Thursday, October 7, 2010

Israel Braces for Ahmadinejad Big Stone-Throwing Adventure

Workers in a southern suburb of Beirut prepared posters ahead of a visit by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon next week.

Hezbollah’s television station, Al Manar TV, reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hopes to find time during a visit to Lebanon next week to throw a rock at Israel.

The Lebanese channel’s report, “Ahmadinejad to Throw Stone Toward the Israeli Enemy,” suggests that Iran’s president might take part in what for him could be the ultimate photo-op:

During his two-day visit, Ahmadinejad will take part in various events to be held near the Lebanese border with occupied Palestine. In one of those events, an inauguration of a garden, the president is slated to make a symbolic gesture and throw a stone towards the Zionist entity, London-based Arabic-language al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported.

Ahmadinejad’s busy schedule will also include a visit to south Lebanon, where he will inaugurate an Iranian center in the Maroun al-Ras village where tough battles were fought during the Second Lebanon War.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the State Department had warned the Lebanese government about the risks of the visit by Iran’s best-known Holocaust-denier.

At a briefing on Tuesday, a State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said, “The issue of the prospective travel of President Ahmadinejad to Lebanon did come up” in a meeting at the United Nations last month between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Lebanon’s president, Michel Suleiman. Mr. Crowley said Mrs. Clinton had “expressed our concern about it given that Iran, through its association with groups like Hezbollah, is actively undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty. But again, we respect that these are judgments for the Lebanese Government to make.”

Asked about the possible stone-throwing, the spokesman added:

I don’t normally recommend travel arrangements for President Ahmadinejad. We certainly would hope that Iran would play a constructive role in the region. Throwing stones, whether they’re literal or figurative, I would not consider constructive.
The Beirut daily An Nahar reported on Wednesday that “embassy sources refused to confirm the Iranian President’s trip to southern Lebanon.”

According to Ian Black, The Guardian’s Middle East editor, “observers in Beirut said one possibility was that he would only visit Iranian-financed reconstruction projects and not go right up to the Israeli border for the stone throwing — on obvious security grounds.”

As Mr. Black reported:

Posters welcoming Ahmadinejad in Arabic and Persian have already appeared in the area amid reports that the Iranian leader, with a business delegation in tow, will bring investment, financing for oil exploration and a controversial offer to sell weapons to the Lebanese army.

Iranian embassy officials in Beirut have refused to confirm details of the southern leg of the trip, but Hezbollah is said to be massing supporters to welcome Ahmadinejad as a hero of the resistance.
Last week, Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz newspaper, suggested that the advanced warning of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit to the nation’s border should give Israel’s government time to prepare an operation to capture him, if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that, as he has said in the past, Mr. Ahmadinejad “is preparing a second holocaust against the Jewish people.”

NY Times

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