Qatar Negotiations | U.S. on Hezbollah


    Broadcasts from Beirut IV: An interview with journalist Anthony Shadid.


    Photo: Carole Kerbage. Lebanese military tank on Beirut street May 2008.

A Tadamon! interview project aiming to highlight progressive voices from the ground in Lebanon on the ongoing conflict, voices independent from major political parties…

As negotiations in Doha, Qatar continue between national political leaders in an effort to reach a settlement to the contemporary internal conflict in Lebanon, Tadamon!’s Ola Hajar spoke with veteran journalist Anthony Shadid. This interview focuses on the impacts of U.S.-driven policies in the Middle East within the context of the ‘war on terror’ and their specific impacts on Lebanon, also this interview focuses the U.S. position towards Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese politics.

As an internationally known and award winning reporter Anthony Shadid, of Lebanese origin and a journalist from the Washignton Post, reported and witnessed the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon and reported on the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Shadid won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and is the author of Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War a book that outlines the human impact to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Ola Hajar: Can you offer your comments on the current situation in Lebanon and the political negotiations taking place in Qatar?

Anthony Shadid: Lebanon’s current crisis connects not only to the war in 2006 but also dates back to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Political turmoil in Lebanon is always complicated, as the turmoil or the national crisis is so heavily linked to powers outside the country including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and France.

Concerning the current negotiations taking place in Doha, Qatar, it’s possible that all the parties involved will arrive at a temporary agreement, however for a more lasting agreement it’s critical to have an international consensus, meaning a deal between the U.S. on one side, then Iran and Syria on the other. A major or long term deal involving these powers doesn’t seem to be possible at this point.

Ola Hajar: Concerning the current negotiations in Qatar and also how people in Lebanon are feeling about these negotiations. Are you optimistic for the future after these negotiations?

Anthony Shadid: Have to say that there is a feeling of pessimism concerning the current negotiations, a feeling that the conflict wont be seriously resolved anytime soon. A serious political struggle is taking place in Lebanon between the opposition and forces that are aligned to the government. Also a sectarian struggle is playing out, as the Shi’ite community in Lebanon struggles to have a more equitable share in power. Also this struggle in Lebanon is taking place within a region that has become absolutely wreaked by policies from the U.S. Administration throughout the past eight years. Lebanon in a sense is a victim to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

In Lebanon, often conversations take place that talk about the Iraqization of Lebanon. In Iraq covering the realities in that country for a few years, people would often talk — after the U.S. invasion — about the Lebanonization of Iraq. Now in Lebanon we are seeing identities becoming more sectarian, a process that is very negative, process that is propelled by policies imposed by the U.S. on the region.

Ola Hajar: Today in Al-Akhbar Nizar Aboud wrote an article that quoted a U.S. diplomat from New York that the negotiations in Doha wont lead to any solution regarding the Lebanese conflict because currently the U.S. government isn’t concerned with pushing a long term solution in Lebanon, playing the conflict while waiting for an opportunity to hit Iran. Commentary from this article also explains that the recent events in Lebanon were a trap set by the Lebanese government and the U.S. government in order to alter the perception towards Hezbollah in Lebanon, from a resistance movement to a bad militia. Can you comment on this article.

Anthony Shadid: It’s an interesting point. On the first point it’s very possible, although truly knowing U.S. policy on Lebanon isn’t possible, as clearly the U.S. doesn’t want to see a Lebanese government in which Hezbollah takes part. Hezbollah with it’s allies having veto power over the government isn’t something that the U.S. would like to see in Lebanon. Does the U.S. prefer to have Lebanon remain in this situation, in a stalemate, without Hezbollah having a major share in power; it’s very possible and actually likely.

On the U.S. and Iran, clearly there isn’t an international consensus on Lebanon, as future U.S. policy towards Iran is unclear, will there be a war, will there be a negotiated settlement? This is an open question. As long as this open question exists, as long as the conflict between the U.S. and Iran in the Middle East region continues, a conflict often played out by proxy wars, including one which is taking place in Lebanon, a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon wont happen.

Negotiations on Lebanon in Qatar might lead to a truce however a more lasting settlement and more permanent settlement isn’t possible as long as a broader regional conflict continues, as long as the future between Iran and the U.S. is unclear.

Ola Hajar: Now does this mean that the U.S. isn’t interested in a resolution to the current conflict in Lebanon?

Anthony Shadid: It’s clear that the U.S. doesn’t want to see Hezbollah taking it’s share of power in Lebanon today, as the U.S. is following it’s own interests in the region not the interests of the people in Lebanon. It’s not possible to disenfranchise Lebanon’s Shi’ite community and have a stable situation, as this is the single largest group in the country. This is critical to understand.

U.S. interest in Lebanon is defined by keeping Hezbollah on the fringes of the government, on the fringes of the political system and not taking a direct or equitable share in power.

Broadcasts from Beirut is broadcast in audio format on CKUT Radio in Montreal…

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