Iran's interference in Lebanese internal affairs through its proxy Hizbullah is part of a long-standing project to expand Tehran's influence in the region, political analysts tell Al-Mashareq.
Since the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Iranian regime has sought to expand its influence by supporting proxy groups, with a number of high-profile Iranian officials making clear the intent of the "Iranian project".
"Iran actually has control over four Arab capitals," former Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi claimed in April 2015, noting that "the Iranian revolution knows no boundaries".
The previous month, deputy commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Gen. Hossein Salami revealed that "Iranian officials did not expect such a rapid cross-border spread of the Islamic Revolution".
A month prior, deputy commander of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force Maj. Gen. Esmail Qaani said "Iran is continuing to conquer countries in the region".
"The Islamic Republic has begun to gain control over Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and it is today advancing its influence in the other countries in the region," he said.
Many consider Lebanon the first stage of the "Iranian project" due to the creation of Hizbullah, which openly declares that it supports Wilayat al-Faqih, a doctrine that advocates a guardianship-based political system, analysts say.
Rifi: Lebanon suffers from Hizbullah interference
"Iran’s project is obvious and is founded on interference in the internal affairs of the state and establishment of centres of influence for itself by arming militias and undermining the internal stability of Arab countries as a prelude to seizing control of them," Lebanese Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi told Al-Mashareq.
The clearest evidence of this, he said, is Iran's investment in arming groups such as the Houthis' Ansar Allah in Yemen and Hizbullah in Lebanon, as well as groups in Iraq and Syria.
"They have declared, through some of their leaders, that they control four Arab capitals, and the evidence grows stronger every day that Iran is seeking to penetrate deep into the Arab [world] by means of groups that support it," he said.
Lebanon is suffering from this expansionist project through Hizbullah, Rifi said, "which is funded by Iran" and which Iran is using as a tool to further its own interests in the region.
The proof of this is that Iran "pushed it to fight in Syria", he said, adding that he rejects this attempt to involve Lebanon in wars in which it has no interest.
Hizbullah "uses threats" to prevent the convening of a parliamentary session to elect a new Lebanese president, he said, in a move that has created a power vacuum and is paralyzing the country’s institutions.
The nomination of Change and Reform bloc president, Lebanese MP Michel Aoun, and that of Lebanese MP Suleiman Frangieh were rejected because they are an extension of Hizbullah’s project, which threatens the state, he said.
Hizbullah 'not compatible' with Lebanese state
"The Iranian project is unable to present a real model of a state, and has failed in Iraq to establish a model state to present to the world," political analyst Ali al-Amin told Al-Mashareq.
"The problem of Lebanon today, which suffers from the impact of this project, is more serious than the election of a President of the Republic, and will not be solved in the foreseeable future," he said.
He described this problem as Hizbullah’s "refusal to acknowledge the principle of the existence of the state and to abide by its constitution".
Hizbullah "is not compatible with the state and shuns resolving this dilemma by exacerbating it", al-Amin added.
The party started out by labeling the Lebanese state an infidel regime, he said, then entered parliament upon obtaining approval to do so through a 1992 fatwa from Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei.
Al-Amin said the most serious threat this poses is that "a Lebanese party has to obtain approval from a figure in another country".
Though the Hizbullah model is incompatible with the state, he added, it is being spread to other countries in the region, from Yemen to Iraq and beyond, with the goal of striking down "the national projects of those countries".
Iran aspires to expand beyond its current borders by relying on powerful groups such as the Houthis and Hizbullah, political analyst George Shaheen told Al-Mashareq.
In this way, he said, Iran can claim it does not interfere in the affairs of other states as it relies on the role and influence of political and sectarian groups in those countries.