Eastern explosions 67

The Arab world on both the Asian and the North African sides of the Red Sea, and Iran, and Pakistan, are heating up internally to the point of explosion.


On Wednesday last, January 12, 2010, the rickety “unity government” of Lebanon collapsed when the 10 Hezbollah members (out of 30 members in all) left it.

Why? Hezbollah fears the indictments soon to be issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, sitting at the Hague, for the murder in 2005 of then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a truck-bombing in Beirut, in which 22 others were also killed. The tribunal has hard evidence that Hezbollah was responsible for it.

This terrorist organization – “The Party of God” is what its name means – is backed (which is to say is manipulated; is subject to the orders of) Syria and – chiefly – Iran. President Assad of Syria may be indicted too, so he’s as frightened of the tribunal as is the Hezbollah leadership. And now there are rumors that the mighty Ayatollah Khamenei – Iran’s head of state – may also be on the indictment list.

The Hezbollah members of the government demanded that the present prime minister, Saad Hariri, the murdered Rafik’s son, should declare that his government rejected whatever the findings of the Tribunal might be, now, before the indictments are issued.

Saad Hariri refused, so the Hezbollah members walked out and the government fell.

Hezbollah is very likely to try to deflect attention from the crisis within Lebanon by attacking Israel. Israel is prepared for the onslaught if and when it comes.


In Tunisia, the explosion came this week. A popular uprising erupted – the Arabs call it an intifada – which unseated the dictator Zine al-Abideen Bin Ali. He fled the country with wife Laila Tarabulsi. The couple have been in power, luxuriating in corruption, for 24 years.

Reaction among influential Arab commentators has been enthusiastically on the side of the revolutionaries. They hope the idea of violent rebellion will spread and unseat other despots, such as those who rule over Morocco and Libya.

The despots themselves are frightened. Some moved quickly to placate their populations.


The King of Jordan, reacting to demonstrations in his own country, and spurred on by the events in Tunisia, hoped to subdue discontent by hastily setting controls on food prices.


The repressive Algerian government, experiencing the same sort of internal unrest as Jordan – but worse -, and seriously disturbed by the Tunisian upheaval, took similar measures to keep prices down. But there it may be too late; the regime may fall.


President Mubarak is ill and may die soon. There is a huge amount of political unrest in his country. He has harshly suppressed his chief opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood (action which, taken on its own, the rest of the world should probably be grateful for). Recent violent attacks on the persecuted Coptic Christians gave rise to demonstrations and have intensified the crisis. Chaos threatens.


Hamas has warned that the leadership in the West Bank – headed by Abou Abbas – should expect the same fate as Bin Ali of Tunis. But Hamas itself could soon be at war if the region is ignited by a Hezbollah attack on Israel.


On January 5, the Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr, a close ally of Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, returned from Iran to Iraq. On the same day, the Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived on an official visit to Baghdad. Civil war could break out at any time between the Shias and Sunnis of Iraq.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi regime is constantly targeted by al-Qaeda. In this conflict, two brands of Islamic fundamentalism are pitted against each other. But more than al-Qaeda, the Saudis fear a nuclear-armed Iran.


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hold on power is increasingly precarious. He is protected at present by the head of state, Ayatollah Khamenei. But as we noted under the heading of Lebanon, Khamenei’s own position may not be secure.


As Pakistan has nuclear weapons, the prospect of a take-over of power by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, both of which are constantly and violently trying to topple the government, is extremely threatening not just to the region but to the world.


What does all this instability, revolution, and threat of war mean for the United States?

Is there any chance that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have an answer to that question?