Last week, Iranian President Ahmadinejad took a two-day trip to Lebanon where he basked in the glory heaped upon him by hordes of Hezbollah supporters. Their turn-out is to be expected. Hezbollah is going to be indicted by the U.N. Special Tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and the Iranian despot’s visit is part of an overall campaign to rescue the terrorist group.
“Lebanon is an example…for the unwavering resistance to the world’s tyrants and a university for jihad,” Ahmadinejad proclaimed in Lebanon. He also made it clear that Iran’s ambitions aren’t limited to the Middle East, saying that “Our world today stands on the verge of change, a change that is starting from our region.”
Ahmadinejad’s visit is just one part of an overall strategy with Syria and Hezbollah to shield the terrorist group from prosecution. The U.N. Special Tribunal is reportedly planning on indicting three to five members of Hezbollah, followed by a second round of indictments of about 20 of the group’s officials. The evidence appears solid, as the cousin of Imad Mugniyeh is thought to have been the brains behind the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. The U.N. has identified a total of 28 phones used by those involved in the plot, all of which belonged to members of Hezbollah. Syria may also have been involved, as the first U.N. report in 2005 suggested, but the tribunal has since backed off of making such allegations.
When news of these pending indictments first broke, elements of the Lebanese Army provoked a border clash with Israeli forces. A pro-Hezbollah journalist who was suspiciously present during the clash was killed during the fighting, strongly indicating that the terrorist group planned the incident. This clash may have been a way of stirring up support for Hezbollah in order to frighten the Lebanese government into inaction against them. This move, along with Ahmadinejad’s trip, the first by an Iranian president in seven years, show that Hezbollah and its state sponsors are seriously concerned about the affect indictments from the tribunal may have.
Hezbollah has reacted to the tribunal by blaming Israel for the assassination. Hassan Nasrallah held a press conference where he showed what he claimed was intercepted surveillance footage from an Israeli drone spying on the travel routes Hariri used shortly before he was killed. He also claimed that a Lebanese spy for Israel had testified that he was ordered to conduct surveillance on the site where Hariri was killed.
The Syrian regime is supporting Hezbollah by condemning the tribunal. The regime also put out arrest warrants on 33 Lebanese officials for allegedly lying to the tribunal. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards has paid about $1 million to an author to publish a book alleging Israeli responsibility for the murder and that a U.S. missile was used to accomplish it. This is a clear attempt to discredit the tribunal as being manipulated by the Israelis to try to minimize the political blowback for Hezbollah in Lebanon and dissuade the Lebanese government from appearing to act on behalf of Israel.
The trip by Ahmadinejad is a show of strength meant to intimidate the Lebanese government, who Hezbollah is demanding stop all cooperation with the tribunal. Lebanon pays for 49 percent of its expenses and provides four of the 11 judges, so its withdrawal would be very damaging to the tribunal. There is concern that Hezbollah will go so far as to overthrow the current government if its demands are not met or at least collapse the unity government. An Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that Ahmadinejad’s trip “will not only embolden Hezbollah, this will give them, I think, the confidence they need before they actually take over Lebanon.”
A leader of a Lebanese-American organization who wished to remain anonymous told FrontPage that “Hezbollah does not need to stage a coup; it already took control of the country when it got the government to endorse it as a ‘resistance’ force.”
It is very likely that the Lebanese government will buckle under this pressure. The major leaders who once fought against Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have defected to the other side. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has renounced his antagonism towards Syria and began taking Hezbollah’s side after his supporters lost clashes with the group in 2008. Maronite Christian leader Michel Aoun has formed a political alliance with Hezbollah. Even Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of Rafiq Hariri, has embraced the Syrian regime and reportedly told Bashar Assad that if Hezbollah is accused of killing his father, he will say an “external element” infiltrated them to carry it out. In other words, blame it on Israel.
Unfortunately, the Lebanese leader in the U.S. told FrontPage that there “is not much the U.S. and its allies can do to rescue Lebanon.”
“Only the Lebanese people can save Lebanon. We witnessed history in March of 2005 when Lebanese Christians, Muslims and Druze came together to get Syria out. We know they can do it. The question is, do they want to do it again and what are they waiting for?” he said.
On the one hand, Ahmadinejad’s trip shows the world and especially the Lebanese government the power of Hezbollah. On the other hand, it shows that the terrorist group and its state sponsors are afraid of the indictments. They could provoke tougher international sanctions on Hezbollah and a loss of support for killing the popular Prime Minister. When the news about the indictments broke, the Lebanese-Israeli border clash happened. If there was a violent provocation over the news of the indictments, then the world should be worried about what will happen when the indictments are actually issued.
Leave a Reply