debkafile Exclusive: Paris exploits appeal from kidnapped Israeli soldiers’ families to launch new Middle East initiative based on promoting Hizba
Middle East sources highlighted to debkafile Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s praise for French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner as “a clever man” in the speech he aired by the Arabic TV al Jazeera network Monday night, July 23.
Kouchner commented last week after the the “Lebanese reconciliation” meeting President Nicolas Sarkozy convened near Paris that he believed Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were alive. Earlier, their families while appealing for French help to release the two kidnapped soldiers, voiced surprise at the presence of Hizballah delegates, condemned by Europe as a terrorist group, at the Lebanese meeting.
debkafile‘s sources note that the new French administration has indeed earned praise from the Hizballah’s leader and his Syrian and Iranian patrons. Paris cleverly saw its chance to ride into center stage of Lebanese politics on the back of the desperate Israeli appeal. The former French ambassador to Damascus, Jean-Claude Cousseran, is in and out of Beirut these days and sees his Hizballah contacts almost daily. But he has not lifted a finger – even to find out if the two missing soldiers missing for a year are alive.
Instead, France has seized the initiative for promoting national reconciliation in Lebanon and putting a foot through the Middle East door, by bargaining to gain the pro-Syrian Hizballah veto powers in the Siniora government. This deal may be clinched during the French foreign minister’s visit to Beirut next Saturday, July 28.
Israeli security officials say that while Iran and Syria constantly enhance Hizballah’s military capabilities, the French are lending Nasrallah’s organization a political and diplomatic lift, regardless of Hizballah’s brazen violation of every UN Security Council resolution, including the injunction to release the abducted Israeli soldiers.
These Israeli officials are extremely critical of prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni for failing to step in and fight this process.
Monday, Israeli defense officials accused Syria and continuing to send arms to Hizballah with the full cooperation of the Lebanese army and behind the backs of the UN police force.
According to debkafile‘s information, UNIFIL is not exactly the innocent dupe in this matter. Since six Spanish peacekeepers were killed in a bomb blast in South Lebanon on June 24, the commanders of all the force’s contingents, including France, followed the Spanish lead in establishing ties of coexistence with Hizballah accompanied by intelligence and operational services.
Nasrallah’s men were given to understand a blind eye would greet the forbidden movement of weapons and armed personnel into the South. The UN peacekeeping units have switched to acting in the interests their own governments and their personal safety rather than upholding their mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1701. As a result, the UN policing operation in South Lebanon has become a charade.