By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIRUT, LEBANON (BosNewsLife)-- A key official of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC) has warned that Iran-sponsored Hezbollah's veto over government decisions means "the fall of Lebanon" with "horrendous implications" for religious liberty and security in the Middle East.
"The fall of Lebanon is the continuation and confluence of two trends that are being monitored by WEA-RLC: The Shi'ite ascendancy and the decline of United States influence," said the organization's Principal Researcher and Writer Elizabeth Kendal.
"It has horrendous implications not only for Lebanon but for religious liberty and security in the whole Middle East." WEA-RLC, which represents millions of evangelical Christians around the world, has investigated the impact of the rise of Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanon-based Shi'ite Islamist group, on Christians and other non-Muslims.
"Shi'ite power rises and advances across the region, and as US influence declines, "allies" in the region", including Sunni Muslims and countries such as Jordan, "are switching sides," Kendal noted.
"Recent reports reveal a sudden ominous and dramatic rise in religious repression and hostility from the formerly progressive and West-friendly regime in Jordan. Having demonstrated its power so profoundly, Hezbollah will not have to work too hard in Lebanon to get the Sunnis to line up behind its anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro-Sharia, pro-jihad "Islamic" agenda."
She stressed that "both the Shi'ite ascendancy" as represented by Hezbollah, and the declining US role in the region "do not augur well for the religious liberty and security of Christians in the Middle East. Kendal said Hezbollah's influence will further embolden its ally Iran.
"As circumstances change and the constraints disappear and as the repressive and apocalyptic Iranian cleric-led regime assumes the role of regional hegemon, the future for Christians and all non-Muslims in the Middle East is extremely precarious."
Kendal said Hezbollah has become more powerful last month, after it forced the government to backtrack on its decision to halt "Hezbollah's extensive, completely independent communications network," that had been installed on Beirut airport.
In response Hezbollah blocked all roads to the airport, seized Sunni West Beirut and shut down pro-government media. After two days of fighting in Beirut, Hezbollah moved its fight to Druze areas of Mount Lebanon, Kendal recalled.
Eventually the government was forced "to negotiate on Hezbollah's terms" following what Kendal called "a most impressive blitzkrieg." Supported by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah became part of the cabinet, and since late May, has veto power over all Lebanese government decisions.
"Their candidate, General Michel Suleiman, has been installed as president; they control one-third of the cabinet; and they have authority to gerrymander and create smaller electorates in order to ensure victory at the next legislative elections," Kendal said. She made clear her her organization is concerned as the United Nations endorsed the agreement. "Lebanon's fall will probably go down as the most geo-strategically significant event of 2008."
She claimed that, "Hezbollah does not want to govern Lebanon. What Hezbollah wants -- indeed demands -- is freedom to ignore UN resolutions and re-build, re-organise and re-arm for war with absolute impunity."
Hezbollah has however denied reports that it will launch an offensive within neighboring Israel if the Jewish state started a new war. “We would not initiate war but in case they wage any war in the future...there will be a counter-attack behind the front lines---and for the first time since 1948 in Palestine itself,” Iranian news agency Fars quoted a Hezbollah politburo member as telling Syrian magazine al-Hakika.
In a related development, Hezbollah reportedly said Sunday, June 1, that it had released the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the 2006 war with Israel, which handed over a Lebanese man who had completed a jail term on charges of spying for the group.
Nissim Nisr, released after a six-year jail term, was greeted by Hezbollah officials in the southern village of Naqoura, where the group unexpectedly announced the release of the soldiers' remains.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a January 19 speech his group had the heads, hands and legs of soldiers left on the battlefields of the 34-day 2006 war, Reuters news agency reported. The conflict was triggered by Hezbollah's capture of two soldiers during a raid into Israel. Hezbollah has declined to say whether the two are dead or alive. (With BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research and reports from Lebanon).
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