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The Events In Lebanon: Prelude to Regional War?

May 12, 2008

Took a great deal of notes today, copied articles, etc, with the intention of working them up for something this evening, but as usual, left all of it at work and now I am at home. In a way though, it’s a challenge to see what I can put together without those little crutches.

And as usual, the reporting on these events is – with a few exceptions – dismal and biased. A few examples suffice to show how once again public opinion here in the USA has been been manipulated in such a way to suggest this is all some kind of Iranian-sponsored plot in which Teheran is using Hizbollah as its Lebanese lever… when it is much more of a Bush Administration plan which has been brewing for some time.

No Hezbollah…

– Although it was broadly reported that Hezbollah did the fighting in Beirut, this does not appear to be accurate. It was another Shi’ite militia – that of Amal, whose leader, Nabil Berri is in the Lebanese parliament. According to several reliable (at least to me) Middle East sources I checked with, Hezbollah never entered Beirut and was not involved at all in the military action there. Interesting, most reports here in the US referred openly to Hizbollah; other referred to Hezbollah `backed’ guerilla fighters (which is not the same thing). That is as close as it got to a more honest description.

– Except in the Israeli press (which admitted this military action had been in the planning for three years) and with the lone exception of the Los Angeles Times (today’s article), the US press was virtually silent on the arming and training of Lebanese militias by the US and its allies. These militias had secretly been transferred to secret spots inside Beirut in preparation for military action. These facts have been widely reported and are generally known in the Middle East. One hardly reads or hears anything about them in the USA.

Apparently knowing where every last hidden base and arms catch was located (or so it seemed), Amal’s military arm struck and neutralized the militias before they could be fully mobilized for action, thus preventing what could have been a terrible blood bath and the opening of something approaching a full scale Lebanese civil war once again. The US backed (and created) militias proved completely unprepared and incapable of military action. Their military performance was pathetic, embarrassing considering how much time and money went into training them. They got the stuffings kicked out of them and surrendered in great disarray. Their members could easily have been slaughtered in great numbers by Amal. They weren’t, and basically surrendered (and then talked to the Arab media in great detail).

Bipartisan Support and Funding from the US Congress

One of my main concerns is that the current fighting in Lebanon is the prelude to a broader regional war, one that has been in the planning (and replanning) stages for three years at least with bipartison support in Congress. Andrew Cockburn’s excellent recent short piece (in Counterpunch) suggests that something more than Lebanon is at stake. The goal is for the Bush Administration in tandem with Israel in some shape or form to reshape the Middle East region as decisively as possible before Bush leaves office. The targets vary but include Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and of course Iran. I put all this out as a hypothesis and not yet a fact, but the details are adding up.

And if this is the case, the defeat of and, actually, the preemptive strike against the US, Saudi, Israeli, and Jordanian backed militias in Beirut – which was probably Act One of a longer and crueler military campaign – has thrown the Bush Administration and the Israelis into a kind of confusion not unlike what happened after Israeli’s unsuccessful venture into Lebanon two summers ago. One can say at this point that the US and its allies have lost the first skirmish. Once again they seriously underestimated the political and military acumen of their opponents – a classic miscalucation of colonial logic – and are now paying the price of international (if modest) humiliation.

Beirut’s Version of `Blackwater’ A Bust

`Act One’ was to neutralize Hezbollah and its Lebanese allies and was meant to open the door to more elaborate military campaigns – otherwise known as acts of international aggression. This would have eased the military pressure on Israel’s northern border (without another Israeli invasion) and opened the door to more directly targeting Syria, itself a stepping stone to hitting Iran. A seriously weakened Hizbollah would have been easier picking for another Israeli military incursion which remains problematic. It all might have been done in stages or all at once…this I don’t know. While I am glad that it was announced yesterday that the Israeli’s might be willing at long last to talk to Hamas, it might be to provide a temporarly lull in Gaza and the West Bank so Israel can concentrate its political and mlitary energies of Lebanon and Syria now that the 60th anniversary celebrations are fading into history.

The fact that these US (and Saudi and Israel and Jordanian) trained and back militias – the Middle East’s version of Blackwater – failed so miserably – and were figuratively caught with their pants down, raises the question: what now? My great fear is that the consultations taking place right now between Rice and her Middle East associates — and with Bush when he ventures into the region again to beg regional sovereign wealth funds for money to ease the US financial crisis –is that the possibility of US or US-Israeli military action will be put back on the table if it isn’t there already.

Regardless of how it plays out, very dangerous times…

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