Europe: Wishful thinking

Europe wishes that Iran and Syria want peace. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

European governments are reaching out to Hezbollah’s foreign backers, Iran and Syria, in an attempt to engage them in a solution to the Lebanon war by recognizing their importance for regional stability.

While the United States, Israel’s main backer, is unwilling to talk at a senior level to either country – seen as “rogue states” in Washington – European foreign ministers have no such taboo if dialogue can help extinguish fires in the Middle East.

But beyond making Syrian and Iranian leaders feel respected, it is not clear what the Europeans can offer to persuade Damascus or Tehran to lean on Hezbollah guerrillas to stop firing missiles into Israel or accept eventual disarmament.

They could offer them total control over Lebanon, as it seems clear to me that that’s what the Hezbollah offensive is all about. Given Europe’s track record of giving away little countries to sate the appetites of big, belligerent countries, control of Lebanon may well be on the table.

Here’s the thing: If Syria and Iran wanted peace, they wouldn’t have authorized Hezbollah to lob missiles into Israeli cities. You’d think that little tell would clue the Europeans in on the terror masters’ intentions. But you’d be wrong.

“There can be no effective solution without Syria,” Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said after European Union ministers held emergency talks on the crisis Monday.

He left out a relevant word: “cowing.” There can be no effective solution without cowing Syria and dividing it from Iran somehow, which no one in the world outside Israel or the US is prepared to do.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, a former EU Middle East peace envoy, was due to visit Damascus after talks in Beirut with Lebanese leaders, diplomats said.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy met his Iranian counterpart, Manoucher Mottaki, in Beirut on Sunday and raised some eyebrows by saying Iran “plays a stabilizing role in the region”.

He sought to clarify that comment in Brussels on Monday, saying: “Iran has a share of responsibility in the current situation, so Iran can play a role in its solution, and can therefore contribute to stabilisation in the region.”

Nice backtracking, but stripped of diplospeak, it means “We’re scared of Iran because we know it has Hezbollah cells all over Europe thanks to our irresponsible policies and multiculti attitudes, so we’re saying nice things to keep them from unleashing Hezbollah directly on us.” Because for Europe, that is the bottom line: To keep the Iranian crocodile from taking a bite out of them. If it’s biting someone else, well, that’s their problem.

Iran and Syria are weak powers. Neither has an army that can stand up to any Western force. Neither has much of an air force. Iran’s navy is strong by regional standards but wouldn’t last a week against a single US carrier battle group. Neither is a match for any Western power. Yet. Let the mullahs obtain nukes, though, and the equation changes dramatically.

Other signs of wishful thinking in Europe:

Some diplomats speculate that Syria may be amenable to a political settlement if it gets assurances that President Bashar Assad will not be troubled further over the Hariri killing and the revival of a stalled EU economic cooperation package.

But others doubt Damascus will end military and logistical support for Hezbollah because Syria’s undeclared policy since the 1970s has been that Israel cannot have peace on its Lebanon border as long as it occupies the Golan Heights.

“Moratinos certainly can’t give them the Golan Heights,” a Middle Eastern diplomat said.

There’s always some reason to attack Israel. After Golan Heights, it would be Palestinian right of return, Jerusalem, something. A croc’s gotta eat.

As for Iran, many European diplomats say it has emerged as a winner from the Lebanon conflict so far, diverting international pressure from its nuclear program, showing the damage its missiles can wreak and elevating Hezbollah to hero status in much of the Arab and Muslim world for resisting Israel.

“The best we can hope is that the Iranians stop while they are winning and don’t overplay their hand in Lebanon,” one said.

And why would Iran quit while it’s winning? When its war aims of driving the US out of the Middle East and turning the entire world against Israel appear to be being met? How would Iran know it’s overplayed its hand until Europe joins the civilized world in taking that hand off Lebanon, out of Israel and off the nuclear button?

Europe is reprising the disgraceful role it played in 1938. God help us all.