Posted by Joshua on Friday, August 10th, 2007
Hassan Fattah of the NYTimes gets the zibde of the Lebanon story. Washington is its own worst enemy. It is making compromise, the element most important to democracy, impossible in Lebanon through its interventions. It is taking sides not supporting democracy.
U.S. Backs Free Elections, Only to See Allies Lose (Read the whole story. This is just a bit. Via "friday-lunch-club")
By HASSAN M. FATTAH
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates Aug. 9 — Lebanon’s political spin masters have been trying in recent days to explain the results of last Sunday’s pivotal by-election, which saw a relatively unknown candidate from the opposition narrowly beat a former president, Amin Gemayel.
There has been talk of the Christian vote and the Armenian vote, of history and betrayal, as each side sought to claim victory. There is one explanation, however, that has become common wisdom in the region: Mr. Gemayel’s doom seems to have been sealed by his support from the Bush administration and the implied agendas behind its backing.
“It’s the kiss of death,” said Turki al-Rasheed, a Saudi reformer who watched last Sunday’s elections closely. “The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win.”
The paradox of American policy in the Middle East — promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West — is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose.
Lebanon’s voters in the Metn district, in other words, appeared to have joined the Palestinians, who voted for Hamas; the Iraqis, who voted for a government sympathetic to Iran; and the Egyptians, who have voted in growing numbers in recent elections for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. “No politician can afford to identify with the West because poll after poll shows people don’t believe in the U.S. agenda,” said Mustafa Hamarneh, until recently the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. Mr. Hamarneh is running for a seat in Jordan’s Parliament in November, but he says he has made a point of keeping his campaign focused locally, and on bread-and-butter issues. “If somebody goes after you as pro-American he can hurt you,” he said.
In part, regional analysts say, candidates are tainted by the baggage of American foreign policy — from its backing of Israel to the violence in Iraq. But more important, they say, American support is often applied to one faction instead of to institutions, causing further division rather than bringing stability.
“The Americans think that supporting democracy should create positive reactions,” said Nicola Nassif, a columnist with the left-leaning Lebanese daily Al Akhbar. “No one can be against democracy, sovereignty, independence and freedom. But not if it upsets the internal power balance, not if it empowers one party against the other, especially in a country where supporting one group can lead to violence and even civil wars.”
Arab liberals who have embraced America continue to see their influence fade in the region, as more conservative and Islamist forces continue to rise, Mr. Rasheed said. Voters invariably frown on strength coming from abroad, he said; the only legitimate sources of strength any Arab politician can turn to is based on either tribal power or religious ties.
“Last Sunday we saw that even if you are a former president running for a seat in Parliament, in a small area where everybody knows you, you can’t make it either with American support,” Mr. Rasheed said….
From AP, here. US Opens New Front in Diplomatic War Over Lebanon
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration has quietly opened a new diplomatic front in its efforts to free Lebanon from Syrian influence, with a move to undermine the authority of the country's pro-Syria president.
The behind-the-scenes campaign began to bear fruit last month when the State Department sought and won the replacement of Lebanon's ambassador to the United States, Farid Abboud, an ally of President Emile Lahoud who had served in Washington for eight years, officials said.
The Lebanese foreign ministry, run by Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's Western-backed government, transferred Abboud to Tunisia and chose career diplomat Antoine Chedid to succeed him in Washington. But Lahoud, the country's head of state, has refused to sign Chedid's letter of accreditation, meaning he is not considered an ambassador…..
Syria's Asking Price For a Vacuum in Lebanon
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat – 10/08/07
A number of international and most regional players are anticipating a political vacuum after the 24th of November – the end of the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
Both opposition members and loyalists are taking measures and planning contingencies on the basis that the presidential vacuum will last at least a few days if not months. They will then await the arrival of a God-sent solution in the form of an international, regional and Lebanese settlement – after which a true Lebanese President can be elected.
After initially basing their demands for a national unity government on the importance of political participation and a lack of trust towards the current government, Lahoud and Hizbullah among others are now using the dangers of a presidential vacuum as an argument for a transitional national unity government that could hold presidential elections. The current majority government is threatening in turn to unilaterally elect a president in the second round of parliamentary voting – for which the government possesses the requisite 50% + 1 majority – if the opposition makes good on its threat to withhold parliamentary quorum in case they are not assured the election of a candidate of their choice.
The Western and Arab nations, adamant that elections be held on time (between September 25 and the end of Lahoud's term), are alternatively offering carrots and sticks to actors threatening to stall them – namely: Syria.
Naturally, these actors – along with the March 14th majority – assume that the emergence of a presidential vacuum would be the work and choice of Syria. Thus, many regional powers are counting on Speaker Nabih Berri to push for avoiding such a vacuum and on Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir to pressure Christian MPs from Michel Aoun's bloc to attend the parliamentary session in accordance with a key Church 'principle' of upholding national and constitutional processes.
Meanwhile, Western nations – including France, Italy and Spain – are offering carrots to Syria in the form of promises to end its isolation from Europe. The United States brandishes the stick by threatening more measures (like its freezing of assets of those seen to be undermining Lebanese sovereignty and democracy) against Syria should they push their allies in Lebanon to set up a second government to rival that of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora…..
Beirut, (SANA)- European Union Foreign Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has stressed the importance of dialogue between the European Union and Syria as the only way for finding solutions to the pending issues..In a statement published by the Lebanese daily, alSafir, on Friday, Ferrero-Waldner said that there were deeply-rooted cultural and economic ties in the joint history of Europe and Syria , expressing hope that such relations would develop further in the future by signing the Association Agreement. On Lebanon, Ferrero-Waldner expressed hope that the Lebanese parties will reach an internal political settlement since it is a necessityfor dealing with the standing challenges in Lebanon.