Monday, December 17, 2007

Emergency Numbers

Its a hell of a time to do this but I had to do it sometime: I'm going on vacation. In any case, the country [and its crises] aren't going anywhere. Not as long as we have the Syrians trying to retake the country; the Iranians trying to implement their regional agenda on our back - and with our blood; and all their quislings jostling for a piece of the action while the rest of the political class continues to run around like a flock of headless chickens [assassinations do that to you I guess], anyway.

In any case, be sure to check our news and blog feeds on the left [and right] sidebars for the latest updates and in case of emergency, be sure to call the numbers displayed in the video below [courtesy of a Lebanese public safety NGO called YASA].

You can also reach us via email (check my profile) if need be. As for the date of return, unfortunately it will have to wait until after the New Year (sorry, can't be more specific).

So here's to a better year [less assassinations, for starters] and Happy Holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Assassinating Salvation

It’s not easy to quantify the sense of shock, desperation, and fear that this most recent ‘hit’ [on Lebanese Army Brigadier General Francois el Hajj] by the Syrian killing machine has rendered on the country.

Indeed, for a country now all too used to the roving bands of assassins striking at its politicians [while other politicians quickly move to exploit their murder], this latest assassination has struck a particular chord. Echoing off the Army’s recent victory against a malicious terrorist cell in Nahr el Bared, and striking at the one institution in which most Lebanese had placed their faith for their salvation. A salvation they had pursued so far as to propose the amendment of the constitution, in order to bring to the nation’s head the man at the head of that [perceived] salvation.

This latest assassination is what it always is: Syria’s use of death, terror, and destruction to try and keep the Lebanese “in line”. Through every opening it receives - the last being France’s overwhelming act of diplomatic buffoonery in Lebanon's Presidential elections throughout November - the Syrian regime is reinforced in its belief that the international community is unwilling to take serious steps against it, leaving it open to kill, maim, and terrorize the Lebanese.

Hajj’s assassination comes at an important juncture and targets a man who sat atop that juncture: Given the [eventual] ascension of Army Commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, to the Presidency, Hajj was slated to be a serious contender to the post of Army Commander; And as the Chief of Operations for the Lebanese Army, Hajj played a major role in the military campaign against the Syrian-backed terror group Fatah al Islam at Nahr el Bared.

Taken with the continued drive at the reformation and modernization of the Lebanese Army seen over the last year and half, and the attempted transformation of the institution from just a symbol of sovereignty to an effective bulwark and tool for implementing it, the above may hint at the Syrians’ choice for a target.

By murdering Hajj, the Syrians may have been sending a message aimed at making sure that none of that transformation is realized, either on the level of the Army or on the level of the Presidency.

The latter comes as the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority continues to push for the election of Suleiman as a compromise candidate in the face of Syrian and Iranian-inspired blockages [by the likes of Aoun, Hizballah, and Berri], and in avoidance of a prolonged Presidential vacancy.

For the former, it is a reminder by the Syrian regime to the country’s soldiers that any attempts to break from the “brotherly relationship” which holds them to the Syrians will result in scenes like today’s; and that the events of Nahr el Bared are to be buried, once and for all…

…this, as the Syrians "bury" their own top military and intelligence officials who might have known too much.

Breaking News: Deadly Explosion in Baabda!!

Update: News services have reported the assassination of the Lebanese Army Chief of Operations, General Francois el Hajj.

A large explosion has been reported in the Baabda-Hadath district of Lebanon, just south-east of the capital. According to emerging reports, the explosion took place at approximately 7:00 am (local time) near the Baabda municipal building.

News services have reported between four and six dead along with dozens wounded. News services have also reported the strong possibility that the explosion may have been due to a car-bomb. Several cars in the vicinity of the explosion were completely destroyed, with debris scattered over a large area. A large plume of smoke could be seen rising over the site of the explosion.


A security cordon has now been established around the site of the explosion. The wounded have been taken to the Saint Charles Hospital, the Baabda Hospital, and Qalb Yassou3 Hospital.

The Baabda district is home to the country's Presidential Palace, the current center-stage for the country's ongoing crisis.

Brigadier General Francois el Hajj has been confirmed as the target of today's assassination (via the Baabda explosion). Hajj's body was discovered some 150 meters from the site of the explosion. He was rumored to be a serious contender [along with Chief of Military Intelligence, George Khoury] to succeed Michel Suleiman in the post of Army Commander. Hajj's current post within the Army was Chief of Operations.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Word About Suleiman: Part II

Where is Shaker el Absi?

That Suleiman is Syria's man is sure. His brother-in-law, after all, was the official spokesman for the Presidential Palace in Damascus and its occupant at the time, Hafez el Assad.

As for Suleiman’s purported even-handedness throughout the Cedar Revolution, my guess is that it was more an issue of the Commander correctly feeling and reading the international pressures felt by a man in his position, rather than any sense of moderation or nationalism that stayed his hand.

Along the border with Syria, Suleiman’s officers have hardly moved a finger in response to the massive weapons transfers that continue unabated [a few busts here and there were carried out by security agencies supervised by ministries currently under the control of the March 14th movement – e.g. Customs (Ministry of Finance), and ISF (Ministry of the Interior)].

And, of course, who can forget Nahr el Bared. Despite the bravery of the rank and file, the most important questions and their answers [leading back to Syria] have been “officially” buried by the Commander and his staff.

Where is Shaker al Absi?

All this to say, of course, that Suleiman is Syria’s man [and we haven’t even mentioned anything dating back past the year 2000].

Already the Lebanese streets and airwaves are being plastered with posters and songs praising the Commander’s rise to power [those in Montreal can check AM radio frequency 1450 Hz, for live broadcasts of the “Voice of Lebanon”]. And already comparisons are being made with that other Commander who, in 1958, provided the country with another “least worst” choice of the Presidency.

At that time, the masses were all too happy to give up some basic freedoms in order to be rid of a political class preying on their livelihoods. Fifty years later, the Lebanese general public seems to have given its final acquiescence [extorted by Damascus’s terror, Hizballah’s blockages, Aoun’s destructive treachery/idiocy/cowardice, and to some extent March 14th ineptitude – or at least, the ineptitude of those left alive by the Syrian assassination campaign] to the sacrifice of the country’s absolute sovereignty, in favor of relief (from the four extortions listed above) and the semblance of sovereignty through the attainment of some objectives…pending Damascus’ approval, of course.

So congratulations to Gen. Michel Suleiman for his replacement of Gen. Emile Lahoud in the seat of the Presidency [and to Gen. Georges Khoury for his rumored replacement of Suleiman in the seat of Army Commander].

As for my first question to the new president: Where is Shaker el Absi!?

A Word About Suleiman: Part I

Where is Shaker el Absi?

Maybe I should start this post by looking at the possible positives in our leader-to-be, as opposed to the realities of the negatives.

That Suleiman is Syria's man is sure, that Syria in its relationship with Lebanon will be limited in its involvement – as compared with its 15 year occupation, and in the short run, at least - is also sure.

To that extent, it is possible to view Suleiman's arrival to the Presidency as the commencement of a nominal thawing of the past three years' icing over of relations between the Syrian regime and the Anti-Syrian parliamentary majority that has governed [or attempted to in the face of the pro-Syrian oppositions blockages] the country, a thawing that could bring with it certain superficial [and maybe useful] advantages.

These advantages include the possible expansion of the UNIFIL mandate to the Syrian-Lebanese border. This enforcement of one UNSC Resolution [1701] would come – to a certain extent - at the expense of another [1757] – to another certain extent.

Another, perhaps more long term, advantage could be witnessed in the continuation and augmentation of American-led efforts at bolstering the capabilities of a Lebanese Army long-drained of any capabilities by regional “equations” [i.e. the maintenance of Israel’s regional air superiority] and “proxy armies” [i.e. Hizballah and its continued policy of undermining the establishment of strong national army].

Where is Shaker el Absi?

As far as the Army’s [and the state’s] relations with that “proxy army” are concerned, however, the placement of Suleiman in the country’s top post seems to have highlighted the complete withdrawal of the issue of Hizballah’s weapons from the Lebanese domestic political scene and secured it in a broader international framework. A framework which could see Syria finally selling [if it still can] the only thing the world [the West] is interested in buying – Hizballah’s disarmament.

Nevertheless, it seems unclear that a domestic solution – and the election of a man willing and [to some extent] capable of implementing it – could have been reachable in the first place. The last time it was tried [through the 2006 National Dialogue talks aborted by Hizballah] the country found itself mired in a devastating “July War”.

The enthusiastic support Suleiman received in the “build up to his nomination” from the Egyptian political and military establishment, along with the upcoming US delivery of training jets to the Lebanese Army, seems to be confirmation of movement in a direction that can’t afford to be impeded by the Army’s infiltration by Hizballah and the officers who’ve plundered its armories for the group.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Word About Aoun: Addendum

This video was brought to my attention by a friend after having read the post: A Word About Aoun. Carlos Edde's recount of meetings held with Aoun by the budding Anti-Syrian movement confirms the information presented in that post surrounding Aoun's dealings with the Syrian regime prior to his return to Lebanon from Paris. In addition, it serves as further proof that the "General" had been actively engaged in those negotiations as early as late 2004.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Word About Aoun

I hope you’ll forgive the digression but I thought I’d start this post by talking a little about a character we haven’t heard about in a long time, Emile Emile Lahoud.

The Voice of Lebanon's Youth?

Emile Emile is the son of recently retired Syrian stooge [you guessed it] Emile Lahoud. His ridiculous name shot to notoriety when his father cashed in Syrian favor to have him (s)elected as a Parliamentarian for the Metn district in 2000. As a Member of Parliament, Emile Emile’s name was quickly associated with a number of shady business projects that cropped up in his mountainous district, as well as in Beirut.

After the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, Emile Emile was among a handful of [Syrian-imposed] Parliamentarians who thought it safer not to ask their constituents what they really thought of them. Subsequently, he chose not to run for “re-election”.

The last that was heard of Emile Emile, he had been implicated in the multi-billion dollar Iraqi oil-for-food program while serving as an MP [funds from that scandal were said to have been laundered through the now-collapsed Al Madina Bank]. His brother Ralph Lahoud, meanwhile, was busy co-owning and managing [along with Majid Hamdan, the brother of ex-President Emile Lahoud's commander of the Presidential Guard, Mustafa Hamdan] one of numerous “private security” companies roaming the country.

As chance would have it, however, this particular company was charged with the security of the part of Beirut in which the late Rafic Hariri was assassinated [along with 22 others – including ex-minister Basel Fuleihan] at the time in which the assassination took place [the assassination itself has been reportedly linked to the Al Madina Bank scandal and Hariri's possession of documents incrimminating top Lebanese and Syrian officials in it]. Well maybe it wasn’t chance, but that’s a subject for another day.

Now if you’re asking yourself what in the world reminded me of a run-of-the-mill stooge/traitor/criminal character such as Emile Emile and prompted me to include him in a post [that will ultimately get to be] about the Presidency [or lack thereof], then lay your eyes on this quote, retrieved from Emile Emile’s official website:

Febraury 1 2005 - M.P. Emile Lahoud to Al Balad newspaper: General Aoun is rightfully entitled to financial compensation.

And so we begin our look at the effective sabotage of the country’s efforts at achieving a measured degree of normalcy with a retrospective look at how the “General” - currently at the [nominal] head of efforts to abort another General’s [unconstitutional] ascension to the Presidential seat - actually came to be in Lebanon for the event.

The Tsunami

The truth of the matter is that Michel Aoun’s return to Lebanon [in the spring of 2005] had less to do with the ouster of the Syrian Army and intelligence apparatuses than with a deal cut by Aoun and the Syrian regime [including its stooges in Lebanon] in which the General stood to regain funds he had abandoned in his hurried flight from the country.

That these negotiations between Aoun and the Syrian regime took place ahead of the assassination of the Rafic Hariri – and the subsequent launching of the Cedar Revolution – seems to be hinted at by the above proclamation [did I mention Emile Emile tried to pitch himself as the voice of Lebanon’s youth? What a joke].

After Hariri’s assassination Aoun was met in Paris by a number of delegates representative of the budding March 14th movement, with the most public of these meetings being that between Aoun and Wael Abou Faour [on behalf of Walid Jumblatt]. Despite positive initial indications, relations between the two politicians [Aoun and Jumblatt] quickly degenerated, hitting rock-bottom with Jumblatt’s famous declaration likening Aoun’s imminent return to the Lebanese political scene to a “Tusnami” [passing through the country with destructive force and leaving only chaos and devastation in its wake - two years on, that sounds about right].

According to sources close to the talks, the collapse was a direct result of Aoun’s refusal to abandon negotiations with the Syrian regime [and its representatives in Lebanon] linked to his “financial compensation” as well as several criminal charges brought against him by those same representatives. Two days ahead of his return, the General would witness the suspension of all charges by Syria's judicial enforcer in Lebanon, Public Prosecutor Adnan Addoum.

The Traitor

Of course this doesn't begin to describe the full extent of the damage that Aoun continues to do today to his country and his community, but its a start. A continuation would entail a look at the General's relentless assailing of everything his soldiers died for and everything his supporters bled for at the hands of those he now readily supports and contrives with over the future of our country.

Whether it be in the form of that ridiculous piece of toilet paper readily referred to as the MoU; or the closure of Parliament to which he and his party have been accessories; or the devastating riots and protests which took the country to the brink of civil war; or the blockages he continues to impose on the successful election of President of the Republic.

[All this is - along with the political implications these actions carry - are what we are referring to when we talk about the political cover Aoun grants Hizballah. None of it would be possible without his support and mobilization. And none of it is reflective of the views of the Lebanese Christian community which he claims to represent.]

In everything he does, Aoun has proven to be not only a useful destructive idiot, but something much much worse, a man who is fully conscious of the act that he is committing: treason.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hizballah's Henchmen

Stratfor [or Strategic Forecasting, Inc.] provides a look at Hizballah's top operatives and their links to both Syria and Iran:
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: is Hezbollah's secretary-general and has been Hezbollah's most pragmatic and charismatic leader -- though his stature has exceeded Iranian limits, and his accommodating attitude toward Syria and Lebanese politics does not sit well with a number of mullahs in Tehran.

Imad Fayez Mugniyah: nicknamed "the Wolf," is Hezbollah's strongman. He has alternately been described as the head of Hezbollah's security apparatus, as the group's chief of intelligence and as its chief of special operations. Mugniyah also has been described by sources as having one foot in Hezbollah and the other in the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, indicating that his loyalty is to Tehran.

...

With Mugniyah back in the game, Hezbollah once again is capable of staging major attacks abroad, allowing Iran to raise substantially the cost of a U.S. attack against the country. Mugniyah coordinates with Hashim Abu Fares, Hezbollah's main official in Iran, who does the group's dirty work by training and recruiting operatives for Iraq and for reprisal attacks in the Gulf states.

Wafiq Safa: is Hezbollah's head of security. Safa is one of the founding members of the group and is highly trusted by the IRGC and Nasrallah. Since Nasrallah no longer attends meetings, he depends primarily on Safa for updates. Safa, who is a terse and paranoid leader, takes care of the group's security arrangements, doing everything from arming Hezbollah allies in Beirut to forging automobile license plates to sheltering Syrian agents in the city's southern suburbs. Safa constantly coordinates with Mugniyah and controls most of Hezbollah's centers in the Bekaa Valley. He is known to have an extensive surveillance system throughout the Bekaa, with all incoming and outgoing security reports passing through him.

Hussein Khalil: takes the lead in shaping Hezbollah's political position and activities, as well as communicating with local political forces in Lebanon. He also acts as the group's primary liaison with Syria. Khalil works in collaboration with Sheikh Naim Qasim, Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general. Qasim is widely seen as a hard-liner in the organization and is far more willing to carry out Iran's bidding than to accommodate the Syrians, whom he deeply distrusts. His views toward Damascus consistently put him at odds with Nasrallah.
Readers are invited to leave comments in this post's comments section. The above quote was taken from Stratfor's November 28th, 2007 report titled: Dissecting "The Party of God", and was written by Fred Burton and Reva Bhalla.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Celebrating the Murder of the Downtown Economy

Images as seen on Yahoo!News

At least 200 people turned up today to celebrate the one year anniversary of the murder of downtown Beirut's bustling economy by militants and protestors loyal to Iranian-backed Hizballah and other pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon.

The takeover of the downtown area by the groups has forced the closure of 75 cafés and restaurants in the area and led to the loss of 2,750 jobs. All the while, those participating in the closure are rumored to have been receiving payments of between $30 and $50 a day through funds transfered from Iran [and managed by Hizballah].

The tents erected by the groups have remained relatively empty over the past several months but the presence of a heavy security cordone around the encampment has scuttled all tourist activity and left local businesses with little room to operate.

Friday, November 30, 2007

More on Suleiman's Candidacy


Talking to a number of "unidentified" March 14th analysts, MPs, and Ministers, NOW Lebanon tries its hand at explaining the March 14th push for Army Commander Michel Suleiman's candidacy for the Presidency and the constitutional amendment it requires:
Furthermore, if Sleiman becomes president, his allies will fill a number of seats in the next government along with ministers drawn from March 14 and the opposition. The Sleiman seats, according to this scenario, will effectively hold the balance of power within the cabinet, denying the opposition a veto-wielding share.

...

"Most of the March 14 MPs have come to the conclusion that Syria's goal is to create a void at the level of the presidency," said one source.

...

"The main trump is that the Syrians were about to use Aoun's popular uprising against the Siniora government, saying that the Sunnis have taken the presidential prerogative. This is no longer valid," said a senior Future Movement source.

...

"The main message the Americans are sending is that Syria can have a veto on every major decision in Lebanon. They [the Syrians] achieved that by killing us without any consequences," said one March 14 source.
The article also contains a behind-the-scenes look at the build up to the group's public backing of the Army Commander for the Presidential seat, and the stances and positions of key politicians behind the move.

Meanwhile, Lebanese politicians and foreign diplomats continue to declare their support for Suleiman.

Remembering Rene Mouawad




Rene Mouawad was assassinated on November 22nd 1989, after having served just 17 days as President of the Republic. Speculation on his murder has pointed to Syrian involvement, with his widow, current Minister of Cultural Affairs Nayla Mouawad, having joined her voice to those who claim that the Syrian regime was behind the murder.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Suleiman [President] Resurfaces

News of a possible March 14th-agreed constitutional amendment tailored to Army Commander Michel Suleiman’s presidential hopes is making the rounds today.

Two March 14th MPs - Elias Atallah and Ammar al Houri [Future Movement] – have already voiced their support for the move while statements from both Walid Jumblatt [PSP leader] and Samir Geagea [LF leader] have revealed the rapid changing of positions and alliances on the ground, in light of developments surrounding the Presidency.

More specifically, Jumblatt claimed that his recent change in tone and positions was based on “international and regional data”, highlighting the possibility of a US-Syria deal at Annapolis this week that could have repercussions on the Lebanese scene.

Those repercussions were described by Future Movement MP, Mustapha Alouch, as providing the Syrian regime with “some assurance over the future course of the peace process” before it disengages itself from Lebanon’s domestic affairs.

Meanwhile, media outlets in Lebanon continue to be flooded with reports of high level manoeuvring surrounding moves to place Suleiman in the presidential seat.

This as the Army Commander himself arrived at Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s residence earlier this afternoon. Suleiman’s visit follows an earlier visit by Suleiman to the Sunni Grand Mufti Rashid Qabbani and comes on the heals of a visit by former Premier Najib Mikati to Berri in which the Army Commander’s virtues were extolled.

We’ll save further commentary on the situation for later when things will, hopefully, be further clarified. For a review of past commentary on Suleiman click here; for a review of commentary on Syrian-US-Israeli negotiations involving Lebanon click here and here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Reality of War

Fellow blogger Marillionlb lays naked a part of his soul as he recounts - in a post addressed to his younger countrymen caught up in the current political dispute - the reality of taking your political convictions and partisan loyalties too far and fighting in Lebanese civil war.

Here is an extract:
Although I can relate to your enthusiasm and your frustration; nevertheless I would like to share with you a small percentage of my memories, in the hope that you might do without anything remotely similar...

...consider if you can afford to live with the following:
...
· Being stopped at a check point manned by so called refugees (armed to the teeth) whilst on your left 4 of your fellow countrymen were slaughtered using a butcher knife from ear to ear?

· Having to listen to Sharif Al Akhawi (aka salkeh wa amneh) on the car radio to know which road is safe to take, knowing damn well that the information was valid for a very short lapse of time.
...
· Carry all sorts of weapons on your side and in the boot of your car, and for any stupid reason feel like you can fire your weapon and get away with it?
...
Read the entire piece here, its well worth it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Good Riddance!

To Syria's Chief Representative in Lebanon: Emile Lahoud
Images as previously seen on Blacksmiths of Lebanon and on ElieDH

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lahoud Declares State of Emergency! ... Sort of ...

Outgoing pro-Syrian Lebanese President, Emile Lahoud, has warned of a "risk of a national State of Emergency" due to start at midnight of this night and called on the Army to assume control of the country...sort of.

According to a decree issued on behalf of Lahoud by the Presidential Palace, the Army is ordered to assume responsibility for the preservation of security in the country, giving it jurisdiction over all security bodies.

The move is seen as an attempt to bring under the Army's control those security services normally under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior [primarily the Internal Security Forces (ISF)] and the Ministry of Finance [primarily the Customs Service].

Both the ISF and the Customs Service have been active, throughout the past two years, in curbing the activities of armed pro-Syrian factions inside Lebanon and weapons smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Considering the current government to be an "illegitimate one", Lahoud also decreed that the Army is to report to a "national unity" government [i.e. a government in which Hizballah and the rest of Syria's allies in Lebanon have veto capabilities], after such a government is formed.

Under Section 5 of Article 65 [Council of Ministers: Powers] of the Lebanese Constitution, however, any declaration of a state of emergency [or its dissolution] would require a two-thirds majority vote in Cabinet.

According to the same section:
"Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers. It is the authority to which the armed forces are subject."
That clause, along with another explicitly stating the Cabinet's (or Council of Ministers') exclusive executive control over the Armed Forces, have led to speculation that the orders issued by the outgoing President could be deamed illegal and ineffectual.

----

Update:

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora rejected outgoing pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's above declaration, declaring it "invalid and unconstitutional".

Setting the Stage...

...for a coup d'etat?

Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud (C) poses with the army's Chief of Staff Michel Sleiman (2nd L) and officers during Independence Day celebrations in Baabda, near Beirut, November 22, 2007. (Dalatinohra/Reuters)

Implementing the Syrian Plan

This evening, and in response to the hours of negotiation - in Paris as in Beirut - spent in trying to bring FPM leader Michel Aoun into an agreement with the country's Anti-Syrian Parliamentary Majority, Aoun has proposed a "six-point plan of salvation".

In every point, Aoun has effectively outlined an implementation of long-standing Syrian objectives in Lebanon. Below is a quick look at my own summary of the more important points:
1. Aoun names a President of the Republic. This President would have to ensure the viability and continuity of Hizballah’s armed wing and their weapons, through adherence to the flawed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Aoun and the group. The President would also have to swear to resign his post after two years [as was suggested by Syria’s mailbox (Berri) a full three months ago] and pending the election of a new Parliament.
The leading name on Aoun’s mind for the post is rumoured to be Pierre Daccache [another Presidential Nobody initially seen as a neutral body but now viewed by the March 14th group as being completely aligned to Aoun’s FPM].
2. The post of Prime Minister would be barred to members of the Future Movement or a member of the March 14th group. This would only take place after Daccache’s election and Siniora’s resignation, of course, thereby pushing the parliamentary majority out of the office to which elections accorded it.
After this dissolution of the anti-Syrian majority’s representation in both top executive seat, the chosen politician for the Premiership would [according to the plan] symbolically declare his commitment to the International Tribunal. Not that there would be any chance for an implementation of any of the internal and/or international resolutions passed over the past 3 years under Aoun’s version of Syria’s plan:
3. Hizballah, and the rest of Syria’s allies in Lebanon would obtain veto power in the Cabinet through a 45% representation.
Combined with the neutralization of the Presidency, this would erase any executive control by March 14th and would provide the Syrians the implementation of a plan they had failed to achieve through war, assassination, and civil strife. Once again, despite any professed commitment to the International Tribunal [or any other UN Resolution on Syria's interference and Hizballah's weapons], the adoption of Aoun's version of Syria's plan would ensure a failure of implementation.

As a final note, I'll also mention this tidbit from the plan:
4. Hizballah and the pro-Syrians would also regain control over the Constitutional Council (the formation of which has been blocked for the past two years), as well as officer appointments throughout the various security apparatuses.
The main objective of this point would be to finish off the work of the campaign of assassinations directed against Anti-Syrian MPs by challenging electoral victories in districts secured by the Anti-Syrian coalition, thus dismantling the March 14th hold over Parliament. The move would also erase advancements made in the vetting of some security services from officers and agents collaborating with the Syrian regime.

To sum up, under Aoun's version of Syria's plan, the anti-Syrian coalition would lose its majority in Parliament; and its control of the Cabinet, the Premiership, and the Presidency.

Needless to say, the Parliamentary majority has already issued its rejection of this absurd proposal, calling on its MPs to attend a Presidential election session tomorrow. Hizballah, for its part has already declared that its MPs will not attend the session, laying the ground for a possible election of a President along a 50%+1 majority.

If a 50%+1 election does take place, the country's rumour mills place the leading candidate for the position to be Nassib Lahoud.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Independence Day 2007

In tribute to the soldiers who fought and died for our freedoms in Nahr el Bared

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pierre Gemayel - One Year On

How Many More?
"...Update: Pierre's Gemayel's assassination has been confirmed by all major news organisations. May he Rest in Peace...."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ban Handshakes

Images as seen on Yahoo!News

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Chehabi Compromise

For all the dithering hithering and thithering on the names of the men that have made it onto Bkirki's list of candidates [for the seat of the Presidency], one name has evaded mention - that of Charles Rizk.

Whether Charles Rizk's name is actually on the Patriarch's list or not is still to be determined - the names on the list itself are, after all, meant to stay secret. What is clear [to this observer, at least] is that for all the talk of "consensus", his name is one that is capable of providing a non-debilitated consensual compromise for the seat.

And a compromise it would be, given the candidacy of two men: Butros Harb and Nassib Lahoud, who's election would be suitable homage to the long years of struggle - against Syrian rule and in preservation of our state institutions - both before and after February 14th, 2005.

But if the past two "revolutionary" years have shown us anything, it is that for all our will and determination at establishing our national sovereignty, we cannot ignore the regional headwinds of a rising Iran, and all the baggage (i.e. Hizballah) that goes with it.

In light of that battle over the country's sovereignty [added to that already being waged against Syria and its interests in Lebanon], "compromise" has taken on the connotation of impotence and defeat - but it needn't be.

The Chehabists

References to Michel Edde and Michel el Khoury have highlighted a trend, long present in Lebanese Presidential politics, to revert to a political grouping of men known as Chehabists [in reference to the former Army Commander-come-President of the Republic, Fouad Chehab], at times of crisis. The trend itself dates back to Fouad Chehab himself, and was carried forth by [the ineffectual] Elias Sarkis and [the prematurely departed] Rene Mouawad (husband of current Anti-Syrian Minister and Parliamentarian, Nayla Mouawad).

To the Syrians, that grouping has always seemed to provide acceptable "men of the moment" who could always be disposed of post-election [hence Sarkis' ineffectiveness and Mouawad's murder]. With the arrival of Syrian tutelage in the early nineties, such window-dressings, idiosyncratic to the Lebanese scene as they were, became unnecessary and the age of the Damascus-Presidents was ushered in and firmly installed. With the arrival of the Cedar Revolution, our continued hope is that it will be effectively thrown out.

And so we return to the Chehabists, at a time when crisis is being threatened and they (as evidenced by the lists) are being looked to as possible solutions.

For all of Edde and Khoury's Chehabi credentials, however, their election would almost surely invoke a post-elections dismissal of the Sarkis variety [if they're lucky]. Throughout two years of revolution, their presence has been negligible, at best.

The Effective Compromise

That Chehabi ineffectiveness, however, is met with another Chehabi candidate who's presence might provide a welcome deviation from the compromise "connotations". As Justice Minister, Charles Rizk was/is tasked with the handling of the international tribunal portfolio as well as that of the widely anticipated parliamentary electoral draft law. On both issues he has performed admirably, shrugging what personal interests and ties he had held to his pro-Syrian protege, Emile Lahoud, in favor of the execution of an agenda essential to the survival of our drive at sovereignty.

And this, it should be said, from a man who had attained the position of Justice Minister not on the basis of his effectiveness but on the basis of his Chehabist politics and political links [links too closely and for too long associated with elements long in their drifting towards the Syrian camp - thus rendering him a compromise candidate, and not more].

Commenting on the Presidential Elections and candidates exactly three months before the end of current President, Emile Lahoud's, mandate I wrote:
Compromise is a tricky affair. In seeking out the ultimate neutral president, how can we be sure that we don't concede more than what we set out to preserve?

...

After fifteen years of erosion of our country's institutions of the state, among them the army but also among them the constitution, it is time-overdue for a President not brought in on the back of yet-another "one-time-only" constitutional amendment. After three years of political assassination, it is important that we not disregard the sacrifices of those who openly voiced their opposition to tyranny and terror by placing at the nation's helm a voice constrained by office or character. And after three years of neglect, it is important that we not find a president who will allow his office to be once again sidelined in the political process, whether the reason be proclaimed neutrality or assigned irrelevancy.
Charles Rizk's actions over the past two years stand as a testament to his ability to preserve the Lebanese peoples' drive for sovereignty, to tackle the issues that will dominate that drive over the next six years, and to do so in a fashion which could, once and for all dispose of the tainting and sidelining that has plagued the Presidency since that fateful extension in 2004.

Unfortunately for us, however, that testament is precisely what will be used by those in the service of Syria and Iran to prevent his ascension to the seat of the Presidency. As we mentioned before, compromise and consensus are just supposed to be another way of saying impotence and ineffectiveness. Or did you not know that?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

War of the Presidential Nobodies

Before starting this post I just want to remind everyone that voters should choose THREE CANDIDATES in our Blacksmiths of Lebanon Presidential Poll [RIGHT SIDEBAR]. Call it our little effort at "consensus"...

...As for our politicians' efforts, they have culminated in what Naharnet has referred to as the "War of Lists" in the nation's partisan media outlets and newspapers. The lists in question refer to the one list of presidential candidates prepared by the Maronite Patriarch and submitted to the Shiite representative of the pro-Syrian Opposition, Nabih Berri, and the Sunni leader of the Anti-Syrian majority, Saad Hariri.

All the lists are in agreement over the presence of Butros Harb, and Nassib Lahoud as the partisan candidates of the Anti-Syrian Parliamentary Majority, and of Michel Aoun as the FPM candidate [and no other party, in reality]. As for the other remaining candidates on the list, each outlet has applied its brand of speculation on the format and content of the names therein.

According to official sources and whispers, both Naharnet and NOW Lebanon, put the total number of names on the list at six and list the three "consensus" candidates as:

Demianos Qattar: Who? Qattar (47) served as the Minister of Finance in Najib Mikati's two month interim government. As far as anyone is concerned he has remained indescript throughout the Cedar Revolution and the drive to sovereignty, although he is "admired" for his work ethic and "known" for his closeness to pro-Syrians Mikati and Emile Lahoud. As President, Qattar would most likely have creative ideas made completely inapplicable by his political inexperience.

Joseph Tarabay: Who? A Ministry of Finance and banking sector veteran, Tarabay is well known in Maronite political circles, having already attained the post of President of the Maronite League as a "consensus" candidate earlier this year.

Robert Ghanem: Who? The parliamentary representative of the Rashayya district, Ghanem was elected, with the backing of both March 14th [Future Movement and PSP] and March 8th [Amal] political groups. Although his political stances have echoed those of the Anti-Syrian Parliamentary Majority, inside political circles continue to view him with some degree of suspicion, noting deep and tacit ties with pro-Syrian elements which could outweigh any outspoken positions should he become President.

Meanwhile, Ghanem's name was added to the list circulated by mock-leftist pro-Syrian media outlet Al Safir, which [quoting "European diplomatic sources"] replaced Tarabay and Qattar with the names of two other B-list candidates:

Michel Edde: An old time political veteran who has served in various ministerial posts since 1966, and, more recently, for his post as Director General of French-language Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le jour and as former President of the Maronite League [having been replaced this year by Tarabay]. Politically, Edde is known for views described as moderately anti-Syrian and actions described as ineffectual and circular. As President, Michel Edde can be expected to be as effective in solving the national crisis as Elias Sarkis was from 1976-1982.

Michel el Khoury: Another old time politician of the Michel Edde/Elias Sarkis caliber who, in addition to having filled a number of ministerial posts starting in the 1960s, is best known for being the son of the country's first post-independence President, Bcharra el Khoury. Khoury also served as Governor of the Central Bank from 1978-1985 and from 1991-1993.

In its version of the Patriarch's list of B-class candidates, Al Akhbar, another pro-Syrian Lebanese daily known for its strong ties to Hizballah and pro-Syrian elements in the Lebanese Army, classified candidates along four categories:

Political Candidates: Including Harb, Lahoud (Nassib), and Aoun.

"Consensus" Candidates: Including those names mentioned on As-Safir's list along with those of [Who?] Fares Boueiz (B-class pro-Syrian candidate extraordinaire) and [Who?] Pierre Dakkach - a "consensus" by-election candidate over whom there remains little consensus.

Economic Technocrat Candidates: Including Tarabay, Qattar, and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh (check here and here for previous commentary and analysis).

Military: Army Commander Michel Suleiman - an unconstitutional choice known to be the option being pushed by Syria and Hizballah. Fears remain high that both groups [Syria and Hizballah] will perpetuate a violent political crisis [such as a two-governments scenario] in order to pressure the Anti-Syrian Parliamentary Majority - and the nation - to accept Suleiman as a 'salvation candidate'. For more on this check here and here.

And so, with the above - and with the exclusion of Harb and Lahoud [and Aoun, but for a different reason altogether], the country inches closer to mediocrity. I'll save further commentary for the comments section but it bears noting that the Patriarch's list did come with a number of conditions: That it be considered binding; that it be kept secret; and that Parliament convene with a quorum of 2/3 come November 21st. Should that session not convene however, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Farid Makari (a member of the Anti-Syrian Parliamentary Majority) has vowed to call Parliamentarians into session and to elect a President with [at least] 65/128 majority.

For a look at my previous commentary and analysis of the upcoming Presidential elections follow this link or check this post. And don't forget to cast your vote [for your top three Presidential candidates] in our Blacksmiths of Lebanon Presidential Poll.

Douma Game Shut Down!

The one-day old Douma [Lebanese Political Game] on which this blog and others reported yesterday, has been shut down due to "legality problems".

Speaking to the DailyStar, the game's creator gives some insight into the game's creation [but nothing on the reasons behind his game website's closure]:
"We tried, with a medium we know [games], to give the people their given rights as citizens, to control the attitude and decisions of the politicians they elect ... We tried to find another way for the fans to relieve their anger," the creator of Douma, who asked to be identified only as Z.F., told The Daily Star.

The game is clearly a reservoir of the collective political angst in Lebanon. Z.F. said the idea first came to him last December during the early stages of the opposition sit-in.

"My wife and I were trapped for five hours between Bwar and Safra and we couldn't get to work," Z.F. said. "So we sat on a bridge where young people were gathered holding stones and sticks - it was really an awful puppet show where the politicians are safe back in their castles pulling the strings of the people."
So far the site and its owner have remained mum on what exactly the issues of legality that shut it down were. Whatever they turn out to be, those who played the game and those who loved it will have to settle for having loved and lost rather than never having loved at all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lebanon's Pride at the Pan-Arab Games

Katia el Halabi of Lebanon celebrates after winning the all around gold medal at the women's gymnastics competition during the Pan Arab Games in Cairo November 15, 2007. (REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani)

Mabrouk Katia!!

And speaking of the Pan-Arab Games,

Lebanon will host the 12th Pan-Arab Games which is set to be held in 2011, Egypt's official news agency reported Monday.

The decision was made by the executive office of the Arab ministers of youths and sports, said the report.

Now that'll be a show! I wonder if we'll have a national team and a Hizballah team alongside it - not part of it mind you [as no one would think of forcibly integrating Hizballah's athletic wing into the national athletic forces].

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vote for your President!

Alright here it is [scroll down RIGHT SIDEBAR], the final installment of our "Presidential Elections 2007" online vote series. Most of the names up there are familiar with the exception of Joseph Tarabay and Demianos Kattar.

With an eye on "consensus", we've added a new option to this final poll which allows voters to choose 3 candidates [as opposed to one]. After the vote count is complete (on November 24th - for now) the candidate over whom most voters agreed will be chosen as the "consensus candidate".

Once again, all comments, questions, or suggestions are welcome in the comments section of this post.

So get voting and be sure to tell refer all interested to this post/poll - the wider the voting audience the more accurate the results.

Strategically - Hizballah Can't Win

Fellow blogger Jeha covers all angles in this excellent post on PJM. Read the entire thing [its well worth it!] and let us know what you think in this post's comments section.

Douma: Release Your Frustrations

A gigantuous hat tip to fellow blogger Failasoof for this excellent find!

Douma [Lebanese Political Game] allows the player to choose among seven Lebanese political leaders including Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun, Walid Jumblatt, Emile Lahoud, Saad Hariri, Nabih Berri, and Hussein Hajj Hassan (God forbid anyone poke fun at Hassan Nasrallah!).

Each character has a special power (hilarious!) and both the characters and the backgrounds are excellently designed (Jumblatt, Lahoud, and Geagea were fantastic).

Check the permanent link to the game on the left sidebar (below the Blogosphere feed digest). So anytime our politics puts you in the mood to kick some ass, feel free to scroll down and click on the link denoted by the above image.

Free Downtown!

Lebanese employees and shops owners who work in the area carry banners reading in Arabic: ' Leave Downtown Beirut out of your political struggle, have mercy on your country's brothers and families,' in downtown Beirut, Lebanon Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007, as they protest their plight and seek government compensation or tax breaks almost a year since the pro-Syrian Hezbollah and opposition allies set up camps in downtown Beirut in a failed effort to unseat Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's Western-backed government. The encampment has paralyzed the business heart of the Lebanese capital. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Orange Bark - Yellow Bite

According to the Orange General, if the parliamentary majority were to exercise its rights and avoid a vaccuum in the executive branch by electing a president via a simple majority, the opposition's regular Joes would be thrown into such a rage that they would raid the Prime Minister's offices - along with other government offices.

Now this isn't anything new, of course. Aoun and the rest of the pro-Syrian opposition have been threatening the country with violent action for months now [did I mention they started a war and staged a mock coup d'etat already?] But I was curious, if push came to shove, would the opposition regular Joes' reaction be...

...reticence and confusion?

Yes. That, at least, according to the last bi-weekly Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll. The poll asked voters what their personal reaction would be to the election of a M14 candidate by simple majority [after November 12th] and how they would translate that reaction into action.

The choice of "opposition" options on the poll provided opposition supporters with a lucid description of the reality of their situation. Faced with that reality, many simply refused to answer. To their credit, those who did answer chose "peaceful demonstrations" as their favored mode of opposition, while [more worryingly] the same percentage of voters chose "civil strife" as "regular parliamentary opposition".

A quick scroll down [along the right sidebar] to our newly added RUMOUR MILLS section, and a click on the FPM Forum added a quick confirmation to the above. For all the talk about the violent popular outrage, most regular Joes would not resort to violence to achieve their means - that sentiment should be lauded.

The same cannot be said about the FPM's allies, however. Reports continue to emerge of intense training and heavy arming of pro-Syrian factions by Hizballah and Syria, respectively.

In a newly released report by the Hariri-owned Lebanese daily, Al-Mustaqbal, "imported partisans" of part-time comedian and full-time Syrian scoundrel, Wi'am Wahhab, were said to be undergoing intensive training alongside other pro-Syrian groups whose ranks have been bolstered with fighters from Syria. Some of those pro-Syrian groups include the PFLP-GC and Fatah Infada [from which Fatah al-Islam was formed] who were reported to have laid mines around their bases in the Beqaa [bases which stretch across the border into Syria] and who, according to the report, have received heavy weaponry from Syria - including armored vehicles and tanks!

As we've highlighted in our other posts, the arming of these pro-Syrian groups is in line with the Syrian regime's strategy of precipitating an outbreak of civil strife and chaos in Lebanon in order to lay the ground for a possible takeover of the Presidency by Army Commander Michel Suleiman [primarily but not exclusively] and hindering of the implementation of UNSC Resolutions aimed at safeguarding Lebanese sovereignty in the face of such interventions.

If push comes to shove in the coming week, look for the presence of these groups among the "popular crowds" that will be attempting a raid on the institutions of the state. And while the Orange media machine continues to undermine its credibility by preoccupying itself with the fictional fabrications of the pro-Syrian propaganda units at Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, Syria's terrorist militia units continue to take up positions, ready to burn the country to the ground and overrun its democratic institutions - yellow flags leading the charge, yellow flags at their head!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Presidential Recap

For the past week, we’ve been quiet on the issue of the upcoming presidential election, but that’s only because we’ve already said most of what needs to be said.

We’ve shown what’s legal and what’s not; we’ve shown why the politics of some have pushed them to take a certain stance on the Presidency; and we’ve shown why the sects of some have pushed them to take the stances they have taken on the Presidency.

We’ve shown what questions the people should be asking of their presidential candidates; we’ve shown who those candidates might be; and what their “true” political stances or objectives are.

We’ve also shown why and how, both the Syrians and their allies led by Hizballah will go to any ends to prevent the election of a President capable of implementing the international resolutions and internal conciliations that will act as the country’s bulwarks of sovereignty and democracy.

So having said all that, could it be that the past two weeks have really added nothing new to the impending presidential election? No, of course not – there was Paris, after all. But if Paris proved one thing, then it was aptly summarized by this quote [highlighted in an excellent post by Anton Efendi at Across the Bay]:
Aoun has clearly realized that the Memorandum of Understanding was a grave mistake. However, it appears that the threat of assassination will be able to keep him from jumping ship and making a deal with March 14.
That quote was taken from another excellent editorial piece on NOW Lebanon, in which another quote is worth highlighting:
Some sources suggest that in his talks with Saad Hariri, Aoun went so far as to outline a theoretical six-month disarmament plan for Hezbollah, to be implemented after his election as president.

Regardless of whether or not this rumor has any merit to it, the fact that it seems plausible highlights quite clearly why Hezbollah, Syria, and their other friends have no intention of ever letting the General close to Baabda.
But how new is this? Isn’t that the line pushed by most rational observers since the signing of that ridiculous Memorandum of Understanding? It is.

And for all the talk of Iranian-Saudi agreement on Lebanon and the Presidency, the implementation of that agreement will continue to rely on a man who has preferred to embarrass his masters in Tehran and tote the Syrian line instead. A line which once again is summarized as: "a name" [in this case Suleiman's] or chaos.

So sit tight and get ready for the ride. When your silver lining depends on Aoun making the right choices and Nasrallah ignoring Bashar (seeing as the French are simply incapable of taking a firm stand with Syria and denying them the room to assassinate - I mean maneuver! - which the regime seems to crave) you know you're in for a rough ride!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Autumn Flames

A Lebanese army helicopter drops water over forest fires blazing in several parts of south Lebanon and in the Shouf mountain, November 6, 2007. (REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)

Its been a devastating Autumn for Lebanon's forests. While trees elsewhere in the world have been losing their leaves to the Autumn wind, trees in Lebanon have had their leaves, trunks, and branches scorched by flames set by political arson, criminal arson, economic arson, and the weather.

Here is more on this week's fires; on last week's fires; and last month's fires.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Electing a Lebanese President 102 - B: Sectarian Interests

On sectarian interests, there is a case to be made by the Maronite Patriarch – and those Christian political leaders who have adopted the stance – for a two thirds interpretation of the presidential clause [pre-November 12th. As mentioned in earlier posts, after Nov 12th, the election of a President by a simple majority is perfectly legal under any interpretation].

In a community paranoid about the loss of political representation and influence in a country where demographic trends have pulled at that influence for decades, that interpretation stands on the grounds that the constitution – and the amendments implemented to it up to now in the Taef – is a sectarian one at its core; and the interpretation of any articles [in general, but for now specifically] pertaining to the selection of the community’s top post must take into account the spirit with [and circumstances under] which that document was drafted.

Those circumstances [and the spirit to which is alluded] mean [to those players above] that for an accord: negotiated to sow sectarian cohesion back together after nearly 20 years of violent sectarian conflict; in which the powers of the top Christian post were drastically weakened in favour of a Sunni Muslim post (that of the Prime Minister); and in which a Parliamentary Christian-to-Muslim ratio of 6-to-5 was reduced to one of 5-to-5; it would have been ludicrous and irresponsible for the representatives [of all the sects present] to assume that the Christians would also agree to the possibility of a Muslim [+1] election of the country’s Christian President (no matter the embedded vagueness that comes with having the Syrian regime “sponsor” the accord).

And while some would argue that the agreement could just as well have entailed a Christians [+1] vote, the historical fractionality of the community [as compared to the other communities], in addition to the community's respectively decreasing demographics and the intervening circumstances of the time-period in which the Accord was drafted, might prove otherwise.

Those circumstances outlined a bloody civil war in which members of the country's Christian community fought [and led] on either side of the political divide. While turf wars were not uncommon in any community, the broad strokes of the conflict [in its dying days, at least] defined a purely Christian anti-Syrian wing against a mixed Muslim-Christian pro-Syrian one. At the time Article 73 was (re-)written at the end of the war, the Christians were divided, just as they had been at the beginning of it.

And so, it is that sectarian-based interpretation of the Constitution and its articles surrounding the Presidency that is driving the positions of the Patriarch and those March 14th Christians openly declaring their support for a position that would otherwise be incompatible with their political stances.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Electing a Lebanese President 102 - A: Political Alignments

While the previous post dealt with the constitutional constraints and procedures in electing a President, there remains the issue of why the interpretation of the constitutional text has generated so much conflict.

In looking at the positions taken by either side, it remains essential to understand the differences in intention attributed to what otherwise may appear to be common stances. These differences can be broken down to two classes: those interpretations based on precedent-setting long-term sectarian interests; and those based on the current (short-term) political alignments.

On the short-term political interests, the interpretations are easy enough to decipher. In one corner lies the March 14th Anti-Syrian Parliamentary bloc which holds enough Parliamentary seats (68/128) to claim majority [even after a series of assassinations - widely attributed to the Syrian regime - which diminished their numbers] and which has, for the most part, called for the election of a President on the basis of 65 votes or more [a legal choice by all interpretations if the election occurs on, or after, Nov 12th] .

As a political platform, the group has called for a President capable of upholding and promulgating the Cedar Revolution [which continues to seek the elimination of instruments of Syrian intervention in Lebanon's affairs – such instrutments as the use of Hizballah’s weapons to implement Syrian/Iranian regional agendas, the presence of Syrian collaborators throughout various security services, the presence of non-Lebanese armed factions on Lebanese territory (think PFLP-GC), and so on and so forth] and the international resolutions passed in support of that revolution and the establishment of Syria-independent sovereign Lebanese state [those resolutions include UNSC 1559, UNSC 1701, and UNSC 1759].

In the other corner lies the March 8th pro-Syrian opposition bloc which had called for the election of a President under a constitutional interpretation calling for that vote to take place only under a 2/3 quorom, and now [after that requirement has gone out the window due to the Nov 12th postponement of the Presidential Election session of Parliament] continues to call for it under penalty of civil strife and violence. The group's stance is largely taken as an attempt to force the Parliamentary majority into accounting for their interests [and by extension the interests of their allies in Syria/Iran] and limit the ability of the March 14th majority to elect a President directly [i.e. solely using the majority's 68 votes].

As a political program, the March 8th group is thought to be primarily interested in ensuring the election of a President incapable of implementing any resolutions [either domestic or international] that could limit the role or capabilities of Syrian/Iranian interests in the country. Those resolutions, are said by the group, to themselves be instruments of "Western intervention". The group itself views its stance as a call for "consensus" and the election of a President pliant to all "domestic" interests.

The presence of two groups, in particular, within the March 8th alliance adds yet another dimension to the stance, however. Those groups are Hizballah and Michel Aoun’s FPM.

In the case of the former, while the pro-Syrian interpretation holds firmly, it is important to recognize the group’s rejection of the national reconciliation agreement known as the Taef Accord in which the election of a President [and the revision of the constitutional framework currently in place] is embodied. To Hizballah, any breakdown in the Taef and the institutional procedures it embodies would serve to promulgate its agenda of scrapping the document all together in favour of one it can more readily negotiate/impose. This interpretation is reinforced by calls by the group’s nominal leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for presidential conventions in violation of the Accord [such as a presidential referendum]. A call for a 2/3 majority vote backed up with a threat of violence - even when the election of a President by a simple majority is constitutionally legal [after Nov 12th] by any and all interpretation – would bring about that breakdown.

In the case of Michel Aoun and his FPM, the presence of sectarian interests [purportedly, and as described in the sequel to this post] plays a major role. This does not hold out against the fact, however, that the former General had backed his presidential hopes on his group’s presence within the March 8th alliance and, specifically, its alliance to Hizballah [although Hizballah’s commitment to Aoun’s election remains highly questionable].

Friday, October 26, 2007

Add Another One to the List...

...so that makes 19 sects now?

Well, welcome to the club I suppose [get out while you still can!].

I wonder how many seats in Cabinet they'll threaten to burn incense all over our roads for?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Suspect Fires Return


Update: What the &^*%!

From NOW Lebanon:
A Lebanese woman was arrested today in Chekka, North Lebanon, for starting a fire that destroyed about 10,000 square meters of land over the past two days.

Internal Security Forces (ISF) said in a communiqué that investigations are underway to determine whether there is a link between this fire and those erupting at the North.
----

Three weeks after suspect blazes were lit all across Lebanon - resulting in over 200 simultaneous fires (started at different times over two days) - the same seems to be occuring, albeit on a slightly small. This from Naharnet:
Wild fires raged across tinder-dry forests of north and south Lebanon Wednesday as choppers from the nearby Island republic of Cyprus tried to help combat tongues of flame threatening population centers.

Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa pointed an accusing finger at unidentified assailants charged of starting the fires.

"The big question is: how did these fires start late at night and in areas that are not linked to the road network," Sabaa told Voice of Lebanon radio.

He disclosed that in the "Eioun al-Samak region of the Minyeh district residents observed smoke billowing from the nearby mountain, they innocently headed to the source of smoke to extinguish the blaze, but they were shot at."

"This supports suspicion that these fires are intentional," Sabaa added.

...

In south Lebanon tongues of flame shot up in the sky from pine and oak forests of south Lebanon's Bisri-Sfarai region, according to police.

Civil Defense teams operating fire engines sprayed olive and orange groves surrounding the region with water to prevent the spread of fires as other teams of volunteers tried to help in combating the spreading inferno.

An official at the Civil Defense directorate reached by telephone told Naharnet: "We are carrying out a double mission, on the one hand we combat the forest fires and, on the other, we try to prevent the blaze from reaching population centers."

He attributed the fires to the long summer and dry land.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

St. George Hotel Debate

As a person not too familiar with the issue, I am always interested in any information to come out on the St. George Hotel and the complete debacle surrounding it.

On that note, Fink Ployd, over at Blogging Beirut, has put up an interesting post about the St. George Hotel and its saga, which has been ongoing since the end of the civil war. The post is ripe with photos, videos, and a translated speech by the owner of the hotel.

The story of the St. George Hotel has proved a divisive one for years now, with many families in Lebanon decrying the tactics and business practices of SOLIDERE while others defend it and its actions and motives, claiming it is solely responsible for the regeneration of Beirut's downtown in the years after the end of the civil war.

In a post published last July, we highlighted a NOW Lebanon article tackling the issue of the Politics of Property in Lebanon. The St. George Hotel was among the properties examined as part of that article:
Despite rumors, Solidere has not prevented the hotel from renovating, nor has the company yet offered to buy the hotel property. However, the loss of the marina coupled with a lack of compensation has made restoration of the hotel financially non-viable for the time being. Solidere could not be reached for comment on the St. Georges.
Read the entire NOW Lebanon - St. George Hotel piece here. Whoever may be right, and whatever the case may be, both pieces are definitely worth a read/listen if you're interested in getting familiar with the subject (videos on Fink Ployd's post are in Arabic, with the first being from [the March 1th affiliated] LBC and the remaing three from [the Aoun affiliated] OTV).

Update: The debate continues at Blogging Beirut with the addition of two new videos (we'll let you know when the remaining two come online) chronicling the hotel's history, along with a "legal analysis" of the the conflict between Solidere and the St. George Hotel [Disclaimer: I haven't read the legal analysis and even if I had, I'm not a lawyer, so I can't vouch for how credible it is. Whatever the case may be, however, check out the videos and let us know your opinion on the matter in this post's comments section.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back to the Source...

Sidon, Lebanon - Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007: (Top) A Sheik from the Palestinian Scholars' Association, stands near the family of Shaker Youssef al-Absi, Fatah Islam's fugitive leader in front of the al-Arqam Mosque. (Bottom) A general security forces' member stands guard near families of Fatah Islam fighters in front of the al-Arqam Mosque in the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon.

Eleven families of the militant Fatah Islam group left the southern Lebanese city of Sidon Wednesday on their way to Syria following weeks of negotiations to allow them to leave, officials said but six families stayed behind, including that of al-Absi. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
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