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Lebanon: A small country with big problems

Lebanon, a small country — for Kuwait is almost twice its size — has an effect that transcends demographic and geographic boundaries. Because of its numerous problems, its leaders, political parties and regional and international powers have not been able to remove it from the path of regional crises.
One example is the escalation enacted by some politicians in the current Lebanese government — the foreign minister as well as the president himself — in dealing with the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister. Since it is strange that those who are allegedly defending Hariri are in fact his sworn enemies, it is most likely that they are being pressured by an outside party that is at odds with Saudi Arabia, such as the Qatari government or the Iranian government. Iran is intent on the complete domination of Lebanon, especially after it cemented its presence by force in Syria.
Lebanon has always been a stage for conflicts among regional powers and these powers, as well as Arab leaders, have set foot on its land before. Late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had to use Lebanon when he found out that it was the core of his project against his foes in Syria and the Gulf. Iran, under Ayatollah Khomeini, used Lebanon against the US by employing a project of explosions and assassinations in the country. Syria, for its part, has played the biggest role in transforming Lebanon into an arena for its activities. One of the justifications given by late President Hafez Assad, and Bashar as well, for insisting on meddling in and controlling Lebanon, despite the high political price, is the ongoing belief that the small neighboring country is the main source of danger for Syria, from where international conspiracies are prepared and secret operations are launched against them. 

If Lebanon’s people work together against Hezbollah, they will have regional and international support. If they do not, they will be the victims of Iranian domination. 

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed


The most obvious example for Lebanon today, as a fertile ground of conflicts, is that it is playing a vital role in the war in Yemen. The Iranians use Lebanon to manage their security, propaganda and military operations and I went over some details pertaining to that issue in my last article. Beirut is still the regional headquarters of the international media and since it is under the control of Hezbollah, almost all non-combat-related Houthi activities are managed from Lebanon, not from Yemen itself. This involves political, legal and media campaigns against Saudi Arabia and the coalition, including accusations of starvation, cholera and the targeting of civilians.
Beirut was also a safe haven for rebel politicians who stood against the former Al-Maliki government in Iraq and it was also a hub for counter-activities against his government. It later transpired that hundreds of millions of dollars reached Hezbollah through hazy, vague channels. Lebanon was also an important platform in relation to the Syrian conflict, particularly for intelligence agencies, recruitment and propaganda. Most conflicts feed on environments that are available in countries such as Lebanon, with its multiple loyalties and weak central authority.
 Consequently, large-scale regional countries are destined to defend their areas and existence and they have no choice but to deal with the Lebanese reality. There are allies and adversaries and there are no permanent alliances, regardless of any sectarian, ideological or even familial links. The main, chronic problem for Saudi Arabia in Lebanon is Iran, represented by Hezbollah, which is also a problem for most regional and international countries. Riyadh has focused on an important message, stating that Lebanon cannot be left as prey for Hezbollah. The Lebanese and Arabs who underestimate the project of Hezbollah may not realize that it is capable of completely seizing the resources and authorities of the Lebanese state and eliminating all the benefits offered by that state, such as freedom, pluralism and flexibility. All the independent groups of today, including Christian and Sunni groups, will be eliminated by Hezbollah if it continues its project of transforming Lebanon into an annex of the Iranian Republic.
 These new challenges are the responsibility of all Lebanese people. If they work together against Hezbollah, or let us say against foreign domination in general, they will find regional and international support. However, if they do not, they will be the first losers in the Iranian domination of Syria and Iraq.

• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published.
Twitter: @aalrashed