Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, November 1st, 2006
November 1, 2006
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY (of President Bush)
Support for a sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon is a key element of U.S. policy in the Middle East. We are therefore increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hizballah, and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon's democratically-elected government led by Prime Minister Siniora.
Any attempt to destabilize Lebanon 's democratically-elected government through such tactics as manufactured demonstrations and violence, or by physically threatening its leaders would, at the very least, be a clear violation of Lebanon ?s sovereignty and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.
There are indications that one goal of the Syrian plan is to prevent the current Lebanese government from approving the statute for an international tribunal that would try those accused of involvement in former Prime Minister Hariri's assassination. Any such effort to sid eli ne the tribunal will fail, however, for the international community can proceed with establishing it no matter what happens internally in Lebanon. The United Statesis committed to working with its international partners and the legitimate Government of Lebanon to ensure that the tribunal is quickly established and that all those responsible for the assassinations of Rafiq Hariri and other Lebanese patriots since 2005 are brought to justice.
If Hezbollah, along with Berri and Aoun, take to the streets, they can create havoc in Lebanon. They are numerically more powerful than the March 14 Coalition.This would lead to violent confrontations between the security personnel, run by acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat (from the Hariri bloc). If security ends the demonstrations with force, it would create an even deeper grudge at the Lebanese government and it would be accused of using the security to clamp down on protesters something frowned upon in a democratic state such as Lebanon. If the security fails to end the demonstrations, it would be accused of facilitating chaos and vandalism.
Another option that the Berri-Nasrallah-Aoun coalition can use is to have Hezbollah's two ministers resign from the Siniora cabinet. They would be followed by the three ministers of Berri's Amal movement and Yaacoub Al Sarraf, the Minister of Environment who is an ally of Lahoud.
In all, six ministers, five being Shiite, likely would resign, forcing Siniora to dissolve his government and form another.
No Shiite heavyweight would join a new government, defying the orders of Nasrallah or Berri. Because of the number of parliamentary seats Amal and Hezbollah hold in parliament, no cabinet can or will be solved without them. Meaning, it would be all over for the Siniora cabinet because it cannot survive without Amal or Hezbollah.
A Hezbollah deputy, Mohammad Raad, hinted at this plan by telling the Kuwaiti daily Al Raid Al Aam that the party's presence in the cabinet was "temporary". All of this is a warning to Siniora that the days to come will not be smooth in Beirut.Being the balancing power in Lebanon since the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops in April 2005, Berri has now taken sides.
And when Berri takes sides, things change in Lebanon.
Washington is dramatizing the crisis, with accusations that Berri and Aoun's efforts to push for a unity government are somehow illegal. It is true that both Syria and Iran will be thrilled to see the dilution of the Hariri bloc's power, just as they are undoubtedly working behind the scene's to ensure the continued success of Hizbullah and pro-Syrian allies in Lebanon. So far, however, Washington has not been able to prove illegal activity – not with the smuggling of arms, not with assassinations, not with promotion of violent demonstrations. That does not mean these activities are not going on or being planned.This is undoubtedly a high stakes game with the Lebanese government sitting in the balance.
Has Washington used illegal means to change the balance of power in Lebanon?
Washington and other Western Hariri allies have not been sitting on their hands any more than Syria and Iran have been. Both are struggling to influence events in Lebanon.
In fact the US and Israel have made much more intrusive inroads into Lebanese politics recently than Syria has. The 34 day air and land invasion by Israel, which the US supported, was an effort to kill leading Lebanese officials and party members and sway the balance of power in Lebanon back into Washington's and Hariri's favor. Shaykh Nasrallah, Lebanon's most popular political leader according to opinion polls, is still in hiding because Israel continues to hunt him for assassination.
Do Lebanese think Washington will win?
Many Lebanese believe that their country should not be used as the battle ground for Washington's struggle with Syria. The Lebanese government is too weak to act as the battering ram to bring down the Syrian regime. Many argue that over-freighting the fragile government with such a policy will lead to strife between Lebanon's clashing religious communities. They believe that Washington must come to terms with Syria, rather than try to topple its government. Only with the type of agreement between Beirut, Damascus – and yes, also Washington – that existed during the 1990s can Lebanon flourish. The Lebanese of the middle way argue that the Egyptians must be given room to work out common ground between all sides. Only such a deal, they insist, will ensure that Lebanon wins, rather than falls victim to great power struggles as it did during the dark days of the civil war.
Europe Abandons Washington Policy of Regime-Change for Damascus
Another reason that Washington is blowing the alarm and calling the Lebanese to battle stations, is that its European allies are beginning to abandon Bush's policy of confrontation with Syria.
Lahoud trying to assassinate international tribunalIn its October 31 edition, Al Mustaqbal reported that:“Emile Lahoud stepped forward to sabotage the formation of a tribunal of an international character and assassinate it whether by claiming that his constitutional prerogatives, in accordance with article 52 of the constitution, entitled him to negotiate and ratify ‘international treaties’ – to which Justice Minister Charles Rizk responded by saying that ratifying them was part of the prerogatives of two thirds of the Cabinet – or by trying to start a crisis with the UN by publishing two highly confidential drafts of appendixes, which is what Minister Rizk also feared.
“However, what was clear was that by waging war against the formation of the international tribunal, Lahoud established a tight link between the demands of ‘the Syrian alliance’ to overthrow the government on one hand, and the hindering of the international tribunal on the other.The head of the Democratic Gathering, MP Walid Jumblatt… said that ‘the interference attempts conducted by Emile Lahoud were sufficient evidence of his involvement’. He said that: ‘If someone tried to oppose [the formation] of this international tribunal, it means that this person is trying to cover up the crime’.
“He added that: ‘If Lahoud and Syria’s allies do not want this international tribunal, the issue will become very serious’… As for Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces executive committee, he stated to Al Mustaqbal that: ‘The international tribunal law is not an international treaty. A treaty is between two states and the UN does not sign treaties with anyone. The international tribunal is the result of a UN resolution which was issued at the request of the Lebanese government… The UN resolution to establish it was issued and that is it’.