Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Lebanon on October 13 and 14 and will spend the second day of his visit touring southern Lebanese towns like Maroun a-Ras and Bint Jbail – the sites of intense clashes between Hizbullah and IDF forces during the Second Lebanon War – according to various media reports.
The Iranian leader even plans to “throw a rock at Israel” according to a report by the London-based Al- Quds al-Arabi.
Beyond its obvious propaganda aims, there is no reason for the visit to raise security tensions in the area, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate Shlomo Gazit told The Jerusalem Post
Gazit, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said the visit, “if it happens, can be explosive, or it can lack any significance if only one of the two sides wishes it to become explosive.”
According to Gazit, “if Israel does not wish for an escalation, then it ensures that all of our forces simply ignore the visitor and the rocks completely.”
He added, “I hope that reason will continue to prevail on the Lebanese border.”
Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter- Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said the visit was primarily aimed at showing that Iran “has special currency in Lebanon,” adding that Hizbullah’s growing power formed the background to the visit.
“It could also be a message to Syria, that Iran is trying harder [to confront Israel] than Syria,” Karmon added.
“This is a provocation against Israel,” Karmon stressed. ‘Even if he doesn’t throw a rock, he will throw incendiary words, and he will talk about Israel’s ‘approaching end.’” “Perhaps the Lebanese government can convince the Iranians, with Syrian support, not to make this gesture, not because of external pressure, but because of internal sensitivity,” Karmon added.
The analyst said it was possible that Christian or Sunni armed groups in Lebanon, or al-Qaida, could threaten Ahmadinejad in an effort to stop his visit, but added, “Hizbullah’s security is strong enough to ensure that Ahmadinejad can carry out the visit.”
Meanwhile, Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in
Beirut, told AFP that he expected growing tension between Hizbullah and
Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri around the UN tribunal set up to
investigate the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri to come to a
head after Ahmadinejad’s visit.
Tensions are at a peak over reports that the tribunal will find senior Hizbullah members responsible for the 2005 assassination.
“I think that ahead of Ahmadinejad’s visit, the situation will remain
relatively calm because Hizbullah does not want to sabotage the visit,”
Salem told the AFP.
“The escalation will likely start after the visit,” he said. “The war of
words will continue and then be replaced by a paralysis of the
government and institutions.”