Friday, February 29, 2008

More Maritime Merriment

A convoy of UNIFIL vessels is seen along the Lebanese coast during a handover ceremony of the command of UNIFIL's Maritime task Force to the European Maritime Force that is currently led by Italy, at Beirut's port, February 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir - LEBANON)

Check here for more on the "more".

Correction: UNIFIL naval assets operate up both outside and inside Lebanese territorial waters. Lebanon's territorial waters are defined as a 12 nautical kilometers-wide band running parallel to the Lebanese coast. UNIFIL vessels operate outside that band but also within it, at a distance of 7-12 nautical kilometers from the Lebanese coast. The Lebanese Navy patrols the remaining area from the coast to up to 6 nautical kilometers from it.

Naval Gazing

The U.S. Navy this week unveiled a new maritime signal to be used in the Easter Mediterranean.

According to senior White House sources, the message to be conveyed by the signal will be: "stop f*cking with this tiny country".

AP reports,
The U.S. Navy is sending three warships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a show of strength during a period of tensions with Syria and political uncertainty in Lebanon.


Another military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because full details about the ship movements are not yet public, said a Navy destroyer, the USS Cole, was headed for patrol in the eastern Mediterranean and that the USS Nassau, an amphibious warship, would be joining it shortly. The officer said a third ship would go later, but he did not identify it.


National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the deployment of the Cole is meant as "a show of support for regional stability." He added that President Bush is concerned about the situation in Lebanon.
For those of you who might not recall, the USS Cole was the American guided-missile destroyer targetted by terrorists in Yemen back in 2000.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that it is now being used to send a message to the biggest sponsors of terrorism* in the Levant - the regime in Damascus.

*This word was supposed to provide a link to an article detailing the Syrian regime's involvement with terrorist organisations throughout the Middle East, including [but not limited to]: Fatah al Islam (Lebanon); Ansar Allah (Lebanon); Fatah al Intifada (Lebanon); Jund Al Sham (Lebanon); the PFLP-GC (Lebanon); Al Qaeda in Iraq (Iraq); Hamas (Palestine); Islamic Jihad (Palestine); and, of course, the bouquet of Lebanese groups holding the country's democratic institutions hostage...

...but there were too many to choose from [just Google it for Heaven's sake!]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Imitation Product

...Or the use of the death of Imad Mughniyeh as a battering ram.

Writing in his latest peice, Lebanese analyst and editor, Michael Young, highlights the intense media spin campaign being waged by Syria and its allies' outlets surrounding the reported assassination of Imad Mughniyeh.

According to Young, sources close to Hizballah and Syria have sought to prepare the ground for the findings of the cooked up Syrian Tribunal [on the alleged Mughniyeh assasination] to point the finger at a list of the Syrian regime's enemies. Among those to be targetted by the campaing are the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, which last month witnessed the assassination [by Syria] of its top investigator into the Hariri assassination (and those that have followed):
...the Mughniyeh investigation may accuse "official or semi-official Lebanese parties ... allied with [the government]" of having participated in the Mughniyeh operation.

The "official or semi-official" parties the source refers to is almost certainly the Information Department of the Internal Security Forces - essentially the state security apparatus most loyal to March 14. A key objective of Syria and the [pro-Syrian Lebanese] opposition in the negotiations over a new government has been to ensure that the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Information Department, is taken out of the hands of the [anti-Syrian] parliamentary majority.
The investigation is also slated to accuse Lebanese anti-Syrian politicians allied to, and including, Walid Jumblatt and his Druze party - the PSP (according to a Syrian source highlighted in a report reviewed by Young, Jumblatt's security chief, Hisham Nasreddine, is accused of having played a role in the killing).

But if asking a question as to Jumblatt's involvement in the assassination is valid what of asking whether or not Mughniyeh was really assassinated in that car bomb. That question comes as some have speculated that Mughniyeh was in fact killed in the July War of 2006 and that by revealing his death in this manner [by assassination and after the release of Israel's Winograd Report] Hizballah would be able to sidestep any open concession of the Israelis having "scored any points". In addition, Hizballah and Syria would be able to use the man's death as currency in their fight against the anti-Syrian Parliamentary majority in Lebanon. But thats just rumor...isn't it?

Spinning the Shiites

Not so long ago there was a post on this blog about a propaganda strategy employed by Syria's allies in Lebanon which sought to "mimic and mock" the genuinely personal, creative and spontaneous drives borne of the popular Independence Intifada (a.k.a., Cedar Revolution) movement; "equating" those drives to imitation products concocted in the propaganda offices of the groups leading the Syrian-Iranian inspired counter-revolution; and finally, by doing so, erasing any national, uniting messages that underscored the original drive.

In cooking up and then spinning the Mughniyeh assassination (and the "Syrian Tribunal") as they have (and will), Syria and Hizballah are looking to apply that strategy to the assassination and [Cedar] revolution that had brought our country out from under the yoke of a Syrian occupation.

As the International Tribunal begins to pick up pace, so will the sham that will be the "Syrian Tribunal"; as evidence of the involvement of numerous Lebanese and Syrian parties - including those owing allegiance to [Shiite] Iran - rises to the surface, so will the fabrications of Lebanese and [Sunni] Arab involvement in the alleged assassination of Imad Mughniyeh; and as the calls for accountability are heaped onto those assassins in Damascus and their operatives in Lebanon, so will the calls for 'vengeance' for the 'assassination' of Mughniyeh be slung at the remaining bulwarks of the Cedar Revolution [and the civil peace of the country as a whole].

The end result will inevitably be the placement of the country's already exasperated Shiites in a direct confrontation with their countrymen. If our nation is to avoid another prolonged period of conflict, then the Shiite community must start to react to the actions and policies of a group that has cost them their lives and livelihoods in order to defend [with the blood the Lebanese] a terorrist regime in Damascus and a regional policy operated out of Tehran.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Indecent Exposure

For all intents and purposes, the election of Lebanon's President has been at a standstill since we last took a look at the developing candidacy of Army Commander Michel Suleiman in late November [early December] 2007. By that time, Suleiman’s angling for the Presidency (a post constitutionally unattainable to the Army Commander) had been no secret, with some of us weighing in on the possibility of his ascension since January of that year.

Of course,what none of us at that time could have predicted was that his candidacy would be carried by the Anti-Syrian Parliamentary Majority and opposed (as things continue to develop) by a Syrian regime with which he has had a historically close association.

To many Cedar Revolutionaries (present company included), the Parliamentary majority’s nomination of Suleiman to the Presidential seat remains a bitter pill to swallow. Our idea was to build a state in which “one-time” constitutional amendments would be a relic of the past [despite some of our compatriots attempts to bring that past back], and in which strong national institutions could insulate us from the regional fluctuations of an inherently [and increasingly] unstable Middle East.

We had paid for that idea with the blood of the likes of Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir, while others, like Nassib Lahoud and Butros Harb, continued to risk their lives against a relentless killing machine. These are the men we looked to place on that Presidential seat.

But their time may still come. As things stand today, the nomination of Suleiman (back in November) as a candidate enjoying the full backing of all the Lebanese political camps has served to highlight clearly, accurately, and before an international audience the Syrian regime’s complete lack of intent in stabilising the situation in Lebanon. A quick look at the negotiations carried forth over the past three months is confirmation of that.

That clarity has helped to encourage some to allow Syria to start feeling the heat of its associations with Iran and its destabilizing of at least one Arab country. That that heat has taken the form of a now fully funded International Tribunal is unquestionable, that it might have taken the form of a Lebanonesque assassination, is interesting.

Of course, for face-saving purposes, the Syrians will still have one more chance to allow the election of a man they would probably still have little problem dealing with. With the next presidential electoral session due to be held on the 26th [of February] in Beirut, and the Arab Summit in the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World” less than ten days from then, the Syrians will be loathe to find themselves without the leaders/representatives of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, and others [not to mention Lebanon!] sitting with them at the table - or so the Arabs' thinking goes.

Despite the threat of a public snubbing (scary!) there is likely little chance that much progress will be made on the Presidency. Thursday's bomb threat at the Kuwaiti embassy in Beirut comes as a sure sign confirmation of that - in true Syrian/Iranian style, no less.

Apart from the benefits the Syrian regime derives from keeping a post-Syrian-withdrawal-Lebanon in chaos , the lack of a Presidency will also play into the hands of the leaders of the Syrian-Iranian counter-revolution in Lebanon: Hizballah. So long as there is no President, there is no Taef and there is no state governing Lebanon's territory - leaving it room enough to operate as a fully functioning organ of the Khomeinist state.

No matter what the outcome of next week’s electoral session, however, two thing will have been exposed from this process:

Talking with the Assad regime will only result in embarrassment for the talking party (as Mr. Obama’s chief foreign policy consultant learned while in Damascus last week - and as fellow blogger Tony Badran never ceases to remind us) and instability and crisis for us;

And for all their speeches, violent protests, fake platforms and promises Syria and Iran's allies in the country can no longer claim a better Lebanon as their goal. That is something we have known for quite sometime but, even more imporantly, something this presidential crisis has finally revealed to many of their (ex)supporters.

Political Negotiation – Syrian Style

As we come up on yet another "Presidential Deadline" highlighted by a "new offer" (which is in fact very old) by Syria's lapdogs in Lebanon , I thought it would be interesting [or not?] to take a look at what the past three months of "negotiation" with Syria and its allies in Lebanon has brought us.

After all, since the opening France’s fumblings in November [2007] provided the regime in Damascus, it has wasted no time in falling into a rhythm not unfamiliar to it in its dealings with those uninitiated with the autocratic regime’s ways. For every concession granted to it, the regime asked for more in return.

For brevity [and sanity's] sake, I'll skip the parts about the closures of democratic institutions and the resort to extra-institutional talks in which agreements are simply ignored - or better yet, hijacked with a war.

I'll also skip the continued assassinations and attacks, targetting both national and international security forces in the country, and aimed at derailing the candidacy of the Army Commander [since he became "too Lebanese" for the Syrians' taste], the International Tribunal [most importantly], and the international community's will to stand up to the terrorists next door.

Instead I'll start by taking the acceptance of the ascension of Army Commander Michel Suleiman [on a silver March 14th platter, no less] to the Presidency - in return for the lifting of the blockade Syria’s allies in Lebanon had imposed on the presidential electoral process - as the first concession granted in this negotiating process [remember, that was back in late November].

In return for this reversal of the M14 mantra ["no to an amendment"], the regime’s answer was to instruct its servile allies to object to the election unless the Parliamentary majority was [also] stripped of its executive powers in Cabinet – a goal the Syrian assassination machine was unable to secure despite their repeated attempts.

This demand was in turn met with a concession on the number of ministers allotted to the Parliamentary Majority: in a thirty-member Cabinet the majority would retain 14 seats while 6 seats would be appointed by the President and 10 by Syria’s allies in the [so-called] Opposition. With less than half of all Cabinet seats, the parliamentary majority would therefore be unable to exercise any executive authority without first obtaining the approval of the Syrian-backed Opposition or a President whose appointment was itself a concession to the regime.

Predictably, that offer – which had managed to formulate itself in the form of an Arab League initiative and which enjoys the support of a wide Christian base [due to that community’s view of Suleiman as a potentially “strong” President] – was met with a further demand that the Parliamentary majority be stripped even of its symbolic majority status in Cabinet and that an allocation of cabinet seats be apportioned according to a 10-10-10 scheme. Who needs democracy and elections anyway?

In addition, Syria [through its allies in Lebanon] would also require prior approval of any and all major security appointments to be made under the new President and Cabinet.

This last bit reminded me of our own Benedict Aounald's last utterances [at the behest of his sugar-daddy Nasrallah and the assassins they answer to in Damascus and Tehran] before he got slapped with the nomination of another Maronite Christian General with something more to offer his constituency than the erosion of their political presence - although that (really) remains to be seen.

Of course, if Syria doesn't like the security appointees, the new ministers, or the new President it can always kill them - what? its not like they haven't done it before! But that is beside the point...or is it the main point?

Addendum: A few hours after this post was put up Syria's spokesmen in Beirut came out with their latest obstructionist demand: the ministers appointed by the President, along the 10-10-10 scheme, should not be able to vote in the cabinet. Brilliant!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sectarian Sacrifice

Hizballah and Amal continue to pit the Lebanese Shiite community against the rest of their compatriots in an effort to satisfy the agendas of their regional allies. The recent assassination of Lebanese national [slash] Iranian operative Imad Mughniyeh only underscores Hizballah's true identity as an extension and tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This while the message from Syria continues to be [as it has always been]: "our way or chaos" - with their way [of course] entailing a return to the complete subjugation of the Lebanese nation [and state] to their will - "oh, and lets forget about that nasty tribunal".

Street clashes between Shiites and other Lebanese throughout Beirut and its suburbs became a nightly occurence last week. In response to the clashes, the Lebanese Army deploys to the stricken neighborhoods in force, despite intense efforts by Hizballah to discredit it with the blood of its constituents.

A Lebanese shop owner stands outside his burnt-out computer store that was destroyed during Saturday night's street clashes in Beirut's Basta district. (AFP/ANWAR AMRO)

The multi-sectarian farce that Nasrallah and his love-slave Aoun have tried to create (with the help of "divine" funds for Al-Manar's sister-station, OTV, and the rest of the Syrian goof troop - Wahhab and Franjieh) has been completely exposed for the sham that it always was.

Sadly, as things stand today, the most effective weapon for Lebanon's regional and internal enemies will remain Shiite blood, as it was used in July 2006, as it is being used today, and as Nasrallah and his puppet-masters won't hesitate to use again - to the greatest detriment of that community.

This as the desperation of the puppets and puppet-masters alike rises ahead of that exposition of their greatest hit through the [now fully funded] International Tribunal.
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