Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lebanon's elections . . . and the Obama Reaction

Lebanon's elections - as well as the soon upcoming elections in Iran - are of HUGE importance, as this just-out NYT report notes. If the Hezbollah alliance is victorious, the US will have some major decisions to make with regard to its diplomatic relations and outreach.

And Mr. Obama will be caught in an interesting dilemma. Israel will point to the new Lebanon as an existential threat, and will likely make preparations for war. Netanyahu will likely demand Obama's support against the Hezbollah "terrorist" government (even though one of Hezbollah's political allies here is a Christian faction. Hmmmm . . . .) - and could probably use this new "crisis" as a way to deflect further Obama/Clinton criticism about the West Bank settlements.

But if the US refuses to support a new Hezbollah-led government (a la Bush's 2006 decision not to support a fairly elected Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority in 2006), the good effects of Obama's Cairo speech will vanish in the wind, and those millions of Arab listeners across the Middle East who said "OK, Barack Hussein, but let's see what you actually do after your speech," will chalk it up as so much hot air.

This is a golden chance for Obama to follow through. On the other hand, it's also a chance to completely blow up his promising initiatives with the Muslim world - and, depending on the timing, hand a bunch of votes to Mr. Ahmadinejad in the upcoming elections in Iran. Very delicate stuff here - and they are not going to give Obama a do-over. Stay tuned . . .

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