Iran Builds a Presence in Lebanon

[Los Angeles Times] Raed Rafei and Borzou Daragahi - Along the roadways of southern Lebanon, thousands of banners festoon street lights and utility poles. They feature a distinctive symbol, a red inscription from the center of Iran's flag, protectively swathing Lebanon's iconic green cedar. The emblem belongs to the Iranian reconstruction organization. Its presence delivers a message that is not lost on those who have watched cratered roads filled in, damaged school walls resurrected, and life return to some semblance of normalcy over the last year. Iran is a Shiite Muslim majority country that sees itself as the patron of Shiites around the world, including those in Lebanon, who make up a third to half of the population. Whenever the Lebanese government, nonprofit organizations or other donor nations have faltered, Iran and its ally Hizbullah, which dominates most of the municipal governments of the south, have quickly swooped in. For example, when Qatar slowed reconstruction efforts several months ago because of corruption worries, Iran quickly upped its contribution.

2007-08-17 01:00:00

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