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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Where Does the West Stand on Lebanon?

After the Gemayel murder last week, it seemed that the Western countries, even the long time pro-Arab nationalist EU, were against the murder, against the Syrian-Iranian policy of overthrowing even the remaining semblance of democratic-constitutional government in Lebanon that has been represented by the Fuad Siniora government, with all its faults. But you can never know where the Western states in general or the USA in particular stand unless you know the history of each Western state's relationship with Lebanon. And even then policies do change from time to time, even if they are not always coherent with the broad picture of any particular power's overall Middle Eastern policy.

France, for instance, long prided itself on protecting the Middle Eastern Christians, especially the Lebanese Christians. Then, starting in 1976, it acquiesced or even collaborated in the Syrian takeover of Lebanon as part of a pro-Arab nationalist policy. In this context, Sunni Muslim billionaire Rafiq Hariri became the Syrian-sponsored prime minister of Lebanon and, by the way, a friend of Jacques Chirac to whom he gave some expensive gifts as a token of friendship. When the Assad gang running Syria had a falling out with Hariri and had him murdered [2005], Chirac seemed sincerely angry at his erstwhile Syrian friends. Chirac took part in trying to arrange an international, UN-based tribunal to investigate the murder. Yet, during Israel's war with Hizbullah and since then, France has taken a pro-Hizbullah stance, even threatening to have French forces in Lebanon shoot down Israeli aircraft doing reconnaissance over Lebanon to watch over Syrian-Iranian resupply of the Hizb. This pro-Hizbullah policy obviously endangers the Lebanese Christians, plus Lebanon's chances of staying free of a Hizbullah government, plus the Sunni Muslim Lebanese to whom Hariri belonged to. A policy in self- contradiction, obviously. Yet is the USA so different in its Lebanon policy?

In June 1976, PLO terrorists in Beirut assassinated Meloy, the US ambassador to Lebanon, and two of his companions. Yet,
In the late summer of 1976, the United States government evacuated American citizens from West Beirut using landing craft of the Sixth Fleet: the surrounding coastal area was guarded by Palestinian Fatah guerrillas with tanks and infantry weapons to safeguard the embarkation.
[Harald Vocke, The Lebanese War (New York: St Martins Press 1978), p 62.]
The American policy of bowing to the PLO spread to other Western govts with diplomatic missions in Beirut.
In the summer of 1976, the diplomatic missions of the nine countries of the EEC [forerunner of the EU] bowed to pressure from the Palestinian guerrillas and interrupted relations with the Lebanese Foreign Minister. . . President Franjiyya appointed Camille Chamoun, the leader of the National Liberal Party, on 16 June 1976 [to replace the previous foreign minister who had left the country]. Under the Lebanese constitution, the president is empowered to appoint and dismiss ministers without obtaining the consent of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister at that time, the Sunni Muslim Karame, protested against Chamoun's appointment to the Foreign Ministry and declared that he himself was still acting Foreign Minister of Lebanon [as he had been after the previous FM had left] . . . Karame did not leave the West sector of Beirut, which was controlled by the Palestinians, and it was there and with him that the diplomatic representatives of the EEC states communicated. They boycotted Chamoun out of fear of the Palestinian murder commandos. In despatches to their governments, the European diplomats took the untenable view that it was open to dispute who was Foreign Minister of Lebanon --Chamoun or Karame-- and thus impossible for them to decide on the matter. [Vocke, pp 61-62]
Thus in the summer of 1976 there was a strange symbiosis in Beirut between Western diplomats on the one hand and Palestinian guerrillas and the militias of the Lebanese Muslims on the other. The West German embassy moved into a new office at this time, the actual removal [move] being guarded by the 'Murabitun' militia led by the professional killer Koleilat, who had been responsible for the murder of the Lebanese publisher Mruwweh in 1965. [Vocke, p 62]
Hence, we can never be sure of where the Western powers stand in Lebanon. It is certain, of course, that legality and constitutional legitimacy are not their paramount concern, as we see above. Nor is a consistent anti-terrorist policy visible.
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