U.N. Actions Embolden Hezbollah

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS — The clearest-eyed analysts of the international scene, regrettably, represent the Middle East’s craziest regime.

Iran’s mullahs, emboldened by Turtle Bay’s waffling on the Lebanon crisis, are moving quickly to consolidate their gains and solidify their seat in the no longer exclusive nuclear club.

Despite a U.N. Security Council-imposed Thursday deadline to suspend all uranium enrichment, Tehran unveiled a new heavy-water plant in Arak on Saturday and tested a long-range submarine-to-surface missile, called Thaqeb, yesterday.

Iran would have us believe that the plutonium plant and the missile are designed for peaceful purposes only. Will the Security Council challenge that assertion? An Iranian following the Lebanon diplomacy would have no reason to think so.

While Secretary-General Annan was declaring victory this weekend over those who doubted the United Nations’ ability to put together a European-led international force, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, was breathing a sigh of relief.

Prime Minister Olmert told his Cabinet yesterday that if someone had said before the war that Lebanon’s army could be deployed on the border — and that Mr. Annan could say a multinational force would disarm Hezbollah; and that a weapons embargo would be imposed on Hezbollah — he would have told him he “was fantasizing,” according to Ynet.

Disarm? Impose an embargo? Here’s a reality check:

The Europeans agreed to send troops to Lebanon only after receiving assurances that, as Mr. Annan told reporters in Brussels on Friday, “The disarmament of Hezbollah cannot be done by force. It has to be a political agreement.” The Security Council, he emphasized, “does not require deployment of U.N. troops” on the Syrian border to enforce the weapons embargo.

As Lori Lowenthal Marcus notes in the September 4 issue of the Weekly Standard, during the war the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon made public Israeli troop movements and other information useful to Hezbollah. The new multinational force, which everyone now assumes will have no hostile intentions toward the terrorist organization, would help monitor Israel in a similar fashion.

Israel is not ready for a “second round,” Hezbollah’s chief, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, told Lebanon’s New TV yesterday. He said his organization will avoid any action that “could open the debate on a second resolution, which Bush wants and which is connected with disarming the resistance.”

Tehran analysts could be excused for praising Allah. But what about a new council resolution, one that this time would really, really disarm Hezbollah? Such a resolution is about as likely as punitive measures against Iran for sticking its thumb in the council’s eye.

Last week, when the mullahs dismissed the carrot they were offered, it was clear the council is not ready to wield its stick.

“The answer is not simply a matter of yes or no. It’s a very complicated reply,” China’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Liu Zehnmin, told me after Iran delivered a 21-page answer to an American-backed diplomatic incentives package. But hadn’t the council asked for a yes-or-no answer on suspending uranium enrichment? “We want to see a solution, not a simple yes or no,” Mr. Liu insisted.

The “solution” may come from Mr. Annan, who is embarking on a Middle Eastern trip today in Beirut, complete with red-carpet stops in Damascus and Tehran. One hopes Mr. Annan won’t have to view any embarrassing caricatures. Despite repeated prodding, U.N. spokesmen have played it safe and declined to denounce Mr. Annan’s host in Tehran, President Ahmadinejad, for organizing a Holocaust cartoon contest.

Instead, as China’s Mr. Liu said, Mr. Annan hopes to “convince the Iranian government to get in negotiations” on the nuclear issue.

Ah, negotiations, the elixir the Iranians have offered the council throughout the last decade whenever their march toward nuclear weapons capability has been mildly threatened.

As the mullahs learned from the Lebanon episode, their interests often converge with those of Western politicians who promote united international diplomacy — especially when everyone agrees to politely sweep the nuclear dust under Persian rugs.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, where “the international community” has become an oft-used phrase, officials also are saying U.N.-centered diplomacy is working for them.

But as Ha’aretz reported, Mr. Olmert just named the commander of the air force, Major General Elyezer Shkedy, to coordinate military contingency plans on the Iranian front. A son of Holocaust survivors, General Shkedy has a picture in his office of an Israeli F–15 recently flying over Auschwitz. Israel, after all, was not founded on the belief that world powers could be trusted to save the Jews.

The New York Sun

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