The UN Security Council called on all Lebanese parties Friday to implement a policy disassociating themselves from any external conflicts “as an important priority,” a statement that appears clearly aimed at Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria.
The council also reiterated its call for implementation of its resolutions which “require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon” except those of the state. This was also aimed at the Shiite terrorist group.
The council statement issued Friday night welcomed the January 31 announcement of a national unity government in Lebanon, which broke a nine-month deadlock.
Council members encouraged all political leaders to build on the momentum of the new government’s formation “to address the pressing security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges facing the country” and called on the new government to urgently implement reforms, fight corruption and strengthen accountability.
Rival political groups had been locked in disagreement over the makeup of a new government since May, after the country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years. A breakthrough became possible last month after weeks of backroom deals as Lebanon’s economic woes mounted.
The new government is headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Western-backed Sunni politician who has held the job since 2016. But Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed Shiite group, made significant gains at the expense of the largest Sunni party and now controls three government ministries.
The Trump administration expressed concerns about Hezbollah holding three Cabinet posts and called on the new government to ensure that group is not supported by the ministries’ resources.
Hezbollah was formed in 1982 under the guidance of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to combat Israel. It has been Iran’s most successful investment abroad, serving as the Islamic Republic’s arm at Israel’s doorstep.
The group dominates the political and military landscape of Lebanon and possesses tens of thousands of trained fighters as well as an array of sophisticated armaments. Its intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad also expanded its influence and reach in the region.
At home, Hezbollah remains the unrivaled armed force, also making significant political gains along with allies in the last parliamentary elections. This positioned the group to secure three ministerial posts in the new government, including the powerful Health Ministry, which has one of the country’s largest budgets.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of visiting UN ambassadors that by including Hezbollah in the government, Lebanon was now fully under Iranian control.
“Iran has proxies. One of them is Hezbollah. Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon,” Netanyahu told the delegation of 40 ambassadors. “It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hit back a day later, denying that Iran was in control, and accused Netanyahu of inciting Western powers against Lebanon.
On Wednesday, Nasrallah floated the idea of Tehran arming the Lebanese military to confront IDF warplanes while they carry out airstrikes against Iranian military targets in neighboring Syria.
In televised address marking the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution and the overthrow of the Shah, Nasrallah called himself “a friend of Iran,” and said he was “willing to bring the Lebanese Army air defense systems from Iran to confront Israel.”
Nasrallah also vowed that the organization would defend Iran in the event of war with the United States, and claimed the US was preparing to retreat from the region.
He admitted that Hezbollah was “affected” by the renewed US sanctions on Iran, but he vowed the terrorist group would “overcome the difficulties” through its “firmness, will and resolve.”