JERUSALEM (Sep. 21)
Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon wants the United States to call in the marines to save the situation in Lebanon. He also hurled barbs at his successor, Defense Minister Moshe Arens, in an interview published in the Jerusalem Post today.
Sharon, a Minister-Without-Portfolio, was quoted as saying the U.S. marines now deployed around Beirut airport, should be sent into the mountains to repel the Syrian-backed Druze and PLO attack on the strategic town of Suk el-Gharb where the Lebanese army is under seige.
According to Sharon, U.S. forces presently in Lebanon and off-shore are “definitely capable” of repelling the anti-government forces attempting to capture the town regarded as the gateway to Beirut. But he said, more marines from the U.S. Sixth Fleet should be landed in Lebanon and the fleet’s air power should be employed if necessary. Naval bombardment alone could not turn back a determined enemy attack, the general maintained.
He said he was convinced that if the U.S. acts forcefully, the Syrians and their surrogates would back off because neither Damascus nor its Soviet backers want a head-on confrontation with the U.S.
Turning to Israel’s role, Sharon charged that Arens kept the Cabinet “in the dark” about “the total change of orientation” in Israel’s Lebanon policy. According to Sharon, this was a shift away from the Christian Phalan- gists which Israel has armed and supported since 1976, toward the Druze. The matter is one of vital political, military and moral significance but it has not been debated either by the full Cabinet or the ministerial defense committee, Sharon said.
The former defense chief said he had heard “rumors” of the shift two months ago and privately warned Premier Menachem Begin at the time “against any reliance on (Druze leader Walid) Jumblatt.”
He said he had also urged that the Lebanese army be deployed in key positions in the Shouf mountains before the Israel Defense Force withdrew to its new line along the Awali River. Otherwise, he said, the mountain Druze would not allow the Lebanese army in. But his warnings to the Cabinet were brushed aside.
Sharon charged that Israel did not make “serious efforts” to have United Nations or multinational forces undertake a buffer role before the IDF’s redeployment. Had such an international force taken up positions, the Syrian surrogates would not have dared to overrun them, he said.