Iran Is Seeking Lebanon Stake as Syria Totters

(New York Times) Neil MacFarquhar - Iran's eagerness to shower money on Lebanon when its own finances are being squeezed by sanctions is the latest indication of just how worried Tehran is at the prospect that Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad, could fall. Iran's ardent courtship of the Lebanese government indicates that Tehran is scrambling to find a replacement for its closest Arab ally. It is not only financing public projects, but also seeking to forge closer ties through cultural, military and economic agreements. Many Lebanese see Iran's gestures not as a show of good will, but as a stealth cultural and military colonization. The Lebanese have largely accepted that Iran serves as Hizbullah's main patron for everything from missiles to dairy cows. But branching out beyond the Shiites of Hizbullah is another matter. "Hizbullah has developed into being a beachhead of Iranian influence not only in Lebanon, but on the Mediterranean - trying to spread Iranian culture, Iranian political domination and now an Iranian economic presence," said Marwan Hamade, a Druse leader and Parliament member. "But there is a kind of Lebanese rejection of too much Iranian involvement here."

2012-05-25 00:00:00

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