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.


  1. I still find it hard to swallow that Michel Suleiman is the "Munkiz" and that he has now became a new found patriot. The fact that yesterday he said that he will "respectfuly decline" if elected by a simple +1 majority, give me the impression that he is still playing the Syrian card. It is amazing how everytime things get closer to the actual election of a president, somehow someone objects.

  2. I know what you mean. It wasn't so long ago that many Lebanese cheered the arrival of Lahoud [as a "strong Christian"] to the Presidency.

    In any case, Suleiman technically can't become Prez with a 50%+1 vote, he still needs a constitutional amendment and that requires a 2/3 vote any way you spin it.

    If they do vote 50%+1 it would have to be for someone else. [Nassib? Butros?]

  3. I would gladly nominate my house keeper, she is very good at "cleaning house".
    as for the respect of the constitution, no comment needed, a cynical laugh would do.

  4. hassy nassy has now said that he is preparing to launch us both in another war.. what say you..

  5. Hassan should be tried for treason and locked away for life, his militia banned and their armed confiscated. That is if we lived a semi-civilized country with even a shadow of government who applied the rule of law. As we are not living in such a country Hassan (and since he promised before Allah to revenge Imad and inflict yet another defeat on Isarel) will drag us into another war, and this time I will not only pray for his defeat.

  6. So long as there is no President, there is no Taef and there is no state governing Lebanon's territory -...

    Not necessarily Smith, there is a constitution and there are state institutions (PM, gvmnt and army and police). There is just no will or wisdom to use those, so M14 can only blame themselves.

    Marillion, I am all for your solution (arrresting Nasrallah etc) but you know that is not feasible at this time. There is a de FACTO divorce or say separation now. M14 should aggressively rule (martial law), catch bombers, shut down Hezbo offices) in the regions under their control, dare Nasrallah and Aoun to have open war on Israel from their regions, and tell them "see you in five years" to see if this nation is till one or two.

    Tye notion we should elect a prez to save or affect the (useless) Arab summit is beyond stupid.

  7. Hey Josey, good to see you again bud.

    Yes, its a strong statement, but that is the logic behind it (on the Hizballah side).

    The state has been resilient - the cabinet and ministries haven't stopped functioning despite the "tent city" and the resignations, and as you said, the army and police and still diong their jobs - and I'm really proud of that.

    But all this is related to Hizballah looking to redraw the state along lines that will permanently embed into it a Lebanese branch of the Pasdaran.

    I don't think they'll be successful, but they'll keep on trying, and for that they have to keep trying to erase the Taef and the current state. The Presidency plays into that.

  8. Hey Lurin,

    Good to see you as well! As many analysts have noted, the Shiite community is sick and tired of being cannon-fodder for Iran and Syria, so one has to consider that another war should (in theory) be devastating to Hizballah and its support within its own community.

    Writing a while ago, however, Michael Young highlighted the possibility that the Shiites, after having been isolated from their country mates by the policies and leadership of Hizballah and Amal will fall into a "Kerbala complex" that will drive them not to ditch their crappy leaders but circle the wagons - so to speak. So that is a danger (as such a situation might lead to a degeneration of a conflict along Lebanese civil lines - the other Lebanese communities are even more sick of Hizballah taking us to wars we don't want!)

    A rumor/story that has been circulating over the past couple of days is that Iran/Syria - all too aware of the Shiite sentiment - might call on Hamas to attack Israel and allow Gaza to bear the brunt of the assault. In the meantime Hizballah could try to mobilize public sentiment in view of the devastation Gaza would incur. That second part is hardly likely, me thinks.

    As for the Israeli side, personally I think the IDF is itching for a rematch, so I don't think they'd forgoe the opportunity. The question remains, will they keep dealing and exploiting the symptoms of the problem (Hizballah and Hamas) or will they go after the sources in Syria and Iran. I would venture that the Syrians might get superficially scratched up a bit, but that Iran would be left alone.


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