Iran as a "Spurned Suitor" in Lebanon

Iran is running into the same hurdles that prevented previous world powers from dominating Lebanon

Can you imagine one of these in Jounieh?

If you haven’t read Neil MacFarquhar’s report in the New York Times about Iran’s attempts to “deepen” its influence in Lebanon, please go ahead and do it right now. It recounts with some detail Iranian frustration with the difficulty of extending its influence beyond the Shiaa areas of Lebanon.

Iran has discovered, like the Saudis, Americans, Turks and French before them, that while you can buy loyalty and love from one or two factions in Lebanon, you cannot do the same with the rest of the population. Continue…

Lebanese Electricity from Iran? Not so Fast

The supply of Electricity from Iran to Lebanon would be convenient for Iran and for some Lebanese parties, but it won’t be happening anytime soon.

Tehran, we have a problem

In the news today is a statement by an Iranian official that Lebanon could be getting Iranian electricity as soon as next week. Considering the state of affairs of the electricity in Lebanon, many would gladly (if begrudgingly) take that offer. But don’t hold your breath, it won’t happening anytime soon. Continue…

What Hezbollah and America Have in Common

A smart and interesting angle from Andrew Exum:

Hezbollah finds itself in much the same position as the United States as it watches the clouds of war gather between Israel and Iran. Like the United States, it has reason to hope conflict can be averted. But like the United States, it is realistic about the likelihood that it will be drawn into a conflict once the first shots are fired.

The important insight here is that both of them are so wary of a war that they’re almost willing to work together to prevent it from happening.. That would nicely explain the chumminess between the two sides lately.. (PS: Exum is one of the paint-balling 4)

In Iran, Arab Spring Propaganda Backfires

Fascinating report from Robert Worth:

It was meant to be a crowning moment in which Iran put its own Islamic stamp on the Arab Spring [...] As delegates flooded into a vast auditorium next to a space needle in western Tehran, a screen showed images of the Iranian revolution in 1979, morphing seamlessly into footage of young Arab protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.

But there was a catch. No one was invited from Syria [...] That inconvenient truth soon marred the whole script. As the conference began, a young man in the audience held up a sign with the word “SYRIA?” written in English. Applause burst out in the crowd, followed by boos.

I would Imagine the same would happen if Saudi Arabia attempted to organize such an event and didn’t invite anyone from Bahrain. But Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia never pretended to be a supporter of the oppressed and a champion of democracy. That Iranian Hypocrisy is at the heart of why its influence is diminishing today..

Iran Launches Spanish Language Satellite TV Channel

The Washington Post:

Hispan TV — the first Spanish-language channel airing from the Middle East — will broadcast news, documentaries, movies and Iranian films 24 hours a day. [...] “The new channel will limit the ground for supremacy of dominance seekers,” Ahmadinejad said during a Tehran ceremony marking the inauguration. “It will be a means for better ties between people and governments of Iran and Spanish-speaking nations.”

I checked out their website and watched some of the programs. Production is not bad and the presenters are actual Spanish speakers, not locals who spoke Spanish with an accent. But it all feels so pointless..

Has Hamas Left Iran's Orbit?

- Lose the gun son -

A few weeks ago the US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said the following: “Iran is basically down to just two principal remaining allies — the Assad clique in Syria and Hezbollah”

It was telling that Hamas was not on that list. There was talk at the time that Hamas has left the Mullahs and was now in the orbit of influence of post-revolutionary Egypt. Today we are starting to witness some of the repercussions of that break, as we are hearing noises about Hamas potentially letting go of armed resistance altogether and switching to non-violent resistance against Israel.

If this is true, it’s huge for two reasons:

  • It would be the first time an Arab resistance group willfully abandons violence because it believes that non violence is a more effective way to restore rights. That should be attributed to the success of the revolutions in places like Tunisia.
  • It would deprive the Hezbollah-Assad-Iran axis of the only Sunni ally they had, which served as very important PR talking point whenever they were accused of being a “Shiaa Crescent”.
If Hamas is indeed renouncing violence, Israel would be crazy if it did not reward this switch in a meaningful way, by making tangible concessions towards peace with Palestine. If the Hebrew state wanted to send the message that violence doesn’t pay, this would be the best opportunity to do so.

Update: Read Hussein Ibish’s more subtle and informed take on Hamas’ realignment

Also: What stands in the way of Palestinian non-violence ?

Asking Them to Jump into The Fire?

Tony Badran has an interesting take on Sayyed Nasrallah’s Ashoura speech. In his view, the speech serves to prepare a reluctant flock for a confrontation with Israel over Iran’s weapons:

The overriding motif of the address was the perseverance of the faithful regardless of the hardships they must face and the sacrifices they must make. Nasrallah made it amply clear that what was expected of the believers was nothing short of self-sacrifice. To drive the point home, he referenced a story from Shia tradition about how the faithful—men, women and children—willingly jumped into a pit of fire rather than renounce their Imam.

And why did he make a surprise appearance in person?

The purpose behind that was to bind himself, Hezbollah and the Shia community in one fate [...] “I have chosen to be among you today for a few minutes … so the whole world can hear and we can renew our pledge,”

Sounds about right to me. When I first saw the title: “Jumping into the Fire”, I thought Tony was talking about something else. I thought the article was about how Nasrallah was going all in with the Syrian regime, but then again everything is connected in the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.

❊ Is the Region on a War Footing? The Context for Sayyed Nasrallah's Speech

Today, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made a rare public appearance. One of the things he said was:

I address our enemies when I say that the Resistance is here to stay; day after day our troops are growing, our arms are developing and they are being constantly renewed

This can of course be dismissed as regular jaw jaw designed for local political consumption, but is it? As I look at the region, I see many signs that things aren’t quite right. A war between Iran and the west could very well be looming.

Consider the following points:

  1. November 8: The IAEA releases a damning report on Iranian nuclear weapons that surprises and alarms western powers and pushes the British foreign minister to issue threats
  2. November 14: A Big blast targets a missile depot in Tehran and is seen as a major setback to Iran’s Missile program.
  3. November 16: Israeli leaks news of a secret plan for attacking Iran, as the war drums in Israel get louder and louder.
  4. November 29: Iranian demonstrators storm British embassy in Tehran with the apparent support of the state.
  5. December 3: Israeli Prime Minister announces that sometimes leader have to make big, unpopular decisions. While he spoke, Syria tested a SCUD B missile.
  6. December 5: Iran captured an American surveillance drone with top American secrets in it.
  7. December 6: The Telegraph reports that Iran is now on high military alert and is expecting and preparing for an attack.

And I haven’t even started with the implications of the Syrian revolution, the success of which could be a major strategic setback for Iran and Hezbollah. It is against this backdrop that we have to read Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speech.

Am I worried? Yes. Should you cancel your Christmas vacations in Lebanon? Not yet, but some caution can go a long way.