The Lebanese parliament has elected Michel Aoun as the country’s new president and has thus ended the “Presidential Vacuum” brought about, since May 25, 2014, by the boycott carried out by Hezbollah and its subservient parliamentary blocs which would accept no candidate for the post other than their man… Aoun. On another front, in northwestern Iraq and northern Syria new maps of influences are being drawn by Iran’s expansionism, the Kurds’ ambitions, and Turkey’s calculations.
Aoun’s securing the Lebanese presidency, whatever excuses are given to justify it, is yet another victory for Iran’s grand plan. However, Iran’s new victory in Lebanon is but a small drop in the sea of Tehran-led Arab-named militias inside Iraq and Syria.
Lebanon, its presidency, parliament, and government are insignificant details that mean nothing in the “big regional picture’ that includes religious and sectarian uprooting and displacement here, and ethnic cleansing there. Only some Maronite Christians still take the Lebanese presidency with undeserved seriousness refusing to accept why Iran — through its arm Hezbollah — nominated Aoun in the first place; with Washington’s indirect blessings.
Frankly, Lebanon’s president is not going to be a real “president” simply because Lebanon has ceased to be a real “country.” Those who do not want to see the facts on the ground, must look no further than the duties that Hezbollah is ordered to execute in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the GCC countries, and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Then, follow the development of Iraq’s Shiite militias working under the “umbrella” organization ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF) that was legalized and legitimized by Haidar Al-Abadi’s government. Incidentally, that is the same Al-Abadi who defended the appearance of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s IRGC’s “Al-Quds Brigade” on Iraqi battlefields by declaring that he was acting as an adviser to his US-backed government!
Evidently, in the meantime the “tripartite” liaison between the rump of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran and Russia gathers pace. The Moscow meeting that took place last week was yet another landmark on the road to confirm the Russo-Iranian “Dual Trusteeship” in the “Useful Syria.” The Russians and Iranians are now actively helping the Assad regime in its campaign of religious uprooting and displacement throughout “Useful Syria” in the western part of the country, including the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib. Elsewhere, while the regime’s army and Iran’s Shiite militias bolster the defenses of the capital Damascus through displacing the Ghouta towns and suburbs surrounding it, Assad and Tehran strive to keep the southern “front” in the Golan calm in order to assure Israel of the “positive rewards” of it accepting its share of Iran’s grand plan in both Syria and Lebanon.
Details are different in eastern and northeastern Syria where the Kurds and Turks are playing a pivotal role that reverberates inside Iraq. The other day, in an extremely poignant development the PMF — sponsored by the Iraqi government — announced that after achieving the “liberation” of the city of Mosul, they will move into Syria to support the Assad regime!
The PMF’s notorious record in acts of vengeful sectarian violence is well known and documented everywhere it has operated, from Al-Fallujah and Al-Ramadi to Al-Muqdadyyiah and Saleheddin Province. Furthermore, in addition to this militia’s sectarian crimes under the command of Gen. Suleimani, several aggressive and abominable pronouncements were made by the leading figures of the PMF, which uncover sectarian hatred that is surely destructive to Iraq’s national unity and any chance of coexistence between its major communities.
Consequently, the PMF’s crimes and its leaders’ rhetoric and threats have pushed even Washington to “advise” the Baghdad government not to allow this hateful militia to take part in the attack planned against the largest Sunni Arab Iraqi city, i.e. Mosul.
American endeavors, however, seem to have failed. Indeed, the PMF went further by insisting on attacking Nineveh Plain then the predominantly Sunni Turkmen town of Tal Afar. In both northern Iraq and northern and north eastern Syria, Turkey feels concerned and has vital interests in two areas:
1- Protection of the Turkmen minorities.
2- Prevention of the creation of “Greater Kurdistan.”
Given the above, Turkey has launched the “Euphrates Shield” operation. In fact, Turkey is absolutely right to be concerned about the situation in both its southern neighbors. The Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk has long been a tinderbox of friction and antagonism, and the candidly expressed desire of Iraqi Kurds for full independence may have grave repercussions in the Kurdish regions of eastern Turkey; noting that Iran has already made inroads within “Iraqi Kurdistan” through the Jalal Talebani wing in the Sulaymaniyah district of the so-far “autonomous region.” Hence, the last thing that the Turks want along their borders is a Shiite Arab-Kurdish alliance under Iran’s influence against Arab Sunnis and Turkmen left to face an unknown future in the aftermath of the broad understanding and cooperation between Washington and Tehran.
In such a situation, the Christian presence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is dwindling as a result of unwise strategies adopted by several Christian leaders in their respective fragile and fractious countries; either by aligning themselves with illegitimate ruling elites, or relying too much on western protection without realizing that interests and not moral commitments drive western policies.
• Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat.
• Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat