Posted by Joshua on Sunday, June 7th, 2009
http://qifanabki.com/ is updating on the election today in Beirut.
Buses of Lebanese living in Syria set out for Beirut this morning. Syrians are following the elections closely and with baited breath.
Riyadh and Washington have both warned Lebanese voters on the eve of elections that a vote for Aoun will cost them foreign aid that may drive Lebanon into economic crisis. Meanwhile, U.S. Congressional Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Howard Berman said, “We want this election to take place in peace with no threats.” … Charming.
Asharq Alawsat’s Rashed, a voice close to the Saudi government, writes that if the opposition wins in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia won’t help Lebanon anymore.
Feltman said it would be naïve for some to think that the outcome of the Lebanese parliamentary elections won’t affect U.S. policy in Lebanon.
In an joint interview with both dailies An-Nahar and al-Hayat on Saturday, Feltman said: “The election’s outcome will naturally affect world’s stance towards the new Lebanese government and the manner in which the United States and Congress deal with Lebanon.”
“I believe the Lebanese are smart enough to understand that there will be an effect. When Hizbullah claims that there won’t be any effect, when it claims that it is not interested in the matter, I tend to believe that the Lebanese with their intelligence would think otherwise,” Feltman said.
He went on to indirectly criticizing Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun saying: “one of your politicians is proposing that Christians shouldn’t depend on the United States. I hope the Lebanese had accurately listened to president’s [Barack Obama] speech that specifically pointed to the widest Christian religious minority in Lebanon, the Maronites. The president spoke about the need for respecting all peoples in the region including minorities…I hope the Lebanese would ask themselves: do we want to be on the side of the international community and close to the stances that president Obama made? I hope they would say yes.”
“We want this election to take place in peace with no threats or violence,” U.S. Congressional Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Howard Berman said.
Paul Salem of Carnegie in the LA Times:
…LAT: How much would this reduction really affect Lebanon?
Salem: It’s true that the aid to the Lebanese military is perhaps less than what Lebanon wanted. I think they have delivered $250 million over the past three years with more in the pipeline, but like you said that isn’t a lot.
But what’s important is that the Lebanese army has aligned itself with the West in terms of training and equipment. If this kind of aid is no longer feasible, March 8 could turn to Iran, as [Hezbollah’s Sheik Hassan] Nasrallah has said they would do.
LAT: Could Iran provide more than what the U.S. does currently?
Salem: Iran could definitely provide much more, and they would be happy to do it. The obstacles would be more internal than international, since there is no way the U.S. could stop such a thing from happening.
But no matter who wins the elections, Lebanon is a confessional system, a diverse country, and it would be difficult for them to push that through on their own. And I don’t think Hezbollah really wants to do that. Hezbollah benefits from a Lebanese state that is close to the West and an army that is innocuous against it — it provides protection.
And besides, Hezbollah relies on its own weapons, not the state’s….
“… This week, Hezbollah’s representative in South Lebanon said a war between Israel and Lebanon is possible only if the coalition led by Hariri continues to rule. He says Israel will only dare attack if it feels that Hezbollah has serious opposition at home. Beri, parliament’s outgoing speaker, called on voters to vote in such a way that “the results will worry Israel …. Let us show Lebanese unity that will not allow [Israel] to attack and rely on the division that was characteristic during the Second Lebanon War.”
Egypt and Saudi Arabia share Israel’s concern about the election; in recent weeks they have taken pains to help Hezbollah’s rivals. ….
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has funneled huge sums to candidates from Hariri’s group to ensure their victory. The timing of the report in the German magazine Der Spiegel about Hezbollah’s involvement in the assassination of Hariri’s father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, was no coincidence, and the exposure of the “Israeli spy ring” was also meant to play an important part in the campaign. …”
Obama woos Syria in push for peace
Sarah Baxter in Washington and Uzi Mahnaimi
The Sunday Times, June 7, 2009
BARACK OBAMA’S special envoy to the Middle East is to visit Syria this week after the president said “the moment is now” to push for peace.
Former senator George Mitchell’s expected visit follows a fortnight’s intensive diplomatic wooing of Syria in the hope of splintering its alliance with Iran and persuading Damascus to use its influence to moderate Hamas, the militant Islamic group that rules the Gaza Strip.
There has been no official confirmation of Mitchell’s trip, but one State Department official said he was “95% sure” that Syria was on the itinerary: “The president is committed to comprehensive peace. Syria is one of the parties. It therefore makes sense for Mitchell to start engaging them.”