Thursday, June 28, 2007

L.A. Times Editorials Right On Lebanon, Not Iraq

The L.A. Times has a commendable editorial on Lebanon today, pointing out in blunt language that the Syrian regime of the thug Bashar Assad is trying to overthrow the democracy there with what appears to be a campaign of assassinations and general destabilization. If successful, this would put Iranian power on the Mediterranean, because Syria is the handmaiden of Iran.

What the Times does not recognize is that its advocacy of a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq would create a devastating situation for the U.S. and the West throughout the Middle East. Not only Lebanon would be lost to the terrorists but very possibly Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. This could leave a weakened Israel, perhaps more prone to use its nuclear weapons as a last resort to protect itself.

The ugly truth is that without a continuation of the American effort in Iraq, attempts to keep the Iranian, al-Qaeda and other assorted Muslim crazies at bay throughout the region are bound to fail. That is a bitter truth the liberals in Washington are not yet accepting.

The Times editorial this morning preachs gloom as to Lebanon, but does fall a little short in not recognizing that in recent months the U.S. and the West have been having some limited successes there, despite Syria's aggression against the country.

The Lebanese regime of Fuad Siniora has, with Western and Saudi military help, proved more resilient than could have been expected from its weak position last summer in the Israeli-Hezbollah war. A stronger Lebanese army has been able to defend the Siniora government. Recently, it has had considerable success crushing an al-Qaeda ally in the north of Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam. Meanwhile, Hezbollah attempts to unseat the government on behalf of Syria and Iran have for the most part been stymied, if only narrowly.

The Times editorial, however, is quite right in pointing to the assassinations of three members of Parliament as threatening the government majority, and it is not naive when it says, "There can be no benign interpretation of the latest assassinations."

The editorial also adds, "The international community ought to have been jolted out of its passivity by the car-bombing last week that killed six U.N. peacekeepers -- three Spaniards and three Colombians -- in southern Lebanon. Syria condemned the bombing, but it was widely interpreted as yet another warning to the United Nations not to proceed with the tribunal looking into the (Rafik) Hariri assassination if it does not wish to see Lebanon further destabilized.,,Assad has signaled that keeping the tribuinal from indicting senior Syrians is a critical, perhaps even existential priority."

What does the Times mean? It means that if the tribunal goes forward, if the Siniora government with Western help survives, ultimately it will be the end of the Assad regime and a better chance for a Middle East settlement. There can be little doubt that it was Assad who gave the order for the Hariri and other assassinations in Lebanon, and any complete criminal investigation is sure to show this.

The situation in Lebanon, in addition, has bearing on the situation in the Palestinian territories, where the terrorist Hamas organization now is threatening the follow its Gaza seizure with rebellion against the weak Fatah government of Mahmound Abbas in the West Bank.

Indeed, all these situations, including the one in Iraq, are linked. A U.S. retreat in Iraq, which the Times has called for without thinking through the consequences, would doom the chances of holding off the terrorists not only there but in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and whereever there are moderate Muslims trying to defeat Iran and Al-Qaeda.

That is why we cannot and must not bug out of Iraq, no matter how discouraged many Americans are at the moment.

--

The immigration bill died in the Senate this morning with another decisive vote against cloture. There were many things wrong with the bill backed by the Bush Administration and a majority but not all Democrats. Basically, it would have encouraged further massive illegal immigration while setting up a cumbersome bureaucratic procedure for legalizing the 12 million illegals already here. It was not, in short, a workable package.

The Administration should now strengthen border protections against more aliens. As for reform, forget it until after the 2008 election.

You might refer to my June 15 blog on the immigration bill. There was no real point in Mr. Bush, increasingly a lame duck president, and the inept Democratic majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, even bringing up the bill again. It was doomed two weeks ago by the first cloture vote. Today's vote showed only one more vote for cloture, and it is clear there is no majority in the Senate or the House for the kind of package that was proposed.

The L.A. Times story this morning, by Nicole Gaouette and Noam Levey, failed to correctly guage what was going to happen. The days when the newspaper had Congressional correspondents like the late John Averill and Paul Houston, who almost invariably knew what was going to happen in advance, is unfortunately long past. By contrast, the New York Times stories by Carl Hulse and Robert Pear much more accurately presaged Thursday's outcome.

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