U.S.- Israeli Strategic Dialogue In Washington Calls Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program The Greatest Challenge To Middle East
IsraCast Assessment: Ahmadenijad Failed In Attempt To Draw Non- Shi'ite Lebanese Into Iran's Sphere Of Influence But Secured Hezbullah's Readiness To Retaliate Against Israel If Iran's Nuclear Weapons Sites Are attacked
Was there a connection between the Lebanese visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and the rescue operation of the trapped 33 miners in Chile? Menashe Amir, an Israeli expert on Iran, told IsraCast that Ahmadenijad had planned his trip to Lebanon to heighten tension with Israel and capture international headlines. However, Iranian officials back home in Tehran were peeved that the rescue mission upstaged Ahmadenijad! But if the Iranian leader failed to persuade the Lebanese leadership to follow Hezbullah into the Iranian web of influence, he did demonstrate a strong show of support for Hezbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. IDF Gen.(res.) Yaacov Amidror believes Tehran will keep tight rein on Hezbullah for retaliation against Israel if Iran's nuclear sites are attacked.
Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri has told Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad 'Thanks, thanks but no thanks!' In Beirut, the Iranian leader had offered Lebanon to join a military axis with Tehran and Damascus, but Hariri and his Sunni, Christian and Druze colleagues were not such fools as to commit political suicide by joining such a radical axis to be controlled by Shi'ite Iran. Although the Lebanese government joined Hezbollah in rolling out the red carpet for Ahmadenijad, the Iranian leader left Lebanon amid reports of a Sunni assassination plot.
Menashe Amir, an Israeli expert on Iran, told IsraCast that Ahamdenijad's message to the Lebanese was: 'Iran is strong and can provide you with financial and military aid, we should unite'. This of course came amid the backdrop of Iran's massive support for its Hezbollah proxy which runs a 'state within a state' in southern Lebanon. Israel's intelligence estimate is that Iran, via Syria, has rearmed Hezbollah with 45,000 rockets and missiles since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. (This in flagrant violation of UN Resolution 1701.) According to Amir, Ahmadenijad had planned his Lebanese visit to be an international media event that included the taunting of Israel. However as it turned out, most of the TV cameras were covering the dramatic rescue of the 33 trapped miners in Chile. In fact, some official Iranian websites actually accused Israel of persuading Chile's government to conduct the rescue operation precisely during their President's official visit to Lebanon!
On the other hand, Ahmadenijad wanted to show strong support for Hezbollah which an international inquiry has reportedly found responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb.14th, 2005. The assassins detonated a ton of TNT when his motorcade drove by in a Beirut street. In fact, there was no way Hezbollah would have assassinated Hariri Sn. without Iran's sanction.
It is one of the bizarre facts of Middle East foreign relations that in welcoming Ahmadenijad, the current Lebanese leader Sa'ad Hariri bestowed traditional hugs and kisses on the Iranian leader, who undoubtedly played a role in his own father's horrendous murder. This of course can also be said about Sa'ad Hariri's professional ties with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who orchestrated the bomb blast. IDF Maj.-Gen.(res.) Yaacov Amidror, an intelligence expert, believes that Ahmadenijad wanted to show the world that Hezbollah did not stand alone and the international tribunal should consider Iran's reaction before it pointed the finger at Hezbollah. Amidror also contended that all the concern that the Iranian leader's visit might trigger a war with Israel or a civil war inside Lebanon itself was a total misreading of the situation. The Iranians view Hezbollah as a tool for their reaction if Iran is attacked over the nuclear weapons issue and they will not allow Hezbollah 'to waste all the Iranians have built up if there is not a real need'. Therefore, there was not the slightest danger of a conflagration during Ahmadenijad's visit.
It appears that Ahmadenijad failed, if he tried to extend Iran's influence in Lebanon beyond Hezbollah and exploiting Lebanon as an arena for the Sunni- Shi'ite confrontation in the Middle East. In fact, since the Khomeini revolution in 1979, Lebanon has been the only Arab country where Iran's radical Shi'ite ideology has taken firm root but only with Shi'ite Muslems. ( In this respect, Iran does exercise significant control over the Sunni Palestinians of Gaza, where radical Hamas, another Iranian surrogate rules with an iron fist). In fact, 90% of the Middle East is Sunni as opposed to some 10% Shi'ite, mainly in Iran. If anything, the historic rift between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims has deepened and should not be underestimated.
The leadership elites in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Jordan are on full alert to Iran's plans to dominate the region by terrorism, subversion and whatever it takes. From a religious point of view, the enmity runs very deep. One Sunni Muslim leader recently appeared on an Arab TV network declaring that he so despised Shi'ite Muslims that: ' I would even prefer to give my daughter in marriage to a Jew rather than a Shi'ite!' But if radical Hamas in Gaza has opted to accept Shi'ite Iran's support in their joint objective 'to wipe Israel off the map' it is still an open question how deep support for Iran runs among Palestinians on the West Bank.
Nevertheless, while Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arm wrestle over the settlement freeze, the real problem is the Iranian centrifuges keep spinning away. And as is their wont, the European Union after years of utterly futile nuclear negotiations with Iran, has now made another pathetic offer for more talks with Tehran. Surprise, surprise! Iranian officials have jumped at the latest European proposal to string along the international community and buy yet more time to delay any move for further sanctions against Tehran. And Although some mysterious viruses in Iranian computers may temporarily slow down the nuclear program, it will be only a matter of time before Iran acquires the bomb, unless more drastic steps are taken than the recent economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. Iran's nuclear weapons program was discussed behind closed doors at the annual U.S.- Israeli strategic talks just concluded in Washington. The two countries issued a joint statement declaring that efforts would continue to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and a nuclear capability.
Iran was said to pose the greatest challenge confronting the Middle East by refusing to comply with its international nuclear commitments as well as continuing to support terrorism. The joint statement concluded that Iran's violations were a matter of grave concern for the Middle East and the entire international community. So much for the U.S. - Israeli joint statement. But declarations aside, the Israeli assessment is that Russia and China must put their commitments to international peace and security above their economic interests, if a non-military solution is to be found to halting Iran from getting the bomb.