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    Khamenei has his own woes to solve

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said Monday that any verdict rendered by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would be “null and void.”

    The remit of the Iranian leader’s knowledge and wisdom stretches far and wide, to be sure, but perhaps his own nation could use a bit more of his attention. After all, security forces with riot shields had fanned out through Tehran Sunday, in order to preempt any outbursts of civil violence as the country’s gasoline prices soared about 350 percent. Tehran’s streets had witnessed turmoil when the state introduced gasoline rationing in 2007, although the Islamic Republic continued to spend about $114 billion annually in subsidies to keep energy prices artificially low. Iran’s economy has not experienced runaway growth since then, so President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the subsidy cutbacks Saturday, which he termed a “great victory for Iran.” Clearly.

    Last week, of course, Iran’s diplomacy had suffered a major embarrassment as Ahmadinejad fired Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki while the career diplomat was on an official visit to Senegal. Mottaki had met with Ahmadinejad not long before the trip abroad, and the former minister has said that he did not receive any hint that he was about to get sacked. The president’s behavior, however, did not diverge greatly from his usual modus operandi – he has long ditched high-ranking officials in favor of lackeys obeisant to him; if an official cannot be budged, Ahmadinejad often simply creates a new post and plugs his man in.

    The general economic trend in Iran also appears to merit significant concern, as a fourth round of UN sanctions – and further sanctions individually approved by the US and a raft of its allies – seem to be squeezing the Islamic Republic’s international trade activity.

    In looking at Tehran’s pressing problems, one of course cannot omit Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which has caused Israel to twice ask the US for permission (denied by George W. Bush) to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. If WikiLeaks is to be believed, the nuclear program has also spurred King Abdullah of neighboring Saudi Arabia to ask the US to attack, in order to “cut off the head of the snake.”

    Despite all of these domestic difficulties, Khamenei found it prudent to pronounce a ruling on the tribunal that contradicts the opinion of roughly half of Lebanon. Iran has long proclaimed that it seeks peaceful solutions to the various ills of Lebanon. Tehran has often said that it wishes to exert its good offices, without bias or prejudice toward any side, to benefit Lebanon.

    If Khamenei’s comments illustrate Tehran’s idea of assistance, then the best thing Iran can do for Lebanon is stay away and focus instead on its own internal affairs. Unless, of course, Iran now believes that its involvement here has turned Lebanon into a satellite state and Lebanese issues into Iranian internal ones.

    The Daily Star
    21.12.2010

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