[Marxism] France playing pivotal role in Lebanese crisis

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Aug 4 09:11:42 MDT 2006

Imperial overstretch in Iraq has made the US more dependent on its allies to
police other trouble spots - in the latest instance, in Lebanon, where
France is reportedly ready to deploy a major troop contingent in a proposed
buffer zone along the border with Israel.

This has provided the French with political leverage against the Americans
in drafting a UN ceasefire resolution, which it previously lacked over Iraq.
It is affecting the US-Israeli war aims, which are to cripple or disarm
Hezbollah before the fighting stops and formal negotiations begin. But he
French want a cease fire first and negotiations involving Hezbollah
afterwards for security reasons before introducing their own forces into the
region. France, according to the report below, "calculates that Israel's
military campaign is unlikely to defeat Hezbollah and fears it risks further
inflaming the region and anti-Western feelings across the Muslim world. The
U.S., like Israel, sees high value in damaging Hezbollah to discourage it
and its supporters Iran and Syria from attacking Israel again."

Nevertheless, despite their public utterances to the contrary, Hezbollah's
stubborn resistance has softened the strategic thinking of the Israelis and
Americans, which is why it quite possible the differences between the allies
will converge closer to the French position. If it prevails, this would be a
major victory for Hezbollah because it would leave its military
capabilities, unprecedented level of political prestige, and bargaining
power in any subsequent negotiation intact - the best outcome it can hope
for in the present circumstances.
U.N. Nears Lebanon Resolution
As France, U.S. Views Coalesce

Wall Street Journal
August 4, 2006; Page A4

The dispute between the U.S. and France over how to respond to the violence
in Lebanon strongly echoes the leadup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But
France's role is radically different this time, helping to explain why
agreement on a United Nations Security Council resolution for Lebanon is in

Yesterday, as in the last go-round, French and American diplomats were
dueling over the text of a draft U.N. resolution in New York. And now, as
then, French officials from President Jacques Chirac on down have been
attacking Washington's policy toward the region, saying the U.S. is too
reliant on military might and unrealistic in its efforts to reshape the
Middle East. The two countries also still profoundly disagree on the value
of military action in the region.

This time, however, diplomats on both sides of the French-American divide
are confident they can agree on a U.N. resolution quickly. Officials and
regional analysts cite three main reasons for this: First, the aim of a
resolution this time is to stop, rather than start, a war. Second, France
and the U.S. agree on the end goal in Lebanon -- a strong elected government
and a disarmed Hezbollah. Finally, this time it is France, not the U.S.,
that is proposing to put its own troops on the ground.

"I think we have an understanding" on key elements, though full agreement
might take a few days more, said French Ambassador to the U.N. Jean-Marc de
La Sablière, before heading into negotiations yesterday with his U.S.
counterpart, John Bolton.

There are other important differences from the Iraq dispute. France enjoyed
close ties with Saddam Hussein's regime, but recent French history in
Lebanon is as poisoned as that of the U.S. In 1983, Iranian-backed Shiite
Muslim suicide bombers killed 58 French peacekeepers in Lebanon, as well as
241 Americans. France retaliated by bombing a Hezbollah camp, and under the
name of Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah went on to target the French embassy in
Kuwait and passenger trains in France. France's draft Security Council
resolution includes a requirement that all militias in Lebanon be disarmed,
which is also a key U.S. goal.

Mr. Chirac has if anything been more outspoken than the U.S. in accusing
Iran of arming and directing Hezbollah in the current conflict, and in
criticizing Syria for its continued meddling in Lebanese affairs. Syria is
widely believed to have been behind last year's assassination of former
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a personal friend of Mr. Chirac. That
is one reason that, until the current outbreak of hostilities, France and
the U.S. worked closely to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon and develop the
country's newly elected leadership.

In Iraq, France was trying to block any military action, but this time it is
the French and other Europeans who are planning to contribute troops as part
of an international stabilization force. That puts Paris in a much stronger
negotiating position, because the U.S. needs French troops in Lebanon.

According to diplomats familiar with the U.N. negotiations, the talks are
based on a French draft text, a new version of which was circulated to the
15 Security Council members Wednesday night. The U.S. is seeking amendments
after dropping plans to propose its own draft. Diplomats said a key
disagreement over whether to demand a halt to fighting before a political
settlement or at the same time has been largely resolved. Still in dispute
is when an international force should be inserted -- the U.S. wants it right
away, France only after a political settlement and permanent cease-fire have
been agreed by Israel and the Lebanese government, in which Hezbollah

U.S. officials say they are close to final agreement with France on a hybrid
approach combining elements of both strategies that U.S. National Security
Adviser Stephen Hadley has been negotiating with his French counterpart
since Monday.

A diplomat from one of the European nations involved in the Security Council
talks said they center on a dual approach, in which Israel and Hezbollah
would first agree to a temporary cessation of hostilities to allow the
deployment of a small, rapid-reaction peacekeeping force to southern
Lebanon. After the "tip of the spear" was on the ground, the diplomat said,
a much larger group of international troops would be sent to Lebanon with a
mandate to implement the formal cease-fire agreement and create the buffer
zone that Israel has demanded as a condition for ending its three-week-old
assault on Hezbollah.

The debate over when to call a cease-fire lies at the heart of one enduring
U.S.-French division that carries over from Iraq: the utility of waging war.
France calculates that Israel's military campaign is unlikely to defeat
Hezbollah and fears it risks further inflaming the region and anti-Western
feelings across the Muslim world. The U.S., like Israel, sees high value in
damaging Hezbollah to discourage it and its supporters Iran and Syria from
attacking Israel again.

"France sees Lebanon as an end in itself, while the U.S. tends to see it
through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the Iran-Syria
axis," says Olivier Roy, director of research at the Paris-based National
Center for Scientific Research.

Also holding up agreement at the U.N. are some elements of a proposed
political settlement, including whether to refer to Lebanese prisoners held
by Israel and whether to include a demand for a settlement of Lebanon's
borders with Syria and Israel. That explicitly includes Shebaa Farms, an
area that Lebanon claims, Israel occupies and the U.N. says belongs to
Syria. Both of these points are in the French draft, and both are opposed by
the U.S., diplomats say.

Meanwhile, fighting continued with expanded Israeli attacks and 160 rockets
launched by Hezbollah at Israel Thursday. In interviews published Thursday,
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said there should be no "time gap"
between Israeli troops leaving southern Lebanon and a multinational force
being deployed there. The Israelis' concern is that as soon as they
withdraw, Hezbollah will reoccupy the territory unless there is a third
force to fill the vacuum.

Mr. Olmert said he expects the Security Council to adopt a cease-fire
resolution "sometime next week" but that the end of the war depends on how
quickly the international force could be deployed.

More information about the Marxism mailing list