Sunday, August 27, 2006

The UN Turns Iran's Defeat into Victory

Joseph Klein,
Despite all of its public bluster, Iran recognizes that it suffered a serious setback to its long-term strategic interests as a result of the Hezbollah-initiated war against Israel. The most significant fallout facing the Shiite mullahs in Iran is that their regime’s suspected role in supplying the Shiite Hezbollah terrorist militia – long denied by the Iranian government - has been brought out into the open. Its covert build-up of the terrorist ‘state-within-a-state’ has been exposed, providing a strong case for more aggressive policing by an international force in both southern Lebanon and along the border between Syria and Lebanon as well as for stiff sanctions against both Iran and Syria if they continue trying to re-arm Hezbollah.

Moreover, although it is true that Israel failed to deliver the knock-out punch that it had hoped for and suffered serious casualties of its own, Israel managed to significantly degrade Hezbollah’s military force which was financed, trained and armed by Iran (with help from Syria). Hezbollah is reported to have lost more than five hundred of its Iranian-sponsored militia. Moreover, Iranian sources, cited by the newsletter DEBKAfile, have confirmed internal high level Iranian government assessments that Israel destroyed most of the twenty-two launchers that Iran had provided Hezbollah for the long-range Zelzal-1 and Zelzal-2 missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv. A significant number of medium-range missiles were also destroyed. According to these sources, Tehran fears that Hezbollah was so weakened that it no longer can be used effectively as Iran’s surrogate force on Israel’s border to deter Israel from taking direct military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Meanwhile, while Lebanon’s infrastructure (used by Hezbollah to launch thousands of Iranian missiles against Israeli cities) is in tatters, Israel is still very much intact. Many areas of the country were spared any significant damage. In Jerusalem - Israel’s spiritual center and a principal target of Iran’s wrath – eyewitnesses reported that day-to-day life was barely affected by the war. READ MORE

Iran also lost some ground in its bid to become the unchallenged leader of the fundamentalist Islamic movement in the Middle East, particularly against what Iranian leaders like to call the Zionist “parasite”. Iran has used its partner Syria and its support of Hezbollah to control Lebanon by proxy, providing it with a well-positioned forward base to confront Israel. But confrontation with Israel came prematurely at a heavy price, and the Lebanese people who bore the brunt of it are not as enamored of either Hezbollah or Iran as their propagandists would like us to believe. Only a few hundred Lebanese came out to celebrate Hezbollah’s “victory march” in its stronghold of south Beirut. One leading Lebanese columnist was quoted as saying, “If Hezbollah won a victory, it was a pyrrhic one. They made Lebanon pay too high a price – for which they must be held accountable.” Its leader Hassan Nasrallah in particular has come under heavy criticism by some Shiites in Lebanon for undue obeisance to Iran and for moving ahead to provoke a war with Israel without even first consulting the two Hezbollah cabinet ministers or the twelve Hezbollah members of Lebanon’s parliament. (Source: “Hezbollah Didn’t Win” by Amir Taheri, Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2006).

But what Iran has lost strategically on the ground, it is recouping in the back halls of Turtle Bay, thanks to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and French President Jacques Chirac. Both men pressed for an immediate cease-fire together with the withdrawal of Israeli forces, before Israel was able to eliminate Hezbollah’s aggressive capabilities.

In response to a question whether the international peacekeeping force being assembled under Security Council Resolution 1701 will be patrolling the Syrian border to prevent the movement of Iran’s arms supplies to Hezbollah, Annan uttered his usual non-committal gobbledygook. He said that “the resolution does not require deployment of UN troops to the border.” Asked whether the UN troops will play a role in disarming Hezbollah – which two successive UN resolutions on Lebanon have called for - Annan replied: “I think it is also generally accepted that the disarmament of Hezbollah cannot be done by force. It has to be a political agreement between the Lebanese; there has to be a Lebanese consensus and an agreement among them to disarm...the troops are not going there to disarm. Let us be clear on that.”

In the face of the Lebanese government’s total failure to control Hezbollah’s military presence in south Lebanon for six years after Israel had withdrawn the first time, Kofi Annan still believes that the Lebanese government will suddenly be able to disarm Hezbollah this time without the club wielded by the international force to back it up. Unfortunately, the reality is that Lebanon’s government includes pro-Syrian and Hezbollah representatives. The Lebanese army still uses decrepit World War II age military equipment, has no training to speak of and is most likely infiltrated by Hezbollah. Lebanon is certainly too weak on its own to assert complete sovereign independence from Syria or from the Hezbollah militia and its Iranian patrons. Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora has not asked for any international troops to monitor the Syrian border, telling France’s TV5 that we have no intention of showing any animosity toward Syria.” Evidently, Kofi Annan has no problem with that.

For his part, Jacques Chirac has insisted that Israel end its blockade to interdict the movement of more weapons to Hezbollah before an international force is fully in place, let alone deployed to prevent further re-arming of Hezbollah which Annan says is not part of its core mission anyway. While Chirac finally agreed to pledge France’s deployment of 2000 additional troops, the second highest number after Italy, he branded as “totally excessive” the 15,000 troop level that was authorized by the Security Council to help induce Israel to cease fighting and to begin withdrawing its own forces from Lebanon right away. France had led the negotiations, along with the United States, that led up to the passage of Security Council Resolution 1701 with its 15,000 troop level authorization, but is now backing away from one of the core provisions that Israel had relied upon in deciding to stop its military campaign against Hezbollah before its completion.

Amidst all this dithering by Annan and Chirac, DEBKAfile reports that convoys with Iranian-supplied missiles are passing through Syria on their way to Hezbollah and that there is a recently installed Iranian Revolutionary Guard command center on the Syrian side of the Iranian border which is being used to direct Hezbollah even more closely than before the war.

Syria has issued unanswered threats that it would consider the stationing of international forces on its border with Lebanon, in order to stop the flow of weapons and other support to Hezbollah, to be an “act of aggression.” For its part, Iran has declared that it will defend Syria’s security and continues to defy the Security Council’s demand that it suspend its nuclear uranium enrichment program.

Kofi Annan’s answer to these continuing provocations by Iranian megalomaniac President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad is to elevate their status by paying them personal visits during his whirlwind diplomatic tour of the Middle East. As far as Annan is concerned, they deserve the same respect as the leader of Israel, whose democratic country was attacked by Hezbollah and has been threatened by both Syria and Iran. Never showing any hesitancy to condemn Israel at the drop of a hat, Annan treats the Iranian and Syrian thugs like delicate flowers. At the end of the day, lurking behind the UN Secretary General’s flimsy curtain of ‘peace in our time’ is a portrait of inaction and appeasement. While Kofi talks and talks and talks, the UN will continue to let the Hezbollah cancer fester unimpeded. It will put off any final reckoning to a later date when Iran has successfully re-armed its terrorist friends and it gets closer to building nuclear weapons that it can share with them. Is it any wonder that Iran donated a portrait of Kofi Annan to the United Nations and that its President – who called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” – will be warmly greeting Annan in Tehran shortly?

What are the alternatives besides Israel renewing its military campaign immediately to destroy Hezbollah? For starters, we can use the West’s economic leverage with Syria to induce it to stop serving as Iran’s doormat to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria’s biggest trading partners after Saudi Arabia are Germany, Italy, and France. We should lean on them to collectively threaten to cut their trade with Syria unless it reverses course. Perhaps we can also persuade Saudi Arabia and Turkey to join in such an economic boycott as long as Syria insists on serving the Iranian Shiite extremists’ agenda that is at odds with their own interests. The United States can apply its own pressure by enforcing restrictions against companies doing business here that are also doing business with Syria. Let these companies choose where their bread is buttered.

Second, if the UN force will not patrol the Syrian-Lebanon border and Syria does not respond positively to economic pressure, the U.S. needs to put together a coalition that will take over this responsibility – perhaps under NATO command. Humanitarian aid and some commercial products can be shipped through selected transit points where cargo inspections can be readily carried out. Using air and ground patrols, the coalition can enforce a no-passage zone along the rest of the border. If Syria or Iran object, let them fire the first shot and then face the full consequences of their actions. Better that such a confrontation happens now rather than down the road when Iran may have a nuclear capability.

Finally, it is time for the Security Council to punish Iran economically and politically for its continued refusal to suspend its nuclear uranium enrichment program. If Russia and China still balk and prevent the Security Council from doing its duty to protect international peace and collective security, the United States may have to explore alternative multilateral solutions outside of the United Nations establishment.

One way or the other, we must help fill the void left by UN inaction and appeasement or the Islamic-fascist enemies of freedom will win in their global war to destroy us.

Joseph A. Klein is the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom.