Posted by Joshua on Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
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 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|
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