Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Flying Pigs Over Lebanon
There is something strange going on when Israel bombs an Arab country and half the Arab world seems to be condemning the Arab side. Indeed there's more criticism being directed at Israel from Europe with the usual socialist suspects wailing and tearing their clothes, then there is from the Arab world.
Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have issued statements critical of Hizbullah. Even Saddam got in the act warning Syria that its ties with Iran might lead it to disaster. While the media glorifies Hizbullah, the rest of the Arab world is turning its back. So why are pigs flying over Lebanon?
Some would interpret this as an acknowledgment of Israel's show of strength but Israel hasn't shown all that much strength and while Egypt and Jordan would generally want to avoid a regional war, after all both of them signed peace treaties with Israel on recognizing that fighting wars with Israel was pointless; Saudi Arabia is certainly not in that category, let alone Saddam.
It would be more accurate to say that a lot of Arab regimes are turning on Iran's proxies like Hizbullah, because America and Israel have failed to stop them. Arab regimes have traditionally dealt with internal frustrations and Islamic and Marxist terrorist organizations by redirecting them at the two biggest targets, America and Israel. Arab governments happily fund and support terrorist organizations as long as they do their work elsewhere and channel their homicidal anger at Americans and Jews.
Besides Islamic ideology, homicidal xenophobia, injured pride and the usual anti-semitism; the advantage of directing terrorists at America and Israel is that they're targets powerful enough that the terrorists can't win. So in reality Arab governments really redirect the organizations and people that might otherwise cause them trouble into attacking America and Israel which are expected to squash them or at least bog them down, so they never succeed and begin causing trouble at home; all the while distracting America and Israel from causing them problems. It's a little like sending a rabid dog to bite a a police car. It distracts both the police and the dog and keeps them both away from you.
This strategy began to fail after 9/11 when the terrorists overreached themselves and America brought the war home to the middle-east along with a load of half-baked ideas about democratic reforms and free elections. Years later Iraq is a boiling pot, Egypt has been forced to give ground to the Islamists, Lebanon is in turmoil, Hamas is in power, Iran is on the verge of an atomic bomb. Al Queda is now raging in Arab countries and Shiite vs Sunni conflicts are expanding beyond Iraq and even beyond the middle-east. America did not succeed in repairing the problems of the middle-east but did introduce just enough chaos into the equation to frighten the existing Arab governments who can no longer count on the old status quo. They're not in control anymore and it scares them because most of them are little more than a house of cards built on an internal secret service and oil money.
This month Hezbollah overreached itself much as Al Queda had on September 11th, attacking Israel and producing a large scale response. It's fun and games when Israeli buses are blown up. It's not fun and games anymore when Israel is bombing Beirut, not because anyone in the Arab world cares about Lebanese civilians, but because it introduces more chaos into the equation. Worse yet it appears to be strengthening Iran and moving towards a massively destructive showdown and no one in the Arab world wants that.
A key qualification for leadership in the Arab world has been the destruction of Israel. Both Egypt's Nasser and Iraq's Saddam, who had dreams of leading the Arab world, made their attempts. It's clearly Iran's turn now but no one outside Iran, wants Iran in that position. Up until now the Arab world supported Iran against America as a fellow Muslim state, all the while expecting and hoping that America and Israel would stop Iran. The Arab states would have fought it all the way while providing some aid covertly and then signed million dollar checks to the terrorists who would 'avenge' Iran. These layers of hypocrisy are commonplace in middle-eastern politics which are ultimately motivated not by religion but by tribalistic nationalism and the egos of local tyrants.
But America is increasingly showing that it isn't going to deal with Iran in the usual unilateral way that would have both outraged and gratified the Arab world. Instead America twiddles its thumbs. Israel, the last best hope of the Arab world, rather than attacking Iran is bogged down in a military campaign with an Iranian proxy. Iran is moving closer to the atom bomb which can just as easily threaten the Egyptians or Saudis as the Israelis with. As a result the Arab states have stopped playing coy and are openly signaling that they will support American or Israeli action against Iran. They're not usually this desperate but then they never had to be before.
The message is not only intended for America and Israel but for Iran as well, warning Ahmadinejad that he is going too far and will face not only America and Israel, but their opposition as well. The Sunni-Shiite conflict generated by the overthrow of Saddam and the lack of a stable Iraqi government has opened a can of worms that has made every Arab government with a Shiite minority frightened of the specter of civil war.
In its backing of Hezbollah, the campaign against Israel is secondary in the eyes of the Arab world, to the campaign against Lebanon. Where Westerners see Iran backing a campaign against Israel, the Arab world sees Iran leveraging a Shiite minority and providing them with weapons and training that can just as easily and will be used against Lebanon itself. When Hezbollah was merely a proxy for fighting Israel under Syria's rule, it was business as usual in the Middle East where terrorist groups and militias are regularly used that way. Particularly in Lebanon. But in the reality post-9/11 and post-Syria's withdrawal, Hezbollah becomes an explicitly religious Shiite tool of Iran expanding its influence directly into Egypt and Jordan's neighborhood while conducting a takeover of Iraq.
Iran has gotten too big, too fast and the Arab world increasingly doesn't want any part of it. They do not want an Iranian empire that encompasses Iraq and Lebanon backed with huge reserves of oil and nuclear weapons and holding the status of having defeated Israel and America, because such an entity would soon swallow them all. They most certainly do not want a regional Sunni-Shiite war that will tear apart the entire region. And so the Arab world is winking at Israel's campaign to send a message that Iran is alone, except for the increasingly nervous Syria and the psychotic mess of Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.
The Arab world is scared and it should be. It's time for America and Israel to get that message.