Wednesday, January 25, 2006

back in the States! Sa'ad's performance and bad news from home...

I'm back in the States. Home? In certain ways, yes. In other ways, home is thousands of miles away.

With regards to my trip to Lebanon, I don't believe that I have the words to express the feelings I experienced. Maybe they will come with time. Thus far though, I have two words: profound and volatile.

As for today, my second day in the States, I have already experienced a significant event: Sa'ad al Hariri's speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC.

Doha and Firas also attended. Unfortunately, we really did not have time to flesh out our thoughts about Sa'ad's performance since both of them needed to return to their jobs in a hurry. Therefore, I will post my thoughts on this entry, and hope that both of them reciprocate with their own thoughts on the event.

My thoughts on the speech:

Saad is a poor speaker: he lacks the political vocabulary - in both English and Arabic. The man needs to invest the time and money needed to improve his communications skills. He is yet to master some basic concepts and terms in the political lexicon of both languages. His father was a poor English speaker, but at least he was comfortable with Arabic.

The guy is definitely sincere: There's no doubt about it. As Firas said in our brief discussion, the man talks too much from his heart, and too little from his mind.

He didn't really answer questions: Considering that he is a politician, I wonder whether that is a bad or a good trait!

Hariri seemed upbeat: He claimed that the political deadlock Lebanon is currently experiencing would end in a couple of weeks. This prediction is based on his assumption that all political parties have Lebanon as their number one priority (a very weak assumption indeed).

On that note, I will end my observations, and interject with some news that I bring with me from Lebanon. We should all watch out for developments in the Shi'a ceremonies of Ashoura. Focus your telescopes on the town of Shoueifat, a formerly Druze town that now hosts a diverse population of Shi'a and Druze (approximately 50-50). Security personnel that I have talked to are worried that violence may erupt on that day – assuming that either side wishes to escalate, what better opportunity. Moreover, even if both sides do not desire escalation, tensions are so high that a third party may do the trick and instigate bloodshed.

Hopefully, nothing will come of these fears. But rumors like these, and others around the country, just go to show how tense the situation in Lebanon is today. It ain’t pretty!


Ghassan said...

I think Saad is still does not have the experience needed for a person to lead the country. Thanks God that we have Seniora. I really miss Gebran! I hope that his learning curve is steep so he must learn fast how to articulate his opinion.

I think you are not accurate on Shweifat. Shweifat is mostly Druze in the mail area but in Sahraa Chewifat there is a Shia majority. The complexity in Shewifat is that a lot of Druze are pro-Araslan and against Jumbulat! They really hate each other and are willing to fight each other. Several fights interrupted before and could happen again! I hope that Lebanese will stop fighting each other with arms and start fighting with points of view and by talking to each other.

Anonymous said...

Choueifat is overrated as far as flash-points go. This is a marginal area, just as both Jumblatt and Talal Arslan (even more so than Jumblatt) at most occupy only marginal positions in Lebanon's future. Jumblatt's success exists only in that he has a talent for reading the tea leaves just in time to surf over to the opposite side of the wave before it crashes on top of him (sorry to mix metaphors like that). As for Talal, he has just never been good at water sports.

And as for Hariri's speech, disappointment on substance is only for those who had developed unreasonable expectations - like many Lebanese at this point. His invitation to the states was 100 percent symbolic; nobody expected him to say or do anything out of the ordinary, only to show up and smile. This is all that we Americans will remember anyway.

My guess is that Hariri's visit can be contextualized as an attempt by the administration to shape the debate on the Middle East in terms of us (Americans, that is) supporting the underdogs (in this case, sweet little old Lebanon against big, mean, bad Syria). The message is mostly for Americans to consume, and marginally so for Lebanese.

Ramzi said...

I think that Hizballah is very entranched in their positions. So the usual codeling and discussions will lead nowhere. That is until there is change in Iran and Syria. The March 14 group spent over 7 months and Hizballah did not budge in their positions.

The only way to get Hizballah to start compromising their positions is to raise the heat. When they see that their entranchment may result in flaring of another war then they will compromise.

Unfortunately as we know raising the heat tactic in Lebanon is dangerous. But if there are controlled outbursts it may be positive in the long run..

I don't know if I am 100% sure of this myself but it is worth bringing up..