Thursday, May 29, 2008
Israel and Hezbollah are once again close to a deal that would bring two kidnapped Israeli soldiers back home. Details of the agreement, negotiated by a German middleman, indicate that the two might not still be alive.
... This time around, the German intelligence service BND is once again playing a vital role."Germany is trusted by both sides because, over the years, it has demonstrated that it is a disinterested and honest broker," Kamel Wazne says of Germany's special role in secret diplomacy in Beirut. Wazne, who is close to Hezbollah, is a commentator much in demand by Western media when it comes to explaining the it. Wazne said: "Germany always did what it promised it would, which has given the country a lot of credibility with Hezbollah.
"When the transfer will actually happen remains unclear. Mahmud Komati, a member of the Hezbollah political bureau, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the standard practice is for Hassan Nasrallah to personally decide the timing...
The agreement between the Hizbollah-led opposition and the Lebanese government and
the start of indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel run counter to the policies of
the Bush administration, which has been pushing the Lebanese government not to
compromise with Hizbollah and opposes Syrian–Israeli talks. The agreement in Lebanon
was the direct result of negotiations with an organization considered terrorist by the
United States, and came in the wake of Hizbollah-led violence. Talks with Syria, a rogue
country allied with Iran, also fall in the category of “appeasement” according to the
stance taken by President Bush in his May 15 speech to the Knesset. Yet, both
developments carry the promise of progress, decreasing the chances of further conflict
from which nobody would benefit.
The United States should support the new Lebanese president and the government of
national unity. It should encourage the Syrian–Israeli talks—but it should stay out of the
process, allowing Syria, Israel, and Turkey to get on with efforts that have come a
considerable way so far.
Pdf document... Here
Ibrahime Al-Amine, chairman of the board of directors of Lebanon’s independent pro-opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar, wrote yesterday that the formation of the national unity government will be an imminent test of the Doha agreement.
“The discussions among the majority team showed that the faction that supports assigning the position of prime minister to the current prime minister, Fouad Siniora, is not purely local, as it is dominated by foreign factions, as proven by the latest communications with the United States and Saudi Arabia,” he wrote.
Those two countries believe that if Saad Hariri became prime minister this would expose him to a tough test he might not survive at a time before the coming parliamentary elections.
“As for the Lebanese team that supports Siniora, it looks at this issue from the angle that dismissing Siniora will crown the opposition’s triumph, as he has been the constant target for the opposition and Syria’s ire,” Al-Amine wrote.
If we look at the point at which the latest developments in Lebanon have reached from our country's perspective, we'll see that Turkey's foreign policy, which has historically opted to stay away from developments in the Middle East and only adopt a Western-oriented perspective, now has a place in a great family picture in which the new Lebanese president is posed between Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa and Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora. Looking at this portrait shows the great transformation undertaken in Turkey's foreign policy and to what extent this transformation has been influential."
And, Shmuel Rosner in Slate, "Will the International community abandon Lebanon?"
...David Welch, felt the need to praise even the most unlikely regimes: "If Syria and Iran have supported that," he said, "then perhaps they will continue to exercise a more constructive role in Lebanon." If he had his fingers crossed behind his back, no one saw. If he winked as he suggested such an improbable outcome, nobody noticed. But Welch knows, as do all the others, that neither Syria nor Iran are suddenly planning to play a "constructive" role in Lebanon. If they support the agreement and the United States also supports it, pretty soon one party is going to look stupid.
...The problem is that the decisions the Lebanese have recently made only increase the likelihood that they will eventually be abandoned by the international community. "There is no contradiction between having a foreign policy that looks at Lebanon as Lebanon and also sees how Lebanon fits into our regional calculations," said Feltman. That is true, unless "Lebanon as Lebanon" makes decisions that render it easier for regional forces to meddle in its affairs. Choosing a pro-Syrian president might be such a decision. Avoiding the question of disarmament might be another such decision...
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
راجعة بإذن الله
إذا ما إجا شي من الله
جربنا نتكل عليكن
عدنا اتكلنا ع الله!..
راجعة بإذن الله
على أنحس بإذن الله
لا تفكرها عم تقدّم...
راجعة بإذن الله...
يا بلدٌ يحسدنا اجانب
عا مناخو و عا هواه
يا شعبٌ منقلبٌ حرٌ
كل واحد عايش عا هواه
سامحهم يا أبتاه... يا أبتاه...
طار الملك وطار الشاه
طاروا بعون من الله
صلوا يا عمي صلوا له
ما كانوا طاروا لولاه...
يا جيلٌ قلبو على بلدو
قاعد يظبط بسماه
بلد ظابط مثلما هوي
هيدا هوي.. هيدا إياه
باسم الآب... وبسم الله
راجعة بإذن الله
ان قلتوا "ايه" وان قلتوا "لا"
ما في رملة بهالصحرا بتُحرُك
إلا بوحي من الله
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Augustus Richard Norton, a professor at Boston University and expert on the Middle East, sends this note about the latest developments from Lebanon:
If the agreement holds, this is a significant reverse for the United States and for Saudi Arabia, which have both urged the pro-U.S. government to hang tough.
The U.S.-supported Internal Security Force–widely seen in Lebanon as Sunni-dominated gendarmerie–disappeared as soon as the Hezbollah-led opposition forces moved into West Beirut on 7 May. Only in recent days did it reappear well after the clashes ended. As for Saad al-Hariri’s private militia, it simply crumbled...
- National unity government of 30 ministers (16-11-3 , the opposition got the veto power afterall, it all boils down to the premiership...)
-Electoral law to be signed in the parliament (1960 law and Beirut divided into three parts 10-5-4)
-DT sit-in is lifted. (I guess no armed barracks were found)
New realignments all across the political landscape is expected.
I wouldn't be too optimistic about this settlement, a lot is left hanging but the reshuffling is good since the old status quo is over and a new ball game is set.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
May's dispute between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah is an interesting example of the contest between hollow states and virtual states over legitimacy and sovereignty. As in most conflicts between gutted nation-states and aggressive virtual states, Hezbollah's organic legitimacy trumped the state's in the contest (an interesting contrast between voluntary affiliation and default affiliation by geography). The fighting was over in six hours.
A Parallel Communications Backbone
What's more interesting than the actual fighting is what the conflict was about. In summary, the government made an attempt to slow the expansion Hezbollah's fiber optics network, which provides secure/robust communications and surveillance (via automated cameras) to the group. Specifically, the government tried to shut down surveillance nodes of the network overlooking Beirut International Airport. Hezbollah responded by defining the network as a core part of its organization and that they were willing to defend it with violence if necessary.
So, we can now conclude that in addition to a 4GW militia and social services, a parallel communications/surveillance network is a core feature set of virtual states. This tracks with our emerging experience in Sadr City. It also implies we may see interesting virtual variants of this via the parasitic piggybacking of open source insurgencies (the PCC, al Qaeda, etc.) on cell phone networks and the Internet.
Friday, May 16, 2008
...By demanding the dismantling of the communications network, the government would be removing the main defense network for Hezbollah. Even the Israeli government, in its report examining the July 2006 war, declared that if it had not been for the secure communications networks of Hezbollah, it would have been able to infiltrate the communications, and Hezbollah would not have been able to achieve a military victory...
...By demanding the dismantling of the communications network, the government would be opening avenues for the Israelis and for other agents to assassinate the Hezbollah leadership. Clearly, this would not have been acceptable to Hezbollah in any way, shape or form...
...This U.S. government, supported by the New York Times and the Washington Post, continues to look at the Lebanese government as democratic, when according to the Times, literally half the Lebanese population took to the streets to demand the resignation of the government. The U.S. government and the corporate media have lost their legitimacy to condemn any coup d'etat in Lebanon...
WHAT IS Hezbollah's economic program?
The problem is that Hezbollah is aligned in the opposition with the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party under the leadership of Gen. Michel Aoun. His economic program is to the right of the government's. He believes in neoliberalism, in privatization. His only positive claim is that he is against corruption.
When I asked Hezbollah members about their economic platform, they told me that they have been working on it for months, but aren't ready to disclose it.
Hezbollah doesn't have a pro-union history. But it does have a history of support for the poor, based on what it has done institutionally in the South. It has been able to build a very effective social network......No matter how powerful and how legitimate, Hezbollah is within a national resistance movement. They are not the left, and they are not calling for a secular government--and we have yet to see if they would be working for the kind of economic justice we envision...
Fertile ground for recruitment in West Bekaa and Ain-el-Helwe camp according to Sobhi Monzer Yaghi in Annahar.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
In an indirect reference to Shiite Hezbollah group, Fatah al-Islam said in a statement what happened in Beirut, "the killing, burning and humiliation to our Sunni people is not justified or accepted."
"Anyone who wants to bow the heads of our people in Beirut" will be confronted even if the price is "blood shed," the statement said.
It is interesting to see how the tone of the Fei statement and its rhetorics sound like most of what Hariri Inc has been broadcasting.
Al-Jazeera's Ghassan Ben Jeddo, "a deal is very likely to be sealed between the two factions in Lebanon including a 10-10-10 formula for a national unity government and Suleiman to be elected before the 10th of next month... everybody moving to Qatar for more talks..."
Add to that, "March 14"'s Safadi, "dialogue is essential to find a new formula since the Taef agreement proved to be insufficient by practice and some aspects of it needs to be reviewed."
AND, Joumblat's possible letter to Nasrallah, "the Jabal and Beirut will fully support the resistance, and our feud is temporary."
Meanwhile, it seems that Gemayel's Kataeb and Geagea's Lebanese forces seem to be stuck in last week's act.
A Bab al-Tebbeneh, la population, qui soutient massivement la majorité parlementaire et son leader sunnite, Saad Hariri, dit espérer une solution politique, mais affirme qu’elle ne laissera pas le Hezbollah chiite renverser la donne en sa faveur. «S’il nous impose son pouvoir par la force, nous répliquerons par la force», répètent en boucle les résidents du quartier où le Parti de Dieu, considéré pendant longtemps comme la «résistance» libanaise, est désormais qualifié de parti du diable. «Il a ouvert la porte de la division confessionnelle, jette Haytham, propriétaire d’une épicerie. Il a humilié les sunnites dans la capitale. Nous espérons qu’il a compris qu’il jouait avec le feu et qu’il reviendra à de meilleures intentions. Sinon, ce sera la guerre. Nous nous organiserons et nous le combattrons.»
Cause jihadiste. Réunis dans un garage, un groupe de sunnites fondamentalistes, pistolets à la ceinture affirme : «Hariri, c’est notre leader, nous le respectons et nous le soutenons. Maintenant, lui, c’est l’option gentille. S’il échoue, nous avons une autre option qui s’appelle Ben Laden.» Des jeunes du quartier ont déjà embrassé la cause jihadiste, un certain nombre d’entre eux ayant même rejoint le groupe Fatah al-Islam, qui a combattu l’armée libanaise l’été dernier dans le camp palestinien de Nahr el-Bared. «Nous dansons sur un volcan ici, dit encore Khaled. Personne ne veut que le pays replonge dans le chaos, mais il faut vraiment trouver une solution acceptable par tout le monde le plus rapidement possible.»
Chris Floyd, Here
What's going on in Lebanon? Nothing you haven't seen before -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine and other places where "the United States is basically instigating and funding civil wars." So says Professor As’ad AbuKhalil.
In fact, "our friends" in Lebanon are actually in league with our allegedly erstwhile friends Al Qaeda. The Hariri faction backed by the Bush Administration is drawing upon the most extremist Sunni armed factions in an attempt to counteract the power of Shiite Hezbollah. This is of course just a continuation of current American strategy in the region, as Sy Hersh outlined last year: giving arms and money to extremist Sunni groups allied with al Qaeda in order to ward off Shiite factions making trouble in our client regimes.
This in turn is part of a broader, more long-standing strategy, going back to 2004, as we noted in a recent report: a global program of arming and funding militias and other violent "non-state actors" to foment trouble where Washington wants trouble, and pressure recalcitrant regimes to bend to the imperial will.
And no, Washington is not "behind" every twist and turn in Middle East politics. But American interventions, direct and covert, are responsible for exacerbating and intensifying conflicts, enflaming sectarian and ethnic divides (or literally building giant concrete walls between them, as in Baghdad today), bolstering tyrannical and/or ineffectual, illegitimate leaders whose misrule provoke more strife, suffering and conflict.
UPDATE: And now Bush is proposing an even more direct U.S. military intervention in Lebanon. Speaking in Cairo -- on yet another one of his pointless trots* around the cauldron (maybe he wants another fancy sword -- or just some more good smoochin' -- from the Saudi king) -- Bush offered to help the Lebanese army "respond more effectively" to Hezbollah. He also took the opportunity to -- what else? -- blame Iran for everything happening in Lebanon, claiming that without the backing of the devilish Persians, Hezbollah -- which, as AbuKhalil noted, is supported by almost half of the Lebanese population -- would be "powerless."
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Note: the microscopic picture above is of minister Aridi after reading the statement.
Borzou Daragahi in the LA Times,
...Shaken by a Hezbollah military offensive in recent days, Lebanon's pro-Western parties have launched an intensive campaign to lobby allies in Washington, Europe and the Arab world to intervene diplomatically or even militarily on their behalf, officials here said.
But there was little sign Monday that the West was prepared to intervene.
... The coalition of pro-Western Christian, Sunni and Druze politicians under the so-called March 14 banner has embarked on an effort to draw international backers into the conflict, said coalition leaders and Western diplomats. They fear Hezbollah is trying to use its military strength to cow the government into submitting to its demands, which include noninterference with the militia's drive to build up its arsenal to confront Israel.
The coalition's arguments appear aimed at playing on Western and Arab officials' fears of growing Iranian power. The Lebanese officials want other countries to pressure Iran and its ally, Syria, by seeking condemnation of and perhaps new economic sanctions against the two nations at the U.N. Security Council.
One official went so far as to suggest unspecified attacks on Damascus, the Syrian capital, to punish Hezbollah's backer and restore a regional balance of power...
"Iran took a decision to take Lebanon hostage, and from Lebanon, come back to the Mediterranean Sea to be able to infiltrate much more easily the whole Arab world," said another official, Nayla Mouawad, a minister in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "It is very obvious that we're not getting a clear-cut reaction from the U.S., Arabs and the international community which is sufficient to the gravity of the situation."
But despite words of support from Washington, there was little sign it would forcefully rescue its Lebanese allies. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut did not respond to an interview request.
"The Americans are telling March 14 they have to resist," said one Western diplomat in Beirut. "But they're not bringing much operational support."
"We're not asking them to fight our fight for us," said Mouawad, the minister. "But at least don't let us be slaughtered by total indifference."
It is to be noted, that geostrategic expert/minister Mouawad was safely pampered in her lofty residence during the whole short conflict that took place and I'm sure that her safety was not compromised during that time.
You can download the audio HERE.
- Rami Khouri (by phone)
The Daily Star
- Hisham Melhem
- Nir Rosen (by phone)
Former Fellow, New America Foundation
Fellow, NYU Center on Law and Security
- Daniel Levy
Director, Middle East Policy Initiative, New America Foundation/The Century Foundation
- Steven Clemons
Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation
- Flynt Leverett
Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative
New America Foundation
Interesting exchange, certainly worth a careful look.
Rami Khoury has good ideas for resolving the conflict which he expressed before in an article.
Hisham Melhem basically conveyed the Hariri Inc. point of view. And he does not mince his words.
Nir Rosen provided excellent reporting from Beirut (by phone); especially about Hariri's recruiting, training and arming militias in his constituency.
Flynt Leverett says
"one of the biggest mistakes of the Bush administration in the Middle East is that in the aftermath of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005 to lash on to the so-called Cedar revolution to leverage the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, to leverage pressure on the regime through the International tribunal and to leverage the "Lebanese democracy". It was a colossal mistake for three reasons:
1- Let us not be overly romantic, Lebanon in the post-Hariri period is not a true democracy, it is a political order rooted in the distribution of political assets along sectarian lines and the patterns of distribution are way out of whack with demographic reality particularly with regard to the Shiia. The last conversation in the world the March 14 would like to have is about "one man, one vote".
2- I said it was a mistake because the Lebanese arena is, at best, a side-show in terms of America's real strategic interests and to use the Lebanese "democracy" for not engaging strategically with Syria and Iran is the height of strategic malpractice as far as I'm concerned for the American administration.
3- It's a mistake because, it does not work, what we did is basically what we did in the early eighties; we took of bunch of western-oriented Lebanese political actors whom we liked because they basically looked like us, talked like us, seemed to push all the right buttons for us in terms of what their political values were, and then we arrayed them against people who have real street credit. The results in the eighties were disastrous and the results now are proving to be very, very bad for US interest in the region. The Syrian regime is more strongly entrenched, more powerful and more influential, certainly Iranian influence strongly increased over the last three years and this policy was a colossal failure. Unfortunately this policy enjoyed strong bipartisan support...
It is a foreign policy based on illusion rather than one based on sober assessment on the ground reality and a clear understanding of what America's interests are. And to the extent that we are going to continue to try to play this game with the so-called March 14 coalition, it is going to contribute to further erosion of American standing and influence in this part of the region and if we should be ever foolish enough to think like in the eighties we can intervene by putting American military on the ground, the outcome will be the same as the eighties, many good soldiers and personnel will loose their lives for no good reason. "
Daniel Levy says,
I'm not sure we do anyone any great favors or capture the moral highground by fating the likes of Samir Geagea and Walid Jumblat here in Washington.
I guess my starting point is, why did this happen, why NOW. It must that the government was cognoscente that going after the head of security and the phone lines would not be met with indifference and passivity on the part of the opposition and Hezbollah and i guess two red lines were crossed in the last week; the first line being of the phone network, part of the infrastructure of the Hezbollah resistance, the second red line was Hezbollah using its weapons inwards...
Perhaps someone like Walid Jumblat who certaily led this charge was keen to start the confrontation on the behest of outside forces to suggest that they need more support. Some reports suggested that some people here said "if you don't want us to sit up the rest of 2008 with a Lebanese deadlock, we need a dramatic demonstration of why the current standoff is so problematic. I say that as a background to the following:
Israel needs a pretext, and Hezbollah provided one. And Hezbollah needed to flex its muscles and the pretext was there. My fear is, that when walking on thin ice, we're not in an ice-thickening place. I'm not sure this does generate a solution to the problems and move on to another page...
... There's a real skepticism in Israel towards the March 14 movement and they are seeking a new address, maybe through Syria.
...De quoi s’agit-il en dernière analyse ? Si on prenait la peine de reprendre le fil des évènements depuis le début, on s’apercevrait aisément que le véritable « coup de force » provient de cette même « majorité » gouvernementale qui crie aujourd’hui au « coup de force » du Hezbollah !
En effet, la double décision gouvernementale de mettre fin à la mission d’un responsable sécuritaire proche du Hezbollah en poste à l’aéroport international de Beyrouth et la mise hors la loi d’un réseau de télécommunications de 100 000 lignes appartenant au même Hezbollah, outre qu’elle souffre d’un vice de forme puisqu’elle touche à une question sécuritaire nationale qui devrait réunir le consensus intercommunautaire, apparaît comme une action préventive et délibérée en vue d’atteindre un double objectif tactique d’une gravité avérée si on l’analysait du point de la sécurité nationale libanaise : d’une part, le limogeage du responsable proche du Hezbollah vise directement à faire de l’aéroport de Beyrouth une plate-forme ouverte aux agissements des services de sécurité américains (et donc israéliens). D’autre part, la neutralisation du réseau de télécommunications du Hezbollah vise à priver ce dernier d’une capacité de communication autonome, déterminante en cas de conflit avec Israël...
...Ce que les médias occidentaux et certains médias arabes oublient de rappeler, c’est que la « souveraineté » de l’Etat libanais dont ils se servent comme un cache-sexe est avant tout mise à mal par l’interventionnisme américain et européen dans les affaires intérieures du Liban...
...Moralement, il est indéfendable de comploter contre le Hezbollah qui représente la seule force qui a libéré le sud du pays de l’occupation israélienne, qui a résisté magnifiquement à l’agression israélienne de l’été 2006 et qui a de fait sauvé l’honneur arabe dans une bataille pourtant largement disproportionnée. Mais même tactiquement, ce n’est pas en s’alliant aux Américains que les dirigeants sunnites arriveraient à se défaire d’une supposée hégémonie politique du Hezbollah...
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Reuters through the NYT,
Troops took over more positions held by Druze forces loyal to pro-government leader Walid Jumblatt, whose mountain fiefdom east of Beirut was attacked by Hezbollah on Sunday.
"The security situation in the mountain is stable after the army move," said Akram Shuhayeb, a lawmaker and Jumblat aide.
But in the hill resort town of Aley, a grocer named Wassim Timani, who is loyal to Jumblatt, was not so sure.
"The army's presence here is only for show. It won't be able to do anything if the truce is violated," he told Reuters. "We have shown it all respect but we will not hand over our guns."
And, Robert Worth in the NYT:
...The army continued to deploy forces in the mountains east of Beirut and in northern Lebanon, as part of a plan to take over militia positions and quell the fighting. But there were signs that some government-allied figures were increasingly mistrustful of the army — widely viewed as Lebanon’s one nonpartisan institution — because it did not interfere when Hezbollah supporters seized control of much of western Beirut on Friday.
In northern Lebanon, a plan for local groups to hand their weapons to the army has encountered some resistance because pro-government groups, which are a majority in the north, fear being left at the mercy of Hezbollah, said Misbah Ahdab, a member of Parliament from Tripoli. Sporadic gun battles took place on Monday between pro-government Sunni fighters in the Bab al Tabbaneh area of Tripoli, in the north, and pro-Hezbollah Alawites in neighboring Jebel Mohsen, Mr. Ahdab said.
Although both of Lebanon’s major political camps still look to the army as an arbiter, government supporters have become increasingly critical of its passive role in the recent clashes.
“The army is no longer the army,” said a political adviser to the government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “It has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens.”
In the Chouf mountains east of Beirut, one pro-government Druse fighter, asked if he and his fellow Druse would give up their weapons to the army starting Tuesday, said, “We will if Hezbollah will.”
However, another account by Fida' Itani in Al-Akhbar, the opposition fighters who led the battles in Shouf were NOT Hezbollah, but rather old members of Jumblat's militia who are now fighting for Wi'am Wahhab or Talal Erslan. And that the cease fire was not respected by Jumblat's men in the first place:
بشكل رئيسي فإن المعارضة في الجبل تتكون من تيار التوحيد والحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي والحزب الديموقراطي اللبناني، وقبل 24 ساعة من سيطرة المعارضة كانت المنطقة تشهد هدوءاً، ولا نية لأحد بالنزول عسكرياً لإغلاق الشوارع أو فتحها. كان الكل على سلاحه دون جهوزية جدية، ويتابعون ما يحصل في العاصمة وفي طرابلس وطريق المصنع.
إلا أن خروج وليد جنبلاط ليل العاشر من أيار وإعلانه أنه يتحمّل مسؤولية ما حصل من اختطاف وتشويه وقتل مناصرين لحزب الله خفف حدة الاحتقان، ولكن في الوقت عينه أثار مخاوف المعارضين الذين خبروا دهاء جنبلاط في كسب الوقت وتجاوز المآزق. ولم تمض ساعات حتى عاد جنبلاط وفوض طلال أرسلان تسوية مسألة الجبل، وهو التفويض الذي انعكس في الشارع تصعيداً في نشر الحواجز واختطاف الباصات والتوقيف على الهوية، ومحاولة اعتقال أنصار للمعارضة في أكثر من منطقة في الجبل...
Monday, May 12, 2008
"It is a very critical situation. It is quite unprecedented since the end of the civil war, in that basically now this conflict is one between Hezbollah's resistance and the government. Never before has a government not recognised Hezbollah's resistance.
"The only compromise the sides can make at this point is over the clashes. Because these are clearly controlled clashes.
"As for the government's decisions regarding the telecom network and the head of airport security, nothing short of revocation of those decisions will settle this conflict. Nasrallah said so.
"The government has pushed itself into a very tight corner, it is going to be very difficult for them to backtrack. And Hezbollah is going to accept nothing short of the government reneging on those decisions.
"Apparently there are reports of alleged negotiations between the two sides and perhaps members of the government were willing to offer, for example, another security chief that Hezbollah could choose. Any face saving device. But according to these reports Hezbollah has turned down such offers.
"That's why I think it's going to be very hard for them. There is no middle ground here at all. When Nasrallah depicts the conflict as one which is something of an existential one, targeting the resistance, and draws parallels with the  July war, this renders the whole conflict a 'May war' if you like.
"This is a new war. It is a war directed against the resistance - at least that is how it is perceived. There can be no compromise now, just as there was none back in July ."
Meanwhile, fighting continues in the mountains east and south of Beirut. There are reports of heavy fighting near Tripoli as well. Overall, the March 14th forces have been taking one hell of a beating. Abu Muqawama has been searching for comment on the fighting from some of March 14th's strongest supporters in Washington, and he accordingly read David Schenker's piece for the Washington Institute. David has been a resolute supporter of March 14th, but he is intellectually honest, and his assessment of U.S. policy options seems, to this blogger, quite accurate:
Regardless of what drove the timing of the standoff, it appears the government miscalculated. Sadly, for Washington, there are few realistic policy options to reverse the Hizballah coup. It is highly unlikely that the UN -- which failed to even prevent the rearming of Hizballah -- would agree to more dangerous deployments in Lebanon.David then pins his hopes on the Lebanese Army, but it seems to Abu Muqawama that, if anything, the Lebanese Army has sided with Hizbollah in the fighting. That is to say, they can obviously see Hizbollah is the strongest side and they've basically stayed out of it, happy to act as peace-keepers once the fighting has already reached some sort of conclusion but unwilling to step in between the two sides. Does this square with what everyone else is thinking, or no? ...
-- And "mo" from New Phoenicia in the comments section:
...They will continue to back a losing horse and rely on black ops, subterfuge and shenanigans hoping one of them pays off, not learning that on the ground Hizballah holds all the cards. This is the path of least resistance as those it will work with have a visceral hate of Hizballah and are easy to motivate into action. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance is very rarely the path to the most gain...
Amid reports that US's DCM, Michele Sison advised Siniora to "resign rather than face defeat by rescinding the 2 executive orders, ... and thus remain a CARETAKER government", Rami Khoury offers These Thoughts in The Daily Star, Here
...The consequences of what has happened in the past week may portend an extraordinary but constructive new development: the possible emergence of the first American-Iranian joint political governance system in the Arab world. Maybe.
If Lebanon shifts from street clashes to the hoped-for political compromise through a renewed national dialogue process, it will have a national unity government whose two factions receive arms, training, funds and political support from both The United States and Iran. Should this happen, an unspoken American-Iranian political condominium in Lebanon could prove to be key to power-sharing and stability in other parts of the region, such as Palestine, Iraq and other hot spots. This would also mark a huge defeat for the United States and its failed diplomatic approach that seeks to confront, battle and crush the Islamist-nationalists throughout the region...
When in his press conference, the protector of the Lebanese holy grail, former president of the Lebanese republic, the higher president of the Kataeb party, Sheikh Amine el-Gemayyel draws a "big question mark" "?" as to what provoked Hezbollah and the opposition to perform the latest operations in Lebanon, totally disregarding to mention the irresponsible governmental decisions and the documented fact that during the labor demonstrations, various groups of demonstrators were attacked in Beirut and his allies's armed militias who are still roaming the streets as he speaks, Salem wonders what lies under that wig.
It is quite obvious that in the last couple of days, most of the so-called March 14 leaders are living in a state of denial. Their selective memories and their refusal to see the big picture are not but a prelude to a total all-out failure. They continue to portray themselves as immaculate figures entrusted with benign intentions and values while they lost all credibility in state-building rhetorics.
It has been painful lately, at least for me, to see the black screen of Future TV lately. Not that i enjoy their news reporting and propagandist guests, but if we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
Future TV should have been given a chance to air their material, even if they would have preferred to keep their staff inside at all times in such a dangerous situation. Closing down the stations is an act of aggression against free speech. There's no question about it.
But to be fair, one has to put things in context; Future TV never missed a chance to perform their own acts of aggression for the past 2-3 years, where just about anyone who does not share their political views was deliberately bombarded with misleading propaganda, character assassinations, false reporting and sometimes plain old libel and slander. Maybe, just maybe, in the darkness of their screens today, they are taking advantage of the dead-air time to evaluate their previous experience.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
..."Supporters of the Future Current have gunned down two Druze members of the opposition in Khalde, in the foothills of Beirut. Two were wounded. Reports are also coming in that gunfire was heard in the Druze town of Aley, in the mountains above Beirut. Futher reports are that Jumblat's militia, the PSP (Progressive Socialist Party), has handed strategic positions in the mountains over to the army."...
Rami El Amine:
... The timing is what's crucial regarding the pro-US neoliberal government of Fouad Siniora's decisions. It's clear that the US is pushing them to begin to shut Hezbollah down. They chose this as a way to test Hezbollah with it.
... 2 things are happening, the government knows it days might be numbered, because of George Bush and his administration's support and how much support they get, they also know that if they don't do anything against Hezbollah, any new elections that might be held will certainly spawn a pro-opposition majority...
The End of the New Middle East by Nir Rosen
... The Americans thought that they could pick a proxy and get him to rule Lebanon. But Lebanon is too complicated for them, and they didn't know that no single group can rule Lebanon. The Americans along with their Saudi allies backed the creation of sectarian Sunni militias in Lebanon, some of whom were even trained in Jordan. Their ideology consisted of anti Shiite sectarianism. But these Sunni militiamen proved a complete failure, and America's proxies in Lebanon barely put up a fight, despite their strident anti Shiite rhetoric. Now it is clear that Beirut is firmly in the hands of Hizballah and nothing the Americans can do will dislodge or weaken this popular movement, just as they cannot weaken the Sadrists in Iraq or Hamas in Gaza...
Is This the Start of the Next Lebanese Civil War? by Andrew Lee Butters
...Just why the government chose this particular moment to move against Hizballah's infrastructure remains unclear. Hizballah, which fought Israel to a stand-still in the summer war of 2006, is much stronger and better organized than government forces, and is certain to win any confrontation. Still, Hizballah would have much to lose in an open civil war. Not only would the chaos distract them from the far more dangerous struggle with Israel, but it could also help radical Al-Qaeda affiliated Sunni jihadi groups infiltrate Lebanon...
Time Machine by Dr Rami Zurayq in Land and People
...There are signs that things might slip: One of the old Future TV's building , the one adjoining the Saudi embassy in Rawcheh, was set on fire today, allegedly by SSNP militants. It may be true that the building served as a barrack for Future Movement thugs. It is also true that over the past 3 years there has been tremendous tensions between the thugs in there and those at the SSNP central office, which is around the corner. But setting a building on fire, and especially a media-related one, was a pointless act of vandalism which reflects very badly on the opposition and its leadership. The same can be said for silencing Future TV by sabotaging its installations. There were also motorcades going around the streets today shooting in the air for no other purpose than showing off and celebrating the take over. This is not what Hizbullah did in the South when it kicked the Israelis out. In Beirut, the stakes are even higher.
Street Notes From the Hamra District by Franklin Lamb
...Jumblatt has not just been humiliated in the mountains but also in his Beirut residence at Clemenceau near AUB. When I drove by en route to Hamra Street I saw about 75 fighters outside his home. I was surprised to learn they were not Jumblatt's protectors but once more Hezbollah/Amal. "Maybe he will invite us to lunch. We have orders not to harm him." I was later to learn that the Army rescued Jumblatt around 11:30 am, and he is said to be rethinking his options. Hassan Nasrallah was tough on Jumblatt at his news conference yesterday and predicted that Jumblatt would switch sides yet again if Hezbollah would pay the price. The young men showed me some of the weapons they collected from what was said to be surrendering or fleeing Hariri mercenaries.
Word on the Street near Saad Hariri's house is that Geagea may attempt a coup and take the leadership of March 14 for a return of the Lebanese Forces and Kateib. This I find difficult to believe but during this period the rumors are flying like 20th floor broadcast confetti on a windy day!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
A lot of literature will be spilled on the media market during the following weeks concerning the latest developments and experiences in Lebanon, and I'm sure it will range between conspiracy theories, war mongering, fear instigation and religious orgies of sectarian hate.
The elements of fear and anger have had much time to be nurtured and mixed together with a chemist's precision to make the current Molotov cocktail which is just about to burn a lot of fingertips.
Pro-Hariri media outlets and mouthpieces have spent a considerable amount of time during the last year to portray a Shiite-Iranian threat under every bed and in the minds of their receivers using a bombardment of propagandist rhetorics and not-so-subtle insinuations that rallied their Sunni constituency and practically shunned away every possible Shiite rapprochement for a considerable amount of time; not to mention their continuous provocations by openly accusing (on groundless terms of course) Hezbollah of assassination attempts and surveillance operations all around the country.
Pro-Hezbollah outlets and media machines didn't help at all with its continuous spray of conflicting messages of asking for true partnership while demonising the other guy with traitorous rhetorics.
Sure, nobody doubts this quasi-farmland called country has a lot of problems, most of which are irreparable structural defects from its inception but whatever Hezbollah and Hariri bin Saud are trying to impose of the streets of Beirut is certainly neither controllable nor on the right track to form a certain viable consensus.
Pro-Hariri cabinet issued what can be a declaration of war on Hezbollah by labeling its landline network as a "breach of national sovereignty" totally disregarding that such claims are certainly a "breach of national unity". They also stressed that these landlines (which Hezbollah considers as part of its resistance and essential to protect its leaders from US-Israeli assassination attempts) will be removed. It's also quite useful to remember that this same cabinet was formed on the basis of "protecting the resistance of Hezbollah and giving it a full carte-blanche to perform any resistance effort to free both land and prisoners. I wonder if there's anything left of this manifesto as of yesterday and what's left of Hariri-cabinet's credibility and representation to try to enforce their authority over the whole chessboard, which explains their resort to the Mufti Kabbani's highly sectarian tone as a last refuge and line of defense.
On their part, Hezbollah jumped on the sectarian bandwagon and refused ( on sectarian grounds) the Hariri cabinet's decision to remove the airport's head of security after Joumblat's hallucinations and acid trips of lucid dreams that burned every possible bridge between Hariri and Hezbollah.
Both Hezbollah and Hariri are both to blame for the current civil strife, although Saad Hariri (along with whoever supports him from Washington to Riyadh) takes the biggest part of the blame after showing his party's real face of militiamen, party offices stacked with weapons and blunt subservience to regional masters which basically makes him worse than whatever his mouthpieces accuse Hezbollah and the opposition of being.
But for the time being, all the above is going to be old news.
As of yesterday, frontlines have been drawn all over Beirut, the Beirut International Airport is closed, Hezbollah (rightly IMO) calls for the government's dissolution and the formation of a new national unity government that should prepare for a new parliamentary elections while Hariri & Co. (wrongly IMO) refuse anything even remotely related to those demands and clings to power under the false rhetorics of "building a state" and "empowering the state's sovereignty".
Both Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Saad Hariri planned press conferences tonight.
Michel Aoun is very very silent, while Joumblat is carefully observing Rome consumating itself while a small smirk is hidden under his moustache, Geagea is obviously living in oblivion and Michel-consens-ational-Sleiman is helpless.
Stay tuned. Twister power-struggle games have just started.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
عند الساعة الرابعة والنصف من فجر يوم الثلاثاء الواقع فيه السادس من أيّار عام 2008، خرج المواطن غازي العريضي وتلا أمام اللبنانيين بياناً. كان وجهه شاحباً، ولم يكن النعاس وحده سبب هذا الشحوب. كان يعلم، على الأرجح، أنّ ما كُلِّف بتلاوته ليس إلا إعلان حرب أهليّة.
قد يجد المرء، إن أراد، تسويغات عديدة لما صدر عن مجلس الوزراء من قرارات في تلك الليلة. وقد تأخذه سذاجته إلى حدّ ربطها ببناء دولة المؤسّسات، في اللحظة نفسها التي تعيش فيها الطوائف كافة حالة تقوقع وخوف من أخواتها. لكنّ هذه التسويغات لن تخفي حقيقة واحدة: إنّ من اتّخذ هذه القرارات، اتّخذ في الوقت عينه قراراً بإشعال البلاد.
والواقع أنّ مجلس الوزراء مكوّن جزئياً من مجموعة كومبارس لا خبرة لهم في الحقل السياسي، شاءت الصدفة التاريخية أن تضعهم في مناصب حسّاسة في لحظات عصيبة. أمّا الجزء الآخر، فمؤلّف من مندوبين لأمراء حرب أهليّة سابقين. نفهم تماماً أن ينفّذ المندوبون أوامر زعمائهم الذين ينتابهم الحنين للزمن الماضي، فيصرّون على اتّخاذ قرارات حربيّة. أمّا الآخرون، فليس واضحاً كيف يكملون انحدارهم بخفّة من «الأوادميّة» إلى الغباء، ومن الغباء البريء إلى الغباء المؤذي.
السلطة في يد هؤلاء «بتجرح». أمّا الدماء التي بدأت تسيل، فستجعل من الصعب عليهم النظر في المرآة ورؤية أنفسهم.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
In May 2006, Noam and Carol Chomsky visited Lebanon for the first time—just two months before Israel unleashed a new military campaign against both Lebanon and Palestine. During their eight-day trip, they toured refugee camps and a former Israeli prison and torture compound; met with political leaders—including the pro-government coalition; and Noam conducted interviews and gave public lectures on U.S. imperialism and the imminent crises facing the Middle East
Inside Lebanon documents Noam and Carol Chomsky’s journey and situates it within the tragically altered context of Lebanon and Palestine before and after the war of 2006. Noam Chomsky’s essays provide the background and framework for understanding the role of U.S. politics, power, and policies in these conflicts by examining how the United States wages war and imposes world domination while presenting itself as the righteous protector of democracy. Ironically, U.S. efforts at imperial control generate conflict and crises within the region while undermining the very democracy they claim to promote.
Inside Lebanon also includes essays, diaries, and photographs by Irene L. Gendzier, Assaf Kfoury, Jennifer Loewenstein, Fawwaz Traboulsi, Hanady Salman, Rasha Salti, Mona el-Farra, Laila el-Haddad, and Carol Chomsky. Collectively, their contributions illuminate the region-wide conflict, of which Lebanon is only one piece. It serves as a record of events during the war, while linking conflicts on the ground to the global order.
Interesting read for all the Chomskiites out there and for anyone who attended his conference at AUB.
It also has a transcript of his interview with Marcel-silly-Ghanem. Here are some ground-breaking, earth shattering professional, informative and thought provoking questions he asked him during that interview:
MG: Professor Chomsky, are you a supporter of the Taliban regime?
MG: Professor Chomsky, do you support the Syrian regime?
MG: The neoconservatives use the medium of speech. In his speeches, George Bush vows to end tyranny, to spread freedom and justice, to strengthen democracy and to promote dignity and human rights. Professor Chomsky, it seems that you do not believe his promises. Why not? Are these principles not important?