Sunday, February 01, 2004

Cedars of Lebanon 2

In late January, the Belmont Club linked to a Jerusalem Post article reporting an alleged US plan to deploy Special Forces in the Bekaa Valley. A number of reports suggesting that the US was going to launch an offensive on the Pakistani-Afghan border have arisen in the interim. Daniel Drezner, for example, cited the Chicago Tribune as saying:

The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said. ...As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.

It would be very surprising if both took place simultaneously, considering the demands on Special Forces manpower. But now, the Lebanon issue has cropped up again. The Israeli Foreign Minister has announced a campaign to end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told cabinet ministers Sunday that his ministry had launched a "campaign" aimed at ousting Syria from Lebanon. Shalom, who was speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, said Syria was an occupying power in Lebanon and that there were currently some one million Syrians in Lebanon. Shalom also called on the international community to stop ignoring Syria's control of Lebanon.

Shalom said he recently raised the issue in meetings with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, in Davos, Switzerland, and with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was in Israel last week. The foreign minister said he planned to raise the issue in all his meetings with heads of state, and that Israel's diplomatic representatives abroad had been instructed to bring the issue to the attention of officials in the countries in which they were serving.

Israel is highly unlikely to achieve the expulsion of Syria through diplomatic means alone, especially if this relies heavily on the United Nations. The only plausible reason for this very public diplomatic campaign is to provide support for a more decisive means. That implies that Israel is either contemplating militarily expelling Syria or is rattling their cage -- that or setting the stage for an American operation in the Bekaa. Either way, both developments have served notice that the military phase of the Global War on Terror is not yet over, election year or not. Recent terrorist attempts to insert a biological weapon, or some other device on inbound commercial airline flights to the United States may in fact suggest that the main event has just begun.