Jeff Feltman Delivers his Annual Yuletide Gifts to Lebanon
Over the past few years, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has sledded into Lebanon bearing gifts during the Yuletide season more regularly than Santa Clause. Yet, as happened yesterday, he somehow manages to finish his gift giving and lift off to continue his rounds as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
I began thinking that one useful gift he could deliver to me personally would be to sign off on plans for this year's US Embassy Christmas Party and invite, well, moi. The US Embassy Christmas Party is a fun and festive event from which Jeffrey banned this observer during part of his 2004-8 tenure as US Ambassador. Telling his then vice-consul in 2007, "Lamb can celebrate Christmas with those elements he associates with, plus he can't carry a tune and he messes up, my favorite (Christmas) Carol, (ed: which just like mine happens to be: "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem!"). So now each year I must sing along with Bing Crosby via a real spotty Internet connection, since Lebanon ranks 183rd out of 203 countries, just behind Afghanistan and Sudan, in the worlds ranking as slowest internet.
Someone who knows Jeff fairly well, told this observer that ever since the former Saad Hariri March 14th government, still commonly referred to as "Feltmans Government," in some Lebanese neighborhoods including mine, was ousted and forced into opposition last year, Feltman has been in a bit of a snit regarding Lebanon.
His mood was not helped much the other day when, as his bad luck would have it, the day before he arrived from Jordan, his arch nemesis, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah shocked Washington and Tel Aviv, while thrilling Resistance supporters in Lebanon and around the region, by appearing in person at this year's Rayah Field Ashoura gathering, near my apartment and commemorating the 7th Century martyrdom at Karbala of Ibn Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Plus the US Assistant Secretary learned he would not be granted a meeting with Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman as payback for Feltman snubbing Sulieman and his wife Wafaa during his recent visit to Washington. Feltman's refusal to meet with Lebanon's President was explained as being punishment for Sulieman being suspected of being too close to Hezbollah politically.
In fairness to Feltman, he did make a point of telling the media that the US is interested in Sleiman's view of the region's developments. He added that he thinks Sleiman has a good point of view regarding the situation in Syria, and how best to protect Lebanon and he would welcome a chance to sit with Lebanon's President. Sleiman didn't bite and refused to meet with Jeff, whose snub in Washington also hurt the feelings of Sleiman's gracious wife Wafaa who according to Serail gossip not only bought two new outfits for anticipated social events but reportedly ended up at one point having to settle for carry-out Chinese food from DC's China town and got indigestion. And it was all Jeff's fault.
In reality, Feltman is visiting Beirut to put new conditions on the Lebanese government after Lebanon paid its share of funds to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. His visit comes following months of criticism by Washington over Lebanon's failure to agree on a plan to fund a U.N.-backed tribunal probing the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and repeated warnings to Lebanon about adhering to sanctions on neighboring Syria.
Feltman said in an interview published on 12/6/11 that Prime Minister Najib Mikati's decision to transfer Lebanon's share of funds to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is in the interest of Lebanon. In fact, Feltman, like the March 14th team, was not at all happy with Lebanon transferring the STL funding but was hoping that Lebanon's government would not send the $ 32,000,000, being its 49% share of the STL budget, and that the government would be forced to resign.
A view Feltman partially shared with Hezbollah but for different reasons.
Feltman's pals at the US Treasury Department planned to grab and squeeze Lebanon where it hurts most" sanctions on Lebanon's banking system which is currently making a financial killing given banking ramifications of the crisis in Syria. Lebanon has traditionally been a refuge for Syrian money laundering. Today, the US is threatening Lebanese banks, and has sent Treasury officials to Beirut with instructions for Lebanese banks to scrutinize Syrian accounts like never before.
Just last month, Feltman threatened Prime Minister Miqati with Chapter 7 Security Council sanctions on Lebanon if it had failed to fund the STL. Feltman reportedly carried a list of those sanctions in his jacket pocket much like Philip Habib used to do when the Reagan administration made fake promises to the PLO, some of which Arafat fell for, to get the Palestinian forces to leave Beirut in the summer of 1982.