The Guardian: A charity event in Tehran for the “children of the resistance” is but one of many ways in which Iran’s government is using the Lebanon crisis to rally domestic support and advance its regional agenda. Highlighting the “ongoing war of aggression against the defenceless and oppressed Palestinian and Lebanese nations”, the event featured supportive messages and drawings from Iranian schoolchildren and a 25-metre “solidarity scroll”. Guardian Unlimited
Simon Tisdall in Tehran
A charity event in Tehran for the “children of the resistance” is but one of many ways in which Iran’s government is using the Lebanon crisis to rally domestic support and advance its regional agenda. Highlighting the “ongoing war of aggression against the defenceless and oppressed Palestinian and Lebanese nations”, the event featured supportive messages and drawings from Iranian schoolchildren and a 25-metre “solidarity scroll”.
Iran profited greatly from the US-directed toppling of its enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the Islamic Republic is once again the accidental beneficiary of American and Israeli miscalculations on the Middle East abacus – and, at the risk of becoming an even bigger target for regime change, it is busily exploiting the opening.
Hizbullah’s rise to political stardom in the Arab world is part of this unexpected windfall. Although Iran denies arming or funding the militia, it makes no secret of its “moral and spiritual support” for a movement it helped found in 1983. Hizbullah’s perceived military successes against Israel are happily embraced by state media as Iran’s successes, too.
The United Nations security council’s failure to halt the bloodshed has also been seized on by leaders worried about punitive action over Iran’s nuclear programme. “The position of the council is untenable, its standing has been greatly damaged,” said Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s foreign minister.
“The US is using it only as an instrument to further its ambitions for greater hegemony. International public opinion is witnessing the belittling of international institutions by one or two countries,” he said. Iran’s pre-emptive message is that any future UN measures on Iran will be both illegitimate and politically inspired.
Russia and several European countries, notably France, have pleaded with Tehran to use its “good offices” in Lebanon. Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, described Iran as “a force for stability in the region” during a meeting with Mr Mottaki last week, a comment that drew pained winces from officials in London. Britain’s policy meanwhile is pilloried and its Tehran embassy stoned by Basiji Islamist militia, amid mocking attacks on Tony Blair’s Los Angeles theorising about a “war of values”.
Iran is also seeking to radicalise Muslim opinion on the issue. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, its hardline president, told an emergency meeting of the 57-country Islamic Conference Organisation in Malaysia, convened at Tehran’s insistence last week, that Israel’s elimination could solve the region’s problems. In recent speeches here, Mr Ahmadinejad has used the conflict to deplore US “global bullying” and Israeli actions that are “comparable to the Mongols”. Lebanon, he says, is the scene of “the real Holocaust”.
The crisis has served other purposes, too. Pro-western Arab governments opposed to Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been embarrassed by Israel’s actions, a dilemma deftly exploited by Iran. Washington’s reluctance so far to confront Iran directly over alleged missile supplies to Hizbullah is portrayed as a sign of weakness. And the Lebanon violence has huge propaganda value.
Washington’s support for Israel was more evidence of “the perversity and moral degeneracy of US foreign policy”, said an Iran Daily editorial. The conservative newspaper, Resalat, went further. “Today Hizbullah is the frontline for defending Islam and all the regional nations,” it said. “The fury of the Islamic ummah (faithful) will ultimately target the foundations of the Triangle of Evil – Washington, Tel Aviv and London.”
“It is clear to all that the attack on Lebanon was premeditated, part of a joint American-Zionist stratagem, and is a major step towards domination of the Middle East and the Islamic world,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, in a speech deploring the Qana bombing. All the same, Iran’s righteous confidence may yet prove misplaced. The tactical advantages created by the Lebanon war would not necessarily translate into long-term strategic gains, a western diplomat said. And there was no disguising the country’s structural political and economic weaknesses. Some Iranian officials talk privately about a sense of looming crisis. But for now, at least, Iran believes it is winning. That could prove a dangerous illusion.