Friday, June 01, 2007

Dress Rehersal (Part 3/3): Deal or No Deal?

The activation of “Fath Al-Islam” may well be the “lowest-intensity” options; this group allows the Syrian enough “plausible deniability”. Syria has still much leverage; with good timing, its local Quisling made his move this week, but some of the useful idiots may well be wising up… Still, someone has to “welcome them back”.

With the tribunal now decided under Chapter 7, we are witnessing a truly historic moment, with fateful consequences, as Abu Kais hints; the “loud explosion” that “was just heard in Beirut” might as well be both “fireworks” and “the Assad regime responding”. To be sure, the government now has some measure of leverage to bring back sanity into Lebanese politics.

The country may come around to another historic moment, with enough cover to finish off Fath Al-Islam.

Internal Positioning

Most political parties have come around the tribunal decision.

It was understandable for Franjieh made his usual display of bravado, which may have contributed to convincing Aoun’s supporters that things had gone too far. Well, it was either that, or the electoral rout at the elections for the Order of Physicians; they chose the fight and painted it as plebiscite, only to be resoundingly trashed.

It was also understandable for the Nationalsozialistische Syrianen Leutepartei (a.k.a the PSNS) to oppose the tribunal. Their leadership went gone beyond their ideology calling for a Greater Syria, with which many may agree, to cast their lot with the Assad clan, an idea that has fewer objective followers, except those willing to suspend all logic.

One less understandable position remains; Hezb’s opposition to the tribunal. It may have more to do with the fact that it may be located in Ayanappa, that oasis of sin than with deeper interests…

Hezb’s Interests (The Optimists)

In analyzing Hezb’s latest moves, Abu Kais rightly states that this “is an existential battle for” them. It is indeed true that their tactical needs are merely “an attempt to adapt an entire country to fit their needs, in the most selfish and destructive way possible”.

To some extend, this is validated by the Daily Star’s Michael Young, who offers an excellent outline of their reasoning and that of the Iranians;

Larijani's plan is not so very different, in most of its aspects, than what Hizbullah is demanding today [but its] sequencing […] made his plan unworkable, as did the fact that Iran would like to see the Hariri tribunal effectively neutralized. However, two things were significant in the initiative, beyond what it meant for Hizbullah.

First, Larijani confirmed that Iran had a crucial role to play in Lebanon's future, especially when it came to the future of Hizbullah, [and] implicitly admitted that Iran accepted [the fact that Lebanon is under de facto international trusteeship today].

The second message was that it was Iran, not Syria, which would "deliver" Hizbullah. . By suggesting undermining the Hariri tribunal, Larijani didn't stray off the reservation of Syrian-Iranian relations, though he knew the condition was an empty one given the vote this week on the tribunal at the Security Council. However, he did pull the rug out from under a major Syrian justification for returning to Lebanon. This might, of course, have been a maneuver, and if the Syrians were ever to return, it is not Larijani who would stop them.

With that in mind, Nasrallah’s “speech last Friday may have” been only partly “a defense of Syrian interests”, particularly where it might lead “to the legitimization of military force when addressing Palestinian groups outside the camps, particularly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is under Syria's thumb”. There could also have been “sincerity in Nasrallah's warning to the army”, since the “the Syrians will almost certainly respond by encouraging Salafists in the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Sidon to rise up against the army”, which could lead to “a Salafist insurrection at the South's doorstep”, a “first stage in an effort to make of Lebanon a new Iraq”.

Hezb’s Interests (The Pessimists)

There is a more pessimistic view. It was well outlined by FUBAR, in a contribution on the thread cited above. He points out that Hezb’s was not opposed to a tribunal that covered “assassinations committed between October 1, 2004 and January 12, 2005”, before the shooting of Pierre Gemayel, the 8th member missing from “the cabinet so as to cause the legal downfall of the Siniora cabinet under the Constitution”. While the reasons may have been more complex, a good point remains;

It would have been politically expedient for Hezbollah to have agreed to a Lebanese tribunal, if it had nothing to fear from such a tribunal. It would have appeared reasonable, it would have appeared to have been making some concession to the majority calling for a reciprocal concession from the majority, and it would have appeared to the Lebanese people as a whole to be against assassination and for justice. It makes no sense for Hezbollah to trade all of that just to oppose the tribunal at every turn merely to aid Syria, unless

(1) Hezbollah also had something to fear from the tribunal


(2) Iran directed it to do so - most likely both.

I fear the reasons are both, and then some.

Indeed, “higher up” political commentators would object that, rationally, Hezb has no other option but to come back into the mainstream Lebanese fold, and become exclusively political. Fat chance, either way; methinks there is more to it, and it goes to the core of what Hezb represents; their strategic aims are far more fundamental, and may even be far less “rational” (on which later).

Indeed, “higher up” political commentators would also add that, rationally, their Iranian patrons have no interest in wasting such a prized outfit, especially that they have spend so much money on it. Fat chance; methinks there is more to Iran than meets the eye. It is true that all the motivations of the “Lebanese” side may not amount to much when faced with an Iranian “order”; the locals are merely executors, under the thumb of the Faqih (on which later).

Far From Over

Indeed, this is far from over; what we have seen so far was nothing but a dress rehearsal in three phases.

The 1st Phase was waking up the Palestinian Issue, and the heat on the security front, via terror attacks and Nahr El-Bared,

The 2nd Phase was the “media insurgency”, trying to paint in a different light Hariri’s mistakes and the government’s delays.

In this 3rd Phase, we see the final demarcations; they are now clear before the real “fun” begins. With March 14th on one side, March 8th (minus Aoun) on the other, and Aoun not too sure where to go from there…

And it will not be easy. As pointed out by David B. Kenner, there’s a fly in the ointment;

I am sure that the Lebanese Army is doing in best, and the mere fact that it can function at at all given the sectarian divisions of Lebanon is impressive. But it suffered from decades of neglect and under-funding when Syria was calling the shots, and quotes like these show that it has a long way to go. Their ability to decisively defeat Fatah al-Islam, while keeping civilian casualties to a minimum, is a major test to determine how far it has come.

Now, It’s On…

How did I know, when I started this thread, about three phases? Well, we’ve seen it all before, back in …



Anonymous said...

Probably a small light (very small)on the problems discussed in this blog may be shed by the followings. Iran has now two nails on the wall, on the Med. shores, in Gaza and south Lebanon. We will not see the pulling of these in the near future. Theoretically Egypt and SA can buy out Iran and Syria in Gaza, (who will buy these two away from Leb.? by what price ?) this does not happen, why? Egypt army and other sevices, well known to the Lebanse from the day of the Syrian experience, are working in Gaza. While some Israelis tend do blame Egypt, at least partially, for the constant war in the south (funny, [or not so funny]a similar thing is developing in the North of Leb.) I belive that preventing the establishment of a Muslims Brothers state in Gaza and thus in Sinai is esential to Egypt (or to the Egyptian elite), but it is being established, why? how come?. Again as in the last war in South Lebanon a military base is being built in Gaza on the Med. shore by some power and the locals are paying with their lives, how come? why? who is running the show? All in all, divorcing the happening South of Lebanon from the happening in Lebanon, especially in the north but so long ago in the south is not clever. It should be remembred that an order to fire three or 30 or 103 or 300 missles from north of the Litani to Israel can be executed (the word executors appeared in J. blog)in few minutes and can alway be a short range answer to some political problems of powers away from the field of fire. I think that this whole battle on the shores of the Levant is connected but I do not know much about the connections. Still it should be discussed and seen as two parts of one puzzle.

Sam said...

Former colonial powers UK, France and the US are interfering again in our affairs for the nth time in the last 100 years. They come under the same slogans: Freedom, justice (like with Irak and Saddam) but they only bring death, flagrant injustices, sectarianism, occupation and more violence.

Jeha said...


I think the rational minds in Iran are mainly focused is the Shatt Al-Arab/Arvand and Hormuz; in this sense, they would not mind leveraging Hezb against the Tumb Islands, like the Qajars leveraged Farkhreddine before.

Some people often remind us that those who ignore the lessons of history risk repeating it. The history that lead to the treaty of Erzerum is particularly instructive in this regard. It is indeed instructive to consider the perils that come from a partial (or biased) view of history, lest we forget the perils posed by more recent "colonial powers" Israel, Syria, and Iran, the latter two of which keep interfering in our affairs, and would like to do so for the next 100 years. They come under the same slogans: Freedom, Arab Unity, Defence of Islam and Islamic values, Resistance, as well as justice (like with Hafez and Hama)but they only bring death, flagrant injustices, sectarianism, occupation and more violence.

Ben Gurion once recommended that people "Forgive, but never forget". He might have cautioned against those who, far too many of them, who appear Forget Nothing, Yet Learn Nothing...

Anonymous said...

The definition of "Colonial" has to do with a lot of forgetting and preconcieved ideas, not all said by all people using this term is strictly logical. Some body above mentioned 100 years. Once we were all Ottoman, which was a colonial empire or was it? what is a colony? who is colonial? what is an empire? Was the USA ever a colonial power in the ME ? name her colonies, please. I have looked in several learned books, and found no clear agreed definition. Russia under many flags was also a colonial empire,with interests, "dirty works" and military bases in the ME. Germany have had some colonial interests in the ME, remember the Berlin Bagdad RW. Italy ? Egyptian army in Yemen? Iranian holding several "small" islands in an area loaded with oil and interests? Iraq in Kuwait? how do you define that? By what is the separation of Syria from Lebanon more or Less "natural" "Logical" "Economical" than the sepatation of Kuwait from Iraq or the border between Lebanon and Israel?
As for the rational minds in Iran and their interests?, well I am more interested in the irrational minds in Iran as they are a matter of life and death to me and other people in the Levant. Is "rational" the same to all people? In the university in Logics 101 the basic assumption is that it is, but is it?
In my logic, if I was a Sunna in Bagdad or a Kurd in the north I should think more about the lovely care of my brothers in Iran and Turkey that about the Israeli colonialism, in my humble opinion. Talking about the lessons of history, in Lebanon between 1949 and about 1969, noboby was realy bothered by Israeli colonialism or the Israeli-Zionist Empire and very few persons were killed on this border, what is the historical lesson?
By the way some Lebanese are still afraid that one day Israel will come and steal their water. Sleep soundly at night, Israel have decided, as a national policy, to base the supply of future water needs on reuse and desalination.

Sam said...

>>But it suffered from decades of neglect and under-funding when Syria was calling the shots
Blaming Syria for all our problems is just ridiculous.
Syria has left Lebanon for a few years now, what did this government do for the army?

Jeha said...


You make a good point; the current government shortchanged the army. But you forget to mention that he inherited quite a mess, and have tried to make the best of things as best they knew. Then again, some of it was decision avoidance; it may be a good reason for the early losses, but not an excuse. But at least, they are catching up, and appear aware that they need to make changes.


I do understand your perspective, but bear in mind that one essential limitation of Lebanon now is this lack of control over our own destiny.

This lack of control is reinforced by Israeli actions. The technical mentality change at Mekorot has yet to trickle up to the Foreign Ministry, otherwise, why would they be discussing Lebanese water rights with Syria?

Another limitations is more insiduous; while you and I are able to disagree without resorting to half-truth and deformations, this limitation undermines the very foundation of Lebanon.

One of it's side effects were eloquently illustrated by the "Perpetual Refugee".

Another of its side effects rears its head every once in a while here, as demonstrated people's habit of putting words in people's mouth; far too many people presume to assume that my opposition for the current colonizing endeavors of Syria and Iran is fact a support of UK/US/France intervention, claiming that I support a return to the days where we got involved with these same colonial powers . This is, at best, disingenuous calumny that stands in the way of dialogue. At worst, such accusations of supporting the US/UK/Israeli attacks on our sovereignty are an invitation to murder in the present context. Especially when it is followed by praise for the way Syria reacted in such principled manner to justified accusation against it.

And I cannot tolerate that.

Anonymous said...

I will be short. Half-truth and deformations udermines also the foundtions of Israel (as can be read and heared daily), as of any human institution. Lebanon is not unique even in that.

Amos said...


I think it should be Nationalsozialistische Syrische Volkspartei. While English has one word, "people," German distinguishes between "Leute" (human beings) and "Volk" (a people). Polish, like other Slavic languages, also makes this distinction, so that you have lud (people) and naród (nation) - I think.

Jeha said...

You're right; I am getting complacent, and starting to slip. Imagine this, making mistakes, even in German...

Oy Veh!

Amos said...

Haha. :)

Not so funny: reading the "coverage" of "Angry Arab" about the Lebanese Army's operations. This guy can't make up his mind. On the one hand, he's accusing the army of war crimes, on the other hand, he is ridiculing it for its allegedly poor performance, while all but extolling the courage of these terrorists.

Roman Kalik said...

This lack of control is reinforced by Israeli actions. The technical mentality change at Mekorot has yet to trickle up to the Foreign Ministry, otherwise, why would they be discussing Lebanese water rights with Syria?

Tut, tut, Jeha. Surely a group of academics are not the same as the actual Israeli Foreign Ministry. Nor is a businessman a true representative of Syria for that matter. Both are connected to this or that individual, and both may feel that they are legitimate diplomatic channels, but in the end the fact that the talks never left this "deniable channel" level speaks volumes in itself.

Each side may have learned a little about the other, but little beyond that.

Abu Zib said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amos said...


In response to your comments about what constitutes a "colonial empire" - I think we can all agree that the term is rather meaningless as a descriptive category. This signifier doesn't have a clear referent. It is much more useful to study what kinds of historical situations people refer to as "colonial," when they begin doing so, and who employs the term - as your comment also seems to suggest.

Sam said...

The same (neo)colonial powers UK, France, US came in 1919 promising us
freedom and liberty and prosperity from the turks and then screwed
the region so badly that we have been paying the price for about a
hundred years are still paying the price today.
Yes indeed some of us Forget Nothing, Yet Learn Nothing...

Jeha said...

Interesting point, Sam, however, isn't it a sign of generational chauvinism here?

The Westerners came for the oil, and Sykes-Picot was essentially a deal to divvy up the spoils among the winners, while making sure the Russians, who had 90% of the oil market in 1912, were kept at bay. There is nothing "evil" about it, just Great Power politics.

Yalta was no different.

Many locals were glad to let them in, since the Turks did not do much to endear themselves. After 400 years of Turkish occupation, they would be forgiven if they thought they could hardly do worse.

Still, analyzing the past with the lenses of the present can lead to mistaken understandings of the real dynamics of the world, with potentially devastating consequences.