October 18, 2007

U.S. Air Base in Lebanon

A reader sent this story along, which Abu Muqawama had seen in as-Safir, a decidedly anti-U.S. (Angry Arab prefers "independent, leftist") newspaper, today.* (Arabic) The following translation is courtesy of Mideastwire.com:

...it was learned that the draft for the military treaty between Lebanon and the Pentagon notes the formation of joint Lebanese-American military and intelligence committees as well as coordination and supervision committees. The treaty also entails the establishment of land, aerial, and naval training centers. It specifies the location of land bases in the Arz mountain, northern Lebanon, and Ba'lbek, and in Al-Damur. The aerial bases are to be located in the military airport in Riyaq while the naval base is to be established in Tripoli and Nahr Al-Barid…

Does Abu Muqawama think this is true? In a word, no. There are two air strips to the north and south of Tripoli that might be of some use for evacuations if the airport in Beirut was shut down, but that's about it. Is the U.S. Air Force going to establish a massive base in Lebanon? Are you f***ing kidding me? Yeah, tell the U.S. Marine Corps they're being sent into Lebanon (again) and watch for their reaction. Anyway, this news item is getting a lot of play by the media with anti-U.S. editorial slants in Lebanon. The first link was to the story on the al-Manar website, for example. (al-Manar is Hizbollah's TV station.) Calm down, everybody. (At least until the BBC reports it.)

*Just because Abu Muqawama considers as-Safir to have an anti-U.S. slant doesn't mean he doesn't read it -- or that others don't consider it Beirut's best newspaper, which many do.

UPDATE: Okay, the IHT is now covering as-Safir's claims. Abu Muqawama never thought he would agree with Ahmed Fatfat, but he does in this instance. The U.S. aid is all about building up Lebanon's Army, which is not a recent development, even if it has been a more pressing concern after the fiasco at Nahr al-Bared. The No. 1 U.S. priority in Lebanon since the end of the Civil War has been to strengthen and develop the Lebanese Army. And if you don't believe Abu Muqawama, follow the money. Look where U.S. aid has gone since 1990. Does the U.S. hope the Lebanese Army will one day be strong enough to render militias (read: Hizbollah) irrelevant? Yes. But they also want a capable force that can deal with the internal threats like militant groups in the Palestinian camps. This whole nonsense about countering Russia seems silly: the U.S. already has bases in Turkey (a NATO member state), the British have bases in Cyprus, and Israel is allied with both of them. Why would the U.S. need to build a base in Lebanon?