In a March 22, 2019 joint press conference in Beirut with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo said that "Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hizbullah to dictate your future," adding that Hizbullah "defies the state and the people of Lebanon through a terrorist wing committed to spreading destruction."
Saudi Arabia welcomed these statements by Pompeo, and the Saudi press published articles condoning the curbing of Hizbullah's power. Some of the articles stated that, in light of this organization's terrorist actions, its strength and its deployment in the region and the world, a confrontation with it has become an unavoidable necessity. The articles also claimed that, since Lebanon is in the iron grip of this organization, it is unable to confront it on its own, and therefore the campaign against it must be an international one. Avoiding this confrontation, they said, will endanger not only Lebanon but the region and the world.
The following are excerpts from two articles in this vein:
Pompeo and Bassil at the joint press conference (image: Aljazeera.com)
Former Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor: An International Confrontation With Hizbullah Has Become An Unavoidable Necessity
Salman Al-Dosari, a former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote that a confrontation with Hizbullah, whose activity relies not on support within Lebanon but on Iran's foreign support, has become a necessity, and that avoiding this confrontation would be the greatest danger for Lebanon. He wrote: "For many years, Hizbullah strongly felt that it enjoyed a measure of immunity and an exemption from accountability, and that it could act without bearing responsibility for its aggression and terror. This was due to the superpowers' reluctance to hold it responsible for its actions [despite the fact that] it resembles a terror organization more than a political party... But [ultimately, the policy of non-]confrontation with Hizbullah could not last, considering the weight of the evidence indicating its criminal activities inside and outside Lebanon. The countries of Europe gradually began to classify it as a terrorist party, while the U.S. had done so long before them. Finally, the excuse of 'the political reality' and of [Hizbullah's] membership in the Lebanese government collapsed, and [this] party's confrontation with the world became overt.
"[Today] it is no longer possible to deceive the world that [this] party is an element that Lebanon's political arena cannot live without. [True,] Hizbullah has undeniable weight in this arena... but [this weight] is not based on political support inside [Lebanon], but rather on the considerable support of Iran. [This support] has enabled [Hizbullah] to gain significant military power, which it uses to threaten its rivals within Lebanon's political parties and currents, and has also enabled it to provide considerable support on the ground to the Syrian regime... [although] no political body in any country has any business [doing this].
"Therefore, Lebanon now faces the inevitable fate of a genuine international confrontation with Hizbullah, aimed at turning it back into a normal country. This scenario cannot not be realized [by elements] inside Lebanon, so the option of growing external pressure [on Hizbullah] has become the only option. For it is no longer possible to accept the paradox of a party that has military power and carries out illegal actions while forming part of the government...
"Nobody can confront Hizbullah from inside [Lebanon], so a confrontation with external [forces] has become the only feasible option for preserving not only Lebanon's stability and borders but also the stability of the region and the world. Avoiding a confrontation with Hizbullah poses a real danger, since, as the Lebanese themselves constantly reiterate, this party is not just a state-within-a-state in Lebanon. [The problem] has become even worse: Lebanon is becoming a small state within the state of Hizbullah. But evidence indicates that this erroneous equation, which has persisted for decades, cannot survive indefinitely, and that a confrontation with Hizbullah has become an unavoidable necessity."
Saudi Journalist: The Campaign Against Hizbullah Will Be A Long One, Which Lebanon Cannot Wage Alone
Similar arguments were made by journalist Fares bin Hizam, a columnist for the Al-Hayat daily. He wrote that, given Hizbullah's iron grip on Lebanon's centers of power and the scope of its activity – which far transcends Lebanon's borders and reaches multiple states in the Middle East and even in Europe – Lebanon itself is no longer able to restrain Hizbullah on its own, so the struggle against it must be broader. He added that the struggle to ultimately dismantle and eliminate Hizbullah will be a long one, carried out in phases.
He wrote: "Lebanon is still far from ready to stage a revolution against Hizbullah. This militia will not be restrained before America's international action [against it] finds support in Beirut [itself], among the parties allied with [Hizbullah], the forces that treat it with leniency, the authorities, and also the public... The campaign will be a long one, and the U.S. must realize this, for this organization, like a worsening disease, is eroding every part of the country: the presidency of the republic, the prime minister's [office], the military and the security [forces]. None of their leaders can raise his head without the permission of the chief terrorist [Hizbullah].
"Hizbullah thinks it is running Lebanon like a chess game between two players... One player is Hizbullah [itself], and the other is [composed of] Lebanon's 16 sects, which Hizbullah carefully manipulates and subjugates to its doctrine using murderous threats and verbal intimidation. It does not need to depose any of these [leaders], for they have already succumbed to [its] force and to the decree of fate. The [Hizbullah] militia has won the game, and now has a president [Michel 'Aoun] who does not lift a finger [against it], a prime minister [Sa'd Al-Hariri], who is pursuing a convoluted policy and keeps changing direction without [managing to] change his status one whit, and a corrupt parliament speaker [Nabih Berri] who sees nothing beyond his own [interests]. Only the head of the Lebanese Forces party [Samir Geagea is still] standing strong, on his own, waiting for the decree of God or for international support...
"The problem of Hizbullah transcends [the borders of] Lebanon, and confronting it is beyond its ability... [Therefore,] it is not enough to halt or confine [Hizbullah's influence] to the [Lebanese] republic. There must be a broad confrontation with it that will not allow any country in the region to provide this militia with economic, political or media [assistance as a] way out [of its crisis]. [Currently,] this militia openly finds a way out in Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey, and covertly [finds a way out] in central and eastern Europe – for Europe is still a convenient theatre [of operation] for its cells...
"The long journey [of confrontation with Hizbullah] must be carried out in stages and stick to viable strategies. Each stage involves several goals that will [help to] dismantle this entity, which enjoys the external support [of Iran], and turn its popular support base back towards the homeland. This will be a long journey, since the Iranian ship is anchored firmly in Lebanon and is unperturbed by the small waves [of opposition], and nothing is pushing its passengers to jump from its deck..."
April 3, 2019 cartoon in Saudi Makkah daily: "Hizbullah" controls the "Lebanese parliament"