Saturday, December 30, 2006

Too Much, Too Late...

So now Walid Beyk wakes up to the threat posed by Hezb, who may be involved in some, of not all the assassinations in Lebanon. In the shadowy world of the Iran and his Lebanese peones;

Duh!

1- There is, in the presence of Imad Mughniyeh, a “حمار عتيق” between the United States and the “Party of God”. Many feel that it has come to payback time; Nasrallah may have a point when “made his head an alleged target of the tribunal”, he may have intended more that merely ordering “his followers to reject it by all means”. Indeed, he may have solid reasons to fearlargely symbolic) sanctions under Chapter 7… Coming from Walid Beyk, those words have unique meaning. that the Hariri tribunal could be used to go after him. And now that the pressure is increasing on his masters, with (

Et tu, Brute?

2- While Joumblat stirred some murky waters, it is worth noting that Hariri apparently distanced himself from the Beyk’s allegations. Could it be that this whole thing was a maneuver intended to scuttle a Sunni-Shiite deal to avert a looming war? Could a rift be developing between the Hariri and Joumblat?

So how does Joumblat’s “إتّفاق رباعي” look now?

3- Or is it that Saad Hariri is simply playing it safe(r)? Indeed, this comes in the context of American “openings” by “flip-flopping” Kerry, following a British footpath, with many “realists” support those moves… The Syrians may miscalculate (again), and since Aoun’s marché de dupes with Hezb further weakens the government, they may feel they have the upper hand (again)… and resume assassinations.

Quo usque tandem?

In spite of my paranoia, may you have Eid Moubarak, and may we (finally) see a happy new year for Lebanon... There is always hope; it is our nature., but you may want to hedge your bets...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

No Mass Moussa!

The Arab mediation was supposed to drag on… but all of a sudden we hear that No Mas Moussa… To the paranoid in Iran, It may look like a three pronged assault; “Last Call” for a deal?

Last Call for… Iran

The Iranian agenda is what really matters now in Lebanon; the Mullahs want their bomb.

The United Nations moved surprisingly fast, albeit with watered-down sanctions, under Chapter 7… Hormuz matters too much to let Mullahs hold a bomb to the world’s Jugular. And Iraq matters too much to let it become Farsi country… And the Mullah’s riches are far from endless

It may take them more time than Lebanon can afford, but we never mattered; in Lebanon, Iran is holding an expandable hostage, and in Hormuz, one who's not hers to trade

Last Call for… Syria

Many think that the outlines of a “deal” had been offered to Bachar; Trade in some outfits such as the PSNS, with their history of violence, in exchange for some leniency. But it seems that the doctor does not see it that way; maybe he gets some comfort from the way his friends at the BBC covered the story, and from some tired “think tanks”.

As a sign of intransigence, his minions are doing a lot of spin, and are now accusing Israel (who else) of being behind the whole thing.No doubt those pesky Jews are also responsible for global warming (You read it here first, but it will soon be there).

In any case, all good things come to an end

Last Call for… Sunni-Shiite Reconciliation before Eid?

If the Hezb is really a "free Agent", this could be a very strong possibility, which offers a few advantages.

First, it will see off the challenge from Herr General. Christians will blame him for allowing Shater Hassan to take over of Christmas. His ex-Excellency dug himself in a hole, kept on digging, Diven by his spitefulness, he has tunnelled so far that he aligned with the same people he once fought against. Where he leads from here, few will follow. Franjieh is on more solid ground, thanks to his clan, and to his uncle Samir’s inability to unseat him from its leadership, but he has to contend with his own progeny

Second, the “Tartuffe” in Hezb could find a peaceful “way out”. They could also get some compensation in the form of more plum jobs for their followers. And in the leading role of “Dude, Where’s my community”, Nabih Berri may be able to wean himself of those who hijacked the destiny of the entire Lebanese Shiite community. Iranians may be Shiite, but they are not Arabs.

The trouble with following foreign masters is that other citizens do not like it.

And no matter how much ammo they have, marionettes never hold the strings

Last Call for… Lebanon

A deal would save us some trouble, in the short run. But the long run is another matter;

First, it would be unsustainable. Such a deal could only be made at the expense of Christians and Druze; in the presence of a sectarian Hezb, a deal can only remain purely sectarian. While a Shiite-Sunni accord is strong enough to rule the country alone, the others would not sit idly by…

Second, there are the Americans. Does their “interest […] that Lebanon be stable and free of Syrian influence” still include a role for Hezb?

Coincidence, Coincidence… (Follow-up, Dec. 25, 2006)

Spare a thought for Mr. Nyazov, who did an Abasha the other day… Recce in Pace, Turkmenbashi. It coincides with Georgie’s phone call to his buddy Vladimir, who looked into his soul, and more into his wallet, and booked a trip to Saudi.

Expect a pilgrimage to Ryad to do wonders.

Spare a thought for poor Nabih Berri, who demarcated himself from Franjieh’s promise of escalation, albeit while keeping his masters happy. Even Hezb is getting cold feet. After Christmas comes Eid

Watch Tuesday’s LBC show with May Chidiac’s hosting of Patriarch Sfeir. The solution proposed by Bkerke placed everyone in front of their responsibility, and represents the last LEBANESE chance to a peaceful deal, and an effective investigation. If it is watered down, it will only be a mere respite…

In any case, even if they got their heads out of the sand, the Lebanese marionettes do not matter much; the ball is in the court of their Syrian and Iranian puppeteers, bearing in mind that now, the American and Saudi puppeteers have the upper hand.

Is anyone listening?

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Twelve (?) Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
Nasrallah sent to me,
God’s party” on a camping spree

On the second day of Christmas,
Michel Aoun sent to me,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the third day of Christmas,
Franjieh sent to me
A p-rated country,
One orange moron,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Hariri sent to me
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Joumblat sent to me
Ajaweed aplenty,
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Geagea sent to me
Disappointed Christians,
Ajaweed aplenty,
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Bachar sent to me
Syrian-trained Assassins,
Disappointed Christians,
Ajaweed aplenty,
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the eight day of Christmas,
George Bush sent to me
the “Realists” who screwed me
Syrian-trained Assassins,
Disappointed Christians,
Ajaweed aplenty,
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Chirac and Blair came to me
Still confused and spineless
the “Realists” who screwed me
Assassins from Syria,
Disappointed Christians,
Ajaweed aplenty,
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

On the tenth day of Christmas,
The Arabs sent to me
A confused emissary
As confused and spineless
the “Realists” who screwed us
Syrian-trained Assassins,
Disappointed Christians,
Ajaweed aplenty,
Arab Sunni backing,
A p-rated country,
One orange buffoon,
“God’s party” on a camping spree

Oh who’re we kidding,
they stole our Christmas,
they screwed up our new Year’s
and soon will cancel Eid...
the day after Christmas,
if pig-headed morons prevail,
the end result will be
A bloody conflict,
a destroyed country,
and no sense our nation
will ever grow to be….


Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Tale of Two Governments

The airwaves in the Arab world are filled with debates about right and wrong, as many verbose “experts” (me included) debate the finer points of law and fairness. In reality, there are 3 sides to every debate: Your side, their side, and the truth.

Your Side

A legally elected government (Siniora) is constitutional and cannot be removed by the force of arms or street demonstrations (Hezb & Co.).

Their Side

A legally elected government (Hanieh) is constitutional and cannot be removed by the force of arms or street demonstrations (Fatah & Co.).

The Truth

It’s all about power. In Lebanon, I hate to admit that the parameters are simply more crassly sectarian than ever:

1- Most of the Shiite middle class that emerged after the 1990’s was able to do so because of their increased weight in government control. Any reform along the lines of the Taef agreement (no, it has not really been implemented) would mean increased decentralization, administrative reform, which would result in the loss of many plum government jobs.

2- The Christians feel that had been sidelined for far too long, both by Hezb and Amal government grab and by the late Hariri’s conciliatory attitude towards the Syrians. They are essentially confused; Aoun is going against their interests, but Geagea is far too repulsive to many. Enter Johnny Abdo?

3- The Druze are more mindful of history, and their best interest is a clear application of Taef. This would mean a clear decentralization and a government system that can adapt to a changing environment.

4- The Sunnis play in a different field. At present, Alawite control of Syria confines their leader’s ambitions to Lebanon, where Taef is an acceptable solution to a deal-makingLebanon; their field of interest will have to grow larger… “Greater Syria”, Anyone? middle class made up of merchants and businessmen. If Hezb and the Shiites continue to obstruct them in

5- The Alawites are in charge of Syria, and were once in control of Lebanon. They never had it so good, and would like to go back to the good ol’ days. The welfare of hatever middle class has emerged is linked to their absolute control. To maintain this, they align themselves with Irandestroy Lebanon than lose it. Hence the wildcard: now, and would rather

The Wildcard

Hezb is an Iranian army. Period.

Because of the source of its funding and logistical support, ALL its “supporters” are essentially Iranian troops. They have little other choice; since the 1960’s, NO ONE supported them. The downside is that Hezb has hijacked the Shiite community, to serve Iran’s bidding.

How much more blood to quench Persia’s thirst for Revenge?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The (True) Numbers Game...

The news are full of the numbers of people that Hezb had gathered in Downtown Beirut. The news miss a few important facts.

The key is that the demonstrations that everyone saw are not the ones that matter.

The key is found in crass politics, or crass sectarian politics. We may not like it, but it is still with us

Beirut’s Million-Man March… Minus One

Yes, there may well have been a million persons downtown Beirut this Sunday. And no, it is unlikely the Syrians added much to the ranks this time. It was mostly Hezb, who got by with "a little help from their friends"; Aoun, and to a (far) lesser degree, Sleiman. And much money from Iran. That may not last long, but I digress

But one person was missing; Omar Karameh. Pace Hezb’s mobilization powers, the important demonstrations were taking place in Tripoli and Saida; Messieurs Omar and Bizri were unable to move muchSiniora is not the one in jail.

And since Omar was unable to attend, the Sunni fig leaf was not present. Try as they might, Hezb and his minions could not storm the government Serial; they had no Sunni to replace the Sunni Prime Minister with…

Future’s Hezb?

The main allies in Lebanon’s Yellow-Orange pseudo-revolution, Hezb and Tayyar, have been both complaining about Future Movement’s growing militia. They may well have a point.

In a sense, Hariri’s Future Movement has beaten Hezb at his own game. This week’s council of ministers did not take place in the Prime Minister’s Serail, where the government is said to have “self-jailed” itself.

No, they went across the street in downtown Beirut, in the government’s seat across from the Grand Omeyyad Mosque, and stood their ground (i.e. carried out with their meeting). The council of ministers took place under the watchful eye of a huge mobilization 10,000 freshly recruited contingent of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, who crowded downtown... Not all of them may have been there, but there were far more than Berri’s all-Shiite Parliament force, whose members were overcrowded by the new visitors… Few recall such a massive deployment of force.

Those were apparently mostly Sunni from Lebanon’s upcoming demographic reservoir, Dennyeh and Akkar in the North. In Lebanon’s crass sectarian calculation, Shiites “number advantage” is not what it used to be, and Iran's newfound power may not last beyond this current oil bubble.

They have been making babies up north too… And Fatfat had been busy

علّمناهن على الشحادهسبقونا على الأبواب

The Mosque, by the way, was the one long converted from the Crusader’s St. Jean Church. Those same crusaders who carried out the massacre, or “Butchery”, at Beirut’s Baouchrieh entrance, near Nahr el Mot (the “River of Death”). Again, I digress…

But the point remains that ancient history is still current in many respects; when the Sunni Mufti calls Hariri the Hussein of this era, Hezb better stand up and notice. Ashoura notwithstanding, when they back it up with troops, better stand up and notice.

Pace Baker, he may not carry as much weight as many think; his report is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Lebanon may not be sold out this time, regardless of the hopes of many

Militia? Not necessarily; those are legally recruited troops, with US support, as opposed to Hezb’s little (or large) army. And many in the West think they are much needed at this stage

And as opposed to other militias…

Other Militias…

Hezb may have at and more than 20,000 armed men. But other militias may be in the works. Joumblat and Geagea may have given up their heavy weapons, but it does not take much to re-equip a militia. Only money.

And they may still have tons of it; the weapons were sold to Yugoslavia during its murderous war. They may have tipped the scales against the Serbs in the Krajina… Still, much of this cash can be reinvested again.

And the manpower is still there; Joumblat can still count on many of his faithful Ajaweed. And Geagea has been relocating, from the Cedars to Bzimmar and Miirab. Ring a bell?

Can’t We All Get Along?

We Better Start Trying... Yes, Hezb may have at least 30,000 rockets. But that is not really a factor, for those of us who “operated” during Lebanese Civil War; the Syrians did throw up to 4,000 rockets a day on Beirut, with little effect on the population’s resolve. Destroying Lebanon’s economy ahead of such a civil war may not be such a smart strategy; when people have little to loose, they will fight ever more fiercely.

Let us hope they all learn to get along fast. I know we all have, but our leaders still need to learn. Nasrallha has overreached, he needs to forget his “foreign alliances”, their ideologies, and delusions. And he needs to swallow his pride and come back to the table. Pace Hezb’s rethoric, most Shiites do not really want a civil war, and many a mensch is already standing up to him.

No one will win a civil war.

At least no Lebanese will win; it will not work to anyone’s advantage in the end. We Lebanese are missing out in the struggle for civilization, and the 21st Century may soon pass us by as did the centuries

Our Enemies are learning, and waiting

Sunday, December 10, 2006

D-Day (?)

The forces are gearing up for heightened confrontation, and the outlines of the solution to the “14+8” equation will be clearer over the next few hours. So is it D-Day for the Government?

Reality

Notwithstanding the grandstanding of our local grandees, the real decisions are being made in Teheran, as I pointed out in other posts. They now have to contend with veiled threats from the Saudis and Sunni powers, allied to an increasingly worried United States.

The Iranians’ increased assertiveness appears to underlay their underestimation of the Arab motivations. The “locals” are gearing up for confrontation; there are quite a few “muscles” among the crowd, with blocks assembled to provide for stones, and reports of ladders and police uniforms that could be used to storm the Serail.

Perception

Pace Aoun, the orange colour does not go with a few “types” that appear within the crowd. This is perceived as increasingly a Shiite affair, with some Sunni, Christians, and Druze fig leafs. It is in that sense that King Abdallah’s warning must be seen.

In that case, Hezb will grossly miscalculate if they plan on storming the Serail, and hide behind women, children and kids. They will only be more targets to a cornered, mostly Sunni armed force stationed around the Serail.

However, Hezb is in a quandary. If they do not storm the Serail, their “revolution” will most likely peter out, as a series of civic disobedience actions will loose them much popularity, and as Lahoud's obstructionism becomes ever more glaring… Their Hypocrisy will then be their own undoing.

For all practical purposes, Aoun is on the ejection seat; the Christians are not as tribal as Nasrallah’s followers, and will not follow a loser. Especially not one most think has betrayed them.

It think that this picture captures the MAJORITY mood; “it Does not Die” under a poster proclaiming "I Love Life"

So most wait this out... Beirut will live on, as this mural asserts, but it has already been irrevocably changed. Time will tell whether is it all for the best.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

14 + 8 = ?

March 14th, March 8th… each “side” repeats those numbers like a Mantra, as if to claim ownership over us, and exorcise the demons of both their dubious past. It’s a simple equation, really;

14 + 8 = ?

But what do they add up to?

8+14 = 22 ?

The country that became independent on November 22nd, was essentially made up of two negatives. Alfred Naccache put it best when he pointed out that “Deux negations ne font pas une nation”.

The same divisions that we started up with stand today, in a different combination. To put it simply:

Those who claim March 14th are the “Lebanese Patriots” who fell out with the Syrians. When we all took to the streets during the “Cedar Revolution”, its tenors mistakenly though that we were “supporting” them in their race to greatness. Actually, dear madam, we just wanted the Syrians out and the war really over.

March 8th groups the “Arab Nationalists” who prefer the certainty of the Syrian yoke to the unknown of freedom. The slaves of March 8th are fighting hard to protect their masters, and would rather die to make them rich than live free. Most of us would rather their tenors all went the way of the Dodo.

Today, each is backed into a corner, fighting “for keeps”. How will it all end up?

8+14 = 13 ?

Many fear that they will drag us back to the beginnings of the civil war. Another April 13th. Blair’s “opening” to Syria and Iran has already backfired badly, and the country is now spiralling out-of-control. Thanks Tony!

Yes, it would be unwise to underestimate the extent of Hezb’s arsenal, or the killing network of the Syrian National Socialist Party. But with increased coordination between the Saudis and the United States, that would turn into a colossal war, and Syria would not off-the-hook this time. And without a unified Christian camp, who would be the other dance partner? Also, we've been there before; Israel may have been bombed with 500 Katiushas a day, but Beirut is a tougher cake; it had been subjected to a peak of 4,000 a day, and did not yield easily. Still, one worrying sign is the Lebanese Army concentration in Beirut; true, it was only there to watch the “UNIFIL watching Hezbollah”. But now the South is empty, and a countdown to war has begun.

Most likely; nothing will really happen for the next few days, save for a few incidental shootings and their unintended victims among the nation’s youths. However, Tuesday, December 12th, is a critical day to watch. At least till one side grows desperate enough to break the stalemate. My guess was that March 8th would move first, and they did. Now they’re in a pickle.

Over the coming weeks, as they find themselves cornered in Beirut, will they try something in the South? A “countdown” to war has begun over there, apparently running till March 2007.

Or will they throw a bone to Aoun, already badly damaged goods, and wait for the Christmas season to be over?

8 + 14 = 0 …

That’s how much will be left of Lebanon by the end of this sharade.

Incidentally, that’s about how well the economy will do this Christmas season, in spite of a few brave efforts. At least the media business is doing well, especially its fear mongering segments.

Since I fear Hezb is playing for keeps, I expect at least a war in the longer term.

The "market" is not ready right now; AK47's and M16's are still priced way above 500US$, and bullets are still too expensive; when prices go down (around 100US$), start packing. The longer it takes to start, the harder it will be for the braying masses gathered in Riad El-Solh Square. Ultimately, Lebanon will have to pay a price standing up to local bullies, be it Syria or their Iranian paymasters.

But, whatever happens, whatever everyone does, this government will stay, in one form or another. That much was made clear by Prime Minister Siniora’s speech. Incidentally it was a great TV moment; a joy to watch the PM deflating the Great Shater Hassan. Al-Moutanabbi had also claimed to be a prophet, but had the courage to make a clear claim.

And he made better poetry.

The net result of all this will be nothing. Still, I fear that the new prophet may not back down so easily…

إذا ما كبرت ما بتصغر

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Negative Ads

Negative Ads couldn't get any better; in contrast with Hezb's stern images of religious-inspired sacrifice, Syria's adulation of its current masters, and Aoun's loud orange blitz, a simple message is being "branded".

I Love Life. Together with smiling images of past slain leaders, such as Pierre Gemayel's smiling, boyish grin. The message is clear; choose the "nicer" side... Those who claim March 14th have their faults, and did not understand the true Lebanese feeling expressed on that fateful fay, but still, those who follow March 8th appear excessively nihilistic.

As I pointed out somewhere else, a gov't defeat will be a Hezb win. No need to fight fire with Napalm.
Moderation in Everything... Even in moderation;

Choose Life.
Yes, I know; In the US, it has another meaning... But I like this one better.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Civil War?

A new civil war in Lebanon?

I do not know. But I know one simple premise: no Shiite will be allowed to topple a Sunni prime minister. As you watch events unfold, recall this brutal mantra.

Shiite Crescent ?

Jordan had been clamouring since forever about fears of a Shiite Crescent. Saudi Arabia has apparently come round to this, and now Egypt’s Hosni Moubarak is cautioning against Iranian involvement in Lebanon.

The message from the Sunni powers is clear; the low Christian participation to this jamboree ensured that this is perceived as a purely Shiite affair. This means that, having “lost” Iraq, no Sunni power would allow another Shiite power overthrow a Sunni government.

Yes, March 8th has been able to show up some real numbers, but no one said Hezb was not organised. But most of their followers will soon recognize how much of an oxymoron a conservative revolution really is.

Syria is out, and will stay out. Still, there is a deal in the works that will let them all save face:

Deal Making

The outline of a “deal” was hinted at by Minister Marwan Hamadeh at his Al-Jazeera intereview. It is a deal in four parts:

- Aoun is out. Period. The absence of most Christians from the Jamboree has rendered him irrelevant. Let us hope the Christians, most of whom rallied around “March 14th” are not betrayed again by their “March 14th” allies. Otherwise, Lebanon will never “work”.

- Berri has a limited time offer to go back to the ranks. Otherwise, they will be out of power permanently, and their followers will have to give up the empty promises of patronage.

- Syria has a limited time offer. It better realise that it is permanently out of Lebanon, and adapt. By stoking the fires of a Shiite-Sunni war, Syria’s Alawite regime has united the major Sunni powers. The longer they keep at this, the shorter their tenure over Syria itself will be. Recall Saad Hariri’s little reported message to the Alawis.

- Hezb has a VERY limited time offer to come back to the ministry. It may have already expired. Watch Hariri’s Future TV, one of their slogan is directed against Hezb’s ministers;

وحياة يلّي راحو ما بترجعو!

The Lessons of History

Christians once followed a single leader, flocking around Aoun; they got a 15 year “stay out of power” card.

The Shiites would make the same mistake by flocking around Hezb, his “jusqu’au boutisme”, and his promise of martyrdom. All this requires money. Dinero. Money does not grow on trees, and Iran can’t endlessly pump it out of the ground. Ultimately, the dying is easy; it is the living that defeats us.

Yes, Hezb has weapons. But no Sunni power would allow for a Sunni defeat in Lebanon, no matter the cost. Even at Lebanon’s expense. This time, with the conflict painted in “existential” terms, it will have longer-term repercussions. Aoun’s alliance with Hezb may not augur well; Herr General has a knack for picking losing sides… and destroying Lebanon in the process.

A necessary Evil

For now, those who rally around the government will remain. Most of us consider them to be an acceptable evil; corruption for corruption, we still prefer the Lebanese kind.

March 14th is not one-dimensional. When we all took to the streets on March 14th, it was for a very complex reason; simply put, we want a normal country, with a normal, accountable government, and normal politicians.

It is called CIVILization. It was born here. Time it came back for a visit. Otherwise, the airport is still open. Alternatively, Cyprus is a boat ride away…

They say that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. In our case, it is not the heat that we fear; we have the scars to prove it. It’s the food that stinks.

Lebanese cuisine is not what it used to be…