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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/20/10

Is the US Embassy in Lebanon squandering its diplomatic immunity?

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According to the Lebanese Ministry of Communications, the US embassy in Beirut filed a request to install reception devices in two positions in Lebanon located in mountainous areas in Aley and overlooking most of the Lebanese regions. The first is 22 kilometers away from Beirut, 760 meters above sea level and stretching over 251 hectares, while the second is 29 kilometers away from Beirut, 540 meters above sea level and stretching over 643 hectares. The US Embassy position is that its tower demand falls under the headline of technical assistance stipulated in the "donation" agreement.

Suspicions were also raised that the commando units the US wanted to train might be intended for use against the National Lebanese Resistance during a future conflict with Israel.

On March 16, 2010, the Syrian daily Al Watan asked Lebanese MP Nawaf
Mousawi about the growing concern in Parliament. Mousawi, one of Hezbollah's most popular and sought after interlocutors with American and other foreign delegations visiting Lebanon, replied:

"If the reports we read in the Lebanese papers are true, this would be a horrid scandal since it would mean that the American embassy was violating Lebanon's sovereignty and that the American security apparatuses were trying to infiltrate personal and national security in
Lebanon. This would constitute an Israeli security infiltration since there is a security agreement between Israel and America in regard to the exchange of information"

"Moreover, I say that today the American embassy in Lebanon has a private militia called the embassy's guard, arresting each suspected citizen in the massive area surrounding the embassy that has become an isolated geography within the Lebanese geography. It has become a state within a state with tapping devices violating the intimacy of the Lebanese people and intelligence officers monitoring all that goes on in the ministries and public administrations. We in Lebanon now need to liberate our land from the occupation of the American militia and to liberate part of our decisions from the American occupation by limiting the relations of the American embassy to the Foreign Ministry and preventing the American apparatuses from acquiring information in

Crossing the boundaries of Diplomatic protection?
The Embassy's intense and escalating campaign against the Opposition, a main pillar of Lebanon's government, is also raising questions among International lawyers and government officials whether the Embassy has squandered its diplomatic status under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. A study in underway in Lebanon to determine the extent of the US Embassy abuse of Diplomatic Immunity. Opinions among scholars and analysts range from a raft of challenges to allowing Israel to have an "illegal outpost" in Lebanon to sanctioning the Embassy for violations of the Vienna Convention, specifically under Art. 41 which requires that foreign Embassies, "respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State and not interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving State."

Researchers point out that 27 years ago this month, on April 17, 1983 the American Embassy was attacked as a direct and foreseeable result of the Embassy's involvement as a command and control center on behalf of Israel against the majority population of Lebanon.

According to former CIA agent Robert Baer, the CIA never did determine who was behind the bombing (there were a few dozen upstart resistance groups wanting to expel Israel in those days) but understood that it was the result of hostile US actions against Lebanon.

Food for thought

Legal experts at the State Department privately admit that despite years of public statements to the contrary, the April 17, 1983 attack cannot be accurately labeled "terrorism' because by bringing in and housing the command center staffed by at least 8 CIA agents and various "special ops' units who were running a network of pro-Israel assets and providing targeting information to the USS New Jersey offshore and Israel forces in the mountains and Chouf the Embassy lost its claim to diplomatic immunity.

The Embassy actions enabled the shelling of Lebanon and the killing of hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians, among many other activities.

Consequently, the Embassy became a legitimate military target under the international laws of armed conflict. Lebanese resistance forces, who opposed the Israeli occupation of their country and their American and French allies who had abandoned their claimed role as "peacekeepers" and in fact had taken sides in the conflict were legally within their right and duty to neutralize the threat presented. The specific and legitimate military target of the April 18,1983 attack on the US Embassy is Beirut were the eight CIA agents and their teams who had been identified by Soviet sources and the information sent to allies in Lebanon.

While no reasonable person might suggest that the Embassy is currently subject to a third attack, despite regular salafist and al Qaeda wannabe threats, observers point out the irony that it has been Hezbollah, incessantly attacked by the Embassy and its allies in the Lebanese Forces and Phalange party, (the same groups who held power in 1983 and sponsored the giveaway May 17, 1983 Agreement with Israel), that has invisibly protected the Embassy several times over the past two decades, just as it quietly provided security in south Beirut during last spring's visit of President Carter with Lebanon's Senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, still on a US Terrorism list for purely political reasons.

Lebanon's recourse

Lebanon currently has few practical or easy diplomatic options. The ultimate sanction and prevention measure available for Lebanon is the severance of diplomatic relations. That is unlikely unless Israel attacks Lebanon for the 6th time with the predictable American "green light'. The doctrines of self defense and self preservation are also available to Lebanon in order to prevent a foreign Embassy from facilitating aggressor against it.

Additional activities viewed as arguably incompatible with its legitimate diplomatic functions is the drum beat of attacks on certain parties in
Parliament (those allied with Hezbollah) including the current - widely believed to be fake - "Syria gives Scuds to Hezbollah" charges. On April 15,
2010, Syria emphatically denied the charge and asked for evidence while claiming that Israel was paving the way for new military action in the region with its false allegation.

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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