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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saad Hariri Travels to Tehran to Save Lebanon from Hezbollah

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in Iran on Saturday (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AP1BR20101126). The reason for his visit? The U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 car bomb murder of his father, then Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, is soon to announce that Hezbollah stood behind the execution. Saad Hariri is concerned that the announcement might cause Hezbollah to attempt a coup d'état or alternatively provoke a war with Israel in order to distract public opinion. Given that Hezbollah is Iran's proxy in Lebanon and doesn't act without instructions from Tehran, Saad Hariri is hoping to convince Ahmadinejad ("the chimp" as he is known in Iran) to prevail upon Hezbollah not to act rashly.

Does this bring to mind a movie? It reminds me of a scene in "Goodfellas", when restaurant owner Sonny goes to mob boss Paulie to ask that Tommy, one of Paulie's underlings, stop terrorizing him. As an incentive, Sonny suggests to Paulie that he partner with him in the restaurant, and the following dialogue ensues:

Paulie: You know anything about this fucking restaurant business?
[Talking to Henry, the movie's protagonist and also an underling of Paulie]

Sonny: He knows everything about it. I mean he's in the joint 24 hours a day. I mean another fucking few minutes he could be a stool that's how often he's in there.

Henry: [narrating] Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's gotta come up with Paulie's money every week, no matter what. Business bad? Fuck you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? Fuck you, pay me.

In fact, the scene being played out in Tehran is far more tragic than that in "Goodfellas". Saad Hariri feels compelled to plead with those who ordered the murder of his father to control their hitmen. Now let's see the price Saad Hariri will have to pay (only disavowal of the U.N. indictment against Hezbollah?) and whether the deal will nevertheless cause Lebanon, like Sonny's restaurant in "Goodfellas", to go up in flames.

In retrospect, the decision this month of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee to release $100 million in military aid for the Lebanese army (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-releases-100-million-aid-for-lebanon-army-1.324411) in the hope that this might facilitate resistance to Hezbollah on the part of Saad Hariri is also proving futile. Unfortunately, Hariri has seen how "tough" Obama has gotten with the Islamic Republic of Iran and has made a calculated decision with whom he stands the best chance of survival.

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