Friday, October 19, 2007

US military plans for Lebanon

The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported yesterday that a US delegation led by Eric Edelman (Assistant Defence Secretary for Political Affairs) recently presented to Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora and other Lebanese officials a draft military-cooperation agreement between the US and Lebanon, something the paper said was the culmination of a whole continuous series of US delegations to Lebanon that have been going on since the Israel Hizbullah war of summer 2006.

A Lebanese military expert cited by Press TV, Amin Hotait by name, said the project for a new US-Lebanon military arrangement has been under discussion for longer than that, at least since 2003, and he added that one of the key points is the American inability to secure the use of its big airbase at Incirlik in Turkey in the free and unregulated way that it wants. Hotait said this is part of an overall American plan for six new bases, three in Iraq, and one each in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. He said the Lebanese base at Kleiat near Tripoli in the north will be called the center for the rehabilitation of the Lebanese Army, "in order to cover its real activity". (The Press TV clip is available thanks to, here; there is also a summary from Al-Manar, whose main additional point is that politicians have started buying up land around the Kleiat base in anticipation of speculative profits once the plan is approved).

US ambassador Feltman initially ridiculed the As-Safir report, but then Edelman himself, in an interview with AP, acknowledged some of the key points, including the plan for a new strategic partnership, and tying the rearmament of the Lebanese army with the eventual disarmament of Hizbullah.

There are some important points in the As-Safir report that should be of particular interest to Americans:

(1) Military policy immune to politics
Edleman is quoted as having told the Lebanese authorities that America itself is about to see changes, but "politics is one thing and security is something else entirely," in effect assuring them that US military policy is immune to politics. And on the Lebanese side, the newspaper noted the proposed agreement is something that wouldn't have to be taken up by the Lebanese parliament either.

(2) A new cold war with Russia
As-Safir says the proposed military package includes more money for the Lebanese army, more US technical assistance, and most important of all, additional US military bases in Lebanon, including a US military base on the site of the existing Kleiat airfield in the north. The US delegation under Edelman talked America responding to a Russian threat via Syria:
The delegation stressed that the strong (?) Russian presence in northern Syria has come to pose a threat to the American presence in he region. They alluded to a "Russian-American cold war" and to new Russian movements and strategies in the region, that will require changes in American strategy...
The interpolated question mark is in the newspaper article itself.

(3) Ideological takeover
As-Safir said the US delegation went so far as to call for changing the official statement of basic guidelines for the Lebanese army, to eliminate the clause that talks about fraternal and special relationship with Syria, on the basis this is no longer justified, and also the clause that talks about supporting the resistance, on the basis that strengthening the army will eventually make that unnecessary. At the same time, the US delegation talked about the need for monitoring systems to make sure that weapons supplied to the Lebanese army don't fall into the hands of other groups.

As-Safir said if the Lebanese government doesn't come clean about the discussions, it will publish documents in its possession connected with these meetings. Press TV, for its part, noted that the proposals haven't been implemented yet, and won't be as long as the opposition stands firm against them.


Anonymous parvati_roma said...

Thanks a million, Badger! I'd started looking into the story of that US air-base project in Lebanon when Debka floated an article on it a week or so back, but had begun to suspect it was just another jolt of intox-disinfo designed to further hot up the tensions in Lebanon's political impasse. Little did I know!

8:18 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Nice to hear from you. Btw, for other interested readers it is worth checking out a spring 2006 piece by Franklin Lamb (linked to in parvati_roma's post linked above) with a lot of very interesting background, historical and current, on the airbase project...

9:29 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I beg your pardon, that's May 30 2007, not spring 06.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous b. said...

Hah - I wrote about the air-port on May 25, suggesting that the attack on Nahr al-Bared was in preparation for giving the Kleiat airbase (Rene Mouawad Air Base) to the U.S.

Nahr al-Bared sits right on the logistic line between Tripoli and Kleiat.

Lamb did miss that aspect.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous parvati_roma said...

Thanks b! Must must say that Moon of Alabama post was a truly great piece of analysis - amongst other things, the tie-in to US fears of sooner-or-later-inevitable crisis of relations with Turkey re Iraqi Kurdistan, PKK etc. and relative fear of losing rights to Incirlik was spot-on!! - 100% confirmed by the simultaneous timing of the US defence-whatsit's emergency-type visit to Lebanon and relative kerfuffle with the current Turkish-US crisis. I've now cross-linked it to my own thread with a big quote .... ;-) I luv the blogosphere!

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Lysander said...

Some points I think about;

1) Is this talk of a 'new cold war' just an excuse for more military adventurism or is it real? If real and the Russians see themselves in competition, what would they be willing to do to put a fly in America's ointment?

2) How much popular support does such a base have among Sunni/Christian/Druze Lebanese?

3) If Lebanon becomes an unsatble environment ala Iraq, will this base be a frequent target of attack? Will there be a hamfisted U.S. response?

Perhaps the line that scares me the most though, is "America itself is about to see changes."

Not for the better I wager.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous dan said...

I guess the US has forgotten its lesson in the 80s when its unwelcome military presence in Lebanon ended in tears and will likely have to relearn it.

Shame, but to be expected when the country and its miltary are run by amoral cretins who think they have a inalienable right to dominate the world by force.

6:41 AM  
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11:21 PM  

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