Who is Couping Who in Lebanon?

Israeli Fighter Jets Stage Mock Raids over Beirut's Southern Suburbs. Israel signals that should the Shiites try to bring down the pro-American government with demonstrations, Israel is able to resume bombing of Lebanon.
Meanwhile Welch Criticizes Syria for Interfering in Lebanese Internal Affairs. Israel denies that the mock raids concentrated over Shiite areas are aimed at influencing Lebanon's domestic politics. An Israeli army document, backs up this claim. Entitled "Strategic diplomatic messages: the army must continue overflights to secure international pressure," it argues that overflights are aimed at pressuring the international community and not the Lebanese. The document was approved by chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. Spain and the EU have ask Israel to stop the Lebanon overflights, because they are a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which Solana said Israel had to respect like everyone else. Israel insists, "We will Continue Overflights Despite Protests." "They can protest for as long as they like," deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said.
Germans complained about two separate incidents, in which Israeli warplanes fired shots over a helicopter and an unarmed German vessel backing up the U.N. mission off the Lebanese coast.
Unexploded Israeli ordinance critically wounds principal of school in Baalbek and kills the busdriver who found it.
Hizbullah claims U.S. Using Lebanon to Wage War Against Syria, Iran. “In an interview with Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television, Nasrallah said it is a democratic right to demand the change of a government through “peaceful demonstrations.” “Those who are currently in the government demonstrated in the streets last year until they toppled the Cabinet of Premier Omar Karami,” he noted. “Why aren’t we allowed to do the same? If we demand this right, they call us rioters?”"

Hezbollah is threatening street protests to force early elections in Lebanon if its demands are not met for a “national unity” Cabinet that would give the Islamic militants and their allies veto power over key decisions.” Amal Saad-Ghorayeb said the same in an interview on BBC World. She also pointed out that Hizbullah was not trying to take over the reigns of government, but just to get a “one third” blocking minority so that it would be able to veto cabinet decisions. (These quotes are thanks to t_desco, who copied them in the comment section)

Blair urges syria to help halt killing by insurgents in Iraq

David Stringer in the New Scotsman

Downing Street rejected suggestions the overture was part of an effort by the United States and Britain aimed at pressing Iraq's neighbours to assist with security duties, allowing coalition troops to withdraw.

"That is not part of the thinking," said Mr Blair's official spokesman. "We are very serious about revitalising the Midd

le East peace process, therefore it is the right thing to do to talk to all those who in some way have an influence. It is up to others to decide what role they play."

Dennis Ross, a former US Middle East envoy, also rejected suggestions the visit was part of a joint coalition strategy, saying it was "much more a British initiative, without the US".

He said holding the talks was a significant step, but cautioned against exaggerated hopes of a shift in relations between Syria and the West.

The obvious reason why one should not be high hoped is that Syria can only do so much to seal its border with Iraq. It is already doing a pretty good job according to US soldiers at the border. They are not so much worried about fighters getting across, but about money coming across. They claim Iraq already has plenty of arms. Here is a bit from a W. Post article on the border.

By Josh White, Washington Post, Wednesday, November 1, 2006; Page A12

"If 10 donkeys can carry 66,000 packs of cigarettes, how much money can they carry?" said Capt. Paul Curry, 32, of Huntsville, Ala. Curry commands Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment at a U.S. camp just a few feet from the official Rabiyah point of entry into Iraq. Border controls have improved, he said, but "we have no idea what we have missed so far. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Iraqi officials who control the gateway say that as many as 2,000 people with Iraqi passports and as many as 500 foreigners pass into Iraq through Rabiyah each day, in addition to nearly 300 commercial trucks, 80 cars and as many as 30 buses.

As many as 2,000 Iraqis and 500 foreigners cross into Iraq from Syria each day at the Rabiyah border crossing. The zone is a centuries-old smuggling route.
As many as 2,000 Iraqis and 500 foreigners cross into Iraq from Syria each day at the Rabiyah border crossing. The zone is a centuries-old smuggling route. (Photos By Josh White — The Washington Post)

Raid Jamal, assistant manager of the border crossing, said that the border generates 3 billion Iraqi dinars each month — about $2 million — in customs duties and taxes but that the system has been mired in corruption for many years and needs to be cleaned up.

U.S. troops in the area are concerned that controls are too loose. For instance, the passport office is sparse and includes a single officer sitting at a desk behind a barred window where travelers line up to show their passports. The officer simply enters the information from each passport into a small ledger.

"The only thing he's really doing is nothing more than creating a historical log," said 1st Sgt. Richard DeLeon, 40, of Shafter, Calif., also a member of Apache Troop. "We can't scan your passport to find out if it's fake, we can't scan your photo. You can come in if you have a legitimate passport or a good fake. The weapons are already in Iraq. All you really need to do is bring money."

Lt. Col. Malcolm Frost, who commands 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, said the Rabiyah border entry needs shoring up. He cited plans to add high-tech passport technology, which would make it easier to identify foreign fighters, and a new, secure processing office in the next couple of months.

One of the few anti-smuggling measures the crossing already has is X-ray technology that scans trucks. It can detect trucks with false bottoms and compartments in which people and weapons can be hidden. On Monday, Frost watched as a truck was scanned and turned back for carrying used car parts, which are illegal to transport into Iraq and could be used to hide bomb parts.

"We're continually improving the ability to detect," Frost said. But the miles of earthen berm away from the crossing have proven difficult to monitor.

Tomlin, who trains border patrol officers, said that there are roughly 400 officers on his stretch of border and that they are getting steadily better at their jobs. They have new Chevrolet pickup trucks for patrolling and serviceable weapons. But he said they lack the infrastructure to support the equipment, and gasoline, food and electricity are hard for them to get.

He said he believes the units are about five months away from being able to operate as a competent border patrol. It could be years, however, before they can sustain themselves.

The British government recognizes that it doesn't have a lot to offer Syria and that Syria may feel that it doesn't want to offer the West very much either. Here is how the London Times quotes Downing Street on the subject.

As Downing Street accurately if somewhat lamely observed of this visit, “in the end the Syrian Government will decide what it believes is in Syria’s best interests”, and Mr Assad has so far appeared to relish being the bad boy on the Arab block.

Comments (12)

Nur al-Cubicle said:

The European mobilization in Lebanon was never anti-Hezbollah, it was anti-Israel. We hear the French general commanding Unifil-2 suggesting that those Israeli planes should be blasted out of the sky.

The “plot” of the Shi’ites is certainly of US-Israeli manufacture because, wah, the Europeans aren’t building prison camps for the Shi’a like they should.

November 3rd, 2006, 8:09 am


ausamaa said:

Nevermind Lebanon’s panadora’s box for a while if you will.

Why are David Welch, Elliott Abrams, and John Negroponte in Israel all at the same time? NOW?

The cover is to prepare for Olmert’s meeting with Bush on 13 November. Usually, you go over there to prepare for your visit to “there”. You do not do preparations in Jerusalem, you do it in DC. And wouldn’t you want to see the outcome of the mid-term elections first to know what your strategy would be. Would you not? Sort of queer, is it not?

Of interest also is Israel’s unpublicized fear that a US pullback from Iraq could spell catastrophe for Israel. An undisclosed Israeli senior official has said according to Haaretz: ” I am very fearful, the American withdrawal from Iraq will have a very sever impact on us, unless developments take place that are not currently visible on the ground”, he added that, “They will return to splendid isolation, like the trauma of Vietnam”. Dangerous to current Israel, he meant!

Could the crazy bunch be thinking of using Israeli Tactical Nuclear Weapons against Iran? Time to push the bottom, sort of thing. On behalf, and of course with deniability from the Bush Administration, in an attempt to create new facts on the grounds. The Israelis are seriously stuck: militarily, tactically, strategically, politically, and the home front –both in Israel and in the US- is in shambles. So is the US forces and geopolitical positions, so are their cheerleaders positions around the world? So, could Olmert be saying to Bush that they should consider this as an option? Iran is far away, no nuclear capability yet, no fallout, Iranian rocket damage can be absorbed in the name of “national survival”, and should Syria comes in, the more the merrier, they may think. And if all goes wrong, you can blame it all on Israel alone; have we not always been the bad guys? And “should” things not turn out OK, then Mr. Bush, go with your Baker-Hamilton or whoever’s plan for a “wider peace”, you are shyly heading in that direction anyway. But give the IDF a chance Mr. Bush. We can pull it off with minimum cost, and come on, why have we been stockpiling those Nukes for if not for a rainy day. And this is a torrential storm we are both facing without the umbrella of a credible deterrence which your people, Mr. Bush, have eroded.

A beaten and cornered cat is crazy and dangerous. And the consequences of fear-based thinking are usually extremely treacherous and can produce “unforeseen events”, short term, and long term. And we have a couple of these cats on the loose right now.

Just a thought….

November 3rd, 2006, 9:14 am


raf* said:

dear josh,

sometimes i’m really puzzled by your characterizations of mideast politics and your clumsy reporting:

– “Israel signals that should the Shiites try to bring down the pro-American government with demonstrations, Israel is able to resume bombing of Lebanon.” that’s quite a spin you put on there, even more so as you YOURSELF counterargue that with all those quotes by the israeli army officials. so, what IS it now, josh? israel trying to show HA that they better not overthrow seniora’s gov’t or the israeli army monitoring potential smuggling of weapons into lebanon?

– how exactly is the current lebanese gov’t “pro-american” – did you forget that 2 HA ministers, some of amal, etc. are part of it???

– the german vessel that got buzzed by israeli planes was not unarmed – it is a WARship. the israeli planes did not fire over the helicopter, they flew dangerously close.

NONE of the articles you cited had any relation to the title of this post. since when are you trying to be so lurid?




November 3rd, 2006, 1:14 pm


t_desco said:

Now who is interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs? –

Feltman Warns Aoun of “Grave Consequences” Over Alliance with Hizbullah

U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman has allegedly warned General Michel Aoun of “grave consequences” over his alliance with Hizbullah, accusing the Shiite group of plotting to obliterate Lebanon.

“Hizbullah is constantly working on destroying and obliterating Lebanon as well as sowing chaos,” the Lebanese daily As-Safir quoted Feltman as saying.

It said his remarks were made during a visit to Aoun at his house in Rabieh on Thursday.

The paper quoted leading sources in Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) as saying that Feltman also slammed the so-called “political understanding” between Aoun and Hizbullah. …

They said that Feltman has indirectly threatened Aoun that his alliance with Hizbullah would bear “grave consequences on his political future.”

As-Safir said that this was a tortuous reference to the presidency issue, in which Aoun, a Maronite, is eligible for under the Lebanese constitution.

The paper also said that the FPM has previously received similar threats from the American administration warning Aoun against establishing any “material or financial ties with Hizbullah, or be blacklisted” in assisting terrorists.
Naharnet, As-Safir; some more details here.

November 3rd, 2006, 1:56 pm


Mike said:

This is really disturbing. The US and Israel are basically saying, “you can have your democracy, as long as we approve of it.” In a true democracy there is relatively proportional representation of each group. What right does a country (Israel) who completely wiped out Lebanon’s infrastructure and repeatedly fired on civilian convoys have to dictate the terms of how Lebanon is to be governed?

November 3rd, 2006, 4:31 pm


frank al irlandi said:

Dear Dr Landis

Some nice Americans have landed in Tel Aviv and told Mr Olmert to stop the overflights NOW! IMMEDIATELY! FORTWITH! That nice French Defence minister must have got the message across to Mr Rumsfeld that accidents can happen.


November 3rd, 2006, 5:36 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Raf*, Yes, a tad lurid. But what is someone in the southern suburbs of Lebanon supposed to think the Israelis mean when they buzz Dahia only months after having levelled the place?

Are they not to understand that they are being threatened with another bombing should they get out of line? You suggest that Israel is pin-pointing its message to suggest only smuggling of weapons is to be punished, but I wouldn’t be so convinced if I were below the planes trying to rebuild my house – or if I were Nasrallah taking a Friday stroll.

Why not give us your interpretation?

As for the title being lurid, well, you are right. But a number of people, including Jumblat have talked about a coup. Washington is talking about a Syrian plot to destabilize the democratic government. These all suggest coup, do they not?

By coming out and using the word “coup”, I am calling these insinuations into question directly, rather, then allowing them to linger in the subtext. Why not deal with them straight up?

I agree that the insinuation of a coup is silly.

Best, Joshua

November 3rd, 2006, 6:22 pm


Chris said:

When will these brilliant strategists in Israel and America realize that force begets force?

November 3rd, 2006, 9:54 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

The attached seems to indicate that the ‘Christian General’, has gone the whole hog with Hezbollah. Particularly in view of the fact, that notwithstanding the events over the summer, most Christian Lebanese still view the so-called
‘Party of God’, with a weary eye.

From the: “Naharnet Newsdesk – Aoun Indicates Street Protests Could be called Off”

Lebanon Aoun Indicates Street Protests Could Be Called Off General Michel Aoun indicated Friday that Hizbullah advocated street protests in an attempt to push for the formation of a new government could be called off.
While Aoun adhered to “our right” in protesting, he said “strides could precede going to the street.”

“It’s our wish to change the cabinet,” Aoun told reporters at the end of a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir at Bkirki.

Aoun and Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah have been repeatedly calling for the resignation of Premier Fouad Saniora’s cabinet and the formation of a national unity government.

Nasrallah threatened to take to the streets Nov. 13 if roundtable talks in parliament failed to meet his demands on the formation of a national unity government.

Aoun’s visit came a day after U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman allegedly warned the Christian general of “grave consequences” over his alliance with Hizbullah.

Lebanon’s Maronite Bishops expressed concern on Wednesday about growing divisions among Lebanese over demands for the formation of a national unity government.

Beirut, 03 Nov 06, 16:02

November 3rd, 2006, 11:47 pm


Nader said:

Lebanese were stupid before the civil war (1975), during the civil war, at the end of the civil war, now, and will continue to be stupid as long as they think of themselves as Muslims, Christians, or Druze first. Of course, allowing regional and international powers to manipulate them is (say) not SMART!!!

November 4th, 2006, 7:44 pm


G said:

Wait, Joshua, are you telling me you’re channeling what the average Ali in Dahia thinks!? We’ve gone from lurid to pretentious in a heartbeat!

November 5th, 2006, 5:44 pm


G said:

Which insinuation? Surely yours only. Because Bashar Assad himself called for one in his August 15 speech. Why would that be a “silly insinuation”?

November 5th, 2006, 5:46 pm


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