Lebanese Sunni Muslims, Christians, and others are condemning recent remarks by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who claimed that Lebanon owed its missile capabilities to Iran and that Lebanon was in the front line in Iran’s fight against Israel.
Political leaders and citizens alike say the remarks raise questions about Lebanon’s sovereignty and threaten to further complicate its already-stalled Cabinet formation process.
Hussein al-Wajeh, the media adviser to Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, lashed out at Hajizadeh, saying that Lebanon was not and would not be the front line for Iran’s battles.
“The Lebanese will not pay any price on behalf of the Iranian regime. Despite this, some Iranian officials insist on considering Lebanon an Iranian province,” Hussein Al-Wajeh said.
Christian politician Sami Gemayel of the Kataeb Party said, “Lebanon and the Lebanese are a hostage in Iran’s hands through Hezbollah. They are using us as human shields in their battle, which Lebanon has nothing to do with. The presidency, the government and parliament are false witnesses and are covering up controlling Lebanon.”
Earlier, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his Iran-backed Shi’ite militia now had twice as many precision-guided missiles as it did a year ago, adding that Israel's efforts to prevent it from acquiring them had failed. Israel considers Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Lebanon, to be its most immediate terrorist threat.
Paul Salem, president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute, who is also Lebanese, said Iran uses its client Hezbollah in Lebanon and beyond to achieve its own ends.
“As far as Iran is concerned, the Lebanon and Syria space for them is their way to put pressure on Israel and the United States. And they don’t see them as separate," he said. "The fundamental flaw in the Lebanese state is that it is a state that doesn’t have sovereignty. We don’t control our borders, our airport, the port; we cannot collect electricity tariffs. We are enthralled [meaning enslaved] to a domestic army that follows an external force.”
Beirut’s An-Nahar daily said it was stunned by Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s initial silence on Hajizadeh’s remarks. But Aoun is a key ally of Hezbollah, the de facto powerbroker in the country.
Salam Yamout, who heads the secular National Bloc Party, said that putting Lebanon in battles associated with regional disputes directly threat not only Lebanese interests, but the fight to restore its sovereignty.
Walid Joumblatt, leader of the Druze community and an outspoken critic of Iran, warned against pushing Lebanon into a new military conflict on Tehran’s behalf. He tweeted, asking why Lebanon should get “involved in participating [in a confrontation] where we have no decision on anything?”
Hezbollah has been criticized by its Lebanese and Arab opponents for participating in the war in Syria and other regional conflicts on behalf of Iran.