The Rout Continues
If the Cedar Revolution came on the coat-tails of Operation Iraqi Freedom, on the crest of the wave of belief in the "purple stained fingers" of voters, then the assassination of Lebanese Minister Pierre Gemayel comes upon its ebb. The results of the November election have sent the clear message that America is in retreat. Barack Obama recently said:
These are serious times for our country, and with their votes two weeks ago, Americans demanded a feasible strategy with defined goals in Iraq – a strategy no longer driven by ideology and politics, but one that is based on a realistic assessment of the sobering facts on the ground and our interests in the region. ...
It may be politically advantageous for the President to simply define victory as staying and defeat as leaving, but it prevents a serious conversation about the realistic objectives we can still achieve in Iraq. Dreams of democracy and hopes for a perfect government are now just that – dreams and hopes. We must instead turn our focus to those concrete objectives that are possible to attain – namely, preventing Iraq from becoming what Afghanistan once was, maintaining our influence in the Middle East, and forging a political settlement to stop the sectarian violence so that our troops can come home. ...
Shorn of its rhetoric, Obama's message is simple. It is not a formula for winning. It is a formula about how to get the hell out of Dodge. The obvious question is what signals this sends to the struggle between democracy and dictatorship within the region. The Cedar Revolution was all about attempting to establish a genuine Lebanese Democracy by evicting the Syrian occupiers. The Cedar Revolution, according to Wikipedia was:
the most commonly used name for the chain of demonstrations and popular civic action in Lebanon (mainly Beirut) triggered by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. The primary goals of the original activists were the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, the resignation of security officials, and the organization of free parliamentary elections. The demonstrators requested the end of the Syrian influence in Lebanese politics.
Current events in Lebanon are all about the process of dictatorship regaining its imperium in the backwash of an American withdrawal. Syria, along with Iran is regarded the victor in Iraq, a defeat that is openly ceded by men like Barack Obama who foreign observers see as an indicator of which way the wind is blowing in Washington. In the last few days, Syria and Iraq have strengthened their relations, or more accurately put Iraq has come to Daddy. Richard Beeston of the London Times describes why they are "friends again". America wants out, and Iraq must mend fences with the new regional victors while America begs them to let it go.
What makes this week's meeting different is the political context. Both Washington and London are openly discussing the need to engage Syria and Iran and enlist their help in resolving the turmoil in Iraq. ...
If President Talal Jalabani, the Iraqi leader, can bring about rapprochement between the Bush Administration and its foes in Damascus and Tehran then there could be an opening worth pursuing.
The US military in Iraq believes that 100 insurgent fighters cross the border into Iraq from Syria each month and that Damascus is hosting many ex-Baathist Iraqis who actively engaged in organising attacks across the border. Similarly, American and British officials believe that Iran is supporting Shia Muslim militia groups in Iraq.
Both countries could play an important role in helping to stabilise the situation in Iraq. But their support would come at a cost. Iran wants Washington and London to stop their campaign to impose sanctions on Tehran for its controversial nuclear programme.
Michael Totten sees the recent assassination of Pierre Gemayel as a bald-faced attempt to change the voting composition of the Lebanese cabinet by subtraction. And there is no secret about who is behind it. It is our new friends the Syrians, the ones we are about to ask to let us go. And it's goal is seems simple, to alter the political calculus until Hassan Nasrallah, the stooge of our other new "friend" Iran, can take over.
The Syrian regime cannot restrain itself from butchering its Lebanese enemies ...
UPDATE: Just spoke to a friend of mine in Lebanon. I did not realize until now that Gemayel was a member of the Lebanese cabinet. The Hezbollah/Syrian axis has been trying to bring down the government by pressuring three more members to resign. One down, two to go. Looks like the coup d'etat is in progress.
UPDATE: Abu Takla in the comments says "one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional."
UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon's political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.
UPDATE: Hezbollah is planning massive street "protests" on Thursday. Tony Badran notes: "This assassination will likely ensure that if such street rallies do take place, clashes would erupt, as it's clear that the Syrians are set on that. (Just another reminder for the idiots who believe Syria is a force of "stability.") Syria has a primary objective that outweighs everything else: kill the Hariri tribunal, and redominate Lebanon at any cost. This is nothing short than a fight to the death for the Syrians. And, as these thugs have done throughout their bloody history, they will kill anyone."
The most comical aspect of this whole rout is the way the diplomats will continue to prepare for the big meeting with Syria and Iran to broker a regional peace, something they believe "only a Superpower" can achieve. Alas, the habits of self-importance die hard. The countries are already making their own arrangements with the new victors, because those countries realize better than Barack Obama that you cannot charge a price for what you have already given away. And what will come of it all won't be peace. It will be war on a scale that will either draw America back into a larger cauldron or send it scurrying away behind whatever line of defense it thinks it has the will to hold. More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill told the appeasers they had a choice between war and dishonor. They had chosen dishonor, and added that now they would have both war and dishonor.
Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate says recent events make it plain that "the Bush administration, or large parts of it, is now cutting if not actually running, and it is looking for partners in the process" and presiding over it is "Baker, who supported the Syrian near-annexation of Lebanon. In order to recruit the Baathist regime of Hafez Assad to his coalition of the cynical against Saddam in the Kuwait war". As I've said, whatever the coming conference to create a regional solution to the war is intended to be, it may be perceived as a buffet an which little pieces of Iraq are fed to Syria, Iran and Turkey in order to buy Washington's ass out of a tight electoral situation.