Lebanon is a struggle within a struggle. Most immediately, Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12 has triggered a huge Israeli response, so far short of a full-scale ground invasion.
It is intended to depopulate southern Lebanon and its well-concealed launching pads for thousands of Iranian-supplied rockets. Arab diplomats and others, and now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are trying to construct some kind of international force that could be interposed on Lebanon's border. That may be slow in coming.
Not involved in these discussions, and perhaps the most relevant outside party, is Iran, the godfather of the Shiite movement. To Iran, Lebanon is apparently just one incident in its larger plan to dominate the whole Shiite sectarian community, including Iraq and Lebanon, and a struggle with the American/Israeli infidel.
Aggressive Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made his target known in a long, open letter to President Bush on May 9. He said: "How long must the people of the world pay for the incorrect decisions of some rulers? How much longer will a specter of insecurity haunt the people of the world?"
It can be speculated that Hizbullah's capture of the two Israeli soldiers, which triggered the current crisis, was probably known to the Iranian government in advance. The mullahs must be happy about the turmoil that they have helped to create. They must dream of the day when a nuclear-armed Iran will hold sway over the region and beyond.
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.