CAIRO: It is said that for those who fall from a height, time slows down. Depending on which floor they are on or which precipice they are leering over, the drop could take four seconds. Give or take.
In Lebanon, the fall into the abyss has taken two years. Two years since former Premier Rafik Al-Hariri was assassinated by what I believe to be Iranian agents.
Two years since we have seen the Syrian army withdrew from Lebanon where it had been entrenched for more than 12 years.
Two years since former war criminals were released from jail or returned from exile and formed so-called political parties.
Two years since US President George Bush called for democracy in Lebanon, for the pursuit of Syria, for the disarming of Hezbollah.
And in those two years, voices urging restraint, calm, and prudence have been drowned out.
Lebanon, like Iraq and Palestine, has become the feeding ground for regional power plays.
But I am not here to merely lament Lebanon’s impending demise; rather to point to the consistent trends, common denominators which some seem to shrug off.
Since 2001, there have been violent political earthquakes in the Middle East.
First, the invasion and occupation of Iraq following 13 years of debilitating sanctions which saw the deaths of more than a million Iraqis.
At the time, President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa warned of the fires which would likely burn throughout the entire region as a consequence of the destruction of Iraq.
And Iraq is in the process of being destroyed, brick by brick, morsel of charred flesh by morsel of charred flesh. There is no democracy there.
The crises in Iraq will inevitably spread to Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In Palestine, since 2001, we have witnessed the change of the old guard to be replaced with feuding cantons of politicized and militarized factions vying for power.
In Palestine, King Arafat is dead and his sons are ready to butcher one another. A Palestinian civil war is not far-fetched, but remains a shocking advent. For 58 years the Palestinians have sought to fight a brutal and unjust Israeli occupation and now they are turning the guns on one another.
In Lebanon, the situation is no different but an amalgamation of the Palestinian and Iraqi experiments?
Experiments? Indeed. The Soviet Union is dead but today the Middle East is no longer the fatalistic chessboard of libertarianism versus communism but the unfortunate battle ground for fanaticism.
And this brings me to the common denominator.
Before the invasion of Iraq, we heard comments from Israel and the US about how removing Saddam and disarming the Iraqi military would be beneficial to ensuring world peace. Both Israeli and the US media urged the invasion despite repeated warnings.
In Palestine, Israel and the US called for a change in government, they called for democratic elections knowing full well they had cornered the Fatah government ensuring that Hamas would rise to power.
In Lebanon, Israel and the US urged the establishment of an international investigation into the killing of Hariri. I wish we could have had an international investigation into the killing of JFK in 1963. And maybe a delegation from Malawi and Laos searching for Jimmy Hoffa.
Israel and the US urged democratic reform, they urged the expelling of Syrian intelligence and the disarming of Hezbollah. And as in Iraq, the US boasted its support for the Fouad Seniora government.
Baghdad is burning. Gaza is starving. And the fires have been lit in Beirut.
The dissatisfaction in Arab capitals will at once embrace the above. However, there is a significant player missing from the above.
Iran realizes it is under pressure to disclose details of its nuclear program. Iran is under pressure in Iraq.
Examining Iran’s influence in Arab countries reveals that it is playing a far more intrusive – if not downright destructive – role in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.
Iran has agents in the Iraqi government, former exiles who were nursed in Tehran. Read: Nouri Al-Maliki, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, Muqtada Al-Sadr . the list is endless.
The US military has been arresting Iranian agents in Iraq at an increasing frequency.
In Palestine, Hamas is known to receive support from Tehran. Tehran has offered millions of dollars to keep the cash-strapped resistance movement from crumbling.
In Lebanon, Iran is the paternal and maternal cocoon for Hezbollah, the so-called resistance movement which many Arabs forget used to target Iraqis in Beirut. Hezbollah which has no qualms about killing Iraqis – because they were led by a Sunni government during the Iraq-Iran war.
Hassan Nasrallah is Iran’s man in Beirut.
Hezbollah and Iran are one and the same. And today we find Hezbollah fueling the discord and dissent in Lebanon.
So, we have to trains of thoughts here running at maddening speeds on the same track.
In the opposite direction.
Iran realizes it cannot get away with developing nuclear weapons and therefore is attempting to stall any international pressure, any UN resolutions which may threaten the Tehran government.
The best defense is offense, Iran understands and is willing to use Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon as buffers. While south Beirut was burning last July, Iran was all gung-ho with Arab lives and infrastructure.
While Iraq was succumbing to an inhuman civil war, Iran was calling for Iraq’s security and sovereignty. While Palestinians were killing each other and politicians’ motorcades were attacked by hungry Gazans, Tehran was calling for the destruction of Israel.
And while Lebanon falls from its heights, Iran is urging for the liberation of the Shebaa farms.
The reader is left confused, faced with two scenarios. Either Israel, the US and Iran are in cahoots to decimate the Arab Middle East.
Or they are waging a war with other people’s lives. Iraq is no longer a nation. Palestine will likely never be a nation.
Do not let Lebanon fall.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is the Editor of The Daily Star Egypt