One way to quell the Iranian appetite for expansion: Stop giving money to the Lebanese armed forces

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This past weekend was a particularly hot one for Israel.  On September 1st, the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, launched anti-tank missiles across Israel’s northern border, directly aiming at an IDF base. Fortunately, there were no sustained injuries.  Israel responded by attacking Lebanese targets and the outlying borders of Lebanese communities along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Fortunately, there are no known casualties.

(September 5, 2019 / JNS Press)

This was the first time since the Lebanese War of 2006 that there has been a significant military exchange between Hezbollah and Israel. It is felt that this skirmish might have been contained for now. However, the situation is extremely tense.

And what makes it tenser still is that we all know that this is a shadow war, and the Islamic Regime is actually the puppet-master  pulling the strings of Hezbollah  and other Shiite proxy  groups, throughout Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

According to Brigadier General Michael Herzog (retired) who spoke for EMET on a Conference Call on Tuesday, the recent eruption of violence is part of the showdown that has been going on for several years now. The main factors, he believes is the Iranian plans to make use of the turmoil by becoming the dominant force, and that Iran felt greatly emboldened after the 2015 nuclear deal.

He explained that all  of what we are now seeing  is part of the two pronged  plan outlined by Qassam Solomeini, the Head of the Quds force in 2016:  1.) Creating the direct corridor from Tehran through Bagdad, Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean, 2.) Building a formidable proxy front through Hezbollah and other Shiite militias.

This, as the Iranians simultaneously put on a benign mask regarding the intentions of their nuclear program. Right now, they are playing brinkmanship  with the international community, threatening to enrich uranium to 20% if they do not get immediate sanctions relief. (Once the 20% level is reached, it is very easy to get to the 90% level, the level of highly enriched uranium necessary for a nuclear bomb.)

Now, they are asking for up to 15 billion dollars from the international community in sanctions relief. There is no other word for this than blackmail.

And the Europeans are all too willing to be blackmailed, particularly the French.

It is incredibly upsetting that French President Emmanuel Macron is willing to give the Iranians that exorbitant sum of money without any preconditions, simply for coming to the table. It is obvious that they did not learn anything from the last round of Iranian negotiations, which also rewarded the money to the Iranians up front.

This works against any leverage that the United States has been using to pressure the Iranians to give up their two goals that have been outlined by Qassam Solomeini.
 Both Iran and Hezbollah are under increasing economic pressure as result of the sanctions.

If the international community persists in finding ways to give the Iranians “economic relief” and in finding ways of evading sanctions, we will never quell the massive Iranian appetite for expansion and control.

What is almost equally upsetting is the fact that the United States has been giving the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) upward of $100 million a year, to the tune of 1.7billion over the last ten years, as we see that the LAF has become increasingly under the grip of Hezbollah

We have watched as Hezbollah has increasingly taken over more and more power within Lebanon.  According to General Herzog, “there is a lot of concern in Israel today about Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. We have seen that Hezbollah is now the strongest political party. They have veto power within the Lebanese parliament and veto power within the defense establishment.”

Continues General Herzog, “Lebanese President Michel Aoun is an ally of Hezbollah.  Aoun has stated officially that Hezbollah’s military capabilities complement the military capabilities of the state of Lebanon, so the state embraces Hezbollah as a military actor. We have seen coordination of the state military, the LAF, and Hezbollah, We have seen that in a coordinated attack against Islamists a few years ago, and we have seen this recently  when Israel discovered cross-border tunnels from Lebanon into Israel and the LAF resisted attempts to prevent this.”

“And we have concerns about the lack of willingness of UNIFIL to go after Hezbollah, as well”

Adds General Herzog, “This calls for a re-thinking of the aid that the United States gives to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Israel has not been very vocal about this, but I know there are many concerns, here.”

And Sheik Nasrallah continues to refer to the LAF as a “partner” and a “pillar”.

The reason that America initial gave money to the Lebanese Armed Forces was as a result of the 2006 war, to help them to distance themselves from Hezbollah. According to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, all other armed groups, besides the LAF, must be out of Lebanon.
That includes Hezbollah.

Now that Hezbollah has been fully embraced by the LAF, one the first things that the United States can do to prevent Qassam Solomeini and the Iranian mullahs from fulfilling their expansionist objectives is to  immediately halt all money to the Lebanese Armed Forces. 

Originally published:

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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