Saad Hariri: Iran Must Stop Meddling in Arab Affairs

This is the OP-ED published by Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in today's edition of the New York Times:

"A massive bomb killed the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, my father, along with 22 other Lebanese. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon at The Hague identified five Hezbollah operatives as suspected collaborators in the murder. If proved, that would mean his assassination was carried out by Iran's allies in Lebanon, who are financed and controlled by the regime in Tehran.

Three years later, in 2008, Hezbollah moved to occupy Beirut, and after many years of promising that its vast, Iranian-supplied arsenal was intended only to protect Lebanon from Israel, turned its weapons against the Lebanese people.

More recently, Hezbollah has prevented Lebanon from electing a new president and has imposed a devastating gridlock on the country's government in order to blackmail the citizenry into accepting its demands.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has sent thousands of young Lebanese men to fight and die in Syria to defend the odious regime of Bashar al-Assad, the brutal dictator condemned in the United Nations and around the world for presiding over the deaths of at least a quarter million of his own people. Mr. Assad - with the help of Iran; its Revolutionary Guards and its proxies; Hezbollah and militias in Iraq and Afghanistan - has created the worst refugee problem since World War II, ruthlessly displacing millions of people into neighboring countries and Europe.

We Lebanese are all too familiar with the violence, discord, sectarian hatred, brutality and terrorism that Iran and its allies inflict on other countries, whatever Iranian officials might try to claim to the outside world. Iran has been the world's greatest state sponsor of terrorism since the late 1970s.

We have not forgotten the taking of Americans, and other Westerners, as hostages in the 1980s by Iranian proxies in Lebanon. We have not forgotten the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut airport, which killed 241 United States Marines, sailors and soldiers. The amnesia in much of the world about these events, let alone what is happening today in Syria and elsewhere, leaves us dumbfounded.

In Syria, the disaster that has befallen its people began when Iran and its allies intervened to prop up the brutal dictatorship of Mr. Assad against a popular, and originally nonviolent and nonsectarian, pro-democracy uprising. The Syrian people were merely asking for the reform of a vicious and corrupt system by a government that rules by brute force. Now Lebanon is overwhelmed by some 1.3 million Syrian refugees driven from their homes by this remorseless regime.

The tragedy in Yemen, too, began when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel militia began its battle against its own people in a coup condemned by the United Nations Security Council. They did this simply to menace and threaten the stability of Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf Arab states.

In Iraq, Iran has promoted and funded brutal proxy militias that have spread sectarian hate in the country and are now undermining efforts to defeat the Islamic State.

Iranian officials brazenly boast that their country is now in control of four Arab capitals - Beirut, Baghdad, Sana and Damascus - and gloat over their hegemony. Such bluster is an obvious threat, which we in Lebanon know to take very seriously, that Iran wants to expand its influence in the Middle East by sowing discord, promoting terrorism and sectarian hatred, and destabilizing the region through proxies, while pretending to be bystanders.

Contrast this with what Saudi Arabia has done for Lebanon. In the 1980s, while Iran was busy directing its proxy militias in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia helped the country reach a historic agreement to end its civil war. The Taif Accords, named after the city in Saudi Arabia where the Lebanese Parliament met, ended 15 years of carnage.

As Lebanon was trying to rebuild its economy after the civil war, Saudi Arabia stepped in with crucial assistance to the Paris conferences for the financial reconstruction of Lebanon, contributing more than $1.5 billion in aid.

How many schools and hospitals has Iran built in Lebanon? How much help has it provided for Lebanon to rebuild itself? The answer, of course, is little to none, and any such Iranian aid is structured entirely to the political benefit of Hezbollah.

Iran has a unique opportunity to help those who are really fighting extremism in the Arab world. But to do that, it must stop meddling in Arab affairs, from Yemen and Bahrain to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It must stop feeding Sunni resentment, which only encourages a fringe minority to think terrorism is the answer. And Iran can force militias from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran to leave Syria. That would be a great first step to clear the last tactical hurdle facing those who are really fighting extremism in the Muslim world.

Iran can be part of the solution. But it must accept the extended Arab hand, led by Saudi Arabia, for normalized, neighborly relations, allowing Sunni Arabs to get down to the real task of getting rid of extremism."

Source: National News Agency