Friday, January 28, 2011

Media on the Middle East, January 27, 2011

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
28 January '11
Posted before Shabbat

It seems to have become fashionable for some mainstream media outlets to become supporters of revolutionary Islamist movements recently. The Palestine papers case is an example but not the only one.

The pro-Hizballah Lebanon correspondent of the New York Times first told us that Hizballah wasn’t a threat to take over the government, then had to report on its taking over the government.

What’s his new line? That the new government is just fine. After all, he explains, the new prime minister wants to have good relations with the United States. Etc. No problem here. Just as there were no problems when Iran had an Islamist revolution, the Taliban took over Afghanistan, and Hamas seized the Gaza Strip.

I just love the headline: “Next Premier of Lebanon Tries to Set His Own Course.” So all those who believe the newspaper will not think that he’s just a puppet of Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. Unfortunately, he is.

Remember when we were told that sending a U.S. ambassador to Syria was not a reward but just a way to communicate better? Communicate what?

The new ambassador explains that this move is: “Proof that we are committed to try and solve the problems between our governments." In his talks with the Syrian president, they discussed, "Some areas in which we hope to identify mutual interests and ways of addressing them that serve the interests of both of our countries."

In other words, though he might well have been tougher in private (I doubt it but it is possible) the signal being sent is: Do whatever you want because we are continuing the soft line toward Syria.

The fact that this happened in the same week that Syria for all practical purposes took control of Lebanon is rather pointed, isn’t it?

Finally, I cite this AP article not because it contains new information but it is a rare example of something that actually reveals the key issue.

’ From the Afghan badlands to the Mediterranean, evidence of Iran's reach is easy to spot: a mix of friend and foe for Kabul leaders, a power broker in Iraq, deep alliances with Syria and a big brother to Lebanon's Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza.”

Well, if it is so easy to spot why has it been so difficult for Western media, academics, and government to recognize that this (combined with the revolutionary Islamist challenge generally) is the main issue facing the Middle East?

Here’s the core paragraph:

“To those keeping score, it would appear that Iran is winning some important points around the Middle East at the expense of Washington and its allies.”

I think I’ve been saying this for several years.

But of course one can’t have everything so it tempers that analysis by adding:

“But such gains have potential built-in costs, experts say. With Iran's extended family increasingly joining the ranks of power — first in Gaza, then Iraq and now Lebanon — there also comes pressure to moderate and make other compromises often required from those in charge.

“It eventually could bring some uncomfortable contrasts for Tehran — with its partners in the region embracing more flexible policies and Iran facing more sanctions and isolation for refusing to make concessions over its nuclear program.”

Now consider the anti-logic of that argument. Faced with the “moderation” and “compromises” of Hamas, Hizballah, Syria, and the hardest-line groups in Iraq, Iran will have to become moderate? And that will be the effect of sanctions and isolation? Are you kidding me?

Or to put this worst way of thinking a better way, we are supposed to believe that the more Iran expands and the stronger its influence gets, the less dangerous it is going to be. See, now you understand geopolitics!

A better way to spend your time is figuring out how to deal with Iran’s string of victories—and there are more in the offing—rather than declare that the problem will naturally be solved by the moderation of revolutionary terrorist movements intent on imposing a ruthless repressive regime on millions of people, expelling Christians, killing Jews, and chasing Western influence out of the region.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press later this year. The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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