Iran Playing Role in Lebanese Elections?

As world powers are discussing Iran’s nuclear program, what’s sometimes missed is that Iran wants to be just that: a world power. In the Middle East, Iran has certainly made moves to grab power or influence across the region, including sending military support to the Syrian regime in their civil war.

Now, a Lebanese lawmaker is claiming that Iran is holding sway in Lebanon’s presidential election as well, via the Hezbollah terror group. The Daily Star, quoting from an interview Walid Jumblatt gave to Asharq Al-Awsat, reported the Lebanese politician said, “Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic [of Iran] are two main and essential electors [in the presidential election].”

The issue is that the current Lebanese president, Michel Sleiman, is ending his term on May 25 and his replacement has not been set by the Lebanese parliament. The Daily Star noted that Hezbollah and its political allies are stonewalling and boycotting the process.

Hezbollah has long held sway in Lebanese politics, including using violence to manipulate the process. At one point, Hezbollah’s coalition even led the Lebanese parliament.

Iran, meanwhile, is Hezbollah’s main sponsor and is believed to wield controlling influence over the group. So in effect, what Hezbollah does in Lebanese politics is Iran’s will.

Asharq Al-Awsat, in a separate report, noted that Hezbollah is strongly opposed to one of the two candidates for president, while backing the other one. The Arab news source quoted an anonymous source who warned that if they can’t elect a new president in time, “nobody will be able to predict how long the presidential vacuum will last, which should cause concern for the political powers due to the dangerous consequences of this.”

Perhaps of more concern is that one of the groups in the opposing coalition is in talks regarding support for the Hezbollah-backed candidate. Iran has scored points across the Middle East and has fiercely fought to keep its gains in Syria. And now it’s using politics in Lebanon.

So when the world powers try to determine if a deal with Iran can keep them from obtaining a nuclear weapon, they need to keep in mind that Iranian ambitions reach far outside its own borders.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 15, 2014)


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