Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iran: UN Draws Attention To Tehran's Role In Lebanon

Lebanese President Emil Lahud (right) and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (file photo) (CTK) Iranian involvement in Lebanese affairs has been an issue since the early 1980s, and it came in for renewed attention last week. On April 18, a United Nations report urged Tehran to cooperate to resolve Lebanese issues. Washington's ambassador to the UN has welcomed the spotlight on Iran's involvement in Lebanon, while an outspoken Lebanese politician has been decrying this problem for some time.

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- UN Security Council Resolution 1559 made in 2004 calls for a withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and the disarming of the country's militias. Syrian forces have pulled out, but UN special rapporteur Terje Roed-Larsen noted in his April 18 report that the provision calling for "the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" has not been "fully implemented."

The report refers to Hizballah as "the most significant Lebanese militia," and it adds that "there has not yet been any noticeable change in the operational status and capabilities of Hizballah." Referring obliquely to the influence of Iran and Syria on Hizballah, the report adds, "a dialogue with parties other than the Lebanese authorities is indispensable" in the pursuit of disarming and disbanding the militias.

Nasrallah visited Tehran in August 2005 to meet with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and the two met again in Damascus on January 20. Nasrallah met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on April 13 in Damascus. And a Hizballah delegation headed by Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qasim met with Ahmadinejad in Tehran on April 18.

Syrian And Iranian Cooperation Needed

"[With] the necessary cooperation of all other relevant parties, including Syria and Iran, the difficulties of the past can be overcome and significant further headway be made towards the full implementation of Resolution 1559," the UN report concludes.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton hailed the report's attention to Iranian influence in Lebanese affairs, reported on April 19.

"I think it's a recognition by the secretary-general [of the UN] that Iran's financing of terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria has a significant impact on what happens in those two countries," Bolton said.

The Issue Of The Shabaa Farms

Hizballah sees itself as a resistance movement rather than a militia and, according to the recent UN report, Hizballah justifies its "resistance" status in the context of "Israel's ongoing occupation of the Shabaa farms area, which the United Nations has determined to be Israeli-occupied Syrian territory and which many Lebanese continue to assert is Lebanese."

The questionable status of the Shabaa farms was addressed several months earlier by the man who is possibly the most outspoken critic of Iranian and Syrian involvement in Lebanese affairs -- parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt, who is the leader of the Druze sect and the Progressive Socialist Party.

On February 12, Jumblatt contrasted a 1962 Lebanese Army map that shows the Shabaa farms are outside Lebanon's borders with a 2001 map provided by Lebanon's former director-general of general security, Major General Jamil al-Sayyid, which shows the farms within Lebanese territory. Jumblatt said this new map and the principle of the liberation of the Shabaa farms through resistance are an obstacle to building Lebanon, LNNA reported.

"This map permits an armed force [Hizballah] to control the south and to use it indefinitely, through the Lebanese-Syrian-Iranian alliance, for the benefit of the [Syrian] regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran, while Lebanon remains a captive," Jumblatt said.

Use of the newer map means that "Lebanon's destiny and independence remain in limbo for many years to come," Jumblatt said, adding that Lebanon risks remaining "a hostage of the avarice of the Syrian regime and of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Major General al-Sayyid's attorney rejected on February 14 allegations that the Shabaa farms issue reflects Syrian manipulation of international borders, LNNA reported. Attorney Akram Azzuri explained on behalf of his client that the last agreement on the issue was reached in 1966 and approved by the governors of the Bekaa region and of rural Damascus. "This agreement specified the location of the farms within the Lebanese property-ownership borders," he added, and maps drawn after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon reflect this.

As the Lebanese disputed possible gerrymandering, events occurred that supported the accusations of Iranian interference and links with Hizballah. Lebanese Labor Minister Trad Hamadeh said in Tehran on February 13 that he thanks Iran for supporting his country and its resistance against what the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) termed "Zionist threats and aggression."

"Iran has always been a forerunner in supporting the Palestinian nation to resist Israel's systematic killing of Palestinians," Hamadeh said. He went on to criticize those who do not approve of the Iran-Syria coalition.

Lebanese President Emil Lahud met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki in Beirut on 16 February, LNNA reported, and told him that Lebanese unity, combined with "the support for Lebanon by fraternal and friendly countries, chiefly Syria and Iran," is essential in successfully resisting international pressure. Lahud said the promotion of democracy in the region is actually a pretext for controlling countries.

Hizballah Denies The Charges

Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah addressed allegations about Iran's role in a February 16 speech in Beirut, Al-Manar television reported. Nasrallah thanked Iran and Syria for supporting the "resistance" against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. He then alluded to allegations that Syria created the Shabaa farms issue as a pretext for undermining stability and peace in Lebanon, and that the country is being manipulated by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah.

"Some may accuse us and say we speak at the request of Syria or Iran or to serve their motives," he said. "I say we are not doing so." Nasrallah said Hizballah is not part of any coalition, and it has been consistent in its stance on numerous issues.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad (right) with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in January (epa)

However, Nasrallah visited Tehran in August 2005 to meet with newly inaugurated President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and the two met again in Damascus on January 20. Nasrallah met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on April 13, when the Iranian visited Damascus. A Hizballah delegation headed by Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qasim met with Ahmadinejad in Tehran on April 18.

Druze leader Jumblatt has been the most consistent critic of Iran, and he repeated his claims just days before the UN report was issued. Jumblatt noted that some Lebanese Shi'ites are loyal to their home country, but "there is a large political extension by the Islamic Republic of Iran that tries to use the Shi'ites for purposes that are not in the interest of the Arab world," "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on April 17.

Jumblatt called Hizballah an instrument of Iranian influence in Lebanese affairs, adding, "Hizballah is a faction that is politically linked to the Republic of Iran."

RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report

SUBSCRIBE For regular news and analysis on Iran by e-mail, subscribe to "RFE/RL Iran Report."