The widespread protests in Beirut, which started on October 17, 2019, due to the deteriorating economic situation threatens the internal stability of the Lebanese regime. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly sided with the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and urged him not to resign, which would cause the dissolution of the government of which Hizbullah is a senior member.
Nasrallah, well aware of the reasons for the growing protests, will try hard to contain the damage and prevent a crisis that would jeopardize the current government’s stability, which is one of Hizbullah and Iran’s greatest achievements. Indeed, the government of Prime Minister Al-Hariri, with the active support of President Michel Aoun, grants Hizbullah the legitimacy for continuing the Iranian takeover of the Lebanese state.
Nasrallah declared on October 20, 2019: “Hizbullah doesn’t support the resignation of the current government. There is a very deep crisis of trust between the people and the state. When the government takes measures that restore people’s trust, the Lebanese people will accept it.”1
The Hizbullah Secretary-General warned, “If the government resigns, this means that Lebanon will have no government and the formation of it may take two years. We in Hizbullah will not abandon our country and people. We will not allow the country to be dumped or destroyed,” he added.
Under the guise of the current government, Hizbullah operates as a state within the state of Lebanon. Hizbullah operates governmental, economic, social, educational, and cultural institutions, which work alongside the government and its institutions, with its own private budget that works outside the state budget. This is in addition to Hizbullah’s military arm, which currently maintains the missile power of a European state, which again, operates outside of the Lebanese state budget.
Most of Hizbullah’s budget is funded by aid from the Iranian government; part of the budget comes from state money, another piece consists of special funds belonging to the Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, as well as from private funds from Iranian clerics, and above all, from foundations funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran and Hizbullah also impact on the internal crisis in Lebanon, due to Iran’s widespread cuts to Lebanon’s Hizbullah institutions. However, Iran will undoubtedly continue to finance Hizbullah and allow it to exploit its military forces, which rely on a broad base of its civilian institutions, which are the powers that enable Hizbullah’s continued jihad against Israel. If his ties to Iran were in doubt, Nasrallah added to his expression of support for the Lebanese government a renewed “commitment to all the right causes in Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria.”
The vision of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei was to build strategic depth from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, through the efforts of IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani. The fulfillment of this vision is now being tested in both Iraq and Lebanon, where sectarian tensions are beginning to be affected by the economic situation as well as by the sanctions on Iran.
Therefore, Iran is likely to do everything it can to preserve its assets in Lebanon and assist Nasrallah in his efforts to maintain internal stability in Lebanon.
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