Some Lebanese Want to be More Like Iraq - Syria Comment

Some Lebanese Want to be More Like Iraq

The last few days have seen Italy’s PM Prodi claim that Syria would allow foreign border guards along its Lebanon frontier only to have it denied by Syria.

Prodi says Syria’s Assad has agreed ‘in principle’ to EU presence on border with Lebanon

Syria denies Assad has agreed to European guards on border with Lebanon

Prodi’s spokesman, Silvio Sircana, said later Saturday that Syria’s denial was accurate, adding that Prodi had not said “border guards” would be deployed and that ANSA and the premier’s office were mistaken.

“I confirm that Prodi and Assad did not discuss troops or guards, but only EU personnel without uniforms or arms that will be at the disposal of the Syrian forces,” Sircana said.

Meanwhile, Israel’s outspoken MK Bishara is visiting Damascus with other Israeli MK’s. He warns Syria of Israeli attack.
Roee Nahmias 09.09.06

Arab MK arrives in Damascus with his party members, sends alarming message that ‘Israel may launch onslaught in bid to restore deterrence’
Roee Nahmias Published: 09.09.06, 19:46

National Democratic Assembly chairman, Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, arrived in Damascus on Friday and immediately began making public statements condemning the Israeli occupation of the territories.

Bishara joined his party members, MKs Jamal Zahalka and Wasil Taha, as well as former MKs Muhammad Kanan and Mohammed Miari, who have been in the city since Thursday.

In the course of his meeting with senior members of the ruling Baath party, Bishara warned Syria of the possibility that “Israel launch a preliminary offensive in more than one place, in a bid to overcome the internal crisis in the country and in an attempt to restore its deterrence capability.”

During the meeting, Bishara lauded Syria’s support for the national rights of the Palestinians and Lebanon, and stressed that the motivation
for the “American-Israeli attack” against Syria lies in Damascus’ firm stances. “Syria is the last barrier standing before the strike,” MK Bishara said. “The Palestinians living under the occupation have long realized the importance of adhering to the Arab option, in light of the scope of adventurous attempts to hurt their cultural and Arab identity,” he added.

In an interview with the Syrian news agency SANA, Bishara expressed support for Syria’s position and the struggle it was conducting for “the liberation of its occupied lands.” Bishara also stated that Syria had been put “under pressure due to the fact it has stood by the resistance and rejected the American hegemony in the region, because it insisted on freeing the occupied Arab outside the 1967 lines, and because it has stood up for the nations’ right o resist the occupation.”

During the interview, Bishara declared: “We are Syria’s allies and will continue to be in contact with it on the national level, through our well-known views.”

MK Zahalka explained that the visit in Damascus “was aimed at expressing solidarity with Syria, as well as discussing the recent developments in the region, particularly following the wild Israeli aggression against Lebanon.”

This has predictably provoked outcries in Israel that he is a traitor. (See the comment section on the above article.)

Lebanon is in the full throws of post-war debate. This NY Times article quotes two major Maronite za`ims – Gemayel and Chamoun. They believe the war has demonstrated the power of Hizbullah. Their answer to growing Muslim power is to advocate greater federalism a la Iraq, so Christians can protect themselves from Hizbullah, which they expect to gain greater parliamentary power. As Hizbullah makes its way into the center of Lebanese politics, the Maronites want to move toward the fringes. Washington can take some satisfaction from the fact that the Iraqi democratic example is having some impact.

Lebanon Left to Face Most Basic of Issues
War Exposes Deep Conflicts About the Nation’s Identity and Its Future
By Edward Cody
Washington Post
September 10, 2006; Page A20

Perhaps more important, they noted, was Nasrallah’s postwar assertion that Hezbollah must be taken into account in government deliberations from here on out. The party ran for office in the last elections, gaining seats in parliament and two ministers in Siniora’s cabinet. But Nasrallah seemed to be saying his group will be seeking more power now that, in his words, it has fought a war on Lebanon’s behalf.

A share of power that reflects the Shiites’ true place in the population would probably change Lebanon’s orientation significantly, the Sunni and Maronite observers predicted. But a refusal to acknowledge the demographic change and Hezbollah’s enhanced status after the war, they said, would be a recipe for more intercommunal conflict. As a result, the timeless view from Gemayel’s terrace may be in for a change.

“I don’t see Lebanon surviving as it is today,” said Dori Chamoun, leader of the Maronite-based National Liberal party and son of a former president and longtime political figure, the late Camille Chamoun. “It is inevitable that the Christians will have a smaller share of the country. I only see one solution, cantonization. Everybody wants it. Nobody says it out loud.”

In a recent book, Gemayel proposed abandoning Lebanon’s current system and replacing it with election of the president by popular vote and decentralization along the geographical lines that largely define where Muslims and Christians live in any case. “The institutions of Lebanon are tired,” he said. “They are drained of their blood.”

The losers in such a change would largely be Sunni Muslims, Chamoun pointed out, because by and large they have not carved out sections of the country as theirs. Public Works Minister Mohamad Safadi, a Sunni who lives in Beirut, said he was discussing the problem with his wife recently and reassured her that, if worse comes to worst, they could always live in their weekend house — in the quintessentially Christian port of Byblos.

General Aoun – the other Maronite leader is hoping to ride the Hizbullah wave right over the walls of Baabda.
INTERVIEW-Christian leader flays Lebanon’s “mafia” cabinet
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent
RABIYEH, Lebanon, Sept 10 (Reuters) –

Lebanon’s government is clinging to power so it can steal foreign aid meant for reconstruction after Israel’s war with Hizbollah guerrillas, Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun said on Sunday….

Aoun said he was not demanding at the moment that the incumbent, Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud, resign. Parliament, which elects the president, has been dominated by an anti-Syrian coalition led by Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, since the election. Aoun says the results were skewed by an unfair electoral law.

“We can dissolve parliament and we can do elections,” he said. “If not, okay, it will favour conflict and confrontation.”…Some of Aoun’s sympathisers found this baffling, while his critics accused him of political opportunism, but he dismisses as a “media plot” the suggestion that there is anything incongruous about his relationship with Hizbollah.

He says his discussions with the group prompted it to tone down rhetoric about liberating Palestine and limit its demands to the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israel and an end to Israeli occupation of the disputed Shebaa Farms area. His accord with Hizbollah, which has resisted U.N. demands for its disarmament, calls for the issue to be solved in the context of a national defence strategy for Lebanon.

“Since we don’t have force to solve the problem, we have to develop trust and then to have an honest broker to build confidence between Hizbollah and (Saad) Hariri,” Aoun said….With the war over, Aoun says the need for political change is urgent, though his critics say it would be disruptive.

“We need to have a government really representative of the people, sharing power and decision-making,” he declared. Reuters

More leaders in the States are beginning to speak out about the wrong direction the US is heading in:

Top military leaders insist new U.S. strategy is desperately needed in Iraq…to Revive American diplomacy in the Middle East.

“Everything we are doing brings Iran and Syria closer together when we ought to be doing everything we can to split them apart,” said the senior general. “We need a U.S. ambassador in Syria. (The Bush administration recalled the U.S. ambassador, who hasn’t returned.) It would help in Iraq and have spin-off benefits in Lebanon. You can’t exert influence if you are not there. We need to be talking to the Syrians. Hell, we need to be talking to the Iranians. This whole axis of evil thing is bull! All it did was drive our enemies closer together.

“Wilkerson said the administration should “bring in the surrounding states, not just Iran, though it is the most important one, and get them to share the load moneywise and diplomatically. The Bedouins have got to stop putting their money on all sides, hoping that one will win. They must put their money exclusively on the government in Baghdad. They have to understand that the U.S. is not leaving until the situation is stable.”

Wilkerson said the United States also has to start a “rational dialogue” with Iran that encompasses everything from the MEK guerrillas to al-Qaeda to nuclear weapons to Hezbollah, Iraq and the Persian Gulf. He said the administration also should start negotiations to settle, once and for all, the Israel-Palestinian situation, including talks with Syria on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, with Lebanon and with the Palestinians themselves.

“The U.S. must be an honest broker in all of these talks — not Israel’s lawyer,” Wilkerson said. “The U.S. must be willing to bang heads, all of them if necessary.”

Finally, Wilkerson argued that the United States must ask international institutions such as the United Nations to help. “You have to cajole and wheedle and coerce your allies to do likewise. If this means eating a little crow, you just ask for the pepper and the cayenne,” he said. Joseph L. Galloway

Syria wants peace on basis of relevant UN resolutions — official
DAMASCUS, Sept 10

(KUNA) — Syria expressed hope that the US administration and other western nations would acknowledge the keenness of Arab countries, including itself, to achieve comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said in statements published Sunday in Al-Thawra newspaper that his country hopes that America’s efforts would head in the right direction and would reach practical solutions for the conflicts that face the people of the Middle East.

Mekdad said “the recent victory in Lebanon encourages us to be optimistic…we cannot remain silent about losing rights…and the occupation of our lands.” Syria wants comprehensive peace in the region based on the UN Security Council’s resolutions 242, 338 and 497 which was issued 1981 regarding the occupation of the Golan heights and which declares Israel annexation of the heights as illegal.

Syria wants peace according to the land-for-peace accord reached during the Arab-Israeli peace conference, held in Madrid in the early 90s, as well as the Arab peace initiative that genuinely calls for establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

On the investigative committee of the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafic Al-Hariri, he said those who planned the plot aimed at destroying the special relationship between Syria and Lebanon and at creating instability in the region, he added. He expressed Syria’s keenness on cooperating with the investigative committee in order to show that Israel was the one to benefit from assassinating Al-Hariri.

On terrorism, he said, Syria condemns and combats international terrorism and it differentiates between terrorism and people who fight for their rights and freedom.
KUNA

جنرال امريكي: لا دليل على ان ايران تدعم متشددين في شمال العراق An American General announces that their is no evidence that Iran is supporting extremists in the North of Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal writes that Bush was behind the Khatami visit. Is he looking for a way to climb down?

WSJ: Bush personally signed off on Khatami visit to U.S.
By Reuters 10/09/2006

U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed off on a visa allowing former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to visit the United States because he wanted to hear his views, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Khatami, Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005, is the most prominent Iranian in decades to visit the United States, outside of the United Nations’ New York headquarters.

His five-city speaking tour is controversial given U.S. accusations that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, sponsors terrorism and arms Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

“I was interested to hear what he had to say,” Bush told the Wall Street Journal in an interview. “I’m interested in learning more about the Iranian government, how they think, what people think within the government.”

The INDEPENDENT, 10 September 2006, explains that:

The “war on terror” – and by terrorists – has directly killed a minimum of 62,006 people, created 4.5 million refugees and cost the US more than the sum needed to pay off the debts of every poor nation on earth.

If estimates of other, unquantified, deaths – of insurgents, the Iraq military during the 2003 invasion, those not recorded individually by Western media, and those dying from wounds – are included, then the toll could reach as high as 180,000.

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