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Lebanon: The Next Iranian Base?

Samara Greenberg

Laborers in Lebanon will soon complete the construction of a mosque resembling the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem only a few hundred meters from the border with Israel in the village of Maroun al-Ras. The mosque, constructed in honor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming visit on October 13-14, will look exactly like its Jerusalem prototype with the exception of one difference: An Iranian flag will perch its top as a tribute to its sponsor.

The mosque will also include a boardwalk and a lookout point from which Ahmadinejad plans to throw a symbolic stone at Israel during his visit. The president will also inaugurate the mosque, and participate in other events near the Israeli border commemorating the Second Lebanon War. Ahmadinejad plans to meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, as well as other Lebanese officials. Hezbollah operatives will reportedly provide security.

A replica of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem currently being constructed in Lebanon in honor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad’s visit is receiving a significant backlash, even stirring controversy among Beirut’s political circles. “The message is that Iran is at the border with Israel,” Fares Souaid, coordinator of the Western-backed March 14 Alliance, told AFP. “Ahmadinejad through this visit is saying that Beirut is under Iranian influence and that Lebanon is an Iranian base on the Mediterranean,” he said. Unsurprisingly, Israel, for its part, asked Lebanon to cancel the visit, as Ahmadinejad’s presence would undermine regional stability and the Middle East peace talks.

The Iranian president’s new mosque in, and visit to, Lebanon should serve as a wake up call. The regime in Tehran is clearly and openly expressing that it has direct influence over the politically weak country that still struggles to contain the independent militias left-over from its civil war that roam the streets – including Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah.

For the sake of stability within Lebanon and all sovereign nations, every country and international organization – both from the West and the Arab world – should denounce Ahmadinejad’s visit to, and meddling inside, Lebanon. Indeed, the president’s visit is providing the international community with an opportunity to stand up for state sovereignty. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.