A large group of Lebanese politicians have established a new opposition group to end what they call Iranian occupation of Lebanon represented through Hezbollah.
During a press conference in Beirut on Monday, with about two hundred politicians and academics as well as key figures of civil society in attendance, “the National Council for the Ending Iranian Occupation" was officially launched.
The council was proposed by former MP Fares Souaid, and Ahmad Fatfat, another former minister and member of parliament, was appointed as the first chairman of its organizing committee.
According to its founders, the goal of the council is to break free from Hezbollah's armed hegemony over the country that has always been a threat to Lebanese sovereignty.
Hezbollah maintains an army of tens of thousands in the conflict-ridden and communally divided country, even though other groups that fought in the Lebanese civil war until 1990 have largely disbanded their militias. Hezbollah maintains total military sway in the south of the country, with bases and large hidden weapons stockpiles, including housands of missiles aimed at Issrael.
In his opening speech, Souaid expressed concern over the “existential crisis” of Lebanon that faces the threat of “collapse and paralysis”, stating that with true commitment to the constitution, Lebanon can dissociate itself from the regional turmoil, and its foreign ministry can adjust its priorities in relations with the international community.
Lebanon plunged into deep economic crisis in 2019 after years of borrowing and mismanagement related to corruption in its ruling elite. Many Lebanese hold Hezbollah responsible, because it had established itself as the dominant political power for more than a decade, practically with veto power in crucial political and economic issues.
Souaid stressed the need for a combination of national popular consensus and favorable international circumstances for Lebanon to overcome its existential crises, saying that ending the occupation is the “main entry point for resolving the crisis, internally through attachment to the Document of National Understanding and the constitution in spirit and words and in its entirety, and externally by rectifying our relations with our Arab environment and the international community”.
The Document of National Understanding was an agreement in 1989 that ended the 15-year Lebanese civil war.
He argued that the corruption which has bankrupted Lebanon and has put it on the brink of collapse is "a result of the successive Syrian and Iranian occupations of the country", emphasizing that “the Iranian occupation is an occupation in the truest sense of the word. It is not limited to a political or economic aspect but is exercised at all levels.”
It is not clear how effective the group can be in its quest to reduce Iran's influence. Disarming Hezbollah can only happen if there is an international and Arab move, which is currently outside the polititical realm.
Souaid had earlier said that “the National Council to End Iranian Occupation is a platform to call for the independence of the state from the grip of Iran so that it can solve the issues of its citizens and take measures that may benefit the Lebanese, away from of the weapons of Hezbollah and Iranian presence”.