Monday, February 26, 2007

Christian Reflections

Ever since January 23rd, when the country's political battles took the form of an 'unexpected' confrontation on the streets of the country's predominantly Christian municipalities, the Christian community in Lebanon (rather those who view their communal and/or political affiliation on the basis of their Christian sect) has been all too aware - and resentful - of one event that brought that day's conflict, and the threat of prolonging the crisis it precipitated, to an end: a telephone call from Tehran, and the Saudi-Iranian talks that preceded that call.
The above caricature is a reflection of the resentful mood that is currently being felt in that community...I found it kind of funny.

Translation: Charlatans! One's turned Sunni while the other's turned Shiite.

(H/T My Beloved Lebanon)

Friday, February 23, 2007

George Hawi Assassin "On the Run" - Updated!

Speaking on Lebanese television station, LBC, yesterday, Internal Security Forces (ISF) Chief Ashraf Rifi revealed that the ISF had been in pursuit of a man believed to have been behind the car-bomb assassination of ex-Communist Party chief-turned Syria critic, George Hawi, as well as numerous other explosions across the country. The identity of the man, now believed to have fled the country, according to Rifi, and all other information concerning his pursuit, has been shared with Interpol while Lebanese authorities continue to follow the case.

Rifi's statements came after a day in which explosives and detonators were found in three sites across the country, sparking fears of further attacks similar to the bus bombings that took the lives of 4 people and wounded 20 last Tuesday, February 13th.

Update: Pierre Gemayel Assassin Sketch

The ISF released, on Saturday, February 24th, a composite sketch of a man believed to have been involved in the assassination of Minister of Industry, Pierre Gemayel. In a distributed statement, the ISF asked any citizens with information on the whereabouts of this man, or that could lead to his arrest, to contact the ISF hotline by dialing 1788.

Thanks to Ib for the heads up on this in the comments section.

Update: Elias El Murr Assassin Sketch
A sketch of a man of unknown nationality, believed to have been involved in the attempted assassination of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Elias el Murr, was released tonight by the ISF General Directorate. Anyone with any information on the possible whereabouts, or that could lead to the arrest of, this man are asked to contact the ISF hotline by dialing 1788.

Another thanks to Ib for sniffing this one out and updating us in the comments section.

Update: Pierre Gemayel Assassin Sketch Modified

The ISF released on Wednesday, Feburary 28th, an updated sketch of a man believed to have been involved in the assassination of Minister of Industry, Pierre Gemayel.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lebyriana

The recent undetonated explosives found across the Lebanese capital over the past week are a message from Syria to its closest ally, Iran.
The allies are bickering. At least according to a number of analysts and journalists, one of whom put the question to the Iranian Foreign Minister on Monday, only to receive the following answer:

''Damascus is informed of the joint efforts made by Iran and Saudi Arabia to help different parties in Lebanon...there exists no difference of views between Iran and Syria in that regard.''

Maybe, but then again, maybe not. It was almost exactly one month ago that Iran, with one call to the primary vehicle of its influence in the country (Hizballah), managed to bring a day of strike, dangerously spiralling out of control, to a complete halt. All this while Syria's allies in the country were actively pushing for a continuation of the violent disruptions in an effort to bring down the government, thereby bringing to a stop any progress on the ratification of the International Tribunal. The impetus for that call? Another call, this time made by the Saudis to the Iranians to remind them of the understandings reached between the countries in their talks throughout that past month.

Through their negotiations in Mecca, Riyadh and Tehran, the Saudi government has sought to provide the Iranians with a mechanism to ease Iran's isolation in the region. This, in return for a series of measures that could clearly indicate intentions on the part of Tehran to ease the crises in both Lebanon and Iraq. One, not accidental, reprecussion of this deal, however, has been the isolation of a Syrian regime the Saudis have been none too happy with since the assassination of Rafic Hariri, but more poignantly, since the start of Hizballah's summer war. In short, the deal reached by the Saudis and Iranians was one in which the last remnants of Syria's influence in Lebanon would be killed off. The Syrians, as might be expected, are themselves none too happy with this arrangement and they're not afraid to show it.

Enter Bashar Al Assad's trip to Tehran this week, where he met with top elements of the Iranian regime. A consensus seems to be emerging that the trip was in fact a summoning of Bashar by the Iranian regime in order to impart on him their 'strong belief' that it might be wiser for the young president to abandon his bus-bombing kit and fall in line with the agreement reached by the Saudis and Iranians. The Syrians, however, have been keen to remind both their allies and their enemies not to disregard them so easily, hence the undetonated bomb in a Muslim area of the city - a message to the Iranians and the Saudis reminding them of the potency of Syria's capabilities in Lebanon - and today's unexploded ordanances found in the Christian heart of the capital - a continuation of a string of attacks on Christians (which have spread from politicians to the terrorizing of regular citizens) which themselves are subject to a theory that they are a message to stay out of the Sunni vs Alawite-Shiite conflict currently aflare.

Symptoms of this hidden malaise between the two allies, have been surfacing among their agents in Beirut. This week alone has seen a bevy of strangely contradictory speeches and signs coming out of the opposition camp. While Aoun has been silent - except for one compromising speech (possibly an indication of Aoun's realisation that the game has gotten far bigger than his myopic aspirations had allowed him to perceive) - Berri has been on the offensive, threatening to play the card Syria's allies have been attempting to play for the past month and half, and which will expire with the next UN Investigation report (that of revealing the names of the 10 countries purportedly 'hindering' the advancement of the investigation). Hizballah, for its part, has been heeding the call from Tehran and has, over the past week, issued a number of consiliatory remarks meant to open the path towards an acceptance of the compromise deal reached between its patron and that of the young Hariri. In the meantime, however, it has continued to gun for those two arch enemies of the Syrian regime, Jumblatt and Geagea (the latter of which has already moved to counter Hizballah's accusations of intransigence by outlining his party's acceptance of the lines upon which the deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran were struck).

So where does this leave Lebanon? Nearly one full month after the Opposition's (in order to bypass criticisms of my calling them Pro-Syrians, I shall refer to them as the 1/3 Pro-Syrian, 1/3 Pro-Iranian, and 1/3 Confused Narcissist - opposition forces) deadly riots we find ourselves at exactly the same junction (and compromise deal) proposed at the time of the commencement of that other failed attempt at bringing down the government, the opposition's downtown protests and sit-in, nearly three months ago.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Sidebar Items

Hi Everyone,

Let me start by apologizing for the recent dearth of 'Analysis' and 'Opinion' posts on the blog, the truth of the matter is that I (and I assume the rest of the contributers) have been incredibly busy with work and study recently. Hopefully the situation will sort itself out soon, but in the meantime, I've added a few new features to the blog which I hope will, at least partially, make up for the slow posting.

On top of updating to the new 'layout' provided by Blogger, I've added the following new sections to our sidebar:
  • Posts by Label: list of post labels you can use to search through our archives
  • Naharnet News Feed: news updates from Lebanon's premier news website
  • Blogosphere Feeds: newest posts from other bloggers I enjoy reading
  • Cedar Mountain: links to five latest analysis peices uploaded to my analysis blog
  • Lebanese Political Parties: links to Lebanon's major political parties' official websites
  • Recent Comments: Shows recent comments left on blog, starts with 2nd last (for now)
  • "The War of Lebanon": Direct sidebar access to Al Jazeera's "War of Lebanon" videos

So I hope you enjoy browsing through some of these new items (and some of the old if you haven't yet). I'm a very new hand at this html coding business, so if you see any errors or have any inputs or suggestions please don't hesitate to get in touch (I really would like to be able to take away those dividing lines between the individual blogosphere feeds!!).

Thanks for bearing with us and I hope you enjoy the site.

PS - Oh and yes, I will be adding a section in the sidebar devoted to the Al Jazeera post, so that readiers and viewers can access from the main page even after it is no longer a front page post.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hariri Assassination: Two Year Anniversary



News Excerpts:

(From Yahoo!News)
Thousands of Lebanese people gathered Wednesday at the city center grave of Rafik Hariri to mark the second anniversary of his assassination as the government deployed hundreds of troops to deter trouble, a day after two bombs killed at least three people.

Along with the thousands of flags, banners, and plackards, were two giant hanging effigies with Arabic writing that read: 'The injustice,' and 'The totalitarianism'.

(From Naharnet)
Parliament’s majority leader Saad Hariri said: “we are ready for any brave decision in favor of Lebanon, but the international tribunal is the only gateway to any solution.”

Druze leader Walid Jumblat vowed that “we will not surrender in the face of terrorism, in the face of authoritarian parties be they Syrian or not … There will be no weapon except what is under the control of the Lebanese state.”He said the international tribunal will be established and “punishment and death sentence” will follow.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea pledged that “we will not bow. We will not succumb. We will not surrender. We will fear nothing. And we will not back off.” “We’ll chase criminals throughout the world,” Geagea added. He said only Lebanese troops should be allowed to carry weapons, adding the army and the government are the “resistance.”

Social Affairs Minister Nayla Moawad slammed the Assad regime for “trying to topple the Cedar revolution” but vowed that pro-government supporters will continue their struggle to achieve “victory.” She also urged Speaker Nabih Berri without naming him to call for a parliament session to ratify the international tribunal plan.

Legislator Ghassan Tueni addressing the crowd said the international tribunal should try those who committed “crimes against humanity.” He also said that Lebanon will remain steadfast against “plots and assassinations”.

More...

(Pictures courtesy of Yahoo!News)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Breaking News: Coordinated Bus Bombings in Metn

URGENT NEED FOR BLOOD DONATIONS AT SERHAL AND BHANNES HOSPITALS

The blasts occured on two buses ferrying people to work on the Bikfaya mountain highway. Three people are reported dead, and twenty wounded, all civilians. The exact place of the explosion lies on a stretch of highway bearing a giant banner (built into the stone) for the Christian Phalange Party, dating back to the war. The general area in which the explosion took place is a predominantly Christian one, just down the road from the residence of former President, and Phalange leader, Amin Gemayel, father of slain Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, himself executed in brood daylight by a group of hooded gunmen. The explosion comes on the already tense eve of the second anniversary of the assassination of former Premier Rafic Hariri. He was killed, along with 22 others, when a massive 1-tonne bomb tore through his convoy.
Casualty List (Unconfirmed):
(Deceased)
Michel Haddad Kattar
Loris Jamil
Michel Fouad 3atar
Mohammad Mahmoud (Egyptian citizen)
(Wounded)
Monia Chidiac
Chadi Saliba
Alain Khoury
Leila Jamil
Nidal Al Achqar (known as Nidal Taqla)
Hala Mazloum
Ain Hanna
Hanna Abu Antoun
Wahib el Murr
Franco Moukarzel
Raghed Abu Haidar
Elsy Siyyah
Lorre Maalouf
Marie Saliba
Najla Abu Haidar
Intisar Abu Wakim
Nimir Husseini
Ne3mat Saliba
Majida Michel Kfoury
(Pictures courtesy of Yahoo!News)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Breaking News: Border Clash + Weapons Truck - Updated!

"Lebanese troops deployed along the border with Israel opened fire late Wednesday as Israeli troops searched for Hezbollah bombs, drawing retaliatory fire, officials from both sides said... Israeli troops responded with tanks and light weapons... The exchange occurred near the Lebanese village of Maroun el-Rass." Associated Press

"There are no reports of IDF casualties, but the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, an international peace-keeping force bolstered following the second Lebanon war last summer, reported that five soldiers in the Lebanese Army were wounded during the exchange of fire.

Lebanese Army officials disputed UNIFIL claims that any soldiers were wounded, and said their forces suffered no casualties". Haaretz

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Some Quick Updates:

Picture shows an Italian soldier (R) from the United Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and a Lebanese officer check the border in Maroun Al Ras village, near the border between Lebanon and Israel, February 8, 2007. (Courtesy of Yahoo!News)

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Related Updates:

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Weapons Truck Updates:

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.

Al Jazeera's "The War of Lebanon"

By far not an 'unopinionated' recount of our bloody history, Al Jazeera's documentary movie about Lebanon's civil war still serves as an adequate starting point for anyone interested in reviewing events that preceded the "Syrian Mandate" era of Lebanon's history (from 1990 onwards).
Here is the complete series, broken up into its 15 episodes.

(H/T to Arabian Circle)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Berri: Government seeks approval of Int'l Tribunal under Chapter 7 of UN charter

Berri's office issued a statement claiming that the Lebanese government has recently sent a letter requesting that the international tribunal be established under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, waiving the requirement for the Lebanese government's approval. He went on to say, "The plot behind not allowing a discussion [over the tribunal] was eventually to resort to Chapter 7 in order to keep up pressure on the Opposition, on the Lebanese and on Lebanon."

Wonderful. So exactly how does this tribunal affect the average Lebanese citizen so much that its worth paralyzing the government, further damaging our already fragile economy and throwing the nation down a spiral of increasingly violent confrontations?

Source

Friday, February 02, 2007

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