Lebanon on the brink as Iran-backed Hizbullah tightens its stranglehold

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, June 17, 2021

Iran and its terror proxy Hizbullah are determined to fully take over the sovereign nation of Lebanon, a June 17 analysis said.

More than half of the Lebanese population is living below the poverty line. Lebanon has defaulted on its debts. It can no longer import essential goods. Lebanon’s Lira has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar over the past year.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah

“As the unprecedented economic, political and social crisis in Lebanon seems to worsen by the day,” Iran and Hizbullah “are looking to exploit the situation and are vying for a complete take-over of Israel’s northern neighbor,” Yochanan Visser wrote for Arutz Sheva.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his caretaker government “give the impression that they no longer have any clue as to what to do to tackle the country’s myriad problems,” Visser wrote.

Meanwhile, Team Biden is so consumed with walking away with what it considers a diplomatic victory that it is willing to look the other way on all of Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East in order to return the U.S. to the Iran nuclear deal, critics say.

Michel Aboud, president of humanitarian aid organization Caritas Lebanon, said recently that even hospitals are hard-hit by the crisis and reported that there is a chronic shortage of medicines and medical equipment in Lebanon.

“Hospitals can’t pay doctors or operate the equipment. We are in a critical situation, but we don’t want to die while waiting for a solution to the many problems,” said Aboud, adding that the situation has led to the closure of entire hospitals.

A nation that was once called the Country of Cedars, is also facing a food crisis, Visser noted, adding that “not long ago” Lebanon was “a hub of prosperity in the Middle East that attracted many tourists and businessmen.”

The crisis was exacerbated in July of last year when the government raised the price of bread for the first time in a decade. Bread prices rose by 33 percent, causing a run on supermarkets where people tried to buy food essentials. The food crisis led Al-Makhazen Coop, the largest food retailer in Lebanon, to close its branches in Beirut.

The crisis further worsened last week with many gas stations closing due to a lack of fuel. This was followed by electricity blackouts after which people tried to obtain generators but could not obtain fuel.

Diab turned to the Iraqi government for help. Baghdad said it would deliver a part of the needed fuel.

That is when “the real problem in Lebanon became visible,” Visser wrote.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah “intervened and announced that he would request the necessary oil shipments from the Iranian regime. Nasrallah is the de-facto leader of Lebanon and without his consent, nothing happens or will change in the country.”

Lebanon has been without a government “for a long time and that is mainly due to Hezbollah, which is blocking the formation of a technocratic government,” Visser noted.

“As Lebanon continues to slide toward total disaster, Iran and Hizbullah seem only interested in a total takeover of the country,” Visser added.

Nasrallah “made this very clear in a recent speech from his bunker. Lebanon’s true leader made threats to anyone pushing for reforms in Lebanon and even threatened the Lebanese people who have long protested the dire situation in the country.”

Top Biden administration diplomats, led by special Iran envoy Robert Malley, are reportedly anxious to move quickly to return to the nuclear accord, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), because Iran is likely to elect an anti-American hardliner in its presidential election scheduled for Friday.

It looks increasingly likely that Team Biden will acquiesce and end crippling sanctions on Iran imposed by President Donald Trump. At the same time, it is unlikely that Biden’s envoys will press Iran on its actions in the Mideast, including its ongoing funding of terror operations, some of which target U.S. military personnel, an analyst told The Washington Times.

“No matter what Iran does, the policy is to try to ignore it,” said Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a critic of the original 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

“Iranian proxies killed an American in Iraq — no response,” Goldberg said. The [International Atomic Energy Agency] says Iran is hiding nuclear sites and materials — no response. The Iranian navy sends ships to Venezuela — no response. And on and on the list goes. It’s not just bad Iran policy; it’s bad national security policy, period.”

Goldberg, who served as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction at the White House National Security Council under Trump, noted that “everyone is watching this show of American weakness: China, Russia, North Korea. And they’re learning all the wrong lessons” about Joe Biden’s “tolerance level for misconduct and extortion. … What kind of insane foreign policy is that?”

In the Red Sea, Iran-backed Houthi terrorists reportedly planted sea mines in a direct threat to U.S. Navy ships in the region.

“Iran-linked militias in Iraq and Syria have repeatedly targeted U.S. personnel in the Middle East, and Iranian speedboats routinely harass American vessels across the region,” Washington Times reporter Ben Wolfgang noted. “Pentagon and intelligence officials also are keeping a close eye on two Iranian warships believed to be transporting weapons or illegal fuel to the socialist regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.”

Danielle Pletka, senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said that Team Biden’s willingness to let virtually all other issues slide is driving the U.S. negotiating strategy.

“One of the things the administration has signaled to the Iranians is … ‘We are never going to comingle anything else you do with the nuclear accords,’ ” Pletka said. “ ‘We don’t care what you do. … We are not going to let that interfere with our desperate desire to get a nuclear deal.’ ”

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