A couple of years ago, a visit by the Iranian president to Lebanon would have been unthinkable. But then, a series of events, beginning with a flexing of military muscle by Hezb'allah in 2008 that led to the infamous Doha Agreement, have turned Lebanese politics on its head and the losers in last year's Parliamentary elections - Hezb'allah and its allies - now find themselves in the ascendancy.
The Sunnis and many Christians are alarmed but can do little. The Hez have the guns and have demonstrated a willingness to use them to achieve their political aims. Despite two separate UNSC resolutions demanding that Hezb'allah disarm, the Iranian-backed terrorist group/political party is now dominating Lebanese politics largely because the democrats are reluctant to go to the brink of civil war to stop them.
I have an article in FrontPage.com today reflecting on the meaning of Ahmadinejad's triumphal visit to southern Lebanon:
There is no doubt that Hezbollah has reached the zenith of its power and influence in Lebanon. By demonstrating a willingness to press its advantages, as well as hold the specter of violence over the heads of the March 14th Alliance, the government now marches to the beat of Hezbollah's drums. There is something pathetic in all of this if one considers the high hopes of the Lebanese people when the March 14th Alliance first took power in 2005. Since that time, compromise after compromise with the enemies of freedom have sapped the will to resist the constant pressure of Hezbollah and its Iranian masters. In the end, most of the leaders of the March 14th forces have either resigned to the inevitable or are maintaining a lower profile.
This is the backdrop of Ahmadinejad's triumphal visit to Lebanon. With a newly confident and assertive Syria, and Lebanon's Hezbollah in de facto control of the country, the minions of the Iranian president now present a united front against Israel and Western interests in the Levant.
Make no mistake. There has been a fundamental shift in this tiny but strategically important country toward Iran. Lebanon has become an Iranian client state with untold and unknown consequences yet to flow from this new reality.