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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.