english.daralhayat.com | 22:33 GMT - 20/08/2006

Persian Borders

Hassan Haydar      Al-Hayat     - 10/08/06//

In early 1987, the Iranian Embassy in Beirut sent surprise notices to local newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV channels. Attached to these notices were 'historical' documents. The Embassy urged these media organizations to use the expression 'Persian Gulf' instead of the Arabian Gulf. It said this would show deeper respect for history and would keep the 'good ties' between the Persian and Arab nations. Included also were maps that date back to the ages before, during and after the Persian Empire. At this time, Iran was knee-deep in a confrontation with Baathist Iraq. Saddam Hussein waged this war to protect his regime from the motto 'Exporting Revolution' hailed by Imam Khomeini. It was 'natural' for Iran to mobilize all its efforts in order to defend its Persian identity, which was a target of Arab nationalism. However, it made the mistake of addressing a State that adopted Arabism, such as Lebanon. It preferred Lebanon to any other Arab State, even those it maintained excellent ties with. Was that a real mistake or an early sign of a revolutionary phase the country has been suffering from ever since? Does this stage account for all the devastation and schisms? Does it threaten Iran's present and future with misfortunes, the least of which would be a sectarian civil war?

Hezbollah had only just been created. It tried at this time to take roots inside the Shiite sect, and, on a broader plane, in Lebanon. It also tried to forge ties with its neighbors. But these ties were not free of unrest. It denied US accusations that it was associated with the kidnappers of the US hostages. These kidnappers were affiliated to the Iranian Intelligence Service. They functioned in the framework of Iran's Jihad against the US and Western Intelligence in general. Tehran chose Lebanon to be the scene for that. The Party's manifesto was issued in February 1985: '[The Party] is committed to the authority of a wise and fair leadership. This leadership is embodied in the trusteeship of the jurisprudent (Wilayat al-Faqeeh) and in Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who started the revolution of the Muslims and their glorious renaissance'. This was not unusual in Lebanon. Each and every sect or political group had their affiliations abroad. These affiliations did not impair a minimal 'national' commitment in spite of the recurrent instances of diversion.

However, the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah took the form of a curve that no one inside or outside Lebanon ever expected. The Party in general was not able to affect this stage, given the resistance against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Under the pretext of occupation, many violations were committed, not the least was commissioning Hezbollah alone with this task, as well as cleansing the Shiite sect from the communists, nationalists, Baathists and others who adopted wider political affiliations.

Israel pulled out of south Lebanon in 2000. At that time, it became clear that the Taif Agreement did not necessarily apply to Hezbollah. This agreement put an end to years of civil war and established a balanced peace between the sects. It took into consideration all the various internal and external sensitivities and interests. Under the sponsorship of both Syria and Iran, Hezbollah invented a brand new task for itself: liberating the Shebaa Farms. Most of the Lebanese had never heard or read about these farms, even in their national school curricula. This was basically aimed at securing an open window for the 'revolutionary' Iran in the region.

The helpless Lebanese State, under subsequent presidents and cabinets, had no option but to accept and adopt this pretext. It also realized that this would turn the country into a captive in the hands of an armed group and its sponsors. The current crisis unveils the danger of this dependence. The Iranian Foreign Minister showed no decency in his statement in Beirut itself. He voiced reservations about the government's plan to end the conflict. Are there any limits for Iran, given the arsenal it possesses in Lebanon?

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