The International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) discussed the implications of the German decision to designate the Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on Friday, May 8, 2020. The webinar moderated by the head of the institute, Dr. Mohammed Alsulami, and included Ali A. Asseri, the former Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Dr. Ihsan Ashammari, Professor of Political Systems at the University of Baghdad, and the head of the Iraqi Political Thinking Centre, Dr. Zafer Alajmi, Executive Director of the Gulf Watch Group, and Lokman Salim, Lebanese activist and political analyst.
The webinar dealt with four axes; the first axis examined the motives and timing of the German decision, and whether other European countries or the European Union as a whole will join Germany. The second axis analysed the implications of the decision on domestic politics in Lebanon, its relations abroad, and the economic and diplomatic impact on Beirut. The third axis dealt with the impact of the decision at the regional level, especially on the Syrian issue and the Iraqi situation, where the PMU is based, as well as the Yemeni scene in addition to the security of the Arabian Gulf. The fourth axis discussed the impact of the German decision on the Iranian expansionist project and the policy of relying on non-state actors.
Ambassador Asseri considered that the German decision is “wise, and protects them from targeting, especially since Germany is a democratic country that respects the rule of law,” while Alajmi said that “The timing of the decision is due, and it came in the season of collecting religious funds in order to dry up the financial sources of the group.” Ashammari observed that the German decision comes in a natural context within a European background that monitors the powers of Hezbollah inside and outside Lebanon, while political analyst Lokman Salim added that Germany wants to send a message to Hezbollah to be aware of the real purpose of any support that reaches Lebanon under the title of stability. On the implications of the decision on internal politics in Lebanon and the impact of the decision economically and diplomatically on Beirut, Asseri said, “Lebanon suffers from instability on the political and economic levels in an unprecedented way, as 45 percent of the people live below the poverty line.” Alajmi described the German decision as a “shock” for the Lebanese party, as Berlin was the negotiator between the party and Israel, and thus Hezbollah’s relationship with Germany was good compared to the rest of the European countries.
In addition, the Lebanese political analyst Lokman Salim revealed that there are 80,000 Lebanese in Germany, 80 percent of whom are members of the Shiite community, and there is no way to distinguish between belonging to Hezbollah or the Amal movement. He pointed out that Hezbollah was searching for people with dual nationalities. He stated that Hezbollah is now bankrupt on the ideological level.
On the Iraqi arena, Ambassador Asseri said that “Iran is penetrating Iraq and is trying to extend its arms into the Arabian Gulf states,” considering that an attempt to weaken Hezbollah will make it face challenges, especially after the expected decision of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the middle of this month on the assassination case of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others, and the repercussions that the party will face in the future.
For his part, Ashammari pointed to the presence of religious platforms in Iraq that propagate Iran’s influence, pointing to the continued influence of Mohammed Kawtharani, the party official in Iraq, on the political file. The professor of political systems at the University of Baghdad and the head of the Iraqi Political Thinking Centre explained that the former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had the idea of placing weapons under the umbrella of the state and isolating everyone with dependency on external parties, while former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was behind these parties and enabled them, while there was an area for the non-state project. Ashammari believes that the newly appointed Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Alkazemi, may return to what Abadi did, as he described him as belonging to “a school of balance” and being “liberal-oriented.”
At the end of the webinar, Dr. Mohammed Alsulami commented on the Iranian situation in light of the recent German decision since Hezbollah is one of the militias loyal to Iran in the Arabian region, and said that “Iran loves being in the spotlight, in the headlines and news agencies,” adding that it is “a message to the Iranian community at home which questions the legitimacy of the regime through protests, especially with the impact of the sanctions track, which represents the least costly path for different countries of the world to resolve the Iranian issue.”
Watch the full webinar at: