Editorial: Ahmadinejad’s victory tour

The conquest of Lebanon, cemented by Ahmadinejad’s victory tour, is a stepping stone toward Iran’s declared goal of hegemony throughout the Islamic sphere and beyond.

Ahmadinejad Lebanon honor guard 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ahmadinejad Lebanon honor guard 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon is no courtesy call. The Iranian president’s provocation sends manifold, highly noteworthy messages to multiple regional and international recipients. This isn’t a repeat of the shameful rhetoric exhibition that Teheran’s autocrat stages annually at the UN General Assembly. This trip is packed with immediate practical significance.
Foremost is the contempt toward Israel. The very fact that Ahmadinejad presents himself at Israel’s doorstep speaks volumes. He is emphatically thumbing his nose at Israel, while simultaneously sending a warning against any Israeli preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Ahmadinejad is in Lebanon reminding Israel that he has a formidable proxy – Hizbullah – primed for attack from bases directly adjacent to “the Zionist entity,” and that he can deploy this proxy at will. Iran, via Syria, has armed Hizbullah to the teeth following the Second Lebanon War (in unabashed contravention of Security Council Resolution 1701) and the terrorist organization now brandishes at least 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel.
Ahmadinejad is also exclaiming, for all democracies to hear, that his is the regime that effectively calls the shots in Lebanon, in collusion with his Syrian allies.
The message unequivocally underscored for the Lebanese is that their sovereignty is now reduced to a mere façade, that Beirut is Teheran’s and Damascus’s abject vassal, that Ahmadinejad has legions – again Hizbullah – inside Lebanon, and that they could take it over if given segments of the fragmented Lebanese jigsaw fail to meekly acquiesce. In short, there will be hell to pay throughout Lebanon if it doesn’t toe Ahmadinejad’s line.
Ahmadinejad’s visit, it is grimly safe to conclude, has illustrated that Lebanon’s anyhow fast-waning independence has been decisively quashed. It is, quite simply, no longer a player in its own right in this part of the world.
THE LEBANESE humiliation is complete. As the special international tribunal probing former prime minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination is poised to indict Hizbullah members for partaking in the plot, current premier Saad Hariri (the assassination victim’s son) is being threatened unless he can somehow forestall the tribunal. The younger Hariri must collaborate with his father’s murderers – and his country’s subjugators. Otherwise he can expect the same bitter fate.
Hizbullah parliamentarian Nawwaf al-Moussawi, for one, has minced no words on the issue. Any Lebanese who accepts the tribunal’s indictments will be eliminated as a “traitor” in cahoots with Israel and the US. A gun is pointed at Hariri’s head: He either does as ordered, or he meets his father’s bloody end. Ahmadinejad’s visit cements Hariri’s pitiful status.
Damascus added insult to injury last week when it issued 33 arrest warrants against some of Hariri’s closest allies in his erstwhile anti-Syrian front. Hariri’s impotence was exposed for the world to see.
His own faint-heartedness, irresolution and lack of direction have factored into Hariri’s misfortune almost as much as the ruthlessness of the powerful extortionists to whom he has surrendered. His dishonorable submission to Hizbullah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah made it inevitable that he would suck up to Syria’s Bashar Assad and now welcome Ahmadinejad as well.
If anyone deserves our sympathy as Ahmadinejad’s survey of his expanding kingdom plays out, it is the many ordinary Lebanese – not necessarily only Christians – who are sick at heart as they witness the Iranian-Syrian stranglehold tightening on their country. At another sensitive juncture in Lebanon’s perennially troubled history, it is saddled with a craven leader and left vulnerable to the manipulative dominance of ruthless regimes in Damascus and Teheran.
This is a particularly tragic aspect of Lebanon’s demise. Hariri held extraordinary promise when he took over the reins of government in Beirut. His Western orientation, seemingly determined anti-Syrian stance and apparently principled pro-democracy rhetoric kindled the hope of real change. But rather than Lebanon extricating itself from the Axis of Evil – as much of its own citizenry fervently wishes it would – it has become a humble component of the Iranian machine.
Rather than merely observing this sovereign entity’s collapse across the border, the shameful display to the north marks an opportunity for Israel to remind the international community that Ahmadinejad’s Iran doesn’t “only” menace us Zionists.
The conquest of Lebanon, cemented by Ahmadinejad’s victory tour, is a stepping stone toward Iran’s declared goal of hegemony throughout the Islamic sphere and beyond. The consequences for the free world would be dire. For Lebanon, they already are.