The second leg of a diplomatic tour by Iranian Foreign Minister Husein Amir Abdollahian, who has already held talks with his Omani counterpart, is on Lebanese soil

Iranian control of Lebanon raises tensions in Saudi politics

photo_camera PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Riyadh is aware that it cannot trust Iran, that Israel only wants to re-establish diplomatic ties and that the US will be watching

According to information gathered by Iran's state-run IRNA news agency from Lebanese political circles, Iran is sending a clear message that Lebanon has become a party of its own through Iranian Foreign Minister Husein Amir-Abdollahian's visit to Beirut and comments on the need for Lebanese political forces to act quickly to resolve the presidency issue. A reconciliation with Saudi Arabia helped him to strengthen his position in the Lebanese archive, as well as in other archives in the region. He stressed how important Lebanese security is for the Islamic Republic's perception of the region and its own security. 

Abdollahian told reporters upon his arrival in Beirut late in the afternoon of 26 April, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA, that Iran considers Lebanon's security to be equal to Iran's own security. Moreover, according to these sources, Abdollahian's second visit in recent weeks confirms Iran's intention to use the reconciliation of Saudi Arabia and Egypt as recognition of its influence in Lebanon and that Iran is not taking any chances even though agreements with Saudi Arabia have not yet been reached. From near or far, they have discussed or talked about Lebanon. The Lebanese political elite for a long time provided a lot of financial and material support and continued to invest money in Lebanon without accountability. 


The Lebanese political class is divided between benefiting and remaining silent, while Hezbollah continues to spread across the nation and maintain its grip on power. A future Arab return to Lebanon under any pretext would be impeded by Iran's decision to annex Lebanon following the withdrawal of Saudi Arabia, its main rival. It also frustrates faltering Western efforts to isolate Iran's influence in Lebanon. It is unknown whether the disputed spheres of influence were divided as a result of subsequent meetings between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Baghdad, Muscat and then Beijing, or whether Iran is benefiting from Saudi Arabia's desire to employ a crisis resolution strategy that dissociates itself from the situation.


Following negotiations facilitated by China, Saudi Arabia and Iran declared on 10 March that their embassies and consulates would reopen within two months. Abdollahian urged all Lebanese parties to speed up the election of a president after a six-month vacancy in office in a nation mired in economic collapse and political inaction. 

At a joint press conference the day after arriving in Beirut with his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bouhabib, he said: "We encourage all parties in Lebanon to accelerate the election of a president and complete the political process in this important country in the region". Minister Abdollahian made it clear in January last year that Iran supports communication and dialogue between all political currents and does not interfere in the internal affairs of its brother Lebanon. 


He urged foreign parties to respect the Lebanese election and refrain from meddling in internal affairs, adding that "we will support any decision and agreement reached in this regard". In an earlier meeting with Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhala, the Iranian Foreign Minister emphasised the importance of maintaining unity between the factions and the Palestinian people. According to the Lebanese Foreign Minister, the Iran-Saudi Arabia agreement "is important for peace in the region and we hope that Lebanon will do well afterwards", adding that "the lack of disagreement in the region is in Lebanon's interest". "Minister Abdollahian told us about the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal, and we hope it will be good for Lebanon. We are optimistic about any agreement with neighbouring countries," Bouhabib continued. 

The Iranian-Saudi agreement, according to the Lebanese minister, is "important for regional peace". Representatives of five countries with interests in Lebanon, including France, the US and Saudi Arabia, met in Paris in February to discuss the situation there, but failed to make progress. Observers blame Hezbollah for this failure because it opposes any political settlement under Western or Arab auspices, and is pushing for the political vacuum to continue until Iran intervenes and succeeds where the West and Arabs failed. 


Before leaving for Damascus on Friday afternoon, the Iranian diplomat will meet with Lebanese officials and hold a press conference. He will revisit Beirut for the second time this year. When Iranian officials travel to Beirut, they often have private meetings with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. There are concerns in Lebanon that Iran's recently announced control could lead Lebanon to act as a catalyst for additional hostilities with Israel. The Lebanese are concerned that Iran's control of the country, which is now a fait accompli, will make Lebanon the starting point for new hostilities against Israel, that it will revive the atmosphere of war and that the country will once again suffer the effects of an economic crisis, as it has done on several occasions, most recently in 2006. 


On 26 April, Frangieh declared: "If I become president, I will be equally separated from everyone and the various components of parliament, and I will meet the others halfway". The result of a deal between his group and his political rivals, Michel Aoun, one of Hezbollah's most prominent Christian allies, was elected president in 2016 after a two-and-a-half-year period of inactivity. Nasrallah acknowledged in a speech last month that his organisation and its allies had stalled the quorum pending Aoun's election. At a time when the country is being run by a temporary administration that cannot implement the necessary reforms required by the international community and the International Monetary Fund to provide support to halt the economic collapse, political inaction is worsening the economy since the autumn of 2019 and is causing one of the world's worst hyperinflations. 

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