Monday, October 22, 2007

HizbAllah Blasts US Base Plans

HizbAllah would regard the possible building of a U.S. military base in Lebanon a "hostile act" against the country, a Lebanese newspaper reported Monday.
"We consider any American base in Lebanon a hostile act," the Lebanese daily Ad Diyar quoted Sheik Naim Kassem, deputy HizbAllah leader, as saying.

The warning came several days after a visit to Beirut by U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Eric Edelman, where he announced Washington's plans to establish a strategic partnership with the Lebanese military.

Although Edelman made no mention of the construction of a U.S. military base, HizbAllah viewed his remarks as "hidden confirmation" of earlier reports circling in the Lebanese opposition media.

Lebanese Al Safir newspaper said last week that the U.S. official discussed with Lebanese Prime Minister, Fuad Siniora, the possibility of increasing U.S. military aid to the country to $1 billion, in exchange for the use of military bases and installations in Lebanon.

Following last year's conflict between HizbAllah and Israel, the United States has already increased its military assistance to Lebanon five-fold to $270 million in 2007.

HizbAllah, which is on the U.S. terrorist list, [although not on European or other major nations' lists of terror organizations] claims that Washington has serious plans to turn Lebanon into its new outpost in the Middle East and "apply pressure on regional and international forces that refuse to obey its orders and do not follow its policies."
DemocracyNow! also reported the U.S. aims to build military bases in Lebanon.
The Lebanese newspaper Al Safir has revealed the U.S. wants to expand its ties to the Lebanese military by building a string of military bases inside Lebanon. According to the report the U.S. wants to build three military bases, use two Lebanese naval bases near Tripoli and build three new radar stations. A senior Pentagon official admitted last week the U.S. wants to develop what he called a strategic partnership with the Lebanese army. Vice President, Dick Cheney addressed the situation in Lebanon on Sunday.
Dick Cheney: "Through bribery and intimidation, Syria and its agents are attempting to prevent the democratic majority in Lebanon from electing a truly independent president. Lebanon has the right to conduct the upcoming elections free of any foreign interference. The United States will work, with free-Lebanon's other friends and allies to preserve Lebanon's hard won independence, and to defeat the forces of extremism and terror, that threaten not only that region, but U.S.-allied countries across the wider region."
Left: U.S. Marines and an Italian soldier, right, dig through the debris at battalion headquarters in Beirut after the bombing.

The last time the US had a sizable force in Lebanon was in 1983. The US entered Lebanon on the heels of an ongoing Israeli invasion - there were two United States targets hit in Beirut, Lebanon that year. The first target, on April 18, was the U.S. embassy, where 63 people, including 17 Americans, were killed.

Half a year later, on October 23, [whose anniversary is tomorrow] the barracks that housed members of an international peacekeeping force were hit. Killed in this second attack were 242 U.S. Marines, along with 58 French troops in a separate target. Until September 11, 2001, the October 1983 incident would remain the most devastating attack on US assets, and remains the bloodiest single assault on American forces outside of the United States. The group Islamic Jihad, affiliated with HizbAllah was fingered by US authorities and ultimately Iran, were initially, deemed responsible for both attacks. However, neither HizbAllah nor, Iran have claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Left: The explosion of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, created a large cloud of smoke that was visible from miles away.

However, it has been suggested by some analysts that the modus operandi of those attacks suit the tactics used by al-Qu'aeda.

The April attack, along with the simultaneous bombings on U.S. and French barracks in October, were all suicide bombings using vehicles laden with explosives. In the first bombing, the vehicle was a van that had reportedly been stolen from the embassy in June of the preceding year. At lunchtime on April 18, it slammed into the side of the seven-story building, and the driver detonated 2,000 pounds of explosives. The blast tore away the front portion of the building, leaving a site that looked much as the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after that bombing.

Left: The aftermath of the US Embassy a few days after the bomb attack in 1983.

Among the dead were the entire U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Middle East contingent, several State department officials (including three USAID employees), several U.S. Army trainers and a Marine embassy guard, and journalist Janet Lee Stevens.

In the October 23 attacks, two targets were simultaneously, struck, a maneuver that would be allegedly, replicated by al-Qu'aeda in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa 15 years later.

The attack occurred on a Sunday morning at 6:22 a.m. local time, when a large Mercedes truck burst through the barrier surrounding the Marine compound and slammed into the first floor of the four-story concrete building. The driver then detonated his 12,000-pound bomb. At almost the same moment, a 400-pound bomb carried by a pickup truck exploded outside the nine-story French barracks.

The attack occurred just as the United States launched its first significant military operation since the end of the Vietnam War 10 years earlier. The only other overt military incursion was the relatively facile and effective assault on Grenada. A small Caribbean island that had fallen under the control of a leftist regime where Cuba sent engineers and doctors. Due to the sensitive nature of the geopolitical relationship in Lebanon (sic Israel) at that time, the United States took no significant overt retaliatory action against perceived or real culprits.

The US said it did not have "actual knowledge of who did the bombing," but suspected HizbAllah supported by Iran and Syria. A military plan was assembled to attack the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards were training HizbAllah cadres, but the attack was not launched. Instead, the US withdrew its Marines four months later, the attack not avenged.

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