Lebanon is a sad and desperate place. And its disastrous fate is personified today by its prime minister.
All who claim to love freedom, democracy, human rights and dignity should take note of Saad Hariri's fate. They should recognize that his predicament is a testament to their failure to stand up for the ideals they say they champion.
All those who say they seek a Middle East that is friendly to the West should see Hariri's plight as a cautionary tale. Policy-makers in Washington, Paris, Jerusalem and beyond who envision the 21st century Middle East as a place where the US and its allies are able to project their power to defend their interests should study Hariri's story.
All those who insist peace is possible and even incipient need to cast a long, lingering glance in his direction.
His story exposes all of their paradigms of peace and appeasement and compromise as nothing more than the hollow, callow, arrogant and irrelevant protestations of a transnational ruling class wholly detached from the reality of the world it would lead.
ON MONDAY, Yediot Aharonot reported that Iranian and Syrian intelligence agencies are applying massive pressure on Hariri to openly join the Iranian axis. Today that axis includes the Syrian regime, Hizbullah and Hamas. If and when Hariri openly joins, Lebanon will become its first non-voluntary member.
Chances are good that Hariri will succumb to their pressure. Yediot reported that the Iranians and Syrians made him an offer he can't refuse: "If you don't join us, you will share your father's fate."
His father, of course, was former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut by Syrian and Hizbullah agents on February 14, 2005. A month later, on March 14, Saad led more than a million Lebanese in a protest in Beirut. Their demand was for Lebanon to be free of Syrian rule.
Everyone knew the March 14 movement had no chance of militarily defeating either Syria or its Hizbullah ally. But the US and France both lined up behind the young Hariri and his followers. The unlikely alliance of the Bush administration and the Chirac government just two years after Franco-American ties were seemingly irreparably frayed in the lead up to the US-led invasion of Iraq was enough to intimidate Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
After 29 years of Syrian occupation, he ordered his forces to withdraw from Lebanon.
As the head of the March 14 movement, Saad Hariri was flying high. No one could have imagined that within five short years he would become a slave of his father's murderers. No one, that is, aside from his father's murderers.
IRAN SAW what happened in Lebanon and decided to take a gamble. In the face of Franco-American unity, it gambled that they were bluffing. The Iranians bet that they would not stand by the Lebanese if their will was challenged.
Iran prepared well for its challenge. At home, dictator Ali Khamenei lined up his ducks. He promoted Teheran's fanatical mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency. With his man in power, Khamenei and his regime ratcheted up their challenge to the US in Iraq.
First there was al-Qaida. Its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, received his orders from the al- Qaida leadership which decamped to Iran from Afghanistan in 2002. So too, Shi'ite terror boss Muqtada al-Sadr took his orders from Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Their orders were to turn Iraq into a killing field. Their stepped up insurgency weakened George W. Bush's political standing in the US. For a chastened Bush, expanding his campaign to Iran became more and more unthinkable as US casualties mounted.
At the same time, Iran massively expanded its military ties and political control over Syria.
In the Palestinian Authority, it brought Hamas under its control.
As for Hizbullah, the IRGC transformed the militia into a professional guerrilla army.
And all the while, the Iranian regime withstood US and international pressure to end its illicit program to develop nuclear weapons.
IN 2005, Israel was too busy with Ariel Sharon's initiative of expulsion and withdrawal to pay much attention to what was happening in Lebanon or anywhere else in the region. It greeted the March 14 movement with little more than a yawn. The narrative Sharon and his lackeys Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni were peddling was that Israel's greatest threat was internal. Who had time to pay attention to Iran and its proxies when there were Jewish "settlers" challenging the state's legal authority to throw them out of their homes?
In the aftermath of the expulsions and withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon and his followers committed themselves to repeating the expulsion-withdrawal program tenfold in Judea and Samaria. After Sharon was felled by a stroke, Olmert's electoral platform called for expelling some 100,000 Israelis from their homes in Judea and Samaria.
Although distracted by Iran's Iraqi proxies, the US began arming and training a Palestinian army in late 2005. At the same time, it demanded that Israel allow Hamas to run in the January 2006 elections and keep Gaza's border open.
Iran watched as the US and the rest of the West refused to recognize the strategic significance of Hamas's electoral victory lest they be forced to acknowledge that the Palestinian conflict with Israel had nothing to do with Palestinian nationalism. The mullahs watched too as Israel refused to acknowledge that Hamas's victory signaled the failure of the peace/withdrawal/expulsion paradigms.
Iran saw an opportunity in its enemies' combined strategic dementia. And so in June 2006, it went to war. First it attacked Israel from Gaza. A cross-border attack left three soldiers dead and Gilad Schalit was taken hostage.
Two weeks later, as Israel stammered out incoherencies about Gaza and Olmert barred the IDF from taking measures that might have freed Schalit lest his hopes for further withdrawals be exposed as strategic absurdities, Hizbullah struck. What became known as the Second Lebanon War began.
The only ones who openly acknowledged the stakes were the leaders of the March 14 movement. Druse leader Walid Jumblatt repeatedly warned that if Hizbullah was not completely defeated, Lebanon would become an Iranian colony.
But the withdrawal-crazed Olmert government wouldn't listen. It couldn't listen.
SO TOO, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice ignored the March 14 movement leaders' entreaties. A full Israeli victory would require full US backing. And full US backing would require an admission on her part that Iran was engaged in a direct war and a proxy war against the US and that the war against Israel and the war against the US were two fronts in the same war.
These were realities that Rice would never accept.
And so together with her fantasy-driven Israeli counterparts, Rice sued for a cease-fire that left Hizbullah in charge.
The rest was preordained history. In 2007 first Hizbullah and then Hamas staged putsches in Lebanon and Gaza and wrested control over their respective governments from their Western-backed rivals in the March 14 movement and Fatah.
The US responded by massively increasing its military assistance to the Lebanese armed forces and Fatah. Continued Fatah terrorist attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria and last month's lethal ambush of IDF forces along the border by the Lebanese army exposed the strategic insanity of that policy. And yet it continues. The US remains unwilling to acknowledge that Iran's persuasive power is greater than theirs --given the price of non-cooperation with the mullahs.
SAAD HARIRI'S March 14 movement still enjoys the support of most Lebanese. But this is of no consequence. Hariri was only able to form his government last December by granting Hizbullah veto power over government action. And theprice he paid for his premiership was not merely his personal freedom. The last embers of the Lebanese independence movement his father's assassination inspired have also been extinguished.
Since he formed his government, Hariri has travelled three times to Damascus to kiss Assad's ring. And in so doing, he gave up his call for justice for his father's killers.
This became clear when last month Hariri embraced Nasrallah's allegation that Israel murdered his father. Then last week, following his latest trip to Damascus, Hariri announced that his past claims that the Syrian regime assassinated his father were unfounded.
As he put it, "We made mistakes in some places; at some point we accused Syria of assassinating the martyr and this was a political accusation."
Hariri went on to profess his warm sentiments for Syria. As he put it, when he visits Damascus, "I feel myself going to a brotherly and friendly state."
Obviously Hariri believes his only chance for survival is to bow before those who killed his father. It is also obvious that the killers - Iran, Syria, Hizbullah - will continue to use him as their front man and apologist for as long as his service is of use to them. And then they will murder him.
Today Hariri is useful. Ahmadinejad is planning a victory trip to Lebanon next month and Hariri will be a valuable prop. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to arrive on October 13. While there he will make a major speech at Bint Jbeil - the town where during the 2006 war then IDF chief of General Staff Dan Halutz wanted to stage a battle that Israel could use as an "image of victory."
In the event all Halutz got was a shooting gallery where Golani Brigade fighters were the ducks.
Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to peer over at Israel from the border town of Maroun Aras. Maroun Aras was also the site of heavy, inconclusive fighting in 2006.
As he uses Hariri as his figurehead host, Ahmadinejad will have more to celebrate than just Lebanon's transformation into an Iranian colony. As a spate of recent reports make clear, he is probably just months away from declaring his regime a nuclear power.
The most recent allegations that Iran has yet another undeclared uranium enrichment facility are no skin off his back. He and his boss Khamenei took a measure of their enemies and are convinced they have nothing to worry about.
For his part, Hariri can rest assured that his humiliating transformation from freedom champion to slave will go largely unremarked. Israel and the US are in the throes of yet another worthless peace process.
Again they have agreed that the greatest threat to peace is the "settlers" and their supporters who want to wreck the peace/expulsion/withdrawal paradigm by building homes. Again our leaders and the chattering classes they cater to have chosen to embrace their fantasies at the expense of our national security and interests.
Of course it isn't just Hariri whom they ignore. They ignore the basic fact that freedom must be defended with blood and treasure. Otherwise, as happened in Lebanon, it will be defeated by blood and treasure.