The Politics of Miscalculation in the Middle East

By Richard Bordeaux Parker | Go to book overview
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"Ya Sham al-shu'm!"*

This chapter discusses the decision by the U.S. administration to press ahead with the May 17 agreement in spite of warnings from ambassadors in the field that it would be opposed by the Syrians and would not hold. The discussion is based on conversations with participants and on documents now available in the public record.

Among those interviewed were Philip Habib, Morris Draper, Nicholas Veliotes, Robert Dillon (ambassador to Lebanon), Robert Paganelli (ambassador to Syria), Richard Viets (ambassador to Jordan), Richard Murphy (ambassador to Saudi Arbia), Alfred Atherton (ambassador to Egypt), Howard Teicher (NSC staffer who participated in the final weeks of the negotiations and remained on the scene afterward as an aide to the president's personal representative), Michael Newlin (consul general in Jerusalem), Ghassan Tueni (publisher of An-Nahar newspaper, former Lebanese U.N. delegate, and foreign policy adviser to President Amin Gemayel), Marwan Hammadeh (foreign policy adviser to Walid Jumblatt), and Abdul Halim Khaddam (Syrian foreign minister).

I have supplemented the recollections of the participants with my own observations as adviser to the U.S. Businessmen's Commission on Reconstruction in Lebanon, a group of senior business executives chaired by Lewis Preston of the Morgan Bank who, at President Reagan's request, began in late 1982 to explore the possibilities of aid from the private sector to revive the Lebanese economy. I went to Beirut on behalf of the commission for two weeks in late January-early February 1983. During that stay I met and talked with a wide range of Lebanese, official and private, including the president and three of his predecessors, most of the cabinet, a number of members of parliament, and other political and business figures whom I had known through a total of three tours in Lebanon.

Oh Damascus, the ill-omened! Allegedly said in 1085 by Ibn Quraysh, last Arab emir of Aleppo, as he died on the battlefield, abandoned by his Damascene allies; quoted in Kamel Salibi , Syria under Islam ( Delmar, N.Y., 1990), pp. 143-44.


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