Politics

Hizbullah blocks Lebanon's economic, political recovery: experts

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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A Lebanese army convoy patrols a street in Ain Qana after an explosion rocked a Hizbullah site on September 22nd. The billboard shows Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its late founder Ruhollah Khomeini. [Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP]

Hizbullah's armament and involvement in regional wars at the behest of its backer Iran are dragging down Lebanon's economy and political system, experts told Al-Mashareq.

The party has alienated Lebanon from countries in the region and beyond who are reluctant to offer support while Hizbullah exercises control over the levers of power, they said.

While some Lebanese activists are hopeful the party might disarm in a settlement reached with other political factions, most believe this is unlikely, pointing out that Hizbullah is entirely beholden to Iran.

Hizbullah is not likely to disarm of its own volition, writer and political activist Hanna Saleh told Al-Mashareq.

This is due in part to its strong ties to Iran, he said, pointing out that its decision-making process "is controlled by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei" and that it is, in effect, a branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Because of the role it occupies in government and beyond, Hizbullah is preventing the international community from helping Lebanon, he said.

To restore the state and free it from Hizbullah's control, it will be necessary "to create a political structure, an independent government and a judiciary to protect state institutions" based on the protestors' demands, he said.

The current political changes present an opportunity for an internal settlement to be reached "that puts the sole possession of weapons in the hands of the state and forces everyone to abide by the constitution", he said.

Calls for change in Lebanon

Since the protests began last year, political activist Samir Skaf told Al-Mashareq, those taking part have clung to their demands for a change in government.

This call for change includes Hizbullah, he said.

The party is an integral part of the government and wields enormous influence over its decision-making process, he said, which has meant no government is formed without its approval. This has turned Lebanon into "a failed state".

Some protestors have blamed Hizbullah for the situation Lebanon is facing, saying this is a consequence of its activities outside the country's borders.

He said the Lebanese people "are not happy with Hizbullah because of its hegemony over the country and participation in the region's conflicts".

Its actions threaten the state and have kept the international community from helping Lebanon recover from its deep economic and financial crises, he said.

Hizbullah 'beholden to Iran'

There is no functioning state or economy because Hizbullah controls Lebanon's political, security, military and strategic decisions, political analyst Simon Abou Fadel told Al-Mashareq.

Hizbullah's intervention in regional wars and its rhetoric against Gulf states "have destroyed Lebanon's economy and turned it into a failed state", he said.

These actions have led to a Gulf and international boycott of Lebanon, causing Arab and international investment to dry up, which has contributed to the economic downturn, Abou Fadel said.

The Lebanese people sought to take back their country by participating in protests that called for Hizbullah's disarmament, he said, adding that these demands were met with violence from the party's members and supporters.

He ruled out the possibility of Hizbullah getting involved in Lebanese politics as a purely political party, because of its connections with Iran, saying the party "is proud of its Iranian weapons and money".

"Hizbullah cannot be viewed as a Lebanese political party as long as it considers itself beholden to Iran," he said.

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