Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Our world: How Lebanon was lost
Hizbullah\'s successful overthrow of the pro-democracy forces in Lebanon this past week was eminently foreseeable. But that doesn\'t make the violent overthrow of the forces of freedom in that country any less of a tragedy. And the fact that Hizbullah\'s coup was predictable does not mean that it was inevitable.
A great many forces had to turn their backs on Lebanon\'s democratic forces in order to enable Hizbullah\'s easy triumph. A great many actors had to turn a blind eye to Hizbullah\'s Iranian and Syrian-financed rearmament over the past two years. A great many actors had to ignore and so exacerbate the inherent weaknesses of the March 14 movement and the Saniora government it produced. A great many countries and international bodies had to accept the fiction that the Lebanese military takes its orders from the elected Lebanese government.
And alas, over the past two years, most of the supposedly pro-democracy, anti-Iranian, anti-Syrian and anti-Hizbullah governments of the world have turned blind eyes to all these things and so paved the way for Hizbullah\'s takeover of the country.
Three years ago, backed by the US, the one-and-a-half-million-member strong March 14 movement successfully shamed Syria into withdrawing its military forces from Lebanon and so ended their 18-year occupation of the country. As of Monday morning, the March 14 movement\'s leaders were effectively Hizbullah prisoners. Sa\'ad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, as well as Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, had publicly submitted to Hizbullah\'s humiliating conditions for a ceasefire.
Jumblatt has been the March 14 movement\'s gadfly opposing Lebanon\'s steady transformation into an Iranian-Syrian proxy through Hizbullah. Sunday he laid bare the powerlessness of the movement when he begged Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah to spare his followers in the Shouf Mountains. Speaking under Hizbullah siege from his home in Beirut, Jumblatt said in a television interview, "Through the LBC I address Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: If you have a personal issue with me, that\'s fine. But we cannot allow attacks on the people of Al-Jabel [i.e. Druse villagers in the mountains around the capital city]. We must all work for a ceasefire with the army, and leave personal issues aside."
Jumblatt made his plea for the lives of his people after he was obliged to instruct them to lay down their weapons and place their faith in the Lebanese army on Sunday afternoon. Yet the army, under the command of General Michel Suleiman has refused to protect them. Apparently Hizbullah‚s campaign against the Druse is a vicious one. For Sunday, even Hizbullah\'s Druse collaborator Mir Talal Arslan requested that the Lebanese army intervene. For their part, Jumblatt\'s followers in the Shouf mountains were waging a desperate defense of their villages and pleading with the world for assistance. So far, no one has answered their calls.
OBVIOUSLY, JUMBLATT knew that he couldn\'t trust Suleiman\'s army. If he had, he wouldn\'t have begged Nasrallah to have mercy on his people. And he was right, for since Hizbullah began its violent takeover of Lebanon last Wednesday, it has done so with the full cooperation of the Lebanese army. When Hizbullah forces raided, set fire to and destroyed Hariri\'s Future News newspaper offices and Future TV station, they did so with Lebanese army escort. Suleiman\'s forces did not reopen Hariri\'s pro-democracy media outlets after they ordered Hizbullah forces to leave the streets of Beirut over the weekend. They did not confront Hizbullah forces in Tripoli or Tyre. And now they are allowing the Druse to be destroyed.
And of course, the Shi\'ite-dominated Lebanese army rendered Hizbullah the victor in its coup when the generals announced they would not carry out the Saniora government\'s anti-Hizbullah decisions from last Tuesday. The army reinstated sacked Hizbullah agent Brigadier General Wafiq Shuqeir to his position as head of security at Beirut\'s Hariri International Airport. It similarly bowed to Hizbullah by announcing it would take no action to shut down Hizbullah\'s independent telecommunications system, which is run by Iran and linked to Syrian intelligence.
Suleiman\'s collaboration with Hizbullah is not new. It was exposed during the 2006 war with Israel. Lebanese forces actively assisted Hizbullah forces in their war with Israel. They painted Israeli targets for Hizbullah missile squads. They collaborated in Hizbullah\'s missile attack on the INS Hanit. They paid pensions to the families of Hizbullah fighters killed in the war.
Since 2006, Lebanese military forces deployed along the border with Israel under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 have reported IDF movements to Hizbullah. They have enabled Hizbullah to transfer arms and deploy fighters to the villages bordering Israel. They have permitted Iran and Syria to transfer massive quantities of arms to Hizbullah throughout the country. These arms transfers enabled Hizbullah‚s missile arsenal to triple in size from pre-war levels.
Then too, there was Suleiman\'s supposedly successful campaign against Syrian-backed al-Qaida forces in Nahar el Bared refugee camp last summer. Suleiman allowed the fighting to go on for 33 days rather than storming the camp. He allowed most of the Syrian-backed, al-Qaida-affiliated Fatah al Islam terrorists - including their commander Shaker al Abssi - to run away to Syria.
WITH THIS history, it should have been clear long ago to anyone paying attention that far from being a national institution which serves Lebanon\'s democratically elected government, the Lebanese army is just another militia. And it also should have been clear that in the absence of a loyal, subservient army, the Saniora government was little more than a lobbying group.
Yet many colluded to ignore this reality. First of course there is Israel. The Olmert-Livni government has upheld Resolution 1701 and its prescribed deployment of the Lebanese army to the border with Israel as their crowning achievement in office. They have to maintain the fiction that the Shi\'ite-dominated Lebanese army opposes Hizbullah control over Lebanon in order to keep up the appearance that Resolution 1701 was a good deal for Israel.
Moreover, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have upheld the fiction that UNIFIL\'s 15,000 ground forces and naval detachment are actually deployed in South Lebanon to defend the Lebanese government and Israel from Hizbullah and to prevent Hizbullah\'s rearmament and redeployment. In line with this fantasy, rather than take effective action to prevent Hizbullah\'s rolling takeover of Lebanon, Livni and Olmert have sufficed with issuing complaints to the UN regarding Hizbullah\'s massive rearmament and redeployment along the border. Again, actually contending with reality would involve acknowledging their own incompetence.
At the outset of the war two years ago, Olmert announced rightly that Israel held the Saniora government responsible for Hizbullah\'s aggression. Olmert\'s announcement was reasonable because at the time, Hizbullah was a full member of the Saniora government which effectively acted as Hizbullah\'s mouthpiece. Yet the US would have none of it.
In the early days of the war, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded that Israel take no action against the Saniora government which she claimed - wrongly - was a credible US ally. Largely as a consequence of Rice\'s demand, and of the Olmert-Livni government\'s refusal to target Hizbullah and Hamas training and logistical bases in Syria, the Olmert-Livni government\'s strategy against Hizbullah lost its strategic rationale. From then on, Israel\'s defeat was just a matter of time.
AFTER THE war, the US was given an opportunity to actually support democratic, anti-Iranian-Syrian forces in Lebanon by supporting the Saniora government when Hizbullah abruptly bolted the ruling coalition and backed by Iran and Syria attempted to take control of the government by assassination and terror.
The US could have taken action against Syria or Iran. But instead it sought to appease Iran and Syria in the hopes that they would temper their support for insurgents in Iraq. The pinnacle of this US abandonment of the March 14 movement was Rice\'s decision to invite Syria to participate in her peace confab at Annapolis last November.
Both the US and Israel\'s silent acquiescence to Iran\'s takeover of Lebanon through Hizbullah complements their acceptance of Iran\'s takeover of Gaza through Hamas.
Again, in an effort to hide the failure of their signature policy of withdrawing IDF forces from Gaza and expelling 10,000 Israeli civilians from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005, the Olmert-Livni government has refused to take action against Hamas\'s Iranian backed regime in Gaza. Then too, just as it protected Hizbullah during the 2006 war by siding with Saniora, who was then keeping house with Nasrallah, so too, today, the US protects Hamas by siding with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas who kept house with Hamas until Hamas threw him out of the house last summer and who has been desperately seeking to reunite with Hamas ever since.
With Egypt\'s Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman\'s visit to Israel Monday, the Olmert-Livni government exposed the depth of its recognition of the Hamas regime in Gaza. Suleiman came to present the government with the ceasefire agreement Egypt has negotiated with Hamas. The agreement will bar the IDF from overthrowing Iran\'s Palestinian proxy and enable Hamas to keep its Iranian armed, trained and funded army. Hamas\'s Katyusha rocket attack on Ashkelon Monday morning signaled clearly where that ceasefire will lead.
And yet, the Olmert-Livni government embraces it. And the Bush administration supports it.
During his festive visit to Israel this week, President George W. Bush is expected to celebrate the US\'s strategic alliance with the Jewish state. It is a great tragedy that the strategies this alliance has advanced in recent years have paved the way for Lebanon\'s demise and for Israel\'s encirclement by Iranian proxies.
The tragedy is only heightened by the fact that this outcome was eminently avoidable.