By Rebecca Murray ∙ Inter Press News ∙ March 12, 2008
Soon after the U.S. destroyer USS Cole was deployed off Lebanon's shore Feb. 28 to "preserve political stability", a group of young men gathered around in the embattled agricultural town Qana in south Lebanon, and voiced their fears.
"Everyone feels there is a war coming," said Salman Ismael, a 22-year-old university student. "Especially after the killing of (Hezbollah commander) Imad Mughniyeh and what is happening in Gaza. And now U.S. ships come to the waters of Lebanon. Israel wants to improve her army in the Middle East after its defeat in 2006, she wants the Arabs to be scared of her."
Mughniyeh is described by Hezbollah officials as a top military commander during the 2006 war with Israel, and his assassination Feb. 12 in the heart of Damascus strikes a heavy blow at Hezbollah and Syrian security concerns.
Alistair Crooke, former Middle East advisor to EU representative Javier Solana, recalls that the last time a U.S. warship entered Lebanese waters was during the bloody civil war in 1983, on behalf of then president Amin Gemayel.
The ship shelled Beirut and the Chouf mountains from the shore, but the U.S. forces were forced to withdraw later that year when their Beirut embassy and marine barracks were targeted by bombs that killed hundreds. The U.S. accused Mughniyeh of having engineered those devastating attacks.
"The arrival of the USS Cole in support of (Prime Minister Fouad Sinoira's ruling coalition) has really had a traumatic effect on people," says Crooke, co-founder of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum which brokers dialogue between Islamist movements and the West. "This has really bad memories for the Lebanese." Read the rest