Iraq, Lebanon and Civil War
The other “tree” of jihadism, with its roots in Iran, withheld fire after 9/11. They were content to watch the Salafists fight it out with the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention within the West, as terror cells were hunted down. Ahmedinejad, Assad, and Nasrallah were analyzing how far the US would go, and how far the Sunnis and Salafis would go as well.
The fall of the Taliban and of the Baath in Iraq, however, changed Iran and Syria’s patient plans. The political changes in the neighborhood, regardless of their immediate instability, were strongly felt in Tehran and Damascus (but unfortunately not in the U.S., judging from the political debate here), and pushed the Khumeinists and the Syrian Baathists to enter the dance, but carefully. Assad opened his borders to the jihadists in an attempt to crumble the U.S. role in Iraq, while Iran articulated al Sadr’s ideology for Iraq’s Shiia majority.
A U.S.-led response came swiftly in 2004 with the voting of UNSCR 1559, smashing Syria’s role in Lebanon and forcing Assad to withdraw his troops by April 2005. In response, the “axis” prepared for a counter attack on the Lebanese battlefield by assassinating a number of the Cedar Revolution leaders, including MP Jebran Tueni. In short, the attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah and the kidnappings of soldiers were the tip of an offensive aimed at drawing attention away from Iran’s nuclear weapons programs and Syria’s assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Hezbollah was awaiting its moment for revenge against the Cedar Revolution too.
What we see now is 1) a Syro-Iranian sponsored offensive aimed at all democracies in the region and fought in Lebanon; 2) Israel’s counter offensive (which it seems to have prepared earlier); and 3) an attempt by Hezbollah to take over or crumble the Lebanese government.
Blair's speech should be read at the link in entirety, but I'll highlight certain passages though while they may not coincide with Phare's analysis speak to the same points but on far vaster canvas. The emphasis is mine.
I planned the basis of this speech several weeks ago. The crisis in the Lebanon has not changed its thesis. It has brought it into sharp relief. The purpose of the provocation that began the conflict was clear. It was to create chaos, division and bloodshed, to provoke retaliation by Israel that would lead to Arab and Muslim opinion being inflamed, not against those who started the aggression but against those who responded to it. ...
There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world. The point is this. This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind. ...
Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win. What is happening today out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and beyond is an elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future. It is in part a struggle between what I will call Reactionary Islam and Moderate, Mainstream Islam. But its implications go far wider. We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st century, about global values. ...
Hence Afghanistan. Hence Iraq. Hence the broader Middle East initiative in support of moves towards democracy in the Arab world. The point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. The banner was not actually "regime change" it was "values change".
What we have done therefore in intervening in this way, is far more momentous than possibly we appreciated at the time. ... We rather inclined to the view that where there was terrorism, perhaps it was partly the fault of the governments of the countries concerned. We were in error. In fact, these acts of terrorism were not isolated incidents. They were part of a growing movement. A movement that believed Muslims had departed from their proper faith, were being taken over by Western culture, were being governed treacherously by Muslims complicit in this take-over, whereas the true way to recover not just the true faith, but Muslim confidence and self esteem, was to take on the West and all its works. ... It resembles in many ways early revolutionary Communism. It doesn't always need structures and command centres or even explicit communication. It knows what it thinks. ...
They realised they had to create a completely different battle in Muslim minds: Muslim versus Western. This is what September 11th did. ... The West didn't attack this movement. We were attacked. Until then we had largely ignored it. .... We could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values. We said we didn't want another Taleban or a different Saddam. Rightly, in my view, we realised that you can't defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its leaders; you have to defeat its ideas. There is a host of analysis written about mistakes made in Iraq or Afghanistan, much of it with hindsight but some of it with justification. But it all misses one vital point. The moment we decided not to change regime but to change the value system, we made both Iraq and Afghanistan into existential battles for Reactionary Islam. We posed a threat not to their activities simply: but to their values, to the roots of their existence.
We committed ourselves to supporting Moderate, Mainstream Islam. In almost pristine form, the battles in Iraq or Afghanistan became battles between the majority of Muslims in either country who wanted democracy and the minority who realise that this rings the death-knell of their ideology. ...
As to the first, it is almost incredible to me that so much of Western opinion appears to buy the idea that the emergence of this global terrorism is somehow our fault. For a start, it is indeed global. ... But the central point is this. ... Whatever the outward manifestation at any one time - in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and add to that in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in a host of other nations including now some in Africa - it is a global fight about global values; it is about modernisation, within Islam and outside of it; it is about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled and appealing that it beats theirs.
Blair's speech is not about war but a Pole Star. All great captains are alike in that they draw not just any blade, but a ringing and shining blade. For only a sword so enchanted can defeat real malice. And for some reason, though it shouldn't have, the speech in Los Angeles recalled Chesterton's lines:
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.