Hezbollah MPs step up attacks on US over Lebanon ‘meddling’

In this photo from a drone, anti-government protesters gather during separate civil parade at the Martyr square, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon,on Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Updated 24 November 2019

Hezbollah MPs step up attacks on US over Lebanon ‘meddling’

  • ‘We want a government distant from US desires,’ claims caretaker minister.
  • Allegations of foreign interference ‘ridiculous,’ says former Future Movement MP Mustafa Alloush

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and its allies in the Lebanese government on Saturday widened their attacks on the US over alleged meddling in the country’s political future.

In an interview with the Central News Agency (Al-Markazia), Muhammad Fneish, Hezbollah’s minister in the caretaker government, referred to “foreign interference in our affairs” and said: “We want to form a sovereign government that is distant from US desires and foreign accounts.”
He said that recent statements by former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman had “complicated matters.”
Feltman told a US House of Representatives hearing last Tuesday that most Lebanese people have lost faith in Hezbollah and that there is growing anger against Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil for providing “Christian cover” for the militant party.
The comments sparked outrage in Lebanon with Hezbollah and its allies accusing the former envoy of “interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs.”
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem joined the criticism on Saturday, accusing the US of “meddling in the formation of a new Lebanese government.”
“Hezbollah is determined not to fall into strife,” he said, adding: “I do not see signs of a civil war in Lebanon.”
As widespread street protests in the country entered their 38th day, MP Salim Aoun, a member of the parliamentary bloc loyal to the president and the Free Patriotic Movement, claimed that protesters have created a “political movement.”
“No matter what we give them, nothing pleases them,” he said, accusing international bodies of backing the demonstrations.
“We know who is intervening and what their goals are,” Aoun said.
Amal MP and Hezbollah ally Ali Bazzi asked: “Is it true that there is aim to create a political vacuum and chaos in the country?”
Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin also questioned the motives of the civil movement. Speaking in Beirut, he said that “people’s demands have turned against Hezbollah, and this is a very serious matter.”
Zasypkin urged “the Lebanese parties to find a compromise solution that satisfies everyone on the formation of a government.”
However, former Future Movement MP Mustafa Alloush described Hezbollah’s claims of US meddling as “ridiculous.”
“To say that the US is behind a movement that brought thousands of people on to the streets to demand tax cuts and jobs is a ridiculous accusation. Will they prosecute people for high treason?” he asked.
“Hezbollah supporters who are paid by Iran, take up arms, and fight and kill people, are not held accountable. How does this make sense?”
Public affairs analyst Walid Fakhreddine also rejected claims of a US conspiracy, saying: “We have seen these accusations at the beginning of the movement and now they are back. We were accused of treason and of receiving funding for the protests. They do not understand what is happening. People are now in a different place.”
Fakhreddine warned that the ruling class is “dragging the country into financial and economic collapse.”
“They insist on leading the country into bankruptcy. What is required is an independent transitional government that will hold early elections,” he said.
“They think people are revolting because they want to be represented in government. This is not true. The civil movement does not want to share power. We are looking for a homeland. They accuse us of demagoguery. We are a people who want real reform, not their corrupt reform.”

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”