Sunday, November 26, 2006

The assassination of Lebanese minister Pierre Gemayel — at least the fifth murder of a prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese person on Lebanese soil in the past 21 months — is an early answer to James Baker, Lee Hamilton and the Iraq Study Group (ISG), whose policy recommendations on Iraq are expected next month. One of Washington’s great expectations is that the panel will recommend that the United States discuss Iraq’s future with Iran and Syria — rogue states that have provided large-scale assistance to the terrorist groups and militias that are working to tear Iraq apart.

Should the Baker-Hamilton panel put forward such recommendations, we can expect an all-out push by congressional Democrats and much of the foreign policy establishment to sandbag the Bush administration into high-profile talks and summits with Tehran and Damascus; should the talks fail to achieve a diplomatic settlement, as they likely will, the Bush administration will be blamed. With the murder of Mr. Gemayel, the Tehran-Damascus axis sends a blunt message to Washington: We can crush anyone, including Arabs who get in our way, and you (and democratic allies like Israel) are powerless to stop us.

Mr. Gemayel was murdered at the height of a campaign by Iran and Syria’s proxy, Hezbollah, to topple the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, a Sunni Muslim who has repeatedly clashed with Lebanon’s Christian president, Emile Lahoud. Damascus has waged an all-out campaign to bully Mr. Siniora out of calling for the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah — the only remaining Lebanese militia. The campaign worked: The Lebanese government stood by helplessly as Hezbollah built a formidable military arsenal in Lebanon, which it demonstrated this summer after plunging Lebanon into war with Israel.

To no one’s surprise, despite passage of Security Council Resolution 1701 and the deployment of the Lebanese Army and international peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon, Tehran and Damascus have poured short-range missiles and small arms into Hezbollah’s inventory since the war’s end. Saudi Arabia in particular charges that Iran’s embassies in Damascus and Beirut are being used as command and control centers on Hezbollah’s behalf.

The Islamic fascists can feel good about their prospects. Nascent democracies in Iraq and Lebanon are in turmoil, and the developing Hamas terror state in Gaza has plunged the Palestinian Authority into war with Israel and all but rendered Palestinian democracy-building moribund for now. Iran’s nuclear weapons program goes forward unabated. If Tehran and Damascus are rewarded with a diplomatic windfall in Iraq, it will be another signal that the democracies are in retreat, with the thugs pressing their offensive.

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