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July 18, 2006

When Things Fall Apart
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Michael Totten makes an interesting point:

Israel and Lebanon are the two freest countries in the Middle East. They are the only countries, aside from tortured Iraq, that hold unrigged elections for parliaments and heads of state. The tyrants to their east have pulled quite a coup, haven't they? The two countries friendliest to America and to liberal Western values are now shooting each other. (The Lebanese army, which has cooperated with Israel in the past behind the scenes, is now firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes.)

Tyrants do get away with murder, especially here. Syria and Iran will emerge from this mess relatively unscathed. On the other hand, Lebanon is the most democratic country in the Arab world (I know, that's not saying much, but it's something). There was so much hope and optimism in Lebanon 16 months ago, as close to a million people rallied in the streets of Beirut for self-determination and against Syrian control. The possibilities for a country which had suffered more than its share seemed endless in the heady days of March 2005. So much for that. This is what happens when things fall apart. 


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Syria and Iran will emerge from this mess relatively unscathed.

I don't believe this is true. Although it may be difficult to discern where one mess ends and another begins, what is happening now in Lebanon is very likely to spread and catalyze broader conflict.

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