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Lebanon Succumbs to the Regional Civil War

Bombing in Hezbollah stronghold.

2:18 PM, Jan 2, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
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Hezbollah is also suspected of killing former finance minister Mohamed Chatah last Friday in a car bomb in Beirut close to where his former boss Rafik Hariri was slain in March 2005. There is plenty of speculation as to why Chatah, along with six others including a 16-year-old boy, was murdered last week. Perhaps his murderers saw this Hezbollah opponent as a potential prime minister. Maybe it was a message to anyone who thought of testifying in the upcoming Special Tribunal for Lebanon trials against Hezbollah suspects in the 2005 murder of Hariri. Or perhaps Chatah, whose open letter to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani concerning Hezbollah was published shortly after his death, went too far in his criticism of the hard men who call the shots in Lebanon. The purpose is likely much simpler to fathom: Hezbollah, Iran, and Assad are simply showing who is in charge. They can murder anyone they like with impunity because there is no one to stop them. They kill because they can. Opponents can choose between falling in line or a violent death, because they’re on the losing side and no one is coming to help them, certainly not the White House.

In his statement following the assassination, John Kerry praised Chatah as a “voice of reason, responsibility and moderation.” Indeed, virtually every encomium to Chatah has described him as a “moderate”—a word that in the context of the regional conflict is without meaning. Apparently, a Sunni moderate is just someone who won’t pick up a gun. He’s a moderate if, even after his friends, family members, colleagues, community leaders and clerics have been killed, his neighborhoods besieged, his national institutions subverted by representatives of another confessional sect, the Shia, on behalf of a foreign power, Iran, he won’t pick up a weapon in self-defense. And if he does fight back—then he’s a Sunni extremist. He’s al Qaeda.

And it is because al Qaeda, or Sunni extremism, poses the greatest threat to American interests that the White House has in effect or in reality teamed up across the Levant with Iranian allies and assets to fight Sunnis.

If Bashar al-Assad, Hassan Nasrallah and Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani have won in Syria, as a U.S. diplomat told the Wall Street Journal, it is because the White House not only failed to push back, but undermined the efforts of its regional and international allies. Maybe Obama just didn’t want to anger the Iranians by attacking their chief Arab ally. But the effect is the same as siding with Iran and its allies:Tthe moderate opposition has been routed, either by Sunni extremists or the radicals fighting alongside Assad. It should hardly come as a surprise if in the near future the White House partners with Assad to fight Sunni extremists, just as it has by sending arms to another Iranian ally fighting with al Qaeda, Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. The administration continues to support the Lebanese Armed Forces even as it surely understands that this military is under Hezbollah’s control. Indeed, the fact that Saudis’ $3 billion grant to the LAF is to be spent on French arms and equipment signals a rebuke to a White House that the Saudis distrust—and for good reason: The Obama administration is backing Iran and its allies everywhere, regardless of whether they’re battling al Qaeda or just killing Sunnis like Mohamed Chatah.

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