Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Al-Seyassah: US congressional delegation to discuss federalism for Lebanon, and/or military escalation

The following excerpts from the big Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah raise a lot of questions, starting with the fact that the journalist doesn't name any particular person or other verifiable source. However, there are parts of this that could be checked, for instance:

(1) Who is in the Congressional delegation.
(2) What is the basis for saying they are going to have discussions and/or make decisions about federalism for Lebanon, not to mention UN trusteeship and recommendations for military escalation?
(3) When is this project going to be announced and discussed in public, or is it to be a secret throughout?

Here are some excerpts:
Sources in the Lebanon lobby in Washington told Al-Seyassah that a delegation of US congressmen and senators will be visiting Beirut, to meet with leaders of the governing March 14 coalition, in order to discuss the issue of federalism in Lebanon.

The sources said the delegation, to include four congressmen and two senators, will put before the Lebanese leaders a proposal for establishing federalism, along the lines of what is set out in the constitution of Iraq, in the event that the [geographic] sectors and major [religious] groups are unable to arrive at a consensus on the future of Lebanon.
The above appeared on the front page of the big Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah on Monday September 25, under three lines of heading: The small top line said "American delegation to Beirut to discuss federalism". Big type under that said: "Western tilt toward putting Lebanon under international trusteeship." An under that a line indicating the Lebanese government said "No discussions with those connected with the Syrian regime (meaning Hizbullah)".

Following the passage translated above, the story moved inside to the international page, where the headline said: "US congressional delegation to decide the question of federalism." And the text opens by saying the six-person delegation will be in Beirut the middle of October, to discuss with the March 14 leaders their ideas on "internal federalism for Lebanon," of the type envisioned by the Iraqi constitution currently under discussion in Baghdad, in the event that the sectors of Lebanese society can't come to an agreement on the future of the country, as indicated by the failure of a recent discussion program to arrive at any tangible result. And the journalist goes on:

[His Lebanon-lobby source told him] the US delegation plans to ask the leaders of the "Cedar Revolution" to intervene a second and last time in the national discussion, following the radical changes that have resulted from the war between Israel and Hizbullah, a war in which the nation itself had no interest, direct or indirect.
Everything depends on whether Hizbullah is disarmed of not. If it is not, then it is incumbent on the leaders of the March 14 movement, or the majority of them, to declare clearly that are not prepared to see this state of affairs continue, with these two major destabilizers: namely the threat of Hizbullah arms, and the threat of Syrian intervention "into the heart of the Lebanese democracy". Consequently, they [the March 14 people] should state their willingness to try some form of tentative self-separation, involving the four groups: Shiite, Sunni, Christian and Druze, with the idea that eventually, later, a final state could be agreed on: either separation, or perhaps some version of the Iraq-type federalism. (It isn't clear how much of this is supposed to be attributed to the US person, and how much is the Lebanon-lobby person's own elaboration).

The journalist says one member of the House of Representatives who will in part of the delegation said this isn't coming from the White House, which continues to support a unified democratic Lebanon, but rather is a result of Lebanon-lobby pressure for help in arresting Lebanon's "quick and frightening slide" into civil war. He quotes the House member to the effect Hizbullah is free to choose its allies, for instance Syria and Iran, but it isn't free to impose this on the other three groups in Lebanese society. (The implication being that this would somehow be reconciled via a form of federalism).

Then the US legislator (as told to the Lebanon-lobby person as told to the journalist) went on to another theme. He said when the delegation returns to Washington it will know what has to happen in Lebanon in the foreseeable future, and it will decide on the basis of that whether Lebanon continues as a free and democratic nation where everyone is on an equal footing, or whether on the other hand, they will recommend that the nation be placed, in the final analysis, under UN trusteeship "as has happened with many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, to protect its people and prevent wars".

In the worst case, the House member told the Lebanon-lobby person, the congressional delegation would support a US motion in the Security Council, supported by other countries, to increase UN forces in Lebanon to 30,000 troops, with all kinds of modern weaponry, including fighter-planes, rockets and so on, converting them into a multi-national force like those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia.

The source connects the ideas of military intervention and federalism in the following way: He says that the process of separating antagonistic parties and preventing friction between them, would "spontaneously" result in a kind of quasi-federalism, in the sense that the major areas of the country would be separated from each other. He adds they (the US delegation) know that the France, Germany and Italy are prepared to increase their forces in Lebanon if the Security Council asks them to.

And he adds in by-the-way fashion: We and they (the Europeans) also know that Hizbullah received 3,000 anti-tank projectiles and rockets via the Syrian border as soon as the war was over on August 14, which proves that Iran and Syria are making preparations to fight the international forces, via Hizbullah.


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