- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

The next major battleground in the efforts by the Tehran-Damascus Axis to destabilize the Middle East could well be Lebanon. On Wednesday, the White House announced it is “increasingly concerned that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hezbollah and their Lebanese allies were preparing plans to topple Lebanon’s democratically elected government.” Hezbollah may step up its efforts to bring down the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora today, when Lebanese political factions begin discussions on Hezbollah’s demands for establishment of a “national unity government.”

Hezbollah, which receives $200 million annually from Iran, wants to play a larger role in Lebanese politics. Currently, Hezbollah and its Shi’ite Muslim ally, Amal, have five ministers in Lebanon’s 24-member cabinet; they are demanding that this number be increased to eight. Because the Lebanese government operates by consensus, this would effectively hand Iranian and Syrian loyalists the power to bring down the Lebanese government whenever they want. With eight ministers in the Lebanese cabinet, which operates by consensus, Hezbollah (and by extension, its backers in Tehran) would in all likelihood gain the power to veto any effort by Lebanon to gain control of its borders.

And Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, makes it clear that the additional cabinet seats constitute a non-negotiable demand. If the talks don’t yield an outcome satisfactory to Hezbollah by Nov. 13, he said last week, Hezbollah will take political action and mobilize its supporters in the streets. A coalition of parties comprising a majority of the Lebanese Parliament criticized Hezbollah’s political agenda, saying it benefits Syria and Iran, not Lebanon. In response, Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar denounced the parliamentarians as “devils” and suggested that they were hoping for U.S. military action against Iran. While threatening to sow chaos, a major priority for Hezbollah continues to be making sure that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) remains largely useless in preventing hostilities with Israel. More recently, Mr. Nasrallah warned that any effort to disarm Hezbollah would turn Lebanon into another Iraq or Afghanistan, and he says the United States would be driven out of the Middle East, just as it left Vietnam.

Right now, the situation in Lebanon is worsening. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said last week that Lebanese politicians, fearing retaliation from Syria, have failed to disclose information about the illegal flow of arms to Hezbollah. UNIFIL’s performance verges on the farcical: The German magazine Der Spiegel reports that it does not patrol at night because of the danger involved, leaving Hezbollah free to conduct military operations. And French Gen. Alain Pellegrini, UNIFIL commander, can’t stop Hezbollah arms smuggling, but wants artillery to fire at Israel Air Force planes that overfly Lebanon in an effort to prevent Hezbollah’s rearmament. The Islamofascists are on the march, and the situation in Lebanon is spiralling rapidly downhill.

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