CGGL Staff  Local Media  01/05/2006 Beirut, January 5:  A syndicated columnist reported in an opinion piece published today in the Beirut Daily Star and partly carried in Arabic by other Beirut daily newspapers that Walid Jumblatt told him in a telephone interview, when asked what he wanted from America: "You came to Iraq & you can do the same thing in Syria." The piece was written by David Ignatius, who opened up by referring to gangster movies. He spoke first of the television interview by former Syrian VP Abdel Halim Khaddam, whom he called an old mafia don and a turncoat, then turned his attention to Jumblatt.   

To understand the latest turns of the screw in Syria and Lebanon, Ignatius wrote,  I spoke by telephone yesterday with Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Druze community and something of a warlord himself. Ignatius added: The Druze leader is holed up in his ancestral fortress of Moukhtara, in the Chouf Mountains. Like other Lebanese I spoke with this week, he fears a deadly new attack by the Syrians that would attempt to trigger sectarian conflict in Lebanon — and take the heat off Damascus. Jumblatt argues that the only stable outcome will be regime change in Syria — a "Milosevic solution" that will bring Assad to justice through the United Nations.

What makes the Syria-Lebanon situation especially volatile, Jumblatt explained to Ignatius, is that it is linked to the radical new Iranian regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Jumblatt argued that Iran is using its alliance with Assad and Hezbollah in its larger strategic battles against Israel and the United States. "It’s as if we are defending Iranian nuclear facilities from the border of Lebanon," he said.

Jumblatt said: "If Bush considers Lebanon one of his major achievements, now is the time to protect Lebanon," He told Ignatius: What can the United States do, realistically, to keep the Syria-Lebanon situation from exploding? The answer partly is to stick with the U.N. investigation that is slowly wrenching out the truth about Hariri’s murder. The challenge for the United States, said Jumblat, is to help Lebanon become strong enough to resist Syrian hegemony. A potential breakthrough would be a U.S.-brokered agreement for Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon border, under a U.N. agreement that the territory belongs to Lebanon. That would give the struggling Lebanese government a symbolic victory — and would undercut Hezbollah’s rationale for maintaining its militia. That issue should be at the top of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s in-box as she starts the new year — perhaps along with an old tape of "The Godfather."