Across the Bay

Thursday, January 17, 2008

When Syria Threatened Amb. Feltman

I'll be commenting on the recent attack against the US in Lebanon asap. In the meantime, I thought I'd remind you of something that came to my mind when I heard that the target was a US embassy convoy.

Back in June 2007, Le Monde ran an article containing excerpts from the official minutes of an April 24 meeting between the UN's Ban Ki-Moon and Syria's terrorist dictator, where Assad threatened Ban directly to his face, threatened UNIFIL, and threatened that the passage of a Chap. VII tribunal would "cause a conflict that would degenerate into civil war."

In those official minutes, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Moallem, is quoted as saying to Ban: "Feltman should leave [Lebanon]; I'm prepared to pay for his vacation to Hawaii."

As Michael Young accurately noted at the time, "That statement, too, could be interpreted as a threat." That's putting it mildly.

This wasn't the first time that the Syrians threatened to assassinate an ambassador in Lebanon. They had seriously threatened to take out the ambassador of another country they're at odds with: Saudi Arabia. Syria indeed had a hit out on Amb. Khoja, who for a while had to move back to Saudi for security purposes.

In a curious cloning of Moallem's thuggish threat against Feltman, in September 2007, Syria's primo pitbull Wi'am Wahhab said that he "read on the internet" (he meant this and Champress) that Khoja was involved in a plot to assassinate Nasrallah. If true, he said at the time, then we must cut all ties with KSA and kick Khoja out of the country.

It's interesting that the two countries seen by Syria as the main obstacles to its colonization of Lebanon get threatened (not to mention specifically targeted on a daily basis by Syria and its pitbulls).

David Schenker commented on the attack at the Counterterrorism blog. He sees it as "a message to Ambassador Feltman ... and his successor, Ambassador Sison, who was confirmed by Congress last week and heads out to Beirut in February. Quite simply, the message is: 'stay out of internal Lebanese politics.'"

That's funny, that's precisely the message of Walid Moallem's threat to Ban.

In the past, as Schenker notes, "the response to these kind of developments has been for the US and the international community to draw down and scale back. Obviously, this response is what those who seek to destabilize Lebanon most want."

Unfortunately for Moallem and his boss, Feltman is headed back to Washington to be David Welch's first assistant, and he will essentially be the lead guy on Lebanon at the State Department.

As Feltman himself put it, this won't please a lot of people -- including the thugs Moallem and his boss, "but I will continue to work for the US-Lebanese partnership."