“Please tell me what do Americans think? I read a few days ago in preparation for my work today — I should not say work, it’s really fun — a report that ninety percent of Americans in a recent poll said they did not favor attacking Iran unless Iran attacks Israel first. This is very good news because I am sure Iran, unlike Israel’s record, will never be the first to start a war. Iran will retaliate naturally and that could mean World War III, but there will be no war involving Iran unless Iran, Syria, or Lebanon is attacked. We in the Resistance Alliance are ‘one for all and all for one’ but we really want to be friends with the American people.” And she offered the woman a small ribbon-tied, party wrapped, cellophane pouch with Iranian pistachios and candy attached to a small Iranian flag. “No thanks”, the American answered as she walked away.
The American Embassy warned Americans to avoid Ahmadinejad’s “provocative and potentially dangerous visit because the Lebanese government cannot protect US Citizens.” Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, complained to the pan-Arab Al-Hayat on October 13: “Why is the Iranian president organizing activities that might spark tension? We are taking steps to lower tension while Ahmadinejad is doing the opposite.”
Nevertheless, there were plenty of Yanks in attendance at all of Ahmadinejad’s appearances.
During his Qana visit, the Hezbollah Parliamentary delegation, friends with many Americans here, must have tipped off the Iranian President that Americans were sitting near them. The reason for this hunch is that he could not have been more gracious, making frequent eye contact, touching his forehead as a greeting and salute, and thanking them for coming. He assured the American guests that eventually Iran and America will be good friends and perhaps allies.
Shortly before the Iranian President’s 35 car convoy carrying his delegation and various Lebanese officials arrived at Qana, his fourth largest gathering, an Israeli Air Force MRPV circled lazily yet provocatively above the site of the 1996 Qana massacre. Some in the more than 15,000 person crowd pointed skyward, some kids squealing “Israel!” From their experience, “Qanains”, as Ali, who grew up in this village, explained some locals call themselves, were able to give foreigners fairly precise details of the MRPV’s specs and capabilities. This Israeli provocation ended, according to a Hezbollah security source, when the MRPV’s controllers realized that a Resistance laser guided missile had locked on to the uninvited intruder. The same source divulged that Hezbollah did not intend to shoot it down and would only monitor the threat. This was because the Resistance did not want to mar the Iranian Presidents tour. In addition, he explained, explained that Lebanon’s resistance wanted to maintain “tactical and strategic ambiguity” concerning its array of anti-aircraft weapons until the moment war comes.
Lebanon’s people, army, and resistance ignored provocations from this country’s southern enemy, including assassination threats like the one made by the Nakba-denying Knesset member Aryeh Eldad; more blustering from Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, and PM Netanyahu; the beefing up of Israeli forces along the blue line; efforts to crack Hezbollah communications and send SMS threats via hacked mobile phones; conducting a chorus of US officials in childish criticisms of the visit; and Israeli spokesmen like Mark Regev and political extremists in Congress issuing threats.
Israeli warplanes on Friday carried out intensive, mock air raids over south Lebanon as if to send the message, “He is gone but we are still here!” The state-run National News Agency said Israeli jets staged mock air raids at medium attitude over Nabatiyeh, Iqlim al-Tuffah, Marjayoun, Khiam and Arqoub.
Another signature Israeli taunt during Iran’s Presidents visit was the launching of hundreds of blue and white balloons to catch the air current north to Bint Jbeil when Ahmadinejad was appearing. Some with insults written on them by children with magic markers and others allegedly smeared with human feces, the spreading of the latter being an IDF insult employed over the past 45 years of incursions into Lebanon and Palestine when during occupations of Lebanese and Palestinian homes some Israeli soldiers create what they call “poop art” on walls, mattresses and other surfaces.
Analysts will write about Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s historic visit for months to come and what the visit means for the two countries, for the question of Palestine, strategic alignments in the region, and consequences for China, Russia and the wider international community.
A perhaps too early, road-weary, sleep-deprived photo snap of his visit’s effects would warrant the following brief and tentative evacuation, as Lebanon’s guest has just departed Beirut airport to return to his country. His midnight departure followed a visit at the Iranian Embassy with Hassan Nassrallah during which the Hezbollah Secretary-General gave the Iranian President an Israeli rifle taken from an Israeli soldier during the July 2006 war.
Ahmadinejad’s visit achieved more than a symbolic consecration of a new local and regional reality that encompasses a third way, separate from the US-Israel-Saudi or Syrian path. Some here think we are witnessing a new era of growing and uncompromising Resistance to Israel’s brutal occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine as well as America’s occupation and exploitation of Arab natural resources. Some analysts are speaking about a six member Axis of Resistance led by Iran and Turkey and including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Lebanon that is the rising regional power.
What seems quite evident is that Iran’s President and the large delegation of business people comprising his entourage have opened a new era of bilateral relations between the two countries. His positive personal and political connections with virtually all Lebanon’s leaders, including compliments from rightist Christian politicians including Samir Geagea, will likely lead to big joint economic projects, the Iranian arming of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and strategic political cooperation, starting now.