Current Trends in Islamist Ideology

Iran in Lebanon: A Fatal Occupation

Scholar; Middle East Institute, Washington, DC
People wave Lebanese flags and chant to mark the one-year anniversary of anti-government protests on October 17, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon.
People wave Lebanese flags and chant to mark the one-year anniversary of anti-government protests on October 17, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon.

In 2020, Lebanon should be celebrating its centenary. It is not. Instead, it is close to terminal collapse as a polity, an economy, and even as a society. Lebanon is under Iranian occupation, although ascertaining this condition may demand some attentive consideration from the uninitiated. Iran’s proponents assess it as a confirmation of the “Axis of Resistance” against imperialism and Zionism; its detractors ascribe it to a deliberate plan of Iranian expansion across the region. However, the Iranian occupation of Lebanon may be rooted in Lebanon’s own tumultuous history rather than in Tehran’s designs. Iran in Lebanon may be more an artifact of history than a product of strategy. In fact, the outcome of Lebanon’s present course may not yield Iran any tangible advantage. And it certainly seems to be on the verge of destroying Lebanon.

A Century of Occupations

In 1920, France proclaimed “Greater Lebanon” as a state on the path to independence. Prior to this action, undertaken within a mandate from the League of Nations, Lebanon had been part of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of the European central empires during World War I. Lebanon could have been carved out as a homeland for Christians in the Near East. Instead, for considerations, both practical and principled, the Christian Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoyek—the central local figure in the negotiations with France on the prospective form and content of the new state—agreed on the proposition of a commonwealth of equals, a “state of its citizens.” This promised Christians, Muslims, and others, an identity that would transcend religions and sects—a modern national one.

The fulfillment of this promise, over the course of the following century, was incomplete—always hesitant, and at times insincere. Still, a distinct Lebanese culture informed by its Arab Middle Eastern hinterland, but with deliberate affinities to the West, did emerge. And while the historically anchored feudal patterns of patronage managed to entrench themselves in the structures of the new polity, as a republic based on representative governance and universal values, Lebanon survived multiple wars. It deployed its own warlords in internecine conflicts—and multiple occupations—Palestinian, Israeli, and Syrian. But since its 1943 independence, it is the current, fourth occupation by Iran from which Lebanon seems ill-equipped to disengage.

The three previous occupations presented themselves through a readily identifiable foreign presence. Lebanon had been coerced into recognizing the Palestinian occupation of parts of its territory. The secret component of the “Cairo Agreement” of 1969 surrendered Lebanese sovereignty to the Palestine Liberation Organization in districts adjacent to Israel. The PLO also had open, exclusive control of refugee camps, while expanding its dominance, both directly and through proxies, to large areas across Lebanon.

Christian militias resisted the PLO occupation. The end of the PLO occupation in 1982 was realized only through the combined efforts of rival Syrian and Israeli occupations, both of which were triggered by the PLO presence and role. Internal Lebanese inequities, discord, and miscalculations contributed to the intermittent civil war that devastated Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. Nonetheless, it is evident that the PLO shoulders a primary responsibility, as an agent and as a catalyst, in subverting Lebanon, derailing it from the path of stability and prosperity upon which it seemed to be set.

Starting in 1978, and considerably enhanced in 1982, Israel deployed and occupied parts of Lebanon—initially to counter aggressive PLO actions against Israeli territory and citizens. This goal was substantially achieved in 1982 through the ouster of the PLO from Beirut; it was completed by the Syrian occupation shortly thereafter, which chased the battered PLO leadership and organizations from the rest of Lebanon.

Exhibiting a deplorable lack of understanding of the Lebanese context, Israel failed to translate its military victory into a suitable, viable political arrangement. Instead it was trapped by security considerations. In fact, Israel fell prey to the paradoxical logic of having to maintain its occupation of Lebanon to avert the dangers that it faced, and which were due to its occupation of Lebanon. Indeed, for the incubation and development of Hizbullah as its proxy force in Lebanon, Iran capitalized on the counter-productive, and often brutal attempts of Israel at quelling the resistance to its occupation. By the time Israel gained the wisdom of withdrawing from the entrapment of its Lebanon occupation in 2000, Hizbullah had long become an irreversible reality.

Undoubtedly, the most insidious foreign presence that Lebanon has faced was the Syrian occupation. Initiated in 1976, ostensibly at the request of the Christian Lebanese leadership to avoid the fall of Lebanon to the PLO, Syria sought to instill itself as a permanent suzerain. It absorbed feudal leaders and warlords into a complex web of economic, political, and security controls. And it engaged in openly predatory and unapologetically oppressive behavior, meting out collective punishments for dissent. Syria was forced out of Lebanon in the aftermath of the February 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, who had transitioned from seeking to co-opt the Syrian leadership into siding with the opposition to Syria’s role in Lebanon.

The plight of Lebanon over the past half century has resided in the succession, overlapping, and mutual enablement of the occupations which it has had to endure. The Palestinian occupation (1969-1982) brought forth the Syrian (1976-2005) and the Israeli (1978-2000) occupations. In the aftermath of Israel’s push into Beirut in 1982, which widened the span of its occupation of Lebanon, and placed Syria at a raw strategic disadvantage, Damascus welcomed and enabled the Iranian occupation. For Syria, it was an expression of its long-term alliance with Tehran, and as a buffer against direct confrontation with Israel. While leaving behind underground networks and open influence, Syria’s exit in 2005 vacated Lebanon—for the first time in decades—to one sole occupation: that of Iran. And that remains a novel one, hidden in plain sight, asserted and denied by the same statement.

Certainly, the Iranian occupation of Lebanon is not executed through the dispatch of foreign legions. In Syria, Iran had to resort to conventional forms of occupation to help quell the uprising against its partial vassal in Damascus. In Lebanon, however, while the role of Iranian IRGC experts in training and military equipment setup is both ascertained and deduced, there is no visual presence of Iranian or other non-Lebanese forces dependent on Iran anywhere in Lebanon.
Instead, Lebanon’s situation as an occupied Iranian territory is confirmed through the presence of oversized portraits of Iran’s two consecutive Supreme Leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei, and some other Iranian command figures, at central, semiotically significant geographic locations across Lebanon. The occupation is also made clear through the open, complete, and unconditional allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed by Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, together with the rest of its rank and file. More significantly, the Iranian occupation is expressed through the meticulous, never diverging, adherence to the directives of the Iranian leadership, including the costly dispatch of the Lebanese recruits of Hizbullah to tours of duty in Iran’s numerous regional conflicts.

The Odds Against Lebanon: Satrapy and Kleptocracy

Yet, intractable as it is, Iran’s occupation is not the only root cause of the imminent end that Lebanon faces today. Three decades of Lebanon’s “Second Republic” have coalesced into crescendoing plutocratic kleptocracy and deliberate mismanagement, enabling the political-economic elite to syphon away the unrealized wealth of future Lebanese generations. This amounts to a massive pyramid scheme, to which the Lebanese public was rendered complicit through relative prosperity, resulting from the artificially high rate of exchange of the national currency. Still, the responsibility of the Iranian occupation in causing what appears to be the imminent death of Lebanon is paramount.

Iran maintains a de facto “Satrapy” in Lebanon. Common in ancient empires, the satrapy model grants the satrap, as the local representative of the central imperial power, a margin of decision-making on local affairs. This arrangement also demands that the priorities of the empire are observed and maintained. Hizbullah is Iran’s satrap in Lebanon.

Hizbullah’s satrapy has denied Lebanon—as a state and society adhering to modern norms of representation and accountability—the ability to confront the neo-feudal order, which is the expression of patronage interests that predate the emergence of Lebanon as a modern state. This order relies on vertical, factional, communitarian segmentation, intended to further the interests of its leadership. Atop clientelism, this order is sustainable only through re-directed public funds. Thus Iran’s satrapy instituted a quasi-open pact with the neo-feudal order, which had to acquiesce to the transfer of weapons Hizbullah receives from Iran in exchange for the satrapy condoning and allowing graft and corruption.

This arrangement underscores the primary responsibility of the Iranian occupation for driving Lebanon to depletion. It was later modified to introduce a direct Hizbullah participation in the misuse of public funds. At first, this took place through the demand to disproportionately and/or unlawfully allocate funds to Hizbullah’s base of support, ostensibly as a counterbalance for the plunder of public resources by the remaining political class. Then came the imposition of Hizbullah associates and partners as full-fledged participants in direct graft and kleptocracy. A tertiary responsibility can be identified in the change of corruption patterns affecting Lebanon as the mode of the proverbial “cow:” from sustainable “milking” to riskier “bleeding” before the full-fledged rush to “slaughtering.” All this drives the general perception that Hizbullah’s presence as an Iranian army in Lebanon is detrimental.

Indeed, by complying to the Iranian orders of animosity towards Arab and Western states—whether through an aggressive media role or kinetic contributions—Hizbullah denies Lebanon the support historically accorded by such powers in times of distress. This is manifest in the open control that Hizbullah exercises over Lebanese political institutions and includes a weak presidency bound to Hizbullah by a covenant of support in exchange for docility; a parliament in which Hizbullah has secured a majority through its partners; and a cabinet formed exclusively of ministers affiliated or allied with Hizbullah. Thus the previous, and barely plausible deniability of Lebanon being under Iranian occupation via Hizbullah, is no longer tenable.

The retreat that regional capitals and worldwide powers have adopted towards Lebanon—now under the open control of a hostile party—is justifiable and reasonable, even though, by Iranian design it negatively impacts the wider Lebanese public. The Iranian occupation of Lebanon, via Hizbullah, continues to hold hostage the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese people themselves. It demands that they coerce the world community to provide support, of which Iran extracts a considerable fraction.

For virtually all world and regional capitals, the current configuration of open alignment with Iran no longer allows such concessions. While itself in disarray, the opposition to Iranian hegemony in Lebanon has thus the opportunity to present the case that the new ostracism faced by Lebanon is the outcome of the multi-faceted Iranian role in the plight of Lebanon. Iran, through Hizbullah, is both an enabler and participant in corruption, and through its military and media proxies in Lebanon is engaged in open offensive actions against other countries. This is based on their enmity to Tehran or rejection of its designs, irrespective of the ensuing detriment to Lebanese interests. The opposing messaging from Hizbullah and the Iran-aligned camp is that the non-provision of support is “aggression,” and that the threats of death which its Secretary-General Nasrallah has lashed at the United States are “resistance.”

An assessment of the real damage that the Iranian occupation has inflicted on Lebanon begins with the reckoning that these two opposing messages seem to have comparable traction. This is so in Lebanese intellectual circles and popular circles alike, despite their deeply diverging relationship with facts and conventional reason. From narrative dominance down to municipal councils re-directing local resources in support of the satrapy, Iran has accomplished a robust, self-perpetuating, and effective control of Lebanon. It has done so with a relatively limited allocation of its own resources, and with no direct presence. It is a “model occupation” that seems to validate the concept of the “exportation of the revolution,” which was exalted in the aftermath of the cataclysmic 1979 Iranian Revolution. Yet, Iran has been unable to replicate even more limited versions of this extreme success-story, either in settings where its interests are more acute, or where its willingness to expend resources is evident.

The Rise and Fall of Wilayat al-Faqih

At face value, Iran’s engagement of external non-state parties as its proxies seems to be framed by theology. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has adopted a modified version of Twelver Shia Islam, Wilayat al-Faqih (Rulership of the Jurisprudent), which has elevated its hierarchy to a pontiff-like status. The outreach and recruitment of Shia communities, in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has sought to win clerics and the faithful to this new, more centralized version of Shiism.

The gravity of such a shift lies in its inherent challenge to today’s universal notions of the international political order. The implicit global quasi-consensus has been that individuals can reconcile their affiliation to citizenship and religion. Citizenship entails adherence, allegiance, or loyalty to the constitutional order, the social contract, the homeland, or to more ambiguous notions of nation. It is generally understood that freedom of religion—with variable limitations—is subsumed under citizenship. This citizenship-framing of religion is readily accepted with no doctrinal concerns by liberal, conservative, and most orthodox Muslims worldwide. A segment of orthodox Muslims do refuse a priori the paramountcy of citizenship over religion, but the practical implications of this refusal is limited by doctrinal stances, both in conventional Sunni and Shiite settings.

Strict orthodox Sunni dogma limits the acknowledgement of legitimacy to political systems that proclaim an Islamic character. In non-jihadist circles, however, even in radical Salafist ones, the measure of the Islamic content that secures legitimacy is extremely low. A mere claim, even one that is void of any adherence to precepts, meets the threshold. In such situations, the faithful are expected to be disapproving, but compliant. The conventional orthodox Shiite doctrine asserts that no earthly political system is religiously legitimate—a quality reserved to the eschatological state to be proclaimed by the Mahdi at the end of time. Meanwhile, however, the faithful are expected to accept and follow the de facto political order of their homelands.

In both Sunni and Shiite contexts, Islamism constituted a challenge to the duality sanctioned or advocated by religious establishments. The Sunni Muslim Brothers and the Shite Da‘wah Party sought to end what they posited as a contradiction between citizenship and religion; they did so by advocating the takeover of the state by a militant religion. While subverting the global political order by negating its recognition of separate religious and secular domains, these Sunni and Shia Islamist movements claimed to operate within the norms of the modern international system. This was so whether such a claim was tactical and utilitarian, genuine and aspirational, or simply reflective of a lack of full consideration. Prior to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Sunni jihadists were alone in openly rejecting the global political order, together with all its local ramifications, in their pursuit of a transnational political configuration based on religion. While they did succeed in inflicting grave damage worldwide, the traction that Sunni jihadists have secured across many decades of militancy has remained insignificant.

If no Shia equivalent to Sunni jihadism has manifested itself in the past decades, it is largely due to the fact that radical Islamist Shiism has adopted a “Stalinist” formula, as opposed to the “Trotskyism” of its Sunni counterpart. Wilayat al-Faqih is indeed the Shia version of the rejection of the world political order by denying the validity of its citizenship foundation. Shiite believers, irrespective of citizenship or nationality, are religiously expected to declare allegiance and display obedience to the jurisprudent ruler, the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic. Were such a proposition to be universally accepted, as mandated, by all Shiite believers, the implications would be disastrous. It would in effect amount to the excision of Shiite citizens from their respective homelands, positioning them as extra-territorial citizens of the Islamic Republic.

The Lebanese Hizbullah was openly launched as part of this vision. Its full name in the 1980s summarized its ideological posture: “the party of the Islamic Republic in Lebanon.” A young Hassan Nasrallah, later to assume the leadership of the Hizbullah, was filmed delivering a speech proclaiming that the realization of the universal Islamic Republic, in Lebanon and elsewhere, will remain the true and ultimate purpose of the party. The model of Wilayat al-Faqih found opportune conditions for implementation in Shiite Lebanon in the 1980s.

While the main focus was on Shiites proper, early revolutionary figures within Hizbullah and Iran brandished an ambiguous irredentism towards Sunni Islamists—most famously exemplified by the open embrace of the killer of Egyptian President Anwar a-Sadat. A main street in Tehran is named in his honor. An under-current of a patronizing Shia stance could be herein identified, with Shiism understood as the true message of Islam, along with a recurrent push towards istibsar (conversion to Shiism). Against the backdrop of repeated calls for a Sunni-Shia theological dialogue and rapprochement, more pragmatic figures were content with alliances against common enemies. The Islamic political ecumenism notwithstanding, at no point since its foundation was Hizbullah open for membership outside of a clear Shia affiliation.

Over the course of the 1980s, the momentum of Islamist maximalism allowed Hizbullah to emerge as the potent heir to early Shiite Islamism in Lebanon. These antecedents, such as Amal al-Islamiyyah and Harakat Futyan Ali, lacked political vision and were more an expression of a socio-religious conservatism that shared Iran’s desired political order to reconfigure its society away from Western-style modernism. As an extension of the Iranian Revolution, Hizbullah commanded the support of numerous Shia clerics. With the newly found connection to a powerful Shiite Iran, these clerics gained visibility, after having been otherwise sidelined by both neo-feudal leaderships and leftist parties, which drew the larger part of their rosters from the Shia community.

Driven by revolutionary enthusiasm, Hizbullah successfully monopolized the resistance against Israeli occupation, kidnapped numerous foreign residents of Lebanon, which provided Iran and Syria, its ally, with human bargaining chips in strategic transactions. Hizbullah also assassinated leftist thinkers, liquidated the vestigial Jewish community in Lebanon, and competed with Amal, the Shiite warlord movement, that had supplanted the feudal leadership of the Shia community.

However, a careful consideration of the evolution of the self-presentation of Hizbullah as an Iranian proxy, and of the nature and effect of the considerable investment that Iran executed in Lebanon in the 1990s, reveals a subtle but meaningful shift. Iran, through Hizbullah, scored considerable success in Lebanon. It was not, however, through the embrace of Wilayat al-Faqih.

While the Islamic Republic deployed its full arsenal of ideological tools, creating what coalesced as a model totalitarian system in Hizbullah’s Lebanon, it became increasingly evident that the initial moment of enthusiasm did not translate into a cultural revolution within the Shiite community. Hizbullah’s totalitarianism is of a practical transactional character. Its subjects are attended to from the cradle to the grave, and beyond. They study in Hizbullah schools, get medical care in Hizbullah hospitals and clinics, train with Hizbullah troops then search for regular forces programs, work in Hizbullah enterprises, fight in Hizbullah wars, are provided compensations by Hizbullah civil defense for material losses endured as a result of hostilities, die in Hizbullah service, and have their families supported and cared for after their death by Hizbullah institutions. Most is done and rendered promptly and efficiently, with deliberate attention to dignified provision. This takes place in clear contradistinction to the rampant corruption and dysfunction across Lebanon and the region.

Hizbullah’s totalitarianism and discipline has enabled it to replace most remnants of the battered left in its areas of dominance. Its educational and religious institutions sought to saturate the Lebanese Shia community with ideologically-vetted versions of Wilayat al-Faqih. However, while the attachment and gratitude of the Hizbullah constituency to its leadership is eminently palpable, and the recognition of Iran’s role in enabling the system is widespread, Shiite Lebanese “citizens” of the Hizbullah virtual state did not metamorphose into subjects of the Islamic Republic. Nor did they, by and large, alter their religious, cultural, and communitarian patterns in favor of an ideological alignment with Wilayat al-Faqih.

More pertinently, Wilayat al-Faqih did not achieve any meaningful traction vis-a-vis the substantive ideological and theological dimensions of Shia Lebanese life. The previous decades witnessed the emergence of multiple major Shia Lebanese religious intellectual figures-- Muhammad Jawad Mughniyah, Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din, Hani Fahs, ‘Ali al-Amin. None espoused Wilayat al-Faqih, and many opposed it vocally. Hizbullah itself failed to graduate ideologues for its central doctrine. In fact, its previous Secretary General, Subhi al-Tufayli, exited the party and became a harsh critic of the Iranian role of Hizbullah, and of Wilayat al-Faqih.

Wilayat al-Faqih is invoked repeatedly in the statements of Hassan Nasrallah, in his solemn devotion to the Iranian Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei. Its alleged religious character is often declared by Iranian-aligned intellectuals to resist any critique of the open allegiance proclaimed by Nasrallah to Khamenei. But in reality, Wilayat al-Faqih has nearly expired as a religious doctrine among the Lebanese. It survives, within Hizbullah, as a stand-in for its dependence and subservience to Iranian interests and diktat. Meanwhile it flourishes in rival Sunni Islamist and communitarian circles as a convenient smear against all Shiites.

The failure of Wilayat al-Faqih to root itself in Lebanon may elicit some disappointment in Tehran. Beyond the ideologues, however, the leadership of the Islamic Republic, and notably its IRGC which oversaw the Lebanon operation, should be amply satisfied by the outcome of their investment. Through Hizbullah, through the control and loyalty it has earned and confirmed in the Shia community, as well as through the multiple arrangements that Hizbullah has coerced and secured with the rest of fragmented Lebanon, Iran maintains a unique form of occupation that endows it with advanced positions on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Through Hizbullah, Lebanon has fought battles on behalf of Iran. It has been available as an object of negotiation, both defensively and offensively, with Israel, the United States, and Gulf Arab states. It may be convenient to attribute this role to a strategic Iranian outlook. However, it is even more compelling to relegate Iran’s successes in Hizbullah to the hesitant, often inefficient posture of its adversaries. This may be changing with the more resolute U.S. stance adopted by the current Administration.

Up until recently, as its proxy in Lebanon, Hizbullah has shielded Iran from possible retaliations and was believed to constitute an insurance policy against drastic actions targeting Tehran. The evident change in the rules of engagement with both the United States and Israel deny Iran its previous unwarranted advantage of limiting retaliatory actions to its proxies, and devalues the previous functions of Hizbullah. As pressures continue, and if Iran were to face unanticipated risks—including that of losing its accumulated assets in Lebanon—the temptation of using them before losing them may be too strong to resist, detrimental implications to Lebanon notwithstanding.

Grim Prospects for Lebanon and Iran

The Palestinian occupation of Lebanon was opportunistic and careless. It antagonized parts of its host society, depleted others and was untenable in the long run, ultimately inviting its own demise. The Syrian occupation was predatory and voracious; it sought to alter the course of Lebanon as a fulfilled society, reclaiming it through brute force into an atavistic Syrian irredentism objectively relegated to history. A change in the balance of power in the region, with the U.S. action in Iraq, rendered the Damascus regime’s brute force less convincing, sealing the end of the Syrian occupation.

As to Israel, despite claims to an understanding of Lebanese reality—projecting onto Lebanon notions from its own experience as well as obsolete recollections of interactions with previous generations of Lebanese—the occupation of Lebanon was in fact tactical, with ill-conceived strategic extensions, and with no exit strategy. Perhaps the measure of its success was meant to be the eradication of the danger at the northern border. But the PLO factions with their limited ability to inflict terror on the Israeli population were soon replaced by a carefully nurtured Iranian foreign legion, with considerable weaponry and with an effective command and control structure. Thus, it can be asserted that the Israeli occupation of Lebanon was a failure.

As novel as the current Iranian occupation of Lebanon is, it is in fact built on contradictions and ill-conceptions. Beyond the illusion of Wilayat al-Faqih, which may fuel futile attempts at reproducing Iran’s Iranian success elsewhere, Iran in Lebanon suffers from defects that foreshadow negative outcomes.

The outreach of Iran to Lebanon was theological in its aspiration and ideological in its appeal. Iran capitalized on the legacies of Arab nationalism and revolutionary leftism to recycle enmity towards the United States and Israel to its advantage. By nurturing its anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist discourse, Iran was able to gain influence in Arab political culture in general, and in certain segments of Lebanese society. In the process, however, Iran entrapped itself in a narrative that may conflict with its interests, and which certainly limits its ability to maneuver.

Iran fostered the emergence of a martial totalitarian enclave in Lebanon, with no exit strategy from the build-up to confrontation. It proposed and propped up a formation that is deeply and irretrievably factional. The composition of this formation is strictly communitarian in its membership and constituency, and frequently sectarian in its social and cultural policies. Yet, it insists on maintaining the fictional claim that it is a “national” resistance movement. The reality of Hizbullah, as an expression of communitarian privilege, and the recurrent official and informal factional shows of force, have contributed to heightened communitarian tensions, despair from the idea of a shared Lebanon, and a feeling of alienation and detachment across the general Lebanese public.

Iran, through Hizbullah, insists on a perpetual enmity towards Israel. Ironically, the current logic that it proposes mirrors the paradox of Israel’s occupation of Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. Hizbullah maintains its rogue weaponry to defend Lebanon against a possible Israeli military action aimed at eliminating that same rogue weaponry. While angrily rejected, the parallels with Israel are numerous. The dispatch of Hizbullah fighters to Syria, the occupation of Syrian lands, and the expulsion of Syrian families from their homes is often characterized as preventive or pre-emptive measures against terrorists. This is explained in a language reminiscent of Israel’s own justification of actions against Hizbullah in Lebanon. More ominously, Hizbullah, as an army trained and accountable to a foreign power and composed of willing recruits, has considerable affinity with the South Lebanon Army, created and maintained by Israel in the course of its occupation.

One portion of Lebanon’s population equates Hizbullah with dignity, security, and victory. Another portion recognizes the inevitable destruction for which it continues to prepare. Amid such contradictions, it is hard to see an outcome that does not perpetuate the on-going devastation.

The Islamic Republic of Iran may have been far less in control of the process of its occupation of Lebanon than recognized, and may have few options in the unfolding of events in the next phase. However its actions, whether strategically conceived, or—more likely—opportunistically adopted, have subverted the course of Lebanese history. In all cases, its legacy will bear major responsibility for the slide of Lebanon into the abyss.