Making the front page lead paragraph in a number of Beirut and Middle East dailies last Friday were nearly simultaneous summations by the two visitors as they articulated their country’s policy toward Lebanon.
On the arguably more positive side, as he had so many times in the past, Assistant Secretary Feltman renewed the United States’ commitment to “a stable, sovereign and independent Lebanon”. And he repeated these words to the President of the Chamber of Deputies Speaker Nabih Berri, Progressive Socialist Party Leader MP Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Forces Party President Samir Geagea, Maronite Bishop of Beirut Boulous Matar, and March 14 politicians. All of whom presumably hear the words in their sleep by now as all visiting US officials repeat Feltman’s buzz words.
The two gentlemen used 67% of the same key words but their meanings appear vastly different and that’s why some of us, certainly this observer, could use some help from a serious student of the subject.
Feltman told his interlocutors that he came to Lebanon to express his country’s “grave concern” on a number of issues including Hezbollah and its links with Iran and Syria. He also gave instructions on next year’s parliamentary elections which his team, the March 14 opposition, has threatened to boycott. If they do, according to some analysts here, their decision will have resulted from Feltman’s instructions.
The Beirut Daily, As-Safir, reported that Feltman’s sole purpose was to lash out at Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
And he did.
Feltman repeatedly warned that “if some sides in Lebanon seek to circumvent the sanctions on Iran then the Lebanese government will face “very serious complicated problems with the international community. The IC is increasing defined as US allies.
Feltman’s threats continued as he sought to pressure businessmen in Syria and Lebanon: “Not abiding by the US and International sanctions will have dangerous repercussions on the Lebanese banking sector.” More than once Feltman warned the Lebanese, with reference to the recent unilateral sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran, not to underestimate the American capacity to monitor and trace deposits and transfers. Most Lebanese are generally aware that US Treasury officials have been swarming Lebanon the past two years in order to intimidate Lebanon’s banking sector and shore up the failing US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
While Feltman was busy so was Iranian First Vice-President Rahimi who signed three memorandums of understanding agreed upon in previous meetings.
During his meetings, the Iranian first Vice President stressed his country’s “total support for Lebanon on the political, economic, and development levels.”
According to sources attending the Joint Lebanese-Iranian Higher Committee meeting, Rahimi discussed Iranian support to Lebanon on the oil, electricity, economic, trade, and agricultural levels, in addition to Iran’s interest in constructing water dams.
To give credence to his words, Rahimi presented a $40 million grant Iranian $40 million grant to finance dam in the Batroun region. He further announced that as the agreement’s executive program has been signed in both Tehran and Beirut, Iranian engineers will soon arrive in Lebanon to begin a project that the American government has discussed since the late 1970’s but has always conditioned US help to Lebanon on “better relations” with Israel.
Priding himself on being an adherent of realpolitik, Feltman is observing Israel being rejected by Arabs, Muslims and increasingly by the grounding swelling movement by people of good will including his own countrymen. He reportedly told one interviewer recently that he sees his role as “trying to staunch the coming tsunami of global rejection and delegitimization of Israel, and it’s not going to be easy.”
Similar words from Washington and Tehran to Beirut via experienced envoys. But fundamentally different approaches and deeds as has so often has been the case over the past decade.
Washington has, in important strategic respects, handed Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and soon more of the Persian Gulf countries to Iran’s rising presence and influence.
Next is likely Lebanon.
Can Palestine be far behind?
Source: Al-Manar Website
14-05-2012 – 10:11 Last updated 14-05-2012 – 10:11
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He is reachable c\o firstname.lastname@example.org
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