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On Other Blogs: Blacksmiths of Lebanon

On Other Blogs:The Beirut Spring

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Remembered

Another difficult year for Lebanon has come and gone and as we lay 2007 to rest I thought it may be meaningful to look back at some of the events that shook the country.

A lot of the referencing has been done courtesy of Abu Kais and Blacksmith Jade, I hope you guys don't mind.

Please feel free to leave a comment reminding me of any events that I may have missed and to correct any dating errors.

Hopefully we get a better 2008!

January 23, 2007
Opposition alliance (March 8) riots

January 25, 2007
Pro-government and Pro-opposition supporters clash in Beirut. Several killed.

Donors pledge 7.6 billion dollars to Lebanon to aid in July war reconstruction.

Feb 8, 2007:
Lebanese and Israeli Armies Clash on Border (see here and here)

Feb 13, 2007:
Ain Alaq Bombings

Feb 14, 2007:
March 14 Alliance Commemorates Hariri, Large Demonstration, Speeches

April 27, 2007:
Ziad Qabalan (24) and Ziad Ghandour (12) found dead near Jadra. The two youths were murdered. The killers have yet to be apprehended.

May 20, 2007:
Explosion in Ashrafieh , casualties reported.

May 21,2007:
Explosion in Verdun

May 22,2007:
Fighting continues in Nahr-el-Bared

May 23, 2007:
Explosion in Aley

May 30, 2007:
UNSC 1757 is born.

June 2, 2007:
Clashes continue in Nahr-el-Bared

June 4, 2007:
Explosion in Zouk industrial area

June 13, 2007:
Walid Eido assasinated. Many killed.

June 20, 2007:
Syria closes border crossing with Lebanon.

June 24, 2007:
Unifil targeted in road-side bombing. 6 peacekeepers killed.

June 29, 2007:
Fighting continues in Nahr-el-Bared.

July 16, 2007
Unifil targeted again

August 6, 2007
Aoun candidate victorious in Metn by-elections

August 25, 2007
Fighting continues in Nahr-el-Bared. Families of "militants" evacuated.

September 3, 2007
Army declares victory in Nahr-el-Bared. 163 Lebanese soldiers fall.

September 10, 2007
Shaker El Abssi confirmed to have fled
September 19, 2007
Antoine Ghanem assassinated. Many casualties reported.

October 2, 2007
Fires rage all over Lebanon. Arson suspected.

October 25, 2007
Fires return.

November 22, 2007
"Independence" Day

November 23, 2007
Lahoud's term ends. Lahoud leaves Baabda.

December 12, 2007
Brigadier General Francois Hajj assassinated. Hajj had been strong contender to replace Michel Sleiman in top army position.

December 29, 2007
Lebanese presidential election postponed for eleventh time.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Reassessment ?

I have had a hard time posting anything of value lately, mostly because the situation in Lebanon is so downright repulsive that I could not bring myself to sit down and write anything useful that the Lebanese blogosphere has not already successfully and repetitively tackled...

Perhaps at the risk of breaking that trend, in this post I intend to briefly examine the current impasse in Lebanon from the context of the power struggle between the various political factions in Lebanon, the regional players, and the international ones, as well as the interplay among them.

For anyone who reads this post, I ask that you be patient with me as I try to dissect the situation and that you keep in mind that I am doing this as much for my understanding of the Lebanese impasse as for anything else.

Zoom Out
It may be quite useful to take the current delays in voting in a new president as simply another skirmish in the battle for Lebanon. Clearly the battle for Lebanon, from an international perspective, is to be taken in the context of the diplomatic war being waged between Syria and Iran on one hand and the West on the other. Nothing has changed from that perspective. Except that the momentum seems to have shifted, for various reasons.

In particular, in the immediate aftermath of the Hariri assassination and the ensuing intense international and local Lebanese pressure the momentum was clearly in favor of the March 14 movement and its international sponsors thereby forcing the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. Furthermore, the Mehlis era of the international investigation put extreme pressure on the Syrians and on their March 8 allies placing them in a distinctively defensive position. March 14 managed to consolidate some gains with a government composed mainly of their people but failed miserably to push the envelope any further by ousting Lahoud.

Since then, blunder after blunder on the March 14 side and a cooling of the pressure put by the international investigation under Brammertz led to the momentum slowly shifting to the March 8 side. Moreover, the aftermath of the July war between Hezbollah and Israel has proved to be a particularly miserable time for the March 14'ers with the offensive shifting to the opposition which even tried (and failed) to topple the government.

Fast Forward
After the continuing ebb and flow between government and opposition, and more generally between March 14 and March 8, and more globally between the West and the Syro/Iranian axis, there seems to be a certain equilibrium that has been reached, a certain balance of power. The trenches are dug and the opposing sides are unable to gain much ground.

Zoom In
While the internal balance of power is understandable given everything that has happened and the possible incompetence of March 14 in managing the crisis to their favor, one question that remains is whether it would be possible for them to regain the upper hand?

The Big Picture
Well, to answer that question, one must look at the current stalemate and examine the possible ways to break it, but more importantly one must understand that any risk taken could result in defeat rather than victory. Thus it becomes important to assess the possible gains in taking any risky maneuvers, weighing them against the risk factor and making an educated guess as to whether the maneuver is worth it. Finally, it is imperative that the decision reached be based upon a sober analysis of the above factors.

In the Blue Corner
As far as March 8 is concerned, the strategy that they are employing is mainly summarized by: impede, impede, impede. In the background, plan B lurks (whether or not it would be put into action) and the March 14ers know it. More precisely, in case March 14 chooses to try something that March 8 considers bold or threatening, the M14ers have to do it with the implicit threat of civil disorder - or worse - by their opponents and the tightly controlled Hizbollah crowd.

While they impede and hold their opponents in check with the threat of chaos, the M8ers don't really have a victory strategy apart from waiting for the current parliament to either finish its 4 year mandate or for enough M14 MP's to spontaneously combust so that the majority in parliament shifts.

In the Red Corner
On the other hand, the M14 cards have quickly run out, and all they can do is threaten with a 50+1 election of a new president or with a government initiated amendment of the constitution in favor of an army chief who at best is an unknown commodity. The latter option is being impeded, while the former is held in check with the opposition's implicit threat of chaos.

Thus, it is most likely that the internal balance cannot be broken without outside assistance that has to be real, understood, appraised and efficiently utilized.

Weight of the Supporting Cast
Clearly the M8ers have solid political and logistic support from the Syrians and solid political and financial support from the Iranians. However, they are incapable of helping their allies deliver a KO to the March 14ers for fear of international retribution. Thus the M8ers support is real, understood, appraised and insufficient for a KO.

Similarly, March 14 has (semi-?)solid international support and (weak ?) Arab support that keeps the opposition from leveraging its external allies/sponsors' superior financial and logistic support into a clear victory. However, for one reason or another March 14 seems incapable of leveraging its own external support into victory. Namely, their own indecisiveness has proven crippling, and the constant European and occasional American engagement of Syria has possibly instilled doubt into the March 14ers minds and made them refrain further from any bold gestures. Thus, March 14 knows it is supported but does not know for sure how much, or how far its international supporters would back it should chaos erupt, or how useful such support would be. Moreover, even if it does understand all of that, M14 may not be willing to live with the consequences of chaos. All that uncertainty seems to be crippling M14 which seems to be just dancing around the ring waiting for their opponent to slip up. Their time would be better spent waiting for Godot.

Assessment: In Brief
It is thus more and more clear that this is not a time where a clear victory can be expected from (and by) either side. The crisis is being managed and political battles are being fought slowly, with a backdrop of assassinations and possible (real/perceived) instability. It seems that those are the now accepted rules of the game. In any case, now that the president will be either the increasingly unlikely army general or an inconsequential other, the opposition seems resigned to live with the M14 government while trying to haggle for position in the next.

Back to The Future
Moreover, as the clock ticks on the international tribunal, the presidential election, and the ensuing government, the current parliament trudges slowly closer to the end of its term without a viable electoral law in place. As that further deadline looms closer and closer, and as the regional and international players fail to force the other side's hand, the only internal possibility to break the stalemate seems to be either a bold M8 move in the direction of chaos, or a bold M14 move in the direction of electing a 50+1 president that is not Suleiman - or both. Of course, another distinct possibility is a gradual softening of stances from some of the individual components of one side or both sides, maybe even leading to realignment...

Reassessment: In Briefer
The most likely option, based on the above, is more of the same. Meanwhile, the players seem to accept the new rules of the game, and will most likely play by them. It is still a stare down.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Presidential Musings

Aside from the rightful and righteous indignation that many bloggers are displaying around the nomination of Michel Sleiman as a consensus candidate, both the timing of the move and its nature sparked some questions and observations that I found interesting.

1- Purely out of interest, I am just wondering what rabbit out of the hat are our beloved MPs going to pull to amend the constitution, when constitutionally they cannot amend the constitution this time - one time only or otherwise. In other words, not only is it deplorable that they are considering the same trick that our overbearing neighborly previous occupier (you know which one I am talking about) used to pull, but it is also explicitly illegal this time.

2- How on Earth can there be no audible cries of indignation from within M14 (say from the nominees whose candidacy is being scuttled) or especially from within the M14 crowd - say from the 1% that actually demonstrated a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, for something rather than somesect or someone. Oh right, those 1% where guided by principles personified in assassinated journalists, and arguably even led by said assassinated journalists...

3- How about that timing? I mean Sleiman's candidacy was up for discussion when it was still possible to legally disregard the constitution and amend it for one time only, for the 4th time in a row. Why was it inconceivable back then and why is it ok now. What changed ?

4- Which brings us to Annapolis. The big unknown as far as I am concerned. There are fears that some sort of deal was struck between the US and Syria with the Saudis having some hand in it. Who the hell knows.

5- Of course, there is also the distinct possibility that M14 (read the big 3 in M14) having gotten rid of Lahoud (as in by virtue of the passage of time) without him reverting to trigerring the formation of a second government, felt that it had won a minor (major ?) victory and hence felt that it was capable of compromising a little bit with the opposition. You know, with the president having no powers save from stalling the passage of time - who in M14 really cares ?

6- But then again, why Michel Sleiman? I mean fine, he is widely respected bla bla, but he is also not constitutionally allowed to run, and parliament is not allowed to mess with the constitution at this time - not that, this would stop Lebanese parliamentarians, the eternal guardians of the republic, the constitution and the rule of law. But I digress. So if you are M14, why pick a maneuvre that is so morally and legally weak, on the grounds of averting a civil war. Especially when I am sure that out of at least tens of thousands of eligible (and apparently willing) Maronites, there must be one other candidate who can avert the threat of civil war, i.e. be non-threatening to Hizbulla and Syria...

It all just doesn't make sense to me, and my feeling is that this won't go through. Of course I am basing my argument on the premise that nothing substantial has changed. Otherwise, in such a short time, much has changed on the international, regional and possibly national levels that we don't know about and that our politicians feel that they do.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Slightly off the general trend of my posts, but I was recently reading Asimov's Prelude to Foundation, and came across this quotation, the conclusions of which seem so self-evident, the question so relevant. And yet...

It seems to me that no sane man wants to uphold a ... system that maintains itself by fostering mutual hatred and suspicions. Even when it seems to work, it can only be described as metastable; that is, too apt to fall into instability in one direction or another. But the question is, how can we help? ...

Friday, November 02, 2007

On Compromise

It is naive to assume that a compromise or "consensus" president is anything but ridiculous. Simply put, the objective of a compromise is to achieve a working solution that is somewhat satisfactory to both sides.

1- To be able to understand what is satisfactory to someone, you have to be able to understand their objectives. Which brings us to why a so-called compromise with Syria via her allies is not only naive, but also counterproductive. Anyone who believes that anything short of the complete elimination of the tribunal, and of hegemony over Lebanon would be satisfactory to the Syrian regime is delusional. As such, compromising now is tantamount to giving them a new tool to exert pressure on Lebanon for another 6 yrs.

2- On the other hand, "consensus" on the part of March 8 cannot mean anything less than a lame-duck president who will agree to "protect" the resistance and their ever increasing arsenal of weapons, and hence ignore the elephant in the room for another six years.

3- Not to mention that a consensus president is a slap in the face of actual democracy (as opposed to the farcical least common denominator consensual democracy), and a concession to a policy of assassination and terror, whereby a working majority whose members are being picked off one by one decides to concede defeat, forfeit its right to exercise its majority, and "voluntarily" hands over power as the other side threatens civil war.

4- Moreover, the question of consensus between March 14 and March 8 is rather silly. We all know that the maximum that they can achieve, if anything at all, is agree on a name. In all likelihood, the person whose name they agree on - our next president - will be an inconsequential fool with no popular support whatsoever. Thus making an almost ceremonial position whose only real power is to impede even more ceremonial.. Of course, by compromising here, M14 is opening the door to the next question, that of a national unity government, on which they will have to compromise again in the face of threats of unrest and civil war - in other words blackmail.

5- Needless to say that the "compromise" president, if the necessary 4 members of the majority are assassinated before a new government is formed, or after a national unity government where the opposition resigning would fell the government, would be obliged to consult with parliament on the name of a new prime minister. Of course at that time, the majority may have shifted and we would have a pro-Syrian PM and a useless president.

6- As for the pros of consensus, well that would ensure that nobody would make good on their threats of unrest and war for the short term.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On Inevitability - Lebanon

It has been relatively clear that Lebanon is headed on a spiralling path - back to revisit its own tragic past. The new generation destined to repeat the tragedies of their fathers and forefathers albeit with a new twist or two... My problem is not with the inconsistencies that the Lebanese have inherited, but that once again, Lebanon comes face to face with its contradictions and only realizes it when its too late to mend.

That aside, and all international politics aside for a second; the "program" of Hezbollah, for example, has never been in line with the "vision" of Lebanon as a tolerant country and a home to (oppressed) minorities. On the other hand, the Lebanese themselves have never acted in line with that vision and in fact often act against it when given the chance. Our history is riddled with instances of one or two minorities oppressing the others, and I don't recall there ever being a period of internal harmony. This is simply because the "ideologies" and programs of the minorities run so opposed to one another. Given the chance, why not impose your will and your program - especially since the ideologies cannot coexist peacefully?

Naturally, no stable equilibrium can be achieved when there are forces pulling in different directions so strongly that the very fabric of the state is compromised.

And while the Syrians (i.e., the regime) made a living in Lebanon out of directing these forces inwards or neutralizing them to keep the country "lucrative" - politically by remaining relevant on the international scene and financially through corruption - they are no longer physically there, so they now exert an external force of their own. They understand the inconsistencies in Lebanon very well, only this time it serves them to tear Lebanon apart.

Contrary to popular belief, I doubt that left to their own devices the Lebanese would do more than oppress each other. Viewed from that light, external politics are minor in that they cannot prevent the conflict that is so inherent to the fabric of the little country. What international players can do, however, is influence the result - and aftermath - of the seemingly impending clash.

Whether things can be resolved peacefully depends on whether any side would agree to lose peacefully, which is clearly not only doubtful but answered in the negative, both historically and more recently.

The conclusion is clear, I just don't think anyone of us can stomach mouthing it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mind Over Matter

"When you don't mind, it doesn't matter!" ... The problem is when you do mind, but it still doesn't matter, for reasons completely out of your control.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Something to Consider: Brammertz resigns ICC position

Something worth noting:

Belgian jurist Serge Brammertz stepped down Tuesday as deputy prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to focus on his work as the head of the UN probe into the killing of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.

If his Hariri investigation was going nowhere, or if it seemed like it was not going to lead to prosecution soon, you'd think this prosecutor would have kept his ICC job, no ?

Thursday, June 14, 2007


From the infiltration of SyroQaedic groups to Lebanon, to the war that one of them is waging against the Lebanese army in the north, to the assassination of yet another member of the March 14 alliance, to the spree of sporadic bombing of Lebanese towns, to the growing possibility of more unrest from Syrian supported Islamic or puppet Palestinian groups, the Syrian regime is feeling the heat, and is turning it on Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Lebanon stands helpless. With every bomb exploding, every civilian, every soldier, every politician, or every journalist killed, the feeling of helplessness grows and the gap that divides the Lebanese grows with it into an everwidening schism.

March 14 stands helpless, with no real plan, clawless and toothless, unable and unwilling... March 8 stands silent despite the noise it makes, refusing to appease, unrelenting in its obstructionism, complicit...

All the while, whatever diabolical scheme that our brotherly neighbors have hatched for the destruction of Lebanon comes to dark fruition.

Regardless of whatever eventually happens in Syria or to its regime, I am not sure that the fragile fabric of Lebanese society can recover...

Everything seems to point towards an increase in violence and an increase in the turmoil, with chaos peaking around the time of the presidential election... The question that looms large is whether or not Lebanon can survive in one piece (assuming it still is in one piece) till then and more ambitiously past that, or whether we are looking at a Gaza like future...

Friday, May 25, 2007

On Inevitability - Revisited

In a previous post, I tried to tackle the issue of the inevitability of certain outcomes, once something monumental takes place. Saddam's eventual (violent) demise was one example I had in mind, and I tried to extrapolate to Iran. My point was that if Iran continues to play this game of cat and mouse with the international community, namely the Americans, eventually it will pay the price - in the form of military intervention ( whether American or Israeli... ).

In any case, in this post the "inevitability" that I have in mind is slightly different in nature. I have been pre-occupied with the inevitability of the Syrian regime being a detrimental force in the region for as long as it exists (hence the inevitability of its own demise- but that is not my point for the moment).

Michael Totten , in the comments section of a recent post on his blog insightfully states that "... the Syrian regime wouldn't survive without being in a state of cold war or proxy war with Israel. It can't survive peace, and it can't survive hot war."

In fact, the Syrian regime of the Assads has a history (and a method of survival) of living in the grey area between peace and war with Israel.

In the era prior to the Hariri assassination, the Syrians could not afford to sign peace with Israel, lest they lose their pretext for occupying Lebanon. After all, what are the Golan Heights, economically and politically, compared to their smaller neighbor.

In the era following the Hariri assassination, the Syrians inevitably lost Lebanon, but does that mean that they can negotiate a peace with Israel? I really wonder. It seems that the number one priority for the Syrians right now is regime survival at any cost - to Syria's neighbors of course. From acting as a transit route and haven for terrorists heading to Iraq, to inflaming the situation in the Palestinian territories via its manipulation (in conjunction with every one's favorite Mullocracy) of Palestinian factions, to inciting its allies in Lebanon to unreasonable escalation, to exporting Jihadi terrorists to Lebanon as well (as highlighted by the tragic events in Lebanon this week)... the Syrian regime has to ensure its survival by making itself "relevant".

By doing so, however, the Syrians may have become too relevant. It is becoming more and more understood that one of the main common factors of the three unstable neighbours of Syria, is ... well ... Syria. The regime wants to negotiate, and as the Americans refuse to negotiate, the regime raises the stakes higher and higher.

Eventually, one of two things will happen - one more likely than the other of course.

Either the Americans and the Europeans will concede, handing Lebanon back to the Syrians, and naturally emptying the international tribunal on the Hariri killing of any substance, paving the way to the Syrian signing of peace with Israel. In return, the Syrians will tighten border security, expel Hamas and co from Damascus, cut off logistic and political support for Hizbulla, and so on...

I see such an outcome as unlikely, others may disagree (more on this in a later post).

The other possible eventuality is that as the Syrians dig deeper into this ever spiralling game of sowing uncertainty and instability in their surroundings, they risk severe blow back. After all, three neighboring countries in a (current/possible future) state of civil war, will inevitably have consequences on the Syrian interior. More importantly (on the short term), the more the Syrians make themselves "relevant", the more their "peskiness" becomes a threat. And as that happens there will be an ever growing bulls-eye on the regime's back.

In the meantime, they have no choice. Syrian Peace with Israel without the regime regaining Lebanon or at least resolving the tribunal issue is impossible. By the same token, war with Israel is regime suicide... but so is an indictment of regime officials in a tribunal on the assassination of a former prime minister of a neighboring country.

Consequently, destabilizing Lebanon is a priority for Syria; the tribunal -to them-must become irrelevant, or at least negotiable. Viewed from that lens, the recent madness they unleashed from the refugee camps in (for now) the north of Lebanon and the sporadic explosions rocking Lebanon's cities become less surprising though no less appalling, or despicable...

An eventuality to ponder on here is whether or not the (alleged (for now)) Syrian assassination of Hariri will prove to be the fatal mistake that will eventually be the Assads' undoing - just as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was Saddam's eventual undoing - despite all the macabre maneuverings of the Syrian regime at the expense of the blood of the innocent in at least three of its neighboring countries...

Monday, May 14, 2007

The cost of political dissent in Syria*


BEIRUT - Six leading opposition figures jailed in Syria warned on Tuesday that the “repressive climate” in their country was worsening and called for the release of all political prisoners.
“Our situation as prisoners of conscience is part ... of the crisis of public freedoms and human rights in Syria, which started with the state of emergency imposed 44 years ago,” they said in a joint letter from Adra prison near Damascus.
“The crisis has reached its climax today, with increased repression and suppression of freedoms,” they wrote in the letter published in Lebanon’s leading An-Nahar newspaper.
The signatories are Anwar Bunni, Michel Kilo, Kamal Labwani, Mahmud Issa, Faeq al-Mir and Aref Dalila. The newspaper did not disclose how the letter was smuggled out of the Syrian prison.

Dr. Kamal Labwani:
sentence: life time in prison with hard labor (reduced to 12 yrs)
charge : “undermining national security”

Michel Kilo:
sentence: three years in prison
charge: “spreading false information, encouraging sectarian strife and weakening national sentiment”

Mahmoud Issa:
sentence: three years in prison
charge: “spreading false information, encouraging sectarian strife and weakening national sentiment”

Aref Dalila:
sentence: ten years in solitary confinement

Anwar al-Bunni:
sentence: five years in prison
charge: “spreading hostile information and joining an illegal political group.”

Faek al-Mir:

*information partly from here

Thursday, May 10, 2007


From Annahar's front page... For some reason I find it hilarious. :):):)

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Spare a Thought..."

Nothing but support for this message from Jeha and for the subjects of his message.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

On the Presidency

While it may be true that there we will see some level of perpetuation of the political paralysis in Lebanon even after Lahoud's term is over, it is also true that Lahoud himself has been an exceptional obstruction. Moreover, it is true that with the coming end of his term, Lebanon has to potentially deal with a new crisis stemming from the very divisive issue of electing a new president.

As previously mentioned, Lahoud has been a huge obstructive factor in Lebanese political affairs. He has refused to sign many many bills, refused to accept many foreign ambassadors (while he has also not outright rejected them), impeded the appointment of Lebanese ambassadors to foreign countries and obstructed the hiring and promotion of high level public servants, and so on and so forth...

That could all change with a vacant presidency or a March 14 president.

Moreover, huff and puff and do what they may, March 8 realizes that the government is legit. The constitution is clear and everything else is propaganda^. In fact, what we are seeing on their part is desperate politics. Hizbulla is desperate to protect its Syrian ally/master from the tribunal and to protect itself from the possible evolution (for better or worse) of Lebanon and its transition into a stable (?) post Syrian era. It needs to find a formula that guarantees its ability to operate within a framework as similar as possible to the one it operated in during the Syrian era. They are fighting tooth and claw for that.

Similarly, Aoun is desperate because he is seeing the deadline for the presidency approach and his chances for the post are not increasing.
Both are fighting an uphill battle against the forward motion of time.

But what can they all do? The March 8 alliance knows that within the rules of the game, i.e, the constitution, all they can ever hope to do is impede the election of a president, pending an agreement or compromise that does not seem likely, or that will come at Aoun's expense. As I might have mentioned before, that vacuum in the presidency leaves the president's authority in the cabinet's hands*. That explains one aspect of the need that the March 8 alliance sees for "breaking" the cabinet by denying it legitimacy and trying to force it to resign.

But once again, then what? March 8 until now has no constructive strategy from within the bounds of the constitution and the law.
Not to be restricted by such ridiculous things as laws and constitutions, their alternatives are simple. Early elections, transforming Lebanon's parliamentary system into a presidential one (for one time only of course)...

At this point, I give up...
March 8 must know that their demands are unreasonable and more importantly unacceptable to the "ruling majority". What matters now is that the presidential endgame is approaching. However, try as I might I can't find a logical strategy that March 8 can pursue in the endgame.

Short of spreading chaos.

Footnotes From the Lebanese Constitution:
- المادة 95 (المعدلة بالقانون الدستوري الصادر في 9/11/1943 وبالقانون الدستوري الصادر في 21/9/1990) على مجلس النواب المنتخب على أساس المناصفة بين المسلمين والمسيحيين اتخاذ الإجراءات الملائمة لتحقيق إلغاء الطائفية السياسية وفق خطة مرحلية وتشكيل هيئة وطنية برئاسة رئيس الجمهورية، تضم بالإضافة إلى رئيس مجلس النواب ورئيس مجلس الوزراء شخصيات سياسية وفكرية واجتماعية. مهمة الهيئة دراسة واقتراح الطرق الكفيلة بإلغاء الطائفية وتقديمها إلى مجلسي النواب والوزراء ومتابعة تنفيذ الخطة المرحلية.وفي المرحلة الانتقالية: أ- تمثل الطوائف بصورة عادلة في تشكيل الوزارة. ب- تلغى قاعدة التمثيل الطائفي ويعتمد الاختصاص والكفاءة في الوظائف العامة والقضاء والمؤسسات العسكرية والأمنية والمؤسسات العامة والمختلطة وفقاً لمقتضيات الوفاق الوطني باستثناء وظائف الفئة الأولى فيها وفي ما يعادل الفئة الأولى فيها وتكون هذه الوظائف مناصفة بين المسيحيين والمسلمين دون تخصيص أية وظيفة لأية طائفة مع التقيد بمبدأي الاختصاص والكفاءة.

- المادة 62 (المعدلة بالقانون الدستوري الصادر في 21/9/1990)
في حال خلو سدة الرئاسة لأي علة كانت تناط صلاحيات رئيس الجمهورية وكالة بمجلس الوزراء.

In English:

Article 95 [National Committee](1) The first Chamber or Deputies which is elected on the basis of equality between Muslims and Christians takes the appropriate measures to realize the abolition of political confessionalism according to a transitional plan. A National Committee is to be formed, headed by the President of the Republic, including, in addition to the President of the Chamber of Deputies and the Prime Minister, leading political, intellectual, and social figures.(2) The tasks of this Committee are to study and propose the means to ensure the abolition of confessionalism, propose them to the Chamber of Deputies and the Ministers, and supervise the execution of the transitional plan.(3) During the transitional phase:
a. The confessional groups are to be represented in a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the Cabinet.
b. The principle of confessional representation in public servicejobs, in the judiciary, in the military and security institutions, and in public and mixed agencies are to be cancelled in accordance with the requirements of national reconciliation; they shall be replaced by the principle of expertise and competence. However, Grade One posts and their equivalents are exempt from this rule, and the posts must be distributed equally between Christians and Muslims without reserving any particular job for any confessional group but rather applying the principles of expertise and competence

Article 62 [Vacancy]Should the Presidency become vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Council of Ministers exercises the powers of the President by delegation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Possible Effects of Hizbulla's Maneuverings on the Sunni-Shia divide in Lebanon

Sound analysis of the Lebanese crisis over the course of the past couple of years -in the aftermath of Hariri's assassination and especially after the war last July -necessarily leads to the conclusion that the schism between the two sides of the Lebanese political spectrum can only widen. More dangerously, the effects of that schism can take on an increasingly sectarian image pitting Sunni against Shia.

A quick glance at what the future holds in store in the Lebanese political and legal arena shows two main events looming on the horizon - the presidential elections and the establishment of the international tribunal. In both cases Hizbulla and its allies, Nabih Berri and Michel Aoun are swimming upstream. There is not much they can do to stop the tribunal and even less to elect a president of their choice, both apparently objectives of the aptly named opposotion. To be precise, the only game they can play is one of hampering, obstruction and general bullying, which is exactly what they have been doing and will continue to do. The reason behind Hizbulla choosing to fight a losing battle is simple: the stakes are simply too high and eventhough the deck is stacked against them, Hizbulla have no choice (short of changing their very identity, ideology and MO) but to continue in their desperate tactics aimed at preventing the game from changing. But they have already lost that battle.

Naturally, with the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, there was no turning back the clock. But Hizbulla and its allies have not come to terms with that yet. In fact, they have tried various tactics to fill the vacuum that the Syrian overlords had left in their wake, the most obvious of which were bullying - political terror, so to speak - and instigating a war.

Recently, one can argue that more signs of hardening have started to emerge in their rhetoric and politics, whether by refusing to comment on the tribunal or by refusing the Arab proposed peace deal - even as Bashar is desperately trying to get Israel to engage him.

In any case, time moves forward and the direct Syrian era is fading into the background, but Hizbulla is becoming evermore associated in the eyes of many Lebanese with the opressors of a bygone era. With its goals of protecting Syria and imposing the will of the few, Hizbulla is playing a dangerous game. The Syrians were a foreign opressor, regardless of how "brotherly" our relationship with them should be. But Hizbulla is Lebanese, regardless of the foreign masters it serves. Its popular base is distinctly Lebanese, Shia to be specific. And as the stances of Hizbulla - from the rejection of a tribunal designed to investigate and try suspects in the brutal killing of a Sunni leader, to the rejection of a (Sunni) Arab launched peace initiative, to numerous other acts - start looking more and more like overtly sectarian behaviour shamelessly protecting murderous regimes at the expense of the interests of other communities in Lebanon (and of Lebanon as a state) - Hizbulla is putting its willing Shia base in an increasingly precarious situation, as the Sunni leadership in March 14 is becoming more and more comfortable with its Sunni identity, that can be a dangerous game to play...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

You gotta love this!

Quoting Haaretz on Syrian-American nogotiator, Ibrahim Suleiman's "trip" to Israel

The peace plan drafted during the unofficial Syrian-Israeli negotiations would allow Syria to cut itself off from the Hezbollah and join the global struggle against terror, Suleiman told the committee on Thursday.

Suleiman appeared before the committee alongside Alon Liel, former director general of the Foreign Ministry. The two briefed the committee members on the secret, unofficial talks they conducted, and on the understandings they reached for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

The centerpiece of the "non-paper" they drafted is a proposal to turn part of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, into a "peace park." Syria would be the sovereign in all of the Golan, but Israelis could visit the park freely, without visas.

In addition, territory on both sides of the border would be demilitarized along a 4:1 ratio in Israel's favor.

I guess desparation is running high, neck and neck with hypocricy. I have to admit though, I love the spunk...

Monday, April 09, 2007

On Inevitability

The March 14 leadership in Lebanon is acting as if on the knowledge of something momentous happening that will alter the balance of power in the region. Barring anoutcome that is becoming increasingly likely such as a disastrous confrontation in Lebanon itself - perhaps in the shape of civil war - that leaves two possibilities: the international tribunal and the bombing of Iran. Much has been said about the tribunal and much remains to be said, especially about its consequences. But that leaves the second possibility - an attack on Iran, the topic of this post.

You see, certain "occurrences", merely by occurring, initiate a sequence of events that is unstoppable and to consequences that are inevitable. Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuweit was one such action. It set the stage for his demise years and years before the demise itself. But it made it inevitable... And there is an eerie resemblence between the events unfolding around Iran now and those involving Iraq following Saddam's defeat in the gulf war. Worldwide passive agressive shunning, followed by sanctions under the meek objections and mitigations of China and Russia, the list goes on... The Iranians did not invade a neighboring country; it remains true however that the world cannot afford to see them have the bomb - the Iranians simply do not play by the rules - and at one point or another they are going to suffer the consequences of their brashness, despite the meek Chinese or Russian objections. They objected plenty before Iraq was invaded, but did nothing to stop it. They may object to Iran being bombed but they won't stop it...

Arguably, Iran has not reached the point of no return yet, but it will if it stays the stubborn course and continues to play dumbball. In that case, the question becomes not whether it will be bombed, but rather when, and what will the consequences be... For Lebanon, those question carry special importance. What inevitable sequence of events will that launch? Can we survive the blowback?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Jumblatt Lashes Out

March 14 "hardliner" Walid Jumblatt lashed out at the March 14 MPs who shook hands and exhanged pleasentries with the opposition MPs Tuesday at (the blocked) Parliament's gates Annahar reports.

"كنا في غنى عن هذه الحفلة من المصافحات الرنانة على طريقة القبضايات وعملاء
النظام السوري وأتباع الجمهورية الإسلامية بناة دولة "حزب الله" في مواجهة دولة
الطائف. كنا في غنى عن تناول القبلات التافهة مع الذين نتهمهم بالشراكة المعنوية
وربما التقنية في سلسلة الجرائم التي حصدت خيرة الساسة والمثقفين والإعلاميين
والابرياء، مع أولئك الذين يعطلون مسار المحكمة والعدالة. كنا في غنى عن هذه
الملاقاة الحارة مع الذين دمروا الاقتصاد وحولوا ساحات بيروت معسكرات وهربوا من
اجتماعات الحوار الى الحروب الاستباقية وعطلوا الدستور والمؤسسات في انتظار مغامرات
كنا في غنى عن هذه الابتسامات العريضة مع من يمثلون ثقافة الموت ونحن
الذين قلنا لجمهورنا إننا نمثل ثقافة الحياة.
بئس هذه الايام التي ينسى البعض
منا فيها من يمثل، على افتراض أنه يعرف من يمثل، وينسى أن الخصم بدهائه وخبثه
وتقيته يمثل الشرق وحكامه في غالبيتهم على الاقل وظلام الشرق وما يرمز اليه في بعض
من جوانبه من حقد وكره واستبداد وسواد".

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

March 14 fights back... in a way

According to Annahar, 70 Majority (i.e M14) MP's submitted a petition regarding the International Tribunal to the UN Secretary General after Berri thrice refused to let them convene parliament. The petition requested that the secretary general take all the necessary measures to create an international tribunal for trying the suspects in the Hariri assassination.

Arguably, this takes matters one step closer to a chapter 7 resolution and simultaneously sidesteps convening parliament via deputy speaker Makari. While some may view this as fighting back, I am still wondering why March 14 preferred this option to the option of convening parliament which is a stronger statement in terms of affirming their commitment to the "formal" democratic institution of parliament... In any case its done now, and we have yet to see March 8's (and their patrons') reaction.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Now what ?

It is getting beyond ridiculous... If Lebanese bloggers the world could see all of the crap going on in Lebanon coming from as far back 2 years ago, and advocated a "seize the day" approach - lest we get to where we are now - why couldn't March 14's leadership.
Alas, historical opportunities were missed not once, or twice but at least three times over... Its nothing short of amazing. Gambling on the wrong horse once or twice could be a mixture of stupidity and lack of luck, but gambling on the losing horse every single time requires a certain kind of incompetence only Lebanese leaders possess. Lucky us...
So, in short, events now are just consequences of M14's failure to act, a consequence of the deal they struck with HA and Amal during elections, of the patriarch's inability to see beyond the position of the presidency (whatever the hell that means) and of Saad's political inexperience and servitude to Saudi, of their constant courting of Nabih Berri and failure to see him for what he really is. What we are seeing now is nothing short of the natural progression of events. You see, March 14 gave up the ball, lost the initiative, and allowed Syria and Iran's counter-revolutionaries to regroup, re-organize, steal the initiative and force at least a stalemate.
March 14 cannot give the opposition a third plus one of the positions in government, for that is "political suicide". Right. But why would March 8 accept anything less ? They have managed to stall government, which is useless without parliament - incidentally also stalled, not to mention the presidency which has been a lost cause for a while now.
Where can March 14 go from here? That is the main question. HOw can they regain the initiative? Many of us had an answer two years ago - it was called march to Baabda, resuggested a year ago, even possibly viable a few months ago, but I doubt that any feasible answer exists today. Until something changes - drastically - or until March 14 forces a change... But that goes counter to their very fabric.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 14... Again

As events race and nothing changes, its the anniversary of broken dreams and misplaced hopes again. But then again we knew that two years ago.

Happy March 14.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Brace yourselves... Its gonna be a long long long ride

I have been relatively quiet throughout the events unfolding in Lebanon and the region in early 2007... mostly because there is nothing much to say in the way of analysis.

While there have been many developments, from Hezbollah's riots on a certain Tuesday that now seems so long ago, to the blow-back across universities two days later... all the way to the Ayn Aar bus bombings -shocking the country and yet shocking no one- and then the large, yet inane regurgitation plagued gathering on the anniversary of Hariri's assassination.

In the meantime, rumors of breakthroughs in "indirect" talks conducted through Iran and Saudi Arabia (woopdidoo) were circulating and proving to be vacuous. No compromises have yet materialized and I doubt any to materialize in the near future... I don't even know if I want to be wrong or not anymore - what difference does it make?

After all this is no longer primarily about Lebanon or its internal politics, March 8 succeeded at internationalizing Lebanese politics, and consequently our problems are becoming even less about Lebanon by the day. Amidst Saudi-Iranian talks and the Syro-Iranian coordination, as well as all that recent Iranian belligerency and their never-ending war games and display of divine weapons (probably imported from either russia or china and upgraded in Iran) countered by the leakage (or announcement, I forget) of American (contingency) plans to bomb the living crap out of all Iran's nuclear and military facilities... amidst all that, Lebanon's factions are becoming just cards to be played out in a much bigger regional game.

Bottom line, as Syria and Iran play for time waiting for a Godot that even they might not recognize, Lebanon simmers and starts showing signs of boiling. In the meantime the economy is tanking, state instutions are shackled and we are left at the mercy of... well I am not sure whose mercy we are at.

I am just asking myself what should we expect the near future to bring, knowing and fearing that its going to be more of the same - at best.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Breaking News: Explosion in the North Metn region, casualties reported

Naharnet reports:

At least three people were killed and seven others wounded when a bomb ripped through two mini-buses Tuesday in Ein Alak in the northern Metn province, Lebanese Red Cross officials said.
LRC Operations’ officer George Kittani told LBC television that evacuation was still underway.

Footage from the ANB news channel showed one of the buses torn apart, while the other heavily damaged.

Meanwhile Aljazeera reports 9 dead , quoting a Lebanese security source, in two explosions on buses the Bekfayya road:

مصدر أمني لبناني: 9 قتلى في انفجارين بحافلتين في طريق بكفيا بجبل لبنان

Brief Analysis: It seems that this blatant attack on innocent civilians aims at spreading fear one day before a March 14 planned demonstration, expected to mobilize hundreds of thousands to commemorate the 2 year anniversary of Hariri's assassination. The fact that the explosions targeted buses seems to at least point in the direction of perpetrators who want to deter people from attending... Terror at its worst...

Update: Al-Arabiya quoting the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported 9 dead as well, noting that Bekfayya is Jmayyel's hometown.

اعلن تلفزيون المؤسسة اللبنانية للارسال (ال بي سي) مقتل تسعة اشخاص الثلاثاء 13-2-2007 في انفجار لم تحدد طبيعته استهدف حافلتين قرب بلدة بكفيا الجبلية المسيحية في منطقة المتن الشمالي شمال بيروت.

وقال متحدث باسم الجيش ان أحد الانفجارين أصاب حافلة تقل ركابا قرب البلدة وتسبب في سقوط ضحايا. وأضاف أنه بدا من المعلومات الاولية أن الانفجار الثاني أصاب حافلة أخرى في نفس المنطقة.

ولم يتضح على الفور ما الذي سبب الانفجارين اللذين وقعا قبل يوم واحد من الذكرى السنوية الثانية لاغتيال رئيس الوزراء اللبناني الاسبق رفيق الحريري.

وبلدة بكفيا هي مسقط رأس الرئيس الاسبق أمين الجميل الذي اغتيل ابنه بيير في نوفمبر تشرين الثاني الماضي.

Update 2: It appears there is some confusion with regards to the fatalities, with some sources reporting 3 dead and others 12. It appears the bombs ripped through the buses 7 minutes apart with the first one causing most, if not all of the casualties.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hizbulla Arms Truck Intercepted and Seized

Naharnet reported that Lebanese authorities seized a truck which Hizbulla later blatently admitted was carrying munitions for the "resistance". They even asked for the return of the truck - after all Siniora's government did "admit" a long time ago that HA was a resistance. Oh ya, Siniora did make that admission after the HA and amal ministers boycotted government the first time, before the July war when Hizbulla started actively resisting the forward flow of time...
In any case according to sources quoted in the Naharnet story, there were guns, munitions and clips in the truck, which is quite worrisome on so many levels. First of all, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the truck was actually a HA truck. It could have belonged to any of Syria's cronies. Second, the fact that the Lebanese authorities managed to intercept one truck, seems to indicate to me that there possibly dozens of such trucks - given their efficiency and competence that is. I could go on and on about why this whole incident is worrisome, and I might do that - later.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Somethin's cookin

Seems like somethin's cookin... the rags have tuned it down a bit and the politicians have been tradin not so negative signals...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Lebanese Newspaper's Interpretation of the Jan 23 Riots

Read em and weep:

Some translated sentences from Annahar (Wednesday's edition) front page
- Security forces, especially the army, passes the test of preserving peace in a complicated multi-faceted security situation.
- The government supporters tested their resolve in the face of opposition pressure and challenged the latter's disruption of public life.
- The opposition tested their ability to make the strike... a success.

In other words ladies and gentlemen, in Lebanon, everybody is a winner. And maybe, just maybe, that was the whole idea behind this last opposition move.

Lebanese Streets Burn...

They burn so that a megalomaniac leader of a foreign funded militia can try to improve his own and his masters' local and regional bargaining chips... after all everything pales when compared to divine causes... Simultaneously, another megalomaniac leader longs for the presidential palace in Baabda and urges his supporters onwards... to chaos... to destruction... anything for that palace in Baabda... Meanwhile, the army and security services watch "helplessly"...

I don't have much more to say. Just that these are desperation tactics and should be recognized as such and dealt with accordingly by March 14. Oh, and that I expect more escalation in the coming days, weeks and months.

For older analyses of the situation, and why none of these events are surprising, and why the future is easily predictable please see here, here, and especially here.

For the latest coverage and pictures please see here, here, here as well as here

Friday, January 12, 2007

Give Them Enough Rope and They Will Hang Themselves

An Analysis of The March 14 Coalition Strategy Against the Hizbulla Led Opposition

It has been over a month since the Hizbulla led, Syro-Iranian backed opposition launched its campaign to topple the March 14 government which ironically they were part of. The campaign started with all the "opposition" ministers resigning and escalated with demonstrations in December and sit-ins in downtown Beirut demanding the resignation of Siniora's government. The opposition apparently tried to up the ante recently with the "Labor Union" staging demonstrations in front of various ministries objecting agains the government's reform plans and covertly the Paris III donor conference. Moreover, the speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament effectively crippling the March 14 parliamentary majority...

In the face of pressure, the March 14 coalition simply held their ground. They staged counter demonstrations in many different Lebanese locales aimed at showing the popular support that the coalition enjoyed, called for the resigned ministers to rejoin the government and petitioned continuously for parliament to convene. The strategy seems to be simply to give the opposition enough rope to hang themselves. In other words, the government is simply letting the opposition make mistakes and escalate and burn bridges all the while somehow weakening them. What I continue to believe are half-measures and lack of initiative on March 14's side, seem to be "working" anyway. It appears that the opposition is running out of steam and/or struggling with internal squabbling resulting from the different intensity of political escalation which its various components (namely Hizbulla and Aoun's FPM) can withstand to achieve their various objectives and not lose popular support. The opposition continuously burned bridges over the past month and has not really offered anything in the way of an agenda except for toppling the government. As that goal seems further out of reach, I believe that they are now rethinking their strategy, counting to ten before taking further action.

Thus, the March 14ers seem to have the opposition caught in a deadlock or a stalemate which can only be broken through dialogue (either internally or with/amongst the foreign supporters of both camps). Assuming that the government manages to get the opposition to call off its campaign against Siniora, and to re-accept dialogue, it would achieve an important moral victory but nothing more.

The main issues that March 14 and March 8 disagree upon will not have been solved, the March 14ers will not have regained initiative and the March 8ers will still be able to play the impeding role that they have played since the inception of this government, serving Hizbulla's internal agendas as well as those of Iran and Syria. Upon closer inspection, I don't see that the eventual resolution of this particular conflict in favor of March 14 as useful in the resolution of the bigger conflict defined by establishing a certain high degree of Lebanese decision making capability, independent of (and sometimes against) Syrian and Iranian interest. One can even argue that March 14 is inherently incapable of such a challenge, but I won't get into that now.

Meanwhile, the political battle rages on, even though March 8 may have fumbled the ball on this one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hizbulla clashes with UNIFIL in South Lebanon?

Annahar reported the following in its Tuesday edition:

اشتباك في الخرايب بين قوة فرنسية و"حزب الله"

الجنوب – "النهار":

أفادت مصادر مطلعة ان قوة من الكتيبة الفرنسية اشتبكت ليل السبت الماضي مع عناصر من "حزب الله" في خراج الخرايب – المجادل، وحصل اطلاق نار استدعى تدخل الجيش اللبناني اثر تفتيش القوة الفرنسية خراج هذه المنطقة وأماكن استخدمها "حزب الله" نقاطا أمنية ومنها المغاور، بحثا عن أسلحة.


Informed sources reported that a force from the French Battalion (UNIFIL) clashed on Saturday night with members of Hizbulla on the outskirts of the village of AlKhrayeb-AlMjadel. An exchange of fire took place which called for the interference of the Lebanese army after the French unit searched this area and others that Hizbulla used as security points (?) including caves, in search of weapons.

Almustaqbal reported Wednesday that UNIFIL and Lebanese security sources denied that there were any clashes with Hizbulla...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Perfect Day in Lebanon

Found this on youtube. I thought it was pretty funny.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

European Union Vs Lebanese Division

As 2007 witnesses the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, bringing the total number of member states to 27 and the population of the Union to nearly half a billion people speaking 23 languages and sharing over 4 million square kilometers, I can't help but wonder.

I can't help but wonder when the ridiculously small population of Lebanon that has shared an even more ridiculously small piece of land for hundreds of years will even remotely resemble the European Union... Sigh.