Thursday, April 19, 2007

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!


  1. Mahmoud Abdel-Rahmman Al Dariisi9:08 PM

    This blog is interesting. It has nice pictures. I like picutres. It also has fun polls. What does Blacksmith stand for? Why is your background black? Is that because of the bleak future of your country?

    Mahmoud Abdel-Rahmman Al Dariisi

  2. Anonymous2:42 AM

    The fact the single biggest vote is for "Hizballah will start it on orders from Iran" means that either a:Hizballah are the most naive political players in the entire region


    b: Nearly 1/3 of the voters no absolutely nothing about politics in the Middle East

  3. If thats the case, then I invite you to share you bountiful wisdom with that clueless 1/3 Anonymous and relieve them of their misconceptions!


  4. Anonymous12:59 AM

    Simple really. Doesn't take too much wisdom, just an ability to see past the blind hatred and apply some logic.

    You may loathe them or oppose them but they are not stupid. In the midst of an internal power struggle they are not going to be stupid enough to weaken their own position. Every Western intelligence agency, CIA included, has concluded that they are independent of both Iran and Syria and their relationship with both is in partnership. Therefore they cannot be "given orders" that will help Iran but weaken themselves.

  5. Smart politicians and strategists have been known to make mistakes.

    But what you consider impossible is exactly what happened last summer. Isn't it?

  6. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Such an action would not be a mistake or miscalculation, it would be political suicide. They would lose a lot a gain zilch.

    How what happened lat summer happened is, considering the lack of evidence, down to interpretation. The notion that Iran ordered the hit is popular amongst those opposed to Hizballah because it supports the accusation that they are a proxy army. The evidence for this is supposedly that Iran wanted to deflect attention away from its nuclear activities. This is illogical, as it was the Israeli response that deflected the attention and its not like the UN has only got the time to handle one subject at a time.

    The evidence that it was not ordered by anyone outside of Hizballah is that in a number of speeches, Nasrallah states quite openly that israel reneged on the previous prisoner exchange deal and that they were actively trying to take more soldiers. It is common knowledge that they tried twice before the successful operation in July.

    So in my mind, if someone says they are going to do something if and when they get the chance it is then unlikely that they have been ordered to do it at a later date and more likely that they got (were given?) the opportinity.

  7. That they wanted to deflect attention from their nuclear agenda is one argument. The fact that they also wanted to demonstrate their ability to project any conflict they (the Iranian regime) might enter with the international community onto the Lebanese scene, or onto the Israeli front is another.

    Yet another factor is the Syrian agenda in all this. By lighting up the southern border, Syria set up the stage for their "peace with Israel" card, a card they are attempting to play in return for being left alone in their devices for Lebanon.

    Both of these factors have been played out in the aftermath of the war.

    So has Hizballah's attempt to deflect attention from the national dialogue which was progressing towards domestic proposals for them to give up their weapons. Attempts they sabotaged with this senseless war.

    On the point of Nasrallah saying they had been planning this action for 5 months, I have to ask what the point of them entering into these national dialogues over their weapons was if they were going to start a war anyway? They reneged on every promise they made in those negotiations.

    So on a domestic level they are liars, on a wider regional level it is clear they are willing to sacrifice hundreds of Lebanese lives in order to advance Syrian and Iranian agendas.

  8. Anonymous4:25 PM

    The Iranians wanted to demonstrate their ability to project any conflict onto Lebanon and to Israel? To what end? Don't attack us or we will kidnap 2 more Israeli soldiers? Not exactly the greatest threat in the world.

    Syrias agenda of pressuring Israel into peace, possibly, but like the Iranian angle, you are placing the hypothesis on the premise that Hizballah started the war.

    I would ask what you consider starting a war means. That Hizballah executed an operation that Israel reacted to, or used as justification, by executing its own operation is not in doubt. But as far as I am aware, you start a war by either publicly declaring war, invading sovreign territory, or attacking sovreign territory. You cannot do any of those, knowing full well there will be a reaction from the inhabitants of the sovreign territory and then claim that reaction started the war. You cannot arbitrarily decide when a war starts. It starts when the first side commits an act of war on the other.

    Secondly, the Iranian/Syrian angles are based on Israels reaction not Hizballahs actions. It is almost more logical to state that Israel is taking its orders from Iran because all the reasons you state could not be claimed if Israel had not reacted the way it did.

    Thirdly, how can you logically continue to accuse Hizballah of starting a war when 2 major US newspapers and the PM of Israel all said that it had been planned for months in advance.

    Therefore I cannot agree with the sentiments that they broke promises made in the dialogues because I do not agree they started a war. What I do not understand is why supporters of those on the govt. side are so protective of Lebanese sovreignty when it come to Syria and Iran and do not seem to worry about Lebanese sovreignty when it comes to Israel and the US. They are no less evil in their intentions towards Lebanon than anyone in Damascus; So I would ask you, when Hizballahs weapons are given up and Israel comes calling again, who will protect Lebanon? I know Syria won't and I know Iran won't. And I know that while Israel has killed over 20,000 of my coutryment in the last 25 years, the west has either stood back or actively encouraged them. Who will protect the Lebanese if we cannot protect ourselves?

    Finally, if you do support the current government then claiming that Hizballah are liars on a domestic level and willing to sacrifice hundreds of Lebanese on a regional level is lets face it a redundant argument when the government is composed of characters like Geagea and Jumblatt who on a domestic level are murderers par excllence and on a regional level were willing to sacrifice thousands of Lebanese lives to advance Syrian and Israeli agendas, not to mention the horrific brutality they brought on one anothers communities.

  9. OK so here we go point by point.

    I think we both agree that the war was disruptive to Israel on a multitude of fronts, so no, the threat conflict expansion by Iran isn't one of just kidnapping a couple soldiers but of a full-fledged war on another front.

    On the issue of the war being "planned" by the Israelis, I will say yes, they had a plan, its called a CONTINGENCY PLAN. The fact remains that Hizballah did start the war, they did it knowing full well of this contingency plan and in complete disregard for the consequencese for the country and for the residents of the South in particular.

    So please, enough with this argument that "they were going to attack us anyway, so we attacked them first". It doesn't even make any sense. If you know your enemy is looking for an opportunity to attack you, do you give that enemy a quick, easily justifiable reason to do so, or do you maneuver, possibly exposing their plan beforehand, and deny them that opportunity?

    Your allegations that people are not concerned with Israeli infringements on Lebanese sovereignty are outrageous. What is more honorable, Anonymous, starting a war on behalf of foreign sponsors, destroying a country, not achieving any results against the enemy, and killing off 1200 people, or achieving the return of the Shebaa farms through diplomacy, without any loss of life, without any destruction, and without a war? It isn't just about choosing your enemy (for your information the gov't recognizes Israel and an enemey yet Hizballah recognizes Syria as a friend) but how you choose to fight those battles.

    As for your final paragraph. I've said this before but I think it bears repeating:

    We have a complicated past, and if one were so inclined we could get hung up on every single point, hung up to the point where we could not advance and look to the future.

    In addressing the issue of Hizballah's actions, their criminality with respect to the Lebanese people I am expressing an opinion through which we can progress to a better future. By continuously bringing up the issue of these politicians' past you are simply hamstringing efforts at establishing a newborn soveriegnty.

    Yes, these people have a terrible past, but we shouldn't muddle up issues (as you did in your last comment) and we should address each point in a fixed, sequential order, one in which real solutions can be implemented, not thrown into the jumble just enough so as to handicap any progress on any real issue.

  10. PS - Sorry for the change in tempo (ie, delay in my reply). I'm always appreciative of a civil exchange opinions, no matter what I think of the distortions those opinions are based on.


  11. Anonymous9:34 PM

    way to go BSJ,

    some people are so desperate they believe whatever a crazy general says.


  12. Anonymous10:52 PM

    Who said that guy was a Aouneh???

  13. ok this is where the media fails..

    what olmert said was that we were prepared for conflict.. his speech was literal hebrew translated into english and it came across wrongly.. what he didnt say was that we were planning a war for months.. the HA had been amassing weaponry on the front.. we were preparing to defend - this is different to pre-planning war..

    i know im pissing in the wind with this comment but that is the true essence of his comments.. the media stuffed up and the analysts missed the point..

    hebrew and english dont mesh elegantly.. its a tough country to report about in international media as far as speeches are concerned..

    our politicians are diplomatically disasterous..

    believe me on one point.. if we had preplanned a war it wouldnt look like it did.. that was 100% reaction..

  14. Anonymous12:15 AM


    In response to what you did respond to, yes the war was disruptive to Israel but I say again, it was Israels reaction to the capture that brought about the disruption. What Hizballah did was not something they had not done before so there was no message from Iran in it.

    On the "contingency plan", I have to disagree with you. Reading the reports in the SF Chronicle and the New Yorker, it seems to me clear that this was a plan waiting for an excuse not a plan to be implemented in case of.
    I don't believe I made any statement that read that we attacked them becasue they were going to attack us. I didn't claim that Hizballah had prior knoweldge of the war plans either.

    The allegations may be outrageous but perhaps that is because there is so little balance. If there wasn't so much defense of Israels actions regardless of the reasons for the war I wouldn't be so inclined to think that way.

    In regards to what is more honourable, yes diplomacy is more honourable. But the question is moot to me as I dont agree Hizballah started a war, I dont believe they acted on behalf of foreign sponsors in the capture of the 2 soldiers and therefore only hold Israel to blame for the destruction and murder. Not acheiving any results? I would beg to differ but thats another discussion.
    As for diplomacy to get the Shebaa farms back; That would come under the category of whistling in the wind.

    As for the final paragraph: I didnt muddle issues. What your are saying is let bygones be bygones, except in the case of what Hizbalah did last summer. I don't believe these men are any different in their intentions today, nor do I believe that they care any more for other Lebanese today than they did back then.

    Your argument is still entirely based on Hizballah starting the war. Yet you did not answer my question. How did you come to the conclusion that that action "started" the war.

    Happily for me, I have just come back from 4 days in Beirut, were the most recent polls show that 74% of people in the country do not believe Hizballah started the war.

    Most importantly to me though, you do not answer my most important question. If you take Hizballahs arms away, who protects Lebanon if the Israelis invade again?

  15. Nine months ago isn't the same as 15 years ago! But to be more concrete, I'm not choosing the date of this summer arbitrarily and selecting to ignore the past. My argument on dealing with the past is based on the Taef and a need to prioritize. Thats it. So again, nine months isn't the same as 15 years ago, and more importantly, Hizballah's unilateral drive to war is of course not the same as a nationally ratified accord of coexistence.

    Alright now to the other business.

    "Waiting for an excuse" vs. "In case of", honestly theres not much to argue over there. If one phrasing implies that the Israelis planned to do more than just save their skins "if" anything went down, then taht is the phrasing I would use. But for me the matter remains that if the Israelis were looking for an excuse Hizballah gave them one.

    As for the notion that Hizballah did nothing out of the ordinary, the argument is thrown out the window simply by recognizing the dynamic shift in regional politics following Hariri's assassination, the Cedar Revolution that ensued, and Syria's subsequent withdrawl from Lebanon.

    If you don't want to go that far back then simply cast an eye to what was going on just to the south of us, where Israel had committed to a massive military operation (and essentially, invasion) in Gaza in the recovery of one soldier. Politically, it would have been infeasible for them not carry out an operation of similar, if not heavier, weight in the recovery of two soldiers (kidnapped inspite of their very public operations in Gaza).

    You don't believe Hizballah had prior knowledge of such a reaction but I do. We will agree to disagree, but it should be noted that given the above, it really wasn't hard to predict the kind of response Israel would enact in the wake of such an operation. In that regard, if you don't want to find Nasrallah guilty of premeditating the death and destruction that followed his miserable operation, then he is guilty of negligence in the highest degree! As the leader of the only heavily armed group (barring those operating within national institutions) in the country Nasrallah had a responsibility to all the Lebanese, and especially the residents of the South, to use those weapons responsibly. I think its clear he didn't.

    As for us being in a state of war with Israel and this being a routine operation of war. I ask you to look at the Syria, who's president Nasrallah gushed over on March 8th, 2005, and their "state of war" with Israel, their secret negotiations to turn their land into a "shared park", their refusal to fire a single bullet over the Golan, and for all their hype, the Israeli fly-overs above their presidential palace. Your argument is completely moot, in the Middle East there is no unequivocal "state of war".

    With regards to Shebaa and diplomacy, I'll just quickly say that there are behind the scenes advances being made (enough for the Iranian FM to request that we NOT retrieve it diplomatically...), so don't give up hope just yet.

    As for Hizballah's weapons, I think this summer's war has illustrated the danger in allowing them to keep their weapons so long as they use those weapons to implement Syria and, especially, Iran's foreign/regional policy directives at the expense of Lebanon's stability, sovereignty, and future prosperity.

    If Hizballah are serious about joining Lebanon's institutional politics and taking part in the political process then they must do so through a national protocol in which their weapons are not given up but handed over to the army with national and international guarantees for the country. So in answer to your question, the country's defence would be conducted primarily through the same weapons, but under the administration of officials under the purview nationally elected officials, within the institutions of our constitution and our country.

  16. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Im not sure what u mean by 15 years, if you are refering to my question of when the war started.

    So I will try to be more clear in my question. Between the 2000 Israeli retreat from Lebanon and the beginning of 2006 UNFIL recorded a total of 3 violations of the blue line by the resistance. In that same period, over 1600 violations by Israel were recorded. These violations included the killing of civilians, indiscriminate shelling as well as the standard fly overs and incursions. Furthermore, in that time civilians were dying because Israel refused to handover maps of landmines laid in Lebanon.

    Therefore, why in all of these acts against Lebanon, do you consider one act by the resistance as "starting the war"?

    I guess we have to agree to disagree on Israels reasons for launching the war. I will say that yes I agree that Hizballahs actions gave them a reason. But by the same token, in the past they have used a bus bombing in Tel Aviv and an attempted assasination in London as "reasons" to invade Lebanon. Had they not been given a reason, they would have found one.

    That hizballah's actions were, in hindsight a mistake has been acknowledged by Nassrallah himself. The question is how do you square your logic?

    You say Nasrallah had prior knowledge of what the response would be. And you say the act was on behalf of Iran as a warning to the US and Israel. Logically, if you know the warning will be met with a hugely destrucive response then the warning has no effectivenss.

    I dont believe I said anything about being in a state of war. What I said was the operation was not new. Hizballah had tried to capture soldiers before. What Syria does is, and I think you will agree with me on this, soley and wholey based on what is good for Syria. The situation between them and Israel is entirely different to us. Lebanon, with or without Hizballah will never be in a position to officialy go to war with Israel so comparing the methods of dealing with Israel is moot.

    With regards to Shebaa, yes there are diplomatic advances being made now. Would there be any efforts if there hadn't been a war?

    Again, I and most western agencies would love to know your intelligence sources when the CIA and most western intelligence agencies have gone on record as believing that Hizballah is completely independent of both Iranian and Syrian authority and does not take orders from them.

    Finally, the weapons. Do you truly believe that your answer will protect Lebanon? Firstly, the resistance is only effective becasue it is a highly secretive guerilla organisation. The weapons it has, in the hands of the army would be entirely useless. And if put under the purview of "officials" many of whom we both know could easily be reporting to foreign sources (wether to the east, south or west), then the whole secrecy thing goes. Therefore, your method leaves us with no defence and we would be relying on the so called "international guarantees". These guarantess are worth what exactly? How many overflights over Lebanon hae been stopped by UNIFIL? How many incursions by the Israelis have had to be stopped by the Lebanese army whose bravery in standing up to a heavily armoured stronger army on the two occasions it has been called upon is so commendable and not been stopped by UNIFIL? Where were Sinioras freinds when Lebanon was being bombed and Bolton was stopping a ceasefire? When I believe any Western country gives a damn what Israel does to Lebanon, then I will beleive in any international guarantees.
    The only way to disarm the resistance is to arm the army with more than 25 broken down second hand humvees.

  17. Fifteen years in reference to your argument about the political leaders and the Taef Accords. I think that was pretty clear.

    We can both villify Israel all we want, we both know it is no friend of Lebanon's. But there is a difference in looking at our neighbours to the south as mindless monsters, and thinking rationally about their actions and how we can develop effective strategies to counteract them.

    You oversimplify when you say an assassination in London caused them to invade in the past and you know it. You purposely overlook the most important factors at the time, namely the presence of thousands of armed Palestinian fighters in Lebanon and all that entailed both for us and for them.

    The allegation that Western intelligence agencies don't believe there is a link between Iran and Hizballah is a complete fabrication. Not once have these agencies "gone on record" with anything remotely close to what you're pushing. The only people who believe that, are disgruntled former CIA functionaries and employees who have a grudge against the current Bush administration, and reporters who are out to make a name for themselves on the back of the unpopularity of this administration. People who have a point to prove that has nothing to do with Hizballah or Iran.

    Of course there would have been, and there was, diplomatic activity surrounding Shebaa without the occurence of the war, what do you think all the talk about getting Syria to actually say the land was Lebanese was all about??

    I think my previous comment already explained how this act was different from other acts, I think it already explained what the message was and the measure of its effectiveness was the degree to which Arab states had to maneuver, actively speaking out against the operation (for the first time ever), to counter this strategical flanking by the Iranians.

    Nasrallah's admittance that his actions were a mistake was a direct insult to all those who died and lost their homes. What does his apology do for them? The truth of the matter is that he and his organisation have not been held accountable in the slightest for these terrible events and that is the real shame in all this, a shame that all those who continue to defend their actions wear as a badge on their shoulder (nothing personal).

    Our choices Anonymous, aren't the ones that you are portraying. Its not about either supporting Hizballah unconditionally or hanging them out to dry and handing their war machinery over to incompetent soldiers administered by corrupt politicians. There are other choices that are present, ready for us to grasp. Hizballah could be genuinely integrated into the army, their secrecy could be maintained but they would be accountable also!

    It is ridiculous to argue, as you do, that the international community should bend over backwards for us, that they should put aside their own foreign policies in order to suit us, and that all this should be done while we hold our collective nose up to them and sing the praises of Iran. If we really want to be equal members in the international community and benefit from the advantages that being in that community procures, we have to choose once and for all what kind of country we want to live in. One which turns it back on that community chooses the path of continual conflict in order to make a point on behalf of other states, or one that is confident in its sovereignty and which can participate in this community without the endemic paranoia cultivated by those who would rather use the gun over the keyboard.

    I think we can all agree that all we want is to live in peace. Becoming a normal country without illegitimate armed groups running around hijacking our foreign and defense policies is the only way to achieve that.

  18. Anonymous1:45 AM

    Apologies for misunderstanding you re. the 15 years. However that leaves my question unanswered. Why in the 6 years where Israeli provocations outnumber Hizballah provocations by over 500:1, do you maintain Hizballah started the war?

    What do I say that makes you believe I regard Israel simply as mindless monsters? I think their actions are very rational and very existential. But I also think these are based more on the need for water than they are on removing Hiballah whose threat is great but is not nor ever will be existential.

    You are being deliberately inflammatory by saying that I oversimply the reason that caused them to invade. We all know that the Israelis invaded in 82 to take out the PLO and if you read my post again you will note that the word reason is in inverted commas, thereby implying that it was an excuse. My point was exactly that. They invent reasons to attack. However, while we are on the subject of the PLO, you will I take it also not overlook the fact that it was the Shia of Southern Lebanon, the mothers and fathers of todays Hizballah who greeted the Israelis with rice and flowers. Had they done what they came for, not allowed the LF to massacre the women and children of Sabra and Chatilla, and not continued the occupation in order to shore up their puppet govt. there would never have been a Hizballah.

    Also on the link between Hizballah and Iran you are again misquoting me. What I said was that they believed Hizballah was independent of Iran.

    On Shebaa, please before the war all there was in activity was that the UN declared it Syrian territory and would not declare it otherwise until Syria and Lebanon properly demarcated their borders.

    So just to understand you, if Nasrallah does not accept the operation was a mistake he is a criminal but if he does he is a criminal?

    If you truly do believe in moving forward with a united peaceful Lebanon you really are going to have to get over your hate for the man. Even if you have no admiration for the fact that Hizballah did what no Lebanese organisation was ready to do in fighting those that trespassed our country, even if you give no credit to a man that lost a son and had another injured for the sake of our country and even if you have no love for a man who has give n the Arab world the first bit of pride in a century, you will have to get over it because like it or not the man is supported by over half of your countrymen.

    And 6 months or 15 years, if we are going to hold people accountable for deaths in Lebanon, lets at least start with ones that were actually pulling the triggers.

    You are right however that are choices are not stark (although I wasnt aware that I was the only one portraying stark choices). Perhaps if blogs such as yours and those you link to were not so single mindedly anti Hizballah, if there was some balance to your opinions then we would be currently talking about compromise issues - or perhaps not at all as I wouldnt have felt a need to comment. But the fact is, you talk of working together while demanding Nasrallahs head. That is hardly going to endear you to many many Lebanese.

    Yes, I too would like one day to see the skills and abilities of the resistance incorporated into the army as some kind of special ops/SAS type set up. But the time for that is not yet here. Their current existence requires absolute secrecy. Any integrated group could keep its ops secret but there are issues such as logistics, recruitment, rearming and a myriad of others that will give away some aspects of their work. Lebanon as it is today is too fractous, with too many eyes and ears for that to be workable.

    In regards to the int. community, what are you saying exactly? That we should ask them to force Hizballah to disarm but not expect them to either allow the Lebanese Army to arm itself or helps us if Israel attacks? Is asking that my country is able to protect its borders asking them to bend over backwards? If it is then I will definitley keep my resistance thank you. If we are discussing waht country we want to live in, yes I would like a country confident of its sovereignity. But I dont understand how you feel we can be condfident of our sovreignity if we cannot protect the same.

    I would love that our brothers in the South should learn to use the keyboard rather than a gun. The problem is of course that you cant stop someone invading your country with a keyboard. This is not paranoia; It is the experience of being attacked and invaded a number of times over 25 years.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence but I would add that the only way to not have non-governmental arms defending us is by having an army that can. When that happens my voice for the resistance to disarm will be louder than yours.

  19. First of all I don't hate Hassan Nasrallah as a man, nor do I hate his organisation. I wholeheartedly believe that they should be engaged full-on in any internal political dialogues on the fundamental and institutional characteristics that will define the country. Having said that, it must be said that I believe that they also have a foreign agenda which supercedes this domestic one, and which they have implemented to the detriment - in a very big way, e.g. the summer war - of the country's good. I also believe in order for this internal dialogue to have any meaning, there has to be another formula for the way those weapons are administered. So yes, the weapons ARE a huge issue.

    Now a lot of people I've had this discussion with (on the blog and off) have replied that all the actors on the Lebanese political scene adhere to some sort of foreign influence or agenda. Despite the validity (or non-validity) of that statement, I still think that Hizballah pose the biggest danger because of their weapons, again as demonstrated by the summer war, but also by the simple fact they exist. What I mean by this is that groups in opposition to Hizballah could/can/do/will use the existence of Hizballah's weapons, and their logistical and organisational capabilities, as an excuse to arm themselves. Drives to prevent this from happening by placing our trust in the state being able to impose its monopoly on the possession and use of weapons are completely undermined by Hizballah's possession of these arms. This is a very important point that I really think you should take note of. You continuously call on the state to assume its responsibilities and yet tirelessly work to undercut the institutions and mechanisms through which these responsibilities and national duties can be implemented. Not to be inflammatory, but to me, this is clearly a case of fraud on a grand scale!!

    As for the timing of an integration of Hizballah into the army, I have to agree with you in that the time is not now, but not because of the reasons you are thinking (although you have a case). The time for Hizballah to fully integrate itself into the political and consitutional processes of the country was in the direct aftermath of the Syrian withdrawl. Instead of extending its hand in trying to rebuild country's institutions in the aftermath of Syria's fifteen year (at least) pillaging of them, they chose to stand firmly in the way of any progress or evolution that could have been cultivated from that monumental event. Instead of engaging its political counterparts in an earnest dialogue on building an insitutionally sound country, of working together and tackling the biggest problems facing the country through the national dialogue talks in which all of the country's political leaders were represented, Hizballah used that time to plan and stage an attack that deliberately hijacked this effort at establishing REAL national unity and understanding.

    Its a shame that everytime there is an attempt to really discuss the issues that are crippling our country so severely, the arguments seem to take on the ring of slogans. This is a consequence of the bitter divide plaguing the country and of the disinformation drives conducted both sides, although we probably disagree of who is MORE guilty in this as well ;). In any case, I hope you really think on the points that I'm mentioning and put aside the automatic shutters we put up when we start detecting this ring of slogans. As for your arguments, am I reading, and listening, and really thinking.

    You say that Israel has mischievous plans for us and I agree! I really do. I also think that in the past Hizballah's activities have carried benefits for Lebanon, BUT - and this you seem to be adamantly refusing to believe - I also think that these activities have carried with them some very heavy baggage, specifically baggage belonging to Iran, to the benefit of Syria's alliance with that country and its own regional (and/or what they consider domestic given their attitude on Lebanon), and baggage we have and will pay heavily for!!

    In fact one could argue that the price we have paid far outweighs the benefits we have derived from this 'resistance'. I say this in reference to the fact that post-Taef Lebanon was totally subjugated to Syria and its regional policy of the "parallel tracks", a quaint euphamism for what essentially was a policy of sacrificing ALL of Lebanon's sovereign and national interests and positions vis-à-vis any potential agreement or negotiations we could have had with Israel over the past 15 years, any potential peace we could have had over the past 15 years, and any prevention of the loss of life and occupation that we endured over the past 15 years. Thats not how events unfolded, Hizballah was given a role to play by Syria for Syria's benefit and today the fact remains that Israel is our enemy. Nevertheless it is something we should bear in mind, not taking Hizballah's presence and operation as a simple reaction to occupation, and in addition acknowledging that they do not have a monopoly on resistance given the groups who resisted Syria's initial attempts at occupation (before they finally succeeded) throughout the war. But lets not ponder on that for the moment.

    The picture I am trying paint here is that the price for Hizballah's possession of weapons is now too heavy for us to pay, everything Hizballah is doing we can accomplish through peaceful measures. They won't be perfect, they will include the acceptance of positions not 100% inline with our national characteristics, but the peace, security, and prosperity those measures would bring would be, in my opinion, preferable to anything Hizballah can offer. You, on the other hand, think that the danger from Israel is still too great, that we should accept Syria's and Iran's influence through Hizballah's weapons (I really don't think you're going anywhere with this "no link" vs "independent" business) and that the situation internally is not yet ripe (something I have commented on but which also bears a lot more commenting...later on perhaps).

    Finally, let me address some specifics now from your last post. If, aside from Hizballah (and Shebaa if you want), the issue we have with Israel is that of water then why not include provisions for our sovereignty over our territory and water-supply in any negotiations we can have with them? Lebanon isn't Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, or Syria, with all the ambiguities (fabricated or genuine) in international law and circumstance on the ground that those countries' dealings with Israel entail. We have a very clear cut border, with what is ours being clearly demarcated. Whether UNIFIL has been effective (or not) in the past doesn't carry over into this situation because the presence of Hizballah complicated (and still complicates) UNIFIL's ability to operate, this through UNIFIL being based on a relationship between the sovereign Lebanese state and Hizballah being an illegitimate operator outside the bounds of that relationship and therefore extremely dangerous and outside the scope of UNIFIL's ability to operate. It is worth considering the changed effect of having a militarily effective international force all along our borders (with Syria and Israel) if the state were able to impose its sovereign will over the entirety of its territory and the whole of its population. Something to think about.

    OK I'm pretty sure I've probably left out some points you want to discuss and I have no doubt that you will remind me which they were but for the moment I'll leave my reply at that. Personally, I'd really like to see us bridge our differences through this comments section (given the amount thats been written here it probably deserves its own blog!) but if you don't think thats possible (for whatever reason), then you should probably let me know - otherwise this would turn out to be something of a complete waste of time. As for this blog being "so single mindedly anti Hizballah" and "those [blogs] I link to", I will simply say that I totally believe in dialogue and the expression of a variety of opinions, that is why you will find that I link to blgos from all across the political spectrum. This blog is not ANTI-HIZBALLAH, there is a coherent opinion on this blog on Hizballah's weapons, their use of those weapons, the costs and benefits of holding those weapons, Hizballah's negotiating positions with respect to other Lebanese political sides and parties, and what we perceive as Hizballah's insistence on glorifying the regime in Syria (e.g. March 8th speech, and others) and implementing policy directives from Iran, which they undoubtedly fine-tune to reflect political realities in Lebanon but which, at the end of the day, carry a heavy cost and burden for the people and state of Lebanon which we are sick of paying!

    ...this was a long one...

  20. Anonymous3:46 AM

    To answer your last point first, if we cannot bridge our differences through the exchange of ideas in a comments section of a blog there really would be little hope for the country! :)

    As a nation, what unites us is FAR FAR greater than what seperates us today.

    I too am reading and listening, and am taking the time to understand your pov because it is the only way to build those bridges. The fact that neither of us has resorted to the standard slogans, soundbites etc is refreshing to say the least.

    Now to the points raised.

    I think we can agree that each side has its external backers and that each backer has his own agenda and would like those they back in Lebanon to act on behalf of that agenda. Since our discussion is about Hezbollah I will keep my comments to them.

    Firstly, let us discuss last Summers actions by the resistance. You believe that the action was on the orders of Iran and serve Iran's agenda. Can I ask, and I dont mean this in a confrontational way, but do you have evidence of this?

    I believe that it was not and here is my evidence why it was not. In November 2005 the resistance launched an exact replica of the July raid to capture Israeli soldiers. This operation failed but in a speech afterwards (which is on youtube somewhere) Nasrallah clearly states that Israel reneged on the 2000 deal to free the remaining Lebanese prisoners and it will from now on become a standing order that members of the resistance seek to capture Israeli soldiers; That it was a "natural right". More importantly though, he said, quite publicly, "If anybody in Lebanon believes that capturing an Israeli soldier is a crime and a terrorist act, then he should tell us now." Why did no one speak up then? Why did no one claim it was Iranian agendas then?
    I don't know if you personally believe it, but many bloggers like to claim that Hizballah wants Syrian hegemony to return to Lebanon. Let me point out why that is illogical.

    It was under Syrian occupation of Lebanon that the income inequalities widened as an estimated 10% of our GDP went to Syrian elites and their Lebanese sycophants. Who were these sycophants? Mainly the people in government today. Who was at the other end of that income gap? Mainly the Shia, as the poorest in Lebanon.
    It was under Syrian occupation that there was a mass influx of Syrian workers into Lebanon, taking all the low paid unskilled jobs. Who was forced out of the worforce as a result? The Shia.
    It was under Syrian occupation that smuggling of farm produce increased to such an extent that the farmers of the Bekaa were driven to destitution. Who are the farmers of the Bekaa? Mainly, the Shia.

    Finally, if you look back at Nasrallahs speeches, you will very clearly notice that there is little endorsement of Syria prior to 2003, in sharp contrast to Hariri, Jumblatt and even lahoud. Why 2003? Because the first rumblings that lead to UN Resolution 1559 were being made.

    I agree that some parties are now using the current situation and the weapons of Hizballah to arm themselves but all this was not a problem prior to the current situation and all this talk of govt. monopoly over weapons is disingenuous. This govt. could not have come into being without Hizballahs endoresment in the 2005 elections and that endoresment was given in exchange for a set of promises, primarily that the govt. would not allow for the resistance to be disarmed. Yes the dynamics have been changed but those promises stand and are today being broken. Therefore, since the weapons existed with the govt's blessing prior to July 2006 (When Siniora responded to resolution 1559 which called on all militias to disarm by saying the resistance is not a militia) it is a fallacy to be claiming that they are now undermining the govt. just because they no longer wish to adhere to promises they made.

    You say that I continuously call on the state to assume its respomsibilities but I have done no such thing. What I have said is that when the state is able to defend the country, then Hizballahs weapons will no longer be needed. I do not believe that the state is failing its responsibilities as I do not believe that the Lebanese army will ever be allowed to have the weapons necessary to defend the country but that is not the states fault.

    As for the timing, Lebanon is more independent today than it has been in decades. So if I don't believe the time is right now, you can guess what i think about the timing in the political maelstrom of 2005.
    If they really wanted to stand in the way of progress they would not have endorsed Hariris bloc surely? And in regards to the plan and establishing national unity, if this plan was so divisive, why did over 70% of Lebanese polled believe it was the only way we would get our prisoners back?

    Their activities in the past have come at a cost yes. I am sorry that I do not believe that they carry any Syrian or iranian baggage but I have seen no evidence of this. At best, there may be some confluence of agendas but imho, not baggage or orders.

    It can be argued that the price we have paid far outweighs the benefits but then we do not know the price we would have paid without the resistance. Would Southern Lebanon now be littered with Israeli settlements? Would the farmers of southern Lebanon be without a livlehood becasue the waters of the Litani had been diverted? You have to accpet that those are possible consequences as well had there been no resistance.

    Again I do not believe Syria controls or orders Hizballah around.

    As for Israel, I suspect this is were we really differ. I hate the existence of Israel to my core becasue I do not believe in colonialism and because I was in Qana in 96 and saw what they did to the children there. That is not to say I want Hizballah or Lebanon as the smallest and weakest of the Arab states to be a vanguard of anti-Israeli action and I am quite willing for a hudna type peace where we agree to leave each other alone. I would not support or vote for anyone that agreed to supply Israel with water. We have paid with too many lives for their attempts to get at it to simply give it to them.

    I can clearly see what you are trying to say in regards to Hizballahs weapons. Truly I do and you have a case. And yes I do think the danger of giving them up is too great and of all the reasons why, I will present one simple peice of logic for you. The US is not threatend by the resistance's weapons but is trying very hard to be rid of them. It is therefore doing so on behalf of Israel. The resistance is no threat to Israel in an existential threat and never will be. Therefore, logically, the only time the weapons are of any danger to Israel is if they are attacking us. See where Im going with this? If they didn't intend to come back they would not be so concerened about the weapons.

    As for Syrian and Iranian influence i will not repeat. If you want I will post links to the whole body of data by academics, intelligence groups and ME experts who agree that Hizballahs independence of Iran and especially Syria is becoming more and more apparent.

    In answer to your specifics: Im willing to bet you that Israel and Lebanon do not sign a treaty until Israel has either a plentiful supply of water from a source it can trust or has taken ours. You are right, UNIFIL would not come into it, not because of the reasons you stae but because they would never fight the Israelis.

    Finally, let me say this as it is I think important to add. I dislike this govt. not because I support the opposition and I do not support the opposition just because I dislike this govt. (Yes even we opposition types can have complex thoughts ;)

    This govt. is made up Feudal lords, Warlords and gangsters. By their very definition, they are people who care not a whit about the people they represent.

    It is hypocritical as it is made up mostly of the same people that were happily recieving Syrian hand outs during the 1990's.

    It is unfit for purpose as the same people have led us to be the number one most indebited nation on the face of the planet while they have lined their pockets with monies borrowed in our name.

    I for one am sick of a country run by people who think they are superior because of an accident of birth or because they can steal better than anyone else.

    Now I am not blind nor do I wish to be charged with hypocrisy myself. I accept there are people of that ilk on the opposition side- most obviously Berri- But the ideals of the opposition are more socialy tuned for the vision of Lebanon I have.

    ...Your right these comment are getting longer and longer

  21. to anon11:17 AM

    "completely independent of both Iranian and Syrian authority and does not take orders from them"

    Dear Anon, these words do not really agree with those of Hizballah's Sheikh Naim Kassem,who on Iranian TV said that they got permission from wl-Wali el faqih before every major strike during the summer war. This thing goes beyond politics to deep religous ideology that denies Lebanese soverinty and allows the rule of religous entities from outside the country. In essesnse they cannot believe in the legitimate rule of a Lebanese governemtent, since the ultimate rule of el-wali el faqih will always superseed it.He also indicated (sadly) that those who sacrificed themselves against israel without permission had comitted a sin, therefore delegitimising fighters from outside his own institution.How sad for us that a war is being conducted in our name while orders are being taken for every action from another government.

    Here's the link I apologise that it is from that awful MEMRI.

    sheikh naim kassem on Iranian TV, saying that they only make war moves if Iran allows it

  22. Anonymous11:51 PM

    to anon said,
    Look hard enough and you will find what you are looking for. I have watched it 3 times to make sure my reply was consistent with what he says.

    What I heard is that they refer to the Waliyat al-Faqih in order to recieve guidance on the moral aspects of what they plan to do.

    What he said about martydom of those who do not consult is not what you said. He is talking in the future tense about someone who may do something and he did not say it would be a sin, he said it may be a sin and if they do not recieve guidance they would not know. Quite clearly the implication is that you cannot simply go and kill innocent people a be considered a martyr.

    Also, not surprisingly as this is memri, the video is heavily edited so do not be misguided becasue things can easily be taken out of context.

  23. I'll try to buck the trend and make this short :P

    The problem with your evidence, Anonymous, and I've mentioned this before, is that it really doesn't reflect the completely changed reality that arose out of the Hariri assassination and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. I won't dwell on this but it is an insurmountable argument. If I follow your line of argument throughout this comments section, you seem to argue that one cannot call on Hizballah to disarm based on notions of state and sovereignty while the reality of Israel (and their malevolence) is ever-present on our borders, but I would equally add that it is impossible to argue for the existence of Hizballah's arms (and their tactical and logistical capabilities) based solely on the notion of war with Israel, or resistance to Israel if you want, and in complete ignorance of Lebanon's political environment and the regional implications of this conflict with Israel.

    With respect to Syria and Hizballah, I think their relationship is a by-product of the strategic alliance between Iran and Syria. Having said that, I will add that I find a lot of your arguments in relation to that relationship (and its improbability) as very weak, but seeing as theres no call for them I'll ignore them.

    The promise you are talking about referred to Hizballah coming international scrutiny and being forced to disarm under an international mandate. It has nothing to do with the pursuit of an internal mechanism for the group's disarmament. It would be a massive slap to the face of the Lebanese state that we live in if Hizballah forced any gorvernment to accept not having any say in its weapons. As for the government's blessing for the weapons, here I draw your attention again to the national dialogue (the convening of which was a massive compromise on the part of the government as it allowed Hizballah and the other pro-Syrian cronnies to begin what would become a running trend in circumventing the country's institutions - not being inflammatory but thats just my view) in which, again, the major point of discussion - one in which Hizballah, along with Amal, and the Michel Aoun, and all the other opposition members - was Hizballah's disarmament through an internal mechanism, including its eventual integration into Lebanon's armed forces. Of course we all know how that dialogue ended, a week before the meeting in which details of such a mechanism were to be matted out, Hizballah started a war, a war which eliminated any further discussion of such a nationally beneficial mechanism.

    We seem to be going in circles here, so let me jump to the end of what I really wanted to say.

    Overall, the impression I get is that you want a simple continuation of the status quo with respect to Hizballah's operations in the South (and now in the Chouf where they have been digging in recently). Given the presence of over 12,000 UNIFIL troops and 15,000 Lebanese Army trooops in the South, I dont see how you can realistically continue to hope for that. I actually don't understand how you can realistically hope for that on a matter of principle!

    The truth of the matter is that if Hizballah were only worried about another Israeli invasion, and wanted to assume its responsibility as a defensive force and not an offensive one, then it could easily enter assume upon itself that role by coming to agreement with the Lebanese state and issuing a statement in which it would publicly declare, for the entire world to see, that it was ready to temporarily cease military operations in order to allow the government a chance to obtain everything Hizballah claims to be fighting for through negotiations. They could publicly pledge (if their word means anything anymore after last summer's debacle) that they will not understake any offensive operation, that they are now giving the world and the Lebanese state a chance to step up and settle Lebanon's score with Israel and that if they are capable of doing that, they would enter into talks to give up their weapons through an internal mechanism.

    But the truth of the matter Hizballah isn't interested in giving the Lebanese state a chance to prove itself because the emergence of a strong state would mean the end of Hizballah's ability to use Lebanon as a battlefield on which to wage the battles of its backers. A strong Lebanese state would mean that when either one of us asks the other for "evidence" to back up their position we would have strong, transparent institutions which could provide us with that evidence.

    Ah...still too long....I'm thinking of getting some of these comments together in post format. I mean if you also have a blog then we can put up the same post on both our blogs, half of which would summarize your position and half of which would summarize mine. Let me know what you think.

    PS - Without Hizballah there would have been a Lebanes National Resistance, not an Islamic Resistance propped up by Iran, that is the possibility we both have to acknowledge.

  24. Anonymous2:16 AM

    We are going round in circles now making the same points over and over.
    I think in strict debating terms I will stick to answering your points.

    You say it is impossible to argue for the existence of Hizballah's arms in complete ignorance of Lebanon's political environment and the regional implications of this conflict with Israel.

    My first and last goal is the protection of our borders. I really couldn't give a damn what this means to the kings of jordan or Saudi, the dictators of Syria and Egypt, our "fellow" Arabs who don't lift a finger every time Israel attacks. Lebanons political environment? Well lets face it, if those opposed to Hizballahs weapons were not such good friends of the US and Israel perhaps those of us who support the opposition would be more inclined to listen to them.

    Your right, the promise was esactly about that. So I would draw your attention to point number 4 in Sinioras 7 point plan.

    Again with the started a war stuff. Hizballah captured 2 soldiers. Israel started the war.

    Ok lets jump to the end.

    What I want is that for Israel to think twice before attacking Lebanon. With Hizballah, they will. Without them around they won't. Its really that simple.
    The status quo has been changed irrevocably. However, the 12000 UNIFIL troops will not stop an Israeli attack because they will not be allowed to. The 15,000 Lebanese troops wont, because they are not equipped to.

    So as a matter of principle I want my country defended, AS a matter of principle how can you not?!

    The point you make about them halting operations while the govt. tries to solve things is a good one. I wont argue with its logic. I would say that even if they were to do it, they would not say it because that is their way of keeping the Israelis on edge.

    For all your complaints about Hizballahs backers, I see or read no reference to the backers of those in government. Why is that? And how, even without the opposition, do you honestly expect me to think this govt. and its supporters can ever be strong in a democratic sense? A Prime Minister who is effectively an employee of the Hariris? Jumblatt who chooses his allies based on he thinks is going to win? Geagea who is propably the most despised man in Lebanon today? These people, who want to keep the political status quo whereby we the people exist to serve them, our lords and masters? No, these people will not make a strong state.

    Lebanese national resistance? Seriously think about that line. Between 82 and 90, the Christian militias were allied with Israel and the Sunni militia had been wiped out. The small groups that were attacking Israel other than the resistance hardly represented large sections of society.

  25. Who ever brought up Jordan or Egypt? Regional as in Syria, regional as in Israel, regional as in Iran, start there and then move on.

    Who in Lebanon is a friend of Israel? Please tell me, and do so without citing the civil war which came to an end almost 20 years ago and which imposed on all the Lebanese a series of circumstances completely different from those which have prevailed for the past 15 years and which were vastly different from the situation today.

    Nobody is asking you to fall in love with those in government, the only thing I am asking is that you support a drive to help establish institutions through which a real democracy can function, through which everyone can abide by the Constitution, and through which the state can impose its monopoly over the entirety of its territory. You can't seriously argue that Hizballah isn't operating its own state within Lebanon's borders. Nasrallah himself admitted to it. Its not right and it is they who have to cede on this point.

    Here's point 4: The Lebanese government extends its authority over its territory through its own legitimate armed forces, such that there will be no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state as stipulated in the Taef national reconciliation document.

    It's what I've been saying all along and what the existence of Hizballah's weapons undermines.

    You know you shouldn't underestimate the presence of the 12,000 UNIFIL troops in southern Lebanon. If they don't fight Israel militarily, their presence makes it exponentially more difficult for Israel to launch a military campaign in Lebanon on a diplomatic level. But I think that point will be lost on you.

    Its not as simple as accepting Hizballah unconditionally or Israel invading. I've highlighted some ways in which the Lebanese state could move forward with making this country a modern, progressive state (a.k.a one without Hizballah's weapons) and you seem to have accepted them as viable alternatives - now all you need to do is reconcile those possibilities with what appears to be some deeply built in mental blockage at anything starting with: Hizballah must disarm. I don't think you can say that I don't want my country defended, read the comments again for a refresher if you want.

    Before Hizballah came onto the scene there was Amal (not to mention the other groups who did in fact sacrifice a lot, more than your comments give them credit for) resisting the Israeli presence. So yeah, it is a serious possibility. Probably more serious than settlements in the South....probably....

    PS - No reply on the subject of a joint/cross-post?

  26. Anonymous3:32 PM

    Because, like you said earlier, in our neighbourhood nothing is strictly local. The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi see organisations like Hizballah as a threat to their own absolute rule.

    A drive to help establish institutions through which real democracy can function? Sure Ill support that, once it starts. You cant seriously argue that this is what this government wants. this government whose relatives and friends all get the government contracts and who can ignore the law at their pleasure. You can argue that Hizballah is operating its own state but it is also very clear that the zuama run Lebanon like their own private enterprise.

    Re. point 4. I know its what you have been saying but it does not change the fact that it breaks the agreement.

    I shouldnt underestimate the 12,000 troops and the difficulty they impose on another Israeli campaign is lost on me? Is this the same Israel that rolled past and over UNIFIL in 82? The same that targeted UN soldiers all through the occupation and especially in 96 and last year? Do you seriously believe a German battleship will ever target an Israeli one? That any European soldier will ever fire a shot at an Israeli one. If that ever happens I will happily concede that you were right but Im betting I never do.

    Yes you have provided alternatives which, some of which i accept as viable alternatives in the long run. Our differences I think lay in the fact that you trust that others will come to our defence. I have seen what happens while we wait for others to come to our defence.

    I think, on a positive note, that we both agree we want a sovreign, free, democratic Lebanon. We both agree that Hizballah cannot remain an armed group in the country indefinitely.

    I think, where we differ is on the hows and whens and who we believe is best placed to get us there.

    The problem, it seems, is our views are so polarised and intransigent that there is but mere slivers of common belifs between them.

    Now we could sit and debate this forever more but we have to face the facts on the ground. The arms exist and theres only 3 ways they are going to be given up. Either by force, compromise or referendum. Force was tried and failed. Compromise does not seem on the agenda and referendum has been ruled out.

    So maybe it would be more beneficial if rather than falling into the trap of starting to play the whos more patriotic game, we should concentrate on finding solutions that are realistic rather than idealistic as idealism is in its very nature, unbending.

    In regards to the cross post, apologies for not replying. I do not have a blog to post on. If you would like at I can create one.

  27. Anonymous6:44 PM

    Vey good blog.

    Viva Liban


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