Posted by Joshua on Friday, August 10th, 2007
General Aoun confirms that Bush’s Executive Order on Lebanon has worried some of his donors in an interview with Le Monde in French. I have translated some bits below. He also defends his election tactics.
President Bush's wide-ranging executive order proclaims that the US is prepared to ban, freeze the money of, and investigate anyone "undermining the sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic process and institutions." This comes perilously close to criminalizing anyone who opposes the March 14 government of Lebanon and seems designed to intimidate Aoun and his FPM party backers. The World Council of the Cedars Revolution, a right wing Lebanese-American lobby group seems to be behind Bush's executive order. They were outraged in April, when the Woodrow Wilson Institute invited two Aounist parliamentarians to visit Washington and participate in a roundtable discussion on Lebanon. Right wing Lebanese tried to have the invitation rescinded and the Aounists blocked from visiting the States on the presumption that they are supporters of Terrorism. They pointed to the FPM's alliance with Hizbullah as proof. Bush's most recent executive order adds nothing to Washington's ability to freeze Hizbullah funds. What it does do is make it possible to go after Aoun and his supporters.
On August 1, Bush issued an executive order, entitled, “Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions.”
Syrian meddling in Lebanon constitutes an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Bush asserted, adding, “I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
This executive order doesn’t limit sanctions to people involved in violent acts. Anyone who engages in any act-violent or nonviolent-against the government of Lebanon can now have his or her property frozen.
And it also gives the Treasury Secretary the authority to freeze the assets of “a spouse or dependent child” of any person whose property is frozen.
Below, I am copying
- Aoun's interview with Le Monde
- A Daily Star article that spells out how the FBI is making up a list of rich Lebanese with investments in the US who support "anti-democratic activity" in Lebanon. No one in Washington will define "anti-democratic." President Bush has already defined democracy in Lebanon to mean support for the March 14 government. One has to presume that any party opposing this government will be defined as anti-democratic, including the FPM and its supporters.
- The statement by the World Council of the Cedars Revolution opposing American think tanks' invitations to Aounist parliamentary members as supporting terrorism.
- The latest statement by the World Council of the Cedars Revoltion welcoming the President's order
In his Le Monde interview Aoun defends his alliance with Hizbullah, saying he accepts that some Christians will not vote for him because of his willingness to work with Shiites. He points out that most Christian parliamentarians were voted into office with 50% Muslim votes. He claims this is good. Lebanon must get over its confessionalism. He is not ashamed to have Muslim votes.
When asked if Hizbullah does not bow to Iran and embrace “Velayat al-faqih” and Khomenei as its murja` al-taqliid, he says this is nonsense and that every party and person changes with time. He points out that when Nasrallah and Hizbullah embraced these principles, Walid Jumblat was talking about Druze borders and Jeajea was talking about Christian Cantons. "Les temps ont changé," he says. "Le Hezbollah, aujourd’hui, revendique sa part de pouvoir, rien de plus." "Today Hizbullah is contesting its share of power, nothing more." He adds: "son chef, Hassan Nasrallah, a déclaré il y a dix jours qu’il était prêt à discuter du désarmement de son mouvement, et d’un armistice entre Israël et le Liban, indépendamment de la situation dans le reste du Proche-Orient. Je défie nos adversaires, que l’Occident soutient, d’avoir un tel courage." In English, "Nasrallah declared 10 days ago that he was ready to discuss the disarmament of his movement and an armistice between Israel and Lebanon, independent of the situation in teh rest of the Middle East." (In other words, without waiting for an Israeli return of the Golan.) Aoun concludes, "I defy our adversaries, who the West supports, to have the same courage."
Michel Aoun : “Les Etats-Unis travaillent à la déstabilisation du Liban”
LE TEMPS.CH | 09.08.07, Le Monde
Le Temps : Depuis que vous avez vaincu l’ancien président Amine Gemayel dans une élection dimanche, vos adversaires maronites disent que vous avez perdu : vous ne contrôlez plus, comme en 2005, cette communauté catholique…
Michel Aoun : Ils m’amusent! Ceux d’entre eux qui sont au parlement ont été élus avec une majorité sunnite dans laquelle le vote chrétien est dilué. Nos candidats sont en général élus par un vote moitié chrétien, moitié non chrétien. Mais c’est une vieille manière de penser. Je suis prêt à sacrifier 20% de ma popularité si c’est le prix à payer pour éviter une confrontation dans le pays. Or c’est précisément ce que nous avons cherché en signant l’an passé une entente avec le Hezbollah.
– Vous voulez la fin du système d’équilibre confessionnel dans les institutions ?
– C’est un système condamné, en voie de disparition. Nous voulons établir, pas à pas, la laïcité de l’Etat. Il faut que les Libanais s’habituent à l’exercice du pouvoir sur la base de choix politiques et non d’arrangements confessionnels.
– Votre entente avec le Hezbollah, n’est-ce pas une manière d’arrangement ?
– C’est un programme politique! Sur la réforme de l’Etat, son indépendance, les relations avec la Syrie, avec les Palestiniens. Le Hezbollah est acquis à l’idée d’un code civil libanais. Et son chef, Hassan Nasrallah, a déclaré il y a dix jours qu’il était prêt à discuter du désarmement de son mouvement, et d’un armistice entre Israël et le Liban, indépendamment de la situation dans le reste du Proche-Orient. Je défie nos adversaires, que l’Occident soutient, d’avoir un tel courage.
– Mais le Hezbollah est-il lui-même indépendant : le principe du “Velayat al-faqih” ne le lie-t-il pas directement au guide de la révolution iranienne ?
– Si vous pensez que l’homme est une pierre, et ne change jamais, alors vous avez raison. Quand le Hezbollah faisait référence au “Velayat al-faqih”, Samir Geagea, le chef des Forces libanaises, parlait de cantons chrétiens, et Walid Joumblatt de frontières druzes. Les temps ont changé. Le Hezbollah, aujourd’hui, revendique sa part de pouvoir, rien de plus.
– La Syrie n’est-elle pas plus pesante que l’Iran sur le Liban? Et n’avez-vous pas rencontré récemment en Allemagne un émissaire syrien, comme le disent les Saoudiens ?
– C’est une diffamation colportée par des moulins à mensonges. J’ai confondu Amine Gemayel qui reprenait cette calomnie. La Syrie joue contre moi. Des mouvements pro-syriens ont appelé dimanche à voter pour notre candidat, et ça lui a coûté des voix, par répulsion.
– Tenez-vous les Occidentaux, les Etats-Unis, pour vos adversaires ?
– Les Américains refusent notre tentative de sortir le Hezbollah de son isolement. Et ils soutiennent sans faille le gouvernement de Fouad Siniora contre ce projet. George Bush a annoncé il y a une semaine le gel des avoirs de ceux qui agissent contre le “gouvernement légitime” du Liban, dont nous contestons la légitimité depuis un an. Trois jours avant l’élection de dimanche, cette menace a effrayé ceux qui nous soutiennent de leurs dons.
– Vous appelez à un gouvernement d’union nationale. Croyez-vous l’unité du Liban menacée ?
– L’entente et l’union que nous proposons sont la seule voie de salut. Or l’Occident n’en veut pas. Je soupçonne les Etats-Unis de travailler à la déstabilisation du Liban, après celle de l’Afghanistan, de l’Irak, de la Somalie, etc. Je crois en fait que les Américains souhaitent un nouvel affrontement dans ce pays. Pour organiser, à la faveur de ce désordre, l’implantation au Liban des Palestiniens qui y résident, parce qu’on ne leur donnera pas d’autre pays.
Here is the The Daily Star article suggesting that US intelligence agencies have been tasked with making up lists of Lebanese to investigate. FPM supporters should be worried. Washington has clearly taken sides in Lebanon's constitutional struggle. It is hard to see how its partisanship has anything to do with democracy or Lebanon's sovereignty. Washington is increasingly defining one half of Lebanese as terrorists or terror supporters. This can only prevent any Lebanese effort to promote dialogue or compromise.
US makes list of Lebanese engaged in ‘anti-democratic actions’
FPM slams charge of undermining sovereignty as ‘ridiculous’
By Iman Azzi
Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 09, 2007
BEIRUT: The US is preparing a list of the names of wealthy Lebanese businessmen known to have various political and religious backgrounds, and identified with partaking in suspicious activity, the Central News Agency (CNA) reported Wednesday. The CNA added that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had opened an inquiry into a relative of a prominent Christian Lebanese leader who recently purchased land in North Carolina worth more than $10 million. The FBI charged that the salary of the man being investigated could not support such expensive real estate and is aiming to find the source of the funds.
In comments to Arab journalists on Monday, Under-Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch discussed last week’s executive order signed by President George W. Bush that aims to block property of persons undermining the sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic process and institutions, according to a White House statement.
The US would examine “any information there is about persons who may be engaged in anti-democratic actions,” he said.
“It is not a matter of opposition to one person in government, or to the government, it is not personal in that sense. And there are a variety of people who I think should receive scrutiny right away because their loyalty does not lie either to the Constitution or to the country,” added Welch without naming specific parties or people.
Welch was then asked how the executive order would affect the main members of Lebanon’s opposition, namely the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hizbullah if they refused to partake in a parliamentary election to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud. Welch’s answer concentrated on the laws already in place targeting Hizbullah and pointedly avoided mentioning if or how this would be used against the FPM.
The daily An-Nahar on Tuesday, citing prominent sources, said “any citizen is subject” to the executive order issued by US President George Bush which aims at blocking property of persons undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty or its democratic process and institutions.
An-Nahar said the move reflects the US administration’s “never-ending concern” over the possibility of Aoun’s participation in any activity that could lead to the emergence of dual governments or hinder upcoming presidential elections if he figured he was not going to win.
A member of the FPM told The Daily Star that any attempt to charge the FPM of undermining Lebanese sovereignty was “ridiculous.”
“The FPM as a member of the opposition is participating in a very democratic manner. I don’t see how this would have any impact on the FPM or its members,” the official said, refusing to comment further until an official statement was released by the US.
Here is the press release of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution objecting to the invitation of Aounist parliamentarians and their ability to travel to the US. It reads:
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has invited, this coming Monday April 30, 2007, members of the Lebanese Parliament for a presentation on the Cedar Revolution. Unfortunately, those named: Ibrahim Kenaan and Ghassan Moukheiber, do not represent the Cedar Revolution and are members of the so-called Reform and Change parliamentary bloc, headed by MP Michel Aoun who has officially signed a memorandum of understanding with and lists Hezbollah as their closest Ally.
Hezbollah is on the State Departments list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
We urge all involved to disallow any opportunity to misrepresent the the Cedar Revolution by anyone connected with terror groups. An American Center promoting Democracy should never serve as the platform for pro-Terrorist groups.
We reject the fact that Think Tanks in the US would become a Public Relations tool to further the propaganda of Terrorists overseas. This undoubtedly will send a message that would confuse the supporters of the Cedar Revolution and the Civil Society in general in Lebanon.
US policy clearly forbids supporting the terrorists and those that support the terrorists. And as the leadership of both parties, Democrats and Republicans wisely co-signed the Syria accountability act in 2004; there is an American consensus on opposing Hezbollah’s Terror and propaganda.
Here is the WCCR press release welcoming Bush's executive order:
The World Council of the Cedars Revolution
Monday 6th August 2007
Barakat: Bush's executive order helps Lebanon against Terror
Commenting on President George Bush's executive order on freezing the assets of elements threatening security and democracy in Lebanon, Colonel Charbel Barakat, Terrorism Advisor to the World Council on the Cedars Revolution said "this is the best decision against Terrorism taken internationally regarding Lebanon so far."
Barakat, speaking with Cedars Revolution News (CRN) said: "What President Bush's executive order has done was to clarify that Terrorist organizations and individuals are threatening a democratically elected Government in Lebanon and that Lebanon's civil society needs to be protected." Barakat, who has testified in the past to the US Senate and writes with the Phoenicia News in Canada, said "it is no secret that the Syrian and Iranian intelligence services and Hezbollah have devised a plan to sink Lebanon in blood and reverse the democratic order by year end, if they can. As of July 2005, these forces have launched a terror campaign which has led to assassinations of politicians, journalists and legislators, urban insurrections, explosions and killing of innocents, as well as a war across the southern international border. Most recently, the axis has sent Fatah al Islam into battle assassinating Lebanese soldiers and officers. And while this terror war is bleeding Lebanon, members of Terrorist organizations and those allies and facilitating for them have been traveling to the West and to the United States unchecked."
"It is logical and long overdue," said Barakat that the US Government which is waging a war on Terror would freeze the assets of Hizbollah, Syrian intelligence, and other Lebanese organizations and individuals who are the allies of Hizbollah. It was time that the operatives of Terrorism in Lebanon would be identified in the US and stopped from using America as a fundraiser launching pad and intelligence gathering on Lebanese exiles. President Bush has delivered a strike to Lebanon-based terrorism and made the United States safer by releasing that order. We thank him and hope other Western leaders in Canada, Europe and Australia follow the example. Lebanese around the world and in America are happy to see the leader of the free world leading the efforts to protect democracy in Lebanon and confront Terrorism internationally."
Ret. Colonel Charbel Barakat
Terrorism Advisor to the WCCR