Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
Bush Will continue to support the Lebanese army, even though the army refuses to fight Hizbullah and prefers to cooperate with it. March 14 is not convinced.
Christopher Dickey quotes George Shultz in 1984, when Reagan pulled US troops from Lebanon. Shultz said: "This is a kind of warfare, really, that is something different for us … We have to improve our intelligence capability, and we have to think through how, within the concept of the rule of law, which we hold so dear, we can take a more aggressive posture toward what is a worldwide and very undesirable trend."
Paul Salem writes that, "The timing of the government's two decisions, which HA used as an excuse to launch its military operations, left many observers puzzled. The government apparently realized that the decisions were momentous and might cause a strong reaction: the session dragged on for eleven hours of heated discussion."
Some commentators had believed that Jumblatt dragged the Siniora government into its confrontation with Hizbullah. This turns out not to be true. The government knew that it was taking a momentous step in confronting Hizbullah's security apparatus.
Sami Moubayed goes into greater detail about "The Miscalculation"
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 12, 2008
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
I strongly condemn Hizballah's recent efforts, and those of their foreign sponsors in Tehran and Damascus, to use violence and intimidation to bend the government and people of Lebanon to their will. The United States will continue to firmly support the Government of Lebanon, led by Prime Minister Siniora, against this effort to undermine the hard-fought gains in sovereignty and independence the Lebanese people have made in recent years. The international community will not allow the Iranian and Syrian regimes, via their proxies, to return Lebanon to foreign domination and control. To ensure the safety and security of the people of Lebanon, the United States will continue its assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces to ensure they are able to defend the Lebanese Government and safeguard its institutions.
It is critical that the international community come together to assist the Lebanese people in their hour of need. I plan to consult with regional leaders on my upcoming trip to the Middle East to coordinate efforts to support the Lebanese Government and implement U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, among others, which seek to bolster Lebanon's sovereignty against external efforts at destabilization and interference. The Lebanese people have sacrificed much for the sake of their freedom, and the United State s will continue to stand with them against this latest assault on their independence and security.
AHMADINEJAD: ISRAEL TO BE “SWEPT AWAY SOON''
2008-05-13 08:45 (New York)
Tehran (dpa) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Israel would “be soon swept away'' from the Palestinian Territories by the Palestinians.
It is the second time within less than three years that the Iranian president predicted the eradication of the Jewish state. The first time was in 2005 when Ahmadinejad hoped that Israel would be eradicated from the Middle East map.
“This terrorist and criminal state is backed by foreign powers, but this regime would soon be swept away by the Palestinians,'' Ahmadinejad said in a press conference in Tehran. Referring to worldwide celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Israel's foundation, he said that “it would be futile to hold a birthday ceremony for something which is already dead.''
“As far as the regional countries are concerned, this regime does not exist,'' Ahmadinejad added. The Iranian president said last week that the anniversary feasts could not save this “rotten and stinking corpse.''
Ahmadinejad caused international outrage in the past by hoping for the eradication of Israel, the relocation of the Jewish state to Europe or Alaska and questioning the historic dimensions of the Holocaust. dpa fm wjh
Ray Close – Former CIA analyst and Lebanon hand
The key question: Is the Bush administration supporting constructive compromise, or are they pushing the Siniora government to stick relentlessly to a maximalist position that is almost certainly beyond its capability to sustain, and which could quite easily drive Lebanon toward a renewal of civil war. I have a nagging fear that uppermost in Bush's mind is his determination to find something that he can claim as a clear-cut victory over "terrorism" before he leaves the world's stage. In that mood, the notion of supporting a compromise solution in Lebanon between a "pro-American" government and a "terrorist" organization (Hizballah), a surrogate of Iran and Syria, is anathema to the Bush-Cheney crowd, and may be tempting them to use American influence in exactly the wrong way in this crisis. Can any of us really imagine George W. Bush endorsing what Rami Khouri visualizes as "the first American-Iranian joint political governance system in the Arab World?". Rami Khouri is exactly right when he correctly characterizes that outcome as "a huge defeat for the United States and its failed diplomatic approach that seeks to confront, battle and crush the Islamist-nationalists throughout the region." However, Rami Khouri is equally correct in declaring that this would be an ideal outcome, in that a solution based on a more equitable balance of power within Lebanon might set a constructive precedent that would by its example contribute to achieving some level of political stability in Iraq and between rival factions in Palestine. This would be a magnificent result of an otherwise ugly crisis.
Unfortunately, however, the situation reminds me (with mixed bitterness and guilt) so much of the mistakes we made (under Eisenhower-Dulles orders) in 1957-58, when we attempted by hook or by crook (mostly crook) to push Lebanon off its traditional position of neutrality in inter-Arab affairs and to become an openly committed partner of the United States in opposing post-colonial Arab nationalism — under the contrived justification of resisting "international communism". That ill-advised effort laid the foundations of the future 1975-90 civil war.
This time, I hope we don't make the same heavy-handed and short-sighted mistakes all over again. And let's hope that Rami Khouri's vision proves to be realistic and achieveable. We've had enough bad news!
Lebanon's chances for meaningful reconstruction are diminishing by the day. And despite Bush's bravado, it's going to be the same in Iraq.
If you want to know what Iraq will look like 25 years from now, look at Lebanon today. The similarities and differences—but mainly the similarities—raise a lot of painful memories and questions for
This fact hit me once again when I was talking to Mike Sheehan, who is one of the more clear-eyed analysts of terrorism and the way we react to it. The subject came up of Beirut as it is now, a bloody mess, and as it was when Mike and I first focused on it a quarter-century ago, when it was even bloodier.
Back then President Ronald Reagan waded into the Levantine quagmire, quickly understood that he had made a big miscalculation, and withdrew. "Some counterterrorism experts argue the Reagan pullout from Lebanon was a mistake and emboldened future terrorists," says Sheehan. "I never bought this analysis, then or now. I think it was one of the smartest things Reagan did during his tenure—to get out of the Lebanese civil war. To stay in any war to 'make a statement' has never made sense to me. You have to have well-defined interests and achievable goals when you put American soldiers in harm's way; both seemed to be missing in Lebanon. Reagan recognized it and withdrew."
Sheehan believes symbolism is a major factor in the fight against terrorists only if it's accompanied by the systematic elimination of the terrorists' operational cells and infrastructure. (Hence the title of his recent book, "Crush the Cell" [Vintage, 2008], which I wrote about last week.) Sheehan is not arguing that a Lebanon-style pullout from Iraq, which is a different war in a different time, would be so sensible now. President George W. Bush will probably make that point many times during his upcoming nonvictory tour of the Middle East.
And yet, whether the United States stays in Iraq or goes, "Lebanonization" is the most likely result: a foundering half-failed state where neighbors fight proxy battles through sectarian militias and through the many factions in a government that is unable to govern at all. There will be times of war when life seems to go on almost as normal, and times of peace when it seems not to. There will be spurts of investment, maybe even tourism. There will be festivals of democratic excitement. And then sudden storms of savage violence will sweep through the streets of the capital, only to subside, then erupt in smaller cities, and subside. And erupt again. And so it goes, to borrow the old refrain from Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Slaughterhouse Five." If the world pays any attention at all, the span will be brief. The fighting and the failures to govern will have gone on so long that nothing seems new in that news.
The chances for meaningful reconstruction diminish by the day in such a place. The brains and talent needed to build the home country will, for the most part, be building other countries, having left over the years as much out of frustration as fear. The best, lacking all conviction that things can improve, will have established their own families in Abu Dhabi or New York—wherever there seems some modicum of sanity and a real commitment to the future, not just an endless settling of past scores. The worst, filled with passionate intensity and armed with rocket-propelled grenades, will rule the streets. As it is in Beirut, so it will be in Baghdad.
Even many of the players in Iraq and Lebanon are similar: Syria, Iran, ferocious fighters in the mountains (the Druze and Christians in Lebanon, the Kurds in Iraq), competing and combative Shiite factions (Amal and Hizbullah in Lebanon; the Dawa, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq).
If we Americans had stayed in Lebanon, could we have made a difference? It would be nice to think so, but we didn't really have the option.
The U.S. Marines went into the country in 1982 to help Israel usher out the Palestine Liberation Organization, then went in again when Israel's Christian militia allies massacred defenseless Palestinian civilians at Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. A young political officer from the U.S. embassy, Ryan Crocker, was one of the first outsiders to see the carnage up close. Amid the stench of decaying flesh he counted 106 bodies, 27 of them women and children. But this was "by no means a complete figure," he said in a cable to Washington dictated over his car radio. Washington decided the atrocity demanded some sort of American solution. But what sort? Nobody was sure. But in went the Marines again.
It turned out the Palestinians were far from the only fighters in Lebanon, and Iran nurtured one new group, the Shiite Party of God, or Hizbullah, that proved especially effective. Its recruits were willing to commit suicide to kill their foreign enemies: the Israelis occupying the southern part of Lebanon, the French who had come in as part of the same deployment as the Americans trying to stabilize the situation, and the Americans themselves. The Party of God blew up the U.S. Embassy, it blew up the Marine barracks, it blew up the U.S. Embassy again.
The Reagan administration's exit strategy from Lebanon was to train up units of the Lebanese Army to act as effective keepers of the peace. But the Lebanese Sixth Brigade, responsible for most of the capital, was mostly made up of Shiites. In February 1984 the entire brigade, in effect, joined the ranks of one of the militias. And the Marines at that point had no choice but to get back on their boats.
The critical differences in Iraq are that Americans have stayed much longer already, fought much harder, and died in much greater numbers. Iraq is bigger. It is even more complicated. And it has oil, which means, especially given today's markets, that it is vital to the world's economy. The Bush administration, moreover, has created an Iraqi military that is incapable of defending itself from direct aggression by others in the neighborhood, whether Iran or Israel, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, should any of those countries want to pick a fight or stake out a little territory. So at the same time that Iraq has become America's curse, it has become its dependency.
As the United States had no choice but to leave Lebanon, it has created a situation in which it has no choice but to stay in Iraq.
That's why Crocker, now the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, and Gen. David Petraeus and the other professionals trying to salvage the situation there are always so guarded in their progress reports. The situation can indeed get worse. The patient's on life support, and if Congress pulls the plug it will probably die, but we'll still be stuck in the room with the decaying corpse.
One of the more reasonable prescriptions for Iraq I've heard lately was on a panel with Colin Kahl, a political scientist at Georgetown University. His catch phrase was, as opposed to victory, sustainable stability: contain or crush the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq, try to keep the state from collapsing altogether or becoming an Iranian puppet and prevent genocidal violence. And if you can do all those things, whether by negotiation with Iran, twisting the arms of Iraqi politicians, using troops on the ground or threatening to pull them out, then that's about as much as can be expected.
All of which sounds as if we'll be fighting for a long time just to achieve the kind of painful stalemate that emerged in Lebanon when we left after a mere 18 months on the ground. But I'm not so sure I'd give as much credit to Reagan's wisdom as Mike Sheehan does.
On the day the last Marine combat unit pulled out of Lebanon in 1984, a television interviewer asked then-Secretary of State George Shultz if that meant a victory for the bad guys. He could not but equivocate: "This is a kind of warfare, really, that is something different for us … We have to improve our intelligence capability, and we have to think through how, within the concept of the rule of law, which we hold so dear, we can take a more aggressive posture toward what is a worldwide and very undesirable trend." That was 24 years ago, and we're still thinking it through.
"…In an earlier interview with the al-Arabiya television network, Bush said he personally admired Siniora. "We will help him," Bush said. …. One March 14 politician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, called for "tactical strikes" against Syria to pressure the government to rein in Hezbollah….. members of a coalition known as March 14 — said U.S. statements on the crisis have been too weak and called for more pressure on Hezbollah and its Syrian backers. The politicians said they felt abandoned by the United States…...The Americans are telling March 14 they have to resist," said one Western diplomat in Beirut. "But they're not bringing much operational support.""We're not asking them to fight our fight for us," said Mouawad, the minister. "But at least don't let us be slaughtered by total indifference."
"…..Jumblatt, a top American ally, is under virtual house arrest. After the lightning speed with which opposition Hizballah fighters defeated government supporters in a six hour battle on Thursday — only to vanish a few hours later……"I am a hostage now in my home in Beirut," he said over the telephone to his rival Nabih Berri, …."Tell [Hizballah leader] Sayeed Hassan Nasrallah I lost the battle and he wins. So let's sit and talk to reach a compromise. All that I ask is your protection."…..…. Jumblatt is quickly coming to grips with the new political landscape. "The U.S. has failed in Lebanon and they have to admit it,"
Lebanon’s prolonged political crisis erupted in violence last week following the dismissal by the Lebanese government of an official close to Hizbollah and the launch an investigation into the organization’s telecommunications network. Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, outlines the key actors of Lebanon’s worst violence since the end of its civil war in 1990 and their aims.
• Hizbollah’s immediate goals are to force the government to rescind its controversial decisions and establish a unity government with increased authority for Hizbollah. Over the long-term, they could demand on a larger share of power for Lebanon’s Shi’a.
• Hizbollah is not eager to elect a new president immediately. They hope to stall until after new parliamentary elections (which must be held before June 2009) in the hopes of having more say in the choice of candidate.
• The army is under intense criticism for failing to stop the violence but argues it must remain neutral or risk splitting along sectarian lines.
• Contrary to a similar escalation in December 2006, Iran has not interceded to halt the violence. This could be the result of the latest round of Security Council resolutions and increased hostile rhetoric by the United States. It could also reflect Iranian concerns about the possibility of a Syrian–Israeli agreement.
“The situation in Lebanon remains extremely tense. An Arab League ministerial delegation is to arrive to help negotiate an end to the crisis. The next days will indicate whether the opposition will escalate and widen its military assaults, or whether Lebanon is entering a lull in which discussions and political bargaining will come to the fore,” concludes Salem.. [Read the whole report - Hizbollah Attempts a Coup d’État]
Lebanon’s Hariri vows no surrender to Hezbollah
Tue May 13, 2008 12:35pm EDT
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri pledged on Tuesday there would be no political surrender to what he called a bid by Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers to impose their will on the nation by force.
The Shi’ite Hezbollah group and its opposition allies have routed supporters of the Sunni-led government in Beirut and hills to the east in fighting that has pushed Lebanon to the brink of a new civil war.
“They simply are demanding that we surrender, they want Beirut to raise white flags… This is impossible,” Hariri told a news conference in his first public appearance since Hezbollah swept through Sunni-dominated areas of the capital last week.
“They will not be able to obtain Saad al-Hariri’s signature … on a deed to surrender to the Iranian and Syrian regimes.”
Lebanon experienced its calmest day since violence broke out on May 7 after U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora outlawed Hezbollah’s communications network and fired Beirut airport’s security chief, who is close to the Shi’ite group.