Friday, 30 November 2007

Panic at the LA Times

A curious opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times gives a taste of the setback for US foreign policy in Lebanon.

They see the possible appointment of General Michel Suleiman as a betrayal of the "Cedar Revolution".

"The United States and France have supported the pro-democracy movement that drew more than a million people into the streets in the Cedar Revolution that succeeded in driving Syria from Lebanon in 2005. But the West has not done enough since then to keep Syria or Hezbollah from paralysing political progress.

"Hizbollah's punishing war with Israel, its rapid rearmament and its successful intimidation of parliament have proceeded apace, while the United Nations tribunal charged with investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has dragged. Now Beirut's beleaguered moderates fear that the West is once again willing to turn a blind eye to Syrian meddling in Lebanon if Damascus will participate in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations."

Of course they are exaggerating, Suleiman is not a "puppet of Syria", but he's not their man either. He represents that element of the Lebanese ruling class who are petrified by the prospect of civil war—and feel that the status quo (however uncomfortable for George Bush) is better than total meltdown.

The problem the US and its allies face is that there are no guarantees that the ruling M14 coalition will win the next elections. This latest debacle follows a similar miscalculation made by the US and Israel in last summer's war.

One indicator of the turning point for M14 is a change in language by Walid Jumblatt. The Druze leader had up till a few days ago been describing Hizbollah as "terrorists". Now he calls them the "resistance". Jumblatt is a great flip-flopper (he was once a dangerous "terrorist" himself), and it seems that his recent change in tone is an indication that M14 plans have come to naught.

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