Next week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected – in front of photographers – to throw stones at the Israeli border in a scene that is intended to be utilized for political propaganda. Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon will be significant, and it is brave of the Iranian president to visit the southern-most point of the country, Bint Jbeil, where he will be standing in the cross-hairs of Israeli rifles; so this is an adventure that is not necessarily safe.
I do not expect the Israelis to dare target the Iranian president or any other leader the Lebanese authorities may receive regardless of their hostility [towards Israel]…for this is one of the complex rules in the relations between enemies. Although the Israelis will be the last party to dare to target Ahmadinejad, his visit will not be a stroll in the park, for the enemies of Iran, and particularly Ahmadinejad’s own enemies, are numerous, making this the most dangerous [political] visit that Lebanon could sponsor. This is due to the presence of the Al Qaeda organization, the radical Sunni groups in Lebanon, armed Iranian opposition groups like “the People’s Mujahedin of Iran” and [Iranian] forces who are competing for power [with the government] in Iran, international intelligence agencies who think that getting rid of Ahmadinejad will change the regional situation, as well as other forces that are looking to change the situation.
It is expected that Hezbollah, rather than the Lebanese army or security forces, will protect the Iranian president during his first official visit to Lebanon. Iran spent hundreds of millions of dollars arming Hezbollah and training its cadres, so it trusts the Hezbollah movement’s abilities. It is no coincidence that Hezbollah chose Bint Jbeil for the Iranian president to visit, for this is a town that is controlled by Hezbollah, and Ahmadinejad is safer in this Lebanese town than he is in any city in his own country, where he has survived more than one assassination attempt.
In fact, it is not the Iranian president who will be in danger but rather the people of Lebanon who will pay the price in the escalations that are bound to take place following this visit. The difference between this visit and other state visits, such as that of the Saudi King or the Emir of Qatar [to Lebanon] is clear; as the latter visits have positive goals, such as political reconciliation, or helping the Lebanese people with projects and initiatives, or providing the Lebanese state with financial aid. Most of the southern Shiite villages that were destroyed during the 2006 war were reconstructed thanks to Qatari aid, and roads have been paved thanks to Kuwaiti aid, whilst Saudi Arabia supported the Lebanese lira with approximately 1 billion US dollars to ensure that the Lebanese currency did not collapse. As for the Iranian funding, most of this – if not all – was spent on the Hezbollah militia, doubling its fighting capabilities. This is why the Iranian president was able to announce last week that Lebanon has become the first line of defence against Israel; this is true for Lebanon has become the Iranian frontline with regards to its conflict with Israel. This visit is the embodiment of this confrontational mentality that has seen Lebanon experiencing a state of proxy war for three decades. As for the Iranian-sponsored projects and initiatives that will help all of Lebanon, there are still no signs of these.
The latest such claim was the Iranian Minister of Petroleum’s statement that Tehran would assist Lebanon in off-shore oil exploration in the Mediterranean Sea. However we are all aware that Iran is unable to produce its oil quota after western companies refrained from doing business with it as a result of economic sanctions, so how can Tehran possibly be in a position to assist anybody else?
Iran has been successful in exploiting Lebanon for its own political objectives, and this is unlucky for the Lebanese people who only want to lead an ordinary life, rather than always being concerned for their own future and the future of their children. Everybody would prefer to use a cat’s paw to fight their enemy.