In yesterday's post, I talked about how Tehran, apparently chastened by the abrupt worsening of its fortunes in the Iraqi theater of its proxy war against the West, seems to have shifted its focus once again to Lebanon. By weakening the Lebanese government (aided by that government's craven capitulation to Hezbollah's latest challenge to its legitimacy) Iran and Syria have set the stage for a new round of combat, hard on the border with Israel.
Osama bin Laden's latest recorded rant is conspicuous in the near-absence of any mention of Iraq as the central front in al Qaeda's global jihad. Instead, he has taken the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding to hold forth on that State's illegitimacy and promise (yet again!) to bring about its demise. About a third of the recent messages from bin Laden and his head henchman Zawahiri have dealt primarily with Iraq, so it may be premature to posit a larger trend. However, given the recent fortunes of AQI, it would seem that any 'sensible' Salafist might be looking to massage the message around now.
The Israeli "occupation" has long served as a handy rationalization for assorted acts of barbaric xenophobia, and the sheer intractability of that situation all-but guarantees that it will remain so for the foreseeable future. Given such an inexhaustible well of grievance, it make sense that both al Qaeda and Iran should turn their attentions thence when things go ill elsewhere. Given the competition between Sunni al Qaeda and Shiite Iran to become the vanguards of global Islamist supremacy (despite the apparent tactical cooperation in which they will at times engage), it is also not unreasonable to speculate that AQ will strive to position itself as a counterweight to Tehran's jockeying for
dominance in Lebanon, and for a crack at the Jewish State. The Sunni population of Lebanon could very well find itself in some very dire straits if the machinations emanating from Tehran and Damascus should blow up as messily as it is looking an awful lot like they will (the Christians and Druze, it appears, will be on their own). Those Sunnis may well be looking for a strong horse in the months to come. I would not be at all surprised if intel of AQ 'redeployments' should begin leaking out of Lebanon in the relatively near future.
In principle, there are advantages to a scenario in which Sunni and Shiite extremists duke it out, to the detriment of both. However, the toll in human suffering will be devastating. One can only hope that, in relatively short order, the people of Lebanon awaken to true sources of their suffering and rise up against their foreign tormentors. Alas, it is far more likely that they will find some way to torture the facts so as to make it the fault of Israel and Bush.
Either way, the prospects for a "peace agreement" between the Israelis and 'Palestinians' are looking even more dim than usual these days.