Analyst: US sent destroyer to keep lebanon under its ‘wing’

 Posted by Alex

Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Youm reported today, through sources that an American message leaked by Egypt to Syria shows that the United States is ready to launch a broad military operation against Syria if it insists on its position on the Lebanese crisis and this is the real reason behind the deployment of “USS Cole” in front of the Syrian – Lebanese waters.

The source said that the official announced reason of Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Egypt is to push the Palestinian – Israeli peace process forward but the real reason is to explain the American military actions and the presence of the American ships to the Egyptian leadership.- roads to iraq


'USS Cole aims to dissuade any Hizbullah reprisal against Israel'; Analyst: US sent destroyer to keep lebanon under its 'wing'

Michael Bluhm


Beirut — BEIRUT: Despite US assertions that it deployed the USS Cole off Lebanon's coast to support regional stability, the destroyer's presence represents symbolic backing for the March 14 faction, an attempt to contain Hizbullah and put pressure on Syria in the regional context, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Tuesday.

The guided-missile destroyer arrived in international waters off Lebanon's shores the evening of February 28, as White House National security Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the purpose of the USS Cole and other warships joining it shortly near Lebanon was "a show of support for regional stability."

"Initially we thought it might have been to support Israel vis-a-vis Gaza," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. "I don't think we can say it's there to target Syria or the Gazans or whomever. The statements coming out of the Bush administration all mention Lebanon.

"It's there for Lebanon, to support [Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora. 'Regional stability' is a euphemism for 'To keep Lebanon under our wing.'"

She added that the choice to sail a warship to Lebanon's coast demonstrates the "political bankruptcy" of US President George W. Bush's administration, after countless initiatives pushed by the US and its regional allies have failed to break the 16-month-old political impasse here between the March 14 camp and the Syrian-backed March 8 opposition.

In addition to signaling support for its allies in the March 14 governing coalition, the USS Cole also sends a message to  Hizbullah to reconsider any plans to retaliate against Israel for the February 13 assassination of senior resistance commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University.

"It's a message for Hizbullah after the two speeches of [party chief Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah about open war" against Israel after Mughniyeh's killing, Hanna said, adding that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's recent expression of dismay over the term "open war" added to the pressures deterring Hizbullah from retaliating.

"Maybe now they will wait, but everything is up to Iran," which backs Hizbullah financially and militarily, Hanna added.

The US Marines in the convoy accompanying the USS Cole present a dramatic symbolism as well – the US has long fingered Mughniyeh in the November 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut that drove American troops from Lebanon, and after Mughniyeh's death the Marines are again approaching Lebanon, Saad-Ghorayeb said.

"It's too provocative," she added. "On a symbolic level it targets Hizbullah. "The [warships] are there both symbolically and [because] the US is resorting now to flexing its military muscle in the face of Hizbullah's declaration that it's going to respond to Israel for Mughniyeh's assassination."

Although the US has made clear that the USS Cole would be in the waters off Lebanon, its presence will also impact other nearby US foes such as Syria and Iran, she said.

"You can't extricate one from the other," Saad-Ghorayeb said. "You can't extricate Hizbullah from Iran andSyria."

"A lot of officials have actually said it's to target Syria," she added. "It could also be a message to target Iran. In and of itself, this is simply going to increase tension."

Regarding Syria, the Cole's arrival adds to the list of worries plaguing Syria, as part of the US desire to pluckDamascus from its alliance with Tehran and Hizbullah, Hanna said.

"When you look at the American project in the region, you have to look at it holistically," Hanna added. "Their next move will be to contain Iran and separate Syria from Iran. This is the main issue. Maybe now they are trying to threaten the regime itself.

"If Syria is isolated from Iran, all the tentacles of Iran will be cut."

Syrian President Bashar Assad has to juggle the UN tribunal investigating the series of political killings here, the bombing last September by Israel of a Syrian site allegedly connected to weapons activity, the probably absence of major Arab leaders from the Arab League summit in Damascus later this month and the aftershocks of having Mughniyeh killed while under Syria's ostensible protection.

"It's highly dangerous for the regime to have Imad Mughniyeh killed there," Hanna said.

While US officials tout the abilities of the Cole to ensure stability in the region, the destroyer's appearance here means in reality that the United States "expects some instability," said political analyst Simon Haddad.

"It is becoming clearer that a regional war will happen in the coming months," Haddad added. "The positioning of the USS Cole is not directed against Lebanon – it is most certainly directed against the Syrians. I think the next war will be directed against Hizbullah by the Israelis, and maybe the Americans want to prevent a Syrian intervention."

Whatever the US intentions in dispatching the Cole, its presence might boomerang by driving out some of the Sunnis from the March 14 coalition or by tempting militants here to attack the destroyer, which lost 17 sailors in a suicide bombing by Al-Qaeda in Yemen's Aden port in October 2000, said Saad-Ghorayeb.

"One consequence could be to provoke Al-Qaeda elements to target it," she said. "This is obviously a prime target for them, considering it was already attacked. This looks like it's bait, almost."

"It might cause a split in the Sunni community," which has many anti-American members, she added. "It will be hard for the Future Movement to argue that this is legitimate or not in any way condemn this. It might well close ranks between some Sunnis and Hizbullah."

Although the US has not said how long the Cole will remain on station off Lebanon, the destroyer will draw acute attention if it remains here if and when Hizbullah takes its avowed revenge on Israel for Mughniyeh's assassination, Saad-Ghorayeb said.

"That's the real litmus test for them," she added. "Things are to really change once Hizbullah responds."



Comments (202)

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201. Alex said:

No, your comment was addressed to me. I wrote about my opinion of the lesson learned from Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon. the damascus spring has nothing to do with it.

And then you accused me of trying to rewrite history!!

Are you saying that what I wrote was not a popular impression at the time? .. that Barak went for a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon to take away the Hizbollah (or Lebanon) negotiating card from Hafez Assad?

They (the Israelis) are using the withdrawal
from Lebanon as a pressure card on the Syrian
negotiations, which of course the Arab parties
are not prepared to accept.

We agreed that

1) you will not throw accusations at people here.
2) You will not try to justify inserting democracy in Syria in every discussion topic.

I know you can always find a way to justify your need to talk about democracy in Syria, that’s part of why most people here had problems with you… if we discuss damascus culture, you change it to democracy. If we discuss fairouz, you change it to democracy.

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March 9th, 2008, 5:57 pm


202. Shai said:


I only now got back, so I hope you get to read this response.

I’m sorry you see things the way you do. The anti-Israel in you is quite strong, and I can understand that, though I’m still sorry for it. Look, if you mean to tell me that you’d feel perfectly safe having a Saddam in 1981 with nuclear weapons, allow me to differ with you just a bit. And with all due respect, please don’t tell me that “you know” what Osirak was and what it wasn’t… unless you worked there, and have some permission to tell us all. My “bullshit” is no less credible than yours. Van Krefeld indeed suggests that the entire Middle East go nuclear, in order to create our version of M.A.D. Now do you honestly expect me to believe that most Arabs (Sunni and Shia) will feel safe knowing that Iran, Iraq, KSA, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Kuwait, Israel, Palestine, etc. will all have nuclear weapons? Will YOU sleep well at night? If your answer is “yes”, you either live outside this region, or you don’t give a damn about those who do, or you must be out of your mind. A nuclear Middle East is NOT a U.S.-U.S.S.R. type situation. The Cold War was hot enough (according to McNamara himself), and at least once the two superpowers were EXTREMELY close to starting a real nuclear war (and subsequent holocaust), namely in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis. If our region was full of nuclear weapons, held by more-responsible and less-responsible parties and regimes, I think the chances for nuclear war would be infinitely greater than were in the Cold War. I think most people in this region would agree.

As for a nuclear Israel, of course I can understand your anger. But do recall, that despite the fact that (according to foreign sources) Israel had nuclear capabilities (weapons, not just nuclear power) already back in 1967, we have not used it once. After all, October 1973 was the closest we ever felt to real existential threat. It could have been much easier to just drop a few nuclear bombs on Syria and Egypt, and save ourselves from 3 weeks of bloody war. Yet we didn’t. So don’t talk to me about responsibility. Either we don’t have nuclear weapons, and we’ve fooled the world amazingly well, or we DO have them, and are quite responsible about it, to say the least.

Lastly, please allow me to call your entire thesis about Israel being also a nuclear threat to Europe, utter crap. Come on, where do you get this stuff from? You don’t like Israeli propaganda about Iranian Shihabs also reaching European capitals, so you develop the same for Israel? There are better ways to “combat” our propaganda, if you truly feel safe with the current regime in Iran acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities. Your claim about the lack of IAEA inspections in Israel is justified (one of the few things you made sense about), but between you and me, what do you need it for – you already assume we have nukes, don’t you? Let’s pretend Israel tomorrow invited any IAEA inspectors in. We showed them all our weapons. They report it to the world. What will you say tomorrow morning – Aha! You see? You DO have them? Or, now if you want Iran not to develop them, you shouldn’t either? Okay, so say that already now. You don’t need the IAEA. By the way, say the IAEA would tell you that Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons. But say it would tell you that Iran likely does. You’d believe the latter, but not the first, right?

Come on, Simohurtta, we’re not going to bridge any gaps if you cannot let go of your “hate-Israel-at-all-cost” attitude. I know we’re evil, and only want to annihilate all Arabs, but do you really think we’d be wasting our time talking on this forum if we didn’t want to change that image? We truly want to understand you, and listen to you. And, we hope you could do the same with us. But let’s not ruin any possibility of communication, by suggesting each of us is the epitome of the Devil himself.

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March 9th, 2008, 8:03 pm


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