Lebanon turmoil stoked by pro-Iranian extremists
The murder of Rafic Hariri weighs heavy over freedom in Lebanon, 12 years later. And the same forces of violence and extremism are seeking to enforce more change through terrorism. Hariri’s son Saad faces threats of violence from Syria, Iran and Hezbollah extremists
By Ray Hanania
If people want to understand the political dynamics of the conflict that swirls around Lebanon, all one has to do is go back to February 14, 2005 when an explosion took the lives of Rafic Hariri and 22 other people at the landmark St. George Hotel in Beirut.
Hariri had resigned as Prime Minister following a face-to-face confrontation with Syria’s murderous dictator, Bashar al-Assad, six months earlier. The Syrian tyrant, who like his father massacred thousands of civilian critics, threatened Hariri about supporting anti-Syrian political forces..
Assad told Hariri that if he wanted Syria out of Lebanon, “I will destroy Lebanon.”
Ironically, the assassination of Hariri triggered a massive public protest against Assad and his pro-Iranian terrorist allies, Hezbollah, called the Cedar Revolution. Assad, who occupied Lebanon for more than 29 years, was forced to pull out his occupation troops.
Weeks later, Rafic Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, was named Prime Minister. Saad Hariri has battled to restore order to the shaken Lebanon, thwarted by incessant Syrian efforts to restore its control.
Now, 12 years later, Saad Hariri faces the same extremist threat that took his father’s life. On November 4, Saad Hariri fled to Saudi Arabia where he announced his resignation. Saad Hariri alleged that Iranian and pro-Syrian forces were plotting his assassination.
Many analysts want to twist the facts, calling Saad Hariri the problem. They assert Hezbollah, Assad and Iran are hoping to restore Lebanon’s strengthe asserting Hariri is a Saudi puppet.
But Hezbollah, Iran and Assad are the three-headed serpent that continues to plague Lebanon.
Saad Hariri has been a Syrian target for years. In 2012, acting under pressure from Iran, the Syrian dictator issued an “arrest warrant” for Saad Hariri. The warrant was intended to blunt public focus on incriminating evidence against Syria, Iran and Hezbollah for the 2005 murder of his father.
The investigation by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the International Criminal Court into his father’s murder continues to blame Assad, Hezbollah and Iran. Four Hezbollah and Assad operatives have been indicted in the murders in absentia, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra.
Acting through Hezbollah and with the support of Iran, Syrian operatives have kept Lebanon at the edge of chaos and political turmoil.
As Assad has managed to restore most of his tyrannical powers in Syria with the help of Syria’s Russian sponsors, he has found time to return to his agenda of re-establishing control over Lebanon. Saad Hariri is an obstacle for Assad.
The political dynamics of the region are also important. It’s no surprise that Saad Hariri would flee to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has become the vanguard of a growing anti-Iranian movement that has sought to push Iran’s terrorist government out of the region.
Last June, Saudi Arabia said what everyone already knew, that Qatar was a major supporter of terrorists and was using its government controlled news channel, Aljazeera, to promote extremism and blunt criticism of terrorism.
Iran was carefully nurturing support in Qatar hoping to undermine the anti-terrorism coalition Saudi Arabia leads that includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The Iranian Ayatollahs have stoked conflict in Yemen, at Saudi Arabia’s southern border and Iran is planting seeds in Oman, which also hugs Saudi Arabia’s Southern border next to Yemen.
Last week, as the turmoil grew, Saudi Arabia ordered the arrest of a dozen conspirators who allegedly were seeking to undermine the Saudi government or who were engaged in corruption.
The arrests shocked the West but not those who understood how complex extremism has become in the Middle East. Among those arrested were 11 princes, a sitting former cabinet officials and high-profile billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence, but time will tell.
In the meantime, a statue of Hariri stands in a garden that fronts the St. George Hotel where Rafic Hariri was murdered by Hezbollah and Syrian agents. I personally inspected the crater which was created by a massive 2,200 pounds of explosion packed into a van that was parked nearby.
Saad Hariri has much to fear from a Middle East smothered by Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian extremists. But so does the entire region.
If Iran succeeds in throwing Saudi Arabia into turmoil, using Lebanon and Yemen as fuses, and takes any action against Saad Hariri, the entire region could collapse into Iranian control.
That’s would be a major threat to the entire region and undermine not only efforts to bring peace to Israel and Palestine, but expand the violence that has gripped Syria into Iraq and Jordan.
Nothing would please Syria’s tyrant more than to see Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Palestine thrown into violent turmoil.
The Arab World needs to stand firm against extremism, and the West needs to recognize the true nature of the turmoil that Iran is stoking through its puppet operatives in Hezbollah and Syria.
(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American columnist an author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)