France looks to restore influence in Lebanon, but Iran isn’t budging

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Israel Hayom on October 2, 2020 and extensively quotes Dr. David Wurmser, Director of the Center for Security Policy’s Project on Global Anti-Semitism and the US-Israel Relationship.

President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to push through a roadmap outlining political and financial reforms he believes Lebanon needs to adopt to prevent the country from sinking further into crisis and economic despair.

The multiple explosions in Beirut on Aug. 4 ravaged more than just part of Lebanon’s capital city. The government completely crumbled in the aftermath, and Hezbollah began to take heat from some quarters of the world. France’s President Emmanuel Macron flew to Beirut twice in the wake of the explosion to help leaders work towards forming a new government based on a roadmap he has presented, but Hezbollah – and its patron, Iran – are having none of it.

According to Efraim Karsh, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Macron’s intervention in Lebanon is “not unlike his other Middle Eastern antics.”

He was referring to the French leader’s “brusque response” to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, and Macron’s “lukewarm response” to the Abraham Accords signed recently by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Karsh said this is “a rather pathetic attempt” by Macron “to restore France’s (supposed) past imperial glory, a desire that is also evident in his competition with Germany for E.U. leadership” where he is, according to Karsh, “leading the fight against [US President Donald] Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Macron has been busy trying to push through his roadmap, which outlines the political and financial reforms he believes Lebanon needs to adopt to prevent the country from sinking even further into crisis and economic despair. So far, he has ruled out sanctions, but that threat looms over Lebanon’s political class.

According to Karsh, Macron’s efforts have had “very limited impact thus far,” and his involvement “will not help improve the Lebanese crisis one bit.”

“Indeed,” said Karsh, “rather than point a finger at the real culprit for Lebanon’s predicament in general and the Beirut port explosion in particular – namely, Hezbollah and his Iranian paymasters – he has sought to placate the Islamist terror group and to incorporate it into the ‘political dialogue,’ effectively reinforcing its stranglehold over Lebanon.”

Macron did indeed scold Hezbollah during a news conference on Sunday. He said Hezbollah should “not think it is more powerful than it is. … It must show that it respects all the Lebanese. And in recent days, it has clearly shown the opposite.”

Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Steven Cook noted three main reasons why Macron is getting involved.

The first is his concern over another influx of refugees pouring into France.

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