By Simon Fischler
Tic, tock, tic, tock, no more time on the clock! This is the situation of United States President Barack Obama, at least as it pertains to his Middle-Eastern policy.
The day Hezbollah Leader (and Iranian strongman) Sheik Hassan Nasrallah brought down the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Harari, America and the Obama administration were attacked by Iran.
A diplomatic attack can be just a decisive as a physical military attack; sometimes it is even more powerful. Iran has proved the latter true in Lebanon.
Sensing the weakness of this American Administration and its naivete in Middle-Eastern policy, Iran has carried out a coup in Lebanon, by Hezbollah proxy. These actions by Iran show she is willing to openly flex her muscles against America and Obama and has no problem with being the region’s old/new colonialist empire.
Lebanese Druze Politician Walid Jumblatt going over to the side of his hated enemies Hezbollah was the icing on the cake for Iran. Mr. Jumblatt has been involved in Lebanese politics since forever, and is like a litmus test for where Lebanese believe power will go.
Mr. Jumblatt closely resembles a character from Catch 22: he is the Italian man in the whorehouse. In the movie this man tells Art Garfunkel, who plays Captain Nately, how he was fiercely Socialist when the socialist were in powerful and fiercely fascist when Mussolini was in power and now fiercely pro-American since the Americans took over Italy.
This is Walid Jumblatt today. Why?
He was once fiercely Pro-Syria; then he backed the Christian Alliances, switched back to the Syrian side and during the Cedar Revolution switched to the American, European and Saudi-backed Sunni Camp.
Each time he has done this in the hopes of protecting the Druze Minority he represents. Each time he has sided with what he viewed as the strongest camp.
The second Mr. Jumblatt saw the power move made by IRAN (not Syria) in the person of Hezbollah, he knew there was no way he could back Prime Minister Saad Harari without knowing America was willing to literally get involved in Lebanon. He also knew there was no way of honestly knowing how much America -- and especially this American Administration -- was willing to help the democratic, pro-West camp.
Could we really expect Walid Jumblatt to expose the whole Druze (an ethnic group that has suffered greatly at the hands of the Arabs) population of Lebanon to Iranian backed Hezbollah reprisals?
This all gets back to Middle-Eastern politics, something Americans are ONE HUNDRED PERCENT clueless about.
If Jumblatt were to put his hat in with now-deposed P.M. Harari, he would not just be asking for his assassination, he would be jeopardizing the population he represents. Sadly assassinations are what happens to those who stand against Iran’s polices in Lebanon; just ask assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Harari (Saad’s father), Pierre Amin Gemyal and Antione Ghamen of the Kataeb Party. All stood up to Hezbollah and the Iranians and all were assassinated.
Yes, America and the EU helped Lebanon form the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. But what are they going to do now that Hezbollah has seized power through a COUP? Would they protect the Druze, Jumblatt’s people, if he sided with Harari? The U.S. doesn't give a fiddler's damn about the Druze: they have no oil; they are not a regime in power.
So here some questions for the Obama administration: do you feel it is acceptable to show the rest of the Arab world that you will sit by and let Iran carry out a coup in Lebanon? Are you going to accept responsibility for being the American Administration that lost all credibility in the Near East?
Credibility here is based on one thing and one thing only: who is willing to enforce their power. Iran’s move in Lebanon is proof of that. So, the next move in this game of chess is Obama’s and he must both move quickly and do so in a wise manner.
The uprisings occurring in Tunisia, Egypt and now Yemen are yet another clear indication that the Obama administration is in deep, dangerous waters, unless they can begin to make clear, assertive decisions. Egypt is not only an ally of Israel, but an ally of the U.S., too. But Egypt’s Mubarik is in bad health and his 30-year autocratic reign has left the country in angry shreds. Much of that anger is directed at the U.S. and Israel.
Virtually all of the U.S. allies among the rest of the Arab states in the Near East are similarly either autocratic dictatorships and/or absolute monarchies. In fact, there is much about the U.S.’ relationships in the Near East which resembles the moves of Mr. Jumblatt in Lebanon! The U.S. has chosen to follow the current powers-that-be in most of the Near Eastern Arab/Muslim nations with which she has alliances. Unfortunately, most of those nations are run by despots, tyrants and dictators.
The notable exception in the Near East is, of course, democratic Israel. The way the picture is rapidly changing in this part of the world clearly means that America will need Israel more than ever.
But will Obama and the U.S. realize who her friends really are, in time?