With Hariri’s resignation, Lebanon now a full on Iranian proxy for all to see
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AnalysisHariri was a fig leaf; now the charade is over

With Hariri’s resignation, Lebanon now a full on Iranian proxy for all to see

Lebanese PM's decision to step down comes as little surprise, given his father's fate when he fell afoul of Hezbollah and its patrons in Tehran and Damascus

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks at a press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at the Elysee Palace in Paris on September 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ludovic Marin)
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks at a press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at the Elysee Palace in Paris on September 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ludovic Marin)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation announcement in Saudi Arabia on Saturday came as a huge surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t have. Nor his condemnations of Iran’s involvement in Lebanon through its proxy Hezbollah.

Lebanon became an Iranian protectorate a number of years ago, a client state for all intents and purposes controlled by Iran through Hezbollah, the most powerful terror group in the entire Middle East.

Iran, together with Bashar Assad’s Syria and Hezbollah, were responsible for the assassination of Saad Hariri’s father Rafik Hariri, who was killed in February 2005 only a few months after stepping down as prime minister. His son would like to avoid the same fate.

The only truly surprising aspect of Saad Hariri’s resignation was that he agreed to be appointed prime minister last December. It is difficult to know what was going through Hariri’s head when he consented to the request of Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah president, to take on the task of forming a government.

Hariri knew full well who was responsible for the murder of his father and that own his life was in danger if he did not do as Hezbollah said. He also understood that the Shiite terror group controls nearly every aspect of the Lebanese state and that his own political camp, the March 14 Alliance, was becoming a persecuted minority within a system entirely dependent on Iran’s grace.

In this photo released on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, by Lebanon’s official government photographer Dalati Nohra, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, at the government House, in Beirut, Lebanon. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

It is not entirely clear what prompted Hariri to step down now. Following his resignation announcement, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya news station reported that just days ago a plot was thwarted to assassinate Hariri.

According to these reports, the fear he was being targeted for assassination prompted Hariri to leave Beirut on Friday and move to his home away from home in Saudi Arabia, where he was born.

The claims about the plot to assassinate Hariri and Iran’s involvement in it were, as expected, denied by Iran.

At a press conference he held Saturday in Riyadh, Hariri launched a fierce attack against Iran and Hezbollah, accusing them of blatant interference in Lebanon’s affairs and forcibly taking over the country.

In the current Lebanese political reality, the last thing that should come as a surprise is the notion that Hezbollah was planning another political assassination.

Vehicles burn following a bomb attack that targeted the motorcade of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, killing him and 22 others in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday, February 14, 2005. (AP Photo/File)

Over the last 11 months, Hariri became a fig-leaf for Hezbollah. As one of the main leaders of the opposition, his appointment as prime minister ostensibly proved Lebanon was maintaining its independence vis-a-vis Iran.

Now, however, the charade is over, and Lebanon remains as it was without the disguise — pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian, and with Hezbollah firmly in control. The Lebanese president is considered to be an Iranian and Hezbollah appointment, the Lebanese army is cooperating and coordinating with Hezbollah, and the Shiite terror group does whatever it likes in Lebanon.

It is likely that the Saudis had an influential role in Hariri’s decision to resign. To put it mildly, the Saudis were not enamored with Hariri’s choice to accept the post of prime minister less than a year ago.

It is also very likely that the report on the plot to assassinate Hariri, whether real or not, came from the direction of Riyadh, although perhaps — and only perhaps — it came from a few Western intelligence services.

In this photo released on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 by Lebanon’s official government photographer Dalati Nohra, showing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

Hezbollah is not remotely likely to change its ways following Hariri’s resignation. Indeed, it may do the opposite. The Shiite organization has long abandoned the pretense that it is not heavily influenced by Iran, and does not try to hide the fact that it receives its financial support and its marching orders from Tehran.

The only inconvenience Hezbollah is likely to face is in the case of a renewed escalation between Israel and Lebanon/Hezbollah.

With Lebanon/Hezbollah stripped of its Hariri fig leaf, Israel is likely to enjoy a greater degree of international legitimacy to wage an uncompromising campaign in a future conflict against what is, again, now rightly recognized as the Middle East’s strongest terror group. Today’s thoroughly unmasked Hezbollah, after all, is a state-backed (Iran), state-dominating (Lebanon), terrorist army that makes the Islamic State look like a bunch of Boy Scouts.

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