Will Washington Love Hezbollah In June

by Franklin lamb Haret Hreik

March 5 2009
New Zealand

Will Washington love Hezbollah in June as it loves her in March?

Part I: Village Updates: Lebanon’s ‘International’ election

"We do not consider the coming elections as fateful, but rather as
important. If the opposition wins the elections it is normal for all
countries to deal with it, so do not let anyone scare you regarding
this matter. The opposition is already represented in the cabinet
and foreign ambassadors and officials are standing in line to talk
to Hezbollah. Except for the US and Israel, we have good relations
with all. Hezbollah scares only the Israeli enemy."


WOMAD ’09 – Buy Tickets Now

Sheikh Naim Qassem Deputy Sec-Gen of Hezbollah and the Party’s point
man for the June election launching the Party’s Electoral Campaign
in the Bekaa Valley on 3/1/09.

It is tough to get very excited about media reports reaching Beirut
that the American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
has already chosen a winner (Mitt Romney) in the first Republican
straw poll of the 2012 campaign, so soon after the last interminable
four year campaign mercifully ended.

The selection was not much noticed in Lebanon because rapt attention
in on the probable, but not certain, June Parliamentary elections,
variously described as "the most important in Lebanon’s history",
the event that will determine the outcome of the Arab peoples central
cause Palestine", whether Lebanon becomes "Iranistan", or is turned
over by Washington, to a regional power to administer.

The contest, just 12 weeks away, has tightened dramatically and it is
commonplace to hear citizens list the names of the countries backing
one faction or another with money, political influence or both.

Earlier predictions of a Hezbollah landslide have evaporated with
the Party of God and its allies now playing scrappy Defense in face
of an intense US orchestrated political onslaught.

So far, no generally respected voter preferences polls have emerged
in Lebanon, but Parliamentary insiders predict when the votes are
counted as few as five seats may separate the US backed March 14
‘Majority’ and the Hezbollah led Opposition. One just released 3/04/09
Now Lebanon poll showed that 89% of likely voters believe the June
election "is of pivotal importance" and "the most important in the
modern history of Lebanon as a State."

It is generally conceded that the next government will be formed by
whichever side polls best in the mountainous Metn district, east of
Beirut, traditionally the area that witnesses Lebanon’s "mother of
electoral battles."How Metn goes may come down to how the crafty
Armenian Christians vote. According to Beirut’s Daily Star, it is
these Christian swing voters in the middle of the political spectrum,
who will be most susceptible to vote buying since hard core loyalist
voters aren’t easily persuaded or trusted to cross over for cash.

Waiting for Jimmy Carter?

The "unity" Cabinet had hoped to appoint an independent electoral
monitoring commission as an election watchdog body but this
plan collapsed over political bickering about how to choose the
‘non-aligned’ members. Hezbollah wanted the members appointed on a
consensus basis but the March 14 team insisted on a majority vote,
giving them effective control.

With Lebanese voters lacking confidence that the elections will be
honestly run, the European Union and France, among others, have
offered to help monitor the election. Both the majority and the
opposition appear to welcome former President Jimmy Carter’s much
experienced Election Monitoring Teams to come to Lebanon to increase
public confidence in the election results.

Election Day as Judgment day: the Sheik and the Ideologue

Unrequited love is much in evidence this Valentine Season, one of
the favorite holidays in this country with the most holidays of
any Country on planet Earth. Given the 18 confessions each of which
is deeply wounded and even vengeful if the other 17 don’t join in
observing and showing due reverence on their special day!

Lebanon’s increasingly cosmic electoral battle pits two unlikely
hombres against each other leading opposing electoral teams. Calling
the shots for the pro-US Majority the election committee Chair, now
that David Welch has retired, will be the former US Ambassador to
Lebanon and currently Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs, and former Art major, Jeffrey Feltman. He will be
sending in the play signals to the US fielded team via ‘secure’
communications and State Department video conferences. Lest his
head coach position be doubted, on 3/04/09 the State Department
announced that Feltman and Daniel Shapiro of the US National Security
Council will visit within days Lebanon "to learn firsthand the
conditions prevailing in the country and the transfer of the new US
administration’s stance against Lebanon, in terms of Washington’s
continued support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon
and its territorial integrity."

The two men will be in town "to support the holding of parliamentary
elections smoothly and transparently and to confirm the continuation
of the armament and training of the Lebanese army," the report read.

Home Team advantage but the Visitors are set to play hard ball!

For the Opposition, or the "home team" as some in Dahieyh prefer, it is
former Chemistry Professor, Religious scholar, and Hezbollah’s number
two, Naim Qassim. Sheik Qassim is said to enjoy the rough and tumble
of electioneering and to have a knack for drawing schematic issue and
voter district diagrams, maybe acquired from years with sketching
element charts and diagrams in his chemistry classrooms. Qassim is
credited with much of Hezbollah’s 17 years of ballot box success.

"Sheik Qassim is a terrific stump speaker with a great sense of
humor. Not at all like the severe image his opponent’s project of
him", according to Dahiyeh resident, Human Rights Ambassador Ali
Khalil who has known Naim Qassim since the 1980’s when he was his
chemistry student.

Qassim summarized Hezbollah’s basic program to this observer saying:
"We seek to protect the country, to reject foreign tutelage, to solve
economic issues on the basis that people have social needs, to end
financial corruption, not to pawn the country to foreign firms, and
equal development in all regions." Specifics will be announcement
very shortly, he added.

Qassim believes that neither March 14 nor Hezbollah Forces are capable
of governing the country alone, adding that "If the opposition wins,
Hezbollah wishes to form a national unity government." Qassim affirmed
that opposition forces would run united in all districts in Lebanon
with the hope of running a "fair and honest campaign".

This past weekend, opening Hezbollah’s election campaign in the Bekaa
Valley, Qassim pledged that "Hezbollah would encourage development
by attending to the economical situation at all levels. We call
for reinforcing the state’s role in combating monopolies and the
huge public debt. We also call for building state institutions,
provided that they are not used to serve the interests of only
certain people or groups. We want the Resistance to pave the way for
development and we want development to reinforce the Resistance,"
noting that the party would campaign under a slogan of ‘resistance
and development’. For us the word ‘resistance’ means the following
concepts: Full independence and a rejection of foreign guardianship,
even if it is camouflaged by so-called cooperation and coordination."

Hezbollah is getting an ear full on the huskings

As though doing heavy lifting for some of its ‘allies’, on unsavory
issues Hezbollah claims to have had no part of, and does not want
to be tarred with, were not enough, the Party is hearing plenty from
the voters and their opponents:

Few of Hezbollah’s rank and file supporters are glamorizing for
another ‘Devine Victory’. With the Lebanese government, more than
two and one years after the July War, still not fully delivering
reconstruction aid, the whole Country but South Lebanon, the Bekas
and Daheyh especially ponder regular Israeli threats to ‘burn Lebanon’
again. Voters do not have much doubt that the US has already given the
‘green light’.

Many voters, who seem genuinely impressed with Hezbollah’s record of
social improvements and its "clean" image, mention nagging doubts
about its ‘foreign connections’. Disquiet over "the unknowns" and
‘foreigners’ is hammered home in March 14 campaign messages.

Some voters mention that Hezbollah has yet to explain in detail its
"major economic program", which is much needed and anticipated.

In the Bekaa Valley, which is strong for Hezbollah but by no means
100%, one hears some criticism of Hezbollah for not delivering needed
services, given the virtual absence of the Lebanese government in
the area. For example, the cold and struggling families, in the
Hermel area, north of Baalbek, are not happy. This is the area,
including the villages of Brital and Tarayya, where the still admired
Sheik Subhi al_Tufayli, Hezbollah’s spokesman (1985-1989) and the
Party’s first Secretary-General (1989-1992) led the July 1997 "hunger
revolution". Sheik Tufayli, one of the three original founders of
Hezbollah, viewed by some as too radical for the increasingly moderate
Hezbollah, has been critical of Hezbollah for their participation in
Lebanese elections and being too cozy with Iran.

In villages around Baalbek one hears some grumbling: "I support
Hezbollah and the resistance but we have very few government services
of any kind out here and our families need electricity and jobs, not
another war with Israel. Hezbollah needs to do more if they want us
to vote for them", a shop keeper near the Al Rayan Hospital north of
Baalbek told this observer. "The Israelis bombed our house in 2006,
killing my brother. We are not even Hezbollah supporters but neither
they nor the Lebanese government has helped me rebuild. They don’t
even shop at my grocery store. I only see Hezbollah if they come by to
check that I am not selling beer. It is almost two in the afternoon
and I have had only a few customers. Nobody around this area has any
money to shop."

The "Lebanese Red" Hashish growing region, North Baalbek-Knesseh-Hermel
district, experienced the Lebanese army staging highly publicized
arrests and confiscation raids in late December and early January
(A survey of some of the growers by this observer found more hype
than substance in ‘the raids’. "We knew in advance they were coming
and ditched the stuff", one grower in Kenesseh explained, adding,
"but next time they show up our families will fight!"

Some of the families in the area rely on this ancient and cheap
to grow cash crop, which aids the local economy significantly, and
which the Government has pretty much left alone since the July 2006
War. Hezbollah is blamed for not providing political cover and may
lose some Hashish growers votes. Hezbollah responds that, despite
the history of Hashish farming in the Bekaa, going back to Roman
times, the party has Religious, legal, and moral objections to drug
cultivation and will not protect it.

Recent security problems with Hezbollah’s vehicle fleet supplier,
rumored to be a "Party insider" has shocked many in Hezbollah since
the confessed Israeli spy "was one of our own". It is feared that
the incident may affect the public’s perception of Hezbollah "as
competent and in control" of the Resistance and weaken its reputation
for reliability as a bulwark against US-Israeli projects.

Some of the volleys being fired at the Hezbollah led opposition as
the election approaches:

The FBI has renewed its scare tactic anti-Hezbollah warnings with
Director Mueller claiming on 2/25/09 Kuwaiti daily Al Rai, without
offering any evidence, that Hezbollah was a " proven terrorist group
over the years and that’s why we keep our eyes open on them inside
the U.S". According to Mueller, San Diego and Seattle, cities with
a significant Pro March 14 Lebanese population (as opposed to say,
Dearborn Michigan with many presumably pro Hezbollah Shia) could be
targeted in a fashion similar to last month’s Mumbai attacks. One
critic said Mueller wants to encourage anti Hezbollah Ex-Pat Lebanese
to return to Lebanon to vote in the election. Mueller declined to
answer a question concerning the recent disclosures that the FBI
infiltrated with paid informants and agent provocateurs U.S. mosques
who had participated in law enforcement outreach efforts over the
past decade.

Days earlier (2/13/09), the new U.S. Intelligence Chief Dennis Blair
offered the profound observation that "Hezbollah is a "multifaceted and
disciplined" organization combining political, social, paramilitary,
and terrorist elements and might consider attacking American interests
because we judge that armed struggle remains central of Hezbollah’s
ideology and strategy".

According to a just released (3/3/09) RAND Corporation study, Hezbollah
is receiving $20 million Annually from Proceeds of Pirated Films
in the tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Without
offering probative or material evidence, the report warns that a
terrorist connection "could increase in the future".

Middle East envoy George Mitchell has been more rational and moderate
in his statements using the code language generally employed
by American officials visiting the region: "The United States
supports Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty, democracy and peaceful
elections". Meaning the US supports the March14 team.

Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian parliamentary majority,
this week upped political pressure on voters contemplating voting
for Hezbollah by declaring that his Future Movement would shun a
unity government if Hezbollah and its allies win. The implication is
that unless the US backed majority wins the balloting, the Hariri
Empire fortune may no longer be available to help Lebanon. In the
same statement Hariri repeated the Majority mantra that a victory for
the Hezbollah-led coalition would accelerate the Iranian takeover of
Lebanon. Hezbollah has repeatedly stated that win or lose, it will
join a unity government and seek consensus. Saad Hariri’s announcement
lends credence to current rumors that he has had enough of Lebanese
politics and wants to join his family who have been forced out of
Lebanon to live in safer surroundings abroad.

Part II: Will the Hezbollah led Opposition fracture as the US flirts
with Syria?

Since Hezbollah entered Parliament by winning eight seats in 1992,
it has sometimes clashed with its Shia Party ally, Harek Amal. Among
other reasons was that each Party preferred that its own loyalist
stand for election in the same Shia district.

This may happen again this spring with an intra-coalition struggle
taking place in Jezzine, north of Nabiteyeh. In 2005, Amal and
Hizbullah split the Christian seats, two to one respectively, but
now Christian Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is allied
with both parties and plans to run Christian candidates there. Some
have speculated that Hezbollah may support the FPM candidates which
would weaken Amal. Amal leader Nabih Berri objects and has defended
his party’s right to maintain both local seats it won in 2005. In the
past, Syria has mediated among March 8 ‘allies’ in order to settle
internal rivalries. It may do so this year in the event that the two
Shia parties can’t work things out.

The political alliance between Hezbollah and Amal is based largely on
electoral convenience. Presumably Washington knows this and if Syria
and Iran split so may Hezbollah and strongly pro-Syrian Amal. One
of the current political ironies in Lebanon is that the strongly
nationalist Shia Hezbollah, will, if necessary, defend Sunni and
Christian Lebanon against Syria should it become necessary given
the present rapidly shifting currents in the region. This widely held
supposition may bring Hezbollah some Sunni anti-Syrian election support
from those who believe Hezbollah’s statements that it is "Lebanese
first and last". While Hezbollah welcomes aid from several quarters in
its Resistance struggle to liberate Lebanese and Palestinian territory
from Zionist occupation, Hezbollah’s ultimate loyalty is to its own
country, Lebanon. Should the vast majority Palestinians agree to a
peace deal with Israel that would fully implement UN Resolution 242,
plus the Right of Return and Reparations for 60 years of majazer
following the 1948 Nakba, Hezbollah would accept it. One imagines the
US government would then drastically change its attitude and embrace
the Party of God.

Separation of Church and State?

While a great number of civil and international wars have been fought
over the demand that Church and State be separated, in Lebanon,
it’s the opposite. This country actually risks civil war before the
June election if a serious movement forms advocating the apostasy of
separation of Church and State.

Lebanon’s Maronite Cardinal Patriarch Boutros Sfeir, who regularly
reminds the country that "the Patriarchy rises above all conflicts
because it unites all the Lebanese," rarely finishes a sermon
without making barbed political pronouncements on behalf of his
favored Maronite Christian flock. Last month, following a meeting
with US Ambassador Michele Sisson his Holiness announced at their
news conference that: "If power shifts to March 8 Forces and March 14
Forces ceased to have power, mistakes would be committed that would
weigh historically on the national fate." The Patriarch added that
"deep divisions among Christians were reflecting negatively on the
fate of the Christians in Lebanon," and warned that "Christians
alone from among other sects in the country do not control their
differences." Sfeir criticized the presence of armed groups outside
state control. "Every self-respecting state must be responsible for
the arms within it," he said, taking another swipe at Hezbollah while
ignoring the fact that the three main Chrilstian Militias in Lebanon
are increasingly well armed.

Whatever the US Embassy thought of the Patriarch’s, dictum ex
cathedra, his rival Lebanese Christians were not happy and quickly
cried foul. The pro-Hezbollah Christian leader of the Free Patriotic
Movement Michel Aoun replied that Patriarch Sfeir does not speak for
the Christians on matters of politics, adding, "Christian society is
democratic and the Patriarchs stance is well known to be with the
March 14 Forces and he is not a centrist. This means he is against
the opposition."

Former pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami assailed Sfeir criticizing
religious authorities that intervene in politics. "Religious
authorities should not get involved with alleyways of politics and
any clergyman who becomes a party to politics should be criticized,"
Karami said.

At the ready to defend Patriarch Sfeir was a Member of the March 14
Forces’ General Secretariat Michel Moawwad , who following a meeting
with Samir Geagea this week went before the microphones to wonder
"why Iran, and not Bkirki, (the seat of Cardinal Sfeir) "is allowed
to interfere in domestic affairs."

"Is the Faqih ruler allowed to meddle in Lebanese affairs while Bkirki
is not allowed to interfere in politics?", Moawwad asked earnestly
with his palms upturned and his gaze toward Heaven. Moawwad’s
comment was intended to remind voters that Iran’s Supreme Leader,
Ali Khameini, successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, has both religious
and political authority and is also the spiritual leader of Shia
Muslim Hezbollah. Hezbollah did not reply to the provocation, but
their allies, the rival Maronite Christian block, quickly demanded to
know "Where was the Patriarch when Christians were being slaughter by
Christians during the civil war"? And why weren’t they excommunicated
while now it (the Patriarchy) wants to practice this measure against
those Christians who give a different opinion and support the
(Hezbollah led) Opposition"?

Former President and leader of the Phalange Party, Amin Gemayel
followed with an accusation that the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition
was undertaking "a scheme to build a state in which Beirut is replaced
with Tehran, Tripoli with Damascus and Bkirki with Brad." He was
referring to the Syrian village of Brad, which is located north of
Aleppo and is the burial place of Saint Maroun. "Loyalty to Lebanon
is worthless without loyalty to the state," he stressed, adding that
the June election represents "a choice between God and sovereignty
or foreign tutelage."

Other growing electoral tensions Campus Election Violence

Electoral enthusiasm sometimes leads to Campus violence as happened
again this week at Saint Joseph University when fistfights erupted
between rightwing Lebanese Forces students and students from Hezbollah
and Amal. Chants such as "God, Nasrallah and Dahieh" (sometimes with
chest thumping for emphasis) and "God, Lebanese Forces and Hakim"
(with genuflection or the sign of the Cross–"Hakim" meaning ‘Doctor’
as in Dr. Samir Geagea) were heard inside the campus.

How many votes can Ghajar deliver?

Israel may be directed by Washington to withdraw from the northern
part of the village of Ghajar, according to Fox Israel illegally
occupied Ghajar during the July 2006 war and has been in the "process
of withdrawing" for the past 32 months. The US is weighing whether the
Ghajar withdrawal, required by UN Resolution 1701, will warm voters to
the Majority and give them ballot credit. But they are not sure because
Hezbollah could get the credit being the only Party having consistently
and credibly insisted on Israeli withdrawal. Another "Divine Victory"
could be in the making. On the other hand the US team might play it
safe and license Israel in Ghajar until after the election.

The Hariri Tribunal as National election tool

The international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of
ex-Premier Rafik Hariri will provide nearly daily election material
for the March 14 team to use against the Opposition. The opposition
argues that the Hariri Tribunal is politically selective and is too
narrow in its mandate which should ensure that the perpetrators of
other grave human rights violations in Lebanon are also brought to
justice. It wants the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, including the
killing of tens of thousands of civilians and the forced disappearance
of thousands more, to be addressed. They point out that the Hariri
Tribunal would not exist if the suspect was Israel and not Syria and
that the Tribunal does not address the long pattern of impunity that
has persisted in Lebanon. Hezbollah argues that the Tribunal should
also address the case of four former security generals who have been
detained for three and one half years without being charged and whose
detention have been ruled arbitrary by a U.N. expert group.

Will Lebanese youth and expats be allowed to vote?

The US and their Majority Team allies want the more affluent Lebanese
expatriates to vote since they are believed to be favorable to March
14 but not Lebanon’s 18-21 year olds who are suspected of wanting
"change we can believe in." Interior Minister Ziad Baroud has
tentatively ruled that Lebanese expatriates will not be allowed to
vote until the 2013 elections due to "voter identity card preparation
problems". Hezbollah supporters may be pleased with this decision
but they will likely not achieve their goal of lowering the voting
age from 21 to 18 in time for the June election, due again to "voter
identity card preparation problems." According to election officials
"the young people will not be able to vote this year but can in the
2010 municipal elections. These decisions may change, as Parliament,
at Speaker Berri’s insistence, is planning to revisit both questions
in mid-March. Meanwhile, Marada Leader Suleiman Franjieh issued a
televised statement to the Lebanese in Australia on Saturday urging
them to come to Lebanon on June 7th and vote at the parliamentary

"Some come to you and offer money, we know the sources of these funds,
our regions are only represented by their people, and those that go
to Australia to work won’t sell their conscience for money."

Part III: Lebanese voters doubt their value to the US

Given the history of US administration allowing Israel to do pretty
much what it wants with Lebanon and the recent disclosures by John
Hanna, National Security aide to Dick Cheney, many Lebanese question
the oft proclaimed US commitment to Lebanon’s "independence and
sovereignty" repeated this week by President Obama. Hanna, of Lebanese
origin, reported that the Bush administration considered Lebanon a
"secondary issue that might best be administered by a regional power",
implying that it could be Syria if that country did the right deal
with Israel. Many Lebanese, while chagrined, don’t appear shocked by
Hanna’s revelation and while nervous about the current US overtures to
Syria feel they don’t have much say in this realpolitic matter. When
the Hanna interview appeared in Beirut’s media, the US Embassy quickly
issued a 2/27/09 Press Release for rather skeptical voters trying to
assure them that "The Lebanese army commander’s visit to the United
States this week shows that U.S.-Lebanese ties are strong and durable".

Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh said on 2/23/09 that betting
on the West "could protect (us) for a while, but in the long run it
could be suicidal for both Christians and Muslim gamblers and he
asked voters "not to trust the sweet language of American Embassy
press releases".

Warnings about joining "the US Camp David group" and of abandoning
the resistance are discussed by canvassing campaign workers who ask
voters such questions as:

Did Egypt regain its freedom and dignity after the ‘peace’ treaty?

What happened to the promised economic boom and the US guaranteed
spread of democracy?

Were the Egyptian allowed to demonstrate or vote in favor of opening
the Rafah Crossing to fleeing Palestinians?

Have the Egyptian people more or less prosperity?

Are they more secure with the US project of giving Palestine to
the Zionists"

And what did the Jordanian people achieve?

Is the old Jordanian anxiety over Israel plans to make Jordan a
Palestinian State gone?

Have the Jordanian people advanced their economic wellbeing more than
those States who are resisting?

Should the Palestinians give up their resistance and follow Muhammad
Dahlan and Salam Fayyad who only delivered more corruption, oppression,
lies, settlements and arrests?

The US offers ‘aid’ but Lebanon wants war Reparations!

Not wanting to be left on the sidelines, the March 14 ‘Majority’
has now called on the U.N. to pressure Israel to pay compensations
for the July war.

In a letter presented to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon via Lebanon’s
permanent representative to the U.N. Nawwaf Salam, Lebanon informed the
international body of Israel’s repeated violations of U.N. Security
Council Resolution 1701. In the letter, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora
had demanded compensation from Israel for the "unimaginable losses" to
the nation’s infrastructure and praises US generosity. But opposition
supporters are more inclined to view the relative pittance of US
post July 2006 Israel attack as a small down payment for US-Israel
Reparations due Lebanon. They hold the US responsible since with the
US arms and green light Israel could not have attacked Lebanon and
hence the US should join Israel in paying for the destroyed

According to the Lebanese government, 32 "vital points" came under
attack in Israel most recent aggression, with some 109 bridges, 137
roads and 137 factories targeted by Israeli air strikes. Thirty UN
positions came under "direct attack," added the report, resulting
in the death of internationally "protected personnel." A number of
medical facilities and private homes also came under fire, as did
the world heritage sites of Tyre and Byblos. But Israel has never
heeded repeated requests for compensation including the demand from
UN Secretary-General Key Moon Ban that Israel to pay $1 billion in
compensation, mainly for damage inflicted on the Lebanese coastline
following Israel’s bombing of an oil reserve. The attack, considered to
be Lebanon’s worst ever environmental disaster, released 12,500-15,000
tons of fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea, polluting two-thirds of
Lebanon’s coastline and killing already endangered marine life. It
also affected nearby countries like Syria, Cyprus and Turkey.

The US to ‘stick by’ Lebanon

The US Embassy announced on 2/27/09 that the US will provide Lebanon
with UAV "Raven" unmanned aircraft to help "boost border control and
combat terrorism across Lebanon and to strengthen Lebanon’s abilities
to maintain internal security, defeat terrorism, protect the Lebanese
borders and ensure the implementation of Security Council Resolution
1701." (read: confront the Lebanese Resistance while ignoring Israel’s
invasions of Lebanese airspace and continued occupation of Lebanese
territory in violation of SGR 1701 ). This latest aid announcement
follows dollops of assistance over the past few years, most of which
is of little use to the Lebanese public. Rather, it is aimed at
presenting an image of the US "long term and durable friendship" as
the Embassy here announced last Friday, and strengthening Lebanon’s
ability to become "sovereign and independent" when in fact no such
aid will come to Lebanon without first being vetted by Israel.

Meanwhile, the United States told visiting Lebanese Army Commander
General Jean Kahwaji it will provide the military with "Raven" unmanned
aircrafts to help "boost border control and combating terrorism" across
Lebanon, the US Embassy in Beirut said on Friday. The embassy said in
a statement that Kahwaji and top US officials discussed Washington’s
"continuous assistance to the Lebanese Army aimed at strengthening the
military’s abilities to maintain internal security, combat terrorism,
protect the Lebanese borders and ensure the implementation of Security
Council Resolution 1701." Kahwaji met on Thursday with US Central
Command Commander David Petraeus and the Chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, who held a dinner banquet in
his honor. The statement said Washington’s assistance to the Lebanese
Army "remains a cornerstone of US policy on Lebanon." It added that the
Lebanese military "plays a vital role in maintaining law and order,
preventing cross-border smuggling and ensuring that the government
is the sole political and military authority in Lebanon."

The embassy concluded that Kahwaji’s visit confirms that "the
US-Lebanese ties are strong and durable." The ‘strong and durable"
label is small potatoes for many Lebanese who noticed that on the
same day Hilary Clinton’s stated that "the US-Israel relationship is
unshakable whatever type of government emerges following the recent
Israeli elections". Will the same apply to Lebanon following it
elections, enquiring minds want to know.

Michele’s color coded Push Pins If an observer is keen to quickly grasp
what, where, and how US electoral aid is entering Lebanon its best to
overlook the many unfulfilled promises and assurances by more than
a dozen US officials since the July 2006 War. Much more instructive
would be to have a look at the Push Pin Wall Map on the office wall
of the US Ambassador in Beirut. When visitors come to chat, and she
is in a good mood, the Ambassador Michele Sisson will show off her
fine Wall map of Lebanon with more than 150 brightly color coded
pins poking in it. The Push Pins represent where the Ambassador has
visited, where specific US Aid projects are committed, launched,
or are contemplated. Really special Lebanese visitors may warrant
their hometown getting pricked with a "special Red, White and Blue
"friend of the USA push pin."

A glance at the Ambassador’s map shows where US support (read:
political activity) exists or is contemplated. Notably the clumps of
bright Push Pins in the areas where the Majority is entrenched —
Beirut, villages East and North of Beirut, up in the Tripoli/Akkar
area and midway South around the coastal town of Saida.

Only a few shallowly embedded, wobbly, pins will be seen in Hezbollah
areas like South Beirut, South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley where
the poorest, most bombed and targeted by US Military aid to Israel
live. The first time visitor to Lebanon should be excused for
mistakenly assuming that these Push Pinless areas are uninhabited

For many Lebanese, the problem with the Push Pin map is that while
it includes ‘aid’ projects, admittedly useful, the type and amount
is so feeble that many Lebanese view it the gifts as ‘feel good’
without addressing basic economic problems such as electricity,
jobs and agriculture. Many are insisting that the US and Israel pay
Reparations for more than 40 years of their country being bombed by
US weapons are preparing another Push Pin Wall Map to be presented
to the Embassy to help in US aid projections. It shows the locations
where US artillery shells and bombs of different sizes have killed
and wounded Lebanese since the 1970’s and where Reparations are needed
but have yet to be offered.

How many times can a Democratic election results be denied?

More than a dozen US officials over the past months have assured
Lebanese voters that the US will ‘respect the results’ of the June
election. Many in Lebanon don’t believe it and remain unconvinced
given the long history of US overturning elections including Mosadeq
in Iran, Allende in Chile, Guatamala, Somolia, Yemen, Hamas, among
others and the cold US reaction to recent election results in Bolivia
and Venezuela,.

If the US boycotts a Hezbollah government, US credibility, currently at
an all time low, will likely evaporate just as the Obama administration
is trying to restore it.

Sensing this doubt, EU foreign policy Chief Javier Solana stated on
2/25/09 that the 27 European Union countries will recognize and work
with any Lebanese party, including Hezbollah that emerges winner in
the upcoming parliamentary elections.

When the polls close for what will the votes count?

As voting day approaches, Lebanon remains cursed by continuing and
major antagonisms between the March 8 and March 14 groupings. A wide
pall of pessimism has not yet lifted.

Some cynics claim that all the voters will really be deciding on as
they vote in the next election will be the date for the new civil
war, unless of course the nature of the "democratic competition"
causes this war to start before the elections.

Quite frankly, to this untutored outsider, it appears that Lebanon
may be cascading deeper into the abyss of deadly sectarianism. The
June elections, despite the hyperbole, may decide essentially nothing.

Lebanon, sad to say, remains an oligarchy more than a democracy, much
of it locked in a choke hold by tribal chiefs, mafia like leaders,
and a primogeniture system wherein defective sons are often handed
the reins of power by flawed fathers or grieving widows. Not much
of a place to raise your children as more and more realize, and
many who can, leave for opportunities elsewhere. Absent a political
tsunami to churn up new matrix political strata, whence healthy growth
could spring, Lebanon’s immediate political future looks bleak with
formation of the next parliament perhaps eerily similar to the current
one under the existing electoral framework.

The country appears to be glancing backward at beckoning Cyrenes from
the 1975-90 civil war, not forward to a future as a real country for
its people, gifted as they are, in so many ways.