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Claudia Rosett on the assassination in Lebanon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
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HH: We’re thankful for Claudia Rosett, her reporting over the past couple of years on the U.N. and on Lebanon and North Korea. Claudia, Happy Thanksgiving to you.

CR: Happy Thanksgiving, Hugh. And I hope the world starts to look better than it does at the moment.

HH: At the moment, it looks pretty bad, especially in Lebanon, where of course, Industry Prime Minister, Pierre Gemayel was assassinated tonight, and a second prime minister, cabinet member, attempted assassination. It didn’t work. Did you know Gemayel, Claudia Rosett?

CR: Yes. I interviewed him last year when…at a much happier time in Lebanon’s recent history, during the sort of height of the demonstrations that went with the Cedar Revolution. There were various people you went to, to talk to those who were supporting a free and democratic Lebanon, you know, political figures, and wanted Syria out of there, and so on. And he was one. So was Gibran Tueni, who was murdered with a car bomb, in a bombing, last December. The people who are willing to step up to the front in Lebanese politics and speak out are being picked off.

HH: Claudia Rosett, the march towards chaos…I’ve just spoken with Yoni, and Israeli blogger and an American, dual citizenship, I spoke with Frank Gaffney last…two segments ago. It looks like a march back to the civil war. Is that what you sense?

CR: It looks like that. I’m actually much more worried that it’s a march into the arms of what is effectively a Hezbollah-controlled, and thus Iranian, effectively Iranian-Syrian controlled state. That’s where I think this is heading. If true…there are guns all over Lebanon. It’s a country where people know how to use them, and I think if they actually produce them from the foot lockers, closets, and so on, you’d see a lot. But the heavy weapons are all in the hands of Hezbollah. And the Lebanese army has basically proven utterly unable to do anything, complicit in some instances, with Hezbollah, which is…and you know, when we’re talking about Hezbollah, what are we talking about? Remember the old communist fronts. We’re talking about, it’s a group that’s been working that way to infiltrate the Lebanese government, which has members in parliament, which has been staging a big showdown, effectively for much bigger control over the cabinet in the past week, and which has been threatening now to bring out people on the streets to try and take control, where Iran has been producing opinions in its official newspapers, that it’s time that the Shiites, by which they mean Hezbollah, basically, had control in Lebanon, saying they make up 40% of the population at this point, they control 40% of the territory. And we can dispute the numbers there. But there’s a big push on right now…it’s actually not behind the scenes. It’s very obvious, by Syria and Iran, to effectively just take over Lebanon. And Hugh, the terrible thing here is it’s very hard to see what stands in their way.

HH: Well, hours ago, the U.N. Security Council approved plans for a special international court to try suspects in the February, 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, and anti-Syria Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, openly accused Bashir Assad of the Gemayel assassination today as an attempt to deter that tribunal from going forward. If anything, then, that’s got to go forward on a more quick, expedited basis.

CR: Absolutely. In fact, Hugh, it should have gone forward, you know, a year ago, when Kofi Annan was busy censoring names out of the initial draft of the report, back in the previous report, when they were working their way around to this. And if this tribunal really goes ahead and does a decent and honest job, that’s a very good thing. At least it will be some motion. There are a number of hurdles there. One is these tribunals set up by the U.N. do not have a great record. You know, the one in Rwanda has turned into basically a money pit, where nobody even keeps close track anymore, accompanied by sundry murders, strange, opaque doings, nobody knows. That’s a story unto itself. So where this actually will go is still a big question. Again, remember with the U.N., each time you think…it sounds like now they’re going to solve it, tribunal, that will deal with it, there are going to be all sorts of pressures and politicking even there over who finally gets named, what gets done. And by all means, they should go ahead with this. And instantly would be very good. But there still remains the problem of what actually happens on the ground.

HH: Claudia, did the anti-Hezbollah forces in Lebanon miss their opportunity to join with Israel in destroying Hezbollah’s military power last Summer? Ought they to have done that?

CR: That’s a really interesting question, Hugh. You know, it would have certainly been a heartening thing. What they basically did was hunker down and wait it out.

HH: Right.

CR: And it would have been a very good move for the reason…less for reasons of military tactics than for the reason that it would have said yeah, it would have sent a strong message that there were people in Lebanon who really didn’t want Hezbollah there. Instead, you had the prime minister, Sonora, thanking Hezbollah as the fighting went on, you know, for defending their country, even though Hezbollah had caused the war. The larger problem here is that you have Hezbollah with big guns, you have a lot of people who are sort of individually scattered, and their political leaders are being killed, assassinated. That’s what happened with Gibran Tueni last December, that’s what just happened with Pierre Gemayel. That’s the message being sent to anybody who dares to stand up on the right side in Lebanon. And if you ask the simple question, who’s policing Lebanon right now? Apart from whoever is willing to stand up at his front step and say I want the right things for my country, I’m willing to defend it with a gun in my hand, where we’re talking about a civil war scenario, in which the sort of democratic side would be outgunned, unless somebody came to help them.

HH: And that would be Israel or the United States. Claudia Rosett, we’ll read your blog with great interest over the next few days. Thanks for joining us on short notice. Happy Thanksgiving.

End of interview.

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