The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Feltman’s Rules: Go for total victory

In October 2007, US Amb Feltman met with Aoun. In August of 2007, the Bush admin had slapped on EO sanctions aimed at Aoun and his followers (Read here).

Feltman would like us to believe that his hard stick policy of using ONLY constant pressure and force (he rarely conceived of other approaches, it seems, from Wikileaks and public statements and actions) was the best way to approach Ceder Revolution Lebanon.

This approach was singular and a disaster, not least because – unlike in the cold war for example – the US held such a clear preponderance of power in Lebanon that it could well afford to offer – and encourage its local allies to offer – pre-emptive concessions that would significantly undermine it’s opponents’ position over time.

One lesson to be learned from the wiki cable below is that Feltman – we now know for sure – had practically the WHOLE of Lebanon willing to contain Hizbullah in a rational process of gradual integration and disarmament… BUT instead of offering the concessions necessary to get this done, he and the Bush admin stuck to a maximalist position of taking no prisoners…. and seeking total victory.

Feltman sees, below, that the supposed threat of a second government was not credible – the supposed reason for the EO!)… but instead of working this dynamic, and bringing Aoun et al in and closer, he stays the EO and continues to apply pressure and force against Aoun and the other forces that are practically begging for him to lay out a reasonable, semi just roadmap for their re-engagement with the US.

Remember – the 2007 executive order targeting the most popular Christian leader in the middle east STILL STANDS. Historians and students looking at this particular wikileaks documents (and the others) will, I think, be struck for some time to come at how powerful a hand Feltman had – and how poorly he played it in an effort to WIN another MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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¶9. (C) The Ambassador, noting Aoun’s past threats to use “all means” to confront an absolute majority president, asked what Aoun would do. He mumbled, “maybe demonstrate, I don’t know…” Kanaan stepped in, stressing that no one wants a divided government; if we converge, we can break the deadlock. The Ambassador replied that the FPM might have a problem getting Saad Hariri on board, given the perception that Aoun has a problem with the Sunnis, given Aoun’s constant anti-Hariri rhetoric. Aoun agreed, saying this had “tarnished his image,” especially that of an honest broker trying to rein in Hizballah. The Ambassador commented that the opposition’s “tent city” sit-in downtown Beirut only increased the perception that Shia and Christians were teaming up against the Sunni. (Note: Bassil called us the next day to say Hizballah was seriously considering removing the tents this weekend and would announce this at its October 5 Jerusalem Day rally. End note.) ….

 

¶11. (C) Aoun was at pains to be on his best behavior with us. Even though it has been nearly two months since we last visited him, he was all smiles, laughing at jokes and engaging in actual conversation rather than merely offered rehearsed (and often belligerent) talking points. But Aoun appears to be bending in the wind once again. Having licked his finger and held it up to test the current, he has realized that, to maintain any hopes of becoming Lebanon’s best president, it is time once again to change course (or at least appear to be doing so). If that means unloading the burdensome cargo of his erstwhile allies, especially Hizballah, overboard, so be it. Not only he is Aoun opening up to March 14, he is hinting that he may forgo his support for Hizballah’s arms, as outlined in the 2006 MOU and explicitly renounced (at least as long as he sees it to be in his own interest) any talk of participating in a second government. End comment. FELTMAN

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

October 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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