Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 24, 2006
Tuesday saw another nail driven into the coffin of US President George W.
Bush's vision of a free and democratic Middle East. The Syrians aren't even
trying to hide their involvement in the assassination of Lebanon's Industry
Minister Pierre Gemayel.
Hours after Gemayel was murdered, his killers issued a communiqu calling
themselves the "Fighters for the Unity and Liberty of Greater Syria." They
said that they killed Gemayel because he was "one of those who unceasingly
spouted their venom against Syria and against [Hizbullah], shamelessly and
without any trepidation." Gemayel, they threatened, would be the first of
many victims. As they put it, "Sooner or later we will pay the rest of the
agents their due..."
The hit this week was not a bolt from the blue. For the past several weeks
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his bosses in Syria and Iran have made
it brutally clear that they intend to bring down the anti-Syrian government
of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and replace it with a pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian
coalition led by Hizbullah.
Although their intentions are clear, a casual observer of events could be
forgiven for finding the timing of Gemayel's murder somewhat mystifying.
After all, the UN Security Council is preparing the establishment of an
international tribunal to try those responsible for the February 2005 murder
of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Why would Syrian President
Bashar Assad wish to make people mad at him now by killing yet another
anti-Syrian politician in Lebanon?
What a casual observer misses is the simple fact that events in Lebanon do
not stand on their own. Like Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon
is a front in a regional war being waged against the US, Israel and their
allies by Iran and Syria. Iraq is another front in this war and Gemayel's
murder is intimately tied to developments in Iraq.
The Democratic Party's victory in the November 7 Congressional elections
convinced Iran and Syria that they are on the verge of a great victory
against the US in Iraq. Iranian and Syrian jubilation is well founded in
light of the Democratic leadership's near unanimous calls for the US to
withdraw its forces in Iraq; Bush's firing of Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld and his appointment of his father's CIA director Robert Gates to
replace him; and Bush's praise for the Congressionally mandated Iraq Study
Group charged with revisiting US strategy in Iraq, which is being co-chaired
by his father's secretary of state James Baker III.
Although his committee has yet to formally submit its recommendations, Baker
made clear that he will recommend that the administration negotiate a
withdrawal of US forces from Iraq with Iran and Syria. That is, he is
putting together a strategy not for victory, but for defeat.
Baker fervently believes that US foreign policy should revolve around being
bad to its friends and good to its enemies. Consequently he thinks that the
US can avoid the humiliation of the defeat he proposes by buying off Syria
and Iran, the forces behind most of the violence, instability, subversion
and terror in Iraq. If the US accepts their conditions, they will
temporarily cease their attacks to enable a US retreat that will look only
mildly humiliating to the television viewers back home.
This week Bush said he has yet to decide how to move ahead in Iraq. But
Baker is moving ahead without him. While Bush also said that he opposes
negotiating with Iran and Syria, last Friday The New York Times reported
that Baker and his group held talks recently with Syrian Foreign Minister
Walid Muallem. And, as truth would have it, for the past year or so, the US
Ambassador to Baghdad Zalmay Khalizad has been conducting negotiations with
the Iranians. Administration sources say that Bush is expected to make a
decision on the course of operations in Iraq by mid-December.
But as far as Iran and Syria are concerned, the game has already been
called. They are wasting no time collecting their winnings. As Gemayel was
being murdered Tuesday in Lebanon, Muallem paid a visit to Baghdad. There he
established full diplomatic relations between his country and Iraq. Monday
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced his intention to host a
three-way summit with his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts. Responding to
Ahmadinejad's invitation, Iraqi President Jalal Talibani is scheduled to
visit Iran and Syria next week.
Just as Israelis and American Jews both bitterly recall Baker's acrimonious
and degrading treatment during his tenure as secretary of state, so the
Syrians and Iranians take comfort from his record. They remember Baker as
the man who accepted the 1989 Taif Accord that ended the Syrian-sponsored
Lebanese civil war by sacrificing Lebanese sovereignty to Assadian fascist
occupation in the name of regional stability.
Then too, Baker is remembered as the man who abandoned Iraq's Shi'ites to
their fate at the hands of Saddam after the US failed to assist them in
their post-Gulf War rebellion which the US itself had encouraged. Finally,
no doubt they noticed that Baker's law firm Baker-Botts is representing the
Saudi government in the 9/11 victims' lawsuit against the kingdom.
BAKER'S CURRENT dealings with Iran and Syria parallel closely Israel's talks
with the Palestinians in the lead-up to its withdrawal from Gaza and
northern Samaria last year. As Baker does today, at the time Israel appealed
to the Palestinians to restrain themselves temporarily to enable an orderly
Israeli surrender of the territories.
Last year the Palestinians demanded that Israel hand over the international
border between Gaza and the Sinai in exchange for their cooperation. By
forcing the IDF to withdraw from the Philadelphi Corridor, the Palestinian
Authority transformed a tactical and symbolic victory for jihad into a
strategic victory for jihad. Without Israel controlling the border, Gaza was
rapidly transformed into a major base for global terrorists.
Today, the Iranian and Syrian price tags for cooperation are similarly high.
The Iranians demand international acceptance of their nuclear weapons
program replete with European abandonment of Israel. Their demands have
apparently been met.
There is no end in sight for the UN Security Council deliberations over the
relatively insignificant European sanctions proposal. And between British
Prime Minister Tony Blair's speeches calling for Israeli capitulation on all
fronts; French threats to shoot down IAF jets in Lebanon; the
Spanish-French-Italian "peace plan;" and France's Arab League-like treatment
of Israel in the UN, it is self-evident that the Europeans have abandoned
Israel to Ahmadinejad's tender mercies.
Syria set its price for cooperating with the US in Iraq when it murdered
Gemayel. That is, in addition to pressuring Israel to give up the Golan
Heights, the US will be expected to accept the reassertion of Syrian/Iranian
control over all of Lebanon through a new government controlled by Hizbullah
and its allies which will replace the Saniora government. The fall of the
Saniora government will also spell the demise of the Hariri murder tribunal.
Iran and Syria also demand that the US abandon its policy of regime change
in both countries.
Another similarity between Israel's retreat from Gaza and northern Samaria
last year, its withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, and the proposed US
retreat from Iraq today are the obvious consequences of such a retreat for
the US, the region and the world. Far from bringing peace and stability, as
the champions of the withdrawal policy mindlessly claim, a retreat will
cause more war, more instability and more suffering in Iraq, in the region
and throughout the world.
In the wake of a US (and Coalition) withdrawal from Iraq, the country would
become an Iranian-Syrian-controlled base for global jihad. Battle-tested,
heavily armed terrorists, cocky after their victory over the Great Satan,
would use Iraq as a stepping-off point for attacks throughout the region and
world. Israel and Jordan, as allies of the defeated great power, would be
first on the list of targets.
Moreover, as was the case with soldiers and officers of the South Lebanon
Army after the Israeli withdrawal, and with Palestinians who assisted Israel
in counter-terror operations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza before the
establishment of the Palestinian Authority, Iraqis who worked with Coalition
forces will likely be killed, arrested and tortured by their new mafia-like
Israel will find itself beset by an emboldened, nuclear weapons building
Iran, an exhilarated Assad and by Iranian proxies from Gaza to Ramallah to
BOTH ISRAEL'S decision to vacate Gaza, northern Samaria and south Lebanon
and the current push in the US to leave Iraq are informed by the same
strategic confusion. In choosing the strategy of retreat, Israel and the US
have ignored the regional and indeed global nature of the war being waged
against them. In such a war, it is impossible to view conflicts as discrete
campaigns. Everything is related.
Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 inspired the Palestinian jihad. Its
withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria caused the two-front war this
summer with Iran and Syria in Gaza and Lebanon. That war in turn inspired
the current chaos on Lebanon, the Iranian-Syrian brinkmanship in Iraq, and
Iran's emboldened sprint to the nuclear finish-line.
The fact that both Israel and the US continue to ignore the nature of the
war was made clear this summer when they accepted UN Security Council
Resolution 1701 which while setting the terms for a cease-fire in Lebanon
made no mention of Syria and Iran - the main parties to the war. Then too,
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's stated interest in giving Judea and Samaria to
the Palestinians, and the US hope to retreat from Iraq, show that both
countries continue to deny reality.
The most pressing question today then is whether Bush will give in to Baker
and the Democrats and agree to capitulate to Iran and Syria in Iraq, Lebanon
and indeed throughout the world. Unfortunately, things look bleak given that
Bush relies most heavily on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice has
been blocking US action against Syria and Iran for the past two years. She
was the primary architect of UN Resolution 1701 this summer, has been
pushing for dangerous Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and is known
for her good relations with Baker.
Although a great blow to Bush's vision of democracy in the Middle East,
Gemayel's murder can still serve as an opportunity for the reinvigoration of
that vision. If Bush sees this murder as the warning sign it is of what
awaits Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and indeed the entire world if the US
removes its forces from Iraq or is perceived as moving in that direction; if
he finally recognizes that Iraq is not a separate war, but a great battle in
a larger struggle, then Bush will be able to formulate a new strategy for
Such a strategy, founded on an understanding of the regional and global
nature of the war, will change the emphasis of US operations in Iraq in a
manner than weakens, rather than strengthens Iran and Syria.
Such a strategy is the only way to ensure the continued functioning of the
Saniora government and indeed the survival of Lebanon as an independent
Most importantly, such a strategy will be the only way to ensure that a
policy will be formed and adopted by the US and Israel that will prevent
Israel's annihilation at the hands of an Iranian nuclear bomb.
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