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Lebanon is spiraling into collapse, and the prime minister [Saad al-Hariri] asked Pope Francis Thursday, local time, for help. Hariri asked the pope to visit the beleaguered country, but Francis told the Sunni Muslim he could only do so after a new government is formed to handle the crisis.
Catholic-Maronite cardinal Bechara al-Rahi is allied with the prime minister against both the Christian president and the president's Shia terrorist allies. Shia-Hezbollah is a major political force with its own militia, which is said to be larger than the Lebanese army.
Islam scholar Raymond Ibrahim: "Hezbollah, of course, the Iranian proxy that's there — are its interests in Lebanon, or are its interests and loyalty in Iran to wage war against Israel? That's the real question. I personally believe the latter."
Cardinal Rahi is harnessing the popular civilian movement against the government to demand Hezbollah disarm its militia as part of the reforms.
Ibrahim: "He's been coming off robustly against Hezbollah, which is usually not common for that area and for political reasons because Hezbollah portrays itself as a defender of Lebanon and whatnot. But he [Rahi] sees through it, and other people see through it."
Hezbollah began solely as an Iranian-backed militia group in the 1980s to fight against the Israelis. After gaining major political power in the early 2000s, Hezbollah ramped up assassinations and terrorist attacks in both Lebanon and other nations.
Cdl. Rahi: "We support understanding between countries instead of wars. We support peace conferences between countries instead of wars. Wars are vile and it is the people who suffer their consequences."
Cardinal Rahi is accusing Hezbollah of wanting to start a war with Israel. Rahi favors Lebanese neutrality over spreading Islamist wars.
Cdl. Rahi: "But here, in Lebanon, it is not the government who handles this issue — [it's] a certain party, Hezbollah, of course. Who is talking war and peace with Israel? The Lebanese State? Who calls the shots? Isn't it Hezbollah?"
Lebanon was formed after the First World War with the idea Christians, Sunnis and Shias could share power in peace. Peace cannot last, however, when one party — known terrorists — have all the guns.