Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese terrorist organization and political party Hezbollah, gloated on Wednesday over the “humiliating downfall” of U.S. President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Nasrallah suggested Trump might vent his frustrations by attacking the Middle East during the remainder of his term, with assistance from Israel.
Reuters quoted the highlights of Nasrallah’s rant, in which he heaped opprobrium on Trump as “among the worst, if not the worst” president in American history, but tried not to sound like he expects many favors from a Biden administration:
Describing the U.S. elections as a travesty of democracy, he accused Trump of having no restraints and said his administration’s “arrogance and aggressiveness” had heightened the possibility of war.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah leader said he derived personal pleasure at the outcome of the U.S. elections also because Trump had ordered the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
“With a person like Trump anything is possible during the remainder of his term … the axis of resistance should be in a state of high readiness to respond twice as hard in case of any American or Israeli folly,” Nasrallah said, referring to Hezbollah and Iran’s allies in the region.
Nasrallah was particularly upset by sanctions imposed on Gebran Bassil last week by the Trump administration. Bassil is the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a member of the Lebanese parliament, and head of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Lebanese Christian political party allied with the Shiite Muslim party of Hezbollah.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Bassil on November 6, citing his role at the “forefront” of the “systemic corruption” plaguing the Lebanese political system:
Bassil has held several high-level posts in the Lebanese government, including serving as the Minister of Telecommunications, the Minister of Energy and Water, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, and Bassil has been marked by significant allegations of corruption. In 2017, Bassil strengthened his political base by appointing friends to positions and purchasing other forms of influence within Lebanese political circles. In 2014, while Minister of Energy, Bassil was involved in approving several projects that would have steered Lebanese government funds to individuals close to him through a group of front companies.
Bassil was designated for being a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
Bassil immediately responded to the sanctions on Twitter by painting himself as a Lebanese super-patriot who will not “turn against any Lebanese” or “save myself for Lebanon to perish.”
“Sanctions have not frightened me and promises have not tempted me,” Bassil declared, although the BBC suggested the sanctions should frighten him at least a little because they might be enough to freeze him out of the next Lebanese government. Given the turbulent nature of Lebanese politics, he likely would not have to wait long for the next government after that to come along, giving him another chance to increase his power.
The constant tragedy of Lebanon is that everyone knows the government is riddled with corruption and absurd levels of incompetence — the cataclysmic explosion that wiped out the Port of Beirut in August was a loud wake-up call for anybody who still needed one — but the division of government into religious factions and competing power blocs makes meaningful reform all but impossible.
Shiites will never accept reforms that would weaken their position in Lebanon’s eternal three-way stalemate; Sunnis and Christians are equally worried by the prospect of sacrificing their own positions; political allies like Shiite Hezbollah and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement protect each other from corruption investigations that could bring one of them down. When the U.S. or other nations ratchet up pressure for reform, Lebanese parties and their allies denounce the effect of sanctions on the impoverished Lebanese population and demand unconditional humanitarian relief.
As with Nasrallah’s musings about a possible U.S.-Israeli invasion before the end of the year, Lebanese power brokers Lebanon’s problems. Hezbollah has largely avoided accountability for the blast at the Port of Beirut, which it controls, while blaming American and/or Israeli sabotage for causing the explosion. While Nasrallah crows about the end of Trump’s presidency, many Lebanese can only wish they had some way to vote Hezbollah and other corrupt forces out of power.