- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

“Israel believes this threat is existential,” explained the clearly dubious former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Richard Murphy.

Well, how could they think that? (And by the way, all former ambassadors, especially those who served in Saudi Arabia and now are advisers to Saudi banks, should be taken with a large grain of salt.) Could it be because Iran has announced its intention to wipe Israel off the map and is hurtling toward building nuclear weapons? Could it be because Iran’s agent, Hezbollah, welcomes “World War III”; is pledged to destroy Israel; and is raining missiles down on Israeli cities and towns?

The New York Times editorial page, showcasing its almost unbroken record of obtuseness, demanded the international community enforce a cease-fire as soon as possible, arguing a “wider war” would benefit only “Iran, Syria, and the armed Islamic radical groups that they support throughout the region.”

The exact opposite is true. If a premature cease-fire were imposed, the parties named by the Times would be the clear winners. Only if Israel is able to punish Hezbollah severely will those aggressors be thwarted.

A cease-fire stops the guns for a week. A victory can stop them for years. One really wonders sometimes what New York Times editorial writers would do if punched in the nose. Actually, it’s not that hard to guess. They would wonder what they did to deserve it and would decline to contribute to the “cycle of violence.”

Let’s review. The United States and its allies gave Iran a deadline to respond to an ultimatum regarding its nuclear program. (Actually, the ultimatum was called an “incentives package.” It contained a list of goodies — rewards— the world would bestow on Iran if it agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.) If Iran refused to comply, the U.S., Great Britain and France were prepared to apply sanctions — though Russia and China were reluctant. The deadline for a response was July.

Just then, Iran launched its proxy war against Israel through Hezbollah. Not only does this take nuclear talks off Page One, it potentially complicates the U.S. position in Iraq. Hezbollah notoriously makes war on Israeli and Lebanese civilians simultaneously. It shoots its rockets into Israeli cities and farms from patios and school playgrounds in Lebanon. Israeli retaliation is bound to kill innocent civilians, who are then paraded on TV to generate world condemnation of Israel. Iran no doubt hopes pictures of bleeding Lebanese Shi’ites will embitter Iraqi Shi’ites against the United States. Evil? Yes. But not stupid.

Certainly the “world community” has not thus far displayed common sense in dealing with Iran’s surrogates. In 2000, when the United Nations placed an international “peacekeeping” force in Lebanon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah: “I did tell Mr. Nasrallah that Hezbollah exercised restraint, responsibility, and discipline after the [Israeli] withdrawal, and that we would want to see that continue, and I’m sure from the indications that he gave me that he intends to do it.”

Recall that Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, blew up 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks, tortured CIA station chief William Buckley to death, kidnapped countless aid workers, priests and journalists, and murdered as many Israelis as it could lay hands on. As for UNIFIL (the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), Hezbollah wound up using the international monitors as more human shields, placing its rockets close by.

There are limits to what Israel can do in Lebanon militarily. Hezbollah is intermixed with the civilian population, and Israel cannot find, much less kill, them all. But degrading its armaments and killing some of its members can, at least for a while, disable Hezbollah and take the wind out of Iran’s sails.

Beyond that, some way must be found to permit the Lebanese to take back their country from the terrorists. An international force might be effective — but only if it has nothing whatever to do with the United Nations.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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