"I traveled last week to Lebanon. Iran planted its first beachhead here in 1982, when it created Hezbollah. From its base in […] Lebanon, the 'Party of God' has launched some of the deadliest terror attacks against the West, including the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 U.S. servicemen. Today, Hezbollah is a state within a state in Lebanon, and its fighters are the tip of Iran's spear in Syria."During the trip, Ahmari meets with Lebanese politicians, including Dr. Samir Geagea, (Twitter: DrSamirGeagea) the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, and Ahmad al-Assaad, (Twitter: AhmadElAssaad) "the 52-year-old leader of Lebanese Option, the country’s only Shiite party openly opposed to Hezbollah," in the words of Ahmari.
|Ahmad al-Assaad, leader of Lebanese Option Party|
Al-Assaad makes it clear to Ahmari that "Hezbollah controls Lebanon."
And, "it controls Lebanon through the Shiite community," al-Assaad explains.
But, al-Assaad also discusses his solutions to Hezbollah's chronic hold on the nation. "Mr. Assaad’s theory of change is simple but powerful" writes Ahmari.
"You want to weaken Hezbollah? You have to shake its base. This is why we invest so much in the next generation," al-Assaad tells Ahmari.
Al-Assaad's recipe includes changing the way children -- "the next generation" -- perceive their identity. In the deeply sectarian Lebanon, people quite often see themselves as members of specific sects first, and as Lebanese citizens on a secondary level. Al-Assaad is focused on altering this perception among members of the next generation through attendance of a recreational camp.
|Journalist Sohrab Ahmari|
Ideally, al-Assaad wants attendees of his programs to identify as citizens of their country, as Lebanese. An improvement is to identify by religion rather than by sect.
Ahmari met some of the children at the camp. He notes that none identify by sect, yet, he writes, "The most the children volunteer is: 'I am a Lebanese Muslim,' or 'I am a Lebanese Christian.'"
That's the inherent nature of the Levant -- a mosaic of ethno-sectarian groups. Indeed, to give a higher view of one's self and transcend sectarianism into intersection or meet areas is a recipe for greater stability.
Unfortunately, the forces at work in the Middle East and the geopolitical conditions in the area are far greater than the efforts of SNG. The effect of the SNG programs will be limited at best. Nevertheless, these are good efforts.