SUBJECT: Partial Resumption of Travel to Lebanon to Promote Peace and Security
By virtue of the authority vested in me by 49 U.S.C. 40106(b) and for the purpose of promoting peace and security in Lebanon, I hereby determine that the prohibition of transportation services to Lebanon established by Presidential Determination 85-14 of July 1, 1985, as amended by Presidential Determination 92-41 of August 17, 1992, and Presidential Determination 98-32 of June 19, 1998, is hereby further amended to permit U.S. air carriers under contract to the United States Government to engage in foreign air transportation to and from Lebanon of passengers, including U.S. and non-U.S. citizens, and their accompanying baggage; of goods for humanitarian purposes; and of any other cargo or materiel.
All other prohibitions set forth in the above-referenced Presidential determinations remain in effect.
You are directed to implement this determination immediately.
You are authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.
GEORGE W. BUSH
I know, I know. You were thinking there are already enough CIA guys poking around in Lebanon. What’s a plane load or two more? Surely, I jest. Really, for now, I think this is just about getting more American cows into Lebanon, if you know what I mean.
More seriously, this is yet another symbolic act, a kind of psy-op for the policy wonks to tell their wives about. It seems to me there is a very serious fight going on in Washington over the direction of US policy in the region — you get a bit of this from the more insane rantings from the two sides’ reactions to the Scooter Libby sentencing. Yet at the current moment, there seems to be an eerie confluence around Lebanon policy. The Foggiest of Bottoms and the CIA likely believes they can simply wear out Hizbullah politically with financial and military aid (and they are probably right), while the OVP may still prefer to send Lebanon’s cannibals after them with newly-sharpened knives. The domestically-battered OVP is likely in the position to cede some ground here, as the State plan serves their needs of putting Hizbullah on the defensive as a potential first step toward more aggressive action. Similarly, State likely sees diplomatic value in media reports of the OVP’s irrational belligerence. Guessing how this will play out is impossible as it will depend on who wins the bigger battle over Iran policy. That being said, both sides are likely to see value in keeping up the pressure.
If these moves and others are successful in weakening Hizbullah politically, it will likely draw Hizbullah closer to Syria and here the Americans have the sordid boon of perhaps their most precious asset in Lebanon: anti-Syrian venom (enter some elements of M14, stage right). This will be exceedingly difficult for Hizbullah, as its efforts to balance support from Syria with the needs of its domestic allies and foes will just get harder to manage.
If the Americans are smart — and some of them are, these pys-ops will also include some tentative attempts at more kinetic action. This, of course, is where things get scary, as even small flames in a small village like Lebanon can quickly lead to all the houses burning down. Neither the Americans, nor the Israelis are ready to send Lebanon into the abyss just yet, so this will likely involve one-off attempts to keep the anti-Syrians barking and Hizbullah mentally busy, with the side hope of gathering some intelligence about Hizbullah’s intelligence gathering machine in the LAF, at the points of entry, and with UNIFIL — something both the Israelis and the Americans seemed to utterly lack during last summer’s war on Lebanon.
I said last summer that resisting the Israeli militarily would be child’s play for Hizbullah when compared to what would come next if they held off the IDF. I think that is probably true and that we are going to soon see just how smart and how patient Hizbullah really is. The squeeze cometh … Stay tuned.