By Iranian and Hizbullah accounts, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon next week will be a splendid affair. The man who stole his office and then killed his countrymen to protect his crime will be greeted as a conquering hero. Billboards bidding him welcome and Iranian flags will line the roads from the Beirut airport down to the border with Israel.
Ahmadinejad's visit to southern Lebanon will be the highlight of his two-day visit. In preparation for his arrival, in the border town of Maroun A-Ras, Hizbullah has built a replica of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem festooned with an Iranian flag. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to stand outside the structure and throw stones at IDF forces patrolling what he has reportedly referred to as "Iran's border with Israel."
Many Israelis are rattled by Ahmadinejad's trip to our neck of the woods. It is unsettling that the man who personifies the Islamist goal of eradicating the Jewish people will be literally standing at our doorstep, provoking us.
Before we lose our composure it is far from clear that Israel is Ahmadinejad's primary audience. By throwing stones at Israel Ahmadinejad will not be telling us anything we don't already know about his sentiments towards the Jews and our state. He won't be signaling anything we don't already know about his proxy force Hizbullah's capacity to make war on us. So what new message is Ahmadinejad bringing with him? Who is he communicating with?
AHMADINEJAD'S VISIT must be seen within the regional context that it is taking place. Specifically, it must be seen against the backdrop of Lebanese politics. It must also be seen in the context of waning US power and influence in the region. Finally it should be evaluated in terms of Iranian domestic affairs and Ahmadinejad's ongoing struggle with his people who reject his leadership. While Iran's ill-intentions towards Israel remain static, all of the other developments in the region are dynamic.
One aspect of Ahmadinejad's visit is abundantly clear. It is the diplomatic equivalent of a victory lap. Iran's ruler is using his trip as an opportunity to flaunt his position as the colonial overlord of Lebanon.
That means that Iran now believes it is in its interest to expose that Lebanon today is nothing more than an Iranian colony. Lebanon's independence is a mirage that Iran no longer believes it is in its interest to maintain.
Moreover, not only does Ahmadinejad's triumphalist visit show that Lebanon has lost its independence and serves as an Iranian vassal state. It exposes as a myth the popular Western tale that Hizbullah is an independent Lebanese political and military force.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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