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Ahmadinejad’s Deadly Triumph in Lebanon
Posted By Rick Moran On October 15, 2010 @ 12:45 am In FrontPage | 23 Comments
It would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was welcomed in Lebanon on Wednesday for a visit that demonstrated just how far the Lebanese democracy has fallen and how fast the enemies of freedom have risen.
Ever since the Doha Agreement of 2008, in which Hezbollah achieved with guns what it couldn’t achieve with the ballot box, the arc of power and influence of the democratic “March 14th Alliance” has been waning. In Qatar, the Western-friendly coalition made up largely of Sunnis, Christians, and Druze reluctantly agreed to give the Hezbollah-led opposition enough cabinet ministers in government to give them veto power over the majority’s policies. In effect, the hard-won election of 2005 that had given the democrats nominal control was canceled, and the wolf was invited inside where he then proceeded to make himself at home.
Even the parliamentary elections last year that saw another victory by the March 14th coalition was eventually watered down as the “Spirit of Doha” and once again brought the Hezbollah opposition into a government partnership. The political motto of Lebanon — “No victors, no vanquished” — rings hollow today as Hezbollah has bullied and threatened its way to dominance.
There is no doubt that Hezbollah has reached the zenith of its power and influence in Lebanon. By demonstrating a willingness to press its advantages, as well as hold the specter of violence over the heads of the March 14th Alliance, the government now marches to the beat of Hezbollah’s drums. There is something pathetic in all of this if one considers the high hopes of the Lebanese people when the March 14th Alliance first took power in 2005. Since that time, compromise after compromise with the enemies of freedom have sapped the will to resist the constant pressure of Hezbollah and its Iranian masters. In the end, most of the leaders of the March 14th forces have either resigned to the inevitable or are maintaining a lower profile.
This is the backdrop of Ahmadinejad’s triumphal visit to Lebanon. With a newly confident and assertive Syria, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah in de facto control of the country, the minions of the Iranian president now present a united front against Israel and Western interests in the Levant.
Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, summed up the significance of Ahmadinejad’s visit:
The important issue is that we see another step in the ‘Hezbollah-ization’ of Lebanon…Lebanon is further losing its independence and Hezbollah is taking over, with Ahmadinejad encouraging these forces and signaling to the whole Middle East that Lebanon is becoming an Iranian protectorate.
Buttressing the idea that Lebanon has become a virtual client state of Iran were remarks made by Ahmadinejad during the frenetic rally held in southern Lebanon in Bint Jbeil. Hezbollah has made that little town a “symbol of the resistance,” promoting the legend of Hezbollah’s victory during the 2006 war with Israel.
During his speech, Ahmadinejad jumped feet first into the crisis currently roiling politics in Lebanon; the so-called “false witnesses” issue relating to the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). In a nutshell, the UN has been investigating the assassination in 2005 of Rafiq Hariri, former prime minister and father of current PM Said Hariri. The first report on the investigation issued in 2005 by then-prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, implicated high-level Syrian officials in the murders, including President Assad’s brother in law.
But over the years, some witnesses have recanted (they were clearly intimidated), others murdered, and the UN walked back from its initial findings of Syrian involvement. Also, four prominent Lebanese generals who had been jailed until last year, were released because of questionable eyewitness testimony. It is impossible to say at this point how much pressure was placed on key witnesses to change their testimony and whether there really were “false witnesses” in the case.
Then, all summer long there were rumors that the STL was about to issue indictments of several Hezbollah figures. This didn’t sit well with Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s “spiritual leader” and commander. He demanded that the government of Lebanon take up the issue of false witnesses, stop funding and cooperating with the STL, and place the blame for the Hariri assassination where he says it truly belongs; on Israel.
Endorsing Hezbollah’s position for the first time in public, Ahmadinejad said accusations being fabricated aimed to instigate strife among the Lebanese as to empower Israel, a reference to reports that the STL’s indictment is set to implicate Hezbollah members in the murder.
The STL has been the focus of controversies between March 14 parties and Hezbollah since the latter condemned the tribunal as an Israeli project aimed against the resistance in Lebanon.
“In Lebanon, a friend and a patriotic man was assassinated. They are trying to sow strife and conflict … by manipulating the media to accuse our friends and fulfill their aims in the region,” Ahmadinejad said.
By injecting himself into a crisis that could lead to street violence if the indictments of Hezbollah figures becomes reality, Ahmadinejad has demonstrated that he is perfectly willing to intervene in the internal affairs of another country to protect his proteges in Hezbollah. Some might call that the definition of a client state and they wouldn’t be far off.
While the Iranian president was being greeted with wild cheers and songs in southern Lebanon, the March 14th coalition looks upon Ahmadinejad’s visit with alarm – as well they should. Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel raised the prospect of a Hezbollah coup. According to Narhanet:
Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel noted Thursday that the “Lebanese system is at risk and we should resist all that may destabilize it.”
“We should confront the plan to topple the system and components of the state with legitimacy through parliament and Cabinet,” he said.
“Experience has demonstrated that insistence on holding on to institutions and legitimacy is a resistance factor as well,” he added.
Would Hezbollah risk alienating most of the population by carrying out an armed insurrection? Only if it believed that the coming indictments by the STL would fatally weaken it with the public. That Hezbollah is worried about this is evident in its threats to ramp up street protests and confront the Sunnis in Lebanon who no doubt would seek “justice” for their beloved Hariri. Quite simply, Hezbollah cannot afford for the STL to succeed in bringing to trial any Hezbollah figure and thus, will do everything in its power to prevent that eventuality — including brushing aside the current government and installing a puppet regime loyal to Nasrallah and Iran.
Of course, no visit to a nation that borders Israel by Ahamdinejad would be complete without his usual eliminationist rhetoric:
The whole world knows that the Zionists are going to disappear…The occupying Zionists today have no choice but to accept reality and go back to their countries of origin.
By emboldening Israel’s deadly enemy, Ahmadinejad has probably made war that much more likely. And Hezbollah, confident in its unrivaled domestic position, can count on broad support by the government if it initiates hostilities against the Jewish State. This is a recipe for conflict. And it will probably occur at a time and place of Ahmadinejad’s choosing.
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