ahmadinejad parade 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Lebanon, not Israel, will be the party to suffer most from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled visit next week to southern Lebanon, diplomatic officials said in Jerusalem on Monday.
“Lebanon is the primary victim, and if it wants to stop slipping into the jaws of the Iranian crocodile, it – and the moderate Arab world – should raise a strong voice and say this provocateur is not welcome,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said.
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Ahmadinejad is expected to visit battlegrounds of the Second Lebanon War in southern Lebanon, including Bint Jbail and Maroun a-Ras next Wednesday and Thursday, and reportedly wants to go to the border with Israel and throw rocks at IDF soldiers.
“Israel will not be harmed by the visit,” one Israeli diplomatic official said. “We are not afraid of his visit; he will be just another terrorist in southern Lebanon. It is Lebanon that needs to be concerned, allowing the Iranian Trojan horse into the country. It is their sovereignty that is being chipped away.”
The official added that “there have been greater intellectuals than Ahmadinejad who have thrown rocks at the border, and didn’t do much damage,” a reference to Edward Said, the late Columbia University professor who demonstratively threw rocks at Israeli soldiers from the border in 2000.
Israeli officials said it was unlikely efforts by the US and France to convince the central government in Beirut that the move was counterproductive to regional stability would bear any fruit, and that the Lebanese government – fearful at being seen as cooperating with Israel or the US – was too weak to try and stop the visit.
Ahmadinejad was apparently invited by Hizbullah and Amal.
While Israeli officials said Egypt and Saudi Arabia, vying with Iran for influence in Lebanon, were also concerned about the message the visit would send, the matter has not been placed on the agenda for the Arab League meeting in Libya this weekend, where the settlement construction moratorium is to be discussed.
Like the Lebanese government, the official said, the “moderate Arab states who should be taking the lead on this, and don’t want to see Iranian control of Lebanon, are also afraid.”
According to the official, the visit is highly symbolic and will send a message that Lebanon has a new “master.”
The official said the visit served the interests of Hizbullah, Iran’s
proxy in Lebanon, and also of Syria, Iran’s ally that sees Iranian
inroads in Lebanon as a way to reassert its own control in the country.
“This is a provocative move aimed at weakening the Lebanese government,
and strengthening both Hizbullah and Syria inside the country,” the
Israel official said.
Some Lebanese moderates have distanced themselves from the visit. For
instance, Fares Souaid, coordinator of the March 14 alliance, was quoted
as criticizing the visit last week, saying “Ahmadinejad, through this
visit, is saying that Beirut is under Iranian influence and that Lebanon
is an Iranian base on the Mediterranean.”
Unfortunately, according to sources in Jerusalem, these forces are much too weak to stop the visit.