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Daybreak: The Iran-Lebanon Merger

Plus A’jad praises, meets with Hezbollah, and more in the news

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Ahmadinejad speaking yesterday; next to him is a Hezbollah representative.(Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Lebanon of becoming “an extension of the ayatollah regime in Iran.” [Haaretz]

• This after President Ahmadinejad stood a few miles from the Israeli border and loudly praised Hezbollah. [NYT]

• He also reportedly met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut. [Jewish Journal/Haaretz]

• The Arab League warned that continued West Bank construction could lead it to ask the U.N. to recognize an independent Palestine. [JPost]

• President Abbas punted on the question of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, saying how Israel defines itself is up to Israel. [JPost]

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Ahmadinejad’s victory lap around a cheering Lebanon began in 2002 when Iran provided Bush all the “intelligence” he needed to justify invading Iraq. The administration’s chief source of information was Ahmed Chalabi, for a while the administration’s darling and choice to lead the post-invasion government. It later turned out that Chalabi was an instrument of Iran, his “information” was cherry-picked disinformation intended to shape US policy to Iranian aims.

Iran feared the Baathist regime in Iraq having lost one million casualties in the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq was both threat and barrier to Iranian ambitions to dominate the Arab Middle East. Bush decapitated Iraq’s Sunni Arab government and replaced it with a Shiite dominated one, the Shiites being the same religion and under the direct influence of Iran!

Once Iraq went Sh’ia Iran’s next goal was to tie the US down by arming and encouraging the “resistance.” With swift victory looming as another Vietnam, an endless quagmire from which there was no withdrawal, Bush needed to minimize casualties. This meant a deeper dependence on Iran to control the insurrection the Iranians themselves were supporting! The tradeoff for the US to antagonize as little as possible the Islamic Republic which, in turn, provided that country breathing room to pursue its hegemonic ambitions, including the development of its nuclear program.

Seven years into Iraq and with presidential elections looming Bush took a page from Obama and declared a timeline to withdraw from that shattered country. Which was fine from Iran’s standpoint since most of their goals for the war had been met. If not yet a full-blown satellite, Iran significantly influenced the Shiite government. Iranian influence throughout the region, thanks to American distraction in Iraq, was great, having armed surrogates through Hezbollah and Hamas threatening Israel and, more importantly, another psychological threat to the Sunni Arab monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula. And s

o Ahmadinejad’s victory lap in Lebanon yesterday.

The consequences for Israel and the Arabs is obvious. Iran, even without a nuclear weapon is an existential threat. But what consequences for the US?

In 1992 then planning the assault on Iraq General Shinseki warned that the only way to consolidate a military victory in that country, to pacify and control the sectarian violence certain to follow would be an occupation force of 300,000 troops. Bush would hear nothing of that, would commit half that number to do the job. Shinseki was fired and the civil war and continuing insurrection is history. Long-term occupation would have meant the US military would have ended Iranian ambitions in the Arabian Peninsula, would have reinforced US control of events and oil in the Middle East. The US would have maintained stability in the region.

Iran has played a masterful game, has managed to lead the world’s only super power and its European allies around by the nose for nearly a decade. Unless the US decisively confronts that challenge and demonstrates the will to protect its regional interests it will not only lose its place in the region, a process already in play as Turkey is leaving the American orbit to accommodate the new regional hegemon, and the Arab Emirates are warning of the same; if the US has not the will or vision to take on a second world country like Iran in defense of its and the region’s interests then the US will have demonstrated on the world stage its inability to fill its role as super power.

Withdrawal from responsibility regarding Iran is the beginning of the end for American credibility, its position as global leader. The slope down is steep, and slippery.

Ira M. Salwen says:

Iran has been testing the West’s resolve for years. When they grabbed the British sailors and suffered no consequences, that sent a message. When they harassed US Navy warships on patrol and suffered no consequences, that reinforced the same message. By the time they stole the election, they knew the response would be some tepid talk and not much else – and they were right. I’m sure they figure that the response to their eventual announcement of nuclear weapons capability will be plenty of diplomatic hand-wringing and plenty of finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

Lebanon is to Syria as Israel is to Palestine. It was one of two states, one (nominally) Christian and one Moslem, created by the partition of the Syria Mandate. Over time, Christian influence has declined and Moslem influence has increased. Syria never recognized Lebanon as a separate entity and tried to control Lebanon. Leaders who fought against this were either bought off or killed. When Israel took over Southern Lebanon, it was to eliminate the virtually independent PLO state-within-a-state that had taken root there. When Israel vacated Southern Lebanon, it created a vacuum that they hoped would be filled by the Lebanese Government. Instead, it was filled by Hezbollah, which just happens to be headquartered in Syria’s capital.

For year’s, Syria’s adventures in Lebanon have exposed a lack of Western resolve, something the Iranians certainly noticed. Hezbollah serves as the perfect vehicle for Syria to get what it has always wanted and almost achieved a couple of times, a de facto takeover of Lebanon. This will be trumpeted by the Iranians as a great triumph. Iran will claim credit, based on its support for Hezbollah.

A victory in Lebanon, combined with a nuclear weapon, will provoke fear in the hearts of other Arab regimes, who will perceive that Iran is on the rise and Western power, especially US power, is in decline. This lack of resolve recalls Western attitudes in the 1930s.

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Daybreak: The Iran-Lebanon Merger

Plus A’jad praises, meets with Hezbollah, and more in the news

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