| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

“The Telegraph” highlights Bahaa Hariri’s position on “Hezbollah” and Iran

Con Coughlin wrote in “The Telegraph”: Nothing better exemplifies Iran’s Islamic Republic’s pernicious influence over the Middle East than the devastation it has wrought on Lebanon, a once prosperous Mediterranean state.

A nation that once boasted of being the jewel of the Levant, whose citizens claimed the great Phoenician trading empire as their forefathers, is now reduced to abject poverty. The national currency, the lira, has lost 90% of its value in the last two years, food inflation is at 200 percent, and with the arrival of winter, the population must endure power outages lasting up to 18 hours a day.

As recent violent clashes in Beirut have shown, the Lebanese have no illusions that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militia that effectively controls the country, is the root cause of their misery. Though Hezbollah leaders claim otherwise, few believe the militia controls all levers of national power, from security to the economy.

The bitter diplomatic dispute between Beirut and pro-Western Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE is a prime example of Hezbollah’s stranglehold. Lebanon is heavily reliant on the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, for economic support.

However, when Lebanon’s information minister publicly criticized Saudi involvement in Yemen’s civil war, claiming that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were merely defending themselves against “foreign aggression,” the Gulf states severed diplomatic ties, causing a major schism with Beirut that the Lebanese government cannot afford.

The Saudis believe that a senior Lebanese official publicly criticizing Riyadh is due to Hezbollah and its Iranian backers’ malign political influence. It would also help to explain why, more than a year after the devastating explosion at Beirut Port that killed 218 people and injured thousands more, the government’s investigation into the disaster is still ongoing.

Despite the fact that the country is on the verge of bankruptcy, the Lebanese government has not met since October 12 due to a disagreement over the judicial investigation into the port explosion. Hezbollah has been accused of storing the highly flammable materials that caused the explosion, and they have demanded that the lead investigator, whom they accuse of bias, be removed.

“Hezbollah is using all means at its disposal to obstruct the investigation,” said Bahaa Hariri, the son of murdered Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who recently launched the Sawa reform movement to restore political stability to Lebanon. “This government only represents Hezbollah’s interests, not the interests of the Lebanese people.”

Mr Hariri, a successful businessman, believes that Hezbollah and its Iranian backers are primarily to blame for Lebanon’s current economic woes.

“It is virtually impossible to destroy the economy of a prosperous country like Lebanon,” he said, “but Hezbollah has done it.”

Mr Hariri and other prominent Lebanese supporters of the Sawa movement, which seeks to overcome sectarian divisions that have plagued the country since its long-running civil war, are hoping that elections in March will give the Lebanese people a chance to revive the country’s fortunes.

Mr. Hariri’s hopes for Lebanon’s independence from Iranian meddling are not without merit. In Iraq, another country long subject to Iranian pressure, pro-Iran militant groups were defeated in last month’s national elections, implying that Baghdad may soon see the formation of a government unwilling to tolerate Iranian influence in its affairs.

And this could help to set an important precedent for Lebanese voters, allowing them to put an end to Iran’s disastrous interference in their country’s affairs once and for all.