US Aid Dependency: The Road to Ruin for Lebanon

Protecting Lebanon according to the Bush administration is achieved by undermining its ability to fight Israel

 

Global Research, October 7, 2007

Electronic Lebanon – 2007-10-0

“We have received only a lot of promises and some ammunition but no equipment, as if they are telling us: Die first and back-up will arrive later.” -General Michael Sulieman, Lebanese Armed Forces, on US support during the summer-long Nahr al-Bared refugee camp battle

Since Israel’s July 2006 war on Lebanon, and up to the current deadlock over electing Lebanon’s next president, the Bush administration has gone out of its way to express its commitment to Lebanese “democracy” and to building a strong and sovereign country that can “stand up” to Syria’s and Iran’s allies within Lebanon’s borders.

Inside those borders, prime minister Fouad Siniora’s March 14 government and the Hizballah-led opposition are sharply split over Washington’s intentions. The March 14 movement has feverishly called on the capital of the “free world” for help and the movement’s civil-war seasoned leaders reassure the Lebanese that the superpower won’t abandon their “cedar revolution.” In response, opposition leaders reiterate their distrust of Israel’s closest ally and accuse its March 14 supporters of holding Lebanon hostage to its enemy’s best friend. In the fog of these accusations and counter-accusations, is it possible to evaluate Washington’s support to Lebanon without resorting to the polemics of either camp?

The true measure of the alliance of any two states or political groups rests on an accurate and fair reading of two forms of support: military aid and economic assistance, and reaching a verdict about these two forms of support is based on the examination of three properties of such aid: the monetary value (size or quantity) of this aid, the declared and hidden objectives of the aid and the conditions attached to it (the quality of the aid). Based on these criteria, what is the truth behind the US support for Lebanon, in numbers and according to Washington’s own sources?

Military Support

One of the main bones of contention between the government and the opposition in Lebanon is the disarming of Hizballah. The March 14 movement does not miss an opportunity to proclaim its intention to build a strong state capable of protecting the country’s borders (particularly the south). And the disarming of Hizballah, the Hariri-led movement claims, is a major step in that direction. So does American military aid provide a realistic alternative to Hizballah’s battle-proven power of deterrence?

From 1946 to June 2006, Lebanon did not receive any significant US military aid except in the years 1981 to 1984. This was the period when the Lebanese army’s official leadership was aligned with forces sympathetic to or allied with Israel, and more importantly it was a period of direct American military intervention in Lebanon. During this period, Lebanon received $148 million in military aid, an average of $37 million per year. This aid surpassed what the country had received in the entire 34 years that preceded; around $128 million (95 percent of this aid was in the form of loans not grants). After 1984 and the partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, US military aid declined to its lowest levels (around half a million annually earmarked for training purposes).

The assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, contrary to what some might think, did not lead to a fundamental change in this aid policy. The Bush administration’s request was for just one million dollars in 2006 and around $4 million for 2007. The gigantic increase came on the heels of the summer 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. In the wake of the war, the Bush administration filed an emergency request to congress to provide Lebanon with additional military support valued at $220 million for the single year of 2007.

What we learn from this is that any significant increase in US military aid to Lebanon is temporary and linked to the existence of internal divisions in Lebanon or the outbreak of regional wars or conflicts. And as such, this support is not the product of a strategic alliance akin to that forged between Hizballah and Iran. More importantly though, even when this aid is boosted, the objectives and conditions of its release are far from geared towards building a Lebanese military force capable of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this tiny country.

One wonders about the nature of promises General Sulieman is referring to, but the only binding promises of the US are those stated in the legislative bills tabled by the administration and passed by Congress. And the purpose of budgeting the huge sum of $220 million requested by the Bush administration for this year is very clear in that regard. The State Department has unequivocally declared that the purpose of this aid is to “promote Lebanese control over southern Lebanon and Palestinian refugee camps to prevent them from being used as bases to attack Israel.” (US officials lobbied to spread the fight in Nahr al-Bared to other camps.)

Protecting Lebanon according to the Bush administration is achieved by undermining its ability to fight Israel, the biggest source of threat to Lebanon’s security, and the entity which attempted to invade it in the same year those aid packages were pledged.

Some might argue that America’s above-stated goal is meant to prevent any non-sate organization (Hizballah) from monopolizing the duty of defending Lebanon. But the conditions attached to the aid leaves no doubt that building any force, legitimate or otherwise, is impossible under constraints placed by the US. According to these conditions, any support to Lebanon’s army should be intended for “expanded personal training by private US contractors or provision of spare parts and ammunition for Lebanese forces,” as well as vehicles employed for logistical or patrol purposes. As for equipment and weapons normally used to defend any country’s territory, such as anti-aircraft missiles or tanks or even technologically primitive missiles such as Katyushas, such weapons are out of bounds according to the aid provisions. The administration calls it “non-lethal” assistance. In contrast, permitting Israel to invest a portion of US aid in domestic military research since 1977 was instrumental in the development of the Merkava tank, the primary weapon used for Israel’s land invasion of Lebanon last summer.

Counting on US military aid means transforming the Lebanese army at best to a peacekeeping or patrolling force and at worst an internally oppressive security force. This suggests that the only way to disarm Hizballah without stripping the people of southern Lebanon of the only effective defense force on their land is for the Lebanese government to seek assistance from US adversaries, the same ones possibly Hizballah is allied with.

Economic Aid

The history and present trend of US economic aid to Lebanon mirrors to a great degree that of its military aid. Again, the turning point for an astronomical increase of the aid (much of it remains a pledge) was the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon and not the assassination of Hariri.

Prior to the 2006 war, American economic aid to Lebanon reached its zenith in the first half of the ’80s (around $53 million in 1983). Between 1986 and 2006, it ranged between $8 and $15 million. The annual aid package then jumped to about $35 million between 2000 and 2006 (the increase was partly an incentive for the Lebanese army to deploy in the south following the withdrawal of Israeli troops in 2000). In the wake of the 2006 war, Washington allocated about $180 million in emergency aid and later requested $300 million in supplemental aid. (Most of this aid was in the form of grants.)

The aid is ostensibly earmarked for post-war reconstruction, declared Washington. But the release of the funds is conditional on the the Siniora government successfully implementing a bundle of economic “reforms.” Indeed, even before Congress approved the aid package, Siniora declared his government’s intention to cut social security programs, privatize the electricity and telecommunications sectors, increase value added tax by two percent, and implement other measures he claimed were aimed to reduce Lebanon’s $40 billion national debt. Siniora’s effort to push through these measures however were met with strong popular resistance inside Lebanon that led him to reconsider the timing and strategy of implementing the “reforms.”

American economic aid to Lebanon was and remains part of neoliberal American policies across the globe that aim to construct an unregulated market-based economy by weakening the economic role of the very governments it purports to support.

US aid: Causes and consequences

How can one explain the US policy towards Lebanon?

First, Lebanon may be a “piece of the sky” according to its famous crooner Wadih Assafi, but in the eyes of US policy makers, it is a bargaining chip used to settle other regional conflicts. In fact, Lebanon does not possess any of the properties that constitute vital national interests to a superpower such as oil fields, international waterways or military bases. Hizballah may be the only serious threat.

In recorded history, only two US presidents described Lebanon using the rhetoric of the “national interest” –(Eisenhower in 1958 and Reagan in 1983). And both references coincided with direct US military intervention in Lebanon and not in the vein of drawing up a strategic vision of Lebanon’s place in foreign policy.

Secondly, The US does not trust two of three types of allies in the Middle East, the Siniora government among them.

The first type is that of political forces or governments that represent elites or particular religious or political communities and who exercise limited authority within countries or territories that suffer from partial or total instability. These countries include Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Lebanon. US military and economic aid to their allies in these countries is mostly symbolic, tactical or directed towards internal security and against the interest of the peoples or these countries.

The second category of allies is composed of governments or dictatorial regimes that represent their own interests over and above that of their people and rule in countries that are partially or totally stable. These countries include Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. US aid to this countries is more than symbolic, but often limited and subject to serious constraints.

The last category of US allies in the Middle East is that of governments that speak in the name of the interest of its own people (at least the majority) and rule in internally stable countries. These countries include Turkey and Israel. US aid to these countries makes a significant contribution to the military and economic performance of these countries.

Understanding US aid to Lebanon, and comparing it to similar patterns in Palestine and Iraq in light of this overall map of US aid to the region, leaves little doubt that Lebanese (and by extension Palestinian and Iraqi) politicians betting on the goodwill and unmatched power of Washington to build their country’s defenses, are doing so out of either unintentional or willful ignorance, and both are a recipe for further instability and a disregard for the safety and security of their people.

Hicham Safieddine is a Lebanese Canadian journalist. This is an edited version of an article that appeared recently in Arabic in the Lebanese newspaper
Al-Akhbar and is republished with permission.

Franklin Lamb: Whos Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon

Great article I advise everyone to read.

Wearing a beat-up ratty UNCHR tee-shirt left over from Bint Jbeil and the Israeli-Hezbollah July probably helped. As did, I suspect, the Red Cross jersey, my black and white checkered kaffieyh and the Palestinian flag taped to my lapel as I joined a group of Palestinian aid workers and slipped into Nahr el-Bared trying not to look conspicuous.

Our mission was to facilitate the delivery of food, blankets and mattresses, but I was also curious about the political situation. Who was behind the events that erupted so quickly and violently following a claimed ‘bank robbery’?

Franklin Lamb: Whos Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon

Under the cover of fighting Salafi, Islamists fundamentalist in Lebanon’s Northern region [starting from Akkar via Tripoli to the Dinniyah-slopes], and after two years of hesitation, NATO decided to join the Lebanese territories to North-African & African coast military region, to establish Military airbases.

The Plan is a US-NATO Military Base in Tripoli, Lebanon

Nahr al-Bared: The Emerging Picture « The Fanonite

Thanks to the Fanonite for this great post.  Two other places to watch Democracy Now are Democracy TV and Chomsky Torrents 

Democracy Now! has extensive coverage of the developments in Lebanon today, with interviews with Seymour Hersh, Rania Masri and Alistair Crooke. Their analysis is somewhat similar to my own earlier impressions, however Hersh, Masri and Crooke do a much better job of dispatching some of the common misperceptions. I would recommend watching the whole program, but here are some highlights:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Lebanon’s defense minister has said Islamist militants entrenched in a Palestinian refugee camp must surrender or face further military action…The army has laid siege to the Nahr al-Bared camp since the fighting erupted on Sunday, bombarding it with tank fire and artillery shells. At least eighty people have died, with dozens more wounded.

On Wednesday, an informal ceasefire enabled thousands of residents to flee the camp. Some headed for another Palestinian refugee camp nearby, while others traveled to the neighboring city of Tripoli. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates between 13,000 and 15,000 refugees have left Nahr al-Bared.

AMY GOODMAN: The Lebanese government accuses Fatah al-Islam of having ties with al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. But there’s another theory of who’s backing the militant group: the Lebanese government itself, along with the United States. Last March, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker magazine that the US and Saudi governments are covertly backing militant Sunni groups like Fatah al-Islam as part of an overarching foreign policy against Iran and growing Shia influence…

SEYMOUR HERSH:There was a major change of policy by the United States government…[which] would join with the Brits and other Western allies and with what we call the moderate Sunni governments — that is, the governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — and with Israel to fight the Shia.

One of the major goals for America, of course, was the obsession the Bush White House has with Iran, and the other obsession they have is, of course…of Hezbollah, the Party of God…that’s so dominant in southern Lebanon…and whose leader Hassan Nasrallah wants to play a bigger political role and is doing quite a bit to get there and is in direct confrontation with Siniora.

[The obsession is not ‘American’ of course. It is a neocon obsession and the President, through the VP, are willing accomplices in the program]

And so, you have a situation where…the American-supported Sunni government headed by Fouad Siniora, who was a deputy or an aide to Rafik Hariri, the slain leader of Lebanon, that government has — we know, the International Crisis Group reported a couple years ago that the son Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, who’s now a major player in the parliament of Lebanon…put up $40,000 bail to free four Sunni fundamentalists, Jihadist-Salafists — you know, this word “al-Qaeda” is sort of ridiculous — they were tied to jihadist groups. And God knows, al-Qaeda, in terms of Osama bin Laden, doesn’t have much to do with what we’re talking about. These are independently, more or less, you can call them, fanatical jihadists.

And so, the goal — part of the goal in Lebanon, part of the way this policy played out, was, with Saudi help [Prince Bandar mainly]…we began supporting some of these jihadist groups, and particularly — in the article, I did name Fatah al-Islam.

The idea was to provide them with some arms and some money and some basic equipment so — these are small units, a couple hundred people. There were three or four around the country given the same help covertly, the goal being they would be potential enemies of Hezbollah in case of warfare; in case Nasrallah decided to do something physical, get kinetic, in Lebanon, the Sunni Siniora government would have some very tough guys on its side, period. That’s the policy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Sy Hersh, if that is true, then what has led to the current fighting now? If the Lebanese government had been backing the group, why is it now attacking it?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, first of all, the Lebanese army is very distinct…But based on common sense and what I’m reading, the Lebanese army has maintained an amazing sort of neutrality, which is surprising. The army has not been a pawn of the Siniora government…

There’s a stand-off politically right now, a very serious one, in Lebanon…it’s not a constitutional government, because Hezbollah, which had…five members of the cabinet and a dozen or so members in the parliament…pulled out months ago. And there were street protests…against Siniora. And right now, you have Hezbollah in league with a Christian leader named Aoun, a former chief of staff for the army…in an amazing partnership against the Siniora government…America clearly supports Siniora. But there’s a big brutal fight going….

So I think the story that we have is that there was a crime, and they were chasing people into one of the Palestinian camps, which are always hotbeds. God knows the Palestinians are the end of the stick, not only for the West, but also for the Arab world. Nobody pays much attention to them and those places. I’ve been to Tripoli and been into the camps, and they are seething, as they should be. You know, rational people don’t like being mistreated. And in any case, so what you have is, what seems to me, just a series — the word you could use is “unintended consequences.” …

Blaming Syria

And what is the laugh riot and the reason I’m actually talking to you guys…is because the American government keeps on putting out this story that Syria is behind the Fatah group, which is just beyond belief. There’s no way — it may be possible, but the chances of it are very slight, simply because Syria is a very big supporter, obviously, of Nasrallah, and Bashar al-Assad has told me that he’s in awe of Nasrallah, that he worships at his feet and has great respect for him. The idea that the Syrians would be sponsoring Sunni jihadist groups whose sole mission are to kill [Shia ‘apostates’ of Hizbullah]…Nothing can be ruled out, but that doesn’t make much case, and I noticed that in the papers today there’s fewer and fewer references to this. The newspapers in America are beginning to wise up, that this can’t be — this isn’t very logical. The White House is putting it out hot and heavy as part of the anti-Syria campaign, but it’s not flying, because it doesn’t make sense….

You might think that…one of the things that the Saudi Bandar had promised us was that we can control the jihadists. We can control them, he assured us…the same kind of assurances were given to us in the late 1980s, when we supported, as I said, bin Laden and others in the war against Russia, the Mujahideen war, and that, of course, bit us on the ass…

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, what about the role of Vice President Dick Cheney, the Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you always — any time you have violent anti-Iran policy and anti-Shia policy, you have to start looking there. Look, clearly this president is deeply involved in this, too, but what I hear from my people, of course, the players — it’s always Cheney, Cheney. Cheney meets with Bush at least once a week. They have a lunch. They usually have a scheduled lunch. And out of that comes a lot of big decisions. We don’t know what’s ever said at that meeting. And this is — talk about being opaque, this is a government that is so hidden from us.

So I can’t — I can tell you that — you know, the thing that’s amazing about this government, the thing that’s really spectacular, is even now how they can get their way mostly with a lot of the American press. For example, I do know — and, you know, you have to take it on face value. If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you know a lot of the things I write are true or come out to be more or less true. I do know that within the last month, maybe four, four-and-a-half weeks ago, they made a decision that because of the totally dwindling support for the war in Iraq, we go back to the al-Qaeda card, and we start talking about al-Qaeda. And the next thing you know, right after that, Bush went to the Southern Command — this was a month ago — and talked, mentioned al-Qaeda twenty-seven times in his speech. He did so just the other day this week — al-Qaeda this, al-Qaeda that. All of a sudden, the poor Iraqi Sunnis, I mean, they can’t do anything without al-Qaeda. It’s only al-Qaeda that’s dropping the bombs and causing mayhem. It’s not the Sunni and Shia insurgents or militias. And this policy just gets picked up, although there’s absolutely no empirical basis. Most of the pros will tell you the foreign fighters are a couple percent, and then they’re sort of leaderless in the sense that there’s no overall direction of the various foreign fighters. You could call them al-Qaeda. You can also call them jihadists and Salafists that want to die fighting the Americans or the occupiers in Iraq and they come across the border. Whether this is — there’s no attempt to suggest there’s any significant coordination of these groups by bin Laden or anybody else, and the press just goes gaga. And so, they went gaga a little bit over the Syrian connection to the activities in Tripoli. It’s just amazing to me, you guys.

The View From Lebanon

AMY GOODMAN:Rania Masri, you’re in the camp where thousands of refugees from the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp have fled. What do you see there?

RANIA MASRI: I’ve been hearing this a lot in the Western press, that the violence that we are seeing right now in Lebanon is called the worst since the civil war. Unfortunately, that’s not quite true. The worst violence we had since the civil war was the Israeli war last year in July. So, if you can just remember this country has not healed from the July war last summer.

With that, …the Beddawi camp has approximately 15,000 refugees in it already. The number of refugees now in the Beddawi camp has almost doubled, because we have approximately 12,000 refugees from the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp…That alone could give you an idea of the amount of lack of goods that is now available in the camp. I mean, there is a lack of extraordinarily basic goods, be it medicine, be it foods, be it mattresses, be it anything. Every individual that we talk to, every agency that we talk to said the same thing, which is that the international agencies have not operated quickly enough to be able to respond to the presence of 12,000 refugees almost overnight in this already extraordinarily impoverished camp of the Beddawi camp. Approximately 25% of these refugees are going to schools. Another 75% are going to homes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the aid, approximately 80% of the aid, is going to those individuals in the schools. 20% of aid is going to the 75% of the refugees in the homes, which means we are having an extraordinary lack of goods that are being given to the people most in need. When we look at the situation and when we keep in mind the ultimatum that’s been given by the minister of defense, which is this threat of actually invading the Nahr al-Bared camp, then we can envision at the very least that the number of refugees we now have in the Beddawi camp from the refugee camp, Nahr al-Bared, is probably going to increase. So as bad and as horrific as the situation is currently in the Beddawi camp, we are expecting it to actually get worse tomorrow.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of how the fighting is progressing in the Nahr al-Bared camp, what is the situation right now, as far as you can tell?

RANIA MASRI: Well, there has been a quote/unquote “truce” for almost a day and a half. But one thing I do want to emphasize with regard to the violence — and, again, this is based upon numerous amounts of eyewitness reports — that the violence isn’t simply extraordinarily indiscriminate heavy artillery coming from the Lebanese army into this — let me stress again — one of the most impoverished Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, which is the Nahr al-Bared camp; in addition to getting this heavy artillery from the Lebanese army, in addition to that, there is a third factor: there probably is an armed civilian camp, you know, group militia, that is operating outside of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, that is attacking both the refugees that are leaving, as well as lobbing sniper attacks into the camp itself. So not only do we have the Palestinians in the camp stuck between Fatah al-Islam, which is a non-Palestinian radical organization and the Lebanese army; they are also stuck between this third armed civilian militia group.

Hizbullah’s Stance

RANIA MASRI: The position of almost — almost — every single Lebanese political party…including Hezbollah, has been support for the Lebanese army. The Hezbollah leadership has made gentle requests that the civilians on both sides of the conflict, Lebanese and Palestinian, not be harmed, that there be attempts to try to minimize the loss of civilian life. But the response from almost all Lebanese politicians and all the Lebanese political parties is support behind the Lebanese army.

And here, and I want to add something to the comments that Seymour Hersh made. This is being presented — this conflict is being presented by, I would say, a strong segment of both the Lebanese population and almost all the Palestinians within the refugee camps as a conspiracy against both the Lebanese and the Palestinians and as a conspiracy that includes within it a conspiracy against the Lebanese army.

Alistair Crooke on Fatah al-Islam

ALASTAIR CROOKE: I think it’s probably worth, for your listeners, just to understand a little bit more about the nature of this group. Although it came from Syria into Lebanon and it came from a group that was associated with Palestinians — its name was Fatah also — and was an old mainly Palestinian group that existed in Syria from the days of the Oslo Accord, what we have in Lebanon is something quite unrelated to the Palestinian issue. This is an extreme Sunni group. It’s a Salafi group, as Seymour described it, which means that their main characteristic is not concern about Palestine or a Palestinian state, but their main concern is their antagonism and their hatred for the Shia. And I think the reason that we saw them in Lebanon probably had something to do also with the conflict this summer, that took place last summer with Israel, and the aftermath of that, which seemed to presage an internal conflict within Lebanon, possibly between the Shia and the Sunnis and with Christians involved, as well. In other words, there was a real fear at some stages that Lebanon could be tipping back toward civil war. And I think in this context, therefore, this group, which is virulently anti-Shia, came across with the idea of defending the Sunnis.

Of those that have been killed in this group so far, not one of them has been Palestinian. It’s true that the leader is Palestinian, but the other members of it that have been taken so far have turned out to be Saudi, Tunisian, Yemeni and Lebanese, but not Palestinians. So they ended up in this refugee camp — they forced their way in; there’s not much refugees can do when 200 determined and armed men enter your camp — and eventually set up a little satellite area of their own, adjacent to the camp. So I think that’s the context that you have to see this. And I think some Sunnis in Lebanon welcomed their arrival, if you like, as potential reinforcement. If you wanted someone to take on the ranks of Hezbollah, which is a Shia movement, then here was a determined group who hated them that could be co-opted on the basis of your enemy’s enemy is your friend. So I think this is very much the way in which to see what happened. And I think it’s quite true what Seymour said: in a sense, it’s a reflection of a wider policy…I think the rhetoric and the language that is being used by the United States and by Europe, in some cases, of trying to encourage, if you like, Sunni fears about a Shia threat and a Shia menace, the axis of or the crescent of Shia, a threat that faces the region, gives the opportunity and gives a space to these sort of groups to emerge and quite often ends with them getting the support and the financial resources that they require.

Nahr al-Bared: The Emerging Picture « The Fanonite

Blacksmiths of Lebanon: Army Aide

Interesting post by Blacksmiths Jade, I wonder what future war all this military equipment is intended for?  Civil war?  My guess is that the US would rather see Lebanese fight its enemy Hezbollah than its partner Israel.  Makes better PR…

This is a post I started preparing some time ago. In light of recent developments I thought it would be a good time to publish it with the following updates reflecting the current situation:

  • Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa, revealed yesterday that some Arab states had already begun delivery of weapons and ammunitions in support of the Lebanese Army’s efforts to combat an insurgency launched in the Nahr el-Bared camp by Syrian-sponsored fundamentalist group, Fatah al-Islam.

  • The Unites States has prepared an emergency $280 million military aide package in response to an urgent request by the Lebanese government in light of its confrontation with gunmen in the Nahr el-Bared camp. Reports indicate that $220 million of the funds have been earmarked for the Army while $60 will go to the ISF.

Below you will find (a portion of) the original post.

Lebanese Army Equipment Upgrades:

  • Delivered
  1. 50 Land Rover utility vehicles from the UK
  2. 20 (of 285) Humvees from the US,
  3. 9 Gazelle helicopters from the UAE
  4. 5 10-meter naval patrol craft from the UAE
  5. 5 15-meter naval patrol craft from the UAE
  • Forthcoming
  1. $39 million in 2006 used to purchase 12 5-tonne trucks, 4 Bell 212 helicopters and repair of Lebanese Air Force’s 23 Bell UH-1H helicopters
  2. 45 Leopard-1 Tanks from Belgium
  3. A minimum of 20 M109 155 mm self-propelled Howitzers from Belgium
  4. 2 36-meter naval patrol craft with blue-water capability from Germany
  5. 265 Humvees from the US

(Primary Source)

Blacksmiths of Lebanon: Army Aide

Response to “Why Fisk is wrong”

Why Fisk is wrong about Lebanon

“This is how the conflict began in Lebanon. Outbreaks of sectarian hatred, appeals for restraint, promises of aid from Western and Arab nations and a total refusal to understand that this is how civil wars begin”.

Robert Fisk, ‘World ignores Signs of Civil War in Lebanon’, UK Independent (27 Jan)

Robert Fisk is all wrong about Lebanon. The country is not on the brink of another “civil war”, but has been subsumed in an “imperial war” engineered in Tel Aviv and Washington (from the first sentence we can see that this guy has never actually lived in Lebanon, or he is too blind to see the whole picture. I’m pretty sure that a lot of the problems currently in Lebanon are caused by Israeli and American hands, but due to the anti-American ideas that are developed as a consequence of this western influence, some people take advantage to attack the government and take over power for their own purposes, this is the sad reality in Lebanon, everyone claims to be helping in some way, when in reality they are all looking at their own benefits. Meanwhile israel keeps attacking us whenever it wants and the US gets richer with it). He’s also mistaken in thinking that the Paris 3 Conference is designed to “save” Lebanon from the mountain of debt which piled up after Israel’s destructive 34 day war. The real purpose of the $7.6 billion in loans is to shackle Lebanon to the international lending institutions that are demanding additional taxes on the poor, more privatization of state-run industries, and restructuring the economy to meet the requirements of the global banking elite (what’s even worse is that there is no other way to repay for all the damage caused by the war, Hezbollah said that it will cover all the loss of all the families, meaning houses and material loss, it didn’t even pay all the families with what they promised, they were supposed to rebuild all the houses, meanwhile the people of the south were supposed to stay on the tents provided by the Italian government, go now to downtown Beirut and you will see all the tents there!!! It all repeats it self, the Lebanese cannot agree with each other and they have to refer to outside sources to help them, whether these sources are Syria, Iran, or the US).

According to a recent article by Chris Marsden in countercurrents:

“Only a fraction of the loans will be spent on reconstruction projects. Most will go towards servicing Lebanon’s short-term debt and therefore back into the coffers of the imperialist governments and financial institutions, while leaving Lebanon’s long-term debts to climb even higher. The rest will go into paying the Lebanese army (and security services) in order to suppress the opposition in the Shia areas in the south of the country (honestly this is a typical biased argument made by a usual Hezbollah supporter, they always try to show as the suppressed people, no matter what, they will always claim that the government is taking from their rights, and this is not a new issue, it was the same even during previous governments. Look how the money is being spent right now, all the people that were affected from the war were rewarded with money that the government collected from Paris 3, it is funny that when the government announced that money is ready for all the affected families, all the opposition supporters went to ask for it, even though at that time they didn’t recognize the governmental institutions as legitimate). And, once again, any money given will be made conditional on the government implementing the reforms demanded by the IMF and World Bank.”

This is the real war–the class war– that continues to be directed at the people in developing world.

How many times have we seen the World Bank and IMF swoop down on their prey after a nation has been savaged by war only to apply the vice-grips of massive debt and set up another corporate colony? The rise of sectarianism and the “clash of civilizations” bunkum is just the mask that conceals the real struggle; the ongoing war and exploitation of the people who have no voice in government.

Here’s a question for Fisk: Is there any doubt now that the US and Israel used the UN to push Syrian troops out of Lebanon just so they could execute their bloody plan to invade the country and set up a puppet regime in Beirut? Or was that merely a coincidence? (Very biased!!!! It might be true that the whole 1559 resolution was a plot, but remember that the Syrians asked for it with all their overpowered domination over Lebanon, people are really fed up of them, and Robert Fisk knows exactly this, he was a witness of all the Syrian control in Lebanon for the past 30 years or more. The opposition and the pro-Syrian community always say that let Syria dominate us, it’s better than being dominated by the US or the UK, they really use that argument as a defense for their claims, this is really wrong, we cannot afford any type of domination. I always say that if our enemies attack us and try to destroy us, that’s something expected from them, all we can do is defend ourselves, but when our supposed “allies” and brother countries try to destroy us, it is not something we expect from them and t is not something we can tolerate)

And, is there any doubt that World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, knew that he would be used in Phase 2 of the assault on Lebanese sovereignty by providing more economy-busting loans?

The US military is just the left hand of the banking establishment. One hand washes the other.

It’s the perfect system; the US-Israeli war machine flattens an entire country and then their buddies in the in the corporate-banking business rake in the profits from loans and reconstruction contracts. At the same time, they insist that the “New Lebanon” be rebuilt according to the neoliberal model; the same economic model that has kept Latin America and Africa in abject poverty for 2 decades.

Fisk is wrong; it’s not “sectarian hatred” that is driving the war, but outside powers that are using their proxies within Lebanon to achieve their geopolitical objectives. In other words, this not the beginning of civil war, but a continuation of the 34 Day war; the deliberate pulverizing of Lebanon to create an US-Israeli protectorate in a critical area of the Middle East. Future pipeline corridors and regional hegemony require a compliant pro-western government in Beirut. That’s why the Bush administration has armed and trained the massive security apparatus of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, so he could succeed where Israel failed, by crushing Hezbollah and the pro-democracy movement (please, now this guy is over the limit, what the hell is pro-democracy government, the government of Siniora was the first real democratically elected government since the civil war, all governments that were dominated by Hezbollah and their allies have been elected by the Syrian regime, for the first time we can see a government that reflects what the people want, and the opposition cannot stand that).

On the other hand, Hezbollah is demanding that the Siniora respect the constitution and step down to allow for the formation of a unity government. That is what is REQUIRED under the law (after six members of the Parliament walked out, it effectively disbanded the government) and that is why Hezbollah has been camped out in the center of the city since December 1 (he doesn’t even know how the law system in Lebanon works, they have resigned without the approval of the governmental institutions, Siniora can easily get other Shiia ministers and cover for them, he is not doing that as a respect for the opposition, the parliament should have done a meeting a long time ago to discuss this issue of the government being legitimate or not, but they haven’t, not surprising since the parliament speaker is a head person in the opposition as well, it all fits at the end).If the Bush administration was serious about democracy, they’d throw their support behind the opposition. (Hezbollah and Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement) But then we know what happens when the will of the people clashes with the aims of the administration. (check the war against the democratically-elected government of Hamas)

Siniora’s political base is limited to Sunnis, some parts of the Christian community, and the Lebanese business elite (Hariri). Some of them like, Samir Geagea, “the ex-civil war militia killer” are connected to right-wing extremist organizations (they love to mention this everytime they speak about Geagea and Joumblatt, they are “the ex-civil war militia killers”, but they never say that Nabih Berri who is the head of the Amal movement allied to Hezbollah was a bigger killer during the civil war, he used to fight against the Palestinians and against Hezbollah with the help of the Syrians, and they don’t mention Michel Aoun too, he re-triggered the Lebanese civil war in its last 3 years, when things were finally cooling down, he couldn’t take it, he wanted to be in control, and the Syrians wouldn’t allow him. When we do a claim about someone, we should first look at what we have done before). These are the groups who stand to benefit the most from an open confrontation with Hezbollah. Washington needs them to conceal its dirty war; a war that Bush stepped up last week when he authorized the CIA “to take covert action against Hezbollah as part of a secret plan to help the Lebanese government prevent the spread of Iranian influence. Senators and congressmen have been briefed on the classified ‘non-lethal presidential finding’ that allows the CIA to provide financial and logistical support for Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora”. (UK Telegraph)

Consider this: Siniora is freely violating Lebanese sovereignty to conduct covert operations against the very people (Hezbollah) who stood alone in defending Lebanon from Israeli invasion (oh please, Siniora and the Hariri family are the only people who have stand against israel from the beginning, they are the only ones free of guilt on the civil war, and now they are attacked as being traitors, come on this guy should also have a history lesson!!!!). Additionally, he is accepting this “assistance” from the United States knowing that it was the Bush administration that provided the laser-guided munitions and cluster-bombs which were used to kill Lebanese nationals just months ago.

And one last thing; despite his promises, Siniora has made no effort to help the poor Shias in the South rebuilt their homes and communities. Much like the victims of Katrina, the Shia have been left to languish in the ruins created by Israel’s relentless bombing raids (again same response I gave before, and you can find a lot of articles that prove this issue, the government is actually providing help).

Is it any wonder why Nasrallah and Aoun want to get rid of Siniora? (I’ll tell you why, Aoun wants power to be only his and no one else, Nasrallah wants the Syrians back and he wants an Iranian regime, they both think that they are fooling each other, but they will seriously crash at the end)

It should be noted that the Bush administration sees no inconsistency in a policy that supports Sunnis in Lebanon, but Shias in Iraq. The rule of thumb appears to be: “If our actions create greater mayhem and suffering for Muslims, then we are on the right course.”

Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, has wisely ordered his people to stop their acts of civil disobedience and to get off the streets to avoid further violence. Three Shias were reportedly killed by snipers at the university (read the news and you will find that actually 3 sunnis were killed from the snipers, no shiias were injured in this operation, and please he should really recall the issue of civil disobedience, you saw the news and you know what the opposition did during those 2 tragic days, and it was Nasrallah who ordered the people to go the streets, until now he has never given any orders to get out of the streets, the complete opposite, he is still provoking people to stay on the streets, this guy has real bad sources). Already we can see the familiar tactics which have been used in cities in Iraq.

Nasrallah, is portrayed in the western press as a provocateur, but he has kept the peace for the last 2 months and is committed to preventing another civil war. Just days ago, he told his people, “Even if they kill 1,000 of us, we will not use our weapons against them.” (I wonder how all this people died during those confrontations, and why more than 400 cars were destroyed, all belonging to the Hariri followers, if this is not civil disobedience and not use of weapons against the others, then I cannot explain it any other way, using weapons is not only using rockets, weapons are everything, even those tires they were burning all over the place) 

He also added, “We have the political, popular and organizational strength to bring down the unconstitutional government at any time. What has prevented the fall of this government is not the support of the western powers but the opposition’s will to preserve civil peace in the country.” (That is not true, what Nasrallah said is that the only reason that the government is still standing is because of outside forces)

But it’s likely that Nasrallah will not be able to stop the fighting; already events are beyond his control. Washington is preparing to open another front in its ongoing war on terror and is looking for a showdown with Hezbollah. The neoconservative ideal of “creative destruction” is now in full-flower and has extended the conflict from the northern tip of Afghanistan to the southern coast of Somalia swallowing up an immense swath of the Middle East and Central Asia. This is the “total war” the neocons promised when Bush took office. It isn’t civil war, but the calculated destruction of an entire region by the imperial powers.

I would like to mention that this guy is missing the big picture in Lebanon that Robert Fisk actually sees, if you look at all the series of events that happened from the killing of Hariri in 2005 until now, you can see a big connection that can be planned by the Us maybe, but that is most likely planned by the Syrians in collaboration with israel, we are seeing now how Syria and the US are somehow secretly cooperating with each other, and I expect some serious talks between them and israel to emerge soon, everyone is fighting his own war in Lebanese lands, the Syrians, the Iranians, the US, and the israelis, and the real Lebanese people are the ones stock in the middle and paying the price of all this.

Saudi switches investment from Lebanon to Israel

An article lifted from one of my favourite blogs “the fanonite” http://fanonite.wordpress.com

When I used to live in Dubai (a place described by one friend as Xanadu-meets-Disneyland) the parking lot of the American University would fill up with Rolls Royces and other expensive cars with Saudi and other Gulf state registration plates whenever Ramadan would end . They would be there to celebrate the end of the holy month by helping themselves to Eastern European prostitutes at the nearby exclusive nightclub.

One of the reasons they were so upset with Hizbullah, when it chose to confront Israel last year, is that Saudis had invested billions in Lebanon to turn it into another Dubai, with easy access to luxury hotels with associated hedonistic appurtenances. It turned out to be a bad investment: the regions endemic instability ultimately resulted in another war, and Israel proceeded to destroy billions worth of property.

It appears there is no place on the Mediterranean coast that is safe enough to invest not-so-hard earned petrodollars in, save Israel itself. But the Saudis – a proud arab nation; champions of the Palestinian cause; and self proclaimed leaders of the Muslim world — couldn’t really do business with a criminal regime which is brutalizing the mostly Arab-Muslim population of Palestine, now could they?

Jerusalem Post reports:

Plans by Saudi Prince Al-Walid bin Talal to build an eight-story hotel in Tel Aviv together with the Abulafia family of Jaffa are in their early stages. But too much publicity could doom the project.

Bin Talal – the world’s eighth-wealthiest man and the wealthiest Arab, according to Forbes – is eyeing a beachfront property facing the Opera Building on Herbert Samuel Road to build a 150-room, Oriental-style hotel. Bin Talal’s regular architect, London-based Basil al-Bayati, is said to be in charge of planning for the project.

Israel Gudovich, an Israeli architect who once was Tel Aviv’s city engineer, said the plans were still in their very early stages. “We will know more in two weeks, when I meet with Basil al-Bayati in London,” he told The Jerusalem Post Thursday. Gudovich said press coverage – “this Israeli excitement” which saw an item on the project make headlines in Yediot Aharonot’s business section on Thursday – could scare the project away.

City engineer Chezy Berkowitz confirmed that initial discussions had taken place, but said reports that architectural plans had been submitted to the municipality were incorrect. “No plans have been submitted for approval to planning committees,” he told the Post , adding that the start of construction was months away.

Another glorious peace initiative by the ever helpful Saudis. At a time when academics, churches, trade unions, businesses and activists are campaigning to end the creeping genocide of the Palestinians by bringing economic and political pressure to bear on Israel through a campaign of cultural, academic and economic boycott, the Saudis ensure that visitors to Israel are not deprived of exotic whores or luxury accomodation.