Hosting Ahmadinejad

BEIRUT –Lebanon has spent weeks preparing for a very important guest. On street corners throughout Beirut, posters featuring the smiling face of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed him to the city in both Arabic and Farsi. Those who might have disrupted the feel-good atmosphere were silenced: Lebanese authorities forced a film festival to postpone the ...

Salah Malkawi/Getty Images

BEIRUT –Lebanon has spent weeks preparing for a very important guest. On street corners throughout Beirut, posters featuring the smiling face of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed him to the city in both Arabic and Farsi. Those who might have disrupted the feel-good atmosphere were silenced: Lebanese authorities forced a film festival to postpone the showing of a documentary about the protests following Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election campaign until after the president's visit. The roads linking the airport to the presidential palace and Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs are bursting with Iranian flags.

If Ahmadinejad came to Beirut to plant the Iranian flag in Lebanese soil, there was little need: His allies had already done it for him. Still, the Iranian president, who referred to Lebanon as "the focus point of resistance" before departing on his first official state visit to Lebanon, did not miss the opportunity to emphasize the links between the two countries. "The Iranian nation will always stand beside the Lebanese nation and will never abandon them," he said in Lebanon on Oct. 13. "We will surely help the Lebanese nation against animosities, mainly staged by the Zionist regime."

BEIRUT –Lebanon has spent weeks preparing for a very important guest. On street corners throughout Beirut, posters featuring the smiling face of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed him to the city in both Arabic and Farsi. Those who might have disrupted the feel-good atmosphere were silenced: Lebanese authorities forced a film festival to postpone the showing of a documentary about the protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election campaign until after the president’s visit. The roads linking the airport to the presidential palace and Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs are bursting with Iranian flags.

If Ahmadinejad came to Beirut to plant the Iranian flag in Lebanese soil, there was little need: His allies had already done it for him. Still, the Iranian president, who referred to Lebanon as “the focus point of resistance” before departing on his first official state visit to Lebanon, did not miss the opportunity to emphasize the links between the two countries. “The Iranian nation will always stand beside the Lebanese nation and will never abandon them,” he said in Lebanon on Oct. 13. “We will surely help the Lebanese nation against animosities, mainly staged by the Zionist regime.”

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Hanin Ghaddar is the Friedmann fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Geduld Program on Arab Politics. Twitter: @haningdr

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