The Lebanese government holds a meeting at the Baabda presidential palace. (Supplied)

May 21, 2018

The recent US and Arab Gulf sanctions against the Lebanese “Hezbollah” party may pose a new obstacle in government formation efforts in Lebanon.

The process has not officially kicked off, but the political powers, namely “Hezbollah”, that have emerged victorious in the recent parliamentary elections are vying for greater power in the new cabinet.

Information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat revealed that this time around, the party will not be content with non-service portfolios, but it has its sights set on main ones.

It wants service-related portfolios, whereby it can “serve the people and counter corruption,” said sources close to the party.

They explained that based on parliamentary results, “Hezbollah” should obtain three out of six Shiite seats in cabinet.

The US had this week blacklisted “Hezbollah” financier Mohammed Ibrahim Bazzi and its representative in Iran Abdullah Safieddine over their terrorism links.

It also designated as terrorist five companies in Europe, western Africa and the Middle East because they are owned or controlled by Bazzi.

Lebanese leaderships made light of the sanctions, saying they will not impact the government formation process.

“They may, however, affect the economy,” they warned.

The “Hezbollah” sources threw the ball in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s court and are waiting to see how much he would respond to American pressure.

Sources from Hariri’s Mustaqbal Movement said that the sanctions were not new and they were present prior to the formation of the current outgoing cabinet.

They will therefore not have a direct impact on the new government process, they continued.

The PM’s main obstacle will be “Hezbollah’s” pursuit of greater representation at cabinet.

The party sources stressed that it refuses to be kept out of government, saying that it had informed those concerned that it enjoys a majority at parliament and it would resort to a veto if Hariri complied with US sanctions pressure.

A cabinet lineup without “Hezbollah” will not garner the parliament’s confidence, they stressed.

Mustaqbal MP Rola Batsh Jaroudi predicted that the sanctions will affect the government formation efforts, but the state is taking all matters into consideration.

“Hezbollah” is part of the country and it cannot be ignored, she said.

Asharq Al-Awsat

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.