Posted by Alex on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Written by Camille Alexandre Otrakji
Syrian President Bashar Assad warned on Sunday “the prospects of war and confrontation are increasing”. The President was marking the 65th anniversary of the creation of the Syrian army.
“Syria reiterates its willingness in the just peace and consolidating bases of security and stability in this vital region of the world … and this will not be realized except by the restoration of the whole usurped rights according to the relevant international resolutions … the first factor of peace is preserving dignity, sovereignty and not abandoning any bit of soil or drop of water”
Relevant international resolutions, dignity and sovereignty were at stake today as Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire after Israeli soldiers used a crane to remove a tree on the Lebanese side of the border between the two countries in an apparent violation of UN resolution 1701. Israel claimed that the tree was on the Israeli side of the border and that this is not he first time its soldiers uprooted trees along the border in order to improve visibility and accused Lebanon of provoking the fight. Lebanon said the Israelis crossed onto Lebanese soil despite calls from the U.N. and Lebanon to stop. When the Israelis persisted, Lebanese troops opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
The Associated Press later published a photo showing Israeli soldiers removing a tree on the Lebanese side of a security fence along the border.
Later today, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah explained why his fighters were asked to refrain from helping Lebanese army soldiers while they were attacked by Israel’s helicopters, tanks and artillery. Nasrallah told his audience that he knew that had he decided to get involved, some people would have accused him of being a tool in the hands of President Assad who warned on Sunday that the region is going to war, or that they would have accused Hezbollah of trying to escalate the military conflict in order to escape the rumored indictment of Hezballah members in the Hariri tribunal, or accuse the Lebanese resistance of trying to outshine the regular Lebanese army.
Nasrallah later made it clear that next time there is an Israeli attack on the Lebanese army, where his fighters have a presence, he promises that “the resistance will not stay quiet” no matter how others will interpret their involvement.
If the next routine Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty does not flare into a full fledged war, the Hariri assassination’s UN backed tribunal can provide another clear path to war.
For years Syria was portrayed as the prime suspect behind the Hariri assassination. The accusations were part of an intense, long term, campaign by the Bush administration, Israel, Saudi Arabia, France, and other countries to discredit, weaken and isolate Syria.
Recently, those accusations are shifting to Hezbollah. Syrian and Saudi leaders feared that Lebanon’s fragile national unity might not survive the rumored mention of Hezbollah by the UN tribunal and the anticipated escalation in international pressure to dismantle or punish Hezbollah, the kind of pressure that Syria knows so well.
President Assad and King Abdullah, leaders of the two most influential countries in Lebanon, tried during a historical visit to Beirut to ask their Lebanese allies to stay calm no matter what they read in the upcoming UN report.
If the rumors blaming Hezbollah for the Hariri murder did not introduce enough uncertainty, today, Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah accused Israel of the 2005 assassination.
“I accuse the Israeli enemy of the assassination of (former) Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and … I will prove this by unveiling sensitive information at a press conference on Monday”
Earlier last week President Obama made it clear the United States should not be expected to play a constructive role in deescalating tensions in the region. He announced he is renewing a Bush administration measure to freeze the assets of persons who work with Hezbollah militants and “infringe upon” Lebanese stability.
“While there have been some recent positive developments in the Syrian-Lebanese relationship, continuing arms transfers to Hezbollah that include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems serve to undermine Lebanese sovereignty,” Obama said in his message to Congress.
TIME Magazine senior Editor Tony Karon warned:
“The danger posed by the lack of communication channels between the resistance camp and the Israelis explains why British Prime Minister Cameron, a recent guest at the White House, last week went to Ankara to urge Turkey to maintain its ties with Israel and use its ties to the likes of Syria to facilitate communication that could mitigate an outbreak. Turkey has been pilloried in some quarters in the West — and certainly in Israel — for its diplomatic rapprochement with Syria, Iran and Hamas, but Cameron’s appeal was a tacit admission that the continuing Bush-era policy of refusing to engage with the region’s designated radicals has sharply diminished the ability of the U.S. and the European Union to influence events in the Middle East.”
America’s Arab allies are among those disappointed by Washington’s continued hostility towards Syria. Tariq Alhomayed, editor of Saudi Arabia’s largest and most liberal newspaper, Asharq Alawsat wrote an opinion piece yesterday in which he expressed his bewilderment :
“… on the eve of the Saudi monarch’s visit to Syria a US State Department spokesman issued a strange and provocative statement, calling on the Syrian President to listen carefully to what King Abdullah has to say about the Syrian – Iranian relationship. In Damascus, a Saudi official [commenting on this] told me “can this be true…what does Washington want?”
Meanwhile in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that pushing Israel to extend the freeze on its settlement activities in the west bank will lead to the collapse of his coalition government. If Mr. Netanyahu feels that an extension of a freeze, and not the dismantling, of those settlements is enough to destroy his government, then what exactly is he prepared to offer the Palestinians or Syrians in any upcoming peace negotiations that everyone is trying to start?
Given this unprecedented degree of Israeli “generosity” and American paralysis, will the next Middle East conflict erupt when Israeli troops decide to cut down the next tree in southern Lebanon?