Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 25, 2007

Nahr al-Bared and a New U.S. Air Base

About the ongoing shelling of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Franklin Lamb has a very recommendable report at Counterpunch: Inside Nahr al-Bared and Bedawi Refugee Camps.

As he explains the U.S. is heavily involved via the 'Welch Club.' It is now even delivering three plane-loads of ammunition to the Lebanese Army so the slaughter can continue.

(This bears the question how much ammunition has already been expanded on a small piece of land with a very high density population. The official death count of some 25 seems unbelievable low.)

Please read the Lamb piece. It explains a lot.

Still there is one big issue Lamb misses.

Two years ago Wayne Madsen reported that the U.S. would like to use a Lebanese air base in north Lebanon for its own purpose. I take Madsen stuff with quite a load of salt. But here the State Department felt obliged to deny the report. That indeed does lift its credibility.

There is a logical connection between that report/denial and the shelling of Nahr al-Bared.

The U.S. has one important regional air hub in the western Middle East/East Mediterranean area. It is Incirlik air base in Turkey (zoom in and count the planes and shelters - it's a huge base.)

But the Turkish-Kurdish conflict is heating up. The US written Iraqi constitution calls for a local public referendum on Kirkuk joining the Kurdish administrated part of northern Iraq. The oil revenue from Kirkuk would give the Iraqi Kurds the economical base to declare independence. That again would be a certain casus belli for Turkey as the Kurdish people within Turkey would try to seperate and join the new state of Kurdistan.

When Turkey invades north Iraq to prevent such outcome, the conflict can be expected to escalate to a point where Turkey finally turns decisively against the U.S. for its support of the Kurds. Further U.S. access to Incirlik would certainly be denied.

Incirlik is important, but in jeopardy. Where is the alternative?

If not building totally from scratch (where?), the only possible alternative position for an Incirlik like Western ME/Eastern Med hub is in north Lebanon at the Rene Mouawad Air Base some 15 miles north of Tripoli. That base is currently deserted as the Lebanese Air Force does not have planes anymore but ony a few helicopters.

But that base does have a quite decent paved runway of 3000 meters (9843 feet) length and enough space around to extend the place. Strategically it would be a perfect location for a new U.S. air base.

Near the Syrian border it allows for attacks against Syria without any warning time. Flying a bit south and then through Israeli and Jordan air space it is convinient for easy regional short hops into Iraq.

As a strategic planner looking for a new regional lily pad, I would certainly put some serious thought into this option.

But then I would find a flaw.

A big airbase should be connected by decent roads to a harbor. Most of the stuff that is needed to build and to run it should come from the States by ships and trucks - not by air.

In the 1990s the Rene Mouawad Air Base was partly in civilian use with the international aviation code OLKA as a local airport for Tripoli. That city is some 15 miles south of the air base.

Tripoli is also the nearest harbor to the air base and the only larger one in north Lebanon. It even has potential to be expanded.

Now check the Wikipedia map of the Nahr al-Bareb refugee camp and take a look at the Google satellite picture of that camp. The camp is situated at the Lebanese meditarian coast some 10 miles north of Tripoli. The coastal road connecting Tripoli and the Rene Mouawad Air Base runs right through the middle of the camp.

If you move the sat picture of the camp further up north along the mediterian coast you can see the landing strip of the Rene Mouawad Air Base.

Could a U.S. airbase be supplied when its logistical life line runs right through a Palestinian refugee camp of some 45,000 mostly young and very poor people?

Probably not without very high costs of lives and money.

Which makes attempts to move the refugee camp (i.e. cleanse it) a quite plausible endevour.

Posted by b on May 25, 2007 at 20:33 UTC | Permalink


b, check your inbox.

good post. jeez, it will never end

Posted by: annie | May 25 2007 22:38 utc | 1

I think they've already established the bases they want. In a little place called Iraq. I truly believe that is why there has never been a withdrawl plan, because they have no intention of EVER leaving Iraq.

Posted by: mikefromtexas | May 26 2007 0:40 utc | 2

Ah! Very good job of connecting the dots! And badger has a new post that says suddenly everyone including the Saudis are very gung ho against the Fatah al Islam, which suggests more attacks on Nahr al Bared.

But can they pull it off, can they really keep pounding the camp, especially now that Hizbullah is finally speaking up on the refugees' behalf?

The United States delivered plane loads of ammunition to Beirut yesterday as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned the Lebanese government against storming of a Palestinian refugee camp.
“The Nahr Al-Bared camp and Palestinian civilians are a red line. We will not accept or provide cover or be partners in this,” he said in a televised speech, referring to an assault on the camp. There must be a “political, security and judicial settlement that preserves the army’s prestige,” he said.

Posted by: Alamet | May 26 2007 0:55 utc | 3

By the way, Bernhard, your old friend Con Coughlin is at it again...

Why Hizbollah is suddenly ready to share

p.s. How long has he been writing op-eds?

Posted by: Alamet | May 26 2007 1:04 utc | 4

Interesting stuff b

"The US has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security" - PNAC

I think this statement encapsulates so much. And the implication about what constitutes "the US" is pretty powerful, since I can assure you that no individuals I know are interested in playing any role in Gulf regional security. I think this is directly relevant to other recent discussions here. What PNAC thinks is the US is probably actually pretty similar to what people here think of as the US, and something very different from what the ordinary people of the US think of as the US.

At any rate "the US" of MofA and PNAC better have some new host in mind as the economic strength and popular naivete required to execute things like permanent roles in Gulf regional security is fading fast. Today the janitor in my office did a totally self-triggered tirade against Bush, oil companies, and the war. I swear I have never talked politics with him. Complete with "why are my friends risking their lives for this stuff." This guy is as much a member of "red America" as it gets. The book of Revelation also came up, actually, he started with that, which scared me pretty bad. who the hell knows what is going to happen.

Posted by: boxcar mike | May 26 2007 3:17 utc | 5

the internet's a beautiful thing. thanks b!

Posted by: b real | May 26 2007 3:42 utc | 6


You sure are getting good at this thing. Many innovative & sleuthing posts lately.

Posted by: anna missed | May 26 2007 4:04 utc | 7

ditto what anna missed said.

I swear I have never talked politics with him.

the natives are getting restless.

Posted by: annie | May 26 2007 13:34 utc | 8

Interesting theory, but I suspect that you're reaching so far that you'll dislocate a shoulder in the process.

There is absolutely no chance that the present, beleaguered Lebanese "government" could green-light a US airbase on their soil without sparking a civil war, a war that they would likely lose. On a more pertinent note, any attempt to site a US airbase on Lebanese soil would be considered little short of an act of war by the Syrians, who will likewise not permit it - and who can back their "veto" power in myriad unpleasant ways.

Whilst the US might "like", in the abstract, another lily-pad in the Eastern Med, I'd note that they can always use Israel for that ( and they have first class, full-facility military airbases in a very secure and safe operating environment, which would emphatically not be the case in the Lebanon ), and that they also already have the use of Jordanian airbases as well.

Whilst it's true that the US is constrained in the use of Incirlik - from both sides of the Turkish political spectrum - that is a product of the utterly incoherent strategic situation that the US has placed itself in since the Iraq invasion; the strategic incoherence can't be finessed by simply trying to re-locate to another site, sandwiched between an ultra-hostile Syria and a collapsed Lebanese government.

Posted by: dan | May 26 2007 14:05 utc | 9

There is absolutely no chance that the present, beleaguered Lebanese "government" could green-light a US airbase

what about a 'UN' base?

on their soil without sparking a civil war, a war that they would likely lose.

with US/IS backing? hmmmm. i wonder how many people would die trying, that in itself would be incentive enough for some.

Posted by: annie | May 26 2007 15:34 utc | 10


UN bases come with strings attached via mandates, and strictly circumscribed rules of engagement and terms of operation. They don't come with the kind of freedom of action or permissive terms that would be of strategic interest or utility to the US. AFAICT, US participation in UN peacekeeping and stability operations is now confined to Kosovo - the US simply has no troops left to offer for echt UN missions.

There are plenty of UN bases in Lebanon as is - they've been there since the late 1940's; they've been conspicuously useless in preventing civil wars, invasions and so on, partly because they don't have a mandate to maintain civil order or protect the sovereignty of the nation. UN mandated forces are also incapable of operating without, de minimis, tacit local consents, as they don't indulge in combat/counter-insurgency focussed missions - and any US attempt to muscle in on the back of a UN mandate would likely collapse said mandate.

The last time that the US put forces on the ground in Lebanon it all ended in tears, and no-one is anxious to repeat the experience. There was a lot of twitter about the US putting troops into Lebanon last summer - never happened, and is not going to happen any time soon, as both domestic Lebanese and American opinion is strongly against it; at any rate, the US military is so over-extended that it has no resources available for anything like this.

US/Israeli backing is no guarantee of success - and it's doubtful whether the current Saudi-US alliance over Lebanon could actually survive another round of boots on the ground - particularly if it results in more destruction of that expensive and extensive Saudi-funded real estate.

Posted by: dan | May 26 2007 16:18 utc | 11

But here the State Department felt obliged to deny the report. That indeed does lift its credibility.

indeed it does b! from the website you linked to..

Predictably, ever since former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005, there have been false claims of U.S. involvement. One theory claimed that Mr. Hariri was assassinated because he opposed construction of a U.S. air base in Lebanon. But U.S. policy since 1976 has expressly forbidden assassination, and there are no plans for such an air base.

they must be right. i forgot about how the US has expressly forbidden assassination. this administration wouldn't consider any actions forbidden by our laws.

These claims are false. U.S. policy has expressly forbidden assassination since 1976, when President Ford signed Executive Order 11905. The prohibition against assassination was reaffirmed by President Carter and President Reagan, the latter in Executive Order 12333, which remains in force. Executive Order 12333 states, "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination."

Moreover, the U.S. military has confirmed that it has no plans for an air base in Lebanon.

well, that settles it! the US military always acts transparently!

checking out further links from the disinfo state link US has no plans for military base in paraguay

For the 2005-2006 series of exercises, small numbers of U.S. personnel – generally 10-20 persons at a time – will train with their Paraguayan counterparts for periods of two to six weeks. No U.S. soldiers will be deployed for an extended period of time, and there will never be more than a few dozen U.S. service members in Paraguay for longer than 45 days.

Many of these exercises will provide humanitarian medical assistance to thousands of needy campesinos and others in rural locations. ...

The training exercises in Paraguay are not linked to any other assistance provided by the U.S. government.

naturally they deny busho just bought 100000 acres in paraguay.


pete escobar

After September 11 the US State Department mantra was that al-Qaeda and/or Hezbollah had an intimate connection with FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). The "coincidence" could not be more extraordinary: "terror" at the geographic heart of Mercosur - which happens to be dreaded in Washington as the made-in-South America answer to the Washington-promoted Free Trade Area of the Americas - was suddenly connected with "terror", which happens to be the biggest obstacle to the US occupation of the Amazon rainforest.

Before September 11 the main rationale behind Washington's Plan Colombia was the "war on drugs". Then it became the "war on terror" - and Plan Colombia spread way beyond the Andes. The Pentagon's new Long War (war on terror remixed) is now the catalyst that multiplies "evidence" forever justifying sending special agents, US Special Forces, "training" of local forces, "joint military operations" and, sooner rather than later, a permanent military base

sorry, i got sidetracked.. i recommend escobars pt 1 at the base of the link for the connection of paraguay and the ME. they are both stuffed w/islamic terrorsits!

Posted by: annie | May 26 2007 16:28 utc | 12

Interesting theory, but I suspect that you're reaching so far that you'll dislocate a shoulder in the process.

Well, may be.

But I stopped thinking that this administration wouldn't do something just because something is a dumb thing to do. That this idea is crazy, doesn't mean they will not try.

Syria is a military paper tiger. Sinioras government will do everything the Saudis and Americans tell him to do.

Then again it's certainly a quite dumb idea - it could be the start for something very painful for Lebanon, something like birth pangs ...

Posted by: b | May 26 2007 16:29 utc | 13

ok dan , if you say so. i am convinced nobody is planning a UN airbase in lebanon.

i am curious about your reality meter tho. do you think the US would ever engage in assassinations in violation of the law?? if you are unsure what do think is more likely? say in iraq, do you think the US has ever been involved in 'taking out' any of its political opponents?

Posted by: annie | May 26 2007 16:38 utc | 14

Franklin Lamb's update to the Counterpunch post B. links retracts several lurid points in his first dispatch, and incorporates the Palestinian-removal-for-U.S. base theory developed here. Truly the intertubes are remarkable, even if only for instant diffusion of rumors.

Posted by: Nell | May 26 2007 21:00 utc | 15

@Neil - I didn't see any retraction in that report, just sad acknowledgments. But maybe you can point specifically to those retractions you see for us.

What I did see in the report was this:

There is some-near panic in Bedawi caused by many rumors. One rumor, widely believed, is that the Lebanese government plans to demolish al-Bared to make room for the huge US/NATO airbase which is to be built next to the camp.
Where/how did some get that idea?

Posted by: b | May 26 2007 21:30 utc | 16

The retraction is about the bank robbery and decapitations. (But Lamb was hardly the only source reporting it. The bank heist, in particular, has been the starting point of the media story in the Western press from the first moment.)

Other than that, the background picture is no different so far. And today's report (Nell's link) "Another Waco in the Making" is very, very powerful and ominous.

Posted by: Alamet | May 26 2007 22:02 utc | 17

The retraction is about the bank robbery and decapitations.

in other words, they are filtering out the propaganda.

Truly the intertubes are remarkable, even if only for instant diffusion of rumors.

propaganda, rumors, propaganda, rumors. righto chap!

Posted by: annie | May 26 2007 22:11 utc | 18

@Neil - sorry - I was wrong in 17 - I looked at Lamb's old piece and did see no update.

Thanks to Alamet for the new link.

There is some-near panic in Bedawi caused by many rumors. One rumor, widely believed, is that the Lebanese government plans to demolish al-Bared to make room for the huge US/NATO airbase which is to be built next to the camp. 5,000 of the Palestinians in al-Bared are from the 1975 ethnically cleansed east Beirut camp Telazatter. The PLO moved them to al-Bared at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war (1975-90) and they live close together in one al-Bared neighborhood. Saw women wailing that they may be another Telazatter massacre and destruction of their homes.

Posted by: b | May 27 2007 7:06 utc | 19

Great work, b!

Posted by: Gaianne | May 27 2007 8:34 utc | 20


I have no doubts that the US government is involved in the assassination business - both directly and via subcontractors. That the US government is in near permanent violation of its own laws seems to be indisputable - one would have to be a fool to believe otherwise.

In Iraq and Afghanistan there is likewise no doubt that US special forces and intelligence teams are involved in "targetted" assassinations; one would have to be a fool to believe otherwise.

There is already at least one UN airbase in use in Southern Lebanon; but as I'm trying to point out, UN and US are not synonymous.

To be honest, I don't see how these are "reality" tests. The only valid reality test that I can determine is that, intentions notwithstanding, one must make a judgement regarding the capacity, of the fractured and factionalised post-Rumsfeld Bush administration to undertake further direct military actions.


Siniora's government is in many respects a fiction - it is in office but its power is limited ( a situation that the Bush administration is increasingly finding itself in ); the US and others have doubtless "told" Siniora to deal with Hizbullah on many occasions, but his administration has no power to act against them. I do dimly remember that Siniora "told" Condi not to come to Lebanon last summer - who do you think told him to say that?

The Syrians can wield effective vetoes over Lebanese policy without the use of their military - they have plenty of other options.

Back in 2004 & 2005, the Bush administration, via Rumsfeld, was constantly threatening Syria, and there was a relentless barrage of neocon appeals to take military action against them. You don't hear this so much these days; Gates has never, to my knowledge, threatened Syria - and the war drums are now confined to the dead-ender neocons who are confined to the corner of the classroom compaining about all those congressional delegations and bemoaning the fact that Condi is going to go diplomatic on them. Last year there were fervent hopes that the Israelis would widen the war to encompass Syria - this was because it was the Neocon's last best chance for war, as they realise that the US is not going to get embroiled in another conflict whilst it is stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. All they can now hope for is a "force majeure", Deus ex-machina situation that propels them into additional conflicts, conflicts for which the US is not prepared.

The same process is happening with Iran - we've had 2 years of relentless threats of military action - but Bush no longer talks about all options being on the table. This is largely because, sabre-rattling and shows of force notwithstanding, the US is slowly shifting course on its Iran policy to one of engagement and talks. This doesn't mean that all things are now rosy or that there aren't powerful actors who would like nothing more than another spectacular display of US military might - it does mean that the US has lost its freedom of action and must operate within far tighter constraints.

Whilst the Bush administration overflows with dumb ideas, you underestimate the difficulties in enacting any further crackpot schemes whilst being strangled by the Iraq albatross.

If we accept the veracity of Hersh's reportage in the re-direction, the current conflict over the Nahr al-Bared camp represents the Saudis pulling the plug on the Bandar-Cheney plan; this would suggest that Abdullah has resolved the factional fighting over the Kingdom's Iran policy and has wisely decided on a course of de-escalation.

Posted by: dan | May 27 2007 14:29 utc | 21

As an interested question, who serves in the current Lebanese Army, the one the US is arming?
As I recollect, the last Lebanese Army disintegrated as its members went to fight for the factions they belonged to during the civil war. Is there some reason the current army wouldn't disintegrate in the same way if it was ordered to invade a Palestinian refugee camp?
Given that, does anyone know the composition of the Lebanese units that are currently fighting outside Tripoli? If they're Phallange, I'd suppose there might be some way to engineer the assault; although, I doubt that would prevent the country from falling apart.
Then, with the money being spent on supplies, I guess the question would be whether or not someone with influence in this administration sees some advantage in a renewed Lebanese civil war.

Posted by: bcg | May 27 2007 17:48 utc | 22

very interesting, thanks.

Posted by: Noirette | May 27 2007 18:37 utc | 23

I don't think anyone has posted these links here yet, but I found them very insightful as far as what's brewing in Lebanon. I found both on Electronic Intifada.

What is happening in Lebanon? (Perspective from Laurie King-Irani)

Any eruption of large-scale violence in Lebanon is cause for concern, since so many related regional crises are "hot-wired" through Lebanon, and the war that raged there during the last decades of the 20th century was in fact three wars: A local, regional, and international confrontation that intersected and metastasized in horrific ways. For those of us who have lived in, and love, Lebanon, the fear of the 1975-1991 war's return always lurks in the back of the mind.

The events of the last week, however, cannot be explained in relation to that earlier war, nor entirely in relation to the murky mysteries surrounding the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, or even last summer's brutal Israeli assault on Lebanon. Nor are the disturbing developments in Tripoli rooted in Palestinian-Lebanese tensions. Of course, US commentators have been quick to peg the Syrians and Palestinians as the culprits. But that is too simplistic.

What's now happening in Lebanon requires a much more subtle and fine-grained interpretation, one that takes on board the reverberations of political developments from Baghdad to Washington, while attending to emerging social and economic conditions in the Middle East. The situation is much more complicated, fluid, unbounded, and therefore ominous than CNN's "experts" seem to grasp. There are new aspects to the current violence, perhaps most noteworthy is the emergence of a militia in Lebanon that has no clearly delineated connection to any particular family or traditional ethno-confessional leadership in the Lebanese context. There is some new political logic or system at work here, but it is irresponsible to present simple or pat explanations.

Interview with As'as Abukhalil of The Angry Arab blog

EI: One of the things a refugee witness remarked on was that the camp is guarded on all sides by the Lebanese army. He wondered how these militants got in noting that they didn't drop in from the sky. How would you answer that question?

ABUKHALIL: I think it is certainly suspicious how all these people came into Lebanon, and all indications are that they came into Lebanon legally. We are not talking about infiltrations like those the American media talk about in Iraq. So they came to Lebanon with their passports, came through port entrances controlled by the Lebanese security forces and army and settled in those camps, and as you rightly indicated all these camps are under watch by the Lebanese army.

In an interview on Al-Arabiya television on May 23, the Lebanese defense minister, Ilyas Murr, stated that of the several dozen fighters killed in the battles, not a single a fighter is identified as Palestinian. He said they are mostly Lebanese, Saudi, Yemeni, Algerian, Tunisian, Moroccan and so on....

EI: There is clearly an American hand in this. We saw the Lebanese government request military assistance, including ammunition and equipment from the United States, as a direct response to the events in Nahr al-Bared. How do you see the United States' role and let me broaden the question a little bit. How are the events in Lebanon linked to what is happening in Gaza and does the United States actually have a strategy for the region? What is the big picture here?

ABUKHALIL: Certainly there is a heavy-handed American role in all this. A mere week ago the American Undersecretary of State for the Near East, David Welch, was visiting Lebanon. He met in an unprecedented manner with the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army. This never happened in the past. We do not know what was discussed but the Lebanese press -- even the press loyal to the government -- indicated how unprecedented it was that Welch met with the commander-in-chief.

As far as the Americans are concerned, we also have to note that first, there was an American official announcement that the Lebanese government made a request for emergency military assistance. And yet the Lebanese government promptly denied that it made such a request. And later they are denying the denial. Why are there these confused signals? What is being cooked behind the scenes? I think the answer to that is we have to look at the map of the Middle East to see the extent to which there are events that are quite related to one another.

You look at Gaza and you find that the American funded, financed and armed militias of Muhammad Dahlan and [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas were tasked with fighting and killing other Palestinians. You look at Lebanon today and you find a Lebanese government financed, funded and armed by the American government and they are doing the same. Palestine and Lebanon have become more important not so much because of any attention that the US administration is willing to pay to those places, but particularly because of the failure of the American project in Iraq. So with victory eluding Bush in Iraq there is a desperate attempt to make some progress -- to use that cliché -- somewhere other than Iraq. And the places favored are Palestine and Lebanon because in those places there are US-armed and financed puppet militias that the US can use against its enemies and the enemies of Israel.

Posted by: Bea | May 28 2007 20:45 utc | 24

Oops -- That should have been "As'ad," sorry!

Posted by: Bea | May 28 2007 20:47 utc | 25

Posted by: Bea | May 28 2007 21:01 utc | 26

A few days after the interview Bea links to @ 24, As'ad Abukhalil talked with a camp leader on the phone for a first hand report:

Live Update from Nahr Al-Barid refugee camp.

He feels that there is a conspiracy against the Palestinian camps in Lebanon in accordance of UNSC 1559. The humanitarian situation is quite dire, he said: there is no water, no electricity, and no medicine. The Lebanese Army bombardment of the camp is unquestionably indiscriminate he said.
There are 200 houses that are fully or partially destroyed in the camp. And those who leave the camp are not allowed back in by the lousy Lebanese Army. He then told me about Fath-Al-Islam. He said that the number of Palestinians among them can be counted on the fingers of "one hand." He said that they are non-Palestinians, and he said that the people of the camp would like them to leave the camp, that they don't belong there. He said: let those who fund them and who brought them in, take them out. They don't belong here, he told me. He said that initially, by late 2006, there were no more than 40 members of Fath-Al-Islam inside the camp. He said that suddenly by early 2007, something very suspicious started to happen: that hundreds of fighters (from fanatical groups inside At-Ta'mir (which is run by Hariri Inc, and where a Hariri militia operate) and `Ayn Al-Hilwah and other places) were brought into the camp to join the ranks of Fath-Al-Islam. He said that the camp is watched and controlled by the Lebanese Army and security forces from all sides. He asked how those fighters were permitted to enter the camp under the watch of the Lebanese Army. He wondered why is it that the same governments that met with Condoleezza Rice during her visit were the ones that sent arms and ammunition to the Lebanese Army this week. It is clear that people in the camp feel unfairly caught in a battle between Fath-Al-Islam and the Lebanese Army. They have no say in this battle that is hurting the refugees.

Posted by: Alamet | May 28 2007 23:41 utc | 27

bcg @ 22,

I was going to respond that Lebanon's army is nonconfessional (if that is the correct term), and that is why everybody including Hizbullah refers to it as the key national institution; that it conscripts every able bodied male citizen, etc., etc... But then I thought I'd best check to make sure.And what I found is,

Lebanon previously had mandatory military service of one years for men. On May 4, 2005, a new conscription system was adopted, making for a six-month service, and pledging to end conscription within two years. As of February 10, 2007 mandatory military service no longer exists in Lebanon thus making it a conscription-free all-volunteer force.wikipedia

Came as a shock to me! This sounds like one of the craziest things an idiot could come up with in a country with Lebanon's history...

In any case, I don't imagine the plan would involve invading the camp. How I can see Bernhard's scenario developing is, the army does some more shelling of the camp, intermittently. The place is kept under siege, families are allowed to leave but not to return. The infrastructure is effectively destroyed, and any rebuilding is out of the question. Before long, the place is as good as uninhabitable and the only people remaining are those with no other place to go (they would still number in the thousands). They are left to stew in their misery for several months.

Then, when the mood is right, Hariri et. al. come along and say, "Aw, this can't go on. Let us build a tent city for you poor guys over those hills yonder. It won't be much, but you will have electricity, running water, schools and a clinic even." have the camp evacuated as a *humanitarian effort*.

Posted by: Alamet | May 28 2007 23:48 utc | 28

dan #21, To be honest, I don't see how these are "reality" tests. The only valid reality test that I can determine is that, intentions notwithstanding, one must make a judgement regarding the capacity, of the fractured and factionalised post-Rumsfeld Bush administration to undertake further direct military actions.

dan, wrt the UN base, i wasn't snarking when i said i believed you when you stated the a UN base was not viable. the reason i ask about the assassinations was because the same gov disinfo site that claimed we weren't planning a base in lebanon linked the story to Hariri maurder and then claimed it couldn't be true because US law forbades assassination. that just seems like a completely weak debunking strategy.

perhaps the US troops don't need to undertake more action for this to become accomplished, at least not at this time. perhaps clearing the area would be accomplishment enough at present. and who knows, perhaps it involves a future plan w/israel or related to iran involving using it as some staging area in the future. it wouldn't have require any military action to use the turkey bases, if turkeys leaders had not regarded the wishes of the population. in this way it is more an issue of getting the lebanese government to go along. we are back to you #11 dislocated shoulder post.

There is absolutely no chance that the present, beleaguered Lebanese "government" could green-light a US airbase on their soil without sparking a civil war

in presently perhaps, but what if in the future all hell breaks lose, like it would if we bombed iran, or israel attacked hezzbollah again, then who knows what might come out as a result of the birthpangs.

Posted by: | May 29 2007 0:36 utc | 29

yikes, that was me. someone was at the door, i should have waited til i could proof it before i hastily posted.

Posted by: annie | May 29 2007 1:33 utc | 30

Sorry, have to add one more - this is an update from an eye witness on the scene today:

Seventy Two Hours

Today the Lebanese army gave the PLO 72 hours to take out Fatah al-Islam or else the violence will be escalated in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. It is not clear if this means that they will enter or if they will use heavier artillery, but I fear that they will raze the camp. This would not be the first time that it has happened. The Dbeyeh refugee camp was destroyed in 1976 during the Civil War in Lebanon when most of the Palestinian refugees living there were killed or forced out.

Posted by: Bea | May 29 2007 2:19 utc | 31

don't ever be sorry bea, your links are invaluable

Posted by: annie | May 29 2007 4:51 utc | 32

Enlightening interview with Seymour Hersh on Democracy Now from last week:

Hersh on the Current Situation in Lebanon

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, very simply -- this is over the winter -- the government made -- I think the article is called “The Redirection.” There was a major change of policy by the United States government, essentially, which was that we were going to -- the American government would join with the Brits and other Western allies and with what we call the moderate Sunni governments -- that is, the governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- and join with them and with Israel to fight the Shia.

One of the major goals for America, of course, was the obsession the Bush White House has with Iran, and the other obsession they have is, of course -- is in fear -- is of Hezbollah, the Party of God, that is so dominant in -- the Shia Party of God that’s so dominant in southern Lebanon that once -- and whose leader Hassan Nasrallah wants to play a bigger political role and is doing quite a bit to get there and is in direct confrontation with Siniora.

And so, you have a situation where the Sunni government, pretty much in control now, the American-supported Sunni government headed by Fouad Siniora, who was a deputy or an aide to Rafik Hariri, the slain leader of Lebanon, that government has -- we know, the International Crisis Group reported a couple years ago that the son Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, who’s now a major player in the parliament of Lebanon, he put up $40,000 bail to free four Sunni fundamentalists, Jihadist-Salafists -- which you will -- who were tied directly to -- you know, this word “al-Qaeda” is sort of ridiculous -- they were tied to jihadist groups. And God knows, al-Qaeda, in terms of Osama bin Laden, doesn’t have much to do with what we’re talking about. These are independently, more or less, you can call them, fanatical jihadists....

- I got an email the other day, and I have not checked this out, from somebody who was in the community, in the intelligence community and still consults with the community, he says, “Why don’t we ask more about the American arms that the fighters of Fatah al-Islam have, are brandishing?” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I did get that email. And so, that could be true. Both Saudi money and American money, not directly, but indirectly, was fed into these groups.

And what is the laugh riot and the reason I’m actually talking to you guys about this -- I usually don’t like to do interviews unless I have a story in The New Yorker -- the reason I’m talking about it is because the American government keeps on putting out this story that Syria is behind the Fatah group, which is just beyond belief. There’s no way -- it may be possible, but the chances of it are very slight, simply because Syria is a very big supporter, obviously, of Nasrallah, and Bashar al-Assad has told me that he’s in awe of Nasrallah, that he worships at his feet and has great respect for him. The idea that the Syrians would be sponsoring Sunni jihadist groups whose sole mission are to kill the apostates -- that is, anybody who doesn’t support their view, the Wahhabi or Salafist view of Sunni religion -- that includes the Shia -- anybody who doesn’t believe -- support these guys’ religions are apostates and are killable, that’s basically one of the crazy aspects of all this, and it’s just inconceivable.

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, what about the role of Vice President Dick Cheney, the Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you always -- any time you have violent anti-Iran policy and anti-Shia policy, you have to start looking there. Look, clearly this president is deeply involved in this, too, but what I hear from my people, of course, the players -- it’s always Cheney, Cheney. Cheney meets with Bush at least once a week. They have a lunch. They usually have a scheduled lunch. And out of that comes a lot of big decisions. We don’t know what’s ever said at that meeting. And this is -- talk about being opaque, this is a government that is so hidden from us....

I do know that within the last month, maybe four, four-and-a-half weeks ago, they made a decision that because of the totally dwindling support for the war in Iraq, we go back to the al-Qaeda card, and we start talking about al-Qaeda. And the next thing you know, right after that, Bush went to the Southern Command -- this was a month ago -- and talked, mentioned al-Qaeda twenty-seven times in his speech. He did so just the other day this week -- al-Qaeda this, al-Qaeda that. All of a sudden, the poor Iraqi Sunnis, I mean, they can’t do anything without al-Qaeda. It’s only al-Qaeda that’s dropping the bombs and causing mayhem. It’s not the Sunni and Shia insurgents or militias. And this policy just gets picked up, although there’s absolutely no empirical basis. Most of the pros will tell you the foreign fighters are a couple percent, and then they’re sort of leaderless in the sense that there’s no overall direction of the various foreign fighters. You could call them al-Qaeda. You can also call them jihadists and Salafists that want to die fighting the Americans or the occupiers in Iraq and they come across the border. Whether this is -- there’s no attempt to suggest there’s any significant coordination of these groups by bin Laden or anybody else, and the press just goes gaga. And so, they went gaga a little bit over the Syrian connection to the activities in Tripoli. It’s just amazing to me, you guys.

Posted by: Bea | May 29 2007 15:25 utc | 33

Website of the Nahr el-Bared Relief Campaign, with updates, photos, ways to donate and get involved.

Body on the Line, Website of Dr Marcy Newman who is on the ground at the neighboring Badawi refugee camp in Tripoli, with more first-hand reports and photos. Badawi camp is hosting many of those fleeing the violence in Nahr el-Bared.

Posted by: Bea | May 29 2007 15:38 utc | 34

You could call them al-Qaeda. You can also call them jihadists and Salafists that want to die fighting the Americans or the occupiers in Iraq and they come across the border. Whether this is -- there’s no attempt to suggest there’s any significant coordination of these groups by bin Laden or anybody else, and the press just goes gaga. And so, they went gaga a little bit over the Syrian connection to the activities in Tripoli. It’s just amazing to me, you guys.

that about says it.

Posted by: annie | May 29 2007 15:39 utc | 35

The camp is already more than half emptied according to some news reports over the weekend. Bea's link above about the 72-hour threat makes it sound very much as if that's the goal.

Note to self: No matter how bleakly one imagines the future with these regimes, the reality is almost always far bleaker.

Posted by: Nell | May 29 2007 17:06 utc | 36

Inside Bedawi Camp

I sit here and wonder yet again what we are getting wrong in this whole 'terrorist' business. In Gaza Haniya calls for a ceasefire, here Nazrallah calls for restraint, both in the light of humanitarian concerns. Both of these men head 'terrorist' organizations (although today CNN kindly added that Hamas and Hezbollah are both 'moderate terrorist organizations' whatever that means!) While Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora puppets some Bush remark about destroying the threat of terrorism by military action and Olmert insists that striking Gazans and killing an average of five Palestinians a day (the figure since mid-May) is in the protection of democracy and necessary to destroy terrorism.

People in the West should seriously ask if we have not totally lost the whole plot about what is and what is not terrorism.
There is a third militia inside the Nahr al-Bared Camp. Residents sheltering there tell of this third militia who will fire towards the Lebanese Army and then Fatah al-Islam during a cease-fire and ignite the shooting again No one knows for sure who these militia are but some say that this group is connected to the militia of Hariri.

Also see interview with a PFLP official at Bedawi

Posted by: Alamet | May 29 2007 23:02 utc | 37

Third installment from Franklin Lamb: Lebanon and the Planned US Airbase at Kleiaat

But, really, "the martyred, and still much loved Lebanese patriot" .?!. I must say that's an interesting way of describing Bashir Gemayel.

Posted by: Alamet | May 30 2007 16:12 utc | 38

from #38 "We need to get this base built as quickly as possible as a forward thrust point against Al Qaeda and other (read Hezbollah) terrorists", according to AIPAC staffer Rachael Cohen.


Posted by: annie | May 30 2007 16:34 utc | 39

Bernhard hits another one out of the park.

Posted by: Bea | May 30 2007 17:54 utc | 40

Makes it abundantly clear how the MSM, esp the NY TImes, is coopted in the service of propaganda, whether wittingly or unwittingly. Viz scare piece on page 1 of 2 days ago:

Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq

Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi, general director of the Internal Security Forces in Lebanon, said in a recent interview that “if any country says it is safe from this, they are putting their heads in the sand.”

Last week, the Lebanese Army found itself in a furious battle against a militant group, Fatah al Islam, whose ranks included as many as 50 veterans of the war in Iraq, according to General Rifi. More than 30 Lebanese soldiers were killed fighting the group at a refugee camp near Tripoli.

The army called for outside support. By Friday, the first of eight planeloads of military supplies had arrived from the United States, which called Fatah al Islam “a brutal group of violent extremists.”

The group’s leader, Shakir al-Abssi, was an associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia who was killed last summer. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, Mr. Abssi confirmed reports that Syrian government forces had killed his son-in-law as he tried crossing into Iraq to collaborate with insurgents.

A Danger to the Region

Militant leaders warn that the situation in Lebanon is indicative of the spread of fighters. “You have 50 fighters from Iraq in Lebanon now, but with good caution I can say there are a hundred times that many, 5,000 or higher, who are just waiting for the right moment to act,” Dr. Mohammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident in Britain who runs the jihadist Internet forum,, said in an interview on Friday. “The flow of fighters is already going back and forth, and the fight will be everywhere until the United States is willing to cease and desist.”

Posted by: Bea | May 30 2007 18:02 utc | 41

@Alamet: I had the same thought on reading Franklin Lamb's passages on Bashir Gemayel. Two theories: 1- BG stiffed the Israeli request, which makes him a 'good guy' for Lamb regardless of other history (to which Lamb alludes, however, leading to theory 2, for which there's plenty of other evidence: Attempt at sarcasm that falls flat due to not-great writing. Lamb's piece is full of malapropisms; I'm ready to overlook them because he's under time and other pressures. But the reporting is a lot better than the writing. (Possible explanation 3: Hariri militia member/internet cafe operator looking over Lamb's shoulder as he begins writing?)

Posted by: Nell | May 30 2007 19:07 utc | 42

@bea - 40 - thanks, usually I miss, but sometimes ...

Lamb thinks the camp will stay. If the base/airport comes, the camp (which is a city with 40,000 people) will have to move. It sits right on the road that is needed to reach the base ...

Posted by: b | May 30 2007 20:14 utc | 43

UN Security Council OKs Lebanon tribunal

A deeply divided
U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Wednesday to unilaterally establish an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The vote was 10-0 with five abstentions — Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar. Nine votes were needed for passage.

A local murder in a sovereign country - then why is the UN involved in this at all?

Posted by: b | May 30 2007 20:41 utc | 44

But [Lamb's] reporting is a lot better than the writing.

I hope so, anyway. But the seeds of doubt are there. This, offered as a direct quote, strikes me as implausible for an AIPAC staffer speaking on the record:

"We need to get this base built as quickly as possible as a forward thrust point against Al Qaeda and other (read Hezbollah) terrorists", according to AIPAC staffer Rachael Cohen. Asked if Israel will offer training and advisors to the Lebanese army, Ms. Cohen replied, "we will see what we will see, Lebanon, smezzanon its not about them, its about stopping the terrorists stupid!"

Note to Lamb: If Ms. Cohen did say it, she said, "Lebanon, schmebanon".

Posted by: Nell | May 30 2007 21:15 utc | 45

UN Sets Up Tribunal to Try Hariri's Killers

Surely this is also an important piece of the background context to this story.

Posted by: Bea | May 31 2007 13:30 utc | 46

merce b bea alamat & others for the work on this. essential

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 31 2007 23:52 utc | 47

Lebanese army attacks militants at Palestinian camp

Lebanese troops assaulted positions of al Qaeda-inspired militants entrenched in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon on Friday with some of the heaviest shelling in 13 days of fighting there.

Security sources said elite forces were trying to dislodge militants from some front positions on the edge of Nahr al-Bared camp while artillery batteries were pounding the area.
Artillery and machinegun fire rocked the camp from early morning. At times shells exploded at a rate of 10 a minute and smoke billowed from buildings inside as fires raged.

"It is clear that this is the start of an army assault," said a Palestinian source with contacts in the camp. He said early reports indicated there were civilian casualties.

There was no army confirmation that a large-scale offensive was imminent, though a Reuters witness said a score of tanks had assembled about 1 km (0.6 miles) from an entrance to the camp.

Posted by: b | Jun 1 2007 9:01 utc | 48

Fighting Continues, Spreads to Second Refugee Camp

Two soldiers were killed in fierce fighting at a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon as troops continued to bombard militants in another camp in the north of the country. [Note: More on this below.]

Six soldiers and two civilians were also wounded in the gunbattles which raged overnight between the army and militants at the entrance to the Ain al-Helweh camp, hospital sources said on Monday.

The fighting has added to concerns that the violence could spread to more of Lebanon's 12 refugee camps, which hold more than 200,000 Palestinians mostly in conditions of abject poverty.

The overall death toll from fighting in both camps now tops 100, including 46 soldiers.

It is the bloodiest internal fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war and has added to tensions in a country already battling an acute political crisis....

It is not known whether the army is planning a ground assault on the camp. By longstanding convention, it does not enter Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security inside to armed militant groups.

Fatah al-Islam, a tiny band which first surfaced only last year, is believed to have about 250 fighters, according to Siniora....

Siniora said the camp's population had fallen from more than 31,000 to fewer than 3,000, with thousands taking flight from the fighting and an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation.

What fate awaits those civilians left inside the camp? From The Angry Arab Blog

"The Lebanese army commander at the scene said anyone who had not left during the ceasefire was unlikely to be considered a non-combatant. 'We risked our lives for 10 days to allow all the civilians to escape,' he said. 'If someone did not take the decision to leave, then they took the decision to stay, which means they are not a civilian.' Although there has been almost no independent access to the camp for almost two weeks, Red Cross workers estimate that thousands of innocents could be trapped inside with no electricity, food, water or medical care."

The other camp is Ein Helweh;The militants there are apparently from Jund as-Sham, another "Islamic militant" group, and Palestinian civilians are reportedly now fleeing that camp as well.

According to the Angry Arab blog: "There are flash reports that Jund Ash-Sham (a fanatical fundamentalist group) attacked Lebanese Army positions in Hayy At-Ta`mir [a neighborhood outside Ein al-Hilweh] near Sidon. Now for this one, we don't need to speculate. We know that [U.S.-affiliated] Hariri family, through Bahiyyah [Hariri] in Sidon, has been funding Jund Ash-Sham."

A great detailed account of several visits to Nahr el-Bared camp by someone at the scene, with photos, is available here. From this blog:

We crossed the school yard and entered the adjacent Ghassan Kanafani cultural center I had visited last week. In one of the offices, two members of Save the Children foundation were at work, labeling the positions of Fatah al Islam, schools and mosques on a Google Earth map of the camp.

A Swedish woman, a "child safety consultant," according to her business card, briefed us on the latest developments. "We are receiving pictures of the dead-- children, the disabled and elderly. Most of the people who remained are very old; others stayed because they fear not being allowed to return to their homes and being re-located to temporary encampments." "How are you receiving the photos?" I asked. "People are sending them in over their phones. I just received one of a sixty-year old woman, her head blown off. Just now they say a large building near the marketplace, in the densest area of the camp, collapsed from continuous shelling. The situation is bad. Bad. Very bad," she said, and returned to her computer. "Oh and the Lebanese press are denying there are still as many people in the camp," she continued. "There are at least 5,000 who remain inside. They keep reporting that only the Fatah al Islam remain. It's simply not true."

The potential for this little operation to have serious blowback throughout Lebanon and beyond really can't be understated. For example, the refugee residents of the camps are angry now at Hizbullah and at official Fatah for supporting the Lebanese Army in its blitz of overwhelming power against the "militants" at the cost of helpless refugee civilians. For example, there are 12 camps in Lebanon and this has already spread to two... etc.

An important story to continue to watch, as it appears to have the potential to metastasize rapidly if it is not defused soon.

Posted by: Bea | Jun 4 2007 13:45 utc | 49

bea, thanks for the invaluable updates.

Makes one want to vomit.We deliberately foment anarchy, panic, starvation, hopelessness, and desperation and then use it to our own material ends... it is the very most craven, most corrupt, most unethical and immoral way to be present in the world that I can possibly imagine, short of herding masses of people into gas chambers. Truly, words cannot describe how utterly despicable this is.

i totally agree. this comment has been rolling in my mind for days.

Posted by: annie | Jun 4 2007 16:33 utc | 50

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