Friday, November 24, 2006

Lebanese tragedy

From The Australian Editorial, 24/11/06 ....

Cabinet minister's killing opens the door for Hezbollah

AFTER hearing the news of the assassination of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel earlier this week, cynics would be excused for saying that the present-day Middle East looks an awful lot like the proverbial road to hell – that is to say, paved with good intentions. For Gemayel's death in a hail of automatic gunfire not only brings Lebanon one step closer to once again falling under the sway of Hezbollah and its backers in Damascus and Tehran, it is also another blow to the much-criticised project to bring democracy to the region.

Although Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have all denied responsibility for the killing, it is hard to see who else would have staged the brazen operation. Syria is widely thought to have killed former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Killing Gemayel is in keeping with the pattern of perverse interest shown by Syria in its would-be client state. And such a move fits the ultimate interests of the Middle East's great partners in crime, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Iran makes no bones about its desire to dominate the entire Middle East and a Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon with the ability to harass Israel's northern border fits perfectly into these plans.

Furthermore the outbreak of democracy in Lebanon that occurred during last year's Cedar Revolution was profoundly threatening to the dictators in Damascus and Tehran, worried that similar movements might eventually topple their own unpopular regimes, which do not allow dissent.

Gemayel was the fourth outspoken anti-Syrian critic to be murdered since 2005 and his death leaves Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's Government hanging on by just two ministers. Should it fall, the way will be paved for Hezbollah to assert control over the entire nation, an event that would be a tragedy for its cosmopolitan and diverse population. Those who believe Iran and Syria should be brought to the table to bring peace to Iraq should remember these nations' form in this other Middle Eastern democracy.

But while the political liberalisation of the Middle East looks at this moment shambolic, the question must be asked: What is the alternative? Those who protest that Western interventions have provoked terrorism ignore the fact that September 11 and a host of other strikes against the West predate the invasion of Iraq.

Certainly post-invasion Iraq has suffered for everything from a lack of troops to a failure to successfully reintegrate members of the old regime into the country's civil service and military, as was successfully done in post-war Japan and Germany. But this does not mean one should suggest that the people of the Middle East are not ready for democracy. To do so is to deny the humanity of people living in these countries, who have as much right to freedom as those of us in the West.

Furthermore, spreading democracy in the Middle East is essential for a Western world that is engaged in a slow but existential war with jihadist terrorism. Political liberalism is anathema to our enemies, who will fight everywhere to stop the process by which people might vote for peace and turf out their terrorist masters.

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