What hawkish Pompeo did not know about Lebanon
By Owei Lakemfa
LEBANON is a fragile country held together by common sense. As a distinct nation, it has been involved in 21 pre-colonial wars, two colonial wars and 11 post-colonial wars. It has 18 officially recognised religious sects: 12 Christian, four Muslim, the Druze and Judaism. Its experiences in conflicts have taught it to evolve a system of proportional representation with its 128 parliamentary seats evenly shared between Christians and Muslims. The Presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker, a Shi’a Muslim.
Lebanon’s 15-year Civil War from 1975 involved the armies of France, United Kingdom, Syria, Israel, Italy and the United States. The Americans began pulling out of that war following the 1983 suicide attacks on its embassy and Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut in which 241 US Marines and 17 non-combatant Americans were killed. The Americans believe that the Hezbollah carried out that attack and designated it a terrorist group, a claim it and its Western allies have maintained until today, 26 years after.
Israel had invaded Lebanon in 1978 and returned home. With the Lebanese Civil War raging, it carried out a more massive invasion beginning June 2, 1982. Pouring in 76,000 troops, 800 tanks,1,500 armoured personnel carriers backed with 634 aeroplanes, the fractured Lebanese army and warring militias were no match for the Israelis who rode on to besiege Beirut.
One of the most infamous acts of the Israeli troops led by General Ariel Sharon was to arm and guide a local militia, the Phalangists, to the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla and let them loose. Over 800 Palestinian refugees, including women and children, were massacred. In all, 17,852 Lebanese and 9,799 Palestinians, including their Syrian allies, were killed during this invasion after which Israel occupied Southern Lebanon. Israel lost 675 personnel.
In response to the invasion and powerlessness of the country to defend itself, and what they saw as Western meddlesomeness in their country, some Islamic clerics that year established a militant political party, Hezbollah, meaning “The Party of God.” Its primary aims were to take part in the politics of their country, establish a welfare state, end the Israeli military occupation of their country and what they saw as Western interference in Lebanon and the Middle East.
After long campaigns against the Israeli forces of occupation, the Hezbollah pushed them out of Southern Lebanon in May 2000. It was the first time Israel was militarily pushed out of an area they occupied. This led many Lebanese to flock to the Hezbollah. In a follow-up war in 2006, Hezbollah militarily defeated Israel, the first loss of that country in a war. Hezbollah had acquired the image of the friend of the poor and defender of Lebanon.
In the legislative elections held on May 6, 2018, Hezbollah and its allies increased their share of seats from about 44 per cent to 53 per cent, taking 68 of 128 seats. These basic issues were what American Secretary of State and former Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, Director, Michael Pompeo might not have understood when he went on a state visit to Lebanon on March 22.
On the eve of his departure from Israel to Lebanon, Pompeo had made it known that his primary task was to attack Hezbollah rather than hold any meaningful meetings. He proclaimed magisterially: “Lebanon’s success depends on the Lebanese people (demanding) that a terrorist organisation not be in control of their government and not drive policies…Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. Do you ask how tough I am going to be? It is a terrorist organisation. Period. Full stop.” For an agenda, he said: “We’ll spend a lot of time talking with the Lebanese Government about how we can help them disconnect from the threat that Iran and Hezbollah present to them.”
When he arrived in Lebanon, Pompeo lectured the people: “Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.” The Lebanese Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, who was standing by the arrogant American diplomat told him: “For us, Hezbollah is a Lebanese party, not a terrorist group. Its members of parliament were elected by the Lebanese people, with high popular support.”
President Michel Aoun told Pompeo that the American agenda is not the same as that of the Lebanese people: “Preserving national unity and civil peace is a priority for us.” Speaker Nabih Berri told Pompeo that US sanctions against Hezbollah were having a “negative impact on Lebanon and the Lebanese.”
He insisted that Hezbollah is a defender of Lebanese sovereignty. It is ironic that the US which claims Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation initially supported and armed the terrorist armies of the Islamic State, ISIS, and al-Nusra Front in Syria while Hezbollah crossed the border to battle these terrorists.
When Pompeo and his American bosses asked Lebanon to eliminate the Hezbollah, it is essentially calling for a new Civil War and genocide in that country. The Lebanese society as of 2012 was 51 per cent Muslim (25 per cent Shia; 26 per cent Sunni), five per cent Druze-Muslims, 43.1 per cent Christian (24 per cent Maronite, five per cent Greek Orthodox, 5.6 per cent Melkite, one per cent Protestant, other Christians, 4.4 per cent). So who does Pompeo want to take out Hezbollah? The Sunnis, Christians, and in any way, what for? Because America says so?
If war breaks out in Lebanon today, where will the 1.6 million Syrian refugees go? What happens to the Palestinian refugees who have lived there for generations? Where would the new Lebanese refugees who will be created by the war(s) go? Flow to Europe as unwanted migrants?
What kind of democracy does the White House believe in if it asks that people with majority control in a country’s parliament should be neutralised, not by votes, but by force? With bloody conflicts across the world, why does America want to instigate new wars in Lebanon? The immediate beneficiaries of another Civil War in Lebanon will be Israel; so is Pompeo working for the Jewish lobby?
With Israeli elections on April 9 and the Attorney-General announcing that he intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery and other corruption charges, is Pompeo trying to shore up his ally’s image as a defender of Israel’s interests?
By instigating a war in Lebanon, is Pompeo trying to provide more markets for the American war industry? By declaring war on Hezbollah and Iran, is Pompeo trying to prompt the Saudi Arabia alliance in the Gulf to buy more American arms? Pompeo always tries to project himself as a pious Christian; the Bible says “Blessed are the peacemakers” and conversely, the warmongers are doomed. So says the Lord of Hosts.