Wednesday, March 28, 2007


While Arab leaders continue to meet to hammer out a series of proposals aimed at stabilizing a region wrought with instability, France's president has moved to trump Syria's international waiting game.

According to the Dailystar, French president, Jacques Chirac has initiated preparations to form the international tribunal under a UN Chapter 7 mandate if its establishment under its current mandate continues to be blocked in Lebanon by Syria's allies. In statements made on Tuesday, the French foreign ministry confirmed that the Chapter 7 motion would be launched before the end of Chirac's term, due to expire this May.

The announcement now brings to a head the struggle in Lebanon where Syria has sought to cripple the formation of the tribunal through a series of short-term crises initiated by its allies and led by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, President of the Republic Emil Lahoud, and the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri. By crippling Lebanon's executive, legislative, and constitutional institutions the autocratic regime in Syria continues to pursue a strategy aimed at waiting out the two main international backers of the tribunal, the Bush administration in the U.S. and the Chirac presidency in France, in the hopes that democratic change in those countries will lead to a policy shift more amenable to Syria's interests and, more specifically, its efforts at re-establishing its dominance over its smaller neighbour.

In Lebanon, pro-Syrian Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri has moved to counter a sharp increase in pressure to convene the first constitutionally stipulated parliamentary session of 2007 - and pass the International Tribunal under a joint UN-Lebanese mandate (as opposed to a Chapter 7 mandate) - initiated by the country's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority. Speaking to reporters late on Tuesday, anti-Syrian MP Ghassan Tueni (father of assassinated MP Gebran Tueni, and publisher of Lebanese daily An Nahar) announced that Berri had asked him to convey to the Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, his willingness to support "any electoral law the Christians agreed upon."

The move is likely to be followed by conditions aimed at ensuring an effective blocking of the 'internationalization' of the international tribunal (through its ratification under a Chapter 7 mandate) and ensuring that the tribunal remains limited to the Lebanese political scene, a forum over which Syria continues to have influence (as opposed to the international forum of the UN Security Council). These conditions would most likely consist of a link of the offer to the pro-Syrian opposition's demand for early elections, a demand that would instigate an almost automatic deferral of any discussion of the international tribunal draft bill in its current form - well beyond the expiration of the term of one of its main backers, Jacques Chirac - while opening up the possibility of bringing in a parliamentary majority capable of rendering the terms of the bill defunct.

Such a possibility would rely on the ability of Iran's newest acquisition (a word I have knowingly and carefully chosen) and Syria's ever-effective destructive tool, Michel Aoun, to bring about election victories in the 'electorally liberated' Christian regions of the South, while testing his ability to fend off strong drives by anti-Syrian politicians in the rest of the Christian regions across the country. But all this is a subject best left to another post!

For his part, the man tasked with drafting the country's next electoral bill (and the current version of the International Tribunal bill) has moved to assure the country that the bill "should be directed at having political and national implications rather than serving narrow sectarian purposes," adding that its goal should be the creation of a "powerful ruling majority and an active opposition," and that the electoral districts presented in the upcoming bill would be "smaller than the governorate (Mohafaza) and slightly larger than a as to keep a sectarian and economic balance within districts."

A reasonable offer that could serve as the basis for the next phase of the country's regeneration, a phase that must begin after the country's sovereignty is secured through a watchdog capable of limiting Syria's influence in the country. A watchdog embodied in the International Tribunal, and the leash for which will lay in the hands of the victors of the struggle that will unfold in April.


  1. As the above-mentioned events continue to unfold in Lebanon, Jeha provides more on the summit in Riyadh.

    My comment on that post reads as follows:

    "Right on, the focus is Iran and its growing influence on the Muslim and Arab scene (e.g., Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan). If anything this summit will try to hammer out a unified Arab/Muslim position that will "preserve" the dominancy of the moderate, 'secular', autocratic regimes that have ruled from Morocco, through Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi, Turkey, and Pakistan and limit (either through compromise - Iraq - or confrontation - Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon) the spread of Iran's influence.

    In the case of Syria, the Arab worry over Iran's growing influence, and the Assad regime's prostitution of that country as a vehicle for Iran's influence will surely provide Bashar with a tool through which to extract compromises over Lebanon. Whether he will go too far and back himself into another corner is something to be revealed."

  2. I do not trust the way the electoral law has been going in Lebanon. On the face of it, it seems to try and solve a paradox; a parliament that can represent both demography and entrenched sectarian/regional interests.

    If they are serious about doing this, they would go for the Qadaa system as a temporary measure to elect a decent parliament. On the longer term, a bicameral legislature is the only stable solution; a non-sectarian assembly, and a sectarian or regional senate.

  3. Those are exactly my thoughts on the matter Jeha. Thoughts I have typed up but not posted...I guess I too am awaiting the establishment of the international tribunal before beginning the long-awaited nation-building.

  4. Anonymous2:43 AM



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