"Just maybe!" hints the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)

During the July 2006 war, US embassy staff led by Feltman, who functioned as a kind of ‘godfather’ for Hezbollah’s detractors, received countless pro-Israeli  consigliore as they executed plans how to best manage the war for Israel  while protecting their own business  and sectarian interests.

On the degree to which some Arab leaders – in this case Bahrain and its  ambassador Houda Ezra Nonoo – are collaborating with Israel while publicly pledging brotherly support for the Arabs “central cause”, Palestine, a recent report is instructive.

Feltman, the cables make plain,  personally instructed Washington to tell Israel not to bomb bridges in what he derisively called “Maronistan areas” because that would weaken Christian support for Israel and affect logistics for US Embassy “staff” in Awkar.  Embassy Beirut apparently had no problem with Israel carpeting bombing  south Beirut, with American weapons, endangering  Shatila  and Burj al Barajneh Palestinian Camps around the  Bir Hassan  neighborhood, which includes the ‘little Tehran’ neighborhood with Iranian media outlets and the Iranian Embassy.

Five days after the July 2006 war was launched, Embassy cables to Washington that were immediately passed to Israel document: “The Ambassador asked Jumblatt what Israel should do to cause serious damage to Hezbollah. Jumblatt replied that Israel is still in the mindset of fighting classic battles with Arab armies. ‘You can’t win this kind of war with zero dead,’ he said. Jumblatt finally said what he meant; Israel will have to invade southern Lebanon. Israel must be careful to avoid massacres, but it should clear Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon”.  (July 17, 2006)

On August 5, Assistant Secretary David Welch and Ambassador Feltman met with a more than a dozen Christian leaders from the anti-Syria March 14 movement. The Embassy cable read: “While claiming to be fully supportive of Prime Minister Siniora’s call for a ceasefire, they are troubled that the current conflict might leave Hezbollah in a stronger position within Lebanon than at the beginning. The Lebanese government will need to be in a position of strength to deal with Hezbollah once the conflict is over, the leaders argued. To this end, they would support a continuation of the Israeli bombing campaign for a week or two if this were to diminish seriously Hezbollah’s strength on the ground…. Claiming to reflect PM Siniora’s private thoughts, several of the assembled leaders urged that Hezbollah be given a ‘real pounding’ by the Israelis to the point that the group would be ‘soft enough to listen to reason.’ According to Boutros Harb [one of the anti-Palestinian Cabinet Ministers who prevented Palestinians from obtaining the internationally mandated  Right to Work and Home Ownership on August 17, 2010], “if we are convinced that Israel can finish the job, then we can allow a few more weeks [of slaughter],” though the consensus seemed to rest between seven to ten days. If on the other hand Hezbollah were to emerge emboldened with a perceived sense of victory, ‘that would be a disaster.'”  (August 7, 2006)

Another leaked Embassy Beirut cable: “Asking that his comments be kept close-hold, Saad Hariri whispered that, ‘We need to remove Lahoud, (LAF commander Michel) Sleiman, and (Head of the G2 army intelligence) George Khoury. They are in bed with Syria. They are in bed with Hezbollah.’ While Hariri hopes to eventually recruit Nabih Berri’s critical support to achieve this, he asked that international pressure on Iran and Syria continues unabated.” (August 12, 2006)

This close coordination with Israel during its July 2006 War on Lebanon, which slaughtered more than 1,400 and wounded thousands, represented a rogue US government view of “noninterference in the internal affairs of Lebanon.”  These strategy sessions,  and a long list of other actions by some claiming to represent the American people in Lebanon  has raised serious questions about the diplomatic status of Embassy Beirut and whether Embassy Beirut serves the American people or Israel.  According to Lebanese Human Rights Ambassador Ali Khalil, “Israel has an Embassy in Lebanon representing its interests.  The American people do not.”

Yet another serious allegation that the Feltman team corrupted the Special Tribunal of Lebanon (STL) has been leveled by As Safir, a Lebanese daily, in its March 23 edition. According to its investigative report, the US sought to use the indictment of the STL to back Caretaker Premier Saad Hariri after his government was toppled by the Hezbollah-led alliance, and to bring Hariri back to power while sidelining Hezbollah. The US plan was to have the STL issue the indictment after STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare filed an amended indictment earlier in the month for confirmation by pre-trial judge Danial Fransen. But developments in the Arab world, including the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime “thwarted the US plan to issue the indictment as a prelude to a change in the political balance of power in Lebanon with Feltman’s team concluding that the release of the indictment at this stage would have made it ineffective amid the ongoing Arab Awakening turmoil.  Moreover, western diplomats informed March 14 officials that any STL indictment and Lebanon are currently at the bottom of their priority list, hinting that the release of the charges could be delayed for several months.”

If true, this latest US action alone would destroy any remaining STL credibility as such a political corruption fundamentally violates UNSCR 1757.

Perhaps it is the above described US government campaign that is one of the reasons that Hezbollah contacts, in principle, genuinely interested in dialogue, feel the timing is not yet quite right.

Hassan Nassrallah, speaking on March 19 to our neighborhood gathering in support of the Arab Spring Awakening, repeated Hezbollah’s position: “We will have something constructive to talk about and call for normalizing relations with the Americans once the US administration changes its policy on Palestine. We will reevaluate our stance on the United States’ policies when it changes its stance on Palestine.”

One neighbor, a fan of Kenny Rogers, as Jeffrey Feltman is said to be, put it this way to me:  “We in Hezbollah know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. For now Hezbollah best hold our cards.  There will be time enough for talking when the dealings done.”