The US Has NO Lebanon Policy

Comments by Landis 

The US has no Lebanon policy.

At least not one that can deliver a solution to the present stand off over the president and composition of the cabinet. US policy as it now stands seems designed purely to keep Hizbullah from getting into the government.

Who is in charge of Lebanon policy? The State department? Everyone I talk to who seems to know much about how policy is made indicates that the NSC is calling the shots, which means Elliott Abrams. He is an ideologue of the first order.

Even Jeffrey Feltman, who recently stepped down as Ambassador to Lebanon, complained bitterly about the lack of a defined Lebanon policy. Evidently, he wrote Washington almost two months ago to inform the administration that the balance of power in Lebanon had shifted toward the opposition. He asked for instructions on how to proceed, but got none. There is no plan.

It seems that Washington is merely kicking the ball down the road. The Bush administration does not want to be blamed for allowing Hizbullah to gain more authority in the government. To some, it would demonstrate that the Summer War of 2006, during which Israel pounded Lebanon in an effort to destroy Hizbullah, had backfired.

Others argue the opposite. If the plan is to draw Hizbullah into Lebanese politics in order to wean it away from resistance and maintaining its militia, it will have to play a role commensurate with its sway over the population. Hizbullah's militia has been extremely silent since the dust settled following the summer of 2006. Transforming Hizbullah into a "normal" political movement will not be easy, but what other alternative do the Lebanese have? What other alternative does the Bush administration have?

Prothero and Beaumont capture this dilemma in their excellent story:

Lebanon's new low as leader talks fail:
West keeps up the pressure after a tenth abortive attempt by political rivals to pick a President

Mitchell Prothero and Peter Beaumont in Beirut
Sunday December 23, 2007
The Observer

The US wants Michel Suleiman elected….

Hizbollah and the opposition have been demanding at least 11 ministries to exercise a veto to prevent any disarming of Hizbollah's military wing at the request of America and Israel. Bush recently dispatched diplomat David Welch to Beirut to meet pro-American leaders, a move pounced on by Hizbollah officials as proof that the government is collaborating with its enemies.

'No, Bush, your orders cannot be implemented in Lebanon and your tutelage is rejected,' Hizbollah's number two, Naim Kassem, said late on Friday.

The situation has been exacerbated by the attitude of MP Saad Hariri – son of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Harriri, who was widely considered to have been slain by Syrian agents in early 2005 – who has been leading the ruling coalition. He has surprised even some of his own supporters with his belligerence towards compromise, a position some of his allies believe stems from the US and French government positions. 'Bush and the French seem intent on keeping Hizbollah out of the government, they are telling us not to compromise,' one political veteran and supporter of Hariri confided anonymously. 'Saad still wants revenge for his father and appears all too willing to indulge this stalemate.'

Yesterday Hariri attacked Syria for its continued interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. 'The Syrian regime has gone too far in its efforts to destabilise Lebanon and to divide it, using what it calls "allies and friends". I find this shameful that some Lebanese allow themselves to be manipulated by such a regime which is known for terrorism, crime and corruption,' he said.

Calls to reopen Baghdad bridge between Sunnis, Shiites
Talks are underway to reopen the key bridge linking Shiite and Sunni districts of the Iraqi capital closed almost three years ago due to bloody sectarian violence, a top official said on Friday….

Comments (35)


1. GG said:

“US policy as it now stands seems designed purely to keep Hizbullah from getting into the government.”

Reveals a deep misunderstanding of Lebanon, its politics and recent history; and a policy that will undoubtedly fail, but what price will the Lebanese have to pay?

“He has surprised even some of his own supporters with his belligerence towards compromise, a position some of his allies believe stems from the US and French government positions.”

If I remember rightly Josh, at one point your contention was that the actions / policies of Lebanon’s Sunni leaders were undermining the position of the sect (pretty much the same way post-independence Maronite attitude undermined their position)?? I think this contention is undeniable and Hariri junior will bring about some demise (I’m not sure how much, but I would suspect significant) of Lebanon’s Sunni community. The main beneficiaries will be the Shia.

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December 23rd, 2007, 10:13 am

 

2. Wassim said:

I think Lebanon was conceded as a defeat quite some time ago. There really is nothing the United States can do at the moment. It’s already conceded that Iran is the top power in the region and even the Gulf countries are already starting to warm to her. All of America’s dogs are either dead or defeated and it’s lead guard dog -Israel- is old and toothless.

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December 23rd, 2007, 10:47 am

 

3. offended said:

Right on Wassim.

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December 23rd, 2007, 11:03 am

 

4. Youssef Hanna said:

Thanks, Joshua.

If the US want to distract HA from the fight against Israel and keep it focused instead on fighting in the internal lebanese arena, they shd not permit it to play “a role commensurate with it sway over the population” (i borrow, and do not adopt, your words), i.e give it a victory that ends/cools down the fight and allows it to return to the Israeli front (now backed by the Lebanese State).

More importantly, they shd give HA to believe that it is fighting on the internal arena the same battle it fought with Israel (through other means): the battle against the Western hegemony. By provocatively sending emissaries and multiplying fiery declarations from Washington, the US give HA the illusion that the closure of the Southern front does not sign their loss of the war, which they are given to believe they are continuing on another front.

If HA’s fight against Israel was genuine, and was not merely and prosaically meant at saving a country in order to govern it, it shd not fall in the U.S trap: the only hope for HA to open again the front with Israel is through governing Lebanon, and governing it with the Sunnis, as a lot of Sunnis – contrary to Xstians -remain committed to the fight against Israel.

The objective of unifying with the Lebanese Sunnis in the fight against Israel is reachable, and a reconciliation to take over the power in Lebanon is possible; there is nothing fundamentally different between Sunnis of Lebanon and other Arab Sunnis who worship Nasrallah, except that HA is siding with the impious Alawi SR regarding the murder of Hariri.

If HA is genuine about its objective of fighting Israel, it shd accept to sacrify the SR, and put its full weight behind a trial, a trial in Lebanon, of Hariri murderers.

Gaining Lebanon amply compensates losing the SR.

What’s your take?

Best regards

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December 23rd, 2007, 12:21 pm

 

5. Honest Patriot said:

Youssef Hanna:

Finally !! A true voice of reason presenting a rational analysis coupled with a principled opposition to savage assassinations by the regime of Bahsar Machiavelli Assad. But, as smart as HA leaders are, are they smart enought to follow this thread ? Clearly His Cowardency Michel Aoun is NOT. My sense is that HA is too much beholden to Syria and Iran to be able – even if they wanted to – to follow your excellent advice.

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December 23rd, 2007, 12:33 pm

 

6. why-discuss said:

It is obvious that the rating of this US administration to plan a consistent foreign policy in the middle east is close to zero. Iraq after-war strategy was a disaster and caused the death of thousands of US soldiers and hundred of thousands of Iraqis, Palestinians deep split that have made Gaza a concentration camp, a shame for the civilized world, US supported Israeli war against Hezbollah, another failure that costed hundreds of dead and a deep wound within Lebanon. When Iran calls the USA as the great evil, I think this Bush administration is exactly that.

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December 23rd, 2007, 4:05 pm

 

7. Akbar Palace said:

Wassim states:

All of America’s dogs are either dead or defeated and it’s lead guard dog -Israel- is old and toothless.

Wassim,

Now that “America’s dogs are … dead or defeated” and the “lead guard dog … is old and toothless”, perhaps you and your collegues can now free the Middle East of this Zionist aberration once and for all.

What are you waiting for habibi? q;o)

Offended said:

Right on Wassim.

Offend, since you agree with Wassim, feel free to respond.

Youssef Hanna said:

…the only hope for HA to open again the front with Israel is through governing Lebanon, and governing it with the Sunnis, as a lot of Sunnis – contrary to Xstians -remain committed to the fight against Israel.

Youssef,

Is it also YOUR hope that the HA “open again the front with Israel”? Please say yes!

Honest Patriot said:

Finally !! A true voice of reason presenting a rational analysis coupled with a principled opposition to savage assassinations by the regime of Bahsar Machiavelli Assad.

Since you are agreeing with Youssef Hanna, feel free to respond to the same question I asked him above.

Why-Discuss said:

When Iran calls the USA as the great evil, I think this Bush administration is exactly that.

Thanks again for showing clearly your agreement with the Iranian regime’s policy and your agreement with them that the USA is “the greatest evil”. Your comments are typical for the participants on this website.

I always find it amusing to read these types of comments on Professors Josh’s website where it is always stated at the top that Professor Josh is “Director, Center for Peace Studies”. If that isn’t a hoot, I don’t know what is.

Well, now that the dogs are dead and toothless, I guess it won’t be much longer until peace and freedom are afforded to all Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East and the Zionist Project is no more.

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December 23rd, 2007, 6:16 pm

 

8. Youssef Hanna said:

AKBAR PALACE,

You ask me about my hope.

Well, you know it, and most probably share it.

Some criminals are caught.

Others are not, but have to hide like rats in the garbage of the dirty night.

Last, there comes the criminal-king: he is known to all, but known to nobody. He sits above justice.

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December 23rd, 2007, 8:37 pm

 

9. Seeking the Truth said:

I’d like to know for certainty if possible, what is the true ideological position of HA vs. Israel. Do they believe in one or two states solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

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December 23rd, 2007, 8:54 pm

 

10. ausamaa said:

What an understatement: The US has no Lebanon Policy!

For what realistic and fruitfull policy did the Bush formulate and follow anywhere in the World since arrived at 1600 Penn Ave.? Actually, Bush policies can be the perfect example of the Bull in the China Shop. Add to that the opportunistic and the abusive effect of AIPAC and the Israeli Lobby, and wow… there you have it!!!!

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December 23rd, 2007, 9:18 pm

 

11. Akbar Palace said:

Youssef Hanna,

Speaking in parables seems to be common in the ME, certainly preferrable than answering a question with a short, clear reply.

I really don’t know YOUR hope, that is why I asked.

Seeking the Truth,

Are you really “seeking the truth”? If so, do a little web searching to find your answer about “what is the true ideological position of HA vs. Israel”.

I can assure you, you won’t be surprised when you find out. It seems there are scores of such organizations and millions of ideological supporters and cheerleaders, some of whom reside right here.

http://www.ict.org.il/apage/8013.php

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December 23rd, 2007, 9:41 pm

 

12. Observer said:

I agree with Dr. Landis’ assessment. There were some very important developments that seem to indicate that the US is reacting to a variety of strategies being developed by its antagonists:
1. Iran and Russia are in the process of essentially excluding the US from the Caspian Sea oil developments and distribution system.
2. Both Iran and Russia are working in concert to insure that the natural gas resources remain transportable to both Europe and China via land routes thereby nullifying the US navy’s monopoly of the seas
3. Iran has shown the US that it controls the spigot of violence in Iraq and now that the Shia coalition has won the battle of Baghdad they are in the process of consolidating these gains
4. The Iraq scene is far from stable, it seems all are preparing for the second round of fighting as soon as the summer arrives.
5. Lebanon politicians have become fully hostages of the war of perceptions: the perception of one winner take all; the perception of the loss of deterrence of armed forces; the perception of the sanctity of the army; the perception that a return to violence is a possibility. The 2006 war clearly did not deliver the coup de grace to HA and the war or Nahr El Bared showed that the Lebanese army is not yet mature enough to have exclusive use of force in the country.
As always, for a guerilla war to successed all that is needed is not to be defeated. Therefore, the opposition will win if the status quo remains as is. This is where the US does not seem to understand that the allies it has in Hariri and his group is not stable enough to withstand the status quo.

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December 23rd, 2007, 11:59 pm

 

13. Honest Patriot said:

Akbar Palace,

Of course I don’t agree with HA re-opneing a front with Israel. Although he refers to it, I doubt Youssef Hanna intends that statement other than motivating HA to abandon the alliance with Syria and join the sunni arab community, a community that includes KSA, Jordan, Egypt — all countries who have dealt or are willing to deal with Israel as a rightful country which has the right to choose its identity according to the wishes of its citizens.

My sense is that such countries stand a much better chance to enable a peaceful ME with peaceful if not friendly relations with Israel than allicances led by Iran. We all know what Iran’s position is: eliminate the state of Israel and institute a country where Jewish identify will be overwhelmed by the disparity in birth rate in no more than a generation or two.

HA is made up of Lebanese citizens, the majority of whom are decent folks. Even its leadership has a much higher intellect level than many other Lebanese organizations. Its problem is the religious fanaticism. Such extremism stands a better chance of evolving through interaction with the sunnis than with Syria and Iran.

Syria’s murderous ways are my fixation and I’d like to see justice done. Syria murdered Beshir Gemayel, a true Lebanese patriot who cared above all about the interests of his country. Syria went on to utilize intimidation and murder to maintain its control of Lebanon. Independent since almost 65 years (not counting the quasi-independent years under the French mandate) Lebanon should no longer be tagged as a conglomeration of incompatible groups. It is evolving and will evolve into the Switzerland of the Middle East, a model of neutrality and economic vigor. HA will become part of this order if only it cuts off its links to Syria and Iran.

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December 24th, 2007, 12:56 am

 

14. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Further to Observer’s comments, there are reports that US geo-strategic aims are in the process of being pushed back throughout central Asia: Uzbekistan, Kirghistan and Tajikistan. It also appears likely that Iran will be eventually be absorbed into the Shanghai Group. Syria is doubtlessly highly aware of these transformations as the debacle in Iraq lengthens.

Moreover, with Elliot Abrams (when he doesn’t moonlight for Likud, he subcontracts to S.P.E.C.T.R.E.) at the helm, don’t expect things to go well for the US in Lebanon.

So Feltman is resigning? He made so many round trips to Bkerké he’s left a furrow 3 feet deep between there and the US Embassy.

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December 24th, 2007, 2:11 am

 

15. Akbar Palace said:

Honest Patriot explains:

Of course I don’t agree with HA re-opneing a front with Israel.

This is encouraging.

Although he refers to it, I doubt Youssef Hanna intends that statement other than motivating HA to abandon the alliance with Syria and join the sunni arab community, a community that includes KSA, Jordan, Egypt — all countries who have dealt or are willing to deal with Israel as a rightful country which has the right to choose its identity according to the wishes of its citizens.

I hope you’re right. I’ll wait for Mr. Hanna’s response.

My sense is that such countries stand a much better chance to enable a peaceful ME with peaceful if not friendly relations with Israel than allicances led by Iran.

This assumes “such countries” (Hezbollah is not a country) want a “peaceful ME with peaceful if not friendly relations with Israel”.

To be “honest” with you, Honest Patriot, I think this is a pretty bad assumption.

We all know what Iran’s position is: eliminate the state of Israel and institute a country where Jewish identify will be overwhelmed by the disparity in birth rate in no more than a generation or two.

You wouldn’t believe how many people on this website have denied what you are saying. I still read comments that Iran really doesn’t want to “wipe Israel off the map”. It was a bad translation you see.;)

HA is made up of Lebanese citizens, the majority of whom are decent folks.

I don’t know. Here, I am at the mercy of your hypothesis. Certainly, the Israelis know more in this regard than I do.

Even its leadership has a much higher intellect level than many other Lebanese organizations. Its problem is the religious fanaticism.

Uhhhh, yeah!

Such extremism stands a better chance of evolving through interaction with the sunnis than with Syria and Iran.

“Such extremism” has two directions to go:

1.) Continue their jihad with Iran, Syria, their terrorist network or
2.) Recognize Israel and live in peace with her.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see the second alternative happening unless a lethal blow is dealt against this group of rejectionist.

If you were to ask me, and as I have stated on numerous occassions, I take no issue with a state that is deeply religious in nature, if that is what the people want. This all depends if the said state accepts my state in the same way. I am SURE there are “moderate” Arabs and Muslims who are deeply religious and who are also tolerant of Israel and accept her. After all, the Saudis almost shook hands with Tzipi Rivlin;)

Syria’s murderous ways are my fixation and I’d like to see justice done. Syria murdered Beshir Gemayel, a true Lebanese patriot who cared above all about the interests of his country.

Your words above are strong, yet I can’t disagree with you. At this point, Christians are not in a great position in the Middle East due to Islamofascism. OTOH, I would say that the time has come to sit down and discuss and end to this conflict. Meanwhile (see my 1 and 2 above), I’m afraid another more pivotal war must be won in order to make this come about. Even here, “the chorus” believes the US and Israel are both ready to go down (see Wassim’s post above and Offended’s agreement).

Syria went on to utilize intimidation and murder to maintain its control of Lebanon. Independent since almost 65 years (not counting the quasi-independent years under the French mandate) Lebanon should no longer be tagged as a conglomeration of incompatible groups.

Lebanon should be an independent country living at peace, and not a battleground for Israel, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

It is evolving and will evolve into the Switzerland of the Middle East, a model of neutrality and economic vigor.

I hope you’re right.

HA will become part of this order if only it cuts off its links to Syria and Iran.

Easier said than done.

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December 24th, 2007, 3:23 am

 

16. norman said:

Settlement in Lebanon is not going to take place , no matter what Syria wants , the Christians in Lebanon are tired of being marginalized after the Taif accord , so Aoun and the Christians are taking strength from Hezbollah and will not accept any more to have a ceremonial presidency , that was the case when Syria was guaranting stability in Lebanon and that is not the case now ,They have to have power to protect themselves .

Apparently France and the US are back to their original plans of forcing Syria to interfere on their side and facilitate their plans without a return for Syria , I want to make it easy for them , ( that will not happen).think of another way.

The West and Israel keep making the same mistake , Trying to separate Syria from Iran , the Palestinian Ha mas and Hezbollah , That will not happens , They should use Syria’s friendship with Iran Hams and hezbollah to move to a comprehensive peace that will bring security and future to Israel and prosperity to the region , The price is legitimate under international Law , ( The return of the Golan , the return to 1967 borders and compensation for the Palestinians ),

Our Jewish friends keep reminding us that they are the chosen people
I want to explain that to you all as i understand that naming

They are called the chosen people because God chose them to be the tribe that his son Jesus the Mas eh will appear amongst so they can be saved first , They rejected Jesus the son of God and since then they have persecuted killed in the Holocaust and spread around the world as Jesus said looking at Jerusalem , When the Roman flags encircle the city the Jews will go into the diaspora and will not be back until his return , so Israel existence is against the prophecy and that is why many orthodox Jews do not recognize Israel.

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December 24th, 2007, 3:24 am

 

17. Akbar Palace said:

Norman said:

Our Jewish friends keep reminding us that they are the chosen people …

Norman,

When is the last time a jewish friend (or any jew) reminded you that “they are the chosen people”. I’m willing to bet that this “friend” was just your imagination or a muslim friend.

Of course, you’re free to show us a link proving to us that your “Jewish Friends” keep reminding you of this. (LOL)

I want to explain that to you all as i understand that naming

They are called the chosen people because …

Spare us your theological contortions and your madrassa-inspired doctrine. Suggestion: learn from a more objective source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chosen_people

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December 24th, 2007, 3:40 am

 

18. norman said:

I do not know if you read your link,

As mentioned in the book of Exodus, the Jewish people are God’s chosen people and from them shall come the Messiah, or redeemer of the human race.

Modern Jews and, by extension, Christians consider themselves to be the “chosen people” although the later are not considered so by the former and vice versa.

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December 24th, 2007, 3:48 am

 

19. ugarit said:

Akbar Palace said: “madrassa-inspired doctrine.”

Obviously you don’t know that madrassa simply means school in Arabic and not religious nor secular. Which is similar to the meaning of school. That’s like saying “school-inspired doctrine”. Stop watching Fox News and you might actually learn something.

Honest Patriot said: “My sense is that such countries [KSA, Jordan, and Egypt] stand a much better chance to enable a peaceful ME with peaceful if not friendly relations with Israel than allicances led by Iran.”

That’s because they’re puppet whorish regimes with the US as their pimp. Do you really expect an extremist totalitarian state like KSA to want peace with Israel? I guess it’s possible if they’re paid enough.

“We all know what Iran’s position is: eliminate the state of Israel and institute a country where Jewish identify will be overwhelmed by the disparity in birth rate in no more than a generation or two.”

This will happen with Iran’s wishes or not. BTW, Iran does not want to eliminate the state of Israel but Zionism. That’s like wanting to eliminate the Baath and not Syria or eliminate Apartheid and not South Africa. Do you see the obvious difference?

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December 24th, 2007, 5:16 am

 

20. Youssef Hanna said:

AKBAR PALACE,

For Lebanese to overcome the trauma of the SR occupation, and therefore consolidate independence through increasing the poor level of self confidence, and improving the lacking mutual trust, a Court that is perceived as fair must with a minimum backing by all designate, prosecute, and convict those who for the last three decades are safely killing opinion makers and political leaders.

A national movement around the need for justice, liberty, and independence, requires a concession to decent folks of Hezbollah.

Since they are probably not willing to risk again a military confrontation that may this time cost them their very existence as a military group, or at least seriously damage their popularity amongst Shia Lebanese, there is no big risk at cementing a future Unity Government, where they wd hold with Aoun the blocking minority, around a compromise made of two elements: acceptance of international justice, legitimation of national resistance.

This in broad lines is my hope that i expressed in my first post, then the parable.

Best regards

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December 24th, 2007, 5:16 am

 

21. Innocent Criminal said:

many here like to view the recent developments in the shifting of power more and more to the opposition as a victory. but i think many also over dramatize these sentiments. which is unfortunately a typical characteristic of middle easterners; the smallest of victories are blown out to proportion to seem like divine triumph.

Realistically though, the battle with the US is far from over and while stopping lebanon from completely becoming a US satellite in the region should be seen in positive light, it doesn’t mean the americans haven’t been able to inflict heavy damage to Syria’s control over lebanon. Which many from the other political spectrum believe is the key determination on who wins or loses.

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December 24th, 2007, 8:26 am

 

22. Akbar Palace said:

Youssef,

Thank you for the clarification.

Here’s an article by Ray Hanania I found interesting:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1196847374282&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Merry Christmas to the Christians here. So far, it looks like a good day in Bethlehem, Palestine.

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December 24th, 2007, 1:23 pm

 

23. norman said:

Print By Nayla Razzouk
December 25, 2007 12:27am

LEBANON’S government drafted a constitutional amendment to elect army chief Michel Sleiman as president in a country which has been without a head of state for a month.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said the government had prepared the legislation to amend the constitution “for a single time” to allow a senior public servant to become president.

He said the draft law will be submitted to parliament for ratification.

But many have downplayed the importance of the move, as parliament speaker and leading opposition figure Nabih Berri has already said he would not accept legislation from a government he considers illegitimate.

The opposition, backed by regional powers Syria and Iran, says the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has had no legal authority since all five Shiite cabinet members resigned last year.

Lawmakers are set to meet on Saturday in the 11th bid to vote for a new head of state, but many expect Lebanon to remain without a president until after December 31 when parliament will be in recess.

“We are carrying out our duty so that if the constitutional deadline expires (on December 31) we would be ready to elect a president at any given time,” Mr Aridi said.

“We hope this abnormal situation in the country ends, as we are facing a vacancy in the presidency… and we need to take decisions to help Lebanon out of its crisis,” he said.

The country has been without a president since Syrian backed Emile Lahoud’s term expired on November 23 without feuding political rivals agreeing on a successor.

The government and the opposition have agreed on General Sleiman as the man for the job, but remain at odds over the election process and the shape of a new administration.

The opposition is demanding a “basket” of guarantees on the new government line-up ahead of any vote.

The majority has insisted that the make-up of the government was within the prerogatives of the president, traditionally drawn from the Maronite Christian community, which has expressed fears for its role in the Muslim-majority country.

MP Hussein Hajj Hassan, a member of the opposition party Hezbollah, insisted in remarks that the opposition would boycott Saturday’s session unless both sides reach an agreement involving their basket of demands.

“The opposition will not attend the session to elect the president on Saturday, unless it is within the framework of a political agreement that would be comprehensive, clear and with clear guarantees,” he said.

Mr Berri reiterated in an interview with Ad-Diyar newspaper that if no president is elected next Saturday, he would continue to “set (parliament) sessions until we reach an agreement and end the crisis”.

Lebanon’s presidential crisis is largely viewed as a public muscle-flexing between the United States and European countries on the one hand and Syria and its regional ally Iran on the other.

The ruling coalition has blamed the repeated postponement of the presidential vote since September on former powerbroker Syria, which pulled its troops out of Lebanon after 29 years of military domination.

Lebanon has been rocked by a series of assassinations since 2005 which the majority has blamed on Syria, a charge Damascus has strongly denied.

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December 24th, 2007, 2:57 pm

 

24. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Off Topic.

Fuat Deniz, a Swedish national and a sociologist of Syriac origin, was stabbed to death in his offices at the University of Örebro in Sweden. Mr. Deniz research fellow examining the Assyro-Chaldean massacres of 1915.

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December 24th, 2007, 3:55 pm

 

25. Alex said:

Thanks Nur

Any idea why he was killed?

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December 24th, 2007, 4:29 pm

 

26. biladsham said:

Since when did Feltman step down? The US Embassy in Beirut doesn’t seem to know about it…

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December 24th, 2007, 4:37 pm

 

27. norman said:

Can somebody tell me about that massacre.

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December 24th, 2007, 4:48 pm

 

28. GG said:

Syria gains, Lebanon loses, US flops
Riad Kahwaji

The Middle East peace conference at Annapolis was meant to be about reviving and speeding up the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. But for officials in Syria the event was a long-awaited opportunity, while Lebanese political factions hoped Annapolis would point them in the right direction. In the end, the post-Annapolis political scene is even more complex and the situation just as volatile.

The Syrians were happy at last to witness the international community reopening channels of communication and seeking their consent to show up at Annapolis. Damascus put forward its conditions for attending, e.g., adding the Israel-occupied Golan Heights to the meeting’s agenda. Though the Syrian conditions were not fully met, Damascus could not miss out on the opportunity. Still, as a show of solidarity with Iran, which pressured to boycott the event, the Syrians sent a low-level delegation to Annapolis.

Yet Damascus was reaping the benefits of Annapolis even before the conference began. Arab and European officials re-endorsed the Baath Party regime and ended the US-imposed western and Arab isolation of Syria. The move helped the Syrian regime create the impression it wanted to plant with its neighbors and regional opponents: Syria is back in the international club.

As for the Lebanese, especially the western-backed pro-government factions known as the March 14 Forces, the timing of Annapolis could not have been worse. After enjoying undisputed strong international support, especially from the West and most Arab countries, the March 14 Forces found themselves in an odd situation. Their western allies, led by France, were working out a deal with their arch foe Damascus, which together with Tehran is regarded as patron of the Lebanese opposition factions better known as the March 8 Forces. Sources within March 14 said some of its leaders concluded that the Americans were using the French to strike a deal with Syria that would include reestablishing Damascus’ political influence in Lebanon.

This belief within the March 14 Forces grew stronger when they saw the Americans move to the sideline and heard French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner trying to market Syrian-backed presidential candidates. Kouchner tried before and after Annapolis to mediate a deal among Lebanese factions on a new president. Statements by Syrian officials regarding a roadmap reached between Paris and Damascus to normalize ties between the two countries undermined unity within March 14 and led to the current status quo in Lebanon, whereby a constitutional crisis has emerged after the parties there failed to elect a new president.

Annapolis was another failed attempt by the United States to move Damascus away from Tehran and establish a grand Arab-western-Israeli alliance against Iran and its allies in the region. The Lebanese opposition forces, especially the predominantly Shi’ite groups Amal and Hizballah, received a strong boost with the Syrian-western rapprochement, which made them toughen their demands and resist making concessions. Subsequently, Tehran benefited without moving an inch.

The conclusion for many Lebanese was that the Syrian-Iranian patrons proved to be more reliable and politically cunning than the US-led western backers of the March 14 Forces. Many Lebanese still have not forgotten how many times the US has bailed out on them in the past and left them to meet their fate against Syria and its allies. Even Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement and leader of the largest Christian opposition bloc in parliament, keeps reminding March 14 leaders in his public statements of the need to maintain good ties with Syria and not become too close to Washington, “because you will soon have to make trips to Masnaa (border crossing point to Damascus)”.

Annapolis was also cited by Lebanese Christian opposition figures as proof of how the US and the West are conspiring to resettle the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. This issue causes a great deal of concern to multi-confessional Lebanese society due to the fact that Palestinians are mostly Sunni Muslims. Israel has insisted on refusing the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes in any future deal.

So nearly a month after Annapolis, Syria remains a strong ally of Iran, Lebanon is still in political turmoil and without a president, Hizballah and its allies are stronger, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria remain pawns in the hands of regional powers, the Europeans have not gained an inch in Lebanon and Syria, while the United States has lost a lot of its stature and credibility as a reliable ally with a clear foreign policy and political goals.- Published 13/12/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Riad Kahwaji is director general of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, and the Middle East Bureau chief for Defense News.

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December 24th, 2007, 7:41 pm

 

29. anotherisraeliguy said:

The US policy is the best possible. From now on anything Syria tries to do in Lebanon will cost it. No freebies. Let’s see who fares better long term, Syria or the US. Landis forgot to post the US speaking clearly about additional sanctions on Syria. The US has learned that with mafioso like the Asads you need patience. They eventually leave businesses that are not profitable.

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December 24th, 2007, 7:53 pm

 

30. anotherisraeliguy said:

For 60 years the US and Israel have been losing and the Arabs, Russians and Iranians have been getting sronger, and it appears according to many Arabs this trend continues into the future.

Where is this delusional world view coming from?

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December 24th, 2007, 7:57 pm

 

31. Observer said:

The latest US demands and critiques of its friendly Arab regimes is interesting: Lebanon is summoned to elect a President by simple majority; a clear recipe for disaster. Egypt aid is cut for the sake of democratic reforms and tightening of the border with Gaza. KSA is criticized for its judicial system and the King pardon arrives suddenly. Is this a new confidence as the oil output of Iraq reaches 2.4 million barrels per day? Is this due to the reduction in troop deaths in Iraq? Is Bush in his last year in office preparing the ground for the next President to jettison the Arab regimes now that Iraq is firmly in its hands and the prospects of new oil exploration brighter than ever? Is this a new way of applying sticks to the proxies and carrots to Iran? The speech by Rice where she stated that she is ready to talk to Motaki anytime anywhere provided that a temporary suspension of enrichment is carried out is telling. The speech also said that the US does not have any permanent enemies. Can someone explain to me these developments? My take is that the factions in the administration are slugging it out and that the President has not been able to decide on one or the other course and therefore he vacillates from one camp to the other depending on his mood.
Finally, any news on the latest war of words between Syria and KSA and the riots for 5 days in Bahrain?

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December 24th, 2007, 9:09 pm

 

32. offended said:

Merry Christmas to you Joshua, Alex, and all other respectable readers and contributors of this blog.

Ehsani, thanks for writing this interesting piece.
But you seem to be contradicting yourself a little bit, you mentioned that the economical challenges of the regime, namely the fiscal year’s deficit, are the trigger behind the opening up of the economy and the attraction of foreign investors.
But at the same time you say that the influx of those investments to Syria is widening the gap between the rich and the poor even more.
In other words, those investment and the opening up of the economy are backfiring, because eventually, what good economic transformation is when it makes the larger portion of your population poor and angry?

And by the way, what about the impact the presence of the Iraqi refugees is having on the economy?

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December 25th, 2007, 2:39 am

 

33. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Alex: The story on Fuat Deniz is here:

http://istanbul.blog.lemonde.fr/

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December 25th, 2007, 7:53 pm

 

34. Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] December 27th, 2007 by Sean Difficulties remain as Lebanon’s political forces struggle to decide on how to amend the constitution to allow consensus candidate General Michel Suleiman to become president, leading to another likely postponement of elections, the Daily Star reports.  Earlier this week, Josh Landis argues that the U.S. does not have a foreign policy strategy in Lebanon willing to face the country’s new political reality. […]

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December 27th, 2007, 7:48 pm

 

35. DisarmamentActivist.org » Iran Daily Opinion Service 27 December said:

[…] The US is entirely adrift when it comes to Lebanon, writes academic John Landis in the very useful Syria Comment (.23.12.07). The US has no Lebanon policy. […]

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January 7th, 2008, 4:39 pm

 

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