A divided Lebanon waits for Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making his first visit to Lebanon tomorrow. Hezbollah awaits with joy, its political opponents complain of Iranian meddling, and Israel is eying its northern border.
(Page 2 of 3)
Hezbollah follows Iran’s religious system and is the recipient of large quantities of financial and military aid from the Islamic Republic.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Ahmadinejad’s visit will be a welcome morale booster for Hezbollah at a time of rising tensions in Lebanon over an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who died in a truck bombing in February 2005.
Although Syria was widely blamed for Mr. Hariri’s death, there is increasing speculation that the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is handling the investigation and any subsequent legal proceedings, has uncovered evidence implicating Hezbollah in the assassination.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement, insisting that Israel killed Hariri. The tribunal is thought to be preparing to issue its first indictments against individual members of Hezbollah before the end of the year.
With the spotlight on Hezbollah, Syria has been given some breathing space, allowing it to patch up relations with Arab states like Saudi Arabia and regain some of the influence in Lebanon it lost in the wake of Hariri’s death. The United States also has stepped up its diplomatic engagement with Syria, hoping to revive peace talks with Israel and to gradually wean Damascus from Tehran’s tight embrace.
Saudi Arabia has played a role in the same process by encouraging Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister and son of the slain Rafik, to reconcile with the Syrian leadership. Saad Hariri has met several times in recent months with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom he once blamed for ordering his father’s murder. Last month, he publicly exonerated Syria in a newspaper interview, saying his past accusations were “political."
Some analysts believe Syria is maneuvering for advantage by playing off its strategic alliance with Iran against Saudi and US efforts to win Mr. Assad to their side.