Tehran is planning to expand its ties with Lebanon in spite of the “provocative and interventionist” call by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for Beirut to choose sides, Reuters informs.
Pompeo said on Friday that Lebanon faced a choice – “Bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation, or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.”
Pompeo flew in from Israel a day after he became the first high-ranking American official to visit the Western Wall with an Israeli prime minister, The Times of Israel added.
His visit also came just hours after President Donald Trump said Washington should recognize Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, breaking with the policy of successive administrations as well as UN Security Council resolutions.
However, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi dismissed Pompeo’s remarks. “Because of the failure of its policies in the Middle East, America has turned to the outdated and disgraced weapon of threats and intimidation to impose its imperious policies on other countries,” Qasemi said, state television reported. “While respecting the independence of Lebanon and the free will of its government and nation, Iran will use all its capacities to strengthen unity inside Lebanon and also to expand its ties with Lebanon.”
Hezbollah, whose influence has expanded at home and in the region, controls three of 30 ministries in the government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the largest number in its history, Reuters added.
The dominant Shi’ite Muslim power Iran and Hezbollah, founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, are major players in the war in Syria and the fight against militant groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, which include Islamic State.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington has increased since Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers last May, and then reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The restoration of sanctions is part of a wider effort by Trump to force Iran to further curb its nuclear program and to end its ballistic missile work as well as its support for proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.