The White House is trying a last minute gambit to direct the attention of American voters to the hostile Middle East, and by extension to legitimize the U.S. presence in Iraq.
The White House said Wednesday that there was "mounting evidence" that Iran and Syria were involved in a plot to bring down the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon, but senior officials refused to describe in any detail the intelligence they said they had collected.
In an unusual statement, the White House said it was "increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hezbollah and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon's democratically elected government."
American officials said they had evidence that Syria and Iran were trying to engineer the creation of a new "unity" government that they could control, partly through Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite organization considered a terrorist group by the United States.
One senior American official, who declined to be identified by name because he was discussing an intelligence issue, said there were also indications of "planning for a more violent" attack on the government, but he gave no details.
The "Lebanon coup" information operation has its skeptics, including the intelligence community.
Intelligence officials said they think the White House statement was referring to Nasrallah's threat of widespread protests if Lebanese leaders fail to create a unity government. One official said that although U.S. intelligence officials think Nasrallah would like more power and Syria would like a friendlier Lebanese government, there are no signs of an impending coup.