Michael Totten interviews an Israeli journalist who made his way into south Lebanon:
You don't see the Lebanese flag in the south. Only the Hezbollah flag, the Amal flag, and the Iranian flag. It was a real eye-opener. I knew this already, but it's something else to see it in person. And it's also interesting how that part of the country interacts with the rest of Lebanon.
South Lebanon was my first experience visiting a society that functions like the old Soviet bloc in at least one way. People have an acute sense of this unseen power which is both nowhere and everywhere. People in that part of Lebanon always have to be careful, even if they don't always exactly know why. They understand why in the larger picture, of course, but even with everyday things they have to be careful.
A perfect storm is brewing in the Middle East. We're experiencing the convergence of two historical phenomena. The first is the rise of Iran, which we've already talked about. We have an ambitious ideological elite committed to radical Islam and the expansion of power. Second, in country after country in the Middle East, various forms of radical Islam are becoming the most popular and vivid forms of political expression. We have Hamas among the Palestinians, Hezbollah among the Shia of Lebanon, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, and the Muslim Brothers in Egypt.
We have an ideological wave from below with a powerful and potentially nuclear-armed sponsor on top. That's the picture I'd want to place in the minds of the people in Washington. It's the key regional dynamic through which most smaller processes have to be understood.