Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised address to supporters. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Time for Difficult Choices for Lebanon

Al-Arab, London, March 25

In the light of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Beirut, Lebanon finds itself faced with difficult choices. In his press conference with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Pompeo openly asserted that “Lebanon must face a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate its future.” In response, Bassil asserted that Hizbullah is a legitimate Lebanese party and not a terrorist group. But Bassil is wrong. Hizbullah is far from a legitimate political organization. The party recognizes Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah as its ultimate leader. It receives all of its funding from Iran. Moreover, Nasrallah himself asserts that that he is merely a “soldier” of the Wali al-Faqih – that is, Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. What the US secretary of state said seems only logical. Pompeo outlined the nature, activity, regional role and mission of Hizbullah, and a department in Washington that knows everything about it and Iran. So, Pompeo did not hesitate to refer to the bombing of the Marine headquarters near Beirut airport on October 23, 1983, which killed 241 US military personnel and was considered the worst disaster suffered by the US military since the Vietnam War. It is no secret that Iran was linked to the operation carried out by two Lebanese suicide bombers in 1983 that targeted American and French soldiers in Beirut in order to remove Western forces from Lebanon. This was preceded by the bombing of the US embassy in Ain al-Marisa, which resulted in the death of several CIA officials, including Robert Ames, who was the CIA’s Near East Director. Yes, Hizbullah is in the Lebanese parliament and holds three portfolios, including the Ministry of Health. Does this mean that we should just ignore the fact that its armed sectarian militia hijacked an entire sect? Hizbullah has become the most influential political force in the country that can tip the balance in favor or against any presidential candidate. The meaning of this is the total abandonment of Lebanese sovereignty to Iran. Pompeo’s visit was an opportunity for Lebanon to act responsibly by rejecting Iran’s view, which sees Lebanon as a backyard in which it can carry out its missions through Hizbullah. Lebanon is at a critical crossroads. Bassil’s statements demonstrate the absence of political maturity and lack of understanding of what is going on in the region and the world as well as where Lebanon’s interests lie. Those who bet on Iran now are no different from those who bet on Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. Can we recall how well that ended?  –Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

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