Friday, March 30, 2007

Scoring Own Goals

The crisis over the British sailors looks increasingly like a hostage crisis, but one in which Iran has taken more than it can handle.

The Facts

The simple fact is that proof is on the British government’s side, as shown on the BBC website. The sailors were in Iraqi waters, Period.

Respecting the Guests

While I understand the British and Americans had little qualms about parading Iraqi prisoners on TV, their violations of the Geneva Convention does not justify Iran’s violation. Parading the British hostages on TV, refusing access to them, and extracting “confession” are all unacceptable.

In addition to this, I find it despicable that the Iranians forced the British sailor woman to cover her hair. At the very least, it is disrespectful.

Consequences

This latest hostage crisis falls within wider power games, especially in the context of the recent Arab Summit. The Iranians may claim that it is their own diplomats and military are made prisoners in Iraq, but this misses the point; two wrongs do not make one right, especially when Iran needs all the support it can get.

There may already be some consequences, and not just in the West, where the Iranian “hardliners are only making the neoconservative case in Washington and Israel for them”, and may even create a unified European position against them.

There have been a few warning signs, when some Russians officials started commenting that “Iran's defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency has caused Russia to suffer losses in relation to its foreign policy and image”. The Iranians would have been well advised to heed them.

With the current developments, the Russians and the Chinese cannot remain indifferent; while they have no qualms about breaking a few International Conventions of their own, they do not appreciate it when others break them. The Russians, in particular, appear to be trying to take advantage of Iran’s increasing isolation by… rising prices.

Or is the row with Russia a sign that Iran really strapped for cash?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Guest Blogging

Abu Kais invited me to guest post for about a week on his great blog, “From Beirut to Beltway”, and I will try and keep with the spirit of his blogging. I will keep blogging here as well; I have some time this week to track events more closely (I hope), though I have a tendency to try and stay away from the “noise” of news, to try and better understand the context.

I started with a lengthy “background” commentary on the Arab Summit, at in which I stated that I expected no surprises on the “official” front. On the “hidden” front, however, the summit should serve to reinforce Arab focus on Iran.

However, I remain convinced that much of it is pre-ordained, and I shudder at what kind of compromise the Saudis will reach with the Syrians.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Marching to Glory

Reading the news this week is akin to reading a John le Carré novel. In the Middle East, we see live in the midst of a giant spy-thriller, with Iran, the Arabs, the United States, France, England, China, and Russia all vying for a slice of the petroleum pie.

As the centre of gravity of this mini-cold war shifted to the Persian Gulf and focuses on Iran, Israel and its immediate neighbours find themselves reduced to bit players.

Tehran’s Summer

Iran has been feeling the heat of late. They tried to put a brave face after the defection of Asghari, enlisting his other(?) wifes and kids to demand hubby comes back home, but after more news of the capture of other Iranian intelligence personnel in Iraq, the Iranians had to retaliate.

And those are the troubles we hear about in the Western Media. Inside Iran, the power struggle appears to be revving up; the revolution is divided, paradoxically weakened by the failure of the Khatami’s “reforms” with Bazaris and Mullahs in decline in the face of the interests aligned around the Bassij. As the Khomeiny’s heirs destroy one another, regime opponents are waiting in the wings.

Dere-stroika

In Soviet times, the failure of Gorbatchev’s perestroika only revealed the unreformable nature of the system. Similarly, in Iran, Khatami’s failure may have only heralded the end of the Mullah regime.

However, oil prices are higher now. So, while the Russian were defeated by cheaper Saudi oil, the Mullah’s are propped up by high oil prices. Their regime is able to buy itself some time, but this is a dynamic resource that is slowing running out; with Iranian production in decline, the regime desperately needs to invest, but the know-how and funds are only found in the hands of those imperialist infidels. In the immediate, at least USD 30 Billion worth of investments are needed for upgrades in Khuzistan and developments such as the Golshan and Ferdows fields.

This is where Iran’s policy proves to be self-defeating; pursuing nuclear ambitions in the face of opposition from those pesky infidels, while at the same time desperately needing Western know-how and funds to develop an oil-centric economy.

Nuclear Roots

Back in the 1970’s, the Shah appeared able to square that circle for a time, by providing financial support for French Nuclear mining in Gabon. But back then, the Cold War was on, and the Mullah’s were out.

Things changed after 1979, when Khomeini came back. In order to take over Iran, him and the Mullah’s needed to destabilize more secular minded Iranians, so they decided to exorcize the Western Demons (who else). Those Western Demons had little choice but to cut off funds and technical know-how, as well as support for Iran’s budding nuclear program. The wave of terror attacks in France did little to earn the Mullahs any goodwill; especially not the assassination of one of the architect of the Gabon deal, George Besse, even if the French did bomb Busher in 1983.

The Mullahs could have decided not to pursue Nuclear Ambitions, and they did for a while. However, their opposition to the West earned them few friends, and their traditional rivals remained. With Sunni Pakistan and Arab Iraq (until 1981) on their way to get the bomb, the Russians in Afghanistan, and the Balouchis increasingly restive, the Mullahs felt naturally paranoid. The use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war drove the point home.

"Boulangisme" in Tehran

Since a complete reform of Iran’s economy was far less important back then than securing their regime, they made do with a few cursory reforms. To be fair, reform efforts were limited because of Iraqi invasion, but on the long run, the Mullah’s regime evolved into a form of religious “Boulangisme”, from which Ahmadinejad emerged. Tadaa…

Ahmadinejad is not such a nut job as much as a logical result of the Islamic revolution (and a fine product of its education system, with a PhD in Engineering). In the Iranian system, the president is nothing more than a glorified Prime Minister, with real power in the hands of the Supreme Guide, Khamenei. With his margin of manoeuvre limited on the inside by the Wali Faqih, his only option is to circumvent the Mullahs, and increase tensions on the outside.

He is not really creating a new Iranian policy as much as implementing it in a “purer” form.

This meant vociferous support for Hezb in Lebanon, a more forceful destabilisation of Iraq, and an increasingly “assertive” flexing of muscles.

With this in mind, the Iranians were bound to respond to their latest intelligence setbacks with some sort escalation. In Lebanon, it is taking the form of increasing support for the “opposition” and for Syria’s intransigent insistence on its return to the land of the Cedars. In Iraq, they are revving up where they can, by kidnapping the British sailors, for example (with a short-term benefit of a spike in oil prices).

Own Goal

On the downside, the Iranians are stuck with a plethora of new ennemies, and remain prisoners of their own policies.

Rest assured, the Mullahs generally understand the limits of this aggressive stance and try to build regional alliances. The latest Security Council resolution drove it home to even the thicker heads, as evidenced by the growing internal opposition to Ahmadinejad.

However, there is little the Mullahs can do to change things on the long run; they are now wed to a maximalist position, and prisoners of their own internal political infighting. They can only make a bad situation worse, as any attempts at “negotiation” will only be viewed as weakness by one side, and exploited by rallying the braying masses.

The side-effect is the multiplication of "own-goals". This should remind us that, for all its faults, Bourgeois Democracies provide better government than Dictatorships, and that Populism is a poor substitute for either.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How it's Done

In the run-up to the Arab summit, Bashar has been talking tough and crowing high. But that the Arab Summit in Ryad, he will find himself sitting at the table with big boys, who are in no mood to compromise with him.

Not that Arab “moderate” regimes are necessarily appalled by Bashar’s tactics; in many aspects they can even prove nastier and more brutal. Unfortunately, the uproar after Hariri’s assassination is an exception; most of the time, the effect of political assassinations remains limited and business goes on as usual.

But the Arab leaders understand the rules of the game, they know how to assassinate, and are far more subtle in the exercise of repression. They know that, however brutal, their reign is secure as long as they mind three vital aspects;

1- Mind the Victim(s)

There will always be resentment following assassinations. For this reason, it is vital to placate a victim’s family and their supporters. At the very least, such “arrangements” could neutralise the dead leader’s powerbase.

In Egypt, Mubarak was able to co-opt the powerful interests around the assassinated Sadat, and consolidate his power. In Lebanon, Assad completely alienated Hariri’s powerbase, and by exclusively relying on Hezb, the Syrians made it clear to the Sunnis that they were in no mood to co-opt them.

In some respect, the Lebanese were pre-empting a Hama style “purge” when they rallied against the Syrians during the Cedar Revolution.

2- Mind your Country

The Hariri assassination was not in the longer term interest of Syria. True, Rafic Hariri would have endangered the exclusive hold of the Assad clan over Syria, but not their very existence.

When Mubarak took over after Sadat, he did not roll back or change the economic policies of his predecessor, nor did he change Egypt re-focus on Africa. To most Egyptians, the change in persons was never a change in regime, the “continuité de l’Etat” was never in doubt, and Sadat's Legacy endures.

His regime will only be weakened if Mubarak fails to deliver continued economic benefits.

3- Mind your Patrons’ Interests

After taking over from Egypt, Mubarak continued the peace process with Israel, and did not change his country’s realignment with the United States. Whenever Mubarak’s continued lack of democratic credentials became problematic, his neighbours helpfully stepped in to remind Americans of his usefulness.

In Lebanon, this was the case in 1990, when Syria was aligned with the United States, and its take over of the country was “allowed”. But Syria failed to “evolve”, drugged as it was by all that Lebanese money. The interests evolved, and in 2005, a continued Syrian presence was unacceptable.

The assassination of Hariri did nothing to change that reality.

Final proviso (Update March 25th, 2007)

Even in case you’re carrying out a political assassination, it helps to appear “above reproach”.

A few are amazed how Mubarak escaped; in spite of sitting next to the Pharaoh, when Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli and his men sprayed the tribune with their AK’s, he was only injured in his hand… Many suspect that Mubarak had eliminated Sadat, who “had appointed the former deputy prime minister, Dr. Abdel-Kader Hatem, as vice president in his place”. The appointment was supposedly carried on the morning of October 6, the day of the assassination…

But all this is beside the point; Even if it were true, it would not have mattered. Mubarak made sure to co-opt the interests around Sadat, ensuring the “continuité de l’Etat”, and maintaining his country’s alignment with the United States. No one had any interest in fiddling with Mubarak’s rise to power; Egypt was then facing a powerful outside enemy who was aligned with the Soviet Block.

While not valid in themselves, such speculations can be useful "mental experiments"; especially when so little verifiable information is available on closed societies such as Syria. In closed societies, access to reliable information is limited, even to the guy at the top of the pyramid; Dictators can only remain informed by relying on their ability to speculated and visualize themselves in complex situations and analyze it objectively, without falling into outright paranoia.

In this case, speculation shows how orderly transitions are possible, even in the case of repressive regimes; the key is to maintain key interests happy.

For all practical purposes, Sadat was assassinated by his “former” colleagues from the Moslem Brotherhood, and his courageous deputy took over to make sure his legacy endured. In Syria, Bashar is still struggling to strike the right balance among complex alliances, both internally and externally. In Egypt, Mubarak was able to ensure an orderly succession by making sure he addressed the needs of key interests.

Even those who think that Mubarak’s accession to power was not Kosher are hard pressed to find it Treif...


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who's Next?

In his latest report, Brammertz essentially established that the main reason behind Hariri’s murder was Syria’s forced renewal for Emile Lahoud, when he stated that;

[…] The initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement got underway and most likely before early January 2005. This leads to a possible situation in the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked, were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway.

The Syrians try not to show it, but they are cornered; Brammertz has increased the hear and just "stopped short of naming them". In the immediate, Bashar is no option but to to strengthen a weak hand before next week’s Arab summit.

The Arab Summit

Bashar is going to try and find some support for his beleaguered regime at the summit. He no doubt “felt a whiff of fresh oxygen through various recent foreign offers to talk”, and has from all western efforts at engagement from the West and Saudis.

On the Lebanese front, taking their cue for their master, our local Quislings started manoeuvring, culminating in Berri’s accusations, Joumblat’s counter-accusations. Any “dialogue” that sidelines other Lebanese partners was bound to fail on the long run, but the Saudis like the idea of wasting time in the run-up to the summit…

On the Arab front, Bashar is working hard to find some support among fringe countries. He has started a PR effort in Arab media, and his apologists have started revving up their rhetoric.

After the Summit?

This will buy him a week at most. On the long run, Bashar remains cornered. The Arab summit will likely focus on Palestine, and will fail to deliver Syria’s deliverance, i.e. Lebanon’s re-enslavement; not only are they new players in the game, but Syria has little to offer.

But the Syrians can still do a lot; Lebanon is at boiling point, and the Syrians still have a few Quilings up their sleeve. With their “positive” powers diminished, they till have the potential to throw oil over the Lebanese fire; another assassination.

The Lottery Winner…

So far so normal; Lebanon has been seeing a rebirth of the nasties, as well as Hezb’s rediscovery of the benefits of a “secular resistance”…

This is where someone surprised me by pointing out that, this time, if they really want to stoke the fires, killing a March 14th figure will not do it. It makes more sense that they need to “spend” one of their own, in such a way as to remove the last shreds of consensus in Lebanon.

No wonder Nabih Berri has been extra careful of late..


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pillars of the Regime

Monseigneur le Duc de Berri is promising us a “deal soon”. I am sure he will still respect them in the morning, too… My scepticism is caused by neither trust nor distrust, but rather a simple fact; any deal is not his to make.

It is Europe’s and the US’s, via Solana. Berri’s optimism may only reflect the optimism of his masters regarding a deal on the Hariri tribunal. A tall order

Deal?

All deals with Syria are focused on the following two Western bottom lines:

1- They are intended to shield the top Syrian leadership from the Tribunal, while dumping it on “second ranks”.

2- They are focused on keeping Lebanon out of Syria’s clutch; in the eyes of the US Lebanon’s value has been rising. Syria’s backers in the US have been making increasingly desperate noises

No Deal!

To the Syrians, the deal on offer far exceeds their bottom line (H/T K, via Abu Kais). My previous rambling discussion on “Syrian Succession” was intended to describe the background, which can better help us understand the Syrian Bottom line;

1- There is no “second rank” that can be sacrificed. Bashar Assad depends far too much on Asif Shawkat, and his brother Maher Assad. They also need people like Rustum Ghazaleh to stay in power and ward off challenges from the likes of Ghazi Kanaan.

Bashar cannot give up the pillars of his regime.

2- Lebanon is a “must have” for the Syrian regime. At best, it is far more important financially to the regime. At worst, any democracy close to its border is a threat, especially in the context of its sectarian regime where an increasingly defensive Alawite minority lords it over an increasingly resentful Sunni majority.

Even the current Lebanon, a dismal example of a consociational Republic, remains dangerous, with a relatively free media, and the potential to do much more...

Waiting Game

Any other discussion ignores the sectarian nature of the regimes in the region. Any progress will extend them beyond their limits. Any “deal” will no work, unless the EU, US, Saudis are willing to save face and decide that either Hariri committed suicide, or he was assassinated by “opponents to the Syrian regime”...

... Better yet, even by his own family.

Based on the previous dismal record of the West in the region, the Syrians would not be faulted for expecting them to do just that. With this in mind, the past talk about the “non-denominational resistance” is being concretised; thanks to Aoun’s stupidity (or is it?), Hezb can now claim it has a truly “national resistance”…

One thing is Different now; Lebanon is not completely passive in this game; it has made such a Faustian bargain all the harder since it uncovered the Syrian Terror ring (Finally!).

Still, the Syrians wait.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Syrian Succession

By 1998, Hafez el-Assad’s reign was secure. He had seen off many challenges; he had risen to the top of the Syrian Hierarchy.

The Bygone Days

Gone were the days where Ali Suleiman, a leading member of the Kalbiyya Alawite clan from Qardaha, signed that petition on June 15th, 1936, with another 5 Alawite notables. The petition was addressed to the French Prime Minister Léon Blum, and requested that the Sanjak of Lattakia remain independent, or at the very least be joined to the new state of Lebanon, because “Alawite people were different from the Sunni Muslims”, and “refused to be annexed to Muslim Syria because the official religion of the Syrian state is Islam, and according to Islam, the Alawites are considered infidels”.

Gone were the days of struggle when Ali Suleiman’s son, the brilliant Hafez, had become an Arab Nationalist, and grew up in the ranks of the Syrian military to become Hafez el-Assad, thanks to his exceptional mind.

Gone was March 8th, 1963, when the “Baath revolution” terminated the Union with Egypt, and removed the shackles of Nasser’s unbearable secret services… That “revolution” was carried out by the “Military Committee”, an alliance between Assad and fellow Alawites from the Haddadin and Khayyatin Alawite clans; Salah Jadid, Muhammad Umran, as well as two Druze, Abd-el-Karim el-Jundi and Ahmad el-Mirr, Between 1963 and 1966, the Baath party of Michel Aflak and Salah Bitar provided useful “cover”, hence the name of this "revolution". A Sunni president, Nureddin el-Atasi, would remain till 1970…

Incidentally, the Assad's tried, on another March 8th in Lebanon, in 2005, a counter revolution directed against the Cedar Revoltion, an event well spun by a complacent Western Media. This date fetish served them poorly; then March 14th came along, and all was good untill the stupid electoral deal and the "ittifaq ruba3i"; a fine example of snatching defeat from the Jaws of Victory... Anyway, I digress...

The Rise of the Lion

Thanks to his exceptional mind, the cautious Hafez was able to see off the other members of the “committee”. The Druze were sidelined first, with Salim Hatum, the head of the Golan sector, running off to Jordan, then lured back and executed… Umran’s turn came in 1965, and he was later dispatched on March 4th, 1972, in Tripoli where he was hiding… Jadid was out on November 16th, 1970, and remained in Jail till his death on July 18th, 1993…

Once in power, Assad secured his rule by consolidating the control of his Alawite powerbase over the levers of power. They were in competing “Security” services; Adnan Badr Hasan (Political), Ibrahim Huwayji (Air Force), Ali Duba (Military). There were in key ministries; Muhammad Hirba (Interior), Muhammad Salman (Information), Ahmad Dighram… And his own brother Rifaat in charge of elite military units…

It almost all came down crashing in the 1980’s with the Sunni-extremist challenge, and with Rifaat attempted putsch against Hafez. With the extremists gone (together with many more innocents), with Rifaat exiled into retirement, the reign appeared secure.

His son, Bassel, was being groomed for succession, and Lebanon’s riches were well in his grasp. He had dispatched Lebanese challenges effectively; Kamal Joumblat, Bashir Gemayel, Hassan Khaled, Rachid Karameh… And now, thank to his involvement in the First Gulf War, the Americans and the French granted him control over Lebanon, and the Israelis were not too sad to see such a pragmatic in charge…

Bump on the Road

It almost all came down crashing (litterally) again on January 21st, 1994, when Bassel was killed in an “automobile accident”. Hafez then had to groom his other son Bashar in short order; old age was setting in…

Bachar’s rise to power was assured after he gained control of the lucrative “Lebanese dossier”, but he had to contend with powerful interests that had risen there. The Christian clan leaders did not understand the rules of the new game, and had all been sidelined… The leaders of the other communities, Hariri, Joumblat, and Berri, were able to play by the new rules, and got a share of the pie.

Except for Berri, they were proving too adept at this game; the Syrians Ghazi Kanaan, Hekmat Shehabi, and even Abdel-Halim Khaddam. As Bashar secured his rise to power, he had to dispatch those pesky challengers.

Bashar’s Rise

The first to go was the Prime Minister, Mahmud Zoghbi, who “committed suicide” by “shooting himself in the head twice”. Such commitment has since only been seen with Abou Nidal… Hikmat Shehabi was out of Syria, in retirement in France.

Abdel-Halim Khaddam would follow him, but his allies had to be dealt with first; compounding his close alliance with Lebanese politicians was his closeness to some rising stars in Iraq. Bachar had little choice but to carry out two fateful policies to see off that powerful foe.

1- Support for the Iraqi insurgency. Not as stupid a move as it appears; in the wake of Saddam’s ouster, an often overlooked factor is the rising power in Iraq of those who were sidelined in 1979. Between July 15th and August 8th of that year, Saddam carried out a purge of all those Iraqi Baath members who were too close to the Syrian Baath… One student at the time, known for ratting on his fellow classmates, was rewarded with a scholarship to England. His name? Iyad Allawi.

2- The Hariri Assassination. Regardless of his personal merits, and he had a few, Bashar could not tolerate to allow Rafic Hariri to survive if Syria was forced out of Lebanon. Such a powerful and intelligent Sunni politician would threaten Alawite rule in Syria, and even an orderly retreat to a (potentially) revived Sanjak of Lattaquieh. He was already making things harder for Bashar by making it easier for Iyad Allawi in Beirut. With King Fahd ill, Hariri’s main supporter in Saudi Arabia, they could have hoped they could get away with assassination. They may still be hoping

Lâchez du Lest!

At worse, they would have been forced out of Lebanon, without a powerful Hariri to contend with. It may appear as a series of mistakes, and in the perspective of Syria, it is.

But in the perspective of ensuring a Alawite succession, the regime is only circling the wagons. The only Alawite challenger, Ghazi Kanaan had already been sidelined, he later “committed suicide”, though it is not clear whether he managed to shoot himself twice.

All those with short memories or limited intellect are bound to misunderstand this struggle (with deadly consequences); if Syria is not allowed back inLebanon, the Syrian regime is, as we say in Lebanon, “spending its bullets”.

And it still has a lot of Ammo, and a lot more useful idiots at his disposal.

Never underestimate a cornered dictator


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chassé-Croisé

Our Leaders are apparently negotiating an end to the crisis. Right leaders, wrong address. They miss the real issue in Lebanon (H/T Ghassan Karam); “are we to establish the ground work for a modern secular democracy or are we to become a close minded theocracy ruled from capitals outside the country”.

For all our Quislings’ pretence (Hiwar 3.0, anyone?), the real discussions are along backchannels, and the real meeting is in the new Baghdad Bazaar

The Hopes of Regional Powers

(and this other Bazaar), where the regional powers are meeting for some face time. The neighbours, particularly Syria and Iran, may be hoping that the conference will confirming their role as “Deus ex-machina” in Iraqi politics, but if this is the case, then this will be a mistake.

Iran may well be overreaching in Iraq; the interests against any Persian influence beyond its borders are far too great, and will backfire in a greater conflict, not only in Mesopotamia, but to the larger region.

Iranian Overreach?

Iraqis are not as fanatical about sacrificing their lives for their neighbours as the Lebanese are; Shiite Arabs did fight alongside Sunni Arabs during the Iran-Iraq war. Iraqis tend to be more mindful than other Arabs that “history of the region tells us to not trust the words of dictators and clerics, for words are inexpensive and clerics and dictators have plenty of words they are willing to use to buy time”.

Pottery Barn or Archie Andrews?

The current US president has no interest to “cut and run”; he and his team are out of office anyway. The next president will not have the means to “cut and run” either; like it or not, pottery barn rules do apply to this Iraq. To some who think that “Archie Andrews Rule” may be a more fitting analogy, recall the (often misunderstood) words of previous Saudi Ambassador Turki el-Feisal, who reminded Americans that “since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave uninvited”.

Turki was not softie, and the current team in charge is a little bit more “hard-line”. I do not know much about American politics, but I think I do know a thing or two about World history and America’s interests. As long as the Americans keep on driving those SUV’s, the reality may well be that; Since America came into Iraq uninvited, it will not be allowed to leave uninvited.

Unfortunately, Lebanese history may be a better guide; Syria was as much stuck in Lebanon as it was occupying it. Like it or not, the United States are now hooked on Iraq (and its oil), and so is the West.

I’ll go on a limb here; give it a couple of years at most; at the earliest, with a new resident in the Elysée, and at the latest, with a new inhabitant of the White House. Even the French, and the Europeans after them, will soon bring in some support.

Surge 2.0, coming soon…


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Middle of Nowhere

If hell is paved with good intentions, then the March 11th watchamacallit is working up a helluva macadam.

Their concern about the “widening gap in Lebanon between the two blocs of March 8th and March 14th” is valid, the diagnostic appears valid on the face of it, but they miss some key elements:

The Existence of “Common Points”

There are common points between the politicians who adhere to one camp or another; it the pursuit of their own happiness at the expense of our lives and liberty. They may reach a “deal” that may calm things down for a short while, until their puppet masters tell them to start dancing again.

However, there can be no common ground between those who want a normal, free country and those who work, knowingly on unwittingly, for the return of Syria, or worse, for the transformation of the only (barely) secular Arab country into another nasty Mullocracy.

Gebran Tueni’s pledge is a sign of unity among all Lebanese, Christians, Moslem, Druze, within a FREE Lebanon. It should not be taken as a willingness to abdicate to the barbudos, just for the sake of avoiding bloodshed.

Maintain the “Pillars” of “Lebanese Society”

What a crock of newspeak; there are no “pillars”, nor a “Lebanese Society”.

Those famous pillars have long been blown up by our stupid civil war. Whatever was left was destroyed by Syria, via assassinations from Kamal Joumblat to Rafic Hariri, and by Libya’s Kaddafi, who killed Moussa Sadr. The “pillars” left today, at best, leave much to be desired, at worst, they usurp the great men they claim to succeed.

At best, their judgment is impaired when they visit Pillars such as our Quisling-in-chief. Right address, wrong man; all this true fils de Pétain can offer is to continue his litany against “voices coming from here and there increase the political tension in the country, whereas the thing needed is the reinforcement of the inner structure to stop the splitting there is weakness in partition and power in unity”…

As to our precious “Lebanese Society”, it is a great idea. It will remain only an idea as long as religious leaders rule us, either directly, or indirectly. At worst, there can no common ground among religious leaders whose main function is to proselytize. At best, religious leaders have little choice in the matter, since all “secular” politicians have failed in their leadership role.

What do they offer?

Nothing but a exhortation to “either to reach a solution and return to the national negotiating table”, forgetting what a great waste of time that was. And their Leverage? An expansion of their “peaceful movement to achieve the desired goal”.

I guess, as long as they do not burn tires, they can march all they want; it could make for a nice defilé. But I am not optimistic about their success; “two negations may not a nation make”, but neither do empty platitudes. At best, they’re pointless, at worse, ever more subversive that Hezb…

Business as Usual…

This can simply be another Lebanese businessman with an angle to make a few bucks, or to get out of a mess…

In the past, Merhi Abou Merhi made history when his ACLN Ltd was the first company in more than 25 years to be subject to an SEC temporary suspension of trading” because of “because of questions that have been raised about the accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information”… Or it could all simply have been a misunderstanding, with Abou Merhi’s simply not having “a clue about the necessities involved in shareholder disclosure”.

Either way, that king is naked.