Last week's elections in Lebanon and this week's ones in Iraq showed that pro-Iranian "Resistance" parties are as important of a force as ever in Mideast politics. Hezbollah made impressive gains in Lebanon, while Iranian-linked candidate Hadi al-Amiri finished in second place in Iraq. The first of these results is undoubtedly to Iran's advantage and shows that its regional "Resistance" bloc certainly has staying power despite the ever-present shadow of Israeli intimidation, while the second one suggests that Tehran's influence might have finally peaked in the neighboring Shiite-majority state.
Moqtada al Sadr's coalition bloc of nationalists, secularists, and communists came out on top in what observers are almost unanimously declaring to be a shock outcome that they're widely interpreting as a message to Iran. This popular cleric and former militia leader visited Iran's Saudi nemesis last year and even called for President Assad to step down, thereby going against two of the "Resistance's" most important political positions. Sadr wasn't ever really affiliated with the "Resistance" but he also can't be described as "anti-Iranian" either, meaning that he might try to leverage his predicted "gray cardinal" role in "balancing" Iraq between Iran and Saudi Arabia, though provided that Tehran lets him after influential international affairs advisor to the Ayatollah Ali Akbar Velayati remarked in February that "We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq."
From the other side of the Levant, things look a lot better for Iran in Lebanon than they do in Iraq. Hezbollah has proven its legitimacy as a political actor in the country's affairs after the latest democratic mandate that it received to continue operating within the government, which comes at an important time when Israel is ramping up its anti-Iranian attacks in next-door Syria and Palestine appears to be on the cusp of another invasion. An Israeli security cabinet minister even recently equated all of Lebanon with the group that Tel Aviv regards as "terrorists", ominously hinting that the country's citizens might once again be victimized by their southern neighbor.
Within the scope of just one week, though, it's become irrefutable that pro-Iranian "Resistance" forces are a regional factor to be reckoned with in the Mideast, whether it's Hezbollah or Amiri, the latter of whom was still supported by many Iraqis. That said, there are still obstacles to both of them, with Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri being a stumbling block to the further expression of Hezbollah's influence in Lebanon and Sadr doing the same to Amiri in Iraq.
Steven Sahiounie, Syrian-American journalist, and Joe Lauria, Editor-in-chief of Consortium News, joined our discussion.
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