Macron warns Iran: Don’t meddle in Lebanon's fightback from Beirut blast

Macron told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday that all concerned parties should refrain from external interference in Lebanon. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Macron warns Iran: Don’t meddle in Lebanon's fightback from Beirut blast

  • Macron tells Rouhani to support a new government, which can manage the emergency
  • Risk that Hezbollah will use international aid to follow Tehran agenda, analysts tell Arab News

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron warned Iran on Wednesday to stay out of Lebanon as it rebuilds after last week’s devastating blast.

Macron told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani it was essential “for all the powers concerned ... to avoid any outside interference and to support the putting in place of a government that can manage the emergency.”
At least 171 people died and more than 6,000 were injured when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in a warehouse in Beirut port last week, devastating large parts of the city and leaving about 300,000 people homeless.

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Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his government resigned amid an outpouring of public anger against Lebanon’s corrupt and inept ruling elite, and protesters have also demanded an end to Hezbollah’s grip on the levers of power, armed and funded by Iran.

Macron was the first world leader to visit Beirut after the explosion and has led the international response, hosting a virtual aid conference that raised $300 million in pledges.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said the French president’s warning to Iran was a significant development.
“This is the real crux of the problem,” he told Arab News. “Iran, through its proxy, a heavily armed terrorist militia, has wreaked havoc in Lebanon. The Iranians have held the country hostage at gunpoint. Macron has done the right thing in calling them out."
Al-Shehri said the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his government was the first step in freeing Lebanon from the clutches of both Iran and Hezbollah. “But this is by no means enough. If this government is replaced by another which is at the mercy of Hezbollah, then it will be back to square one.

“It is important for France and other world powers to ensure that Hezbollah is disarmed and that it hands over its weapons to the Lebanese army; only then will there be stability. As long as there is a state within a state, nobody from the global community will come forward to rescue Lebanon from the difficulties it finds itself in."
Al-Shehri said Macron had correctly understood the problem and had done the right thing in warning Iran. “Now he should take this to its logical conclusion and end the nightmare for Lebanon, the Lebanese people, and the region," he said. “France will find many takers in the international and regional communities in its efforts to clean up the mess in Lebanon.”

French senator Natalie Goulet told Arab News that France and the EU were “playing with fire” over Hezbollah. 

“As the only Lebanese party that has never disarmed, its paramilitary and its international network make it a force more powerful than the Lebanese army,” she said. “It is not without reason that many countries, including the US, classify this movement as a terrorist organization. 

“But the EU and France make a totally artificial distinction between the paramilitary branch, which is associated with terrorism, and the political branch, which is not.

“It seems to me to be utopian to think that Iran would withdraw support from its proxy.

“And there is a serious risk that Hezbollah will use international financial help for Lebanon to follow its agenda,which is fixed by Tehran. We must not be be blind or naïve.” 


Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

In this May 24, 2015 file photo Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, center, applauds after Chelsea were presented with the Premier League trophy after the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (AP)
Updated 12 min 36 sec ago

Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

  • Abramovich gave over $100m to Elad, which operates in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, over roughly 15 years
  • Russian oligrach’s money used to fund evictions of Palestinians from their homes

LONDON: Companies controlled by Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have donated over $100 million to an Israeli settler organization carrying out activity illegal under international law in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a BBC News Arabic investigation.

The Russian oligarch donated the money to Elad, which also runs a tourism business in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, through offshore companies held in the British Virgin Islands.

Shahar Shilo, Elad’s former marketing director, said its strategy is using tourism “to create a different political reality” in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood.

The information emerged as a result of Buzzfeed’s Fincen Files leak, which released a deluge of secret financial information held by banks about many companies.

The leaked documents show that donations from four companies held in the British Virgin Islands made up nearly half of Elad’s entire donations from 2005 to 2018.

Abramovich was listed as the owner of three of those companies, and had a controlling stake in the fourth. This makes him the largest donor to Elad in the last 15 years.

A spokesman for Abramovich told the BBC that the oligarch “is a committed and generous supporter of Israeli and Jewish civil society, and over the past 20 years he has donated over $500 million to support health care, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”

Abramovich’s funds were used by Elad to purchase Palestinian homes in Silwan and strengthen the presence of Jewish settlers there.

The BBC also found that his donations were used to fund and campaign for the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighborhood.

One such family is the Sumarins, who live in a home adjacent to Elad’s visitor center. They have been fighting a long-running legal battle with a Zionist group that is trying to take over their home.

Elad pays all the group’s legal costs associated with the case, which will go to Israel’s Supreme Court in April 2021.

Mohammed Dahle, the Sumarin family’s lawyer for 10 years, said: “The probability of the survival of a Palestinian property, after it’s been declared that it’s a Jewish or Israeli property ... is most likely zero.”