Lebanon And Its Hezbollah Follow Iran, Hoping For A Chinese Rescue
Mani Parsa July 16, 2020
While beating on the drums of war for years by Lebanon's Hezbollah has driven major foreign investors out of Lebanon, the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah has called for turning to China to rescue the country's failing economy.
This comes while Hezbollah has opposed taking loans from the International Monetary Fund to save Lebanon's economy.
In the meantime, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a long-term contract with China trumpeted by Iran is yet another reason why the UN arms embargo against Tehran should be extended.
The statement by Nasrallah was made as Hezbollah's main financial and ideological sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran is striving to finalize a 25-year economic cooperation pact with China that translates into selling Iran's cheap oil to Beijing and giving a strategic economic foothold to China, against Beijings economic and diplomatic support.
Lebanon will soon find itself in the same economic situation as Venezuela. The Lebanese currency has lost its value at least fourfold during recent months dragging most of the Lebanese middle class below the poverty line
The United States and several European countries have designated Hezbollah, which was founded in 1983 with the assistance of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, IRGC, as a terrorist group. Nonetheless, it is a major player in Lebanon's politics as one of the parties that support Prime Minister Hassan Diab's administration.
Hezbollah favors the idea of giving a more significant role to China in Lebanon and has only reluctantly accepted negotiations with the IMF. However, so far 17 rounds of negotiations have remained futile.
In the meantime, the IMF refuses to grant an 11 billion-dollar loan it has promised to Lebanon in 2018 as Beirut has failed to implement regulations against financial corruption.
Hezbollah's pro-Chinese propaganda coincides with its disinformation about the U.S. role in Lebanon's economic crisis. Hezbollah ignores corruption, mismanagement and its own warmongering and blames Washington for Lebanon's problems.
Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to Beirut has also opined that Russia, Iran, China, Syria and Iraq can help Lebanon out of its economic problems, mindless of the fact that some of these states have similar economic crises.
This comes while most Lebanese have always viewed their country as a fortress for Western values. In fact, Lebanon is one of the most pro-American nations in the Middle east.
Lebanon receives U.S. military aid and its banking system is also supported by the United States. Nevertheless, U.S. officials have warned Lebanese officials that assistance to Lebanon might end if they insist on the move toward China.
Former Lebanese Labor Minister Kamel Abu Suleiman has warned fellow Lebanese to be weary of China's "loan traps" and its bad record in funding projects. Meanwhile, economic analysts have said that China is eyeing the Port of Tripoli in Northern Lebanon as a terminal for its ambitious Silk Road project. Beijing also hopes to use Lebanon as a foothold to enter the Syrian market.
Some observers even say that with the rising tensions between China and the United States, the Chinese might even consider losing the U.S. market and focusing on the burgeoning market in the Middle East.
In the Meantime, Pompeo said in his remarks at the Economic Club of New York on 15 July: " I think that's very telling about what will happen on October 19 when the current embargo for Iran that prevents Iran from both purchasing most weapon systems and being – and acting as an arms dealer - expires. It would be tragic. This was one of the central failings of the JCPOA, just that that was but a roughly five-year hiatus in Iran being the world's largest state sponsor of terror and one of its larger sellers of arms to bad actors around the world."
Pompeo added that the United States " will work with the UN Security Council to ensure that the arms embargo is extended, and I'm confident that we'll get that outcome…I hope we can convince the P5 that it's the right thing to do to extend this arms embargo, to make it an indefinite arms embargo until the Islamic Republic of Iran changes its ways, but in the event we can't convince them, I'm confident that we have a legal basis and a path forward so that we can, as President Obama reminded us, unilaterally reimpose all of those sanctions."
He also said during a conversation with the editor-in-chief of The Hill that "every nation including Russia signed off on UN Security Council Resolution 2231 which imposed an arms embargo that denies Iran the capacity to sell or buy weapons systems…now after just five years the world's largest state sponsor of terror [will begin] to freely engage in arms trade around the world, and become not only the largest state sponsor of terror but one of the largest arms dealers purchasing Chinese and Russian weapon systems.
He added: "We're working and, we hope, alongside the Russians to ensure that that can't happen."
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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