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Sunday, November 28, 2010
Hariri's Prized Gift From Iran
This editorial was published in the Daily Star on 29/11/2010
What with blacked-out Mercedes being the diplomat’s ride of choice, Saad Hariri probably doesn’t have much use for an Iranian-made car. But when the prime minister returns from his first official visit to Tehran he will do so clasping a gift of far greater import.
Hariri brought with him to Iran nothing less than a statesmanlike riposte to suggestions that Turkish (and Sunni) Prime Minister Recip Erdogan’s Beirut visit was devised as an antidote to Iranian (and Shiite) President Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s last month. What he got in return was an unqualified commitment to Lebanon’s wellbeing.
The prime minister has made a habit of not discussing domestic issues during recent diplomatic outings. In Tehran, avoiding a display of Lebanon’s dirty laundry not only demonstrated recognition of what Iranian support in Lebanon has traditionally meant; it also took in to account Iran’s burgeoning regional clout.
The indication that Beirut would welcome Iranian support of Saudi-Syrian efforts to avert a fresh Lebanese crisis is both positive and realistic. Positive, because Iran’s commitment to stability means a lot, given the size of who is committing; realistic, because Hariri knows the sway Tehran exerts on its Lebanese allies.
It’s worth recalling that Rafik Hariri was one of the first Arab prime ministers to undertake a state visit to post-1979 Iran. Both Saad Hariri and Ahmadinejad will recall the historical significance of Lebanese-Iranian contact. The irony that the name of Iranian-backed Hizbullah is now being uttered in the same sentence as Rafik Hariri’s death will not be lost on either party.
Hariri will soon return to Iran to sign trade agreements, taking bilateral relations to another level. On an economic plain, the two countries aspire to bolster mutual interest, irrespective of Lebanese factionalism. The same cooperation should be courted among political climes.
Hariri’s Iranian sojourn should not be viewed as one group’s triumph, just as Ahmadinejad and Erdogan’s visits ought to benefit the entire country. Closely timed trips from Iranian and Turkish premiers demonstrate that regional regimes have far more in common than they do in opposition when it comes to the good of Lebanon.
The hope is that the Iranian government will work toward Lebanon’s best interests, that it won’t seek to differentiate between or prioritize bickering groups. If regional backers recommend reconciliation then resolution ought to follow.
It is, of course, disappointing that Lebanon’s quandary has reached the stage where outside intervention is the sole solution. But if Iran has joined more traditional regional makeweights in wanting to reset Lebanese foundations, the likelihood decreases that warring parties can tear them down.