Did the Visit to Lebanon Refresh Ahmadinezhad’s Memory?

By: Yadullah Shahibzadeh

Two weeks ago, after a long wait, Ahmadinejad paid his first state visit to Lebanon. 7 years earlier, in 2003 Mohammad Khatami was the last Iranian president to visit Lebanon. He was also the first Iranian president to visit this country. Ahmadinezhad’s and Khatami’s visit to Lebanon took place in the same international and regional political scenery. According to the US and European powers and their regional allies Iran was, is and will be a danger to peace and security in the region. However, Ahmadinezhad and Khatami visits to Lebanon represented two totally different political environments in Iran. While all significant political forces in Iran recognized Khatami’s mandate as Iran’s president without hesitation since he was elected in a landslide and an undisputed presidential election, the legality and legitimacy of Ahmadinezhad’s presidency have been disputed by reform oriented faction and millions of Iranians since the 2009 presidential election. While Khatami’s visit to Lebanon symbolized the friendship and cooperation of two political forces (reform oriented faction in Iran and Hezbollah) whose political power was achieved through democratic rules, poplar support and electoral constituency, Ahamadinezhad’s visit to Lebanon was no more than performance of a ritual to remind the regional and international players that Iran and Hezbollah support each other no matter what. While Khatami’s visit signified the correlation of the state and popular sovereignty for both Lebanon and Iran and thus justified their resistance to the hegemony of foreign powers imposed by military force as well as economic and political sanctions, Ahmadinezhad’s visit represented the Iranian president’s  paradoxical approach to the state and popular sovereignty. Ahmadinezhad’s government has disfranchised many Iranian politicians who have been the most passionate supporters of Hezbollah and its resistance against the Israeli occupation since the early 1980s and the genuine critics of the American hegemony in the region since the Iranian revolution. That is why Ahmadinezhad’s visit to Lebanon may have caused discomfort amongst the Hezbollah leadership whose main supporters have been among the reform oriented faction. Mohammad Reza Khatami(not to be mistaken for his brother, Iran’s ex-president), the former leader of the Participation Front that held the majority of the Iranian parliament in 2000-2004,  wrote an open letter to Hassan Nassrollah the leader of Hezbollah while Ahamadinezhad was in Lebanon. He wrote that Iranians expect that the leader of Hezbollah ‘ask the jailers of Imam [Khomeini]’s friends to stop oppression in Iran and ask them do for their own nation what they which for Lebanese nation in general and Shia people in particular.’[1] Mohammad Reza Khatami reminds the leader of Hezbollah that Ahamdineznad cannot be sincere in his support for the Lebanese resistance against the Israeli tyranny while Iranian people are persistently tyrannized by his government.[2] The former leader of the Participation Front believes that he has every reason for writing such a letter to Nasrollah because the reform oriented faction invested all its democratic credibility in Iran to support Hezbollah and the democratic process in Lebanon while Mohammad Khatami was in power. At the time Khatami visited Lebanon, in addition to the presidency, the reform oriented faction dominated the parliament and the local councils in undisputed elections.  At that time nobody had heard about Ahmadinezhad in Iran let alone the region. Bur few days before his visit to Lebanon, Khatami’s government held the most democratic election since the Iranian revolution. Thanks to the low turnout in Tehran’s local election and the division amongst reform oriented political forces, an unknown list of candidates supported by the revolutionary guard won the local elections in Tehran and appointed Ahamadinezhad as the capital’s mayor and fabricated him, not without the help of Western media, into a political phenomenon in the entire region, after he became Iran’s president in 2005. By means of 2003 local elections the reform oriented faction in Iran was hoping to show that what the region needed was more than a ‘democracy’ designed by the American neo-conservatives, guaranteed by political hegemony and military supremacy of the US and its allies in the region in order to secure their economic interests, but democracy in the real sense to serves the common good of the people of the region.[3] However, the result of the most democratic election in Iran was the empowerment of an anti-democratic political force, the Iranian neo-conservatives that used democratic rules to ascend to power, and then suspended its function. Ahmadinezhad who has represented the Iranian neo-conservatives ever since, knows very well that without Khatami’s democratic reforms and his effort to inaugurate local elections he had no chance to ascend to power in Iran. However, he would like to forget these facts. This is why his government attempts to get rid of all the signs that remind him, how he did ascend to power. Only few days before his visit to Lebanon, his government expelled the majority of the members of Ahvaz city council, the provincial capital of Khuzestan, and hence dissolved the council.[4] A member of the council who had received most of the votes in the 2007 local elections was arrested when he attempted to expose the misuse of power and corruption in the local government in a press conference.[5] Ahmadinezhad’s government suspended the Ahvaz council because its members still believed that as a popularly elected branch of the state the council should not surrender to the illegal pressure and dictates of the government.

At the time of his visit to Lebanon, Khatami defended a consistent democratic argument. Khatami’s rejection of the US military presence to impose its political hegemony in the region, his defense of the political rights of the Lebanese Shia, his support for Hezbollah which defended the sovereignty of Lebanese state against the Israeli occupation were consistent with his own pro-democracy efforts in Iran. On the contrary, Ahamadinezhad’ critique of  the US and Israel for imposing their own will on the people of Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East is in contradiction with his persistent attempts to impose his own will, and that of his militarized government on Iranian people through undemocratic means. 

 


[3] When democracy in the Persian Gulf region and the entire Middle East is reduced to some of its functions, ‘good government’ and little ‘human rights’, it becomes very natural to maintain peace and security in this region through militarization of the entire region by selling tens of billions of dollars military equipments to states in which politics as the empirical fact of democracy has never occurred.

 

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