Hitchens on the Baker Commission and Lebanon; Update: Report: Hezbollah training al-Sadr's militia

Call it what it is: surrender.

Barely five years after the eviction of the Taliban, three and a half years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and a year and a half after the Syrian army was forced out of Beirut by a show of mass popular and democratic unity, the memory of those brave fingers marked with the purple ink of the franchise has almost vanished. Tribalism and gangsterism are back, in a big way, with heavy state support from across the frontiers. And the United States, it seems, cannot wait to confirm the impression that it would rather deal with the aggressors. If the latest assassination in Lebanon caused any embarrassment to the enthusiasm of the Baker-Hamilton team for direct talks with Damascus and Tehran, the embarrassment wasn’t evident…

The objectionable thing about the proposed Baker-Hamilton “talks” is not that they are talks but that they give the impression of looking for someone to whom to surrender

Those who blame the violence in Baghdad on the American presence must have a hard job persuading themselves that the mayhem in Beirut and Afghanistan—and the mayhem that is being planned and is still to come—is attributable to the same cause. But the instigators are the same in all cases: the parties of god and their foreign masters. If we cannot even stand up for Lebanon in this crisis, even rhetorically, then we are close to admitting that these parties have won.

Re: those “brave fingers marked with the purple ink,” Christopher Orlet retorts in AmSpec, “[T]here is more to liberal democracy than voting one day and slitting your neighbor’s throat the next.”

To his credit, as of this moment, Bush is still refusing to talk to Iran and Syria. Instead, he’s going to talk to everyone else.

[T]he United States wants Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to work to drive a wedge between the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, and the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army has been behind many of the Shiite reprisal attacks in Iraq, a senior administration official said. That would require getting the predominantly Sunni Arab nations to work to get moderate Sunni Iraqis to support Mr. Maliki, a Shiite.

If the Iraqi Sunni parties back Maliki, he won’t have to depend on Sadr’s group for his majority in parliament and can crack down on the Mahdi army in earnest. That might be the one silver lining in the dark cloud of al-Sadr’s rise to power: he’s such a force now that he’s starting to scare the shinola out of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors, who are already worried about Iran and Hezbollah. Civil war in Iraq is in no one’s interest except the Shiites’, so this might be the Sunni powers’ last chance to roll back the tide before their enemies control another part of the region. Incentive enough to want to help out.

They’d better move fast. Talabani was in Tehran today and he was kissing more than Ahmadinejad’s cheek.

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Update: Like I was saying, the Sunnis don’t have much time here.

A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said…

The new American account is consistent with a claim made in Iraq this summer by a mid-level Mahdi commander, who said his militia had sent 300 fighters to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight alongside Hezbollah. “They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi Army,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity…

While Iran wants a stable Iraq, the official said, it sees an advantage in “managed instability in the short term” to bog down the American military and defeat the Bush administration’s objectives in the region.

They suspect the Mahdi army fighters traveled to Lebanon through Syria. There are, supposedly, also reports of Syria having met with the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese arch-terrorist Imad Mugniyah to plot further mayhem in Iraq.