WASHINGTON (Oct. 28)
The Lebanese crisis was discussed today by Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin. State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said the subject came up in the course of a general discussion of the Mideast situation that lasted more than an hour. It was the first discussion here between the U.S. and the Soviet Union on the Lebanese crisis.
Fear was mounting in official circles here that the Lebanese crisis may have opened the way for Russia to establish long-range political influence in Lebanon, the only Arab country with which the U.S. has been able to maintain close and cordial relations.
American diplomats were concerned over the apparent ease with which the Soviets have injected themselves into inter-Arab efforts to mediate the conflict between the Beirut regime and the guerrillas and their supporters.
The Soviet Ambassador to Lebanon, Sarvar A. Azimov, conferred with major figures in the dispute yesterday. He reportedly spent four-and-a-half hours with Rashid Karami, whose resignation as head of Lebanon’s shaky caretaker Government last week was believed to have encouraged the guerrillas. Mr. Azimov reportedly emphasized that Moscow would not intervene and would prevent others from intervening in Lebanese affairs.
But U.S. officials believe the Soviets have already intervened. They were aware that had the U.S. Ambassador in Beirut taken as active a role as the Soviet envoy, Arab anger would have been aroused to a high pitch. American policy-makers consequently were shying away from any words or deeds that might be interpreted as favoring the Helou regime. At the same time, they were painfully aware that any compromise favoring the commandos would be a severe blow to U.S. policy which has supported the Lebanese Government’s efforts to restrain guerrilla activities. Any compromise, sources here said, would enhance the guerrillas’ prestige and influence.
(The London Daily Telegraph’s correspondent Eric Downton reported from Beirut today that the “blatant role taken by the Soviet Ambassador to Lebanon” has added “a sinister aspect” to the current crisis. “If any Western Ambassador, particularly American or British, dared to inject his presence so blatantly into the Lebanese crisis nowadays, there would be wholesale howls of protest in every Arab capital,” Mr. Downton wrote. He observed that a chaotic “Syrianization” of Lebanon would suit Moscow and represent a considerable step forward in Russia’s massive penetration of the Middle East.)