Master degree out of the way … tick
Chosen a city to live in for at least a year … tick
Ready to write again. I must say it’s quite refreshing to be sitting here typing away after a near year hiatus.
And what a better way to restart my political blog, the week of Ahmedinejad’s visit to Lebanon.
A lot is happening in Lebanon this week, with Turkey’s Erdogan to meet Ahmedinejad in Beirut on Friday.
What is the significance of this trip?
As noted by Hezballah expert, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, the visit reinforces the Iran-Syria-Hezballah-Hamas alliance in the face of the US and Israel. Perhaps it is a signal of contempt towards Obama’s recent drive for peace talks - although the Israelis poured cold water on this move before it ever gathered pace – or simply a reminder to Washington that it is not the only force in the Middle East with the ability to influence the end game.
For Hezballah: Hezballah is also showing its strength to its domestic rivals, currently at loggerheads over the UN Special Lebanon Tribunal that is expected to indict several Hezballah members in the Hariri assassination. Is it a case of ‘don’t mess with me, look who’s behind me’, an attempt to scare Hezballah’s domestic allies from provoking it?
For Iran: Josh Landis comments in the same Bloomberg article that Iranian domestic issues are also at play in Ahmedinejad’s visit to Lebanon. Landis states that the Iranian leader is trying to “shift the focus from his internal failures” by highlighting the one success in Iranian policy, Hezballah/Lebanon.
Erdogan: A get together between long friends in Iran and Hezballah is not exactly going to raise too many eyebrows. However, Erdogan’s attendance to the after party will perhaps be the most significant element of this visit. Turkey’s shifting regional policy has been well documented, reaching fever point with the flotilla raid.
Erdogan’s visit will further cement that shift, potentially complicating any American/Israeli attempt to exert maximum pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. More importantly for Israel, Erdogan’s public appearance with Ahmedinejad in a visit to Hezballah will automatically signal Turkey’s symbolic support for the Lebanese Shia group.
Whilst Erdogan’s visit to Lebanon is undoubtedly going to heighten concerns in Tel Aviv and Washington, Turkey is actually increasing its stocks as a very important player in any final peace settlement in the region.
Let’s not sugarcoat Obama’s charade that are the peace talks. Time and time again the US invites Israel, the PA and its local Arab puppets in Mubarak and Abdullah to a meeting in the White House, and dubs it a renewed regional peace track. Egypt and Jordan are not the two states the US needs to gain support from for the peace talks to work.
No peace deal is going far without Iran and Syria. And with Hezballah’s continued rise in Lebanon, coupled with their leverage over Hamas, any “peace talk” between an already reluctant Israel and PA is hardly going to reap any rewards.
The only power in the region that has best positioned itself to broker peace talks between all sides is Turkey. Erdogan keeps his phone book full. Indeed, his strong criticism of Israel in recent times and his accompanying visit to Lebanon with Ahmedinejad this week is a clear sign to the US that Turkey is no American foot soldier in the Middle East (ala Egypt and Jordan), but a friend nonetheless that brings benefits with its connections.
Will the US smarten up and utilise Turkey’s potential?
*Also, a good read here from the Huff Post on Iran’s growing soft power in the Middle East.