Tuesday, February 19, 2008
"19/02/2008 If Arab League Chief Amr Mussa was to come with a fresh effort to solve Lebanon's crisis and as the Arab Summit was to take place soon in Damascus, what is the justification of Saudi and French security measures adopted in Beirut. In a rare move Saudi Arabia issued a "travel restriction advisory," urging citizens to avoid Lebanon for security reasons as France announced it has closed two of its cultural centers in Lebanon for the same motive.
The French cultural centers, in the southern city of Sidon and in Tripoli north of Lebanon, were being temporarily shut down, the French embassy said in a statement Monday. "Security of these cultural missions is a priority," it said.
Earlier, the Saudi Arabian government warned its citizens not to travel to Lebanon because of the "unstable" security situation in the country. The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) distributed the advisory attributed to an official source at the foreign ministry who also urged Saudis living in Lebanon to adopt the "required precautionary measures" in their movements.
The move followed strained ties between Riyadh and Damascus over several issues on top of which is Lebanon and the Arab Summit. The opposition in Lebanon has accused Saudi Arabia of blocking the settlement to the ongoing political crisis.
Some observers say that the Saudis want to pressure the Syrians to push the Lebanese opposition into making concessions or risk the vaporization of the Arab Summit. Observers also said that major Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf states, might boycott the forthcoming Arab Summit scheduled for March 29 in Damascus, if the Lebanese crisis persisted.
At fist glance, one can't but link the Saudi and French measures to the situation on the street between loyalty and opposition supporters, which left at least 20 people injured on Sunday. However the feuding parties held a meeting sponsored by the army intelligence and agreed to ease down tension and establish contacts "on the ground" to prevent renewal of clashes.
At second glance, one can't but conclude that something bigger is being cooked.
Analysts say that Hezbollah is undoubtedly going to retaliate hard on the assassination of Commander Imad Moghniyeh a week ago in Damascus. "Based on the retaliation Israel will take the decision either to proceed with the war it already launched in 2006 or to settle for a "security war", that is to say swift security operations against determined targets," they added. On the 14th of August 2006, UN resolution 1701 put an end to "hostilities" but did not establish a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.
Apart from deploying batteries of U.S.-made Patriot air defense missiles near the northern port city of Haifa, the Israeli army announced it will undertake a military exercise to call up reservists through their mobile phones. In the same context, the internal front in Israel is to conduct next April a wide scale drill to test the performance of emergency bodies. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will take part in the exercises on how to make decisions in the scenarios to come. "