Iran has one message: Israel is bad, Iran’s government stands by Lebanon, Hezbollah denies involvement.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
On the day after the massive explosion in Lebanon, Iran’s Foreign Minister was in full solidarity mode. At least in English he was. Meanwhile in Iran little was being done for Lebanon and there appeared to be little interest in the strategy among the plethora of state and IRGC-linked media. Now, on August 8, four days after the blast that left more than 130 dead, 60 missing and thousands injured, there is still little interest. Why?
In English, Iran has one message: Israel is bad, Iran’s government stands by Lebanon, Hezbollah denies involvement. Press TV in Iran on August 4, for instance, condemns France for a “colonial-style” trip by President Emmanuel Macron to Beirut on August 5. How come there aren’t more details in Farsi on Tasnim, Fars, IRNA, ISNA and other Iranian channels? More interesting are domestic concerns. ISNA talks about distributing “basic goods” in Iran. This may explain why Iran appeared to send three flights to support Lebanon after the blast but didn’t play up its aid that much. It’s own people need the aid more than Lebanon it seems.
Tasnim news on Saturday was more concerned with US sanctions, a protest by Iran about US fighters jets intercepting an Iranian passenger plane and exchange rates. Not so much about Lebanon. Fars News also didn’t have many details about the blast. There was a report about Lebanon’s foreign minister praising Hezbollah head Hassan-Nasrallah and details about the Mozambique company that had purchased the ammonium nitrate that exploded in Beirut. There was less about how the blast might affect Iran, Iranians in Lebanon or even Hezbollah, a key Iranian ally.
So what is going on with Iran’s regime and its reaction to the blast? The regime seems more interested in a few petty details or ignoring the destruction entirely. Zarif is busy complaining that Google doesn’t translate Persian language tweets correctly, claiming that when tweets send condolences, Google translates the word to “congratulations.” Basically he is complaining that when he tries to mourn with Lebanon it is mistranslated. But why would he care, he usually tweets in English as Iran’s premier propagandist and explainer abroad. It’s odd that this is the main concern of Iran’s foreign minister after the tragedy, trying to get translations correct at a global tech giant.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has also been silent for days after the disaster. He tweeted sympathy on August 5 and then remained silent. Where are the usual avalanche of words. When Iran’s regime is bashing Israel, such as on its annual Quds Day, the leader and all his minions seem capable of hundreds of tweets bashing “Zionism” and the US. But when it comes to caring for the lives of Lebanese they are quiet. They seem to only tweet about Lebanon in the context of Israel and otherwise see the people as expendable. They call Hezbollah the “resistance” in Lebanon, defending the country from Israel’s supposed aggression. However when Lebanese die at the hands of an explosion, rather than Israel, for some reason their usual caring for the lives of Lebanese disappears.
The overall Iranian media and leadership reaction, while it has had some evidence of sending aid, in general has not shown much interest in what happened in Lebanon, despite the state being a key part of Iran’s system of influence in the region. In fact it was Lebanon where the Iranian Islamic Revolution fully gained a foothold in the 1980s, via groups like Hezbollah. It was in Lebanon where Iran confront the US and Israel. Ostensibly there are fraternal relations and family relations between Shi’ites in Lebanon and those in Iran. However overall affection by the regime may be lacking.
Source: The Jerusalem Post