Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Syria, Iran, Influence Lebanon Elections
Thursday, October 25, 2007 2:11 PM
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
Beirut, Lebanon - A U.S. ambassador in Beirut fears the worst for
Lebanon — that elections for a new president will be postponed to allow
time for Iran to place a straw man candidate, or canceled altogether,
causing unrest in the unstable region.
“I am worried for Lebanon,” U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey David Feltman told
a visiting delegation of U.S. Christian leaders in a mountain hideaway
north of Beirut.
Unlike some of the alarmist voices being raised here by Christians and
Muslims alike, Feltman said he was less worried by the prospect of a
civil war, which he doubted would erupt, than by the “missed
opportunity” of the parliament failing to elect a new president.
Straw Man for President
Parliament had been scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to elect a
new president, but the meeting was canceled on Sunday night once it was
clear that no political deal had been cut, well-informed Lebanese
sources told Newsmax in Beirut.
Syria and Iran are hoping to use local proxies to elect a president who
will do their bidding when parliament next meets on Nov. 12.
If that fails, their plan B is to prevent the election altogether, a
move that many prominent Lebanese leaders interviewed this week believe
will demoralize the country and could provoke a new exodus of Lebanese
Top on the Iranian and Syrian agenda is to elect a candidate who will
prevent the conclusions of an international tribunal established to
investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in
February 2005 from being made public.
Initial leaks of those conclusions have suggested substantial evidence
implicating top Syrian government leaders in the plot.
The United States has thrown in its lot with the Cedars Revolution, the
mass movement that coalesced after the Hariri assassination and that
ultimately forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon two months
Known as the March 14 coalition, after the date their mass protests
against the Syrian occupation began, the Cedars Revolution leadership
cut across the traditional political divide, bringing together Muslim
and Christian leaders who had opposed each other in the past.
Walid Jumblatt, a key leader of the Cedars Revolution, told reporters
in Washington, D.C. on Sunday before returning to Lebanon that
Hezbollah also was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Hariri and
other prominent Lebanese leaders.
His statement was immediately criticized by Hezbollah in Beirut, which
called him a “Jewish agent,” a term they applied to Hariri just weeks
before the former prime minister was assassinated.
Feltman has also been tarred with the pro-Israel brush.
A profile of the ambassador that aired on a Lebanese TV station this
past Sunday said he was Jewish, had been stationed in Tel Aviv and
Jerusalem, and was working on behalf of Israel.
The report also said he was close to Richard Perle, a prominent
neo-conservative who is Jewish.
Feltman knew the reporter who did the profile, and laughed it off. “She
said that Jeff Feltman was a Jew, but the real Jeffrey David Feltman
happens to be a Presbyterian from Greenville, Ohio,” he said.
Help for Christians
Former South Carolina Gov. David Beasely, who met with Feltman and with
key leaders in the Lebanese Christian community as part of a
fact-finding mission this week, said the television report on the U.S.
ambassador was not mere yellow journalism.
“We know anecdotally that this is a clear death threat,” Beasely told
Newsmax in Beirut.
Beasley thanked Feltman for the work he and his embassy has been doing
to help the estimated 25,000-50,000 displaced Iraqis now in Lebanon.
Approximately 20 percent of the Iraqis here are Christians, and many
fled after working for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
He contrasted the efforts of the U.S. embassy in Beirut to those that
his fact-finding mission had uncovered in Amman, Jordan, where refugees
universally complained of distant, even arrogant treatment by embassy
officials, especially U.S. consular officers and Jordanian security
staff. “It’s truly refreshing to see a U.S. ambassador who reaches out
to the local community as he is doing,” Beasley stated. “I have met
with U.S. ambassadors all over the world, and this man is a good one.”
Feltman also won praise from local leaders for his forward-leaning role
in helping Lebanese Christians and Muslims find common ground in
opposing the Syrian and Iranian occupation. “Ambassador Feltman is one
of the true heroes of the Cedars Revolution,” said Roger Eddé, a
businessman and prospective presidential candidate.
Feltman’s biggest problem may be in convincing the Cedars Revolution
leaders that the United States will remain committed to a free Lebanon,
as Democrats increase pressure on the Bush administration.
“We have no doubts as to the White House policy toward Lebanon,”
Lebanese forces leader Dr. Samir Geagea told Newsmax in an interview at
his heavily-guarded compound near Bkirké, in the Christian
mountains above Beirut. “But we have doubts as to what he can
accomplish as a lame duck.”
Geagea praised Feltman, and said it had been “a long time since we have
had a U.S. ambassador like this . . . The United States is doing good
these days in Lebanon with the Christians.”
Salim Zeenni, president of the American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in
Beirut, had hearty praise for Feltman: “Ambassador Feltman is one of
the best U.S. ambassadors we have ever had,” he told Newsmax. “You
really feel that he is trying to help us find a way to get out of this
The “situation” that so worries the Lebanese is the steady but covert
return of the Syrians, despite the withdrawal of Syrian troops two
years ago, and the growing presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran
through its proxies, Hezbollah.
Hezbollah front-men are rumored to have spent more than $1 billion over
the past two years to buy up land in the Christian mountains north of
Beirut. The land buy has so alarmed Christian leaders that some have
banded together to raise funds to keep the land in Christian hands.
“If we lose the land, we will have nothing in one hundred years,” said
Robert Kanaan, a board member of the newly-formed Lebanese Christian
The Lebanese are known for their resourcefulness, and their ability to
rebuild after war has destroyed their homes, villages, and cities. But
as they watch the gradual but seemingly relentless expansion of the
Syrian and Iranian grip on their homeland, they are worried as never
“We are sprinters,” Kanaan said. “But the Iranians are
marathon-runners. This is why we are so worried.”
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