As President Obama is coming to the reins of power, Lebanon's survival as a multi-ethnic, multi-denominational state is more than ever at stake.
It is s fact that Iran and Syria are quickly changing the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean, while the West and moderate Arab states appear almost paralyzed and the Lebanese State is nowhere to behave like a sovereign country but a province of Syria and Iran.
Ever since taking the U.S. embassy staff hostage in 1979, the Islamist regime in Teheran has led an international spree of bombings, hijackings, and other terrorist attacks on Americans and Westerners. Now politicians and diplomats, who put up with Iranian aggression for years, are loudly promising to block Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
On the campaign trail, for instance, our Presidential candidates debate how (i.e., with or without preconditions) they'd negotiate to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuke--on the idea that without such a weapon in Iranian hands, everything will be hunky-dory.
A rational assessment of Iran would have to recognize that the mullahs in Teheran have been conducting a proxy war against America for at least a few decades. The inspiration for this war is Iran's jihadist goal of imposing Islamic totalitarianism globally. Iran is a leading sponsor of jihadists and the self-identified role model for exporting its Islamic revolution to other countries. It is the sworn enemy of the West. We should take seriously its call to bring "Death to America!"--because it has already done so.
BUT....also in here, too many American diplomats and commentators refuse to judge Iran. Instead, they regard its past hostility as a string of disconnected crises, unrelated to Iran's ideological agenda. They avoid naming the nature of the regime and behave as if its acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be the decisive event. But that particular weapon--despite its power--cannot be the whole story, since we don't worry about other countries, such as France and Britain, having nukes. The rarely admitted difference is that the regime in Iran would eagerly press the launch button.
This fear-the-weapon-not-the-killer mentality refuses to understand the threat posed by Iran right now. This view holds that only the concrete facts about Iran's arsenal have any practical significance, while its abstract, ideological goals and character can be disregarded with impunity. But whether Iran uses one nuke, or attacks with more conventional weapons, its victims are still dead.
Our leaders' narrow concern with Iran's nuclear capability cannot make the regime's longstanding hostility to America go away. Americans should face the real character and conduct of the Iranian regime, before it is too late.
The United States must recognize that America does still have allies in the Middle East, especially when it comes to containing Iran. Saudi Arabia, the Sunni Arab Gulf states, as well as our European allies all understand what is at stake. Yet, to pursue a policy of Iran containment, the United States must make it clear that it will stand by its allies.
Washington therefore should immediately:
- Design and implement a comprehensive policy that includes military, covert, economic, diplomatic, and public diplomacy components to decisively and quickly weaken and roll back Iran and Syria. They have assets and interests that can be frozen or confiscated. They also have officials and businessmen who travel throughout the world and should not be welcome anywhere as long as their policies remain disruptive in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and elsewhere. Any Lebanese, Syrian and Iranian officials or entity involved in financing, training, supplying, and facilitating terrorism, and specifically Hezbollah, should be placed on the visa boycott list starting with Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
- Work with the European allies so that they declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, put it on the EU terrorism list, and freeze their economic activities, fundraising, and financial assets throughout Europe, the Middle East, and around the world. Adding Hezbollah to the EU terrorism list would also be an important step toward disarming its militia and restoring the rule of law in Lebanon. Hezbollah enjoys Iranian subsidies and Syrian arms supply. However, Hezbollah is allowed to operate openly, including fundraising and profitable businesses in Europe. This must stop immediately. The State Department and anti-terror arms of the United States and Arab states need to work with the Europeans to ban Hezbollah's activities on the continent.
- Halt whatever it takes arms shipments and spare part supplies to Hezbollah's TV and radio channels, telecommunications, businesses, and vehicles. These supplies originate in Europe, the U.S., Japan, and other Far Eastern locations, and are shipped through Beirut and the Gulf. The U.S. should initiate a drastic and concerted effort to stop military re-supply of Hezbollah. The United Nations should be urged to do a better job implementing Resolution 1701, which envisages disarmament of all Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah, and halts the arms supply to it, especially by Iran and Syria. The U.S. should also work with allies in the Middle East and Europe to halt non-military supplies to Hezbollah's businesses and telecommunications operations.
Time to act is of the essence. Enough is enough.