The Lebanese scene has always been part of the great regional playing field, and it has been used by the region’s powers. It has become almost monopolized by Iran through its proxy Hezbollah and forces loyal to the Syrian regime.
The US, too, has increased its activity in Lebanon with the imposition of sanctions on Iran. The Americans realized that they have to stifle the routes through which Tehran evades sanctions, and its most prominent route is Lebanon.
Washington has stepped up its crackdown on Hezbollah’s financial resources, tracing them to Latin America, Africa, Australia and elsewhere. These financial resources are derived from drug trafficking, cigarette smuggling, and even selling fake Viagra.
In the past decade, Tehran has used Hezbollah and made it carry out missions beyond Lebanon’s borders. Iran has turned Hezbollah into a military battalion fighting on its behalf in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.
Tehran has also turned Lebanon into a propaganda, legal, political and financial center in its service. To do that, Hezbollah seized almost complete control of the state — the airport, ports, border crossings, telephone networks, security and service ministries. This is why the US made Lebanon the target of its scrutiny and sanctions, and there might be further pressure.
The anger we see on the streets in Lebanon is partly the result of Hezbollah’s insistence on turning the country into a confrontation line with the West. The consequences are bad and might get worse.
Hezbollah must realize that when it takes the country hostage to the desires of Iran’s supreme leader, it risks a confrontation with all the Lebanese people, including Shiites, their latest victims. As we have seen, the voices that have risen up publicly against Hezbollah are also Shiite. Confrontations against it have taken place in its areas of influence, such as Nabatieh, Baalbek-Hermel and elsewhere.
Lebanon, without an armed Hezbollah that has allegiance to Iran, could be the most prosperous country in the region. But Lebanon, as it is today, is destined to become worse off.
It is true that Hezbollah is not the only local player, and has partners that must also share the blame. The current uprising has raised a slogan rejecting all the leaders in government, and calling for reform of the failing political system because it allows political powers to divide influence and interests at the expense of Lebanon and its people.
It may not seem understandable to the Lebanese public that they are paying the price for Hezbollah’s intrusion in the region and its threats against Western interests. But this is the reality that has partly caused the economy to deteriorate, and has placed the government between the hammer of the West and the anvil of Hezbollah. Unless the group curtails its services to Iran, it will suffer and make Lebanon and its people suffer more than before.