is the armed political party [i.e. Hizbullah]… In any case, 'it's possible to have a brother who wasn't born to your mother,' [as the saying goes,] but brotherhood has its demands. The most important of them is [not to utter] 'true things when the intention behind them is false,' and that is what Abdollahian did in his conversation with our foreign minister when he expressed opposition to all external interference in Lebanon's affairs! One might think… that the enchanting presence of our sister Iran in the land of the cedars is confined to the composition of verse and the sale of Persian tobacco and saffron…

"Abdollahian did not come [to Lebanon] only to visit his allies. He came to tell the Lebanese, and the regional and international political forces which are trying to help with the election of [a new Lebanese] president, that 'we [Iranians] are here,' and that any arrangement must be vetted by Iran. This is a card that Iran has invested in for years, and it will not relinquish the smallest piece of it without recompense, whether on or under the table. This is a known fact that does not require a surprise visit and [the creation of] tension… nor does it require [the utterance of] the usual theoretical statements that any recording device could have broadcast.

"If we had a real government and a courageous foreign minister, he would have asked his Iranian counterpart about the violations of human rights, and particularly women's [rights], that are currently being perpetrated in Iran, and about the executions of [Iranians] who are demanding freedom and challenging tyranny. Later, just before saying farewell, our head of diplomacy should have asked our distinguished guest a brief question: When will your republic [Iran] free the tormented hostage whose name is Lebanon?"[7]

Lebanese Journalist: The Visit Was Intended To Clarify That No Regional Arrangements Can Be Made Without Iran

Lebanese journalist Mounir Al-Rabih also claimed that the visit of the Iranian foreign minister was intended to convey messages to regional and international forces. He wrote: "[Abdollahian's] visit is part of [Iran's efforts] to buttress its position, especially since it took place during a significant political phase in the region, when Iran is striving to assert its presence in Lebanon and in the region. The purpose of the visit was to assert the [Iranian] presence and to unite its allies, whether within the Lebanese arena or in the Lebanese and the Palestinian [arenas]. The point is to convey an Iranian message to the region as a whole against the backdrop of two important moves. The first is the Russian-Syrian-Turkish meetings [that took place until recently] without the participation of Iran; the second is the preparations underway in Paris, the capital of France, for meetings on the issue of Lebanon [and the election of a new president], also without Iranian participation. Therefore, Iran is signaling that it has a presence [in Lebanon] and that it is inconceivable that any arrangement should be made without it.

"It is known that Iran has empowered Hizbullah [to handle] everything related to Lebanon's internal affairs and that it is the element that decides on any arrangement [in Lebanon] as it sees fit. Abdollahian's visit was meant to confirm this and to reaffirm the fact that the [Lebanon] portfolio is held by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah… [This was reflected by the declarations of] Iran's support for Hizbullah's positions as stated by Nasrallah…

"Sources claim that in conversations held by Abdollahian, all the regional topics and developments were discussed and it was stressed that Iran has a [regional] presence and that meetings with external [forces] will not yield results in its absence or in the absence of its allies in Lebanon [i.e. Hizbullah]. In this context one should note the renewal of tension in France-Iran relations, in light of Paris' positions on the protests in Iran. Therefore, it is impossible to ignore [the connection between] the timing of the visit and the efforts to convene a meeting in Paris  in late January or early February [to discuss the issue of the Lebanese presidency]…

"[Furthermore,] one should recall the remarks made by [the now retired] Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, who said that over the past year the Israel army prepared three plans for attacking Iran, in addition to the ongoing Israeli discourse about how [Israel] continuously prevents Iran from establishing a force similar to Hizbullah in southern Syria. This necessitates continuous Iranian readiness along with its allies, [which is another reason for the visit of the Iranian foreign minister]."[8]

Lebanese Journalist: Iran Is Neither A Sister Country Nor A Friend

Journalist 'Ali Hamada wrote in a similar vein in his column in the Al-Nahar daily:  "It is possible that the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, comes in the context of Iran's desire to consolidate its holdings in the region, at a time when all the players in the area intend [to do so]. [There are several indications of this,] from the meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee [which opened on January 9, 2023] in Abu Dhabi, though the growing activity to [advance] relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime via Russian mediation…, to the Arab rush, albeit a reluctant one, to [embrace] Iraq[9] … Another matter, no less important, is Hizbullah's failure… to impose its own candidate for the presidency in Lebanon, as occurred in 2016…

"Even if Abdollahian, who was originally aligned with elements connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), [is the one who] visited Lebanon and included some general headlines in his speeches, the Lebanese people know that the [decision regarding] the Lebanon portfolio is not in his hands. Nor is it in the hands of the [Iranian] government or even in the hands of the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi… For the Lebanon portfolio doesn't leave the hands of the source of authority of the IRGC, the leader Ali Khamenei, personally. It is also known that it is the leadership of the Qods Force that directs the oversight of regional issues…

"Therefore, it may be said that even if Abdollahian's visit to Lebanon included allusions to the presidential [crisis there], it is meaningless in this respect, and was [more] likely meant to convey messages to the region. The talk of the electricity [crisis in Lebanon] and of Iranian assistance to resolve it will also remain theoretical, for Iran is unlikely to grant Lebanon gifts of fuel to operate its power stations, and it cannot do this commercially [i.e., sell the oil to Lebanon] due to the American sanctions on Iranian oil. It is also hard [to believe] that Iran will occupy itself [bestowing] gifts of oil on Lebanon when the Iranian public is incensed and opposes the regime's spending hundreds of billions of dollars from the national coffers on weapons, armament and militias within and beyond the region, and on external political parties and external bodies, while the [Iranian] people are suffering from a suffocating economic crisis. And this is in addition to the large protests which erupted last autumn following the killing of Mahsa Amini by the 'morality police'…

"Hence, not many [in Lebanon] are pinning their hopes on the visit of the Iranian foreign minister. But one issue, which is a sore point with many Lebanese, should be noted, namely Abdollahian's puzzling insistence on repeatedly describing Lebanon as a 'sister.' Iran is neither a sister country nor a friend [to Lebanon]. In the best case it's half a friend to a [certain] Lebanese group which it is leading astray."[10]


[1] Al-Nahar, (Lebanon), January 13, 2023.

[2], January 13, 2023.

[3], January 12, 2023; January 13, 2023.

[4] Al-Nahar, (Lebanon), January 13, 2023;, January 13, 2023.

[5] Apparently a reference to all the countries under Iranian hegemony.

[6], January 13, 2023.

[7] Nidaa Al-Watan (Lebanon), January 14, 2023.

[8], January 14, 2023

[9] The reference is to the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup soccer tournament that opened in Iraq on January 6, 2023, during which there was an atmosphere of closeness between Iraq and the Arab Gulf countries, which sparked significant public discourse about the rise of Arab nationalism in Iraq.

[10] Al-Nahar, (Lebanon), January 14, 2023.

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