While the media will cover heavily yesterday’s Israeli announcement that it is engaged in high-level talks with Syria, the real story from the Middle East concerns Beirut. It is a story we ignore at our peril. The US backed Lebanese government suffered a catastrophic defeat and backed down to all of Hizballah demands to end the very crisis it created that has paralyzed that divided nation since November. The democratically-elected and US backed government capitulated to the terrorist group’s demand for new elections and its insistence upon veto power against any move of that new government.
Thus, new elections for Lebanese President could be held as early as Sunday ensuring that Hizballah’s key “ally”, Syrian backed army chief General Michel Sleiman, will win.
Hizballah is more than just a terrorist client of Iran as it is regularly claimed to be in our media; it is an integral part of the Iranian military. Its chief sits on the Iranian Revolutionary Command Council making Hizballah as much a part of the Iranian military as Iran’s navy. This goes a long way toward explaining why Hizballah is universally regarded as the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, eclipsing even al-Qaeda.
How did this happen and why does nobody care? After getting no support from the American government that promised it, the Lebanese government, shorn of the protection of its US equipped and funded army, had little practical choice but to ask Hizballah for the best terms it could get.
The shambles that is Israel’s current government dramatically compounded that tragedy by rewarding Syria for its takeover of Lebanon with the announcement that it was engaged in high level “peace talks” mediated by Israel’s ally, Turkey. The very day that Iran and its client Syria cement their conquest of Lebanon, Israel dangled the prospect of surrendering the strategic Golan Heights to Syria.
Israel’s unwitting complicity in the loss of democratic Lebanon is terrible news for peace. It not only lets Syria off the hook for its dangerous and regionally-destabilizing actions. It rewards that behavior.
Just last September, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a secret North Korean built nuclear weapons facility deep inside Syria. Now it presumes the goodwill of the same Syrian regime in offering peace. The naivete behind this is beyond all reason.
Israel’s high-level negotiations with Syria does not bring peace closer, it pushes it farther away. While Iran and Syria will use these talks as a cover to consolidate their hold over Lebanon, Israel immunizes both terror states against increased economic or diplomatic pressure from anyone else in the West. Syria shows its ability to play beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the fool his public nearly unanimously sees him to be.
None of which means Israel and Syria will reach an agreement. First of all, Syria does not want an agreement. It does not want to the Golan Heights. It wants Lebanon. With today’s Hizballah deal it has Lebanon. Olmert grasped at this phony straw in the midst of mounting legal troubles related to a corruption investigation which could result in his criminal indictment as early as next week. "You can’t indict me on criminal charges and forced me to leave office when I am on the verge of a historic peace agreement with Syria" Olmert may as well say. He will argue this gives Syria an incentive for restraint. In Olmert’s mind, the talks will restrain Hizballah from launching another war against Israel and will keep Turkey, the intermediary and important Israeli ally in these talks, happy.
The only winners in this scenario are Ehud Olmert himself (who might manage to postpone his corruption indictment for a few months); Syria, Hizballah and Iran. Olmert lets Syria out of the doghouse even though it was recently caught red handed building a nuclear reactor. It relieves all the serious trouble faced by Syria from an international community outraged by its 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. In fact, all this agreement does is provide cover for Syria, Iran, and Hizballah, to strengthen their grip over Lebanon.
The Bush Administration cannot avoid the consequences of its failing to back the Lebanese government when that backing counted. It’s almost as guilty in losing Lebanon