Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chokehold


(Top) Press Conference For Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid Moualem at Baabda Palace - Monday, July 21, 2008, Dalati and Nohra. (Bottom) A Lebanese soldier pushes back Ghazi Aad, director of the group 'Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile', at a rally demanding the release of Lebanese in Syrian prisons, during the visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in suburban Baabda, Lebanon, Monday, July 21, 2008. Syria's foreign minister said Monday his country was determined to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon — meeting a key demand of the country's Western-backed government and its anti-Syrian parliamentary majority - AP Photo/Mahmoud Tawil.

For more information on Lebanese political detainees in Syrian jails check here, here, and here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Final Act

Robert Fisk writes:
...

And there was a certain sleight of hand in all this. Mr Nasrallah had promised to retrieve the bodies of Palestinian "martyrs", and they included the remains of 19-year-old Dalal Moghraby, which were supposedly stacked on the first lorry to cross the border yesterday. She was the girl who led 11 Palestinian and Lebanese gunmen in an attack on the Israeli coast road north of Tel Aviv. Cornered by the Israeli [sic] army, she decided to fight it out. Thirty-six people died and a surviving videotape shows an Israeli agent, a certain Ehud Barak – yes, the man who is now Israel's Defence Minister – firing shots into her body and dragging her across a road. Mr Barak was one of the Israeli cabinet members who voted for the return of her corpse yesterday. But the Palestinians, it turned out, did not want their dead returned to Lebanon. Dalal Moghraby's mother Amina Ismail, for example, wished her remains to lie where she was buried in Israel – the land which she and millions of other refugees still regard as part of Palestine. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command said it wanted its dead "martyrs" to remain on "Palestinian land" as they would have wished, and asked Hizbollah to exclude them from the returning corpses. No such luck. For Hizbollah had other ideas and – with the agreement of the Israelis, of course – brought them back to the land of their exile.


(Top) A band plays music in front of coffins of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters as they are displayed south of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, July 17, 2008 - (AP Photo/Mahmoud Tawil). (Middle) Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Eldad Regev, one of the two soldiers returned in a prisoner exchange with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas to his grave during his funeral at a military cemetery in Haifa, northern Israel, Thursday, July 17, 2008 - AP Photo/Ariel Schalit. (Bottom) Hezbollah members carry the coffins of fighters covered with the party's yellow flags during their funeral procession in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon, Friday, July 18, 2008 - AP Photo/Mahmoud Tawil.

[images and commentary courtesy of Yahoo!News]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The 1979 Crime

In this photo dated April 22, 1979, made available by Israel's Maariv Tuesday, July 15, 2008, Lebanese militant Samir Kantar is escorted by Israeli security forces on the coast near Nahariya, northern Israel. Kantar, then 16, was one of four militants who made their way in a rubber dinghy from Lebanon to Israel's northern shore in 1979 and attacked an apartment building in the coastal city of Nahariya, 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the Lebanese border. Israeli Danny Haran, 28, and his daughter Eynat, 4, were killed by Kantar, and Haran's younger daughter Yael, 2, was accidentally smothered to death by her mother Smadar as the two were hiding from the attackers.(AP Photo/Paul Melling, Maariv, HO)


In this undated family photo made available by Israel's Maariv newspaper,Tuesday, July 15, 2008, Israeli Danny Haran, killed by Lebanese militant Samir Kantar on April 22, 1979, is seen with his daughters Eynat,4, left, and Yael, 2, at the times of their deaths, in the coastal town of Nahariya, northern Israel. Kantar, then 16, was one of four militants who made their way in a rubber dinghy from Lebanon to Israel's northern shore in 1979 and attacked an apartment building in the coastal city of Nahariya, 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the Lebanese border. Danny Haran and his daughter Eynat were killed by Kantar, and Yael was accidently smothered to death by her mother Smadar as the two were hiding from the attackers. (AP Photo/Maariv,HO)

[images and commentary courtesy of Yahoo!News]

Preparations

Lebanese prisoner Samir Qantar (3rd R) and four other prisoners wait before their release from Hadarim prison, near the coastal city of Netanya, July 16, 2008. Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group were set to swap prisoners on Wednesday two years after the two sides fought a month-long war. Under a deal mediated by a German intelligence officer, Israel was to free five prisoners in exchange for two soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerrillas in a 2006 cross-border raid, who are widely presumed dead, government officials said. (REUTERS/Israel Prison Service Handout* - ISRAEL).

[images and commentary courtesy of Yahoo!News]

*For editorial use only. Not for sale for marketing or advertising campaigns.

The Halftime Show

Lebanon's prisoner in Israel is on his way back [while hundreds of Lebanese continue to languish in "brotherly/sisterly" prisons in Syria] and yet another pretext for Hizballah's weapons is gone.

Was it worth it?

Over 1,200 dead - 300 below the age of 13; over 4,400 wounded - 700 of them permanently disabled. Those figures alone provide a very clear answer [NO!], but don't forget to add to them the hundreds of thousands displaced and the billions of dollars of damages inflicted on the country.

No matter to Hizballah, they - and the Israelis with whom they negotiated (Olmert & Co.) - got the PR boost that they needed just when they needed it. The Lebanese, and the Al Jazeera-viewing Arab public in general, should now simply forget the militant group's recent history of turning its weapons on its fellow Lebanese and precipitating a sectarian rift rivaling that of the country's 15 year civil war.

Again, no matter. Lebanese blood has once again provided the grease for the machinery of international diplomacy, and following Syria's weekend in the limelight will come Iran's dance under the stars.

Exchanges of embassies will not change our cash-cow status among Syria's ruling clan, and the formation of crippled cabinets will not extract us from our launch-pad status among the clerics of Iran, who continue to [violently] entrench their proxies throughout the region's weaker states while accusing others of imperialism and acclaiming their own actions as natural.

The gig is not [yet] up, we'll just be sitting the rest of this quarter out on the sidelines, or at least, that was the hope in Doha. In the meantime, our politicians can play their local games and electoral alliances can be [re-]formed with none the wiser.

Heck, maybe even Qantar will get in on this game.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Will You Vote?

From now to the elections in 2009 I hope to be putting up a series of polls gaging people's voting tendencies and how they might change. I'm particularly interested to see if ex-pats are going to make a conscious effort to come back to vote. Below is the first of these polls:

Scandal: Former Lebanese Minister Represents Assad

NOWLebanon reveals that former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha may have even represented Syria during meetings with an advisor to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman:
... Samaha in fact ran Assad’s media campaign in Paris and .

... “Who is his president? That is the question. These are Syria’s people in Lebanon,” Salam said. “I think it’s some sort of a message that our people are our people, and we are imposing them on the Lebanese.”

... “If indeed [Samaha] comes up in France, that’s very telling in terms of how Syria is telling Sleiman it deals with him,” he said. “It’s very telling that at the time Sleiman goes there in order to discuss sovereign diplomatic relations and border demarcations, i.e., normal state-to-state relations, the way they deal with him is [through] one of their subordinates. Basically [saying], ‘The way we deal with Lebanon is not through state institutions, but through our channels, our select channels, and you fall in line.’”
The last paragraph, in the quoted portion above, gives a clear indication as to why this issue is such a scandal.

Under different circumstances, say a meeting between Lebanon and a country which respected our sovereignty and/or didn't have a [very recent] history of occupying Lebanon and/or conducting a violent assassination campaign and/or controlling violent armed terrorist groups throughout Lebanon and/or ... well, you get the point ... under different circumstances I don't think it would've been such a big deal that Samaha would have handled Assad's media arrangements.

His representation on behalf of Assad in meetings with Lebanese officials is, as the articles' commentators accurately point out, a less than innocent breach of protocol. There is a message here and that is a message of infiltration and domination.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Commentator Captions 2

You know the drill ... let the captions begin!

The "Elections Cabinet"

On the new Cabinet's operational and administrative effectiveness I won't comment. In the long/medium and even short-run it doesn't matter, all the progressive moves or gains that might be made in the next ten months can easily be erased in a day if a decision similar to that of July 2006 or May 2008 is taken [again, by Hizballah or their masters in Tehran, rather].

Instead, I want to take a brief look at those cabinet members fielded specifically in preparation for the 2009 parliamentary elections. The most prominent names that stand out in that regard are, of course, that of Ibrahim Shamseddine and Nassib Lahoud, both M14 affiliates.

On Nassib Lahoud and the political battle in the Metn, much has already been said on this blog, and much of that has already been corroborated by developments on the ground. While Murr and the Armenian Tashnaq party have renewed their vows to each other, we are still awaiting word on further developments. The naming of Jean Ogassapian, a Tashnaq rival, as a Minister of State, has highlighted the Future Movement's commitment to their Armenian allies in Beirut, but of Hashnaq's (to which Ogassapian belongs) ability to bring about a political victory, much remains uncertain. In any case, political shifts [and compromises] on that front certainly can't be ruled out until the elections are actually over.

Also unclear is whether Aoun will benefit from a tripartite electoral compromise in the Metn dividing seats and votes along M14 - M8 - Presidential lines. Meanwhile, the procuring of the Ministry of Agriculture to Aoun's erstwhile ally, Elias Skaff, and the Ministry of Tourism to the Kataeb's Elias Marouni points to a heated electoral battle in the Beqaa city of Zahleh from which both men hail, and where the battle may be more personal than political. Earlier this year, Marouni's brother and another Kataeb partisan were both gunned down by the Baath party-provided [i.e. Syrian provided] security men of Skaff.

Whether this incident, and the local outrage and hostilities generated by it, will be enough to overcome the favors sure to be doled out from the ministry Skaff has come to occupy in a region known as the heart of the country's farmland, remains to be seen. In either case, we can mark this Orangesque appointment down to Aoun's full-fledged participation in the country's favor-politics (a euphemism for corruption).

The Orange General's appointment of his inept son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, to the vital Telecommunications portfolio stinks of nepotism and should be seen in light of the General's [so far unsuccessful] attempts to name his blustering relative as the FPM's vice president, ahead of far brighter members. His running in the district of Batroun will pit him against the seasoned anti-Syrian parliamentarian, Butros Harb.

Aoun's other political appointment, Mario Aoun, carries with it the hallmarks of the 2005 elections and the political mud which netted 'Mario' an almost totality of Christian votes in the Chouf district. As it turned out, those votes were not enough to secure for the Aouns an electoral victory in a pre-dominantly Druze district, but it did underline Christian malcontent with the quadripartite alliance and, specifically in the Chouf, the electoral neglect paid [by Walid Jumblatt] to another original fighter against Syrian occupation, Dori Chamoun.

In that regard, Chamoun and Aoun have a lot in common. Both men are leaders of Christian movements which actively took part in the demonstrations and movements that ousted the Syrian occupiers throughout the Cedar Revolution; and both were sidelined by the political machinations which dominated those elections. But thats where the similarities end. Contrary to Aoun, who went on to cement his alliances with the SSNP, Hizballah, and all manner of Syrian thugs in his crusade to reach the Presidency, Chamoun remained within the Anti-Syrian alliance and continued to take positions in line with long-standing "Christian" stances.

Indeed, if March 14th is to successfully conduct its electoral battle on the Christian front, they must be willing to correct the mistakes of the previous election. Fielding two Lebanese Forces ministers, Ibrahim Najjar and Antoine Karam, was a move in the right direction, so was the naming of Nassib Lahoud (as representative of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering). Putting forward a list of candidates including those submitted by Chamoun (which would presumably include himself) in the Chouf, would go the extra mile in mobilizing the significant anti-Syrian Christian electoral bases in the Chouf, Baabda, and Aley: All Hizballah border regions that have witnessed their fair share of provocations and maneuvers by the group.

For its part, Hizballah has chosen to forsake its share of cabinet seats in favor of its allies. A particularly repugnant choice is Ali Qanso, former head of the SSNP. Aside from the [failed] argument put forward by Siniora to keep this man out of the Cabinet lineup (it didn't make sense to object to him based on his members' ransacking of Beirut while at the same time accepting Hizballah and AMAL in the Cabinet), it should be noted that Qanso, throughout his tenure at the SSNP presided over what essentially was a Syrian assassination cell, with little to do with the original philosophy (now long gone) attributed to the party.

His nomination, is perhaps meant to distract (unsuccessfully) from the nomination of another Shiite, this time by March 14, from outside of the two parties that have enforced a Syrian hegemony - and in the case of Hizballah, an Iranian Khomeiniest ideology - on the country's Shiites. That nomination is that of Ibrahim Shamseddine.

On the pros and cons of Shamseddine as a politician and/or administrator I won't bother to comment, he is yet unproven, but his nomination takes me back to some of the first posts I put up on this blog. Those posts dealt with the hegemony imposed on the Shiite community as enforced by AMAL and Hizballah, and the need to break it to allow the country's Shiites to be full participants in the democratic institutions of the state (no matter how much reform they currently need).

The promotion of Shamseddine [who was reportedly slated for the position of Information Minister before being blocked by Berri who thought the post would give him too much air time and publicity], along with the support given to Ahmad al Asaad (who will run in the Marjayoun + Hasbayya districts of the South) is a very important step in that direction.

It is a step frayed with dangers. Hizballah has in the past demonstrated how it deals with critics within its community and the recent stoning of the U.S. Ambassador (to-be's) convoy on its way to Shamseddine's residence in the South last month stands proof of its intentions to these men.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the country's post-Syrian elections, so far, has been the absence of violence. In 2005, international pressure, monitoring, and will-to-act ensured that any attempts [by Syria or others] to cripple those elections through the use of terrorist acts would bring about severe reprecussions. As we near 2009, we can only hope that these pressures and will-to-act can provide us with the same, relatively calm, atmosphere conducive to any democratic process.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lebanon's 70th Government

Below is a list of the country's new cabinet members, their political affiliations, their sect, and the region from which they hail and/or in which they have run for parliamentary elections in past and might, again, in the very near future:

March 14 Cabinet Share:

March 8 Cabinet share:

Presidential Cabinet Share:


Boy those pundits weren't kidding when they called this Cabinet an "elections cabinet", in reference to the positioning and promoting of concerned candidates ahead of the 2009 parliamentary elections. I'll have more on that in a post I'll be finishing up shortly.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hosting a Monster

Demonstartors stand inside a fake cage as they demand the release of Lebanese political prisoners in Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made a comeback on the international stage with a visit to France for talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy -- on the eve of a Mediterranean summit.(AFP/Olivier Laban-Mattei)

[images and commentary courtesy of Yahoo!News]

Army Intel Confirms Hizballah Mountain Deployments

NOWLebanon and Nahar Al-Shabab (Nahar's youth magazine) have revealed a Lebanese Army Intelligence report on incidents involving gunmen threatening and kidnapping citizens in the Sannine Mountain regions, as well as declaring portions of the mountain ridge a "military zone".

According to the report, the gunmen were, as previously suspected, Hizballah militiamen, from NOWLebanon we have:
Nahar Ash-Shabab managed to obtain an official document issued by the Lebanese army’s Intelligence Directorate on ... June 22, 2008, at 5:33 p.m., describing the incident as follows:

“Najib Nicolas Tabcharani was driving his Land Rover along with Roukoz Boulos al-Khoury Hanna (head of the Baskinta Kataeb local office) in addition to Salim Fouad Abu Haidar, who was driving a white Mercedes Jeep in the company of Joe Akl (head of the Kataeb Discipline Service) and Michel Fouad Abi Hayla. The five men were touring an area of Mount Sannine (…) located at around a one-hour drive after the Sannine restaurants. As they were on their way, eight unknown and armed masked men riding a camouflaged white Toyota fired in their direction in order to force them to stop. Al-Khoury Hanna emerged from the first car to see what this was all about, and the passengers in the second car were all arrested, whereas al-Tabcharani alone managed to evade them. The armed men claimed to be Hezbollah militants manning an observation position in the area in order to prevent any Israeli airdrop. All [five Kataeb] partisans were released unharmed at 2:00 p.m. after one of them had made a phone call. The abovementioned five men discovered that there was a Hezbollah camp some 10 km away from their location.”

This incident occurred one week after Hizballah militiamen, operating along the same ridge line, intercepted fellow blogger Liliane and others on an ATV ride through the area.

In Jezzine, the report quotes local residents and security sources who testify to Hizballah's thuggish confiscation of locals' farmland and property, and their use of the properties to build concrete-reinforced defensive bunkers and forward rocket launchpads.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gunmen Intercept Blogger on Sannine!

Last night I stumbled across this terrifying first-hand account of gunmen intercepting fellow blogger Liliane in the Jroud Zahle area of the mountain chain running from the town of Jezzine and through the Sannine mountains:
On Sunday 15 June 2008, I had a trip planned for my colleagues at work to go on ATV from Ouyoun el Simen to Zahleh through its deserted mountains, known as Jroud, have lunch in Zahle's Wadi Al Arayesh and come back. On our way ... in the middle of no where we were stopped by armed civil men, carrying AK47s. On the side there was a big white tent.

... After they believed that we were only on an adventure trip ... [we] were told never ever to pass by there again because it is a "military" region.

On our way back, we were stopped again, there was more armed men, and we can see them in far behind big rocks with their guns ready for any action. This time they wanted to search all males in the ATV convoy ... After they let us go, they were clear that this is a secure zone, a NO-ATV zone ... and not to pass from there ever again.

We were just trying to have fun.
All last month reports emerged of [presumed] Hizballah gunmen taking up positions along the crest of the Mount Lebanon mountain chain, intercepting and kidnapping picnicers and hikers enjoying the mountain, and declaring large swathes of it security zones.

In the Jezzine area, four farmers were rumored killed after they resisted Hizballah's confiscation of land they owned and needed for their sustenance. Hizballah placed a media blackout on the incident and reports remain surrounding it remained somewhat vague.

These reports, along with Liliane's first-hand account, provide tangible evidence of the preparations for war being undertaken. A war Hizballah plans to use to neutralize any Lebanese resistance to its ability to conduct operations conducive to a foreign agenda (Iran's) at the expense of Lebanon and the well being of its citizens.

These are not abstract notions people! Hizballah is driving us to another civil war ... May was just the prelude!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Soldiers and Civilians Sniped in Tripoli

A Lebanese resident tries to help a wounded man shot in his car in Bab Tibbaneh district area during clashes between Sunni Muslim supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the Shi'ite Hezbollah-led opposition in Tripoli, northern Lebanon July 9, 2008. At least two people were killed and 41 wounded on Wednesday in renewed sectarian clashes in Lebanon's second largest city Tripoli, security sources said. (REUTERS/ Omar Ibrahim)

[image and commentary courtesy of Yahoo!News]

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Al Jazeera's Lebanon: The Audacity of Hope III + IV


Al Jazeera's Lebanon: The Audacity of Hope I + II


Talking Blogging in Beirut

An organizer (or so I think) of this event posted a link to it in the comments section of a recent post. The event is essentially a get-together-come-citizen-journalism workshop discussing blogging in Lebanon and the overall alternative media scene in the country.

Since the subject is near and dear to my heart I thought I'd do the organizers a favor by advertising it a little, given the shabby job they've apparently done for themselves (neither I, nor any other Lebanese bloggers I'm regularly in touch with had even heard about this event, let alone gotten an invitation to it!)

In any case, best of luck to the participants and discussants and hopefully they'll keep us up-to-date on what they've found out about blogging Lebanon...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Elect-Aoun-eering -- The Machine

Part I, Part II, Political Mud, The Machine

Reducing the entirety of the 2005 elections to duplicitous alliances and reactionary votes, however, overlooks the roll played by key players in key districts which led to the anti-Syrian majority being a simple majority instead of a two-thirds one, as would have been hoped.

In the Metn, the electoral loss of a pillar of the Cedar Revolution movement, Nassib Lahoud, underlined the delicate politics that dictate electioneering in the region, and the name that is the main driver of that electioneering: Murr. Specifically, in the case of the 2005 elections, as in the case of the run-off 2007 elections, that name is Gabriel el Murr...

...well, its really Michel el Murr, but his brother Gabriel, along with Michel’s son Elias, plays a central role in understanding the prime driver behind Michel’s manoeuvres. In his son’s case, one has but to refer to a tried and tested rule: neutral is not good enough. Not for the Syrian regime which continues to work to ensure that it has a say in the naming of every critical position in the country, and the behaviour of that official once he is in that position, just as was the case throughout that country’s occupation of Lebanon.

To the Syrians, Elias el Murr was considered a write-off (to use a euphemism) when he refused to “take an order” from the Syrian front-man in the country in 2004, Rustom Ghazali. The assassination attempt on Elias that followed in 2005, coming as it did among the wave of anti-Syrian assassinations, was considered a clearing of accounts by the regime and underlined, for the short run, the stance of the regime vis-a-vis the scion of the Murr family name.

And yet the Murrs, to date, are not a “March” name. While the assassination attempt ruled them out of March 8 status, the family itself would not thrust itself into the March 14 movement (as evidenced by the run-off election of 2007). The reason for that was the presence of long-time family rival, Gabriel el Murr, among the ranks of the March 14 precursor (and soon to be regenerated) alliance of Christian independents known as the Qornet Shehwan Gathering. Here I’d like to note that no less than three of the gathering’s members (Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, and Antoine Ghanem) have been the victims of assassinations organised/ordered by the Syrian regime.

The close relation between Nassib Lahoud and Gabriel el Murr, and the latter’s presence in the ranks of the March 14 movement (through the Qornet Shehwan Gathering) since its inception are the primary drivers for the group’s consistent losses [to Michel Aoun’s bloc] in the Metn over the past two elections - and nothing else.

Now two events seem to underline the fact that Michel Aoun certainly will not be the beneficiary of the Murr Metn electoral machine: Murr’s full swing into the budding parliamentary camp of the new President, Michel Suleiman [through his stance throughout the Presidential crisis]; and his swing into the same ministerial camp [through his son’s appointment to the Ministry of Defence – a position assigned from the President’s cabinet share]. Both of these positions broke, cleanly, with the Orange General who was a main obstructer of Suleiman’s election, and who has since gone on to obstruct the formation the first cabinet under the new President by giving voice to Hizballah [and therefore Syria and Iran’s] rejection of Elias el Murr’s nomination to the Ministry of Defence.

No, Aoun will definitely not be the beneficiary, but with no word on the fate of Gabriel el Murr (although the continued closure of his MTV despite the past three years, might provide a hint) within the March 14th movement, it is unclear whether they will be the final beneficiaries of the Murr machine either.

Certainly, the recent visit by Gabriel to the offices of the Armenian Tashnaq party – which continues to occupy the electoral spotlight after its bloc-vote in the Metn 2007 by-elections in Aoun’s favour (at the presumed behest of Michel el Murr) and its seat allocation in the Beirut electoral districting agreement of the Doha Accord – has added fuel to the fiery speculations of either Gabriel’s switch to the SSNP-Aoun voting lists or of Tashnaq’s break with Michel el Murr.

If history and political shrewdness are to be followed, the most probable scenario is likely to witness the emergence of a third, Presidential, faction of Christian candidates in which Murr, anxious to build ties with a President in place for the next six years, and the Armenians, who will most likely hedge their bets between Hariri in Beirut and the President in the Metn, will be leading participants.

Elect-Aoun-eering -- Political Mud

Part I, Part II, Political Mud, The Machine

With all the clarity, and righteousness of the fight to restore the country’s sovereignty and throw off the yolk of an increasingly unbearable Syrian occupation and political status quo, has come the mud of the sometimes necessary politics engaged in the pursuit of those goals. The quadripartite alliance stands as a primary symbol of that mud.

It should be conceded that the alliance did provide an electoral victory for the anti-Syrian movement directly following the withdrawal of Syria's military and intelligence apparatus from the country, in the presence of national institutions thoroughly infiltrated by the Syrian regime [and its proxies], and without the need to delve [too much] into the political gerrymandering for which a two-thirds parliamentary vote would surely to have gotten bogged down in a pro-Syrian-dominated Parliament.

Even more significantly, the agreement was seen as having locked Hizballah into a political framework which would have inevitably lead the group to either give up its weapons and dual existence alongside the state; or use those weapons in a confrontation against the revolutionary sentiment sweeping the country, even while its prime brokers and supporters (Syria and Iran) were to come under the magnifying lens of international scrutiny.

This, mind you, after Hizballah had sought to crush (by staging the March 8th demonstrations) any Shiite empathy with: the Hariri assassination; the overall anti-occupation wave vis-a-vis the Syrians, which many Shiites with roots in the formerly Israeli-occupied South could sympathize with, and themselves had to contend with in Beirut and its southern suburbs; and the Cedar Revolution.

Of course the entire country now knows Hizballah’s response to the initiative [and others like it]: two wars, a wave of civil strife and unrest, and a complete economic shutdown (except in the weapons trade). A view of the group as being purely an Iranian-proxy and extension of the paramilitary infrastructure of that country’s theocratic autocracy would have rendered these results as self-evident. But the initiative, at least, attempted to provide the group with a mechanism to restructure itself to reflect purely Lebanese goals and agendas. It didn’t.

Another unsavoury, and at the time (as now and as will be in 2009) totally unacceptable, consequence of the alliance was the reinstatement of Nabih Berri as the Parliamentary Speaker, even as his replacement was constitutionally (don’t laugh) viable and even while some within the Cedar Revolution movement, most notably Walid Jumblatt, were calling for the removal of another Syrian lackey, then-President Emile Lahoud, through protests and other non-institutional measures. Here again, an argument for the mud of politics can be made ... but I won’t be the one to make it.

Nonetheless, and despite varied degrees of crisis and mismanagement, the mud produced by the quadripartite alliance has not totally overshadowed the fight for a sovereign Lebanon: The occupying Syrian Army has withdrawn from most of Lebanese territory; the Lebanese Army has deployed over most of that territory and has faced down a [Syrian-inspired] terrorist insurgency in Nahr el Bared; the rebuilding of Nahr el Bared has gotten under way and the camp is destined to become the first Palestinian camp on Lebanese territory to be policed by the Lebanese government and security services; Politically, draft bills for progressive parliamentary electoral laws and a law governing the reinstatement and administration of a revived Constitutional Council have been presented after the Syrian infiltration of both those institutions rendered them unviable; And internationally, the government has successfully pushed for international backing in its attempts to control its unstable borders.

The same, however, cannot be said of the piles of orange political mud and the effect they have had on the political principles of a man and a movement whom at one time it would have been inconceivable to imagine anti-Syrian bloc without, but who today, and over the past three years, have stood as the primary obstacles to that bloc’s operation ... and I’m not just talking about that miserable piece of garbage (or toilet paper) known as the MoU – tattered, as it has been, several times over by the events of this past May.

Elect-Aoun-eering –- Part II

Part I, Part II, Political Mud, The Machine

But not even that answers the question wholly. For even after the electoral results of 2005, Aoun could have gone back and been an active participant in the country's reformation in the image of the Cedar Revolution and the anti-Syrian struggle. But despite all the talk of Aoun's status as a fighter against Syrian occupation, two points have haunted the General:

1) It was, in fact, the assassination and political workings of Rafic Hariri, on an international level; along with Walid Jumblatt and the Qornet Shehwan [Christian] Gathering, organised with the blessings of the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir; on an internal level, that had successfully ousted the Syrian regime from the country.

2) Aoun's own complicity in the devastating events which lead to his exile, the Syrian occupation, and the drafting of the Taef Accord document which he opposed and will therefore forever serve as a reminder of the destructive blunders he rendered onto the country in the early 1990s.

In continuing to block the government's formation, the game Aoun is playing is the same reactionary one as that of 2005. In effect, Aoun has no real desire to participate in this government on an executive level. Instead, the General is hoping that the formation of the government will take place in such a way as to provide him with the fuel to fire up his claim of Christian marginalization, providing him with the impetus for the protest-vote he once again hopes to reap, and garnering for the General the votes his behaviour over the last 3 years, opposed as it was to the national interests of the country's Christians, could never have given him.

That, at least, continues to be evidenced by every televised rant given by the General throughout this crisis and starting in Doha ahead of the precipitation of the government’s non-formation. The extent of this delusion, and the lengths to which Aoun intends to pursue it, are as yet unknown. Perhaps, as Ahmad Fatfat speculated several days ago, the General's logic has outlined to him a scenario in which he and his allies would obtain a two-thirds majority in the next election thereby allowing them to dismiss the recently-elected President (whom Aoun and his allies blocked for 6 months) and pushing Aoun onto the Presidential seat.

A seat from which the General could preside over the death of the International Tribunal - the undoubtable consequence of that pro-Syrian-Hizballah dominated Parliament - and allowing the General to finally witness the redemption he has so actively strived for, and cost our country so much, by erasing the legacy of the man who through his life/death brought about the end of our occupation.

And who knows, with everything going the General's way perhaps he might even be able to tackle that other persistent mark on his name, the Taef Accord - a task easily provided for, once again, by that pro-Syrian-Hizballah dominated parliament. Surely those parties would be able to find some sort of Accord more conducive to the long-term presence of their agents in all aspects of the country's political, cultural, social and military infrastructure.

As 2009 comes around, and the next Parliamentary elections with it, reality will provide a very real check to dreams of a sweeping victory for either camp. Nonetheless, the above scenario bares a chilling reminder of the consequences of a victory for the same forces that rampaged through Beirut, bombed the Mountain, and provided a valuable political cover for those violent and terroristic actions.

Whether the General will be successful in blocking the government’s formation until the 2009 elections is unclear, what is clear, however, is that if Aoun’s blustering crew do make it onto the cabinet they will most likely use their positions to engage in precisely the same nepotistic behaviour he and his followers have been so critical of [especially in reference to the late Rafic Hariri] and so guilty of engaging in themselves already.

Most likely 2009 will witness the emergence of a Presidential faction of Christian candidates more able [and perhaps more willing] to satisfy the tastes of the majority of middle of the road Christians disgusted with the Orange tsunami’s unacceptable [and frankly quite vulgar] attacks on the community’s leading prelate; his alliance and cover for a group that so obviously stands in the face of the community’s interests and long-term objectives; and the severe damage he has down to the institution of the presidency, and other institutions of the state since the return of his amicable relations with the regime that allowed him to live in a Parisian mansion for duration of those [unbearable] 15 years.

Elect-Aoun-eering -- Part I


Media reports have been abuzz with news and rumors of fast-paced Hizballah moves to acquire strategic military positions throughout Lebanon. The reports, which revealed 4 (rumoured) deaths in the Jezzine area due to local resistance to Hizballah’s aggressive moves there, come in the wake of the violent campaign launched by the group on May 7th and fears that the group may be preparing for another violent confrontation between it and the Lebanese state.

While reports of Hizballah's deployments across Lebanese territory - either through their own fighters or through their proxies - continue to emerge, despite the attempted media blackout being placed on the incidents by the group, formation of the country's government and the subsequent appointment of top military and security posts continues to be hampered by Hizballah's “faux-Christian” ally, Michel Aoun.

To understand this hampering, one needs to realize that the formation of the upcoming cabinet is, as always, a cover for other issues plaguing the country. And while Hizballah’s arms, their [obvious] readiness to use them against the Lebanese population and state, and the response to that threat, as well as others, that should be derived from the country’s armed forces, constitute the main issues we are currently facing, it is the upcoming parliamentary elections that are the face of the problem driving this most recent hiccup.

Le Faux

To understand Aoun’s position on the 2009 elections, one needs to go back to the parliamentary elections of 2005 which provided Michel Aoun with two claims he has trumpeted for the past three years: his proclaimed representation of a majority of Christians in Lebanon; and his belief that the results of the 2005 elections were the result of a reactionary vote in the favour of the “Hariri-camp” following the February 14th 2005 assassination of Rafic Hariri.

On both of these claims the General is right, but not in the way that he thinks. It is true that the results of the 2005 elections were tempered by a reactionary vote, but it was a reactionary vote driven by the formation of the Quadripartite electoral alliance (composed of the Future Movement, AMAL, Hizballah, and the PSP - all pre-dominantly Muslim parties) to the detriment of the country's Christian community.

The net result of those elections, and that temporary electoral alliance, was the garnering of a massive reactionary vote by the Christian community in Aoun’s favour. This [protest] vote, bolstered as it was by the electoral bases of the SSNP and other pro-Syrian Christian groups, have provided the General with a sizeable parliamentary bloc made up of MPs from predominantly Christian districts (Metn, Jbeil and Kesrouan).

A bloc the General has used to consistently stand in the way of long-term Christian political objectives. Objectives aimed at reinforcing the state, its institutions, and the ability of those institutions to operate in the face of constant pressure by Syria and its allies, aimed at dissolving the sovereignty of the state and reinforcing the country’s status as a de facto province of its larger neighbour to the east [and north].

And so, as in any ‘analysis’ on the General and his policies, we come back to the question that has dogged Michel Aoun since his return to Lebanon: How could a man, so wholly and visibly dedicated to the fight against Syrian occupation and the instruments of that occupation – as embodied in Hizballah and its weapons, among others – have become a primary defender of those weapons and a leading instrument to the return of that occupation?

The answer to that question, I believe, has been partly given by a post, and a video, put up on this blog several months ago, detailing the circumstances of Aoun's return to Lebanon ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections, the building of the quadripartite alliance, and Aoun's own alliance with those factions against which he - through his leadership position among the country's underground anti-Syrian resistance youth movement - had actively fought.
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