A Frenchman imprisoned in Iran ends his hunger strike: his family
Saving Lebanon can help prevent the spread of Iranian terror in the region, say activists
CHICAGO: Lebanon will be “another failed state dominated by Iran and riddled with corruption” if critical steps are not taken soon to end government corruption in the country, address the economic challenges it faces and solve the “crippling” problem of Hezbollah violence.
That’s the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by two leading Washington-based Middle East think tanks, the American Task Force on Lebanon and the Middle East Institute. To mark the occasion, they hosted a webinar where panelists discussed ways to implement the report’s powerful findings and restore order in Lebanon.
Much of the discussion focused on the role of Hezbollah, and participants noted that the outcome of ongoing US negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program could have significant ramifications for Lebanon.
Paul Salem, president of the Middle East Institute, said Lebanon faces many challenges, including the failure to eradicate bigotry over the past 31 years, but a bigger challenge is the presence and continued power of Hezbollah as a non-state actor with allegiance. to Iran.
“(A) crippling problem is the presence of Hezbollah,” he said. “This (Lebanese) government, no matter how well it reforms its governmental system, and no matter how good it is at fighting corruption or making good decisions, the fact is that the Lebanese state is not not sovereign.
“He does not control his border. He does not control his territory. He does not control the decisions of war and peace. There is a full-fledged army which is in total allegiance to a foreign country – which is the Islamic Republic of Iran, which they say proudly – which does not answer to the Lebanese people, does not answer to the Lebanese government or to the Lebanese parliament or the Lebanese state. It is also a paralyzing problem.
Salem said he did not see Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon changing, even if the United States and Iran reached an agreement in Vienna.
“With or without a return to the nuclear deal, Iran remains committed to a forward defense strategy, remains committed to building militias in other countries,” he said. “(In the past) it was Lebanon, and now it’s Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”
In his opening remarks, Congressman Darrell Issa assured that the United States remains committed to Lebanon and to the organization of “free and fair elections” scheduled for May for parliament and later in the year for the presidency.
Participants in the discussion also included Edward M. Gabriel, ATFL President and former Ambassador; Brian Katulis, vice-president of policy at the MEI; and journalist Joyce Karam. It was moderated by Jean AbiNader, ATFL vice-president for policy.
“If we don’t reach a proper agreement with Iran, we have missed our best chance to deal with this external pressure on the country of Lebanon,” Gabriel said, referring to Hezbollah’s ties to Iran.
“The United States should realize that it is in tough times by the Gulf, by Israel, by Lebanese Americans if, in fact, it is not dealing with the proxies of terrorism in the region.”
Katulis said the world must overcome the idea that “Lebanon is lost”. He added that he hopes that US President Joe Biden, who began his term with a focus on Iran and Yemen, will see that the future of Lebanon “is directly linked to the issue of Iran. “.
Abi Nader said saving Lebanon is “essential for America”.
He added, “Without strong support from the United States and its friends, Iran and Syria would dominate Lebanon and likely pose increased terrorist threats to the United States. It does not serve American interests.
The ATFL/MEI report highlights a number of obstacles that need to be addressed to improve the situation in Lebanon and end the crises it faces, and calls on Biden and the United States to lead a “diplomatic coalition” to encourage the implementation of political and economic measures. reforms.
All panelists agreed on the need to “significantly reduce corruption at all levels of government” in Lebanon.