Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Middle East Revolutions: Iran's proxy Hezbollah Supports Assad and Threatens Lebanon "Security"

Michael Ledeen and Michael Totten have done excellent jobs in outlining the various connections between Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.  Michael Totten's new book, Fatima Gate, is an expose on Hezbollah in Lebanon and the counter-revolution that thwarted Lebanon's Cedar Revolution.  Even as the Syrian's were forced to pull back, they provided material and monetary support to their co-tyrants in Hezbollah to take effective control of the country.  This is effectively Iran's "covert" war (if it can be called that) against Israel.  

Monday, Hezbollah issued a statement of unwavering support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and basically threatened what little "security" and peace Lebanon can claim:

"Today, we stand yet again by our sister Syria ... and by Syria's leaders who have refused to give into pressure or ... to conspire against the resistance," said Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Moussawi, in reference to the Shiite militant group.

"We are certain Syria will overcome this passing phase," he added.  "There is no stability in Lebanon without stability in Syria, no security in Lebanon without security in Syria."
Moussawi was basically echoing the Syrian Ambassador who had already threatened that:
any harm done to Syria will also harm Lebanon with the same magnitude or even more"
Lately, all of the "old revolutionaries", who have been in positions of power now for the last thirty or forty years, have all been claiming to be protecting the revolution from counter revolution.  Refusing to accept that, once the revolutionaries have taken effective control of the reins of power and institutions of government, they are no longer the revolutionaries.  They are the establishment:

Moussawi's spoke at a press conference entitled "In solidarity with Syria against the American-Zionist-Western plot to undermine its national, pan-Arab and resistance role," attended by pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians of all faiths.
There are two main themes going on here.  

First, the old revolutionaries are still clinging desperately to the old call for a pan Arab revolution that will finally throw out the remnants of alleged "colonial" rule.  They still believe that they can win some long discredited war to bring the "Arab" nations together as some sort of quasi-nation with multiple republic states, bringing back the Middle East's prestige.  The place that it held some four to five hundred years ago when various caliphates and psuedo-Islamic empires sat astride the Silk Road and governed the vast trading routes to the East.

This idea was first suggested by the socialist trends that revolted in such nations as Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq.  Even the PLO in the West Bank is essentially a hold over from these days.  Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, with the relative new comer of Al Qaeda, have attempted to put an Islamist spin on it with the big daddy of them all, Iran, funding and arming various groups.

Though some have attempted to paint these new revolts as the re-invigoration of Pan Arabist ideology, the revolts are about local issues and local identity or nationalism.  While the various revolutions take their cue from one another, each has it's own flavor and players.  The most that can be said about them is that there are groups within these different revolutions that are democratic, liberal, socialist, Islamist, tribal and just plain fed up.  Most of these countries are not only socially and politically oppressed, but economically depressed.  None of which will be relieved by socialist or Islamist political or economic plans though it does not mean that these countries won't try them out for a short run before crashing and burning. Again.

The second issue is that all of the rulers have insisted that these revolts cannot be an issue of internal politics and economy, but must be the product of foreign interference.  Even Bahrain is playing that card, though they insist that it is Iran who is meddling, unlike those closer to the Mediterranean that see the "western - Zionist" evil cabal of the "Great Satan's" hand at work.  As if years of repression, torture and economic stagnation of huge swaths of the population was not a good enough reason.

None can perceive that their long time iron fist of fear has basically lost it's grip on the population without being pried off by some external force.  Whereas, in reality, they have been holding a fist full of dynamite so tight that they never noticed the slow fuse was burning and would eventually explode in their hands.

To some extent, they aren't completely wrong that there is some western influence that has started these revolutions.  It cannot be ignored that all of these revolutions are basically demanding "democracy" and "fair representation" in government.  These are western ideas and they exist because of the long term business and political associations that have exposed these populations to different ideas.  They are burning more quickly than ever now because modern business requires internet service and where ever internet service exists, western ideas speed into these nations at whatever rate satellite, cable and dial up connections can achieve.  Information is the key and no one in these nations can ignore or resist comparing their condition to other more open, representative and free countries.

The dictators were forced to embrace their own demise, the god killer called the internet.  This is essentially the most invasive "western" "conspiracy" to overthrow these regimes, but, in the end, it is the people who are demanding it, not an outside power forcing the issue.  It is the most passive aggressive tool of warfare ever invented (and it was invented for warfare, just not in the way that it is being used today in the civilian political arena).  That is also why various groups are trying to "weaponize" it through attacks (via Instapundit) or attempting to censor it and control it completely.

Syria and Hezbollah insist that the revolutionaries are getting direct assistance from the "west" and "Zionists" who are running guns and money into the country to stir up conflict.  It is difficult to say how much assistance anyone in the west is truly giving these groups beyond moral support.  However, the entire argument is basically the pot calling the kettle black since Syria, and Iran via Syria, is definitely running guns and money to subsidiary groups of Hezbollah and Hamas into Lebanon and Gaza for their own proxy war. 

As they say in the West, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

One issue that continues to perplex is the lack of overt, at least, moral support via verbal or written encouragement to these groups for their democratic movements.  This may be a case of "realpolitik" at work where, having been burned in Iraq (so they believe), seen the Beirut Spring turn to deep winter of Iranian proxy oppression and unsure of the various actors involved in Libya and Yemen, the West, specifically Washington DC, is reluctant to speak up for fear of being burned again.

Or, it may be that the west is providing some assistance, but prefers to remain quiet, for the same burning reason, ensuring that these movements either appear or remain largely "self motivated".  There were some very loud and angry voices in the vaunted "Arab Street" that decried Iraq and insisted they could get rid of their own dictators. And, they are.

It seems we are betting on allowing these forces to remain "grass roots", avoiding spoiling them with the filthy presence of western influence.  That, even if it causes some consternation in the short run that the US refuses to engage early and often in proclaiming freedom and democracy for Arabs, these newly democratic states will naturally fall into the Western sphere of influence.  Or, at least, will not remain eternally hostile.  We hope.

Shadi Hamid begs to differ, suggesting that a little western push would go a long way.  That is unlikely to come under the current administration and hard to say what the next, if it changes at all, will do.

In the mean time, Syria is burning for freedom, the Libyan's are hanging on by their nails and a prayer, Yemen is anybody's guess and the Bahrainis are being used as a proxy by Iran, even if it is only the verbal sort. (Bahraini democracy movement being largely Shi'ite, but not Persian are perfectly expendable by Tehran's calculation to bring about the return of  the Mahdi or more exactly, Persian hegemony over the old caliphate empire in the Mid East).

Tunisia has all but slipped off the radar even as it changes it's governing cabinet for the fifth time and Egypt is, well, Egypt.  The revolutionaries aren't sure they have a revolution or a military coup though everyone is willing to go along with the pretense so long as the Mubarek's spend the next short period of their remaining lives in prison and everybody get's to party like it's, well, 2005 with a different outcome.

Somewhere out there in the great space of the cyber universe and beyond, the Iranian opposition is plotting their next move.  While there are those who don't see the Green's have a snowball's chance in hell overthrowing a regime that is increasingly violent and draconian, these are the same people that had little faith that the word "democratayye" (democracy) would drown out the cries of "allah akbar" in the Middle East.  Or, that peaceful jihad for tahrir (freedom) in it's massive movements of hundreds of thousands would make the mujaheddin running off to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and still putzing around in Iraq look like the increasingly irrelevant religious cult that Saudi's Prince al Turki once called them.

In the words of a former president, written on the back of a cocktail napkin at the news that Baghdad had fallen April 9, 2003:

Let Freedom Reign!

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