Iranian politicians from across the spectrum have praised the election of a new president in Lebanon. The Lebanese parliament elected Michel Aoun Oct. 31, ending a more than two-year presidential vacuum in the country.
In Tehran, the move was warmly welcomed. President Hassan Rouhani called Aoun and congratulated him on the victory. “Iran is ready to expand diplomatic, economic and cultural ties with Lebanon,” Rouhani told Aoun over the phone.
Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dubbed Aoun’s victory as “the triumph of the Resistance Axis.” The Resistance Axis begins in Iran and continues to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. He told the Iranian state broadcaster, “Lebanon has a pivotal and strategic role in this axis. … If Lebanon becomes victorious in resistance — as has occurred previously — then those who fight the resistance movement will face defeat. With this victory, those who are plotting against the Resistance Axis in Iraq and Syria will face defeat as well.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif congratulated the people of Lebanon on his Twitter page. “Stability and progress assured when Lebanese themselves decide for Lebanon,” Zarif posted on Twitter.
Aoun, who was a leading anti-Syria figure during the 15-year Lebanese Civil War, has changed sides since 2006 and become a political ally of Hezbollah. He is a central figure in the Free Patriotic Movement party, which is the largest party among Lebanon’s Christian community. Due to Aoun’s political ties, some commentators suggest that his election will further diminish Saudi Arabia’s role in Lebanon.
Iranian conservative daily Kayhan also hailed the new move in Lebanon. Kayhan’s Oct. 31 front-page headline read, “The historic victory of Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Kayhan’s lead editorial column was on the same topic. “The election of Aoun showed that the resistance movement under the leadership of [Hezbollah leader] Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah is the main influential movement in solving Lebanon’s political deadlock, even though the movement has seriously attempted not to intervene in domestic political quarrels,” wrote Saadollah Zarei.
On the other end of the political spectrum in Iran, the Reformist daily Etemad on its front page published a commentary by the former Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Massoud Edrisi.
“Democracy took place in Lebanon, and the figure who was more popular and had more votes has become president,” said Edrisi. “In Lebanon, the president has an important role in adjusting the country’s foreign affairs,” he added, predicting that the new president would make resolving issues in diplomatic relations with international and regional powers a priority.
According to Edrisi, France, the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the countries that Aoun will likely attempt to strengthen relations with. “I think Iranian-Lebanese political ties will be warming further in the coming days. Aoun is a powerful figure, and he can shape a balance regarding the influences of Iran and Saudi Arabia inside Lebanon.”
By Changiz M. Varzi