Sunday, March 29, 2009

Battling Barons in the Bekaa



If the South is Hizballah's battlefront then the Bekaa is the rear operational center from which the group draws is reserves, whether they be men, missiles, or money. It is through the Bekaa that the group recieves a majority of its weapons, as it crosses the border from Syria. It is where Syrian intelligence set up its headquarters and where the Iranian Pasdaran set up their training/operational centers. And it is in the Bekaa where Hizballah and its patrons have fought off any and all attempts by the state to impose any law and order (even though those attempts have been, admittedly, sparse).

It is under this cover of disregard and disdain for the state that lawlessness has thrived. Gangs operating the region use their connections to Hizballah (and AMAl), on the Lebanese side, and regional Syrian officers, on the Syrian side, to engage in activities from drug growing/smuggling/distributing, to the theft and smuggling of cars (stolen from Lebanon, smuggled to Syria), as well as other criminal activities.

For all these reasons, any confrontation between the country's security forces and those criminal gangs is to be encouraged, and any victory (of the real kind, not the divine) for the security services and the state should be celebrated. The DailyStar reports [on the incidents reported on in the above LBCI video]:
Lebanese soldiers killed a drugs baron traveling in a stolen car after he refused to stop at an army checkpoint in the eastern Bekaa Valley on Friday, the military said. Ali Abbas Jaafar, who had 172 outstanding arrest warrants against him, was killed along with an aide outside the Bekaa city of Baalbek after they refused to stop, the army said, though witnesses told AFP the army ambushed him.

Relatives of the two men shot at an army vehicle later in the day when the bodies were brought to Baalbek, witnesses said. Three soldiers were lightly wounded when a rocket exploded near the vehicle.

Senior security source revealed on Friday that a rocket-propelled grenade targeted a Lebanese Armed Forces tank in Baalbek, ANB television reported. The Voice of Lebanon radio station added that an armed "gang" launched the RPG, injuring three soldiers, who were transported to nearby hospitals.

The state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported on Friday that the fighting occurred at dawn between a group of criminals wanted for various offenses and security forces in the Baakbek area of Dar al-Wasea.

The report said the clashes erupted when a Green range Range Rover carrying four gunmen refused to stop at an army checkpoint and the car's occupants opened fire at soldiers who returned fire and killed the two men.

The army later chased the vehicle's two other occupants and arrested them, according to the NNA. The military also seized an M16 rifle, a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher, other ammunition and cannabis on board of the Range Rover.

LBCI television station reported that army was conducting extensive patrols in the Dar al-Wasea region Friday evening.

Jaafar was wanted on a variety of charges, including drug trafficking, opening fire on military positions, attempted murder of soldiers and civilians and carrying false documents.

On Thursday, another drug dealer, Ali Zeaiter, was killed after he opened fire at an army unit during a military raid in the Beirut suburb of Dekwaneh.

Three other members of Zeaiter's gang were also arrested.
Also see this AFP interview with "Noah" Zeaiter (much relation to Ali Zeaiter!) on his "drug baron" status and activities - his final sentence denouncing the state is hilarious:
Zeaiter's rap sheet reads pages long. He is wanted on 487 criminal charges ranging from drug trafficking, car theft and terrorism to weapons dealing, fraud, kidnapping and extortion. He is also wanted by Interpol.

Good Riddance!!

Check here, here and here for related posts and articles [on Hizballah's international drug racket and the thugs they provide cover for in Lebanon].

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More of Hizballah's Democracy

This has literary happened dozens of times. Dozens!! And now its getting worse:
A car owned by Malek Mohammad Hdeib, supporter of the Lebanese Option Gathering, exploded on Friday in the southern village of Deir al-Zahrani.
...
Tens of cars owned by the gathering’s supporters have recently been set on fire or exploded in various southern villages.
The Lebanese Option Gathering is a Shiite party that wants to run in the upcoming elections in opposition to Hizballah [a group operationally intertwined with Iran's Pasdaran] and AMAL [a one-man-worshipping militia that continues to pledge its unadulturated loyalty to Syria]. So what does the Hizballah-AMAL duo do to counter this threat to their hegemony over the Shiite population? They bomb, burn, and bully the shit out them.

This is Hizballah's democracy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Judges Targetted

Members of the Lebanese security forces inspect a car belonging to a judge (top L) that was targeted by gunmen overnight in Beirut March 26, 2009. Judge Talal Baydoun's car was one of the three vehicles belonging to Lebanese judges that were targeted in the shooting. Nobody was wounded. (REUTERS/ Mohamed Azakir)

We reported on this incident on the Blacksmith Jade Twitter feed (check the top of the left sidebar). In its report on the story Naharnet writes:

A judicial source said the attack on the cars of two senior judges in Beirut's[pro-Hizballah] Badaro neighborhood was a message to the Lebanese judiciary as the international tribunal began operating.

"This attack is a message to the Lebanese judiciary upon the launching of the international tribunal in The Hague," the source told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published Friday.

Lebanese authorities are investigating the shooting incident that targeted the cars of magistrates Talal Baydoun and Mirna Wanssa.

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora called for "intensified" investigations into "this unacceptable attack." He described it as "an attempt to undermine the state and its organs and will not be dealt with lightly."
...
Asked whether the shooting can be linked to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Baroud said he preferred "not to forestall the investigations." He pointed out that Lebanese judges were victims of violence long before the launching of the tribunal.

Also check NOWLebanon's piece on judicial appointments [and efforts to oppose the emancipation of the country's judiciary from under Syrian hegemony] and this post on the Constitutional Council.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Breaking News: Car-bomb Targeting Gemayel Diffused

Image courtesy of Kataeb.org

Update: The Kataeb website reports that Amine Gemayel has received a phone call from Minister of the Interior, Ziad Baroud, briefing him on the results of the investigation surrounding the car-bomb targetting him, and the interrogation of the man caught parking the car.

Update: From the Kataeb website, the car in which the bomb was found was a 1986 grey two-door Honda Prelude with license plate number B-366557.

Update: The Kataeb website has named the Syrian owner of the booby-trapped vehicle as Youssef Mohamad al Mohamad. Meanwhile, NOWLebanon has now confirmed the apprehension of a Syrian owner of the vehicle by security personnel.

Update: Reports on the official Kataeb website indicate that security guards near former President Amine Gemayel's Bikfaya residence detained a Syrian man who parked the grey Honda in which the rigged bomb was found, as he was leaving the vehicle!

NOWLebanon is reporting that security forces have found a timebomb in a grey Honda Accord next to Kataeb leader, and former President, Amin Gemayel’s Bikfaya residence. The discovery came at approximately 9:45 pm. Lebanese army sappers are now working to diffuse the bomb.

The President's son, Pierre Gemayel, was assassinated in November 2006 as part of a campaign targeting the country's anti-Syrian/pro-sovereignty politicians. At the time, Pierre Gemayel was the Minister of Industry.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Breaking News: PLO Official Assassinated

NOWLebanon and Naharnet have the story on the assassination of Kamal Medhat, deput to PLO official Abbas Zaki and Fatah's former intelligence chief in Lebanon.

The assassination comes amid an ongoing clandestine power-struggle in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps between Syrian/Iranian-backed Palestinian factions on the one hand and those backed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the other.

For his part, Sultan Aboul Ainain, a senior Fatah commander in Lebanon, warned in a television interview that Monday's bombing could be the beginning of a "cycle" to target other Fatah officials in the country.

Escaping Censorship ...

A reproduction of a caricature displayed at an exhibition in the Samir Kassir Cultural Centre in Beirut on March 17, 2009. Stifled by heavy-handed censors, a dozen Arab cartoonists have spirited to Lebanon drawings banned in their own countries and have put on them on display in Beirut as their way of fighting back. (AFP/HO/File)

... not that we've got such a great record. I guess that makes us the best of the worst? Make that the second best of the worst.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Israeli Army Issued T-Shirts

Will at KABOBfest writes:
Israeli soldiers finishing training were given these stylish t-shirts. The shirts make light of shooting pregnant Palestinian mothers and children and include images of dead babies and destroyed mosques.
Check the KABOBfest post for more details and links. Photos below courtesy of SKYNews:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Radio Canada Interview with Bellemare

Below is an interview with Special Tribunal for Lebanon prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, on French language station, Radio Canada (H/T NOWLebanon)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

DailyStar Analyst Poll: M14 Victory in Beirut 1 + 2

The DailyStar polls political analysts and finds: Nayla Tueni will clinch Beirut 1 for March 14th and Lebanon's Christians have no appetite for Michel Aoun's alliances (with Hizballah), politics (snuggling up to Syria), policies (attacking the Presidency and Patriarchy) or style (rant, rant, and rant). But the again we already told you that. Excerpts from the DailyStar piece below:
This week's confrontation between Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) head MP Michel Aoun and various March 14 coalition leaders over Nayla Tueni's parliamentary candidacy underscores the importance Aoun accords to the electoral battleground of Beirut's first district.

Two analysts interviewed by The Daily Star on Wednesday called the race [in Beirut's first district] for [March 14 candidate Nayla] Tueni, while two others said it remained too early to forecast a winner, but all said the spat represented only the first salvos in a campaign certain to be intensely fought and long on rhetoric.

"Michel Aoun is trying to intimidate her, to use psychological warfare ... and March 14 understands that," said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

"It will be a bad loss for him if his list loses," Safa added.

With the 10 seats of Beirut's Sunni-dominated third district assured for parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri's Future Movement, and strong March 14-allied candidates such as Tueni and former Minister of State for Legislative Affairs Michel Pharaon running in the first district, Aoun could well find himself in a "squeeze" in the capital, Safa added.

Hilal Khashan, head of the department of political studies and public administration at the American University of Beirut, said the Tueni name would handily carry Nayla Tueni to victory in the pivotal June 7 poll over the FPM's Orthodox candidate, Deputy Premier Issam Abu Jamra.

...

Aoun, however, thinks Abu Jamra can defeat Nayla Tueni, but only because he has yet to grasp how broadly the nation's Christians have rejected his political partnership with Hizbullah and his newfound closeness to Syria, Khashan said.

"He has a false political consciousness," Khashan said. "He is out of touch with reality. There is nothing he can do to justify to Christian voters his alliance with Hizbullah. The rank and file is not in the mood for his type of alliances."

Aoun also comes off looking like a hypocrite for leveling charges of nepotism due to the Tueni family history, while Aoun has long demanded political accommodations for his son-in-law, Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil, Khashan added.

Retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University, also predicted Tueni would win and said Aoun was merely inventing arbitrary criteria such as age and family membership in order to forge fiery political rhetoric.

...

Not only might Aoun be using specious arguments, but Abu Jamra faces numerous obstacles in Achrafieh as an "outsider" from the village of Kfeir in the Hasbaya region, Safa said.

...

In the first district's Catholic seat, Pharaon appears a lock to defeat FPM candidate Nicolas Sehnaoui, the analysts said.

"He will win, I'm sure," Safa said.

Khashan and Hanna also picked March 14 nominee Nadim Gemayel, son of assassinated President-elect Bashir Gemayel, to win the first district's Maronite seat over Massoud al-Ashkar, who fought by the side of Bashir Gemayel in Achrafieh during the 1975-90 Civil War.

Ashkar has a better chance than Abu Jamra because of Ashkar's established Achrafieh constituency, but the Gemayel family "legacy" should earn Nadim Gemayel the seat, Hanna said.

...

The first district's two Armenian seats, as well as the four seats of the second district, will turn on whether the dominant Armenian Tashnag party aligns itself with the March 14 or March 8 factions, the analysts said.

Many Armenians remain grateful to Aoun for backing the establishment of an all-Armenian electoral district, while rumors have surfaced that Tashnag has discussed an electoral alliance with Hariri, Hanna said.

In any case, the second district seems like the best hope for Aoun and the March 8 camp to make inroads against the March 14 Forces' sway in the capital, Khashan said.

"I expect the opposition to be able to score [in the second district] but not elsewhere in Beirut," he said. "It goes without saying - March 14 will take Beirut."

DailyStar Polls Analysts on Metn Elections

Analysts polled by the DailyStar seemed to agree with the outlook posted on this blog all the way back in July 2008, that the Armenian decision will come in the 11th hour before the elections and that, most likely, it will be split between the three Michels: Murr, Aoun, and Suleiman.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the round-up [and one for which we've obtained very credible independent verification] is the spotting of interests in Armenia-proper which are aiming to influence the Armenian vote towards a pro-Syrian/pro-Iranian stance, given those countries' relations with Armenia. Below are excerpts from the DailyStar piece:
"If the Armenians side with March 14, then [the Metn] is guaranteed for March 14," said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. "If not, then there will be a battle." The 1989 Taif Accord reserves six of Parliament's 128 seats for Armenians, who make up about 9 per cent of Lebanon's Christian population, said a December 2008 report from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections and Democracy Reporting International.

The choice before Tashnag comes down to continuing its relationship with Change and Reform Bloc head MP Michel Aoun, the March 8 coalition's top Christian politician, or returning to a previous partnership with Metn heavyweight MP Michel Murr and his freshly minted electoral ally, Phalange Party chief and former President Amin Gemayel, said Walid Moubarak, director of the Institute of Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation at the Lebanese American University. Tashnag will also have to factor in its traditionally close ties to the country's presidents, as well as pressures from Armenian groups outside Lebanon favoring one side of the political rift here, he added.

In considering Aoun, Tashnag and Armenian voters will be asking whether Aoun, the popular politician in the predominantly Christian Metn region, will have coattails long enough to carry the rest of his lists into the legislature and unseat March 14 as the parliamentary majority, said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University.

In the feverish run-up to the June 7 poll, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is vetting potential candidates to see whether they had their own constituencies preceding Aoun's unexpected 2005 electoral success, or simply depend on the retired general to attract voters, Hanna added.

Hanna said he expected Tashnag to stay with Aoun because their 2005 electoral alliance restored Tashnag, which is supported by the majority of Armenian voters, to its full strength after five-time former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had for years teamed up with two smaller Armenian parties to deny Tashnag the Beirut district's two Armenian parliamentary seats.

"The Armenians consider that Michel Aoun gave them what Rafik Hariri took out of their hands," Hanna said. "They consider that Michel Aoun gave them their rights."

On the other hand, Safa said the Armenians seemed [to] be leaning toward the March 14 Forces, which would deal a major blow to Aoun and March 8 hopes.

...

Longtime Tashnag ally Murr can also offer the party meaningful incentives to throw in their lot with the March 14 camp, Safa added. The peripatetic Murr has for decades cultivated close relationships with a succession of presidents, including President Michel Sleiman, and Murr's son Elias is serving as defense minister on Sleiman's nomination.

...

[President Michel] Sleiman has largely remained above the polarizing dispute between March 14 and March 8, and his status as a Lebanese president who is not a Syrian flunky also represents a new element in the equation for the Armenian's thinking, Moubarak said.

While Sleiman will probably not endorse any specific candidate list, his legitimizing of a nonaligned political center could give independent candidates a key role in the Metn and elsewhere, Moubarak added.

...

All the analysts said a majority of Armenians backed Tashnag and have usually voted as a unified bloc, but Hanna said some in the Armenian elite were wavering in their support for the party and its MP Hagop Pakradounian because Pakradounian did not reflect the elites' interests.

...

The Armenians will also have to deal with attempts by Armenians outside Lebanon to push Tashnag toward March 14 or March 8 - for instance, Armenian groups in the US will probably lobby Tashnag to side with the US-backed March 14 Forces, Hanna said.

At the same time, rumors persist that Tashnag backers in Armenia are working with Iran and so will urge the party to forge an electoral coalition with the Iranian-backed March 8 alliance, Moubarak said.

In the end, it remains too early to predict either how the Tashnag will decide or how other campaign coalitions will evolve in the Metn, despite the ongoing flurry of talks between the party and the various representatives from the feuding political camps, the analysts said. The negotiations have yet to bear any fruit, and all sides have been waiting to see the candidate lists submitted by the deadline, Safa said.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

President Promises Senate

President Michel Sleiman at The Arc De Triumph. Tuesday, March 17, 2009.

Following a meeting with the Head of the French Senate, Gerard Larshe, on his tour of that country, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman vowed that work on the formation of a Senate would take place after the formation of a national committee on the matter:
"Forming a senate in Lebanon would be a ground breaking move, and we will do so after forming the national committee," he said, adding that he hoped it would help "demolish political sectarianism."
The establishment of a Senate is called for under the constitutionally-binding Taef Accord. The move, according to the Accord, is to be preceded by the passing of an election law abolishing sectarianism in Parliament. It is a move that aims to eliminate political sectarianism from the daily management of the country and its business, limiting it to one state institution the powers of which can be gradually diluted over time (thats the hope, at least).

The President's stance on the issue marks another pro-sovereignty notch on his belt, underlining a commitment to continuing the progress achieved since the civil war and the end of the Israeli and Syrian occupations. It is a stance that stands in perfect cohesion with the pro-sovereignty agenda and those advocating it [fighting for it and dying for it] over the past 4 years. It is a stance that stands in opposition to those who have promised to destroy that progress.

Israel Floods Lebanese Farmland

The DailyStar reports (emphasis mine):
Israel deliberately flooded Lebanese farmlands with excess rainwater from an Israeli orchard, located off the southern town of Mais al-Jabal early Tuesday, ruining crops and properties, the state-run national news agency said.

The Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) dispatched teams to look into the incident, which drew protests from the southern residents. Tuesday's flooding is part of a systematic practice by the Israeli authorities to turn the highly-fertile land into swamps by channeling rainwater into the fields via trenches, which were dug for that purpose.

The Lebanese Army and UNIFIL have tried to block the water channels to protect the crops. Separately, UNIFIL's media coordinator, Dhalia Farran, reiterated calls for Israel to hand over official maps detailing where the Israeli army dropped cluster bombs during the summer 2006 war.
Well at least with Avigdor Lieberman as that state's Foreign Minister the world will get to see the face of Israel everyone in the region knows so well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lebanese Embassy in Syria

Journalists are seen in front of the newly opened Lebanese embassy, in the city of Damascus, Syria, Monday, March 16, 2009. Lebanon on Monday opened its first ever embassy in Syria which dominated its small neighbor for nearly three decades. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi).

Meanwhile, no Syrian representatives bothered to show up for the Embassy's official openning (real "sisterly" of them, isn't it?).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lebanon Election Statistics

Below are voter registration statistics (from the FPM official website) alongside 2005 voter turnout statistics (from ptbl.org). The numbers aren't from official sources so you might want to take them with a grain of salt, but there they are anyway.

The percentages given in the first "2009 Voters" column give the breakdown of registered voters by sect (and highlight the need to push forth with the Taef Accords towards the establishment of a secular Parliament and a Senate, check here). The percentages given in the "05 Elections" columns give an approximation of voter participation rates in 2005. For districts that have been gerrymandered since 05 and for which comparable statistics aren't available (like Saida and Zahrani and all the Beirut districts) an N/A designation was applied.

North Lebanon


Mount Lebanon


Southern Lebanon



Bekaa


Beirut


Be sure to check out our Blacksmiths of Lebanon 2009 Elections Center for comprehensive coverage of the 2009 Parliamentary Elections.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

M14 Launches 2009 Elections Platform

(image courtesy of Dalati & Nohra, H/T Tajaddod Youth)

Check out our 2009 Elections Center for comprehensive coverage of Lebanon's 2009 Parliamentary Elections.

Saudi Sandstorm

BBC user Matt Thompson photographed this huge sand storm in Riyadh on 10 March 2009, from his office on the 56th floor of a tower block in the Saudi Arabian capital. Matt says the storm took 10 minutes to roll across the city.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More Reads

I've been too busy to write these past few days ... but not too busy to read! Here are some posts off the blogosphere worth checking out:
  • Harry hosts guest poster DavidM as he provides a well sourced piece on a subject close to our hearts - Lebanon's Disappeared [in Syria];

  • Another well-researched piece is this NOWLebanon report providing some perspective on the appointment of Governors in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. The NOWLebanon piece also links to another, less fluent, piece dealing with the Constitutional Council. Instead of linking to that piece, however, I'm going to recommend this post summing up the conundrum the Council currently finds itself in (also, be sure to check out the post's engaging comments section);

  • And finally, Abu Muqawama (AM) provides a decent dose of realism to a mediocre report by Nicholas Noe. AM does a good job with a concise post, but personally I would've preferred to see a more malicious attack on the report, not because I have anything personal against the author but because I vehemently object to a notion that the author seems to have bought into - that of viewing the Cedar Revolution and the pro-sovereignty drive as being a [temporary] phenomenon or project while viewing the implantation of an Iranian-"inspired" fundamentalist extra-institutional party as [permanent and] natural. I'll have more on this when I have the time (commentators are welcome to elaborate their thoughts on the subject in the meantime). I'll update this post with a link to Noe's response once its up.
While I was browsing AM's blog I came across this hilarious cartoon (you'll have to expand the image in order to view it), and take a look at this post, with more than a spoonful of bizarre ... seriously!?!

As always, comments are welcomed.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Letter from AUB Alumni to Obama

Below is a letter sent to Barack Obama on behalf of the American University of Beirut's alumni. The letter was penned by former Lebanese Ambassador, and Worldwide Alumni Association of AUB (WAAAUB), Khalil Makkawi. Ambassador Makkawi is also the president of the Palestinian-Lebanese Dialogue Committee.

Mr. Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
Washington, DC.

Beirut,
January 27, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of more than 45 thousand members of the Worldwide Alumni Association of the American University of Beirut (WAAAUB), I extend to you sincere congratulations on the occasion of your assumption to the presidency of the United States. The graduates of this outstanding university were trained in the American system of education, which is based on the values of freedom of thought, democracy, diversity and accepting the other. As we listened to your inaugural speech we became hopeful that the long-awaited change in US relations with the rest of the world, particularly the Middle East, was finally at hand. We were particularly encouraged by your reference to a changed policy toward the Muslim world, based on a relation of mutual respect.

Our Alma Mater was established in 1866, the oldest and largest US-chartered university in the Middle East. In fact, 19 AUB alumni attended the UN founding conference in San Francisco, California (USA), in 1945, and three AUB alumni were signatories of the UN Charter - no other institution can lay claim to having so many graduates play such a prominent role in the creation of the United Nations. In its heyday our university had students from all over the Arab and Muslim world and they were imbibed with the universal values we all believe in, filling important posts in government and contributing to the development of their countries.

Mr. President,

Israel's 22-day war on Gaza, just before your inauguration, together with its 33 day attack on Lebanon in 2006 have established very dangerous principles in the region. The international community, together with the United Nations and the Arab League were unable to stop the carnage and destruction in both cases. The United States and its friends in the region suffered a heavy blow to their credibility. Where international legality fails, radicals and extremists thrive posing a threat to global peace and stability.

Indeed your own successful election campaign was based on the recognition that the advocacy of extreme positions is inherently destructive to efforts to secure the blessings of peace, prosperity and human dignity, whether domestically or in the realm of foreign relations.

As you well know, the conflict in Palestine, which is the core issue of the Middle East conflict, has gone unresolved for sixty years. Scores of UN resolutions, and several accords that were brokered by various powers, including the United States, were ignored. The two-state solution which was advocated by the United States is being rendered impossible by Israel?s continuing occupation of Palestinian territories and the expansion of its settlements. No amount of roadblocks and separation walls can provide security for Israel as long as this situation continues. With the inflammation of the conflict, we fear that an equitable solution will recede even further from our grasp, posing insurmountable challenges for securing peace and stability for our entire region.

Mr. President,

We are highly encouraged by your decision to tackle the conflict in the Middle East as one of your priority issues. The appointment of Senator George Mitchell, the highly qualified and experienced statesman, as your Middle East peace envoy is timely and welcomed. There can be no doubt that a solution of this conflict will set the stage for unraveling other global problems, and restoring the good image and reputation of the United States in the Middle East and the rest of the World. We wish you every success.

Ambassador Khalil Makkawi
President
WAAAUB

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some Reads

Here are some reads worth checking out:
  • Tony Badran - on the basics of the 30 year old Syrian-Iranian alliance/relationship (and be sure to check out Tony's follow-up piece in NOWLebanon)
  • Michael Young - on the March 14th alliance, its raison d'etre and its longevity
Both of those articles are right on the spot.

Some other pieces floating around the blogosphere which I found interesting are: Qifa Nabki and Kabobfest's roundup and indictment of AIPAC's ousting of Chas Freeman from the post of Director of the National Intelligence Council; and also from Kabobfest, a piece on Turkey and the expectations being placed on it to take a leading role in the region vis-a-vis Iran. This last post isn't great but it, at least, introduces a topic that is (or could be) a major factor in the region.

Video: Register/Vote to be Seen

(H/T to Deen)

Friday, March 06, 2009

See you at the elections

A Diamond in Sunlight brings us another Elections 2009 public service ad:

This one asks would-be voters to make sure that their names are correctly entered in the voter registries, “so we see you at the elections”, and suggests that they do so by visiting the mukhtar of their local baladiya or by visiting the website of the “General Directorate of Personal Status”, which despite sounding like Facebook’s status vetting board is apparently Lebanon’s equivalent of an elections commission.

As I’ve said before: I love elections. I love the power of the vote. If you are a Lebanese citizen, I hope you vote this June; the low turnout in 2005 broke my heart. If you - like others I know - haven’t voted before, start the registration process now: the deadline is March 10. And if your mukhtar doesn’t want to register you because he (or she, theoretically) thinks you might vote a certain way, raise a fuss. The right to vote is an incredibly precious treasure - don’t let it slip away.
Check out our 2009 Elections Center (try using our new banner at the very top of the right sidebar) for continuously updated links to election links, polls, election analysis and scenarios (shhhh, we'll be putting up some election scenarios on which readers can vote - according to likelihood ... stay tuned ...).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lebanese Adventures in the Snow

The image depicts the ridge and path along which the race will be run. In the foreground is the Qadisha valley (I think)

Think you've got what it takes to take on the Army, the ISF, and UNIFIL in a ski contest? Or maybe you're just interested in seeing all of the above go at it on the slopes, whatever the case may be, be sure to check out the "Raid des Cedres" race organized by the Lebanese Armed Forces Commando Regiment.

Interested parties can check out race route, rules, and applications at the race's official website ...

... and speaking of expeditions in the snow, Maxime Chaya has headed off to the North Pole to complete the last leg of his Grand Slam (2 poles and seven peaks - the highest on every continent). Maxime was the first person [ever!] to plant the Lebanese flag on Mount Everest. You can follow Max's progress and check out his artcic posts by visiting blog: http://www.thethreepoles.com/.


Click on the link to listen to Maxime's call to PM Siniora ahead of his arrival at the South Pole last year. Good luck Maxime!!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why this Tribunal is Important

As the delegates leg of an Arab League meeting in Egypt was coming to an end, Syria's ambassador to that country raised his voice in protest. Syria, noted the ambassador, objected to a clause in the meeting's final statement declaring support for Lebanon and the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon [earlier this week in the Hague].

According to sources, the Syrian ambassador declared, "There is nothing called the launching of the Special Tribunal, and what happened was a folkloric," going to claim that the Tribunal was a "football field" and misquoting UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's assertion that the Special Tribunal had, in fact, started operations.

The Syrians ambassador concluded by remarking, "How could Arabs trust this tribunal? ... The Arabs need not be concerned with a court which was established upon an agreement between the Lebanese state and the UN."

In responding to the Syrian representative's diarrhetic barrage, Lebanon's own representative at the conference noted the Tribunal's historical importance to Lebanon, not-so-subtely intoning to the Syrian official that justice would play out its course.

What the Lebanese representative didn't do, however, was respond as to the importance of this Tribunal to the greater Arab world. Luckily, the Financial Times provides an excellent piece on the importance and implication of this monumental achievement to the Arab world. Below I present excerpts from the article dealing both with the crime and the tribunal that followed it:
It [the Hariri assassination] triggered a civic uprising that ended the 29-year Syrian military occupation ... and it led to the United Nations Security Council establishing a tribunal like the courts set up to try war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone - only in this case it was to investigate a sort of regicide.

The legal process deserves wide support. This was an act of cross-border gangsterism, through which Syria intended to continue vassalising Lebanon, where elements in the ruling elites of Damascus have lucrative business and racketeering, as well as political, interests.

In August 2004, President Bashar al-Assad personally warned Hariri that Syria would never be forced out of Lebanon - as reported in the Financial Times days before Hariri's murder and subsequently confirmed by UN investigators.

Those investigators detected a trail leading to the heart of the conjoined Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus, leading to the arrest of four Lebanese generals, part of a single chain of command originating in Damascus, although Syria denies any part in Hariri's murder.

... Those arrests electrified the Arab world, suggesting its despotic culture of impunity could be resisted.

... Paris, London and, to a lesser extent, Washington have since paid court to Mr Assad, who has gleefully exploited their vain attempts to peel Syria off from its alliance with Iran. They congratulated Syria for helping resolve last May's Lebanese crisis, which its local allies, led by Hizbollah, had largely created.

There will surely be more crises, and further attacks, during the drawn-out legal process. Watch what happens when the arrested generals are transferred to The Hague, and in the run-up to June's Lebanese elections. That is exactly why this tribunal is so important.
For resources on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) readers can click on the STL poster in the left sidebar, or simply follow this link.

Update: The quarrel over the clause - now changed to a welcome of the Tribunal instead of a declaration of support for it - has spilled onto the Minister-level meeting (following the delegate level one reported above) of the Arab League.

NOWLebanon writes:
While Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem “did his best” not to make any reference to the tribunal, the daily reported, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and Lebanon’s delegate to the Arab League, Ambassador Khaled Ziadeh, tried to include the words “welcome the launch of the tribunal” in the meeting statement. Mouallem reportedly refused the words, at which point Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was “contacted urgently” and spoke more than six times with his FM. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa also intervened, An-Nahar reported, to confront the “Syrian refusal of the agreement between the Lebanese government and the United Nations.”

“If Syria wants to maintain its position, then Lebanon is adamant in maintaining its position, and let that be recorded in the minutes of the meeting and raised at the Arab Summit,” the daily quoted Siniora as saying. “If they want us - and ask us - to say that former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination came about through a car accident or that he shot himself, let them raise the matter at the Arab Summit.”
In October 2005, Ghazi Kanaan, Syria's Interior Minister and the former "Syrian Moukhabarat Viceroy for Lebanon" throughout the late 1990s, was found dead with several cranial bullet wounds. Syrian authoroties claimed the death was a "suicide". Kanaan's brother, who had spoken out against the regime and the "suicide" story after his brother's death (he believed, along with most outside observers who believed that Kanaan was killed due to his closeness to the assassinated Lebanese former PM, Rafic Hariri), was later also found dead, this time authorities claimed he committed suicide by laying down on train tracks .... hence [perhaps] the references to suicide by PM Siniora above.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Banks Operating in Lebanon

Below is a complete list of all 65 banks operating in Lebanon as of February 2009.


The list was taken from the Banque du Liban webpage where you can find wide-ranging statistics on the Lebanese Banking Sector.

The BDL Bank List Number can, I think, serve as indication of when each bank (in its current form) sought registration with the BDL. Given our country's bloody and destructive civil war, it isn't surprising to see some familiar names lower down on the list.

2009 Elections Center

This page includes updated information and resources on Lebanon's upcoming 2009 Parliamentary Elections. It will be continuously available through the "2009 Elections Center" logo (making use of the Arab American Institute's elections motto) and link at the top of the right sidebar.

Pro-Soveriegnty Parliamentary Victory!!
Live News Video Coverage here and here!!

Important Information:
Video:
Pictures:
Polls:
Analysis:
External Links:
Posters:

An Nahar Tribunal Caricature

(H/T to my friends at Tajaddod Youth)

Monday, March 02, 2009

NYSE: Lebanon Capital Market Day

From the NYSE website :
A business delegation from Lebanon gathers at the NYSE to celebrate “Lebanon Capital Market Day.” In honor of the occasion, Riad Salame, Governor, Banque du Liban, rings The Opening BellSM [see video below]. The Governor is joined on the bell podium by H.E. Antoine Chedid, Lebanese Ambassador to the United States; Hon. Michele J. Sison, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon; Hon. Antoine Azzam Consul, General of Lebanon; Dr. Fadi Khalaf, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Stock Exchanges and Chairman of the Beirut Stock Exchange; Walid Alamuddin, Chairman of Banking Control Commission, Banque du Liban; Salim Zeenni, Chairman of the American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, and Roger Nasnas, President of the Economic & Social Council.

The event commences at the NYSE with the ringing of The Opening Bell followed by presentations held at the New York Palace Hotel. Lebanon Capital Market Day is being sponsored by AmCham Lebanon, Auerbach Grayson, The Bank of New York Mellon, and NYSE Euronext.



Celebrating Lebanon Capital Market Day at the NYSE, Riad Salameh, Governor of the Lebanese Central Bank, rings the Opening Bell.

Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Resource Page

This post/page is dedicated to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and will include links to the official website as well as any other external resources relevant to this monumental undertaking.
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