"Isn't This One Fine View?"
On the Road with Ahmadinejad in Lebanon
By FRANKLIN LAMB
"If President Ahmadinejad asks my opinion, I shall tell him: A stone? My dear brother, you are capable of throwing much more than a stone." Hassan Nasrallah ( AFP 10/12/10)
He came, he saw, he conquered.
As he watched the Iranian President blow kisses to cleaning workers at Beirut's airport during his departure for Iran early this morning, a Lebanese Christian historian commented "This Persian's glory at the moment is arguably greater than Caesar's following Rome's second conquest of Britain".
And the Iranian president did indeed throw much more than a stone at US-Israel projects for Lebanon, perhaps energized by the adoring public he encountered.
A grateful nation extended to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad what one Bishop claimed was the greatest outpouring of popular support on the streets, all along this country's sectarian divide, that the Republic of Lebanon has ever witnessed including the May 10, 1997 visit of Pope John Paul II.
An important reason for the outpouring of popular support was the quarter century of Iranian assistance to Lebanon for social projects, and for rebuilding much of Lebanon following the 1993, 1996 and 2006 Israeli aggressions. Massive aid that was detailed by Hezbollah's Secretary-General in a recent speech and the cost of which is estimated to be in excess of one billion dollars.
Iran's President is widely believed in the diplomatic community here to have promoted sectarian unity in Lebanon, calmed the current political atmosphere, and delivered on offers of more desperately needed economic projects via 17 bilateral agreements. A particularly appreciated offer throughout Lebanon is Iran's major pledge of an electrical complex that will deliver 7 times Lebanon's current power supply, which in 2010 still sees power cuts throughout Lebanon. The current deficiencies range from three hours to 12 hours daily power cuts everywhere in Lebanon plus total blackouts for days at a time in some areas. Iran's President is widely believed to have achieved a major advancement for Lebanese stability, sovereignty, and independence.
The throngs were cheering, waving, and shouting their admiration. Local media used descriptive words like "rock star, rapturous, massive affection," to describe his reception.
Wretched Palestinian refugees, tightly shoe horned into Lebanon's squalid UN camps, denied even the most elementary civil rights by an apathetic international community and some of the local sects, could be seen along the route. Many with eyes moistened, perhaps by Nakba memories and tears of hope for the early liberation of their sacred Palestine and the full exercise of their internationally mandated and inalienable Right of Return to their homes.