Has Washington lost Lebanon? Part II

Has Washington lost Lebanon? Part II
Readers Number : 59

19/04/2009 Has Washington lost Lebanon? Part II
Part II: Persia Rising
Franklin Lamb ` Beirut
April 14, 2009

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`Who can Lebanon trust more to respect and help us, the US or Iran?
Were not the American words during the Bush years and to this day that
it supports our stability, sovereignty independence and democracy? But
the Bush deeds demonstrated that this is true only if the American
team is in control and then only to supplement its support for
Israel. By its deeds the US is speaking to Lebanon with targeted
words: to Hell with the Arabs, Muslims and Christians who Israel
regularly kills in Lebanon, Palestine and in any country or continent
it chooses! I don’t trust the Syrians or the Americans but Iran has
always kept its word.’

Service driver for the Mayflower Hotel, West Beirut 04/14/09
Some political analysts have argued that historically, Lebanon has
been too beckoning to international powers for its own good, too
labile, too prone to foreign influence in exchange for payoffs to
local potentates.

Be that as it may, there is a new `not business as usual’
anti-confessional movement growing in Lebanon to work for an
independent Country that is not the one Israel and the Bush
administration had in mind.

It may seem incongruous that in 2009, the superpower USA would have
much competition from the Islamic republic of Iran for the hearts and
minds of the Lebanese, a diverse 18 sect, highly sophisticated
population, with a history of western attachments extending back
before the Crusades.

Yet is appears to be the case, as the power and prestige of Iran
quickly spreads in the region and its myriad relations with Lebanon,
which have existed for a millennia, deepen as American influence

The extent to which Washington has `lost’ Lebanon
ll likely be clarified in the near term, as the ripples from the Bush
legacy, the seismic effects of Israel’s recent slaughter in Gaza, and
the results of the coming Lebanese and Iranian elections impact the

Wither Lebanon: Northeast or Northwest?
Lebanon’s regional challenge is to work with the growing regional
power which is not Egypt, Israel or Saudi Arabia, but rather Iran. The
9000 year old civilization, converted to Shia Islam by Lebanese
scholars in 1501, is likely to be strategically allied with Lebanon,
Turkey, Syria and Russia. The Camp David signers competing, despite
Hosni Mubarak’s vow to the contrary, for `runner-up’ status.

Lebanon is contracting from its relationship with the United States
after years of US pressured and purchased collaboration with
Israel. The Lebanese appear to be realizing, following the destruction
of July 2006, Israel’s 5th war against Lebanon, and the December 2008
slaughter in Gaza, Israel’s 11th attack against Palestine that the
Zionist state wants only land, not peace and that given Israel’s
occupation of Washington DC that Lebanon’s future should be one of
Resistance not obeisance. In short, many in Lebanon are seeking a
reliable ally not a continuation of US pressured collaboration with

Iran offers Lebanon more than cash
The US Embassy, on 04/14/09, after reviewing the results of `in
Embassy’ polling data in what is considered in Washington a fateful
Lebanese election for Israel, announced at precisely 2:35 p.m. that
`the United States will provide the Lebanese army with 12 Raven
unmanned aircrafts to be delivered soon’ (read: before the election).

Roughly three hours later at 5:55pm 4/14/09 the U.S. Embassy issued
another Press Release: `The United States will give the Interior
Ministry $1.7-million in aid to help it rise to challenges during the
elections’. Amended to: `for `election responsibilities.’ If all this
was not confusing enough, half an hour later United States Agency for
Development (USAID) and Lebanon Mission Director Denise A. Herbol
elaborated and explained that the US cash would provide’ technical
assistance’ during the elections. USAID is playing a important role in
Lebanon’s 2009 election, as it has done since it arrived in 1951.

(Historical note regarding USAID: Exactly 26 years ago this week, on
April 18, 1983 at 1 p.m., USAID Director Bill McIntyre and American
journalist Janet Lee Stevens, who had gone to the US Embassy on the
seafront Paris Avenue to discuss American policy and the need for
urgent assistance to help the dispossessed Palestinians and Lebanese
Shia forced from their homes in South Lebanon by the 1982 Israeli
invasion, began their luncheon meeting in the Embassy
cafeteria. Moments later the ten story center section of the Embassy
pancaked from an exploding 2000 lb. bomb transported inside a Embassy
van, stolen in 1982, as it rammed into the entrance. Both Bill and
Janet died instantly)

US Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison, who witnessed the signing of
the agreement, altered the description saying the money would help
with `the tabulation of election results.’

Some Lebanese were not buying the Embassy’s seemingly frenzied cash
dispersal explanations and one American Embassy Hezbollah supporter
(there actually are a discrete few– `I would love to visit Dahiyeh
(the Hezbollah area) but we can’t go anywhere!’) claimed the
$1,700,000 might end up as `walking around money’ for Election Day.

Iran, (more than 90 % Shia) and Lebanon (approximately 52% Shia) are
increasingly connected through scores of thousands of inter married
families, deep cultural and religious values as well as growing
political and economic ties.

American aid to Israel has exceeded 160 Billion to Israel over the
past 40 years, and depending on how one calculates it today, gives
Israel between 8 and 15 million dollars every day of the year. Not
lost on the Lebanese is the fact that over the past two decades, until
the prospect of Iran’s months time, US aid to Lebanon approximated
just 35 million in a good year. Recently, (since 2006) military
assistance to Lebanon totaled close to $410 million, being light
weaponry for use inside Lebanon rather than to defend the country from
Israeli aggressions.

The new Lebanese government will likely legislate Hezbollah’s arms
legitimate, with the Lebanese Resistance military capability linked to
the Lebanese Armed Forces by a yet to be clarified formula. For the
first time in its history, Lebanon will not be subject to the threat
of Israeli occupation, and many Lebanese hope their country can play
an important role in returning its 400,000 Palestinian refugees to
their country, an achievement for the Palestinians and Lebanese that
has not been allowed under US tutelage. US and Israeli officials
appear stumped by this prospect.

Iranian aid has been more than ten times US aid over the past quarter
century and since Lebanon was substantially destroyed with American
weapons in 2006 Iran has given Lebanon nearly 75 times combined annual
US aid.

Where Lebanon and Iran see eye to eye
21st first century Lebanon, is no longer much impressed with the US
Terrorism list (what former Senator James Abourezk calls the `Honor
Roll’) which for 12 years has blacklisted Hezbollah, and since 2006
and 2008 Lebanon’s two most productive reconstruction companies, Jihad
al Bina and Waad (Promise). Lebanese media and NGO’s have asked
visiting US officials to help them understand in which ways it is
terrorism to rebuild homes, schools, clinics, churches, mosques and
bookstores destroyed by Israel over the past more than forty years
with US weapons. It’s unclear to this observer if anyone has revived a
coherent answer.

Lebanese-Iranian agreement on Palestine
Another factor influencing Lebanese attitudes toward Iran and the US
are the experiences of those whose relatives fought against, or were
victims of, serial Israeli aggressions against their country as far
back as the 1960’s. Despite Lebanese love-hate relationship with its
400,000 Palestinian refugees and however much each abused the other at
various times since the initial welcome of victims of the 1947-8
Nakba, Lebanon today overwhelmingly supports the internationally
recognized Palestinian Right of Return, supported perhaps most
assertively by Iran. Both Lebanon and Iran want Lebanon’s Palestinians
back where they belong in Palestine. The US is strongly suspected of
wanting them anywhere but in Palestine.

Over the past year, one senses a renaissance of Lebanese solidarity
with the Palestinian cause and hears vocal support, certainly post
Gaza, for regional solidarity and Resistance to challenge Israeli

Iran is seen as a better ally of Lebanon because while a majority of
Lebanese Muslims are not fervent practitioners they, like Iran,
respect Koranic standards of Justice and they realize Iran will not
cave in to US and Israeli demands to abandon the Palestinian’s Right
to Return. It is this internationally recognized right which Lebanese
believe, is the central component of the Palestinian cause which they
beleive is the central cause of Arabs, Muslim and all people of

The Iranian and Lebanese position on Palestine is shared most strongly
among the younger generation in Lebanon. Its includes a recognition
that the nearly 50 year `peace process industry’ project was a fraud,
led by a hugely biased `dishonest broker’ and without a `peace
partner’ from the Israeli side. Consequently, there is little
confidence that the Obama administration language of the
`inevitability of two States’, `imperative of a just solution’ is not
just more talk while Israel steals more land and kills more
Palestinians. What increasingly makes sense to the Lebanese is what
history taught them in their own country with Iranian assistance, that
occupation creates resistance and determination and belief in justice
and sacrifice trumps conventional military might. The Lebanese are
proud of their victories in 2006 made possible by Iranian backing
their resistance forces while being acutely aware that the US provided
the weapons to Israel that have killed their families and loved ones
for six decades.

Iranistan in Lebanon or a (Egyptian-Jordanian-Saudi) Shi’ization
While critics of the Lebanese Resistance sometimes joke about `Divine
Victories’, and `Victory Mountains’ (of rubble from Israeli bombs) the
current Egyptian campaign against Hezbollah and Hassan Nasrallah is
viewed as an attack on Lebanon itself, and concocted in response
partly to Lebanon’s growing ties with Iran. The local Lebanese
reaction, depending on the sect, is as though `Egypt’s new Pharaoh’
Hosni Mubarak, blasphemed Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch, Shiite Grand
Ayatollah, Sunni Imam, Druze Tribal leader, Armenian Bishop or the
late Martyred Rafiq Hariri. Much of Lebanon is offended, and the
timing is viewed as an Egyptian trumped up political case to help the
US and Israeli backed March 14 group in the coming election. Following
discovery of `the plot’, and as if on cue, Shimon Peres, one of the
key implementers of Zionist colonial ambitions (emphasis mine), took
the opportunity to leak that Israel’s Mossad helped Egyptian
intelligence and to declare yet again that `the collision between the
Middle East, which is Sunni Arab, and the Iranian non-Arab Shia
minority that seeks to take it over, is inevitable. Sooner or later,
the world will discover that Iran has the aspiration to take over the
Middle East and that it possesses colonial ambitions’.

Few Lebanese believe that Hezbollah wants an Iranian style Islamic
Republic in Lebanon or that it is even a goal of Iran. `The `Islamic
Republic for Lebanon’ slogan was from the early 1980’s and has been
repeatedly repudiated by Hezbollah. It was revolutionary stuff to get
the attention of would be recruits when Hezbollah was competing with
Amal and 30 other groups for new members’, according to a Hezbollah
recruiter in the Bekaa, near Nabysheet, who helped build Hezbollah 26
years ago. Some anti-Iranian politicians still try to float that idea
from time to time but few in Lebanon believe it.

Iran’s credibility fairly solid in Lebanon
Many Lebanese, who want good relations with both the US and Iran,
believe that US administrations have squandered many opportunities for
dialogue with Iran due to its inflexible pro Israel agenda. There is
general agreement that Iran has already `won’ the nuclear power issue
and will have its nuclear reactors and if it decides to make a bomb it
will achieve that too. Lebanese, welcome the US climb down from the
Bush administration demand that Iranian enrichment be suspended as the
price to get talks with the US, and don’t accept the spectacle of nine
nuclear countries jumping up and down shouting that a nuclear weapon
for Iran is a `red line’ while at the same time all are refining and
increasing their own nuclear arsenals. Nor are many Lebanese unaware
of US intelligence community reports that Iran is not pursuing a
nuclear weapon or that under the Obama defense budget the US will
continue to spend on its arsenal (including its nuclear weapons) more
than all the rest of the world put together.

According to the opinion editor on a Beirut Daily, `If the
international community is serious about keeping nuclear weapons out
of the Middle East let it lead a project at the UN Security Council to
decommission all nuclear weapons in the area and forbid future
ones. Unless it does, who is to take Osama’s nuclear disarmament
proposal seriously? Iranian pleas for a nuclear free zone in the
Middle East have been ignored, although everyone but Israel in the
region would support it.’

Given the unlikeness that Obama’s goal of nuclear disarmament will not
be achieved anytime soon, many Lebanese actually support an Iranian
nuclear deterrent meanwhile as a guarantee that Israel does not launch
a sixth war against their vulnerable Country.

A Lebanese University political science Professor, attending the
`Jerusalem as the Center of Arab Culture’ Exhibition of Palestinian
Culture at Beirut’s UNESCO Palace on 03/12/09 explained: `Iran and the
Muslim-Christian Lebanese Resistance will keep Israel out of
Lebanon. The US promises to support our sovereignty with a few weapons
that is meant to bolster their friends in coming election. Watch what
the US does if the Opposition prevails on June 7. It is viewed as not
reliable. Iran has been close to Lebanon for hundreds of years. We may
not agree with all their interpretations of Islam but trust them’, he

US-Israel efforts to demonize Iran to the Lebanese, defaming it as a
hotbed of fundamentalist Islamic fascists have failed. Only 46% of
Lebanese, in a recent poll taken by the Pew Charitable Trusts Global
Values Project, agreed with the statement, `Religion is very important
to me’ while nearly 90% of Muslims said they had a favorable view of
Christians. Sentiments like these, illustrate the Lebanese acceptance
of diversity, and explain why many not very religious Lebanese support
religious Hezbollah for its secular programs and at the same time are
grateful Puritanism.

Iran is seen by many in Lebanon as a better ally than the US because
while a majority of Lebanese Muslims are not fervent practitioners
they, like Iran, respect Koranic standards of Justice and they realize
Iran will not cave in to US demands for Israeli hegemony in the Levant
and trade away their independence and sovereignty.

Lebanon rejects fear tactics
Continuing Israeli lobby claims that Iran could acquire a nuclear
weapon, `within months’ and mortally endanger Lebanon draws a yawn
from many Lebanese given that Israel is estimated to have between
250-400 and has actually threatened to use them as Golda Meir forced
then President Nixon to airlift massive arms shipments from US depots
at Clark Air force base in the Philippines during the October 1973
Ramadan War.

The Lobby continues crying wolf, much like earlier Israeli claims
that: `Iran will have a nuclear weapon by 1999 (Shimon Peres 1996) or
`Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is
in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess
a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear
option.’ (Peres’ 1992 )

Or recently, `You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling
atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of
power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should
start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.’ Israeli PM
Netanyahu (03/09)

Netanyahu’s Passover Confession?
`The biggest danger to humanity and to Israel comes from the
possibility of a radical regime armed with nuclear weapons," Netanyahu
told his new Cabinet last month, making clear his remarks were aimed
at Iran. Netanyahu’s statement is currently the butt of jokes in
Lebanon because Netanyahu’s `a radical regime’ language appears to fit
Israel’s, not Iran’s. `Is it Bibi’s Passover confession?’ one English
language Beirut talk show hostess asked her audience.

As Roger Cohen pointed in the In
nic apocalyptic cult’ in Iran is the same one Israel shipped arms to
in the 1980’s when it was trying to weaken Iraq and it’s the same
regime that has not invaded anyone for more than 500 years and has
kept its country at peace, valuing stability over military adventures
while Israel has been occupying and invading its neighbors for six

Lebanese, like most Arabs, have rejected US and Israeli attempts to
convince them that non-Arab Iran, not Israel, is their real enemy. For
the Lebanese, the evidence to the contrary is all around them as they
continue, nearly 33 months after Israel’s July 2006 War, to rebuild
their homes and mourn their dead. And the Lebanese are rebuilding
lives shattered by Israel substantially with Iranian assistance.

US Israel lobby stalwart, Dennis Ross, who effectively promoted
Israeli, not American interests during the Clinton and Bush
Administrations, (now inexplicitly assigned to the Iran file but may
lose his job due to his violations of the Foreign Agents Registration
Act), hypes a supposed threat of Israeli annihilation from a
nuclear-armed Iran. His major concern is that an Iranian nuclear
deterrent would end Israel’s dominance of the region and that Iran and
a new Lebanese government working together would force major
territorial concessions (including full Israeli withdrawal to the
6/04/67 1949 Armistice line) and dramatically advance Middle East
peace. This was hinted at by Netanyahu when he told the Atlantic’s
Jeffrey Goldberg recently that `a nuclear-armed Iran would create a
great sea change in the balance of power in our area". Lebanese Human
Rights Ambassador Ali Khalil agrees: `Iran is a threat only to
Zionism, nothing more’same with Hezbollah and all those who make up
the growing Palestinian and international Resistance to Israeli

Lebanese appear to believe, as Sergei Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador
to the US mentioned last week, that Iran poses no threat to the United
States or to Lebanon.

Can the US still dictate to Lebanon?
Some in Lebanon see growing signs that the United States is headed
towards a strategic withdrawal, not only from Iraq and Afghanistan,
but from the whole Middle East. The reasons include pressures of the
financial crisis which could topple all the `rescue plans’, and the
pressures of the redistribution of power in the global financial
system with Europe, China, Russia, India, and Brazil. Some in
Washington are redefining the real security threat to the United
States as not a political threat of misnamed `terrorist cells’, but
rather a social threat that menaces the whole global capitalist
system. The ability to apply American pressures abroad, is at its
weakest since WW II, while US domestic political pressure to reduce
the financial hemorrhaging from a loose cannon Israel, and supports
this thesis.

Is Obama soft on Iran?
The Israel lobby is increasingly unhappy with Obama and to its dismay
sees a hint of Iran-symp in him. His inauguration speech language that
his administration would reach out to rival states and `will extend a
hand if you are willing to unclench your fist’ was met with a cold
glare by the Israel lobby.

When, barely two months later he told leaders in Turkey that `We want
Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations,
politically and economically’ and added, `We will support Iran’s right
to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections. It was viewed as
way out of Israel Lobby fixed bounds. But when Obama deviated from the
AIPAC script and failed to mention the `a nuclear-armed Iranian regime
is unacceptable’ language it was blasphemy, and final straw was
Obama’s message to Iran: `Or the government (of Iran) can ch
potential nuclear arms race in the region that will increase
insecurity for all." Where was Hilary’s language threatening to
obliterate Iran with US nuclear weapons? It appears likely that in the
coming months, and as the first Obama-Israel clash over Israel’s
acceptance of a Two State Solution occurs, the Israel lobby will
mobilize to target the President on Iran as well as Palestine and
Lebanon. It remains to be seen if the ardent Zionists Obama has
surrounded himself with in his administration can parry the most
vicious Israeli assaults, without being smeared as anti-Semites or
self hating Jews themselves. Some think Obama may have appointed some
of them for just this outer perimeter defensive purpose.

Lebanon does not want to choose between Tehran and Washington
Without current natural resources (there may be gas and oil off its
coast) Lebanon continues to work to develop its tourism and banking
industries and to model itself roughly after Switzerland. Many in
Lebanon and in Iran are waiting to test the words of the Obama

As one of Lebanon’s leading clerics, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein
Fadlallah, widely respected in Lebanon, Iran and the Middle East, told
his congregation last Friday at noon prayers, `We have heard beautiful
words from the new American administration. Through open and honest
dialogue and discussing freely all the concerns of each side, we can
resolve our misunderstanding and make a better life for all our

Lebanon will resist US pressure to diminish its expanding relations
with Iran as it resists the Bush legacy of `with us or against us.’
Its people strongly prefer good relations with both Tehran and
Washington and this will remain the case after June 7th.

In a critical sense it is the US government that must choose between
normal relations with the Middle East and much of the World, respond
to the changing mood of the American public toward Israeli crimes, and
continuing connivance with and support for expansionist Zionism. The
American choice will determine its future presence and status in this

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and can be reached at
[email protected].

Franklin P. Lamb, PhD
Director, Americans Concerned for
Middle East Peace, Wash.DC-Beirut
Acting Chair, the Sabra-Shatila Memorial Scholarship Program Laptop Initiative
ila Palestinian Refugee Camp
Beirut Mobile: +961-70-164-648
[email protected]

The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel’s use of American
Weapons against Lebanon (1978-2006) is available at Amazon.com.uk or
Lebanese Bookstores The Revised and Arabic Edition was released on
8/12/08. The Farsi and French Editions are expected this Fall.
And in the USA, the title is available at , and
currently enjoys Free Standard Shipping.