Politics & Policy

Turtle Bay Does Beirut

Annan jets off for a Nasrallah crowning?

Brace yourself. In the United Nations-brokered farce known as the “cessation of hostilities in Lebanon,” we may now be heading for the moment in which Secretary-General Kofi Annan jets to Beirut to crown as the heirs of Lebanon the hijackers of the Cedar Revolution — the terrorists of Hezbollah.

#ad#Not that the U.N. has exactly expressed it that way. Annan’s office as of Friday afternoon would confirm only that Annan “will likely go to the region in the weeks ahead.” Israeli radio has been reporting that Annan will begin a Middle East tour on Monday in Lebanon, and go from there — in what order is not clear — to Israel, Syria, and Iran.

Whatever Annan might be cooking up, let’s take a closer look at why Secretary Condoleezza Rice ought to suggest to Annan in the strongest possible terms that the next time he packs his bags, it should be not to tour the Middle East, but to leave the U.N. Until then, the world would be a lot better off if he’d stay home. If Rice herself needs a reality check — which after her own recent immersion in Middle East diplomacy seems likely — she could start by looking up the information put out by her own State Department, which accurately lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group dedicated to “eliminating Israel” and setting up “Islamic rule in Lebanon.”

If Annan before stepping down in December is truly desperate to produce a legacy more edifying than Oil-for-Food and Kojo’s Mercedes, he could better spend his remaining four months in office actually enforcing his “zero-tolerance” policy against child rape by U.N. peacekeepers in Africa. Or, unlikely though this is, he could try genuinely cleaning up the bribery-tainted and still secretive U.N. procurement department (which may soon be awarding fat catering contracts to feed the additional 13,000 or so “peacekeepers” the U.N. plans to add to its so-called called interim force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL).

What Annan should not be allowed to do is invoke as public outcry for his “good offices” such nonsense as the op-ed headlined “Let’s Start Talking to Hezbollah” — published in Friday’s New York Times and written by Lakhdar Brahimi, who is identified at the end of the piece as a “former special adviser” to Annan. Brahimi is also a former minister of Algeria and former official of the Arab League. Some will remember him as well for his endorsement of Saddam Hussein, his denial that Saddam gassed to death tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds, and his locution in 2004 labeling Israel the big “poison” in the Middle East — a comment that Annan’s office excused on grounds that it was Brahimi’s personal opinion, though at the time Brahimi was enjoying the status of special adviser to Annan.

Now we are again presented with some of Brahimi’s private views, aired publicly in his Times op-ed in context of his “former” U.N. status, urging the “international community” to embrace Hezbollah. In effect, Brahimi would have us roll out a red carpet for Kofi Annan to tread all the way from Turtle Bay to Beirut — though of course Annan in practice would make the trip in his special U.N. jet, freighted with all the dignity and resources of his office, courtesy in great part of U.S. tax dollars.

And for what? Brahimi in offering his apparently amnesiac notion that we should “start” talking to Hezbollah fails to mention that Annan has already done it. Annan jumped that gun six years ago, by meeting in Beirut on June 20, 2000, with the same Lebanese terrorist satrap of Iran who runs Hezbollah today: Hassan Nasrallah. Against a backdrop of flowers, their handshake and grins were recorded in this (almost certainly undoctored) Reuters photo of the occasion. At the time, as a U.N. press release put it, “They talked of cooperation between Hizbollah and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General thanked the Sheikh for his restraint shown by Hizbollah during Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.”

That meeting in Beirut was the follow-on to Annan’s meeting just two days earlier, on June 18, 2000, with Iranian officials in Tehran. On that occasion, as Annan’s office reported, “Their talks focused on the emerging political, economic and social role in Lebanon for Hezbollah,” as well as “the political transition taking place in Syria, peace efforts in Afghanistan,” and so forth.

While Annan, Nasrallah, and the tyrants of Syria and Iran might have considered that round of U.N. diplomacy in 2000 a rip-roaring success, there were no victories there for the Free World. Afghanistan’s Taliban regime went on hosting al Qaeda, which was by then planning the Sept. 11 attacks on America. Syria completed its transition from the tyrannical President Hafez Assad to his despotic son Bashar Assad. Iran, of course, carried on with its totalitarian terrorist-sponsoring ways, as well as its nuclear-bomb program, and has now brought us the messianic Hezbollah-praising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kofi Annan got lunch, some photo-ops, and, of course, a Nobel Prize.

And, as we now know, just four months after Annan’s handshake with Nasrallah, Hezbollah in its “emerging political, economic and social role” went on in October, 2000, to kidnap three Israeli soldiers from inside Israel — murdering them all. UNIFIL’s contribution was to hand over at gunpoint to Hezbollah the bloodstained vehicles in which the Israelis were apparently kidnapped, conceal from Israeli authorities for months videotapes of the evidence, and then “observe” for more than five years as Hezbollah trucked in weapons from Iran and Syria, honeycombed southern Lebanon with fortifications and launched the recent bout of ruinous war with the July 12 kidnapping of another two Israeli soldiers, whom Hezbollah has yet to return.

Annan himself may be oblivious to the damage done to the real cause of peace by his favored brand of thug-hugging U.N. “diplomacy,” but the rest of us will be living with it long after he has retired. Right now, Annan has no more business talking with Hezbollah than he would have visiting the Iranian exhibition of holocaust cartoons that opened Monday in Tehran. Or should we brace for that as well?

– Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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