Phares: Lebanon’s new cabinet was decided by Iran and
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Hizballah gained political supremacy in Lebanon, Monday,
as Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a new
cabinet dominated by the Lebanon-based Shia terrorist
group and its allies.
This, of course, not only grants Hizballah
“unprecedented” political leverage in that country, but
stiffens its resolve and ability to maintain its
illegally-armed militia – a proxy arm of Iran’s Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps which exists in Lebanon
despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces and the
legitimate Lebanese army. Hizballah maintains its
militia in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions
1559 and 1701 (both of which call for the disarming of
all militias in Lebanon).
The new political dominance also strengthens the hand of
Iran and Syria – both of which support Hizballah – and
places the two state sponsors of terrorism at great
strategic advantage in the Middle East.
In an exclusive interview, Professor Walid Phares – a
U.S. Congressional advisor, author of The Coming
Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, and
one of the architects in the effort to introduce UNSCR
1559 which led to Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon –
discusses the political evolution in Lebanon and what it
means for the region and the world.
W. THOMAS SMITH JR.: What do you make of the sudden
decision by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati to
declare his cabinet and move forward with it after
claiming months of discussions with all parties in
Lebanon? Why today?
DR. WALID PHARES: It is clear that the decision to
declare this cabinet – based on its political identity –
is a Syrian-Iranian decision made in the wake of the
regional developments and in particular the rapid rise
of popular discontent with the Assad regime.
The Syro-Iranian axis has always had the numbers and the
power to declare such a cabinet in Beirut, but they kept
that card until the moment they judged best to use it,
and that was this week.
In fact, they had the de facto control of Lebanon’s
government and security apparatus. Now with this
declaration they feel they’ve gotten the de jure control.
It is all about Syria’s quasi civil war.
The Assad regime is battling what seems to be a vast
popular uprising, bringing together forces that weren’t
in one camp before: liberals, civil society,
conservatives, left wing, ex-Baathists, Kurds,
Christians, and of course an overwhelming majority of
Sunnis. And all these forces on one side, and the
powerful and well-connected Muslim Brotherhood on the
This opposition is too wide to be physically eliminated.
Hence the menace against the regime is real,
particularly that regional forces are backing the
uprising including the Turkish government, now strong
with a new majority in Parliament; and let’s be candid
about it, most Sunni circles in the region. If Assad
goes down, the strategic alliance between Iran and
Hizballah will be affected.
Hence today’s declaration of a new cabinet in Lebanon
isn’t a matter of local politics in Lebanon, it is a
Syro-Iranian offensive to seize Lebanon as a way to
consolidate Assad in the ongoing battle over Syria.
SMITH: So in your view the Mikati cabinet is a
PHARES: Well it is composed of Lebanese politicians of
course but the control is to the pro-Syrian and
pro-Iranian forces, and that is not even a secret. All
of the portfolios were granted to politicians who are
affiliated to either a pro-Syrian or pro-Iranian force.
With perhaps a few who are part of what can be called
Syrian-Iranian controlled. However the most important
development is that the three national security
ministries – defense, interior, and foreign affairs –
are now in the hands of the Syrian-Iranian axis which
will have a major impact on Lebanon’s sovereignty and on
the relationship between Lebanon and the free world.
When the axis effectively seizes those ministries, they
will be considered part of the Iranian apparatuses in
SMITH: How will the U.S. deal with this new government?
And how will the rest of the international community
deal with it?
PHARES: Diplomatically, do not expect major changes. But
strategically there will be a review of the
relationships. However the new Lebanese opposition –
which is partly the Cedars Revolution and political
parties – will have to mobilize the Lebanese public as a
way to stop the full takeover by the axis.
As we’ve seen in the region, popular movements can
affect international attitudes. But the poor results by
the political establishment claiming the Cedars
Revolution over the past five years doesn’t indicate
that the now new opposition’s establishment can be at
the level of the challenge. They would need to innovate
and change strategies to oppose the new cabinet. However,
Lebanon’s civil society may not tolerate this return to
oppression and Syrian controlled institutions. That may
SMITH: But the supporters of the cabinet are claiming
this is democracy. They won a majority and thus formed
PHARES: I don’t think they got a legitimate and free
majority. Every time the public was allowed to express
its opinion freely, a majority against Syria’s regime
and Hizballah was produced.
In the 2005 elections, in the 2009 elections and in the
major national demonstrations since the Cedars
Revolution, it was clear that the majority of all
Lebanese were and are opposed to the axis. But see how
the axis won the cabinet. Before 2005 obviously it was
because of the Syrian military occupation. Then since
2005 it was through urban unrest, wars and last in 2008
via invasion of Beirut and the mountain region. As long
as Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian militias are omnipresent
and control Lebanon’s national security, Lebanon’s
popular majority is unable to get its voice to the
Democracy begins when militias are disarmed.
SMITH: How will the U.S. Congress respond to this new
PHARES: This Congress and all previous Congresses,
regardless of majorities, have considered Syria as an
occupier and Hizballah as a terror organization, and
they have passed legislation to help the Lebanese people.
Thanks to the many friends of Lebanon and to the
millions of Lebanese-Americans, the U.S. Congress has
been steadfast in supporting freedom and rejecting
terror in Lebanon.
SMITH: What is the future of the Mikati cabinet?
PHARES: Bleak, because it has linked itself to the Assad
regime. So in short, whatever will happen to the
establishment in Damascus, will happen to the current
regime in Lebanon. They know it and they are playing
their last card. They have calculated that this is their
real last fight. They are now seizing Lebanon to
integrate it to the Iranian-Syrian military and security
system while throwing positions to the politicians and
making the moves sound like internal politics. But we
all know it is not.
– Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr