NEWS: Hezbollah warns U.S. not to set up base

Hezbollah warns U.S. not to set up base

Hezbollah’s deputy leader warned the U.S. on Sunday against setting up a military base in Lebanon, saying the guerrilla group would consider such a move “a hostile act.”

Sheik Naim Kassem’s warning came days after a senior Pentagon official said the U.S. military would like to see a “strategic partnership” with Lebanon’s army to strengthen the country’s forces so that Hezbollah would have no excuse to bear arms.

Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, spoke on Lebanese television Thursday after holding talks on military cooperation with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. He did not say the U.S. government wants to build a military base in Lebanon.

But Hezbollah and Lebanon’s opposition seized on Edelman’s comments as subtle confirmation of a pro-opposition newspaper’s claim that Washington was offering a treaty that provides for bases and training in the country. [complete article]

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10 thoughts on “NEWS: Hezbollah warns U.S. not to set up base

  1. Blacksmith Jade

    Its a propaganda game. Hizballah can’t come out and reject the US offer of military aide (in the form of training and weapons-upgrades) to the Lebanese Army – that offer, by the way, is the only real offer, no mention of “bases” is made anywere – so what do they do? They create this whole “base” game (oh and add to it a dash of Seymouresque mystery by choosing a base close to where the Army fought down Syrian-linked Sunni radicals), they leak it in a paper with which it has close ties, they then attack that story and any appendages to it, such as the US helping the Lebanese Army.

    Why would Hizballah do that? Because the weakness of the Lebanese Army is the only domestically-accepted pretext under which it keeps its weapons. If the Army were to obtain a weapons-upgrade and training, if it were transformed into an effective fighting force, then Hizballah would lose much of its domestic support for its weapons – which, by the way, it uses based on an Iranian-inspired foreign agenda.

  2. Isaac Miller

    I’m a history major at Kent state who tries to keep abreast of events in the middle east.
    It seems unlikely that the Lebanese Army will be beefed of up enough to actually defend the country from Israel, which is Hezbollah’s accepted job. The US has blocked attempts to do so in the past, since the Lebanese Army is not friendly to it’s soutern neighber. Hezbollah’s fears of US military presence within the country are probably genuine, even if the threat of a base is unrealistic. I can’t say if it is or isn’t. It may be that they fear a strengthend Lebanese Army, under a pro US goverment might turned on them, some time in the far future. It may be that any support the US provides that seems to help the hand of the Saudi-French-US backed ruling coalition is something they feel is worth fighting. Obviously US presence of any kind in Lebanon would be anathama to Hezbollah at any time just on princeple, and last summers war in which the US played a important though inderect role could not helped. Fear of the Lebanese Army replacing Hezbollah is just one among numerous reasons for Hezbollah to take the actions it has. After this summers performance I think it is clear it will be a while until the army is up to the job.

  3. Blacksmith Jade

    Hi Isaac,

    Theres a couple of things you mentioned that I found interesting.

    First of all, you said that defending Lebanon from Israel was Hizballah’s accepted job. That statement is true, but the way in which is true is important to highlight. The task of defending Lebanon from Israel was officially given to Israel in the Syrian-sponsored Taef Accords that brought an end to the civil war. That clause was placed into the Accords as a reflection of Syria’s policy to use Hizballah and the Lebanese struggle in its negotiations with Israel. In his lengthy memoirs, Bill Clinton highlighted the critical part Hizballah played in the Syrians’ inability to reach peace with Israel in 2000.

    oops gotta run…will try to continue this later!

  4. Blacksmith Jade

    Sorry about that…

    …before I continue, I’d like to correct a typo above:

    The task of defending Lebanon from Israel was officially given to Hizballah in the Syrian-sponsored Taef Accords that brought an end to the civil war.

    Following Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, there was a high appreciation for Hizballah’s role in the struggle to liberate the territory, but there was also a degree of war-weariness among the Lebanese and a call for an end to fighting.

    That call was re-emphasized in the Cedar Revolution which ejected the Syrian occupation and sought to re-establish the institutions of the state over the entirety of Lebanese territory. The fact that the Lebanese Army negotiated the latest cease-fire and deployed its forces along the border with Israel is another example of the Lebanese peoples’ will to place the defense of the country in the hands of national institutions (such as the Army) which are democratically accountable (to cabinet and parliament). Hizballah’s unilateral launch of a war in July 2006 is an example of why we don’t want a foreign-sponsored fundamentalist group driving our defense policy.

    As for the state of the Lebanese Army, yeah its not so great, and yes in the past it has been Israeli-driven US objections (along with Syrian interference) that have been raised in response to attempts to upgrade. But I think things are a little different today and there are rumours of international backing for the strengthening of the armed forces in Lebanon.

    How far that strengthening would go is still to be determined, but if there are obstacles to it, it would be the following:

    >the severe level of infiltration of the Lebanese Army by pro-Hizballah and pro-Syrian officers, and the fear that any equipment destined to the Lebanese Army would fall into the hands of Hizballah.

    >US policy to support Israeli Air dominance in the region, and the resulting blocking of anti-aircraft weaponry to the Lebanese Army.

    Hopefully, both of those objections will be dealt with.

  5. PeaceThroughJustice

    The Lebanese people want the United States to “protect” them? Do you think they’ve already forgotten Israel’s last invasion, and America’s support?

  6. Isaac Miller

    I’m sorry, but like you I don’t have time to answer your comments in one big display of text. But I do intend to. So I will just say for now that think that the use of the word “infiltration” seems odd. Is it not posible that in non-Shia soldiers and officers might sympathize with Hezbollahs methods as the “resistance” without being agents of Syria or Hezbollah. Does it have to be sinister to view Hezbollah positivelly, or can they have honest oppinions based on experiances, such as the cross confessional Lebanese Resistance Brigades in the 90’s, which convinced them that Hezbollah had Lebanese nationalism at it’s heart as much as Iranian neo-Shiisim? I am not saying that they would be right to believe this, I am speculating in the interest of fairness. Thank you for responding to my original post and I shall answer again as soon as I can.

  7. Isaac Miller

    Oh, sorry one more thing for now. I very much doubt last summers war would have ended when it did had it not been for Hezbollahs impressive military performance. The cease fire is more Hezbollahs doing, from that perspective, then the Lebanese goverment or army. I’m sure you know as well as I (in fact most likely better) that unless they get a bloody nose the IDF has no problem meeting out collective punishment on a whole people. Their have to be real teeth bared to bring them to the table. Whether Hezbollah started the war (and I will try to deal with this later) they certainly ended it with their military skill.

  8. Get Real

    Blacksmith Jade – is that your CIA code name? Nice pro-American spin in your text. Seems to bear little relation to reality.

    Israel has clearly demonstrated by their actions that they are a hostile power vs. Lebanon. They have absolutely no regard for Lebanese sovereignty, or the borders, crossing them in force whenever it suits them. The duty of the Lebanese Army should be to ensure their territorial integrity and deter foreign (Israeli) military action.

    To do their job, they will require advanced AA weapons and detection systems (radar), command and control systems, etc, all of which they will likely have to buy from Russia or China or Iran, since no NATO or pro-western country would want to sell them such over Israeli objections.

    In addition, they will need deterrence. As Hizbullah has shown, this can be achieved at relatively low cost with fairly low-tech rockets.

    But your statement “Hizballah’s unilateral launch of a war in July 2006” indicates your relation to reality is tenous at best. Israel seized on the pretext of a minor border skirmish to invade Lebanon because they wanted to, and were just waiting for the opportunity to attempt to destroy Hizbullah. The fact that Lebanese infrastructure was leveled was just minor collateral damage to them, just another collective punishment in that fine Israeli tradition.

    Consider the fact that the US/UK (The Axis of Hypocrisy) blessed the Israeli action then, but holds Turkey back now, when the Turks have suffered far greater losses from PKK rebels from Iraq. The difference there clearly defines in stark terms the total failure of the West in the Middle East. Much in the same way the presence of NATO fleets off Lebanon in the Med fighting “the war on terra” where no terrorists are shows once again the complete and utter failure in every way of present policies.

    With people like you in charge, it’s no wonder America has been led to disaster so many times by the right. Who always seem to be so wrong. If you want to see terrorists, just look in the mirror.

  9. Another Way

    This discussion reveals the reason that the US and Israel (and everyone else) has failed to adequately deal with Hizbullah- they treat them has a criminal military enemy whose crimes ultimately fall on Iran and Syria, rather than a grass-roots movement with immense democratically obtained legitimacy within the Shia community of Lebanon and with an ever increasing segment of the non-Shia Lebanese population. That legitimacy is based on real grievances (lack of protection from Israeli aggression, economic underdevelopment, lack of political representation proportionate to their percent of the population) and is more than propaganda or terrorism.
    If you want democratic progress in Lebanon, you have to treat Hizbullah as an actor, which the US has deliberately chosen not to do (see Rice’s most recent comments on Lebanon). Disarmament is of course a good goal, but as Hizbullah has demonstrated time and time again, pursuing disarmament by force without addressing the grievances only strengthens their popularity within their social base.

  10. Blacksmith Jade

    Hi Isaac,

    SOrry for tardy reply.

    Its very tempting to consider Hizballah as a political player fully committed to the Lebanese state in the face of foreign/western interventions. Unfortunately that view would be completely inaccurate, both in view of the group’s history [having been founded, funded, trained and indoctrinated by Iran] and their methods of operation on the internal Lebanese political scene.

    Those operations have consisted of a continuous undermining of the use of the Armed Forces [as a state institution] as an effective fighting force in the defense of Lebanon – e.g. Hassan Nasrallah’s attempts to place limits on the Army’s operations against Fatah al Islam terrorists in Nahr el Bared this past summer; e.g. Hassan Nasrallah’s unilateral abortion of National Dialogue talks specifically at the time when Hizballah’s arms were due to come under discussion and when a decision on the Army’s movement on, and engagement of, pro-Syrian Palestinian militias with bases outside of the Palestinian refugee camps [and along the Syrian-Lebanese border] was due to be implemented.

    And thats just violations with respect to one state institution [the Army], I still haven’t mentioned their continuous disregard for Parliament and the executive offices of government and state.

    With respect to officers in the Army and the possibility that they might believe in Hizballah as a resistance movement and therefore support it not as a matter of sectarian patronage but of ideological sympathy. I’ll tell you straight out that such men, to my knowledge, do not exist. That is not to say that there aren’t Christian officers who cooperate with Hizballah, but that the basis of that cooperation is based on those officers’ closeness to Syria – a closeness fostered through 15 years of close interaction and control of the Lebanese Army by Syria and its moukhabarat (or secret police/intelligence apparatuse) controllers in Lebanon.

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