Opinion

Commentary: Tough times for America's enemies

Frida Ghitis is a contributing columnist for the Miami Herald.
Frida Ghitis is a contributing columnist for the Miami Herald. MCT

No reasonable person would claim these are the best of times for the United States, but Americans can take some comfort in knowing that times are even tougher for some of the world's most rabid anti-American figures.

From Caracas to Tehran, political leaders who have defined themselves through their caustic anti-American rhetoric, men who shook masses of followers into frenzies of anti-Washington fervor, are having some very, very bad days.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who still refers to the United States as "The Empire," the man who fanned himself on the United Nations stage to blow away the smell of George W. Bush, and later said he could still smell sulfur after Barack Obama stood at the podium, has become gravely ill. The populist Chavez manipulated his country's laws hoping to stay in power until 2030, but now he has cancer. With few details revealed other than his admission that he had cancer surgery in Cuba, it's hard to know what the prognosis is. But it seems unlikely Chavez's disastrous one-man rule of Venezuela will last another two decades.

Chavez's good pal Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going through some difficulties of his own. The Iranian president, whose own hate-filled speeches have triggered walkouts at the UN - as when he said most people blame Washington for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - is gradually losing power. The ayatollahs who helped him retain the presidency after the protests that followed the disputed 2009 election have had enough of Ahmadinejad. He got too big for his britches, and now the turbaned ones want him out. He may or may not stay in office, but he has lost much of his power.

Neither Ahmadinejad nor Chavez would get much sympathy from another of their best friends, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Assad is fighting for his political life, and doing it by killing hundreds upon hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators in his own country. The demonstrators continue the fight. Al-Assad has lost all legitimacy. He had tried to wear the mask of a moderate reformer, but now all Syrians, all Arabs - the entire world, really - know the truth. He is a butcher who will stop at nothing to hold on to power.

The troubles for al-Assad and Ahmadinejad could give ulcers to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has his hands full with serious problems of his own. A U.N. Special Tribunal has indicted four Hezbollah members in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Nasrallah had desperately tried to prevent this from happening. That's because the indictment rips the veneer off Hezbollah's claim to work only for the protection of Lebanon. Most Lebanese know his militia was created by Iran, armed by Tehran and Damascus, and worked at the behest of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Hariri's killers sought to protect Syrian control of Lebanon by eliminating its most effective critic.

In Iraq, that other anti-American cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, is fuming because the government may ask some American soldiers to stay in Iraq. All U.S. troops are scheduled to leave at the end of this year. But many in the government want to ask Washington to leave some forces behind. Imagine that. The Iraqi government asking the Americans to stay. It's enough to make the Iran-backed al-Sadr threaten a new civil war.

Of course, America's best-known enemy, Osama bin Laden, is out of the picture. He may or may not be enjoying the services of 72 virgins in paradise. But he has finally given his life for the cause, something he wanted only his followers to do.

Lest Americans derive too much satisfaction from the woes of key adversaries, it's worth noting that many others remain. Ahmadinejad's domestic foes may hate the United States even more than he does. In Arab countries where America has lost important friends, their replacements could create new difficulties.

In Egypt, the most powerful political party is the Muslim Brotherhood, hardly fans of America. But even more troubling is what we're learning about the "liberal" parties. The vice president of Wafd, the biggest secular party, recently declared that 9/11 was "Made in America," the Holocaust is a "lie," and Anne Frank a "fake."

Still, a world in which the likes of Chavez, Ahmadinejad and al-Assad are not permanent fixtures of the global political landscape is one where Washington can hope to make some inroads. No guarantees, but at least it's not only America and its friends having a tough time.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Frida Ghitis writes about global affairs for The Miami Herald. Readers may send her email at fjghitis@gmail.com.

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