Israel Implicitly Threatens to Blitz Damascus if Beirut Falls

Last-minute breaking news:
Instead of traveling to Beirut Thursday, Oct. 7, US diplomat Fred Hof was sent at the last minute to Damascus, arriving that night with strict instructions from President Barack Obama to stay put and make sure President Bashar Assad understands the gravity of the warning he was ordered to convey:
President Obama will hold President Assad personally responsible and accountable for the consequent impact on relations between the two governments if Hizballah is permitted to pursue violence against the state of Lebanon with Iranian or Syrian endorsement.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly notes that extreme diplomatic demarches of this kind are customary only in circumstances in which war appears imminent. End

On July 25, 1990, a week before he invaded Kuwait, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invited the United States Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie to his office. Opinions are divided, especially in America, over what was said in that last encounter between the two governments just one week before Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2. But there is no such uncertainty in the Middle East.
Notwithstanding American denials, even from Glaspie herself, that she gave Saddam the impression the US would not interfere with Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, the "Glaspie Effect" has become a familiar code phrase in the bazaars of the Middle East. It is applied when Washington is perceived to be looking the other way to avoid getting involved in a given issue or conflict. Arab rulers use the phrase when a US administration appears weak or hesitant in conflicts instead of directly intervening to prevent an outbreak of violence.
Last week, the Glaspie Effect was back in high gear.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly Middle East sources report that it came to the fore when Tehran, Damascus and Hizballah understood from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem's conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on September 27 that the Obama administration would not intervene if they used military force to seize control of Beirut and the centers of Lebanese government.

The US request was halfhearted and not taken seriously

The impression was reinforced Friday, October 1 when, at the White House's behest, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams to Lebanese President Gen. Michel Suleiman with a request to cancel or at least postpone the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Beirut on October 13-14.
The Obama administration acted in this matter with great reluctance and only after being urged to do so by Israel. The Americans figured the request was pointless because the Lebanese president lacked the authority to cancel the Ahmadinejad visit and he would have to reject it.
But Israel produced intelligence updates indicating that right after the controversial visit, Hizballah planned to send its gunmen to seize the nuclei of power in Beirut. Hillary Clinton was thus persuaded to send an appeal to the Lebanese president, albeit through a United Nations emissary.
But then she, too, was taken by surprise by the way the Williams turned his mission around.
After hearing the Lebanese president's polite rejection of his request, the UN official decided to prove his evenhandedness by making a call on Iranian Ambassador Qazanfar Roknabadi at the embassy in Beirut.
The Iranian diplomat did not permit this golden opportunity slip. He let Williams come out of the conversation with a statement that acclaimed the Ahmadinejad visit an important event and expressed the hope that it would bear positive fruit for the Iranian and Lebanese nations.

Tehran and Hizballah are sure Washington won't stop them

From this incident, too, Tehran and Hizballah gathered that Washington was halfhearted about the matter. Had the Americans been really keen for the Iranian president's visit to be called off, they would have leaned a lot harder on the Lebanese President, they figured. So the half-measure of sending a UN envoy to Beirut simply confirmed Muallem's impression that the US would content itself with verbally protesting the coming Iranian-Syrian plan for Lebanon – and take it no further.
The Glaspie Effect was taken to be alive and well.
It was explicitly invoked this week by the Lebanese political commentator Ragheda Dergam, known for her excellent sources in Damascus and Beirut, in her column in Dar al-Hayat.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who held the first meeting at this level with her counterpart Walid Muallem, she wrote, put forward the headlines of what she wishes for Lebanese-Syrian relations, yet she seemed as if she was April Glaspie, the US Ambassador to Iraq, during her meeting with then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait – i.e., as if carrying a floating message.
In fact, there are sources that say that the Barack Obama Administration has entered the bazaar of the requirements of stability and wishes to avoid the Special Tribunal issuing formal accusations against members of Hizballah or those who could follow them, from Syria or elsewhere. Indeed, the administration, as it seems, shows its understanding of the requirements of undermining justice instead of undermining stability in a nearly haphazard policy, as it holds no guarantees over the form stability will take after Hizballah and Syria are victorious in annulling the tribunal, and has no idea of the meaning of subjugation and its consequences on the Lebanese and regional scene.

Assad and Ahmadinejad decide to go full steam ahead

While some officials remarked she had it wrong, Iran, Syria and Hizballah acted as though she was spot on.
Sunday, Oct. 3, the day after the above-mentioned Clinton-Muallem meeting, Syrian President Bashar Assad flew to Tehran and, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources, decided with Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to go full steam ahead with their plans for Hizballah to seize control of Lebanon's centers of power. They were agreed that the Americans would not actively interfere with their plans.
They also decided to continue their relentless drive to intimidate the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri by humiliating him and chipping away at his government's legitimacy, so long as he refuses to disband the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon-STL investigating the murder of his father, the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
This drive will continue even if they succeed in making the Hariri government irrelevant and strip it of the powers for governing the country, a situation that would set Beirut up for a putsch. Hizballah would then form a transitional government coalition with its political allies, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Christian ex-general Michel Aoun for ruling the regions dominated by the Hizballah militia. The Hariri government would then be proclaimed illegal.
Assad lost no time in getting down to action. An unidentified Syrian investigative judge was instructed to hand the former Lebanese Internal Security Minister Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed Sunday, Oct. 3 the 33 names of international and Lebanese figures against whom Syria has issued arrest warrants on charges of false testimony and perjury in the Rafiq Hariri murder inquiry. They are also to be handed to Interpol for the execution of international warrants. (Some of the names on the list appear in HOT POINTS below)
This was an unprecedented act of defiance by Damascus against the UN tribunal and unlawful interference with its proceedings – a sign of how far Syria and Iran are prepared to go to derail the Hariri probe.

Israel will react forcefully to Syrian-Hizballah aggression in Beirut

The next step took place Wednesday, Oct. 6: The Syrian chief prosecutor ordered four former heads of Lebanese internal security to appear before him in Damascus and testify against three former Syrian and Lebanese officers alleged to have borne false witness inculpating the Assad regime and Hizballah in the Hariri assassination.
Wednesday, too, Israel found a roundabout way of warning Syria against harming the Hariri government in Beirut: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak released an unusually thick wad of secret government transcripts from the October 1973 Yom Kippur War revealing that Israel had been on the verge of bombing key military and government targets in Damascus. Prime Minister Golda Meir held the military back.
The message from Jerusalem 37 years later was that should Syria support a violent Hizballah takeover of Beirut or disempower the sovereign Hariri government, this time round Damascus might not be so lucky.
When governments including Israel declassify secret historical records of this nature, they normally white out the sections exposing confidential military and intelligence materials. Such data as the detailed plans for bombing the Syrian capital would have been routinely excised.
The decision by Jerusalem to publish the 1973 plans for striking the institutions supporting the Syrian regime and military as well as its missile complex (then only anti-air systems), was a deliberate signal to Bashar Assad.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources say that although the Netanyahu government's warning may appear less than explicit, its message to Syria was loud and clear: Israel is not part of the inertia apparently gripping Washington and will respond directly and forcefully to aggressive Syrian or Hizballah moves in Beirut.
In 1990, the Glaspie Effect led directly to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War in 1991.
In 2010, the same effect generated by Hillary Clinton has brought the Middle East a big step closer to another war.

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