Hatred of Israel Sowed the Seeds of Lebanon’s Collapse

Aug. 17 2021

A year after a catastrophic explosion tore through Beirut, killing over 200 people and causing untold property damage, no one has been held accountable—although there is little doubt that Hizballah was responsible for the accident. But the Iran-backed terrorist group remains more powerful in Lebanon than ever, even as the country sinks into economic and political collapse. Sean Durns examines how outside forces, eager to use this small state as a platform from which to attack Israel, helped contribute to the current predicament:

To regain credibility [after losing the Six-Day War], the Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser began to boost Fatah, [a Palestinian guerrilla group], and its leader, Yasir Arafat. Soon, Arafat gained control of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella group that Nasser had created in 1964 to coopt Palestinian nationalism for his own ends.

[In 1969], Nasser pressured Lebanon’s government to allow PLO operatives the use of Southern Lebanon. Unofficially known as the Cairo Agreement, the accord placed more than a dozen Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon under the control of the PLO. [When in 1970] the PLO lost Jordan as a primary base of operations, Arafat’s influence in Lebanon only grew. . . . The influx of Palestinians and the growing power of the PLO, whose coffers were filled with money from the oil-rich Gulf States and the Soviet Union, were contributing factors to the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon. The internecine conflict began in 1975 and lasted fifteen years, devastating the country.

[Moreover], in the 1970s the PLO helped train the nucleus of what was to become Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. This entity would soon birth Hizballah, [an] anti-Semitic terror group that, like the Quds Force and the PLO, sought the destruction of the Jewish state. Hizballah would gain in both power and popularity, launching attacks against the West and Israel. The terrorist organization would use its base in Lebanon to perpetuate and plan attacks, while simultaneously fighting with the Israel Defense Forces in Southern Lebanon.

In the four decades since its rise, Hizballah has taken a broken country and managed to make things even worse. Wars, state-sponsored crime, and misuse of copious amounts of international aid have followed. While the failure of Lebanon has many causes, it can fairly be said that anti-Semitism has played a key role in the country’s deterioration.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hizballah, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy