Thursday, January 27, 2011

Failure of U.S. Policy in Lebanon - Hezbollah in the Driving Seat

On February 14, 2005, one of the most dynamic Middle Eastern leaders, Mr. Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb in Beirut. Neocons in Bush Administration blamed Syria for the heinous act. The Western and US media (as if on a cue), launched a barrage of accusations against Syria - such investigative journalists that they are.

Lebanon saw massive uprising and anti-Syrian demonstrations resulting in pull out of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Until then Syria had maintained a large troop presence in Lebanon under one pretext or another. Syria should have withdrawn its troops several years earlier as they had no reason to stay on Lebanese soil for this length of time.

Regardless of the noise and media blitz, there were some in Lebanon who pointed a finger at Israel for Hariri's murder, however implausible though it appeared at the time. Regardless of whoever was responsible, it turned out to be a diplomatic victory for US & Israel.

The UN formed an 'Independent Commission' to investigate the assassination. Enormous pressure was applied on the commission to find Syria guilty. However, despite the evidence paraded by media at the time, no solid link was found. Also, in the meantime political winds had changed and Syria and US had broken bread together. The 'independent' commission was then pressured to focus its attention on Hezbollah.

Like the John F Kennedy murder, the truth may never be known. The assassination could be the work of Hezbollah, Syria, Israel, the US or even a local opponent of Mr. Hariri. Unfortunately, the commission has been comprised by lack of transparency and by allowing itself to be pressured by stakeholders in the Middle East. However accurate its findings, they lack credibility.

Move the clock forward to 2011 and Hezbollah is in the driving seat in Lebanon with their nominee Mr. Najib Mikati for Prime Minister. They even appear to have the support of Christian party of Mr. Michel Aoun and the Druz leader Mr. Walid Jumbalat.

It seems that Bush Administration's neocon driven policies of declaring Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations has helped increase their political footprint tremendously.

If Hezbollah is successful in forming a broad based coalition Government - which it seems likely to at this time (though things can change overnight in the Arab world), it will be a major foreign policy failure for the United States.

US must seriously review and redirect its diplomatic policy in the Middle East. This failure is mainly the result of blindly following Israel's lead and not having an independent policy. At a time when Israel is blatantly building settlements in East Jerusalem and refusing to listen to Obama Administration. US must find an independent course of action in that part of the world or risk becoming a mere spectator on the sidelines.