The Republic Of Hezbollah

May 26, 2009

The Republic Of Hezbollah


Middle East: The job of a vice president was once to attend foreign funerals. Joe Biden was in Beirut on Friday to show support in advance of an election that may see the death of a Western democracy.

While we’ve been fighting for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab world’s oldest and most dynamic multicultural democracy, Lebanon, has been dying a slow and painful death. A neighbor to Israel, the Switzerland of the Middle East has been sucked into a conflict it would have preferred to have avoided.

It’s been fought over by Israel and the PLO, then Israel and Hezbollah, which has used Lebanon and its people as a human shield behind which to pursue the dream of Hezbollah’s Iranian and Syrian masters to destroy Israel.

We have chronicled the tribulations of this proud country known to most Americans only as the ancestral home of entertainer Danny Thomas. But it was always more than that. We wanted to bring democracy and tolerance to the Middle East. In Lebanon it was already there.

In 2006, the Syrian- and Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah, heavily armed and financed by Damascus and Tehran, provoked a war with Israel using Lebanon and its people as a human shield.

Despite U.N. Resolution 1559, which demanded all militia groups disarm, Hezbollah kept its weapons and rearmed while it began a two-year campaign marked by additional violence and assassinations to destabilize the government of Lebanon.

Hailed as a defender rather than a usurper of Lebanese democracy, Hezbollah (the Party of Allah) forcibly gained its long-sought veto power over government decisions in a new cabinet of national unity. But Hezbollah wants more and, in the upcoming June 7 parliamentary elections, may win it all.

The Shiite group that held but 14 seats in Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament “negotiated” this power at the end of a gun after it displayed force a year ago when its gunmen overran Beirut neighborhoods and laid siege to government buildings.

Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans in April 1983 before 9/11 became the No. 1 terrorist killer of Americans in the world. Hezbollah was also responsible for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight in which American serviceman Robert Stethem was brutally beaten, killed and dumped on the tarmac. Hezbollah kidnapped and murdered U.S. Army Col. William Higgins and the CIA’s William Buckley.

The political system in Lebanon had been delicately balanced between Shiites, Sunnis, Druze and Maronite Christians since it gained independence from France in 1943, forming what is known as “the first republic.” In the aftermath of a crippling civil war, an accord was reached in 1989 forming “the second republic.” Under this agreement, the president would always be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shiite.

Hezbollah and its allies are campaigning under the slogan “The Third Republic.” Hezbollah wants it all — an Islamic republic on the Mediterranean facing Israel and the West and backed by an Iran with nuclear weapons. That could be a game-changer in the Mideast.

Amin Gemayel, a Maronite and former Lebanese president, was quoted by the An-Nahar daily on May 19 as saying this “third republic” would in fact be “a republic of Hezbollah, its cadres, and what they will bring to their country — a republic of Hezbollah’s weapons.”

The White House said Biden’s visit, in advance of Lebanon’s June 7 parliamentary elections and during which he met with President Michel Suleiman, was “to reinforce the United States’ support for an independent Lebanon.” During a visit to Beirut last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sidestepped reporters’ questions about Hezbollah and Iran, but did say the U.S. would “continue to support the voices of moderation.”

But all this may be too little too late, and those voices of moderation may soon be silenced. We have spent too much time tip-toeing around Iran and its true intentions in the Middle East. On June 7, we may pay for our disinterest in Lebanon.


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