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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

An Open Letter to: Lebanon’s Arab Shiite communities

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock

People often question why the Arab World, in particular, is in such a mess. The fact is that so many of our problems have been triggered by the interference of foreign powers eager to dominate this strategically-located and resource-rich area. The Ottomans, the British and the French carved-up the region separating tribes and families with borders. The international community rubber-stamped the theft of Palestinian land, igniting a series of Arab-Israeli wars.

As for Lebanon, it inherited a ‘confessional’ system of governance which in itself is separating rather than unifying encouraging sectarianism. More recently, US military interventions in Iraq and Libya have fomented sectarian tensions while opening the door to terrorists of all ugly stripes. Worse, the Obama administration has enriched, empowered and emboldened Iran that has boasted of its control of Arab capitals, with a stroke of a pen, thus making our region a more dangerous place than ever.

Arabs have been used as pawns of foreign powers which have only one goal which is self-interest. If we Arabs had stood tall and together instead of submitting or, in some cases, shaking hands with foreign states, our neighbourhood would look very different today. Admittedly, in the past we lacked the financial and military wherewithal to resist outside interference. But that is changing fast thanks to the leadership of Saudi Arabia that is consolidating its allies into a powerful military, economic and diplomatic bloc.

The question is this. Where do the Lebanese stand; with Persians vying to become a regional hegemonic power or with their fellow Arabs? Are you with us or against us? The choice should be no contest when Iran’s Arab populations are severely oppressed and excluded from the mainstream; denied being taught Arabic in schools, excluded from top jobs and even forbidden from giving their newborns Arabic names.

Make no mistake, Hezbollah owes its creation and pays it allegiance to the ayatollahs. Its 1985 Manifesto clearly states the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – the former Supreme Leader of Iran – is the leader whose “orders we obey”, calls on Christians to “embrace Islam” and supports Lebanon becoming an Shiite State. The manifesto may have been revised and softened by Hassan Nasrallah in 2009 to have a broader appeal but who is he kidding? His organisation is bought, paid-for and armed by Tehran.

Hezbollah is Lebanese in name only. It is nothing short of a tool wielded by a foreign state clothed as a Lebanese resistance. It is a resistance alright; it resists the rights of the Lebanese people whether Sunni, Shiite, Christian or Druze, to live in an open, free, secure and prosperous society. It alienates Lebanon’s natural Arab allies, has infiltrated the country’s army and insists on its pick for president. Moreover, it dragged Lebanon into war with Israel in 2006 and into supporting the Assad regime responsible for the death of over 400,000 Syrian people.

I understand the reaction of some of my Lebanese friends to Saudi Arabia’s freeze on $4bn aid to the military and security serves. They complain they have been abandoned to Iran whereas, in truth, as long as Hezbollah keeps its grip instilling fear in the hearts of political and military leaders, Lebanon will remain a toy in the Iranian pocket.

The Kingdom could no longer buy into the pretence that Lebanese decision makers do not have tied hands, or that the patriotic Lebanese are the ones in charge. If they were, the country would have a president, a budget and there would be no rivers of garbage threatening the health of citizens. Anyone who believes anything different has been duped by a prettied-up façade.

The bottom line is that no amount of aid pumped into Lebanon will make a difference. Lebanon’s economy would boom without the insecurity and instability Hezbollah delivers. This entity must be defeated by all means. Without another civil war, which no Lebanese citizen wants to even contemplate, saving Lebanon and bringing it back to the Arab fold lies in the hands of our Lebanese Shiite brothers and sisters, who I know from personal experience are generous, hospitable and proud to call themselves Lebanese.

You, my friends, are your country’s salvation. Without support from sections of your community, Hezbollah would wither and fade away. I have known you since the late 1960s when I visited Lebanon with no penny in my pocket. I was welcomed by the Wazni family and other kind Lebanese Shiites. The Shiites I have known were passionate in their love of country and they count as some of my closest friends. They are proud Lebanese and proud Arabs. I do not want to see the day my grandchildren are forced to speak Farsi and neither do they.

There is no escaping from our blood lines, our DNA or our history. We are a different race from the Persians. We do not share the same traditions or culture. I wish all Lebanese Shiites thought the same way and hope with all my heart that those connected to or are in support of Nasrallah or his second-in-command Naim Qassem will see the light before Lebanon is viewed as an Iranian satellite, a foe of the Arab world.

I have so many wonderful memories bound up with my stays in Lebanon and I have always felt a strong emotional tie to this land of amazing natural beauty and its beautifully-hearted people. I know that I am not alone. Many Arab nationals of GCC States feel exactly the same. Believe me, were Hezbollah to collapse, the country would be flooded with new investment, businesses, banks and, of course, tourists! Lebanon would open its petals to flower again just as it did in the 50s, 60s and early 70s.

Reject Hezbollah’s propaganda and lies. Its Iranian roots will never change. Its leaders may have been born in Lebanon but they have forfeited the right to call themselves Arabs. And as known drug dealers, money launderers, diamond smugglers and terrorists, both within Lebanon and without, they have forfeited their honour and are undeserving of any respect.

I am asking Lebanese Shiites to do what is right. Lebanon is badly injured and is bleeding politically, geopolitically and economically. Our arms are open to you. Come back to us and reclaim your Arab identity; not behind closed doors or in whispers. Have the courage to shout your rejection of what the Iranian Hezbollah stands for from the hilltops, in the squares and in the streets – and, rest assured, that in no time, we will be by your side to lift you out of this down spiral before Lebanon, like several of its neighbours, are in need of intensive care.

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