Thursday, April 23, 2009

Update3!: NY Times Covers Lebanon's Election and Guess Who the Bad Guy Is?

Update: A reader asks whether the Saudis are backing groups that want to impose an Islamist or Saudi-style society on Lebanon. The answer is "no." The Saudis are supporting the March 14 coalition candidates, not parties they control. One reason for this is that the coalition was founded by the late former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, murdered by Syria in February 2005, who was not only a Lebanese but also a Saudi citizen and had good connections in Saudi ruling circles. The parties they are supporting are not Islamist parties but groups which favor democracy. The March 14 coalition is a Sunni-Druze-Christian alliance of those wanting to keep Lebanon independent from Syrian and Iranian influence while reaffirming Lebanese nationalism and a democratic, free market-oriented society.

Update 3: A good summary of Syria-Lebanon relations at present and problems therein

Begin article:

Nowadays it's almost as if you can make up some ridiculous slanted story which gets everything wrong and then--wham! boom!--it appears in the New York Times.

Lebanon is having very important elections on June 7 which may well determine whether the country continues to possess some real autonomy or whether it is incorporated into the Iran-Syria-led bloc of radical anti-Western Islamism.

The side favoring Iran and Syria includes: the Shia groups Hizballah and Amal; the Christians of Michel Aoun; a herd of traditional, patriarchal Sunni Muslim politicians; and a tiny group of Druze defectors. They are buoyed by tens of millions of dollars from Tehran and Damascus, as well as the power of Hizballah's militia, which is armed by weapons bought by Iran and smuggled in by Syria. More than a dozen terrorist attacks have assassinated leading anti-Syrian politicians of the March 14 coalition, including that group's original leader Rafiq Hariri.

The democratic side gets no money from the West and little or no diplomatic help. On the contrary, in the rush of some Western states to be nice to Hizballah, they are crushing the hopes of the majority who don't want to be satellites of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad (known unaffectionately as the "giraffe" back home) and the Iranian regime's mullahs.

Now the New York Times has entered the fray and courageously discovered that someone is trying to "fix" the Lebanese election. And who's that?

Why Saudi Arabia of course! Yes, I have no doubt the Saudis are doing this but when you see an article headlined "Foreign Money Seeks to Buy Lebanese Votes" you sort of expect that there is more than one type of foreigner present.

Iran is mentioned twice; Syria not at all. True the article says: "Even a narrow win by Hezbollah and its allies, now in the parliamentary opposition, would be seen as a victory for Iran — which has financed Hezbollah for decades — and a blow to American allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt. So the money flows."

In other words (and yes the article does say in passing that Iran has "financed" Hizballah), Iran is mentioned only because this is the Saudi rationale for intervention.

To talk about money trying to sway the Lebanese election without talking about the Iranian-Syrian effort is ludicrous.

The future of Lebanon is now at stake and if it is taken over by the extremists, it will have a terrible impact on the Middle East and indeed the world. The Iran-Syria bloc will be seen as the wave of the future, the wagon onto which many opportunists and foolish people will leap. The radicals will have a new base of operations for seeking to take over more countries.

May God--in all the manifestations worshipped in Lebanon--help the Lebanese, because the West sure isn't going to do so.

UPDATE: Guess what? The New York Times article is the lead piece in tonight's 8:30GMT news on Al Manar, Hizballah's television station. They are using the article as propaganda to say that their enemies are on the Saudi payroll. In addition, they are quoting the same passage I quoted above, saying that a Hizballah win would be "a blow to American allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt."

Oh, but they aren't talking about Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Hizballah's television station changed the ally in question to: Israel. That's right. Thanks to the Times, Hizballah is portraying the March 14 coalition as an ally of Israel and a lackey of America. And after all, the Times has lent its prestige (what remains of it) to implying that the March 14 democrats are corrupt and Hizballah along with its friends aren't.

So if a pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian government takes over Lebanon and becomes in effect a dictatorship, Hizballah's leaders can say in the words of that famous old advertising campaign: "I got my job through the New York Times!"

[Hizballah also made ample use of a vicious anti-Israel cartoon published in the NY Times a few weeks ago.]

Note: I am not suggesting that Hizballah and its allies will take over all the geographic areas of Lebanon. That's too difficult militarily given the opposition of anti-Hizballah Sunni, Christian and Druze communities. They will focus on controlling the country's foreign and economic policies, turning it into a fortress for radical Islamist forces and probably preparing for some war with Israel in a few years.

1 comment:

  1. Aussi sent me.
    Want to ask, while Saudi Arabia funded parties in Lebanon are good for western interest (or at least prefferable to Iran), are they really good for the Lebanees. SA isn't exactly a haven of democracy (it's kind of in a contest with Iran regarding torture and implementation of religious law), neither is Egypt, so how liberal can these parties be really?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.