Le­banon and Jim Baker

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The as­sas­si­na­tion of Le­banese min­is­ter Pierre Ge­mayel — at least the fifth mur­der of a prom­i­nent an­tiSyr­ian Le­banese per­son on Le­banese soil in the past 21 months — is an early an­swer to James Baker, Lee Hamil­ton and the Iraq Study Group (ISG), whose pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions on Iraq are ex­pected this month. One of Wash­ing­ton’s great ex­pec­ta­tions is that the panel will rec­om­mend that the United States dis­cuss Iraq’s fu­ture with Iran and Syria — rogue states that have pro­vided large-scale as­sis­tance to the ter­ror­ist groups and mili­tias that are work­ing to tear Iraq apart.

Should the Baker-Hamil­ton panel put for­ward such rec­om­men­da­tions, we can ex­pect an all-out push by con­gres­sional Democrats and much of the for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment to sand­bag the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion into high-profile talks and sum­mits with Tehran and Da­m­as­cus; should the talks fail to achieve a diplo­matic set­tle­ment, as they likely will, the Bush ad- min­is­tra­tion will be blamed. With the mur­der of Mr. Ge­mayel, the Tehran-Da­m­as­cus axis sends a blunt mes­sage to Wash­ing­ton: We can crush any­one, in­clud­ing Arabs who get in our way, and you (and demo­cratic al­lies like Is­rael) are pow­er­less to stop us.

Mr. Ge­mayel was mur­dered at the height of a cam­paign by Iran and Syria’s proxy, Hezbol­lah, to top­ple the Le­banese gov­ern­ment headed by Prime Min­is­ter Fuad Sin­iora, a Sunni Mus­lim who has re­peat­edly clashed with Le­banon’s Chris­tian pres­i­dent, Emile La­houd. Da­m­as­cus has waged an all-out cam­paign to bully Mr. Sin­iora out of call­ing for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1559, which calls for the dis­ar­ma­ment of Hezbol­lah — the only re­main- ing Le­banese mili­tia. The cam­paign worked: The Le­banese gov­ern­ment stood by help­lessly as Hezbol­lah built a for­mi­da­ble mil­i­tary arse­nal in Le­banon, which it demon­strated this sum­mer af­ter plung­ing Le­banon into war with Is­rael.

To no one’s sur­prise, de­spite pas­sage of Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1701 and the de­ploy­ment of the Le­banese Army and in­ter­na­tional peace­keep­ers in South­ern Le­banon, Tehran and Da­m­as­cus have poured short-range mis­siles and small arms into Hezbol­lah’s in­ven­tory since the war’s end. Saudi Ara­bia in par­tic­u­lar charges that Iran’s em­bassies in Da­m­as­cus and Beirut are be­ing used as com­mand and con­trol cen­ters on Hezbol­lah’s be­half.

The Is­lamic fas­cists can feel good about their prospects. Nascent democ­ra­cies in Iraq and Le­banon are in tur­moil, and the de­vel­op­ing Ha­mas ter­ror state in Gaza has plunged the Pales­tinian Author­ity into war with Is­rael and all but ren­dered Pales­tinian democ­racy-build­ing mori­bund for now. Iran’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram goes for­ward un­abated. If Tehran and Da­m­as­cus are re­warded with a diplo­matic wind­fall in Iraq, it will be an­other sig­nal that the democ­ra­cies are in re­treat, with the thugs press­ing their of­fen­sive.

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