Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

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Archive for the ‘Lebanon’ Category

The Troubled Reconstruction Effort in Lebanon

Posted by K.E. White on March 2, 2007

Political tensions in Lebanon continue to slow down construction and are hampering efforts to rebuild the country.

Despite billions of dollars worth of investment being ploughed into the country’s real estate sector before the 34-day bombardment by Israel last July, no new contracts have been awarded since the war, and work that was underway has been slow to progress.

Switzerland plans to reduce its relief activities in Lebanon, after successfully completing aid operations in the region.

But experts warn that cluster bombs could jeopardise the return of refugees to their homes in the south.

 The top Swiss foreign ministry aid official says he’s very pleased with the result of a humanitarian mission in the wake of last year’s conflict in Lebanon…

The water supply system was restored for about 8,000 people and Switzerland sponsored five medical containers to ensure access to treatment….

Lebanon‘s national de-mining office told Frisch that over a 100-square-kilometre area in the south there are hundreds of thousands of unexploded devices – in all more than one million in the south of the country.

It will take them several years to clear them all.

“It is a serious problem, as people cannot work their land, there are cluster bombs in olive trees, children get hurt and handicapped playing on playgrounds,” Frisch warned.

Over one million refugees originally fled their homes but 80 per cent have returned to their badly damaged houses in the meantime, according to officials.

The diplomatic ballet of comings and goings by Lebanon’s political leaders to Washington lends one to presume that the Bush administration is suddenly becoming more interested, and possibly more concerned, by the precarious situation in Lebanon.During the past few weeks Amine Gemayel, a former president and member of the influential Gemayel family and one of the keystone Christian clans in the country was accorded a 30-minute audience with President George W. Bush and several of his top foreign policy advisers. Then just last week Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Druze community and member of the March 14 pro-democracy movement, was also received by the president at the White House.

The question is what exactly can Washington do to support the legitimate government in Beirut and alleviate some of the pressures imposed by Hezbollah on the Lebanese government?

When U.S. State Department officials put the question to a group of visiting Lebanese politicians during an impromptu meeting in Washington last week, no one was able to come up with a comprehensive answer.

Someone said sanctions. We tried those in Iraq, remember? That did not seem to have done much good other than to help garner greater dislike of Americans and help make Saddam richer.

Maybe diplomacy rather than strong-arm tactics is the answer. Maybe something will come out of the new diplomatic campaign aimed at bringing Iran and Syria to a “meeting of neighbors” to discuss Iraq’s future, a meeting the U.S. has agreed to attend. For the sake of the Lebanese, let Lebanon not become the sacrificial lamb of Middle Eastern diplomacy.

Are you at an impasse now?

The country is at an impasse, yes. But that doesn’t mean our government is not constitutional. It is working, but not with full efficiency. If I didn’t have the support of the parliament or the population, I wouldn’t stay in my position one second. I am a man of principles, not a man looking for positions. It is my duty to continue extending a hand to them [the opposition]. They have to be swayed to our side. We are a government defending democracy, independence, and we are unique in this part of the world in terms of moderation, openness, toleration. This country has a high degree of perseverance, ingenuity and creativity.

Posted in Bush administration, Claude Salhani, Lebanon | Leave a Comment »

Did Israel Punt Peace With Syria Last Summer?

Posted by K.E. White on January 16, 2007

Last summer many of us watched the footage of the most recent military altercation between Lebanon and Israel.

Many have come to see Israel’s decision to escalate the conflict a strategic blunder. Some, considering the fight as a United States-Iran proxy, viewed the episode as another American failure in the Middle East.

Today’s Guardian offers another wrinkle to last summer’s dangerous diplomatic dance: reporting that Israel punted off unofficial peace talks with Syria:

Ha’aretz said the secret meetings were held in Europe and began in September 2004, initiated by the Syrians. The talks involved Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, Geoffrey Aronson, from the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in Washington, and Ibrahim Suleiman, a Syrian businessman living in Washington who is from the same Alawite sect as the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. The group met at least seven times in a European capital, together with a European mediator and sometimes two other Israelis, the paper said…

Ha’aretz quoted the mediator as saying Syria was intent on reaching peace with Israel. “Farouk Shara told me radical Islam constitutes a threat to Syria and that peace is the only way to halt it,” the paper quoted him as saying.

A document was drawn up among the group, dated August 2005, and which covered security, water, borders and normalisation of ties. It said a demilitarised zone would be established on the Golan Heights, along with an early warning ground station on Mount Hermon to be operated by the US. Both sides would then have military zones on their side of the border. Syria would work towards a peaceful solution to problems with Palestinians and in Lebanon and Iran.

However the contacts ended last July, just after the start of the war between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Ha’aretz said the Syrians had asked for secret official meetings between the two sides and that Israel had refused. It appears the negotiations ended there.

Israel today denied knowledge of the meetings. “This is the first we have heard of the talks. We have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians and the prime minister first learned of these conversations through the newspaper report this morning,” said an Israeli spokeswoman, Miri Eisin. In Damascus a Syrian foreign ministry official described the newspaper report as “completely false.”

Posted in Diplomacy, Israel, Lebanon, Security Studies, Syria | Leave a Comment »