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July 22, 2021 11:57 am
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Is Lebanon on the Verge of a Military Coup?

avatar by Avi Melamed

Opinion

A Lebanese police officer walks in Beirut, Lebanon on March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

A combination of sectarian politics, ethnic divide, animosity, and corruption has brought Lebanon — the country once called the “Paris of the Middle East” — to the brink of destruction.

But there is another major reason for this: Iran has cynically, methodically, and strategically kidnapped Lebanon.

In the early 1980s, Iran created Hezbollah in Lebanon. Massively armed and financed by Iran, Hezbollah has gradually become the real power there. Hezbollah uses violence to impose its will upon Lebanon and the Lebanese. Hezbollah kills political opponents — including former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. With an $800,000,000 annual budget they get from Iran, plus the money they earn from drugs and smuggling, Hezbollah has created a parallel economy, and has armed its forces with a missile capacity that only a handful of countries possess. It also runs a health and social service network.

Hezbollah has created a state within a state, using Lebanon as a façade.

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Lebanon’s president since 2016 is Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian. His party, the National Patriotic Movement, is the largest. He was sworn in after a deal with Hezbollah. In return for endorsing Aoun, Hezbollah was given a veto bloc in the government. Aoun sold Lebanon to the Iranians to keep his throne. Lebanon became an Iranian satellite.

Over the past year, Lebanon’s disintegration has accelerated. The Lebanese fight in supermarkets over basic food items. Lines at gas stations go on for miles. Electricity is available for a scant few hours a day. The Lebanese currency has collapsed. And a year after the massive explosion in the Beirut port that killed 200 people and destroyed parts of Beirut, the government has not uttered a word about what happened and who is responsible.

Hazardous materials caused the blast — and they are suspected to be hazardous materials that Hezbollah stored in the harbor, and ignored repeated requests to evacuate. And, of course, the Lebanese authorities did not dare confront Hezbollah on the matter. Not surprisingly, Aoun rushed to declare that Hezbollah had no connection to the blast.

Over the past year, all attempts to form a reliable government to get Lebanon back on track have failed. Under Iran’s directive, Hezbollah ordered Aoun not to approve a government. In the eyes of Hezbollah and its masters in Iran, the time has come to end the mission and finalize their takeover of Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has already assured the Lebanese that Iranian oil will save them. And the price for this is clear. Iran takes over Lebanon. The Lebanese people know this. And across the board, Lebanese — including Shiites — oppose Iran’s intervention and influence. However, when you worry about putting bread on the table and getting medicine for your children, your priorities change.

To complete their takeover, Iran and Hezbollah must walk a fine line. They want the Lebanese to be so desperate that they will accept the Iranian involvement. But they don’t want to get to the point in which the people will be so desperate that they will take up their own weapons.

Lebanon is in a race against the clock. And this clock is ticking thousands of miles from Beirut — in Vienna, during the Iran nuclear talks.

The mullah regime hopes the Biden administration will blink and remove heavy sanctions on Iran. If the US removes sanctions, Iran will immediately rush in and stream funds to “save” Lebanon. But Biden may not remove sanctions, and Lebanon could explode — and that is not what Iran or Hezbollah want.

But there is another factor to consider — the Lebanese army.

Lebanese Army Commander Joseph Aoun (no relation to the president) has expressed growing displeasure with the Lebanese political system. And his messages have become increasingly sharp and urgent. Particularly his most recent statement was that soldiers are hungry because of the economic collapse.

The Lebanese army is the only institution that the Lebanese still trust. It is also supported by key players, including the United States, France, and Saudi Arabia. Everyone could find some advantage in the military stepping in and taking control.

But should the Lebanese army take control, this won’t jeopardize Iran and Hezbollah’s plan to be the ruling powers in Lebanon. In fact, Hezbollah has a relationship – and even influence — within the military. Thus, given the current circumstances and wanting to avoid Lebanon exploding and imploding, Hezbollah can accept the Lebanese army stepping in and taking temporary control.

Lebanon may be facing a military coup.

Avi Melamed is an intelligence analyst and author. His next book, Inside The Middle East: Entering A New Era, is scheduled to be published in January 2022. www.avimelamed.com  / [email protected]

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