Lebanon’s Change Movement leader Elie Mahfoud warned against Hezbollah becoming like Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or like the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) paramilitary organisation.
Mahfoud said that “the issue of Hezbollah’s armament has always been a contentious issue amongst the Lebanese people,” in comments that reflect statements made by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri earlier this week, who declared that the Shia jihadist movement possessed weapons “illegally”.
Mahfoud and Al-Hariri’s comments were in response to Hezbollah ally and Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s remarks supporting the Iranian proxy’s possession of arms. This restored the issue of the militia’s armament to Lebanese political scene in a country governed by the Taif Agreement, signed by the Lebanese rivals in 1989 that ended the civil war that lasted 15 years.
In his statement to Anadolu news agency, Mahfoud said: “When the [Lebanese factions] began holding meetings, the goal was to talk about the problem of armament outside the context of the state. However, Hezbollah took the dialogue to another place.”
“Due to this uncontrolled armament represented by Hezbollah’s militia, and under pressure from it, the March 14 Alliance [of which the Change Movement is a part of] was forced to make concessions more than once,” Mahfoud said.
“I will remind those who defended Hezbollah’s armament that five of this party’s members and leaders are still suspected by the ICC of assassinating [former PM] Rafik Al-Hariri on 14 February 2005,” added Mahfoud.
Mahfoud also expressed his fear of “legitimising Hezbollah’s militarisation allowing the movement to become similar to the Revolutionary Guard in Iran or the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq.”
Seemingly troubled about the future, the Change Movement leader pessimistically said that the March 14 Alliance “or whatever is left of it, must close ranks because when administrative organisation is absent, political life in Lebanon becomes dysfunctional.”
“There is no doubt that recent [stated] positions [such as Aoun’s] will be used to establish a new status quo in Lebanon in order to turn Hezbollah into a legitimate Lebanese organisation, such as in Iran and Iraq,” Mahfoud warned.
“In order to thwart such actions, measures must be taken, including the March 14 Alliance regrouping and gathering sovereign forces and then putting a new organisational structure in place for the March 14 Alliance forces. In addition to this, we must reiterate the basic slogan that the independence forces raised, that is no armament outside the framework of Lebanese legitimacy.”