Several points can be drawn from a statement attributed to the Iranian Supreme Leader, saying that the Hariri Tribunal is false, and a sham. The first of these points is that the statement reaffirms, in a manner which leaves no room for doubt, that Hezbollah is an Iranian tool, which Tehran will not readily compromise on. Lebanon today is Iran’s most significant playing card, and bargaining chip. This is the case whether dealing with Israel or Europe, by virtue of the country’s location, or in negotiating on the nuclear issue, or as an Iranian military front against Israel, in the event of a military strike on Tehran, launched from Washington or Tel Aviv. Of course this is a reply to people who say: “leave Lebanon alone”.
The next point that can be deduced from the statement is that Khamenei’s comments confirm that he is the sole authority in Tehran, rather than the President, or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This was also shown in comments made by Iran’s new Foreign Minister, indicating that he was unable to accomplish what he had promised a few days ago, after the dismissal of [Manouchehr] Mottaki.
Yet the following point is the crux of the matter: The Supreme Leader’s statement came days after an appeal from Hezbollah, to ‘sisterly’ and ‘friendly’ countries, to intervene and prevent the issuance of indictments from the Hariri Tribunal. [In response] the Syrian President had said that this [tribunal] was not a Saudi-Syrian initiative, but a Lebanese solution. In fact, after Hezbollah appealed to its ‘sisterly’ and ‘friendly’ countries, no one lifted a finger. Thus the Iranian Supreme Leader intervened to say: “The deadline, set by Tehran, for Syria to provide a solution, has passed”. Therefore the sister, in other words Iran, has come to the rescue of Hezbollah. However, the question is, does this actually help Hezbollah?
I doubt it, but the Supreme Leader’s statement may complicate matters further. Hezbollah had threatened to cut off the hands of the Lebanese [if they attempt to arrest its members], and the party was met with the following response: Well…what will you do? Occupy Beirut…declare Lebanon to be a Shiite state… go ahead, you will only reap bitterness! In reality, Hezbollah is concerned about its sectarian appearance these days. Yet following the Iranian Supreme Leader’s remarks, any act undertaken by the party will be seen to be directly calculated from Tehran. It will be seen as Iranian support for a Shiite party, at the expense of the rest of the Lebanese components. This in itself is a dilemma for Hezbollah and Iran, when facing the Arab world, and facing the Lebanese in general.
As we noted above, the Supreme Leader’s statement declared that Iran is Hezbollah’s protector, while also announcing the end of the deadline it had given to Syria. Therefore, the question now is: What will Damascus do? Will they react aggressively to the Iranian statements, or remain neutral and wait on the riverbank, watching the bodies of their enemies pass by in front of them, as they say. Or will the Syrians become anxious, especially as they are now unable to do much about the tribunal?
Of course, the main beneficiary today of all that is happening, and the Iranian Supreme Leader’s statements, is not Hezbollah, as some would believe. Rather the beneficiary is Lebanon, where [Hezbollah’s] disguise has been removed, and the game has been revealed. Although Lebanon has now entered an intensified phase of crisis, as the saying goes: “a crisis needs to get worse before it gets better”.