"Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said yesterday that his government had not requested a U.S. naval presence off its coast, and summoned Ambassador Michele J. Sison to ask for clarification of U.S. intentions.
The presence of the three warships has also sparked anger from militant groups and suspicions in the Lebanese media about long-term U.S. plans, even though the State Department said the ships are about 60 miles offshore — well beyond the 12-mile limit of Lebanese territorial waters.
"The American move threatens the stability of Lebanon and the region and is an attempt to spark tension," Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah member of parliament, told Reuters. "The administration has used the policy of sending warships to support its allies in Lebanon before, and that experiment failed."
The deployment of U.S. warships off the Lebanese coast dates to 1983, when Navy ships opened fire on Muslim militias. Retaliation included the suicide bombing of the Marine compound in Beirut and the death of 241 U.S. military personnel, which eventually led to the Marines‘ withdrawal.
"U.S. gunboat diplomacy in Lebanon did not, does not and will never work. If there is one way how not to help your allies, this is it," said Bilal Y. Saab of the Brookings Institution‘s Saban Center.
Some Middle East experts and both European and Arab allies doubt that the U.S.-Saudi effort will have serious impact on Damascus. "The Syrian regime is playing for time, and reasons that a new administration will be forced to jettison the current policy of isolation," said Emile el-Hokayem of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a defense think tank. " Robin Wright
It used to be a kind of sick, Beiruti joke that the Lebanese thought Bill Clinton and Hillary woke up every morning and immediately asked what had happened in Beirut overnight. It was a joke because anyone who knew anything knew that nobody in Washingron who mattered really gave a damn about what happened in Beirut.
Now, unfortunately, Washington DOES care about what the Lebanese are doing to themselves. The Lebanese would be far better off if America just left them alone to revel in their mutual animosities. They are so good at it. It is a kind of art form in the salons and coffee houses of Beirut.
Instead the US revels in hallucination in which the "freedom agenda" fantasy melds with; Israeli and NSC obsession with Hizbullah and Saudi dreams of a restored Sunni triumphalism in the Levant. The effective interaction of US pro-Likud circles’ loathing of the idea of Shia power in Lebanon, IDF revanchism, and the long standing Saudi Mashrou’ (project) in Lebanon and Syria makes me wonder if they are all actually talking to each other somewhere or if Elliot Abrams is a good and sufficient intermediary.
Three US naval vessels off the Lebanese coast. Wow. What a threat! They can’t be seen. We have to tell the target of this strategic information operation that they are there. That will frighten them!! What are we thinking of?
The Syrians? Ah well. This is a hopeless case. No amount of interest on the part of Damascus and Jerusalem in working out a deal seems sufficient to placate the merchants of conflict in Washington. Foolish. pl