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CATEGORY: Lebanon, Middle East

While the dust is beginning to settle over last week’s armed thuggery by Hizbullah against the Sunni community in West Beirut and the Druze in Chouf, several Middle East analysts have come to the conclusion that Iran was behind the violence in Lebanon:

Increasingly, prominent Middle East analysts and observers are suggesting that the past week’s events in Lebanon were part of an attempt by Iran to impose a new order in the Middle East through Hezbollah’s weapons. Raghida Durgham, al-Hayat daily’s reporter in Washington, wrote on May 16 that the party’s arms offer a doorway for Iran to enter Lebanon, one that does not require sending a foreign army like the Syrian troops that entered Lebanon after the civil war. “Iran today is like a border to Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s arms and Iran’s continuous support,” she wrote. “Syria is the important link between Iran and Hezbollah’s arms. However, the strategic decision is made by the Iranians.”

Durgham also quoted a high ranking Arab source who stressed that the best explanation for Lebanon’s recent crisis is that Iran feared a US military attack this summer, which it sought to preempt by mobilizing Hezbollah.

If this is true – and I have doubts about just how much the Iranians really “control” Hizbullah – it represents a radical shift in Iranian strategic thinking. Previously, Iran has been perfectly content to basically sit back and watch the United States get bogged down in Iraq while we were slowly losing influence among the Sunni states in the region. Their assistance given to the Iraqi terrorists, militias, and insurgents has not altered the military situation in Iraq. It wasn’t designed to. It was designed to keep the US pinned down while they plowed ahead with their enrichment program.

Now that they are on the cusp of being able to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, they have apparently decided to put the hammer down and go for broke in Lebanon.

Former 12-year Hezbollah member and fighter Rami Olleik, now an instructor of Agriculture at the American University of Beirut, also suggested, based on his own experience with the party, that the past week’s confrontations are part of the war between the US and Iran. “The difference is that March 14 did not merge organically with the US project as much as Hezbollah did with the Iranian project. Hezbollah and Iran’s projects are inseparable,” he added.

Likewise, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh also indicated to NOW Lebanon that the Lebanese opposition’s military operations last week were obviously an Iranian decision. “However, moving the front to Lebanon was a trial that has turned against Iran, as it opened the issue of [Hezbollah’s] arms,” Hamadeh said.

According to Hamadeh, the Arabs, led by the Arab League, have taken back the political initiative and decided to stop the military takeover of Lebanon. “The battle in the Chouf made [the opposition] stop and think, but even in Beirut, they couldn’t have stayed longer,” he stressed.

Appearing on my radio show last Tuesday, Professor Barry Rubin suggested that one way to counter this Iranian thrust was to have the United States become much more active in its support of the government. To date, the US (and France) have remained largely in the background, letting Saudi King Abdullah carry most of the diplomatic load. But should the US then try to “organically merge” with the pro-democracy Sunnis in Lebanon to match the Iranians and Hizbullah?

I can give 5 good reasons off the top of my head why such a move would be incredibly dangerous – backlash against the government, being asked to arm and train Sunni militias, risking our reputation in a civil war situation, the high cost of failure, and the potential of being dragged into another war.

In fact, I can give only one good reason we should get much closer to the March 14th government; Iran is there and so far, we have not engaged. We are giving Iran a cheap victory because of our reluctance to support the government. If Iran does indeed want to make Lebanon a proxy site for a war, we refuse them at our own peril. A Lebanese government dominated by Hizbullah under Iranian control and buttressed by Syrian muscle would at the very least scramble Middle East politics but good.

With the government revoking its two controversial decisions, Hezbollah’s quasi-state now appears stronger than the Lebanese government.

“Negotiations took place under pressure and threats of escalating the military operations. The government from now on will be under the command of Hezbollah, and it would never dare to make any decision that is not in Hezbollah’s interests, otherwise they will occupy the country,” Asaad stressed. He added that dialogue should now focus on one issue: either the arms go, or Lebanon goes.

If that is the choice, it will almost certainly be Lebanon that “goes.” Despite the Arab League’s efforts at mediation in Doha this weekend – and the question of Hizbullah’s arms will be discussed – not much will be accomplished if only because Hizbullah is now seen as an occupying force in its own country. They promised not to use their guns on the Lebanese, that they were only to be aimed at Israel. Now that the great lie has been exposed, they have become isolated. No longer a state within a state, they are simply a rogue militia that seeks to impose its will by the barrel of a gun.

And standing behind the curtain urging them on is Tehran who understands that bringing down the democratically elected government backed by the US and the west would deal a blow to our entire position in the region. If other players see the US fail to engage and pick up the Iranian gauntlet, they will draw the necessary conclusions and make their own peace with the Iranians as best they can.

While Sunni leader Said Hariri swears that he will not try and recruit a Sunni militia to fight Hizbullah thus avoiding what would be a catastrophic civil war, his followers may have other ideas. As Druze leader Walid Jumblatt found out to his chagrin last week, people being attacked do not always follow orders. Even after ordering the Druze to lay down their arms and allow the army to take up their positions, the fighters refused and ended up dealing Hizbullah a stinging defeat. Thus, it is becoming apparent that the political leaders have a tenuous hold over their followers and that the next round of violence may spin out of control to everyone’s detriment.

This isn’t the endgame in Lebanon. But unless the US decides to throw its weight behind the moderate, pro-democracy Sunnis in Lebanon soon, it could all be over before we even realize it started.

By: Rick Moran at 5:11 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)


In golf, if you step up to the tee and proceed to hit the ball out of bounds, there is a fine tradition on public link courses that you are allowed a do-over, or “Mulligan” so that you can try to hit the ball a little straighter and not be penalized for your wayward swing.

There’s no such thing in politics, of course…that is, unless you happen to be an inexperienced liberal Democrat campaigning for president who is vouchsafed such luxuries as getting to “clarify” a monumentally stupid statement that demonstrated a dangerous cluelessness about a vital part of the world.

Barack Obama’s statement on the crisis in Lebanon fell as flat as 3 week old champagne in Israel and Lebanon, and probably other places where reformers are seeking to overturn the established order in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people there. It’s bald faced ignorance about Hizbullah, about the Lebanese people, and what has been going on for more than 2 years in the streets in that tragic country underscores a dangerous naivete on the part of the candidate as well as a shocking lack of perspective on the true nature of groups like Hizbullah and Hamas.

In an eye-brow raising interview with the New York Times David Brooks, Obama was offered a chance to amend his mealy mouthed, pusillanimous statement on Lebanon made over the weekend and substitute instead thoughts that might connect to some semblance of reality regarding Hizbullah and their threat to whatever is left of democracy in Lebanon:

First, Obama’s initial swing that duck hooked clean out of bounds for a 2 stroke penalty:

He called on “all those who have influence with Hezbollah” to “press them to stand down.” Then he declared, “It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.”

I took the candidate to task for his naive belief that “those who have influence with Hizbullah” care one whit what happens to Lebanese society and in fact, were encouraging Hizbullah in their violent efforts to undermine the legitimacy and authority of the elected government.

As for a “diplomatic consensus” on electoral reform I would say to Obama where the hell have you been for 3 fricking years? The Lebanese along with the Saudis, the Syrians, and the Arab League have all been engaged in efforts to reform Lebanon’s archaic electoral laws.

As for the patronage system, have him clean up his homestate’s corruption before he goes over the Lebanon and starts telling them about “corrupt patronage.” Mayor Daley and Governor Blagovetich make the Lebanese look like pikers in that regard.

And what’s with this “New Deal” economic program for Lebanon? He can’t be that dense, can he? When George Bush took office, aid to Lebanon amounted to around $35 million. This year, in keeping with our pledges made at the Paris Roundtable on aid to Lebanon, the President is asking Congress for $770 million which would make Lebanon the third largest recipient of US aid per capita. This is an amount that Iran can’t come close to matching. Clearly, Lebanon has become one of the most important Middle Eastern countries to American interests.

The Roundtable countries pledged upwards of $7 billion to rebuild Lebanese infrastructure pulverized by Israel during the war with Hizbullah. But that aid can’t start flowing until Lebanon has a new government. And Lebanon won’t have a new government until they elect a president. And they won’t elect a president until a new electoral law is passed. And they won’t have a new electoral law until Hizbullah folds up its tents in downtown Beirut and stops threatening to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, joining their fellow countrymen in a national dialogue. And that won’t happen until there is a new government…

And around and around we go with Obama’s laughable ignorance exposed for all to see. He wants to treat Lebanon the same way he would go about reforming a corrupt ward in Chicago. For obvious reasons, this did not sit well with any Lebanese blogger or pundit I have read since he released that statement.

A sample from AK:

Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago. How stupid we were when, instead of developing national consensus with them, we organized media campaigns against Israel on behalf of the impoverished people who voted for them.

Given this reaction, one would think that given the opportunity to play a Mulligan, the candidate would try and make things right.

Guess again:

Right off the bat he reaffirmed that Hezbollah is “not a legitimate political party.” Instead, “It’s a destabilizing organization by any common-sense standard. This wouldn’t happen without the support of Iran and Syria.”

I asked him what he meant with all this emphasis on electoral and patronage reform. He said the U.S. should help the Lebanese government deliver better services to the Shiites “to peel support away from Hezbollah” and encourage the local populace to “view them as an oppressive force.” The U.S. should “find a mechanism whereby the disaffected have an effective outlet for their grievances, which assures them they are getting social services.”

The U.S. needs a foreign policy that “looks at the root causes of problems and dangers.” Obama compared Hezbollah to Hamas. Both need to be compelled to understand that “they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims.” He knows these movements aren’t going away anytime soon (“Those missiles aren’t going to dissolve”), but “if they decide to shift, we’re going to recognize that. That’s an evolution that should be recognized.”

Obama didn’t only hit his Mulligan out of bounds – the ball made a beeline for the clubhouse and hit the President of the Country Club right in the middle of the forehead.

And while the President of the Golf Club can ban Obama for life, we voters aren’t so lucky. We must deal with this head in the clouds, pie in the sky, completely unrealistic and dangerously naive candidate for the rest of the campaign. All we can do is point out his shocking idiocies and hope that the American people see the danger too.

To take his statement apart, he doesn’t think Hizbullah is a “legitimate” political party. This would come as news to the 24 Hizbullah deputies seated in Parliament and the millions of ordinary Lebanese belonging to what an American presidential candidate has just told them is an illegitimate political entity.

Maybe Obama sees them sort of like Republicans in Chicago’s city hall.

But the real head scratchers in Obamas’s statement have to do with his idea of how government should work in Lebanon. He thinks the Lebanese government should deliver “better services” to the Shia – actually believing that bringing national health care or maybe food stamps to the south will “peel away” ordinary Shias and cement their loyalty to the government. He also thinks we should make the Shias see Hizbullah as an “oppressive force.”

Brooks thinks Obama has been well briefed on Lebanon – that’s a pile of crap. First of all, the writ of Lebanese law does not run in the south – no services, no government officials, just Hizbullah. Perhaps Obama never heard the expression relating to Hizbullah “a state within a state.” How, pray tell, is Obama going to get government services to a people when the terror bosses of Hizbullah control access to the population? How is he going to “peel away” Shias while showing Hizbullah to be “oppressive?”

Of all the platitudinous nonsense ever uttered by Obama, this comes close to taking the cake.

Well, until he said “The U.S. should “find a mechanism whereby the disaffected have an effective outlet for their grievances, which assures them they are getting social services.”

Wha? Who? WTF? The Shias already have an a very fine mechanism that is “an effective outlet” for their grievances. It’s called Hizbullah. And make no mistake, being funded to the tune of $300 million a year by Iran allows the party to set up an entire social welfare infrastructure that addresses the basic needs of the Shia in a way that the Lebanese government never did. Sorry, Barry but if you would return to earth with the rest of us mortals, you would realize your half assed opinions about the situation in Lebanon can only do damage to the very people we are seeking to help.

It only gets more bizarrely stupid the more he opens his mouth. No liberal panacea for what ails Lebanon would be complete without the “root causes” meme – as in, “Gee, if only the terrorists grew up with good food, shelter, heath care, and a 37’ Sony Trinitron, their hearts would melt and the world would be a fine place, indeed.” He believes both Hamas and Hizbullah “need to understand” that they are going down a “blind alley” with violence that “weakens their legitimate (gulp!) claims.”

Can Obama pick and choose which “legitimate claim” Hamas might want to pursue? Maybe they don’t want peace. Maybe they view their #1 legitimate claim to be the destruction of the Jewish state and death to every jew they can lay their hands on. How now, Barry? Will you help Hamas pursue that legitimate claim?

Hizbullah is a slightly different story but only because you can vaguely place their “legitimate claims” in the context of standing up for the Shia underclass – something that this past week’s violence revealed as a sham as Michael Young put so brilliantly in this piece. Basically, Young believes that Hizbullah’s attempted power grab this past week opened a schism between the Shias and the rest of Lebanese society that has made them more isolated than they were.

To even speak of “legitimacy” of claims by Hamas or Hizbullah is outrageously naive. Obama keeps insisting he has a “realistic” outlook on our enemies. And while he makes some of the right noises about Iran and Syria, he more often comes up with ludicrous statements like this that call into question his fitness for the presidency.

Lebanon is not some senate district in Chicago where someone can jump in and butt some heads together, shower a little money, and talk of about economic development as if it were just a question of opening a spigot somewhere and out would pour goodwill and prosperity.

Our friends in Lebanon are very worried about this man becoming president. They fear he will sell them down the river in order to get a peace deal with Iran or broker a Middle East peace with Syria and Israel. The temptation will be great to do so no matter who is president – McCain or Obama – to give in to Syria’s demands on Lebanon and leave the Lebanese people to the tender mercy of Hizbullah and Gangster Assad’s henchmen.

So far, it doesn’t appear to me that Obama has grasped the essential truth of what is at stake in Lebanon and may not see much wrong with abandoning the tiny country to its own, tragic fate.

And in the game of nations, no Mulligans are allowed.

By: Rick Moran at 1:11 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)


Lefties speak out against Bush calling Obama policies “Appeasement”

That wet spot you see forming under the chair of Will Bunch, Michael D., and even the normally reasonable Joe Gandleman is a sure sign that the brand of diapers these people are using just ain’t cuttin’ it. Might I suggest “Huggies Super Absorbent” for those times – like now – when you need that extra protection against leaks and overflow?

What has many on the left squirming in their toddler seats due to the uncomfortable dampness in their tush was a speech made by our President to the Israeli Knesset celebrating the State of Israel’s 60th birthday.

Now it is probably a good thing that no one asked our President to blow out the candles on the cake since his wind is probably not what it was a few years ago – having expended all that hot air in the meantime telling us what a success his excellent adventure in Iraq had become. But no matter. Bush delivered a speech to a people under daily threat of terrorism that was designed to reassure them that America would not sell Israel down the river in the interests of making peace with other, less friendly regimes in the region.

This is pro-forma stuff when it comes to an American president speaking in Israel, hardly headline grabbing fodder for the wires. Except Bush added a little something extra – a necessary warning given we have a putative candidate for president whose ideas about diplomacy include sitting down with Syria and Iran “without preconditions” and talk about peace in the Middle East.

It does no good to try and deny Obama said this and meant it. It was not taken out context, twisted, distorted, or otherwise folded, spindled, or mutilated in any way. If the candidate wants to change his position that’s fine. He can say he made a mistake, that he realizes now he should probably have thought that answer to the debate question through a little more.

But no. Obama insists he never said what he obviously said – in other words, either a man divorced from reality or a bald faced liar. And of course, his worshipful sycophants on the left have bought into this ludicrousness. Hillary has been using this very same idea of Obama wanting to talk to Assad and Ahmadinejad without preconditions as a hammer to demonstrate her opponents lack of foreign policy (one could add it also demonstrates a lack of sanity but that might be for a shrink to decide).

At any rate, Bush had this to say about Obama’s scathingly brilliant idea:

“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We have heard this foolish delusion before,” Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Many on the left went into apoplectic fits, bringing out the most laughable, over the top, insanely over dramatized rhetoric we’ve seen from them in – oh, about 48 hours.

Will Bunch:

But what Bush did in Israel this morning goes well beyond the accepted confines of American political debate, When the president speaks to a foreign parliament on behalf of our country, his message needs to be clear and unambiguous. Our democracy may look messy to outsiders, and we may have our disagreements with some sharp elbows thrown around, but at the end of the day we are not Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives.

We are Americans.

And you, Mr. Bush, are the leader of us all. To use a diplomatic setting on foreign soil to score a cheap political point at home is way beneath your office, way beneath your country, and way beneath the people you serve. You have been handed an office once uplifted to great heights by fellow countrymen from Washington to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower, and have plunged it so deeply into the Karl-Rove-and-Rush-Limbaugh-fueled world of political destruction and survival of all costs that have lost all perspective—and all sense of decency. To travel to Israel and to associate a sitting American senator and your possible successor in the Oval Office with those who at one time gave comfort to an enemy of the United States is, in and of itself, an act of political treason.

First of all, there was nothing cheap about that political point. That, sir, is a 100 carat, gold plated, diamond encrusted, million dollar zinger of political shot.

Secondly, I note that many on the left really hate it when you bring up appeasement. They curse Chamberlain for turning it into a dirty word. After all, Sir Neville had the right idea, just the wrong execution. Now if we were to negotiate with Hitler today, we wouldn’t make the same mistakes Chamberlain did, say the lefties. We would have gotten an arms control deal first and tied it in with concessions on the Sudetenland. And, of course, recognizing the Nazi sphere of influence in that part of Europe with all those little countries and their unpronounceable names would have been a price for making peace. But anything is better than a World War, right?

Obama was not long in responding with a carefully measured, balanced statement…Just kidding! He whined like a 5 year old who is told he must go to bed early:

It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power – including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy – to pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.

“Extraordinary politicization of foreign policy?” Holy Christ! Only a dimwit doesn’t think what the Democrats have been doing for 5 years in Iraq and this entire campaign season isn’t using foreign policy as a political club to beat this president and the GOP over the head. Is he really that stupid. Are his followers really that naive? Of course not! They know full well that they’ve been politicizing foreign poicy – which makes Obama’s and Free Willy’s whining all the more hypocritical.

And I wonder if Willy Boy’s outrage extends to calling to account ex-presidents or ex-vice presidents who regularly go on foreign soil and all but call the president of the United States a traitor. Where the f**k are you people when those two characters pop up in Switzerland, or Saudi Arabia, or Great Britain and make the most personal, hurtful, politically motivated attacks on Bush?

Spare me your fake outrage. When you come around to criticizing Carter and Gore for the swipes in foreign countries they’ve taken at Bush then you may have earned yourself a measure of standing to hurl your infantile charges at Bush.

This is the mindset Obama would have going into talks with Assad and Ahmadinejad. Assad will make peace with Israel if we let him back into Lebanon – bottom line. Delusions to the contrary are not allowed. Would sacrificing Lebanon on the altar of the Obama Doctrine be acceptable?

The trouble is, the Israelis don’t think so. They might be wondering if the American president might sell them out for a deal on Iranian nukes or something else – perhaps peace in Iraq. Given the extraordinary pro-Palestinian bias of many of his advisors, why would this be so shocking?

The Israelis aren’t stupid. You don’t live to be 60 and face what they’ve had to face from the minute of their birth without a keen sense of who their friends are. And when the Israelis see their mortal enemy Hamas embracing Obama’s candidacy, they might be wondering who this fellow is and just what does he have in store for Israel if he gets elected.

Bush was chastising Obama as an appeaser before an audience that understood better than anyone else on the planet what appeasement can lead to. It is now up to Obama to prove that he understands the threats facing us and our allies. It is time for him to abandon his idea to meet with Assad and Ahmadinejad without preconditions by making it clear that he misspoke during the debate and that upon reflection, he realizes he erred and that he now supports a much more cautious approach.

He won’t do it, of course. Why should he when he has the New York Times running interference for him, telling the world that what he said, he didn’t actually say? Instead, we will get more whining from the candidate of “change.”

Bush zinged Obama by pointing out the obvious shortcomings of his proposed policy. It might not be appeasement – at least the left wouldn’t use that word. It would be “constructive engagement” or some other mealy mouthed words dreamed up by our striped suit, topped hat nitwits at Foggy Bottom. The number one issue is would Obama sell out Israeli security for a deal elsewhere – either with Syria and Iran. We don’t know the answer. The Israelis don’t know the answer. And Obama himself probably doesn’t either.

If these lefties would stop their fake whining jag long enough to look at it from the perspective of the Israelis, some of us might start believing the grownups had returned to the Democratic party’s foriegn policy team.

So far, no such luck.

By: Rick Moran at 3:21 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (39) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Amendments...
Sister Toldjah linked with Barack Obama and other reality-challenged Democrats sail down Denial River...

Oh my God, Moran…not another article on Lebanon. Puh-leeez!

Yes, I can hear the groans from many of my faithful, long suffering readers out there. Give us Obamamama! Give us Hillarybash! Give us baseball! But don’t give us anything more about that crazy-quilt collection of conniving, endearing, brave, cowardly, confusing mish mash of sects, political parties, alliances, and individuals that make up the tragic nation of Lebanon.

Why write about it? Right now – as I am writing this post – the fate of the Middle East is being decided in that little country. Don’t believe me? Read Michael Young, opinion editor for the Beirut Daily Star newspaper. Iran’s most important proxies – Syria and Hizbullah – are up to their necks in trouble as a result of their actions in Lebanon. And the fall of Hizbullah would send shockwaves throughout the region, dealing a grievous blow to the plans of Iran and could threaten the stability of the Assad regime in Syria. 

Syria – the first true gangster state – has tried to reclaim what they consider their rightful place in Lebanon by simply murdering enough opposition lawmakers and ministers like a Chicagoland crime boss so that the political opposition friendly to them will have a majority of their own in parliament and thus enable them to wrest control of the country from the elected majority.

Why does Syria want back in after getting kicked out by an outpouring of democratic outrage at their excesses? Like any good “boss of the yards,” Syria was using Lebanon as a cash cow – a font of extorted money, crooked partnerships in major businesses, and outright theft of Lebanese assets. This booty, properly distributed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, kept his corrupt regime afloat by paying off the army, the Baath party, and other elements in the Syrian hierarchy.

Given all of that, if there is any other way to describe Syria except as a “gangster regime,” I cannot think of it.

And the pointed end of the stick Syria was using to do its bidding in Lebanon was the Iranian-created terrorist group/political party/Shia social service agency Hizbullah. A confluence of interests between the two guaranteed that cooperation in Lebanon was a foregone conclusion.

But the recent violence perpetrated by Hizbullah when the legitimate government tried to exercise its authority over the party has changed the game considerably – and not to the advantage of either Syria or Hizbullah.

What’s that you say? I thought the Hezzies were crushing the weak resistance put up by Sunnis to stop their military advances into West Beirut and elsewhere. The media is making it appear that Hizbullah has won a huge victory and that for all intents and purposes, Hizbullah is in control of the country.

To quote John Wayne; not hardly.

First of all, there has not been much in the American media about Hizbullah’s stinging military setback in the rugged terrain north of Beirut where fierce Druze fighters refused to back down and basically handed the hezzies and their allies their butts in a sling. Michael Young explains:

A solution appears to have been found for the immediate crisis that began last week. The airport and roads have been opened, but there never was a way for Hezbollah to emerge successfully from the conflict it created. Militarily, the only way the party could have momentarily broken the deadlock in the mountains was to mount a massive invasion of Aley and the Chouf, using thousands of men and its most sophisticated weaponry. The Druze would have remained united – as Talal Arslan’s supporters and other Druze opposition members were united with Walid Jumblatt’s followers at the weekend. There would have been carnage, and had Hezbollah prevailed, it would have had to hold unfriendly territory indefinitely, locking down resources and manpower. Then what? An invasion of Metn? Kesrouan? Jbeil? The North? Not even the most ardent Hezbollah believer would have seriously argued that such a project was feasible. Military stalemate would have prevailed, and even if the stalemate had collapsed in one area, it would have been followed by myriad stalemates.

Young is writing of the real tragedy represented by Hizbullah’s apparently unplanned but long prepared for military move; the fate of the Shias in Lebanon:
There is great poignancy in the fate of the people of Qomatiyeh. With Kayfoun, the village is one of two Shia enclaves in the predominantly Druze and Christian Aley district. The inhabitants, far more than their brethren in the southern suburbs or the South, must on a daily basis juggle between a past in which they coexisted with their non-Shia neighbors and a present and future in which the neighbors view them as an existential threat. That story written large may soon be the story of Lebanon’s Shia community after the mad coup attempt organized by Hezbollah last week. In the past decade and a half, Hezbollah has injected regional animosities and an antagonistic and totalistic ideology of confrontation into tens of thousands of Shia homes, quarters, towns and villages where such attitudes have no place. Whatever brings the Iranian concept of wilayat al-faqih – the guardianship of the jurisconsult – to Qomatiyeh? Suleiman Jaafar may have been a Hezbollah member, but he was more than anything else a village boy caught in a fight far bigger than him, than all of us.

Young points out that Hizbullah’s major problem is ignorance – they don’t have a clue about the reasons behind the political compromises necessary for the Lebanese state.

Lebanon is a polyglot collection of religious sects, clans, and powerful families kept together by a tradition of compromise and an awareness that one sect or another should not dominate. Young shows where Hizbullah really blew it with their attempt to use their militia to throw all those carefully wrought living arrangements between the parties out the window:

The Shia community is obeying a leadership that cannot be said, in any way, to have ever understood the essence of the Lebanese system. Hezbollah and its secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, will often insist that sectarian compromise requires handing the party, and Shia in general, veto power over political decision-making. But that’s not what the consociational system is about; the point of the sectarian arrangement is not to build a system based on mechanisms of obstruction. It is to force the different communities to reach compromises in order to avert mechanisms of obstruction. Hezbollah has repeatedly tried to ignore this by imposing its will in the street or through its guns. The result has been a gathering, strengthening alignment of adversaries that will fight hard before allowing Hezbollah or the Shia to gain hegemonic power.

But wasn’t this reaction always obvious? Apparently not to Nasrallah and his Iranian sponsors, who never had any liking for the baroque but necessary give and take of the Lebanese order – let alone respect for the retribution that has always crippled those ignoring its fundamental rules. Through its contempt for Lebanon, Hezbollah has left itself with two stark choices: either to integrate fully into the state or to control the state. But since it will or can do neither, we are in for a long and harsh standoff between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanese society.

There is some speculation that the government of Fouad Siniora maneuvered Nasrallah into taking the drastic military steps that have brought Lebanon to the brink of civil war. Indeed, by challenging Hizbullah’s status as a state within a state by trying to reclaim an absolute monopoly on telecommunications in the country, Siniora and the government gave Nasrallah little choice; the offending ruling must be revoked or it would only be a matter of time when the government would go after Hizbullah’s arms.

That is now a virtual certainty. And it is clear that Siniora will have the rest of the country supporting him in that effort. The fact is, without its militia, Hizbullah is just a political party with little chance of becoming part of a majority coalition.

Will Nasrallah see the writing on the wall and start to integrate his “resistance” into Lebanese security forces?

The clock began counting down in May 2000, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon. This threatened to deny the party its reason to exist, even though it tried to keep “resistance” alive through the Shebaa Farms front. In 2005, once the Syrians departed, everything collapsed. The party found itself having to justify its private army against a majority of Lebanese that opposed Hezbollah’s state within a state and its lasting allegiance to the Syrian regime. In 2006, as the national dialogue prepared to address the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons, Nasrallah sought to turn the tables by kidnapping Israeli soldiers and imposing his version of Hezbollah’s defense strategy on March 14. The plan backfired when Israel responded by ravaging Lebanon and the Shia in particular. And now, having fully discredited its “resistance” in the eyes of its countrymen, having ensured that an antagonistic population will be to its rear in the event of a new war with Israel, having weakened its non-Shia allies, Hezbollah, as both an idea and a driving force, is in its death throes. The party may yet endure, but the national resistance is finished.

Unfortunately, Hizbullah will not go quietly into that goodnight. And here is where the international community can be of most help. Not in forcing Hizbullah to give up its arms but by drastically strengthening the Siniora government. The recent Hizbullah offensive caused the Lebanese people to ask themselves “who is on our side” when only pro-forma denunciations were forthcoming from the US, France, and the United Nations. By doing everything we can to prop up Siniora – openly supporting his government with money and arms – Hizbullah will find itself isolated and unable to effect national events the way they have recently.

If, as Young says, the “national resistance” is finished it may be that a much stronger central government will help Hizbullah see the truth in that statement and attempt to integrate themselves into the rest of Lebanese society. It won’t come easily nor probably without bloodshed. But Hizbullah has painted itself into this corner and has only itself to blame if it can’t find an easy way out.

By: Rick Moran at 9:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

CATEGORY: Lebanon, Middle East

If you haven’t read Barack Obama’s mealy mouthed, pusillanimous statement on the crisis in Lebanon, I would suggest you read it with the fact uppermost in your mind that this is the man who may very well have the responsibility of preventing Iran from achieving its hegemonic aims in the Middle East.

Hezbollah’s power grab in Beirut has once more plunged that city into violence and chaos. This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately. It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment. We must support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that reinforce Lebanon’s sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hezbollah, which is violated by Iran and Syria. As we push for this national consensus, we should continue to support the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Siniora, strengthen the Lebanese army, and insist on the disarming of Hezbollah before it drags Lebanon into another unnecessary war. As we do this, it is vital that the United States continues to work with the international community and the private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet.

Lee Smith:
Yes, the problem with Lebanon is not the militia backed by Damascus and Tehran that who have squared off against almost every US ally in the Middle East. No, in the Obama worldview, the issue is about “the corrupt patronage system.” What is more corrupt than the issues that instigated the current crisis: Hezbollah’s efforts to, a, build a state within a state and, b, undermine the sovereignty of the Lebanese government? And what is a more unfair distribution of services than an armed party at the service of foreign parties?

Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! – and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level.

Noah Pollak had the exact same reaction to the part of Obanma’s statement I highlighted above; who in God’s name does he think is running those thugs from Hizbullah?
Does Obama understand that the people who “have influence with Hezbollah” happen to be the same people on whose behalf Hezbollah is rampaging through Lebanon?

Then there is the absurd prescription:

It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

So that’s the problem in Lebanon? Economics and the electoral system?

Surely a Lebanese-American like Abu Kais would be grateful to hear such soothing words of peace and reasonableness, yes?
Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago. How stupid we were when, instead of developing national consensus with them, we organized media campaigns against Israel on behalf of the impoverished people who voted for them.

During that time when we bought into the cause against Israel, treating resistance fighters like our brothers, we really should have been building consensus with them. Because what we did back in 1982, 1993, 1996, 2000 and 2006 – all that was plain betrayal and unnecessary antagonism, a product of a corrupt patronage system and unfair distribution of wealth.

We stand today regretting the wasted time that could have been wisely spent talking to them, to the Syrian occupiers who brought them into our system, and the Iranian revolutionary guards who trained them.

Yes, this is change we believe in. Get me a time machine.

This has been the favored gambit of the left when dealing with difficult adversaries; pretend the basis for hostility can be found in some Hegelian historical dialectic or worse, deterministic models of human behavior rather than seeing the thug right in front of you who is about to whack you in the face with a two-by-four. Smith again:
Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! – and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says, Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.

Indeed, that fired advisor – Robert Malley – was a favored target of my friend Ed Lasky at The American Thinker – and for good reason; Malley consistently demonstrated an anti-Israeli, pro-Syrian bias in his writings such as this piece he did for the LA Times:
Forget Pelosi: What About Syria?: where Malley calls for outreach to Syria, despite its ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the terrorists committing murder in Iraq; believes it is unreasonable to call for Syria to cut ties with Hezbollah, break with Hamas, or alienate Iran before negotiations; he believes a return of the Golan Heights and engagement with the West will somehow miraculously lead the Syrian regime to take these steps—after they get all they want.

“All they want” most certainly includes Lebanon – either total freedom to dominate the tiny country as they see fit using their proxies or an actual re-occupation. Given the response – or lack thereof – by the international community and specifically western countries like France and the US to Hizbullah’s current rampage, Syria should feel pretty damn comfortable in doing just about whatever they please with Lebanon.

Indeed, Reason Magazine contributor and editorial editor for the Daily Star Michael Young foresaw this series of events and the possible endgame weeks ago:

Is it really in the U.S. interest to engage Syria in this context, when its major Arab allies are in the midst of a conflict with Iran they view as vital? In fact, I’m not at all convinced that asking Arab states to change Syrian behavior through “more robust interactions and investments in the country” would work. The Arabs have repeatedly tried to change Syrian behavior through more congenial means, most prominently at the Arab League summit in Riyadh last year. The Syrians have ignored this. Why? Because they know the price for their return to the Arab fold would be to give up on a return to Lebanon. They’re not about to do that, because only such a return, one that is total, with soldiers, would give Syria the regional relevance it lost in 2005, when it was forced out of Lebanon.

It would also allow Syria, from Beirut, to undermine the Hariri tribunal, which threatens the future of the Syrian regime and which will probably begin operating next year. In this, Syria has the full support of Hezbollah, which realizes that without a Syrian comeback, the party will continue to face a majority in Lebanon that wants the party to disarm. I find it revealing that Jon failed to mention Lebanon once in his post. That’s because advocates of engaging Syria realize that the only way you can bring about an advantageous dialogue with Damascus is to give it something worthwhile. That something can only be Lebanon, the minimal price Syria would demand to offer positive concessions in return.

Young has identified the number one reason for not establishing dialogue with Syria until some minimal conditions are met such as a halt to their support for the Hizbullah thugs who terrorized Christians, Sunnis, and Druze in Lebanon these past few days. The fact is, Syria will, in the end, agree to a compromise regarding a peace deal with Israel or halting their support for Sunni terrorists and insurgents in Iraq only if their interests in Lebanon are recognized and legitimized.

This is why both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have made the pilgrimage to Damascus to sit down for a spot of tea with Gangster Assad should be royally chastised for their efforts at “personal diplomacy.” And this is why Obama is ten degrees to starboard off base when he proposes negotiations while Syrian proxy Hizbullah terrorizes Lebanon.

 If Obama and his advisors can’t see that it is Hizbullah who is solely responsible for the mayhem taking place in Lebanon or if they cannot grasp that the main obstacle to compromise among the sects with regard to everything from the presidential election to economic reform in Lebanon is Syria working through their proxies then God help us, we are about to elect a lamb who is stupidly willing to lie down with lions.

By: Rick Moran at 6:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

Pro Cynic linked with Naughty Bits...

The anti-war crowd has been saying for years that it is possible, indeed necessary, for the United States to simply walk away from Iraq by systematically drawing down its forces without regard to the security of the Iraqi government or people.

Also for years, I have been saying that despite monumental blunders and stupidities committed by our side, that such a scenario just wasn’t a viable option unless we could be assured of leaving behind some kind of stable government that at the very least, couldn’t be hijacked by al-Qaeda and made into a base of operations that would threaten us and our friends around the world.

I still believe that to be a viable, sensible, logical position to hold – but just barely. Once again, I feel myself “stretching” to defend a position that even just a few days ago I felt quite comfortable with.

Almost a year ago, I responded to my critics who accused me of changing my mind about Iraq by writing a post that tried to show how events can undercut long held assumptions and present you with the choice of being dishonest about how you truly feel by stretching your logic and reason in order to have your beliefs comport with your original assumptions or change the underlying assumptions on which you base your beliefs in order to reflect a new reality:

One by one, assumptions I had formed at the beginning of the war and occupation fell victim to changing realities in Iraq. This is not the same place it was 4 years ago nor is it even the same as it was a year ago. And if it has changed – if the facts, perceptions, and reality has changed, what did that do to the underlying justification for my opinions?

Once I began “reaching” to justify my opinions, I got very uncomfortable. The threads of logic became more tenuous the more I examined those pesky assumptions. I realized that many (not all) of my original assumptions were basically obsolete, done in by the cruel logic of domestic politics and a growing realization that the the US military could do everything that was asked of it and more and still come up short thanks to the balking politicians in Iraq, the twisted narrative of the war being spun by the left and the Democrats, Administration failures to implement a strategy that would win the war, and a growing belief that the country was sliding out of control.

So if you’re in my shoes, what do you do? Continue to defend a position you know is becoming untenable as a result of changing realities (and new information not available at the time you formed your original assumptions)? Or do you alter your assumptions and change your opinion?

Until I got on the internet, I always believed it was the mark of a thoughtful man to constantly challenge one’s beliefs and adjust them if necessary to the changing realities of the world. This is how I went from believing in liberalism to thinking like a conservative. There came a time after college graduation where liberal dogma refused to stand the test of rigorous self-examination and I gravitated toward a much more conservative worldview. Within that conservative framework, I have altered my opinions many times regarding many issues. For instance, I am much more conservative on immigration than I was even just a few years ago while I have perhaps moderated my views on issues like affirmative action and minority set asides.

Those are small examples but telling. Think about it. What kind of idiot – right or left – would maintain a mindless belief on an issue even after the original assumptions on which they based that conviction have been superseded by events or a different set of facts?

The situation in Iraq at the moment is quite fluid and not beyond repair. A return to some kind of status quo albeit with a weakened Maliki and suddenly ascendant al-Sadr is possible. But I think that some of those underlying assumptions about Iraq that I held just a week ago have proven themselves to be changing – and not for the better.

To wit:

1. It was always an assumption that the Iraqi militias would have to be destroyed or neutralized in order for peace and security to come to Iraq.

But 6 days of fighting in Basra shows that Iraqi army incapable of doing either. And any political solution regarding the militias would necessarily put them on the police force or in the army where their loyalties would always be suspect.

2. It has been an assumption from the beginning that the Iraqi army was capable of “standing up” without American assistance so that we could safely draw down our forces.

I don’t believe the Iraqi army did that badly in Basra. There are enough credible reports that they stood up to some pretty vicious assaults by the Mehdis and may, in some instances, have been facing an enemy with superior arms including heavy weapons not in their arsenal. What is clear is that the spin on this battle has been incredible. Reports of “defections” by the army to the Mehdis have been wildly exaggerated while every temporary setback by the Iraqi army was given glowing coverage.

But their performance was nevertheless disappointing. Their inability to make much headway against the Mehdi in most neighborhoods and their reliance on American and British air power shows that they still have a long way to go before they can handle internal security for the country much less beat off an invading army from Iran or Syria.

How much more training can we give them? My military friends who read this site will no doubt tell me that it is a very difficult task to build an army from scratch and that leadership on the battlefield is a difficult commodity to recognize and encourage. I will buy that notion but will also point out that there is a political clock ticking here at home and performances like that shown in Basra by the Iraqi army do not engender confidence that they can “stand up” before time runs out and Congress (or a new president) pulls the plug.

3. It has been an assumption that Malki could unite the country despite dragging his heels on reconciliation measures.

This is one that has been slipping away for months. In fact, Maliki is proving to be not a uniter but a divider, interested in pursuing power for his coalition at the expense of other Shia parties and the Sunni minority. This was certainly a large part of the rationale he used for entering Basra in the first place. And in the end, it may be his undoing.

4. It has been an assumption that al-Sadr must die.

Mookie may have become too large a player in Iraqi politics to take him out. He and his party have become the “agents of change” in the south where precious little has been done with regards to reconstruction of basic services like electricity and sewage. His power in the national government may be small but the power of the national government is nothing to shake a stick at. If nothing else, he has become a powerful regional actor who both the US and Maliki must now deal with. His ties to Iran notwithstanding, perhaps it is time to if not embrace him, at least stop trying to kill him and the Mehdi. In other words, turn a huge negative into a slightly net positive.

5. It has been an assumption that the Kurdish north is not a big problem and that we can allow the Iraqis to deal with security in that area.

This is definitely one of those assumptions that is changing. Al-Qaeda has made its presence known in Mosul and Kirkuk while a low intensity conflict between Shias and Kurds for control of the vital oil center of Kirkuk has been going on for almost a year. Is there anything the US can reasonably be expected to do to alter that situation?

6. It has been an assumption that the US must stay in Iraq in order to kill the remnants of al-Qaeda.

This is probably the strongest argument for maintaining a large combat force in Iraq. But the Sunni militias have proven that they are very effective in securing their neighborhoods against al-Qaeda attacks while also rooting out terrorist cells on their own. Will we soon get to a point where the Sunnis can “stand up” so we can “stand down?”

These are just a few of the underlying assumptions about Iraq that most reasonable people, I believe, would have to say are in flux at the moment. Does this mean I believe we should walk away from Iraq? Not at this point. But unless some of these basic assumptions about our role as occupier and friend of Iraq can be changed for the better, I can certainly envision a day where such a course of action would become self-evident.

By: Rick Moran at 8:10 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (27)

Maggie's Farm linked with Tuesday Links...

Anyone who is cheering on what is happening in Iraq probably also roots for crashes at NASCAR races and train derailments.

Admittedly, the situation is so confused and bloggers and the MSM are spinning the news to such dizzying lengths that getting a semi-clear picture of what is actually transpiring in Basra, in Kut, even in Baghdad has become a guessing game.

We know that after some initial success, the Iraqi army is bogged down in a battle for Basra that has degenerated into running gun battles with Mehdi militiamen who appear to be equally or better armed than the US supplied government troops.

There is word that American air power is being employed to help the Iraqi army:

The air strikes are the clearest sign yet that the coalition forces have been drawn into the fighting in Basra. Up until Thursday night, the American and British air forces insisted that the Iraqis had taken the lead, though they acknowledged surveillance support for the Iraqi Army.

The assault on militia forces in Basra has been presented by President Bush and others as an important test for the American-trained Iraqi forces, to show that they can carry out a major ground operation against insurgents largely on their own.

But the air strikes suggest that the Iraqi military has been unable to successfully rout the militias, despite repeated assurances by American and Iraqi officials that their fighting capabilities have vastly improved.

A failure by the Iraqi forces to secure the port city of Basra would be a serious embarrassment for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and for the Iraqi Army, as well as for American forces who are eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively.

The airstrikes were against a “Mahdi stronghold” and a mortar position, according to the Times who quoted American military sources.

Bombing in residential areas nearly always results in collateral damage to surrounding buildings. This almost certainly isn’t making residents of Basra very happy to see us.

But the tell here is the fact that we bombed a “mortar team” for the Iraqi army.

Now I hate to get into areas where my expertise is limited but don’t Americans learn how to take a fortified position in basic training? Isn’t that like “Soldiering 101?” Correct me if I’m wrong but why, after three years of training can’t Iraqi troops manage this feat on their own?

I would take that as a sign that the Iraqi army, while not throwing down their arms and fleeing in terror, are not up to the challenge of operating independently yet. And this begs the question of why Prime Minister Maliki gave the go-ahead for this operation?

Daniel Davies asks some questions that I haven’t seen anywhere else:

John is right to be suspicious of this kind of “this looks like such a stupid idea that he must have some private information that explains it all” argument, and there was always the possibility that in fact, it just looked crazy because it was crazy – either a reckless desperation gamble, a wholly unrealistic assessment of the situation or a calculated attempt to precipitate enough of a crisis to force the USA to commit more resources. With the Maliki forces seemingly having made no progess toward their objective in Basra, and with rioting and curfews in Baghdad and actual armed battles in Kut, it looks like Maliki’s gamble is going badly wrong. Napoleon’s maxim is relevant here; “if you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna!” – having picked the fight, Maliki absolutely had to win it, and failure here is likely to mean political failure too.

It’s hard to see a good way out of this. John’s prediction record here is substantially better than mine, and he thinks that we settle back down to a lower-energy state of affairs, with some kind of renegotiated ceasefire, but I’m now less optimistic than that. It seems to me that Moqtada al-Sadr’s control over the movement bearing his name is weakening; the man himself is in Qom, Iran, studying Islamic scripture and trying to stay out of trouble[2]. Meanwhile, the Mehdi Army[3] has clearly been getting more and more restless over the six months of ceasefire and still seems to me to be potentially quite fissiparous. The really interesting question to which I don’t know the answer is; to what extent do the uprisings across Shia Iraq reflect different branches of the Mehdi Army supporting one another, and to what extent are they local flare-ups which were precipitated by the attack on Basra but not coordinated responses to it?

First, I think going after the Mahdi was the next logical step for the government to take if they were ever going to have a “monopoly on violence” in the country. Basra and most of the surrounding towns and villages were lawless outposts ruled by gangs, rogue militias, and party warlords who vied for control in a low intensity conflict that the Brits couldn’t handle because of their sensitivity to suffering too many casualties. It would be a huge boost to the government’s credibility with Sunnis and many Shias if they could reduce the power of the Mahdi in Basra while gaining control of the region.

Second, Maliki is no doubt looking to the provincial elections in the fall and feared al-Sadr’s influence and especially his ability to rig elections in the south to give the Mahdi a favorable outcome. Pure power politics has its uses when everyone has a gun.

Third, I have little doubt that the Americans have been urging this course of action on Maliki for a long time. Not only will emasculating the Mahdi help the security situation in Iraq, but a demonstration of armed prowess by the Iraqi army would be good for the American electorate and especially GOP Congressmen who are getting antsy about funding the war with so little in the way of proof that the Iraqi military is coming along and will be able to handle security well enough that we can start to draw down our forces significantly.

But it is hard to see how this can end up a net positive for Maliki unless he destroys the Mahdi Army. That’s becaue any negotiated end to the fighting with the Mahdi still in Basra will be spun as a victory by al-Sadr – just as he spun his defeat in Najaf as a victory over the Americans.

This is from a Mahdi militiaman who was on the Basra police force and who took off his uniform to join his comrades in this fight against the Iraqi army:

“We know the outcome of the fighting in advance because we already defeated the British in the streets of Basra and forced them to withdraw to their base,” Abu Iman told The Times.

“If we go back a bit, everyone remembers the fight with the US in Najaf and the damage and defeat we inflicted on them. Do you think the Iraqi Army is better than those armies? We are right and the Government is wrong. [Nouri al] Maliki [the Iraqi Prime Minister] is driving his Government into the ground.”

According to the Times Online, several hundred of these policemen (out of 10,000) switched sides – not unexpected given the level of infiltration by the militias in the police force but worrying nonetheless.

With fighting breaking out in several other southern cities, Maliki may have bitten off more than the Iraqi army can chew. And that doesn’t include the fighting in Baghdad where the Iraqis aren’t even attempting to enter Sadr City, leaving that job to the US military:

U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting.

Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.

We’ve used our airpower in Sadr City as well – a move that saved American lives I’m sure but I am equally certain that bombing a residential area also made a poor impression on the people who live there. And for the fourth day in a row, the Green Zone is getting hit hard:
Baghdad was on virtual lockdown Friday as a tough new curfew ordered everyone off the streets of the Iraqi capital and five other cities until 5 p.m. Sunday.

That restriction didn’t stop someone from firing rockets and mortar rounds into the capital’s heavily fortified International Zone, commonly known as the Green Zone. One slammed into the office of one of Iraq’s vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, killing two guards.

An American government worker also was killed in rocket and mortar attacks Thursday in the International Zone.

U.S. warplanes pounded Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood Friday, killing six people and wounding 10.

Who is doing the shooting? Please don’t ask the American State Department:
U.S. State Department official Richard Schmierer said the rocket attacks appeared to be coming from fighters affiliated with al-Sadr who were “trying to make a statement” about the government offensive in Basra. He blamed the violence on “marginal extremist elements” who have associated themselves with the Sadrist movement.

When one of those “statements” kills an American and another crashes into the office of the 3rd ranking political figure in Iraq while the entire 2 million residents of Sadr City are being terrorized by thousands of Mehdi Army militiamen who have ordered shops and schools closed, you have to think that the resistance goes a little beyond “marginal extremist elements.”

It seems to me that the Iraqi government is already starting to weigh the domestic unrest caused by this move against any gains that might be made in Basra. If so, expect a cease fire by the end of the weekend and a humiliating pullback by Iraqi troops leaving the field to the Mehdi Army.

By: Rick Moran at 12:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (21) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with US Airstrike Kills at Least 4 in Baghdad...

We are winning the War in Iraq.

President Bush says so. Vice President Cheney agrees. And GOP Presidential nominee John McCain, who just got back from Baghdad, says we’re on the verge of victory.

Indeed, violence is down significantly in most parts of the country. The Iraqi parliament is moving slowly toward passing important legislation that would help reconcile the factions. A recent poll on Iraq found the people more hopeful about the future.

But the fact is, despite this upbeat news, Iraq is still an ungodly mess – barely a country at all with neighborhoods in Baghdad separated by huge concrete walls and barriers, the presence of armed police and militia on every street corner, frequent and intrusive checkpoints. All this to keep the country from exploding into violence.

The surge has worked – for the present. Now what?

What is it exactly that we are “winning” in Iraq? The peace? Amity in the national polity? Not hardly. A 70% drop in violence from the horrific levels of last year is heartening but is far from bringing peace and security to the country. And Shia resistance to Sunni participation in Iraqi public life is as entrenched as ever. Passing laws will not change the hearts and minds of those who suffered so long under the brutal Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

A realistic look at Iraq shows two sides, sullenly and without much enthusiasm for working together, eyeing each other suspiciously across a great divide patrolled by Americans and poorly paid and trained Iraqis, buttressed by the forced separation of the sects into ghettos while all the progress made over the last year balances on a knife’s edge.

And the helluva it is, we are entirely dependent on others for continued success.

Keeping the 80,000 strong Sunni militias happy is absolutely vital to continued peace. So would someone please explain to me why in God’s name we’re not paying them? If they were to quit in disgust and take up arms once again against the Americans, it would be a setback from which there would be no recovery.

Consider also our dependence on the forbearance and good will of Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia. His Iranian supplied fighters could make Baghdad into a nightmare again – concrete barriers or no concrete barriers.

What of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? His inability to drag his government toward meaningful reconciliation and his eagerness to establish close ties with Iran are extremely problematic for our efforts to unite the country.

And how do you deal with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the SCIRI) – the largest political party in Iraq – and their insistence that any power sharing agreement include an autonomous Shia state in the south where they have set up a government based largely on Sharia law and regularly thumbs their noses at Maliki’s government in Baghdad?

To be so dependent on others for our success or failure in Iraq highlights the fact that despite progress, for real peace to have a chance all the tumblers will have to click into place at the same time and the independent forces threatening to tear the country apart somehow be kept together.

Otherwise, everything goes south again and we’re back to square one.

The military and Bush recognize this and will keep troop levels at the same level they are now through the end of the year:

Troop levels in Iraq would remain nearly the same through 2008 as at any time during five years of war, under plans presented to President Bush on Monday by the senior American commander and the top American diplomat in Iraq, senior administration and military officials said.

Mr. Bush announced no final decision on future troop levels after the video briefing by the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and the diplomat, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The briefing took place on the day when the 4,000th American military death of the war was reported and just after the invasion’s fifth anniversary.

But it now appears likely that any decision on major reductions in American troops from Iraq will be left to the next president. That ensures that the question over what comes next will remain in the center of the presidential campaign through Election Day.

Perhaps they know something that we don’t?

On Sunday, a barrage of at least 17 rockets hit the heavily fortified Green Zone and surrounding neighborhoods, where both the U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters are housed, according to police. Most of them were launched from the outskirts of Sadr City and Bayaa, both Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhoods.

On Monday, the Sadrists all but shut down the neighborhoods they control on the west bank of Baghdad. Gunmen went to stores and ordered them to close as militiamen stood in the streets. Mosques used their loudspeakers to urge people to come forward and join the protest.

Fliers were distributed with the Sadrists’ three demands of the Iraqi government: to release detainees, stop targeting Sadrist members and apologize to the families and the tribal sheiks of the men.

The Iraqi security forces issued a statement promising to deal with those who terrorized shopkeepers and students.

“It’s an open sit-in until the government responds to our demands. If the government doesn’t respond, we will have our own procedures,” said Hamdallah al Rikabi, the head of the Sadr offices in Karkh, in western Baghdad.

The death toll from attacks that occurred all over Iraq on Sunday-Monday was at least 59 with 4 Americans killed in separate incidents. That brought the number of US dead over the previous two weeks to 25 – a disturbing spike that could be either a short term uptick in casualties or a sign that the enemy is growing stronger and that despite all our good work in rooting al-Qaeda from their strongholds and driving them away, it may not be enough.

I have lamented the fact before that we are well and truly trapped in Iraq and that the next president be it a Democrat or Republican will have precious few options. Grandiose statements of a quick withdrawal coming from the Obama and Clinton camps are meaningless. Some symbolic drawdown to appease the base would probably be undertaken but until the Iraqi army and police can prove themselves capable of preventing the country from falling from a barely manageable chaos into hellish dissolution and slaughter, American combat troops in large numbers will continue to be needed.

In the end, it comes down to a Hobson’s Choice between continuing an occupation in Iraq that has harmed our relations with our friends in the region, cost the nation a trillion dollars and counting, caused the sacrifice of 4,000 brave Americans, and currently has no end in sight or withdrawing from Iraq, leaving its uncertain fate to benighted thugs like al-Sadr and salivating foreigners like Iran and Syria while praying that there isn’t a bloodbath of biblical proportions.


Bob Owens looked into the Guardian story on the Sunni militias not being paid and found it to be “a load of bull:”

Multi-National Force-Iraq commanding General David Petraeus has little use for recent claims in the British press that the Surge is on the verge of collapse in parts of Iraq. In an e-mail to Pajamas Media, Petraeus wrote that the story, as reported in the Guardian were ”based on dated info.”

In addition, he said that reports that the Iraqi government is refusing to employ Sunnis are incorrect. ”The National Reconciliation Committee just approved a list of over 3,500 names of Diyala Sons of Iraq for the Iraqi Police,” wrote General Petraeus in his e-mail, a sign that more jobs integrating the Sunnis within the government’s security forces were forthcoming.

Petraeus also responded to a GuardianFilms video report for Britain’s Channel 4 on March 20 charged that Sunni militias in Iraq were not being paid by U.S. forces and were on the verge of staging a national strike because they were not getting jobs within the Iraq government. A Guardian print article also made that claim followed on March 21.
Petraeus said in his correspondence that a threatened strike in Diyala was “resolved a week or two ago” when Sunni militiamen called “Sons of Iraq” (SoI) were told that if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t get paid.

This is good news indeed. However, what was not addressed in Bob’s article was the belief by at least some of the militiamen that Americans were slighting their contributions to the effort to stamp out al-Qaeda and that our soldiers were letting the Sunnis do most of the hard fighting while sitting back and getting credit for their success.

I have no way of knowing whether this is true of a majority of Sunni militiamen. But I know that there has been quite a bit of triumphalism in some media quarters about our success and that this could very easily be misinterpreted by those who are already suspicious of us.

No matter. The fact that they are on the job, getting paid, and as Bob points out in his excellent article, being slowly integrated into the Iraqi police force is all that counts.

By: Rick Moran at 8:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)


A protest against power cuts to southern Beirut – cuts the power company denies making – escalated into a riot when protesters blocked roads and threw stones at police and the army who were trying to maintain order.

Southern Beirut is a Hizbullah stronghold but it is not certain that the violence was connected exclusively to the political crisis involving the election of a president that would be acceptable to both the Hizbullah led opposition and the majority March 14th forces. Then again, one can hardly dismiss the idea that this was a demonstration organized by Hizbullah which had recently promised “decisive action” in the streets in order to force the government to accede to their demands.

Both sides are currently in a standoff over the issue with the government proposing Army Chief Michel Suleiman for the post while the Syrian backed opposition opposes his election, still maintaining that any government formed by the new president must give them enough ministers to have veto power over the majority’s decisions.

There were reports of snipers firing from rooftop positions into the crowd below. One of their targets was an opposition Amal official:

Among the victims was an official from Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal movement. The others were four Hizbullah activists, a rescue worker and a civilian.
The official was identified as Ahmad Hamza, Amal’s representative in Hay Mouawwad quarter of Shiyah, where protests first broke out at around 4 pm.

“Hamza has passed away after being shot in the back,” an Amal official told AFP, adding that he was unable to identify the source of the fire.

The bloodshed came amid fears of civil unrest in Lebanon which has been gripped by a prolonged presidential crisis, and two days after a massive car bombing killed a top intelligence officer and four other people.

The intelligence officer, Wassam Eid, was involved in terrorism investigations. He was reportedly assisting the International Tribunal in their investigation of the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and other murders of anti-Syrian politicians and journalists.

The riot quickly spread from Beirut to the suburbs where the rioters blocked roads and threw stones at cars and police vehicles:

The army shut down many roads to stop the protests from spreading, and soldiers also took positions on rooftops.

But as night fell, riots spread to reach the airport highway, where demonstrators cut the main road with burning tires. Soon afterwards protesters cut the Mar Elias road in west Beirut while gunfire rang out sporadically across the southern suburbs.

Riots also reached south Lebanon, where the coastal highway between Sidon and Tyre was closed by blazing tires.

The road to Baalbek in east Lebanon’s Bekaa valley was also briefly closed.

A car that had been set ablaze exploded, triggering panic in Beirut where only two days ago a massive car bombing killed a top anti-terror officer and four other people.

A top security official warned the riots could spread unless politicians reined in their supporters.

What sparked the riot? Evidently, the old Hizbullah gambit of closing the road to the airport – something they have done before in their street protests. Only this time, the army intervened:

The unrest broke out after demonstrators set ablaze tires, blocking a main road linking the Shiyah and Mar Mikhael neighborhoods to protest at power shortages.

The army fired warning shots to disperse the demonstrators, a security official said.

Witnesses said that gunmen in the crowd opened fire at the security forces who retaliated.

Premier Fouad Saniora declared Monday a day of national mourning and ordered schools and universities closed.

As of today, it is unclear how many or if any of the demonstrators were killed by the army and how many by rooftop snipers who were apparently caught on tape and shown on Lebanese television.

Lebanese bloggers are weighing in offering analysis and mostly bemoaning what appears to be the powerlessness of the government to stop the murders. Mustapha at Beirut Spring offers some speculation about the rooftop snipers:

The puzzle has a missing piece. It seems that a third party wants to stir things up by breaking the balance of restraint between the Lebanese parties. As political analyst Ossama Safa puts it: “This is the work of agents provocateurs — someone is in there stirring trouble [..] I really think they want to get a hold of the situation. But someone, somewhere is doing this.”

The politicians will try to calm the situation. But expect a lot hot-headed blame to be tossed around.

And the fact that Hizbullah is now pointing the finger directly at the army is very significant. Could the opposition had staged the protest, started the riot by firing at the army from inside the crowd, and assured even more anger by having snipers pick off Hamza all to discredit General Suleiman? I would say it a more likely scenario than March 14th forces trying to deliberately start a civil war.

Abu Kais wants the government to start telling the truth about the violence:

Many of us have their own suspects. It doesn’t take a genius to point the finger at Syrian intelligence—the motives are there, and the methods too predictable. Yet despite all this obviousness, we ultimately sink in confusion because no one is willing to present an official account of what happened, and who did it. It’s always swept under the rug of “investigation”. Killers roam free and kill again while being “under investigation”. And the argument against Syrian culpability weakens, because not even the official authorities are able to point the finger.

Needless to say, we are tired of it all. If this is war, then could someone involve the dying public in the details of the fight? This public cannot subsist on the same old indirect accusations. Instead of declaring a day of mourning, how about a day of truth? How about teaching the interior minister how to speak? How about the army commander, instead of phoning the dictator next door, be asked to report to the defense minister and to the public? Is the enemy so powerful that we are afraid to at least give it the media treatment we have given Israelis when they were doing the killing?

And to underscore that point, Daily Star editorial page editor Michael Young interviewed former UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis who was the first prosecutor appointed as part of the International Tribunal and whose initial investigation implicated high level Syrian ministers in the plot to kill Hariri. Mehlis was disappointed in the subsequent investigations of the Tribunal:

Mehlis, who was the first U.N. chief investigator, has said in his reports that the Hariri plot’s complexity suggested that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services had a role, but [Serge] Brammertz has not echoed his view. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murder.

In his final appearance before the U.N. Security Council in December, Brammertz said that progress made in the last few months has enabled investigators to identify “a number of persons of interest” who may have been involved in some aspect of the crime—or knew about the preparations.

The investigation “appears to have lost the momentum it had until January 2006,” Mehlis said in the interview. “When I left we were ready to name suspects, but it seems not to have progressed from that stage.”

“If you have suspects you don’t allow them to roam free for years to tamper with evidence,” Mehlis told The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, for a while Brammertz seemed to be treating the Syrian government with kid gloves, praising their “cooperation” with the Tribunal while hinting that no Syrian ministers would be charged in the assassination. There was also evidence that Brammertz refused to follow up some leads with regards to Palestinian involvement in the crime.

All the violence takes place against the backdrop of an Arab League attempt to get the two sides to agree on a presidential candidate. Secretary Moussa will travel to Lebanon again this week to continue his fruitless search for a compromise acceptable to Syria and the opposition.

Meanwhile, the murders continue, the two sides become even more entrenched and the citizens of Lebanon are on edge wondering what will come next. The Blacksmiths of Lebanon outline the endgame:

The attacks on our institutions continue with the aim of dismantling the Lebanese state and replacing it with a quasi-Syrian province [slash] Iranian paramilitary front.

Thanks to the inviability of these plans and the historically proven inability of any one side [this time Hizballah] to impose its will on the rest of the Lebanese political/sectarian groupings, these plans will most likely fail. The issue remains, however: what will it cost our country before they do? Syria, Iran and their quislings in Lebanon [starting with Nasrallah, Berri, Aoun, and going all the way down to “the Qansos”, Wahhab, and Franjieh] continue to work to ensure that price is high.

It is best if the western powers who continue their strong backing of prime minister Siniora remember that these are the stakes in play.

By: Rick Moran at 2:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

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CATEGORY: Middle East

It is becoming a depressingly familiar story in Lebanon. What looked so promising just a few days ago with leaders on both sides close to an agreement that would have made Army Chief Michel Suleiman President, has now evaporated in a sea of recrimination and a hardening of positions.

And this comes on top of the news that a massive car bomb - so big it nearly destroyed the building near which it was detonated – has killed General Suleiman’s designated successor and 3 others:

“General Francois El Hajj was killed in the blast and several other people were injured, including his driver,” said the source, who did not wish to be identified.

The official said Hajj was tipped to replace the army’s top commander General Michel Suleiman, who is the frontrunner to become Lebanon’s next president but whose election has been blocked by a standoff between the opposition and the ruling majority camps.

“He was a great man, a kind man, who was very intelligent,” the official said, referring to Hajj.

The general, who was on his way to the defence ministry when the blast took place shortly after 7:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), was head of operations in the army.

He gained prominence last summer during a fierce 15-week battle between the army and an Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist group at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

That victory over Fatah al-Islam became a source of immense national pride to the Lebanese people. In fact, it was probably the major factor in Suleiman’s rise to prominence as a presidential candidate. That victory convinced the government that the army chief might be able to rise above faction and serve all of Lebanon.

But at the moment, there is stalemate between the Hizbullah led opposition and the government backed March 14th forces. The majority had dropped their opposition to a constitutional amendment that would have waived the stricture against a serving army commander being elected president. Syria, France, and the US had all signed off on Suleiman and it appeared that once an agreement had been reached about the wording of the amendment, Suleiman would be in.

Alas, it seems that Lebanese politicians are afraid of success. They seem to walk up right to the edge of agreement and then, fearful of taking that last step, they retreat back to familiar territory. The opposition has balked at the amendment and has placed so many impossible conditions on its acceptance that both sides are almost back to where they were last summer:

Consensus over the nomination of the Lebanese Armed Forces commander, General Michel Suleiman, for the presidency appeared to have evaporated after constitutional and political obstacles forced a postponement of a scheduled electoral session for the eighth time.

Hizbullah politburo member Hajj Mahmoud Qmati said Aoun would be the opposition’s sole candidate if March 14 does not accede to Aoun’s demands. Qmati, speaking to, the Web site of Aoun’s free patriotic Movement, on Tuesday, said that to achieve consensus, March 14 must accept a “basket of conditions,” which includes Suleiman as president and agreement on the shape of the new government, a new electoral law and the ministerial statement of the new Cabinet.

“No one item or condition is separate from the other; they are interconnected. So pending consensus, the opposition’s candidate … remains Aoun,” Qmati said. He added that there is no disagreement among the members of the opposition and said that Speaker Nabih Berri remains committed to the opposition’s “broad stance.”

In exchange for allowing Lebanon to have a president, Hizbullah wants to be able to dictate the makeup of the Suleiman government, the sectarian divisions that would be required in future cabinets, plus a new electoral law that would almost guarantee the Shias a majority in parliament.

And they are saying that the March 14th forces are being “obstructionist.”

So the two sides are retreating back to their original positions; March 14th threatening to elect a president anyway by simple majority while the opposition threatens… anything an overactive imagination can come up with including Hizbullah setting up a rival government smack in the middle of Beirut.

All of this is happening with the car bombing as a backdrop. Who done it? Ed Morrissey thinks it’s al-Qaeda because Syria has supported the compromise and the terrorists may wish to foment a civil war where, like cockroaches, they would come exercise power as a result of chaos and anarchy.

Good guess but I disagree. Al-Qaeda may very well have carried out the car bomb attack – anyone’s guess at this point is valid. But I still think the finger points to Syria with a great big assist from the Palestinians.

As popular as General Francois el-Hajj was for his victory over Fatah al-Islam, he was hated and resented by the Palestinians who didn’t take kindly to the Lebanese army going in to one of their refugee camps and literally leveling the place. Nahr al-Abed is a wasteland today thanks to the street battles and house to house fighting that was necessary to root Fatah al-Islam out of their hiding places. The fact that the Palestinians own leaders gave the Lebanese government permission to go into the camp in order to eliminate Fatah al-Islam doesn’t matter.

But why would Syria be behind the bombing? President Assad has apparently signed off on Suleiman as president. But that doesn’t mean he wants Lebanon any less chaotic. Nor does it mean that he necessarily approved of Francois el-Hajj as army chief.

As for who specifically could have the means and opportunity, there are several ultra violent Palestinian groups that are training in Syria right now and who would have the professionalism and technical expertise to carry out such a sophisticated attack. The massive car bomb is reminiscent of the device that killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri – an attack that was planned by Syria and probably executed by Palestinians.

Other, less plausible possibilities is that a violent Sunni or Christian faction carried out the attack. It is believed that el-Hajj actually had political sympathies for the opposition and the blast occured on the two year anniversary of the assassination of publisher and March 14th Member of Parliament Gebran Ghassan Tueni.

But the one overriding factor that fingers Syria is the sophistication and professionalism of the plot. Here is some reaction from Lebanese bloggers:

Tony Bey:

That the target was military is a message to Suleiman in case he had any ideas, but also, a message from Syria to whomever is to replace Suleiman as Army Commander. March 14 is said to have one contender lined up for the job, as part of the compromise over Suleiman. The Syrians just made their point the only way they do: through terrorism.

Mustapha at Beirut Spring:

• The bombing happened a day after another bomb that targeted the symbolic area of Ain Al Rimmaneh , where the Lebanese civil war started.

• While a common way to assassinate politicians, this is the first time an Army figure gets bombed this way.

• Brig. General Hajj holds a sensitive security position and his killing points to a serious security breach by non-amateurs

• The victim was one of the main architects of the Army’s assault on the Naher Al Bared camp.

• The bombing took place one day after the Syrian Vice President said that “Syria is the strongest ever in Lebanon today”

Blacksmiths of Lebanon:

This latest assassination is what it always is: Syria’s use of death, terror, and destruction to try and keep the Lebanese “in line”. Through every opening it receives – the last being France’s overwhelming act of diplomatic buffoonery in Lebanon’s Presidential elections throughout November – the Syrian regime is reinforced in its belief that the international community is unwilling to take serious steps against it, leaving it open to kill, maim, and terrorize the Lebanese.

Hajj’s assassination comes at an important juncture and targets a man who sat atop that juncture: Given the [eventual] ascension of Army Commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, to the Presidency, Hajj was slated to be a serious contender to the post of Army Commander; And as the Chief of Operations for the Lebanese Army, Hajj played a major role in the military campaign against the Syrian-backed terror group Fatah al Islam at Nahr el Bared.

Taken with the continued drive at the reformation and modernization of the Lebanese Army seen over the last year and half, and the attempted transformation of the institution from just a symbol of sovereignty to an effective a bulwark and tool for implementing it, the above may hint at the Syrians’ choice for a target.

By murdering Hajj, the Syrians may have been sending the message aimed at making sure that none of that transformation is realized, either on the level of the Army or on the level of the Presidency.

From Beirut to the Beltway:

A Lebanese army general tipped to succeed Suleiman as army commander was brutally killed in a car bomb attack today in Baabda. The attack comes less than a day after the Syrian vice president boasted that “no one can win the battle against Syria in Lebanon”, and exactly one year after March 14 MP Gebran Tueni’s assassination.

According to Naharnet, Brig. Gen. Francois el-Hajj was “the chief of military operations of the Lebanese armed forces and a key figure in the army’s victory over Fatah al-Islam terrorists in a 15-week battle earlier this year.”

It is apparent where most Lebanese who support the government stand. But the assassination of General Francois el-Hajj will end up being one more murder mystery that will be addressed by the International Tribunal – if and when it ever begins deliberations.

By: Rick Moran at 2:24 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)