A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 14, 2010

As Ahmadinejad Goes Home, Who Benefits?

Ahmadinejad did Beirut yesterday, and Qana and Bint Jbeil and then Beirut again today, and now is heading home.

A couple of other perspectives: Qifa Nabki, always worth reading, suggests that whle this has beren portrayed as a boost for Hizbullah, it may be that Ahmadinejad owes more to Hasan Nasrullah than the other way around.

And a colleague who asks for anonymity writes:
In the final instance Ahmadinejad's trip to Lebanon is more about weakness than strength. Both his own and Hizbullah's.His visit is a warning to domestic opponents not to press Hizbullah. Presumably on the STL issue, which has the potential to do great damage to its reputation and standing. It also serves to rally supporters by demonstrating that the party has a powerful external friend who can help Hizbullah weather any storm. Even one so severe as the STL will cause.
If Hizbullah were strong enough or confident enough in its position, it wouldn't need the visit.

The fact that this visit is likely to damage Hizbullah allies - the FPM or Tashnaq for example, supports this view. Their constituencies may well be unsettled by the fear of greater Iranian influence in the country. And it may be harder to mobilize their existing partisans for elections and to attract new voters to their banners. The parties of the so-called majority will no doubt mine many useful campaign images from the visit.
Hizbullah knows that. But it is sacrificing its allies' strategic position for its own.

As to Ahmadinejad, he is playing the "foreign card" to buttress his support back home, especially among the hard liners.
Wrapping himself in the mantle of resistance by a visit to the capital of the resistance, Bint Jbeil. Perhaps followed by a symbolic rami al jamaraat at the border.
As well, his visit breaks the sanctions blockade. Scenes of welcoming crowds prove that the West has failed. Iran is not isolated. Showered by foreign crowds with roses and cheers, he stands for Iran.
Guide for the perplexed: The FPM is Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement; Tashnaq is an Armenian nationalist movement: both are Christian political allies of Hizbullah. Rami al-Jamaraat refers to throwing stones at the devil during the Meccan pilgrimage, and refers to talk Ahmadinejad might throw some symbolic stones at the Israeli border; I don't think he got closer than Bint Jbeil, though.

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