Alastair Crooke on Ahmedinejad in Lebanon
"Firstly, let us put to one side the nonsense: The President of Iran’s visit was not about embedding Lebanon as a part of the Iranian state, nor was it about paving the way for any Hizbullah ‘take-over’ of Lebanon; and nor can the visit be described as a ‘provocation’. It was of course self-evidently intended to express defiance towards Israeli military hegemony and to assert a stand of counter-deterrence to any Israeli military threat, but that it is very different from an ‘act of provocation’ deliberately intended to draw an Israeli response. All these claims for the purpose of the visit are just a part of the psychological warfare mounted against Iran, and can be ignored.
The visit was, in fact, a State visit. The Iranian President was formally invited by the Maronite Christian President of Lebanon some while ago. Iran is a prominent regional state, just as Turkey is – whose Prime Minister happens to be visiting Beirut today.
Iran’s popularity on the streets should not surprise anyone. It is real, and it is heartfelt – and extends beyond the Shi’i of the south of Beirut. Having been present here in Beirut throughout the war of 2006, I experienced the almost universal shock at how leaders and so-called ‘friends of Lebanon’ such as Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice tried to fend-off and delay a ceasefire – in order to allow Israel more time to ‘finish the job’, i.e. to destroy more bridges, more infrastructure and impose civilian casualties – as our ‘price’ to be paid for Hizbullah’s seizure of Israeli soldiers. Feelings here are still raw on this point, and all sectors of opinion know that the only real support for Lebanon in those dark hours came from Syria and Iran. Unsurprisingly, there was a direct element of gratitude in expression to Iran in recent days both for the support then, and its subsequent economic assistance to repair the damage."
Glad someone is taking the time to debunk the "who invited him anyway" line coming out in Washington. But I'll have to beg to differ about Crooke's conclusion that Ahmedinejad articulates a global revolt against market capitalism or alienated elites — not only are Iran's elites at times as alienated from ordinary people as those anywhere else, but in that country you see two rival elite clusters (broadly identified around the Rafsanjani crowd and the Republican Guards) use corruption, state control and even violence to gain control.