Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is the Bush Administration Switching Horses in Lebanon?

By Franklin Lamb in Beirut, Lebanon
Palestine Chronicle

"Barack v. Hillary isn't the only Presidential election game in Washington these days. There is also the Samir v. Walid v. Michel (as in Geagea, Jumblatt and Suleiman) campaign underway as each seek through direct contact and surrogates, the US imprimatur in their quests to lead Lebanon.

This week it appears that Walid's support is dropping faster than Hilary's and Suleiman may end up like Fred Thompson ("failed to live up to expectations and not enough fire in the belly for the job") and Geagea is skyrocketing faster than Barack did in February......

Why Geagea's rise and the Jumblatt and Suleiman slippage?....

David Welch, who met with Geagea on March 12, and other administration officials, have reportedly given up on Lebanese Army Chief Michel Suleiman, not due so much to the now 16th postponement of his Presidential election but because Suleiman is becoming 'shop worn' plus an increasing 'buyers remorse'. The Welch Club (a number of US neocons, Cheney, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) has lost confidence in him, according to Hill sources, and they no longer trust the General to do their bidding.....

The buzz in Washington is that with Jumblatt, according to the same Hill Staffer, "you never know where he is coming from or when the Druze leader may show up wide-eyed from smoking something and talking crazy Voodoo or Zen shit, or whatever".

A staffer on the House Judiciary Committee explained that Jumblatt "flip flops more than Romney did and next week he may do another deal with Syria and decide Nasrallah is his channeled long lost brother from a previous life and send his militia to train with Hezbollah for Christ's sake! I am not joking. During his last visit to Washington one of his aids actually asked if Jumblatt could meet Shirley MacLaine!".....

This week, Geagea had successful meetings with US National Security Advisor Steven Hadley who told Geagea that America was strongly committed to helping the Lebanese build an independent state, as the An-Nahar daily quoted a White House source as saying on Tuesday.

"The US is still strongly committed to help the Lebanese people fulfill their dream of building a free, independent and prosperous state," Hadley told Geagea during their discussion of the kind of military aid Lebanon needs. Geagea also met with Assistant to Vice President Cheney for National Security Affairs John Hannah and US Secretary of State Rice and one of her undersecretaries David Welch.

According to An-Nahar's correspondent in Washington, the unusually high level Geagea meetings "reflect US appraisal of him as a major March 14 movement leader". And they wanted to discuss with him ways to help the Lebanese government achieve such goals and US worries of "continuous efforts" by Syria and Hezbollah to "undermine" Premier Fouad Siniora's Cabinet.

Geagea has the 'correct' position on key issues and shares Bush administration views on practically every question. Regarding Shebaa Farms (a phony issue his delegation is claiming), disarming the Resistance (the sooner the better), the Hariri Tribunal (full steam ahead) the Damascus Arab League Conference (not until Lebanon has a President), shipping Lebanon's Palestinians out of Lebanon (ASAP-ABI--As Soon As Possible-Anywhere But Israel!) and not to be naturalized in Lebanon. Finally, but not least, Geagea, just like the former leader of his militia, the murdered Bashir Gemayel, is thought to be Israel's choice to lead Lebanon......

When asked to summarize the reason for the apparent Bush administration switch, a legislative aid on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East opined with sarcasm:

"There are two politicians in Lebanon who generally speak the truth and can be counted on to keep their word and not sell out. Hassan Nasrallah and Samir Geagea. As you know Nasrallah is not currently the Bush administration candidate."

Another added during the same conference call: "Cheney's people like Geagea because he's been tested. Nobody had the balls to defy Syria in the 1980s and early 90s. Even his pal Hobeika sold out. Geagea survived a brutal incarceration and before being jailed earned the respect of his people. Again, like Nasrallah, he is first of all a Lebanese Patriot. Geagea can't be bought. He is not afraid of Syria, Iran or anyone else. He will play ball with Israel. Lebanon could do a lot worse with what is likely heading its way"."

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