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Lebanese Shiites: Torn Between Dying for Iran and Living for Lebanon

September 29th 2008

Hezbollah banners
Hezbollah on the March

The world continues to grasp the importance of Lebanon as a major front in the global battle between the forces of moderation and the forces of extremism. Vital to that battle are the large numbers of Lebanese, especially the Shias, who continue to support Hezbollah as it serves the interests of Iran while dragging all of Lebanon onto the wrong side of the fight.

Under the pretense of representing Shia interests, Hezbollah exploits the intrinsic sectarian divisions in order to continue gnawing at Lebanese sovereignty.  The false sense of empowerment that the “divinely” guided Hezbollah has successfully casted over the Shias has blinded them from uncovering the party’s real intentions.  Their apparent willingness to suffer huge losses caused by Hezbollah’s adventures allows its leaders to remain irrationally defiant as Hassan Nassrallah did after his criminal blunder of 2006 by claiming a “divine victory” while hundreds of mutilated corpses were still under the rubbles of the mostly Shiite devastated neighborhoods. 

The Shias’ support emboldens the leaders of Hezbollah to challenge the demands for disarming even if Israel withdraws from the disputed Shebaa farms area, thus indirectly exposing their true mission, which goes beyond the conflict with Israel, to serve their Iranian masters and to achieve the hegemony of the Iranian regime over the Lebanese Shias.

The claims to persist until Israel is no more are only a cover-up for the continuation of the control by Iran of the Lebanese card. The threats by Iranian leaders to retaliate through Lebanon against any attacks by the US or Israel are clear indications for the reasons of the Iranian deep investment in Hezbollah. The apparently limitless supply of expendable men who are willing to die for any cause outlined by Hezbollah gives Iran the advantage of fighting its wars away from its borders, let alone fulfilling the long-deceased Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini’s wishes to export the Islamic revolution to the Arab countries.

The Iranian mullahs’ quest to control the Shias’ of the region and to exploit them for satisfying their regional ambitions was nowhere more satisfied as it was in Lebanon. With their influence over the Iraqi Shias fading, and their attempts in other Arab countries faltering, the Iranians are concentrating on the Lebanese scene where they have already a powerful armed militia under direct command.  Their success in Lebanon remains unequaled anywhere else.  Thus, Hezbollah’s continuation has become a major strategic issue for Iran. This necessitates weakening the Lebanese government as an existential requirement for Hezbollah. Such a task is easier to accomplish as long as the Shias of Lebanon continue to provide an unconditional yet costly support to a party that would not hesitate to sacrifice the whole of Lebanon to protect the interests of Iran and to promote its expansionist plans. This dangerous allegiance is forcefully drafting the rest of the Lebanese to die in the defense of Iranian interests!

The Shias should realize that the Iranian plan will have dire consequences for their community as well as for all of Lebanon. Those who are afraid of confronting Hezbollah now should consider the terrible outcome for not doing so. The horrible experiences of the war of 2006 will pale in comparison to the calamities awaiting Lebanon if the situation is enflamed again. This time there will be no international power or perhaps no will to stop Israel. It will be a destructive and asymmetrical war where the use of the civilian population as a shield would incite major retaliations by Israel in an all-out unrestrained attack to terminate Hezbollah. The results would be a devastating battle on the Lebanese soil with one sure outcome, the destruction of Lebanon and the displacement of most of its population.  The Lebanese Shias have the duty and the power to prevent this catastrophe.

As the Iraqi Sunnis did undergo an “Awakening” and turn against the extremists who were disrupting their lives while destroying Iraq under the pretense of resisting the occupation, the Lebanese Shias should follow a similar path in order to save themselves and Lebanon.  The Lebanese Shias should reclaim their self-determination from the Iranian mullahs and should refuse to be drafted and sacrificed for the defense of the Iranian “Islamic republic”.  They should correct years of blind support for Hezbollah and use their tremendous resilience and their admirable devotion to advance the cause of a unified and free Lebanon.  They should support those independent leaders who are courageously opposing the Iranian hegemony in their communities.  By not allowing their youth to be indoctrinated in a culture of death they will save them from sacrificing their lives and future for the mere imperialistic ambitions of Iran.

The Iranian-supported Hezbollah will only bring more disaster and ultimately the totalitarian rule of “Al Wali Al faqih” or rule of the jurisprudent. Then the Lebanese Shias will suffer under similar oppression as their Iranian counterparts and will bear the economic burdens of their isolation from the rest of Lebanon as well as from the Arab world.

The choices are clear. Either they decide to die for Iran or they decide to live for Lebanon.  Uprooting Hezbollah from the Shia communities of Lebanon is a formidable task that is more attainable with the cooperation of the Shias. Without Hezbollah, a moderate and free Lebanon will quickly regain its sovereignty and will be a major component for the peace and stability of the region. 

Elie Khawand is the director of policy for the Lebanese Information Center in Washington, D.C.

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