The mess that is the Middle East just got a lot more complicated, said Trudy Rubin in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Last week's brazen assassination of Lebanon's minister of industry, Pierre Gemayel, was a dramatic statement by Syria and Iran that they'll ask a steep price for helping the U.S. stabilize Iraq. Gemayel, a prominent Christian leader, was gunned down at a curious time. The Iraqi Study Group is about to recommend that President Bush ask for Syria and Iran's help in reining in warring Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Both Syria and Iran support Hezbollah, the Islamic terrorist organization that undoubtedly played a role in Gemayel's murder. So Syria and Iran appear to be sending a troubling message to President Bush: If he wants their help, the price will include having a free hand to undo Lebanon's fledgling democratic government. That leaves Bush in a terrible bind. In coming months, he must find a way to negotiate with Iran and Syria 'œwithout betraying the Lebanese.'
No matter how desperate Bush may be, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, he should not negotiate with murderers. Let's not forget that it was also Syria that murdered former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last year, triggering a wave of outrage that became Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, forcing the Syrian occupiers to remove their troops. Since that time, 'œa who's who of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and journalists have been targeted for assassination.' Pundits and academics are now clamoring for the Bush administration to embrace 'œrealism' in its dealings with the Mideast. But does 'œrealism' mean looking the other way when the Syrians assassinate political opponents?
No, it doesn't, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post. But realism does demand that the U.S. stop thinking it can save countries such as Lebanon or Iraq from themselves. 'œA disease is eating away at the Middle East,' with the Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, and even Israelis infected by it. That disease is the belief that only the raw exercise of force can resolve political conflicts'”that assassination is a legitimate tool for defeating your enemies. As long as this belief holds sway, the U.S. is powerless to exert its will in the region, and true democracy cannot take root. For Arab societies to be capable of popular government, they must embrace the rule of law'”not because the U.S. or the U.N. tells them to do so, but because they're sick of violence and bloodshed. 'œThe hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won't happen.'