Friday, December 30, 2005

In Desperation, Khaddam Enters the Stage

The Hariri family decided that today would be the right time to show their cards to the world. Khaddam's interview on al Arabiyya was their Ace… their earthquake.

Frankly, they could not have pulled this stunt any sooner! The UN investigation has screeched to a deafening halt. Not that that matters anyhow, for the Syrians have been behaving as confident as ever, and some of their trusted mouthpieces, like the stalwart Patrick Seale, even occasionally admit that they did kill Hariri as a legitimate act of self defense. Two months ago, Presidents Bush and Chirac frequently mentioned Lebanon in speeches and press conferences; today, both heads of state are moot. In short, Lebanon has not been this isolated since the assassination of Hariri.

Domestically, we face a stalemate between the March 14 forces on one side and the Hizballah-Amal-FPM Tripartite on another. The country effectively has no government. Hizballah continues to conduct its private war against Israel in the South. There is even talk that the Tripartite is considering eliminating the March 14 parliamentary majority by walking out of Parliament and calling for new elections. Of course, this time, there would be no question as to who Baabda-Aley will go to. As for the other electoral districts, including Beirut (which was won without a real fight by the Future Movement), they definitely will not yield the decisive victories that they did back in June. In other words, the March 14 alliance is cornered, and its hands are tied behind its back. There is a real threat of returning to the status quo ante (pre-February 14 – with the sole exception of Aoun and the FPM’s presence in Parliament).

Consequently, Khaddam’s interview could not be more important. It is intended to help break the March 14 alliance out of its current rut. The Hariris have saved this card for exactly such an opportunity. Khaddam is no Husam Husam. He is a respected veteran Syrian official who is extremely difficult to discredit. His public testimony is intended to shame the opponents of March 14 and remind them of the “Justice” dimension of what is currently playing out within Lebanon and in its relations with Bashar’s regime. Another aspect of this maneuver has to do with Bashar’s judgment. If he cannot be judged in a proper court of law, then the Hariris want him to be judged by public opinion. Thus far they have failed miserably in winning the public relations battle. This initiative may be their first concerted effort at dismantling the ridiculous gains that Assad’s regime has made in an equally ridiculous “Arab Street.”

Khaddam’s interview could not have come at a better time for the March 14 alliance. Hizballah, Amal and the FPM are probably planning their countermove. They’re asking questions like: How much do they have to concede to this public relations coup? How can they counter it? Do they actually need to counter it? Or can they simply roll with the punch but stand their ground? The hard reality for the Future Movement and its allies is that if the Tripartite do not budge, I simply do not see what else will budge them. Lebanon is on the brink right now. Political developments can go either way. The ball is now in the Tripartite’s court. Let us wait and see what they do next.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

2006 - one step closer to hell...

And I thought that I would see some kind of settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians in my lifetime. With Hamas winning elections, the PLO falling apart, and Ahmadenijad promising Palestinian Islamist organizations more financial aid (which he can afford because of recent oil windfalls), I doubt I will be able to witness that reality.

Hizballah just fired missiles at northern Israel through its Iranian-funded Palestinian stooges. It's actually quite funny how, when the Syrians occupied Lebanon, Hizballah would do their dirty work, and now that the Syrians are gone, the Palestinians are doing Hizballah's dirty work. But anyhow, the point is that Iran has no intention of allowing for a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Consequently, Lebanon will continue to be torn.

Just when we thought that we were going to get out of our miserable and deadly morass thanks to Syria's withdrawal, Hizballah drags us back in! I'm disgusted! Happy New Year, everyone!

Poor Palestinians think the Iranians give two shits about them. Poor Lebanese are being dragged back into a black hole of blood and treasure. Happy New Year - Happy New Year courtesy of Hizballah's deadly fireworks!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Nasrallah's Coup d' Etat

I was hoping not to post an entry today. I wanted Santa Claus to cheer up everyone who visited the site.
Habbit, unfortunately, took me to the Daily Star website, where I read an article entitled, Nasrallah calls for new government representing all political parties. The article quoted Nasrallah telling his interviewer on al Manar the following:

A cabinet of national unity is needed to face the challenges facing Lebanon, a cabinet that includes all parties from outside and inside Parliament.

If the country is in danger and facing major threat, then we have to have a government of all parties...

Nasrallah's intentions are clear. He wants to show Lebanese that his position regarding Lebanon's posture in regional and international relations is not merely a Hizballah or a Shi'a one. He wants to prove that his message resonates across all sects, and needs government spokesmen from those sects to deliver the message. Nasrallah is probably sick of hearing headlines that state "Shi'a ministers withdraw from cabinet." He would rather read the following: "March 8 bloc" withdraws from cabinet session. Of course, the March 8 bloc will include those stooges previously propped up by Damascus, such as Arslan, Sleiman Franjieh, Karami, etc....
Such an audacious political maneuver by Hizballah can be justified by the oft-repeated claim that the 2000 electoral law was not really democratic. Critics of the current parliament have continuously said that it is not really representative of the Lebanese public because of the electoral law that helped bring it to power. It now appears that Hizballah will use that argument to publicly push its case for including political parties that were not popularly elected.
This latest political move by Hizballah truly is audacious. Back during the elections, I asserted that although they were unfair, the elections at least removed Syria's "zulum" from parliament. Between 70 to 80 parliamentarians were expelled from that institution, a fact that turned it into the only political entity in the country where Syria's direct control was effectively and decisively expelled. Today, by calling for a "national unity" cabinet that overlooks parliament, Nasrallah is invalidating it. Nasrallah is effectively saying that the parliament is a useless institution (on a side note, I wonder how Berri feels about this).
In this new arrangement, Nasrallah decides who should be in the cabinet. He will partially stuff the cabinet, as other dictators do in countries that advertise their quasi democracies. Nasrallah is indirectly declaring himself as the dictator of Lebanon, who has the right to appoint cabinet ministers and nullify the parliament. He cannot accept his status as a minority among minorities. He needs to be the majority! He has gotten used to it!
I expected better from that man. I truly did! He cannot be allowed to destroy the Lebanese democratic system - no matter how imperfect it is. I am afraid that the prediction I made in my post a couple of days ago regarding Hizballah's inability to play by the rules of the game have been manifested. I hope events in the coming days prove me wrong.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

'Don't Go Wobbly, George'

Michael Young makes the case for Lebanon in the Wall Street Journal...Since it needs a subscription I thought I'd make it available. A good follow up, granted much more eloquant, to my "Bashar Wins This Round" piece. Young starts out by saying, "For the first time in months, Syrian President Bashar Assad can relax."

'Don't Go Wobbly, George'

December 23, 2005; Page A14

BEIRUT -- For the first time in months, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can relax. After facing international pressure for its presumed role in the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Syria last week made the U.N. Security Council blink. The consequences will be felt hardest in Lebanon, which has yet to break free from Syria's stranglehold. Unless the Bush administration and its European allies, particularly France, reverse this trend, they risk losing everything they have worked for in the country during the past year.
When Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor tasked by the Security Council to investigate Hariri's assassination was appointed last May, he found himself in a unique position: Never before had the U.N. body overseen an inquiry into a political murder. However, that atypical international audacity showed its limitations when, after Mr. Mehlis's second progress report in mid-December, the Council passed an anemic resolution against Syria; this despite Mr. Mehlis's describing Syrian "reluctance and procrastination" in cooperating with his inquiry, and the fact that on the day the document came out another murder was committed in Beirut -- that of journalist Gebran Tueni, a critic of Syria.
Security Council Resolution 1644 was a disappointment on many levels. It extended the U.N. inquiry for six months, but effectively complicated two key Lebanese government objectives: The government had wanted the Council to endorse a tribunal "with an international character" to try suspects in the Hariri assassination; what it got, instead, was a request that Beirut define its needs in that regard. The government also asked that the U.N. inquiry be enlarged to cover other assassinations and bombings that have taken place in recent months. Its reward was a vague clause saying the U.N. and Lebanon might discuss "recommendations" to that effect.
Detlev Mehlis
The first condition emasculated the tribunal proposal because Syria's Lebanese allies, particularly Hezbollah, refuse to endorse a mixed or international court, knowing a Lebanese court could never indict Syrians. That means any official Lebanese attempt to meet the U.N. demand might provoke domestic dissension. The vagueness on the inquiry's scope, meanwhile, means assassinations may continue with impunity, because Lebanon's judiciary and security services, where Syrian influence remains strong, will not seriously investigate political crimes without international cover and encouragement. It did not help the somber mood in Lebanon that Mr. Mehlis, who opposed widening the commission's latitude, also acknowledged the recent crimes were probably linked to the Hariri case.
The Security Council's indolence was further confirmed when a proposal to ask the U.N. commission to report on its progress every two months was amended, so that now it need only report every three months.
The Lebanese worry that the Bush administration has cut a deal, whereby Syria will give it assistance in Iraq and elsewhere in exchange for breathing space in Lebanon. There is little solid evidence for this, but the complexities of a Security Council investigation are becoming all too apparent: To retain unanimity in the Council, the U.S. and France have ceded much ground to Russia and China, who hesitate to punish Syria. Russia in particular fears that collapse of the Assad regime might lead to chaos, and is backed in this by the Arab states. In Washington, where Iraq withdrawal mode has taken over, "realists" enamored with stability are making a comeback, and also seem to prefer Mr. Assad to the unknown.
Getting cold feet on Syria would render the Security Council's year-long efforts in Lebanon invalid. It would also make a mockery of the Bush administration's stated aim that it seeks behavior change in Damascus. Syrian behavior in Lebanon has indeed changed, but for the worse. The Hariri investigation was designed to end political killings. If so, the families of Tueni, Samir Kassir and George Hawi, as well as those of several other bombing victims, would disagree.
The international community cannot continue backing a U.N. investigation of the Syrian regime while also saving Mr. Assad's bacon. Something has to give, and unless the contradiction is ironed out quickly, it will infect the work of the U.N. commission. If the Security Council is serious about finding Hariri's murderers, then it must use the instruments it has itself approved to compel Syria to cooperate with the inquiry, including sanctions. After all, Resolution 1644 and a strongly worded predecessor, Resolution 1636, were passed under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.
His contract expired, Mr. Mehlis is returning to Berlin, reportedly to be replaced by a capable young Belgian prosecutor, Serge Brammertz. The U.N. investigation is moving forward and Syrian responsibility for the crime is in little doubt. (Asked by a London-based Arabic newspaper whether he was convinced Syria was behind Hariri's killing, Mr. Mehlis replied, "Yes.") But time is a key factor, and it would be strange for investigators to methodically investigate the Hariri killing, while others continue unabated. A reminder: Tueni died just meters from the road U.N. investigators take to Beirut daily.
Beyond the likelihood of more assassinations, the Security Council ignores another thing: Finding Hariri's assassins was always a cornerstone of efforts to dismantle the Syrian political and security edifice in Lebanon. That is largely intact. Syrian allies, most prominently Hezbollah, are armed, and while its disarmament (also demanded by the Security Council) must be the fruit of domestic Lebanese dialogue, its leadership will not negotiate unless Syria's sway in Lebanon is broken.
As long as the international community refuses to address a change of power in Syria, and as long as powerful states cretinously assume that the Syrian regime is a mainstay of stability, Mr. Assad will survive. This will lead to his trying to reassert Syria's hold over Lebanon, provoking serious instability between his enemies and allies here. Syrian stability passes through Lebanese instability, so any presumption that the men in Damascus are a force for regional serenity is misguided.
If the Security Council is to be consistent with its aims in the Hariri case, it must use the next two months to definitively determine if Syria is serious about cooperating with the U.N. inquiry. If it is not, the Council has a basket of policy choices: It can impose sanctions on senior Syrian officials, or on the economy as a whole, including oil exports. It can issue a new resolution that places the burden of forming an international or mixed tribunal on the U.N.'s shoulders, rather than on that of the Lebanese. And it can expand the U.N. commission's mandate to include all recent political crimes, on the grounds that these are extensions of the Hariri affair.
As for the U.S., it seems odd that only days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in the Washington Post that democratic institutions, especially in the Middle East, were "the only realistic response to [America's] present challenges," the administration should sign off on a U.N. resolution suggesting the contrary. Lebanon, like Iraq, is that rare country that has proven Mr. Bush right in pursuing regional democracy. He shouldn't have so easily averted his gaze when a bright light of Lebanese liberalism was butchered last week. Maybe it's time for the president to hear what his father heard from Maggie Thatcher after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: "Don't go wobbly, George."
Mr. Young, a Lebanese national, is opinion editor at the Daily Star in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

Irony And Deals: Syria And The Arab League

The irony is that the government needs Hizbullah and Amal to complete their national unity picture, but at the same time, Hizbullah and Amal are Syrian allies through which Syria is able to once again intervene (and has it stopped intervening?) to disable and undermine our state institutions (i.e.: the government). This is the irony of all times.

Syrian influence in fact has not halted with their "official" withdrawal, April 30th, 2005. Not only through their allies they are crippling the government, but Lahoud is their man, so there goes the Presidency as well.

On another note, the Arab League "deal" to calm the escalating crisis between Syria and Lebanon has gained attention and coverage, enough to believe that Amr Moussa was indeed brokering a deal on behalf of the Arab "regimes". And that deal was skewed towards appeasing the Syrian regime and negotiating with the Lebanese an agreement to drop their charges.

I say to the rusty Arab regimes: "Let us be! Leave us alone! We aspire not to change your systems; we simply want to determine our own destiny and future!"

And as a person who witnessed first-hand interaction with Arab League ambassadors, I can say that the institution they represent is useless, rusty, and corrupt.

The Arab League, an institution that is starved of funds, which reflects its importance for the countries it represents. And if it is that "unimportant" on the priority list of Arab regimes, then why now are we seeing a new, charged role for it to help solve our problems? Can we know in the name of what countries is it taking charge to broker deals?

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Butros Harb, Hizballah and Lebanon's Rules of the Game

Yesterday night, I watched Butros Harb on Kalam en Nass. I have to say that I was impressed with the man's knowledge of the constitution and his insistence that the Lebanese political game be played under its rules.

The question that kept nagging at me throughout that show though, was: what if a particular party or individual believes that it's or his/her role or objective surpasses Lebanon and its constitution? Today it is Hizballah with its perceived Islamic role. Tomorrow, it may be someone else.

Another question that I had in mind was: what if no one accepts to lose? This whole rhetoric of no one really losing the civil war and no one winning is all nice and dandy. But, in daily politics, there is always going to be a winner and a loser, and we all need to accept that we may lose on some occasions and win in others. I fear that certain Lebanese (maybe even the majority) cannot bring themselves to accept a political lose.

My final point has to do with the Hizb. Yesterday, Walid Choucair made it clear that the March 14 forces had already promised they would provide a political umbrella for the "resistance" in international circles. The price that the Hizb paid for that promise was its alliance with Jumblatt in Ba'bda-Aley and with Hariri in Beirut.

Consequently, the Hizb's recent political maneuvers can be interpreted solely as protecting its regional ally, Syria - since it already got what it wants from the relevant political parties in Lebanon. Ironically, Hizballah's recent actions were somewhat "selfless."

Again, I can totally appreciate if Hizballah's leadership believes that it is against Lebanon's interest to fall within the "West's" orbit. I can totally understand that it believes that Lebanon will be better off under Syria and Iran's orbit. Eventhough I totally disagree, all parties have a right to their opinions, so I understand. But, seeking justice for the murder of Lebanese political figures is a purely LEBANESE ISSUE. Therefore, Hizballah's insistence on obfuscating any effort to achieve that objective can be viewed as treasonous! It is taking its protection of Syria one or two steps too far!

I fear that the Hizb is making some very grave long term political mistakes at the expense of the Shi'a population in general. Michael Young said it yesterday in his Daily Star Op Ed. I said it a few weeks ago in an entry concerning Hizballah and its ability to accept "Lebanon's rules." If it continues on the political path it is taking, then it might as well take South Lebanon and the Bekaa and form a little mini-Lebanon!

The danger inherent in any religious party is that it takes itself and its mission too damn seriously. How do you expect a certain party to play by the rules when you get the impression that it will accept all hell to break loose before it changes or does something against its core mission? That is a question Hizballah and Lebanon are going to be grappling with for a long, long time. And it aint gonna be pretty!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bashar Wins this Round

Apparently my view that few US foreign policy options remain when dealing with Syria disturbed our colleague bolgger Tony from “Across the Bay.” He asked that I examine “the broader perspective and review the facts.” Given my respect for Tony I will do exactly that, hoping to ease his anxiety and spur a positive discussion.

In my opinion, diplomatic pressure is the only viable foreign policy tool currently at the administration’s disposal. The US military is overstretched and there is strong domestic opposition to any new military adventure. Likewise, US economic leverage over Syria is very limited due to inconsequential volume of trade between the two countries. Thus, to effectively pressure Syria, the US administration has little choice but to act multilaterally through the UN Security Council.

Recent developments at the Security Council indicate that there is strong resistance to U.S efforts. France and the UK aside, very few countries of consequence are ready to go down the path of sanctions; even targeted sanctions. Russia is intent on containing US regional ambitions through supporting Syria and Iran, China will oppose as long as Russia does, and even European states are not in favor, fearing that the US will eventually lead Syria down the road to where Iraq is today.

Despite their strong displeasure with Bashar’s actions, Arab States also prefer stability over escalation. All have made their calculations after Hariri’s assassination and now prefer accommodation. The Egyptians are increasingly conscious of the regional balance of power now that Iraq is no longer a threat to Israel’s eastern front. A further weakened Syria introduces instability and further shifts the regional balance in Israel’s favor. Despite grievances with Bashar they prefer to guide him to safety instead of leaving him to dry. As clear from their on-going efforts, they are trying to wrap things up at the expense of the investigation. Frustrated, Jumblat and Sa’ad Hariri rejected this today claiming “the mediation aims to subvert the truth.” Mubarak’s response was swift, warning them of “improving Syrian – American ties.” (Check Al Diyar)

It should also be noted that US Ambassador to Cairo Francis J. Ricciardone came out in favor of the mediation efforts.

The Saudis were especially affronted by Hariri’s assassination, but not enough to advocate regime change or sanction either. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar played the star role in getting Asef Shawkat off the interrogation list and in replacing Beirut with Vienna as a location. (Read Al Hayat) Frankly it’s no surprise that Mehlis decided to pack his bags and go home after he was pressured to publically yield to Syrian demands.

In short, given limited policy options and growing opposition to sanctions, I wouldn’t be surprised if the US tries to reach a strategic accommodation with Syria. Maybe Blair's overture yesterday was an indication. As Flynt Leverret of Brookings recently argued, “What is the US interest in a few flag waving Lebanese, when we can reach an understanding that saves lives in Iraq, Israel, and even Lebanon? Why ignore deals that can help secure oil pipelines and reign in militant groups?” While Bush might still be committed to “democracy promotion”, such arguments are becoming more prevalent in DC policy circles. Last week US bloggs reported that Condi Rice was exploring a “Libya style deal” until Ambassador Bolton purposely sabotaged it by leaking it to the press. (Check Washington Note) This was then repeated in DC policy circles.

All I’m saying is that there are increasing signs that Syria has weathered the storm. An analyst who recently returned form Damascus put it this way: “Bashar called the American bluff with his war speech at the University of Damascus. He told them that the regime will stick together and is ready for confrontation should the US have the stomach for another Iraq in Lebanon.” The assasination of Tueni on the eve of the Security Council meeting was a literal translation.

So with UN sanctions now unlikely, and limited policy alternatives, it’s not unreasonable for the US to shop around, nor for one to say Bashar might have won this round.

Less Than Two Hours: The Shiite Question

Less than two hours before LBC and Future TV have their daily news shows. Less than two hours and we will all know whether the Cabinet has convened with or without the Shiite Ministers.

Who ever thought that a Shiite crisis would be what divides Lebanon and weakens it in 2005. I learned in Dr. Farid El-Khazen's class (an MP now) back in AUB that the Palestinian presence was one of the major reasons Lebanon entered into a civil war; the Palestinian question then in the '70s was more than Lebanon's political system can take and thus led to its demise. The Palestinian question then divided the country, took ideological and sectarian overtones, and fueled the drive to militarization.

Fast-forward 35 years: the Palestinian refugee presence in Lebanon and the Palestinian question cannot be compared to the Shiite stand which is threatening to divide the country. At least, the Palestinian issue was something emanating from outside of Lebanon; the Shiites (popularly represented by Hizbullah and Amal, as HA politicians like to say) are Lebanese, they are from this country, an important pillar in its existence as a viable state.

Less than two hours and we will know whether our country will make it or not.

Less than two hours and we will perhaps learn (or maybe never learn) what that "dialogue" is(and what a famous word it has become in Lebanese political discourse) that has been going back and forth amongst politicians and religious leaders in the past couple of days. What was Amal doing in Bkirki? What was an Iranian attache doing at the Grand Serail yesterday? What did the public relations official from Hizbullah mean when he announced today/yesterday that the dialogue with PM Seniora did not lead to a solution?

What are they talking about? What are the issues that are being put on the table for compromise? Can we know, as Lebanese, what they are?

Yesterday, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem, in a speech of his on Hizbullah's stand not to return to the Cabinet because they are not being treated as a majority, I found myself looking at a scene that almost might resemble Iraq.

Qassem was talking as an entity that threatens to break away; that does not care much about national unity as much as it cares to maintain itself as an entity, defined as a party with allegiances that spans the Shiite sphere, transcending national boundaries.

I can't deny that each sect in Lebanon has reached out for alliances outside of Lebanon; but most have settled for Lebanon, an end of itself. Again, as I learned back in the "Politics in Lebanon" class at AUB, the Shiites' cultural and political peak in Lebanon has come way after all the major sects in Lebanon had their limelight. That peak, we all thought, was represented with Imam Moussa Sadr's persona, that reached out to all and spoke of Lebanon, the country. Was that the peak? Or are we witnessing that peak right now?....Because I see that they are indeed at the peak of their power and their make-or-break stands threaten to divide this country.

UPDATE: Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah met with Berri in Ain Tineh and decided to maintain their Cabinet boycott. PM Seniora went ahead and still held the weekly Cabinet meeting. He claimed that it's not a retaliatory move; on the contrary, if the cabinet meetings are not held, this means that there is no Cabinet. It's interesting to note that Lahoud's allies in the Cabinet showed up to the meeting this afternoon. Where is this all going? What is the Shiite bloc asking for compromise that the March 14 bloc is not accepting to give up?

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

From March 2005: The Lebanese Army Vs. Hizbullah

I was reading back in my diary and came across some thoughts I transcribed back in March 2005. Apart from the posts I published on this blog: Lebanon's Free Will Best Bet for Syria and Hizbullah: The Next Contentious Issue On Our Agenda (which if you quickly read, you will realize how the political situation in Lebanon has not drastically changed since March 2005), please read below an unpublished post on the Lebanese Army:

"This idea just dawned at me: Hizbullah is stronger than the Lebanese Army. It's a homogenous cohesive entity, unlike the heterogenous nature of the Army--which renders it vulnerable and open to internal division and external pressures.

"Hizbullah's forces are of one sect, subscribe to one creed, and are from around the same region. Again--unlike the Army.

"Our sense of nationalism is loose. Our political background is not based on a single party system or a military regime. Therefore, our Army has a tough task at creating notions that would forge a strong bond between its soldiers and barracks.

"I'm thinking of France, Syria, or the United States--their sense of patriotism is strong, despite the differences in their political histories. In Lebanon--a shaky sense of patriotism. We, alas, have not learned yet as individuals to balance our allegiances: the public and the private...failed to draw the lines. When would be that day? When these competing allegiances (which we are free and entitled to have) seize to threaten the state? I'm aware that such process is a long-term goal...basically any change on the cultural level.

"So the question in my head is: Do we start with the institution of the Army? Should we be pushing on a policy level for an Army that is strong, solid, and secure (i.e. free from the vulnerability and possibility of division whenever a state legitimacy crisis occurs)? Perhaps it should be a front, while tackling other fronts, such as education and political reforms.

"I am curious as to what is taught in terms of curriculae to military officers in Lebanon, especially with regards to civics and culture. Of course, as a woman, I have no exposure to that institution and cannot answer that question.

"And I go back to my original thought: that of the difference between Hizbullah's one-creed party and Lebanon's "mix 'n' match" Army. Diversity is a strength, but is a weakness--two faces of the same coin. We need to think seriously of infusing the notions of patriotism into our Army, lest we remain forever weak and divided."

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Off with the stick... in with the carrot

Has Tony Blair signaled a shift in the general strategy towards dealing with Syria? I ask that question because Reuters just published an article entitled "Blair offers Syria dialogue if it works with the UN."
Blair is reported to have said

I am very happy to have a dialogue with the Syrian government but it has to be on very, very clear terms and it's important they are not only saying these things (on cooperation) but that they are doing them

The fact is there can be no justification for interfering in Lebanon and the Mehlis (U.N.) report was not good reading for Syria, you have to accept that

Okay, considering that Assef Shawkat, Maher Assad, and even Bashar himself are all implicated in Hariri's assassination, I am not too sure how much of an incentive "dialogue" is for Bashar el Assad to cooperate with the UN. Anyways, let us see where all this is going, and whether Blair's announcement is a concerted effort, or merely a British one.
Watch out for more of these signals from other Western leaders.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Realist Look - Lebanon Cornered

I have always considered the Realist school of thought in International Relations literature to be deficient. It assumes that states are monoliths, and that they will do everything within their powers solely to pursue their material interests in an international arena that reflects a Hobbsian state of war. If anything, Lebanon is the quintessential counterexample to these assumptions. Furthermore, most democratic states approximate Lebanon more than they do the Realist ideal.

The Realist school is quite revealing though. Although it fails to explain reality in its complex totality, it does explain one dimension of reality. As such, it serves as a useful tool in our attempt to understand inter-state relations including the standoff between Lebanon and Syria.

Lebanon and Syria: Monolithic and Adversarial states

Lebanon is currently under attack from Syria, which after 30 years of occupying Lebanon was able to infiltrate the security services to such an extent that they have effectively been neutralized. Consequently, the Lebanese state cannot defend itself or its citizens against assassinations carried out by the Syrian intelligence services, and will remain incapable of doing so until its security services are reformed and pro-Syrian elements within them are flushed out - a very painstaking and time consuming process that implies a lot more than changing a few, or even all, the top brass. Until this process is complete, Lebanon will remain naked and vulnerable to Syrian aggression.

A solution exists, however. A solution referred to as deterrence. In other words, a state that is unable to defend itself from an adversary, is able to protect itself if it possesses the ability to hurt the adversary to such an extent that it deters the exploitation of its own weaknesses. Examples of deterrence are everywhere. The quintissential example though pertains to nuclear weapons.

Both the Americans and Russians did (and still do) not have any defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Their solution was mutual deterrence; a solution referred to as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). If one state used its nuclear weapons against the other, it risked its own destruction as well. Deterrence ultimately prevented nuclear strikes despite the fact that both states were completely vulnerable to one another's missiles.

Lebanon, unfortunately, does not possess a deterrence capability against Syria. It does not have a military apparatus with the necessary capabilities. It does not operate a strong enough intelligence agency that has infiltrated the Syrian regime. It definitely does not possess missiles armed with nuclear warheads, nor scuds armed with chemical agents. Lebanon, in short, does not have any form of deterrence capability, period!

Thus far, it has relied on the capabilities of other more powerful states to detter Syrian aggression, such as France, the United States and Saudi Arabia. However, Realists tell us that states will only exert themselves only in so far as doing so will benefit their own material interests. Consequently, we must all ask ourselves, as Lebanese the following questions:

  1. Are we able to stand up to the Syrian onslaught on our own?
  2. Can we withstand the Syrian onslaught as we develop the capabilities to defend ourselves?
  3. How long will that period last?
  4. Will we be able to defend ourselves or will we capitulate to Syrian hegemony?

I ask these questions during a time in which I worry that we have become isolated again. I worry that we have been abandoned because of our allies' Realist impulses. The cost of dettering Syrian aggression now appears to outweigh the benefits of doing so.

The best case scenario would be one in which the Lebanese political elite unite to improve the state's capabilities in a way that could not have materialized had they not been experiencing such a brutal onslaught. The worst case scenario is capitulation, or worse, division and ultimately the collapse of the state.

Since the fate of my country is not in my own hands, I cannot make any predictions. I can only pray that Lebanon is victorious.

Are we being left to hang?

Not if prominent American newspapers formulated American foreign policy! Today, three of America's most prominent national news papers, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times ran editorials that condemned the Security Council's resolution concerning Mehlis' investigation into Hariri's murder.
The New York Times' first paragraph read:

Syria is getting away with murder in Lebanon, and the United Nations Security Council is letting it happen. The resolution the Council passed last Thursday might have been minimally adequate if something less were at stake than the sovereignty of a United Nations member country and the lives of some of its best and most courageous people.

The Los Angeles Times advised:

Despite the intransigence, the Security Council declined to impose sanctions on Damascus, instead settling Thursday for extending the investigation for six months. Secretary-General Kofi Annan needs to ensure that whoever leads the probe is as tough-minded and competent as Mehlis, who agreed at the start of his work to serve only until the end of this year. If Assad keeps stonewalling the United Nations, the world body needs to impose sanctions. Political assassinations must be punished, not just decried.

And The Washington Post stipulated the following:

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S challenge to international security was exceptional in part because of his flagrant defiance of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council and his equally crude actions to obstruct the work of U.N. inspectors. Now another Arab Baathist dictator, Bashar Assad, has adopted the same tactics. Not only has Mr. Assad sought to obstruct a U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, but his agents in Lebanon are continuing to murder Syria's Lebanese critics.

Wow! Three editorials published on the same day from news papers that have been relatively hostile to the Bush Administration's foreign policy! Could this mean good tidings for Lebanon? I definitely hope so! For, considering the watered down resolution that the Security Council passed, we definitely need good tidings!
Prime Minister Seniora and his allies were embarrassed by the Council's decision not to expand the investigation particularly because their decision to ask for the expansion almost led to a collapse of the government. Furthermore, the resolution did not even call for any punitive actions against the suspects that Mehlis interrogated in Vienna - nevermind members of the regime (despite Mehlis' declared belief that Syria was behind Hariri's assassination and all the assassinations that followed).
At this point in time, I wish the editors of these prominent papers formulated American foreign policy! We need some form of justice in Lebanon. We cannot return to Syria's yoke. Syria cannot just get away with the crimes it has committed.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Iranian political elite resort to political violence amongst themselves

Fellow bloggers and readers, Iran appears to be crumbling from within. Clerics have started to kill each other. The fools used political violence to destroy the reformist movement. Now they are using political violence against each other. Their decision to use the Revolutionary Guards against Reformists has come back to haunt them.
If these developments have started to take place in Iran, it is only a matter of time before their alliance with Syria becomes meaningless. A weak Iran ensures an even more isolated Syria. A Syria that is even more isolated than it is today ensures a defeated Syria. A defeated Syria ensures a peacefull and free Lebanon.

TEHRAN, Dec. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran on Monday confirmed that one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's body guards was killed when a motorcade of the security team was ambushed in the southeast of the country but indirectly denied that it was an assassination attempt on the president.

Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said a group of "bandits" on Thursday in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan attacked a motorcade of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps which was specially in charge of Ahmadinejad's security.

Elham also confirmed a previous report that one guard and alocal driver of the president's security team were killed and another guard wounded during the attack, which took place on the way to the Gulf coastal city Chahbahar from Saravan, a city nearly 300 km northeast of Tehran.

Two bandits were also killed during the exchange of fire in theattack and a following hunting operation by security forces, Elham added.

Hinting that the attackers were just aimed at the security team,the spokesman revealed no details about Ahmadinejad's whereabouts when the ambush took place.

The news was firstly reported on Saturday by Iran's semi-official newspaper the Islamic Republic Daily, which said that a leading motorcade with Ahmadinejad's security guards aboard was ambushed by bandits.

The government failed to offer timely information after the incident happened, which led to suspicion that the attackers were targeting Ahmadinejad.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Patrick Seale just got a fat paycheck!

Have any of you read Mr. Seale's recent and indispensable contribution to the discourse surrounding Lebanese Syrian relations??? Well... at the very least, his words quench the rumors that he has had a "falling out" with the Ba’th regime ever since Bashar came to power.

The title of his article is the following: "Is Lebanon Heading for Catastrophe?" His answer is that as long as Syria does not dominate Lebanon, the country will head towards that end. His words are a clear warning to the Western regimes: back off… or else, you will lose Lebanon.

Here are some ridiculous exerpts:

there are alarming signs that a hard-line Christian faction, known as the Lebanese Forces, is rearming clandestinely, no doubt because it feels threatened by Muslim militias, notably that of the Shiite movement Hizballah and of armed Palestinian groups. The Lebanese army, made up of different sects, seems unable to impose its will on these rival movements.

If Syria is in fact responsible for the murders in Lebanon, we should perhaps consider that it is acting in self-defense

Read the rest.

A Phone call

In his first post on Gebran Tweini’s assassination, Raja noted that “Now Hassan Nasrallah is not the only prominent Lebanese political figure who has sacrificed his son to the "cause" of Lebanon.”

I don’t think it relevant to compare the two men at this time, but I do believe, and firmly so, both very sincere to the cause that Raja coined. This is why I am touch to read of the most recent exchange between the two.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Reminder for those of you in New York

Please remember to attend the protest that is going to be held in New York City on Monday the 19th.

One of Lebanon's unparralleled strengths is its immense diaspora population. Please help to flex that muscle. Make your voices heard!

Here's the information (it can also be found in Lebanese Lobby News Website):

Monday 19 th December 12:00pm to 1:00pm

United Nations- Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

47 th Street and 1 st Avenue

New York - New York

1. To protest against the assassination of Martyr Gebran Tueini.

2. To protest on the NON STOP continuity of Syrian genocide against Lebanese Leaders and its civilians.

3. To demonstrate our total endless Unity and entire Solidarity to the Lebanese people.

4. To request International Trial for all previous assassinations and crimes that took place in Lebanon and for continuous international support of the full implementation of United Nations Resolution 1636.

Please bring:
- Only Lebanese Flags
- Pictures of Lebanese Martyrs
- Banners/Candles

Lebanon and the Martyrs are counting on us. Please remember that it is the people who made it all happen on the 14 th of March. Please forward to all your friends who care about a free Lebanon and who care about the freedom of the press. To help in the organization effort and to confirm attendance, please contact:

Joelle Richa:

Khaled Hamieh:

Salim al Hoss on National Dialogue

The following is a transcript of the last segment of an interview that al Jazeera had with former PM Salim al Hoss. The interview was actually conducted five days ago on the 12th of December. However, I think that it is interesting, worth highlighting and discussing.

ANCHOR: Now there is talk about initiatives for a national dialogue, launched by the Representatives Committee's President Nabih Barri. There is more than one side and you have met more than one personality, political and -- in the past period.

Do you think now, after all, what possibly could come out of the Mehlis report, so that the priority in the coming period will be the national dialogue? Or the opposite. Maybe there will be political segregation and (based) on the international investigation, those who are with the international investigation, or against the international investigation, or with the international court trial, or against the international court, etcetera.

What is the political priority for the Lebanese society?

SALIM AL-HOSS: I, in principle, find it odd to talk about a national dialogue. So what is the role of the recently-elected Representative Council, the President of the Representative Council should be a representative of all the political powers in the country, democratically, the dialogue is going on daily in a natural way. Such is the case in the world's democracies, otherwise, the talk about the necessity for national dialogue from time to time, that implies a condemnation of our system, and insinuates that our system is not democratic.

In all the world's democracies, it happens daily through the constitutional institutions. We have the Representative Council. Why doesn't the dialogue take place in the Representative Council, or through it?

ANCHOR: Pardon, your Excellency, you know very well, you talked about democracies in the world. That's true, the talk about the Representative Council, but you know very well that the Lebanese situation is somewhat different, very different.

Don't you think that after these security violations, after these targetings, this existing political stiffness, all these issues, that the country already needs a national dialogue, whether the representatives inside the Representative Council or outside it, including you, meaning you and your allies outside the Council, and you maybe part of this national dialogue which can be an essential political priority in the coming phase?

SALIM AL-HOSS: Never mind. I am not against the national dialogue, not against the national dialogue, even though the national dialogue disregards the Representative Council. This (argument) can be in place, taking into consideration that I am one of those who say that the current Representative Council does not truly represent the Lebanese people, and that it has been elected on the basis of a law which is known for what it lacks.

ANCHOR: Thank you your Excellency for this contribution, thank you.

Addendum: Stacey has written some interesting comments concerning democracy in Lebanon (specifically, the issue of majority-minority decision making that has become such a hot topic recently).

The Martyrs of Freedom and Independence from Syrian Occupation Posted by Picasa

Mehlis speaks his mind

And finally, he says it!

The head of the UN probe into the slaying of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafiq Hariri for the first time unequivocally accused Syria of being behind the assassination, in an interview published Saturday.

Despite repeated Syrian denials of involvement, outgoing German magistrate Detlev Mehlis who has been heading the investigation since June, showed not a flicker of doubt that its "authorities" were responsible.

Asked by the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat if he was "perfectly convinced of Syria's responsibility in the murder of Hariri," Mehlis said: "Yes. The Syrian authorities are responsible," without giving further details.

Serge Brammertz

The FPM site has the most detailed profile/CV of Belgian judge Serge Brammertz who’s expected to succeed Mehlis.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Yes, unite us more you idiots!

The Daily Star has just reported that Gebran Bassil of the FPM recieved a death threat. A masked intruder apparently broke into his parents' house after calling to make sure that they were not home. Once inside, he threatened the maid with a knife and ordered her to convey the following message to Bassil's parents:
Gebran Tueni has been killed and soon your Gebran will be next.

make your voice heard

The Jazeera website is asking viewers to vote on whether the Syrians are responsible for the assassinations in Lebanon. Go make your voice heard. The vote is close. It is 4:07 PM Eastern Time and 50.7% say yes while 49.3% say no.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Something to share....

I contacted my former university professor on hearing the news of late...
I thought I'd share his response with all of you.


Dear Hani

I too feel devastated by the news. Gebran was a man of exceptional talent, charisma and courage, son of two very distinguished parents. His illustrious father Ghassan and talented mother, Nadia, a poet of rare beauty and insight and of the prestigious and respected family of Hamadeh. Their nationalism was of the more refined type and embraced all the Arab causes. One is utterly baffled as to how this criminality can go on and to whose benefit!?Bless them all. There is no death but continuity, and lucky is the one who can move from one dimension to another with courage, dignity, and the prayers and blessings of their fellow human beings and their creator.


God bless you all and bless Lebanon.


(across from Walter Reed hospital)

Friday, December 16, 2005
at 7:00 pm



and those who died with him



Gebran the Parliamentarian.


The assassination of Gebran Tueni should have engrained into our heads the reality that the Syrian regime is conducting a war on a Lebanon that is independent of its tutelage.

We are at war.

Bashar promised to leave a destroyed Lebanon behind his retreating army, but he could not. He could not because the Lebanese people and their representatives stood in his way.

The fiend has now reverted to carrying out assassinations - the easiest form of terrorism. And, if after thirty years of occupying Lebanon, the Syrian Mukhabarat were unable to carry out those orders successfully, then we would truly be justified in labeling them as the dumbest people on Earth.

Unfortunately though, they are not. They have the resources and the capabilities. These assassinations will continue. We should prepare ourselves to accept more. We should accept them willingly as the price of independence from Syrian tutelage.

I am preparing myself. All of you should do the same. My only fear is that our political elite will buckle under the pressure. I hope they do not. I hope they stand up to this Syrian Ba'thi Demon.

Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.

Good Bye Gebran

On Gebran and On Hizballah

I was very entertained by Naharnet’s ideas on Shiites as well as amused by Anon’s comment on Laz’s post, and I was writing something on it. But Gebran was assassinated, so I thought this is due:

So I was never a big fan of the man, and it was clear to me, and many others, that his paper was no exception to the general status of Lebanese newspapers. However, I find it unacceptable to kill a man who fought with his words and mind. All this killing shows is that the idiotic Syrian regime finds itself short of fighting back with word and mind, so it resorts to violence. I am not surprised he was actually killed. It had long been expected. I honor him for coming back despite knowing he will die. I must admit I didn't think he would do it.

I took some time to look at the aftermath of this murder. This is not very comprehensive, so as not to repeat what others keep saying.

The most immediate result, which Assaad Abou Khalil addresses with a quote from Assafir’s Sahar Mandur about racist chants in front of Annahar building. What Assaad does not quote from that article is the final questions which Sahar asked “the murderers”. The question is the essence of what Gebran meant to me. Sahar justly asks if the chants would have been the same had Gebran, or Samir, been alive. Let’s face it, some “Cedar Revolutionaries” did campaign in a racist manner for some time, but Gebran, despite the vague "sheep" incident, and Samir, among others, tried to correct this. The racist tag was given to that revolution unjustly, and I am outraged by it as much as I am outraged by holding HA accountable for some actions of their supporters.

As a side note, Lebanon Profile, among others, might say there is a dichotomy in my head between March 8 amd March 14. This is true, but only because I believe a dichotomy exists in reality in Lebanon. I also make these comparisons because “Cedar Revolution”, especially March 14, is the most familiar concept with which most people in the “blog universe” identify; I compare everything to some part or another of it.

And then there is Hizballah, and all that talk about how they stood there with no comment while their supporters distributed sweets in celebration. And the question of why they do not join the funeral. To be objective here, let’s admit that, even if Naharnet did not publish it, they did condemn the attacks and visit the family; they did not just stand without comment. Do I think they should join the funeral? Yes. Are they less patriotic if they don’t? No.

This is the same HA that maintained dialogue with the people who attacked their resistance against Israeli, and I am speaking of the time before May 2000.

You may think they are less patriotic for acting passively at an incident of national unity. I respect that, but it is then your responsibility to extend that logic, and apply it to people who attacked phenomena of national unity. If HA are less patriotic for not attending Tweini’s funeral or for not supporting an international investigation/tribunal, how do you rate people who were publicly asking the international community to disarm HA before 2000?

Next, unless something comes up: Aoun: Why he competes with, and beats, Berry for the position of second most popular character among the Shiites!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why Are You Not Joining Us?

Can someone explain to me why Hizbullah and Amal are not taking part in tomorrow's funeral of our martyr Gebran Tueni? Why?

Aoun's FPM have joined forces starting yesterday. Despite political differences, all Lebanese factions have joined hands to repel destruction, death, and hate. But where are the Shiites? Where are they? And why are they absent from this movement?

This is not about Syria; it's about a Lebanese martyr. This is a lowest common denominator; and if Hizbullah/Amal do not see eye to an eye with this lowest common denominator, then what is there to agree with them on?

As MP Bassam Sabeh said, he usually takes different political stances than his sect (the Shiite sect), but now he pleaded to Hizbullah and Amal not to alienate themselves from what is Lebanese.

Yesterday, in DC's candle light vigil, all political party representatives were present. This unity reminded me of the candle light vigil that was held last February, the same day the late Hariri was murdered. As political calculations entered into the equation, especially during the parliamentary elections, I witnessed less and less of that unity. But now, we all held hands to say no more. We saw that FPM can oppose a government, but will hold hands with everyone when Lebanon is in danger...Then where is Hizbullah and Amal?

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Celebrating Life In The Face Of Death

Yesterday at the candle light vigil to commemorate Gebran Tueni's martyrdom, we celebrated life. We were sad, yes, but something instinctive in the Lebanese spirit gave us the will to smile...because this is the way we are; we embrace life, we refuse to be destroyed.

Gebran: I am going to miss your words, your editorial every Thursday. You are an inspiration for all of us; you have articulated our thoughts through your bold statements. You were never afraid. You did what your heart told you; may your heart and soul rest in peace.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Vigil in DC

It was six degrees celcius below zero. Despite the cold reality, turn out was impressive. We lit candles, distributed and hung some posters, mingled, sang the national anthem and recited Gebran's Oath. We celebrated life in the face of death.

Two phrases I heard last night still haunt me today. An acquiantance observed that "we're actually getting better at holding these vigils." He said, "the turn out is progressively larger each time and the posters are more professionally done." I have to admit that there is a cynical but very real truth to that statement.

The other phrase that I heard from a lot of people was: "let's not meet again only after another death."

Ziad S. took some pictures, a sample of which I will post in this entry. Thanks Ziad.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hizballah must accept the rules of the game!

Hizballah is guilty for maintaining its alliance with Syria despite the fact that Syria has most likely executed this chain of assassinations (and attempted assassinations). Consequently, despite the fact that Hizballah has not turned its weapons against the Lebanese, by not breaking its alliance with Syria, it can be argued that Hizballah is indirectly using its weapons. For do not the two allies' objectives overlap? Consequently, what is the difference if one or the other utilizes political violence?

Hassan Nasrallah and the Hizballah Politburo may genuinely believe that it is not within Lebanon's interest to fall within the Western orbit. I have no problem with that belief. We are all entitled to our opinions and political positions. What I do have a problem with, is a political entity within Lebanon, going outside of the political process to push its agenda because it is not able to get its way through the system. While Hizballah remains in the government, it does nothing in the face of the political violence committed by its ally.

Hizballah represents a significant portion of the Lebanese population. However, that population does NOT constitute the majority of the Lebanese people! Therefore, if Hizballah is not able to gain support from the majority of Lebanese, it must accept that it has lost the political game as dictated by the democratic process, and consequently IT MUST accept the will of the majority.

By turning a blind eye to Syria's aggression in Lebanon, Hizballah is itself an accomplice to the assassinations. If the organization wishes to prove its claim that it is a Lebanese organization first, and then a regional organization, it must break its alliance with the Syrians, or at least publicly signal to the Syrians that their conduct is unacceptable.

I am all for a difference of opinions. I am very aware that I may be wrong. But I am also aware that the other party may be wrong as well. Therefore, the rules of democracy dictate that the final arbiter is the majority. If we are to remain one united country with one foreign policy that is implemented by one state, we must accept those democratic rules under all circumstances. No matter how powerful our own convictions are, we must accept that the will of the majority supersedes our own political convictions.

BREAKING NEWS: Shiite Ministers Leave Meeting, Refuse To Widen Scope of Int'l Assassination Probe


I just heard on LBC live that the Shiite Ministers have left the Cabinet meeting due to their objection to widen the scope of the international probe into the other assassinations that have followed Hariri's murder. Fneish told an LBC reporter as he exited the meeting that Hizbullah has put its Cabinet membership on hold.

What is Hizbullah afraid of? What is there to hide?...

Oh, we are so so far away from unity, alas...

More to come.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."



For those who are in the Washington DC vicinity, let us gather in a candle light vigil to commemorate the loss of our martyr Gebran Tueni.

Place: in front of the Lebanese Embassy in DC
Time: 8:00PM this evening
Contact: Doha Melhem, doha underscore* melhem at yahoo dot com (no space in between)

*underscore is the following sign _

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Sit-in in Paris

Fellow Lebanese Compatriots,

A sit-in a has been organized in Paris.

Place: Place Victor Hugo (Ambassade de Liban)

Time: 19:15 (Paris Time)

Conact: Wassim - wassimh at hotmail dot com

Please, if you live in the vicinity of Paris, make the effort to attend. Make that statement!

3ishtom and 3aasha Lubnan.

My Gut

My Gut tells me that the Syrian political elite is at war with a large segment of the Lebanese political elite. Although the two states are not at war, the elites are.

My Gut tells me that the only card the Syrians have at this point of the game is the threat to destabilize Lebanon and the region.

My Gut tells me that the FPM is correct in calling for the Lebanese state to get its act together and put its security services on overdrive. The last thing we need is "private" security services at this point.

My Gut also tells me that the FM is correct in calling for an international court, because that will signal victory over the Syrian political elite.

My Gut tells me that "constructive destabilization" is no longer the policy of the United States. Rather it would like to stabilize the region and hold on to what it has accomplished thus far (i.e. independent Lebanon and an Iraq moving towards democracy).

My Gut tells me that the United States sees Lebanon as its success story in the region. Consequently, it is against its (and Israel's) interest to destabilize the country.

My Gut tells me that a stable Lebanon that is a model for democracy in the Middle East is completely against Syrian interests. Rather, a Lebanon that looks more like Iraq will show the world that democracy in the Middle East simply does not work.

My Gut tells me that these bombs will continue until the Syrian regime collapses.

How Stupid do they Think We Are???

We do not have a history of such activities.

I have heard this statement repeated by Syrian authorities numerous times when they are asked to defend themselves against accusations that they are behind the assassinations in Lebanon. Who are these people trying to fool? How blatant can a lie be? How did they come up with such a statement? Who are they directing that message to? Western public opinion? I wonder. I wonder because only an extremely uninformed public would ever believe such nonsense.

Arrests. Torture. Dissapearances. Intimidation. Demolishing entire cities. Those activities are what have kept the Ba'th regime in power for more than thirty years. Not elections. Not persuasion. And God knows, not economic prosperity.

But still. Despite the fact that every diplomat and foreign affairs official in almost every corner of this Earth is aware of their "methods," Bashar and Boutheina still insist on saying that "we do not have a history of such activities." Is that their best line of defense? Is that all they have to say? Blatantly lie! Have they adopted that statement simply to piss people off???

I am reminded of Saddam Hussein's "(dis)information minister," who kept on insisting that the American Army was being "crushed" by the Iraqi Republican Guards, right up to the point that Marines actually knocked on his door and arrested him. His reward? Well... he has became a cyber-celebrity in the West.

Who knows? Maybe that fate is what Bashar and Boutheina aspire for at some point in the future?

Oh, but wait, wait, they're saying something... We should shut up and listen:

We do not have a history of such activities.

Another One Falls....

Another lamb slaughtered before the altar of Lebanon's bloody path to freedom and liberty from servitude. Another one leaves us, another martyr, another set of tears and sorrow.

But our voices will not be muffled.

I thought about it yesterday, but I just did not post anything. I meant to say yesterday that I am afraid of what tomorrow is to bring to us; the day Kofi Annan receives the second Mehlis report. And there it was...the price was high, really high...our Gebran Tueni is gone!

I cannot write more...but let's remember his "kassam" that he made during the 14th of March.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Gebran Tueni is murdered

I do not know whether to curse on this entry. It is 4:40 AM. Hani G. sent a message that woke me up. The SMS message read as follows: "Tueni is dead."

A couple of months ago, Hummbumm conveyed to all of us that Gebran was in France because the Syrians made him aware that he was on the top of their list. Hummbumm knew because he is related to Tueni. My condolences, hummbumm. My condolences.

I wonder how Gebran's father feels. I wonder how Marwan Hamade feels. I am numb. I have become numb. It is hard to keep in touch with my emotions after so much killing.

Now Hassan Nasrallah is not the only prominent Lebanese political figure who has sacrificed his son to the "cause" of Lebanon. Ghassan Tueni now shares this honor. Ghassan Tueni will now burry his son.

The Damn Syrians! DAMN SYRIANS!!!! They don't know how to do anything else!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Some Economic News & a New Slogan for Lebanon

Friends, I have some interesting economic and business news to share with you. I just wish we had more of this stuff to read rather than the usual daily press reports about bombs and assassinations.

The story concerns Lebanon's agriculture industry. It is no big secret that the industry in Lebanon is neither competitive, nor subsidized to the extent that it would be competitive in international markets. Consequently, the way we've been exporting the stuff we grow is by signing deals with other states such as Libya - which imports a certain quota of apples a year from Lebanon, and by growing organic produce, which we then sell to European markets.

It now appears that Iran has shown some interest in Lebanese produce. To be more specific, the Iranians are very interested in Lebanese fish, an interest that I find be quite dubious, especially considering how polluted Lebanese waters are, and that whenever my mother decides to cook fish, she does her best to buy the imported stuff.

Anyways, here's the story courtesy of Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.

According to Tehran Times, the Lebanese minister of Agriculture Talal Sahili said his country would welcome agricultural cooperation with Iran. Sahili noted that through expanding ties with Iran, the Lebanese fishermen will be also able to improve their catch records. During his April 2003 trip to Beirut, the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami had told the Lebanese officials that Iranian companies could spend a total of 50 million dollars on implementation of big infrastructure projects in Lebanon

Cynicism aside, I will restate what I typed in the beginning of this entry: I wish our headlines were dominated by more headlines such as these.

Politics aside, this story highlights the strengths of Lebanon's diverse population. Our contacts with Iranians, French, Americans, Gulfies, Africans, South Americans and a hundred other peoples give us such an advantage that it is simply ridiculous that we're not one of the richest countries in the region.

Of course, to enrich ourselves, we will need stability. We can only get stability if those powers are at peace with each other. That is why I have a new slogan for Lebanon.

Lebanon: the barometer of world political affairs! When we do well, the world is doing well!

Syriana - one of Hollywood's best works on the region

How could a movie be simultaneously one of the best I've ever watched, yet one of the most devastating? For years I've watched Hollywood depict the Arab world in an overly simplistic, and sometimes, insulting fashion. There were always the Sheikhs, the religious fanatics, the chauvinist men, the wild mob screaming Allahu Akbar, etc.... Beirut was always referred to when a particular character described a setting of pure destruction and chaos. And the list goes on.

Yesterday though, I left the movie theatre with two overwhelming emotions. The first was triumphant. For the first time in my life, I had just watched a movie (that millions of Americans will eventually watch) that actually depicted Middle Eastern politics as it really is - or rather as close as any Hollywood production could get. The other emotion I felt was intense depression. In depicting reality, the movie could not but pull some very powerful emotional chords inside of me. At one particular scene, I literally wanted to jump out of my seat and just scream out of frustration!

In the final analysis, I recommend this movie to everyone interested in the region. Whether you agree with it or not, it is definitely worth the watch!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Destabilization and Confrontation - two related stories

The following is Shaykh Mohammed Yazbak's comments concerning the attempted assassination yesterday, which were broadcast on al Manar television. Shaykh Yazbak is a member of Hizballah's Shura Council. This transaltion was supplied by BBC World Wide Monitoring. (Highlights are my own).
The enemy we are fighting is Israel. Sharon issued threats at the Israeli Knesset. He threatened that he would liquidate and kill the leaders and members of Hezbollah, and he recalled what happened to [former] Hezbollah Secretary-General His Eminence Al-Sayyid Abbas al-Musawi, the pre-eminent martyr of the Islamic Resistance. It is as if Sharon wanted to remind those who had forgotten - we have not forgotten - that the Israeli enemy would not forgive Hezbollah - leaders, members and people - and that he is working for revenge. This is the first message in Ba'labak, and it has been received. We reserve the right to reply. We hope that all the Lebanese would put their arguments aside and unify their positions and focus on the enemy, which wants to tamper with the security of our kinsmen, area and people.
Some pertinent questions:

  1. Who is Shaykh Yazbek targeting that last request to (specifically, which Lebanese)?
  2. Who committed this act of political violence - considering how it was poorly executed and that it was carried out in Ba'albeck of all places as opposed to Beirut or the South?
  3. Will the Lebanese authorities get the chance to investigate this crime? Or will Hizballah's own security apparatus do the honors?
  4. When and how will Hizballah reply?

On another note that is somewhat related, it appears that some rockets were found in the Shouf, and disposed of safely by army personnel. UPI filed the following report:

Police discovered Saturday four rockets on a mountainous road south of Beirut, but said they were not set to explode or be launched.

The rockets were found in a small water canal on the side of the main road in the Shouf mountains, the Druze heartland and stronghold of Druze chieftain Waleed Jumblat, who has become one of the most outspoken anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians.

Police said the 35-millimeter rockets were old and each measured 50 centimeters in length.

Two of the rockets were found inside a bag and the other two next to them. An army patrol was dispatched quickly to the scene and removed the rockets as police started an investigation.

There appears to be a deliberate campaign of destabilization going on in our country. Watch out for more of these stories in the coming days and weeks! Is something going to be found in the Metn next? Or the North? What about the camps?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Breaking News!

BBC reports an attempted assassination of a high ranking Hizballah official in Lebanon

The explosion happened in the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek, near the Syrian border, but caused no casualties, police said.

It was reported that the apparent target, Mohammad Yazbek, had got out of the car moments before the blast.

Everyone, brace yourselves. We might just be headed for a serious escalation of violence in the south. Is it also coincidence that FBI Director Meuler was in Lebanon only yesterday?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

International Crisis Group on Lebanon

A couple of days ago, fellow blogger Hassan sent me an Interational Crisis Group (ICG) report on Lebanon. Blogger Lazarus at Letters Appart also read the report, and has posted an entry with some quotations from it.

I will copy and paste some quotations of certain Lebanese politicians and analysts from the report that I found to be very revealing.

Thank you Hassan for bringing this to my attention. I also tip my hat to ICG for conducting what appears to be a very thorough study.

The U.S., France and UK are helping overhaul the security sector:[1] France is compiling an inventory and audit of security forces, and a blueprint for reconstruction of the security sector of security services; and the UK is helping to streamline multiple and overlapping security agencies under the defence ministry. The U.S. reportedly was asked by the government to assist in securing the mountainous frontier with Syria with physical barriers, lethal platforms and sensors.[2]

[1] Crisis Group interviews with Western diplomats, Beirut, October 2005.

[2] Geostrategy-Direct,, October 11 2005.

Rafiq Hariri was a Sunni leader, not just in Beirut, but throughout Lebanon and the Arab world. This is our revenge: to put Bashar al-Asad on trial. Maybe we can topple the regime. The Sunnis form the majority in Syria….We cannot continue with the Shiite Alawi regime.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview with Walid Kebbe, op. cit,

The Americans don’t understand the complexity of relations between Sunni and Shiites. The Christians are the only ones who can live together with Sunni, Shiite and Druze. There are no mixed villages with Sunnis and Shiites. Only the Christians live with all. Therefore, if you really want a solution for Lebanon, you have to discuss with the Christians to gain the confidence of all parties. That’s the lesson of centuries of experience in Lebanon and Arab history. Sunni and Shiite cannot live together. Christians are needed.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview of Michel Aoun, Beirut, 27 October 2005.

Aoun opposes Lebanon’s rule by the House of Hariri. Hizbollah opposes placing Lebanon under Hariri’s international alliance. As a result, there’s a new alliance between Aoun and the president, Hizbollah and Syria against Jumblatt, Hariri and Western powers.[1]
[1] Crisis Group interview with Ibrahim Amin, al-Safir newspaper, Beirut, 5 October 2005.

Sectarian tensions are greater than at any time since 1990. Lebanon has always been a place where Shiites and Sunni coexist. But outside involvement – of Iran with Shiites and of Arab states with Sunnis – is making matters worse.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview with Hani Abdullah, political adviser to Ayatollah Hassanein Fadlallah, Beirut, 26 October 2005. Ali Fayyadh, an analyst close to Hizbollah, echoed this view: “The Middle East is unstable, a storm is raging, and Lebanon is at the heart of the storm. The last time Sunni-Shiite tensions were as high was in 1986, during the Camp Wars [when Amal attacked refugee camps controlled by Palestinian Sunnis]”. Crisis Group interview, op. cit. Islamist groups also may be finding fertile soil. Salafi preachers have established schools in Lebanon in recent months, some of which propagate militant anti-Shiism. Salafis interviewed by Crisis Group declined to say whether Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf and Iran’s former leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were Muslims; Shiite preachers accused Salafi clerics of exacerbating sectarian tensions through incendiary sermons. Crisis Group interviews, Beirut, October 2005.

The resistance is part of the equilibrium for Lebanon’s stability. For Larsen to say it is illegitimate is explosive. If there is international pressure to erode the resistance, Lebanon will pay the price of chaos. If the army tries to intervene, it will be divided because a majority of the army is Shiite, and Hizbollah will be forced to defend itself. If the U.S. attacks Syria, this would be a strategic threat to Lebanon, and we would be sandwiched between Israel’s and America’s armies, and we would have a duty to deploy the resistance.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview with Ali Fayyadh, op. cit.

The message is, if you seriously consider disarming Hizbollah, you will have a potentially explosive situation, as the focus will return to the issue of representation. Shiites may demand a majoritarian system and Hizbollah would be at the forefront of this demand. So in a way, and in terms of domestic politics, Hizbollah without arms would be much more dangerous than Hizbollah with arms.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview with Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Beirut, 16 June 2005.

God granted the individual…reason. A man of religious learning can advise Muslims, for example, ‘not to vote for corrupt candidates’. But it is still up to the individual himself to decide who is corrupt and who isn’t. Hizbollah violated this principle…. Shiites were made to feel endangered, so they felt compelled to vote. And that’s dangerous, as now the Shiites think the resistance’s weapons are theirs.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview with a Fadlallah political advisor, Beirut, 28 June 2005. He added that relations between Nasrallah and Fadlallah are strained, and they have met only once since Hariri’s assassination. On this issue in particular, Fadlallah appeared to be seeking to curb efforts by Hizbollah to assert a hegemonic position among Shiites.

I’m side-by-side with Hizbollah. It’s a big asset against any Israeli aggression. I oppose 1559 because it was designed to serve Israel. As long as Israel won’t abide by international law, the Lebanese Army and Hizbollah should both survive in the South.[1]

[1] Crisis Group interview with Walid [flip-flop] Jumblatt, 11 October 2005.

Their attitude [on joining the government] is a dramatic change from the past. But they are going to instrumentalise the state to protect the resistance. They know how difficult it will be for the U.S. and Israel to mess with them. The party is not becoming “Lebanonised”; rather it is “Hizbollah-ising” the state.[1]

[1] Crisis group interview with Saad Ghorayeb, Beirut, 23 June 2005. See also “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (for 21 January 2005 to 20 July 2005)”, 21 July 2005.