Iranian Regime wary of losing Hezbollah influence after blast shakes up Lebanon
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Iran is watching developments in Lebanon closely, wary of losing any of its hard-won influence after a deadly mega-blast in Beirut sparked angry demands for reforms to its delicately balanced system.
One week on from the chemical explosion that wreaked destruction across swathes of the Lebanese capital, the strategic eastern Mediterranean country is still reeling.
Lebanese have taken to the streets over the disaster that claimed at least 158 lives and injured 6,000, with many calling for heads to roll and for major changes.
Late Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government, spelling even deeper turmoil ahead.
While some protesters have chanted slogans against Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah, most vented their fury against a wider ruling class whose corruption, incompetence and negligence they say caused the August 4 tragedy.
In Tehran, student members of Iran’s Basij militia gathered in front of the Lebanese embassy, lighting candles and waving the flags of the disaster-hit country and Hezbollah.
Many Iranians posted photos online of Beirut’s devastated port accompanied by poems for the city by Syrian writer Nizar Kabbani, who is hugely popular in the Islamic republic.
In another tribute, Azadi Tower, the symbol of the Iranian capital, was lit up in the colours of the Lebanese flag.
The day after the explosion, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the people of Lebanon to show “patience”.
Khamenei sought to assure them that Iran would support Lebanon in the face of this “painful tragedy”.
Shiite Iran wields huge influence through the Hezbollah terror group.
So when French President Emmanuel Macron called for major reforms to Lebanon, he was met with criticism in the Islamic republic.
“I think Mr. Macron’s views were interventionist, although the historical background of relations between Lebanon and France should also be taken into account,” said Ali Esmailzadeh, a student in Tehran.
“I think these words are to light the wick of the fire of unrest in this country, which seems to have started since last night,” he told AFP, referring to violent protests in Beirut on Saturday night.
Macron’s call, issued during a visit to Beirut in the wake of the blast, saw Iran’s ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan accuse him of trying to “weaken the Lebanese resistance”.
The daily branded a French-hosted conference at which international donors pledged 250 million euros in aid to Lebanon on Sunday as a “bluff.”
Iran did not take part in the forum, but Tehran said Monday it has sent 95 tons of medical supplies to Lebanon and will continue to send more humanitarian aid.