After the vaporization of former Lebanese P.M. Rafiq Hariri, many questions come to mind. First, who did this? The popular assumption in Lebanon, of course, is Syria. Syria has a vested interest in the status quo there. They have gradually, since the end of the Lebanese civil war, tightened their grip on that particular sliver of Mediterranean coastline. Lebanon is strategically essential to the ultimate goals of the Assad regime, and seeing as Syria represents one of the last bastions of Pan-Arabism, it is likely to act in a progressively erratic manner. Is this possibly the last straw for the people of Lebanon, who've suffered through many years of brutal occupation by Syria and their estimated 15,000 troops in Beirut? Could we possibly see an uprising against the Assad regime?
Another possibility is that this was the work of a large Salafist terrorist organization (read: Saudi Arabia). Al Qaeda falls in this category and this bombing bares all their markings. If so, then what are it's motivations? Of course this was intended, by whoever did it, to throw some sugar in the tank of the current peace process. The goal might be to turn the heat up and hope for all-out war, which would effectively stop the current talks.
The third possibility, and perhaps the most likely, is that what we are seeing is cooperation between all of these powers. We may now be watching an alignment of players on par with the alliance of the Axis powers in WWII; many disparate interests united in the goal of the vaporization of the West. Iran is not an Arab state. In fact, they have perfected the art of the slaughter of Arabs over many years (see the Iran-Iraq war). Yet we are now seeing them exert enormous power in Syria through Hezbollah (an Iranian invention) and other factions. The Pan-Arab, Islamist, and Palestinian causes are now becoming one.
This all may seem overly spooky on the surface, but in many ways, it gives us a better shot at beating them. One of the distinct advantages that Al Qaeda had in the days before 9/11 was the fact that the West was in an utter state of confusion when it came to analyzing the many different forces at work in that region. Remember all the talk of the Arab street? Or all the talk of possible Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs once the Shiites come to power (a highly unlikely occurrence seeing as Arab Shia have been slaughtered in Persian Shia lands for centuries)? These are both perfect examples of our ignorance of the many dynamics in the region. As the days go by, we are learning more and more about the actual inner-working of these organizations, and as they consolidate themselves, they expose themselves as well, providing us solid targets.
One of the most overlooked benefits of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is the importance of establishing an actual front line in the war on Islamo-fascism. I remember my own personal confusion as to the right path after 9/11. The question went like this; how can we fight somebody when we don't know who they are, who their friends are, and where they are based? They are now answering that question for us and giving is a clearer vision of what needs to be done.
What about peace in the Middle East? Unfortunately, any agreements that are reached are likely to fail until we directly confront Iran. There is simply no way around that. I would love to think that we might see an Orange revolution there, or some non-military solution, or that the elections in Iraq and Palestine will force the Mullahs to their knees, but they seem pretty hell bent on crushing any chance for peace in the region through their military-by-proxy in Syria. Bush has been preparing for that inevitability by flanking Iran on both sides via Iraq and Afghanistan. He has done the same with Syria via Israel and Iraq.
I'm sure that the Bush team is holding out hope that these measures will apply enough pressure on the Mullahs and inspire them to embrace reform (read: Capitalism). I certainly hope so, but I've got a feeling that Islamo-fascism will not go down without taking a few people with it.