IRAN CAUTIOUSLY HAILED THE "VICTORY" OF HEZBOLLAH
By Safa Haeri
Tehran 24th May (IPS) The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah's main financial, military and propaganda backer rejoiced Wednesday with chants of "Allah o akbar" (God is greatest) at the Israeli pull out from parts of South Lebanon it had occupied 22 years ago with President Mohammad Khatami congratulating his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud over this "great victory" achieved by "Arab-Islamic Ummah (Nation).
"Today, the government and people of Lebanon and their heroic resistance are symbols of the honour and dignity of the Arab-Islamic Ummah", he told president Lahoud during a telephone conversations made hours after Israel pulled out was completed.
Mr. Khatami, who is also the present Chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) described the precipitated Israeli withdrawal from the "Security Zone" as an indication of the "grandeur and unsparing efforts of the resistance forces, as well as the government and people of Lebanon", the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
The last Israel soldier left Lebanon at 3.42 GMT of Lebanon, thus closing another chapter in the thick, but not yet finished, book of the Middle East tragedy.
Television reportages showing in the one hand Israeli tanks rolling into crossing the Lebanon-Israel borders with young soldiers informing their families that "It is over" and on the other scenes of hundreds of the beleaguered, sad, anxious and tired personnel of the South Lebanese Army (ASL) scrambling to get into Israel with their families before the final closure of the borders to escape execution by the Hezbollah militiamen were reminders of the US pullout from Saigon.
Returning hastily to Israel from Paris, General Antoine Lahad, the Commander of the ASL said Israel's precipitated departure from Lebanon was "a great mistake" and warned of a "revival of terrorism all over the Middle East".
Many observers, including Iranians, Arabs and Israelis share his view, pointing out that the "victory" - or call it what you like - would "inject a new blood" to Arab, Palestinian and Islamist extremist groups opposed to the moribund Peace Process.
"This is a historic day, in the 50 years of Arab-Israeli conflict this marks the first defeat of Israel heralding the beginning of future defeats for the Zionists and more victories for the Arabs to come", boasted a triumphant Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of the dominantly Shi'a Muslims Hezbollah in a congratulation telegram to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.
Iran is only country in the one billion Islamic world where the 200 millions Muslim Shi'a are in majority and for this reason is regarded as the Shi'as Mecca.
Iranian political analysts said the new situation created in the region following the Israeli withdrawal will presents the Iranian leadership with new challenges.
In an emergency session chaired by Mr. Khatami, the Iranian Cabinet reviewed late Wednesday the latest developments in the South Lebanon and decided to immediately dispatch Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Beirut to present the Lebanese officials and the Hezbollah with messages from Iranian leaders, including one from Ayatollah Khameneh'i.
"Iran shall wait for new relationship between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah before making it's own arrangements with the organisation it almost created, fed, trained and supported militarily and financially without faltering during two decades until it reached victory", commented Mr. Mohammad Reza Darvish, a Paris-based Iranian analyst close to the nationalist-religious movement.
In his telephone conversation with Mr. Lahoud, Mr. Khatami expressed hope that establishment of stability will be witnessed in Lebanon and liberation of more occupied lands will be observed in future, IRNA added.
Mr. Darvish said President Khatami's expression of hopes fort peace and stability in Lebanon indicates his desire to see Hezbollah refraining from further provocation, including possible attack on Israeli border towns.
Ehud Barak, the badly lamed Israeli Prime Minister has warned that any attack coming from either Lebanon or Syria, on Israeli border villages and towns would draw a harsh response from Israel, including on Syrian targets.
"Future developments should be watched carefully and vigilantly", Mr. Khatami told his Lebanese counterpart who, in turn thanked Iran and described the Israeli pullout as a victory for the two countries of Iran and Lebanon, according to IRNA.
He said although the people in South Lebanon are happy with the withdrawal, "we have the same concern as the Islamic Republic of Iran has, namely now that Israel has withdrawn from our soil will it embark on occupation of Lebanese territory again".
"The Lebanese president further remarked that in fact the victory of the withdrawal was realised in the light of the unity of the entire people, government, resistance forces, the national army and unsparing support of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria", IRNA quoted the Lebanese President as telling his Iranian counterpart.
In fact, Tehran must also re-evaluate its "strategic alliance" with Damascus as the new situation has different significance for the two capitals that helped the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Arab and Iranian affairs watcher Dr Alireza Nourizadeh, a London-based Iranian journalist observed that while the Israeli pull out will relieve Iran of a heavy burden and Khatami would certainly do his best to persuade Hezbollah to reintegrate the Lebanese political society, Syria, on the other hand, has lost it's only bargaining card against Israel. Knowing well the heavy price it would have to pay in case Hezbollah continue provocation, Damascus would have to look to all other sources of tension such as Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Turks, HAMAS, Iran-created Islamic Jihad, PFLP-GC and others.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Martyr Foundation also issued separate statements to congratulate the Lebanese people on the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon.
The IRGC was instrumental in the arming and training the Hezbollah militiamen both in camps in Iran and in Lebanon and in recent months had stepped up shipment of more modern arms to the organisation. ENDS ISRAELI PULL OUT 24500