Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Marhsall Plan, Anyone?

By Le Moineau
7 Aug 2006
Uncorrected Draft
Article 52

Calls for Lebanon’s recovery have a history

On at least two recent occasions, there were calls made for a Marshall Plan for Lebanon, a strange term coming early in the war. The Marshall Plan that reconstructed Europe was dependent on the Tapline. Will Lebanon’s?

A new Marshall Plan, indeed
Out of the blue and barely four weeks into the war there has been general agreement for a Marshall Plan for Lebanon. Not just a ceasefire and recovery, but a Marshall Plan. The notion was first introduced in an emotional speech by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Rome on 28 July 2006. Following intensive talks with world foreign ministers, a dapper Siniora emerged on a podium next to Condoleezza Rice and urged:

I call upon you all to respond immediately, without reservation or hesitation, to my appeal for an immediate cease-fire, and provide urgent humanitarian assistance to our war-stricken country. A new Marshall plan must then be set in motion in order to help Lebanon recover as quickly as possible from the crippling effects of this unjustified onslaught valued in billions of US Dollars which is for the seventh time deliberately targeting and disabling our economy and civilian infrastructure.’[1]

Following this earnest prescription, Mr Siniora laid out for the first time the seven conditions for the end of hostilities, including the placing of multinational troops in the south, which are now slowly making their way into the UN debates this week. Someone must have heard his appeal in Israel, as today, Mr Akiva Eldar, a veteran Labor columnist at Haaretz, declared in response to counter continued Iranian threats, that

The Israeli government should inform the Security Council that it is ready for an immediate cease-fire in the north and a resumption of negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. It should also urge the international community to sponsor a Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.[2]

This seemingly magnanimous and unprecedented gesture from a well-informed Israeli insider, who usually reflects Mr Peres’ thoughts, sounds rather in tune with Lebanon’s demands. I would have thought the Israelis would have shunned such nomenclature, considering the Marshall Plan followed the Nazi wars in Europe. Regardless, and without trying to be cynical, this bodes well for a feasible and humanitarian complement to the hopefully imminent ‘cessation of hostilities’ (to avoid using the c word), plus Siniora’s 7 points, etc.

Get this. The last time the words ‘Marshall Plan’ and ‘Lebanon’ were mentioned together, I think, was in 1991. In his best-selling Pulitzer Prize-winning tome on the geopolitics of energy, The Prize, Daniel Yergin describes how the construction of Tapline by Bechtel for Standard Oil—to carry Saudi crude to the Mediterranean Sea via the south of Lebanon and the Golan—was part and parcel of the Marshall Plan. ‘Funded and facilitated’ by the Marshall Plan, Tapline was literally the lifeline of the economic recovery and reconstruction of postwar Europe. It makes sense: How else could Europe get huge amounts of oil and remain indebted to the US during the postwar years?[3].

Since Israel occupied the Golan in 1967, however, Tapline was shut off. This war provides the US a long-awaited opportunity (not to say pretext) to place US-sanctioned multinational troops to secure the pipeline route. In the past Israel refused—poor Mr Baker, he bent over backwards trying to convince Mr Shamir to place US troops in the Golan as ‘the ultimate security guarantee’ but to no avail.[4] His wish seems to have finally found a local audience.

Today, if the UN heeds Messrs Siniora and Eldar’s seemingly synchronized pleas, the Marshall plan will indeed recover one of its main pillars. While feeding Lebanon’s recovery, a secure and healthy crude artery from Dhahran to Zahrani might also regain Europe’s dependency on the US.

[1] Fouad Siniora, 28 July 2006, speech transcript:
[2] Akiva Eldar, ‘Let’s Play A Trick on Them’, Haaretz 7 August 2006
[3] Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, 1991, Chapter 21: ‘The Postwar Petroleum Order’, 409-30
[4] James Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, 1995, 455

Copyright © 2006 Le Moineau


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