Is there a Churchillian lesson to be found in Ahmadinejad’s visit this week to wildly enthusiastic Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon?
If one thing has become clear, it’s that Ahmadinejad’s radical-Islamic curtain has descended over Lebanon. Practically all of Lebanon’s political parties euphorically welcomed Ahmadinejad at the presidential palace. Um Ali, a Lebanese woman who is, like Ahmadinejad, a Shiite, said, “God willing, we will have an Islamic Republic in Lebanon.” Israel’s foreign-ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, deemed Ahmadinejad’s trip the equivalent of a “landlord coming to inspect his domain.”
The Obama administration is, for the most part, sitting on the sidelines as Iran continues its domination of Lebanon’s government and broad swaths of the population. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reacted as if she were observing a labor-management dispute instead of tackling jingoistic, revolutionary Iranian Islam. Clinton said, “We would hope that no visitor would do anything or say anything that would give cause to greater tension or instability in that country.” But Ahmadinejad’s presence — and the role of his wholly owned subsidiary, the terrorist entity Hezbollah, which is a controlling part of the Lebanese government — is about Iran’s domination of the Mideast region.
The Obama administration has always prioritized Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over keeping Iran from spreading its military tentacles throughout the Mideast, even in the face of Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weaponry. Plainly, President Obama’s Mideast policy is limping on both legs.
In March, Clinton and Obama got more rankled over Israel’s building an apartment complex in an East Jerusalem neighborhood than over Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad’s laying the foundation for a new war against Israel. On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered his curtain raiser for Iran’s ruler in a video speech to a mass demonstration in Beirut, urging that Israel be “wiped out of existence.” In South Lebanon, a mere two miles from Israel’s border, Ahmadinejad stated on Thursday that the “Zionists will disappear” and “occupied Palestine will be liberated.” These statements did not raise a word of outrage from the U.N. or Europe.
Last week, writing in the New York Post, Claudia Rosett aptly described the power politics of Lebanon and the U.N./U.S. failure to stop Iran’s proxy war against Israel. She wrote, “Too often, the United Nations serves as a fig leaf for politicians, including American ones, while obfuscating or even perpetuating conflicts. In Lebanon, for instance, the U.N. has had peacekeepers in place since 1978. Under their noses the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah stockpiled weapons for the 2006 summer war with Israel. Under the gaze of a now-expanded U.N. peacekeeping force, Hezbollah is reportedly rearming, with deadlier weapons.”
What can the West do to raise Iran’s radical-Islamic curtain in Lebanon and the Mideast? What would Winston Churchill suggest? The U.S. Congress should pull the plug on the $100 million in military assistance planned for Lebanon’s army, which is de facto controlled by Hezbollah. The U.S. State Department should immediately sanction Russian, Chinese, and European gas and energy companies that conduct business with Iran. Sanctions are taking an enormous toll on Iran’s fragile economy, and the last, best chance to prevent military strikes against Iran’s regime is to strangle its vulnerable energy and financial sectors.
– Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.