Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

What do the Americans Want from Lebanon? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The US administration’s Special Envoy for Middle East peace, George Mitchell, continued his tour of the region arriving in Syria after having visited Beirut on Friday and Israel earlier in the week.

The information I have tells me that the Americans do not want the Lebanese to busy themselves with negotiating with Israel on the issue of the Shebaa Farms. They want the Lebanese to leave the issue to international resolutions and to the Americans based on the consideration that the issue of the Shebaa Farms is not that complicated.

Washington believes that the Lebanese should not be involved in the peace negotiations (and Mitchell called for beginning the negotiations whilst he was in Israel). However, Lebanon would attend the conference that will be held after reaching the stage of signing an Arab-Israeli peace agreement.

Some Lebanese interpretations of these proposals, or rather ideas, state that Washington’s goal is to save the Lebanese government from suffering any embarrassment within the country, especially as Hezbollah will seek to exploit this matter in its own interest in every internal issue in Lebanon.

Despite that the Syrians previously asked the Lebanese to sit with them at the negotiation table with Israel, the American idea will surface when we reach a stage of direct negotiations.

My understanding is that the US proposal or the ideas presented to Lebanon do not aim to save Beirut from the embarrassment of negotiating with Israel. There is nothing embarrassing about practicing politics, especially if the aim of negotiation is to end the occupation of your land.

Moreover, there is no room for embarrassment now no matter how much Hezbollah, or any other party, tries to engage in one-upmanship in Lebanon. Let whoever wants to engage in such a practice do so and let them raise their voices about Syria’s desire to negotiate with the Israelis or Iran’s desire to negotiate with Washington.

The goal of America’s ideas or demands is clear; it is to clip Syria’s wings and to rationalize their demands in the negotiation process. This is not so as to weaken Syria or to force peace upon it but to guarantee that Syria will be logical and realistic, especially as Washington believes that the Syrians have too much self-confidence based on the idea that a number of solutions are in their hands. The Americans do not like this and this not how they see it. America is the most capable of observing all the different angles of power in the region and of course the Syrians cannot see this.

However, despite all this, there is a progressive method to restoring US-Syrian ties and it is apparent that Washington is testing all statements and pledges made by Damascus and is taking action in accordance with this. The restoring of the US ambassador to Syria is now imminent and so too is the visit of US officers, as has been announced.

Therefore, and as we can see, the idea that Lebanon will not take part in peace negotiations does not aim to relieve Beirut of any embarrassment inasmuch as it aims to divest Syria of a bargaining chip, thereby forcing Damascus to get used to representing and discussing Syria alone rather than Syria and Lebanon.

What’s important is that the opportunities for peace that are looming on the region’s horizon are not wasted. As I said in a previous article entitled ‘The Lost Treasure is in Syria’, resolving the Syrian-Israeli peace issue first would quickly and safely pave the way for the Palestinians.