ArDO: Yes we want Lebanon to be the Switzerland of the East and Beirut the Paris of the East

 

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Dory Chamoun - 'There will be a mock-up war between Syria and Israel.

And at the same time Israel will take the advantage to beat up Hezbollah.

This time they will fight in the Bekaa Valley.

This is a scenario that I see unfolding,' Chamoun tells the Middle East Times.

WASHINGTON -- Dory Chamoun is the sole surviving son of former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, who founded the National Liberal Party, one of Lebanon's right-wing Christian groups.

As president during Lebanon's first civil war in 1958 Chamoun asked for U.S. intervention, and U.S. Marines were dispatched to quell the unrest.

The PNL, as Chamoun's party is known by its French acronym, is part of the pro-government and anti-Syrian March 14 coalition.

Following the brutal assassination on Oct. 21, 1990, of Dany Chamoun, (Dory's brother) along with his German-born wife Ingrid, and his two sons, Tarek, 7 and Julian, Dory found himself at the head of the National Liberal Party.

 

On a visit to Washington, D.C., Chamoun spoke with Middle East Times editor Claude Salhani about the situation in the region and in Lebanon. The following are extracts of the interview.

Claude Salhani: What is your perception of the current situation in the Middle East?

Dory Chamoun: The situation in the Middle East is not going to remain as it is. There is a peace process going on between Syria and Israel, which is on track. How to achieve it remains the question. It is a fact that the Golan Heights is to be divided. Israel wants part of the Golan Heights. This is something the old [former President Hafez] Assad refused.

Now, to achieve that part; they will not be able to achieve it through peace, because Mr. Assad who represents a minority regime cannot say, 'okay, I will give what my father did not give.'

There will be a mock-up war between Syria and Israel. And at the same time Israel will take the advantage to beat up Hezbollah. This time they will fight in the Bekaa Valley. This is a scenario that I see unfolding.

Q: What will be Iran's position in case of war between Syria and Israel, whether it's a mock-up war or not?

A: I don't see Iran going to war for the sake of Syria.

Q: What about Hezbollah?

A: Israel might like to make peace with Syria, but with a promise from Syria to put an end to Hezbollah; if Israel has such a mirage, because it is only a mirage. I don't see Syria upsetting its only ally, Iran. Besides, the opposition [Hezbollah] is getting weaker by the day. All that they have achieved is to congest the [Beirut] city center with their tents.

Q: Do you see Syria ever giving up its ambitions on Lebanon?

A: No doubt this is a dream Syria has always had. All their regimes had an appetite to swallow up Lebanon. We are not going to allow it. The only time they [the Syrians] succeeded was when they made a deal with the United States. They made two deals with them. The first deal was the Kissinger plan in 1976, but it failed when the Christians didn't run away.

In 1976 the Syrians said they would go in to quell Lebanon and establish peace; they didn't succeed, they didn't quell the Palestinians. At the end of the day Israel had to come in.

During the First Gulf War, the first Assad, who was an old fox, found an opportunity to make a deal with the Americans. He told them, 'I will be your ally against Saddam Hussein but in return I want Lebanon. I want to be able to use my air force and my navy in order to beat the [Christian Lebanese] resistance.'

Q: And now, what kind of assurance are you getting from the Bush administration?

A: The Bush administration is serious. The feedback is positive. Lebanon is on their agenda. They are earnest about wanting to help physically, financially, as well as giving some goods to the Lebanese army. Especially after the Nahr el-Bared incident [when the Lebanese army fought members of an Islamist Group called Fatah al-Islam], the Lebanese army proved that it is strong, that it will not splinter.

For once, the United States is not going to trade Lebanon against something else to achieve some sort of peace with Syria.

Q: You are getting guarantees from this administration. What happens next January if the Democrats are in the White House?

A: I'm not worried because the policy on Lebanon is not guided by diplomacy; it is guided by security needs. And if the people in charge of the security of the United States decide that Lebanon must continue to be what it is today, and that Lebanon must be safe and not fall into the hands of the Syrians.

Remember what happened when it was in the hands of the Syrians? All the world-wide terrorist organizations mushroomed in Lebanon. Again, I don't think they [the U.S.] can take the risk after 9/11.

I think the whole strategy of the United States vis--vis our part of the world has changed 180 degrees. At one time the security frontiers of the United States used to be the oceans. Today the frontier goes all the way to Pakistan and Afghanistan. That sort of security policy, which the U.S. is following today is going to be the guideline, whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

Q: Overall, how do you see the future of Lebanon?

A: I am optimistic. However, it's a sad fact that Lebanon is a tiny country surrounded by two of the most horrible neighbors. One wants to swallow up Lebanon, while the other would like to see it shattered to pieces because Lebanon is the anti-image of the Jewish State of Israel. Lebanon is a state where there are 18 confessions (religious groups) who knew how to live together. And can live together again.

Q: What about the presidency? Lebanon has been without a president since November.

A: There's a lot of fuss about the presidency, but one should not make a mountain out of a mole hill. You consider the two presidents we had - that were Syrian puppets - to be presidents? I don't.

Q: Who do you think killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri?

A: Definitely the Syrians.

Q: When you say the Syrians, did it come from President Bashar, or from the intelligence?

A: The way the regime functions in Syria, I don't think that anything of that magnitude could take place without Bashar knowing.

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