Hezbollah’s coalition partner meets Obama

At the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Schenker writes:

On Monday, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri will visit Washington for a meeting with President Obama. In announcing the meeting, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called it “a symbol of the close and historic relationship between Lebanon and the United States.” Indeed, between 2005 and 2009, bilateral ties were never closer or more consequential, with the Cedar Revolution ending nearly three decades of Syrian suzerainty in the country. Over the past year, however, Hariri has had to govern in coalition with Hizballah. The Iranian-Syrian backed Shiite militia will be the elephant in the Oval Office during Monday’s meeting.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Hariri was a frequent visitor to the Bush White House as head of Lebanon’s ruling March 14 coalition. This will be his first visit as premier, his first meeting with Obama, and his first trip to the White House since last year’s seeming reversal of the Cedar Revolution. Although Syria no longer has troops stationed across the border, President Bashar al-Asad’s allies in Lebanon have retrenched in recent months and once again wield preponderant political influence. Meanwhile, the March 14 coalition has been dramatically weakened by attrition and defections at home and abroad that have led the movement to moderate its pro-Western stance and embrace — at least rhetorically — Hizballah’s “resistance” doctrine.

Phil Sands, at The National, adds:

Syria and Lebanon have agreed they will present a united front of opposition to Israel and support for Hizbollah, when the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, travels to Washington next week.

Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, held talks with the Lebanese leader in Damascus on Tuesday. In contrast to Mr Hariri’s first prime ministerial visit to Syria in December, when he was joined by a large government delegation, this time only senior aides accompanied the two.

Bussaina Shaaban, a Syrian presidential adviser, said the meeting was designed to “co-ordinate policy” ahead of Mr Hariri’s trip to the United States, expected to take place on Monday.

There’s little question that like all other Lebanese politicians, Saad Hariri depends for his survival on a good measure of expediency and pragmatism, but even so, are we really to believe that he is tightening his bonds with the people who killed his father? Or is it time to acknowledge that whoever was benefited by the assassination of Rafic Hariri, it wasn’t Syria.

As Bill Van Auken wrote in 2005:

If one asks the question, “Who benefits?” the answer is clear. The destabilization of Lebanon, the mobilization of the US-backed opposition to the pro-Syrian government in Beirut, and the vilification of Damascus all serve to advance US and Israeli strategic plans long in the making.

It is not just a question of motive, however. Israel has a long history of utilizing assassination as an instrument of state policy. The Israeli regime has not infrequently carried out acts of terror and blamed them on its enemies.

And that was written before the assassinations of the Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus in 2008 and of the Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January this year, both of which killings were attributed to Mossad.

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