print
memri
September 9, 2019 No.
8266

In Lebanon, Criticism Against Hizbullah For Dragging Country Into War For Sake Of Iran, And Against Lebanese Leaders For Supporting Hizbullah

In light of the recent tension between Israel and Hizbullah, there has been criticism in Lebanon against the organization itself, and also against the leaders of the state, for backing Hizbullah and enabling its actions.

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's August 16, 2019 speech, in which he said that war against Iran would mean war against the entire resistance axis and would set the entire region aflame, evoked condemnations against him on the grounds that he prefers Iran's benefit over that of his own country. This criticism mounted following Israel's August 25, 2019 drone attack on the Dahia, Hizbullah's stronghold in southern Beirut, and Hizbullah's September 1 retaliatory firing of anti-tank missiles into Israel. The critics called not to embroil Lebanon in wars that serve regional powers, chiefly Iran, stressing that Nasrallah does not represent all Lebanese, as he purports to do. Hizbullah, they said, is not authorized to act independently of the state and intervene in other countries, as it did in Syria, or to operate against Israel and then expect the Lebanese government to bear the responsibility for its actions. They warned that a war on Lebanon would entail death and destruction, and that only the Lebanese government is authorized to take decisions on issues of war.

Other critics, among them former Lebanese PM Fouad Al-Siniora, also called to renew the public debate on Lebanon's defense strategy and to subordinate Hizbullah's arms to the Lebanese army, lest the U.S. expand its sanctions on Lebanon, leading the country to complete economic collapse. Some also mocked Nasrallah for making empty boasts about the victories of the resistance when he cannot even prevent the Israeli attacks in Lebanon. Nasrallah's behavior, they stated, confirms the statements of U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo that Hizbullah is a danger to Lebanon.

As stated, harsh condemnations were also directed at the leaders of the Lebanese state, including President Michel 'Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. The latter was criticized mainly for his remark that all Lebanese are partners of Hizbullah. 'Aoun was condemned for rushing to declare, on his own initiative, following the Israeli drone attack, that Lebanon has the right to respond to Israel's aggression, a statement that was understood as lending legitimacy to retaliatory action by Hizbullah. The critics stated that these two leaders were effectively supporting Hizbullah and its weapons, eliminating the distinction between Hizbullah and the Lebanese state, and dragging the country into an unwanted confrontation with Israel. Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri was also censured, for his feeble response to the events and lack of control over them, which enable the Hizbullah-'Aoun-Bassil alliance to steer Lebanon as they wish.

The following are translated excerpts from the statements and articles criticizing Hizbullah and the Lebanese leadership. 


"Hizbullah" usurps the Lebanese state's authority to make "decisions on war" (Al-Ittihad, UAE, September 4, 2019)  

Lebanese Politicians, Journalists: Hizbullah May Embroil Us In A War For The Sake Of Iran

As stated, senior Lebanese politicians warned that Hizbullah would embroil Lebanon in a war that will benefit Iran but cause great losses and devastation in Lebanon, stressing that only the Lebanese government is authorized to make decisions on issues of war and peace.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora: Lebanon's Fate Must Not Be In The Hands Of Hizbullah, Iran

Former Lebanese prime minister Fouad Al-Siniora said on September 2: "The events on the Israeli border took place in the complete absence of the Lebanese state... Hizbullah takes decisions on its own and attempts to embroil [Lebanon in conflicts with Israel]... It is unacceptable for the organization to initiate an operation of this sort... Lebanon is facing great dangers and has no need for further dangers [created by] Hizbullah, like those of the recent days... The incident on the border ended as though it had been planned in advance by the two sides even without any need for direct contact [between them]... It is inconceivable that Lebanon's fate should depend on a non-Lebanese [i.e., Iranian] decision that Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah undertakes [to implement] and which he imposes upon Lebanon, with all its implications."[1]

Several days earlier, Al-Siniora said: "The events that occurred emphasize once again, very clearly, that the issue of Lebanon's defense strategy must be put up for debate...  It is inconceivable that the Lebanese government should continue to be passive yet [at the same time] bear all of the responsibility, while decision-making on war and peace is in the hands of Hizbullah, not in the hands of the Lebanese state... We should remind [everyone] that Hizbullah did not consult Lebanon or its government when it [decided to] intervene in the Syria [war], and now it is imposing upon Lebanon and the Lebanese people the consequences of that intervention."[2]

Christian Party Heads Samir Geagea, Samy Gemayel: Lebanon Will Pay A Heavy Price, Must Wake Up

Following the Israeli drone attack on the Dahia in Beirut, Samy Gemayel, head of the Christian Phalange Party, warned of Hizbullah actions that could exacerbate the tension with Israel, and added: "The [Lebanese] government is the only one authorized to take all the diplomatic and defensive measures necessary for Lebanon's protection. Perhaps Lebanon will awake from its coma before devastation comes."[3]

On September 1, after Hizbullah responded to the Israeli attack by firing anti-tank missiles into Israel, Samir Geagea, head of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, tweeted:  "It is unacceptable that Lebanon should be placed in the possible [danger] of a devastating war that has nothing to do with it. The state and [its] authorities will lose all prestige if all the [responsibility for] strategic decisions rests with elements other than the state institutions, so that the state merely serves as a rubber stamp." In another tweet he noted that Lebanon could pay heavily for Hizbullah's actions: "If Lebanon is dragged into an intense confrontation it will not be able to do anything [about it]. It will only receive blows from every direction and its people will pay a heavy price in lives, in [damage to] property and in the future of their children." [4]


Samir Geagea's tweet: The Lebanese people will pay a heavy price

Lebanese MP: Hizbullah has Taken The State Hostage, Is Impeding Its Development

Figures in Geagea's Strong Republic bloc made similar statements even earlier, in response to Nasrallah's August 16 speech, in which he said that a war against Iran would be a war against the entire resistance axis and would set the region aflame. Bloc member MP Wahhabi Qutisha attacked Nasrallah for "deluding the people [of Lebanon] that the homeland cannot survive without the resistance," saying: "If Hizbullah is as strong as [Nasrallah] claims, why is the enemy still attacking us in the air and sea? Why doesn't Hizbullah use its might to finish off this enemy? It has taken the state hostage and has been using it for years to wage resistance in the service of regional countries, not for the benefit of Lebanon. Nasrallah speaks as though he represents all sectors in Lebanon. Who gave him the right to do so? His statements are unacceptable. The Lebanese people are the ones who choose their leaders, not Mr. Hassan [Nasrallah]."[5]

Sources close to the bloc said, "[We] firmly demand that the Lebanese President and Prime Minister warn against any attempt to embroil Lebanon in wars it has nothing to do with. Only the Lebanese government is authorized to decide on [issues of] war. No political element has the right to lead Lebanon into wars and conflicts without the consent of all the Lebanese people... What is needed now is to distance [ourselves] from the policy of axes."[6]

Lebanese Journalist: In Light Of Hizbullah's Crimes, I Am In Favor Of An All-Out War Against It

Writers in the Lebanese press also joined the criticism against Hizbullah and Nasrallah. Journalist Jerry Maher, known for his opposition to Hizbullah, wrote in response to the Israeli drone attack on the Dahia and other attacks attributed to Israel on Hizbullah bases in Syria: "After Nasrallah's crimes in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, and after he has fired missiles into Saudi Arabia and threatened the security of the Gulf, I, Jerry Maher, am unconcerned about strikes against Hizbullah and its cities, villages and bases in Lebanon and Syria. I am in favor of open war against it, no matter who wages it."[7]

Lebanese Columnist: Hizbullah Is A Danger To Lebanon

Columnist 'Abd Al-Wahhab Baderkhan came out against Hizbullah and the danger it poses to Lebanon, writing: "After the 2006 war, Nasrallah led the country into a political and economic crisis, and it has evaded accountability and left [the country] on the brink of the abyss to this very day. When it deployed its soldiers in Syria, it surely knew it had [suffered] a moral breakdown, yet it was willing to use [its fighting in Syria] to frighten the Lebanese, while again evading responsibility. Its real war is not against Israel, it is against the Lebanese...  Every missile that arrives in Hizbullah's depots causes Lebanon to lose another bit of its stability and increases the number of poor and unemployed [Lebanese] who wish to emigrate. The more Hizbullah tightens its control [over Lebanon], the more we lose hope for the future. Nasrallah seems to have proven that U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo was not wrong in calling Hizbullah a danger to Lebanon."[8]


"Hizbullah's weapons are dragging Lebanon's economy towards the abyss" (Al-Arab, London, August 26, 2019)

Criticism Of President 'Aoun, Foreign Minister Bassil, PM Al-Hariri For Defending Hizbullah's Weapons

Alongside the criticism of Hizbullah itself, Lebanese figures and journalists also castigated Lebanese President Michel 'Aoun, calling on him to stop defending Hizbullah's weapons and enable a public debate on this issue. They also demanded that he launch an investigation into the Dahia drone attack and that the government subject Hizbullah to its decisions, lest the sanctions on Lebanon be expanded and the economy collapse. They stressed that they are willing to die for Lebanon but not for Iran, and warned that the president personally, and Lebanon as a whole, may pay a price for the alliance with Iran.

Former Minister: It Is Not The Leader's Place To Defend Weapons That Are Outside The Control Of The State

 Former minister Ashraf Rifi addressed 'Aoun, saying: "It is not the responsibility of the leader to defend weapons that are outside [the control of] the state... [Lebanon's] legitimate state and military institutions are the only ones charged with defending the state. Honorable Mr. President, you are not the official spokesman of [regional] projects that disregard sovereignty, borders and international resolutions. It would have been best to ask [Lebanon's] security and military apparatuses to investigate the Dahia incident." Rifi also criticized 'Aoun for rushing to threaten a Lebanese response to the Israeli operation even before the government had expressed its position on this issue.[9]

Former MP: Mr. President, You Endangered The Lives Of Our Children; You Will Be Responsible For The Devastation

In a series of tweets, former MP Fares Sou'aid harshly criticized 'Aoun for saying that Lebanon has the right to respond to the attack on the Dahia, referring to a response by Hizbullah. He wrote: "Honorable Mr. President, you are the president of a country, not [just] the chairman of a [political] faction [i.e., the Free Patriotic movement, of which 'Aoun is the founder]. You speak for all Lebanon, and therefore [by saying what you did] you exposed our children to deadly [danger] and our property to destruction. In your statement you erased the distinction between the state and Hizbullah, and you will bear the responsibility for the complete devastation [of Lebanon]. We implore you, retract your statement. Honorable Mr. President, there are those who prayed for you to arrive at [the presidential palace] in Ba'abda. I was not one of them, but I respect [their position]. Do not turn your presidency into a hellish period. Do not leave the Lebanese with memories of war and destruction that will become associated with your name. Mr. President, the people will rise up against you. We do not want to die for the sake of Iran. We will be martyred only for the sake of Lebanon. Mr. President, Lebanon's credit rating has been downgraded... Sanctions will be imposed on parliament members and [other Lebanese] figures. Hizbullah's fighting in Syria contributed to the flow of refugees [into Lebanon]. We are in dire straits. Do not pour oil on the fire. Your position, your age and our respect for you forbid this. Retract your statement. You personally, as well as Lebanon, will pay the price of Lebanon's association with Iran. Honorable Mr. President, with all due respect, what you did will bring devastation upon Lebanon. Instead of letting the state conduct [indirect] negotiations with a foreign [country, i.e., Israel] in case events escalate [towards a conflict], you placed all the official institutions – and more importantly, Lebanon as a whole – into the same framework [with Hizbullah]. You are the president of the Lebanese republic, not a president acting on behalf of others."[10]


Fares Sou'aid tweet: "Mr. President,... what you did will bring devastation upon Lebanon"

Christian Association: The President And Prime Minister Did Not Do Their Duty; If Things Do Not Improve, The Government Should Be Replaced

In response to the spike in Hizbullah-Israel tension, the Christian Saydet Al-Jabal Association, founded in 2006 by the Maronite Church, which promotes Christian-Muslim coexistence in Lebanon and is known for opposing the Iranian influence in the country, issued a statement in which it called for reforms as a condition for the survival of the current government. The statement said: "The Lebanese [sate] lost [its grip on] power when it disappeared from the arena of action and placed its fate and the fate of the Lebanese people in the hands of Hizbullah on the one hand and Israel on the other... Instead of immediately convening the Supreme Defense Council, the President vanished from the scene, and the Prime Minister, instead of convening an urgent government meeting, sufficed with routine phone conversations with several world leaders. The incident at Maroun Al-Ras [in Lebanon] and Avivim [in Israel, i.e., Hizbullah's firing of anti-tank missiles into Israel,] toppled [UN] Resolution 1701[11] and toppled the state, which is supposed to implement it. It undermined the parliament, the government and the position of the President. Hizbullah has completed its coup. What aid do the Lebanese expect to receive in the shadow of the Hizbullah state?... We must form a national Lebanese front that will demand to defend the interests of Lebanon alone, rather than those of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, which have to do with the [upcoming] elections [in Israel], or those of [Iranian Leader Ali] Khamenei, which have to do with the negotiations [with the U.S.]. Lebanon [must come] first. This means that the interest of Lebanon supersede everything else, and this [in turn] means respecting the legitimate Lebanese, Arab and international [institutions]. One of the goals of this front will be to correct [Lebanon's] path or else to demand the immediate formation of an alternative government. It is inconceivable that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, the Arab League, the French President and the U.S. Secretary of State should act [for Lebanon's benefit], while Lebanon does nothing."[12]

Lebanese Columnist: The President Has Proved That He Is part Of The Iranian Axis; The Foreign Minister's Support For Hizbullah Places Lebanon In The Crosshairs

In two of his columns in the Lebanese Al-Nahhar daily, Journalist 'Ali Hamada criticized President 'Aoun, as well as his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, for supporting Hizbullah and its weapons. In the first column he focused on 'Aoun, who refuses to conduct a debate on Lebanon's defense strategy and Hizbullah's weapons, writing: "President 'Aoun has erased his promise from before the elections to conduct a national dialogue on [Lebanon's] national defense strategy, namely to raise the issue of Hizbullah's illegal arms before the partners in the national [arena] and discuss its future... This [new] position comes at a very dangerous juncture for Lebanon and proves that the president of our country belongs to the regional axis led by Iran... The grave [aspect] of 'Aoun's position is that he placed Hizbullah's weapons above any consideration or controversy..."[13] 

In another column Hamada attacked Bassil, writing: "...What is even more serious than Nasrallah's statement [that war on Iran would mean war against the entire resistance axis] is the position of Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the President's son-in-law, who said in a press interview: 'All of us in Lebanon are partners of Hizbullah, as evident from the existence of the national unity government.' This description contains a measure of truth, but when it is uttered by the Foreign Minister, it is a worrying sign of the pressures that Lebanon might suffer in light of the view, which is becoming dominant in Washington, that Hizbullah and the Lebanese state are one and the same. This is due to Hizbullah's growing influence on all of the state's centers [of power], and especially since the election of Hizbullah's ally, General Michel 'Aoun, as president... [Foreign Minister] Bassil is providing further evidence for the claim that the Israelis are selling to the Americans and Europeans, that any future war on Hizbullah must encompass all of Lebanon, and that Lebanon as a whole must be placed under the weight of sanctions, since its political echelons, and the state and a whole, are partners of Hizbullah."[14]

Lebanese Journalist: The Decisions Rest With President 'Aoun, Foreign Minister Bassil And Hizbullah, While PM Al-Hariri Can Do Nothing

Al-Nahhar columnist Ibrahim Haidar wrote: "The political developments following the Israeli attack on the Dahia placed [the issue of] war on the agenda... The position of President Michel 'Aoun indicates that he is once again involving himself in this issue, in coordination with Hizbullah, whereas Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri is trying to join in and to act in the international arena by condemning the aggression and urging international community to press Israel to stop its attacks. Al-Hariri tried to balance the official position by adding his voice to that of the [other] authorities, but it seems that – as a political source claimed – the decision is in the hands of the [tripartite] alliance of Hizbullah, 'Aoun and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil. But the point against Al-Hariri is that he is unable to impose his position, as is supposed to happen in the state when it is faced with an escalation in the region."[15]

 

 

[1] Elnashra.com, September 2, 2019.

[2] Al-Nahhar (Lebanon), August 29, 2019.

[3] Elnashra.com, August 21, 2019.

[4] Mobile.twitter.com/DRSAMIRGEAGEA/status, September 1, 2019.

[5] Elnashra.com, August 17, 2019.

[6] Al-Jumhouriyya (Lebanon), August 17, 2019.

[7] Mobile.twitter.com/jerrymahers/status, September 1, 2019.

[8] Al-Nahhar (Lebanon), August 21, 2019.

[9] Elnashra.com, August 27, 2019.

[10] Twitter.com/FaresSouaid, August 26, 2019.

[11] UN Resolution 1701, of August 11, 2006, calls for the immediate cessation by Hizbullah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations, as part of a permanent ceasefire along the Israel-Lebanon border and a long-term solution that includes the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, the extension of the Lebanese government's authority over all Lebanese territory;  security arrangements in the area between the Israel-Lebanese border and the Litani river, which will be free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL; and expansion of the UNIFIL forces, and an embargo on the sale or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its government (unscr.com, August 11, 2006).

[12] Al-Hayat (Dubai), September 2, 2019.

[13] Al-Nahhar (Lebanon), August 20, 2019.

[14] Al-Nahhar (Lebanon), August 17, 2019.

[15] Al-Nahhar (Lebanon), August 28, 2019.