By Tariq Alhomayed
October 16, 2010
Ahmadinejad’s first visit to Lebanon has adjourned, and we saw how Hezbollah’s guest did not throw any stones at Israel, and did not even visit Fatima Gate [former border crossing between Lebanon and Israel]. In fact, other than Ahmadinejad’s defense of Hezbollah in the face of the Hariri tribunal, he did not say anything new. Ahmadinejad said that “a friend and a patriot was viciously assassinated” and “we see how news is fabricated to direct accusations at the remaining friends in an effort to reach worthless aims by sowing seeds of division.” What is interesting is that Ahmadinejad referred to the martyr [Rafik] Hariri as “a friend” but what friendship is he talking about; especially as Hariri was assassinated 5 years ago, and Ahmadinejad himself has only been in office for approximately this period of time?
Therefore, an initial reading [of this visit] is that Ahmadinejad rushed to Lebanon in response to the historic joint-visit undertaken by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Lebanon, travelling on the same airplane. This means that the Iranians, who have clearly become fed up with the Syrian disposition – although this is an article for another time – decided to publicly visit the country this time, in order to rescue Nasrallah from the findings of the Hariri tribunal. This is what Ahmadinejad’s speech in the southern suburbs of Beirut revealed, and here it is important that we recall the surprise on Nasrallah’s face on the day that he made his famous speech saying “they have acquitted Syria” in order to understand Iran’s concern for Hezbollah today.
Of course, Hezbollah responded even more enthusiastically to Ahmadinejad by organizing a popular reception [in Lebanon] the likes of which he cannot find in Iran, in order for Hezbollah to affirm that Iran enjoys long-standing popularity in Lebanon. A good sign of this was the picture that was hung up in the Lebanese village of Qana which was made up of images of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, Nabih Berri, Musa al-Sadr, and Mostafa Chamran. In fact, the latter [Chamran] is a story in himself; he was the first Iranian Defense Minister during the Khomeini era, he also helped Musa al-Sadr to form the Amal movement, and was later killed at the hands of the Iraqi forces during the Iran – Iraq war. This picture [in the village of Qana] was underscored with the words “From Lebanon to Iran…One Destiny.”
Therefore Ahmadinejad’s visit may have canceled out Nabih Berri’s famous quote in which he said that he always bets on the “Syrian – Saudi equation” for it seems that we are facing a Syrian – Saudi – Iranian equation today. This can be seen in Nasrallah meeting with his Iranian sponsor, which represents internal protection from the dangers of the Hariri tribunal. This is something that reduces the Syrian role in Lebanon, of course, and that is why we heard Nasrallah praising Iran and its divine role and its Wali al-Faqih [Guardian of the Jurists].
If this analysis is correct – and this is something that will be made clear in the coming days – this means that the Lebanese peace table is standing on three legs and will not remain upright for long, especially as the sectarian division in Lebanon has intensified. All of which means that the situation in Lebanon has been further complicated, and that Iran has decided to operate in Lebanon openly rather than from behind a smokescreen, and it is sufficient to note that Nasrallah’s meeting with Ahmadinejad took place in the Iranian embassy, and that Nasrallah came out to meet Ahmadinejad like any other Iranian subject in Lebanon.
Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, the youngest person to be appointed that position.