Cobban: Iran’s Allies in Lebanon Play Regime Change, too

Helena Cobban, steeped in years of experience reporting from and writing about the Middle East, has a thought-provoking theory on the sudden break-up of the coalition in Lebanon:

My sense from afar is that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his friends and backers in Tehran are sending a fairly blunt message to the west (whose leaders often like to describe themselves as the “international community”) that regime change is indeed a game that more than one side can play.

Could well be, but I’m not convinced this move is as contrived as that. Cobban, who I’ll readily admit knows much more about these things, notes that “(?former)” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s major backer, Saudi Kind Abdullah, hasn’t been heard from recently and is rumored to be ill, which suggests a broader general disarray. With charges looming by a U.N.-affiliated tribunal for the assassination of Hariri’s father — which will likely indict Hezbollah members — the Shia militia and social/political organization could simply be taking cover.

Nonetheless, if Cobban’s theory is right, things look worrisome. She points to U.S. and Western weakness around the region, and offers this warning:

… If Nasrallah and his friends in Tehran (especially Supreme Leader Khamenei) indeed think the time has come to give the western house of cards in the Middle East a little nudge in Beirut to see what happens, the fallout from this could well end up extending far beyond Lebanon’s tiny confines.

This is Cobban at her best, with a trove of good contacts and broad contextual knowledge, giving informed comment from the U.S. (I think). I look forward to seeing what she writes after her scheduled trip to Beirut next month.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.