Opinion|Lebanon’s elections liberate it from grip of the US, Iran

Marwa El- Shinawy
8 Min Read

The results of the Lebanese elections were a fatal blow to Iranian interference in Lebanese affairs, as the Lebanese people affirmed with their votes that Lebanon, with all its sects, rejects any foreign interference and refuses to be an arena for conflicts for other countries. 

The grievances Lebanese people communicated in the 2019 Revolution certainly reflected on the results of the elections, as they affirmed that the only way out of the current impasse is the imposition of Lebanese sovereignty, which has almost been absent since the inception of this country.

The internal factors are nothing but secondary causes in the outbreak of the Lebanese crisis, since in all historical stages, the external factor continued to affect the stability of the country. 

Consequently, most of the problems and crises in which Lebanon is floundering — including sectarianism — are caused by foreign interference in Lebanese affairs. 

Foreign countries have been managing their interests in Lebanon taking advantage of the sectarian divides prevalent in the population. This was especially true after the post-Cold War era established a new reality, in which local elites used to knock on the doors of embassies, convinced that access to power requires the provision of external support.

In fact, Lebanon’s strategic location as a gateway to the Middle East for the West has made it a direct target for occupying powers. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger once said: “Tell me who controls Lebanon, and I will tell you who controls the entire Fertile Crescent.” 

Accordingly, foreign intervention to control the region has been the main reason that stands in the way of finding solutions to internal crises.

Additionally, the sectarian structure of Lebanon has undoubtedly contributed to facilitating the task of foreign countries, as these countries resorted to sectarian incitement. However, it must be emphasised here, that the sectarian structure is not sufficient in itself; as perhaps, intervention would not have taken place or would have been less horrific had it not been encouraged by certain stakeholders, who contributed to fuelling sectarian conflicts.

There is no doubt that the US and Iran are the main players in the Lebanese political scene. It is no exaggeration to say that the conflict between Iran and the US has spread to Lebanese soil. On the one hand, Lebanon is one of the most important areas of Iranian influence outside Iran, and Lebanon is the starting point for managing the areas of influence in the entire Arab region. 

Iran has many tools of power and influence in Lebanon, and it is focusing on securing its influence for the period that it considers the height of American pressure to reach an inevitable settlement, using Lebanon as a negotiating card.

On the other hand, despite the shift in the US administration’s priorities towards the conflict with China, the US’ role in the region remains essential in light of the continued depletion of the region’s wealth. 

The US administration continues to exercise financial pressure in Lebanon to reduce Iran’s wings, including Hezbollah, in the context of arranging the region’s conditions from the US’ point of view and weakening the Iranian side’s ability to use Lebanon as a negotiating card in international-regional negotiations. 

The US is also seeking to bring Lebanon into the path of settlement with the Zionist enemy by demarcating the maritime borders and benefiting from the gas and oil in its waters.

For this reason, the US administrations have been exerting high pressure on Lebanon through an escalating economic blockade for more than five years. They have also been exercising, through the economic blockade, the process of driving people to anger and raising the level of internal tension in the face of Hezbollah, which facilitates this task with its provocative performance and creates popular pressure in the face of the increasing dominance of Iranian influence.

The American role in Lebanon does not stop there, as the US used Lebanon as a pressure card on Syria, as the Lebanese political arena became a party to the conflict between the international powers represented by the US and France on the one side and Syria on the other. 

The new American strategy in the Middle East has also marketed new concepts that it used against Syria, such as the axis of evil, the war on terrorism, the spread of democracy and human rights, and the overthrow of tyrannical regimes, as an incubator for terrorism and used them to put pressure on Syrian-Lebanese relations.

Also, the role of the Zionist entity and the European side — especially France — is not separate from the American track. In fact, reading the contemporary history of Lebanon cannot be complete or fully verified, unless the direct role of the US in making this history is taken into consideration. 

It suffices to mention that the administration of former president George Bush Jr. was the one who named the ‘Cedar Revolution’ and caused mobilisation on the streets after the issuance of Resolution 1559, which is the title of the French-American project that was designed at the initiative of the French to punish Syria for its role in Iraq by putting pressure on it in Lebanon, leading to regime change in Syria.

Certainly, this blatant interference of both the US and Iran in the internal affairs of Lebanon would not have occurred without the complicity of the dominant political elites, who have largely lost their credibility with the people. 

The results of the current elections have revealed this fact to a large extent, as the victory of the Lebanese Forces party with the largest Christian bloc in the new Lebanese parliament has undermined the control of Hezbollah and its allies over the Lebanese political scene in general and the formation of the expected government as well. 

Additionally, the victory of opposition and independent candidates in several parliament seats reflected the desire of the Lebanese people to impose the Lebanese will away from the conflicting parties, and perhaps this change would be a glimmer of hope for this very special Arab country.

Marwa Al-Shinawy Assistant Professor at the International American University for Specialised Studies (IAUS)

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