The American media appear to have decided that you don’t need to be too concerned about the results of the US tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri. Yes, the UN will almost certainly indict members of Hezbollah for carrying out the hit; yes, they might even indict the Ayatollah Khameini, Supreme Leader of Iran, for ordering it, but none of these people is likely to lose sleep over something so piddling as a UN indictment. And if they’re not bothered, we don’t need to be.
This reading does not take into account the likely results of a civil war in Lebanon. Let’s break it down.
Iran is the de facto ruler of South Lebanon via Hezbollah and wants the whole country. Plan A was to set up Hezbollah as Lebanon’s tenacious defender against Israel and thereby infiltrate the government (done and done). But Lebanese opinion could swing quickly against Hezbollah if it is revealed that it was that group, with Iran behind it, that blew up a popular prime minister. If there is open defiance of Hezbollah in the streets, civil war could erupt, and Iran would be in the position of having to take Lebanon by force; there would no longer be any pretext that Lebanon swung east of its own accord. A rape of Lebanon is Iran’s Plan B — perhaps not its original intention, but something it is entirely capable of carrying out.
In sum: The UN indictments could lead to civil war, which Iran-backed Hezbollah would almost certainly win. With Lebanon subdued, Ahmadinejad could then step in openly to take up the Muslim cudgels against the American-Israeli axis — and he’d be doing it from Israel’s northern doorstep. Nukes shmukes. Who needs ’em?
I’d say this is a situation worth paying attention to. Is the above forecast theoretical? Sure. But three events took place yesterday that moved the pieces a few steps towards checkmate Lebanon.
- Saudi Arabia decided Lebanon is now too hot to handle and withdrew from mediation between Hezbollah and Sa’ad Hariri. (Note that “mediation” means “convincing Sa’ad to do what Hezbollah wants,” which is to condemn the UN tribunal, disavow its findings and refuse to countenance the arrest of members of Hezbollah. It’s unclear what he would get in return, other than permission to continue breathing.)
- Ahmadinejad made a speech in which he ordered the US, Israel, and several European nations to stop their “sedition” in Lebanon or face the consequences. True, he does go in for these “I will cut off your hand” speeches with some regularity, but we might want to pay a little more attention than usual because of…
- …the events on the streets of Beirut yesterday. Black-clad Hezbollah militants, all carrying hand-held radios, spread across Beirut in a “simulated coup” of the capital. (It was simulated because they were not armed.) They appeared at twelve strategic points, including the entries to the city, the port and the airport. Frightened parents pulled their children out of school and the security services closed off access to the Grand Serail, the seat of government in downtown Beirut, upon sighting militants within 400 meters of the building. According to the Jerusalem Post, the two-hour exercise was apparently a demonstration of a Hezbollah first response to a release of the UN findings.
More on this to come.