Friday, June 03, 2005

Samir Qassir - Aoun - the Opposition

The politicking of Aoun since his arrival saddens me. His behavior has lead to disarray within the opposition camp that we once all belonged to, and has lead to a renewed rally by the security-apparatus and Syria’s zulum. One of the indirect consequences of Aoun’s truly earth-shattering entrance into Lebanese politics could have been Samir Qassir's death. For had he remained abroad until after the dissolution of the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus (along with its appendages), or had he allied with the opposition camp until its dissolution, the apparatus might have been too intimidated by a united front to take any initiatives – especially such blatant and brutal acts as what happened yesterday. Unfortunately, his bid to drill his way into the Lebanese political landscape by taking advantage of a volatile situation while it lasts has lead Aoun to adopt a different strategy, a strategy that may have already cost us dearly.

Aoun’s Political Strategy: treat them all alike; they're all the same!

One of Aoun's most powerful "political weapons" is the oft-repeated fact that he has been in exile for fifteen years. He never ceases to remind us that all the political entities in Lebanon today (other than himself, of course) were once part of the Sulta, and were as corrupt and incompetent as each other. Aoun's narrative is that he's the only one whose hands are clean - he never robbed the state, nor did he deal with the Syrian occupation. Therefore, Hariri is no different from Karami; Arslan is no different from Jumblatt; Murr is no different from Samir Franjieh; etc.… On that basis he deals with both camps on an equal footing, and plays one off against the other in order to better his own negotiating position. The notion that negotiations with Jumblatt and Hariri was not about seats is, in my opinion, a ridiculous one. Aoun wanted seats, and his threat to the opposition camp was that if he didn’t get them, he didn’t have any inhibitions about going to the other camp.

Aoun's perception of the Lebanese political elite is correct; but only partially so. Hariri, Jumblatt, and most of the other members of the opposition camp are not exactly role-model democrats who respect state institutions and the law. They have abused their powers, bypassed state institutions and lived above the "laws of the land." However, what distinguishes them from people like Lahoud and Murr is the fact that they do have popular mandates, and do not owe their power to Syria’s post-war tutelage of the country, or to the ability to utilize political violence. Furthermore, with regards to the Syrian occupation and Aoun's principaled refusal to deal with it, I wonder what would have happened if all of Lebanon's politicians decided to pack up their bags and leave the country because they could not accept the occupation on priciple? The General packed up and left because he could not reconcile himself to some very potent local, regional and international realities; a political disease that might be surfacing again, today.

Aoun’s agenda: gone with the wind?

One would like to think that in return for effectively dissolving the opposition and (inadvertently?) inflaming sectarian tensions, Aoun would offer something in return. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case. We are continually reminded of his reform agenda, but I’ve never heard him articulate this agenda once! Assuming it did exist however, and that it is taken seriously, I wonder whether the General’s new allies would be more supportive of it than members of the opposition. Would individuals who are even more dependent on kickbacks from the state for their power be more or less forthcoming to reform initiatives? I guess we will find out in the coming years.

Assuming that Aoun is truly an anti-sectarian reformer at heart, I would think that he’d be aware that Lebanon’s problems are systemic. I would also think that Aoun is aware of the fact that one election will not make that much of a difference, and that the issue is not so much about leaders, as it is about people and communities. Aoun once said as much. After arriving to Lebanon, he mentioned that his efforts did not center on elections, but rather the overall cause of reform. It now appears that Aoun is intent on two things:

1. winning as many seats in parliament as possible
2. he apparently seeks an all-out revolution of the Lebanese political elite

A more limited set of goals, along with more responsible rhetoric and political maneuverings could have ended this Lebanese political saga a long time ago. If only Aoun joined the opposition... If only he accepted that certain things come before others... Samir Qassir's words might still have been printed on an-Nahar's pages every Friday.

11 comments:

Doha said...

Raja,

I agree with you. I would like to add a point: I did read Aoun's reform agenda; it was at one point posted on the tayyar website. Interestingly, it did not differ at all from any of the reform agendas that many in the Opposition have articulated. The article discussing the reform agenda even goes to explain that the only difference between FPM's economic reform agenda and that of the Future Movement's is that FPM calls for investing in sectors that induce production, something that Hariri did not emphasize.

Everything else looks the same: elimination of political corruption, judicial reform, public sector reform, etc...

I'm happy that FPM among many other groups have ideas for a better Lebanon; the more the better. But I'm saddened when I see that someone's reform agenda is portrayed as not only better than the others, but also is used as almost a "weapon" or a threat...exactly how Lahoud had used once reform and institution-building as a "weapon"...then, I really did fall for this rhetoric. I won't fall for it this time!

Another point: in Samir Kassir's last commentary, he wrote about Syria...and as Al-Nahar's Ahmad Ayyash writes, he did not write about Lebanese affairs because he was confused about what's happening(the "araf" he called it). He then finally decided to face the facts and was drafting a commentary on Aoun to be published on Friday as usual...But the Friday never came...

Anonymous said...

Raja,
On the most part I agree with you; Aon, as you noted previously dissapointed almost everybody, but I do think it is quite an unfair stretch to blame Samir Kassir's assassination on him.

There are many a simpler explanation why Kassir now is among the martyrs, a situation that saddens and angers all of us...but let us not be blinded by our emotions and fall into the trap of pointing fingers...

Anonymous said...

I guess there's nothing better than preaching to the choir!
To be clear on this, I have no love loss for Aoun or the rest of the political class/gang devouring Lebanon and selling the masses. But to attribute the Quassir's murder to Aoun, shows a lack of insight and analytical depth. I'm not a fly-by reader of your blog. As a matter of fact, I read some very interesting and insightful pieces here before. Unfortunately, this one is a setback. Perhaps, you shouldn't be absolving Jumblat, Kournat shehwan and .... the rest of the click of our current situation, after all it takes two to tango (in Lebanon's case, it's more of a line dance or electric slide - too many partners!).

They say all is fair in love and politics, right? But why is it only fair for Jumblat, Amal, Hizballa and the rest??

Raja said...

anonymous(es),

I don't think that Joumblatt, Amal, Hizballa and the rest are flawless, and I didn't blame Aoun for Qassir's death. My argument was that if Aoun had joined the opposition and formed a powerfull united front, Qassir's death "could" have been prevented. As for criticism of the other politicians, I recommend you read Tony's postings in Across the Bay - he makes some very good points, and I learn a lot from him. At the moment though, my ire is directed at Aoun - maybe because my hopes were so high for him.

Anonymous said...

> my ire is directed at Aoun - maybe because my hopes were so high for him

I think that's a very important thing.
Becasue Aoun has been in exile for so long it has been very easy for him to escape the dirt of the political lebanese system. That is why many people were convinced he was so much better than the rest of the political class and to have very high hopes for him.
To me he is the "a3war bein el 3imyen" but I never idealized him too much.

If you did not have such high hopes for aoun you would be equally upset at the oppositioun for blowing the "we7det el mou3arada" horn for so long and then fighting with aoun on the number of seats, if we7det el mou3arada meaned anything to them they would have sacrificed a few seats to have all of the mou3arada on one side.
If the political stability and dismanteling the rest of the gihaz el amneh meant more to them they would have taken actions as soon as they got their hands on wizaret el dekhlyeh and wizaret el 3adel (both belong to hariri ministers) which also could have prevented samir's death, instead of being buzy moving aklem el iktira3 shweit mhajjarin back to shouf where they can't vote...
If Aoun or Jumblat cared more about Samir's death than the intekhabet then Marwan 7medeh would not be saying "Tayyar el wataneh el mish 7orr houweh moutawate' ma3 katalet Samir " trying to win a couple of extra votes and Joubran Bassil replying "into 3am testa3mlou damm Samir lal intekhbet therefor the lebanese people should vote for us cause the rest are liars" ... In that regard they are all as bad.

So I guess you are right, when everyone is so bad we direct our anger to those we had the most hope in. Just make sure that doesn't blind you from realizing that the rest are as bad and you never hoped they would behave any better.

Pat

Anton Efendi said...

Doha, I think Nasrallah in a speech only called for his followers to stick with the lists in the south (and the south alone). No guarantees eslewhere. He's not trusting anyone, and let's not forget that he's Syria's man, and still close to Lahoud. So they may very well end up using Aoun to try and disrupt the opposition and even its parliamentary majority (if they can get more Aounists in). In that case, they end up keeping a cover for their weapons, not having to face Berri, keep ties with Lahoud and the Syrians, screw Saad, and make Jumblat look like a fool.

Throwing Aoun out of the opposition was a bad move. Not because Aoun is a good guy (he's an idiot), but because this creates a whole new balance, one that will be exploited by Syria's people (which include, let's not forget, Hasan Nasrallah).

eyeontruth said...

No one can throw aoun out of the opposition, but it seems that their opposition does not aoun's reforming.
Aoun allied with arsalan not because he loves arsalan, but because they left him no choice
Aoun beeing 15 year in the exile PROVES THAT HARIRI FOUGHT AOUN OVER THE YEARS, AND JUMBLAT, AND ...
We have forgot the history of people who rubbed lebanon for 15 years the last 3 monthes, Now an allie with arsalan makes u a syrian.
COME ON PEOPLE WAKE UP AND DON"T Listen to what al mustakbal SAY
Don't listen to the media commentary!!!!
When you want to listen to someone. LISTEN TO WHAT HE SAYS IN FULL
Bye...

Anonymous said...

As an American married to a Lebanese woman who emigrated from Lebanon 4 years ago, I'm following the events in Lebanon. I watched the General's return with much interest. I think, however, that the event typifies the disorganization and lack of discipline within the opposition. To decribe in using American expression "Everyone wants to be a chief and nobody wants to be an Indian". The scene at the airport was one of complete chaos. With chaos and lack of disciplined organization, Syria really doesn't need to do much to continue their dominance in Lebanon....even without thier military!!

dany said...

You have the right think that aoun is reaching to reform as much as lahoud did when he lied. You can also think that he has a similar agenda to Hariri's and to whoever is running for parliament, the only difference is that he has a clean past while the others have been digging our grave for even before most of us bloggers were born. As much as I would like to think that Saad Hariri has agenda, be reminded that Leadership is not genetic. Gebran son of ghassan, solange wife of bechir and saad son of rafic are all on the same list, I don't know who else from dynasties are on that list, the same is for what is so called mouarada in metn, nassib lahoud, gemayel etc...Maybe the elections are not representative of the people's distribution, but that doesn't really matter when people elect based on leadership and not on religions. Aoun could have thrown a list in beirut if people vote based on convictions of a party rather than where is he from and what religion he is. So bottom line if people elect berri then as much as he is corrupt they deserve him. If they elect murr then they deserve him. If Aoun is stupid enough to have murr on his list, if people elect murr then they also deserve him. Aoun can put murr on his list to get his votes but people who are intelligent enough will scratch murr out. After all people elect... If they elect the corrupt Mother F then they deserve them.

Sam from Riyadh said...

Well I respect your opinion but I disagree.
First General Aoun came to Lebanon in mind to work with the Mou3arada, but they pushed him away. They came to him and told him you can have two seats or whatever, so they imposed on him some seats. I don't think this is the way you treat your allies, but you sit with them on a table and discuss the matter, Jounblat thinks that he is the Mou3arada's boss, and Imad Aoun thinks he is an important part, because he fought for the freedom of this country from Paris, he managed to do some lobbying in the American congress, which helped to create the UN's resolution 1559, which obligates Syria to withdraw from Lebanon…My point is that the opposition pushed Aoun away, knowing that he wants to find out about the 44 billion national debt! Because Jounblat will be the first one to be accused with the "sandouk el mouhajarin".
Michel Aoun's problem is that he is straight, honest and clear and these rare qualities are forgotten in Lebanese politics.
So General Aoun was left alone on the political scene, so he had to make some allies in order to have a chance at the elections…
Why does everybody jumps at Aoun's throat when he makes alliances with Arslan or Murr, and no body talks about the alliance between Ain el Tineh and the Bristol, when they talk about Mousalaha, or peace in the mountain, why is everybody aloud to make peace expet for Aoun!!
Why should people be afraid of someone whose hands are clean, and political position hasn't changed from 15 years!!! Or should we trust a person who changes stands every two weeks just to follow his own interests!!!
Aoun is the founder of the opposition form 15 years so they should join him!
They insulted him because he made allies like Sulaimen Franjieh, who is considered as an old ally to Syria, but what about Jounbalt saying that we should keep Nabih Berreh! Isn't he a pro Syrian politician?! Wasn't Jounblat talking about a change? Well what a change if Berreh is staying in post.
The martyr Samir Qassir, was a good man, an honest journalist, but it is no way that we can blame the General for his death.
Aoun's program is clear it might have some resemblance with other programs, which is a good thing isn't it…
Everybody is accusing Aoun to be against Hezbollah, well I can assure you he isn't, he just wants to solve this problem around a round table and discuss the matter. He once proposed that they should join the Lebanese Army, wich is not a bad idea.
All in all, I want to say that El Imad Aoun is a good man, a person we can trust, he has no interests in any position so he can benefit from ,in financial matters or so, he does not care about money (he has problems paying the rent)!
I am sure that he is trying to work for Lebanon, but he can't do it alone, he needs your help and support.
I am ready to stop my support to him if he stops working for our beautiful country, we shouldn't follow a leader like a sheep, but we should use our mind, I am willing to support every man who works for Lebanon, and that man today is General Michel Aoun.
Thank you for your time

Sam from Riyadh said...

Well I respect your opinion but I disagree.
First General Aoun came to Lebanon in mind to work with the Mou3arada, but they pushed him away. They came to him and told him you can have two seats or whatever, so they imposed on him some seats. I don't think this is the way you treat your allies, but you sit with them on a table and discuss the matter, Jounblat thinks that he is the Mou3arada's boss, and Imad Aoun thinks he is an important part, because he fought for the freedom of this country from Paris, he managed to do some lobbying in the American congress, which helped to create the UN's resolution 1559, which obligates Syria to withdraw from Lebanon…My point is that the opposition pushed Aoun away, knowing that he wants to find out about the 44 billion national debt! Because Jounblat will be the first one to be accused with the "sandouk el mouhajarin".
Michel Aoun's problem is that he is straight, honest and clear and these rare qualities are forgotten in Lebanese politics.
So General Aoun was left alone on the political scene, so he had to make some allies in order to have a chance at the elections…
Why does everybody jumps at Aoun's throat when he makes alliances with Arslan or Murr, and no body talks about the alliance between Ain el Tineh and the Bristol, when they talk about Mousalaha, or peace in the mountain, why is everybody aloud to make peace expet for Aoun!!
Why should people be afraid of someone whose hands are clean, and political position hasn't changed from 15 years!!! Or should we trust a person who changes stands every two weeks just to follow his own interests!!!
Aoun is the founder of the opposition since 15 years so they should join him!
They insulted him because he made allies like Sulaimen Franjieh, who is considered as an old ally to Syria, but what about Jounbalt saying that we should keep Nabih Berreh! Isn't he a pro Syrian politician?! Wasn't Jounblat talking about a change? Well what a change if Berreh is staying in post.
The martyr Samir Qassir, was a good man, an honest journalist, but it is no way that we can blame the General for his death.
Aoun's program is clear it might have some resemblance with other programs, which is a good thing isn't it…
Everybody is accusing Aoun to be against Hezbollah, well I can assure you he isn't, he just wants to solve this problem around a round table and discuss the matter. He once proposed that they should join the Lebanese Army, wich is not a bad idea.
All in all, I want to say that El Imad Aoun is a good man, a person we can trust, he has no interests in any position so he can benefit from ,in financial matters or so, he does not care about money (he has problems paying the rent)!
I am sure that he is trying to work for Lebanon, but he can't do it alone, he needs your help and support.
I am ready to stop my support to him if he stops working for our beautiful country, we shouldn't follow a leader like a sheep, but we should use our mind, I am willing to support every man who works for Lebanon, and that man today is General Michel Aoun.
Thank you for your time