Friday, March 30, 2007

Sfeir Spells it Out (Updated)

"The main interference comes from the neighbors ... Syria left Lebanon, but maintains its existence in it through its (intelligence) agencies and pressures … Syria did not accept what has happened and seeks a return to Lebanon."

So spoke Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the head of Lebanon's Christian Maronite Church, in an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al Raii al Aam published this morning. The prelate's comments come at the start of what promises to be an aggressive fight to establish the International Tribunal under a joint UN-Lebanese mandate, ahead of a looming deadline to pass it under a UNSC Chapter 7 mandate. A fight, the current phase [background: I, II] of which was, officially launched by the pro-Syrian Speaker of Parliament's refusal to convene the year's first constitutionally-stipulated parliamentary session, and now brought to a head by the Speaker's refusal to receive the international tribunal's draft bill frorm the office of the Prime Minister.

But apart from serving as a much needed breath of fresh air, from a source that is fundamentally essential to the success of Lebanon's campaing to rid it of its clandestine Syrian infestation, the Patriarch's comments will act to sever any claims to legitimacy over Christian interests Syria's allies in that community have been using to continuously cripple the formation of the International Tribunal. Claims propagated through base sectarian fears and the allotment of political favours.

Speaking to that effect, the Patriarch told of his efforts to avert a national crisis and preserve his community's highest ranking political seat, that of the Presidency of the Republic,

"I told the president who was sitting next to me here during Christmas that the country needs a salvation step, even at the expense of your term (in office). Later I sent him a written message with one of my aides urging him to abdicate...

...What does he [Lahoud] do? He spends his day with political wrangling and countering remarks made by his critics. This, certainly, hurts the image of the presidency."

Yet despite the prelate's efforts to mitigate the divisions that have coursed through his community (and of course the country as a whole). Syria, according to Sfeir,

"continues to place huge pressures on those groups and factions aligned with it, in order to hamper the creation of the International Tribunal and prevent the reaching of an internal entente."

On the subject of Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and a primary backer of pro-Syrian efforts to bring down the government of Fouad Seniora, Sfeir added,

"He [Michel Aoun] has an understanding with Hizbullah, assuming that he will have the party's backing to be chosen president."

The Christians, continued the prelate, "are not united like the rest of the (Lebanese) communities. Some of them support the government and are allied with the majority and others are with the other side (opposition). They are the ones who aspire to return to power and rule Lebanon again, as it used to be ruled during the era of [Syria's] hegemony."

"[If we are to work ourselves out of this crisis], there is no doubt that the International Court is need, as well as an election law on the basis of the smaller districts that preserve the health of representation and fairness, that is where we need to start."


Update:
Several days after the publication of the above interview, Naharnet amended its 'exclusive' sneak-peak coverage of the Kuwaiti daily's interview with the prelate by noting that the Maronite secretariat has labeled Al Rai el Aam's publication of the interview as "inaccurate". Apparently, the Patriarch had not "mention[ed] specific names."

Update:
In statements clarifying the position outlined by the Maronite Patriarch, and then allegedly misrepresented by the Kuwaiti daily Al Raii el Aam, the Maronite Bishop's Council released a statement on Wednesday, April 4th, calling on the pro-Syrian opposition to end its paralysis of Parliament and any attempts to sabotage the presidential elections scheduled for November of this year.

Naharnet provides the following summary of the statement:

It [the statement] called for "halting any attempt to deactivate democracy and replacing it by non democratic practices."

The church called for "activating dialogue within constitutional institutions, especially the parliament which represents all political factions." To avoid escalating political differences into violence "we call on parliament to practice its constitutional and national roles … by deliberating the crisis and finding solutions to it through sound-democratic dialogue."

The statement warned that "disabling constitutional institutions is a harbinger to the collapse of the democratic regime." It urged all the parties "to resume dialogued with the aim of finding a settlement to this crisis and breathing life into the executive authority (government)."

The Maronite church "adheres to holding presidential elections as constitutionally scheduled." It warned that attempts by any faction to prevent quorum at the parliamentary session that would elect the new president would be an anti-constitutional attempt.

The statement was apparently referring to threats by the Hizbullah-led opposition to refrain from taking part in a parliamentary session to elect a new head of state, which would strip the legislature of a two-third quorum set by the constitution for the session. The Parliamentary majority which backs Premier Fouad Saniora's government does not control two thirds of the 128-seat parliament, but does have enough votes to elect a new head of state in the second round of balloting.

The statement also stressed that Lebanon "should adhere to the international legitimacy (U.N.) and all resolutions issued by its institutions." The Maronite Church called all concerned parties to "refrain from blocking" efforts by the United Nations to create an international tribunal "to try culprits in the serious crimes committed in Lebanon since October 2004."

(Emphasis added)

Although some may not find that the statement goes far enough in pointing the finger (it doesn't 'name names') it does, however, underline the major points of the Maronite church's position. Namely:

  • Its support for the establishment of the International Tribunal (only) through the Lebanese Parliament.
  • Its oppostion to efforts by pro-Syrian groups to block the functions of the legislative branch (Parliament) of government in all instances and especially after having already impeded the executive branch's functionality (Cabinet, Presidency).
  • Its support for the establishment of an electoral law with small (smaller than Mohafaza) electoral districts.
  • Its support for the replacement of Emil Lahoud as President of the Republic (only) through constitutional means.

Unfortunately for the bishops, the Patriarch, and all those fighting for the establishment of the rule of law - and not the rule of Bashar and Tehran - in Lebanon, those against whom they are fighting might not feel strongly about abiding by constituional means.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lebanon's Inconvenient Truth

The Israelis aren't the only ones destroying your environment. Grow up and do your part in preserving your country!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

May-day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Patriarch Games

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the ecclesiastic leader of Lebanon's largest and most politically empowered Christian sect, is playing a dangerous game. One he hopes will shield his community's national interests and positions, while striking a balance between the two political camps into which his community, indeed the country as whole, has been split.

By standing squarely against a UN ratification of the International Tribunal bill under Chapter 7, the Patriarch has moved to plug what he (and many others) continues to perceive as a hemorrhaging of Christian political influence in Lebanon. This hemorrhaging is widely attributed to the complete (and so far effective) bypassing of that community's highest ranking political representative, Emile Lahoud, which has resulted in a situation of broad-based consensus to the isolation of the institution of the Presidency of the Republic, until (at least) the ratification of the International Tribunal.

Although widely accepted as justification enough for the prelates worries, the above reasoning comes short of fully revealing the perceived magnitude of this predicament and the extent to which the Patriarch has found he has to maneuver to avert his community's decline. For the Patriarch, and those who share his perspective on the reshuffling of powers since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the greater danger to his community lies in the fact that those countries to which his community has historically turned to for support in the face of internal and external pressures, namely France and the U.S., now seem to have formed direct and robust links with the political leaders of the two other communities that make up the current anti-Syrian alliance, Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt. Such a situation could bode badly for the Patriarch, and those he shares leadership of the Christian community with, if and when those western backers decide it is time to sit down and negotiate a regional compromise aimed at averting a Shiite-Sunni split while potentially sacrificing Christian interests in the country.

But while those in the pro-Syrian opposition have relished the recent stance put out by Bkirki, those in the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, have quickly moved to negate the fears that prompted it. That is what prompted Saad Hariri, to rush to Bkirki following the second installment of the ‘Berriri’ talks, reassuring the prelate that “the March 14 Forces were united and that we are a national force that wants the international tribunal [to try suspects in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others] to be established in accordance with the Constitution”, and to Bzimmar to meet with the leader of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, following the third installment and where Hariri felt compelled to state “…there is nothing that comes between us, the March 14 Forces.”

And for all their faults, that is where those Christians within the March 14 Forces have gotten it right. No matter where one stands, there is obviously enough material in the conspiracy theories being circulated to warrant such a strong stance by the Patriarchy, but in staying resolutely within the March 14th alliance those politicians have attributed (at least in my judgement) a correct prioritization of the issues that face the nation and the community, both in importance and chronology. For no matter what you want to get out of Lebanon’s new-born struggle for independence it is painfully clear that we as a people will not allowed a chance at a peaceful existence so long as the regime next door feels it is free to act as it wishes in it. And while those in the opposition continue to stall, obstruct, and thwart efforts to pass the International Tribunal under a firm Lebanese mandate under the pretense of those conspiracies, they continue to allow Syria a free hand in the attacks and assassinations that are bleeding our country dry.

Patriarch Games: Appendix - The Sunni Conspiracy

This appendix to the Patriarch Games post aims to outline some of the deeply held conspiracy theories and beliefs permeating much of the Christian community (especially those in the ranks of the pro-Syrian opposition and Aoun's FPM).

It is unfortunate that we have to resort to this kind of a sectarian breakdown but unfortunately that is the nature of the politics that grip the country and the region. It would be naiive to think that factors such as these do not play a factor or should be ignored.

Of course the marginalization of Christians in Lebanese political affairs is exactly the line being pushed by Syria and being adopted by those Christians currently opposed to the government and actively pursuing a policy inline with that of Damascus.

Indeed to the above list of past transgressions of Christian prerogatives those Christians also specifically claim (and again, chief among this group of people is Aoun) that the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in power today is in reality one driven by Sunni (and to some extent Druze) interests who will use the close relationship they have built with Washington in order to try and effectuate a regime change in Syria the ultimate goal of which will be to install a Sunni government there, thereby bolstering their position in Lebanon and allowing them to take control. Another claim is that this Sunni-led majority will, as always with the help of the Americans, move to nationalize the approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees currently in Lebanon and the overwhelming majority of whom are Sunnis. This move would inevitably alter the delicate sectarian balance in the country leading to it being "controlled by the Sunnis".

Using this logic as justification, Aoun has forged an alliance with Hizballah (as the representative party of Shiites in Lebanon) and other hitherto unpopular pro-Syrian groups.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Syria Caught Red Handed - Updated!

"The leader of Fatah Islam Shaker al-Absi, second right, speaks during a press conference, late Tuesday March 13, 2007, in the Palestinian refugee camps of Nahr al-Bared and Biddawi in Tripoli north of Lebanon.

Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa said Tuesday that four Syrian members of a little-known radical Palestinian group have confessed to carrying out the near simultaneous bombings on commuter buses that killed and wounded several people last month near Beirut.

Meanwhile, a Fatah Islam spokesman who identified himself as Abu Salim said 'It is impossible for us to carry out such an act. These are part of unfair accusations against Fatah Islam.' 'If these accusations continue we will respond and our response will not be simple.'"

(AP Photo)

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Lebanese and international news services have reported the breaking up of a Syria-based terrorist network responsible for the twin-bus bombings that struck the country exactly one month ago. According to the Naharnet website, 8 members of the Syrian cell were arrested while two remain on the run and "are believed to be hiding at north Lebanon's Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp".

The website also reports,
Two of the held operatives are Palestinian refugees from the camp of Yarmouk near the Syrian capital of Damascus. The bust, according to one source, also included confiscating a large quantity of explosives that were hidden in the Beirut apartment of Syrian suspect identified as Mustapha Siyor.

Members of the network, according to the source, infiltrated into Lebanon from Syria last November under the cover of the so-called "Fatah-Islam" group, which was set up by Syrian intelligence with the objective of carrying out terrorist attacks to destabilize Lebanon and block the ratification of the international tribunal which would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.

Siyor's cell had been operating under cover from an apartment in Beirut's Christian neighborhood of Karm el-Zaytoun, which is part of the capital's Ashrafiyeh district, the source said.

Reports from Lebanon also indicate that the group had been planning a large attack on UNIFIL forces stationed in southern Lebanon as part of the UNSC Resolution 1701 and comes exactly tow days after a man was arrested enroute to planting a bomb in Saida following his exit from the Ain El Helweh refugee camp.

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Update:

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. (LBC), has reported that six of those being held in connection with the Ain Aalaq bombings are holders of Syrian-Palestinian residency papers and passports. It has also confirmed reports that the group had been planning attacks against UNIFIL forces stationed in the south of the country.

According to fellow blogger, Abu Kais,

A Fatah Islam official denied responsibility for the attacks in a telephone interview with LBC, and threatened "retaliation" if these accusations are leveled at his organisation. When asked about what form this retalition would take, he hung up.

The LBC website also reported that a spokesman for the PLO in Lebanon, stated that the Fatah-Islam group was not operating under the mandate of a Palestinian organisation but was a group "whose origins were known", in reference to the group's Damascus-based training, and command-structure.

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Update:

Minister of the Interior, Hasan Sabaa, officially announced this evenning that four members of the Fatah-Islam group linked to Syrian Intelligence services, have confessed to the Ain Aalaq twin bus bombings that took place exactly one month ago today. Sabaa's announcement came directly after a meeting of the cabinet (headed by PM Seniora).

A statement issued by Fatah Islam directly after Sabaa's announcement denied any involvement in the attack.

The Ides of March 2007: Berriri


Blessed with a "positive atmosphere" that seems to have been mysteriously missing for the past five months, the recent Berri-Hariri talks come ahead of a looming deadline for the Syrian regime to change its behaviour in Lebanon or face a tightening of the continued isolation it has been subject to among its "Arab brethren".

The deadline comes as Saudi Arabia prepares to host an Arab summit at the end of the month, in which the kingdom's fellow participants would be quietly asked to back a joint statement backing the Lebanese government's efforts to establish an International Tribunal, to try those charged with the assassination of former premier Rafic Hariri, and its ratification under terms vague enough to allow for the possibility of it being passed under a UNSC Chapter 7 mandate. The UN Investigation tasked with finding Hariri's killers has so far implicated the Syrian regime (and its allies within the Lebanese security apparatus) in the assassination.

Through the ongoing Berri-Hariri talks launched over the weekend, the Saudis have allowed the Syrians a chance to talk, through their chief representative in Lebanon, Nabih Berri, and thereby avoid the potential green-lighting of what would amount to the most severe UN-sanctioned action taken against an Arab country since a coalition was mobilized to free Kuwait from invading Iraqi forces in the early nineties.

However, the methods with which the Syrians have obtained this dialogue of representatives in Lebanon remains a brisk reminder of why it is so critical for the health of this country-of-representatives that the Syrians remain isolated and subject to the enactment and jurisdiction of the International Tribunal when it comes into being. Nevertheless, there is method to the Syrians’ maliciousness. The Syrians, at least, seem to have been successful in grabbing the Saudis’ attention through the escalation of the bombing and assassination campaign they have been conducting in the country for well over two years now. No longer satisfied with the subtleties of assassinations targeting predominantly Christian districts as a demonstration of their abilities to unleash a Sunni-Shiite struggle in Lebanon, the Syrians have “upped the ante” recently with a series of false bomb alarms in Sunni (and perhaps some Shiite) districts throughout the country.

There is, however, another threat posed by the Syrian manoeuvre, and by a possible Saudi reward for it, that lies in the danger that those calling the shots in Damascus will eventually seek to play this emphasis on the avoidance of Sunni-Shiite discord in order to effectuate a return of the Christian camp to the Syrian fold. If the Syrians can successfully pull off a temporary de-escalation of tensions with Saudi Arabia while at the same time averting an immediate ratification of the International Tribunal bill, they will be free to pursue a broadening of the political crisis stage onto the platforms of the Presidency of the Republic and early Parliamentary elections.

If the regime in Syria is to stand any chance of surviving the continued drive at the establishment of Lebanese sovereignty in the face of the Syrians’ aggression, then in all likelihood, it will need to move to shift the current balance of representative power in Lebanon and bring about the formation Christian-Shiite-Alawite alliance that can defeat the current parliamentary majority in early elections, and bring a halt to any real progress in the International Tribunal (e.g. passing it under Syrian law). The man for this job today, as he was yesterday, will be none other than the General himself, his Excellency Michel Aoun.

The Ides of March 2007: Aoun's Labyrinth



As the Berriri negotiation marathon continues, with the aim of allowing Syria to dodge a diplomatic bullet while at the same time opening up the political field to further crises, there is a sense that despite the temporary respite from the ongoing political deadlock that these talks will surely yield, the coming year will prove to be a difficult one, wrought with sectarian attacks that will seek to finally isolate the drive for an International Tribunal as one cooked up by “Zionist collaborators” and those who would seek alter the sectarian balance of the country to their own benefit. As far as purpose is concerned, these moves will have the aim of driving a wedge between those Christians in the March 14th alliance, the general Christian public, and the Sunni-led Future Movement and Druze-led PSP, with the final hope that such a divide could allow a return of a pro-Syrian majority to Parliament, via early elections.

Particularly sensitive to these moves will be Michel Aoun. The General (as he is widely known) can already attribute both his past election successes (1) and his past election failures (namely his loss in the Aaley electoral district to the quadripartite alliance) to reactionary Christian sentiments in relation to a perceived political isolation. Indeed it has been this reactionary feeling among those moderate Christians that support Aoun, that has been the primary driver behind the somewhat large Christian participation in the pro-Syrian camp’s efforts to topple the Seniora government throughout December 2006, and most of January 2007.

As the winds have turned on the actions that permeated those months, now agreed by many to have constituted an attempted coup d’etat, there is hope that Aoun and his FPM may now be ready to re-engage the political scene on the basis of the sovereignty agenda that formerly united the group with its allies within the March 14th movement. Of course, highlighting a possible Aoun switch as being based on a sovereignty agenda seems rather contradictory when viewed against his visit to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, if the General gets his way, it might be Aoun’s dialogue with the kingdom that may prove the most fruitful of all the discussions undertaken over the past several weeks.

Having reached an agreement with the Iranians over a compromise resolution of the crisis in Lebanon in early January, the Saudi kingdom has witnessed a marked reluctance by Iran – through its subordinate Hizballah and in respect of its ally, Syria’s wishes – to implement the compromise resolution. The reason behind the lack of implementation, and behind the Berriri meeting of course, has been Syria’s resolute rejection of any compromise on the International Tribunal. One of the excuses given by Hizballah (a group not unmoved by Syria’s whims and desires) for the lack of implementation, however, has been Aoun. More precisely, in private negotiations with the majority anti-Syrian alliance, Hizballah has used its pledged support for Aoun’s presidential aspirations (in return for his help in toppling the Seniora government) (2) as a major reason for their rejection of the compromise deal. In reaching out to Aoun, the Saudis may now be trying to remove any further obstacles (or excuses for obstacles) that could complicate the pursuit of a temporary domestic settlement leading to the establishment of the International Tribunal. Whether or not the Saudis will actually use this meeting to forge a relationship with Aoun is still unclear.


Despite the recent moderation of the General’s party’s rhetoric (again as a direct consequence of the popular backlash felt by the group for its role in the Black Tuesday riots and road closures) the Saudis might not be so inclined to reward the General for the political cover he has provided Hizballah following the July War (3). In addition, the Saudis (and many Lebanese including this blogger) may have second thoughts about trusting a man who has proven himself to be unstable in the most dramatic of fashions!

Aoun will also have to contend with the resurrection of Samir Geagea, and his Lebanese Forces (LF), to the Christian political scene and the popularity that the group seems to be gaining as a result of the General’s blunders and what many perceive as the LF’s resilience. It is telling that after his latest meeting with Berri, Hariri was reported to have met directly with Geagea and fully briefed him on the meeting. It would seems that the young Hariri may have picked up on the perception of isolation that has begun to creep back into the general psyche of the Christian community, and moved to counter it adequately.

If a deal could be reached with the General, however, it could prove useful in offsetting any future plans Syria might have to using him as a primary vehicle to draw out a wider Christian-Sunni divide (4). To that end, the regime in Damascus will most likely continue their pursuit of Aoun with continued promises of Christian "Za3eem" status, an offer the General has previously demonstrated he cannot refuse, no matter the cost. Most likely, these offers will include support for his Presidential candidacy, an attempt to bestow "hero" status on the General by allowing him to negotiate the release of hundreds of Lebanese nationals (5) held in Syrian jails, and an election sweep of predominantly Christian districts.

Unfortunately for the General, these rewards will very likely prove to be lemons. A release of prisoners by the Syrians, no matter who takes credit for it, will undoubtedly bring to light the detrimental conditions under which some of these prisoners were held (and in which some of whom did not survive), an event that will only heighten criticism of the 'sisterly state' and those with whom it cooperates. As far as Aoun's presidential aspirations are concerned, I have no doubt that if Aoun does, miraculously, make it to the presidential chair in Baabda, he will not survive long enough to enjoy it. Indeed, the General would most likely face the fate of the last President of the Republic the Syrians agreed to compromise over, Rene Mouawad.



No matter what the case, it remains painfully clear that Berriri talks or not, the Syrians will be desperately pursuing a strategy of prohibiting the advancement of the International Tribunal to the international political scene. So long as they can keep it mired in a political pool in which they themselves can wade, they will be free to continue to pursue their policy of tainting that pool with the blood of those who stand to oppose them. As for Aoun, more likely than not his chance at the Presidency by Lebanese acclaim has come and gone. By entrenching himself with Hizballah, Amal, the SSNP, and the Syrian Baath Party in Lebanon, he has allowed the blood of the community which he so avidly desires to represent (er…rule over) to be used as ink in the messages sent from our 'sisterly state' to the rest of our 'Arab brothers' in the region (6).

The Ides of March 2007: Appendix

Alright, here's the appendix for the new posts - a link to which you will find directly above. I'd like to apologise to my fellow bloggers and readers for the lull in activity on the blog. I know the posts haven't been coming as often as they have in the past but I guess thats a symptom of a ballooning workload and...tax season? Anyway I'm going to be updating this series of posts over the rest of the day, and maybe tomorrow, with images and links to go with the text (I wish I could do it now but its 4:30 in the morning and I have work in 3 hours). I hope you enjoy it and I'm looking forward to hearing your comments. Thanks for being so patient (and so forgiving of my graphic design-through-MS Paint skills)!
  1. In which a large portion of the Christian electorate cast votes in his favour deemed as a reaction to the perceived threat of Christian political isolation promulgated by the quadripartite alliance signed by the major Muslim groups (Amal-Hizballah-FM-PSP).
  2. Four ministries within which Aoun was offered in the last round of negotiations in late November, and which he accepted before having to give up as a consequence of the alliance he had struck with the pro-Syrian camp and their Damascus-based orders to reject the compromise and precipitate the crisis.
  3. A cover which has allowed Hizballah to dodge responsibility for approximately $9 billion worth of damage to the country’s infrastructure and revenue; the loss of over 1200 lives; and, perhaps more importantly for the Saudis, allowed Iran to establish a itself as a primary mover in the complex world of Arab regional politics and its relation to the question of Jerusalem, Palestine, and the Israeli front.
  4. Aoun himself is no stranger to (unwittingly – both his supporters and his critics agree) being a tool of Syria’s policy in Lebanon, his two wars – one against the Syrians and the other against Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces – in the early nineties are widely blamed for the establishment of a Syrian mandate over the country in subsequent years.
  5. Kidnapped from Lebanon during the civil war (and especially during Aoun’s misplanned war against the Syrians) and taken to Syrian jails where they have been tortured and held without trial or charges for over 13 years now (at least).
  6. With a family like this, who needs a neighbour like Israel to the south? For Hizballah, it is the blood of the residents of the south, written with the help of Israeli cluster bombs, which seems to be their favourite pick for Iran's (and Syria's) messages.
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