Monday, June 15, 2009

Franklin Lamb: Carter in Lebanon

...It is for this reason that from the moment Carter’s cavalcade left his hotel until following the Fadlallah meeting and the former President’s departure from Hezbollah neighborhoods, the Party carefully observed and protected Carter’s motorcade, meter by meter, with a few seen and more than 400 unseen Hezbollah security personnel plus electronics. In similar fashion they claim to have protected the US Embassy, and its Ambassador, from Salafist groups and others many more times since the July 2006 war than the Embassy would publicly acknowledge or in some cases may even be aware of....
...Pulling up to the security entrance outside Fadlallah’s offices, all concerned were polite, if a bit tense. A US Secret Service agent got out of the lead car and informed his opposite numbers: “the President will exit the car in five minutes”. This was later explained as the time required for those inside the US convoy to “perform certain electronic security procedures.” In fact the SS was faking this as they later admitted because from the time the |Americans entered Hezbollah areas their communications had been jammed and their motorcade bugged. But no one on either side mentioned or sought advantage from this minor embarrassment...
...The two men seemed to hit if off immediately and soon joked. Following Carter’s invitation to Sayeed Fadlallah to visit America and the Ayatollah’s response that he was still on the US Terrorism list, Carter seemed surprised, and said with a grin that he would try to get Fadlallah off the US Terrorism list if he could arrange for Carter a meeting with Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah (in fact some Carter people did meet recently with Hezbollah’s new Foreign Relations Director, former MP, Ali Ammar)...
..As Saad Hariri becomes Lebanon’s next Prime Minister, Hezbollah appears willing to extend its open hand to help put together the new government. Despite losing the elections due to the non-proportionate electoral system,[see the detailed piece by Esam al-Amin on this weekend’s site. Editors.] the Lebanese opposition won the popular vote by a large margin.
Hezbollah seems accepting of the results but still wants to change the system. Lebanon knows that the Hezbollah led opposition garnered roughly 815,000 votes out of approximately 1,149,500 cast (close to 55 per cent) for a victory margin of almost 10 percent of all votes cast.
Former Arab League Ambassador to Washington, Lebanese Professor Clovis Maksoud, called it “a free but undemocratic election”. He noted: “What in fact is depressing, if not downright embarrassing and even shameful is that the leadership of the contending groups admits and even prides in having their respective “outside” sponsors. This in turn confirmed that the elections are a contest among international and regional powers. Thus side-stepping marginalizing the immediate needs, rights and responsibilities of the citizens have…Absent in the elections were the competing economic, social and political plans and programs.”..
...At approximately 6:16 p.m. the Carter motorcade departed Dahiyeh and headed up to Bkirki for a meeting with another religious leader, the 89 year old Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, who also ignored the Friday midnight campaign ban and attacked fellow Christians, led by General Michel Aoun, and Hezbollah hours before the balloting started. But the religious leader, given his advanced age and status as Lebanese Cardinal (the only one Lebanon has ever had) was not as heavily chastised as Feltman for violations of Lebanese Campaign laws) and many people in Dahiyeh, the US Embassy, and the State Department, no doubt, sighed in relief.

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