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Could U.S. Troops End Up in Lebanon?
There’s
Saturday, July 29,2006 00:00
by Ken Silverstein, Harper’s Magazine
The officer, who had broad experience in the Middle East while at the CIA, noted that NATO and European countries, including England, have made clear that they are either unwilling or extremely reluctant to participate in an international force. Given other nations’ lack of commitment, any “robust” force—between 10,000 and 30,000 troops, according to estimates being discussed in the media—would by definition require major U.S. participation. According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a “multinational” deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.
The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. “They are saying ’What the f***?’” he told me. “Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don’t like it because we’re already way overstretched.”
Sending American soldiers is at this point simply an option and by is no means a certainty, but if the administration decides to move forward, my source said, “It would be viewed in the Arab world as the United States picking up a combat role on behalf of Israel.” And as Mahan Abedin, Director of Research at the Centre for the Study Of Terrorism in London, noted in an email he sent me yesterday, any deployment of peacekeepers to southern Lebanon “would require the acquiescence of Hezbollah. There are no indications [that] this will be forthcoming, not least because such a force could potentially lay the groundwork for Hezbollah’s disarmament.”
The former CIA officer said that the Bush Administration seems not to understand Hezbollah’s deep roots and broad support among Lebanon’s Shiites, the country’s largest single ethnic bloc. “A U.S. force is going to end up making, not keeping, peace with Hezbollah. Once you start fighting in a place like that you’re basically at war with the Shiite population. That means that our soldiers are going to be getting shot at by Hezbollah. This would be a sheer disaster for us.”
The scenario of an American deployment appears to come straight out of the neoconservative playbook: send U.S. forces into the Middle East, regardless of what our own military leaders suggest, in order to “stabilize” the region. The chances of success, as we have seen in Iraq, are remote. So what should be done? My source said the situation is so volatile at the moment that the only smart policy is to get an immediate ceasefire and worry about the terms of a lasting truce afterwards.

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