Lebanon Must be put on the Middle East Road Map
By: Charbel Khouri - UALM

With war on Iraq looming, it is unlikely that the Middle East will come out of this conflict in the same shape it entered. Top officials in the Bush administration have long been hinting at a 'reshaping' of the Middle East. While these officials have not been specific on how they plan on going about reshaping this troubled part of the world, but one thing is certain and that is, that change is imminent. In a recent interview, Richard Perle, who chairs the Defence Policy Board, and is one of the key hands in shaping President George W. Bush's global strategy, stated that "….Change is needed in these three countries Syria, Iran and Libya…" This statement is encouraging and is surely a step forward in the fight against terrorism.

After the events of September 11, it is clear that American foreign policy is shifting. Previous American Administrations have had a policy of appeasement. While this policy helped provide a short term solution to American interests, it has become a liability and has proven to be a calamity. A good case in point is Lebanon and the subsequent Syrian occupation of its smaller neighbour. Syria has long been a terrorist state, which harbours and supports groups who are hostile to U.S and Western interests, in spite of this Syria was given the blessing by the U.S and other world powers to conquer Lebanon. Keeping in mind Syria's role in terrorism against American military and civilian installations in Lebanon, The American decision to allow a complete takeover of Lebanon was puzzling to say the least.

The policies of the 1990's which saw Lebanon sacrificed to Syria have been shelved to cater for new policies which have come about as a result of the real threat of terrorism. The Bush Administration has announced a new policy, it is called the Middle East Road map, and it includes plans for a Palestinian State by 2005, while this initiative is applauded it can be safely said that another issue must be solved before a comprehensive peace in the Middle East is achieved. This issue is the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

27 years of Syrian control of Lebanon, has turned Lebanon from the 'Paris of Middle East' to a breeding ground for fundamentalists and terrorists. Lebanon has been used by the Syria and Iran to wage a proxy war on Israel. Also, pro-Syrian terrorist and fundamentalist groups have established training camps in Lebanon's Bekka Valley with the help of Syria. These groups such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) have been attributed to countless acts of violence and terror, not only in Lebanon but around the world. They also openly call for the 'Death and destruction of America'.

In a recent lecture at The Foundation for the Defence of Democracies in Washington DC, on the 7th of March, 2003 exiled Lebanese Prime Minister General Michel Aoun stated that "…If we are to effectively fight terrorism, we have to understand that it is inseparable from the regimes that harbor it. Terrorism is an internal safety valve for these regimes and a key instrument of their foreign policy applied as blackmail to others. Therefore, the eradication of terrorism must by necessity begin with the toppling of non-democratic regimes that teach people to hate and kill and that push people to acts of suicide…."

For the campaign on terror to succeed the U.S Government must heed the advice of General Aoun, who knows only to well the affects of terrorism and the destruction it causes. The only prospect for a just peace in the Middle East is for the U.S to use its clout and free Lebanon from the chains of the Syrian oppressor. A free Lebanon will be more beneficial to the U.S than a Lebanon who is controlled by a violent dictatorial regime. An independent Lebanon can provide a secure border with Israel; it too can eradicate all terrorist groups who at the moment are controlled by Syria. Only a free and strong Lebanon can help restore peace and security in the Middle East.