Thursday, November 30, 2006

Long Weekend!

The strike will start on Friday evening, and will go over the weekend. This would mean that HassAoun has invented the novel concept of the Weekend Strike.

Bas les Masques:

More seriously, the strike will reveal 3 things:

1- We will know how much political weight Aoun still has left. And whether he can deploy as much muscle as his senior partner. My guesstimate is that Herr General can only count on a hard core of 30% of the Christians. Most of those who stay with him remain repulsed by the stench of corruption around some leading lights of “March 14th”.

2- We will also see, and how much weight ShaterHassan can still throw around, and what their real staying power is. My guesstimate there is that he can still move much of the Shiite street, but not as easily as before. It took Hezb a while to mobilize this time around; before then, they could “move” 300,000 at the drop of a hat.

3- The real Staying Power of the demonstrations will be clear beyond Monday. Until now, expect a 100% following of the strike till then; it’s a weekend, after all. My guess is that the timing has more to do with Arm-Wrestling between the United States, Major Arab Powers, and Iran.

The answers to our woes lie, as always, beyond our shores and our mountains.

Sold Out?

The “openings” by Tony Blair got us the Gemayel assassination. The report that James Baker is working on is raising our Sister’s hopes. Time will tell whether we’re being sold again in a grand bazaar, or not.

My guess is not this time; Tony asked, but Bashar’s price was too high, so Chirac ended the deal.

For now.

In the meantime, whatever side you're on, mull over this statistic; in Lebanon, Bread consumption is down 30%.

Crass Confessional Politics (Follow-up Dec. 02):

So they did this after Dec. 01, to make sure their supporters got their salaries paid. They apparently think that they can stay for the duration, but I think the "first move" has already failed. In a crass confessional political game, Hezb moved first, Future/March 14 stood firm, the Christians essentially stayed away, Hezb blinked...

No one shot first, yet. Though there was some shooting elsewhere, but no reports of it on the news. Odd. Maybe someone was getting married...

But I digress..

While it may be too soon to talk about "staying power", we can already ascertain the following:

1- I think it is confirmed that Aoun has lost tremendously. From 500,000 to 700,000 supporters who greeted him as he came back from France, he could only mobilize 50,000 to 100,000, in the most optimistic headcount. Let us see how many of those will endure in the tents with Hezb's "Barbudos"... Sleiman Franjieh is all but discredited; after he insulted the Patriarach, and denigrated the morals of Lebanon's war widows, he is lucky to have such a large clan around him.

2- Hezb's losses are not significant; most Shiites fear being left-out of the coming deal-making more than they dislike his proselytizing. This is especially the case since too many of them are part of bloated government bureaucracy on which the axe has yet to fall.

In the end, it may be all about Jobs. They could all make a "deal", Iran/Saudi willing. Then, it will be a snow job for Aoun, governement jobs for Hezb/Berri. Time will tell where all this goes.





Monday, November 27, 2006

Kélém Bécile... Part 2

I know Aoun's supporter's dislike for financial management of Hariri, and I understand their disgust at the crimes of Geagea.

Still,

This is pushing it too far; The Big Pharaoh has noticed another typical example of the Lebanese tradition of cutting your nose to spite your face.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Learning from the Dodo

Dum as a Dodo.

This is an unfair characterization

Dodos were very smart animals within the context of their own island, in a predator-free environment. Dodos tended to walk towards humans, pushed by their curiosity; not only would they easily get killed, they kept coming back.

Humans being the apex predator, the Dodos were slaughtered to extinction by mariners. They did not have time to adapt.

Nations too, Adapt Poorly

The Syrian regime is very smart. Through brute force and sheer ferocity, the Assad clan has not only managed to control Syria, but also to extend its power over Lebanon. This was easy achieved in the context of the cold war, and the aftermath of the 1967 Arab defeat. Two things helped;

The first was a combination of the Levantine intrigues of Lebanese politicians, and the never ending Byzantine squabbles of a bickering populace.

The second was the United States need for regional stability, even at the price of Lebanese freedom. After all, to paraphrase dear Henry; if you want to call Lebanon, which phone number do you dial?

Today, the Environment Changed:

Two important events have taken place since the fall of the Berlin wall.

First, the Cold war is over, leaving the United States as the apex power in the world.

Second, oil demand is growing, and supply is decreasing. Yes, there is less oil than before; only high prices have rendered cost-effective previously un-exploitable sources. In this context, Middle East reserves are ever more vital. For a country that holds to the Monroe Doctrine of “Eminent Domain”, this means control over the Middle East.

So, you may assassinate all you want, you cannot anymore shoot a Gemayel like you shot a Delamarre, and you cannot anymore blow up a Hariri like you blew up the Marine Barracks.

Demonstrate all you want, you cannot illegitimately remove Siniora in 2006/2007 like you illegally removed Aoun in 1990/1991.

At least, until you do as Uncle Sam says.

Luckily for Lebanon, you have not YET adapted to the new environment. Instead, you seem to hope that the environment will change.

If you think the Democrats will change US policy, think again.

Think Fast. Think FASTER.

But I hope you don’t.

Otherwise, that light at the end of the tunnel might well be a train coming our way…

Friday, November 24, 2006

Kélém Bécile

The Assassins of Pierre Gemayel maybe Syrians, but they have many parents...

March 14th: Oscar du Meilleur (Second) Rôle Emasculé

Yes. Syria did it. But what have they really done about it?

Ever since the parliamentary elections, they have gone from concession to concession… Now they are in the odd position of a government in power running scared of its own security forces

Indeed, the the only “engagement” the Syrians and their supporters deserve is “engagement” from the “International Tribunal”. And this is putting it mildly.

Those behind Syria underestimate the resolve of “March 14th”. Sure, there were pretty girls in the demonstrations, but they should not confuse civility with cowardice.

True, their early divisions and the inclusion of Hezb and Amal into the government are a sign of weakness, but they could be a sign of pragmatic manoeuvring. This time, they are playing for keeps; The International Tribunal is the Bottom Line, Non-negotiable, Period.

No more Mister Nice Guy.

Wanna bet? Then recall the Thursday grand national Jamboree. Too bad someone has to die for the sleepers to wake up. I have no doubt that Lebanon will recover from this loss. His father, Amine Gemayel, acted wisely and calmly… Contrast the civilised demo with Hezb’s partisans along the Airport route.

Still, March 14th better wake up fast. At this rate, we’re going to need a martyr for every law that passes. I have to admit that Sheikh Pierre will be sorely missed; he was coming into his own, and had a quality unique for a Lebanese President. Yes, he was on his way to be a good one…

L’ingratitude envers les grands hommes est la marque des Peuples Forts.

Syria, Iran: When in a Hole, Keep Digging…

I will sum it up in one Leitmotiv that keeps coming back, in one form or another; support for the "legitimate, democratically-elected government" of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

It is not because Syria and Iran are able to convene the Iraqis to a talk show in Teheran that they are now able to play dans la cour des grands. They will soon find that Clemenceau’s words still ring true; making peace is harder than making war. Not sure who did the car bombing in Baghdad, but, oh my! What big a hornet’s nest you’ve mess with.

Especially if your intent is to maintain nefarious dictatorships in power. Then you may want to recall Clemenceau’s other words;

La dictature, c’est comme le Pal; ça commence bien, ça fini mal…

Aoun: Kélém Bécile

Now Aoun is competing with Kalam el Nass.

His minions (Gebran "Kalem" Becile is an egredious example) are repeating the words of this northern star genius Sleiman Franjieh. So the assassination is a devious ploy for March 14th to gain sympathy and maintain the government.

To most Lebanese, basically all those who are used to paying their utility bills, well… Duh. We all prefer to trust in Occam’s Razor; the simplest explanation is the always the better. And the answer is…

Syria!

If you got it right, you win the right to get assassinated. Via local service providers, of course. There are many of them.

Non mais, Quel Imbécile

Hezb, oh God!

Hezb and Hariri had a complex relationship; many blame him for the army’s shooting of Shiite demonstrators around the time of the OPEC meeting in Beirut. After his assassination, Hezb rallied so much behind his Syrian assassins, calling for a “due process” for a regime who ignores the meaning of the word.

Due Process? How about this beauty. According to Al-Manar, Goebbel’s favourite TV station, there are hints that Geagea and Joumblat may know more than they let on; the first predicted Assassinations of ministers, the second predicted the slaying of Tueni.

Now they blame the government (who should resign, of course) for the Gemayel assassination, forgetting that their own plants litter the state’s institutions.

That raises questions about the real extent of Hezb’s 21st Century “Fatahland”.

The Lady doth protest too much. What does she have to hide?

Nihilistic Rant?

You should hear the industrialists and commercial sectors calling for an all out strike till (and I quote): the “demi-Gods” who rule us engage in a real dialogue, and not in downtown, but “on a boat somewhere”…

Unfortunately, the Titanic is not available.

To add that March 14th may have their faults, but they are at least trying to put out the fires of war, and bring Lebanon a measure of independence.

Well, this post may have been a nihilistic rant rather than an analysis.

I will do better next time.

I promise.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Muclear Myths

When it comes to Weapons of mass destruction, the media perpetuates quite a few myths.

Those who support rogues states claim that the nuclear watchdog is biased, and use Israel as an example. Others raise fears about weapons in the hands of rogues by states, or their sponsored terrorists.

Is the Nuclear Watchdog Biased?

Before you clamour for justice or bias, consider this; at least Israel is honest about its nuclear program.

Yes, I hate to admit it myself, but the fact is that: it is not party to the NPT or the CTBT, and could therefore develop weapons if it so chooses.

The French claimed a similar logic when they carried out their last test before signing the CTBT. We did not like it, but they though they needed more data. Then they signed the treaty.

Other countries have chosen the path of lies and deceit; signing in to the NPT to get the necessary “official” support, while cheating on its actual provisions to develop the “military” component. Israel did not sign those treaties. True, it had strong support early on to develop its nuclear arsenal.

Nukes as Effective Weapons

The use of Nukes as weapons was necessitated by the comparatively lousy precision of 20th Century “vectors”; witness the high difference between the yields of the warheads deployed by Russians (3-4 Megatons) and American (1-2 Megatons).

Incidentally, the Russians, based on a lot of tests, think their missiles are inaccurate. The Americans, based on few tests, believe their missiles are more accurate.

The fact is that neither really knew for sure; those babies were being launched in East-West flights. In case of war, they would have been fired across the North Pole, where the earth magnetic field does many weird things.

Glad no one ordered a realistic test; Global Warming is bad enough, a nuclear winter would have been far worse. It would have turned Earth into Venus. Then again, none of the boffins who devised those systems knew much about climatology; long after the last Venera probes melted on Venus did they realise how close we had come to hell…

But I digress…

Today, the weapons are getting better and smaller, but not because the eggheads had any bout of wisdom. The 21st Century has seen much improvement in navigation and targeting, so much so that “precision long-range conventional weapons may be [increasingly] capable of performing some of the missions currently assigned to nuclear weapons (1)”.

A new type of bomber is already under study; based in the United States, it could potentially hit any region of the world within 2 hours. One version of those new toys maybe satellite-based systems that can generate a high yield without a nuclear payload, thanks to the projectile’s high kinetic energy. They can be so fast and so small as to be virtually undetectable, thus ensuring complete deniability.

I can’t help but think of a certain Mr Kim, Sung I., from Pyong-Yang, North Korea. He escaped a peculiar train accident on his way back from a business trip to China.

Again, I digress…

Nukes as Effective Terror Weapons

Granted, there are few things more dangerous than Bin Laden with a nuke.

However, you will not stop him or his franchisees by wiretapping people willy-nilly, or randomly imprisoning anyone who looks Arab, or shooting any kid throwing a stone…

You should be able to stop them by:

1- Arrest the guy. If you pay enough money, no Jirga will protect him; some guys will sell their own mothers for the right “incentive”, regardless of any tribal "jirga" pseudo-code. Many may have already done so.

2- Use some intelligence when dealing with extremists. I am talking about the type that is generated between your ears, and which comes free; hire linguists that speak Arabic, Farsi… whatever, and who understand the culture. That means many among the Arab looking you had mistakenly arrested.

3- Remember Tim McVeigh. The next one may not be the one you expect. Recall that Bin Laden was an unforeseen byproduct of the cold war and the struggle against communism. The current “War on Terror” may be cooking another brew; with his “known knowns and known unknowns”, the Donald made some sense. The demons we are awakening may not be the ones we currently fear.

So, what scares me more than Bin Laden with a Nuke?

Rambo.

Someone should tell those new warriors/liberators that “Rambo” was killed in Lebanon, near Quarantina. One can never extol enough the virtues of a flak jacket, or the wisdom of ducking if you have none.

Unless one plans to shoot first, regardless of potential victims.

And that was no digression; cowboys do really scare me, whatever ungulidae they come riding.

----------------------

REF: (1) Report by Stephen M. Younger, Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear Weapons, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Let's Call the Whole Thing off

OK, I reworked it, a little. Listening to local news is dangerous for your mental health. IQ levels have been plummeting lately.

With Apologies to Louis Armstrong:

Things have come to a pretty pass
Our country is growing bad,
For you like Iran and their nukes
While they go for Saudis and Dollars,

Goodness knows what the end will be
Oh I don't know where I'm at
It looks as if we will never be a nation
Something must be done:

Chorus

You say Syria and I say Lebanon, You say Lebanon and I say Syria,
You like Souwya and I hate Syria, You follow Faqih and I loathe ninjas,
Syria, Souwya, Syria, Iwan, ninjas, let's call the whole country off
But oh, if we call the whole thing off, the
n we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break the bank,
So if I forget Bank al Madinah, you call off your demo’s,
For we know we need each other so we, Better call the whole off off,
Let's call the whole thing off.

Chorus – 2

You say Allah and they says Jesus, You say Ali and they say Omar,
You like Allah and I am a skeptic, You fight for Him, and he didn’t ask you
Allah, Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, Let's call the world thing off
But oh if we call the whole thing of then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart
So if you like kippas and I like laffiya, I'll wear kipp
as and give up laffiya,
For we know we need each other so we, Better call the calling off off,
Let's call the whole thing off.

Chorus – 3

I say shlikkeh, and you say sister, I saw mother and you saw imperialism
Pater, mater, uncle, auntie, let's call the whole thing off.
I like bandanas and you like mullahs, I say secular and I get Hezbollah
Bananas, mullahs, democracy, Hezbollah, Go your way, I'll go mine
So if I go for democracy and you go for mullocracy,

so all right no contest we'll order plutocracy.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Coming soon, the new civil war

Are we moving towards a new Lebanese civil war?

Misinterpretations?

We are already in the midst of a wider conflict within “Greater Syria”, to borrow a National Socialist term. The extent of it depends not on the United States and "how far the US will go", but on Iran and how it interprets/misinterpret the UK diplomat's visit to Damascus, and the results of the latest US elections.

1- The visit is either it a last chance effort, or a case of the Europeans are really "blinking first", in typical 9/10 fashion. My money is on the latter, but we'll soon see effects in Lebanon.

2- The Republican electoral rout, in a region ruled by autocrats, may be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness; over here, a ruling party never loses elections.

If, through the national dialogue, they "add" Aoun's ministers to the Lebanese Cabinet, then I may mean that the Europeans indeed "blinked" and compromised with Syria in the hope of separating it from Iran. Not that I oppose Aoun’s inclusion in the cabinet; I feel that it would have had to happen earlier, and no matter the risk of civil war, I still believe that Hezb should have been left out.

I am not sure how this situation will remain sustainable, seeing how much cash Syria gets from Iran; the only way to make up for the shortfall would be to let Syria back in control of Lebanon's juicy morsels. We could also see our "leaders" selling out more of us to the Syrians, in order to cover their hide and get back in the graces of Damascus.

The Fox in the Henhouse

Otherwise, if it was a "last chance" effort, the ball would really be in Iran's court. Hezb, their fox in the henhouse, is getting increasingly nervous and restive.

We would have to expect at least some continuation of the low-level disturbance and economic morass, at worst "going to the streets". In the latter case, Hezb and Iran options are limited; they have lost much during the last war, and while they have enough to start a war, they cannot achieve a rapid enough victory.

Limits, Limits

Limits, Limits

On purely military terms, Hezb is now geographically and economically "limited". Geographically. They have tried a repeat during their demos before the July War, and it showcased their limitations; they attacked both Moslem and Christian neighbourhoods. They only succeeded in proving that they had no sense of humour.

If Hezb moves against Christians, all Christians will side against them, and a quickly form a new alliance with the Druze. The Sunnis will remain on the sidelines, except by providing funding and localized support, and the war will be confined to Lebanon.

If they move against Sunnis, then all Sunnis will side against them, but the Christians will remain on the sidelines at first, divided between Aoun/Frangieh and Geagea/Gemayel. This will not last long; this type of Sunni-Shiite conflict can easily spread to Syria, where the Alawite regime will find itself in a tough spot because of its Shiite bend.

Actually the civil war may have already started, but in cloak and dagger mode.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lebanese Suicide Bombers?

With the UNFIL-plus in town, some Medias are raising fears of "terrorist" attacks against its western constituents. Whatever happens, it will not be a lebanese; we can't really be terrorists.

Here are the Top 10 reasons why Lebanese make lousy suicide bombers;

1. We are always late; we would have missed all the flights.

2. The pretty girls on the plane would distract us.

3. We would talk loudly and bring attention to ourselves.

4. With food and drinks on the plane, we would forget why we're there.

5. We talk with our hands; therefore we would have to put our weapons down.

6. We would ALL want to fly the plane; if they didn’t let him fly the plane, I doubt Jarrah would have joined their gang.

7. We would argue and start a fight in the plane.

8. We can't keep a secret; we would have told everyone a week before doing it.

9. We would all have fallen over each other to be in the photograph being taken by one of the hostages. Hi mom!

10. We would have wasted time customizing the plane; Lebanese flag, “spoilers”, “jante”, picture of a religious icon or leader on the windshield…

That does not necessarily mean that the UNIFIL is “safe”. Guess who’s back in town?

Blogging may soon be bad for your health. Again...