U.S. Sprouting Interest In Shebaa Farms?
By Daily Star
August 02, 2005

In a news analysis of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit to Lebanon, Zeina Abu Rizk writes in the Daily Star that one of the most important elements of her trip was the revelation that the U.S. is committed to convincing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw Israel from Shebaa Farms. Members of the American delegation traveling with Rice said she raised the issue with Sharon just before going to Beirut. The same sources said that Washington considers an Israeli pullout from Shebaa Farms as an increasingly urgent matter, although the U.S. has not gotten a positive reaction from the Israeli leader to date. Abu Rizk noted, "Washington may believe that an Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa Farms would leave the Lebanese authorities with no excuse to avoid deploying the Lebanese Army at the frontier; eventually, such a step would also reduce the reasons for Hezbollah's existence as an armed faction and would facilitate the integration of the Lebanese resistance into the military."

There is a strong belief within the circles of Beirut MP Saad Hariri that the Americans have actually adopted the French position on the issue, which is, as reportedly put by Hariri himself, "to have the Lebanese solve the Hezbollah question at their own pace," on the basis of a constructive internal dialogue that would avoid clashes among the Lebanese. Among Hariri's associates, a belief prevails that the Americans' unsuccessful experience in Iraq may have convinced the U.S. that a secure and stable Lebanon in which Hezbollah remains armed, yet "inactive"—at least temporarily—is preferable to an unsafe and chaotic Lebanon that could result from the forcible disarming of Hezbollah now. As put by Hariri's visitors, the head of the Future Movement believes there are two main reasons for the growing U.S. interest in Lebanon: first, using Lebanon to pressure Syria; and second, furthering America's agenda of promoting democracy in the Middle East.