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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Why Annapolis empowers Iran

Caroline Glick's column on Friday (which almost never goes online before the Sabbath starts here) explains why due to the situation in Lebanon, the Annapolis conference mugging actually empowers Iran when what it is meant to do is to form a coalition against Iran.
BUT IF Olmert's, Livni's and Barak's willingness to compromise their nation's security is a function of their weakness, what explains Rice's and Bush's behavior? Why are they weakening Israel and pushing for the establishment of yet another Middle Eastern terror state? What US interest do they think they are advancing by acting as they are? Over the past several weeks, a number of theories have been raised to explain their behavior. The most frequent explanation is that Rice and Bush are championing Palestinian statehood at Israel's expense in a bid to mobilize a coalition of Sunni Arab states to cooperate with the US against Iran.

According to this theory, if Annapolis is seen as a success, then the Arab states will be convinced that the US is worth supporting on Iran. This theory has several flaws. First, as the US's treatment of Israel makes clear, success in Annapolis involves weakening Israel whose destruction Iran seeks and empowering the Palestinians whom Iran supports. This means that far from weakening Iran, success at Annapolis advances Iran's interests.

But beyond that, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by convening the conference next week, the Bush administration has directly empowered Iran. Today the determination of whether the administration emerges unscathed or humiliated from Annapolis is entirely in Iran's hands. Iran will decide whether the conference opens and closes peacefully or whether it is convened as Lebanon is submerged in civil war by Iran's proxies Syria and Hizbullah.

According to the Lebanese constitution, Saturday is the last day on which a new Lebanese president can be elected. Lebanon's president must be elected by two-thirds of the members of Lebanon's parliament. Through their campaign of assassination, Syria and Hizbullah have taken away the two-thirds majority that anti-Syrian forces won in the 2005 elections. As a result, Hizbullah has veto power over the election. And so far, Iran and Syria have refused to allow Hizbullah to back any candidate. This is the case despite the anti-Syrian majority's willingness to support a pro-Syrian presidential candidate.

Due to the Iranian-Syrian induced impasse, today there are two possible scenarios for what may happen in the next few days in Lebanon. Either Iran and Syria will allow elections to take place and an agent of their regimes and Hizbullah will take over the presidency, or elections will not take place and two governments - one anti-Syrian under Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and one pro-Syrian - will be formed. The pro-Syrian government will be supported by Hizbullah and the Lebanese army. The anti-Syrian government will be supported by Christian, Sunni and Druse militias. A civil war will ensue. Syria, Hizbullah and Iran will win.

In a bid to induce the first scenario, Bush has been lobbying every leader he can think of to appeal to Teheran and Damascus to relent and allow elections to go through. To this end, he even asked their primary arms supplier Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene. Olmert's decision to allow Fatah security forces to receive 25 advanced Russian armored personnel carriers in spite of IDF objections was no doubt a consequence of Bush's appeal to Putin for help.

If the Americans believe the key to countering Iran is to build an anti-Iranian Arab coalition, the crisis in Lebanon shows just how futile their efforts are. Just as the Sunni Arab states oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, so they oppose Iranian control over Lebanon. Yet in spite of this, they have done nothing to prevent Iran and its proxies from taking control of the country. To the contrary, the Saudis have encouraged the Siniora government to support pro-Syrian candidates for the presidency.

So if the administration has decided to embrace the Palestinians as a means of weakening Iran, its decision is wrong on three counts. First, given Iran's support for the Palestinians, empowering them against Israel simply advances Iran's interest. Second, the Annapolis conference has become a hostage of Iranian goodwill which is non-existent. And finally, even if it were formed, an anti-Iranian Arab coalition would be powerless to check Iran's power.
For now, at least, the Lebanese election has been postponed and Lebanon is in limbo. My guess is that either Syria will try to murder more members of the March 14 coalition to undermine their majority, or at some point they will chance the civil war and send the pro-Hezbullah Lebanese army in. For those who don't understand my reference to murdering members of the March 14 coalition, my friend Freedom Fighter explains:
As I've written previously, Lahoud is a tool who's term was `extended' literally under the guns of the Syrian Army before they left Lebanon.Lahoud's been very valuable to Syria because he's been instrumental in blocking the efforts of the ongoing UN tribunal investigation into the murder of Lebanon's anti-Syrian prime minister, Rafik Hariri and others. That investigation has already found substantial evidence of the involvement of Syria in Hariri's murder that of other anti-Syrian figures. And the evidence implicates Basher Assad and the highest levels of the Syrian government.

In Lebanon, Parliament elects the president by a 2/3 majority,and what the Syrians and their Hezbollah and Amal allies have been doing to make sure that their control of Lebanon continues and the UN tribunal goes nowhere has been to block a vote while practicing their own version of `Arab democracy'.......killing off members of the anti-Syrian March 14 majority one by one to reduce the Siniora government's majority in parliament and send a message to the others that voting for the wrong man is not exactly a prescription for longevity.

The French, who helped set up Lebanon in the first place have been actively involved in trying to resolve the two factions. French Foreign Minister has been attempting to mediate, but with little success:
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is mediating among the various factions in Beirut, said Monday that he was "less optimistic" than last week that a compromise candidate would emerge.

"I'm amazed, France is amazed, that something is stuck, something is blocked, something is derailed, and I would like everyone to assume their responsibilities," a visibly angry Kouchner told reporters after emerging from closed-door talks with leading Lebanese politicians.

He warned reporters that "France will let the whole world know who is responsible" for blocking steps to untangle the Lebanese political deadlock.
If the deadlock continues, the March 14 opposition is threatening to have a presidential vote with election by simple majority...which Hezbollah says it would consider a coup d'etat and a declaration of civil war. Or Syrian puppet Lahoud might simply extend his term unilaterally again, as an `emergency measure.'

What Hezbollah and the Syrians are pushing for is a `compromise' candidate who would leave the Siniora government with the official trappings of power but would give Syria and Hezbolah (and thus Iran) the real power in Lebanon. The man they want as president is Michael Aoun, a long time Syrian puppet.
And that's why the March 14 coalition wants Lahoud out:
After failing to reach a last-minute accord over a compromise candidate to replace outgoing President Emile Lahoud, Lebanese leaders agreed to postpone Friday's electoral session of parliament until November 30.

The decision to postpone the election for the fifth time in slightly more than a month leaves Lebanon officially without a president as of midnight.

Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt, a key pillar of the pro-Western governing coalition, explained that he had conferred with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a member of the pro Syrian Hezbollah-led opposition, and they agreed about postponing the electoral session, so as to preserve peace between Lebanon's rival parties.

He said the parliamentarians must stick to the principle of consensus and keep peace among the parties.

Most members of parliament from the pro-government March 14 majority were escorted to parliament at Beirut's Nejmeh Square, amid draconian security by specially trained police units. Army tanks were also positioned along many of Beirut's main arteries.


Deputy Speaker of Parliament Farid Makari, who belongs to the ruling March 14th coalition, scolded the Hezbollah and its allies for opting to boycott Friday's electoral session.

He said the boycott by Hezbollah and its allies is not a democratic decision and is completely against the constitution, which stipulates the election of a president, with no right to boycott or postpone.

The head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc insisted that many members of the pro-government alliance had collaborated with Israel when it invaded Lebanon in 1982, and were not concerned then about following constitutional norms.

Outgoing president Lahoud is a Maronite Christian, as the constitution requires, and he is pro-Syrian.

The governing March 14 coalition is demanding the president leave the presidential palace at midnight.

A spokesman for Mr. Lahoud says the president will not name an interim government when he leaves office. The spokesman says the outgoing president does not want to further divide the country.

Political analysts say they expect Mr. Lahoud to ask Army Commander General Michel Sleiman to maintain order in the country until parliament fills the political void.
Given that their army is dominated by Hezbullah, I would not to be relying on Sleiman.

Tuesday should be an interesting day.


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