Hezbollah’s dangerous false narrative about the Lebanese Army
Recently, I have seen writers perpetuating Hezbollah propaganda claiming that the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah have become close partners. This is a false claim and needs to be debunked immediately. Hezbollah would like nothing more than for the West to fall for their false narratives and stop funding the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). The LAF is the only legitimate state security organization and the one constant entity ensuring the stability and security of Lebanon. With Hezbollah’s power threatened, it is resorting to spreading false narratives with the intention of creating doubt in the United States.
The first false narrative is that Hezbollah has greater influence over the state-led military than U.S. officials are willing to admit. These allegations often point to the LAF’s failure to disarm Hezbollah and not enforcing UN Resolution 1701 which states that all militias other than the LAF must be disarmed. These critics are omitting the fact that attempting to disarm Hezbollah at this time would almost certainly lead to another civil war in Lebanon. Not only would this endanger the Christian community in Lebanon, but Lebanon’s border to Israel would be exposed to increased violence. Hezbollah could use the opportunity to strike Israeli civilians with their arsenal of Iranian rockets. The U.S. would be forced to intervene in order to oppose Iran and protect Israel. Another civil war in Lebanon is an unacceptable outcome for the U.S. and our allies in the region.
Critics are also obsessed with Hezbollah propaganda photos claiming that the LAF has been providing them with tanks and weapons. This false claim has been debunked by U.S. military leaders. “Since our security assistance began, Lebanon has maintained an exemplary track-record of adhering to regular and enhanced end-use monitoring protocols. We are confident the LAF has not transferred equipment to Hezbollah,” states General Joseph Votel at a 2018 House Armed Services Hearing. Hezbollah pushes its false narrative with propaganda photos of some U.S. made armored troop transports in a Hezbollah parade. The Defense Department confirmed that these were not vehicles given to the LAF, but most likely stolen by Hezbollah from a disbanding militia in the early 2000s, specifically the Southern Lebanese Army which was forced to dissolve at the end of the civil war.
Another false narrative is Hezbollah claiming it fought alongside the LAF in the war against ISIS on the northern border. Again, the United States Department of Defense has recognized that this is, in fact, fake news spread by Hezbollah to dissuade the U.S. from supporting the LAF. On the ground, the LAF ran into interference from Hezbollah as the terrorist group was caught fighting Al-Qaeda militants. Hezbollah wanted to upstage the LAF’s successful initiatives against ISIS and helped Islamic State fighters cross the border into Syria in an attempt to sabotage LAF efforts.
The last major false narrative being spread is that the Rafiq Hariri International Airport is under LAF control, thereby insinuating that Hezbollah’s airport drug, weapons, and smuggling is being overseen and allowed by the LAF. This is a deep misunderstanding of the situation without all the facts. Rafiq Hariri Airport is in predominantly Shia South Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold. While the LAF maintains some security presence at the airport, the customs and border control workers are primarily Hezbollah loyalists. The airport’s security situation is problematic, and the U.S. must work with Lebanon to address it. However, facts do matter. The fundamental issue at hand with the airport is that the Lebanese government has not given the country’s legitimate state institutions a mandate to secure it.
Finally, for the first time in decades, Hezbollah’s power is weakening. The sanctions on Iran, Hezbollah’s main source of funding, are working. Now, more than ever, is the United States’ opportunity to dry up Iran’s funding to the terrorist group, Hezbollah, and at the same time continue funding the only legitimate state security organization, the LAF. After sanctions have been successful, the LAF is the only organization capable of finally disarming Hezbollah in accordance with UN Resolution 1701 and maintain the security and stability of Lebanon.
The Lebanese people are counting on the United States government to do the right thing and continue funding the LAF.
Toufic Baaklini is a Lebanese-American with more than 30 years of business experience in finance and development. Baaklini is the president of In Defense of Christians and has committed years of service to preserving the historic Christian communities of the Middle East.