In Israeli-Lebanese brinkmanship, the US is powerless

According to Roee Nahmias at Y-Net, "US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a message to Beirut that Washington cannot prevent an Israeli strike in Lebanon as long as arms smuggling to Hezbollah continues."

Echoing an article in the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Nahmias writes that "the message was conveyed via US Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison to Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri."

The al-Hayat report stated that Berri replied with his own message to Clinton, "that finding a solution to the arms smuggling issue is ‘not a problem’, but that the US must also stop arming Israel with weapons and equipment."

The situation between Hizbullah and Israel has been heating up lately, and the Lebanese government is openly expressing fear of an Israeli attack. Lebanon’s Daily Star notes that "Israel has repeatedly threatened to target all of Lebanon, including its infrastructure in any upcoming war given Hizbullah’s participation in the Cabinet."

Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, last month at a commemoration ceremony "warned his group would bomb Israel’s infrastructure, airport and refineries in response to any attack on Lebanese infrastructure. He stressed that the resistance did not seek war but was ready to face any aggressions."

More problematic for the Lebanese is what Hizbullah will do if Israel attacks Hizbullah’s ally, Iran. Defending Lebanese soil achieves a greater consensus than defending Iran’s nuclear program.

During the 2006 Israeli-Hizbullah war, current Prime Minister Saad Hariri was the leader of the Lebanese Parliament’s largest bloc, which dominated the government. Yet, he stayed out of the country during the entire war. Once Israeli bombing of Lebanon escalated out-of-control and the United States was unwilling or unable to enforce an Israeli ceasefire, Lebanese of all stripes turned against the Israeli aggression, and the government led by then Prime Minister Fouad Siniora found itself in a untenable position. Hariri and his allies – with US backing – won the 2009 election suggesting that Hizbullah still needed to be disarmed. But he eventually decided to form another unity government that again included Hizbullah.

Today Hariri is speaking much differently than in 2006. On a state visit to Qatar last Monday, he told reporters,

"Israel was seeking to launch an offensive against Lebanon to distract away from peace negotiations."

“When Israel threatens us to bomb Dahyieh [Beirut’s southern suburb] or south Lebanon or Hizbullah, we should as a Cabinet work to enforce our national unity since it is the only way to resist such threats.”

Disarming Hizbullah is not on the agenda of the new Lebanese government, but the United States and the United Nations (is there a difference these days?) have been increasing pressure on Lebanon to deal with the issue.

Whether the Obama administration is powerless to stop an Israeli attack on Lebanon or is actually in agreement with the current Israeli aggressive posture towards its northern neighbor remains to be seen. We do know that the United States opposed a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority mediated by Egypt, and it objected to the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shilat since it would reap political benefits for Hamas. It is as if Obama and Clinton are determined to seek what Bush could not deliver: the neutering of Hamas, Hizbullah and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

About Bruce Wolman

Bruce Wolman is a citizen journalist who has lived in Norway and the Washington area.
Posted in Iran, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 12 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    If my next door neighbor were stockpiling pistols, machine guns and grenades, and had a history of being belligerent and hostile toward me and other neighbors, I wouldn’t hesitate to arm myself.

    Hillary, why is that concept so foreign to you?

  2. potsherd says:

    “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a message to Beirut that Washington cannot prevent an Israeli strike in Lebanon as long as arms smuggling to Hezbollah continues.”

    That’s not “can’t”, that’s “won’t”.

  3. jan_gdyn says:

    It was Fuad Siniora not Saad Hariri who was Lebanon’s PM in 2006.

    • Bruce says:

      That is correct. I should have explained more clearly that Hariri only headed the largest parliamentary faction in the government. I will edit.

  4. Pamela Olson says:

    They’re not neutering anybody but themselves. What a sad joke.

    http://fasttimesinpalestine.wordpress.com

  5. Rehmat says:

    It looks that Washington too has not learned any lesson from its 2006 Lebanese fiasco. How idiotic it looks Hilary Clinton demanding Lebanese government to stop Hizb’Allah receiving a few hundreds thousands of arms while Washington giving over US$3 billion of arms annually to the Zionist regime for the last four decades.

    Hizb’Allah is not only the part of Lebanese government – it also is the only defender of Lebanon from Israeli attacks – as Benjamin Netanyahu admitted himself:

    Bibi: Hezbollah is Lebanon’s real army
    link to rehmat1.wordpress.com

  6. Taxi says:

    You’d think Bush is still in power the way Washington carries on.

    So which name sounds better, folks: George Obama or Barak Bush?

    Both them guys live in the White House you know.

    ———–

    Little Lebanon, jewel of the middle east, barely an army to speak of, but a resistence group that has kicked Israeli ass more than once (let’s not brag here).

    Little Lebanon, the Switzerland of the Middle East, barely a population of 3 million, also taught us a righteous lesson or two some time ago.

    These Lebanese people have been there since before that old man Abraham was born. They’ve been picked on by every imperial and colonial bully and they still remain on the mediterranean shores, linked to their rich history.

    To think that a bunch of zionists from Odessa and Brooklyn with their backers from Capitol Hill, can all break the irrepressible Lebanese spirit, is truly moronic.

    We are picking on a society and people who simultaneously love life but are not afraid to die for what they believe in.

    They have always been the David against the Goliath.

    And they’re still around.

    Hillary can suck on that.

    • RoHa says:

      Also, Hezbollah did a far faster and more efficient job of clearing up the mess after the 2006 war than the U.S. has managed in New Orleans after Katrina.

      And hardly any profiteering, either.

      (A visit from a couple of young, strong Hezbollah lads with degrees in Economics and AK47s is a great way to get suppliers to hold their prices at pre-distaster levels.)

  7. yonira says:

    Rehmat,

    Your blog posts are about as original as the banner on your blog. This is like the 5th time you’ve posted that same link on Mondoweiss, its pretty common knowledge that the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah is more powerful than the Western backed LAF

    • Taxi says:

      yonira,

      There’s always the option of not clicking on Rehmat’s links.

      Or do you just like the sound of your own whine?

  8. romal says:

    The US does have power, it can stop arming the israelis.

  9. thetumta says:

    The US doesn’t have to stop arming the Israelis. In case you didn’t notice, Hezbollah smoked them in small unit infantry operations in 2006. Shut down their armor, shut down their paratroopers, spanked them all and sent them running home. Their only response, murder civilians from the air, not a viable strategy. And now, the Egyptian front is re-opened and Jordan is next. There will be tears. Hubris.
    Hej!