WASHINGTON -- This year's State of the Union address has been parsed, analyzed, applauded (80 times), celebrated and derided. The rhetoric has been described as "visionary" and "myopic." The president's promises and pledges have been depicted as "important" and "hollow." None of that really matters in the near term. What's most important right now is how the Obama administration handles the increasingly intense cries for greater freedom sweeping from Tunisia to Yemen -- threatening every authoritarian Muslim regime in that region save one: Iran's.
The theocrats in Tehran didn't foment the "Jasmine Revolution" -- the youth-driven popular uprising that forced Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the presidential palace he occupied for 23 years. The unrest that drove Ben Ali into comfortable exile in a Saudi palace began as a protest against government corruption, high unemployment and a spike in the price of basic foodstuffs. But the ayatollahs are capitalizing on the expanding chaos.
Expatriate Iranian opposition figures claim that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds force have been dispatched to Tunis "to help guide developments." And Tehran's government-controlled Fars News Agency has since quoted Jamil bin Alawi, a Tunisian "student activist," as saying, "The advanced revolutionary and Islamic models like the Hezbollah of Lebanon can provide a bright and promising prospect for Tunisia."
"Hezbollah" -- Arabic for "Party of God" -- is a word often in the news of late. The paramilitary/political/civic aid movement -- covertly originated, funded and directed by Iran since 1982 as a means of spreading a Shiite vision of Islamic revolution -- originally was confined to Lebanon. In 2006, well-armed Hezbollah militants, backed by Iran and supported by Syria, fought the Israeli army to a standstill. Rearmed and supplied by Iran, Hezbollah still controls south Lebanon to the Israeli border.
Two weeks ago, while Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in Washington for a meeting with Obama, Hezbollah brought down the Beirut government. This week, despite violent protests in Beirut and Tripoli, Hezbollah became an official part of the Lebanese government when Najib Mikati, its hand-picked candidate for prime minister, began forming a new government. The immediate effect was aptly described by an Al-Jazeera headline: "Lebanon convulses on 'Day of Rage.'" The protests continue.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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