Morgan Liddick: Iraq is diverting us from two other issues
While the American Left continues to wallow in despair over Iraq, two other situations in the Middle East promise to have equally far-ranging effects – for better, or for worse. We should stop wailing long enough to consider their implications for us and for our future.In Lebanon, the national army is battling Fatah-al-Islam, a group of Islamic extremists ensconced in a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. This conflict comes amid an ongoing stalemate within the Lebanese government between the generally pro-west faction led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, and a faction favoring Syria, which for decades has used Lebanon as a colony and a proxy in its war with Israel.The Lebanese government’s conflict with Fatah-al-Islam is historic. Allied with al-Qaida, the Fatah group had conducted a number of terrorist and criminal operations in Lebanon, retreating after each to the safe haven of the refugee camp. By longstanding agreement with Palestinian authorities Lebanese security forces cannot enter these camps, creating the same state-within-a-state one finds in the Hezbo’allah-controlled south. Needless to say, this does nothing to improve the stability or governance of this sovereign country.Understanding that it is vital for the Lebanese government to prevail, we and several Arab governments have given Prime Minister Siniora’s forces limited support. Their victory will send a message about Lebanon’s cohesiveness to Syria and Iran, who have heretofore used the weakness of Lebanon’s central government to their own ends, and to the discomfiture of our allies and associates in the region.
The danger is that a protracted conflict between the Lebanese army and a well-equipped group of fighters backed by other states will inevitably drag Lebanon’s neighbors into the battle. In that case, we had better be able to think quickly and clearly about how our interests are best served. Would it be good to let thugs and terrorists turn out the lights in Lebanon again – this time perhaps for good? Heads up.The other dangerous situation is already several days past the deadline for resolution. I’m speaking of Iran and its plans for a nuclear weapon, already quite well-along. Everyone who thinks that all problems can be resolved through dialogue, pay attention …The UN warned Iran about its nuclear program on several occasions. Iran ignored the warnings. Deadlines for compliance have been established, and have passed without action. UN Security Council resolutions have been flouted. Iran, according to its Prime Minister, will have the capacity to reprocess uranium right up to weapons grade, regardless of what anyone else says on the matter.The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions, but they are weak and limited. Stronger measures may be more effective, but despite Iran’s open defiance of the UN and the IAEA, they have not been instituted. The why of these failures is an illustration of the limits of diplomacy.
We have repeatedly called for stronger UN sanctions, and for concerted international action against Iran and its proliferation program. We think, as do many Europeans and Arabs, that nuclear weapons in the hands of an Iranian theocracy is not the cheeriest scenario for the future. But we have been consistently thwarted by the Russians and the Chinese who, following their own calculations of self-interest, do not see an Iranian bomb as a threat to them. The former are presently building a large, new reactor in Busheir, and the latter are buying ever more petroleum from the Mullahs. Given our angst over Iraq, Tehran has apparently calculated that it need not fear us, regardless of what we say. Despite the serious threat to our national interest in the Middle East, Prime Minister Ahmadinejad has dismissed us as irrelevant. What does it mean for us, and for our allies and associates, if he is correct?Even by the optimistic projections of the IAEA, Iran is three years or less from being able to build nuclear weapons, at the rate of two or three a year given current levels of reprocessing (Iran has indicated they will ramp up production by as much as ten times). So, for you fans of conflict resolution through discussion, what now? More nattering? Or shall we all just prepare to have a really, really bad day?Finally, a note to my faithful reader Tom Parsons, who in his commentary about my recent column on tax increases provides a perfect example of the Liberal playbook: If one cannot attack an argument, attack he who poses it. Although Mr. Parsons’ innuendo had little to do with the substance of the column, for the record I must say that he is badly mistaken about my clientele, and their motivations. Just goes to show, one really ought to know what one is talking about; otherwise, one looks foolish.
And yes … Week 22 of the Democrat Congress’ War in Iraq. And counting.Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at email@example.com. Also, comment on this column at http://www.summitdaily.com.
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