Lebanon’s long-suffering history took a turn for the worse in the last couple of days, as Hezbollah, the Shi’ite terrorist army “made in Iran,” occupied the capital city Beirut. Ten people were killed in fierce fire fights and dozens wounded, yet the Lebanese Army sat out the fight.
The violence came as response to a feeble attempt by the Lebanese government to shut down Hezbollah’s fiber optic network and begin dismantling its control of Beirut’s international airport.
The violence comes as President Bush is planning to embark on a Middle East tour, which would take him to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday in Jerusalem, and then to Saudi Arabia — to ask the Kingdom to pump more oil.
The place to stop the violence in Beirut and to support the democratically elected Lebanese government, headed by Fouad Siniora, is not in Beirut. It is in Teheran and Damascus.
And it is not about Lebanon, but about the United States. Iran wants to teach Bush a lesson, or as Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in April, give the West a “bloody nose” and “smash it on the mouth.” Iran is trying to demonstrate to Saudis and others in the region who is the boss.
The United States is concerned that Iran is training terrorists who attack U.S. troops in Iraq and the Iraqi government. For its part, Tehran is signaling to Washington that if America attacks guerrilla-training camps in Iran, U.S. allies, such as the Lebanese government, may suffer.
Syria is also involved. President Bashar Assad is under pressure from the United Nations as his senior officials are the main suspects in the dragged-out U.N. investigation of the murder of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the father of the current coalition leader, Saad Hariri.
It is no accident that Hezbollah targeted and destroyed the offices of the Hariri Future TV channel, and of his movement called The Future. Hezbollah fighters have shot rockets at Hariri’s home and took positions near the house of the anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumbalat.
Syria and Iran are attempting to topple the Siniora-Hariri government using Hezbollah as a battering ram. By doing that, they are undermining Bush’s legacy of promoting democracy in the Middle East.
Lebanon, with its 2005 Cedar Revolution, was the democratization policy flagship. Everywhere else, in Egypt and in the Palestinian territories, where the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have won the elections, the policy is already in shambles.
The Hezbollah victory also demonstrates failures of two multilateral organizations: the Arab League, which mediated between the Siniora government and the Hezbollah, and the U.N., which failed to prevent Iran and Syria from supplying Hezbollah with 27,000 rockets and building a new network of bunkers and fiber-optic communications.
What the United States could do?
- Recognize that we have allies in the Middle East, especially when it comes to containing Iran. Saudi Arabia, the Sunni Arab Gulf states, and the European allies all understand what is at stake.
- Hit Hezbollah where it hurts, freezing its bank assets and halting spare part supplies to its TV and radio channels, telecommunications and vehicles.
- Go after its sponsors, Iran and Syria. Those have assets and interests that can be frozen or confiscated. They also have officials and businessmen who travel throughout the world. They should not be welcome as long as their policies remain disruptive.
Teheran cannot be handed a victory, which may destroy Lebanon’s remaining cohesion, nor should Lebanon be allowed to be transformed into the staging ground for the next war against Israel.
Lebanon has suffered enough. Too much is at stake to allow the mullahs and their Hezbollah henchmen from unleashing another Lebanese civil war.