BEIRUT: Iran's attempt to counter the United States' latest political intervention in Lebanon fell outside diplomatic norms, signaling that the Islamic Republic is now on the offensive.
After U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale assured from Lebanon that his government will step up efforts to counter Iran’s “dangerous activities” around the region, Tehran seemingly made it a point to rebuke his comments from Beirut as well.
Instead of responding via their Foreign Ministry, in a break of tradition, Iranian leaders solicited their embassy in Lebanon to release a carefully written statement chastising the U.S and their recent comments by labeling them as "blatant meddling in the affairs of others."
Hale, who previously served in Lebanon, had echoed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statements while on his Mideast tour, vowing to curtail Iranian backed proxies including Hezbollah.
By using its embassy, Iran consciously thrust Lebanon at the forefront of the larger regional conflict pitting the U.S against the Islamic Republic, while also dealing a blow to Lebanon's sovereignty and seemingly forcing it to take sides.
The statement also serves as a prelude to an imminent response from Hezbollah itself, to be delivered by its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in the coming days mirroring the response of its backer Iran.
Iran's kickback is not too surprising when taking into consideration both Hale and Pompeo's messages, that the U.S will not stand aside and permit Tehran to entrench and cement itself in Syria as it's done in Lebanon over the past 30 years.
Their messages also served to reassure the U.S's regional allies of their commitment to "expel every Iranian boot from Syria" despite President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S troops.
It remains to be seen how Lebanon's major parties will react to Hale's message, mainly in regards to the issue of the ongoing Cabinet formation crisis, its repercussions, and whether to activate the current caretaker government in an attempt to alleviate the economic pressures facing the small Mediterranean country.
According to former Lebanese Ambassador to the U.S Antoine Chedid, the U.S greatly prefers the makeup of the current Cabinet given Hezbollah's diluted share which is expected to increase if and when a new Cabinet is formed, having secured the Ministry of Health to go along two other portfolios at the very least.
After months of grueling negotiations, Hezbollah is pegged to clinch three ministries of its own as well as one for the six Sunni MPs who it backed, bringing its share to seven when taking into account Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement.
What is certain, however, is that Lebanon's position vis a vis this Iranian-U.S power struggle will be costly as it stares down one of the most consequential periods of its history.
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