The mother of all sparks

I interviewed a Lebanese sociologist today for an article I’m writing for a Dutch newspaper. The man is convinced Lebanon is on the brink of civil war as we speak, and all it would take to set it off is a small spark here or there. He is also convinced the spark will occur, and that it is going to be lit by some foreign power. Next thing I know, I open a newspaper and what does it say: Fatfat, Aridi (government ministers), Suleiman (LAF commander) and Feltman (US ambassador) all deny the US is seeking to establish bases in Lebanon. In fact they strenuously deny the US wants to establish naval, land and air bases in Bcharre, Tripoli, Qoleiat, Damour, Baalbek and Hermon. They also adamantly deny the US wants to set up radar stations in Qornet Sawda, Barouk and Dahr al-Baidar. All this was reported in as-Safir, a leftist pro-opposition newspaper, as being part of an agreement (currently still a draft to be negotiated) between the US and Lebanese governments. The agreement, proposed by Eric Edelman, visiting ‘US Undersecretary for Defense Policy’ or some such non-descript title, would also require the Lebanese Armed Forces to change its doctrine, which currently states that Syria is a friendly neighbour, Israel is an enemy and Hizbollah a legitimate resistance movement. On the basis of this single, albeit very detailed article in one single newspaper (rather unconvincingly derided as a conspiracy theory here on the very biased pro-14 March, pro-US website Ya Libnan), half the Lebanese government, the top commander of the LAF and the US ambassador felt compelled to issue denials. In fact, they’re denying it so strenuously, so adamantly, and in such perfect harmony, that they’re actually convincing everyone that it must be true. And in any case, Edelman has no such qualms and actually appeared on Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation TV yesterday night announcing that the US would like a strategic partnership with Lebanon’s army to strengthen the country’s forces so that Hezbollah would have no excuse to bear arms”. According to AP, the interview was recorded at least two days ago, when Edelman was still in Lebanon, but aired yesterday night, only hours after the others’ denials. Edelman also managed to blurt out this pearl of widom: “I don’t see any reason why Israel and Lebanon have to be enemies. Israel has peace treaties with two of its neighbors. I think in time there is no reason why there shouldn’t be one between Lebanon and Israel as well.” Eh, dude, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Israel has attacked, invaded, bombed, mined, embargoed, occupied and generally terrorized Lebanon for the past 60 years, it has only last summer bombed the shit out of the country for an entire month, killing over 1300 people and covering it in millions of unexploded cluster bombs and landmines, which are killing and maiming people to this day and for which Israel is still refusing to provide the maps. Israel is occupying two pieces of Lebanon as we speak, its warplanes and drones are violating Lebanon’s airspace on a daily basis and it is just biding its time until it can start the real work again. Dude, how many reasons do you need?

So anyway, let me get this right: the US wants to set up military bases, ‘legitimized’ by an agreement signed with a minority government without a single shiite representative, in Baalbek and Hermon? In the northern, predominantly shiite part of the Bekaa? In territory controlled by Hizbollah and the Jaafari clan? Shu, are they suicidal? Are they insane? Have they forgotten the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing? Do they really think they can even begin to wage a war – let alone win it – against Hizbollah on its very home ground – even with the help of their budding allied militias? Do they really want to destroy this country? Have they considered Syria’s reaction to having US bases within a hundred kilometers from Damascus – in addition to those already on its eastern flank in Iraq? Does this suicidal plan involve the ‘liberation’ of Syria and a ‘regime change’ in Damascus too? Do they really want to extend World War III’s battlefield to Lebanon? Do they realise that every jihadi between Finsbury Park and Kashmir is already licking his fingers in delight and stockpiling semtex and TNT right now? This would be a spark if ever there was one! I’m desperately hoping this is an unfounded story, but something tells me it isn’t. As the journalist’s motto goes: never believe anything until it’s officially denied, and this one is being officially denied a bit too much to my taste…

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