BEIRUT — President Donald Trump is not up to speed on who’s fighting whom in the Middle East.

The president wrongly credited the Lebanese government with fighting Hezbollah when he heaped praise on its prime minister at the White House on Tuesday. Hezbollah, an Islamist political party with a militant faction, actually is a partner in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government.

“Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah,” Trump said in a news conference with Hariri. “The Lebanese people, of all faiths, are working together to keep — and you know this, and we’ve been discussing this at great length — their country safe and prosperous.”

The Lebanese government is indeed fighting against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. But so is Hezbollah. Fighters from the powerful Iranian-backed group are leading a military offensive to wipe out Sunni extremists from ISIS and al-Qaida from areas along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

And the Lebanese government is not confronting Hezbollah militarily, as Trump said, but rather reliant on it to stay in power.

It holds two seats in his cabinet, as it has in previous governments. While Hariri is opposed to Hezbollah’s policies, particularly its decision to send fighters to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria, he has a power-sharing relationship with the group, without whose approval he would not be able to govern. Hezbollah also holds considerable influence in the country’s parliament.


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ZEINA KARAM
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