Posted by Joshua on Sunday, July 1st, 2007
The Middle East Monitor has a series of excellent articles by Gary Gambill, who is sympathetic to General Aoun. The first is on the failure of US policy in Lebanon:
Much like the Bush administration's spectacular liberation of Iraq, however, the emancipation of Lebanon has been overshadowed by chronic instability, sectarian polarization, and the looming threat of civil war. While American officials have put a brave face on Lebanon's unfortunate trajectory, it has been a strategic disaster for Washington, catalyzing the collapse of Syrian diplomatic isolation, renewed Arab engagement with Iran, and the proliferation of Al-Qaeda affiliates in the heart of the Arab Levant.
He then explains how the March 14 coalition ruined its chances of winning a strong majority within Lebanon by excluding Aoun, thereby splitting Christians and depending on weak Sunni leadership that could mobilize only a third of Lebanese.
For all of their anti-Syrian rhetoric, Hariri and Jumblatt preferred to leave Assad's man in the presidency rather than bow to the wishes of nearly three quarters of the Christian electorate and accept Aoun's ascension. Without controlling the presidency, they would be unable to unilaterally replace Syrian-vetted military officers, judges, and diplomats. Furthermore, they refused to offer the FPM a major ministry to join the government after the elections (Aoun would have accepted interior or justice), turning instead to Hezbollah …. The result was a cabinet composed mostly of former high-ranking officials of Syria's 1990-2003 satellite state or their political subordinates (Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was the longest-serving finance minister of Syrian-occupied Lebanon).
None for All
The March 14 coalition began its stewardship of Lebanon with a perilously weak democratic mandate. Christians and Shiites (roughly two-thirds of Lebanon's population) had voted overwhelmingly for the FPM and Hezbollah, respectively, while the coalition could claim majority support only among Sunnis and Druze (roughly a third of the population).
The result of this mistaken March 14 and US backed policy was the creation of a powerful pro-Syrian opposition uniting Christians and Shiites. Washington believed the key to destroying this coalition was to isolate and weaken Syria, eliminate Lahoud, and split the Shiites, after allowing Israel a chance to smash Hizbullah.
In February 2006, the FPM and Hezbollah signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their vision for reform, which was greeted with virtually unanimous assent in the Shiite community and 77% approval in the Christian community. The Bush administration was infuriated by the accord, fearing that it would make the March 14 coalition even more willing to kowtow to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. That was true, of course, but only because the coalition was so manifestly unable to win Shiite support through other means – which is precisely what Aoun claims to be attempting. The FPM insists that the majority of Shiites (if not Hezbollah itself) will eventually countenance the disarmament once they feel their future in Lebanon is secure.
The idea that Shiite alienation is a "fixable" obstacle to Hezbollah's disarmament seems to have escaped American policymakers. The administration was convinced by its new Lebanese allies that the solution to the Siniora government's lack of "backbone" was the removal of Lahoud, which would enable it to establish firmer control over the Lebanese military. The only way to achieve this (short of accepting Aoun as president) was by ratcheting up pressure on Assad to the point that he would be willing to sacrifice his remaining institutional foothold in Lebanese government. It was also hoped that isolating Syria might help persuade Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the leader of the pro-Syrian Amal party (which formed unified Shiite alliance with Hezbollah after the Syrian withdrawal) to break with Nasrallah and support Lahoud's impeachment. The Bush administration was already committed to squeezing Syria for broader strategic purposes, but the erroneous belief that Damascus held the key to solving Lebanon's domestic problems (as March 14 leaders invariably maintained) validated its unwillingness to press for political and economic reform…..
Lebanon, once a carrot in the toolbox of American diplomacy with Syria, was now a stick. The most powerful weapon at the administration's disposal was the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) established to investigate the killing of Hariri.
However, while the commission quickly uncovered significant (if hardly conclusive) circumstantial evidence of collusion and evidence tampering by Lebanese security officials close to Lahoud, no direct evidence of Syrian involvement ever came to light, save for the testimony of secret witnesses later revealed to be highly questionable and likely planted by the March 14 coalition (or possibly, as Jumblatt has suggested, planted by the Syrians to taint the investigation). Four senior Lebanese security officials have been detained at the behest of the IIIC for eighteen months in hopes that they will implicate Syria, but to no avail. The commission has since backed away from claims of Syrian involvement.
Unable to produce conclusive evidence of Syrian complicity in the Hariri killing, the Security Council expanded the mandate of the IIIC to include subsequent assassinations of (mostly marginal) Christian public figures, but none of these investigations appears to have borne fruit. Indeed, in an environment where fear of Syria has been effectively channeled into support for the ruling coalition, the presumption of Syrian involvement in most of the killings is rather dubious – particularly in view of past "false flag" killings by the Lebanese Forces. …
Read the whole report. Gambill's conclusions are provocative. He argues that both the French and Saudis are ready to abandon Washington's ongoing and barren policy of "creative instability" in Lebanon.
Another excellent article explores the recent theories on who backs Fatah al-Islam:
Here is a bit from the introduction:
The sudden outbreak of fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam in late May has touched off a flurry of conspiracy theories about the meteoric rise of this shadowy terrorist group. Supporters of Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition typically allege that the militant fundamentalist organization is an "imitation al-Qaeda" secretly controlled by the secular Baathist regime of neighboring Syria, while those on the other side of the political divide allege that Fatah al-Islam is a creation of Lebanon's ruling coalition.
Here is the conclusion: (But read the entire report)
On May 19, a band of Fatah al-Islam gunmen robbed a bank near Tripoli (their third) and were tracked to an apartment in a wealthy neighborhood in the city. For reasons that are not entirely clear (but probably owe much to the visit of US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch three days earlier), this time Siniora sent the ISF into action (with a camera crew from Hariri's Future TV station in tow to record the momentous event). The pre-dawn raid was a disaster – not only was it easily repulsed, but Siniora's failure to inform the Army beforehand left Lebanese soldiers stationed outside Nahr al-Bared vulnerable to a withering reprisal hours later while most were asleep in their barracks (nine were found with their throats slit). While the deaths of 22 soldiers that day (the ISF aborted its raid before anyone got killed) united the Lebanese people behind the Army's campaign to eliminate Fatah al-Islam, the political parameters that impede the government from addressing the threat posed by militant Sunni Islamists have not changed.
As fighting continued off and on for the next month, media outlets sympathetic to the Siniora government continued to advance the claim that Fatah al-Islam is a proxy of Syrian intelligence, frequently citing security sources on alleged "confessions" by captured militants. However, in an interview published June 21, Defense Minister Elias Murr put the speculation to rest: "Does the government so far have an official confession about the links of these [Fatah al-Islam militants] or some of them to Syria? So far, there is no answer."
Allegations in the same media outlets that the Syrians have been caught red-handed smuggling weapons into Lebanon also turned out to be unsubstantiated. UN specialists who spent most of June investigating border security in Lebanon reported to the Security Council that "not a single on-border or near-border seizure of smuggled arms has been documented to the team." While there are undoubtedly arms pouring across Lebanon's borders, corruption and incompetence within the Lebanese security services appear largely to blame.
US Bans top Syrians from Traveling to the US
The United States increased pressure on Syria by barring U.S. entry to people it says are undermining the stability of Lebanon and its fragile Western-backed government.
President George W. Bush signed a proclamation Friday suspending entry into the U.S. by people who have harmed Lebanon's sovereignty or its democratic institutions, or who have worked to destabilize Lebanon through terrorism, politically motivated violence, intimidation or the reassertion of Syrian control in Lebanon.
"This is a tool the United States has to demonstrate to Syria our desire for them to stop meddling in Lebanon — to demonstrate to Syria and those who want to destabilize the democratically elected government in Lebanon that we will continue to increase pressure until they suspend their activities," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
They include top Syrian military intelligence officials; an adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad; former Lebanese ministers of defense, labor, environment and information; and a former Lebanese member of parliament. Two of the more prominent people on the list are Hisham Ikhtiyar, adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Jama'a Jama'a, top Syrian military intelligence official. A year ago, the U.S. Treasury Department froze their assets, alleging they had played key roles in support of terrorist organizations.
When the news of the ban surfaced earlier this week, Wi'am Wahhab, former Lebanese minister of environment and a staunch Syrian ally in Lebanon, told a news conference that such a decision would have no relevance. "It's not like I spend my evenings in Las Vegas or I go to Miami to swim," Wahhab said, noting he's never been to America and has no intention of going there. "This decision is silly, like Bush's face …. "We tell Bush he won't let us go to America and we won't let him rule Lebanon," Wahhab said, adding that he would be proud to be sanctioned for his views. "It's a medal on my chest," he said, calling Bush a "madman."
Syria's economic reforms widen wealth gap. AFP 01/07/07
"Among those of Fadlallah's bodyguards not killed in the explosion, 22 year-old Imad Mugniyah would join the emerging Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and, over the next decade, as a shadowy chief of security, direct a series of reprisal attacks against Americans in a bloody chain reaction of terror and counter-terror. Among Fadlallah's admirers, outraged by the bombing and ever after distrustful of the Americans he had once admired, was a round-faced, 25 year-old theology student of already recognized charisma and organizational skills. He would rise to become Hezbollah's leader — and, after his forces fought the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to a standstill in the summer of 2006, one of the most popular figures in the Arab world: Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. "
Dear DR.LANDIS,An interview ( the full-text in Turkish can be read here. For video, http://www.cnnturk.com/video/index.asp?vid=416, http://www.cnnturk.com/video/index.asp?vid=411, http://www.cnnturk.com/video/index.asp?vid=410) with [Damascus-based Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal was aired in CNN-TURK yesterday, June 28. In this interview recorded in Syria, H. Meshal claimed that Hamas is not considering to create a separated administration in Gaza and do not want a more divided Palestine. He also renewed the Hamas request for dialogue with Abbas.The main points made in the interview are as follows;* " We entered the general election to complete the political processes"
* " We always wanted a national reconciliation government but we were refused"
* "The international society did not accept the democratic result [general election]* "No body could not digest that Hamas came to power”
* "The US and Israel provoced a group inside Al Fatah”"
* "The situation in Gaza are being tried to resemble Taliban"
* "We do not force anybody to accept a religious administration”"
* " Israel is invader, we have the right to defend”
* "The Palestine people are being punished instead of Hamas”
* "They want to turn Gaza into hell and to make a heaven in West Bank"
* "The West has a double-standard to Hamas"
* "The US and Israel provoced Abbas to Hamas”
* "We miss Arafat".Best, Kaan Kutlu ATAC, from Hacettepe University