Is Hezbollah Distancing Itself From Iran?
“If war breaks out between Iran and Israel, Hezbollah may not get involved,” stated Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. He gave this very public assessment in an interview with an Iran-based news channel, according to Naharnet, an online Lebanese news source.
Facing increasing pressure from both within and without, is it possible that Hezbollah is trying to distance itself from Iran?
The international community considers Hezbollah to be another proxy of Iran. Yet among those proxies Hezbollah is fairly unique. Unlike most, it wields considerable political power as a legitimate political party. But its political power is not uncontested. Because Lebanon is a democratic republic, Hezbollah’s power is subject to the fickle winds of politics. Those winds are now blowing in a distinctly anti-Iran direction with gale-force proportions.
Lebanon’s economic crisis is hitting catastrophic levels. Between 2018 and 2021, Lebanon’s gross domestic product went into freefall, dropping from $55 billion to $20.5 billion. The spring 2021 Lebanon Economic Monitor ranked Lebanon’s economic woes among the top three most severe of such crises since the 1850s. The World Bank noted, “Such a brutal contraction is usually associated with conflicts or wars.”
The seeds of the country’s economic woes were sown after the Lebanese civil war. As its leaders tried to rebuild the nation, debt skyrocketed. Reuters quoted economists who “described Lebanon’s financial system as a nationally regulated Ponzi scheme, where new money is borrowed to pay existing creditors.” That Ponzi scheme began crashing as Iran’s influence grew in Lebanon through Hezbollah. In October 2019, mass protests over a new tax turned off the spigot of foreign investment. Without foreign dollars, the nation plunged into a full-blown economic crisis. The Beirut blast in August 2020 caused billions in damage and scared away the few remaining foreign investors, thus sounding the death knell for Lebanon’s economy.
Whom does the Lebanese public blame? “Hezbollah officials blame U.S. sanctions for the state’s economic collapse,” wrote David Schenker, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. “[B]ut the vast majority of Lebanese know better; Hezbollah’s exploitation of the banking system, its corruption, its involvement in narco-trafficking, and its opposition to reform contributed greatly to Lebanon’s financial meltdown.”
The population of Lebanon is unique in the Arab world. Lebanon is evenly divided between three groups along sectarian lines: 32 percent Sunni, 31 percent Shiite and 32 percent Christian. Between these three, two sides have emerged. The Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah on one side and a Sunni-Christian coalition on the other. “Hezbollah is losing all credibility in the eyes of the majority of the Lebanese,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his 2014 article “Why You Need to Watch Lebanon.” “The division between these two sides is threatening to turn violent. Viewing this division, Saudi Arabia sees an opportunity: It believes that now is the time to act to undermine and uproot Iran’s influence in Lebanon.” Saudi Arabia ended up not following through on that opportunity, but the divisions remain.
In December 2021, Saudi Arabia and its allies suspended diplomatic ties with the floundering Lebanon. In a recent bid to repair ties, Kuwait sent a list of proposals and conditions to Lebanon that clearly took aim at Hezbollah. The terms included the disarmament of non-state militias in Lebanon (like Hezbollah), the halting of drug smuggling from Lebanon (one of Hezbollah’s main sources of revenue), and stopping Hezbollah’s interference in the affairs of other Arab countries (especially in Yemen).
Nasrallah, of course, condemned the “dictates” but, tellingly, said he still supported ongoing dialogue with the Gulf states.
Hezbollah has an image problem. Being seen as an Iranian proxy is becoming more and more unpopular both at home and abroad. Nasrallah knows this. That is why we are starting to see him publicly distance Hezbollah from Iran. While it isn’t likely Hezbollah will actually turn against Iran, it foreshadows Lebanon’s future. Nasrallah knows something has to change or Hezbollah will lose its grip over Lebanon. And that is exactly what the Trumpet has long forecast.
Iran and its radical Islamic proxies are the single greatest threat to peace in the Middle East. To counter that threat, the Trumpet expects the moderate Arab states to join together with Europe. We base this forecast on Bible prophecy. As Mr. Flurry explains in his booklet The King of the South, Psalm 83 enumerates an anti-Iran, anti-Israel alliance of nations. Among the 10 nations listed in the psalm is Gebal and the inhabitants of Tyre. These were both located where modern Lebanon is today.
But Iran and Hezbollah will not relinquish control of Lebanon without a fight. Mr. Flurry concluded in “Why We Told You to Watch Lebanon,” “Continue to watch Lebanon. The nation is going to descend into another civil war. As you watch this terrible scenario unfold, recognize that bloody event as one in a chain reaction that the Bible says is destined to end in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! God has laid it all out for us to see in His majestic prophecies.”