Peace in Gaililee II
US Congressmen, politicos and Pentagon figures have been descending on Lebanon exploiting the assassination of Rafic Hariri (a genuine Mister Big of Lebanese finance and politics). It should be acknowledged that the United States has been intervening in Lebanon for decades, and the Hariri assassination merely provides an additional pretext for more involvement. The US Senate, substituting for the US State Department, deployed Democratic Senator Biden and others to monitor the recent elections and to pursue a bid to move Lebanon into bilateral alliance with the United States. Lebanon is a potential 225 kilometer-long aircraft carrier, which twinned with Israel, provides a huge, dual terrestrial platform for intervention.
In the next two weeks, a wave of US delegations debarks. A Pentagon delegation arrives in Beirut on 29 August chockfull of plans and projects, as well as invitations for the purchase of bright and shiny military hardware. [This delegation will then draft an official report for theater commander General John Abizaid [which is disquieting]. A joint advance team of Pentagon and State Department officials is deployed next week to “assist” the Lebanese in unmasking potential political assassins. Congressional teams arrive on 26 August and 6 September for a series of talks with Lebanese officials.
To the credit of the pragmatic Lebanese, it appears that they will resist at least broad military cooperation until the domestic situation within Lebanon calms and the controversy concerning the presence of the Lebanese Army in south Lebanon, an argued replacement for UNIFIL, is resolved. Any cooperation will be limited to the training of Lebanese officers and certain defense grants for minor equipment and spare parts.
Another concern of the Lebanese is the international dispute over the Shebaa Farms in the Golan Heights, which is legally considered to be Syrian territory occupied by Israel, although the area was ceded to Lebanon by Syria in 1951. Hezbollah uses a Lebanese claim on this area to pursue its continuing hostilities towards Israel. Lebanese officials rightly fear that any large-scale military cooperation with the United States will lead to local conflict.
A Pentagon delegation has also met with UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) to obtain a status report on operations under their mandate. The situation in the lands vacated by Israel in southern Lebanon is unstable due to recurring Israeli air violations and intrusions on the ground by Lebanese shepherds. This suggests that the United States is studying a reconfiguration and change in mandate for UNIFIL, doubtlessly with Hezbollah in mind.
The Lebanese situation will be discussed in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September. We can be assured that Mr. Bolton is working up a head of steam to ram through US designs on the area.
I would like to think that America's involvement is a positive thing. But a partnership with a US dominated by Bush &Co. is so dubious. They are just so incompetent that you really don't want them mucking around and holding your fate in their hands.