Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Message on a Border

To those who watched Assad’s interview on ABC news have got an earful, but you missed his real message down south.

Southern Lebanon, that is…

This week in Lebanon was quiet. Too quiet.

People are concerned as well, witness the reported increase in gun sales as the February 14th commemoration approaches. Still, when a civil war starts, such toys are distributed for free.

However, what worries me is all this new talk about the necessity to avoid “fitna”, from many a leading figure. Much praise for the Maronite bishop’s initiative. Much hints at behind the scenes manoeuvres for a deal

The political theatre may hint at more “internal” calm, much of it reflected in the “normal” return of students to classes. But there were some worrying developments on the ground, as Syria moves its pawns around, and as the pressure on Iran escalates.

Playing the “Resistance” Card

Could Hezb be manoeuvring out of its internal isolation, but provoking Israel again?

All in all, that may be their only logical option; they’re stuck in downtown, they were defeated in Tarik Jdideh and Kesrouan. They cannot afford to back down, so they would go around the UNIFIL, provoke Israel into a new confrontation, and emerge victorious, again, from the whole mess.

Enter the usual suspects; the Syrians may be further encouraged by “useful idiots” in the West, and are likely to push Hezb further; Assad may indulge in delusion and self-flattery, and will not give up so easily on his “normal dog-and-pony show”.

He has additional incentive now that the United Nations has signed the agreement on Tuesday, February 5th, to set up the Tribunal. This is only a first step, however, and still requires ratification from the Parliament; Assad can thank March 14th stupidity for keeping his Lebanese peon, Berri, in control of the Parliament. No wonder disaffection is spreading.

It is in this context that Hezb can play the “Resistance” card again. And this time, it may not be so isolated; thanks to this new fangled alliance of theirs, a new war would not be Hezb’s unilateral move. It can now be presented as the action of Lebanon’s “real” majority. This comes in handy; Hezb had been keeping the border warm, just in case.

So Assad’s message was in two parts; the “talk to me”, on ABC, and the “or else” part, in Southern Lebanon. In this respect, any calming sounds coming from Shater Hassan would only be a diversionary manoeuvre

It would be a mistake to take the talk seriously; the actions on the ground speak louder, and "truer". Syria's goal is simple; "In short, they want Lebanon. If one is willing to trade Lebanon for other issues (Iraq, Israel, terror etc), one might get something from Assad. If not, it's a waste of time"...

The game is still on...

Follow-Up (Feb. 7th, 2007)

MJT has an excellent report from “the Top Floor of Lebanon’s Civil Society”.

It highlights quite accurately the predicament of Lebanon; we're not merely at the "mercy of Israel", as much as caught between the "‘realists’ in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel, as well as those retards who protest that they're all Hezbollah now”.

Beati pauperes spiritu

Follow-Up (Feb. 7th, 2007): Gun Sales?

As time goes on, our predicament worsens. Now there are reports of increased guns sales in Lebanon, but the accuracy of those reports is more than questionable. It seems Naharnet picked up the story then it was picked by the Guardian, and then back to Naharnet... Still, How the heck do they know that gun sales increased 3 fold? Do they have prior data to compare to?

Maybe the VAT office has been tracking this. Or maybe Syria provided them with an audit of borer traffic...

In addition, Clancy Chassay's Guardian piece makes the absurd calim that Hariri is buildign a Sunni militia. He does not need to; he has 15,000 to 20,000 fully trained troops, "private contractors" to the interior ministry. The fact that he has a "Sunni source" does not make any more valid.

That is not to say that tensions are not rising, and people are not rearming. However, keep in mind that a civil war starts not with mom and pop's money, but with PUBLIC funds; this means that when "they" want us to kill one another the guns will be provided for FREE. We may be desperate enough to fight, but we're broke...

For now, track gun prices; start worrying when an AK reaches less than USD 200, M16's about USD 300, and bullets around 10c-20c. And forget about handguns. Then, you can start either buying or running.

Till then, watch this wound fester on...

Follow-Up (Feb. 8th, 2007): ولّعها ?

What with the clashes on the border the Lebanese and Israeli armies? The stories and reports do not all make sense to me.

Did the Israelis cross the border and the Lebanese shot at them? Did the Lebanse cross the border and shot at the Israelis? Did the Lebanese shoot at them even before they crossed the border? Was it all a mix up, because UNIFIL had not completed its demarcation? Did the Lebanese fire in the air, and the Israelis retaliated?

Was there a wedding going on, with someone firing in the air? ... OK, now I am pushing it.

I am not the only one skeptical about all the news; Abu Kais has noted that “the reports [he] read in the Lebanese media were confusing”.

This latest spat comes on the heels of the previous discoveries of road side bombs, and of the UN ratification of the tribunal. The Lebanese government then follow suit and ratified its approval, to the dismay of Hezb. We not have to wait for Le Duc de Berry to convene His parliament (do not hold your breath); there may be a way to convene the parliament without Berri doing so… There is a deputy speaker, after all, and he has not been assassinated… yet. And since they cannot raise tensions elsewhere, trouble along the border is a better solution…

To extrapolate from Abu Kais’ post, he notes a report from Al-Akhbar, which states that Hezb, “which did not intervene in the clash awaiting a decision by the Lebanese army, raised the level of alertness among its ranks in the entire border area”.

Weren’t they supposed to “leave” the area?

Herein lies the rub; initially, there was much optimism with the Army’s deployment in the South. Not that I put too much stock in Israeli sources when it comes to understanding Lebanon (nor in their impeccable sense of timing), but their questions are relevant, and their concerns are valid; has our army been so thoroughly compromised by Syria’s occupation and Hezb’s infiltration? I would hate to believe that, but some actions during the July war were not at all reassuring, when the Lebanese Army’s radars were reported to have coordinated with Hezb…

Incidentally, the first Lebanese official to discuss this on TV was the minister Pierre Gemayel, may he rest in peace; he's the one who died of lead poisoning brought about by too much thinking.

The whole thing stinks to high heavens…


fubar said...


You are a good reader.

(Haaretz) "The Islamic Resistance denies that the devices which were found at the Lebanese border with Occupied Palestine in front of the village of Maroun al-Ras were new devices as the Zionist enemy alleges," a statement from the Shi'ite Muslim group said.

"And it affirms that these devices were planted before the last July war in the context of ... defensive measures to prevent ground attacks and incursions by the enemy's army on Lebanese lands."

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet?

It looks like Nas is trying to provoke Israel. The new summer war may come before summer.

Nas is cornered. He has nowhere to go. The US, Saudi Arabia, and the EU continue to prop March 14 up. Stalemate. He cannot attack March 14 or civil war erupts. Fighting Lebanese depletes his assets and might even kill his host body. What else can a resistence to the Zionist regime do? He must manufacture the need for resistence, again. So he must re-start the war which pretty much voids the 1701 cessation of hostilities agreement and, most likely, splinters the LAF in the process now that they are actually in the line of fire, that is unless they simply go into full retreat mode and leave UNIFIL to deal with the south. And once we are all Hezbollah now, again, what about UNIFIL. Get the hell out of the way, I say. (Note to UNIFIL: Israel is south, just head that way with white flags prominently raised.) But who will say for Lebanon? There is no national consensus on whether the government is even legal. (Yes, I know it is, but tons of Lebanese don’t agree.) No government to reach a new ceasefire and you can kiss the tribunal goodbye.

In the case of war, the only hope for the survival of Lebanon, and a March 14 victory, is to immediately join the fray on the side of Israel. Yeah, I know, its a mind bender. But isn't it about time everyone faced the truth. Hezbollah is never going to give up its weapons without a fight. And Lebanon cannot survive with Hezbollah armed. Lebanon will be rightous if it also attacks Hezbollah. And no one is going to give a sh*t about the Lebanese if this time they just stand around and watch again. You can't win if you don't play.

Oh, and message to March 14. I wouldn’t worry too much about cluster bombs. Israel has $100 million worth of JDAMs, an awesome new AWACS surveillance plane, a new war plan, and a new commander, just to mention a few of the newbies. Your problems are just a little bigger than cluster bombs. That is, unless you make them your assets.

Nobody said...


what's your take on the future of Syria?

Jeha said...

Rome is far away. While I agree with you that Catiline is pushing the limits of the tolerable, an outside direct confrontation will likely turn the entire region into, well, FUBAR... Further, I do not think that those who claim March 14 have what it takes. Hence my apparently EST hours, and my presence in the great north, which I am thinking of extending poymanenty.

The above may answer your question; I feel that the comrades in Syria are up a creek without a paddle. The war that they are provoking in Lebanon may well extend there this time. In a sense, as I posted before, we're already in a war for control of "greater Syria".


fubar said...

Lebanon will once again be at the mercy of Israel.

Israel does not have to respond to provocation. They have taken scuds without response before.

But which choice is more merciful in the long run.

Roman Kalik said...

I just read that article by Totten that you linked to, Jeha. Excellent stuff, and it made me understand why it appears to Lebanese that we're supporting, or at least cooperating with, Syrian interests in Lebanon.

The thing is, while anything other than the Baath party may be good for Lebanon, the consequences for us may be dire. This is why we're careful not to weaken Assad to the breaking point, I believe. A violent revolution in Syria is likely to bring some ghastly types to the top.

Roman Kalik said...

Mind you, I'm of an opinion that waiting for Syria to suddently have a better government is futile, and that helping to form a stable Lebanon is well worth the risk. And Syria is going to have a new bastard in charge sooner or later anyway.

Better to have one potential friend than two certain enemies.

ghassan karam said...

You are wasting your time if you expect Saniora, the jellyfish panderer to take a stand on principle. The man will do anything to avoid making a decision, even cutting his nose to spite his face. He turned down the invitation to attend a conference in Germany since Israel was invited also. How courageous, how stupid, and childish. Pity a nation that has no statesmen/women.

As for HA, I seriously doubt whether they are in a position to start another war with Israel. HA can be denied access to the border and thus their attempts at trouble making will be futile as long as Israel does not swallow their bait.

fubar said...

Ghassan -- "Pity a nation that has no statesmen/women."

Yes, I agree.

I almost choked when I read Eli Khoury said he would tell Siniora not to say Lebanon will be the last to ever make peace with Israel in MJT's post. Right. He just said it again yesterday, and is not going to Germany. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

As for Nas, not sure he will have much of a choice.

Jeb said...

Jeha - As always, a very interesting post. A lot of good analysis, too.

R said...

Ghassan and Fubar,
I completely agree that Siniora sounds like an idiot when he says that Leb will be the last to ever make peace with Israel and boycotts conferences where Israel is represented and all that crap... On the other hand, you have to keep in mind that Lebanon is not Jordan or Egypt where a leader can decide to make peace and then - being a dictator - stick to his decision and enforce it (or get killed and have Mubarak stick to it... but I digress)... In any case, my point is that being the confessional crap-hole that it is, in Lebanon people cannot go ahead and implement unpopular moves (among any one of the communities) unless they have the will and ability to enforce it. Hell we don't even have civil marriage, and you guys want peace with Israel.
That is not to say that Siniora shouldn't use some more intelligent language when it comes to Israel... Something along the lines of maintaining peace along the border, or sticking to that obsolete armistice of the 40s or something that sounds a little less childish and a bit more positive... Especially if he is still nagging about Shebaa..

Nobody said...

Especially if he is still nagging about Shebaa..

sanyora can get Shebaa by a move of a pen as Olmert and Livni made it repeatedly clear that if Lebanon want to negotiate some kind of a peace agreement Israel will be open to discuss Shebaa ... Israel made it very clear and the M14 , if they want, can go and tell the Lebanese that they can get Shebaa, prisoners exchange and whatever without firing a bullet ...if instead they prefer to play into resistance state is their own business as we just cannot do more than this ... any more unilateral withdrawal after the last war and Gaza is out of question ..

fubar said...

Border clash...

IDF, UNIFIL, and LAF were all communicating on border clearing. LAF wanted IDF to wait. IDF said no. What happened on the border? Complete lack of discipline by LAF. What is happening now? Attempts at manly chest beating. Hoorah!

At least Siniora's attempts at chest beating are good for the humor value.

ghassan karam said...

I fail to comprehend that compelling logic that drives the Lebanese government to tie its fortune to the decrepit and bankrupt idea of the rejectionist front. For all intents and purposes the rejectionist front is currently composed of one country, Syria, one satellite, Lebanon, two Iranian funded militias, Hamas and HA plus obviously Iran. Most of the Arab countries have either signed an official de facto peace agreement or behave as if there is a dejure recognition. Witness Shimon Peres' trip to Qatar for three days of meetings, the cordial relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv in addition to the major force in the Arab world that is demanding a comprehensive settllement, Saudi Arabia. Actually the rumour mills project another moderate Arab initiative led by the Saudis in the next couple of months. It is high time for March 14 to govern, show some backbone and start leading the country towards a peaceful resolution of its troubles with Israel. It should not be difficult to understand that Lebanon has been set back by at least half a century as a result of its insistence to absorb Israeli retaliation when ever Lebanon allowes all sort of transgressions across its borders. Only demented individuals will insist on fighting loosing battles. The least that we can do is to decouple the Lebanese position from being totally subservient to the dictates of Tehran and Damascuss.Why don't we want to join the Israelis in a conference, are we afraid to discover that they do not have tails or are we afraid that we might find individuals on the other side with whom we can resolve our differences amicably?

Anonymous said...

Excellente analyse.Trés pessimiste vu l'actualité mais malheureusement vraie.

vbspurs said...

Jeha, forgive the OT-ness, but I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog, personally.

Glad it erm, amused. ;)

(Your own site looks great! I will keep it in mind in future)


Lirun said...