Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If Not for Iran Lebanon and Israel Would Be at Peace.

By Amihai Zippor

 For years it was believed that once Israel and Syria forged a peace agreement Lebanon would follow, as Syria was the main power broker in Beirut.

Over the past four years Syria’s presence in Lebanon has waned but it still commands influence, now shared more decisively with Iran and its proxy militia, Hizbullah.

Hizbullah is mainly a tool to fight Israel but in order to win legitimacy for its occupation of Lebanese villages which it uses as weapons storage facilities and safe havens for its personal and military equipment, it has waged a strong political campaign to gain support from the local populace.

Today Hizbullah’s long arm reaches deep into Lebanon’s cabinet and through Teheran’s support for Hizbullah Iran has taken the new reigns as the body that calls the shots in Lebanon.

As a result, the Islamic state’s continued support of Hizbullah in Lebanon is the crucial factor deterring Beirut from striking an independent peace deal with Israel and that support is only growing.

During a speech in Bahrain last week Iranian speaker of parliament Ali Larijani said his country was proud of the backing it provides to Hizbullah, going as far to say it is not a terrorist group.

“They are freedom fighters fighting to defend their country and independence, that is not terrorism,” he said also referring to Hamas.

At a time when the region is on the verge of possibly becoming even more polarized, a recent report in the Pan-Arab daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat said the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramovich, had proposed an evaluation of a potential non-belligerence pact” with Lebanon.

The proposal is being supported by the highest echelons of the Israeli government and would envision Israel and Lebanon negotiating over the small land disputes between the two countries. It would also require the Lebanese army to take a more hands-on role in decreasing Hizbullah’s presence south of the Litani River.

However, in line with the common trend leaning towards a more fundamentalist stance in Beirut, Hizbullah MP Hassan Hoballah rejected any form of negotiations with Israel.
He called on Lebanon to use the resistance, i.e. violence against Israel to reclaim disputed land.

It should be noted Hizbullah has already made clear that even if Israel withdraws from all disputed areas along the Lebanese border, it would not halt its fight against Israel seeking to liberate all of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

The ideology is commonly heard amongst Iranian leaders and from Hamas.

The fact that Hizbullah is speaking in such terms is the latest example that Iran’s domineering authority in Lebanon is increasing and in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah has become emboldened.

It is a telling sign of the times and why the international community must pressure Hizbullah to fulfill its obligations under UN Resolution 1701, which ended that war, or face Iran’s hold on the balance of power in the Middle East swelling as it tries to achieve nuclear power status in the next year.

Amihai Zippor

- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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