Already, Hizbullah has spearheaded the reconstruction efforts in the bombed-out Shiite areas of south Beirut. Huge cranes and jackhammers clear mangled concrete from roadways. Volunteers with red T shirts and hats that read VICTORY FROM GOD sweep away rubble in residential areas. At one intersection, a volunteer poured buckets of shattered glass out of the second story window of a shop called Yukon. Many crushed buildings in the neighborhood have been marked with a banner made from plastic sheeting. The banner notes which regional office the owner should go to for compensation, the opening hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and is signed: HIZBULLAH.This is not good news for the West. I'm all about helping rebuild Lebanon (and Israel, for that matter), but allowing Hezbollah to take all the credit is going to undermine everything we are trying to achieve.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr's group is doing similar things in Iraq.
While opposition to the U.S. military presence in Iraq remains one of its core tenets, the Sadr movement's militia, called the Mahdi Army, took heavy casualties in two military uprisings against better-armed, better-trained U.S. forces in 2004. Today, according to Sadr leaders and outside analysts, the movement is husbanding its strength and waiting for American troops to go.Why in the world weren't we able to get this guy on our side? Or, since he has some of the ministries, and they are part of the government we hope gets its act together, is he already on our side?
The movement is highly structured, largely along the lines of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, building for its followers a state within a state while also acquiring a share of power in Iraq's formal government. Sadr, like Hezbollah, built popularity in part by providing social services such as health care. Because he controls the Health Ministry, and with it the hospitals and clinics of Iraq, his followers bear their children in public hospitals decorated with posters of the young cleric. They go to their graves washed by workers of a Sadr charity at a sprawling Shiite cemetery in Najaf, at a cost of 5,000 dinars, about $3.40, one-fifteenth of what grieving families outside Sadr's network pay. Sadr also sponsors the God's Martyr Foundation, which supports veterans and the families of fighters who are killed.
Now his people lay low and focus on services instead of direct engagement of US forces (and I'll never complain about that), but there is that very sinister sounding 'lie and wait' strategy. Does this mean there is a plan to unleash chaos once we leave, or are they planning on taking over the country by doing things better than the other groups? Or does this verify our need to keep troops in Iraq for the next 20 - 30 years, hoping they'll 'lay low' that long, and continue to work on infrastructure?
We've got the wolf by the ears with these two. On the one hand, they are more efficiently building the infrastructure needed for society and commerce, and are doing so while taking part in Parliamentary governments of nations we desperately need to start standing on their own. On the other hand, one's a terrorist group and the other ain't too far from one. The third layer is that we absolutely know that both groups are being bankrolled by Iran (who's making all their money selling oil to the West).
One thing this does seem to demonstrate, however, is a Shiite desire to build hospitals, schools and infrastructure. Apocalyptic suicide cultures generally don't worry about such things, so I think that's a good sign. On the other-other hand, we don't have a very good relationship with Iran, and have pretty much voted them "Most Likely to Be Involved with WWIII."
This leaves us with a haunting spectre: Iran may not need a nuclear weapon to gain hegemony in the Middle East. They may be able to buy it with money the West spends on oil, coupled with an efficiency-in-government that our allies can't seem to produce.