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IRAN: Media declare Hezbollah victory after Abdullah, Assad visit Lebanon

August 3, 2010 |  7:07 am

The Iranian media have cast a recent summit meeting of leaders from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon as a victory for Iran and its ally in Lebanon, the militant group Hezbollah, but some observers say the Islamic Republic is secretly worried that its role in Lebanon may be compromised.

"The summit shows that Arab allies of Iran, such as Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, are distancing themselves from Iran," Reza Kaviani, a reformist analyst, told Babylon & Beyond, even as headlines in the state-controlled Kayhan newspaper declared Iran the "victor" in Friday's meetings.

The summit talks in Beirut among King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese leaders, appear to have at least temporarily diffused tensions over reports that the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal intends to indict Hezbollah members in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Although the details of a possible compromise have not been made public, Hezbollah does not appear to have lost any ground in the negotiations. That didn't stop the Iranian media from spilling much ink boasting and speculating about the outcome of the summit.

The pro-government outlet IRNA ran the headline "The defeat of the Zionist regime's dream: Hezbollah once again achieved victory!"

Jomhouri Eslami, a newspaper seen as close to Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a political rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrote that “Hezbollah has already warned the American, Zionist, and compromising Arab leaders ... who are conspiring to accuse the leaders of Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

The paper went on to criticize the Arab League for agreeing to back "direct, compromising talks with the Zionist regime," referring to the body's recent decision to back Palestinian leaders in direct talks with Israel.

The Iranian media consistently referred to the meeting as a "quadripartite summit" between Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, and ... Hezbollah.

It's an interesting turn of phrase, especially given that the Lebanese media and even Hezbollah itself were intentionally deferential to the Lebanese state by referring to the summit as "tripartite," despite the obvious long shadow the group cast over the meetings.

But Hanif Qaffari, an analyst writing in the hard-liner daily Resalat, may have betrayed some of the Iranian government's fears when he went so far as to argue against a solution that no one involved in the talks has even dared suggest:

"There is no point in demilitarizing Hezbollah because as long as there is the danger of an Israeli military attack on Lebanon, and there will always be, Hezbollah should have arms to defend," he wrote.

"In any future confrontation in the Middle East, there will be two fronts – Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas on one side versus Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and United States on the other," he continued. "Since September 11, Iran has played an important role in the Middle East. From now on, Iran's front, and by this I mean Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, will act collectively and not individually. Hezbollah is directly connected to Iran and both act collectively."

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Beirut on Friday. Credit: AFP