Lebanon: A Tale of Two Occupations
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/November 30/17
One thing that seems beyond doubt these days is that the days of ‘double talk’ are over. It is no more possible to get away with fake slogans; as we are before dangerous realities in more than one area in the Arab world, and thus, I claim wise observers have become aware of what is going on, and will not be fooled easily.
‘Post 1920 political entities’, ‘Post 1979 Political Islam (both Sunni and Shi’ite), the relationship between State and non-state’s militias and armed groups, and of course, various types of liberation and revolutionary slogans, are now all under scrutiny.
A few days ago, in ‘Asharq Al-Awsat’, my colleague and friend Amir Taheri uncovered an important side of the problems causing the regional challenges, almost all of which revolve around the Khomeinist- Khamen’ist Iranian role throughout the Arab world.
Personally, I was around in 1982 when what became Hezbollah was created in the political ‘kitchen’ of the Iranian Embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus. The Iranian ambassador then was Ali Akbar Mohtashami (Mohtashamipur), who later went on to become Interior Minister in Tehran; and Damascus later became the party’s regional sponsor and ‘nanny’.
Mr. Taheri was absolutely right to remind those who do not remember, or were witnesses to that period, that Hezbollah which claims to be the embodiment of “resistance” to Israel and the USA was, in fact, nothing but a sectarian vehicle of Tehran’s mullahs, whose prime role was never to resist Israel but rather confront the Palestinian “resistance” movement fighting against Israel!
During the early 1980s, a sizable section of the Shi’ite population of south Lebanon became critical of, even openly opposed to, Palestinian guerrilla operations launched from the area nicknamed ‘Fatah Land’ which the Lebanese government had relinquished to the Palestinian “resistance” organizations.
For its part, Israel kept retaliating against guerrilla operations across its borders by shelling the Shi’ite villages with the intention of turning the villagers against the Palestinians. On the other hand, there were tacit and intersecting interests between the Israelis and Iranians in destroying the Lebanese Leftist and ‘Nationalist’ parties fighting under the banner of the pro-Palestinians ‘Lebanese National Movement’. Shi’ite activists, that time, constituted a sizeable percentage of the LNM’s rank and file.
Indeed, Iran since the days of the Shah (pre-1979) was unhappy about Lebanese Shi’ite intellectuals and youth joining Arab nationalist and leftist parties. Israeli and Iranian interests continued, later on, to intersect after the Khomeini ‘Islamic Revolution’. While Israel, which during the Cold War was opposed to pro-USSR ‘Left’ and keen to deprive the Palestinians of their Lebanese support base, Khomeinist Iran chose to invest in Lebanon’s sectarianism and nourish it. This was very much in Israel’s strategic interests which have always capitalized on and benefitted from religious and sectarian contradictions throughout its Arab neighbors, being the obvious prerequisite for division, conflicts and the much sought after ‘coalition of minorities’.
Incidentally, only one year after the June War of 1967, many Lebanese were attracted to the Palestinian ‘resistance’ against Israel, with Khalil Izzeddin Al-Jamal becoming the first ‘martyr’ in 1968. Later on, following the Israeli invasion and occupation in 1982, it was the secular Nationalist and Leftist parties, including the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP), which launched the liberation campaign.
The young men and women led the campaign of liberating South Lebanon, and subsequently Palestine; neither losing the compass nor following a regional non-Arab sectarian project, although many were Shi’ites, like Sanaa’ Muheidly (SSNP) and Anwar Yassin (LCP). For those, their liberation priority was different from those of ‘The Supreme Guide’ in Tehran. They, simply, did not fight and sacrificed their lives in order to exchange one ‘occupier’ for another.
Tel Aviv and Washington know the truth, the whole truth when the commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) shout, boast and threaten to ‘exterminate Israel’, and have these shouts and boasts reverberate in Beirut Shi’ite southern suburbs and Yemen Sa’dah Mountains, as well as the camps of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Damascus regime’s media outlets.
Yes, both Tel Aviv and Washington know the whole truth; particularly that the forces that now make up the Iraqi PMF were the main beneficiary of the US invasion of Iraq, and that ‘The Blue Line’ on the Lebanese – Israeli borders is much close to Hezbollah south Lebanon strongholds than the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Albu-Kamal and Deir Ez-Zor. Still, Hezbollah seems to have forgotten the ‘Israeli-occupied’ Sheb’aa farms which were its justification to keeps its arms, and forgotten the Rafiq Al-Hariri assassination’s ‘false witnesses’ who were its excuse to bring down the cabinet of Saad Al-Hariri in early 2011.
As for Hezbollah’s arms, it is worth mentioning that it alone among the Lebanese parties and militias was allowed to remain armed after ‘The Taif Accords’ (1989), under the pretext that it was fighting to liberate south Lebanon. However, it used it against its opponents inside Lebanon in 2008, and later in Syria against the Syrian people’s uprising. From then on, it expanded its explosive ‘services’ to Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere overseas.
In that regard, in an unforgettable speech, Hezbollah’s Secretary General (Hassan Nasrallah) candidly said that his “most honourable, best, and greatest achievement’ in his lifetime was his speech in which he defended Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the second day of ‘the Storm of Resolve’ campaign; adding “This was the true ‘Jihad’…”! Such talk undermines the credibility of what he claims is his priority: “resisting Israel and fighting America”; and rather, underlines the fact that the mission entrusted to Hezbollah and other sectarian militias created, sponsored and commanded by Tehran in the Arab world, is nothing but carrying out Iran’s regional project.
From a strategic point of view this project faced two possibilities:
1- It succeeds, initially, and thus Iran would impose its hegemony on a vast area where the majority population is non-Shi’ite and non-Persian; but this would provoke strife and endless civil wars.
2- It fails, pushing Iran into seeking more destructive alternatives, unless its regime falls, and its theo-militaristic chemistry disappears.
In either case, the West and Israel cannot lose!
The fact is that Tehran’s regime, through its sectarian attitude and militaristic interventions, has gifted the powers he claims to fight priceless ‘services’. Through inciting, or sponsoring, extremist Sunni groups, it has created a global terrorist phenomenon which in turn has ensured the rise of the extreme right throughout the West. As for ‘liberating Palestine’, its active support of certain trends with Hamas, as well as Islamic Jihad Organization, has ensured destroying Palestinian unity, and strengthening the Likud and other extreme right-wing Israeli parties hell-bent on expanding illegal settlements and rejecting any meaningful peace negotiations.