Weekend long read

1) At the Atlantic Council Dr Raz Zimmt explains why ‘When it comes to Iran, not everything that goes boom in the night is sabotage’.

“Not every explosion or fire in Tehran is the result of foreign subterfuge. Recent research carried out by Tiziana Corda, a political science PhD candidate at the University of Milan, revealed that such events frequently occur in Iran. Thus, she argues that these present occurrences are not necessarily anomalies. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency’s archive, there were at least ninety-seven fires or explosions between mid-May 2019 and the end of July 2019. That averages out to more than one per day over a period of 2.5 months. The data shows that, just like this year, there were explosions or fires in power plants, factories, hospitals, research centers, naval vessels, and arms depots in 2019.”

2) Dr Jonathan Spyer analyses ‘Hizballah’s Complicated Calculus’.

“Lebanon and Hizballah’s focus is of necessity the same.  Hizballah is today the dominant force in Lebanese public life. The bloc of which it is a part holds a majority in the 128 member parliament, and a majority in the Cabinet. Prime Minister Hassan Diab is its obedient servant.

This means that the profound economic crisis currently gripping the country falls squarely in Hizballah’s lap. It is required to operate and to make decisions as a governing force, responsible for the avoidance of general socio-economic collapse which is now a real possibility in Lebanon.

The aforementioned dynamic ought to support the continuation of uneasy quiet along the border. The problem is that Lebanese Hizballah is not only or primarily a successful local political actor. Rather, it is a franchise of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Indeed, its local political predominance is a direct function of the outsize strength and capacity afforded it in the Lebanese context by Iranian support.”

3) The FDD has published a report by James Rickards titled ‘Crisis in Lebanon – Anatomy of a Financial Collapse’.

“Lebanon is unraveling. Last year’s massive public protests over the government’s inability to collect trash or provide other key services now seem like a minor problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has all but wiped out already falling remittances from the Lebanese diaspora. With its economy in a tailspin, the government missed a payment on a $1.2 billion eurobond in March and effectively defaulted on all outstanding eurobond obligations, including an additional $2.7 billion of payments due in April and June. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and others are working to assess the problem and offer solutions. But with Lebanon, it will not be easy. […]

First, Lebanon has a Hezbollah problem. Hezbollah controls the health ministry and is the majority partner in the current coalition. It is designated as a terrorist group by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and several Latin American countries. International donors cannot in good faith bail out a government controlled by a terrorist group that answers to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, according to both Democratic and Republican administrations.”

4) At WINEP, Dr Matthew Levitt introduces a useful resource titled ‘the Hezbollah Worldwide Map and Timeline’.

“Using research from my book and subsequent work as a starting point, I decided to build an interactive map and timeline of Hezbollah activities around the world, from its foundation in the early 1980s until today. This is intended to be an iterative project; although we are launching with approximately a thousand entries, we plan to continue to add new entries, source documents, and features after the launch. Since the product will change over time, we have also included a “counter” informing users of the cumulative number of entries in the map and the time of the latest update, available in the upper left-hand corner.

This map is fully interactive and is searchable by category, location, timeline, and text keywords. Each entry includes photographs or videos, a summary of the event, geographic and/or thematic linkages to other related entries in the map, as well as primary-source documents. The tool is already, far and away, the largest repository of open-source documentation on Lebanese Hezbollah, comprising declassified government reports, court documents, congressional testimony, and research reports.”

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