Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Magnificent Seven

They were brought onto this world, ordained by the gods, to be heads of their respective states. Their sole purpose was to save humanity from the tyranical heathens of the West.

These noble men are now the selfless, humble and enlightened shepherds who lead their helpless flocks to safety and lush pastures.

These men are the Magnificent Seven!

Bashar "thilvet
hter" Assad

Robert "Starvin'"* Mugabe

Hugo "The Ego" Chavez

Kim "Rocket Man" Jong Il

Evo "The Amateur" Morales

Alexander "Putin" Lukashenko

and last but not least,

Mahmud "the Mehdi" Ahmedinejad

These men make me proud to be a member of the human species! They offer a ray of hope to man (and woman) kind... .

* p.s. just so none of you think "starvin'" was a racial slur, let me clarify: You see, in the process of freeing Zimbabwe from the evil yoke of the British Empire, Mugabe essentially destroyed his country's economy. Whereas as one point in time, most Zimbabweans had easy access to what may be considered "the basics" in life, once "set free" by Mugabe, they could barely afford food. Hence his nickname!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The "Divine Victory" becomes ever more apparent...

As the dust begins to settle in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah's "Divine Victory" becomes clearer for everyone to see. The Associated Press reports that thousands of Lebanese "are unable to return to their homes two weeks after the cease-fire took hold because they feel too insecure or their houses are destroyed, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday."

Jack Redden, spokesman for the UNHCR, said, "in the area of Byblos, 2,600 people were still homeless, adding that there were 3,400 in Kesrouan and 6,000 in the Metn." Redden then said that "the charity group Caritas estimated that there were still 35,000 homeless people in Beirut."

These figures do not take into account families who have returned to the South or Harek Hreyk, yet reside with family or friends (this category obviously constitutes the majority of Lebanon's new internally displaced population).

I couldn't be angrier. The Israelis definitely dropped the bombs, but Hizballah provided them with exactly what they needed to go through with the bombing campaign. Moreover, the organization created such a false sense of security (their now infamous and imaginary "deterrence capabilities") that had the results not been so cataclysmic, I'd be on the floor laughing my eyes out.

The primary purpose of responsible combatants (i.e. Armies) around the world is to protect the population that provides it with the manpower and resources it needs to exist. Hizballah, on the other hand, appears to exist at the expense of the population that, at the very least, provides it with the manpower it needs.

How does Nasrallah get away with it? Well, much smarter people could probably give you the answer to that question. Maybe this book will help. If it does, come back and tell me - I'd like to know!

Update: Here are some more facts & figures to celebrate (remember, every single one of those numbers has a life and story attached to it):
  • Economist Kamal Hamdan forecast that unemployment could more than double from the official level of nine percent before the fighting to as high as 20 percent in the coming months.
  • Fellow economist Marwan Iskandar said: "In the short term, over the next six months, 50,000-55,000 people are going to lose their jobs."
  • Iskander estimated the number of lost jobs in the industrial sector could climb to 10,000. Another 2,000 retail workers are expected to be laid off as consumption plummets.
  • Analysts agree that tourism and services will probably suffer the most... . In high season, 110,000 people are employed in those sectors, and they were looking forward to a record year as the country continued to rebound from its 1975-90 civil war.
  • About 1,000 more cafes and restaurants could still close, while around 100 in central Beirut that cater to rich Gulf tourists now operate with reduced shifts, Ariss said.

The passing away of a legend

Naguib Mahfouz is dead. He died in a hospital as a result of kidney failure. His passing transpires 12 years after a fundamentalist imbecile attempted to assassinate him for his incisive and critical depictions of Egyptian society.

You see, Mahfouz did what very few of his peers dared: he raised to the surface, for all to see, aspects of his society that fundamentalists, and even the majority of people, so desperately sought to burry underneath veils of secrecy and beards of hypocrisy. He earned a well-deserved Nobel Prize for his work.

I have read only one of his books - the most famous one, of course: Midaq Alley. I read it as assigned reading in high school, at the American Community School of Beirut (one of the very few books I actually read while at school); and later, again as assigned reading, at the American University of Beirut. I was thoroughly taken by his words. So many aspects of Midaq Alley simply pulled me in, in a way that I couldn't get out, even if I wanted to.

Nagib Mahfouz sparks a sense of pride in me - despite the fact that I am not Egyptian. Just like Fairuz, his work transcends boundaries. At this point in the Middle East's history, I can only hope for more men and women with the courage and skill of that awesome man.

May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Italian Foreign Minister: Hizballah Must Disarm

The Italian Foreign Minister, Massimo D'Alema, penned an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal today. In it, the optimistic (almost giddy) D'Alema, tied Europe's commitment to Lebanon to a solution for the entire region.
Passing the difficult Lebanon test means creating a win-win situation for the Lebanese, the Israelis and the region as a whole. Realizing what is at stake, Italy is seriously committed to its solution -- with humanitarian assistance as well as with a generous offer of troops (3,000) for the new Unifil mission.
D'Alema then lists three conditions that are needed to pass "the Lebanese test".
First, of course, the Lebanese army and the international peacekeeping force, working together in a consistent and sustainable way, must be able to guarantee Lebanon's full sovereignty over its territory. [And just in case some might find some vagueness in that point, he goes on to say that] Hezballah will have to disband... .

The second related step, thus, will be making sure that Israel achieves enhanced security through political agreements with its neighbors... .

Thirdly, Hezbollah will have to evolve into a purely political and nonviolent movement... . Hassan Nasrallah's recent self-criticism about the consequences of the war demonstrates the limits of a strategy based on violence.
With regards to Syria, Mr. D'Alema wrote,
Syria, in particular must choose between being a cooperative stakeholder (by complying with Resolution 1701) or self-isolation.
He then goes on to elaborate on what he sees as Europe's new role in the region,
By offering 7,000 troops to the enhanced Unifil mission, Europe has spelled out its commitment. For the first time Europe takes full responsibility for a security role in the Middle East. After having long been a "payer" of economic assistance, the EU shows willingness to become a "player... ."

The implementation of Resolution 1701 will be a crucial test for all of us. If we succeed, this will create new momentum for seriously addressing the 60-year-old Palestinian issue -- the sooner the better, for all parties involved.
As I read through the piece I thought about Nasrallah's interview yesterday and how he said that he had no problem with the Unifil contingent so long as it did not try to disarm him. I also could not help but imagine a European base or military convoy obliterated by a suicide bomber - similar in magnitude to that which transpired in 1982.

What really matters now is how the presence of these troops will impact the Lebanese political scene, because ultimately the key to passing "the Lebanese test" (as Mr. D'Alema puts it) lies in that particular playground. Will the Europeans give March 14 the teeth that the Army could never offer them? Or will they just sit there and be forgotten? Time will tell.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Visualize This:

A sick Lebanese cedar that represents the Lebanese state.
Seniora and other members of the political coalition he represents standing on one side of the tree desperately, but also somewhat pathetically, trying to save the tree by watering it...
Nasrallah standing on the other side of the tree, chopping it down with an axe, asking: "where is the Lebanese state?"
Aoun standing on the sidelines, throwing a rant against the ruling majority.

I wish I had the skills of Stavro or other cartoonists... but I barely get away with writing!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

EIU: Lebanon GDP to fall by 10% in 2006

The Daily Star reports,
A London-based research center said Lebanon's Gross Domestic Product will fall by 10 percent in 2006 and expects a reduced current account deficit of $4.8 billion this year... .

Although the Economist Intelligence Unit expects a settlement to be reached, the country's prospects are even more uncertain than previously. The obstacles preventing the current government from engaging in effective policymaking will grow, and its stability could yet be endangered by the downside risks associated with the conflict... .
Prior to this fiasco, some Lebanese political parties waged a relentless (and justifiable) political campaign against the Future Movement for accumulating $35 billion worth of debt during the fifteen years of post-war reconstruction. Today, in a matter of one month, as a result of the irresponsible actions of one party, Lebanon's GDP has shrunk by 10%. Akh! Aaaaaaaaaaakh!

Need I say more? Is this where we all want our country to be?

Update - Hizballah Reconstruction Efforts:

The Financial Times, AP and other news services published articles concerning Hizballah's reconstruction efforts in Harek Hreik (the area of Beirut that was hit hardest by the Israeli Air Force).

Apparently, 1,000 volunteer engineers an architects are taking part in this rather impressive effort under the umbrella of an organization called Jihad el a3mar (literally, The Construction Jihad), which was originally launched following Israel's futile 1996 military adventure, "Grapes of Wrath," which led to the downfall of then Israeli PM Shimon Perez.

Funding, according to a representative of that organization, comes from private donations, as opposed to Iran. Kassem Allaik, head of Jihad el a3mar told the Financial Times that "each Hizballah association is self-financed and relies on individual donations from sympathisers."

Mr. Allaik went on to say that "We help build a society of resistance... . Our aim is to create conditions so people can stay on their land to confront the enemy."


Several comments concerning these efforts. The first concerns credibility. Mr. Allaik tells us that his organization does not get funding from Iran. I find that assertion hard to believe because Hizballah's credibility suffered tremendously as a result of its lies concerning the source of its weaponry.

Prior to the war, Nasrallah and most of Hizballah's top brass insisted repeatedly to the Lebanese public that they did not receive military material from Iran, or any other form of military support, for that matter. I remember watching a Kalam el Nass show, where one of Hizballah's MPs used the Maronites' relationship with the Vatican to describe Hizbalah's relationship with Tehran - I believe it was MP Ali Amar. Now if those public assertions did not turn out to be blatant lies, I simply do not know what is a lie anymore.

During the month-long war, Turkish authorities refused to allow an Iranian aircraft to fly into its airspace because the pilot would not land his aircraft in Turkey to be searched (it is important to note here that subsequent aircraft flying from Tehran to Damascus did land in Turkey, and after being searched were found to be carrying humanitarian aid). According to press reports, that particular plane was filled with silk-worm surface-to-ship missiles of the kind used to damage an Israeli ship off Lebanese shores. Moreover, numerous Hizballah fighters interviewed by Western journalists have claimed to have received training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard during "business" trips to Iran.

Therefore, thanks to these blatant lies emanating from the Hizballah leadership, I find that I cannot take Mr. Allaik for his word. How naive of me to think, at one point in time, that I should believe these men because they were "men of the cloth."

The second point I would like to make concerning Kassem Allaik, is that irrespective of his source of funding and his motivation (which I will get back to in a minute) the work that he and his men are doing is impressive, noble, and, no doubt, much appreciated by the Shi'ite population. However, these men should not forget that once people have roofs over their heads, the inhabitants will need to sustain themselves and their families economically. That means that they will need well-paying jobs that only a vibrant economy can afford them.

I very much doubt Hizballah's ability to create such a reality. Rather, if anything, Hizballah's mere existence in Lebanon has ensured that the country's economic performance has failed to achieve anything near its potential over the past 15 years.

As for the motivation of these men's work. In Allaik's own words, "
Our aim is to create conditions so people can stay on their land to confront the enemy... ." One can decipher from this statement that the sole purpose Hizballah has in mind for its people is to stay on their land merely to "confront the enemy." In other words, staying on their land is simply not sufficient in and of itself.

Well, if that is the case, then I advise the guys working for Jihad el a3mar to build straw buildings for their people because it looks like we're going to be experiencing a lot more these wars in the near future.

Straw houses are easy to destroy, but they're also easily and cheaply rebuilt.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Exchanging Roles?

This is an essay a close friend of mine - Hassan Harajli - wrote straight after the ceasefire... I thought I'd post it here for all of you to read and analyse...

Amongst other issues we Lebanese must address, Hassan discusses a solution to Hizbollah's military wing in the Lebanese Army which is truly insightful...

Exchanging Roles?

I am not a political analyst or a historian in profession, yet there are some challenging questions out of this latest war between Lebanon and Israel. Who won? At what cost? Who was to blame? Is it over or would there be yet another conflict on Lebanese soil? What will happen next? Would Lebanon survive this Israeli aggression economically, and so on…?

Hizbullah has proven, as a local political party with a military wing, supported financially and militarily by its’ ideological strategic ally, Iran, that it could withstand one of the world’s mightiest and modern military machines through sheer internal organization, by coming from and fighting for the land they are on, by the knowledge of the enemy’s capacities and capabilities, the acquisition of appropriate military hardware (albeit missing the ground to air missiles) to resist, and a faith in God and in fighting on the cause of Justice.

In this aspect Hizbullah has come out more or less victorious. The victory is one that is both national in nature and yet more importantly regional. Regional in a sense that it has sent shockwaves across the Arab world whose leaders have all, more or less, been inflected by an inferiority complex when it comes to Israel from one angle, and been taken forever captive by economic and commercial interests with the U.S (to say the least), denying them the ability to maneuver politically to even dispel the Israel ambassador in their land (for example). Hizbullah has proven that the Israel army is not an invincible machine, yet with strenuous preparation, organization, proper armaments, and faith, it could be put to a stop, so not to say defeated.

Herein, Hizbullah has stood up to a nation that has flouted almost every UN Council Resolution, undertaken every possible atrocity against humanity throughout history, and has considered itself above international law, and more frighteningly, above all the peace negotiations with the Arabs, while the Arabs are left to moan about rights, international law, Council resolutions, justice, ‘but this, but that’… And Israel does whatever extremity it sees fit to ensure that the Arabs, including the Palestinians, stay weak and divided, within the so-called ‘New Middle East’ perhaps – all under the pretext of combating ‘terrorism’ and under their flawed terminology of ‘self defense’.

Yet in my opinion, the victory of Hizbullah is a victory for the Arabs only to the extent of emotion and semi-retrieved pride, yet is a potential defeat in that its accomplishments, especially of late, stem not from an Arab nation and its institutions as a whole, yet from an almost independently run political party with semi-autonomy from the central government (albeit it represents almost a third of the Lebanese population).

I say potential defeat because though the dichotomy between Hizbullah and the Lebanese Central Government served well in the past to limit Israel’s disproportionate firepower to Hizbullah and not the whole Lebanese state, it cannot proceed as it is, and as Hizbullah wishes it should, for two primary reasons.

The first reason is that this military achievement and self-confidence booster to the Arab peoples should be invested in the Lebanese government. Strength of nations surrounding Israel should no longer be viewed as a taboo or an impossibility. What harm would it bring if Hizbullah gave its important military arsenal to the Lebanese army and trained the army about its historic methods in combating Israel? Why not include a strong regiment (of Hizbullah soldiers) in the army that applies ‘guerrilla’ warfare tactics, especially when a ‘classical’ army is absolutely useless in front of Israel? Why not arm the Lebanese army the same way that it has been armed, and teach it the same perseverance and decentralized command system of the Hizbullah soldiers? Some may say that that would produce an Israeli aggression on all of Lebanon, but that has already happened in this July-August war. If Hizbullah does not give its victory and its assets to the Lebanese army, with an agreed upon time-frame, then it is a failure, nothing more and nothing less. A failure that entails that Hizbullah’s achievements are beyond the scope and ability of any Arab government. This duplicity of resistance and government should be replicated throughout the Arab world in order to defeat Israeli aggressions.

The second reason is economic. Herein perhaps my opinion is a little bias towards the type of class I belong to (a middle class citizen) and the profession category which makes for my living (the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises - SMEs). Yet no business activity in Lebanon has been spared this time around, and the numbers (including myself) who are now lined at embassies for immigration purposes are greater than they were before, and they were abundant before. Who will compensate? Inevitably every built house in the South, South of Beirut, Bekaa… would be given money for reconstruction, yet what about all those SMEs? Can they for example show their past yearly and monthly balance sheets and be compensated for the direct damage caused and compensated for opportunities forgone? These SMEs are after all, the economic backbone of any prospering nation.

On this note as well, it is totally unacceptable that Hizbullah or any other party be allowed to compensate for the damages of this war (through its regional allies) unless Hizbullah accepts to become the government and the government a political party. All aid to the Lebanese people affected by this war must be done through governmental channels or at least through coordination with the central government, of which Hizbullah is a part. No longer should Hizbullah hold a semi-governmental character, and all its assets, both financial and military should be transferred through the government. Or else why is there a government?

Finally, a further important issue to rise would be seeing Israeli politicians and generals fighting it out in Israel, blaming and criticizing each other for all their failures in this foolish war they initiated, and the expectation that their prime minister will fall. To some in Lebanon, this is seen as a victory, a victory that should ensure that such events do not occur, at least in public, between the Lebanese.
However, I see this as democracy. Israel is practicing democracy were actions are held accountable and though who have not done their jobs correctly, would be penalized by the system in place. In this sense, if the prime minister falls out in Israel, it is not a victory for us as much as a victory for their system of checks and balances.
In Lebanon, no voice should be silenced this way, silenced by blaming him or her of serving the Zionist state. This would be a crime in itself, a stopping of a nation that holds itself high in terms of discourse and harmony between sects and political parties - A crime against free expression of speech and progress.

I can only hope now that Hizbullah, and on whose southern lands they come from would rise to this golden opportunity to reveal its national character, which I always believed in, and play a vital role in strengthening the central government. Otherwise and again, Hizbullah should become the government and the government a political party.

Now the war should be next fought on lands which are still invaded, particularly Syria (as it is continuously in Palestine), and it is a message that Hizbullah takes to those lands that should be listened too and applied, not met by empty speeches praising Hizbullah and Lebanese blood as a model, and even getting political leverage from it, and yet go on in doing nothing for their own dignity, land and people except ensuring the survival of a Machiavellian elite.


In the words of the villagers

As the villagers of Marwaheen (a Sunni town right on the border with Israel) burry their dead, the New York Times provides us with a window into local sentiments.

“We kept beseeching them, ‘Stay out! Stay out!’ ”

“They said, ‘We’re all in the same boat together, so deal with it... .’ But why should our children die for their cause?”

“There is no way for us to stop them... . These are not people you can say no to.”
The village's troubles began sometime last year when a local resident who had converted to Shiism was appointed the local representative of Hezbollah, residents said. Soon strange things began to occur: strangers came through for late-night meetings; trucks would come and go in the middle of the night; and a suspicious-looking white van was parked at each end of the village.
On Thursday, one of the suspicious white vans was sitting next to the town mosque. The van had apparently been hit by an Israeli missile, but the launching platform for a Katyusha rocket could still be seen inside. A rocket that lay next to the van a few days earlier had been removed.

“One man in this village was able to turn all our lives upside down for just a bit of money,”

“We want the army and the United Nations to come in here and protect us... . Israel is our enemy, but the problem is that Hezbollah gave them an excuse to come in and kill our children.”

“That was my dad... . That was my brother, and that is his family. I wish God had taken me with them.”

“Farewell, father... . Farewell, brother, I will miss you.”

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hizballah Only Won In The Eyes of The West

Amir Taheri, an exiled Iranian academic and author, wrote a very insightful and provoking op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today, that I believe should be read by as many people as possible. In the interest of furthering that goal, I will paste the majority of what he wrote on this blog, so that those of you not lucky enough to actually read it get the chance to.

Taheri's main hypothesis suggests, rather ironically I suppose, that Hizballah's victory was limited to within the boundaries of Western media coverage. He solicits the help of Egyptian columnist Ali al Ibrahim to articulate his point even further, by quoting him as saying, "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling scores with the United States... ."

So, how is this possible? How could any sane human being come to the conclusion that Hizballah actually lost this war with Israel (at the political level, of course)? Well, Taheri broke down his answer to that question into several layers: 1) a national layer, 2) a sectarian layer (both society and shi'ite jurisprudence) 2) and even an organizational (i.e. Hizballah) layer.

I will present his piece in a way that emphasizes these layers and highlight what I believe to be some of his most potent points.

The National Layer: Nasrallah's reaction to the war, and how he lost Lebanon

Immediately after the U.N.-ordained ceasefire started, Hezbollah organized a series of firework shows, accompanied by the distribution of fruits and sweets, to celebrate its victory. Most Lebanese, however, finding the exercise indecent, stayed away. The largest "victory march" in south Beirut, Hezbollah's stronghold, attracted just a few hundred people.

Initially Hezbollah had hesitated between declaring victory and going into mourning for its "martyrs." The latter course would have been more in harmony with Shiite traditions centered on the cult of Imam Hussain's martyrdom in 680 A.D. Some members of Hezbollah wished to play the martyrdom card so that they could accuse Israel, and, through it, the U.S., of war crimes. They knew that it was easier for Shiites, brought up in a culture of eternal victimhood, to cry over an imagined calamity than laugh in the joy of a claimed victory.

Politically, however, Hezbollah had to declare victory for a simple reason: It had to pretend that the death and desolation it had provoked had been worth it. A claim of victory was Hezbollah's shield against criticism of a strategy that had led Lebanon into war without the knowledge of its government and people. Mr. Nasrallah alluded to this in television appearances, calling on those who criticized him for having triggered the war to shut up because "a great strategic victory" had been won.

The tactic worked for a day or two. However, it did not silence the critics, who have become louder in recent days. The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.

The Sectarian Layer: Powerful segments of Shi'ite society resist Hizballah's vision and authoritarianism

Hezbollah is also criticized from within the Lebanese Shiite community, which accounts for some 40% of the population. Sayyed Ali al-Amin, the grand old man of Lebanese Shiism, has broken years of silence to criticize Hezbollah for provoking the war, and called for its disarmament. In an interview granted to the Beirut An-Nahar, he rejected the claim that Hezbollah represented the whole of the Shiite community. "I don't believe Hezbollah asked the Shiite community what they thought about [starting the] war," Mr. al-Amin said. "The fact that the masses [of Shiites] fled from the south is proof that they rejected the war. The Shiite community never gave anyone the right to wage war in its name."

There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence, and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone.


Some Lebanese Shiites also question Mr. Nasrallah's strategy of opposing Prime Minister Siniora's "Project for Peace," and instead advancing an Iranian-backed "Project of Defiance." The coalition led by Mr. Siniora wants to build Lebanon into a haven of peace in the heart of a turbulent region. His critics dismiss this as a plan "to create a larger Monaco." Mr. Nasrallah's "Project of Defiance," however, is aimed at turning Lebanon into the frontline of Iranian defenses in a war of civilizations between Islam (led by Tehran) and the "infidel," under American leadership. "The choice is between the beach and the bunker," says Lebanese scholar Nadim Shehadeh. There is evidence that a majority of Lebanese Shiites would prefer the beach.


There was a time when Shiites represented an underclass of dirt-poor peasants in the south and lumpen elements in Beirut. Over the past 30 years, however, that picture has changed.
Money sent from Shiite immigrants in West Africa (where they dominate the diamond trade), and in the U.S. (especially Michigan), has helped create a prosperous middle class of Shiites more interested in the good life than martyrdom à la Imam Hussain. This new Shiite bourgeoisie dreams of a place in the mainstream of Lebanese politics and hopes to use the community's demographic advantage as a springboard for national leadership. Hezbollah, unless it ceases to be an instrument of Iranian policies, cannot realize that dream.

The list of names of those who never endorsed Hezbollah, or who broke with it after its Iranian connections became too apparent, reads like a Who's Who of Lebanese Shiism. It includes, apart from the al-Amins, families such as the al-As'ad, the Osseiran, the al-Khalil, the Hamadah, the Murtadha, the Sharafeddin, the Fadhlallah, the Mussawis, the Hussainis, the Shamsuddin and the Ata'allahs.

The Organizational Layer: Factional tensions exist within Hizballah

Before he provoked the war, Mr. Nasrallah faced growing criticism not only from the Shiite community, but also from within Hezbollah. Some in the political wing expressed dissatisfaction with his over-reliance on the movement's military and security apparatus. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described Mr. Nasrallah's style as "Stalinist" and pointed to the fact that the party's leadership council (shura) has not held a full session in five years. Mr. Nasrallah took all the major decisions after clearing them with his Iranian and Syrian contacts, and made sure that, on official visits to Tehran, he alone would meet Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei.

Sectarian Layer (2): Significant disagreement exists with Nasrallah on matters of Shi'ite Jurisprudence
Mr. Nasrallah was also criticized for his acknowledgement of Ali Khamenei as Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation), the highest theological authority in Shiism. Highlighting his bay'aah (allegiance), Mr. Nasrallah kisses the man's hand each time they meet. Many Lebanese Shiites resent this because Mr. Khamenei, a powerful politician but a lightweight in theological terms, is not recognized as Marjaa al-Taqlid in Iran itself. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese Shiites regard Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq, or Ayatollah Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlallah, in Beirut, as their "Source of Emulation."
Amir Taheri's Conclusion
Far from representing the Lebanese national consensus, Hezbollah is a sectarian group backed by a militia that is trained, armed and controlled by Iran. In the words of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, "Hezbollah is 'Iran in Lebanon.'" In the 2004 municipal elections, Hezbollah won some 40% of the votes in the Shiite areas, the rest going to its rival Amal (Hope) movement and independent candidates. In last year's general election, Hezbollah won only 12 of the 27 seats allocated to Shiites in the 128-seat National Assembly -- despite making alliances with Christian and Druze parties and spending vast sums of Iranian money to buy votes.

Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of victory. "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States," says Egyptian columnist Ali al-Ibrahim. "But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Power To Help, Power To Deprive

Quickly, two news items:

French President Chirac has announced that he will be sending 2,000 French troops to Lebanon and claims that they are ready to head the UN peacekeeping force.

The second news item is that Syria has officially decided to cut off its power supply to Lebanon. During the month-long war Syria has helped Lebanon get access to more hours of electricity around the country. Now, many parts of the country will be in the dark.

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

desperate and stupid: a rant

These posters are apparently all over Beirut - or wherever rubble exists, anyway. They bother me. They bother me because the message they convey implies that "we Lebanese were simply minding our own business, living our lives and not bothering anyone, and then all of a sudden, an Israeli-American armaggedon befell us!"

Well...What can I say? Witty? Sure. Especially that "Middle Beast" one. But self-righteously stupid nevertheless.

Message to Hizballah propaganda people:

You don't go beat up on someone a hundred times your size, and then cry "wawa" when the guy finally turns around and beats the crap out of you! Oooh... "made in the USA!"


You knew what they were capable of doing all along... even when your brainwashed supporters were distributing baklawa after you kidnaped those Israeli soldiers.

What would have happened if we lived in a Democratic polity? Well... I think the public would have had a lot of questions to ask. Maybe they would have formed a commission. Maybe that commission would eventually come to certain conclusions that would not necessarily please Hizballah, but Hizballah would have to abide by its decisions anyway.

Oh wait, we don't live in a democratic polity. Besides, the very people who should be at the forefront of calling for such an inquiry, consider doing so "treacherous." How many articles have I read, quoting villagers standing in front of their ruined houses, proudly proclaiming that the "Muqawama" protected Lebanon?

Oh yeah. And how could I forget? This calamity was "made in the USA!" It's all the Big and Little Satan's fault! I'm going to go blow my self up now so that I can somehow make my life a little better!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We Are Not Here To Stay: Look In The Mirror

Let's face it: from a realist point of view, Iran has power and is exercising it to the utmost.

Just when we thought the Italians pledged to head the UN military delegation into our southern borders, they rescinded that commitment today. If Iran was not powerful right now, would we all, including the Americans and Europeans, be waiting for that important date of August 31st, the day the UNSCR has scheduled a discussion on Iran's nuclear program? No.

Syrian President Assad can talk as much as he can, and Saudi and Egyptian press can retaliate for Assad's insults to their leadership as much as they can, the truth of the matter, none of these countries is a power to contend with.

I am sick of reading editorials instilling fear in us that the Syrian regime has a plan to re-occupy Lebanon. Again, let's face it: the Syrian regime is weak. For the past two years, the regime has been isolated from diplomatic relations, one of its major sources of income, namely its access to Lebanon, was closed, and many of those implicated in late Hariri's assassination had their accounts frozen. And if Syria really had power left to exercise, it would have intervened militarily during the one-month war on Lebanon.

Syria does not have power in its own right, it gets it from Iran. Long gone are the days when Syria during Hafez Assad's time was an Arab power, crucial in every way on the regional level. All what the Syrian regime has right now is a couple of crude speeches and relations with rogue fundamentalist groups (Al-Qaida) used as a threat against Lebanon and for destabilization purposes in Iraq.

The sad part is that Lebanon yet again has been chosen as the "convenient" place to pick the fights in. I read somewhere yesterday in a Lebanese newspaper someone asking why Israel hits a truck carrying arms to Hizbullah on Lebanese territories and not before it enters Lebanon. This is an important question.

It's as if there is an understanding amongst all powers that if Syria is hit, Iran will be pushed to respond. Remember a couple of months back Ahmadinejad's visit to Damascus? I believe this is when an Iranian-Syrian Entente was forged and a pledge was made by Iran to come to the rescue if Syria is hit or Hizbullah is threatened to disarm.

The fear to bring in Iran directly into the conflict shows that it's a power in its own right. Who wants a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran where a nuclear bomb becomes a solution Israel resorts to as a defensive mechanism? Arab countries would not like to intervene militarily in such a case, even when pushed to do so, and would consider it a failure that the Persians are directly fighting on their turf . The Americans would see their New Middle East Project crumbling even further with no chance of revival.

It just seems to me at times the whole situation in our part of the world is bleak. There is no true counterweight to Iran in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has an arsenal of weapons and rockets that it never uses and when it wishes to, it usually relies on the Americans and British to fight their wars for them. Egypt and Jordan also have to contend with their internal threats, Islamic fundamentalism and what not. They have signed peace with Israel and perhaps do not have the capacity to face up to Iran.

So how more convenient could Lebanon be? Lebanon could keep Iran at bay; Iran can influence Hizbullah, fund Hamas, militarily back the Syrian regime, and intervene in the Iraqi war and peace equation: that's all better than inviting Iran inside the Arab House.

Our part of the world is a mess. I don't know where to start from. I guess it's this quality in us Arabs, where we like to eschew the difficult questions to a later time. It's time for the Arab leaders to look in the mirror and stop pretending that they are here to stay.

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

Amnesty International Says The Obvious & Political Defeat.

Amnesty International released a report on the 34-day war between Hizballah and Israel. I know, I know... the web is going to be flooded with citations of this report, and used by thousands to argue for the decimation of Israel.

Nevertheless, I feel it important to quote some sections of Amnesty's summary; if for no other reason, than to point it out to some self-righteous Israeli commenters who visit this blog. The real victim of this war was and remains Lebanon.
Israel's destruction of thousands of homes, and strikes on numerous bridges and roads as well as water and fuel storage plants, was an integral part of Israel's military strategy in Lebanon, rather than “collateral damage” resulting from the lawful targeting of military objectives.
The Israeli government has argued that they were targeting Hizbullah positions and support facilities and that other damage done to civilian infrastructure was a result of Hizbullah using the civilian population as a "human shield".
"The pattern, scope and scale of the attacks makes Israel's claim that this was 'collateral damage', simply not credible..."
"Civilian victims on both sides of this conflict deserve justice. The serious nature of violations committed makes an investigation into the conduct of both parties urgent. There must be accountability for the perpetrators of war crimes and reparation for the victims.”
I have heard Israelis counter that if their Army faced a conventional adversary in an open battlefield similar to the wars fought in the Suez and Golan Heights, Lebanese would have been spared the civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure. I have also heard arguments, which contend that Hizballah is inherently immoral because it is an organization that is intimately intertwined with the general (i.e. Shi'a) population. Therefore, placing its own constituents directly in harms way during times of war.

What? Am I supposed to take sides in this useless debate over the morality of the actions of either side of this conflict? No! To me, Both sides are equally immoral. Therefore, self righteousness from either is the worst kind of denial of reality that I can place a finger on.

Politically though, no such equivalence exists. Increasing numbers of articles published by writers much more credible and articulate than I am say so. The latest, published in the Washington Post was written by, Egyptian Democracy advocate, Saad Eddine Ibrahim, who was arrested by Mubarak for his activities. Ibrahim writes,
According to the preliminary results of a recent public opinion survey of 1,700 Egyptians by the Cairo-based Ibn Khaldun Center, Hezbollah's action garnered 75 percent approval, and Nasrallah led a list of 30 regional public figures ranked by perceived importance. He appears on 82 percent of responses, followed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (73 percent), Khaled Meshal of Hamas (60 percent), Osama bin Laden (52 percent) and Mohammed Mahdi Akef of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (45 percent).

The pattern here is clear, and it is Islamic. And among the few secular public figures who made it into the top 10 are Palestinian Marwan Barghouti (31 percent) and Egypt's Ayman Nour (29 percent), both of whom are prisoners of conscience in Israeli and Egyptian jails, respectively.

None of the current heads of Arab states made the list of the 10 most popular public figures.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the legitimacy of not only the current Arab political elite, but also the very secular states that they lead are being strained to the limit. The Israeli war on Lebanon, and the pathetic reaction of the Lebanese state to the calamity (compared to Hizballah's response) only serve to increase that strain. Two weeks ago, I wrote the following in an e-mail, concerning Hizballah in the regional context,

I think Hizballah is an organization that is very conscious that it is being watched by the Arab world and the world in general. They seek to present themselves to that audience as an Islamic organization capable of standing up the "American-Zionist" behemoth. But, I also think, that they wish to present themselves simply as an "effective Islamic organization" - as a viable alternative to the status-quo (i.e. a counter-elite). They wish to show everyone that an Islamic political system is not only feasible, but more capable than the secular political elite in not only a military but also a political and social sense.

Unfortunately, I think that they have succeeded, and are winning over the Arab public. Countries like Malaysia, Turkey and Indonesia may have effective secular political elites and states, but the Arab world, has some of the most useless, limp, pathetic governments out there. Anything compared to the existing Arab political elite will shine in comparison. Hizballah knows that. Therefore, it presents itself as the alternative - and there is no better way to strut your stuff in the Middle East than to effectively challenge Israel (it's like proving your "manhood" when you enter a new school by challenging the bully - you do it to gain respect).

I am increasingly convinced that this trend towards legitimacy of Islamic movements at the expense of secular institutions is gradually turning into an unstopable current. Moreover, the only way to fix this problem, if at all, is through a final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and a valiant effort on behalf of today's elite to salvage their political legitimacy through better governance and a healthier relationship between the state and society.

Something tells me I shouldn't hold my breath!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Washington Times reports a somewhat confusing development

The Washington Times is not a source I regularly read to catch up on developments. However, I did bump into an intriguing article today, as I browsed the web.

Joshua Mitnick, a Times reporter, writes from Tel Aviv,
Israel is mulling the reopening of peace negotiations with Syria -- frozen for seven years -- after a monthlong war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, according to newspaper reports.

After years of ignoring the possibility of talks with Syria because of the U.S. effort to isolate President Bashar Assad, a growing number of voices is calling on the Israeli government to consider talks with Damascus, which could help sever the central link between Hezbollah and its main weapons sponsor, Iran.
Mitnick quotes Israeli parliament member Avshalom Vilan as saying,
In the short run, the mission has to be the separation of Syria from Hezbollah and Iran
Arab-Israeli wars often have been followed by successful peace talks. The best example is the landmark treaty between Israel and Egypt, which was concluded six years after the countries fought to a draw in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Mitnick even claims that Peretz is "speaking of investigating the potential for negotiations with Syria." However, he then goes on to say, that Olmert is opposed to the idea because he wouldn't want to "help end the Syrian isolation imposed by the United States."

Personally, I don't know what to make of this story, and the fact that it was written by a Washington Times reporter based in Tel Aviv. It definitely contradicts all apparent developments on the regional and international levels.

What can I say? As goes with all viewers, sitting and watching from the sidelines, we'll have to watch and wait for developments to transpire.

Harsh words

Developments always move slower than one would like. However, to return to a situation in which the war between Hizballah and the Israelis is even more likely to ignite than before July 12 is the worst possible outcome.

No doubt, Lebanese politicians engage Hizballah in very tough negotiations as I type up this entry. Only Zeus knows what the outcome of these negotiations will be. However, as I mentioned previously on this blog, only Hizballah can decide to disarm, because doing so forcibly would simply mean the end of Lebanon (either a through a cataclysmic civil war, or "another round" of Israeli strikes, only this time, nothing will hold them back - i.e. bye bye, Army, Downtown Beirut, Lebanese State).

A good analogy of the situation Hizballah finds itself in right now would be an authoritarian ruler being asked to abdicate for the sake of his country. In fact, let me take this analogy one step further and suggest that Lebanon is currently in the midst of what could be termed a "regime change," which began the second Syrian troops started leaving the country. Will Hizballah bow out? Will it put the wellbeing of Lebanon, and its constituents, before its agenda? If so, then at what price?

As for France, and its commitment regarding the UN force, my thoughts echo those expressed by editorials published by the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. The Journal wonders whether UN resolution 1701 is still alive,
Most U.N. resolutions don't have the shelf-life of a gallon of milk, which isn't always a bad thing. But in the case of resolution 1701 - the cease-fire agreement for Lebanon and Israel adopted unanimously this month by the Security Council - things seem to be going sour even faster than that. And that is cause for serious unease.
And the Times mocks Jacques Chirac mercilessly for his "contribution" to the implementation of 1701,
It would be tempting to laugh about France's paltry commitment of 200 additional peacekeepers for Lebanon, if it weren't so dangerous. After insisting for years that they be treated like a superpower, the French are behaving as if they have no responsibility for helping dig out of the Lebanon mess.
Of course, considering that Lebanese parties are still in the midst of negotiating the near and not-so-near future, the UN force and its mission could very well be leverage that would no longer exist once it is deployed.

However, I remain as impatient as ever. At a time when the international community, and the Arab world are supposed to convey a message of strength, determination and generosity, all I see is trepidation. But then again, how much do I really see?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Hizballah burrying dead comrades

Politics, and personal issues, aside.... You've got to give it to them. They put up quite a fight!

Q&A with South Korean newspaper

Several days back, I was interviewed by a South Korean newspaper. They've published the interview in Q&A format. Here are a few selections from the article.

On your homepage, you write that "Religion is great, if only it is used as was originally intended." In the case of Lebanon on which you write, will you say that Hezbollah has taken the country hostage with a different version of the Koran? If yes, what is the original message?

Of course I believe that Hezbollah has taken the country hostage! Over the past few days, Lebanese have jokingly asked each other whether they have paid homage to their new military dictator!

As for my personal interpretation of religion vs. Hezbollah's, allow me to boil it down to the separation of religion and politics. I despise the "holier-than-thou" attitude. These people wear their religious garb, yet practice politics. When you criticize them, their supporters take to the streets and protest the fact that you insulted their religious symbols (a relatively new phenomenon in Lebanon, that has come about with the emergence of Hezbollah). These developments only serve to harden my position regarding the separation of state and "mosque" even more. It is clear that the image Hezbollah has for Lebanon is mutually exclusive with the vision I, and the majority of other Lebanese, have for our country.

How do you characterize Hezbollah? A resistance group, freedom fighters or a terrorist organization?

I classify Hezbollah as a Shi'a militia supported with funds and material from Iran, Syria and Shi'a who reside in Lebanon, the Gulf, Africa and all over the world.

At one point in Lebanon's history, there was a consensus to refer to it as a "resistance group." Today, that consensus has faded.

President Assad of Syria, who attributed victory to Hezbollah, said the crises helped create a new Middle East. Do you agree?

I think that Assad is an isolated and desperate president. Internationally and even in the Arab region, the man is a pariah! Of course, that scares me, because a desperate man can do very stupid things. However, whatever he said is simply false. Tell me what has changed! Do you see any differences? Okay... people are very emotional right now, but so what? Emotions are fleeting, and if nothing happens in the coming days and weeks, they will go back to business as usual.

Is it right to say Lebanon is back to where it was 50 years ago, as your prime minister qualified it? What do you think is the way forward now?

We did not go back 50 years, however we were taken back quite considerably. Lebanon's Council for Development and Reconstruction just announced that it will take at least a year to rebuild all the infrastructure and over $2 dbillion. Some estimates project 3 years -- and this is just infrastructure damage!

However, when we talk about Lebanon's economy, I am afraid that it all depends on political developments. A considerable number of factories were destroyed by Israeli bombs over the past month. These damages sum up to tens of millions of dollars in damage. The retail sector is, if anything, on life support, and the tourist industry can be characterized similarly.

It is safe to say that investors will only return if they believe that nothing similar to this war will happen any time in (at least) the near future. In order for them to be convinced, they will need to see a political settlement and a solution to the problem of Hezbollah's arms.

Check out the rest of it.

note: sorry about the mix-up. It turns out that the journalist who interviewed me was based in Finland.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What the Lebanese Army Really Means To Lebanese

The Lebanese Army today basks in the spotlight - and for good reason, too. For the first time since its disintegration during the civil war, it deploys its personnel and material south of the Litani River. Numerous journalists and analysts have written articles assessing the army's capabilities. Most have been scathing. However, all have conveyed relief at its deployment in Southern Lebanon.

Some of these assessments have compared the army to Hizballah, for obvious reasons. They sought to satisfy the curiosity a few individuals betrayed regarding whether or not the Army could take the militia on, and disarm it. Of course, considering what the Israelis were able to accomplish in a month, there simply is no question about what Lebanon's antiquated armed forces would be able to accomplish. If it were ever to take Hizballah on, it would lose mightily.

So if our armed forces are so obviously weak, why are Lebanese so proud of it? Why does it foster such feelings of pride among most, if not all, Lebanese?

For an answer to that question, I will quote none other than Walid Jumblatt: "the Lebanese Army is the product of political consensus - consensus among all of Lebanon's political forces (and sects) - consensus that protects it, and allows it to fulfill its duties." Therefore, in certain respects, the Lebanese Armed Forces are not merely means to ends, but rather ends in themselves.

There would be nothing easier than for a foreign power to isolate a particular sect in Lebanon, help foster a militaristic culture, train its military-aged men for guerilla warfare, and spend hundreds of millions of dollars arming it to the teeth and preparing it for war. In other words, there is nothing special about Hizballah. If the Americans, French, Russians or Chinese decided to spend $20 - $50 million dollars a month on militarizing the Druze, Sunna, or Maronite communities, you would see the exact same outcome.

However, as I've already mentioned, nothing could be easier. The challenge for Lebanon and Lebanese lies in the national project - in choosing to be Lebanese. And despite our Army's impotence, we remain proud of it because it is a living, breathing symbol of that project. The Army reflects our society, and will only do what is acceptable to all of us. It is truly, Our Army.

One of my professors at Hopkins once said something that struck me. He pointed out that contrary to popular perceptions, he believed it much more difficult to effectively lead state institutions than private enterprises. Whereas leaders of the latter were single-minded in their determination to secure profits, leaders of the former needed to factor in and manage the often contradictory demands that emanate from the soceity(ies) they serve.

Ball Now In Hizballah's Court

Yesterday, Walid Jumblatt and Hariri Jr. spoke their minds. The crux of their message was very simple: Hizballah, we acknowledge the victory you claim, and the efforts of your fighters in the face of the Israeli military machine. However, we ask you, for the sake of Lebanon, to "de-commission."

Jumblatt, I believe, for the very first time, used the term "civil war," in the sense that if Hizballah did not act in Lebanon's interest, a new civil war might ensue.

As I watched both press conferences, one thought kept recurring in my mind: "strength through weakness."

It is obvious that the most fragile entity in this mess is Lebanon. Both Hariri and Jumblatt painted the country as being on the brink - and that if Hizballah did not make the right decisions for the sake of the country, Lebanon will crack.

Today, Hizballah needs to weigh two contradictory imperatives. On the one hand, its leadership feel that it is an integral part of the Syrian-Iranian-Hizballahi coalition, and that if it drops out, it will leave its allies weaker and more vulnerable. Let me add that Hizballah is especially crucial to that alliance because it is the only member that (prior to July 12, at least) could physically launch attacks on Israel, and “stir things up” whenever the alliance felt the time was right. On the other hand, Hizballah is also being made to feel that nothing less than the fate of Lebanon as a state and a country is at stake here.

Will this political maneuver work? Will Hizballah respond positively? We cannot but wait and see.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My Army Heads South

I remember when a main military checkpoint that greets you as you enter the North of Lebanon on the coastal highway was handed to the Lebanese Army from the Syrian, a couple of years back. I was in the car with my father. He stopped at the checkpoint, lowered the car window, smiled and said: "Marhaba watan!" He told me that we should be proud of our Army and I obliged.

And now I watch on TV Lebanese Army covoys heading south. They've been working since the ceasefire took effect to build and repair makeshift bridges so they could make their trip south.

They have a tough job ahead of them? Yes, no one can deny it. So little is known from the beltway here about the soldiers' morale and thoughts. Are they ready for such a move? And what mandate has the Cabinet empowered them with? Is it disarming Hizbullah or simply protecting the southern borders? We shouldn't forget that there is perhaps an extremely negative image of the Army in the eyes of many Lebanese right now because they did not get involved with Hizbullah in resisting the Israeli incursions.

In my mind I believe that the worst thing we can do to is embroil the Army in politics. Soldiers have a mission and must fulfill it, it's the job of the Cabinet and Parliament represented by the people to take swift action towards resolving the issue of Hizbullah's arms, our standing issues with Israel (end of air and sea blockade, POWs, Shebaa Farms), and Syria (especially ensuring that there is no smuggling of arms taking place). But resolving these issues should take place within a very tight deadline, lest the Army loses its grip on itself.

I am most disappointed by our President who is a former Army General and was forever touted as the "unifier", namely bringing in former militiamen into the fold of the Army after the end of the civil war and building a strong, nationalistic institution. Despite this history, he has not shied whatsoever from criticizing the Army and claiming that it's weak and possesses no substantial arms (which is true), and instead supporting Hizbullah as an alternative on the southern border, because, in his words, guerilla warfare is the way to deter Israeli aggression.

President Lahoud, who was so fervently elected to the Presidency eight years ago, carried the banner of strong state institutions. Where does that figure in his stands lately? Not that he is significant whatsoever on the political scene.

All what I want to say is that I root for our Army. I am proud of them. When I see a Lebanese soldier, I see my country. Yes, yes, of course this is a romanticized view of this institution, but this is what we've got.

I can never forget how the Army took a nationalistic stand when they were ordered to stop protesters from heading to Beirut right before the March 14 mass demonstration and they instead allowed them to go through. The Army has always served as an internal security force; perhaps today will be the day when they will resume their real role, protecting the borders of Lebanon.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Once you taste honey...

Back to Square One

And there we go again. Just like how the national dialogue rounds kept on being postponed until all hell broke loose, now we're witnessing a postponement upon postponement of the Cabinet meeting since the Cabinet ministers met last when they agreed to UNSCR 1701, with some reservations (ma3 ba3d al-tahaffouzat). It's becoming clear that "some reservations" is not to be dismissed of, it's what will make and break the Lebanese state's will.

Add the second consecutive postponement of the Cabinet meeting with what Syrian President Assad said today, and you'll start to sense bleakness on the horizons.

President Assad basically claimed Hizbullah victorious and added that some political factions in Lebanon, namely the March 14 coalition, have encouraged Israel to attack Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah and that this coalition is the same one that wanted to sign a peace treaty with Israel back in 17th May of 1982 and so they bear responsibility for their country's destruction. He also said that the Lebanese who want to disarm Hizbullah have failed and their fall is near.

President Assad's words are significant for pro-Syrian politicians in Lebanon and are a sign to unleash the propaganda war.

Please don't tell me that we're not back to square one? And what did Israel achieve with its hasty and brutal attack on Lebanon? It only emboldened Syria and Iran and made out of Hizbullah's arms, resistance arms.

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

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hassan Nasrallah: ENOUGH!

Hassan Nasrallah just gave his speech to Lebanon. I didn't catch most of it, but I did catch the following: "those who think that they can talk about Hizballah's weapons now are mistaken."

Of course, the man cannot simply be expected to state otherwise. At this point in time, so soon after the battle, the combatants cannot but insist on claiming victory. Yet in my humble opinion, if the Israelis cannot justifiably claim a victory, neither can Lebanon (or even Hizballah for that matter).

It is true that Hizballah survived this onslaught, and in so doing, was able to achieve an unprecedented feat. However, it failed to accomplish anything else, and nomatter how much better it prepared for this war, could not have accomplished more.

On that note, I have a message I wish to convey to Nasrallah (and I think I speak for the majority of Lebanese when I say this): ENOUGH!

You are not my leader. You have just been handed your "epic battle" with the Israelis and you could not have wished for a better outcome. Of course, the price WE ALL had to pay for that "victory" of yours was astronomical. Your insistence on keeping your weapons and stubbornly tagging the Syrian-Iranian foreign policy line has brought our country to the brink of oblivion. ENOUGH, Nasrallah. ENOUGH.

The Israelis are now taking their Prime Minister to task for his folly. It would be a BIG shame if the Lebanese (including your own constituents, Mr. Nasrallah) do not take you to task. Did you really pose a deterrence to Israel? Could they have inflicted any more damage to the country? Were you the one who prevented them from doing so? Were your arms worth the price all of us paid? Can Lebanon continue like this? Will Lebanon be able to get back on its feet if you do not alter your own course? And finaly, can you and your organization, Mr. Nasrallah, really survive without Lebanon?

At the end of the day, you are the Shi'a Za'im. But that is all you are: a Shi'a Za'im. You do not Lead Lebanon. You cannot ever lead Lebanon. You are one among equals in a country defined by plurality. And if the majority of your political counterparts agree to a path that differs from the path you choose, Mr. Nasrallah (however divine you may think you, or your path is), you must accept the decision of the majority.

Lebanon, today, is at a very clear juncture, Nasrallah. You either "retire" your military component while it is at the "top," leave a solid legacy behind, and save Lebanon in the process. Or, you persist in your obstinate ways, and drag all of the country into oblivion. Starting today, the real battle for Lebanon's survival begins.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Inspiring Dread.

When I read analyses like the one you are about to read below, my outlook for Lebanon in the near and long term becomes very bleak. I start to feel that what has transpired over the past month in my country constitutes merely the first shots in a much broader and all-encompassing war.

Hussein Shariatmadari, a top aide to Khamenehi, and director of Iran's main daily newspaper Kayhan (Universe) believes that with the fall of Communism, the task of challenging the "Infidel" West, under US leadership, in setting the global agenda, has devolved to the Islamic Republic and its Khomeinist ideology.

In an editorial bearing the title of "This Is Our War," Shariatmadari made it clear that Hezbollah was fighting not for prisoners, the Shabaa farms or even "Arab causes," whatever they may be at any given time, but for Iran in its broader struggle to prevent the US from creating "an American Middle East."

The consensus in Tehran is that American power is peaking out and that the West as a whole is entering a period of historic decline. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is convinced that it is the turn of rising new powers, brimming with energy and ambition, sustained by strong demographic trends, and ready for endless sacrifice and suffering, to provide humanity with leadership. (Amir Taheri, Asharq al Awsat)

"Provide humanity with leadership???" "Endless sacrifice and suffering???" Wow!

How delusional are these people?!?! What does the Average Ali in Tehran think about this? I know what I think: words like these do not inspire any sense of confidence in me with regards to peace and quiet in Lebanon or the region for the foreseeable future. In fact it does quite the opposite. It inspires dread. God help all of us! For it looks like we're in for a hell of ride! Literally.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Agreement Reached on UN Resolution

Wohoow!!! A UN draft resolution has been agreed upon, and will be discussed at a Ministerial Meeting in a matter of three hours.

Thus far, I know that it calls for the existing UNIFIL contingent to be beefed up to 15,000 troops from its current 2,000 (I wonder which nations will contribute to this force, and whether it will be deployed along the Lebanese-Syrian border).

The resolution calls for a cessation of violence "at the earliest possible time." (what the hell does that mean? And how will it translate on the ground?)

It also calls for Israeli troops to withdraw from Lebanese soil, and tasks the UNIFIL contingent to monitor the withdrawal.

This development comes about just as Olmert decided to ramp up operations inside of Lebanon.

For a few hours today, disgust at the over-all situation was really starting to set in. It really appeared that all diplomatic efforts had failed, and that Hizballah and Israel were gonna go after each other for the rest of the foreseeable future.

I hope this glimmer of hope doesn't fade away.

Update: British Foreign Secretary (4:20 PM EST interviewed on CNN's Situation Room)
  • We're not sure that all Perm. Mem. of Security Council are on board.
  • We know that we, the French and the Americans are on board.
  • We hope that the resolution will be passed tonight.
  • The resolution is not a chapter seven, but it is 'very, very strongly worded' and clearly mandated
  • The two forces (UN and Lebanese) will work together to 'assert Lebanese sovereignty' and to 'prevent arms reaching any third party within Lebanon.'
  • There is a very clear statement concerning prisoners held by Hizballah and Israel
Update 2: Reports suggest that if the Israelis accept the UN resolution, it will be during their cabinet meeting on Sunday, giving us two more days of hell. A hell in which UN escorted civilian convoys are annihalated for some ephemeral reason that I simply fail to grasp!

Update 3: Condi Rice Speaks To Wolf Blitzer

  • Gov of Lebanon has let me know that Resolution will serve its interests
  • The obligation to disarm Hizballah is not a job for the UN force. It is up to the Lebanese authorities to implement the Taif Accords and disarm all militias in Lebanon
  • Force will not allow a return to the status quo ante
  • It will secure Borders and prevent arms from entering Lebanon illegally
  • It will help the Lebanese Army secure South
  • The force has a very firm mandate to defend itself and to defend its mandate
  • No US troops will participate


So 200-something Israeli soldiers held 300-something Lebanese soldiers (ISF, army, special units, other security people…) hostage for quiet some time at the Lebanese barracks in Jdaidet Marje’youn. There is not enough in the media yet. More will follow, I guess. Considering the bombing and fighting in my hometown, Khiam, in the last few days, I really hope the 15,000 soldiers called by the army will have a bit more guts in them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The funerals grow bigger as the coffins grow smaller. The only static facts are that Israel wants peace and these are the birth pangs for a new middle east!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Forever Loubnan Al-Moukaddas

These are excerpts of what I wrote last year in August of 2005 when I was back in Lebanon. Call it nostalgia mixed with sorrow, mixed with hints of the 2006 summer that was to come....I have nothing new to write and would definitely at the moment defer to how I felt and thought back in the days. My heart is filled with fear and pain for my beloved Loubnan.

Lebanon, the small, beautiful country, the larger-than-life country, is too good to be true sometimes. Lebanon is beautiful like a dream. I've talked to many and funnilly enough, many are optimistic, and many are not. Many have bought in to the national reconciliation mantra, and many have become ultra-sectarian, it is but confusing to say which side is winning!

When you don't read the newspapers, Lebanon is the way it is...just Lebanon, the Lebanon we all love. But just when you read the news, it is inevitable to be disturbed. The dark forces in our country are slowly getting emboldened. I hope we can stand in their way. Can we?

Lebanon is weak, a sick-man, susceptible to all the viruses one can think of. Are we able to give it an immunization shot once and for all? I believe, if we can work together. We'll wait and see. But I'll remind myself everyday, that now in order to understand what will happen to our country, we have to keep up with the news around us. So let's keep our eyes open.

Less than 24 hours before I leave this beloved country, Lebanon. I must say that I have decided--this is the place I want to be my home, this is where I want to live. No romanticism, no's reality and it becomes clearer the older I get....

Lebanon--it's the fertile ground for change, for opportunities. We should all start planning the return. We should! No doubt! It would be a shame to leave it behind, when it is so thirsty for our minds, for our endless energy, and optimism...I can smell the fresh scent of the Pine Tree from the hills of Bhamdoun-El-Mhatta.

Forever, Loubnan Al-Moukaddas.

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

a letter from home

A dear friend sent this e-mail to me earlier today. This war needs to stop now!

Raja habibi,

I miss you a lot and sometimes I sit and think how I missed a fabulous summer with you....

They have been bombing Saida’s Palestinian camp (which is close to my parents) and the situation is not promising at all. They can not get out because of several reasons, mainly because of my father’s condition. He is still too weak to move around and too stubborn to leave.

The children had their first fright night this morning when they bombed the camp. Electricity hours are getting less and less, and it is difficult in the evenings when the mosquitoes are around and not able to use insecticide plates (because of lack of electricity).

My sleeping pattern has gone wacky and I have mild depression. A combination of: job -related insecure future; being locked in my friend’s apartment (away from Beirut), transportation is too hard for all because there is little fuel; unable to work and get around (as a result); the war itself (concerns about family's life and father’s well being); seeing what is going on in other towns and areas of Lebanon which is really really sad and sickening....

what can I say?! God is placing us and testing us in another war like situation but this time the responsibilities have shifted in my family.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lebanon's government - the only way out!

Yesterday was a noteworthy day because the Lebanese government pushed forward a proposal to finally send the Lebanese Army into southern Lebanon with the objective of filling the vacuum that would ensue from an immediate Israeli withdrawal. Although not explicit, the Lebanese government also stated that Hizballah would remove its militia from the Southern border as well (numerous officials claimed that the Lebanese Army would be the only armed presence in the South).

Most people though, missed the more important development that took place yesterday – one that was subtle, but nevertheless fundamental in importance.

The major news of the day, for me at least, was the Lebanese government’s actual act of proposing a solution, as opposed to the solution itself. As if to emphasize that point even more, foreign ministers from all over the region traveled to Beirut, despite the war, and held their conference in the Lebanese Serrail (House of the Lebanese Government). These ministers’ apparently exclusive role was to show support for the Lebanese government, and to support a Lebanese initiative to bring this conflict to an end.

The message was clear, and very much needed: the way out of this mess is through the Lebanese state. Only the Lebanese state can absorb the remnants of Hizballah's military wing and subordinate it. More importantly however, the Lebanese state can only do so if it is given the opportunity, and provided with the needed resources and moral support.

Time is not on its side though. Every extra day the conflict lasts, it loses its legitimacy as a result of its impotence, and its resources are stretched to the point where even its current humanitarian functions become untenable.

I hope those seeking a diplomatic solution in New York remember that reality as they try to arrive at an agreement: the only way out of this mess is the Lebanese state. There is no other choice.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sending Troops To The South

The Lebanese Government has unanimously agreed to deploy 15,000 Lebanese troops on the southern border once the Israeli Defense Forces leave Lebanon.

The question now is: Is this a trap for the Lebanese Army? Will Hizbullah agree to hand its arms to the Army? Will they fight the Army for their weapons?...

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

Our Arabness Is Not Conditional

I couldn't help myself but cry with my Prime Minister Seniora, as he cried too.

As he addressed the emergency Arab Foreign Ministers meeting in Beirut, he choked on the words: "Our Arabness is not conditional. It is not by force, but a choice." (Ouroubatouna laysat mashroota. Innaha laysat bil irgham, la bal bil ikhtiyar)

Very powerful words and very true. How much did my country pay the price for standing by its Arab identity? I believe more than any other Arab country.

To be Arab, we housed the Palestinian Liberation Organization, when other Arab countries expelled them. To be Arab, we got invaded by Israel time and time again and our lands occupied by them for 22 years. To be Arab, we fought each other for 20 years in a bloody civil war. To be Arab, we lived years through Syrian intelligence domination. To be Arab, we housed the last bastion of resistance, Hizbullah, when Jordan, Egypt and Syria, bordering Israel, have never had a shot fired across their borders since 1974. To be Arab, we had to live through years after the Israeli withdrawal from the south not knowing whether the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese or Syrian. To be Arab, we were not given Arab support to send the Lebanese Army to the south. To be Arab, so many more issues were taboo to discuss and resolve.

For the first time, live before the whole world, PM Seniora said these words to the Arab Ministers. He choked, cried, wiped his tears and continued on. Some of the attendants looked embarassed and moved.

It's a choice, a choice we have made to stand by our Arab identity. And it's also a choice we've made to be pluralistic and democratic, a choice to be open and modern, a choice to be a message of coexistence for the whole world.

Israel is a democratic state, but not pluralistic; it's a state for the Jews. And Syria, our other neighbor, is an authoritarian state that subscribes to one creed, Assadist Baathism.

It is a difficult choice we the Lebanese have made: we want to be different; part of the Arab world, yet different, democratic, yet pluralistic. Lebanon: the house of many mansions, and the death toll rises....

Update: It turns out that the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting came up with something more than just a statement - a group of Foreign Ministers are heading to New York to work with Security Council members rallying support for the Lebanese government's seven-point plan that aims at reaching a comprehensive solution to all hostilities.

Update 2: The Lebanese government has ordered in those who served in the Lebanese Army the past 5 years. Is this the first step towards sending the Army to the south?

Update 3: News sources are saying that Syrian Foreign Minister Moallem did not agree with supporting the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting's official statement, which endorses the Lebanese government's 7-point plan and which stressed on ALL Lebanese people's resistance towards Israeli aggression, instead of just hailing Hizbullah's resistance. The 7-point plan includes a provision to turn in the Shebaa Farms to the UN until it's resolved whether it's Syrian or Lebanese territories.

To Moallem: What were you thinking? That you're coming to Lebanon so all could bow to your demands? So you could challenge the 7-point plan and keep some gambling cards up your sleeve?

I should just say that our PM Seniora was decent enough to repel the rumors in his press conference that you left early because you were disgruntled. It turns out that the rumors were true!

And yes the reserves called up will be heading to the south. May God be with them!

Update 4: Shiyyah was hit, a heavily populated area, in the evening, when everyone is huddled home. The footage of the carnage is scary. Rescuers are scrambling around the rubble to save who can be saved. 10 are reported dead and more than 30 wounded.

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

Felt like it

Two Demonstrations In PARIS

There two demonstrations taking place in PARIS.

Monday, August 7 at 7:00PM next to the Fontaine Des Innocents
, sponsored by Amnesty International to urge the international community to pressure for an immediate ceasefire.

Tuesday, August 8 at 7:00PM at the Place de la Bastille, for All Lebanese and friends of the Lebanese in support of Lebanon and a call for an immediate ceasefire without conditions.

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

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Syria speaks up - woohoow!

In a recent press conference, Walid Mouallem, Syrian Foreign Minister said that

the draft U.N. resolution is not “balanced” and is a "recipe for the continuation of the (current) war because 'it is not fair for Lebanon' (i.e. Syria)" and also "civil war" in Lebanon, which 'nobody, nobody, nobody' wants except Israel (i.e. Syria) ...

Moallem also said that

Damascus was ready for regional war and will respond "immediately" to any Israeli attack

Syria has just raised the ante. They have, in effect, stated that if the resolution to this conflict does not suit its interest, it is not only ready to continue this war through Hizballah (i.e. morph it into a long-term war of attrition against Israel in Lebanese territory; something they calculate the Israelis desperately want to avoid), but it is willing, and apparently capable of fomenting civil war in Lebanon.

As for Mouallem's little comment concerning a regional war; well, it was just for consumption. You see: the Syrian regime needs to show the Arab street that it is willing to stand up to, and fight the Israelis. It can afford to flutter its wings like that because they know that nobody in this world wants the conflict to expand beyond its current confines (i.e. the confines of that sucker of nation called Lebanon). But guess what? The "Arab street" is stupid enough to buy it!

Oh yeah! The Syrians DEFINITELY have the interests of the Lebanese people at heart! They LOVE the Lebanese people! The sisterly/brotherly/cousinly/etc... Lebanese people!

"If we don't get what we want, we'll foment a new Lebanese civil war because we have Lebanese interests at heart" AWESOME!!!! Now that's what I call LOOOOVE!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ballance of "terror" indeed...

Thus far, in this conflict, Hizballah has fired 3000 rockets into Israel with the explicit intention of killing civilians in retaliation for the death of Lebanese civilians - who the Israelis claim were killed unintentionally, as they were merely caught in the cross fire, or mistakenly targetted.

Those 3000 rockets have killed 33 Israeli civilians - as compared to the Lebanese civilian toll, which is quickly climbing up to a thousand deaths, with several times as many injuries.

My question to the high and mighty Hizballah is: whatever happened to the "balance of terror" that you promised would "protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression?"

Two days ago (or yesterday), when I heard Nasrallah "threaten" the Israelis that he would hit Tel Aviv if the Israelis hit Central Beirut, two thoughts came to my mind:

  1. This pompous (...) actually believes that the reason the Israelis aren't hitting Central Beirut is because of him and his "detterence capabilities"!!! How delusional can he get???

  2. The man is brilliant: He knows the Israelis are not going to hit Central Beirut, and he wants to take credit for it - in preparation for the political tug of war that will materialize within Lebanon after the guns fall silent.
One thing must be clear to all Lebanese - and I mean ALL: what has transpired over the past two weeks eliminates all the pretense for Hizballah's existence as a military force.

Its proclaimed ability to protect Lebanon from Israel has summed up to nothing more than causing a fraction of the damage to Israel in retaliation. All Hizballah can claim any kind of credit for is its ability to protect itself, and avoid elimination - small consolation to the rest of us.