BEIRUT: Lebanese reacted angrily on Sunday to an Iranian commander’s remarks about their missile capabilities and sovereignty, with people in a pro-Hezbollah town attempting to burn a picture of the slain Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh boasted on Saturday that Lebanon owed its missile capabilities to Iran and that the country was in the front line of Iran’s fight against Israel.
“Tehran supports any party that stands against Israel,” he added.
President Michel Aoun tweeted on Sunday that the Lebanese had “no partner” in protecting their country’s independence, sovereignty over its border and territory, and freedom of decision.
But the mildness of his response — and its delay — was criticized by some media and public figures.
The leading daily newspaper Al-Nahar called the Iranian stance “a very blatant breach challenging the principle of the sovereignty of Lebanon and a lack of respect to the minimal standards of dealings between states.”
The newspaper was surprised by Aoun’s initial silence on Hajizadeh’s remarks, while former MP Fares Souaid renewed his call for the president to resign.
He said: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has announced its leadership of Lebanon’s missiles against Israel. Where is the Lebanese state? Mr. President, for the sake of your dignity and ours, resign.”
Lebanon’s former ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun, the granddaughter of former President Camille Chamoun, described Aoun’s response as “shy.”
She said: “The foreign minister should summon the Iranian ambassador to answer to the matter and to be warned. If you are unable to uphold sovereignty, then at least save face.”
Hezbollah hung pictures of Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, along the roads extending from the southern suburbs of Beirut to southern Lebanon and in the border town of Al-Khiam, which overlooks Israeli positions on the other side of the border.
But the act was criticized on social media. Former justice minister, Ashraf Rifi, said that naming Lebanese streets after the “leaders of vandalization and Iranian militias” did not represent Lebanon. He also described the hanging of the pictures as “an illegal and provocative act” that entrenched the image of Lebanon as a “prisoner of Iran.”
Hussein Al-Wajeh, who is a media affairs adviser to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, said that Lebanon was not and would not be the front line for Iran’s battle. “The Lebanese will not pay any price on behalf of the Iranian regime. Despite this, some Iranian officials insist on considering Lebanon an Iranian province.”
Kataeb Party leader Sami Gemayel said that Lebanon and the Lebanese were “hostages” to Iran through Hezbollah. “They are using us as human shields in their battle, which has nothing to do with Lebanon.
“The president, the government, and parliament are false witnesses and they are covering the capture of Lebanon.”
Salam Yamout, head of the National Bloc Party, said that involving Lebanon in battles associated with regional disputes was a direct threat to the interests of the Lebanese and their battle to restore their sovereignty and dignity.