"And I am convinced that, given Lebanese talent and brains, populist rhetoric that cultivates hatred and builds on resentment will not blind people forever to the fact that they are being used: used in an Iranian-Syrian conspiracy to undermine Lebanon's democracy and change forever the character of your constitutional institutions. This conspiracy is destined to fail. At some point, those who played such an important role in demanding that Syria leave Lebanon, but who later parted ways with March 14, will see that their current alliance is not a natural fit with their patriotic aspirations for their country. I believe that, eventually, they will recognize that, by switching sides, they have inadvertently helped mask Lebanon's real problem, which is that an Iranian-funded state-within-a-state has total control over questions of war and peace and refuses all attempts at public accountability and transparency. Hizballah demands the right to veto all decisions by the institutions in which you are democratically represented, yet Hizballah refuses to give up its right of unilateral action. Is it really possible that some politicians who once proudly proclaimed authorship of UNSCR 1559 — a resolution calling, inter alia, for the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias — can now believe that the Lebanese cabinet and even the Maronite Patriarchate pose greater threats to Lebanon's identity than Hizballah's heavily armed, foreign-funded state-within-a-state status? " Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman
Ambassador Feltman is now acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. The occasion for the after dinner remarks cited above on the US Embassy Beirut website, was a "going away" dinner attended by representatives of the coalition of Lebanese political parties that Feltman (as the spokesman of the Bush Administration) had favored throughout his time as ambassador. His remarks are highly partisan and in and of themselves, an intervention in Lebanese politics. Read them in their entirety and judge for yourself in this as in all things. Samir Geagea, the host of the dinner, and one of the leaders of the March 14th movement was once convicted and later pardoned of serious crimes, and is a leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF), a far right political party and militia with a history of ethnic violence. His partners in the leadership are Jumblatt, the hereditary Druze chieftain and Saad Hariri, the Saudi raised billionaire whose continuing ties to "the kingdom" seem as strong as anyone in Riyadh might wish. The rest of the audience was what one might expect.
The absent supporters of the "Syrian-Iranian conspiracy" are the Shia parties (Hizbullah and Amal), The Christian followers of General Michel Aoun, and a variety of other small Sunni Muslim and Christian groups who are the political opposition to Feltman's friends.
Following the last parliamentary election in Lebanon, the results indicated a large increase in support for this latter grouping. Ambassador Feltman and the Bush Administration were loath to accept this result because it indicated a greater support for parties more favorable to Syria and Iran than they wanted to believe should exist. Given the Bush Administration's desire for "regime change" in Damascus and Tehran, this is understandable. What is not easily acceptable are the lengths that Feltman went to in pushing the March 14 parties (Geagea, Saad Hariri, Jumblatt, etc.) in the direction of refusing to increase cabinet representation for those whose results in the elections had been better than anticipated. (Sound a bit like the aftermath of the Hamas win in Palestine?) Feltman is reported to have twisted arms (figuratively), promised support, and threatened US hostility. If he likes, people might be produced whose arms were twisted, etc. As a result, the Lebanese were unable for many months to form a functioning government. In the end, the factions essentially shrugged off foreign interference and did what the Lebanese are good at. They made a deal. Did Feltman's departure facilitate that? I leave that judgment to you, gentle reader.
The Obama Administration is now seeking to learn if a general improvement in US relations with Syria and Iran is possible. Jeffrey Feltman is in charge of all the US embassies in the Middle Eastern region. The daily actions of our diplomats "on post" are under his command. What sort of signals is he telling them to make towards the representatives of those countries in all those posts? What sort of "filter" are reports from these posts passing through before they reach Secretary Clinton's desk?
And now the UN tribunal that will hear the case of the assasination of Rafik Hariri, (Saad's papa) is setting up to do business. I am told that governments are claiming the right to provide "evidence" to that tribunal without making that evidence publicly available and/or available on "discovery" by the defense of those accused of Hariri's murder. The justification? "National security." "Raisons d'etat."
Does Secretary Feltman, the man who spoke at this dinner of the "Syrian-Iranian Conspiracy and those who aided it" have responsibility for the US position in this matter? pl