Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is the Most Important Story: Lebanon Burns; America Snores

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By Barry Rubin

While the media is going wild over the ridiculous "Palestine Papers" deception, Hizballah is taking over Lebanon.

Fareed Zakaria, the wildly overrated American pundit, has invented a new term, referring to Hizballah as “a quasi-terrorist group.” What does this mean? It means that Hizballah runs in elections but then if it doesn't get its way it kills people.

At least this is better than the president's advisor on counterterrorism and apparently chief expert on Lebanon who has explained that there is nothing to fear from Hizballah. It can't be terrorist, he explained once, because it has lawyers among its members.

If we examine the Russian (can't last long), Chinese (“agrarian reformers”), and Iranian (don’t worry, the moderates will soon emerge; Khomeini can’t govern) revolutions we find rationales to explain that soon things will return to normal. There's no problem. But the historic result is decades of horror.

Here's how Martin Gilbert, the British historian, put it:

"At bottom, the old appeasement was a mood of hope, Victorian in its optimism, Burkean in its belief that societies evolved from bad to good and that progress could only be for the better. The new appeasement was a mood of fear, Hobbesian in its insistence upon swallowing the bad in order to preserve some remnant of the good, pessimistic in its belief that Nazism was there to stay and, however horrible it might be, should be accepted as a way of life with which Britain ought to deal."

Yes, "a way of life" that must be accepted. Just another cultural choice involving burqas, stoning, making life impossible for Christians and Jews, terrorism, and massive repression, and endless war, and the indoctrination of children to hate.

On the verge of an international investigation that will show Syria and Hizballah were involved in a dozen bloody terror attacks in Lebanon—and specifically the assassination of former prime minister (and leader of the opposition) Rafik Hariri, Hizballah provoked a government crisis. Then, winning over the Druze leader Walid Junblatt (who sees that Iran-Syria are strong and America-West are weak), it may emerge as the strongest power in a new government.

"A prime minister chosen by Hezbollah and its allies won enough support on Monday to form Lebanon's government...culminating the generation-long ascent of the Shiite Muslim movement from shadowy militant group to the country's pre-eminent political and military force."

I believe the theme of his article a few days ago was that Hizballah is weak and no threat. This is a very sad day for Lebanon, the Middle East, the hope for peace and freedom, and Western interests.

Of course, Hizballah is not going to convert Lebanon into an Islamist republic. Why start a civil war with the Christians and Sunni Muslims. Just leave them alone in their territorial enclaves. But the Islamists and their partners will control the apparatus of state, foreign policy, and all the key decisions.

How did the leading Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat describe the situation? By saying that Iran will now control Lebanon.

The French government has accepted, even endorsed, this outcome.

What do you think the rest of the region is going to take away from this? America cannot or will not protect you.Islamism and Iran are the wave of the future. Submit or die. And that's even before Tehran gets nuclear weapons. The way things are going, maybe Iran doesn't even need them.
And where is the United States? Asleep. Determined to prove that it doesn’t throw its weight around, rationalizing a terrible defeat as insignificant, it hasn't even taken a stance. Now it's too late.

Last year, the United States and Europe accepted the secure establishment of a revolutionary Islamist state that is a client of Iran and Syria on the Mediterranean. This may be the year of seeing a second such state come into existence. Of course, the situation in Lebanon will be far more subtle and nuanced but in strategic terms it amounts to something very similar.

An American government that will put all of its resources into preventing the construction of apartment buildings in east Jerusalem can barely be roused to prevent the construction of an Islamist-dominated state in a country of tremendous strategic significance.

Rubin Reports: April 28, 2009: Here Comes Hillary; There Goes Lebanon."

Rubin Reports: June 4, 2009: "Hizballah Taking Over Lebanon? Don't Worry! Be Happy!"

Rubin Reports: June 15, 2009 "Watch developments in Lebanon carefully as the struggle to form a government is going to be critical. And will the United States and Europe support the March 14 coalition, or rush to "engage" Hizballah, steps which will strengthen the radical Islamist terrorist group, and its Syrian and Iranian sponsors?"

Guess what happened.

Rubin Reports, September 1, 2009: "Lebanon: A Sinking Ship that the Obama Administration has forgotten....Walid Jumblatt, once the lion of the moderate coalition, has now deserted it, thus weakening the anti-Hizballah, anti-Syrian, Lebanese nationalist forces that want to keep Lebanon independent,"

Rubin Reports, July 31, 2010: "Syria Marches Into Lebanon; Saudis Surrender to Inevitable; State Department Proclaims Victory."

Oh, here's the "funny" part. The New York Times, which a few days ago was preaching there was nothing to worry about, now discovers:

"But the symbolism of Hezbollah’s choosing Lebanon’s prime minister was vast, potentially serving as the beginning of a new era for a combustible country whose conflicts have long entangled the United States, Iran and Syria. A practical impact may be the realignment of Lebanon away from the United States, which treated the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri as an ally."

Wow! You mean the takeover of Lebanon by a revolutionary Islamist group, armed by Iran and Syria that wants to wipe Israel off the map and expel Western influence from the Middle East "may" move Lebanon away from the United States?

And three necessary remarks:

First, yes, the U.S. government treated Prime Minister Hariri as an ally. Unfortunately, in recent years the United States has treated allies very badly. And Hariri's people are now in serious trouble. Might that suggest something to other U.S. allies?

Second, how long will it be before the Times is writing the same paragraph about Turkey realigning "away from the United States."

Third, note how the United States, Iran, and Syria are all placed on an equal footing, being "entangled" in Lebanon's affairs. Well, Iran and Syria didn't just get dragged in. They got entangled in Lebanon's affairs like Britain became "entangled" in the affairs of Ireland and India, as an imperialist power spreading its influence and subordinating other states to its own interests.


And what is the Western response? The Europeans urged the “broadest possible consensus” in forming a government.

Response: Idiots! Aren’t you aware that Saad Hariri the opposition leader refused to join the government because he didn’t want to legitimize a Hizballah-controlled regime? You are undermining the pro-democracy forces and, of course, accepting the new regime.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got “tough”: "A Hezbollah-controlled government would clearly have an impact on our bilateral relationship with Lebanon."

You think? What kind of impact, pray tell? Well, have no fear as the Obama Administration has begun a review of U.S.-Lebanon relations. After all, nobody possibly could have thought this is where things were heading a year or two ago, right?

And while I know it is diplomatic-speak I can’t help but remark on what Thomas Vietor, a White House spokesman said: “"It is hard to imagine any government that is truly representative of all of Lebanon would abandon the effort to end the era of impunity for assassinations in the country.”

Hard to imagine? Well what if the leaders of that government were named as the ones who carried out those assassinations?

The administration's meetings to discuss on U.S. policy will be interesting. Some will say that the United States should engage Hizballah (or at least the government itself which thus allows the diplomatic fiction that the U.S. government isn’t engaging Hizballah).

Some will say the U.S. government should wait and see. Presumably, no one will suggest strong action.

By the way, consider the bizarre world we live in. The mission of the UN-mandated and U.S.-backed UNIFIL force’s mission is to keep Hizballah from returning to the south and reestablishing their military positions there, to keep Hizballah from getting smuggled arms from Syria, and possibly--with cooperation from the Lebanese government—to help disarm Hizballah.

But now Hizballah IS the government for all practical purposes. Presumably it won’t cooperate in punishing itself.

It would take Gilbert & Sullivan to do justice to this situation:

"As a government minister and Lebanese citizen of course I want to see justice done and the murderers captured and punished to the fullest extent of the law. But as one of the murderers I prefer that the report be ignored, denounced as totally inaccurate, and the murderers get away free.

Barry Rubin is editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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