One of the few good things to have emerged from the bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut on Tuesday, allegedly by the extremist Sunni Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has been the unanimous international condemnation of it. Western nations have stopped sulking about Iran long enough to realise that another disintegration of Lebanon is a far greater danger than some hypothetical Iranian nuclear weapon. So far so good.
But one of the worst things to have emerged from the western reaction, you might not be surprised to hear, is the description of the attack as “senseless”, by the auto-destructing US Secretary of State, Mr Kerry. Now “senseless”, in the sense Mr Kerry uses the word, doesn’t mean what you and I think it means. It doesn’t mean “without sense or purpose”, at least unless Mr Kerry is incredibly badly briefed. After all, from the point of view of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, it makes a lot of sense. Iran has been a major backer of the Assad regime, and is also a major supporter of Hezbollah, which has sent forces to fight on the side of the Assad regime against the (mainly Sunni) rebels. This is what is technically known as “retaliation,” and, to the extent that it might discourage both Iran and Hezbollah from intervening further, was a sensible thing for the forces opposing Assad to have done.
But this use of the word “senseless”, if it means anything, apparently just means “yuck, doubleplus ungood me no like” which isn’t an intelligent reaction, and doesn’t actually make sense, either. If it reflects anything at all, it probably reflects fear: fear that the situation, never very stable, is now slipping out of whatever control, or even influence, the West has left. But it’s also the logical conclusion of a western policy of unremitting hostility to Assad which, if not exactly senseless, has never been exactly sensible, either.