Security

Lebanese call for Nasrallah to be held to account for 'destroying' country

By Nohad Topalian

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Lebanese look on as Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech on a screen in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh on January 12, 2020. [Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP]

BEIRUT -- Activists, economists, and political observers in Lebanon are calling on Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah to be held to account for the mayhem he has caused in Lebanon over the years, and for his outsized and destructive influence to be curbed.

"What Lebanon needs most is an end to the hegemony of Hizbullah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah," said Lebanese Centre for Research and Consulting director Hassan Qutb.

This "Lebanese demand" is the result of the years of extensive harm the Iran-backed party has caused the country, he said.

Hizbullah's hegemony over the Lebanese decision-making process has strained diplomatic relations with countries in the region and world, he said, and its obstruction of efforts to form a government has cost Lebanon dearly.

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Lebanese protesters put a noose around a portrait of Hassan Nasrallah in downtown Beirut on August 8 during a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a port explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. [AFP]

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Lebanese protesters gather around the 'October 17 torch', lit to mark the one year anniversary of the beginning of a nationwide anti-government protest movement, in front of the devastated Beirut port, on October 17. Protesters' demands include, among other things, the disarmament of Hizbullah. [Anwar Amro/AFP]

The party has defied Lebanon's policy of dissociation through its involvement in the Syrian war, and has flouted the call of the Lebanese people for Lebanon to return to its policy of neutrality, he said.

"Lebanon is in need of a regional-international project to save it from the hegemony of Iran-linked armed militias and a corrupt system" that has enabled a non-state militia like Hizbullah to continue to bear arms, Qutb said.

The Lebanese people are facing "a human tragedy due to the deterioration of their financial situation and loss of security, stability and ambition for a better future", he said, laying the blame largely at the feet of Hizbullah and its allies.

Hizbullah, in co-operation with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), "took control of the state's judicial, security and health institutions and many municipalities, and oriented their services according to its policies, plans and projects", he said.

Even former Hizbullah leaders and elements have been expressing their discontent with the party.

In an explosive interview with Al-Mashareq, one defector said he left the party as he was opposed to the assassinations, the battles that destroyed Lebanon and the constant push to antagonise the Gulf states and create rifts in Lebanon.

"I disliked the fact that Hizbullah's activity sabotaged Lebanon's economy and protected the corrupt," he said. "I was also against participating in a war against the Syrian people."

In a televised sermon following the August 4 explosion at the Beirut port, former Hizbullah leader Subhi al-Tufayli said Nasrallah should be first in line to stand trial over the deadly incident, "as he stands above the rest of the government".

Economic, financial collapse

Hizbullah is "the disease that must be eradicated", an economist who asked not to be named told Al-Mashareq.

"The Lebanese constitution of 1926 was clear in stating that Lebanon is a country of individual freedoms and initiatives," he said.

"The Lebanese economy flourished in the post-independence period much more vigorously than [those of] neighbouring countries because of its distinction as a free economy in a region that was dominated by dictatorial regimes," he said.

The current crisis and the economic, financial, monetary and social collapse in Lebanon "is due to the loss of the liberal foundations on which the Lebanese entity was built", the economist added.

The political freedoms suppressed by assassinations and the economic freedoms carved away by monopolies and corruption have contributed to Lebanon's current state of affairs, he said.

"Corruption, monopoly and smuggling played a big role in eroding the pillars of the Lebanese economy," he added. "It is sufficient to look at who benefits from this situation to know who plays this role."

On the monetary level, "Hizbullah sapped the Lebanese pound", he said.

In so doing, it took the Lebanese hostage "by virtue of being the only source of dollars, and through controlling the economy with its financial capabilities, and specifically its control of the import process", he said.

In order to achieve its goal, Hizbullah used "Category A currency exchange houses" protected by the group to smuggle dollars to Syria, he added.

Category A financial institutions include institutions that are entitled to ship money from abroad, transfer funds using the Hawala system or transfer money by electronic means.

Need for a strong state

Political writer Hareth Suleiman, a prominent member of the National Assembly of Revolutionary Forces, said the time has come "to put an end to Hizbullah's hegemony over Lebanon", in the person of Nasrallah, and its allies.

"They have destroyed it completely," he said.

"Lebanon needs a state that is worthy of its name at all levels -- constitutional, legal, political, security and the media -- and ensures the smooth functioning of its institutions," he said.

It needs "governments that take decisions based on internal and national considerations", he added, not those "where decisions are imposed on it from the outside, dictated to it by [authority figures] with foreign links".

The primary cause of Lebanon's problems is "Nasrallah and those allied with him", he added. "Should Nasrallah move to Iran, however, the problem does not end, because there is no state entity."

"We as a people [would still need to] rebuild the state at the expense of Nasrallah and his party and all those who contributed to Lebanon's demise".

"We want to reorganise the state based on its legal and constitutional concept, and we need to protect intellectual and personal freedoms, and to put an end to hegemony," he added.

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