Feverish preparations are afoot in Tehran for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first visit to the Lebanese capital. Reporting this, debkafile's Iranian sources define the trip's purpose as a confrontational exercise to warn the US and Israel that full implementation of the tough new UN, US and European sanctions will provoke an Iranian war on Israel – waged from Lebanon.
Iran's rulers came up with this plan in their marathon consultations last week, prompted by the realization that the US embargo on gasoline and other refined oil products were for real. Combined with the Obama administration's partial success in closing the US banking system and markets to Iranian firms and the UAE's consent to close its ports to Iranian traffic, the new measures have the potential for throwing a large spanner into the Islamic Republic's normal economic activity.
The planning for Ahmadinejad's trip to Lebanon – probably towards the end of July or early August – went into high gear after Syrian president Bashar Assad and the Qatari ruler Shiekh Hamad Bin Khalif Al Thani (who engineered the power-sharing accord for setting up the Lebanese government coalition in 2009) reacted positively to the notion of the threesome landing in Beirut aboard the same plane or in convoy, at the invitation of Lebanese president Michel Suleiman.
This procedure was advised to insure the Iranian president against a possible Israel attempt on his life and also that of Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who would be on hand in the welcoming party headed by the Lebanese president.
Sunday, July 11, debkafile reported that Hizballah had massed 20,000 armed men along the border with Israel, while Israeli Defense Forces had ranged tank and armored divisions on the other side of the border.
The broad outline of the visit was laid down by Lebanese Shiite lawmaker Nabih Beri and Alaedin Boroujerdi, Chairman of the Majlis foreign affairs and security committee, who was in Beirut last week to attend the funeral of the Shiite cleric Ayatollah Hassan Fadlallah.
It was decided to use the occasion for the Iranian, Syrian, Qatari and Lebanese leaders to hold a war conference, essentially to plot moves for ramping up the Arab-Israeli conflict. They have already decided in principle to lay the groundwork for a high-tension crisis to erupt between Israel and Lebanon some time in September or October, by which time Tehran will be able to gauge in full how much the new sanctions are hurting Iran.