Friction between Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, and the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group is being reported in Lebanese media.
The Shiite terrorist group has been aligned with and backed Aoun for 16 years. But cracks are now beginning to form in the alliance.
In a televised speech reported by Yalibnan, Aoun called for a defense dialogue, saying that only the state determines the country’s defense strategy and attends to its implementation.
“It is true that defending the nation requires cooperation between the army, the people and the resistance, but the main responsibility is the state’s. The state alone puts in place the defense strategy and attends to its implementation,” Aoun said in the speech.
Hezbollah was formed in 1982 by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as part of its Al Quds force. The terror group says its weapons are needed to defend Lebanon from Israel.
Opponents of the Hezbollah faction have long said the terror group’s arsenal has undermined the state and that the group has repeatedly embroiled Lebanon in regional conflicts, creating tensions with the Gulf Arab states who used to invest heavily in Beirut, but do so no longer.
Hezbollah has also repeatedly blocked meetings of the Lebanese government cabinet, demanding its agenda include the issue of removing the judge leading a probe into the massive, deadly 2020 explosion at the Port of Beirut. Hezbollah wants the judge removed. The chemical material that exploded at the port, destroying a third of the capital city, was allegedly being stored there by Hezbollah.
Aoun also said in the speech that he wanted “the best ties” with Gulf Arab states and asked why relations were being stressed following comments by a Hezbollah-aligned government minister on the war in Yemen that triggered a diplomatic crisis last October with Saudi Arabia.
“I wish for the best relations with the Arab states, specifically the Gulf states. I ask: what is the justification for straining ties with these states and interfering in matters that do not concern us,” the Lebanese president said.
Lebanon’s new parliament, to be elected this coming May, will be tasked with electing a new head of state next year, as the 88-year-old president nears the end of his six-year term.