Saturday, February 28, 2009

Election Anxiety - Part II

Perceiving Defeat

The perception (reality?) of an impending defeat for those Christian allies of Hizballah and the Syrians hasn't been hard to miss. Hizballah's August 2008 downing of a Lebanese Army helicopter and the [allegedly] cold-blooded murder of its pilot, Lt. Samer Hanna, by gunmen belonging to the militant group - followed by the unapologetic stance taken by the group's Christian frontman, Michel Aoun - grated on nerves already frayed by the group's violent invasion and occupation of Beirut, as well as its assault on the Mountain.

Meanwhile, Aoun's incessant broadsides against the Maronite Patriarch (recently evoking a threat of excommunication!) and the country's top Christian statesman, the President, are proving to be a relentless drag on his approval ratings within Christian circles.

Such categorical strategic mistakes are the stuff with which the General has built a reputation for shooting himself [and everyone around him] in the foot. Witness his recent break with the Metn electoral powerhouse of Michel el Murr - as predicted in our July 2008 composite post.

Perceptions aside, however, the electoral battle is far far from over.

The real accomplishment for Hizballah in the Doha Accords was not the accordance of Cabinet-level veto power (by May 2008, the International Tribunal was unstoppable - although the group may now be trying to fiddle with the MoU to be signed between the Lebanese state and the Tribunal), but in securing the annexation of Christian population centers such as Jezzine, Baabda, and Marjayoun to large swaths of "Hizballah territory".

This while the group managed to break off other Christian centers, such as Zogharta and Batroun (both in the North) from neighboring regions strongly supportive of the Future Movement and other March 14 parties. That gerrymandering with electoral districts provided them with a reasonable chance to overthrow the Cedar Revolution's parliamentary majority, contingent on Aoun's performance in such Christian districts as Zahleh, Beirut's 1st District, Aley, the Metn, Kesrouan, Jbeil, Batroun, and Koura.

In each of these districts factors such as the formation of Murr-M14 list [in the Metn]; the murder of Lt. Hanna [from Batroun]; the candidacy of Nayla Tueni , daughter of the murdered Gebran Tueni [in Beirut District 1's Aschrafieh]; the fielding of "independent pro-sovereignty" candidates by the President [in Jbeil and, potentially, Kesrouan] ; and lasting ill will from Hizballah's assault on the mountain [specifically, Aley] are weighing heavily on Aoun's chances of success.

And so new and worsening stories of violence, threats of violence, and threats through violence continue to emerge.

It is no coincidence when [pro-Syrian] AMAL leader, Nabih Berri, calls for the holding of elections over several days due to security concerns only days before partisans of his party rough up dozens. It is no coincidence when that call is echoed by FPM leader Michel Aoun. Aoun, by the way, went on to spell it out for those too slow to catch on: "The M14 group can't guarantee the safety of their partisans's mass participation in one day elections." The question of protecting them from who didn't need answering.

And speaking of coincidences ...

Despite the threats and the violence, however, there are indications that the elections will take place on June 7th, as scheduled. The presence of independent foreign observers and massive security deployments that day will [most likely] ensure that ballot stations are free of violence. Attempts by Hizballah's allies to arouse worries over voters' safety as they transit to and from those ballot stations - recall that the attacks against Feb 14th ralliers came as they were making their way back to their homes across the country - will [hopefully] be mitigated by the shorter distances to be travelled in each district.

And if you don't believe me just ask the Syrians, who have reportedly promised the French, Saudis, and Americans that the elections will go through ... and people say the Syrians still have influence in the country ... hmph!

Election Anxiety - Part I

Liars at Least

Earlier this week Al Akhbar, a Lebanese daily, published what it claimed was an interview with John Hannah, a former top aide of US Vice President Dick Cheney. News of the interview [especially given some of the more outrageous statements attributed to the interviewee] aroused a fair sense of suspicion among political and journalistic circles in the country. This suspicion was heightened given Al Akhbar's strong links to pro-Syrian/pro-Hizballah elements within [and without] Lebanon's intelligence community, and the paper's status as a prominent component of the pro-Syrian/pro-Hizballah machine in Lebanon.

In 2005, after the Cedar Revolution secured a pro-sovereignty parliamentary majority, and as the assassination campaign against the critics of Syria in Lebanon raged on, An Nahar, the country's leading newspaper and a bastion of the pro-sovereignty movement, became a central target. Two of its leading journalists, Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni (an MP as well as owner/editor of the paper), were assassinated. Meanwhile, Al Akhbar offered journalists inflated salaries and bonuses to abandon the An Nahar organization. One had but to look east for the sources of these "poaching funds".

As the wiretapping controversy was unfolding earlier this year, Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces (a leading M14 party), held a press conference in which he detailed the role played by wiretapping in the assassination of Tueni, as well as that of another pro-sovereignty MP, Antoine Ghanem. Geagea went on to describe how, on several occassions over the past 4 years, he would discover his telephone conversations reprinted verbatim on Al Akhbar's pages.

As such, the revelation that the interview purportedly conducted by Al Akhbar with Hannah was a complete fabrication comes as no surprise - but tell that to tayyar.org, the official website of the recently re-branded pro-Syrian/pro-Hizballah FPM, which prominently ran the fabricated Al Akhbar interview. In a real interview with NOWLebanon, Hannah declares:
... I have never in my life sat for an interview with anyone from al-Akhbar ... These lies were published with the clear intent of harming those forces in Lebanon that are struggling on behalf of the country's independence and sovereignty ... Lebanese independence and democracy has many enemies. I think these forces are also trying to take advantage of the fluid situation in Washington now with a new administration in place, still formulating its policies. People in the Middle East and in Lebanon are excited but also nervous and uncertain about what to expect. But for Lebanon, it must be said that the initial signals from the new administration are quite positive with supportive statements from both the President and the Secretary of State, and a total commitment to the international tribunal. That was very bad news for Lebanon's enemies.
In his NowLebanon interview, Hannah hinted as to the motive of Al Akhbar's editors in printing the fabrication, linking it to anxiety in the pro-Syrian/pro-Hizballah camp ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Writing last month, in the wake of the FPM campaign to discredit the President; his support for a pro-sovereignty agenda and parliamentary bloc; and any potential candidate that might act on that support, we highlighted the prospect for increased and intensified violence should Hizballah and Syria perceive an electoral defeat for their Christian allies.

Several days after that post was put up, Mohammad Teaini and Lufti Zeineddine received fatal injuries in beatings handed out to them, as well as dozens of other February 14th ralliers, by supporters of pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon. The attacks came in the wake of higher than expected turnout by Christian supporters of the pro-sovereignty movement, for that commemorative rally. In the predominantly Christian districts, where the upcoming electoral battles are expected to be "hot and heavy", bombs and grenades were discovered outside of the offices of M14 Christian parties. Earlier this week, in an incident harking back to the Syrian occupation, gunmen belonging to [the village idiot troupe known as] the Marada and the SSNP (of course), setup roadblocks and checkpoints along a stretch of road in northern Lebanon infamous for its Syrian moukhabarat checkpoint, and the car thefts, assaults, and disappearances that used to accompany it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Are you a registered voter? Find out here!

The Ministry of the Interior, under Ziad Baroud, has launched another excellent initiative allowing any Lebanes person to check if they've been registered as a voter in their local district. All this at the touch of a button.

Simply visit this easy to use website (make sure you visit it using Internet Explorer as it sometimes won't run on Mozilla Firefox), follow the appropriate links, and find out.

Perhaps the intiative's most laudable aspect is the transparency this online database should bring to the electoral process, allowing election monitors (even those of the "blogging" or "hobby" variety) to directly check the validity of a single vote (in the case of the official monitors) or of the total results.

On a related note, below are some posters put out by the Interior Ministry and is Elections Commission, reminding citizens to vote in the upcoming election (big ol' H/T to A Diamond in Sunlight)

Robert Fisk on the Hariri Assassination

If living in Lebanon for 30 years has taught Robert Fisk anything, it is how to talk like a local. In this January 2009 piece discussing "Mr. Lebanon", Fisk ensconces the reader in the murky politics of the country and the region, referring to characters and situations with the hints, winks, intonations and nods that would characterize most local discussions on "the situation".

Below is an excerpt from the lengthy piece as it pertains to the actual assassination and the assassins that ordered and/or carried the hit out. Read the entire thing, however, if you're looking to experience the full weight of the perceptions, mis-perceptions, and connotations with which local observers invariably approach the issues plaguing the country today:

Assad never believed there would be a UN inquiry into Hariri's murder and it was only after I revealed in the Independent that there would be, that an astonished President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt rushed to his presidential jet and flew to Syria to warn Assad that he might be in very hot water indeed. The first UN team was led by Irish Deputy Garda Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, who discovered that the wreckage of Hariri's six-car motorcade had ? incredibly ? been moved from the crime scene at midnight on the day of the killings and other materials not associated with the bomb placed in the massive crater. The man responsible for doing so was General Ali al-Hajj, director general of the (then Syrian-dominated) Lebanese Internal Security Forces and one of the four men now locked up in Roumieh awaiting his day in court. If there is a court.

Al-Hajj used to work for Hariri, as his bodyguard, but was removed from his personal retinue when Hariri discovered he was also working for Syrian intelligence. He actually ' had the nerve to turn up at the Hariri family palace in Beirut's Koreitem district to offer his condolences on the day of the murder. I reported that night that one of Hariri's young relatives had told him: "Your place is not here." She turned up at my home with some student friends 24 hours later to say I had misquoted her. "What I said was, 'Your place is not here ? you dog!'" Well, I tried. Also in Roumieh is the former head of Lebanese military intelligence General Raymond Azar, Brigadier General Mustafa Hamdan (commander of the Presidential Guards Brigade), and the sinister figure of a certain Jamil Sayed...

...

The second UN team to arrive in Lebanon believed it [the bomb that killed Hariri] was in a truck driven by a suicide bomber. Indeed, within hours of the murder the pro-Syrian information minister blurted out that it had been "a martyrdom mission", which could have been a giveaway ...

The killings were followed by a series of macabre assassinations, which showed that the killers were still operational: the writer and journalist Samir Kassir blown up in his car outside his Beirut home; the politicians George Hawi, also blown up in his car in west Beirut, and Walid Eido (another car bomb, outside his favourite watering hole); the newspaper editor Gibran Tueni, atomised by a car bomb on a lonely pine-lined road in east Beirut; the MP Pierre Gemayel. All these men had come out firmly against Syria's involvement in Lebanon & Kassir had apparently been threatened by Sayed over the telephone when Hariri was still alive.

Then Samir Shehade, an army officer investigating the thousands of phone calls made in the hour of Hariri's murder he was the Lebanese military's top cell-phone expert was also killed by car bomb. One of the calls he was investigating was allegedly made to the presidential palace where Emile Lahoud, a Damascus protege, still ruled. An official who took the call was told Hariri was dead. He should have responded with shock, one might think. What he asked was: "Are you sure?"

...

A quick note - Samir Shehade, the officer referred to above, was, and fortunately still is, in fact an ISF Lt. Colonel who survived a roadside bomb meant for him and his convoy in southern Lebanon, near the city Saida. Check our 'Breaking News' post on the assassination attempt or this report on it in the Times Online. Four people perished in that assassination attempt.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

LA Times on Riad Salameh

[Ahead of his NYSE ringing debut] the LA Times reports on Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh's efforts since taking his post, and how they led to an island of stability in Lebanon amid the global financial storm (emphasis mine):
...the silver-haired banker became a hero by playing it very, very safe. In 2005, he defied pressure from the Lebanese business community and bucked international trends to issue what now looks like a prophetic decree: a blanket order barring any bank in his country from investing in mortgage-backed securities, which contributed to the most dramatic collapse of financial institutions since the Great Depression.

...

Billions in cash continue to pour in to the relative safety of Lebanese savings accounts, with comfy but not extravagant yields of 6%. A nation shunned for years as the quintessential failed state has become a pretty safe bet, or as safe a bet as investors are likely to find in this climate.

"Being able to survive and to do well in this crisis," Salame said, savoring a deep sigh. "I can tell you I was proud of this achievement."

...

The country's bankers adore him, speaking of him in glowing terms...

"We are very proud of him," said Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon's Byblos Bank. "He's a very smart guy, and the regulations of the banking sector here have been kept up to international standards. It's very tightly regulated."

In a country known for windbag politicians prone to soaring oratory, Salame favors mundane technical facts as he describes the effort of growing Lebanon's banking sector from $7 billion in assets in the early 1990s to $91 billion today.

That meant tightening regulations and banking requirements so much that 35 banks were driven out of business. They just couldn't meet Salame's conservative balance-sheet requirements, including a rule that bars banks from lending more than 70% of deposits.

It meant changing transparency rules to do away with Lebanon's reputation as a money-laundering hub.

And it meant resisting temptation for easy money.

"We had criticism and some were saying that Lebanon could have bigger growth in its economy if there was not such regulation for credit," Salame recalled. "We were criticized for putting too much regulation."

When the real estate boom crested this decade and investors began bundling debt into nebulous financial instruments fueled by easy credit, the pressure was on for Salame to let banks take advantage of the high yields.

But Salame steadfastly refused.

He says the mortgage-backed securities worried him from the start. He watched curiously as investment bankers engaged in what he calls "rituals" to please the credit ratings agencies and got back such safe assessments of their products. He didn't get it. Why were these considered safe investments? They were just too complicated. They went against a major tradition in Lebanese and Middle Eastern banking: Know to whom you're fronting cash and who's going to pay you back.

"We could not really sense who would be responsible in the end to collect these loans," he said. "And we do not perceive banking as being a place to speculate on financial instruments that are not really concrete."

He felt vindicated when he received a call from abroad last year after the collapse of Lehman Bros. It was a super-rich Lebanese investor living overseas.

"He was always skeptical about the stability here," Salame recalled. "But he told me, 'I sent all my money to Beirut now to the banks. You were right.' "

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

IAEA: Evidence of Covert Syrian Nuclear Facility

Following IAEA leaks released late last week, Reuters and the AFP respectively report on the IAEA leak and the Syrian response:
Already last year, the watchdog had revealed that a "significant" number of particles of man-made uranium had been found.

And last week, the senior official revealed that even more unexplained uranium had been found, plus traces of graphite, even if it was too early to determine whether it was nuclear-grade graphite.

...

The IAEA also effectively dismissed Damascus's claims that the uranium could have come from the Israeli bombs which flattened Al-Kibar.

The IAEA's "current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles," it had said in its latest report.

"The isotopic and chemical composition and the morphology of the particles are all inconsistent with what would be expected from the use of uranium based munitions."

But Syria rejected the IAEA's findings.

...

Syria is set to top the agenda at the spring meeting of the IAEA's 35-member board of governors next week.

In the report, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei urged Damascus to come clean about the exact nature of the site.

Syria needed to provide additional information and documentation, as well additional access to Dair Alzour and other locations, the report said.
Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to Washingtong, Imad Moustapha, has been summoned by the State Department for a meeting with Jeffrey D. Feltman, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs for discussions on the nuclear matter, Syria's support for terrorist organisations throughout the Arab world, and its destabilization efforts in Lebanon.

International Tribunal Operational Preview

An exterior view of the building that will house the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, in Leidschendam, Netherlands, Tuesday Feb. 24, 2009 ... The Secretary General of United Nations has recently announced that the Special Tribunal will commence functioning on March 1, 2009. (AP Photo/ Bas Czerwinski)

The Dailystar writes:
Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Registrar Robin Vincent vowed on Tuesday that the tribunal, which will try suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, would be "transparent in dealing with the media without affecting the confidentiality of some information." Speaking during a news conference at the tribunal's headquarters in The Hague, Vincent said the tribunal would run an information office in Lebanon.

"We have a tribunal for Lebanon that has been placed in The Hague. This is why we need to run an information office in Beirut so that the Lebanese public is not kept in the dark," he said. Vincent said that the funding for the tribunal first year of operation was complete. "The first year's budget is around $51.4 million, 49 percent of which will be paid by the Lebanese government. The remaining amount will be collected from other contributors," he said.

"I recently contacted Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who confirmed that the Lebanese contribution will be paid in full," he added.

The registrar stressed that the tribunal's financial status was "healthy," adding that there were no worries over funding in 2010 and 2011.

Vincent said the court will take years to finish its work.

"I think it would be unlikely you would see this tribunal finish before between three and five years."

"That is my view, but it depends very much on what comes through that door to face the judges," he added.

Vincent also stressed that Lebanon had 60 days to transfer all arrested suspects from Beirut to The Hague.

Among such suspects are former Army Intelligence chief Raymond Azar, General Security head Jamil al-Sayyed, Internal Security Forces director Ali al-Hajj and Presidential Guard head Mustafa Hamdan.

The tribunal, based in a former Dutch intelligence agency [building] in a village just outside The Hague, formally opens for business on Sunday when Canadian Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare and his team in Beirut join the rest of the personnel.

An opening ceremony will be held on Sunday in which Bellemare will make a statement on the progress of the investigation.

The tribunal's premises, a seven story building, served as a former base for the Dutch Intelligence.

Vincent said that the second and third floors will be dedicated for the prosecutor and his team while the defense will occupy the first floor.
Meanwhile, NOWLebanon reports:
Special Tribunal Registrar Robin Vincent said that the prosecution of heads of state was possible, but that the general prosecutor would have the final say on the matter.

...

“Funding is important, but international support for the Special Tribunal is also important,” he said. “There will be additional needs in coming years. The UN Secretary General is attempting to secure support from other countries, and we secured a majority of the funds necessary for the first year. I received a warm welcome and aid from many member states of the UN.”

“If the Special Tribunal runs into financial problems,” he said, “we will turn to the Security Council.”

...

“The names of the judges were not announced for security reasons, and we will announce their names at the right time,” Vincent concluded.
and Naharnet writes:
An administrative committee has been formed to "ward off" any pressure on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), the tribunal's Registrar Robin Vincent said Tuesday in The Hague, expecting the trial to last for "at least five years."

...Vincent described the New-York based committee as "significant and represents member states. Its function is to ward off pressure on the tribunal."

The committee is headed by Britain with Canada acting as vice president. Other members include Holland, the United States, Italy, Germany, France and Japan. While it is possible to include more members, Vincent said "the cost of one seat on the committee is estimated at $1 million."

Vincent also stressed the need for cooperation with the media to keep the Lebanese public informed of the STL's progress.

The need for a strong communications strategy is more urgent because the tribunal is not based in Lebanon, he said. "We want a positive relationship with the media", he said recalling his experience with the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone. "It was very easy to maintain communication from the start" because the tribunal was located in Sierra Leone.

In the case of the STL, "we have a tribunal for Lebanon but Beirut is very far from us," he added, repeating the need for the Lebanese public not to be kept in the dark. "They have to understand the tribunal's work. This is why it is important to have a base for the tribunal in Beirut."

He said the media can have an advisory role. "We look forward to receiving feedback from you," Vincent told journalists. "We have our own experience in international tribunals," he added, saying that the STL was different. "Each tribunal is unique in the challenges it presents."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Isreal Used White Phosphorous on Civilians

In particular, the Israeli government and military illegally used this horrific weapon on a UN-run school in Gaza. Some photos of that attack can be found below, but for a full library of photos by UNRWA official photographer, Iyad al Baba, please check here.


This week Amnesty International called for an arms embargo on Israel, as well as Hamas, in response to that country's unflinching use of illegal weaponry against civilians - such as flechette shells. In South Lebanon, Israel scattered hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs throughout civilian residential and farmland areas in the final 72 hours of the July 2006 conflict - despite the presence of an agreed-upon ceasefire.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Christopher Hitchens Beat Up by SSNP

In a remarkable show of versatility, the SSNP (Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, i.e. another outlet of Syrian "influence" in Lebanon) showed that not only could its thugs rough up local Beirut residents who rejoice over Syria's withdrawal from the capital and the country, but that they could also do it to foreigners who might be visiting the city and disapprove of their "swastika-like symbol" on posters plastered all over Hamra street. NOWLebanon reports on the case of Christopher Hitchens, a noted columnist and author best known for his provocative attacks against organized religion:
To his credit, however, [Christopher] Hitchens does not usually resort to violence. Not so the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. This Beirut trip was nastily marked by a run-in with that party's heavies on Hamra Street, which left Hitchens limping and even more viscerally opposed to the Syrian regime and pro-Syrian Lebanese parties. Over roasted songbirds and 1985 Chateau St-Emilion, he related to NOW Lebanon his experience, which began last Saturday afternoon when he sighted the SSNP's swastika-like symbol on a poster in Hamra. "My attitude to posters with swastikas on them," he said, "has always been the same. They should be ripped down." Upon realizing that this one was too, "enshrined, plasticated," for tearing down, he wrote on it some, "essentially negative words about National Socialism," widely reported to be "F*** the SSNP."

And no sooner had he pocketed the pen, one of the party's supporters "appeared as if he'd jumped out of the nearest drain, which perhaps he had," and assaulted Hitchens, "pulling my shirt, smacking me about." The assailant called for support, which arrived in the form of several more men who flung him to the floor and stamped on him, before Hitchens and his two colleagues managed to get away. The shocking thing, he said, was "the absolutely supine conduct of this cop who was standing not far away…what is a cop for? To patrol and reinforce swastika artists hurting people on Hamra Street?"
That sounds about right. The article goes on to detail the content of Hitchens' lecture at the AUB. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of his, but you have to appreciate the presence of dissenting voices in society ... unless you belong to the SSNP that is.

For more classic displays of SSNP behaviour, check out: Beating up the Free Media; Burning down the Free Media; Terror in Beirut; Terror Training; Rally Detonations; and, my personal favorite, Car Bomb Ingredients (with pictures).

Friday, February 20, 2009

This is Important

Fellow blogger Jeha writes:
Here’s a couple of little tidbits that we do not read about;

1- the February 12th kidnapping of Joseph Sader, the Middle East Airlines (MEA) director of information technology operations. Coincidence: he may have been related to the fact that he processed and prepared files related to the Hariri assassination case.

2- The February 18th assassination of Ghassan Miqdad, the MEA pilot, found dead in his own car in Beirut’s Ouzai district. Coincidence: he had transported the Hariri files to The Hague on Feb. 9. Coincidence: 2 months ago, his brother, Mohammed, was similarly assassinated, in the same area. Coincidence: 2 weeks before that, his house was burglarized.

And the biggest Coincidence of all; both the Airport and Ouzai district are under the control of Hezb’O.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Harriri Asassination Commemorations

Still Fighting

Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese gathered on February 14th 2009 to commemorate the assassination that launched the Cedar Revolution and liberated Lebanese land from a 15 year long Syrian military, political, and social occupation.

Participants gathered to honor the sacrifice and blood spilled in the pursuit of this independence revolution over the past 4 years, and to show continuing support for the ongoing struggle to maintain and defend our sovereignty.

Following the speeches and the ceremonies, as people made their way back to their homes throughout the country's cities, towns, and villages, they were assaulted, beaten, and - in the sad and horrifying case of one man - murdered.

The thugs and murderers who attacked these people weren't Syrians or Israelis but Lebanese. Lebanese people who have bought into the idea that this independence, this sovereignty, and this struggle is not for them. That it is for "the other", for someone other than them.

It is an idea that has been fed and fueled by continuous media campaigns orchestrated by groups who flourished under the Syrian occupation and who relish the possibility of its return - contingent as it is on the failure of the Cedar Revolution and the drive to sovereignty. Groups such as Hizballah, Amal, the SSNP, and the FPM.

Lufti Zeineddine was killed because he supported a Lebanon where any Lebanese could visit any part of his country without having to worry about being stopped at a checkpoint by a Syrian intelligence (moukhabarat) thug. He died because he supported a Lebanon where anyone could voice his or her political opinion and not worry about disappearing and/or winding up in a Syrian jail, or in the trunk of a car, or washed up on a beach. He died because he believed those who would assassinate and maime our elected officials should be held accountable ...

... thats what he and the countless others who have been killed, wounded, or had their homes bombed and burned believed in. What do the ones doing the killing beleive in?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lebanon on the UNSC

Here's some news (or rumor), Naharnet reports on an article appearing today in its parent company's prestigious Arabic newspaper, An-Nahar:
The U.N. General Assembly will elect Lebanon as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in September, An Nahar daily reported Monday. It said Lebanon will serve a two-year term starting Jan. 1, 2010.
The move could be a prelude to positive developments on the diplomatic front, with:
  1. Israel's exiting PM, Ehud Olmert, signaling that Israel would be willing to cede the disputed Shebaa Farms area to a UNIFIL force with an expanded mandate;
  2. An Arab world eager to provide a successful counter-example to the Syrian-Iranian axis' doctrine of "victory" through death;
  3. A new US administration intent on pursuing positive diplomatic developments in the region - including Lebanon.
Of course, all this would be contingent on who wins the upcoming parliamentary elections. Either way, don't expect any miracles if Lebanon is elected to a non-permanent seat:
    An Nahar quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Lebanon's non-permanent member status will not help it in forcing Israel to implement Security Council resolutions on Lebanon, particularly resolutions 1595 and 1701.

    Article 27 of the U.N. Charter also states that a party to a dispute should abstain from voting on any draft resolution.

Lebanon was last a member of the UNSC from 1953-1954.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Wiretapping Problem

- ... There is the problem of wiretapping… What exactly is the problem so we can resolve it? We have to identify the problem before solving it.

- Watergate was a scandal… And it led to Nixon’s resignation. There was a clear problem. But what is the problem exactly today?… I respect MP Hassan Fadlallah’s positions very much, but to say that no Lebanese is at ease in the privacy of their own homes?

- Here is the problem with the way the wiretapping issue has been raised, especially by those in the March 8 alliance… We’re missing the point. We all remember the assassination of MP Antoine Ghanem. They want to raise the wiretapping issue? Let’s raise it.

- MP Antoine Ghanem had just arrived in Lebanon two days before his assassination, as did Gebran Tueni. Ghanem had not scheduled his visit to the friend he saw that day. During his phone call with Samir Shebli, he decided to change his plans and stop by Horsh Tabet to pay his condolences. An hour later, he went back to his car and it exploded. No one knew he was going to stop by … The only conclusion is that his line was tapped, and in the hour or so it took for him to stop there, they got to his car.

- The problem is that wiretapping takes place outside the official channels, such as the military… This is what led to assassinations, and Antoine Ghanem is but an example.

- Instead of talking about the crux of the issue, they sidetracked… Law N⁰ 140 was passed in 1999, and since then, wiretapping… has not changed. What’s worse is that today they say we need to find solutions, but that will not change anything.

- Law N⁰ 140, then, was not implemented. All those raising the issue today were leaders then. It was not implemented in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, or today… I do not want to defend anyone, but there are certain truths that must surface.

- The only difference is that they were physically present in Lebanon until 2005.

- The reason I decided to speak out on this matter today, although I am neither directly nor indirectly concerned, is because it is illogical… There is a bare minimum of logic [in any claim] that people deserve.

- I talk on the phone. I talk to Boutros Harb, Saad Hariri, Nassib Lahoud, Sheikh Amin [Gemayel]… And a few days later, [our conversations] show up in al-Akhbar [newspaper]… The wiretapping is conducted, and it has nothing to do with national security. So yes, this must be organized and controlled… The problem to be discussed is the way wiretapping is done and its role in the assassinations.

- I will hold a lengthy press conference on these issues at a later time ...

The above is a translation of a segment of a press conference given by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, and translated by NOWLebanon. Here is a list of other articles (and a lot of noise) on the wiretapping issue:
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