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Riyadh Involved in Political and Intelligence Mischief in Beirut

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Riyadh Involved in Political and Intelligence Mischief in Beirut

Interview with Mohammad Ali Mohtadi
Middle East Analyst

Q: How do you see the ongoing political situation in Lebanon and what is the position of Saudi Arabia in the country’s political equations and what goals is Saudi Arabia pursuing in Lebanon?

A: There have been many reports coming out of Lebanon during recent days indicating that hundreds of Takfiri terrorists have poured into that country from Syria and have taken up positions in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, a small town called Arsal, and inside Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. They are reportedly planning to carry out various terrorist operations in the violence-wracked country. For a long time now, Saudi Arabia has been following a policy of confrontation with the [anti-Israel and anti-US] resistance front in the region, which has practically pitted that country against such major regional players as the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, Iraq and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Saudi Arabia has been consistently emphasizing that Hezbollah should have no share in the Lebanese cabinet, while actually knowing that this is impractical. Since over six months ago, Tammam Salam has been missioned by the Lebanese president to form the country’s new cabinet. It is quite natural to assume that under the existing conditions, the Lebanese cabinet should represent the viewpoints of all important and effective political groups in the country. However, since Saudi Arabia keeps insisting that Hezbollah should have no share in the cabinet, the country has been practically without a functioning government during this period. There is neither a premier, nor functioning ministers. The previous cabinet, which was headed by the former prime minister, Najib Mikati, has already handed in its resignation and is not active anymore. On the other hand, the country is supposed to hold its parliamentary and presidential polls next spring. However, since there is no functioning cabinet in the country and the situation is characterized by instability and insecurity, it would not be a surprise if none of those elections were held according to schedule.

During his recent visit to Riyadh, [the Lebanese President] Michel Suleiman has reportedly signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia according to which none of the aforesaid elections will be held on schedule. Instead, the existing Lebanese parliament will continue to work and will most probably extend Suleiman’s term in office as president of Lebanon. The important point is that since Suleiman was elected president, he was supposed to remain impartial in issues related to two main political factions in the country; namely, March 14 Alliance and March 8 Alliance. However, recent positions taken by the Lebanese president and the agreements he has reached with Saudi Arabia clearly prove that the Lebanon president is no more impartial, but is explicitly taking sides with March 14 Alliance. If we assumed that reports about Saudi Arabia’s decision to give USD 3 billion in aid to the Lebanese army were true and were not just for propaganda purposes, then it would be clear what has led the Lebanese president to take his new positions. They want the world to believe that Saudi Arabia is helping Lebanon and, therefore, pretend that Riyadh actually wants to see stability, peace, and security in Lebanon.

Q: Why Saudi Arabia has focused on equipping the Lebanese army [with new weapons and materiel]? Can this decision by Saudi Arabia be construed as a ploy to pit the Lebanese army against Hezbollah movement? And to what extent differences do really exist between these two entities?

A: The issue of equipping the Lebanese army has been in focus for tens of years. However, it seems that from the standpoint of international strategies, it has been forbidden for all countries to equip the Lebanese army with heavy weapons. I mean, the United States and Israel will not allow this. Up to the present time, the assistance given to the Lebanese army by both the European countries and the United States has not gone beyond logistical support and light weapons. The reason is clear enough: they want the Lebanese army to just play a role in domestic developments of the country and be of no use with regard to developments outside the country. Although this army has stood in the face of the Israeli army in the southern part of the country, its equipment and weaponry is by no means comparable to that of the Israeli army.

Even if the USD 3-billion aid promised by Saudi Arabia includes heavy weapons, it is for sure not aimed to strengthen the Lebanese army in the face of Israel. The main goal, however, is to pit Hezbollah resistance movement against the Lebanese army. Achieving this goal, nonetheless, will not be possible in practice. Up to this movement, the Lebanese army has proven that it is a national and patriotic army. It has constantly stood on the side of the resistance movement and it is actually not possible to use this army against the resistance.

In addition, no army in Lebanon will be able to deal serious blows to the resistance movement. In the summer of 2006 and during the 33-day war [with Israel], we witnessed an all-out war against the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. It was a full-blown war in which agents of the United States, France, the UK, Israel and even Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan were present. However, the resistance movement won that war. It seems that the aid offered to the Lebanese army by Saudi Arabia is kind of a propaganda campaign used to promote Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy goals in Lebanon.

Q: Some people say that since its plans have failed in Syria despite heavy investment made by Riyadh in toppling the Syrian government, a frustrated Saudi Arabia is now bent on pushing Hezbollah forces out of Lebanon. As a result, Saudi Arabia has been redirecting its investment toward Lebanon and has been trying by equipping the Lebanese army or launching media propaganda, to put more pressure on Hezbollah movement and make its forces get out of Syria. To what extent do you agree with such analyses?

A: The March 14 Alliance has frequently claimed that the main reason behind the ongoing instability and insecurity in Lebanon is intervention in the Syria conflict by Hezbollah movement. Subsequently, they argue that Lebanon will only see stability and peace as long as Hezbollah has not taken its forces out of Syria. However, this is just a fallacy. Even before Hezbollah dispatched its forces to Syria, thousands of Takfiri forces, helped by Saudi Arabia and some other regional countries, had entered the port city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, en route to Syria. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan have also sent hundreds of armed Takfiri militants to Syria through Turkey. Even hundreds of the Lebanese youth have crossed Lebanon’s northern border into Syria in order to fight against the Syrian army.

Therefore, Saudi Arabia and its regional allies had started their overt intervention in Syria long before Hezbollah forces were present there. As a result, if the crisis is Syria is going to be resolved, it is for Saudi Arabia and its regional allies to take Takfiri militants out of Syria and discontinue financial and military support for those militants in order to help with the establishment of peace in the war-torn country. In reality, however, most analysts and even, the UN-Arab League Special Representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi have clearly noted that Saudi Arabia’s regional policy is the most important impediment on the way of finding a peaceful solution to Syria crisis. Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia and its allies have been trying to exonerate themselves by accusing the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and the Islamic Republic of Iran of having brought Syria to its current situation. More than benefiting regional Arab states, even Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, this policy has been mostly beneficial to Israel.

Q: A recent car bomb blast in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut, took the life of Mohammad Shatah, a senior member of March 14 Alliance. The Alliance has moved to accuse Hezbollah of being behind the attack. Of course, Hezbollah has rejected the charges. There have been reports saying that before his assassination, Shatah had sent a letter to the Iranian President [Hassan Rouhani], asking Iran to help Lebanon. Why March 14 Alliance is taking such positions? Is their main goal to mount pressure on Iran in order to reduce support for the Lebanese Hezbollah movement?

A: As a person who has lived in Lebanon for 20 years and who is relatively familiar with the political equations in that country, I am sure that the assassination of Mohammad Shatah has been done by the secret service, which has certainly worked in cahoots with Saudi Arabia and Israel. They are well aware that when such an assassination is carried out, the public opinion in Lebanon will immediately incriminate Hezbollah with complicity in the attack. Their goal was to level this accusation against Hezbollah in order to fan the flames of sectarian differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims. I have no doubt about this. However, they also made false statements in order to make their baseless accusation seem more real.

One of those lies is that Mohammad Shatah had taken Hezbollah to task in the last comments he had posted on his Facebook or Twitter accounts and had asked Hezbollah to take its forces out of Syria. In the meantime, an American newspaper also alleged that Mohammad Shatah had written a letter to the Iranian president, asking him to help Lebanon by making Hezbollah take its forces out of Syria. I have no doubt that such statements are false. A thorough investigation will reveal that none of these has happened in reality. The secret service has carried out this assassination following which, they embarked on launching such media propaganda campaign in order to leave no doubt that Hezbollah has been behind the assassination.

Q: What will be the impact of serial bomb attacks and other forms of terrorist operations on the forthcoming elections in Lebanon?

A: The very holding of [parliamentary and presidential] elections is currently in doubt. Let’s not forget that March 14 Alliance was previously calling for a nonpartisan cabinet without participation of Hezbollah movement. They urged that the Lebanese government should be comprised of nonpartisan technocrats, thus trying to prevent the presence of Hezbollah in the composition of the Lebanese government. However, following the assassination of Mohammad Shatah, they have been insisting that the cabinet should only consist of the representatives of March 14 Alliance. This means that March 8 Alliance should practically leave the political scene of Lebanon. This new position taken by March 14 Alliance shows that they are trying to make the most of the assassination of Mohammad Shatah, and are doing their utmost to polarize the political climate to the detriment of Hezbollah. In view of such developments and taking into account the current situation in Lebanon, it is not clear whether elections will be held or not. Naturally, there is no possibility for any Lebanese cabinet to come into being in the absence of March 8 Alliance. It would mean ignoring more than half of the active political forces in Lebanon, which will be totally impossible.

Key Words: Political and Intelligence Mischief, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Takfiri Terrorists, Hezbollah Movement, Lebanese Army, March 14 Alliance, Mohammad Shatah, Serial Bomb Attacks, March 8 Alliance, Mohtadi

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Mohammad Ali Mohtadi:

*Arab States’ Strong “Nay” to (P)GCC Union Plan: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Arab-States-Strong-Nay-to-P-GCC-Union-Plan.htm

*Hidden Goals Behind Terrorist Attacks in Beirut: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Hidden-Goals-Behind-Terrorist-Attacks-in-Beirut.htm

*Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks: A Tool to Facilitate US New Regional Adventurism: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Israeli-Palestinian-Peace-Talks-A-Tool-to-Facilitate-US-New-Regional-Adventurism.htm

*Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency & IRNA

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