Another Middle East debacle: Lebanon on the brink
News reports describe the current situation in Lebanon:
Iranian ally Hezbollah moved to the brink of controlling Lebanon's next government on Monday, setting off angry protests and drawing warnings from the U.S. that its support could be in jeopardy.
Nearly two weeks after bringing down Lebanon's Western-backed government, the Shiite militant group -- considered a terrorist organization by Washington -- secured support in parliament to name its own candidate for the next prime minister. The feat caps Hezbollah's steady rise over decades from resistance force against Israel to Lebanon's most powerful military and political power.
There is no way to sugarcoat the potential conquest of Lebanon by Iran -- that is what is going on here. It would be a tragedy for the people of Lebanon and horrible setback for U.S. efforts to combat Iran's influence in the region.
Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote in an e-mail to me this morning:
Should Hezbollah take control now, albeit via a coalition, it will be a significant shift for Lebanon, from being a weak state harboring a terrorist group to being a rogue state that will openly violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. . . .In the past, Hezbollah's power hid behind the [Prime Minister] Hariri's fig leaf. Now they've removed him and are forging ahead. They will ask him to join the government with them, but he has declared that he wouldn't. Let's see whether he sticks by it or not.
But clearly the trajectory leading up to the current situation has shown that the main driver is Iran, which is Hezbollah's reference point. Hezbollah is the power on the ground, and the Syrians, although they share the same goals, have really played second fiddle to the Iranians in these unfolding events.
The current situation was several years in the making, but Badran and other Middle East experts assign a great deal of responsibility to the feckless administration, which seemed somewhat taken aback by the pace of events. (Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman is in Tunisia now.)
Elliott Abrams writes:
One can argue that this outcome has been inevitable since May 2008, when Hizballah sent its forces into the streets of Beirut to show that it could and would use its army against non-Shiite Lebanese--and the United States, France, the Saudis and other supporters of an independent Lebanon did nothing. But that's three years ago and only now has Hizballah defied the rest of the Lebanese population and demanded that it name the Sunni who will lead the government. This reflects the continuing reduction in American sway in the region, and especially the "engagement" with Syria. The last straw may have been the decision to send an ambassador to Syria by recess appointment despite the Senate's unwillingness to confirm the Administration's candidate. That foolish gesture must have indicated to the Syrians and to Hizballah that the Administration had learned nothing from two years of insults and rebuffs by Damascus.
Badran asks, "The Syrians are still very much allied with Hezbollah and Iran, and will remain so, and their objectives in Lebanon have not changed, and their armament of Hezbollah has not changed, and so on. So what exactly will the ambassador do there? Chastise them for being naughty?"
Although events are moving in an ominous direction, Abrams cautions that much depends on the reaction of Lebanon's Christians and Sunnis ("Will they keep up a political resistance to Hizballah and to its hand-picked prime minister, with votes in parliament, demonstrations, and requests for international support?"). And equally important, as Abrams points out, is whether the U.S. will assert what is left of its influence to back those resisting rule by Hezbollah.
This is yet one more tragic example of what flows from the Obama administration's weakness and ill-conceived attempts at appeasing aggressors. Oh, and if we are this ill-equipped to contain Iran before it gets nuclear weapons, how is it conceivable that we would do so after it becomes a nuclear power?
Posted by: rickz77 | January 25, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fghadry | January 25, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rober1jf | January 25, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eoniii | January 25, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kchses1 | January 25, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 25, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mbintampa | January 25, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Morgan097 | January 25, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse