Friday, January 11, 2019

Perspectives: Lebanon and Hezbollah

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 Perspectives: Lebanon and Hezbollah 

January 11, 2019

Perspectives: Lebanon and Hezbollah, is a UANI weekly resource highlighting developments in Lebanon and the activities of the terrorist group Hezbollah.  

Lebanon Foreign Relations

Pompeo: U.S. Will No Longer Accept "Status Quo" of Hezbollah Power in Lebanon
In a speech at the American University in Cairo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would no longer accept the "status quo" of Hezbollah being a major power in Lebanon, and would target the group and its leadership as part of the "aggressive sanctions campaign against Iran." Pompeo said, "Iran thinks it may own Lebanon. Iran is wrong."
Pompeo added that the U.S. would work to "reduce the threat" that Hezbollah's missile arsenal posed to Israel, and said that "many of these rockets are equipped with advanced guidance systems." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently claimed that Hezbollah only possesses a "few dozen" such missiles, and Maj. Gen. Tamir Hyman - the head of Israel's Military Intelligence - said the group lacks the ability to domestically produce them.
Hezbollah, Amal Attempt to Rehabilitate Assad's Syria Via Arab Economic Summit
Hezbollah's "Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc" and the Amal Movement are supporting the idea of inviting Syria to the Arab Economic Summit to be held in Beirut later this month. Amal Movement MP Ali Khreis even said that the summit would not occur without Syria's attendance. According to pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar, a joint Lebanese-Egyptian effort is under way to explore the possibility of inviting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to the summit, and Beirut is awaiting Saudi Arabia's response before extending the invitation. Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil appeared to deny that Lebanon intended to invite Syria, saying that the Arab League - and not Beirut - would decide the issue. However, Bassil noted that Lebanon "can push and work for Syria's readmission to the [Arab] League, and our position as a political party [i.e. his Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)] and the Foreign Ministry is well known." However, a subsequent report in Asharq Al-Awsat claimed that Bassil was actively trying to focus the summit on Arab reconciliation with Bashar al-Assad and Syria's readmission into the Arab League. Syria's attendance at the summit would be seen as a step toward granting the Assad regime renewed Arab legitimacy, and reintegrating Damascus into the Arab world.

Beirut Arab Economic Summit May be Delayed
Though Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed this week that the Beirut-hosted Arab Economic Summit would be held on time, other political forces within Lebanon - including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs - are trying to delay it, tying its timing to the formation of a government or Arab reconciliation with Syria.

Hezbollah and Israel

Israel to Give U.S. Intel on Hezbollah's "Civilian Shields"
A report in Israel HaYom claimed that Israel intended to provide the U.S. intelligence on Hezbollah's use of civilian homes and other places in Lebanon to house military equipment, weapons, and fighters.

Lebanon Complains Over Israeli Border Security Procedures
Lebanon's Higher Defense Council met on Thursday to address Israel's continued building of a separation barrier in disputed areas along the Blue Line. The Council considered Israel's actions a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and expressed Beirut's desire to diplomatically pressure the Israelis into halting their activities, including by submitting a complaint to the Security Council. The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon later hosted an emergency tripartite meeting with Lebanese and Israeli military officials to address the matter.

Cabinet Formation

No Breakthrough on Lebanese Government Formation Process
Sources told Al-Hayat that Lebanon's government formation process was "stagnant," despite caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil's recent initiatives to break the impasse. The sources claimed Bassil's proposal, supported by Hezbollah - to expand the government beyond 30 ministers to accommodate pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs demanding a cabinet position - had been rejected, and no solution to this "Sunni impasse" was forthcoming. Hariri reportedly said he would not accept Bassil's proposal, "no matter what, because Hezbollah is behind it." Even sources within Bassil's own Free Patriotic Movement decried the Foreign Minister's proposal as "an embarrassment."

Meanwhile, pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs doubled down on their demand to have one of their own members, or one of three "compromise figures," represent them in Hariri's government and otherwise ruled out the formation of a new government anytime soon. Hezbollah and Amal Movement representatives reiterated their support for the Sunni MPs, and blamed Hariri for the continued stalemate. Hariri's "Future Movement" accused Hezbollah of orchestrating the escalating attacks on Hariri. A report in Al-Hayat predicted that government formation efforts would be pushed off until after the upcoming Arab League summit, scheduled to be held in Tunisia in March.

Joumblatt Accuses "Syrian Regime Mouthpieces" of Blocking Government Formation, Aoun Blames "Regional Influences"
Druze Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt tweeted that it was now "obvious" that a "systematic campaign by the Syrian regime's mouthpieces" was behind Lebanon's government formation impasse. Joumblatt implicitly jabbed at the six pro-Hezbollah MPs demanding a seat in Prime Minister Saad Hariri's cabinet - who refer to themselves as the Consultative Gathering - saying, "one day [they concoct the excuse] of a consultation, and another the invention of adding two ministers, and other excuses." According to Joumblatt, "this is all aimed at...destroying the immunity of the Lebanese state, to impose further hegemony [on Lebanon]." Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Aoun - meeting with members of the Lebanese consular corps at the Baabda Presidential Palace - blamed "regional influences" for the continuing deadlock.

Hezbollah Regionally
Hezbollah Converts Syrian Sunni Mosques into Shiite Shrines and Centers
Al-Modon reported that Hezbollah was converting Sunni mosques in Syria's Zabadani region that were destroyed in the Syrian Civil War into Shiite religious centers (Husseiniya) and shrines.

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