Condi bids a quick 'Hello-Goodbye' to Lebanon
Condi bids a quick 'Hello-Goodbye' to Lebanon
Not even time for shopping!
Secretary of State Rice's aircraft kept its engines warm and its fuselage surrounded by the US Secret Service and Lebanon's Internal Security agents as she dashed into Beirut for less than 275 minutes en Route to Ireland yesterday. Her secret arrival here in Beirut avoided protesters which greeted Bush on the same day during his similar 275 minute touchdown in Ireland, both en route to Washington.
It is likely Ms. Rice's last visit to Lebanon, but not her finale to the region which have averaged roughly one appearance every 9 weeks since assuming her current post. Rice, as with the Bush administration generally, remains hugely unpopular here in Lebanon based partly on her callous remarks: " it ( the wanton Israeli killing and bombing) are birth pangs of the new Middle East" , " it's too early for a sustainable ceasefire", " Israel is just exercising its right to self-defense and the United States supports that right", etc . during the 33 day July 2006 War and her work to delay a ceasefire during the fighting which directly contributed to the more than 1,400 Lebanese killed, 4,500 wounded and massive destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure as well as its economy and environment.
As she left for Ireland,
Secretary Rice presumably had been briefed that to its great
credit, Ireland's judicial system last week acquitted the
Raytheon 9 of all terrorism charges in a much anticipated
and perhaps bellwether trial. The Bush Administration
supported the Raytheon 9 indictments stemming from actions
by peace activists in Derry who decommissioned Raytheon
Computers in Derry, Northern Ireland, following the July 30,
2006 Second Qana Massacre which killed 27 mainly
women and children and wounded more than 40 others who had
hidden, frozen in terror for 16 days in the dark basement
of a house without food, water, ventilation or sanitation
( the first Qana Massacre being the April 18, 1996 Israeli
bombing of the UN Post in Qana, that killed 105 civilians
and wounded more than 200).
Both locations being a few hundred meters from where Jesus of Nazareth is believed to have performed his first miracle at the suggestion of his mother Mary, to turn water into wine to supply the larger than expected number of wedding guests who liked to visit Jesus when he came north to the Tyre and Saida area for a warm welcome and respite from the Serahedren authorities in Jerusalem. Given South Lebanon's great natural beauty Jesus' frequent visita are understandable. The essential topography, atmosphere and geography are, experts assure us, essentially unchanged from his day. A sharp contrast to the Saviors' well treaded paths in Palestine.
A US Embassy press aid, in answer to a question during the stopover about the fact that Rice urged President Bush to quickly resupply Israel with Raytheon Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) bomb guidance systems during the July 2006 War, and whether Rice was aware that the Belfast court had found last Wednesday that the Raytheon 9 "were reasonable in believing that Israel was committing war crimes and that Raytheon was aiding and abetting them". The Embassy was not sure about the correct answer to this question but would check on it and advise.
Regarding a second question, which was whether or not Secretary Rice was aware and or concerned that the US had given Israel Raytheon weapons that had been used at Qana,( a film of the aftermath of the Qana bombing was admitted into evidence as a Defense Exhibit and shown to the jury at the Raytheon 9 Trial in Belfast) as well as at an estimated 137 other sites in Lebanon during the 33 day attack ( including the JDAM guided MK-83 1000 lb. bomb dropped on the early morning of July 19, 2006, on the Nabysheet, Bekaa home of the Hussein Chokr family killing, Mrs. Khajeda Chokr and all but one of her children including Mohammad, Bilal, Talal and Yassin). Concerning whether Secretary Rice was aware and concerned about US supplied Raytheon products being used for this purpose the Embassy press office answer was identical to the one given in the Belfast Courtroom last week by a Raytheon Board member. The answer was a dismissive and curt 'No'.
Meanwhile, the Raytheon issue continues with a campaign underway to have Raytheon itself investigated as a criminal enterprise as it regularly aids and abets Israeli war crimes, much as is the case with the US Caterpillar Corporation and its bulldozers in Palestine which killed the American human rights activist Rachael Corrie in March of 2003 and which equipment continues to be sold to Israel and to destroy the homes, crops and property of Geneva Convention (IV)'protected persons'.
While her visit was brief, Secretary Rice covered a lot of subjects. One purpose was to meet and greet the new President Michel Suleiman who some in the Welch club feel is too friendly with the Hezbollah led Opposition. (read: Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and a majority of Lebanon's Christians).
"He's a very fine man" she called to the Press, referring to President Suleiman, as she dashed to meet with a quartet of gentleman who is not at all happy with her these days.
Ms. Rice could be excused for dreading this necessary meeting which included the Bush "A" team here in Lebanon. Before racing over to meet with Parliament Speaker and Hezbollah ally, Nabeh Berri.
Rice Met with Hezbollah Leaders?
According to Israeli journalist Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, writing in a Report published at 7 pm Jerusalem time on June 17, 2008 on Arutz Sheva, the IsraelNationalNews.com, Rice also met with Hezbollah officials and in trying to work out a governmental accommodation. These observers Hezbollah sources are not prepared to confirm this report just now.
Rice held talks at Qoratem Palace with the March 14 majority alliance represented by Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri, Democratic Gathering leader Walid Jumblat, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
No sooner than the meeting ended that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun criticized U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for meeting the leaders of the March 14 alliance like "students gathered in a class room."
Rice reportedly got an ear full which included, depending on the source, an alphabet soup of problems and complaints which included:
! (Ed. Note: On Tuesday June 10, 2008
Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary-General, and former long time
chemistry Professor, Naim Qassim, told this observer and
former US Ambassador Richard Viets, and the visiting
Washington DC based Council for the National Interest
delegation in a Dahiyeh office, that Hezbollah made a move
to emphasize its opposition to the US ordered initiative
only following nearly 10 hours (of monitored?) phone calls
between Washington and Prime Minister Sinioria office " and
other countries". Hezbollah, Qassim explained, with a smile
and twinkle in his eye, believes Lebanon's government is
occupied and that all important decisions are now being made
Rice, talking to reporters at Ain al-Tineh following a cordial meeting with Speaker Berri said the Shia speaker and close confident of Hezbollah realizes that he enjoys the backing of the United States. She dodge a question as to whether Washington would recognize the next Lebanese government if it is a majority Hezbollah government. Some thought her warmth toward Berri was meant to single Hezbollah that the US realized its awkward position if it keeps touting Democracy and free elections and continues to reject the results of those democratic elections.
"The secretary general should intensify his efforts" she told the gathering and also advised them that Presidents Sarkozy and Bush discussed the matter and want the UN of occupy them.
The fact of the matter is that the UN cartography completed the study nearly one year ago and the parties agree that the Farms belongs to Lebanon and that Israel must withdraw. Israel is demanding a unknown price before it departs and as in the case of the recently announced 1,300 new housing units in Palestine ( 40,000 more over the next 10 years) believes the Bush administration is finished and in unable to pressure Israel due to the US election season.
Rice is angry over being stiffed by Olmert and Livni during the weekend on the settlement expansions as well as this week's further land grab of prime agricultural land inside Gaza along the Gaza-Israel border, but feels the US can do nothing but she will mention it to the Israelis. She has altered her language just a little bit on the Shebaa Farms and now adds that the relevant UN resolution must be enforced. She of course has in mind UNSCR 1701 not the 60 year old UNSCR 242 or the 40 year old 425 which demand respectively complete Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian and Lebanese land.
Hezbollah just may take their advice. The party is very aware of last months 111 Nation initialed Treaty banning cluster bombs and moreover, Hezbollah's core Shia constituency in the South of Lebanon is the group most affected, every hour, every day, by the unexploded ordnance. One Hezbollah Commander asked this observer, "if the cluster bombs were in occupied Palestine and we had the maps, and withheld them, how do you suppose the situation with respect to US pressure would differ?"
So if the "A Team" feels let down as Condi jets off into the horizon maybe it's a case of unrequited love. But her guys political disappointment with the Bush administration is palpable.
The 'ruling team' in fracturing according to the Beirut political analysts. Some are plotting against those they usually kiss upon greeting, and turning on others while blaming 'the Americans'. All, no doubt, calculating their next moves and their confessions odds in the rapidly approaching elections.
One of the currently most disgruntled appears to be Wallid Jumblatt who is said by political analysts in Beirut to have several reasons to dismantle the March 14 alliance. Because the base which supports the Welch Club projects is made up of Jumblatt, Al-Hariri, and the Christian team Jumblatt is in a position to cause a lot of changes in the period preceding the parliamentary elections. Jumblatt felt months ago that the United States was not about to do anything concrete to help his team but he kept wagering on Hezbollah abstaining from moving on the ground and" and going after him after him in the mountain". After he became aware that there is no US effort to change the Syrian government, and that Hezbollah's strength is growing and that nothing can be done to stop it, he was told by the Saudis to handle the Sunni situation until Al-Hariri matures enough. According to Beirut's Al Akbar Daily, this Welch Club directive caused Jumblatt to temporize and tread water. But then the disturbances took place last month and pushed Jumblatt into a comprehensive re-evaluation of his actions and policies and even of his leadership position.
People, who have met with Walid Jumblatt recently including the delegation of Harvard grad students and the American CNI group mentioned above, report that he's in particularly bad shape.
The brilliant long term Progressive Socialist leader in contemplating retirement to enjoy his vast ('socialist') land holdings and vineyards above Khalde and Damour. Last week he told his key advisors that he was prepared to resign and turn the PSP over to his son (that's how it works in feudal Lebanon tradition--Primogeniture today! Primogeniture tomorrow! Primogeniture forever! to paraphrase the late Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama).
When one aid asked Wallid if his depression and wish to resign was the result of the May events (Hezbollah roared up into parts of his Chouf to rattle his cage, with unnecessary loss of life on both sides" one observer noted and apparently it did shake him up. Only yesterday did the Lebanese Army finally vacate his Sweifeit Headquarters turning it back over to the PSP). Jumblatt was candid as reported in Beirut newspapers. "They won. We lost", he was quoted as saying, referring to the 20 month struggle between the US backed majority and the Hezbollah led opposition.
Wallid has been Condoleezza's favorite for more than a year. She once said he is "so lovable" and reminded her of a cross between 'the Nutty Professor' and that fellow in "Back to the Future."
This observer withdraws, with apologies, the tentative conclusion he drew during the fighting that many of his (Druze) people broke from Jumblatt in favor of his Druze rival ex minister Talal Arsalanin the May conflict. Some did, but talking with many Druze since then I have come to believe that when last month's shooting started, like other confessions, the Druze circled their wagons and most still love Walid. I overstated the Druze defection and thus I erred.
One could hope that the "A Team" recovers from any heartache and bruised feelings as Condi flits back to Stanford after the Bush administration ends its reign of terror in this region.
As for unrequited love, this observer knows all about that and could possibly offer some consolation.