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March 09, 2005

Lebanon: Another Ally for Iran?

The US invades Afghanistan and evicts Iran's long-time enemies, the Taliban, giving Iran great influence in the country, especially in the province of Herat on its border through provincial leader Ismail Khan.

The US invades Iraq and evicts Iran's long-time enemy, Saddam Hussein, giving Iran great influence as allied Shia parties win elections to dominate the new government.

The US puts pressure on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. And instead of a pro-Western "Cedar Revolution", we may be seeing an upsurge by Iranian-backed Hezbollah:

Shouting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese poured into central Beirut on Tuesday in a show of strength by the militant Shiite Muslim party Hezbollah...The enormous crowd, in which many had been bused in from the Shiite slums of southern Beirut, was far larger than the anti-Syrian demonstrations of recent weeks...
Now, if the Bush administration's new commitment to democracy is such that it will support these developments, no matter the creation of new allies for Iran, that is all to the good for the principle of democracy. But color me a bit skeptical.

Henry Kissinger once famously said, as we supported a coup against the democratically-elected government of Chile, that "I don’t see why we should stand idly by and see a country turn Marxist because of the stupidity of its own people."

The US has been supporting strains of Islamic funamentalism for decades out of realpolitick, but usually the authoritarian brand dominated by dicatorships like Saudi Arabia, which were useful in fighting and undermining the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s and more generally posing as an alternative conservative ideal to popular socialist movements throughout the Islamic world, a point author Tariq Ali has discussed. But the US has been quite willing to use, then dispose of movements it supported in the past when they become inconvenient.

So if Lebanon moves in the "wrong" direction, I wonder if we will really allow a Hezbollah-dominated government to assume power? It seems unlikely as Bush is lobbying right now for Hezbollah to be declared a terrorist organization by Europe.

We started the Iraq war fighting the "axis of evil" and ended it fighting for "democracy." We'll see what the Bush administration does if the latter ends of strengthening the former.

Posted by Nathan at March 9, 2005 08:20 AM