Iran Gains Clout in Lebanon

Monday, President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, which is called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The other nations in the deal–UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China–are remaining in it if Iran stays. One of Trump’s reasons for claiming this JCPOA, engineered by the Obama administration, is “disastrous” is that it does not address Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Trump claims Iran is the greatest “terrorist nation” on earth. Actually, days earlier Iran gained further influence in another Middle Eastern country–Lebanon. And this U.S. withdrawal from PCJOA likely will do the same–increase Iran’s influence in the northern part of the Middle East and bolster hardliners inside Iran.

Hezbollah is an Islamic organization that is both political and militaristic and that is supported financially and militaristically by Iran. Hezbollah is located solely in Lebanon where it wields considerable political power. Hezbollah exists mostly to be an enemy of Israel. Surprisingly, Hezbollah has a military that is as strong or stronger than Lebanon’s military. The government of Lebanon claims that its army is separate, and thus independent, from Hezbollah’s army. Israel disagrees, claiming they are now integrated. The U.S. and Israel claim that Iran sends military personnel to Lebanon to train Hezbollah’s army, which is probably true.

Lebanon has a unique political structure that was established by law. It has a multi-sectarian government that must consist of a Sunni prime minister, a Shiite speaker of Parliament, and a Maronite Christian as president. Of course, Islam consists mostly of two sects in the Middle East: Shiites, primarily located in the north, and Sunnis, mostly located in the south. Iran’s government consists of a Shiite theocracy.

Lebanon is a nation of 5.5 million people. It is located on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea between Israel to the south and Syria to the north. Lebanon has not held an election for nine years until just a few days ago. In this election, Hezbollah kept all thirteen of its seats in Parliament. Thus, it neither gained nor lost seats. However, Hezbollah gained further political influence due to this recent election because West-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri lost Sunni seats in Parliament. This resulted in a victory for Iran.

So, Iran is gaining influence throughout all of the northern region of the Middle East, thus in Iraq and Syria. Iran assists Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his effort to hold on to his regime in Syria, which has now had civil war since the beginning of Arab Spring, in 2011.

President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal weaken’s the position of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is a moderate. He was mostly responsible for JCPOA. This U.S. reneging on its commitment to this agreement reinforces the Islamic hardliners in Iran, who were against Rouhani is making the deal. One reason was that they didn’t trust the U.S. to stay in the JCPOA. Trump is now proving them right.

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