January 30, 2007


Iran and Saudi Arabia mediating in Lebanon crisis (Michael Slackman, January 30, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Leaders of Hezbollah, the Iranian- backed party trying to overthrow Lebanon's government, have recently visited the Saudi king in Riyadh, according to officials who attended the meeting. And Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi chief security adviser, has met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Larijani, in Riyadh and Tehran to try to stop Lebanon's slide into civil war. [...]

Members of Lebanon's governing party say that the dynamics inside Iran, where the firebrand president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be losing political strength, have led Tehran to lean on Hezbollah. [...]

[T]he fight is also over who will be the next president, whether Hezbollah will be allowed to keep its weapons, how to rewrite the nation's electoral laws, whether UN troops will remain on the southern border with Israel and, more fundamentally, whether Lebanon will lean toward the United States and Europe or Iran and Syria.

There have been proposals that each side has presented as compromises only to be rejected by the other as insufficient.

"It is true, whoever governs will decide Lebanon's political direction," said Muhammad Fneish, a senior member of Hezbollah who said he recently attended a meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been involved in Lebanese affairs for decades. Saudi Arabia has close ties with the Hariri family and has invested large sums of money in rebuilding Beirut. Recently, as Iranian-backed parties have taken over in Iraq and as Iran has tried to establish itself as the regional superpower, Saudi Arabia has begun, at American urging, to press back.

But in Lebanon, political leaders and diplomats said, both see a common interest in calming sectarian tensions, at least for now. The fight has effectively divided the country between the predominantly Shiite Muslim opposition and the predominantly Sunni Muslim governing alliance. Lebanon's Christian community is divided between the two.

If the four parties can agree to make the implicit dividing line permanent and the U.S. and Israel recognize the advisability of such a solution it'd go a long way not just to quieting down South Lebanon but to undercutting Assad and Ahmedinejad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 30, 2007 10:26 AM

I was wondering, if you lived back when the Confederates fired on Ft. Sumpter would you have claimed "there is no America"?

Posted by: WTF at January 30, 2007 9:16 PM

Yes. I'd have let the South go. They'd have gotten over their slave fetish.

Posted by: oj at January 30, 2007 9:41 PM

Well we Americans can all be grateful that you weren't president in 1860 (all of us except slave owners of course).

Fetish had nothing to do with it. Slave based agriculture was extremely profitable for the few wealthy plantation owners at the top of the South's economic pyramid. What all White Southerners, rich or poor, had a fetish about was misgenation. This would have prevented internal emmancipation, not hastened it.

Posted by: WTF at January 31, 2007 7:36 AM

The notion that slavery was so profitable as to endure indefinitely is a myth crafted by economic determinists. The system would have folded of its own for moral reasons and made integration easier because more organic. As is all the war did was make blacks into de facto instead of de jure slaves until the 1960s and the South into an economic backwater.

Posted by: oj at January 31, 2007 9:15 AM

Slavery had already turned the South into an economic backwater (compare miles of railroads per area for each region of the country in 1860, e.g.). Immigrants shunned and would have continued to shun a South where they had to literally compete with slave labor (slaves were used in factories and mines as well agriculture) taking their skills and numbers to the North.

Slave plantation couldn't be anything but profitable to the lucky few plantation owners (who defended the morality of slavery - not the other way around) given the cheap labor costs. Until the invention of the mechanical cotton picking machine in the mid 20th century cotton farming had to be done by hand labor.

The war did not make Blacks defacto slaves, it was the failure of post-war reconstruction.

Posted by: WTF at January 31, 2007 10:34 AM

Agreed. Contrary to your prior position, a slavery-based society was not economically feasible.

Posted by: oj at January 31, 2007 11:03 AM

That's not what I said at all.

For the few powerful plantation owners at the top of the South's economic pyramid, slavery made perfect economic sense. It maximized their profits by reducing labor costs to bare minimum. And slavery would have no competition until the invention of the mechanical cotton picker a century later. No other non-mechanical farm labor could compete with slaves (A similar situation exists today, you may as well claim that illegal aliens picking lettuce is not "economically feasible").

You OK with Blacks remaining slaves another century? I'm not.

Posted by: WTF at January 31, 2007 11:28 AM

I see you up to your old tricks again OJ, something you promised not to do.

As the old saying goes, a man is only as good as his word.

Posted by: WTF at January 31, 2007 11:38 AM