Two Rogue States and One Dead Prime Minister
By Andrew L. Jaffee, February 16, 2005
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It was a busy day in Beirut, Damascus, and Tehran today. Some Lebanese buried a former prime minister in Beirut. Simultaneously in Damascus and Tehran, the capitals of the two countries most likely responsible for killing former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, dictators announced they would support each other in the war against democracy. In today’s events we find – above all – grave contradictions, but also truths, lies, and deep sadness. But something good is developing out of the sadness, lies, truths, and contradictions.
The day started with “breaking news” from Iranian state television. The network claimed that an “unknown aircraft” fired a missile which exploded near Iran’s soon-to-be operational nuclear power station. Talking heads started speculating that Israel or even the U.S. had preemptively taken out Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. The diatribe slowly but surely ratcheted down a few notches during the day, leaving us only with “confusing statements” being issued by Iranian government officials. Currently, authorities are claiming that the blast “was caused by a controlled explosion in a dam building site.”
Open societies can speculate wildly, but the free flow of information – especially along today’s Internet connections – sooner than later dowse the fires of conjecture. Iran The Dictatorship reacted in the typical form of a closed society this morning. First it tried to blame someone else. Then it got befuddled and quiet, leaving the rest of the world with lies and confusion. This is all too reminiscent of Gorbachev waiting days to tell the world about Chernobyl’s radioactive clouds.
Note that the nuclear plant near today’s “explosion” is being built with much help from Russia. Russia, another “Great Satan,” who fought Afghanistan’s Islamists for almost a decade and is currently fighting Chechnya’s Islamists, is now helping the Islamist republic of Iran lay the foundation for a nuclear weapons program. Putin, or one of his fellow KGB goons, has got to know that Iran’s nukes will eventually point towards Moscow. Having the money now must be more soothing than confronting the threat later. Such are the twists and turns when navigating (or in this case, drowning) in Middle East politics.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for Lebanon… Mourners today buried former prime minister Rafik Hariri. He was blown to bits by a homicide bomber on Monday. My money for pinning the blame on this political assassination goes on Syria or its ally Iran. Some Lebanese have engaged in almost unheard-of protests against their Syrian occupiers:
The family and supporters of the assassinated Lebanese politician, Rafik Hariri, warned government ministers and President Emile Lahoud not to attend his Beirut funeral yesterday, in effect accusing them of complicity in his death.
In September of last year, Hariri threatened to bring down Lebanon’s government in reaction to Syria’s meddling in internal Lebanese affairs. Due to pressure exerted by Syria, Lebanon’s puppet parliament voted September 3, 2003 to amend the country’s constitution and allow President Emile Lahoud to remain in power for another 3 years. Lebanon’s constitution had originally banned any president from serving two consecutive terms in office. Lahoud was due to finish his first 6-year term in November, 2003. According to the Sydney Morning Herald,
Widely regarded as a chief architect of Lebanon's recovery from the 1975-1990 civil war, the 60-year-old Mr Hariri enjoyed respect and popularity that transcended his own Sunni Muslim support base.
Who else would want Hariri dead besides Syria or Iran – or one of their many proxies, like Hezbollah, running around lose in Lebanon? Hezbollah receives funding and support from Iran and Syria, all to keep Lebanon a "haven for terrorists". Again, status quo for Middle East dictators.
By stirring up trouble in Lebanon – and the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, Jordan, etc., etc. – Iran and Syria’s dictators seek nothing more than self-preservation. Any political reform would lead Syria’s President Assad or Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei nowhere else except into a courtroom to face charges on crimes against humanity. As Victor Davis Hanson so eloquently states:
The problem in the Middle East is the depressing relationship between autocracies and Islamists: Illiberal governments fault the Americans and Jews for their own failure. Thus in lieu of reform, strongmen deflect popular frustration by allowing the Wahhabis, al Qaedists, and other terrorists to use their state-controlled media likewise to blame us rather than a Mubarak, Saudi Royal Family, or Saddam Hussein.
Today, “Iran … vowed to back Syria against ‘challenges and threats’ as both countries face strong US pressure.” This is nothing new. The two countries have been in cahoots for years trying to keep the Middle East destabilized. What an alliance: Syria’s socialists and Iran’s mullahs – could there be stranger bedfellows? Today’s talk amounts to empty words and actions – unless you read between the lines.
When you look closely at Iran and Syria’s statements, one word slowly appears out of the political babble: “desperation.” Syria and Iran both paid lip service to the war on terror soon after 911, but they started to get nervous after the Taliban were easily crushed and Afghans voted. They started having chronic diarrhea after Saddam’s regime was toppled by U.S. troops in a mere three weeks’ time. Don’t forget that both Iran and Syria have massive borders with Iraq. Now Iraqis have voted. The diarrhea has become dysentery.
Iran and Syria are blustering now precisely because they know the U.S., led by President Bush, means business in the Middle East more than it ever has before. Killing Hariri was the result of very confused thinking: On the one hand, the dictators are trying to prove they mean business when it comes to staying eternally in power. On the other hand, the assassination has already stoked anti-Syrian (and eventually anti-Iranian) sentiments amongst the people one who the tyrants fear most (i.e., their own people). The dictators see the writing on the wall; the words “you are dead” and “your people will be free” stand out clearly.
Today’s Syrian and Iranian tyrants won’t go down without a fight. It is quite terrifying to think of what President Assad, who already posses weapons of mass destruction, will do when his back is up against the wall. Iran’s mullahs may be no more than a year from having nuclear weapons. Tehran’s Islamists see such weapons as the ultimate trump card which would convince any enemy to back off permanently.
You think the Left-Wing is appeasing now? Just wait until Iran has nukes. The Leftist heroes will go groveling all the way to Tehran on their hands and knees – as long as the mullahs “promise” not to use their WMDs.
Yes, it is a scary future, but today’s events prove that the world is rapidly changing. After seeing Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s elections, I would venture that the world is changing for the better. Never mind that several Muslim countries, like Malaysia and Indonesia, already are democracies. Syria and Iran’s dictators will fall, but probably not quickly and easily. You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Maybe something good can yet come out of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri’s awful murder.