David Welch thought it was appropriate for a US official to join the chorus of foreign officials fearing a “hot summer” in Lebanon.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch said that Lebanon has lost the Arab initiative, which failed to provide for the election of a president.
“I fear that the Lebanese might face a hot summer, similar to the summer of 2006,” which saw the devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah, Welch said at a press conference in Abu Dhabi. (Now Lebanon)
On April Fool's Day, Arab League Secretary-general Amr Moussa reported the same prophecy.
"Many people are telling (us) to expect a hot summer in the region. This scares me a lot because the weakest point…is Lebanon. But when Lebanon gets a president, a unity cabinet and an efficient parliament, (then it) becomes stronger," Moussa said. (Naharnet)
These statements are adding to a Lebanese sense of confusion and resentment towards local and foreign players. We’re not talking civil war here, we’re talking a regional war that, for now, Lebanon is being projected to host, seeing how engaging the principal players directly might be too costly or damaging to the status quo. It would be disgusting if a war similar to the 2006 war spared Syria, Israel and Iran the destruction that was reserved for Lebanon.
As Moussa and Welch said, Lebanon is a strong candidate for hosting such a regional power play because of its inability to have a functioning government and parliament. Instead of sparing Lebanon more destruction, we see Nabih Berri continuing with his efforts to ease pressure on the Assad regime by burying the presidential election underneath a thick layer of illegal conditions, the latest of which is prior agreement on the electoral law.
Update. The US embassy in Beirut has denied that Welch made the above statement. Here is the press release.
U.S. Embassy clarifies Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch’s Statement
April 22, 2008
Several media outlets have incorrectly reported on recent remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch
Answering a question from a reporter in the United Arab Emirates about his trip to Lebanon, Assistant Secretary Welch said Lebanese had expressed to him concern that tourism could suffer again this summer because of the tension in the country.
The Assistant Secretary said:
"They're worried that they'll have another difficult summer of tourism being low because of the tension in the country, and more broadly, I think they are concerned, ever since Hizballah launched the war in 2006, that maybe Lebanon will miss out from this oil boom, that it will be left behind in the region as there is economic progress elsewhere. So I found them troubled about the future.