Monday, February 05, 2007

The Stakes

I haven't been blogging much recently. Not because there hasn't been anything worth talking about, but because despite all the talk, people continue to be entrenched along political fault lines dictated by personal and sectarian interests at the cost of Lebanon's national ones. In short, I'm a little disheartened.

To me, however, the issues - and the actions needed to address these issues in a manner that could preserve the country's sovereignty and independence on an earthly level, and its spirit on a metaphysical level - have remained perfectly clear. Either we embrace a vision of our country's future in a manner free of weapons, violence, and extremism (not just religious but political as well) or we succumb to the will of those who would have us start wars in the name of totalitarian regimes who continue to impose their fear-based will on their own populations as well as the global community.

To be sure, the former choice, or at least the politicians who are currently the vehicles to that vision, are not without their cons. But again, all this comes down to how we choose to deal with our problems.

In a recent conversation I had with a friend who supports a major Christian group within the Pro-Syrian Opposition, I posed the following question:

"If the pro-Syrian groups had their way, if they assumed complete control of the country's executive and legislative branches", (they currently control 2 of the 3 top executive positions in the country, the Premiership - and the Cabinet - along with the Parliament are the only branches of government not currenlty controlled by Pro-Syrian factions), "how many politicians would most likely be assassinated"?

Walid Jumblatt would certainly face a shorter life-span, so would Elias el Murr (who has already survived one assassination attempt) in all likelihood. Samir Geagea perhaps? There are others.

I asked my friend, "how many regular Lebanese would be abducted (most likely taken to Syria to join their over 200 counterparts already there), tortured, and terrorised if the pro-Syrians re-assumed control over the country"?

Several hundred to be sure in Tripoli. Dozens in Saida, Beirut, Zahleh, and all along the heavily populated Mount Lebanon province of the country. These would not fabricated numbers, they would simply be an extension of a policy long enforced in those regions while pro-Syrians have ruled the country as a whole, or those regions independently.

Then I asked my friend, "how many would die or disappear if the current Anti-Syrian parliamentary majority assumed complete control of the country's legislative and executive branches"?

The answer....most likely....NONE.
THAT, is what is at stake here today.


  1. Nice post sheikh. I have thought about these questions. You have asked if the pro-Syrian group gained control of all the country's executive branches. However, are not their demands for 1/3+ of the government, new parliamentary elections along presidential elections.

    Wait, lets play their game for a second. A 1/3 government would not amount to a return of the Syria era would it? Certainly the parliamentrary elections, in my opinion, would not so significantly change anything in the parliament and the new president would most likely not be Aoun but a neutral figure acceptable to both 'camps'.

    Of course, these questions are right to pose concerning a TOTAL takeover of the country by pro-Syrian forces. You have raised excellent pionts in highlighting this, however for such the 'detention' of all these people, the Syrian army and intelligence (not undercover mukhabarat that is) would have to return. Otherwise, the abduction of these fellows is unlikely to happen.

    Is that scenario a likely possiblity these days, BM Jade?

    Concering the killings, I have to ask a question. From Tueni's to Gemayel's assasination, nothing is being made clear. Also concerning the BAU fight. The government is in control of the agencies conducting these investigations. They have made detentions in the case of the BAU conflict but nothing in the other cases... why is that? This only gives rise to rumors that some pro-government forces have a had in some of these killings.

  2. With respect to the demands of the opposition I wrote of above, I think one can say that pro-Syrian forces mean to stall the Tribunal by seeking these goals; but I don't believe a return of Syrian soldiers and reign over Lebanon is likely... at least I hope not! I am waiting for your thoughts on whether or not this is likely, as I am not rhetorically asking.

  3. You're right that the current sorry lot is far better than the current "opposition". But for all practical purposes, they have already lost the "war". In this sense, I think we're past the Syrians.

    What matters now is how they choose to assume this loss. And it looks like they are being completely unable to deal with it...

  4. BSJ.

    Your fears are justified but your argument is flawed.
    The "pro-Syrians" as you call them, already control 2 of the 3 top executive positions in the country. Thus they should be able to abduct, torture and kill anyone they want. They do not need control of Cabinet and Parliament to do that.

    But they're not abducting or torturing anyone although you have enough simple, innocent and defenseless people who oppose them.

    This "pro-Syrian" camp, although not hostile to Syria, does not seem to want to pursue the Syrian style reign of terror in Lebanon.

  5. Jimmy7:32 AM

    Could Jumblatt have tried to kill Hamadeh?
    Could Seniora have killed Hariri?
    Could Gebran Tueni have killed Samir Kassir?
    Could Elias Atallah have killed George Hawi?
    Could Ahmad Fatfat have tried to kill Elias el Murr?
    Could Marwan Hamadeh have killed his nephew, Gebran Tueni?
    Could Samir Geagea have tried to kill May Chidiac?
    Could Amin Gemayel have killed his son, Pierre Gemayel?


  6. Thats the whole point. They control 2/3 of the executive branches and there continue to be assassinations of top political figures in the country. The army, as was clearly demonstrated on January 23rd, is not taking its orders from Seniora's cabinet but from Syria's sycophantic servant Lahoud.

    Abu Jaafar, through their control of 2/3 of the executive branches, there is already a de facto sharing of power. Witness the Internation Tribunal, it has been blocked by one of their main partisans, Berri. Giving these pro-Syrian elements a veto power in the cabinet would only stragetically strengthen their hand (they could water-down any proposition brought forward by the anti-Syrian majority, and then still block it through Lahoud or Berri, or manage a further watering down in order to pass it). Therefore, 1/3+ would simply end up being a 3/3 control of the executive branches.

    The assassinations are ongoing Wissam. And no they haven't been solved, but the intelligence units that could uncover them are controlled by Lahoud, legally, and are made up of units created under Syrian tutelage and in cahoots with the Syrians - clandestinely.

    So yes, we are witnessing a continuation of Syrian rule of the country. But it is not being implemented through Syrian army checkpoints, but through the stockpiling of weapons and assassination teams by group such as the SSNP, and the implementation of a Syrian agenda by Hizballah and Amal. They are choking the International Tribunal to death. They are choking the economy to death. And they are choking the general populace to death.

    If you don't think the past 2 years have been torture on the country as a whole, then I think your judgement, and perhaps your eyes, are greatly flawed.

  7. Jeha, I didn't get your point. Could you clarify? The parliamentary majorit has lost the war?

  8. Jimmy:

    The only case where a targetted figure has had a family relationship to the pro-Syrian side has been in the case of Elias el Murr, who's father in law is Emile Lahoud. Upon visiting Murr in hospital after his assassination attempt, Lahoud reportedly proclaimed: "Even I cannot protect you from them".

    I doubt he was talking about the likes of Nayla Mouawad when he made that statement.

  9. Therefore, 1/3+ would simply end up being a 3/3 control of the executive branches."

    If the above statement (by Blacksmith Jade) is true, this must mean that the current government has 3/3 control of the executive branches, as they now have most certainly 1/3+. Yet there are assassinations galore.

    Then it is said "no they haven't been solved, but the intelligence units that could uncover them are controlled by Lahoud, legally, and are made up of units created under Syrian tutelage and in cahoots with the Syrians - clandestinely."
    So basically, it doesn't matter whether they in fact control everything or not, because the (pro)Syrians run the country anyway?

    You are turning around in circles, my friend. And it doesn't help your argument.

  10. BlacksmithJade,

    I meant that the opposition has already lost the war. Their fight is essentially a rear guard action to protect their share of a shrinking pie.

  11. nic, try understanding a comment before trying to rebuff it. 2/3 of executive branches plus a blocking veto in teh cabinet gives 3/3. Having the cabinet alone, as the parliamentary majority currently has, doesn't mean they have 3/3.

  12. Thats my point exactly BS Jade, you say the assassinations are ongoing and committed through the opposition. OK, lets say thats true.

    Then wouldn't you think they would have no problem abducting people in the Metn and shipping them to Syria? I mean they already killed Gemayel in broad daylight. An abduction of any Abu X. should not be a problem.

    So why is the opposition waiting until they'v achieved their objectives in order to abduct people? Why not do it now in order to scare the LF farmers up in Bsharre and the Mouawad supporters in the Koura into submission and accepting their demands?

    Anyways...the point here is that it is impossible to sidline a large chunk of the population and talk down to them, no matter what their beliefs are, just because you think it is for the "good" of the country.

    There needs to be a compromise between both camps and the government is equally guilty for not reacting at all.

  13. Renée C.6:25 PM


    You say the opposition has already lost the war?

    I don't live in Lebanon so I don't really know what the thoughts and actions on the street level are, but it seems to me, so far, that the government is in a checkmate type of situation. Damned if they do, and damned if they don't, because of the threat of another civil war. And even without a civil war, how long can the economy hold out with the current conditions continuing?

    I read an article today in Y'net titled: Gun Sales Triple in Lebanon and it makes it sound like the real war hasn't even begun yet. If the opposition is cornered, then perhaps they may think they have nothing to lose in another civil war. I'm just trying to understand what's going on. I guess I've gotten "disheartened" too, sigh.

  14. First of all, its silly to think that there is no intimidation going on in the country. Going back about a year, I recall the story of the investigating magistrate assigned to the Al Medina Bank scandal taking refuge in Cyprus because of a bomb he found under his car, and the sighting of suspicious figures outside his home. That is one example, but there are plenty more like it.

    As for your obsession with abductions, the point is not to get openly caught, but to hide their trail. When Hizballah carried out a series of kidnappings in the 1980`s, it wanted the international community to know who carried out these kidnappings, and it wanted something in return. In Lebanon, right now, it would be against the pro-Syrians` interests to pursue such measures. In fact, their whole strategy has been to stop any investigation that can (and will) point the finger at them. So to that end, they kill, cover their tracks, hinder those pursuing them, eliminate their enemies and move on. They don`t need to kidnap anyone.

    I hope that clears it up for you.

    A large portion of the population got a chance to vote for their elected members under an electoral law Amal and Hizballah blocked from being reformed. They got their share of government and now aren`t happy that the rest of the country isn`t bowing to their wishes. They want to bully everyone in the country by closing down the main touristic hub of the city (downtown), disrupting airtraffic by blocking off the road to the airport, and using rocks, sticks, burning tires, and guns to forcibly block people from going to their work - I won`t mention the assassinations.

    The government didn`t start a war this summer, the government aggressively negotiated an end to the war. An end that preserved Hizballah not destroyed it.

    If you want to talk about accountability then talk about the war. The same people who caused $10 billion of damages in 1 month have been camped downtown killing off businesses for at least two months now. They receive a $30/day check from Iran and are content. Well I`m not content.

  15. Now I would not generalize within the opposition BSJ. The Bank Al-Madina related crimes are mostly of a purely Syrian nature. Hizballah had and has other sources of income.
    Furthermore, in any country in the world there is intimidation going on against judges or star witnesses in any case that would involve the laundring of billions of dollars.
    So citing this in order to support your current argument now is ineffectual.

    Moreover, much of the potential future abducting (back to the point which triggered this vivid argument) which would go on would be carried out by the SSNP influenced elements. The major groups within the opposition would contain those rogue elements.

    And you're right about that the opposition had their chance during the elections. Aoun and Hizballah should've allied back then and the whole situation would've been radically different.
    It's Hizballah's own fault for allying with Jumblatt in Baabda-Aley.

  16. Another point which came to mind right now. Again BSJ, I agree with you that the methods applied on the Tuesday of the strikes were wrong and that the population was intimidated through the methods applied.

    But your angelic anti-Syrian majority replied by setting up checkpoints, sending up snipers to the roofs, going to university classrooms armed with guns and burning down headquarters of rival parties.

    The dozens of innocent Syrians that were killed in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination would not agree with you that matters would not turn violent under the rule of the anti-Syrians....because they already have.

  17. This is what we call argument for argument`s sake ladies and gentlemen. Alright I`ll do this one last time.

    The opposition has some heterogeneity, but the fact of the matter is they are all (for one reason or another) undertaking the same actions, the direct result of which will be to undercut a national will to extract the country from the grip of a pariah state bent on imposing its will on us. So for all intents and purposes, they each may have different shovels, but they`re all digging us into the same hole.

    I never said the Anti-Syrian parliamentary majority was angelic. But you can`t compare the unfortunate attacks on Syrian workers that occurred directly after Harriri`s assassination with what is occurring today. Those attacks were isolated incidents, they were not part of a national campaign, planned and orchestrated by one body, and aimed at achieving a certain objective through the use of deadly, calculated methods. That fact doesn`t make them OK, but it certainly differentiates them from actions undertaken partisans of opposition parties loyal to Syria.

  18. Renée C.,

    As a side effect of my own background and experience, but I tend to think in terms of logistics, not tactics when I view current events. I discussed this on YaLibnan, stating that a "conservative revolution" is an oxymoron.

    The downside is that they will not go easily; Iran has invested too much in this little outfit.

    About the fact that "Gun Sales Triple in Lebanon", how do they know? Do they have a "benchmark" for saying that? In any case, they are right in fearing that a civil war will start once guns become plentiful... And when it does, the guns are provided "free". Untill then, unrest and tension.

  19. Renée C.10:44 PM

    Thanks Jeha.

  20. I love and agree with your opinion in 100%! "who has already survived one assassination attempt", we can certainly be sure that these things wouldn't have happen without HA around… That is exactly the message I am trying to express in my drawings in my blog.


  21. Hi Shirin,
    Thanks for the encouraging comments. I've been visiting your site since the July War and I find it really great and original. I'd be great to exchange blog links. Let me know if you're interested.

  22. BSJ, clear something up for me plz:

    There is a parliamentary 'anti-syrian' majority with a pro-syrian speaker of parliament. Now, Berri has refused to convene parliament in an extraordinary session and in this he has robbed the parliamentary majority of enacting any laws (i.e. for now, the Int'l tribunal ratification) in their favor within parliament.

    My question, is it really fair to say that the oppossition has control of 2/3 of the executive branches?

    Its more complex than that. And, btw, I am not defending in any way Berri's refusal to convene parliament and wish he did.

  23. Abu Jaafar,

    Is your emphasis on the executive or on the 2/3?


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