Mahmoud Ahmadinejad liker det spektakulære, liker oppmerksomhet. Han oppsøker det mest kontroversielle, enten det er i New York eller Libanon. Hvordan skal verden tolke signalene: er det bare teater, eller mener han alvor?
En ting er sikkert: Ahmadinejad elsker å provosere. Han velger New York som åsted for å si at den amerikanske regjering sto bak 9/11.
Han drar til Sør-Libanon, to kilometer fra grensen og står der og sier:
«The world should know the Zionists are mortal,» he said. «Today the Lebanese nation is alive and is a role model for the regional nations,»
Det er en direkte trussel fra en mann som tidligere har sagt at Israel bør slettes fra kartet.
Det demonstrerer at Ahmadinejad ikke tar hensyn, han spiller folkeføreren som tør. Men slik oppførsel skremmer arabiske ledere. Teater i politikken er å ta en risiko. Spillet kan løpe løpsk.
Ahmadinejads besøk skremte israelerne, men det skremte også araberlandene. Sjansen for at det kommer et angrep på Irans atomanlegg rykket nærmere. Hvem tør å ha en slik mann gående løs, med atomvåpen?
Iran har allerede en ladd pistol pekende mot Israels hode i form av Hizbollah. Hizbollahs makt er Irans verk, og Hizbollah dominerer nå Libanon.
During the past three decades, Iran has invested billions of dollars in turning the Shia Muslim Hizbollah militia into one of the dominant forces in modern Lebanese politics. When I covered the Lebanese civil war for this newspaper in the mid-1980s, Hizbollah – or The Party of God – was a fringe group in the shadow of the more mainstream Amal movement, which represented Shia interests in the Lebanese parliament.
At that time, Hizbollah’s main claim to fame was its role in blowing up the American embassy and the US and French military barracks with suicide lorry bombs, which, at the time, was a novel terrorist technique that killed hundreds of people. The group also masterminded the hostage crisis that caused Terry Waite, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan to spend years chained to radiators in dank cells in the Bekaa Valley.
So the fact that Hizbollah is now Lebanon’s main political party, and a leading member of the coalition government, shows how far Iran’s pet militia has come during the past 25 years. More to the point, its leadership also shares Iran’s nihilistic attitude towards the feisty little Jewish state that is located on the other side of Lebanon’s southern border. Armed and equipped by Iran, Hizbollah has already provoked one war with Israel, in the summer of 2006. And, given the thousands of missiles and rockets that Tehran continues to smuggle to Hizbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, the militia clearly believes there is another conflict in the offing.
Hizbollah bak Hariri-attentatet?
Men en annen viktig grunn til besøket kan være mer håndfast.
In a few weeks’ time, the United Nations special tribunal that has spent the past five years investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri is due to publish its findings. Mr Hariri, a self-made Sunni Muslim billionaire who was financing Lebanon’s post-civil war reconstruction, was killed by a car bomb as he drove through Beirut in 2005.
Lebanese security officials immediately suspected Hizbollah because Mr Hariri was demanding that the party disband its militia and arrange for its thousands of fighters to join up with Lebanon’s conventional armed forces. The bombing also bore all the hallmarks of Imad Mugniyeh, who masterminded the 1980s Beirut lorry bombings and who was himself killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.
Details of the UN tribunal’s findings leaked to the Beirut press suggest that, apart from Mugniyeh, the investigators have uncovered evidence that links as many as 50 senior Hizbollah officials to the assassination. This includes intercepts of mobile phone calls made between Hizbollah officials in the days leading up to Mr Hariri’s murder.
In an attempt to distance the organisation from the report’s conclusions, Shiekh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader who lives in permanent hiding for fear of assassination by Israel, issued a video statement in the summer claiming that those involved with Hariri’s assassination were «undisciplined members which the group has no relations with».
Diplomatic sources in Beirut tell me that, to avoid a confrontation between Hizbollah and the Lebanese government, Saad Hariri, the current prime minister and son of the murdered politician, has offered Nasrallah a deal whereby the assassination is blamed entirely on Mugniyeh, who is no longer in a position to face criminal prosecution. But Nasrallah, who regards Mugniyeh as a «martyr» to Hizbollah’s cause, has refused, and is trying to pressure Mr Hariri to reject the findings of the UN investigation.
This is a hard ask for a man who saw his father blown to pieces by a car bomb. It is also a totally unacceptable proposition for the millions of Christian and Sunni Muslim Lebanese who oppose Hizbollah’s attempts to impose its uncompromising Islamic ideology on their lives.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon sends a menacing message
Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants the charges dropped against Hizbollah – or else.