News / Middle East

Thousands of Lebanese Greet Iran President in Beirut

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to the crowds from the sunroof of his SUV upon his arrival in Beirut, Lebanon, 13 Oct 2010
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to the crowds from the sunroof of his SUV upon his arrival in Beirut, Lebanon, 13 Oct 2010


Heather Murdock

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was welcomed in Beirut by thousands of Lebanese supporters and dignitaries.

Children and teenagers waved Iranian flags and sang songs, welcoming President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first visit to Lebanon.  Lebanese officials, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry, lined a red carpet to greet the head of state.

But the most raucous welcome for Mr. Ahmadinejad is expected later, when he is to appear alongside his ally Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah at a rally in southern Beirut, a mostly Shiite area, controlled by Hezbollah.

Mr. Ahmedinejad's visit underlines growing tensions between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and pro-Western political parties in Lebanon, such as March 14, the party of the son of slain Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.  Several Hezbollah leaders are expected to be indicted in connection with the Hariri assassination, who was killed with 22 others by a bomb in 2005.

Hezbollah denies involvement in the killings, and says the U.N. court investigating the bombing is biased.

VOA's Susan Yackee interviews  Middle East Bureau Chief Elizabeth Arrott:

Mr. Harari's son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, is expected to meet with the Iranian president and many people inside Lebanon say the visit is a sign of the growing strength of Hezbollah, a State Department designated terrorist organization.

American University of Beirut political science professor and author of "Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism", Judith Palmer Harik says the Iranian president's visit is a significant boost for Hezbollah.

"It is a very important, shall we say, shot in the arm for Hezbollah to have major power and a major supporter and ally like the president of Iran visiting," said Harik.

Hezbollah suffered major losses in a 2006 war with Israel, but many in Lebanon saw it as a victory for the organization.  Since then, international and local donations have poured into the Hezbollah coffers, helping the organization re-arm and re-group.   

Harik says that Hezbollah, the sworn enemy of Israel, has grown to be an "extremely significant Arab army."  But she says, the organization is more likely to attack their southern neighbor, Israel, than attempt to take over the Lebanese government by force.

"Hezbollah does not have any designs in taking over, as you put it, Lebanon," added Harik.  "Hezbollah must retain its image as a national resistance force.

Many Lebanese view the Ahmadinejad visit as a simple diplomatic visit between friendly countries.  Iran is a major donor country to Lebanon, and is expected to invest $450 million into Lebanon's energy and water sectors.  

But some suspect Mr. Ahmadinejad came to Lebanon only to intimidate Israel by propping up Hezbollah.

On the streets of Beirut, many people including Christians who do not traditionally support the Shi'ite organization, say Hezbollah is Lebanon's only defense if tensions along its southern border with Israel should flair again.  The Lebanese Army, they say, does not have the resources or the power to defend the country.

While waiting for a bus in a busy commercial district, Jean, 21, a university student and a Christian, says he does not like Mr. Ahmadinejad because of his alleged nuclear designs for Iran.  But he says he supports Iran's ally Hezbollah, because they are the only ones protecting southern Lebanon.

You May Like

Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs