It is far past time we understood Syria and what happened in Lebanon

(And, for Obama to demand that Israel give up the Golan to pacify Syria and thus destroy itself, only testifies to Obama’s obvious goals)

THE LEVANTINE CRUCIBLE

BY MICHAEL J. TOTTEN

ENCOUNTER, 360 pages

Redacted from a more detailed review by SOHRAB AHMARI
Commentary Magazine, June 2111

2. Plus Rep. Ros Lehtinen action in Congress yesterday!

MODERN terrorist attacks, Regis Debray has argued, are “manifestos written in other people’s blood.” In the winter of 2005, one such manifesto was inscribed in the blood of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 of his associates. (Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005 when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.) Its drafters were bent on subjugating Lebanon to the will of their Syrian and Iranian paymasters.

More important, they sought to prevent Hariri from moving his compatriots beyond the failed ideologies that had defined Lebanon for more than a generation. But rather than cower in fear and submit, a majority of the Lebanese— usually notorious for their sectarian fractiousness— united around the March 14 movement, calling for political freedom and the withdrawal of Syria’s occupation force from their country.

In The Road to Fatima Gate, Michael J. Totten offers a masterful account of this Cedar Revolution, as it came to be known, and its
tragic aftermath. He ends up far more clear-sighted than the many analysts who claim objectivity but share neither his love of the region and its inhabitants nor his concern for its future. Totten’s Lebanon is a Mideast crucible, foretelling the promise—and peril—of the democratic uprisings that would rock the region in 2009 and then again last winter.

First, the promise In Lebanon, it was represented by more than one million people who—in what was then an unprecedented sight in the Arab world—peacefully took to the streets of Beirut in response to Harari’s assassination. Beyond their specific demands, the young leaders of the March 14 movement were determined to radically alter the very nature of Lebanese politics. “We want to rebuild our country,” one tells Totten. ” We stand not only for freedom and independence, but also national unity and a new, modern, common, tolerant Lebanese identity.”

The remarkable realignment of political attitudes among Lebanon’s sectarian elites could not be credited solely to March 14’s moral accomplishments. It also reflected a long-term shift in the balance of power in Lebanese society-and the growing menace of the Iranian backed Shia terrorist organization Hezbollah.

Totten makes his way into Hezbollah’s squalid, backward stronghold in the dahiyeh (suburb) of Haret Hreik, among other Hezbollah-controlled areas. What he finds “looked, alternately, like a slum of Tehran or Damascus.” Here, Lebanese Shia are kept dependent on Hezbollah’s welfare system, force-fed a steady diet of anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda, and taught to seek “martyrdom” rather than help rebuild Lebanon.

…The mullahs’ foothold in the Levant allows them to wage jihad against Israel at minimal cost to the Islamic Republic. As Totten leams, Hezbollah’s method of launching thousands of blind rockets at Israeli border towns, while cheap and crude, is nevertheless unimaginably cruel. Indeed, the most terrifying firsthand experience he relates is of covering northern Israel during Hezbollah’s rocket campaign. “When you’re under fire from above,” he writes, “the sky feels like a gigantic malevolent eyeball.” Of course, when Israel retaliates, as it did in the July 2006 war, Lebanon foots the bill for Iranian aggression and adventurism.

Israel’s 2006 excursion into Lebanon produced, at best, mixed results. The IDF rattled Hezbollah’s leadership, but failed to folly
dismantle the organization’s terror infrastructure. As soon as hostilities ceased, Iran began replenishing Hezbollah’s rocket stockpiles. Then, in 2008, a cornered Hezbollah lashed out northward, placing the March 14 movement in its crosshairs.

Nasrallah sought to accomplish by brute force what he could not in the realm of con sensual politics, and he succeeded. Hezbollah snipers—aided by the fascist thugs of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party—conquered Beirut once more. In the process, they permanently disrupted Lebanon’s carefully balanced sectarian power-sharing structure.

Totten frequently quotes the Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt to the effect that the solution to his country’s troubles lies in Tehran. It
is appropriate, then, that Totten’s narrative of modem Lebanon’s failed quest for freedom should end not in Beirut, but in the Persian capital.

In 2009, the angel of history seemed poised to vindicate Beirut’s defeated liberals in Tehran, the very heart of the Shia empire of “resistance.” Alas, the angel’s vengeful wrath could not overcome the mullahs’ limitless brutality. Last winter, it took flight from Tehran to Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, where the self-immolation of a fruit vendor led to the fall of a rotten autocracy. From there, it traveled to Cairo, Benghazi, Manama, Sanaa, Daraa, and so on. The outcome of each of these uprisings hangs in the balance.

Their future in the Middle East is neither guaranteed nor immune from the region’s underlying geopolitical realities. It is never enough, then, for liberals to merely compose manifestos with beautiful watchwords like “compromise” and “consent” when their opponents write theirs in blood.

SOHRAB AHMARI is coeditor of “Re-Orient”
Palgrave Macmillan’s forthcoming anthology of essays by young Mideast reformers.

2. Ros-Lehtinen Calls for Lebanon Aid Cutoff

by IPT News • Jun 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is calling for a cutoff of all U.S. aid to Lebanon’s new government, which is dominated by allies of the Hizballah terror organization.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati – appointed head of a caretaker government in January after Hizballah toppled the moderate government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri – announced the formation of a government in which Hizballah and its allies hold 18 of the 30 positions. Hizballah brought down the government in an effort to derail an investigation of the February 2005 murder of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The Shiite radical group is suspected of involvement in the slaying.

“The U.S. should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the U.S. as foreign terror organizations participates in it,” Ros-Lehtinen said Monday. She warned that Hizballah and its allies “will control the Lebanese government and likely benefit from the years of U.S. assistance, including to the Lebanese military.”

Read more at: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2974/ros-lehtinen-calls-for-lebanon-aid-cutoff

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