Crossfire War – Negotiations in Beirut – Expanded Cabinet

Crossfire War – TEHRAN WATCH – West Asia Theatre: Tehran – Beirut – Damascus – Athens/Paris – Berlin – Rome – Cairo – London – Washington; DAY 6 – Last Night – Hezbollah Directed Two Floodlights At Government Buildings – Army Commander Met Pm – States Army May Not Be Able to Control Situation – Negotiations Revolve Around Expanded Cabinet to Include Opposition

Night Watch: BEIRUT – Several Beirut newspapers have been carrying the sensational political revelations – observations of Lebanon Army Commander General Michel Suleiman. What is so unusual is that military officers in Lebanon are never allowed to make political statements. But I suspect what the general is implying is that the government of Lebanon, under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is unwilling to let the Army attempt to restore control because Siniora agrees with the need to form an expanded government including more of the opposition. Sulieman’s statements were made right after he met with the Prime Minister who may have told him the government is about to be changed, expanded to incorporate more of the Hezbollah -Amal-Christian – Nationalist groups directed and supported by Tehran. But if more violence breaks out do not make much effort to intervene. [ALJAZEERA]

General Suleiman stated, “The absence of political solutions, along with the recurring security incidents, particularly those with sectarian tinges, drains the army’s resources and weakens its neutrality. This weakness will make the army unable to control the situation.” The army of course is composed of soldiers who are from every political-religious group in the country, which could cause some of them to choose sides in any potential civil war. Divided loyalties among the rank and file, but Tehran’s unifying influence reduces the possibility of violence reaching the scale and length that it did during the country’s last civil war from 1975-90, begun by a Christian group quite possibly connected to Paris.

Prime Minister Siniora has stated, as the army sends reinforcements and adds more barbed wire around government buildings, “No one group can control the streets and this has been proven.” This statement could be Siniora’s way of saying he is willing to head an expanded coalition and that no political group should entertain the delusion that they and a few political partners, an exclusive coalition, can control the country as they have since Lebanon’s independence in 1943. Tehran is the difference now and has expanded the political spectrum and Lebanon’s importance. The tent city and its demonstrators are still there and with Hezbollah now targeting government buildings with floodlights, Tehran may be saying through them, that rocket fire could soon follow if proposals from Hezbollah and their Christian nationalist allies are not met.

The leaders of the rival groups spent the first days of the confrontation trading accusations over Lebanon media but now it seems serious channels of communication-negotiation have now been opened. If they had started trading fire Hezbollah, having been heavily rearmed by Syria-Iran would win. The Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat seems to be the government official monitoring the negotiations. During the 34 day war, Hezbollah-Tehran waged against Israel this past summer, I had the impression from the statements Siniora was making that he did not mind Hezbollah’s presence, Tehran’s influence or the war against Israel. But more importantly I suspect he hates even more the anti-aircraft artillery batteries the French have placed in the country, as part of their contribution to the Rome led UNIFIL force, as if Paris is re-staking its historical claim over Lebanon. Prime Minister Siniora could be just as nationalistic as the Christian leader former General Michel Aoun and his Patriotic Movement.

Hezbollah may also insist the foreign policy should target Europe’s re-entry into West Asia (Middle East), the UNIFIL force that came out of the Rome Conference in July. Nationalist sentiments have a broad spectrum of appeal among the population and are no stranger to the other political – religious parties in the country. Tehran wants a united Lebanese base to direct attacks not only against Israel but also against UNIFIL. Iran has probably been saying that Lebanon will benefit by being more independent. Specific economic proposals on the financial benefits of working with Tehran, other Islamic governments and Athens could add weight to Hezbollah – Tehran’s argument. Athens has been deliberately increasing its strategic cooperation with the Muslim world as a sign of Greece’s displeasure with West European – U. S. policies in the Balkans. Both Athens and Tehran have signed security agreements with Belgrade this year.

Some of the international officials and Islamic envoys making the rounds in Beirut have been the Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, Egypt’s Beirut envoy and Jordan’s Foreign Minister.

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.