He continues, “Lebanon’s selection Monday of Michel Aoun as president ended a long impasse that left Beirut’s presidential palace vacant for 2 ¹/₂ years. The victory of the 81-year-old former general seals — via its proxy Hezbollah — Iran’s dominance over Lebanon.”
He calls it “the latest outcome of 1) President Obama’s attempt to reorder the Middle East through Iran’s empowerment and 2) Russia’s reassertion of power through an alliance with the mullahs.”
Avni says, “Meanwhile, Iran’s strongest foe, the Saudis, have bigger fish to fry than Lebanon. They’re involved in Yemen’s civil war (on the opposite side of the Iranians) and also financing Sunni foes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. So the Saudis all but gave up on Lebanon, which once served as the region’s banker and a major cultural leader.”
Gen. Aoun was once a fierce enemy of Syria. He was forced to flee the country because he feared being assassinated by Assad’s father, Hafez. He returned home from Paris in 2005, this time as Damascus’ friend.
“In Lebanon, everyone in power has a regional patron — and that patron can change at a moment’s notice. Aoun switched allegiances to Iran, and it paid off,” says Avni. “Now he’s president.”
Avni claims that, “Assad is elated. He owes much of his survival to Iran, which finances his bloody bid to hold onto power, and Hezbollah, whose Lebanese Shiite troops serve as Assad’s most effective foot soldiers and cannon fodder,” and says that “Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief, meanwhile is beaming like a groom on his wedding day. Some Lebanese, including Nasrallah’s own Shiite supporters, have questioned his decision to go all in for Assad in Syria, but he wasn’t swayed. Now Lebanon is his for the foreseeable future.”
The Lebanon watcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Tony Badran, notes, in the past, Hezbollah had a say, and even veto power, over the selection of president, but Aoun became “the first president that Hezbollah [chose] directly.”
While Aoun’s victory speech was of unity and Lebanese patriotism, he sent clear messages, according to Avni, “most notably a promise to support the ‘resistance.’ That’s a reference to Hezbollah’s unchallenged — and illegal — army.”
When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called to congratulate him, as reported by Iran’s ISNA news agency, Aoun promised him Lebanon “is ready to stand against any threat from terrorist groups or the Zionist Regime.”
“Aoun is far from Nasrallah’s only power lever. Hezbollah is the most powerful faction in Parliament, where a Shiite is guaranteed the speaker’s role (long held by Nabih Berry). It has much sway over the Lebanese Armed Forces, the country’s legitimate army. And now, with a hand-picked president who’s also a former general with strong ties to the military, the Iran-backed terrorist powerhouse all but controls that national army,” according to Avni.
He continues, “Next for Lebanon is the selection of a national cabinet. Sunni politician Saad Hariri reportedly made a deal to support Aoun in return for Hariri becoming prime minister. But Hariri will be hamstrung in office by Hezbollah, which will continue to control the cabinet. Lebanon, in other words, is now the fiefdom of Nasrallah and, by proxy, Iran.”
“And it’s but a symptom of the Mideast’s maladies. Lebanon won’t escape from Iran’s spell by itself. Too few Lebanese have the will or power to push back on Nasrallah. A reversal of Iran’s fortunes, if any, will come in Syria, Yemen, Iraq or elsewhere in the “Shiite Crescent” that now spreads from south Asia to the Mediterranean. Should we care? Remember, Hezbollah remains one of the world’s most dangerous anti-American terror organizations. It fights on behalf of Iran in Syria and Yemen, and continues to justify its existence by calling to “liberate” lands controlled by Israel — which it threatens with 150,000 rockets, including sophisticated long-range guided missiles,” Avni says, adding, “If the next American president wants to start reversing Hezbollah’s fortunes, he or she must end our dangerous tilt toward the mullahs. And if the mullahs lose some of their current sheen, who knows — maybe even Lebanon’s politicians will seek sugar daddies elsewhere.”