Thursday, April 26, 2007

Breaking News: Bodies of Kidnapped Youths Found!

Lebanese news services are reporting the recovery of the lifeless bodies of Ziad Ghandour (12) and Ziad Qabalan (25) in the pre-dominantly Druze village of Jadra in the Chouf district of Lebanon's Mount Lebanon province.

The Dailystar has revealed that security services have a man in custody currenlty being interrogated in relation to the two youths' deaths. The paper also revealed that a brother of Adnan Shamas (killed in the January 25 sectarian clashes on the Beirut Arab University campus) is "being pursued and is believed to be hiding somewhere in [the] Bourj al-Barajneh [suburb of Beirut]".

The Associated Press quoted a security services official as saying that "Qabalan and Ghandour had been shot to death and that the bodies bore signs of beating."

The Ministry of Education has announced the suspension of classes at schools and universities across the country in view of today's gruesome discoveries.

Lebanese news sources are also declaring a widespread deployment of Lebanese Army units in Beirut and districs throughout the Chouf amid anger at the killing of the youths. The streets of the capital remain calm for the moment while Lebanese political leaders have condemned the killings.

The Lebanese Forces website is reporting that the bodies of the deceased were found with bullet wounds to the head, and that the execution style murders were carried out only hours after the two were kidnapped on Tuesday.

The website is also reporting that Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has appeard on Lebanese television station, Future TV, calling for calm in the wake of the recovery of the bodies of the two youths affiliated with his party.

According to the LBCI news website, the bodies were recovered behind a gas station 200 meters from the coastal highway linking Beirut to the city of Saida. Security services retrieved the bodies after having received a telephone call believed to have been made by the kidnappers, indicating the location of the bodies.

According to the Naharnet news website, the two youths are believed to have been affiliated with the Progressive Socialist Party, a party whose leader, Walid Jumblatt, has become a leading member of the March 14th anti-Syrian parliamentary block.

Police had earlier reported that the "mini van [in which the youths had been believed to be in] -- a white Renault Rapid -- was found deserted in Beirut's Shiyah neighborhood on Tuesday ... The two were likely to have been abducted in neighboring Ein el-Rummaneh", a Beirut district.

The youth's disappearance has sparked high tensions across the country as rumours spread that the incident was related to the death of a pro-Hizballah member of the Shamas family clan last January.

Naharnet reported, "An Nahar, citing well-informed sources, said interrogation with a number of witnesses has determined that the license plate number of one of the two cars used by the kidnappers corresponds to the Shamas family.

The Shamas clan, however, said in a statement distributed on Wednesday that it was not associated with the abduction of the two youths. "

Fellow blogger Abu Kais provides futher background on the incident:

[On January 25th], Adnan was reportedly shot, stabbed, tortured and killed in the PSP and Amal dominated area of Wata al-Musseitbeh in Beirut. The story goes that after he was killed, the killers formed a circle around the body, performed some kind of dancing ritual, dragged the body around, tried to dismember it and then dumped it on a sidewalk.

Less than two days after the murder, Hizbullah's al-Manar announced that it had the names of those who killed Shamas, alleging they were members of Jumblatt's PSP and Hariri's Future Movement. At the victim's funeral in Ouzai, Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah accused the government of the killing. On February 11th, another Hizbullah MP, Hussein Hajj Hassan, accused the interior and justice ministers of "executing Adnan Shamas in cold blood".

On March 3rd, Adnan's brothers filed a lawsuit against 15 individuals they believed are connected with the crime. The government's commissioner before the military court, Jean Fahd, referred the case to an investigative judge to "take the necessary judicial measures."

Three days later, the same judges announced the arrest of Syrian national Ragheb Ibrahim who "confessed to his crime" and claimed that he had shot Shamas after the latter aimed his gun at him. Ibrahim even reenacted the murder before television cameras. The Shamas family wasn't convinced, and issued a statement accusing "some politicians" of interfering in the investigation by obfuscating facts and "justifying the murder of the martyr and exonerating the killers".

On March 14th, we learned from the Lebanese media that Judge Fahd charged ten Lebanese in the same crime, and referred them to the investigative judge. Meanwhile, the Syrian national's lawyer, who was appointed by the Lawyers' syndicate, took himself off the case for unknown reasons.

A Parley with Toufeili

Sheikh Sobhi Toufeili has come out of hiding to give an interview to 'TIME' magazine. The former secretary-general provided interesting insight into the inner workings of Hizballah, and its inception, during the 1980's when he was in charge.

According to Toufeili, "Hezbollah is no longer a real liberation force but just a tool for Iranian interests. Hezbollah has become a very bad and corrupt organization."

As for the 1982 bombing of the Marine barracks, he admits that Hizballah was behind the operation and explains, "The Marines were not civilians. I considered the Americans as an occupying force and I fought them." But despite being "proud" of the operation he insists he had no part in it: "If I had had anything to do with it I would say so because my relations with the Americans are not so good."

When asked about the American hostages that went missing in Lebanon throughout the 80's, the cleric reveals that during negotiations surrounding their release, "We discovered that the hostages were a big treasure for Iran. They wanted to sell the hostages piece by piece."

Toufeili now lives in isolation somewhere in the hills east of the Bekaa valley. He was instrumental in bringing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon in 1982 to set the organization up and recruit local Lebanese Shia. He is now considered a traitor and an outlaw by the current leaders of Hizballah, both in Lebanon and Iran.

Photo: The "Mahdi Scouts" marching in Beirut

Read original article from TIME

Vote on a New Poll: Jacques Chirac and Lebanon

Forty-five (point seven) percent of voters believe there will be no change in the political landscape in the aftermath of the ratification of the International Tribunal. This according to last week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll (35 respondents). Perhaps most indicative of the deep divide permeating the country was the fact that the only choice that didn't get a vote was one that reconciled Christian leaders Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea.

This week's new poll takes a look back at Lebanon's relationship with Jacques Chirac, a man who held the French presidency for 12 years and whose successor will be chosen on May 6th, when the French electorate will cast their vote for either Segolene Royal or Nicolas Sarkozy in second round voting.

So cast your vote on Jacques Chirac and his longstanding relationship with this country of ours. Jacques Chirac, Friend or Foe?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Basil Fuleihan: Two Year Commemoration

On February 14, 2005, Basil Fuleihan was critically injured while riding in a motorcade with former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Hariri, in addition to 16 others in the motorcade, was killed.
Rushed to a Paris hospital, Dr. Fuleihan was expected to live only three days. After fighting for his life for over two months, Dr. Fuleihan succumbed to his injuries on April 18, 2005.

A Columbia PhD in Economics (’90), Dr. Fuleihan served in the United Nations Development Program, and was a Professor of Economics at the American University of Beirut, before becoming Lebanese Minister of Finance and later Minister of Economy and Trade.

At the time of his death, Dr. Fuleihan was serving as a member of the Parliament of Lebanon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Old Lebanese Song (Do You? Do You?)

I just had to share this with everyone!

(Huge Hat Tip to FinkPloyd at Blogging Beirut)

Vote on a New Poll, Summer War Forecasts

Apprehensive to Iran's growing influence in Lebanon yet hopefuly as to world's resolve to prevent a repeat of last summer's war in Lebanon, voters were split nearly down the middle as to the possibility of a resurgence of a destructive war across Lebanon's southern border.

Results on last week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll (37 respondents) reveal that 51.3% of voters feel that a war this summer will be averted, compared to 48.6% who feel that regional and international interests (from Iran to Syria to Israel to the US) will push for a repeat war of last summer's unfortunate events.

No matter what the case, airline bookings to Lebanon are now once again hitting the roof.

This week's poll explores the possibility of a shift in the political landscape following the ratification fo the International Tribunal due to take place by the first week of May (references: I, II).

Let us know what you think, cast your vote on the new poll, and keep those suggestions rolling in!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Touched by Tragedy [in Virginia]

Local and international news services have reported 2 victims of Lebanese descent in the Virginia Tech. shooting massacre that took place yesterday. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the victims' families and all those affected by this terrible incident.

The Lebanese students were identified as Rima Samaha, 18, and Ross Alameddine, 20.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Baby Steps

I came across an article in the Dailystar today which I thought would be interesting to highlight. The article itself is actually a highlight of a special feature series run in the An-Nahar daily to mark the 32nd anniversary of what many consider (not me but many) the event that launched Lebanon's civil war.

As part of that feature series, An-Nahar conducted interviews with three former wartime militia leaders, and asked them if they had any regrets or apologies to give for their actions in those years of blood and war. Below are quotes from the Dailystar summary article:
The paper asked Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to describe their opinions of the civil conflict - and to apologize to the Lebanese.

[Walid Jumblatt]

Acknowledging that he had made "many" mistakes against innocent people during the war, Jumblatt said he was willing to apologize to the war's victims, "if they accept my apologies."

"Apologies and regrets cease to make any sense if recipients fail to accept them," he said.

[Samir Geagea]

Geagea, one of the major players of the previous war, said certain events from that conflict were "the shame and regret" of the Lebanese Forces.

"I consider the events of Black Saturday to be a black mark on the history of the Lebanese Christian right wing, even if the LF was not born yet," Geagea said.

Geagea said that the LF did not want the war to happen, "but we couldn't remain silent while Palestinians and later on Syrians violated our rights and our land."

"Those who launch wars need to apologize and not those who defend themselves and their land against assaults," Geagea said.

He said he still expects an apology from the Syrians "for the atrocities they committed in Lebanon," adding the LF "opposed" further wars "unless we feel we are threatened and where constitutional institutions can no longer protect us."

[Michel Aoun]

Fifteen years of exile led Aoun to reconsider his war experience, he said, and perform a self-evaluation of past stands.

"War was never an option; both the assailant and the victim suffer," Aoun said. The former army general said that all the military operations he undertook during the war "were acts of self-defense, I never attacked anyone."

In a country where accountability has taken refuge in casting all the blame on others, and where the only recount of the past is an agreement to forget but not forgive, An-Nahar's efforts at engaging those most involved in the war in a dialogue over their actions is admirable.

As for the comments themselves, aside from the self-defence argument which is employed by every faction in Lebanon and has therefore been rendered moot, where Geagea and Jumblatt appear to be sincere, Aoun's comments are indicative of the massive delusion the man, and his followers are under. For in both the wars the Aoun was involved in, there are undeniable facts as to who the aggressor was (him) and the questionable circumstances he launched them under.

Missing from the interview was Nabih Berri, the leader of a major faction in the war and a man responsible for thousands of deaths among Palestinians and Lebanese. Hizballah also apparently had no comment on their civil war actions, actions which included a violent war in their Dahieh stronghold and led to the deaths of countless Lebanese Shiites. Actions which perhaps too closely resemble the predicament in which they have once again placed their constituency.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Never Again

Its time to stand up to the armed thugs before its too late, before it happens again!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vote on a New Poll, Results on the Parliament Crisis

Lebanese, or anyone who visited this blog over the past 12 days and voted on our poll, overwhelmingly support the adherence of the country's political factions to the protocols and institutions laid out in the country's constitution.

That, according to the Blacksmiths of Lebanon (BoL) poll carried out last week (41 respondents), the results of which may not be [surely are not] representative of the entire Lebanese population, or even the entire online Lebanese population, but which do provide a window on the mood pervading the tiny country.

Seeing as this is post [on a poll] of the people, I'll leave further commentary for the section dedicated to...the people...the comments section!

But I do have one thing to announce, a New Poll! on the sidebar (where the old one used to be) dedicated to the latest prophecy from our oracle in a cave. Theres a bevy - yes, a bevy - of choices to choose from (maybe too many? let me know in this post's comments section) but if you don't find one you like let it be known (again in this post's comments section).

So vote away! and I'll see you next week with another poll.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Heralding Our Next Darkest Hour

I'll dispense with the pleasantries in openning up this post and will, instead, attempt to provide a quick summary of the overall climate and specific events we can expect, if not in the following weeks, then at least in the month of May.

With respect to Hassan Nasrallah's latest speech, I will only say that it was a speech designed to act as a red herring for his movement's upcoming retreat from the untenable position he - and the rest of Syria's allies within Lebanon - had forced themselves into through the paralysis of the country's consitutional institutions and the attempted usurping of legislative and executive powers accorded to the country's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in the 2005 elections. It was an inflammatory speech, the major audience for which was Hizballah's own constituency.

The retreat I'm referring to is one that will see the expansion of Prime Minister Fouad Seniora's current government to one of approximately 30 ministers, including a number of ministers from outside the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, but more importantly, denying pro-Syrian groups' demands that they be given a veto over cabinet decisions. That deal is done ladies and gentlemen.

Of course, I haven't forgotten the International Tribunal, but for most intents and purposes, its fate has already been determined: it will pass, most likely before the end of the month, and most likely under a Chapter 7 mandate. The International Tribunal is un fait accompli.

From that perspective, it becomes evident that Lebanon is now entering a new (and as always, dangerous) phase, the herald of which was Hassan Nasrallah [in his last speech]. As the International Tribunal makes its way into the dominion of the international community, as it now gets played out in an arena in which Syria can no longer maim and kill, it is to Iran that Syria has turned to fight its miserable fight.

In Lebanon, there has been a shift in the ranks of the "opposition" forces. Where veto powers within the Lebanese cabinet were a neccessity for the Syrian regime, they are a tool for Iran to show its 'goodwill' to the Saudis and their allies in Lebanon. Iran had, after all, agreed to yield on that issue back in January.

That goodwill, however, is bound to be overshadowed by Iran's own international game. It is no coincidence, for instance, that on the same day that Hassan Nasrallah performed his song and dance, Iran's other prominent stooges were doing dances of their own, all coordinated, all projecting Iran's saber-rattling message.

The issue of Lebanon's future (and that of the Syrian regime) has now been transferred to that international game. A game where Iran will have no qualms about using its Foreign Legion (aka Hizballah, more on that later) to carry out attacks on UNIFIL forces in the south of the country, if it wants to; a game where the lives of countless mothers, fathers, and children in southern Lebanon will be sacrificed in an attack on Israel, if Iran feels the need to; and a game in which Hassan Nasrallah has turned our country into a Persian pawn, to be abused, violated, torn apart and subjugated.

That is the future Hassan Nasrallah has announced in his speech, that is the future his lieutenant has paved the road for in his interview, and that is the future that every Lebanese should stand up and reject, with every bone in his/her body, for the sake of his/her childern and for the sake of his/her country.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nancy Pelosi in Syria

"We have no illusions but we have great hope", U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Its a little late I know, but here it is, my commentary on Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to Syria represented by one cartoon and one quote. I will have something new up (on Hizballah and the future, most likely) very soon.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Vote on New Poll...

...if you can see it that is!

I just wanted to point out that we have a couple of new features gracing our sidebar. First is a Weekly Poll on which anyone can vote. For those of you who can't see it, I will try to find out what the problem is, most probably it has to do with your internet settings (if anyone has any suggestions about how to resolve this problem PLEASE PLEASE let us know in the comments section). This week's poll (Parliamentary Crisis) will be up until the 12th of April (to give people a chance to adjust their settings) after which we'll put up another one.

Other new items on the sidebar include a GoogleNews feed, and two Dailystar feeds (for political and business news, respectively). Blogger seems to have a funny quirk when it comes to feeds, apparently refreshing your page isn't enough to update them sometimes, and one does find the need to clear their temporary internet files (Tools>Internet Options>Delete Files) in order to update them.

In any case, thanks to everyone for reading and commenting, I look forward to hearing more from you, and I hope you enjoy these latest features...if you can get them to work!!

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