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Commentary Last Updated: Jul 19th, 2006 - 00:44:33

Lebanon is thrown to the wolves
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 19, 2006, 00:41

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Lebanon and Gaza are bombed to pieces and all the international community can do is wring its hands and mouth a few lines of anti-Israel rhetoric before prostrating itself to US diktats.

Take the UN Security Council, for instance. Almost all of its members were eager to pass resolutions condemning Israel's disproportionate incursions into Gaza and Lebanon and both times Washington predictably used its veto.

Hopes were high that at last Arab League foreign ministers meeting for an emergency summit would get their act together and speak with one voice. After all, a fellow Arab country was being decimated by its rabid neighbour, fresh from an onslaught on Gaza.

And the outcome? "Peace is dead," was the message from the glum-looking Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

So what's new? It's been dead and buried since 2000 when Ariel Sharon waddled his way into power via the Temple Mount and George W. Bush moved his pooches and his pretzels into the White House.

Okay, so forget the Security Council, forget the Arab League. Heads of eight of the world's most powerful nations were getting together in St Petersburg. Surely they would come up with something constructive. Wrong again.

Those worthy gentlemen and lady ended up reiterating Israel's right to self-defence before urging Hezbollah to hand over the two abducted Israeli soldiers and quit launching missiles in the direction of the poor, defenceless Jewish state!

Britain, France, Italy and Germany are all members of the EU, which along with the Vatican recently came out swinging against Israel's disproportionate use of force, so what made them change course so dramatically in a matter of days?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin had earlier indicated that Israel was pursuing wider goals and had condemned the Jewish state for excessive military action. How was he then persuaded to sign up to a joint statement that could have been torn from the pages of a neocon handbook?

As the G-8 summit progressed, it was clear there was little love lost between Putin and his American counterpart, who became an object of derision during a joint press conference after suggesting Russia would do well to emulate Iraq's "democracy."

Brother act

While it's true that early on "Vlad" (one of Bush's pet names for the Russian leader) and George (goodness only knows what Putin calls Bush behind closed doors) did a long-lost brother act when it was clear that the door to Russia's entry into the WTO was firmly shut, Putin's molars suddenly became resistant to sunlight.

So that's it then. Lebanon is on its own. Or is it? In fact, Syria has offered to jump into the fray, which implies Iran would be close behind.

That's jolly decent of the Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad when one remembers the so-called Cedar Revolution, when a large proportion of Lebanese virtually told Damascus "don't let the door hit you on the way out."

I know it's crass to say "I told you so" but I can't resist quoting a paragraph from one of my columns dated February 2005, just prior to the Syrian pull-out.

"If Syria began pulling out in earnest tomorrow and cut ties with Beirut where does that leave tiny Lebanon, especially if the new Israeli-Palestinian d�tente turns sour? . . . Who will step in then? The Americans who are leading the charge perhaps or its client state Israel?"

Let's face it, if the Syrians were still in Lebanon, Israel mightn't have been tempted to turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years, as was the recent boast of Israel's chief of staff.

For starters it would have had to contemplate a war on three fronts and would probably have had to face Iran, whose leader regularly fantasies about wiping the Jewish state off the map.

Unfortunately, the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his cheerleaders preferred to put their trust in Washington rather than Damascus. Now look where that's got them.

One couldn't fail to be moved by Siniora's emotional plea for help directed at the US and the UN, but surely he was na�ve to believe the White House would put its cupboard love for Lebanon over its oh so special relationship with darling Tel Aviv.

Siniora was so desperate for Washington's approval that he committed himself to substituting Hezbollah militants guarding his country's southern border with the Lebanese army, risking in the process another civil war.

On the other hand, Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry has seen the wood for the trees or, rather, America's perfidy among the platitudes.

He has called on all Lebanese to stand shoulder to shoulder regardless of religion and thanked those who had the courage to condemn both Israel's barbarity and Washington's stranglehold of the UN. Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud was equally scathing and vowed that Lebanon would never surrender.

Pat on the back

The question now is will it or won't it? If it does, then Israel gets a pat on the back for its crimes, while its armies will become virtually untouchable, a kind of protected species. How that would impact Palestinian morale doesn't bear thinking about.

If Lebanon decides to soldier on regardless, it may take it decades to emerge from the rubble or alternatively, if only Arabs could shake off their inertia long enough to seriously rally round, Israel could be made to slough off its chronic hubris and rejoin humanity when peace could once again beckon - this time negotiated by equals.

Which will it be? As long as Syria and Iran form part of the equation the answer is anyone's guess. In the meantime, the killing and destruction goes on.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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