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January 16, 2008
Lebanese Car Bomb Attack a Warning to US
David Schenker of Counterterrorism Blog highlights the barely reported car bomb attack on a US diplomoatic convoy that killed three Lebanese civilians and injured dozens more yesterday.
Schenker can't believe that the perpetrators of the attack wouldn't have known that a second convoy was carrying departing Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Hence, Schenker believes that the bombing was a warning:
Yesterday’s car bomb attack on a US embassy convoy in Beirut comes just days before US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman returns to Washington. The bomb, which killed three Lebanese civilians and injured dozens—purportedly at least one of whom was a host country national employee of the embassy—appears to have been intended for the Ambassador. Feldman is leaving after a job well done. He had an impossible task and performed it with skill and dedication. Supporting the government of Prime Minister Siniora without being too much in the foreground was a balancing act Ambasador Feltman did as well as perhaps it could have been done.
According to press reports, the carbomb hit the wrong group of cars: Ambassador Feltman was traveling in another convoy and escaped injury. Given the operational capabilities and extensive intelligence networks of the groups that most likely perpetrated this outrage (i.e., Hizballah, Syria, Fatah al Islam) it’s difficult to imagine that this was a failed operation.
An alternative and perhaps more convincing explanation is that this attack intentionally missed the Ambassador. In this context, the bombing was intended as a message to Ambassador Feltman—who was a key driver of the robust US policy in Lebanon backing the democratically-elected anti-Syrian March 14th Government—and his successor, Ambassador Sison, who was confirmed by Congress last week and heads out to Beirut in February. Quite simply, this message is: “stay out of internal Lebanese politics.”
Lebanon is a dangerous place for both the US and the international community. Schenker believes that expediting the International Tribunal to try the killers of Rafiq Hariri might alter the dynamic in Lebanon that currently favors Syria and her surrogates in Hezb'allah. As it stands, the Hezb'allah led opposition has put a roadblock in front of the universal choice for President General Michel Sulieman. They are demanding the same thing they have been demanding for more than a year; veto power over majority decisions in the cabinet. The government will not relent and Hezb'allah refuses to make a deal on the choice of president until the issue is settled.
But stalemate favors the Syrian-backed opposition. Lebanon is currently a sectarian powder keg that could explode after the next high profile assassination. No one knows who the gangster Assad has fingered next for death. But all are sure that it is a foregone conclusion that the criminal enterprise that masquarades as the nation of Syria will be behind it.