In Defense of Christians (IDC), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East, commends the Lebanese government and people for holding their parliamentary elections for the first time in nine years.
While the results show marginal gains for Hezbollah and its allies, other moderate parties, including the leading Christian political parties, have also seen their share of power increase, markedly. In Lebanon, a country with a very complex political system, Hezbollah’s trumpeted gains in the recent elections will not necessarily give it a veto power in the parliament. Hezbollah’s strength emanates from the unlimited financial and military support it receives from Iran. The first victim of Hezbollah’s foreign funded prowess is the Shiite community. The only community that failed to achieve a diversified representation in Parliament. The Lebanese Forces, a pro-Western and anti-Hezbollah Christian Party, doubled their number of seats and now have more members in parliament than Hezbollah. Multiple independent candidates also won seats. The main headline from this election is that Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Sunni constituency did not show up to the polls and the result was a significant loss of seats for his Future Movement party. However, Hariri is still poised to remain Prime Minister, another positive outcome of the elections.
IDC calls on the U.S. to increase support for Lebanon at this critical moment when Iran is aggressively trying to exercise their influence while the country bears the burden of hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees. U.S. support for Lebanon has generated the greatest return on U.S. investment in the Middle East, as it stands as a pluralistic, tolerant and free country that has had peaceful Muslim and Christian coexistence since the end of its civil war in 1990. If the U.S. ceases to engage with Lebanon, it will lose a strategic Mediterranean-based ally and the country will fall under Iran’s influence, endangering Israel and our other allies in the region.
It will be in the best interest of the United States and its Middle East Policy to continue, if not to increase its support to the Lebanese Army and other state institutions. This will not only reinforce the rule of law and democratic governance in Lebanon but it will have a significant co-benefit, denying Hezbollah and its sponsors the dominance they seek to maintain on the day to day lives of the Shiite community and other affected segments of the population.