A spokesperson for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp denied that a commander in the Corps had threatened to attack Israel from Lebanon, after Lebanese officials protested against the threat, calling it a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty.
"If the Zionist regime makes the smallest mistake toward Iran, we will reduce Tel Aviv to ashes from Lebanon," said IRGC commander Morteza Qorbani, adding that Iran wouldn't need to fire a single missile from its territories, reported the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
IRGC spokesperson Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif stated on Wednesday that Qorbani's statements "have been misinterpreted and misquoted by the media," according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.
"General Qorbani in fact meant to speak of a response to Israel by possible various means and capacities," said Sharif, who added that Qorbani is not currently an advisor to the IRGC commander and works elsewhere in the Iranian Armed Forces.
Local news outlets referred to Qorbani as the senior advisor to the IRGC Chief Commander and an advisor to the Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Radio Farda.
"These statements are unfortunate and unacceptable," tweeted caretaker Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab. "They are a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon, which enjoys ties of friendship with Iran that should not infringe on its independent decision-making in any way, shape or form."
Sharif lauded Lebanon's Saab for his "smart response which foiled the Saudi-Zionist media's mischief over the remarks," according to Fars.
Caretaker Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah called Qorbani's remarks "irresponsible" and "arrogant," adding that they are a violation against Lebanon's sovereignty, people and state.
"Iran may defend itself in any way it likes, but Lebanon is not the Guards’ mailbox or an arena for foreign actors," Jarrah said, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Lebanese MP Nadim Gemayel called on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri to issue a clear response to the Iranian threat. "We will not accept [a reality whereby] decisions of war and peace are in the hands of Hassan Nasrallah or Khamenei. We are a sovereign country, not a proxy state," tweeted Gemayel, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Lebanese Movement for Democratic Change leader Elie Mahfoud tweeted in response to Qorbani's statements as well, writing, "As if we haven't suffered enough due to Iran's financing of the armed [Hezbollah] militia that receives orders according to the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran, [Iran now] continues its manipulations that affect our stability and [expose] Lebanon to Israeli aggression. I refer Qorbani's statement to the Lebanese authorities, and expect to hear an official position regarding this dangerous invasion of Lebanon."
In October, Mahfoud tweeted that Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC's Quds force, had arrived in Beirut as protests swept the nation.
Mahfoud questioned whether Soleimani's arrival had anything to do with promises made by Nasrallah to "prevent the fall of the besieged Hezbollah government." The Lebanese politician also said that it's time to stop Iranian intervention in Lebanon.
Soleimani's arrival was not confirmed by any official source, according to Erem News.
Shortly after the protests began in Lebanon, the Iranian Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting which included representatives of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the IRGC and Hezbollah, according to a report by the Arabic daily Al-Jarida. The representatives agreed that the demonstrations are legitimate and decided to not participate in them but instead simply monitor them.
A source from the council told Al-Jarida that Iran's perception of the protests changed after reports of an international attempt by Iran's enemies to overthrow the Hariri government and keep the country in a constitutional vacuum.
According to the report, a second meeting was convened by the council and a decision was made to send Soleimani to Beirut with "extraordinary powers to face the scheme." The report did not clarify what those "extraordinary powers" were.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric called on Lebanese authorities to "deal with unauthorized armed groups," adding that the UN recognizes that it is important for Lebanon to "disarm militias and stop violations of state sovereignty," according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel lamented in October that Hezbollah's control over the government embroils Lebanon in regional conflicts against the people's will. "When the government remains silent over every challenge from Lebanese territory against Arab or foreign countries and all of Lebanon’s historic friends, [it] means that this government is complicit," Gemayel said.
At a Lebanese Forces convention in Canada in October, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces political party Samir Geagea expressed concern about Hezbollah's influence in the country as well, describing Lebanon as a "bus without a driver," according to the Lebanese National News Agency.
"There are currently two imminent threats to Lebanon: the first is a security-military-strategic threat, since Lebanon is currently like a bus without a driver, which is being driven by someone other than the one behind the steering wheel, and we don’t know where he’ll take us," said Geagea.
"The decision of peace and war is fully in Hezbollah’s hand, and we hope Hezbollah will not drag us into a war in the region, with all its dramatic repercussions."
The parliamentarian recalled the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006, saying that the Lebanese people went to sleep and woke up the next day at war. Then-prime minister Fouad Siniora said that he didn't know what had happened, that he hadn't approved it, and that he did what he could to remedy the negative effects on the Lebanese people.
In an interview with CNBC in September, Prime Minister Hariri described Hezbollah as a "regional problem," not just a "Lebanese problem." He added that Israel holds Lebanon responsible for Hezbollah's action, but that it isn't. He acknowledged that he was limited in his ability to keep Hezbollah under control.