The parting of the ways came about in the secret deal French foreign minister Philllippe Douste-Blazy and his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki struck at their meeting in Beirut Monday, July 31. They prevented photographers from recording their meeting.
They agreed that the implementation of UN Security Council 1559 requiring the disarming of Lebanese militias, notably Hizballah, was an internal Lebanese affair and must be left to the internal discourse among Lebanon’s diverse factions.
This formula underwrites the veto Hizballah already holds on government decisions regarding the war. With this accord, the French ditched their partnership with the Bush administration, after working closely together for two years to oust Syria from Lebanon and lay the ground for the Lebanese to hold a free election.
Douste-Blazy and Mottaki made their deal the secret cornerstone of future Franco-Iranian collaboration on Lebanon. The French-Iranian pact allows Tehran and Hizballah to continue to hold the key on the issues of ceasefire and an international force. And, as long as Hizballah is free to decide when and where to open fire, the disarming of its militia becomes a non-option.
The Franco-Iranian maneuver expects to sail through unopposed.
It is more than likely that the majority of UN Security Council members, including the United States, will agree to UNIFIL, whose commander is the French general Alan Pellegrini, deploying along the Lebanese-Israeli border. They are also ready for France to form the bulk of and lead the projected multinational force. Once the French are solidly entrenched in South Lebanon, Paris and Tehran can carve out their spheres of influence in the country. Tehran will get the lion’s share by dint of owning a military arm, Hizballah.
France is thus fully exploiting the Lebanon impasse created by Israel’s failure to achieve the upper hand in three weeks of warfare with Hizballah.
Tehran and Hizballah come out on top of the conflict and of Lebanon’s internal political arena alike.
France jumps into Iran’s anti-American camp
This turnabout, engineered by President Jacques Chirac, takes France into its second great rift with the United States in three years, after adamantly standing against the US-led invasion of Iraq.
By its actions, the French government is telling the Bush administration: We have gone with you hand in hand in formulating Western policy on Iran, Lebanon, Hizballah and Syria since mid-February 2005, when the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated.
We have even lined up with the American position on the Iranian nuclear issue.
But after judging that your policies are going nowhere, we regret to inform you that the time has come for a parting of the ways. Paris is now quitting the US-European camp against Iran and jumping over to the Iranian camp opposed to America.
The French about-turn has already produced its first result. Hizballah Thursday, August 1, declared its terms for a ceasefire and an international force – every single Israeli soldier must first depart Lebanon. In other words, a ceasefire is not contingent on the deployment of an international force in Lebanon, or even on its mandate from the UN Security Council, but solely on Hizballah’s will.
In these circumstances, it is most probable that the governments which have offered to send troops to the new multinational force, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, China, Holland and Germany, will back down. None will want to place its men in the crossfire between Israel and Hizballah.
The discussions between the American and French UN delegates on the text for a Security Council resolution on Lebanon are beginning to look unrealistic. They may agree to submit two separate drafts for resolving the Lebanon crisis. One would call for an immediate cession of hostilities and enumerate the components of a long-term solution, while the second would formulate the mandate awarded the multinational force, its powers and methods of operation. However, by refusing to be bound by any resolutions at all, Hizballah kills every initiative cold.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Beirut sources report that no one in Lebanon is prepared to go up against Hassan Nasrallah. By standing up to the IDF for three weeks and keeping up a barrage of up to 200 rockets a day against Israel, Hizballah is being held up as the victor and the various factions are lining up behind him.
The world body cannot treat today’s Lebanon the way it treated the rogue governments of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Yugoslavia over Kosovo, and impose an international force on the Beirut government until it changes its policies. If the Fouad Siniora administration forms a solid front with its two Hizballah cabinet members, the Security Council will have no option but to back off, especially when it is backed by one of its permanent members with the right of veto.
Paris maneuvers to snatch Lebanon crisis from Washington
Late Thursday, August 3, France put forward a draft resolution for the Security Council, which incorporated the following three key elements:
An immediate cessation of hostilities.
The release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
The expansion of UNIFIL, as the first step towards establishing a multinational force. That force will be deployed only after a full ceasefire is implemented, lest its personnel come under fire.
The French text urges the expansion of UNIFIL to execute humanitarian duties in advance of the deployment of the main force.
The United States and Israel oppose this clause. Israeli officials have told colleagues at UN headquarters that UNIFIL has never been effective in its 28 years of policing South Lebanon and expanding it is pointless.
France refused to attend a meeting of the UN peacekeeping forces department Thursday and the session was called off for the third time without scheduling a new date.
The French are playing for time. They have no real idea how their resolution can be implemented. Hizballah, backed by Tehran, rejects all its clauses. Paris’s next move is to offer to hold negotiations with Iran and Hizballah through the Lebanese government for the purpose of persuading them to accept the French resolution.
Nothing will be said, but the negotiations will be based on the Douste-Blazy-Mottaki pact. In this way, France will snatch the Lebanon case as well as the Syrian issue out of America’s grasp.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, reputed for his anti-American comments, declared Wednesday in an interview that after the US and Britain had failed in Iraq, they were not entitled to take charge of the Lebanon crisis.
That perception, combined with Israel’s falling short of military success in Lebanon, has cut the ground out from under the Bush administration. Israel is left clutching thin air.