Thursday, May 31, 2007

Text of UNSC Resolution 1757

For anyone interested in reading it, here is the exact text of UNSC Resolution 1757:

Video of UNSC Vote on Resolution 1757


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

UNSC Resolution 1757 Approved

The title says it all. The vote count was 10 - 0 with 5 abstentions.

Syria's Fingerprints

In the wake of the arrest of a high ranking member of the Al-Qaeda organisation in a Beirut hotel yesterday (check the comments section of our update thread for yesterday's events), Lebanese news website, Naharnet, has published a bevy of information revealed by the bust, and disclosed by one anonymous yet 'reliable' source.

Here are the juicy bits (emphasis mine):

According to this reliable source, this very dangerous terrorist had illegaly crossed into Lebanon from Syria overland. He had come over the weekend to coordinate with Fatah al Islam militants currently barricaded in the Nahr el Bared Refugee Camp and battling the Lebanese Army.

The source also revealed that the arrested man had "sold out al-Qaida in favor of cooperation with Syrian intelligence after he was offered safe haven in Syria", effectively making him a "Syrian Double Agent."

The source explained that al-Qaeda is "no more a solid-structure network. Many of its ranking members have joined several intelligence agencies and are used to infiltrate, control and direct local Qaida-inspired fanatics to carry out attacks that serve the interests of these intelligence agencies.

"Fatah al-Islam, the source added, "is one of such local groups. Its members are inspired by al-Qaida ideology, but its attacks are directed by Syrian intelligence officers."

The man, according to the source, had also turned in a wanted high-ranking Saudi member of al-Qaida known as Abu Talha, to the Syrian intelligence last week. "He did the Syrians a major favor that could help them boost their tense relations with the Americans."

After turning in Abu Talha, the Syrian intelligence command "sent the suspect to Lebanon to re-organize Fatah al-Islam and other Syrian-sponsored terrorists and sponsor a spate of attacks on a variety of targets in Lebanon aimed at destabilizing the situation," the source added.

"The Syrians want to destabilize Lebanon and tell the Americans: 'We can control the situation like we arrested Abu Talha. Strike a deal with us and Lebanon would be under control'," the source said.

According to the source, Fatah al-Islam terrorists arrested in north Lebanon "told investigators of the suspect's moves and revealed important information which led to his arrest."
In a related development, the source said police also arrested "two Syrian nationals" that had with them "dozens of photographs of Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul Aziz Khoja."
"They had pictures of him at his apartment's balcony, at the entrance to the building and in so many other locations. It appears they were monitoring his moves in preparation for an attack on him," the source added without further elaboration.
It is worth noting that this entire article was based on the word of one man who's identity was not revealed, and therefore his motives and reliablility can't be independently verified. But if the information turns out to be true, this will be one more brick in the mounting wall of evidence against a regime (and its allies) intent on throwing this country into chaos.

It is a chaos we must all stand together in resistance of and in support of this country, this state, and its institutions - including a Lebanese Army that continues to battle these Syrian-backed militants in the North!

Breaking News: Grenade Attack on ISF

Please check the Comments Section for Updates!

(To access the Comments Section simply click here and scroll down)


Houses burn after fighting between the Lebanese army and Palestinian Fatah Islamist militants at the Palestinian Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon May 29, 2007. The Lebanese army launched artillery shells at the Palestinian refugee camp on Tuesday and militants barricaded inside fired mortars in the heaviest fighting there in a week. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen (LEBANON)

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Tuesday, May 29th, 2007:

The Associate Press reports:
Heavy clashes erupted Tuesday between Lebanese troops and Fatah Islam militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon — the sharpest escalation after a weeklong truce.

Lebanese army artillery struck positions on the northern edge of the camp and near the Mediterranean coast, apparently seeking to prevent any attempt by militants to flee by sea.

Reports from Lebanon indicate that Fatah al Islam militants have attacked Lebanese Army positions with mortar and sniper fire throughout the latest confrontation, leading to the injury of at least two Lebanese Army soldiers. The Lebanese Army has responded with a significant artillery barrage.

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Sunday, May 27th, 2007:

Lebanese security services are in pursuit of a car from which it is believed a hand grenade was launched, leading to the injury of four people, two of whom are members of the country's Internal Security Forces. The attack occured at an ISF checkpoint in the Barbir district of the capital, Beirut, the grenade was reported to have been thrown from a bridge running above the checkpoint.

According to the Lebanese daily, the Dailystar,

Security sources said the blast was caused by a concussion grenade thrown at an ISF position and initial reports indicated that the injuries were not serious. Concussion grenades are designed to disorient rather than to wound.

The Dailystar also reported on a video broadcast by a group calling itself "Al-Qaeda in Greater Syria" which threatened to strike at Christians in Lebanon, "tourism and trade", if the Lebanese Army resumed shelling of the Nahr el Bared Refugee Camp where Fatah al Islam militants have been bunkered down in a confrontation with the Army in the wake of an earlier attack on Army outposts around the camp.

According to the paper,

The video specifically threatened "the traitor Jewish agent, Lebanese Forces leader [Samir Geagea] and ... the ally of the disbelievers who is greedy and ambitious to become the king of Lebanon, Michel Aoun." Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir was also threatened.

"If you do not stop firing on our family I warn ... after today not one Christian in Lebanon will be safe ... Just as you strike, you will be struck."

The threat came as Lebanese news services reported clashes along the southern entrance to the Nahr el Bared camp between Lebanese Army units and Fatal al Islam gunmen.

The Dailystar reported on Sunday evening that,

The army is alert to possible infiltrations by militants from the Fatah al-Islam," the army source told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity. "Several members of the group were arrested in Tripoli and within the vicinity of the camp" over the weekend, he said.
Meanwhile, in an interview given to the paper on Sunday, Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat (a prominent member of the Future Movement) declared that
"We are waiting for the Palestinians factions to reach a final decision on how to deal with the issue of Fatah al-Islam,"..."The army continues to maintain security on the ground."

[The minister also] denied earlier media reports that the government had set a deadline of mid-week for a solution to be negotiated. "We have put no time restraint [on the negotiations],"
News services also reported the arrival of eight cargo planes over the weekend with US military aid. Media reports said the planes carried ammunition, body armor, helmets and night-vision equipment.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Poll: Lebanon's Best Interest in Nahr el Bared

After a week of running battles, sporadic gunfights, car bombs, artillery barrages, and incessant assaults on our country's sovereignty and national instutitutions, the government announced yesterday that they would give the Fatah al Islam terrorists holed up in the Nahr el Bared Refugee Camp until the middle of the upcoming week to surrender or die.

We start this week with a Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll asking our readers how they think this most recent crisis heaved upon us should be dealt with to best secure the country's national interests, sovereignty, and objectives.

Revisiting last week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll on a choice between the two worst case scenarios, as perceived by the two major factions in the country, in the upcoming Presidential Crisis (yes, we've already labelled it a Crisis because in our view, Lebanon is continuously being subjected to extreme choices which inescapably bring out a crisis), we find that approximately 9 out 10 respondents (of which there were 87) preferred to be 'burdened' with a March 14th President than endure a crippling Two Government Crisis.

Syria's Media Insurgency in Lebanon

Almost as soon as the Syrian-backed Fatah al-Islam group launched a series of suprise attacks on Lebanese Army outposts and patrols, Syria’s other allies in the country mounted a suprise attack of their own, attempting to transform a battle that should have rallied all Lebanese together in the defense of the state into a partisan conspiracy aimed at breaking any potential unity that could have arisen out of this week’s national tragedy and impending victory.

Armed with a feature piece laden with “anonymous tip offs”, “someone told me’s”, “my source’s theories”, and “I heards” (the majority of which could be traced back to pro-Syrian sources in the first place) as well as a set of misconstrued events and flaky recounts, the country’s pro-Syrian mouthpieces have sought to propagate their claim that the very same group the government has vowed to “finish off” in the upcoming days and hours, is in fact receiving arms and funds from it, and that any effort to eliminate the remaining 100 or so terrorists in the camp would be a mistake (I’ll get to that later). But while this malicious campaign continues to grow fiercer by the day, the supports on which it was built have already started to crumble.

In his latest editorial, the Dailystar’s Opinion Editor, Michael Young, builds on an earlier deconstruction of Seymoure Hersh’s New Yorker article (the above mentioned feature piece) and takes the allegations of Hariri family funding extremist groups head-on. Young writes,

“The lie about the government financing of Fatah al-Islam has been given legitimacy thanks to a spectacular blunder by the Hariri camp, in particular Bahiyya al-Hariri. A few months ago she helped resolve a crisis that had resulted from the presence of Islamists located in the Taamir district of Sidon, abutting the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, by paying compensation money to Jund al-Sham militants so they would leave the area.

However, instead of disbanding, a number of the militants went to Nahr al-Bared, according to Palestinian sources. There, they joined Fatah al-Islam. Now the Hariris look like they financed Islamists, when they were really only doing what they usually do when facing a problem: trying to buy it away.”
In addition to the Taamir incident, however, Syria’s defenders in the country have attempted to build upon a joining of ranks between the country’s leading moderate Sunni group, the Future Movement – led by the Hariri family, and conservative Sunni groups such as the Jamaa Islamiyya. Writing in early March, Young previews the build up to the campaign of disinformation we are witnessing today,

In fact, it is true that the Lebanese government is allied with Sunni Islamists - most notably Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya, the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The reality is that amid the sectarian polarization in Lebanon today, most Sunnis have rallied to the government's side, against the Shiite Hizbullah. Al-Jamaa is close to Saudi Arabia, and in 2005 the Saudis intervened prior to parliamentary elections that followed the Syrian withdrawal to ensure the group would not vote against candidates in North Lebanon backed by Saad Hariri, Lebanon's most powerful Sunni leader who enjoys American and Saudi backing. However, Al-Jamaa is nothing like Esbat al-Ansar or Fatah al-Islam; it has integrated into the state and has had members in Parliament.
While its true that the Hariri family’s attempts to unify all ranks of the Lebanese Sunni community (be they liberal, moderate or conservative) under the flag of its Future Movement, has resulted in some paltry sums of money reaching unsavoury types, there is no credible evidence and absolutely no indication, based on their stances, cross-sectarian allegiances, and policies in Lebanon to date to support the allegation that these activities constitute an attempt to assemble extremist militant groups in the country, let alone the country’s Palestinian Refugee Camps.

A Victory for Lebanon

And so, while the Lebanese Army prepares to finish a battle Syria’s Fatah al-Islam started, Syria’s most influential ally in the country has moved to cast a protective cover for its [Syria’s] terrorists in Nahr el Bared.

Speaking in a televised address on Friday night, Hizballah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, claimed that an assault on the camp would be a “mistake” and that any attempt to move on the camp and terrorists within it constitutes a “red line”.

But a red line for whom? For the Palestinians? Since the launch of military operations at the camp Palestinian factions have voiced unconditional support for the Lebanese Army and Government in their campaign to dislodge what they described as a “foreign element” that has “no links to either the Palestinian people, cause, or the Sunni religion”.

The fact of the matter is that a successful conclusion to this crisis for the country’s military would constitute a defeat of the Secretary General’s rhetoric which itself has amounted to an assault on the ability of the Lebanese Army to provide a security cover for the country, and for the state to enforce its control over the entirety of Lebanon’s territory. Fellow blogger, Abu Kais, reported on a speech Nasrallah made on April 8th, 2007:
Speaking before 1,700 Hizbullah university students, Nasrallah admitted he was running his own state. "When you become a state,come back and demand that we don't [run our own]… Having a state depends on a strong army able to confront any Israeli attack."
In short, a victory for the Lebanese Army coupled with the Government’s ongoing efforts to place the contested Shebaa farms under a UN mandate would provide all the Lebanese with undeniable proof that there is a veritable state capable of confronting both the internal and external dangers facing the Lebanese nation and people. It is a victory Hassan Nasrallah, and his extra-institutional mini-state, cannot afford to accept and it is a victory all the Lebanese cannot afford to forgo.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Army Aide (Updated!)

Update (Friday, May 25th, 2007):

News services reported on Friday the arrival of at least 4 miliatry cargo planes to Beirut International Airport.

According to the Yahoo!News website,

"At least four U.S. and Arab military supply planes arrived at Beirut airport carrying ammunition and other equipment from U.S. depots in the region, security sources said. At least two more flights were scheduled".

Meanwhile, the Lebanese news website, Naharnet, reported that a United Arab Emirates air force plane had landed late Thursday night with the first supplies. According to the site, two more flights were expected to arrive from Egypt on Friday, with the total number of emergency airlifts expected to reach eight, according to a Pentagon official.

Naharnet also quoted a U.S. military official as having said that "the Lebanese government had asked the U.S. to expedite a shipment of a broad range of equipment and ammunition already in the pipeline for delivery. All of the materials en route had previously been requested, the agreements were already in place, and they were in the delivery process, the official said".

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007):

This is a post I started preparing some time ago. In light of recent developments I thought it would be a good time to publish it with the following updates reflecting the current situation:

  • Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa, revealed yesterday that some Arab states had already begun delivery of weapons and ammunitions in support of the Lebanese Army's efforts to combat an insurgency launched in the Nahr el-Bared camp by Syrian-sponsored fundamentalist group, Fatah al-Islam.

  • The Unites States has prepared an emergency $280 million military aide package in response to an urgent request by the Lebanese government in light of its confrontation with gunmen in the Nahr el-Bared camp. Reports indicate that $220 million of the funds have been earmarked for the Army while $60 will go to the ISF.

Below you will find (a portion of) the original post.

Lebanese Army Equipment Upgrades:

  • Delivered
  1. 50 Land Rover utility vehicles from the UK
  2. 20 (of 285) Humvees from the US,
  3. 9 Gazelle helicopters from the UAE
  4. 5 10-meter naval patrol craft from the UAE
  5. 5 15-meter naval patrol craft from the UAE
  • Forthcoming
  1. $39 million in 2006 used to purchase 12 5-tonne trucks, 4 Bell 212 helicopters and repair of Lebanese Air Force’s 23 Bell UH-1H helicopters
  2. 45 Leopard-1 Tanks from Belgium
  3. A minimum of 20 M109 155 mm self-propelled Howitzers from Belgium
  4. 2 36-meter naval patrol craft with blue-water capability from Germany
  5. 265 Humvees from the US

(Primary Source)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Breaking News: Nighttime Firefight in Nahr el Bared

After a two-day long truce, fierce fighting in and around the Nahr el Bared refugee camp resumed on Thursday night as the Lebanese Army evacuated journalists, and intercepted a group of Fatah al Islam gunmen as they tried to flee the camp.

According to the FPM official website, a nighttime firefight erupted at approximately 8:30 pm with heavy exchanges of fire being heard from the northern entrance to the camp. As the fighting continued, the army intercepted a group of fighters attempting to flee the camp via the northern entrance. This while Internal Security Forces reported a pursuit of two Fatah al Islam gunmen through orchards in Balamand and close to area of an earlier ambush of an Army patrol on Sunday.

The news comes as the Lebanese Army confirms that it sank two inflatable boats carrying Fatah al-Islam militants earlier this week. YaLibnan reports that the militants were thwarted "when a Lebanese navy warship opened fire, sinking the two boats and killing all on board, the Lebanese military said".

In a television address to the nation, earlier on Thursday, Lebanon's Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora vowed to "root out and strike at terrorism", while "embrac[ing] and protect[ing] our brothers in the camps,"

The Prime Minister described the Fatah al- Islam militant group as "a terrorist organization that claims to be Islamic and to defend Palestine" but which was in fact "attempting to ride on the suffering and the struggle of the Palestinian people."

"You are our brothers," Siniora told Palestinian refugees, "we share with you the bad times before the good ones."

Breaking News: Explosion in Aley

Fellow blogger, Anton Efendi, provides excellent commentary as well as some riveting information on the orchestrated terror campaign gripping the country. Read up people!

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Well if you haven't heard about it yet, here it is:


The Naharnet news website reports:

[At approximately 9:40 pm] a bomb exploded in the mountain resort town of Aley east of Beirut Wednesday night, wounding at least five people, a senior security official said.

Aley is a stronghold of Druze leader Walid Jumblat, a main figure in the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority.

Jumblat pointed the finger at Syria, which he said was trying to block a U.N. resolution to set up an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

"These bombs are planted because the Security Council is about to intervene and adopt the tribunal," he told CNN. "This is why the Syrian regime is trying to terrorize us and say 'if you adopt the resolution, this is an example of what will happen in Lebanon'" (emphasis added).

Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, who survived an assassination attempt in Beirut on October 2004, was also quick to accuse Damascus.

"After the failure of the discord which they (Syrians) wanted to stir through Nahr al-Bared, the explosions have resumed," he told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television station."This is an attempt to sow discord, to terrorize the Lebanese in order to ruin the upcoming tourism season," Hamadeh said.

Lebanese news website, YaLibnan, revealed that the bomb had been placed in a suitcase, hidden beneath a flight of stairs. It also reported that another bomb had been discovered nearby but was succesfully defused.

This explosion is the third in a series of attacks that have all targetted tourists hotspots across Lebanese and ahead of the country's popular summer tourist season. Another explosion was averted yesterday when security services intercepted a terrorist cell on its way to striking another popular mountain resort town.


Many thanks to our loyal readers who kept us all up-to-date on the explosion and the worrying developments over the past few days. Mafi minkoon!

(As always, these images were taken from Yahoo!News)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Evacuations and Preparations: Day 4 in Nahr el Bared

Approximately half of the Nahr el-Bared civilian population has been evacuated overnight in what could be a run-up to a final assault on Fatah al-Islam militants bunkered down in the Palestinian Refugee Camp.

According to the YaLibnan news website, about 15,000 Palestinian refugees fled the camp after a ceasefire came into place after sunset. The site reported that "refugees have largely moved to a nearby Palestinian refugee camp at Beddawi, where shelter, mattresses, food and water had been provided".

YaLibnan also reported eyewitnesses accounts from residents fleeing the camp claiming "they saw Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Absi seriously wounded in his hand and his shoulder as a result of Lebanese army shelling of the group’s headquarters in Nahr al-Bared camp". This comes as the Naharnet news website reports that Absi's son-in-law, and Fatah al-Islam's number 2 man, was seriously wounded in clashes with the Lebanese Army, something the group had earlier denied.

According to Naharnet, the Lebanese daily An Nahar, reported that "13 other Fatah al-Islam militants were shot and killed by Lebanese army fire as they tried to flee Nahr al-Bared by boat to the southern refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh. An Nahar [also] said other Fatah al-Islam fighters were arrested and handed over to the intelligence bureau".

Meanwhile, Naharnet quoted a Nahr el Bared 'civilian committee' as having received information that the Palestinian mainstream Fatah movement had "prepared a 300-strong battalion headed by Sultan Abul Ainain to 'storm' Nahr al-Bared to deal with extremists from Fatah al-Islam".

Speaking on Monday about the feasibility of the Lebanese Army eliminating the Syrian-sponsored group, Retired Army General Elias Hanna indicated that "entering the camp is not a question of weaponry or technology - if the army goes in it would use special forces and the army has two brigades of special forces and is more than capable in that area,"

The retired general hinted that at a possible coordination between the army and members of the mainstream Fatah movement, "First we have to see how organized [Fatah] are inside the camp and how ready they are to oppose Fatah al-Islam."

On Monday night the Lebanese Army released a statment notifying residents in the vicinity of the Rayak Air Force base of night air sorties by the Lebanese Air Force due to start this evenning. Given that the Lebanese Air Force is solely made up of helicopter squadrons, any sortie party would most likely consist of rocket-equipped helicopters that could effectively form the basis of any assualt on the camp this evenning.
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Update:

The Naharnet news website reported on Wednesday evenning that approximately 100 fighters loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had started deploying in the Nahr el Bared Refugee Camp. That number is expected to grow to 300 and is expected to aide in any Lebanese Army operation to clear camp of pro-Syrian Fatah al-Islam gunmen.

Images from Nahr el Bared





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(Images as found on Yahoo!News)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Breaking News: Army Advances on Fatah al-Islam

Please check the Comments Section for Updates!
(To access the Comments Section simply click here and scroll down)

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Fellow blogger, Abu Kais, provides excellent perspective on the day's events.

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"We renounce Fatah al-Islam. Members of the group are wanted by the Syrian security services," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said, according to the official news agency SANA.

If it wasn't for the devastating and tragic nature of the events that have unfolded over the past 3 days I would laugh!

Let me say something about this statement and the way the Syrian regime deals with 'terrorists'. An intellectual, a journalist, a pacifist in Syria by the name of Dr. Kamal Labwani, was jailed for 12 years (reduced from a life sentence with hard labor), not too long ago, for simply signign a document in Beirut calling for better relations between the two states. The sentence Syrian authorities claim to have handed down on to the leader of Fatah al Islam? Three years with hard labor. People get that for litering in Syria!

The sentence was a joke, their claims of detachment from the group are a joke. This group was is made up of a bunch of fundamentalist radicals, some of whom existed in Lebanon already, some of whom were brought in by the Syrians. This group is being actively manipulated by the Syrian regime and put to use in Lebanon to "set the country on fire", as a punishment for its wish to break free of Syria's dictatorial grip, and as a punishment for wanting to live in freedom.

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Lebanese news website, YaLiban, has provided details on the camps in Lebanon:


Mar Elias camp ............612 refugees
Burj el-Barajneh camp...15,484 refugees
Dbayeh camp................4,002 refugees
Shatila camp.................8,212 refugees
Ein el-Hilweh camp .......45,004 refugees
Mieh Mieh camp............4,473 refugees
El-Buss camp..... ..........9,287 refugees
Rashidieh camp..... ......25,745 refugees
Burj el-Shemali camp....18,625 refugees
Nahr el-Bared camp......30,439 refugees
Beddawi camp..............15,641 refugees
Wavel camp.................7,551 refugees
Dikwaneh & Nabatieh (destroyed camps) .....16,282
+ 9,595 refugees distributed throughout the camps.

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Update (10:30 am):

Reports from Lebanon indicate that Fatah al-Islam's number 2 man has been wounded. Meanwhile, the group has belatedly claimed responsibility for two bomb attacks (Aschrafieh, Verdun) on popular shopping malls throughout Beirut on Sunday and Monday night.

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Fighting erupted in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday as the Lebanese Army advanced on positions held by Fatah el-Islam militants in the Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp. This as a number of witnesses reported Army tank and artillery reinforcements being moved into the vicinity of the camp late last night.

According to Lebanese news services, the assault commenced around 5:00 am local time, with a heavy artillery barrage. By 9:00 am Lebanese Army special forces units had forced their way into the camp, overrunning a number of Fatah al Islam outposts within the camp and taking a number of prisoners in the process.

Meanwhile the Lebanese Army has revealed that 3 soldiers killed late in the fighting yesterday, were victims of a Fatah al-Islam suicide bomber.

Our prayers go out to the families of the fallen heroes.

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Viewers are invited to leave updates in the comments section as I have to go to work!

Breaking News: Army Intercepts Terrorists

Lebanese news services are reporting the arrests of three men, 2 Palestinian and 1 Egyptian, after and Army patrol stopped their blue Volkswagon on the Mansourieh mountain highway, just east of the capital, Beirut. After searching the car, Lebanese Army units uncovered a suitcase packed with explosives, 2 automatic rifles, and 2 revolvers. Security sources have indicated that the men might have been on a mission to carry out another attack similar to the ones that have struck the country's main shopping venues over the past two days. The Mansourieh mountain highway leads to the popular mountain resort towns of Beit Merri and Brummana, overlooking Beirut.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Forces official website is reporting the arrest of a Syrian man in the Sid el Baouchrieh suburb of the capital, after he was stopped by an ISF patrol and found to be in possession of bomb making materials.

Investigations are ongoing in both incidents.

Naharnet reports that the daily Al Liwaa on Tuesday said a suspect in the Verdun bombing was now in police custody. It said security sources identified him as Hussein Ahmad. Al Liwaa said Ahmad confessed that another person, only identified as M.M., was also involved in the bombing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Breaking News: Explosion in Verdun, Beirut



A car bomb is beleived to have gone off at 11:00 pm in the Verdun district of Beirut city. The explosion is reportedly in the vicinity of the Scoozi restaurant and the Dunes shopping mall, and might have occured in the parking lot of the Russian Cultural Center. Lebanese televison footage shows a fire now burning in the Mandarine building. The building is approximately 200 meters from the residence of the country's Speaker of Parliament. News services have placed the number of injured at 8, with zero deaths. Civil Defence units are now in the process of evacuating the residents of the Mandarine building as a fire rages through it.

Verdun is a predominantly Muslim district of the city, known for the large number of affluent shops and restaurants that line its main street.


Breaking News: Fighting Continues - Ceasefire Broken (Updated!)

For futher updates please refer to the following post and its comments section! Don't forget to check these developments!

Update(12:48 am):

The Lebanese Army has renewed shelling of Fatah al-Islam positions within the Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp.

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Update(11:48 pm):

Three Lebanese Army soldiers were reported killed when Fatah al-Islam gunmen launched an attack on their outpost near the northern section of the camp at approximately 10:20 pm.

Meanwhile, militants from the Jund al-Sham group operating in the Ain el Helweh camp (in the southern Lebanese city of Saida), have reportedly been seen mobilizing and taking strategic positions throughout the camp and the Taamir neighbourhood adjacent to it.

The Lebanese Army had released a statement earlier that evenning notifying residents in the vicinity of the Rayak Air Force base of night air sorties by the Lebanese Air Force from 23/5/2007 to 24/5/2007, from 7:30 pm to 9:22 pm.

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Update(8:48 pm):

Continued fighting and mortaring heard as dusk settles over the city of Tripoli and the Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp. Casualty figures for the day are still unclear.

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Update(7:02 pm):

The Naharnet news website, has reported from sources inside the camp, that Fatah al-Islam gunmen have resorted to using the residents of the camp as human shields, firing on those trying to get out of the camp as well as humanitarian organisations which had attempted to evacuate the wounded as part of an earlier agreed upon ceasefire.

"'They have taken the population hostage. They even interrupted the evacuation of the wounded civilians. They opened fire at civilians who were trying to run away from the camp' to safer areas in the nearby Baddawi camp and the northern town of Triploi, said Wedad who was reached through her mobile telephone.

Abdul Qader, a 50-year-old resident of the camp, said about 150-200 armed elements from Fatah al-Islam carried out a broad-front advance from their beach enclave across the narrow streets of the camp and took up sniping nests on rooftops and in residential apartments from which they opened fire on rescuers and Lebanese troops.

'They appear determined to fight it out to the end, with the civilian population forced to serve as human shield for their fighters. They shoot at every civilian who tries to evacuate the camp and seek refuge with the Lebanese army,' Abdul Qader told Naharnet."

The website also reported that weapons and troops had been brought to the camp last night by fishing boats from neighboring Syria.

"At least two gunboats from the Lebanese navy were observed in the Mediterranean off the northern coast, in what appeared to be an effort to block Fatah al-Islam's marine supply route."

Future TV, a pro-government Lebanese media outlet, has reported an attack on Lebanese Army troops by Fatah al-Islam gunmen in the town of Al-3abda, north of the city of Tripoli, and close to the Nahr el Bared camp's northern entrance.

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Update(6:40 pm):

The Palestinian government has released a statement in support of the Lebanese government's confrontation of Syrian-sponsored Fatah al-Islam militants in the Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp. The statement also called for the protection of Palestinian residents in the camp.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will be in Beirut tomorrow for a meeting with Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri. Arab League Cheif, Amr Moussa, has called an emergency meeting of the League's Arab representatives, due to be held tomorrow, to address the violence in and around the camp.

Meanwhile, television footage shows ongoing fighting and shelling in and around the camp. Al Jazeera has reported that of seventeen gunmen killed yesterday, 10 were Lebanese, 4 were Syrians, and 3 were Saudis. Other news agencies have reported 7 gunmen captured yesterday.

Map courtesy of BBCNews.com

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Update(5:20 pm):
Lebanese Army tanks are reportedly moving towards the Nahr el-Bared camp, amid heavy fighting. The sky above the camp is now covered with black smoke arising from several plumes across the camp. A convoy of Red Cross ambulances and humanitarian and religious figures heading into the camp at the time of the ceasefire reportedly came under fire (which broke the ceasefire), the Lebanese Army intervened and extracted the convoy.


If you're wondering where these Fatah al-Islam fighters came from, check this piece from November 2006: Click Me!


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The Lebanese Army maintained an artillery barrage into the Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp this morning while reinforcements tightened the security cordon around the Ain el Helweh Refugee Camp (another camp with a known pro-Syrian presence) near the southern city of Saida.


The Army reasserted control over all entrances to the Nahr el-Bared camp one day after some of its positions were overrun in surprise attacks by the Syrian-sponsored militant group, Fatah al-Islam.

In the early afternoon Fatah al-Islam began firing mortar artillery on Army positions surrounding the camp. The Army responded with a continued artillery barrage.


As the casualty toll in the camp rose in light of the Army's bombardment, ICRC ambulances made their way to the camp only to be stopped at the entrance by Fatah al-Islam militants, effectively preventing the evacuation of wounded from the camp.

The ICRC was able to secure a ceasefire in order to effectuate an evacuation of those requiring medical attention in the camp. Preliminary figures from inside the camp indicated the number of dead to be around 30 with 90 wounded. The ceasefire came into place from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm local time. In the meantime, the Lebanese Cabinet was due to convene a session at 5:00 pm local time.


Twenty minutes into the ceasefire reports emerged of renewed fighting after Fatah al-Islam militants openned fire on Army positions. The Army has returned fire! Television footage now shows a massive dark plume of smoke arising from the camp while heaving fighting can be heard in the background.


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Earlier in the day Prime Minister Fouad Saniora met with the PLO representative in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, who highlighted his group’s readiness to cooperate with the Lebanese Army in their containment and confrontation with the Fatah al-Islam group. Abbas is seen to have given his consent to an entering of the camp by the Lebanese Army provided that the action doesn’t lead to heightened casualties among the civilian population there. He cautioned that an entry into the camp might not resolve the situation, however.


In the Bedaoui Refugee Camp, a protest was held by the residents in support of the Lebanese Army and in condemnation of the Fatah al-Islam actions.


Security sources revealed that one of the Fatah al-Islam militants killed in fighting yesterday was a suspect in a failed German train bombing attempt. The body of the fighter, Saddam al-Hajdib, was among the burned bodies of 10 fighters found in a building in the northern port city of Tripoli after it was raided by Lebanese soldiers and policemen during Sunday's fierce fighting. Al-Hajdib was the fourth-highest ranking official in the Fatah al-Islam group, an official said. He is the brother of Youssef el-Hajdib, who is under arrest in Germany in the bombing attempt. An Nahar newspaper also on Monday quoted security officials as saying al-Hadjib and another Fatah al-Islam official known as Abu Yazan, who were killed in Sunday's battles, were involved in the February 13th Ein Alaq twin bus bombings.


Police commander Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said Sunday that Damascus was using Fatah al-Islam as a covert way to wreak havoc in the country, with people assuming it's al-Qaida, but Syria has denied involvement in any of the bombings.


"Perhaps there are some deluded people among them but they are not al-Qaida. This is imitation al-Qaida, a 'Made in Syria' one," Rifi told The Associated Press.


The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV station reported Sunday that among the dead militants were men from Bangladesh, Yemen and other Arab countries, underlining the group's reach outside of Lebanon.

Breaking News: Massive Explosion hits Aschrafieh (Updated!)

Reports are coming in of a massive explosion in a predominnatly Christian quarter of Lebanon's capital, Beirut. The explosion is reported to have been caused by a bomb placed under a car, parked between the Mar Mitri church and the southern entrance to the ABC shopping center. It went off at approximately 11:50 pm, Sunday night, and contained no less than 15 kg of explosives. Witnesses described a dark plume of smoke over the area.

So far one woman (63) is reported dead while ten others have been injured. A fire burning through the dense area is reportedly being brought under control. Security and Civil Defence units have moved to the area.

The Reuters news agency is reporting that "the woman was killed when the wall of her house, next to the mall, collapsed on top of her."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Video: Battle in Tripoli

To the Lebanese Army: Thank You!


To those soldiers of the Lebanese Army who fell today defending our right to live without tyranny, fear, and terror:

Thank You

and may you rest in peace.

Breaking News: 48 Killed as Army battles Fatah al-Islam (Updated!)

Update

While calm has returned to the streets of Tripoli, Lebanese news services are reporting that the Lebanese Army is continuing to monitor the sitution in the Nahr el Bared refugee camp and is firing flares over the camp to that effect.

Lebanese news agencies reported a high likelihood of the clashes continuing tomorrow as Syrian sponsored terrorist cells are reported to be mobilizing throughout the country's northern province.

Lebanese news agencies also released details over today's clashes. According to televsion reports 11 soldiers were killed when Fatah al Islam militants raided Army outposts along the perimeter of the Nahr el Bared refugee camp. In Tripoli, Fatah al Islam fighters took two Lebanese youths as hostages, as the Army closed in on the kidnappers, several were killed while one blew himself up and the fourth surrendered. The youths were recovered unharmed.

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A massive battle has erupted in northern Lebanon between units of the Lebanese Army and Syrian-backed Palestinian militants operating from the Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp on the outskirts of the Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Lebanese news website, YaLibnan, reported that "twenty-three soldiers and 19 militants died in the clashes, which erupted before dawn on the edge of the Nahr al-Bared camp and in the nearby Sunni Muslim city of Tripoli in north Lebanon."

According to the site, 15 militants were killed when troops stormed buildings they had occupied in Tripoli and four in the camp, home to 40,000 refugees. Units from the Lebanese Army had moved on security tips that several members of the group, involved in a bank heist a day earlier, were hiding out in a building in the city.

The Lebanese Army reported that clashes began when Fatah al-Islam militants attacked army positions around the refugee camp and within the northern district of the city of Tripoli. Four Lebanese Army soldiers were also killed when their patrol was attacked south of the city of Tripoli (pictures).

Meanwhile,

"Cabinet minister Ahmad Fatfat, speaking in Tripoli, said the violence was part of efforts to sabotage U.N. moves to set up the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri."

Fatfat told Lebanon's pro-government Future TV: "There is someone trying to create security chaos to say to world public opinion: 'Look, if the tribunal is established, there will be security trouble in Lebanon'."


The minister's comments come in light of reports that Syria's President, Bashar Assad, had threatened the UN's Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, that he would set the region on fire if the UN did not concede to Syrian demands over the International Tribunal.


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As the day comes to an end, however, various news websites have reported that the Lebanese Army has reestablished complete control over all sections of the city of Tripoli in which they had been engaging Fatah al Islam militants.

While Lebanese Army reinforcements continued to roll into the city, it residents descended onto the streets (where it was safe enough) and cheered the soldiers on, reaffirming their support and belief in the sovereignty of the state and its monopoly over the use of weapons, as represented through the Lebanese Army.

If this was the first assault in this new phase of the war Syria has declared on Lebanon's sovereignty and stability then the Lebanese have, yet again, won. Throughout the day, the residents of the country's second largest city continuously placed their trust and safety in the hands of the state. Today, the nation as a whole stands united behind its fighting men, and the families of those soldiers who died defending our rights to be free of the terrorists and murderers who have tried, are trying, and will try to stamp out our spirit.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Vote Now: Presidential Crisis Worst Case Scenarios

"The problem is not the tribunal but the creation of a government of national unity," repeated Lebanon's pro-Syrian Parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Wednesday.

But despite Berri's repetition of a call few on the other side of the political divide put much stock in, none of the respondents to last week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll (many of whom support the Speaker) agreed with the Speaker's assessment.

According to the poll's 37 responds, it is the upcoming Presidential Elections (35.1%) that should be the focus of the country's politlicians in the aftermath of the International Tribunal's Chapter 7 ratification.

Coming in at second with 21.6% of votes was the belief that the holding of Parliamentary elections under a new electoral law could be the key to solving the country's. This while 16.2% of respondents felt that it was Hizballah's weapons which should receive immediate attention.

This week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll juxtaposes worst case scenarios from both of the country's de facto political factions in the much anticipated Presidential crisis due to start this coming September. We ask which undesirable (to some) situation would you support "if it came down to that".

So cast your vote and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Peace Meal Strategy: Part II

But while Bashar tries to push his train-wreck of a "peace" plan along the Israeli track of U.S. Middle East policy, he does so at the risk of a head-on collision with a steaming powerhouse of regional diplomacy, one fuelled by the world's largest oil reserves and running along a parallel track of U.S. regional interes.

Enter Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's recent Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, ostensibly aimed at Israel, the piece is fundamentally directed at Syria and its attempts to supplant Lebanese sovereignty through a peace proposal that only reaffirms an existing on ground reality in the Golan, while re-opening the door to subjugation and totalitarianism in Lebanon. In calling for an advancement of the Arab Peace Initiative*, Lebanon's Prime Minister has banked on the growing disdain in Riyadh for a Syrian regime pursuing a policy that has empowered the desert kingdom's regional arch-rival (Iran), and resulted in the gruesome death of pseudo-member of the royal family (oh yeah, he was also an ex-premier of Lebanon).

But in as much as an apprehension of Syria's diplomatic maneuvers is essential to understanding the political dialogue of the present, it is to the not-so-distant future that the attentions of the region's residents and observers have turned.

For Syria, the Hizballah summer-war card has been played and burned. Despite a concerted effort to rebuild the militia's weapons stockpiles and retrench the group north of the Litany, the presence of 15,000 UNIFIL troops in Lebanon's South, along with intense efforts to place the contested Shebaa Farms under a UN mandate will greatly reduce any pretext for the use of those weapons. In the meantime, the massive naval build up from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf will provide a healthy reminder to all concerned that any attempt to classify those UN troops in Lebanon as a target will result in severe consequences.

Nevertheless, there are signs that Syria is absolutely intent on pushing its regional "peace" proposal. For in all the secret negotiations and near-compromises conducted by this Assad and his late father, this is the only one that has been intentionally made public**. And while Syria continues to play hardball with Saudi Arabia and the U.S., it is well aware that it cannot do so forever, and that eventually its running alliance with the Iranians will run out of steam (e.g., how would Iran react to Syria actually selling Hizballah - a vehicle of Iranian influence in the region - out).

In Israel, the country's beleaguered Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, will be looking for a way to salvage a premiership wrought with scandals of corruption, incompetence, and defeat. Given the man, and his party's, penchant for embarking on groundbreaking political projects capable of re-defining the political landscape both at home and in the region, there is much hope that the Saudi proposal will be given serious consideration, perhaps even including a set of secret talks all of their own.

Despite all this talk of regional players, however, perhaps it is the old addage of "distance breeding clarity" that will hold most true this summer. For in the eyes of another troubled leader burdened with creating his legacy, the prospect for a breakthrough in any peace process this summer seems bleak. In declaring June 27th as his day of retirement from the office of Prime Minister, Tony Blair might have been responding to the pressures of a Labour Party anxious to dump a man now inescapably linked with a wildly unpopular war in Iraq. But he was also declaring his resigned abandonment of an attempt to mimic efforts by his ideological twin, Bill Clinton, to define his legacy through a lasting Middle East Peace.

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*The starkest contrast between the 'Saudi' and 'Syrian' peace proposals can be found on the dates of each proposal’s respective ‘formal’ launch: One day before the official publication of the Arab Peace Initiative (during the Beirut Summit of March 2002) a Hamas suicide bomber walked into a Netanya hotel and detonated a suitcase packed with explosives, killing 30 of the hotel's guests. The message was clear, if there was to be any drive at peace in the region, Syria would use its Hamas and Hizballah “negotiating cards” to ensure that its terms were met, no matter what the price for Palestine, no matter what the price for Lebanon.

**This strategy, of conducting negotiations in secret and then slowly revealing their extent to the general public is one regularly used to gradually acclimate the residents of a country to an eventual settlement with an enemy they have been trained to revile for decades.

A Peace Meal Strategy: Part I

While 2007 has proven to be a year of violent protest, terrorist attack, and horrific murder for the streets of Beirut, it is the road from Beirut to Damascus that has witnessed the greatest traffic from the world’s top statesmen (women) and diplomats. A road the sirens of peace in Syria hope to run from Damascus to Beirut, through Tel Aviv.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and that pudding is none other than the preliminary peace agreement, drawn up under Syrian auspices, and informally negotiated with Israeli "academic" experts. And while the massive media blitz the Syrian regime has engaged in to promote these negotiations has concentrated on such niceties as turning the occupied Golan Heights into a shared Syrian-Israeli park, the details of the agreement hold dire consequences for the Lebanese state, and the future of the country as a whole.

Specifically, where the document clearly identifies Israeli control over “the uses and disposition” of the waters of the Sea of Galilee, it is Syria that is tasked with ensuring that those tributaries feeding the Sea remain untainted, "both in quantity and quality". Tributaries, many of which run through, and originate in, Lebanon, and over which Lebanon has sovereignty (point V). A sovereignty that is explicitly overlooked and implicitly nullified with references that single out the Lebanese – and not the state of Lebanon, a single mention of which is not found anywhere in the document – alongside references to Israel, Syria, and even Iran, as sovereign entities.

In short, the document offers Israel military monitoring sites on the Golan Heights, visa-free access to the park on the Golan, control over all waters in the Sea of Galilee basin with reservations over the quality and quantity of the tributaries feeding that basin, and finally, the dismantling of radical Syrian-controlled Palestinian groups based in Damascus (points IV.8 and V.9). In return, the Syrians receive implicit acknowledgement of territorial claims over Lebanon, and a dictatorial claim over the governing of the Lebanese. In short, Syria gets Lebanon, and abandons any strategic military gains that could be derived from the Golan Heights, and from the possession of two negotiating cards now fleeting in value : Hizballah and Hamas.

But while negotiations over this agreement have proceeded in secret for well over two and a half years now, it is only in the last several months that any public declarations have been made on their behalf. Months that have come in the aftermath of a devastating war for both Lebanon (in terms of lives, property, and revenue) and Israel (in terms of public confidence in its government and military institutions and the philosophies on which those institutions operate). A war that has brought the issue of security along Israel’s northern border to the forefront. A war started by a close Syrian ally (Hizballah) and preceded by a similar operation by another card in Syria’s hand of negotiation.

See a pattern yet?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Presidential Poll: Round 1 - Vote on New Poll

The winner of the first presidential poll held on Blacksmiths of Lebanon is Nassib Lahoud, former MP and president of the Democratic Renewal Movement. Approximately 125 people voted, making this poll the most popular one yet.

Nassib Lahoud amassed 29.3% of the vote, beating out his closest rival, Michel "I kid" Aoun, by over 8 percentage points. Candidates belonging to the March 8th "alliance" gathered 22.7% in total, while those in the March 14th coalition harnessed 64.3% of the vote. Neutral candidate Charles Rizk won 5.7%, while 7.3% of voters were not impressed by any of the candidates.

Many people commented on the seriousness of this poll as it included candidates who have either expressed their intentions not to run (i.e. Samir Geagea) or have no chance in hell (i.e. Suleiman Franjieh, Chibli Mallat).

As a reflection of comments we received, both on and off the blog, concering serious candidates for the presidency, the next presidential poll (first week of June) will include General Michel Suleiman, head of the Lebanese Armed Forces and Riad Salameh, Governor of the Central Bank, as candidates. This would more accurately reflect the reality of the current presidential debate, while increasing the number of "compromise" candidates.

Stay tuned.

As for this week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll, we cast a look at the issues currently ailing the country and ask our audience what they think should be legislators and politicians main concern in the coming weeks.


Written in collaboration with Blacksmith Nick.

Talkin' About A Referendum, Son

Aoun jokes, Aoun kids!

That according to the man himself, who declared today that his previous call for a one-time Presidential referendum (which he presumes would go in his favour, of course) to be held in 6 months time – in complete defiance of the country’s constitutional norms.

But putting Aoun’s long-running penchant for comedy (and misinterpreting the country’s laws – lets not forget his “burning tires is legal” incident) aside, could a proposal to transform the country’s current Parliamentary-balloting system for electing a President warrant a more serious look?

For starters, it is important to see the system in place today for what it is, exactly. In a country in which legislative representation is contingent, not only on a person’s geographical location but also, on where that person identifies him/herself on the country’s spiritual planes (i.e., their religion), electoral issues are rarely a simple matter of one-man one-vote.

Constitutional Coexistence


By mandating that the election of a President pass through Parliament, the country’s current system essentially enforces a system of “confessional distribution” on electoral votes towards the presidency, thereby ensuring an adherence to a 50-50 division of these votes along Muslim-Christian lines. An imperfect system, to be sure, but one from which any deviation should be approached with caution and with national cohesion as the guiding principle, something “the General’s” delivery style (in the form of a rant), and his timing (only six months before the next presidential election) failed to accomplish.

But if the country’s current Presidential electoral system is an imperfect one, then it is a temporarily imperfect one, at best. Included in the very same Accord which birthed the current division of powers along sectarian lines is a set of rules and procedures on how to move away from such a sectarian system, to one in which sectarian influences are institutionalized in, and confined to, a second legislative house tasked with addressing only those “crucial issues” in which the country’s sectarian makeup should play a role. While this Senate would seek to provide those sectarian interests in the country with an isolated and regulated venue through which to air their grievances, the country’s now lower Chamber of Deputies (or National Assembly, or Parliament) would address the country’s representational needs on a purely secular basis.

What would this mean for Presidential elections? Well as far as I can tell the document (i.e., the Taef Accord) doesn’t say. One possibility is that, given the presence of a secular Parliament and sectarian Senate, other divisions of power in the country would be forced to take on those same characteristics. Where the Parliament would be tasked with approving a secular Prime Minister, the Presidency would become matter for the Senate foremost, matter in which compromise might be reached through the accordance of a rotation of the post amongst the sects*.

Manifold Manipulation

But where proposals such as these bring a ray of hope for the long-run, the country’s short-run political outlook remains bleak. Indeed, the use of the terms sectarian and secular betrays a political logic and driving variable in the country that will be hard to drown. For even if the officially sanctioned sectarianism which drives the country were to be unilaterally dropped, there is no guarantee that the general voting populace would not succumb to old habits and allegiances when faced with the ballot box.

It is this fact that renders any immediate rush at unilateral secularisation futile, and which dictates the need for a gradual weaning away from the current sectarian system towards a more balanced one. One in which sectarian influences are not allowed to run rampant through all of the country’s institutions but are isolated in one legislative house, the powers and responsibilities of which can be gradually leached over the coming decades.

And so we come back to “the General” and his disingenuous call for the next President to be elected directly by the people (for the people?). Taken alongside a previous call by his current ally-of-convenience, Hizballah, to hold a general referendum on its possession of heavy weapons outside the purview of the state, a pattern emerges. A pattern which will see Hizballah attempting to push through motions for popular suffrage, motions that will seek to play on Shiite demographic numbers while donning the guise of a premature secularism.

And while the General rushes to undercut any and every law and constitutional article that could stand between him and that ill-fated seat in Baabda, rumours continue to emerge on how far he is willing to go. Rumours that carry with them the ring of two wars, three thousand dead, and one General hiding in a trunk while the country falls to subjugation.

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*This idea – secular PM, rotating Presidency – is one that I have been a strong supporter of in the past. For all intents and purposes it was hatched in the recesses of my mind but it is not inconceivable to think that the idea has been proposed by others in the past.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Shake the Brainwash!

For all the moments of fear, destruction, and devastation, for all the glimmers of hope and freedom, and for all the calls for unity and understanding, the inhabitants of this tiny country have gone through over the past two...fifteen....30 years!, one would've hoped that they would have finally come to realize what it truly means to carry the burden of two occupations, one civil war, and "seventeen sects". That they would have come to accept the massive responsibility for future generations that carrying that burden entails.

Hell, one would've hoped that they would eventually come to speak the same language! But as this blurb from fellow bloggers, Failasoof, points out, it is apparent that even that time hasn't come yet. Reporting on a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Fouad Seniora on Monday, Failasoof presents the Hizballah-run Al-Manar television news report on the PM's release of official figures related to last summer's war:


In their ticker news banner, Al-Manar TV is saying right now (you can check it out if you like): 'Seniora call the Southern Suburb a "Jungle"'.

"After 10 months, Seniora still insist to refuse to give money to those who deserve it from the Southern Suburb". As I'm writing this post, Al-Manar TV is broadcasting a political talk show, hosting ex-MP Jihad Samad, where he's saying:

"The opposition struggle is an ever-lasting one, it is the struggle between the good and the evil, the patriots and the traitors."

"If the so-called majority think that they can't be punished by country's law, I want to remind them that they can't run away from Divine punishment."

"Hariri, Jaejae, Jumblatt and there gangs are living in palaces, where our people are starving to death."

This is how Al-Manar TV is "guiding" HA supporters, this is how they insist to call their "political opponents". And then we wonder why there's an ever-rising tension among Lebanese. Now, we know......

If you've read anything posted on this blog before then you probably already know what type of reaction reading this elicited in me - and, more likely than not, anybody else who read it without nodding their head in agreement.

So instead of writing about our need to say no to the highway holdup Hizballah has been running on Lebanon and its Cedar Revolution for the past two years, I'll leave you with a simple message, the most recent edition to the country's inbox forwards-list. I hope someone is still listening...


Translation:

Lets Not Light it Up!
Division is the Spark of Civil War, Lets Not Light it Up

Monday, May 07, 2007

Upcoming Event: Outlook on Lebanon

(Click on image to enlarge)

Speaker Biographies

Mr. Riyad Salameh
An American University of Beirut ( AUB) alumnus, he has been at the head of Lebanon Central Bank since 1993. Publishing group Euromoney Investor awarded him the 2006 prize of the World's Best Central Bank governor at a ceremony in Singapore, on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Euromoney Institutional Investor president Padraic Fallon, in presenting the prize, praised Salameh's 13-year stint as the head of the central bank, particularly during the month-long war that ended on August 14. Prior to this award Mr.Salameh was named three times in a row as the best Central Bank governor in the Middle East. In 2005, the award was granted to Salameh after polls showed that an elite of Middle East experts have selected the governor in appreciation of his distinguished performance in handling the economy in the aftermath of the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri.

Dr. Tarek Mitri
Before joining the Lebanese political arena in 2005, Dr. Tarek Mitri was the Coordinator of Interreligious Relations and Dialogue at the World Council of Churches, Geneva, since 1991 and Program Secretary for Christian-Muslim dialogue. From 1982 till 1991, he taught at the Université Saint Joseph and at Balamand University in Lebanon. He also occasionally taught at the University of Geneva and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. In 1996, he was Helder Camara Visiting Professor at the Amsterdam Free University.

Dr. Mitri has published in Arabic, French and English. His main areas of interest are the history and sociology of Christian-Muslim relations, and the modern history and sociology of Christianity in the Arab and Muslim world.


Dr. James J. Zogby
Founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.-based organization which serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community. Since 1985, Dr. Zogby and AAI have led Arab American efforts to secure political empowerment in the U.S. Through voter registration, education and mobilization, AAI has moved Arab Americans into the political mainstream. For the past three decades, Dr. Zogby has been involved in a full range of Arab American issues. A co-founder and chairman of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign in the late 1970s, he later co-founded and served as the Executive Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. In 1982, he co-founded Save Lebanon, Inc., a private non-profit, humanitarian and non-sectarian relief organization which funds health care for Palestinian and Lebanese victims of war, and other social welfare projects in Lebanon. In 1985, Zogby founded AAI. Throughout the year, Dr. Zogby worked with a number of US agencies to promote and support Palestinian economic development, including AID, OPIC, USTDA, and the Departments of State and Commerce.

A lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues, U.S.-Arab relations, and the history of the Arab American community, Dr. Zogby appears frequently on television and radio. He has appeared as a regular guest on all the major network news programs. After hosting the popular "A Capital View" on the Arab Network of America for several years, he now hosts "Viewpoint with James Zogby" on Abu Dhabi Television, LinkTV, Dish Network, and DirecTV.

Presidential Debate: Second Draft

Thanks again to everyone who has been contributing in the comment sections. In accordance with your comments and suggestions the format I've set up in this draft is tilted towards writing up a list of general questions which we can tailor to each candidate (if thats what we want) and which are divided up into categories (constitutional and institutional reform and outlook, including Taef implementation and questions surrounding a new electoral law; foregin and defense policies, most notable vis-a-vis Israel and Shebaa; and finally, Economic and Development policy).

There are obviously still a number of questions missing, most notably regarding the country's policy towards Syria, Israel, and Shebaa; Hizballah's weapons; policy with resepct to Palestinian refugees in the country; the augmentation of the country's armed forces; and a new election law. So if anybody can lend a hand in filling in some of the gaps and writing up some questions to that regard please feel free to do so in this post's comments section. Otherwise, I'd like to thank everyone for all their enthusiasm in this pursuit, keep those suggestions rolling!!

Questions:
  1. The Lebanon of today currently finds itself facing deep running divides which run across both sectarian and party lines. These divisions have resulted in numerous vacancies across the country's institutions, from the Constitutional Council to the country's diplomatic postings oversees. If you are elected President what measures would you take to try and bridge this divide and unite the country under a unified interpretation of the Constitution and its implementation throughout the country's political and administrative systems?

  2. The Taif Agreement characterises the abolishment of political sectarianism as a "fundamental national objective". The Accord also calls on the formation of a Senate representative of all "spiritual families", and charged with addressing "crucial isses", in the aftermath of the election of the first non-sectarian Chamber of Deputies (Parliament). How committed are you to the pursuit of this avenue of political reform, and what time frame do you envision for the implementation of these clause?

  3. In your opinion, will the Taef Accords suffice as a legal reference in the augmentation and reform of Lebanon's institutions or will there be a need for the pursuit of an 'alternative' or 'complementary' legal reference and accord among the Lebanese in the charting of a new era for the state? What issues would such an accord address and what changes might it entail for the way in which the country is governed and administered?

  4. Despite rapid post-war growth and monetary stability, Lebanon today finds itself ladened with massive debt and pervasive discrepancies in wealth and income. Do you support a policy of privatization of state assets as a solution to the country's economic woes?

  5. What policies will you support in the administration and reform of the country's welfare, health care, and educational policies? What role do you envision for the state in the provision these services?

  6. Will you adhere to an urban-centric developmental policy or will you seek to endorse a policy of rural development? What steps will you take to support governmental policies in this regard?

  7. Governmental and administrative corruption has continuously ranked as a top concern for everyday Lebanese. In the past any attempts at tackling the issue have resulted in highly partisan drives that seem to have only exacerbated the problem. What steps will you take to address this situation; to ensure that any progressive steps taken with this respect are institutionalised within the government's administrative framework and are applied in an unbiased, non-partisan method?
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