By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute
Iran and its terrorist proxies have intensified their efforts to sabotage US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East, which is scheduled to take place in mid-July.
The effort to sabotage the visit comes amid reports that Biden will try to advance Israel-Saudi relations and broker a military alliance between Israel and a number of Arab countries to confront the threats and terror by Iran and its proxies.
According to the reports, Biden is planning to form a regional conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The coalition will include the US, Israel, and some Arab countries, including Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. “The new alliance is intended to contain Iran and, in the first stage, will be based on an air defense system against Iranian missiles and attack drones and cyber security measures,” said Prof. Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israel relations.
The mullahs in Tehran and their proxies, such as the Palestinian Hamas group and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, appear especially worried about the idea of establishing an Israeli-Arab military alliance built along NATO lines.
They also appear worried that some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, may be moving towards normalizing their relations with Israel.
As part of the efforts to thwart normalization between the Arab countries and Israel, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh travelled to Beirut last week for talks with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
Haniyeh’s visit to Beirut has outraged many Lebanese and Arabs, who expressed concern that the Hamas-Hezbollah alliance would further destabilize Lebanon and bring it closer to a military confrontation with Israel.
According to Hamas, Haniyeh and Nasrallah “reviewed the political developments in the region and their repercussions on the Palestinian cause, as well as the dangers of the normalization [between Israel and Arab countries].”
Haniyeh and Nasrallah emphasized the need to “develop the program and axis of resistance as the strategic option for restoring the [Palestinian] national rights,” Hamas added.
When Hamas and Hezbollah talk about “develop[ing] the program and axis of resistance,” they are referring to terrorist attacks against Israel. The two terrorist groups have tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that are ready to be fired towards Israel at any moment from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
Ali Barakeh, a senior Hamas official, said that Haniyeh’s visit to Lebanon aims at “consulting and coordinating” with Hezbollah about the situation in the region “in light of the talk about forming an Arab-American alliance to confront the axis of resistance.”
Barakeh added, “It’s natural for the Palestinian resistance to consult with the Lebanese resistance in order to confront the American-Zionist policy that it hostile to our nation and the Palestinian cause.”
Referring to the idea of a military build-up against Iran in the region, Haniyeh warned that “what is happening in the region is very dangerous and has gone beyond normalization between Arab countries and Israel.”
In a speech before the Arab-Islamic National Conference in Beirut on June 25, the Hamas leader said, “Normalization [with Israel] is a crime because it harms Palestine and the Arabs; this is an attempt to integrate the Zionist entity into alliances in the region. This scheme targets the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon. The Palestinian people need strategic depth and the unity of the Arab and Islamic nation.”
It is clear that Haniyeh and Nasrallah are seeking to use Lebanon as a launching pad not only to attack Israel, but also as a base for intimidating Saudi Arabia and other Arabs into avoiding alliances with Israel against Iran.
Some Lebanese have expressed outrage that their president, Michel Aoun, received the Hamas leader in the presidential palace in Beirut.
Charles G. Hage, a Lebanese citizen, wrote, “At a time when we are looking for ways out so that the Lebanese do not go hungry, can someone tell us how Lebanon benefits from a public meeting between President Michel Aoun and the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh? Hamas is accused of terrorism and banned in the various countries that Lebanon requests help from. Is Lebanon required to become a new Gaza?”
Haniyeh’s visit to Lebanon, according to Lebanese journalist Sawsan Mhanna, coincided with a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt and Jordan.
Mhanna wrote, “At a time when Egypt and Jordan received Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and at a time when Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed 14 agreements worth $7.7 billion, Beirut receives Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. What if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plane had landed in Beirut? What if Beirut were free?”
Iran and its proxies were cooperating to prevent the establishment of an anti-Iranian military alliance in the Middle East, wrote Emirati journalist Mohamed Taqi. “After the accelerated Arab moves to establish a Middle East alliance, the terrorist Ismail Haniyeh went to meet with the terrorist Hassan Nasrallah… The puppets of Iran are always against any Arab national and security project.”
It was high time that the US take note that there is no difference between Iran’s various terrorist proxies, noted Iranian-American investigative journalist Lisa Daftari. “When will the Biden admin learn that Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Iran’s regime are all the same?” Daftari asked.
“Iran occupied Lebanon through its powerful arm, Hezbollah, which took control of Lebanon by the force of Iranian weapons,” remarked Lebanese political commentator Huda al-Husseini.
“This occupation was justified by the absurd claim that these weapons aim to impose a balance of terror with the Israeli enemy and prevent its attacks, when in fact its use was purely internal to terrorize and kill,” Husseini said.
Al-Husseini pointed out that Iran tightened its control over Lebanon after the US war in Iraq in 2003 by getting rid of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was subsequently slain.
“Hezbollah, which is a faction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, took control of state institutions… Iran penetrated Syria after the outbreak of the revolution against the regime in 2011 and Bashar Assad resorted to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to defend what remained of his regime. Tehran gave orders to Hezbollah to get involved, commit the most horrific massacres, terrorize opponents, and restore the [Syrian] army’s control. This made the Syrian regime in the grip of Tehran. Iran completed its expansion plans through its weapons to Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen,” Husseini said.
In a move reflecting growing concern over Iran’s meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon, several Lebanese politicians and political and religious leaders urged the international community to confront Hezbollah.
They demanded that Hezbollah hand over its weapons to the Lebanese Army and reminded the international community that the terrorist militia was behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri. They also requested that the Lebanese Army be deployed along the border with Israel to prevent another war.
Earlier, the same group of Lebanese warned that Nasrallah should not be responsible for making decisions on war and peace on behalf of his masters in Iran. The group also called for ending the Iranian “occupation” of Lebanon.
The Arabs are evidently aware of the dangers that Iran and its terrorist proxies pose to Lebanon and other countries, especially the Gulf states. They also seem anxious about Iran’s increased efforts to meddle in the internal affairs of the Arab countries as part of the mullahs’ scheme to expand their influence throughout the Middle East.
The meeting between Hamas and Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon should set off alarm bells in Washington: the meeting shows that Iran is taking advantage of the perceived weakness of the Biden administration in failing to confront the mullahs’ covetous schemes in the region.
Without question, this meeting took place on instructions from Tehran ahead of Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel. It only remains to be seen whether the Biden administration’s policy of appeasement toward the mullahs enables the Iranians and their proxies to redouble their efforts to spread their expansion, terrorism and bloodshed throughout the Middle East.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem