Speaking to the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Basem Shariatmadar said: “We are witnessing diplomatic shuttles by US officials and numerous meetings with political figures opposed to the Lebanese Resistance movement, such as al-Mustaqbal Political Alliance, Quwwatul Lobnaniya (Lebanese Forces) led by Samir Geagea and the Progressive Socialist Party led by Walid Jumblatt. Nothing was disclosed about these meetings. At the same time, one of the most important issues said to have been discussed was the restriction of the Hezbollah or banning the use of arms by the Resistance.
“Given that the Resistance movement has achieved significant victories on many issues in the region and the opposition led by the US and Saudi Arabia has suffered defeats, it was natural to see such efforts.”
The Middle East analyst continued: Until a few months ago, everyone agreed that there are no clear international and regional resolve to disrupt the situation in Lebanon. In this regard, while there were tensions and unrests in many Arab countries, in Lebanon, despite the background of tensions, including sectarianism, the situation was calm. Today it is possible to say that this resolve has been created because all the efforts to oust Hezbollah, Iran and the Resistance movement have failed and they have turned to the Resistance movement that now plays a transnational role.
Shariatmadar said that in the days leading up to the recent events there were some actions that are still in a state of ambiguity and suspicion, including the fires that broke out in vast areas of forests and rangelands in Lebanon. Typically this fire started in the middle of the night, while the weather was not hot and there was no environmental cause for it to happen. There were reports that the Zionist regime’s drones set up the fires, and images of them were circulated in the media. Given that the Lebanese government and the existing mechanisms were not prepared to deal with these fires at all, and given the natural and social context in Lebanon where the villages are intertwined, the fire spread to some buildings in villages and towns, and it caused a great deal of damage and widespread discontent.
“These fires coincided with the failure of the Lebanese government in controlling the apparently natural disaster and created tensions and protests. At the same time, there was a budget debate in Lebanon where due to the economic conditions and the severe budget deficit and the heavy debt of over $100 billion, the Lebanese government tried to impose some taxes, including Internet and cigarette taxes, which sparked widespread protests and there were even debates to impose taxes on the salaries of government employees.”
Another public discontent was added to the situation, rather than combating corruption and wasting national wealth in various ways, including countering the astronomical salaries the Lebanese officials are receiving – which have been widely exposed, the pressure on the budget has been applied to the weak and the underprivileged. The starting point of the recent demonstrations in Lebanon was protests against the government’s attempt to raise taxes to fund the budget deficit.
He emphasized: We can say that there are strong internal motives and different strata protested during these decades of sectarianism, rent-seeking all over the country, financial and administrative corruption and ancestry, political feudalism and the domination of famous families over all the state affairs. They argued that instead of fighting corruption and introducing reforming, they are trying to impose taxes on various commodities and on wages so that they would solve the problems out of the pocket of the poor.
This was the starting point of the streets protests, but it seems that certain regional and international forces had already planned to create such tension, and perhaps those who offered the taxation ideas in Lebanon, either at the expert level or higher, direct and indirect, willingly or unwillingly were influenced by these external sources who were after causing tension in Lebanon because the authorities should have known that the social conditions would explode given the existing situations.
Shariatmadar said: “Whether or not this unrest has been planned by foreign sources, however, there is no doubt that from the third and fourth days of these demonstrations some embassies and foreign sources have been riding on the wave. For example Beirut’s main square, where the protest gatherings are taking place, has been powered by high-speed, free internet stations. Morning, noon, and night meals are distributed among the people, in addition to the wide variety of food available to protesters. Given the large population that is present, the cost of distributing only one type of confectionery is estimated to be $50,000 per package daily. The direct distribution of hundred-dollar bills and some moves are underway, and they must have been funded by certain sources. The Saudi and US embassies are believed to be behind these arrangements. There were even images of people in the US embassy distributing new 100 dollar bills to the crowd.
He also said that using certain Shiite figures in these protests is very interesting, adding: “They have brought to the scene some clerics who have no place among Lebanese Shiites and are despised by the people. They have even used those who have had no social presence in the Lebanese society for decades just to arouse emotion and imply that these demonstrations have religious backing.”
Shariatmadar added: “In the Shiite sector, we are witnessing strong attacks against the Amal Movement and its leader Nabih Berri and they tried to create Shiite-Shiite clashes. In the south of Lebanon, there have been repeated exchange of attacks between supporters of Amal and others, but in the past two or three days attacks have been carried out against Hezbollah and its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, despite the fact that everyone knows Hezbollah and Nasrallah generally are not involved in anything but resistance and fight against Israel. Hezbollah played no role in any ministry, institution, business, or financial institution charged with corruption. These protests were primarily in Shiite populated areas, and were less common in Christian areas, although later there were protests in those areas as well.”
Pointing out that members of the Quwwatul Lobnaniya (Lebanese Forces) who are in the government led by Samir Geagea had resigned and would not accept Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s offers, he added: “It is said that an agreement was made behind the scene that those resignations would not be accepted,” he said. That is to say they could stay in the government and at the same time pretend to be part of the opposition. Today, those who are involved in the currents of not only financial and economic corruption and even terrorist acts, such as Samir Geagea are trying to ride on the wave.
Commenting on the recent unrest in Lebanon, Shariatmadar added: “Nasrallah said in his remarks that there were legitimate demands but we would pour into the streets when all demands are met. He opposed the idea of resignation of the government, its dismissal and creating a new government despite the fact that the head of state comes from the opposition camp.”
“It seems that the US and some countries in the region are looking to disrupt the situation in Lebanon and put the blame on Hezbollah,” the Middle East analyst continued. We have seen these attacks on the media and social networks in order to accomplish what has failed in recent years through confrontation and ousting Hezbollah in the domestic and political arena.
He said: “In the wake of recent events in the region, Saudi Arabia has realized that it has to adopt a policy of dialogue and diplomatic solution, but to pursue a political solution requires a field achievement Riyadh could use as bargaining chip if it could gain a goal in Lebanon.” But in all likelihood, with the wisdom of Hezbollah leadership and the negotiations that have taken place and with the steps the Lebanese government will take in making reforms, the outcome of the event marks a new victory for the Islamic Resistance and Hezbollah because many demonstrators today have come to the point that they should not be fooled by outside designs and insist on their rightful demands, and separate their way from their path.
Shariatmadar emphasized that it is unlikely that the unrest in Lebanon will be prolonged, adding: “If we look at the arrangement of Lebanese political forces, the position that Hezbollah and its allies have and the stance that Michel Aoun as President and an ally of Hezbollah has and considering that a significant part of Lebanese Sunnis are loyal to the Resistance, the majority seems to be with the Resistance. If we see this huge population protesting, it is because of their rightful demands. But if most of this population knows that there is a conspiracy against the Resistance going on, it will certainly set its separate course.
He noted: Even in Arab opposition networks such as al-Arabiya, many people defended the Resistance, Hezbollah and Nasrallah in interviews with various protesters in the same fields, and since the broadcast was live, these views were inevitably broadcast. Even part of the Al-Mustaqbal movement is particularly opposed to Nasrallah’s support for Saad Hariri, so his strengths and proximity are almost the main contributors to their current weight in Lebanon.
Shariatmadar continued: “The regional situation is not in favor of this process either because in the past seven or eight years if the Resistance has failed to achieve all its goals, but has faced the project of the other side with failure. They tried to follow this scenario in Iraq too, but the positions of the Iraqi government and the Resistance Front forces and of course the magnificent Arbaeen march foiled them all. It seems that in Lebanon we will see such an end to the demonstrations, and I believe that the end result will be in the interest of the Resistance and Hezbollah.”
Commenting on the efforts of political groups to force Saad Hariri to resign, he said: “The problem is not about Hariri, of course. In the last year since the story of his kidnapping in Saudi Arabia and what happened afterwards there was not complete satisfaction with Hariri. Despite the fact that Hariri is in the camp opposed to the Resistance Hariri refused to oust Hezbollah from the government and considered it an effective Lebanese social force. Hariri underlines the national unity government, while Americans want the Hezbollah out of the government. All this shows that they are looking for someone stronger than Hariri to fulfill the American menu.
But it is not just about Hariri as they want the situation in Lebanon to collapse and Hezbollah to face bottlenecks and blamed for the situation, and thus to end its armed resistance and presence in the government and in the political arena. Because today, Hezbollah plays a vital role not only inside Lebanon but also in the region, and if it is about the collapse of the government, it is merely a prelude to the elimination of the flow of Resistance from Lebanon and the region.