Lebanon’s General Security agency is considering allowing Iranians into the country without stamping their passports, which has politicians concerned that this is reflective of Iran’s deepening influence over the nation’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
Hezbollah, which means “Party of God” in Arabic, is an internationally-sanctioned terrorist organization. Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group, along with its fellow Shi’ite Amal party allies, made big gains during the country’s May parliamentary elections; a sway that means greater Iranian influence in the country.
According to Reuters, the Christian political party Lebanese Forces, staunch opponents of Hezbollah, have criticized the action as an attempt by Iran to bypass U.S. sanctions to funnel money to Hezbollah and move forces to Syria via Beirut.
Lebanon’s General Security agency reportedly said it defends its decision and will continue to only stamp disposable entry cards instead of passports of Iranians entering the country.
Although Lebanon’s Caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk will reportedly challenge the measure, Reuters reported that Major General Abbas Ibrahim, a Shi’ite official who has coordinated with Hezbollah and who heads General Security, defended the move as normal procedure and said, “Unfortunately, some in Lebanon have a wide imagination.”
On Wednesday, Machnouk reportedly said the United States, many European countries, and several Arab nations have expressed concern that individuals visiting Beirut are coming for “training or contacting organizations that are internationally rejected,” such as sanctioned terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
Iran has admitted to similar policies of skipping the passport stamping process in the past. The Epoch Times, citing Iranian media, reported that Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights and an international affairs assistant in Iran’s judiciary, told Iran’s state-run TV that Iranian intelligence officials “agreed not to stamp the passports” of some of the 9/11 al-Qaeda hijackers because “some of them because they were on transit flights for two hours, and they were resuming their flights without having their passports stamped.”
“However, their movements were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence,” Larijani reportedly said.