In a show of force, Hezbollah staged military drills of a takeover of Beirut this week, ahead of expected indictments of its leaders and Iranian and Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Last week, an uprising in Tunisia led to the overthrow of the government. Reports of similar protests are starting to trickle in from elsewhere in the region.
The showdown in the Middle East between the Western-backed dictators and their increasingly radicalized peoples may soon be upon us. The international community has long propped up dictators in the Middle East (Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and the House of Saud, for example) and ignored wider problems in the region while focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unhappy with their dictators who have kept them in squalor, the people in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan – considered allies by the West – have become increasingly radicalized.
Kuwait has begun to increase food rations to its people, while other governments have promised increases in spending for social services. It may be too little, too late. Arab autocrats have kept their people poor for decades.
Tunisia may have been the first to fall, but Lebanon will change the face of the Middle East if Hezbollah is allowed to take over.
Despite Israel’s calls to enforce the disarmament of Hezbollah, as required by the United Nations resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the group is now stronger. The international community has allowed it to rearm and bears responsibility for the consequences.
If Hezbollah does indeed attempt a takeover of Lebanon – and we have no doubt that the terrorist organization would succeed – would the international community step in? As much as the West does not want to get involved in another war in the Middle East, it would have a responsibility – not only to Israel but also to all the people of the Middle East who want to live in peace – to make sure that groups like Hezbollah do not become the dominant force in the region.
If the international community does not act, not only will terrorist organizations like Hezbollah seize power, but they will do it for their common master: Iran.
The real clash of civilizations is just beginning.