Hezbollah MP Mustafa Ali al-Husayn last weekend warned that a planned US military base would not be safe as the Lebanon ‘would not allow any occupation of its territories’.
Speaking on pro-Hezbollah Al-Manar Television, al-Husayn warned the Lebanese government of prime minister Siniora and the Americans against turning Al-Qulay’at Airport into a military base.
Al-Husayn said: ‘We hear that this government has cancelled this project; namely, Martyr Rene Mu’awwad’s Airport with a view to presenting it to the United States of America, which supports the Zionist entity, as a base for its air forces.’
The MP added that the move is aimed at ‘undermining the Arab nation and its economy.’
He went on to say: ‘We tell them (the Americans) that this base will not be secure in this honourable country. This base will only be sketches on their papers.’
He noted that the Americans ‘are under delusion’ if they think that Lebanon will be governed by other than the Lebanese people.
Al-Husayn further said: ‘We warn the Americans, because their return to Lebanon would be a terrible mistake, and they would pay a heavy price.
‘They dealt with Lebanon in the past, and they departed after they learned a lesson in Beirut that they will never forget.
‘Therefore, we tell them that Lebanon of today is much stronger than that of the past.
‘Moreover, Lebanon will never allow any occupation of this blessed land.’
Hezbollah and other Lebanese opposition parties said the plan to conclude a US security and military agreement with Lebanon exposes the magnitude of the US scheme that aims at transforming Lebanon into a military base.
The ‘Follow-Up Committee of the Lebanese National Parties, Forces, and Figures of the Lebanese Opposition Forces’ held a meeting to discuss ‘the dangers inherent in a report published in the Al-Safir newspaper regarding meetings that US military officials have held with Fu’ad Siniora, the prime minister of the illegitimate government, the Minister of Defence, and the Army Commander in Chief related to the conclusion of a US military and security contract with Lebanon.’
The contract aims at establishing US military bases in Al-Qulay’at, Al-Qurnah al-Sawda, Dahr al-Baydar, and Al-Damur and cancelling Articles V and VIII from the Lebanese Army’s training manual that includes the political principles that the army uses in its national doctrine.
Article V is related to the distinct fraternal relations with Syria while Article VIII pertains to support for the resistance.
The conferees maintained that ‘this matter is still the subject of arduous efforts to reach while the Lebanese Army Command refuses to accept a change on the army’s doctrine’.
They pointed out that ‘this development exposes the magnitude of the US scheme that aims at transforming Lebanon into a US military base that would be used against Syria and against the resistance in order to protect Israel’.
The conferees praised recent prisoner exchange deal with the Israeli enemy.
They said: ‘This operation represents a fresh victory for the resistance and a reconfirmation of its legitimacy. It also crowns the Israeli defeat in the July 2006 aggression.’
The conferees added: ‘The enemy will not be deterred, give in, or withdraw except by force.
‘This has upset some leaders that are known for their connection to Israel and drove them to describe the operation as international treason.
‘Here lies the importance of the resistance and the need to cling to it and to its weapons.
‘Thus, the conferees congratulate His Eminence Al-Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the resistance, and all the resisting fighters and families of the prisoners and the martyrs for this fresh accomplishment that has been made.’
The conferees felt that ‘the statements made and positions held by some leaders of the (ant-Syrian) 14 February forces demonstrate the degree of their connection to the United States and the US scheme in the region.
‘They also show their continued wagering on obstructing all the solutions to receive external support in order to enable them to complete their control over the country by exploiting the presidential election requirement.
‘Therefore, the national resistance warns these forces about proceeding in these policies and reminds them of their predecessors like the agent Antoine Lahd, the Shah of Iran, and others that were the lackeys of the United States and Israel.’
In this context, the conferees also denounced the recent US Congress’s decision on the presidential requirement ‘and its attempts to put pressure on the United Nations to pressure Syria, Iran, and the opposition to submit to the goals of the Bush Administration to elect a pro-American (Lebanese) president.
‘This exposes the extent of the US intervention in domestic affairs and its attempt to impose its total custodianship on Lebanon.’
Last week’s visit to Lebanon by US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Eric Edelman renewed speculation that Prime Minister Siniora’s government wants to turn the country into a forward base from which the Pentagon can counter resurgent Russian influence in Syria.
According to a report in Beirut’s As-Safir last Thursday, Edelman – who met with Siniora, Defence Minister Elias Murr and Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman during his visit – not only discussed the Lebanese Army’s training and equipment needs but also put forward a draft agreement that would see US naval, air and land bases set up on Lebanese territory.
Information Minister Ghazi Aridi, at a news conference on Thursday evening, categorically denied the article carried in As-Safir.
He claimed: ‘This is an attempt to create a rift between the Lebanese Army and the government by those who stood against the army during the battle for Nahr al-Barid in an attempt to cover up that fact.’
Aridi added that the army and the government are of one mind.
General Suleiman also said that the purported request for US base rights ‘has not been discussed with the Lebanese Army.’
US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman described the As-Safir article as a fabrication and an insult to the Lebanese Army.
He said that what Edelman discussed ‘was our commitment to help Lebanon to build a strong state and a strong army, especially after the great sacrifices this army has made in Nahr al-Bared.’
Speaking after visiting Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar on Thursday, Feltman added: ‘We are working hand in hand with the army commander and the minister of defence to strengthen Lebanon’s defensive capabilities.
‘The Lebanese people, at all levels, expressed a desire to establish a strong state and a strong army capable of defending Lebanon as happened in Nahr al-Bared.’
Feltman said that the US does not want to dictate to Lebanon how to use the financial assistance voted by Congress, but only to listen to the Lebanese Army Command and its officers and the Lebanese civilian leadership to see their needs and vision and how the US can help in that regard.
He said what Edelman suggested was the formation of a committee of Lebanese and US officers to examine these needs.
The As-Safir article, which quoted ‘reliable sources’, said the Americans are also pushing to change the Lebanese Army’s doctrine, specifically articles five and eight of the Army Guidebook, which point to the ‘brotherly ties and special relationship’ the Lebanese Army has with Syria and which stress support for the resistance.
The paper also said US financial aid to the army would nearly double to $500 million.
Currently the US has earmarked $270 million in military assistance to Lebanon.
The article said the planned bases for US land forces include the mountainous Bsharri area in the North, Baalbek and Hermel and the plains of Damour south of Beirut.
The airstrip in Qulay’at would be used by the US Air Force, while the US Navy would operate from two facilities near Tripoli.
The pact would also entail setting up radar stations in Qornet Sawda, Barouk and Dahr al-Baidar, As-Safir said.