Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to provoke, not just in Lebanon, but throughout the middle east. Now, Prime Minister al-Maliki is consulting with Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khameini in Tehran, while his political adversary and winner of the most seats in the parliamentary elections six months ago, Ayad Allawi complains that Iran is trying to destabilize the country and to manipulate the political process in Iraq. To add to this, King Abdullah of Jordan declined to endorse al-Maliki for prime minister, one suspects, because of his relationship with Iran.
Ahmadinejad just finished a very provocative state visit to Lebanon, which, according to the Tehran Times, put Iran’s enemies in confusion. Tehran Times also reports that Ahmadinejad was meeting with senior Lebanese officials by whom he was warmly received. Of course, the western press reports that he met principally with the senior leaders of Hezbollah.
While he was in southern Lebanon playing provocateur, Ahmadinejad declared that the “world must know the Zionists are to be gone” and the “people of Bint Jbeil have made the Zionists taste the bitter taste of defeat.” Then, in his most absurd statement of his state visit, he remarked that “Zionists have no choice but to submit to the will of the people and to return to their first homes.” One wonders if he has any concept of how many Israelis are sabras born in Israel.
Almost in the same breath, the Iranian president indicates that, perhaps, Iran might be willing to discuss its nuclear program with representatives of the United Nations, while continuing to deny the existence of a program to develop nuclear weapons. Then, he turns around and makes menacing statements with respect to the U.N. investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to the effect that the government should not bring charges in that murder.
Worse yet is the fact that the son of the murdered man and the current prime minister, Saad Hariri, in order to avoid a confrontation with Hezbollah, has offered to Hassan Nassrallah, the senior representative of Hezbollah, a deal in which only one person will be blamed, another Hezbollah official now dead himself, even though evidence exists against as many as 50 other members of Hezbollah.
And, the Iranian bus continues to travel the road of intimidation throughout the middle east.
The Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Saudis have all expressed concern with respect to Iran’s foreign policy ventures and its seeming propensity toward adventurism. It is clear that Shi’ite Iran seeks hegemony over the entirety of the middle east and the creation of a Shi’ite caliphate.
It is also clear that the vast majority of Muslims, who are Sunni, are not only opposed to that possibility, they are concerned and somewhat intimidated. They look to the U.S. and to the U.N. to hold back that Iranian aggression, even while they doubt that either will be effective containing it.
This presents a problem for the Obama administration, because it doesn’t appear to recognize all of the fronts on which the Iranians are operating. The president and the secretary of state need to begin to address the issue of Iran in contexts beyond only those of the nuclear program, or they may end up too far behind the curve to respond substantively, in the event that Iran decides to escalate its adventurism from just rhetoric into full scale military actions.