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Friday, October 19, 2007

US to enter into 'strategic partnership' with Hezbullah-backed group

The Lebanese newspaper as-Safir is reporting this morning that the United States is planning to enter into a 'strategic partnership' with the Lebanese army.

The daily begins by asking: Why have high ranking American military commanders been visiting Lebanon regularly since the July war, visits that were crowned this week by the arrival of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Political Issues, Mr. Eric Eidelmann, at the head of a Pentagon delegation?

After you thank God for Assafir’s “trusted sources” and reports from “official American corners”, sit back, relax, and read how the newspaper unravels the mysteries of the evil American plan [link in Arabic. CiJ] to dominate our poor Middle East.

Haaretz has more details:
A senior Pentagon official said Thursday the U.S. military would like to see a strategic partnership with Lebanon's army to strengthen the country's forces so that Hezbollah would have no excuse to bear arms.

The comments by Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, in an interview aired on Lebanese television two days after his visit, followed a published report in Beirut that Washington is proposing a treaty with Lebanon to make it a strategic partner to counter increased Russian influence in neighboring Syria.

The report, published by the opposition-leaning newspaper As-Safir, was at the time vigorously denied by the government and ridiculed by the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon.


Edelman's remarks, however, shed a new light on the emerging relationship between the Lebanese and U.S. militaries two months after the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam group was crushed in a 3-month long battle.

"What we've been trying to do consistently is to create circumstances in which Lebanon can have a strong state, strong army, a democratic system with the military accountable to civilian control and to the government and to the people's representatives in the parliament," he said on the privately owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television.

"We believe it's in our interest to have a strong democratic state in Lebanon ... That's what we're working toward."

The military in Lebanon is an all-volunteer force of 56,000, with about 220 battle tanks, no effective air power and no air defense system. It has over the decades been unable to halt Israeli incursions and take full control of its territory from armed groups like Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas.

During the 1975-90 civil war, it fractured along sectarian lines. Since the Second Lebanon, Lebanon's army deployed for the first time along the Israeli border with the help of 13,000 peacekeepers.
And they've just been so effective at stopping arms smuggling from and through Syria to Hezbullah....
Asked whether helping the Lebanese army aimed at eventually taking on Hezbollah, Edelman said that as the army strengthens its capabilities there will be less excuse for other armed groups to continue to bear arms.

"I think what we will see over time is if we have an army that is capable of fulfilling all the normal requirements of a state then the idea of having other armed forces that are not accountable to the government or the people's elected representatives would no longer be necessary."

Beirut's As-Safir newspaper reported Thursday that the U.S. proposal for a treaty was to counter the heavy Russian presence in northern Syria which presents a danger to the American presence in the region.

There has been speculation for the last two years of Russia seeking to establish a naval base in northern Syria, once a close Russian ally in the Middle East.

Under the blueprint of the alleged treaty, the United States will provide the Lebanese army with assistance and training and intelligence while Beirut would allow the establishment bases, radar stations and other facilities.
So now we're going back to the Cold War, with the US seeking bases to counter Soviet spheres of influence. And the reason why the US doesn't enter into a treaty with its democratic ally to the south of Lebanon is? And by the way, Lebanon doesn't exactly love Israel and apparently the US is not going to try to change that:
The report added that the Americans wanted the Lebanese army's current doctrine, which describes Syria as a friendly state, Israel an enemy and Hezbollah as the resistance to the Israeli occupation, changed.

In his interview, however, Edelman maintained the United States was not putting conditions on Lebanon for assistance, saying it was up to the Lebanese to decide what strategy and military doctrine to adopt.

But in a remark that is certain to anger the opposition, particularly Hezbollah which Washington brands as a terrorist organization, Edelman added: "I don't see any reason why Israel and Lebanon have to be enemies. Israel has peace treaties with two of its neighbors. I think in time there is no reason why there shouldn't be one between Lebanon and Israel as well."
First, this article ignores the fact that the Lebanese army is about 50% Shia, and that most of the Shia are active - or at least passive - Hezbullah supporters. That's why the Lebanese army has mostly looked the other way when Hezbullah has smuggled arms into Lebanon from Syria.

Second, there's a lot that bothers me about the US turning back to Cold War style spheres of interest in its dealings with Russia. There's no question that Putin is bad news, but he's nowhere near being a superpower, and the US has more than ample opportunity to prevent him from becoming one. But that battle should be fought in Europe, not here. Syria is not exactly a world power.

Third, if the US needs allies here, why is it once again avoiding entering into a mutual defense treaty with Israel? Why is it still acting as if it's afraid of ticking off 'our friends, the Saudis,' the biggest terror supporting nation in the world? "Are you with us or with the terrorists?" some President once asked.

Fourth, while I agree with Edelman that there is no reason there should not be a treaty between Israel and Lebanon - and have said so many times - I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. It's a longshot to think that Lebanon will somehow get up the courage to break with the Arab world and sign a treaty with Israel because bad things happen to people who do that who have 'unstable' elements in their country (see "Sadat, Anwar"). Given that it's a longshot, I'm more than a little nervous about the US flooding yet another country that sits on our border with massive amounts of arms. Anyone who thinks that Egypt wouldn't attack us today if they had the opportunity (despite their treaty with us) would be fooling themselves. They'd use all those American arms against us in a New York minute. Why does anyone think Lebanon would be any different?

Finally, as an American, why the heck do I want to enter into a treaty with a country where everybody hates me and I've already had hundreds of service people killed in terror attacks? (I suppose the same question could be asked about Saudi Arabia and maybe even about Iraq, but Iraq is different because the US brought about regime change there).

Maybe I should have titled this post "Desperately seeking a foreign policy coup" because it sounds like that's what the Bush administration is trying to do in its last months in office.


At 7:12 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

They'd use all those American arms against us in a New York minute. Why does anyone think Lebanon would be any different?

Lebanon wouldn't be any different.

The United States is on a very, very dangerous path. I'm depressed over the entire scenario.

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Menorah said...

The US is arming all of Israel's enemies. Why?

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Daniel434 said...

First I've heard this news. Sounds like another high official just spouting off at the mouth or maybe its true... but the partnership is with the Lebanese Army not Hezbullah even though the army is probably thoroughly infiltrated but the title is still misleading nonetheless.


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