Last week’s events in Lebanon fill us with grim foreboding for the future and force us to confront past failures with greater clarity. Hizbullah has established itself as the dominant power in Lebanon. That which U.N. Secretary Gernaral Ban Ki-Moon predicted in February has come to pass. He warned that Hizbullah’s rearmament would threaten the “sovereignty, stability, and independence of Lebanon.”
The cost of Israel’s failure to deal Hizbullah a decisive blow in the summer of 2006 is now clearer than ever. Far from having lessened Hizbullah’s capacities, as Prime Minister Olmert was wont to claim at war’s end, the organization is now more powerful than ever. Its control extends not only over southern Lebanon but over the streets of Beirut as well.
The second lesson of Hizbullah’s putsch is the uselessness of the United Nations and its inability to act in the face of any recalcitrance. Over less than two years, Hizbullah has succeeded in doubling the number of missiles it possessed at the outset of the Second Lebanon War. Each of the more than 14,000 missiles it has added to its arsenal has been smuggled into Lebanon under the ever unwatchful eye of U.N. peacekeepers, even though the latter were operating under a U.N. mandate to prevent Hizbullah from rearming.
And finally we can now say with confidence that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is guilty of gross diplomatic malpractice. Iran is pursuing the most aggressively anti-American foreign policy since the heyday of the Soviet Union. Everywhere it possibly can it is sticking its finger in the eye of the United States and advancing its goal of becoming the dominant power in the Middle East. The heavy rearming of Hizbullah and Hizbullah’s move to dictate Lebanon’s future are part of a pattern of establishing as many proxies as possible, especially where they threaten core American interests.
Hamas in Gaza, and increasingly in the West Bank; Hizbullah in Lebanon, the al-Sadr brigades in Iraq, and terrorist sleeper planted cells throughout Western Europe are all tentacles on the octopus that is today’s Iran.
ONE COULD HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN for thinking that Rice was not totally serious about her stated goal of forging some sort of agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel before the end of 2008, and that she was more concerned about the appearance of doing something than the substance in order to silence the boo-birds in President Bush’s last year in office.
After all, one very big question seemed to refute any possibility that she was serious: Why in the world would she believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is any riper for resolution today than it was during the first seven years of the Bush administration, during which the President refused to be lured into a repeat of President Clinton’s fiasco at Camp David in 2000? Or for that matter what makes the current situation more auspicious than it has been over nearly forty years of American efforts dating back to the Rogers Plan during the presidency of Richard Nixon?
In point of fact, the situation has if anything worsened substantially in the past two years. Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza means that any agreement reached at present leaves out one of the main parties and is incapable of implementation. Palestinian opinion polls show Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to be more popular than Mahmoud Abbas, and it is widely assumed that but for Israel’s presence on the West Bank that Hamas would take over the West Bank as it took over Gaza. As a consequence, Israel finds itself negotiating with a figure who cannot deliver on any commitments and who speaks for nobody.
Moreover, the disastrous results of the Gaza withdrawal, which was followed by a sharp leap in the number of missiles fired at Sderot and other parts of southern Israel, including Ashkelon, have cooled a majority of Israelis on any further territorial concessions with the potential to bring Palestinian missiles closer to their homes.
Finally, Abbas has done nothing to show any indication that he is a worthy negotiating partner, even if his promises were worth the paper they are written on. He declared three-days of national mourning after the death in Damascus of the arch-terrorist George Habash. And he subsequently announced that he would center the Palestinian Authority’s highest medal of honor on the driver who drove the suicide bomber who blew up the Sbarro Pizza shop killing 16 Jews and a young Palestinian woman who lured a 16-year-old Israeli boy to his death over the Internet. (Both are currently resident in Israeli jails where they will hopefully live out their lives speedily.)
ALAS IT IS all too clear that Rice is serious about pushing for some type of agreement. She has simply invested too heavily, threatened both Abbas and senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak, too many times, and put too much of her prestige on the line to continue to think otherwise. She has visited Israel four times in the past five months. And on her most recent trip last week, she involved herself in the minutest details of the negotiations, instructing U.S. consular officials to ascertain – based on interviews with Palestinians – whether the dismantling of 44 roadblocks and checkpoints by Israel had substantially improved their quality of life.
Rice once compared the Palestinians to blacks in Birmingham, and apparently this is no mere figure of speech for her. She has bought into the apartheid metaphor, in which the Palestinian are helpless victims with no responsibility for their own plight.
Of late she has been pressuring both sides for at least an agreement on borders alone, even if other issues remain outstanding. That approach can only spell disaster for Israel, as any discussion of borders can only mean Israeli concessions on territory, with the result that Israel will have forfeited in advance its most valuable bargaining chip with respect to other issues.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S focus on Palestinian-Israeli negotiations is hardly taking place in a period of international calm. Iran, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said, is rushing headlong towards, going nuclear. Even the principle author of the disastrous National Intelligence Estimate now admits that the reports opening statement that Iran cannot be said to have resumed its nuclear program should never have been made public in that formulation. At most, the NIE referred to covert nuclear programs, since Iran is quite above board that it is speeding ahead with nuclear enrichment, which is by far the major component in the acquisition of nuclear weapons. In addition, it is now known that Iran definitely had in its possession after the 2003 date given for the termination of its weaponization program detailed plans for nuclear triggers and other aspects of a complete nuclear warhead.
Even the Europeans have now awakened to the threat of a nuclear Iran. The European Union has announced sanctions against Iran’s largest bank, which is an arm of the Revolutionary Guards. The Europeans are no longer waiting for Russia to come on board, and are acting without the U.N. Security Council. Yet rather than leading the sanctions campaign against Iran, Rice is busy looking over maps of Israeli checkpoints.
After congressional testimony about the Israeli raid last summer on a Syria facility, we also now know that Syria came very close to obtaining an operational nuclear facility supplied by North Korea without anyone knowing.
American ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has described Iran as the chief obstacle to stability in Iraq. U.S. forces have been drawn into the morass of the 2 million person Shiite neighborhood of Bagdhad ruled by Moqtada al-Sadri’s Mahdi Army, another Iranian proxy. Iran alternately plays the role of arsonist and fireman in Iraq. The rockets from Gaza, where Hamas now has Iranian missiles and Iranian trained forces, the huge arsenal accumulated by Hizbullah, including thousands of Iranian missiles, some of which can reach Tel Aviv, and the arming of Taliban militiamen near the Iranian border with Afghanistan with Iranian missiles are all prongs of a single Iranian offensive against American influence in the Middle East.
The failure of the United States to respond strongly has convinced the Iranians that the price to pay for their shenanigans will always be bearable and that their goals are within reach. And while all this has been going on, Condi’s has been fiddling away her time on fool’s mission in Israel.
In the wake of the Communist takeover of China in 1949, the Republicans raised the cry: Who lost China? A few years down the pike, we may be asking a much more relevant question – albeit too late: Who lost the world to Iran? And our secretary of state will bear a large part of the blame.
This article appeared in Yated Ne’eman 14 May, 2008