Lebanese Christian strongman visits Tehran

It would have been unthinkable for any Middle East Christian leader to pay his respects to the ayatollahs in Tehran before the indecisive Israel-Hizballah war of 2006 and the subsequent collapse of US and Israeli positions. But now, the once pro-West Lebanese Christian strognman, Gen. Michel Aoun, who has become a close ally of the Iranian surrogate Hizballah and Syria, is leading the way.
He drew encouragement from two developments:
1. The Bush administration’s quiet collusion with Iran over the deal which broke a long political deadlock in Beirut and brought Michel Sleiman to the presidency. That deal was part of a broader package of Washington-Tehran understandings that covered cooperation for taming the violence in Iraq and America’s renunciation of its military option against Iran’s nuclear installations.
Aoun decided that to build up his position in Beirut, he too would do well to avail himself of Iran’s support.
2. The political and military inertia paralyzing the Israeli government in the face of the collapse of UN Resolution 1701. That measure, negotiated by the would-be prime minister Tzipi Livni to end the 2006 war, was called a flop even by Israel defense minister Ehud Barak. Iran and Syria have openly flouted the measure month after month by topping up Hizballah’s arsenal with improved weaponry, including rockets capable of reaching almost all of Israeli territory and a highly-advanced anti-air defense system. Israel has not lifted a finger to interfere with these violations.
This led the ambitious Lebanese general to conclude that Iran was on the winning side of current Middle East disputes and therefore the right sponsor for his bid to replace his fellow-Christian, middle-of-the-road Gen. Michel Suleiman, as president.
Aoun flew to Tehran shortly after the visit to Beirut on Oct. 6 of two senior US officials, Assistant Deputy Secretary of State David Hale and Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long. They came in response to an appeal from the Siniora government and president for help against the threatening Syrian troop and tank buildup on Lebanese borders.
Washington issued Damascus with a sharp warning not to invade Lebanon. Damascus responded by pouring more troops into additional border sectors.

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