Saturday, June 25, 2005

OPEN Letter to the Honorable Saad Rafic Hariri, Member of the Lebanese Parliament- by thinkLeb@lincsat.com

Dear Fellow Compasionate Lebanese Blogger, It is rare that I feel so strongly about the principles behind a hot issue such as this one, facing Lebanon's future today. This Open Letter that I blogged today is enclosed. If you believe in it, please re-blog it, forward it, support it, whatever you'd like to do to give it more visibility. I do believe Lebanon's future will be determined next Tuesday at the Parliament.
If you know how to make it reach Koraytem, please forward it. I do not know how to reach the Honorable Saad Hariri, but I think it is worth a try, because he strikes me as a sincere person who wants to turn the page on the past and move to the future. Thank you.

Open Letter to Saad Hariri
Subject: Next Tuesday's Vote

All the Lebanese in Lebanon and abroad are in suspense, awaiting the Parliament’s first session and the ensuing election of its Speaker.

We look up to you as Lebanon’s next savior, following the footsteps of your brave father. We understand that your block holds the tipping power for the choice of the Speaker of the Parliament.

Please, remember not to bring back the same Speaker that for 12 years exemplified pro-Syrian co-operation, made your father’s life as a Prime Minister miserable several times, and contributed to the venomous environment that eventually killed him.

Please do not make the mistake to fall into the low standards of compromise which has plagued the Lebanese political scene, where politicians routinely make deals with each other, regardless of the national interest.

And if you become Prime Minister, you would represent the people’s choice, not only the Sunni’s choice. So, please make the Speaker’s choice a national choice, not just a Chi’a choice, and please help make the President’s choice a national choice, not just a Maronite choice.

Leaders have to rise to the occasion and often make the hard choices over the easy ones. We know you will make the hard choice, and we will look-up to you with even greater admiration because we know that if you make the right decision, it will be your decision, not the result of back-room deal-making.

Lebanon’s future is now in your hands, as it recently was in your Great father’s hands.

Please do not disappoint us.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Excellent report on Lebanon and Syria

Two days ago the International Crisis Group, a think tank that helps in policy-making, published a great report on the current situation with Lebanon and Syria, what led to it and recommendations to the different players for the future.

It might not be ground-breaking for some of you, but it has the advantage of being exhaustive (therefore long!) and can help get a better grasp of the geopolitical game that's unraveling, or at least serve as a reference!.

Follow this link and download the PDF document: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3368

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Karame steps down from forming a government...

...33 days after his appointment.... 40 days after his first resignation....This is starting to become ridiculous... like a long bad soap opera...What's gonna happen next? Who will be appointed now? Will he go through the same series of negotiations and stalling? Stay tuned for the next episode of "Days of our lives, the Lebanon chapter".

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Now that's a billboard!


Regardless of what you think about capitalism (I like it :)), this spoof ad is just great...

Or are the winds of spring blowing?

Without sinking into too much lyricism re. the title, it looks like things are changing to the better, albeit at seemingly excruciating low pace (what're 45 days in a year?). In contrary to my harried opinion two days ago...

The respective grappling for remnants of power, or stakes in the future State, of Lahoud on one side and Ain el Tineh (minus Hezbollah of course, who are a separate entity in my opinion) are slowing things down. Patience is a virtue they say.

Let's be virtuous.

On the Syrian front things are going interestingly fast, if not positively. The rapid withdraw under UN dead-strong threats might end up antagonizing Syria with the future Lebanon. Hezbollah will be dearly needed then to mend the gaps in the "brotherly" relation. That's why it's my humble opinion that Amine Gemayel should be sent away on a vacation, preferably on some very low Indonesian island, so as to stop him from uttering his stupidities publicly. I know that democracy should allow him to speak... But it's my opinion that democracy should be elitist, with some kind of IQ exam that would bar the likes of Gemayel from joining the public speakers.

So what are we to do now... For those outside Lebanon I guess it's simple, nothing. Or we should at least ensure that our spirits are kept high and that we're definitely keeping sight of the half-full part of the glass... Like some dude who died on February 14th had the habit of doing, an eternal optimist. For those inside Lebanon, I say with all the involuntary guilt of not being there with you, that the wave of bombs that hit the country and all the perfid rumors and false alerts that followed are a an attack on your spirits. Yeah I know, it's a La Palisse truth, but then again it's worth remembering that if it's the spirit they're attacking, the spirit can react. By consciously not letting down, but forcing ourselves to see the positive of things by being careful but not paranoid, by allowing ourselves "small risks" like going out once in a while. Hell, our parents did it for 15 years (and now are recks i know) we can do it for another month. Well, actually you, I'm still in my golden expatriate cage... :

... if this is Spring, what a Summer it's gonna be!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Are we heading to a martial state?

It's been awfully silent on the blog lately... Everyone watching and wondering no doubt (I am anyway). The calm before the storm?

After the third explosion in the Christian areas, I was wondering about the meaning of this messaging "A la Libanaise". The way I see it, a new step by the Syrians-Lahoud (who knows how to call "them" anymore?) to force the opposition to start negotiating.

Lahoud: Let's split this new pie that's Lebanon post-1559 between us, with Lahoud and co. Representing Syrian interests. If you don't come now, I'll be left with the only choice of calling for an emergency situation security-wise, with curfews and tutti cuanti. Everyone was asking me to act after all right? Well, there you go. I always said security was a "red line".

Opposition: ?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In Praise of the other “Foreign workers”

Most Lebanese bloggers are now concerned with the political ramifications of the Kaslik bombings. I trust they’re going to do a great job; this is why I’m going to say something else, something that needs to be said.

I want to say a big THANK YOU, to all our brothers and sisters the Srilankis, Indians, Philipinos, Eritrians, Ethiopians, Pakistanis and other precious souls who have contributed greatly in making the Lebanese live a better and more prosperous life.

These brave people traveled to the ends of the world so that their children could have a promising future. They assist us with the jobs nobody else wants to take, we pay them peanuts, and still, they answer with hard work, smiles, and now, their lives.

We hope the lives that were lost in the kaslik bombing won’t be gone in waste…

(this post originally appeard on The Beirut Spring )

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fly me to the moon

This flyer is been distributed in Lebanon at night.
We, in the beirut spring , think that it is unfair that people who have, ermm, decent causes, face satellite TVs and Newspapers with flyers, so we decided to give them a hand, the flyer is now on the world wide web:


DISCLAIMER: the flyer below is purely for the sake of sarcasm and should be not taken for real (can you believe some people actually advised me to write this??)


(if you have a slow connection, please wait till the image loads)

Stop insulting our intelligence...

Hearing Nasrallah yesterday and Jamil Sayyed today one can only say: "please do not insult our intelligence".

Jamil Sayyed just said he would be presenting a case agaisnt himself and other heads of intelligence services before the prosecutor general of the lebanese republic who is no other than Adnan Addoum...

Nasrallah said

The weapons in the palestinian camps are to fight el tawteen

Hezbollah never defended the regime since it never participated in any gvmnt

He said we want an Arab investigation because we do not trust a UN investigation

He wants a trial for the heads of intelligence services and not a resignation

Conclusion: the regime is crumbling but can still manage to "defend" itself...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

panoramic view (with a broken heart)


More amazing pictures here: http://web.mit.edu/lebanon/www/demonstration/031405.html

Panoramique 1 Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

On the giant US airforce base in Lebanon rumor...

Ahhh... The net and its nack for conspiracy theories... (For background info scroll down to Lana's post on the article laying the claim for a USAF base project in Lebanon)

Why anyone in their right mind would want to install a USAF base in Lebanon baffles me. To say the least.

So let's refute this baby point by point and put it to rest:

1- Militarily: There is no need for such a base. The existing bases in Turkey, Jordan and Israel largely suffice. Even an (improbable) attack on Syria wouldn't warrant such a base. Position an aircraft carrier (Vth fleet?) in front of Latikyeh and the deal's done. A little help form Southern (Jordan, Israel) and Northern (Turkey) bases would finish any remaining Syrian defense. But such a scenario is highly unlikely. They're doing so well by ways of diplomacy, why go through a costly military action?? (yes, bombs are expensive!)

2- politically: hmmm... Take a look at history to better understand the present. Well, looking around, and at the countries that currently host USAF bases, I see one thing in common. Homogeneity. The people in those countries all come from a homogeneous mass. Or are governed (by dictators) as such. Again, the list, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi, Kuwait, Central Asia, etc. Lebanon is the exact opposite. It's even Pentagon hawks' nightmare. A big sticky blob of heterogeneous sects and religions, that can be easily manipulated from abroad into creating an anti-American explosion for years to come. And what an Explosion! I reckon it would keep the Americans blogged down here for a few years. Disengagement. That's the key word of the Bush administration. His second term has one program when it comes to foreign policy: Cash in the chips. We invested in the first term, with Afghanistan and Iraq, now we get everything to work and we become the idolized heroes of "new" democracy. So why would they want to re-engage in a country like Lebanon again? hmm...

Militarily, politically, I can't think of any other dimension a USAF base in Lebanon might have.
If I've omitted something, let me know!

UN finds evidence of official cover-up in Hariri assassination

By Robert Fisk in Beirut

14 March 2005

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/story.jsp

As the United Nations' Irish-led special investigation team here prepares to report that the Lebanese authorities have covered up evidence of the murder on 14 February of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, his two sons have fled Lebanon after hearing that they too are in danger of assassination.

Mr Hariri's elder son, Bahar, has flown to Geneva while Saad has left hurriedly for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after warnings that they could be the next targets of their father's assassins.

President George Bush is expected to announce on Wednesday that Syrian - and perhaps Lebanese - military intelligence officers were involved in Mr Hariri's death; the bombing killed 18 other civilians.

The UN's Irish, Egyptian and Moroccan investigation team has now been joined by three Swiss bomb experts following the discovery that many of the smashed vehicles in Hariri's convoy were moved from the scene of the massacre only hours afterwards - and before there was time for an independent investigation. Yesterday, frogmen were sent into the sea off the Beirut Corniche to recover the wreckage of the one car in the Hariri convoy that was not taken away by the authorities because it was blasted over a hotel wall into the Mediterranean by the force of the explosion. If they successfully recover parts of the vehicle, they may be able to discover the nature of the explosives. First reports that Hariri was killed by a car bomb are now being challenged by evidence that the explosives - estimated at 600kg - could have been buried beneath the seafront avenue.

A unique photograph handed to The Independent in Beirut - which is now also in the hands of the UN investigators - was taken on the afternoon of 12 February, about 36 hours before the bombing. It shows a drain cover in the road at the exact spot where the explosion was to tear a 30-foot crater in the highway, instantly killing Hariri and many of his bodyguards.

The section of roadway is marked off by "no parking" signs which have been left there innocently by staff of the nearby HSBC bank. But a mysterious object can be seen on the left edge of the drain cover. Both the metal cover and an extensive area of roadway around it were atomised by the bomb.

The picture also shows two buildings which the UN police officers are investigating as possible locations of the bomber who detonated the explosives: one is on top of the circular building in the centre of the photo - which houses a Beirut hotel as well as a Lebanese army retirement fund office - and the other is on top of the war-damaged Holiday Inn (far right) which has been empty for more than a decade. The balloon in the centre of the photograph regularly takes tourists on sightseeing tours of Beirut.

Some members of the Hariri family have been told that the report of the UN inquiry team will be so devastating that it will force a full international investigation of the murder of "Mr Lebanon" and his entourage, perhaps reaching to the higher echelons of the Syrian and Lebanese governments.

Hariri opposed the continued Syrian military presence in Lebanon and many Lebanese have blamed the Syrians for his murder. The UN investigators have become convinced that there was a cover-up of evidence at the very highest levels of the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence authorities.

In their search for information, at least one Irish police officer has now interviewed Brigadier General Rustum Ghazale, the senior Syrian army intelligence officer in Lebanon, at his headquarters in Aanjar. He is believed to have pointed out to the police that his job was only to safeguard Syrian forces in the country - an assertion which will require more than a few grains of Syrian salt to be believed.

President Bush's expected remarks on Wednesday will follow two extraordinary days of public demonstrations in Beirut. In the first, today, opposition politicians will try to gather a million followers to protest against the government's failure to resign and to reveal the truth about Hariri's murder - as well as to dwarf last Tuesday's half-million strong Hizbollah rally in support of Syria. The second, by pro-Syrian demonstrators, is planned to march to the US embassy in the Aukar suburb of east Beirut.

All this is being organised while violent rumours sweep Beirut. One says that the Syrians have been handing out weapons to pro-Syrian Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in Beirut and Ein el-Helwe in Sidon.

Investigations by The Independent strongly suggest that this in untrue; the Palestinians have quite enough weapons without being resupplied, and many of them would like to be disarmed to end lethal inter-Palestinian factional fighting. But on Saturday night in the Sabra camp, someone knifed to death an elderly Syrian fruit-seller in what was an obvious attempt to provoke violence.

Samir and Burns



Just Remember Guys, Mr Samir Franjieh is one of the good guys :)

One more thing, did you sign the petition demanding that the airport be named after Hariri?

Breaking news just now from Beirut: it seems Mr Karami has accepted all of the oppositions' demands,

Mustapha
http://beirutspring.blogspot.com

Hariri Reportedly Assassinated To Make Way For Large US Air Base In Lebanon

By Wayne Madsen

Online Journal Contributing Writer

3-12-5

http://www.rense.com


According to high-level Lebanese intelligence sources-Christian and Muslim-former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was reportedly assassinated in a sophisticated explosion-by-wire bombing authorized by the Bush administration and Ariel Sharon's Likud government in Israel.

 

There are also strong indications that the Hariri assassination was carried out by the same rogue Syrian intelligence agents used in the 2002 car bombing assassination of Lebanese Christian leader Elie Hobeika, who was prepared to testify against Sharon in a Brussels human rights court. That case involved the Israeli Prime Minister's role in the 1982 massacre by Israeli troops of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Chatilla camps in Beirut. The Hariri assasination used wire-bombing technology because Hariri's security personnel used electronic countermeasures to fend off a remote control bomb using wireless means. It has been revealed that the Bush administration has used Syrian intelligence agents to torture al Qaeda suspects through the program known as "extraordinary rendition."

 

Hariri, a pan-Arabist and Lebanese nationalist, was known to adamantly oppose the construction of a major U.S. air base in the north of Lebanon. The United States wants Syrian troops completely out of Lebanon before construction of the base is initiated. Hariri's meetings with Hezbollah shortly before his death also angered Washington and Jerusalem, according to the Lebanese intelligence sources.

 

Washington and Jerusalem media experts spun Hariri's assassination as being the work of Syrian intelligence on orders from President Bashar Assad. However, a number of Middle East political observers in Washington claim that Hariri's assassination was not in the interests of Assad, but that the Bush and Sharon administrations had everything to gain from it, including the popular Lebanese uprising against the Syrian occupation.

 

Lebanese intelligence sources report that even without a formal agreement with Lebanon, the contract for the northern Lebanese air base has been let by the Pentagon to Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, California. Other construction support will be provided by Bechtel Corporation.

 

Jacobs Engineering and Jacobs Sverdrup are currently contracted for work in Saudi Arabia for Aramco, Iraq for the U.S. occupation authority, Bosnia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

 

The Lebanese air base is reportedly to be used as a transit and logistics hub for U.S. forces in Iraq and as a rest and relaxation location for U.S. troops in the region. In addition, the Lebanese base will be used to protect U.S. oil pipelines in the region (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Mosul/Kirkuk-Ceyhan) as well as to destabilize the Assad government in Syria. The size of the planned air base reportedly is on the scale of the massive American Al Udeid air base in Qatar.

 

A number of intelligence sources have reported that assassinations of foreign leaders like Hariri and Hobeika are ultimately authorized by two key White House officials, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams. In addition, Abrams is the key liaison between the White House and Sharon's office for such covert operations, including political assassinations.

 

"Abrams is the guy they [the Israelis] go to for a wink and a nod for such ops," reported one key source.

 

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based journalist and columnist and the co-author of "America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George BushII."

 

 

Lebanon's biggest party ever!!! Posted by Hello
Maronites, Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Sunnis, Shi'as and Druze all united for Lebanon!(Hizballah by no means represents all of Lebanon or Lebanon's Shia population)

Monday, March 14, 2005

From Ali To Bahia, With Love...

Hello Madame, my name is Ali,
I am a Shia Lebanese and I like to think of myself as a proud Arab,
I come from a tiny pocket of Dahie, Southern Beirut,
I work as a carpenter and I hardly earn my living,
I watch Almanar and Aljazeera in my small place,
When I get sick, I go to a Hizbullah-funded charity hospital, These people are very good to me,

You know Bahia, the month that passed was really difficult for me,
I saw your brother being savagely murdered.
This made me worry about the future of my country.

What made me worry even more, Bahia, is the people your group has been surrounding itself with since then, I don't trust these people Bahia, what's wrong?

Why are you hanging out with people that were shaking hands with the criminals who killed a lot of my cousins, neighbors and friends? Bahia, these people speak French in their houses, not Arabic!

But now I understand..

I heard you talk today...

Now, Bahia, I can sleep again...

I heard the same voice of moderation that made your brother so special to me,

I heard you embrace my leaders and pride yourself of their contribution to our country's liberation,

I saw you equate the southern resistance with your brother's rebuilding of Beirut, and the Lebanese people.

Most importantly Bahia, I saw everyone around you cheer approvingly,

You know, I hate to say that, but maybe I was wrong about your new friends,

Maybe they do accept me for who I am, maybe they do love my country as much as I do...

Maybe the security apparatus is indeed bad for our country,

Maybe you and your people can protect me like the Syrians used to,

Thank you Bahia, Thank you,

It was very suffocating when everyone was referring to my brothers as traitors,

But now, I can sleep again, and maybe, just maybe, I can dream of a new and independent Lebanon,

Love,
Ali

(P.S, this letter is pure fiction and used only as an illustration)

(This piece also appears in The Beirut Spring )

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Rafik Hariri International Airport

I have read in Time magazine what roughly means this: bloggers are most powerful when they concentrate on an issue, follow it through and build an online supporting momentum towards achieving the issue's goal. (for those familiar with American Politics, it was bloggers that uncovered the Trent Lott scandal that eventually led to the resignation of one of the most powerful men in American politics)

The follow up issue I'm focusing on now, is renaming Beirut International Airport as 'Rafik Hariri's International Airport- Beirut'; this idea was first proposed by ex-minister Najib Mikati in a letter addressed to the Lebanese Government on February 22nd.

How can you Help?

1- Sign the online petition
2- Encourage everyone you know to sign this petition; I don't support SPAM, so the best way to propagate the news is to write about it in your blog if you have one, or in personalized emails explaining the cause.
3- After the petition gains enough signatories, we will use all our means to let officials notice it.

so let's start the not-so-hard work guys!

(This piece is avialable with a slight variation on The Beirut Spring)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

I believe

Just some random beliefs I thought I’d share…

I believe Monday’s demonstration will be the biggest yet
I believe that Karami will have a tough time selecting members for the new cabinet
I believe that international pressure on Syria is essential for their withdrawal
I believe all hell will break loose within the ranks of the mou3arada after it reaches its goal – which it will
I believe Samir Franjieh looks a lot like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons
I believe Syria is pulling all its troops out immediately but not announcing it to save face internally
I believe in the Lebanese people’s resilience
I believe the media is a big political asset to the US
I believe the media is a big political liability to the US
I believe Bachar is frantically trying to make a deal with the US; let’s hope – for our sake – they don’t accept
I believe in Lebanon
I believe the reason the Syrians need so much time to withdraw is because they have to push their trucks all the way back to Syria
I believe the elimination of Hizballah is much higher on the US agenda than we think
I believe in capitalism
I believe the mou3arada has been calling for a national dialogue for the past 5 years
I believe that the US president is also the king of the world, whether you like or not
I believe a lot of politicians would behave differently if this wasn’t an election year
I believe the telecom operators are starting some of the chain messages that urge people to demonstrate or that contain jokes about the Syrians
I believe the Lebanese are overzealous
I believe Lahoud doesn’t care, or even worse doesn’t realize he should
I believe that although the Lebanese may disagree as to why, they are all against the nationalization of the Palestinian refugees

Some Advice to Opposition

I'm optimistic, lots of good things happening, but the opposition needs to be careful, my humble contribution, some advice to them:

-Always remind the people of what you have in common with hizballah
-Market the MPs visit to Europe as an effort to defend hizbullah (already done by Annahar newspaper today)
-Market Cardinal Sfeir's visit to the US in the same light (I am sure Mr. Sfeir is shrewd enough to say exactly that after meeting Mr. Bush)
-Welcome Mr. Karami's disclosure to alsharqual awsat newspaper today that he will allow an international observers team headed by ex US-president Jimmy Carter.
-Offer something in return for the above-mentioned
-Keep the movements in the street strictly non-confrontational and fun like the huge human flag of today (which I can't see why hizbullah followers wouldn't join, I would advise the opposition to lure them in), you have to accept that the numbers game is not our strong point.

The points above should be part of a general 4-part strategy:

- Accept that hizballah IS a popular force
- Pursue rapprochement with them
- Isolate the Syrian/Lebanese security aparatus
- Convince the Lebanese people (in the middle) that the opposition is flexible and that it has Lebanon's ultimate benefit at heart

Good luck

(This opinion piece also appears in The Beirut Spring )

Friday, March 11, 2005

Confidential interview with late PM Hariri

I don't know if you guys have seen this, it is an interview (probably the last) that el marhoum Hariri had with an Irish journalist. It was not supposed to be published, but the confidentiality agreement was broken after the assasination


Confidential Article Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Other Northern Winds...

When asked about whom he will nominate for the premiership, a loyalist MP answered wryly, in a reference to Karami: 'The wind is Northern'.

Today, the pro Syrian demonstration in Tripoli might be so large that it could actually dwarf the Beirut one.

When Mr. Omar Karami resigned under pressure, Tripoli was all but deadlocked in unrest and riots.

Should we conclude from the above that Tripoli is a hopeless case for the opposition?

It is tempting to dismiss the Sunni north as a strong Loyalist bastion. If Sunni Beirut and Saida joined the opposition because of their strong affectionate ties with Hariri, why should 'Tarablos al sham' (as Tripoli was previously known)?

Because of, among other reasons, the efforts of one person: Musbah al Ahdab.

Heir of an old political family in Tripoli, Mr. Ahdab abandoned the Tripoli political mainstream to join the calls for Syria to quit Lebanon.
Even before Hariri's murder, he took stands that any northern observer would consider imprudent at best.

When he was first elected as an MP, his critics dismissed his mandate as nothing but the result of his dashing good looks and some infatuated 'bird-brained' female voters.

How wrong they were. Underneath his soft-spoken style and snazzy attire lies a shrewd and cunning politician; with a Jumblatesque radar for political winds, he knew when to ally with Hariri's future movements, when to dissociate himself from them (while still making under-the-table electoral deals with them) and finally when to join the anti Syrian opposition.

It takes considerable courage for a Sunni to stand up to the Syrians. Remember, This is a regime that is known for its legendary brutality against the Sunnis, From the Hamah massacre to the assassination of the mufti Hassan Khaled to the assassination of Hariri. Still, Musbah al Ahdab was the first Sunni to join the opposition and the Bristol gathering. He voted 'No' for extending Mr. Emile Lahhoud's term as president, thus joining Annahar Newspaper's tiny 'Honor List'. Mr. Ahdab gained so much popularity that, a few days before Hariri's assassination, The Tripoli block, made of veteran Tripoli MPs, declared an electoral alliance with him.

Mr. Ahdab is the first notable in Tripoli to break the wall of fear against the Syrians. He has unleashed a political snowball, and lots of previously notorious pro-Syrians are now cozying up to him... He sparked the change of the political winds in Tripoli. This is why a lot of people think that he'd make a good assassination target for the Syrians.

As you watch the huge pro-Syrian demonstration today, remember that the people who will vote for Mr. Ahdab are probably going to have the last laugh...

PS: Although I'm from Tripoli and I'm voting for mr Ahdab, I am not in any away affiliated with him and have never communicated with him or with his aids.

(This opinion piece also appears on the beirut spring )

On the (estimated) number of protesters on the streets of Beirut (See 1 post below)


The estimated areas of protest. In yellow, the Hezbollah-led protest, in green the opposition-led protest.

Concerning theories that claim Israel killed Hariri to destroy Syria and assert its hegemony on the region

I posted this opinion a few weeks ago in lebaneseblogger.blogspot.com; but unfortunately, I feel that it is now necessary to republish it in this blog.... For those of you who have already read it, please accept my sincere apologies....

These grand conspiracy theories sound great on paper. But then, when I look at what happened on the ground, I get a reality-check. How the hell are Mossad agents supposed to kill Hariri in the middle of $^#^&$ downtown Beirut without anyone knowing??? Taking into consideration the size and complexity of the operation - for God's sake it wasn't a sniper shooting - the likelihood that someone carried it out without getting the attention of the security services is virtually null.

Seriously!!! How in God's name can someone get 500-1000 kgs of TNT in a country as small as Lebanon without drawing attention to himself? Did Israeli commandos bring the explosives with them by boat? If so, then how big would the boat have been? Or how many times would they have had to unload their cargo on our shores before accumulating the needed amount of TNT? Need I remind everyone that the scene of the crime was between the largest Lebanese Navy base(in the Port of Beirut), and the Military Officer's Club in the Manara?

As for this whole hegemony thing... it is also kind of a shaky argument. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are definitely not militarily up to par with Israel, but they do have their weight, and can influence events in the region. Even Jordan was able to get weapons from the United States that Israel thought were too threatening, and tried really hard to prevent from happening. So these theorists do two things: they play on an inert fear of Israel, and completely ignore facts on the ground to make what would seem to be sound arguments.

In conclusion, I'll say the following:

1. The Syrians have no problem killing Lebanese (or anybody) who they perceive as a threat to their grip on power.

2. There is a huge difference between American hegemony (a reality that we are dealing with today) and Israeli hegemony (nonsense, considering Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even Turkey - all of which are allies of the USA).

3. Read the following article from Dier Speigel:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,343242,00.html

On the (estimated) number of protesters on the streets of Beirut

All,

I'm posting this on Jad's request.

He received the following email (unfortunately no graphic attached) about the number of people that were protesting during the Hezbollah-led demonstration a few days ago. His reply and explanations follow the email.

"Dear all,

When it comes to maps, you got to ask the Mapman !

I made some work on Beirut Satellite Maps (see the attached picture). I have to find out the size of the riadh solh square. I drew an approximate area
(red polygon) over the satellite map.

I added to the polygon all the small streets; I also included the 2 buildings in the middle of the square. The total area came out less then 88,000 m2 (according to Nahar the area 78,000m2).

If we consider that there were 4 people in each 1m X 1m (they should be thin
people!) then the total amount could have reached to 352,000. This number includes the syrians and palestinians.

On Monday, according to many journalists there was at least 250,000 in Freedom square.

So if we compare this number with what LebGov sources said (1.5 million), we can laugh......


Cheers"

Jad's reply (see the graphic in the post above):

"I wanted to double check the info you sent me because I could barely believe that the protest I saw on TV only had 350.000 people.

Your friend claims he is a map-person... well, I happen to be an urban planner.
I got the AutoCAD plans I have of Beirut city center (AutoCAD is the programs that is most used in the world by architects and planners to draw buildings and plans. more accurate would be difficult). And I made some measurements...

Attached is a photo-print of my computer screen where you can see the results of the area-measurements.

1- In yellow the area of the Hezbollah protest
2- In green the opposition protest
3- In full lines the areas that were actually full with people in peak moments of both protests (green full line for the opposition, yellow full line for Hezbollah).
4- In dotted lines (both colors), I drew a Maximum area, basically, the exaggerated scenarios that both sides could eventually claim...

FACTS:

1- Area Hezbollah: 72.000m²
Maximum; 87.000m²

2- Area opposition: 20.000m²
Maximum: 38.000m²

CALCULATIONS:

1- Protest Hezbollah, counting 4 people/m² (in deed that is dense):
72 x 4= 288.000 people
Max: 87 x 4= 348.000 people

2- Protest opposition, same counting:
20 x 4= 80.000 people
Max: 38 x 4= 152.000 people

CONCLUSION:

1- Annahar is biased, it is exact when it comes to Hezbollah, and it exaggerates when it comes to the opposition

2- In the worst of cases for the opposition, there would be 4.5 times more people in the Hezbollah protest than in theirs.

In the best of cases, there will be twice as much in Hezbollah-protest than in theirs.

SYNTHESIS:

Despite the small inexactitudes of the delineated areas and the densities and who participated etc, etc... There is AT THE VERY LEAST, half the Lebanese that are not aligned with the opposition. That can be for different reason.
I believe that the major reason is that a lot of Lebanese that would like to see Syria out, do not TRUST the opposition and still believe that the opposition wants to substitute Syrian influence with USA influence.

So if you are really concerned about the unity of the Lebanese, and if you are really democratic (believe in the rule of the majorities), stop demeaning the others and stop accusing them of ignorance and treason and propose constructive solutions on how to convey the beliefs that we are fighting for without the shadow of a doubt. Giving clear messages on what we stand for and speak with one voice so that we can unite the Lebanese behind our good cause: FREEDOM, but also JUSTICE (i.e., no giving-in against the Israeli and their constant rape of the rights of Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, etc... thus no peace with Israel till it accepts a fair and comprehensive peace).


Jad"

On the economy... again...

I know it's becoming some sort of leitmotiv in my posts, the economy... But the again it's then lifeline of any country, including our own...

Below is an article that appeared in today's L'Orient-Le Jour, about the real estate sector. Keeping in mind that most Foreign Investment is poured in this sector, capital flight from it is a good indicator of investor confidence. No investor confidence, no standing economy... Again, not rocket science!

I apologize to the non-french speakers, but in a nutshell, the article says that the market has been surpisingly resilient, with a drop in apartment acquisition (which is very normal) but a sustained pipeline of real estate investments. All this to fuel our good spirits and keep on truckin'!


Marché de l’immobilier
Optimisme de rigueur

Assassinat de l’ancien Premier ministre Rafic Hariri, manifestations dans les rues, démission du gouvernement de Omar Karamé, crise gouvernementale, annonce d’un redéploiement des troupes syriennes dans la plaine de la Békaa, pressions internationales pour l’application de la 1559: en l’espace de trois semaines, la situation politique libanaise a évolué à une vitesse grand V. De son côté et à notre étonnement, le marché immobilier est loin d’être en crise. Au contraire, l’intérêt des investisseurs, spécialement pour le foncier, reste soutenu. Depuis trois semaines, plusieurs attitudes ont été observées:– La nouvelle d’une très importante vente, ces derniers jours, pour 28 millions de dollars, d’un terrain dans le secteur de l’ancien hôtel Holiday Inn à Aïn el-Mreïssé confirme que certains investisseurs, dans ce cas précis des Émiriens, restent optimistes et continuent de voir le Liban comme un pays propice à l’investissement à long terme. – À l’opposé, le doute est plutôt perceptible chez les promoteurs immobiliers. Les ventes d’appartements de luxe sont devenues rares. Plongés dans l’incertitude, les clients qui étaient prêts à acquérir un appartement début février ont différé leur décision. Cette attitude est normale et n’est guère surprenante. Ce comportement concerne également la clientèle du Golfe qui, choquée par la disparition de Hariri et la situation actuelle, a préféré mettre entre parenthèses ses acquisitions au Liban. Incontestablement, tous les promoteurs attendent avec impatience une solution favorable à la crise afin de retrouver la clientèle locale et arabe.– La situation a vu également émerger de petits «malins» qui ont espéré profiter du contexte local pour obtenir de bons prix, voire des réductions. Il n’en est rien ! Aux dernières nouvelles, les prix des appartements et du foncier n’ont pas changé depuis le 14 février. Les propriétaires n’ont pas bradé leurs biens. – D’un autre côté, d’autres investisseurs continuent à se renseigner en vue de futures transactions foncières.Leur logique s’inscrit dans des stratégies à long terme. Conscients que si la tournure des événements devient favorable, les prix des terrains risquent rapidement de grimper, ces opportunistes cherchent, dès aujourd’hui, à acquérir des propriétés bien situées et à des prix encore raisonnables. Un terrain à Ras-Beyrouth, un autre à Clemenceau, un autre à Achrafieh, un café au centre-ville, un appartement à Hazmieh, etc. Nous avons reçu, ces derniers jours, de multiples demandes. Cette nouvelle peut surprendre dans le contexte actuel. Toutefois, elle traduit une nouvelle donne dans le marché : un vent nouveau souffle sur le Liban. Les manifestations dans les rues de la capitale et sur la place des Martyrs et l’unité nationale émergente ont réveillé chez certains investisseurs de nouvelles ambitions. Beaucoup considèrent que le moment est opportun pour investir. Nous prendrons, pour illustrer nos propos, l’exemple de cet investisseur libanais vivant à Paris. Devant les images de ce soulèvement populaire et pacifique, il a décidé de quitter son travail parisien pour venir vivre à Beyrouth et ouvrir un café au centre-ville. Cette initiative est à l’image de la situation actuelle, pleine d’espoir.

En coopération avec :RAMCO

I am afraid of Hezbollah...

BECAUSE ISRAEL LEFT LEBANON IN 2000...

BECAUSE NO ONE IN LEBANON IS THINKING OF CHANGING THE STRATEGIC POSITION OF LEBANON IN THE ARAB ISRAELI CONFLICT...

Because the decision of war and peace cannot be taken outside a fairly elected and truly representative lebanese parliament...

Because accountability by the lebanese people is a must for every action affecting the lebanese people...

Because Lebanon cannot remain an open front on behalf of all Arabs while all their fronts are closed...

Because the Shebaa Farms are disputed between Lebanon and Syria...

Because of the above Hezbollah CANNOT OPERATE the same way it did before 2000...

THE RESISTANCE MUST BE PRESERVED AS A DISSUASIVE TOOL AGAINST ISRAELI THREATS BUT NOT AS A TOOL SUPPORTIVE OF THE REGIME AS IT IS THE CASE SINCE LAST TUESDAY 8-03-2005.

USA go away.

I hate USA and Bush with all my heart. They are dirty and low with a façade of saviors and democracy lovers. I am positive and convinced now more than ever that they are behind the Hariri assassination knowing that the 1st accused would be Syria. Whoever thinks I’m just being paranoid filled with the whole Israel-USA conspiracy theory, I have proof… Dick Cheney wrote a report in 1996 about reorganizing the Middle East conveniently for Israel. It is called “Clean Break” at www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm . Read it and notice how they say they want 2 start with : removing Saddam from Irak, then use the opposition elements in Lebanon to destabilize Syria (which they’ve been preparing btw since Irak saying that Syria had “weapons of mass destruction”) then Iran. We all want Syria out, we want our independence, Bashar al Asad responded by announcing its withdrawal according to the Taef agreement… We are all happy as long as they don’t take too long, but NOOO USA “doesn’t appreciate half measure and wants a full application of 1559” how weird… why? Oh ya, 1559 also demands the disarmament of Hizbullah who fights Israel, USA’s friend… how convenient. I also read in a newspaper a couple of days ago that Sharon after bashar’s speech announced his refusal of a “half-withdrawal” and that he wants Syria 2 pull out immediately because it stands in the way of peace between Lebanon and Syria… bi kel 3en we27a!!!
Bush says he wants 2 save the middle east and that he made an example of Irak and now all other countries are responding (Saudi Arabia where there is now elections, Egypt a candidate is actually allowed to run against him…) but what I don’t get, and the phrase that I repeat most while watching that simple redneck Texan cowboy talk is :WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? Who died and made YOU king of the world? Seriously who does he think he is? He is just a normal president… In his country, drugs, teen pregnancy, teen violence, poverty, unemployment, pollution and much more, reign, he could try and work on these problems instead of playing risk or superman or I don’t know what game he thinks this is. He wastes soo much money, time effort, and LIVES by doing this! I have one thing to say to him: LEAVE US ALONE AND MIND YOUR OWN PROBLEMS!
Now he’s in heaven, he’s best friends with France again he got all his allies like the Arabic back stabber countries and now Britain is with them too, he’s “pressuring” Syria, the only country with enough courage to stand up to the mighty USA and refuse to give in… I think life will only be better when people (and especially in the Arab world) start waking up, reading between the lines of what Bush says and stop being so naïve… Maybe then we could all unite and fight USA (not with war but with power and determination) by refusing to listen to it anymore.

Ps: I just heard that USA is going to come to “help” Lebanon with their elections… BALLASHOU!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Who is afraid of Hizb Allah?

As a chi3a living in Paris, my friends here ask me: “You are chi3a, are you with Hizb Allah? It makes me laugh because “As a Chi3a” I am not consequently involved with Hizb Allah.
By the way this is not my point at all; I just mentioned it because it still surprises me when people categorize you according to your sect.

There is a certain hypocrisy in fearing so much what is going to be Hizb Allah's next move or Nasrallah's next speech. If Lebanese people want a democracy than this is democracy, dealing with all the factions in your country. But I understand the fear of these people. Looking from far, the party of God is a black mass of men with beards branding yellow pictograms of sabres and guns blaring murder statements at the West. On top of that, they are so many. They do look like terrorists, at least for those who have not lived among or next to popular chi3a areas (and yes I am including Verdun as a neighbourhood of Dahieh) or don’t go often to the south: Chhour, Addoussieh, Nabatiyeh… not Saida, Bamboo Bay or Marje3ioun.

The protests of the Mouwallat scare a lot of us. A lot even think that this is the beginning of a civil war. The huge attendance of the mouwallat demoralized the mou3arada. Yesterday night, Martyr’s Square was empty…

Admit it was a smart move…The mouwalat’s protest looked a lot like the mou3arada’s (standing from far). Lebanese flags, Bibles and Koran’s, national anthems…The attendance was mandatory and Lebanese/Syrians borders were open. It was understood somehow that many of them participated due to an order “from up”…Not very glamorous… since I got used to watching students protesting just like “Mai 68”.

In case you don’t understand what I am saying, my point is that the fear from Hizb Allah is a bit absurd. I would like to remind many that Nasrallah is calling for peace and dialogue; and that No, he did not announce Islamic Jihad on Lebanon. But it will not let Syria leave head low.

Syria is leaving anyway, so let it leave with grace. They are our neighbours, they are not Israel. A lot of Syrians are living in Lebanon and are a part of it. We have businesses and interests with them. We are already in a fight with Israel, so imagine turning our backs to Syria. It will be like living in Gaza. It strikes me when my friends here say (outraged): “what? You think we should have a good relation with Syria after all the bad they have done to us” Well: YES I DO.

If we become a democracy, we will have to accept one another. Martyr’s square should not have been empty yesterday night there should have been a debate Mou3arada/Mouwalat there. Stay united is the most important thing now. Entering a new state of mind is needed. Think in terms of democracy.

Red state/Blue state... Lebanese style

A country on a verge of a crucial election is divided into two very vocal opposing camps...
Both these camps organize large rallies... both camps are deeply distrustful of each other, both are very self-righteous, both accuse the other of being less nationalistic, both are very resourceful and both believe they're the majority... the rhetoric at both sides is virulent, and they both see nothing less than the future of the whole country at stake...

The first camp is roughly composed of the young, educated, intellectual, the liberal and the media...

The second is roughly made of large interest holders, religious conservatives, illiterates, traditionalists, older people, and gun holders...

Third parties, alarmed at the unprecedented level of partisanship, are trying to form, but their following is scant and negligible...

No, I'm not talking about America before the November 2004 elections, this is very much Beirut Yesterday.

Welcome to our own culture war American-style...

When Hassan Nassrallah of Hizbullah took to the podium yesterday, hundreds of thousands of crowds listened and cheered...
'Puppets!' screamed the opposition; 'traitors' answered the loyalists...

All this is scary stuff, but the Lebanese, like the Americans before them, need to remember that Democracy is a mess, and no matter how much we try to question the legitimacy of the other, both camps do exist and have support on the street.

So I propose that people start looking to the positive side of the story:

Both parties made peaceful demonstrations, both parties predominantly held the Lebanese Flag, and both parties are showing cautious trust towards each other (albeit marred by populist offensive comments every now and then).

My fellow bloggers should be screaming foul by now (we are the liberal media after all). They would say that I couldn't possibly put the Syrian stooges and the Nationalists on the same moral level...
To that I have an answer: Remember how The Europeans could not even imagine that George W. Bush had people that would actually vote for him? They thought no sane person would possibly vote for that war-mongering, superficial polluter, but yet, the American voters proved them wrong.

What I'm trying to say is that we should waste less energy on panicking and questioning intentions, and more on trying to secure a free and fair election next spring... The Syrians should withdraw fully and we should have international observers for the elections, but, that having happened, we should not, under any circumstances refuse the results...

As for you Mr. Nasrallah, don't be too smug; you have much more in common with George W. Bush than you'd like to think.

(This opinion piece also appears on The Beirut Spring )

The awful truth...

Some comments about what is happening:

1. About dialogue: How does the lebanese regime and its allies expect people to believe that they want dialogue if they only ask for it when they r squeezed? Where was this dialogue since 1990? or since the israeli withdrawal in 2000?

2. About the honorable Syrian reatreat from Lebanon: This is really a joke. How honorable can this withdrawal be when there is a binding UN security council resolution asking for it?

3. About Syrian withdrawal: The Syrians would have never retreated if it werent of such an international pressure. Thank god Bush was elected!!

4. About the momentum of the opposition: Yes, the opposition dared to demonstrate because of the UN-US-French and foreign support. If it werent the case the army would have rounded up the demonstrators a long time ago.

5. About the army: They always apply double standards. Why were previous anti-syrian demonstrations always opressed and today's ones r allowed? What would have happenned if opposition people shot a mouwalaat guy and not the opposite?

6.About yesterday's demo: It is a flex of muscles by the regime whatever slogans of flags they raise.

7. About Hezbollah: Nasrallah pronounced yesterday his first speech as a shi3a leader. So long for the resistance and the national unity supporting it. They started by politically turning their weapons on the inside arean, let us hope they do not do it practically.

8. About the truth: I also want to know who attempted to kill Marwan Hamadeh...

9. About the Arab World: Everytime we wanna breath they say..."Israel" !!!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Israel is NOT the issue here...

If you look at the positions of the two broad political coalitions in Lebanon, specifically with regards to Israel, you will not find much of a difference. Both parties agree on being the "last country in the Middle East to sign a peace deal with Israel." The opposition is calling for a return to the truce agreement that was signed after the 1948 war; Hizballah insists on not going there, but has participated in a de-facto truce since the Israeli withdrawal (with around 15 infractions - none of which were major incidents).

Hizballah's rhetoric indicates otherwise of course. But speeches to crowds should not be intepreted at face value, especially speeches from Hizballah. Their constituency is the most disadvantaged group in Lebanon. The Shi'as have suffered from poverty, displacement, constant Israeli harassment, and even scorn from fellow Lebanese. Reasons behind these conditions are geographic, historical (going back to the Ottoman Empire and beyond), as well as inherent political flaws that can be attributed to the formation of the Lebanese Republic.

This is not to say that Hizballah doesn't see Israel as its eternal foe. However, limiting our analysis to the "Arab-Israeli" conflict is too superficial. The Party of God would definitely beg to differ, and in doing so, they offer other Lebanese a tremendous favor by effectively channeling Shi'a frustration to an "enemy" that is outside of the country.

Therefore, although the political positions seem to revolve around how to confront Israel, there are other, more local, nuances at stake. The domestic message of the protests are "Hey, look at us: we're here! We count! We're saying that we hate Israel and love Syria; but what we really mean is: don't think you can ride the changing fortunes of regional politics without taking us into consideration - oh and by the way, we pretty much like things the way they were before Syria started packing up. Change (especially if it is tainted by anything from the 'West') is unwelcome."

The international message, on the other hand, is very clear from the rhetoric: "Israel, America, and any other entity that opposes Hizballah, don't think you can get rid of it! It has real popular support, and is a legitimate force in domestic Lebanese affairs. Short of full scale war, it just ain't gonna happen!"

As always, I don't know how things are going to pan out. Lebanon seems to be divided into two camps: the Western and Eastern. Although Hizballah is powerful, its leaders probably don't want to over-play their hand and completely isolate the opposition. They're also aware that a considerable proportion of the Shi'a population doesn't necessarily agree with their vision for Lebanon - hence the wise decision to focus the demonstration on the rejection of 1559 and "Israeli/Western agression," something that all Lebanese are probably united behind.

On the other hand, it has been made obvious that the opposition will need Hizballah on board if they want to go anywhere. Both sides have now flexed their muscles and earned their seats on the table. It's time for them to take a look at what is happening around them, and move forward.

originally posted at http://lebaneseblogger.blogspot.com/

We pushed them to the other side...



I don't know about you.. but I see the "mouwalat" protest that is taking place today is a huge slap in the face... Not because it preludes a civil war... not because it is going to set us back with our quest of freedom... it is a slap in the face because we had a golden opportunity to leverage a hanous crime to obtain what is best for our country... and we screwed up... We did what we always do, hot blooded people that we are, we screamed and yelled and pointed fingers...we didn't have a plan.

Hizbullah in the first few weeks was relatively on the sidelines... they did not interfere... they stood back and watched the events unfold before they decided what direction to take... We had a golden opportunity to reel tham in to our side.. but we screwed up... we were aggressive... and pushed them to the other side...

The continuous "tahaddi" with Syria emboldened Hizbullah... they became insecure... they were outraged that Syria was made to look like the bad guy while America was considered the
savior...we pushed them to the other side...

There is a difference between being angry and agressive. We are all angry, frustrated, passionate.. but we should have remained level headed.

A few weeks ago, the Nasrallah's had converged. Mar Nasrallah Botros Spheir and Hassan Nasrallah were calling for us to calm down... not to act rash... but we didn't... we kept chanting 1559 and "syrial killer"... this protest in the hundreds of thousands was bound to come...

Syria cannot withdraw if kicked out... it needs to pull out calmly... in a save facing manner.... it is in our best interest, and theirs... Otherwise, we will see what we have started to see.... the lebanese people will go from being united on February 14th against the government and Syria, to breaking down into two camps... and we will waste our passion and energy in internal squabbles rather than focusing on a plan to rid ourselves of Syria.

I don't believe this crowd is against Syrian withdrawal. I don't buy their chants of Syria staying in Lebanon... I am certain they are all for the first clause of 1559...they were just pushed into a corner, and could not be associated with crowds carrying "USA help us" and "Syrial killer"... we pushed them to the other side...


They are on the streets in the hundreds of thousands now... another protest is scheduled in Tripli on Friday, and yet another one in Nabatieh on Sunday... and there are more to come... this is a slap on the face... this makes the Lebanese cause lose momentum...

All is not lost though... I write this as i listen to Nasrallah calling for a dialogue...the mou3arada needs to take the call...

Without making concessions on our requests (freedom, national unity, sovereignty), we can provide a scenario that doesn't make Syria and Hizbullah as the world's enemies... we can still bring the two camps together...

Letter from a Syrian Intellectual Posted by Hello

Wanted: The Opponent's Intellectuals

I've been browsing through the myriad of Lebanese Blogs that have recently been created, and one thing struck me: we all seem to see eye-to-eye on the Lebanese/Syrian Issue. The tones are different, some are more emotional and some are more rational, some are well informed and some rely on rumors, some have a big picture view and some are caught in details, some rely on photographs, others on words and others on numbers and statistics.
Yet, more or less, we all seem to agree on the crust of the matter: The Syrian's presence in Lebanon is pure evil and anathema to our feelings...

Throughout history, even the most oppressive and morally questionable orders and regimes had a driving philosophical and intellectual force behind them. Hitler had Frederick Nietzsche, Staline had Karl Marx, and the Bush team has Thomas Hobbs and Natan Sharansky. Even Saddam Hussein was said to be greatly influenced by Salheddin el Ayyoubi. These intellectuals have been the functioning cores of most rulers in history and are the single most reason why those regime seem to be behaving with such conviction and more importantly, having the ability to amass popular support.

Still, I am yet to find one single blogger that is willing, with conviction, to defend the 'Syrian Doctrine'.

Hey, intellectual opponent, I am begging you to show your face. I refuse to believe that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are gathering today in Riad al Solh simply because they were intimidated, I want you to answer me: what drives them?

Hey, intellectual opponent, don't be afraid to be an agent provocateur; we do not want to replace a single-opinion regime with another, we cherish opinion diversity, we are all citizens and we believe in the universal suffrage...

Hey, intellectual opponent, don't be afraid to be outnumbered in the blogosphere; nothing enriches the ultra-liberal New York Times like their conservative columnist David Brooks, who incidentally is my favorite Op-ed Columnist... sometimes you might see things differently in a way that benefits our common well-being...

Hey, intellectual opponent, (and I'm not talking to you Nasser Kandil), who are you? What do you stand for? Why do you think we're wrong? Tell us, I challenge you to show your face.

Hey, intellectual opponent, Start a blog! talk to us!

We are all waiting...

(this opinion piece also appears on The Beirut Spring)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Focus on the economy?

My dream is that we, as Lebanese, whitness and participate in politics that focus on economic development and social welfare. There is a desperate need for the politics of our country to elevate to that level.

The sense I get from the opposition is that they do want to make that leap. Unfortunately there is a huge segment of the population - and politicians - who believe that the politics of confrontation and of identity (specifically "Arab" identity vs. other identities or sect vs. sect) must still be at the center of political discourse. Everything, in their view, must be held hostage to Lebanon's single-handed confrontation of Israel.

I almost feel like we are being pulled back by those who are scared they will be left behind in a new order; a new country. Why can't we lead? Why can't the educated, middle and professional classes lead the country? Why do we have to be led, or held back, by brutes who appeal to the basest instincts of the population?

Maybe we need a new political class. But then again, that's like wishing for pigs to fly. I'm starting to wonder how much will change in the comming months. Doubt is replacing hope; and all I can do is sit and watch....

And now... focus on the ECONOMY

What's been annouced yesterday, due to foreign pressures, about the partial withdraw of Syrian troops was a great step towards getting our country back. But there's an enormous Damocles sword hanging on top of all of our heads and that's the economy.

There's no free lunch, and we've paid for our protests and upheaval dearly in economic terms. All's not yet lost (although it could be, understand all that Hariri managed to build) and could be salvaged and eventually pointed towards growth again if all forces on the ground, loyals and oposition, focus on saving the economy. That would mean making concessions on both sides to reach some kind of status quo and pull a break on the downward spiral the economy is in right now.

For the Arabic readers, below is an article that appeared in today's Nahar about the state of the economy, the dangers and what can be done to save it, now.

Try to read it, even if you find reading arabic off a computer screen difficult, it's well worth it.
يقظة العمل بقلم مروان اسكندر
الوقع الاقتصادي والمالي السلبي لاغتيال رفيق الحريري كبير الى حد يهدد استمرارية النمو واستقرار النقد اذا لم نتنبه الى مخاطر التباين السياسي.
وضع السياسيون في لبنان دائما السياسة امام الاقتصاد في قراراتهم وممارساتهم. واليوم هذا الفريق بالذات الذي لا يعاني افراده العسر عموما مدعو الى اعطاء الاقتصاد موقع الاهمية لئلا ينهار ويندثر كل ما حققه رفيق الحريري للبنان من تجهيز وتواصل واعتلاء موقع على قدر من الاهمية لدى المستثمرين اللبنانيين والعرب.
الخسائر حتى اليوم كبيرة ومتنوعة، ولا يمكن جمع ارقامها كلها لتقدير حجم الضرر. فمن الاضرار ما هو قابل للتعويض ومنها ما هو خسارة لا يمكن تعويضها، ومنها ما ينذر بخسارة شبه نهائية. وبالتالي، وفي عرض الخسائر بسرعة، نلخص طابع الاهمية المتعلق بكل منها:
- على صعيد سعر الصرف وثباته، يمكن القول ان اللبنانيين اقبلوا على شراء الدولارات بكثافة خلال ايام العمل الاولى بعد اقفال الأيام الثلاثة، ومن بعد تدني الاقبال ومن ثم عاد الى الارتفاع مع تصاعد حدة المواقف السياسية ومطالب المعارضة المتمادية من جهة وتصريحات بعض الموالين بخفة فائقة.
- نسبة 15 في المئة مما يسمى باحتياط مصرف لبنان تحول الى حسابات افراد ارادوا الاحتراز في شأن سعر صرف الليرة. ولا يجوز ان تتحول نسبة مماثلة ما بين اليوم وبداية الربيع، فقد تمهد هذه التحويلات الى تشجيع المودعين على تحويل اموالهم الى الخارج فنتعرض الى انتكاسة كبيرة.
لا شك ان مصرف لبنان بمقدوره تحريك آليات تساعد في احتواء المضاربة وربما عكس اتجاهها. لكن هذه الوسائل تشمل رفع معدلات الفائدة اولا على الليرة اللبنانية، ومن ثم وربما للحد من التحويلات الى الخارج، رفع معدلات الفائدة على العملات الاجنبية. وفي الحالين تصعب عملية الاقتراض لتمويل الاعمال وتتقوى توجهات الانكماش. حماية النقد قد تستوجب اذن، خنق الاقتصاد ما لم تبرز استفاقة على الاخطار لدى السياسيين فتتألف وزارة من افراد يتمتعون بالكفايات والاخلاق في آن واحد.
- في احسن الظروف، اي في حال تجاوز مرحلة الاحتقان السياسي، لن يشهد الاقتصاد نموا عام 2005 لأسباب نوضحها في ما يلي:
نهاية عام 1998 استقالت حكومة يرأسها رفيق الحريري وحلت محلها حكومة برئاسة سليم الحص استمرت في مهماتها سنتين، ولا شك ان تشكيلة تلك الحكومة كانت افضل من تشكيلة الحكومة الكرامية الاخيرة. ومع ذلك، ومع ان رفيق الحريري كان حيا يرزق ويساهم يوميا في حياة لبنا ن، تقلص الدخل القومي مدى عامين.
عام 2003 برزت آمال تفاؤلية بعد قرارات مؤتمر باريس-2. وعام 2004 تحققت بعض منافع ذلك المؤتمر وحقق لبنان افضل معدل نمو منذ 8 اعوام قدره البنك الدولي ومصرف لبنان، بنسبة 5 في المئة. وللمرة الاولى منذ 12 عاما انخفضت نسبة مجموع الدين العام الى الدخل القومي، ولاح في الافق امكان استمرار النمو عامين او ثلاثة بمعدلات مماثلة يستعيد بعدها لبنان ميزة النمو المستمر المقترن بتوسع شبكة الأمان الاجتماعي.
مهد احتقان التمديد لرحيل الحريري عن الحكم في تشرين الاول 2004، وتسببت الايدي والعقول المجرمة في شهاداته فكانت الشهادة من اجل قيامة لبنان، لكن الثمن الاقتصا دي باهظ.
- ايام التعطيل الاعتراضي حتى تاريخه تآكلت من الدخل القومي ما يزيد على 600 مليون دولار.
- خسائر الفنادق وتجهيزاتها ومداخيلها من الاقفال القسري تفوق الـ120 مليون دولار.
- الدخل من حركة السياحة التي حققت للبلاد مليار دولار ونصف مليار عام 2004 سيتناقص 20 في المئة او 300 مليون دولار.
- حركة الاستثمار التي استقطبت مليار دولار عام 2004 لن تحقق اكثر من 500 مليون دولار حسب تقديرنا هذه السنة.
وعليه، الخسارة على حساب الدخل القومي لن تقل عن 1،5 مليار دولار او ما يعادل 7 في المئة من حجم الدخل القومي. وبالتالي لن نخسر ما يوازي النمو الذي تحقق عام 2004 فحسب، بل سنشهد تقلصا لحجم الدخل القومي يوازي 2 في المئة على الاقل.
وبعد، ما هو المطلوب وبكل صراحة وصرامة؟
المطلوب التزام سوري واضح للانسحاب الى البقاع في اقرب وقت مع تعيين المهلة للانسحاب الكامل من لبنان.
المطلوب من السلطة والمعارضة والموالاة الاتفاق على تأليف حكومة تلتزم طلب الانسحاب السوري كما هو محدد اعلاه وتؤمن قاعدة سير الانتخابات بشفافية وحرية، والرئيس نبيه بري فتح بالفعل مجال الحوار.
المطلوب تأمين مساعدات عربية إن على صعيد الايداعات دعما لاستقرار النقد او على صعيد الامدادات بالمشتقات النفطية، وقد يكون مؤتمر القمة العربي المكان المناسب لعرض هذا الطلب والحصول على الامدادات، فيكون لدينا ما يكمل "باريس -2" وان بتقديمات عينية.
ومطلوب ايضا، وان ظهر هذا المطلب غير عملي، متابعة العمل على تنفيذ ثلاث مبادرات وضعت في عهد الحكومة الكرامية القصير، وهذه المبادرات ذات اهمية بالغة على الصعيد الاجتماعي والمالي والبيئي.
اول المبادرات واكثرها اتصالا بواقع حياتنا اليومية برنامج وزير الصحة الذي يساهم في خفض اسعار الدواء وتنسيق اكلاف الجراحات لتنتظم المحاسبة الاستشفائية ويخفض الاهدار وتؤمن منفعة اعم للبنانيين.
ثاني مبادرة هي مذكرة معالجة قضية الكهرباء في لبنان بصورة مهمة خلال عام وصورة جذرية مدى خمس سنوات. ولا نظن ان هناك وزيراً خصص لموضوع الحلول الجذرية ما فعله موريس صحناوي خلال الاشهر الاربعة المنقضية.
ثالث المبادرات مشروع الموازنة الذي وضعه الوزير الياس سابا وفريقه والذي يعتبر انجازه في ذاته خطوة مهمة. ومشروع الموازنة، في حال اقراره، يجنب لبنان الضغط الاختناقي الذي يتأتى من تطبيق القاعدة الاثني عشرية.
بكلام واضح، على لبنان ان يفيد من عمل الوزارة المستقيلة سواء كانت هناك مواجهة قاسية معها حول القضايا السياسية ام لا.
ان الوضع الضاغط يستوجب تخصيص كل الجهود للافادة من فرص النجاة تمهيداً لاستعادة القدرة على النمو والنهوض.
التحديات الاقتصادية والمالية ترتبط الى حد كبير بالتحديات السياسية. لكن التحديات الاقتصادية والمالية لا ترتهن كلياً بالتحديات السياسية. فان تجاوزنا اختبار الاحتقان السياسي الاكبر المتمثل بتوقيت الانسحاب، نستطيع العمل على وقف التدهور النقدي والافادة من الذخر المتوافر من عمل وزراء الصحة والطاقة والمال في حكومة الرئيس كرامي المستقيلة.
عسى ان ننجح ولو لمرة في تقديم الاعتبارات الاقتصادية والحياتية على الاهداف السياسية لافرقاء الاختلاف ونبدأ بتحقيق توازن يطمئن المواطنين الى المستقبل، والشباب اللبناني الى ان المستقبل قد يكون لهم في لبنان وليس في بلدان الاغتراب وحدها.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


The Economist, March 5th Posted by Hello

Friday, March 04, 2005

very interesting article if you have time to read it from the economist

DEMOCRACY STIRS IN THE MIDDLE EASTMar 3rd 2005 America's detractors are having to admit that its often clodhoppingpolicies may be starting to workIT HAS been an extraordinarily hopeful few weeks in the habitually dankand depressing politics of the Middle East. In the wake of anunprecedented general election in Iraq and an admirably genuinepresidential one in Palestine, tens of thousands of Lebanese people,from a kaleidoscope of religious groups, have been marching together onthe streets of their capital, Beirut, calling for democracy and theremoval of their anti-democratic occupiers, the Syrians. Syria'sgovernment is plainly nonplussed by this outburst of people power (seearticle[1]) and may even risk losing its clammy grip back home. No lessastonishingly, Egypt's ruling autocrat, Hosni Mubarak, after some 24years in unfettered control, suddenly felt obliged to announce that hewould allow the opposition, albeit a sanitised version of it, to put upa candidate (or more) against him when he faces re-election later thisyear. No less strikingly, modest but notable steps towards democracyhave recently been taken in the heart of Arab despotism, Saudi Arabia,where multi-candidate (though non-party) elections for local governmenttook place last month. The Saudi foreign minister this week promisedthat next time round, yes, even women would be able to vote and run foroffice. What is going on? For America's leaders it is proof that theirrelentless trumpeting of the virtues of democracy as a chief weapon inthe war against terror is right. To President George Bush's delight, anumber of prominent Arabs have begun to admit as much. Some havelikened the impact on them of Iraq's election to the impact in Europeof the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. However much Arabs resentAmerica's intervention in Iraq--and most still do--the election there,a month ago, has plainly struck a chord across the region. Without adoubt, something exciting is in the air. Democracy for Arabs can nolonger to be dismissed as the stuff of foolish dreamers.NOT SO SMUG, YOU NEO-CONSSo is it on an unstoppable roll that will lead to peace and democracyacross the region? Absolutely not--at any rate, not yet. The MiddleEast is still a dangerous mess. The despots are not becoming democratsovernight, and the Americans know it is risky to promote ideas thatthreaten the regimes of some of their closest yet far from democraticallies in the wider region, such as Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and SaudiArabia. Iraq, for another thing, could still go horribly wrong. The blood stillflows apace, with a suicide-bomb this week killing more people (atleast 120) in a single blow than any previous atrocity since theAmericans toppled Saddam Hussein. It will be several months before itbecomes clear whether a broad-based, more legitimate government, withluck including a good number of Sunnis whose constituents refused orwere afraid to vote in the poll, can start squelching the insurgency.The risk of sectarian fragmentation and civil war still exists.The Middle East's other hitherto trickiest conundrum--how to embedIsrael and Palestine side by side as two secure states--is still farfrom solved, pouring poison into America's relations with swathes ofthe Arab and Muslim world. The death of Yasser Arafat and the emergenceof a more practical Palestinian leader in the person of Mahmoud Abbas(Abu Mazen) have helped bring about a much-desired but still-fragileceasefire, and a fresh burst of hope that the two sides can accommodateeach other. But although Israel's bulldozer of a prime minister, ArielSharon, seems likely to ensure that Israel's settlers and soldiersvacate the Gaza strip (the smaller of the two bits of an emergentPalestinian state) by the autumn, the much harder problems of agreeingto Palestine's borders, dealing with Palestinian refugees and sharingJerusalem--over which many previous efforts to solve the conflict havefoundered--have yet to be tackled.Nor is the puzzle of Iran and its nuclear ambitions close to asolution. Iran is very much a piece of the Middle East'speace-and-democracy jigsaw. It is Syria's last friend in the area. Ithas leverage over Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia group that still seeksto stir up hatred in Israel-Palestine, despite the ceasefire. And Iranis the sole country in the region that refuses to accept Israel'sexistence. Following his recent tour of Europe, Mr Bush sounds readierto bolster European efforts to stop the mullahs, with a mix ofincentives, intrusive verification and the threat of sanctions, frombuilding a bomb. If a "grand bargain" were struck between America,Europe and Iran, with a verifiable renunciation by the mullahs of theirmilitary nuclear plans, it would help towards peace in Israel-Palestinetoo. But the chances of striking such a bargain are no better than even.SO WHAT NEXT?Despite the apparent vindication of America's pro-democracy policy, MrBush must still tread warily: it is for Arabs to democratise, not forAmericans--despite the example of Iraq--to impose their ideas by force.Yet Arab rulers must realise, as many of them now seem reluctantlyready to do, that they cannot remain deaf to the democracy call. Withmore and more of their people watching their Lebanese, Palestinian andIraqi brothers on the street and at the polling station, the era ofdespotic stagnation is steadily drawing to an end.The Europeans, with the French and Germans to the fore, have beengracelessly loth to admit that the Bush doctrine, however crasslysimplistic in expression and implementation, has moved the scenery--inthe right direction. As a token of recognition, they should certainlyoffer heartier help in Iraq. Now is the biggest chance for many years to lance the Israel-Palestineboil. Neither Americans nor Europeans can sit on their hands whilewaiting for Israel to leave Gaza and freeze its settlement buildingelsewhere or for the Palestinians to corral their militants; andneither Palestinians nor Israelis can be allowed to play the "afteryou" game. This week's Palestinian confidence-building andmoney-begging conference in London was only a start. With democracystirring across the region, imagine what a boost it would get--and whata shot in the arm for the still mistrusted Americans--if Israelis andPalestinians settled their differences at last. It is a prospect almosttoo wonderful to contemplate. But it is no longer ridiculous.

Not as united as we think...

All,

In the aftermath of this week's resignation, the Lebanese demonstrating in the streets and their supporters felt, rightly, empowered for the first time. "Next step Syria" is on everyone's lips and demonstration signs. Everyone asking for a genuine democracy but somehow, implicitly refusing this same democracy.

The point of contention, Hezbollah. It's demeaning to say point, because Hezbollah and by direct extrapolation the Shiite community represent a very important part of Lebanese society. Because Lebanon is made of a myriad of communities of varying influence, I would fall short of calling the Shiites THE most important community, but only very short of that given their numbers, strength and commendable organization.

It is therefore crucial, in fact mandatory as any other path would lead us to new disasters, that the current "opposition" announce very clearly its political stand beyond the fall of the government, the departure of the Syrian troops and their intelligence services. The opposition has to give very public declarations on where it stands vis-a-vis Hezbollah, the relationship with the US and the attitude towards Israel. After all, you cannot ask someone to leave a sheltered position to go straight to the slaughterhouse, since it's no secret that after the Syrian withdrawal Hezbollah is on the US to-do list (recognized as a terrorist organization by the US); So why would they want to push for Syrian withdrawal? Simply said, we cannot pretend to be reinventing our world while we're grossly non-united, a very big chunk of our countrymen is standing-by and looking at us warily.

Many Lebanese on the "right" side of the spectrum, mostly well-intentioned if not victims of a partial view, believe that Hezbollah is one more puppet organization controlled by the Syrians. While the Syrians do fund the Hezb (source of a conflict of interest these days..), the party is truly representative of its supporters, where the "staged" demonstration of Beirut's southern suburb are not THAT staged. It is the best-run political organization and has the biggest popular backing in number. More so this same big chunk of Lebanese DO see Israel as enemy #1 (who can blame them? Israel made their lives a living hell, displaced them and the only people to help these people were not the other Lebanese of the "Gucci revolution" but Hezbollah, Syria and Iran) and do not see Syria as such a big nuisance.

Below is an article that appeared in today's Dailystar that gives some more insight on those (until now) silent Lebanese.

Finally, the true meaning of democracy is to take into account everyone's opinion in the country, to a feasible point of course. In our case, it would be a consensus between the Lebanese... Hezbollah letting go of the armed struggle in return for a clear adoption on the part of the opposition, from Aoun to Jumblatt, of the Hezbollah program regarding Israel (right of return, Golan heights and Shebaa, etc.). This would be a sacrifice on both sides, but then again, this IS what a democracy is, or at least should be, in Lebanon. If only the Lebanese in the streets and more importantly their leaders in the opposition would get to grips with those facts and act... before the US bulldozer gets the Syrians out...

Fault lines emerging: Shiites wary of opposition motives
Hizbullah, Amal supporters fear they may be targeted next
By Adnan El-Ghoul Daily Star staff
Friday, March 04, 2005

BEIRUT: In the midst of calls for calm and reconciliation from Hizbullah and the Amal Movement, the country's Shiites are keeping a close eye on developments with some fearing the opposition movement will continue to escalate until they become the next target.
Some Shiites believe the opposition which forced out a Syrian-backed government last month will weaken the country's stability and opposition to Israel.
They say the protesters may later try to curb Hizbullah and undermine its staunch resistance against Israel.
In Beirut's Haret Hreik neighborhood, Yehya Maqhour, a 43-year-old coffee vendor, said: "They want to push out the Syrians so they can then concentrate on Hizbullah."
He added: "They are concealing their real aim and that is to disarm Hizbullah of its weapons and strength."
The opposition movement - made up mostly of Maronite Christians, Druze and Sunni Muslims - are seeking a dialogue with the country's two main Shiite parties, Hizbullah and Amal.
However, some Shiites have doubts about the sincerity of this approach.
Samir Hashem, a garment importer at Beirut's Mouawad Market, said: "Dazzled with its rise and swift progress, parts of the opposition movement might underestimate the Shiites' staunch support for the resistance and wrongly bet on outsiders' calculations."
He added: "The Shiites would still be neutral and conciliatory. Hizbullah is prepared to give concessions but will never compromise on the country's last protective cover, the resistance."
Many Shiites say the opposition should not "push it's luck" for fear of triggering a backlash, with echoes of the civil war.
Hussein Rammal, a security guard, said: "The first and last word is ours because we are a majority. Let them shout as much as they can but we have the strength on the ground."
He added: "Hizbullah is a powerful party, which drove Israel from South Lebanon in 2000." Rammal, like many Shiites, did not join the protests that toppled the government on Monday.
Some took particular issue with demonstrators carrying pictures of Lebanese leaders and militiamen who had collaborated with Israel during earlier protests.
Rammal said: "This act exposed the intentions of some in the opposition."
"The pictures of Israel's collaborators have surfaced again near [former Premier Rafik] Hariri's tomb," said a young Shiite supporter of Hizbullah who declined to give his name.
He added: "They are promoting the U.S. goal of transforming Lebanon from an arena of resistance to Israel to a gateway for Israel to end the Arab-Israeli conflict in its favor."
Many Shiites voiced misgivings about the opposition they see as using a groundswell of nationalist fervor to revive old divisions.
Giving only his first name, Haidar, a student, said: "They are using Hariri's death to reach their old goal of disarming the resistance."
He added: "They are exploiting Martyrs' Square and his final resting place, and this is not acceptable."
However, some Shiites said the opposition's escalation could force the different religious communities to retreat into their respective areas, limiting contact between Christians, Muslims and Druze.
Rammal, the security guard, said: "We will not give up on our Muslim and Arab identity. At worst, let them have their cantons. Wasn't that their original demand anyway?
"But we will not give up on Syria." - With Agencies

The Gucci revolution

Now that things have relatively calmed down, Lebanese humor and love for life is resurfacing….

With the nightscene quiet, and most clubs closed, the new hip meeting place has become the “place des martyrs”. Young and old, rich and poor, chat and catch up in between “Syria out” chants. “Whatever you are doing during the day”, my friend Serge’s brother says, “passing by ‘freedom square’ is a must”. When one wave of people is tired, they go have coffee and arguileh at the nearby coffeshops in downtown Beirut, and another group full of energy and determination takes over, making sure day and night are connected.. making sure the martyrs are not left lonesome in their square…

The massive February 28th demonstration, the demonstration that played a major role in the demise of Omar Karameh, the demonstration labeled in Lebanon "the cedars revolution" has been renamed by many media sources “the Gucci revolution”. According to Kim Ghattas, BBC, "There are girls in tight skirts and high heels, carying expensive leather bags, as well as men in business suits or trendy tennis shoes." The Opinion Telegraph assimilates these images to the democratic revolutions that swept Europe in 1989 “guttering candles; beautiful long-haired student girls with democratic logos lipsticked to their foreheads; hastily mass-produced flags; the whiff of cannabis; the strumming of guitars; the tent cities and the endless felt-tip scrawling of slogans on concrete.”

Protesting...in style…

It is nice to see something finally moved the upper classes to take to the streets. Was it because the events are a hit to the economy, businesses and tourism, or was it the assasination and desire to be free that motivated them? Either way, the result is mass protests that represent every layer in society. And if, at times, the square resembles the "forn" or the "salon" or the "b018" so be it... It is our sense of life that translated itself into unrestrained passion for our country these past few weeks.

Lebanon has been through a lot in the past few decades…and we have kept a good attitude throughout…taking hits and standing back up is what we do best…

It takes a lot more than plots, conspiracies and occupation to break our spirits…

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The anxious, yet hopeful, follow up of the Arab youth

This is a post forwarded from Jad...

hey, mabrouk to all, although we are only in the beginning.

i just thought i'd post a message i received from a Moroccan friend of mine here in Belgium.

A quick profile, so that you situate the meaning of the message: she is a young, strong, educated, intelligent, Arab militant that has a clear anti-US and Israeli position yet in ways that are rational and convincing, far from the automatic paranoid rhetoric that sometimes characterizes this ideological side (to witch I personally belong).

I think she kind of represents the typical young and awake generation now emerging in the Arab world (like the KIFAYA movement in Egypt for example). Thus my interest in how they are reading what is happening back home.

I had a debate with her yesterday in witch I exposed 'our' point of view in the Lebanese opposition.

I thought it was interesting to share with you her reading. It makes us aware of how great what we are doing really is, and how important it is, not only for us, but for the whole region. for those who care about freedom and democracy as a point to defend not only in Lebanon, but no matter where it is needed, this is important.

this is her message the day after our meeting:

'hi jad,[...] Thanx again for the talk yesterday, it allowed me to understand a bit your position, and to add some 'complexity' to the picture (something i always need, I know things are never that simple)... But you know that I remain with my doubts and fears (mainly concerning our national struggle and the position towards Palestine), so I applaud the wave of democracy and hope for its continuation...But remain doubtful as to the possibility of combining this with the national struggle and the resistance to the US-zionist project; something from which Lebanon earned respect and admiration from most Arab people (including myself). I just pray to god that both can and will be combined... And if this reveals to be the fact, then it can be a catalyst's for a larger 'independent' wave of democracy throughout the region, because the Lebanese will have shown that seeking for democracy can go hand in hand with the national agenda and resistance... So for me it is more than only Lebanon, it is a hughe testcase for the whole nation... Cause if Lebanon succeeds, then we don't have any more 'excuses' left. Again, a hughe weight on the tiny country Lebanon is... nadia

'I believe we can combine sovereignty and principles, that we don't need to bow to the US to liberate ourselves from Syria, and that if we kick Syria out we won't forget who is Israel, and what are its deeds, its past and its intentions.

P.S: clarifications on what I had told her (you don't need to read it, but I addeded it just in case you don't understand her answer):

1- the agenda of the movements is 'immediate retreat of Syria, but privileged relations between those two Arab countries. Respect for the resistance and firm position in the Arab-Israeli conflict, although it is time to start thinking of what is today the best way to resist Israeli interests and plans'. That the movement demands respect to the Syrian people, because they are victimes of the same regime then us. The leaders of this movement and the great numerical majority the movements' base are clearly anti-Israeli and clearly not pro-US aims in the region, but this doesn't make it acceptable that Syria invades Lebanon anyfurther.

2- the movements is not solely composed of extreme-right wing partisants, although they too are part of the front. Those have always had this position, but it is exactly because the majority of Lebanon, witch does not subscribe to Arab-skeptical positions, have joined the anti-Syrian movements (after giving Syria 11 years margin), that Hariri was killed and that this proves, that this movement is Nora lead Nora guided by the agenda of the extreem-right wing. It is guided by the sole aim of liberating Lebanon from occupation while keeping its regional political positions unchanged (clear alliance with Syria in her negotiations for the liberation of the Golan heights).

3- that the best struggle against Israel consists in proving that the Arab world can be democratic, modern, innovative, diverse like Lebanon and that Israel is not the island of democracy in the middle east (or at lest shouldn't be), because it is a racist country ('home of the Jews': that is, home of a religion, or blood-descendents of members of that religion. Thus, not accessible to all human beings, religious or not. Very Obviously, not to mention the illegitimacy of its existence by force on the land of another people. Basically, it's apartheid, so how can it be a symbol of democracy?).
a free Lebanon shows that the Arab world doesn't need American invasions to be free, doesn't need colonization to be democratic, and doesn't need to be in denial with its Arab identity to be democratic, liberal (socially) or modern. The best weapon against Israel is a free Lebanon as a beginning for a free Arab world in witch dictatorships cannot be used as excuses for US invasions and economic sanctions. Furthermore, a democratic Lebanon is a stronger and more legitimate front to Israel.
and it is an example to the Arab world that there is no need to submit to US demands to be free from dictorships, the same way there was no need to submit to Zionists to be free from Israeli occupation. We (I said, in my opinion) want to prove that an Arabic people can be free form occupation by the right (and duty) of resistance, and free from abuse of a dictatorship ruling a brother country by peaceful yet decided resistance. Without having to collaborate with the US and its disgusting interests. I said that the victory of such an movement will open the way for all Arab movements to fight for their freedom without being afraid of being accused of pro-Americanism or treason or ridiculous accusations of the like.

4- I also said that I have no doubt what so ever that all Lebanese, even the right wing, have understood that in Lebanon there is an overwhelming majority that stands by the Palestinians and the Arab world and that the debate is only on the best way to defend that position. Is military struggle gona remain the best way to defend that cause? I am not so sure. But I am sure, that we will not be lenient with Israel just because Syria is out.
the very democracy we are fighting for, gives this decision to the Lebanese people as a whole, and that people is, in its great majority, firmly positioned against Israeli interests.
the only discussion that might arise in the future is the 'way' that we should use to fight Israel, our economic weakness not being a 'plus' for this aim.

voila. As usual, sorry for writing so much.

Monday, February 28, 2005

One down... the (much) hardest ahead...

Congratulations!

We have much to be proud as Lebanese today... Personally, I think that what we're to be proud of are the details in the mass movements today.

The star was the Lebanese Army. True to its tradition, it proved once and for all that left to its own devices, it was "made" of true Lebanese patriots. The parallel between the Army's behavior today and its behavior in 1958 is striking. In 1958, for those of you who don't remember, the Army was the "saving" factor between two opposite civil movements in the country. Today, while the opposing movements can't be compared (at least then, there were ideological differences), the Army did shine by being neutral and in cases turning a blind eye to its security measures being usurped. Does that mean that the Army will not exert force against the people in the streets in compliance with pro-syrian directives? I doubt it. But at least, we know now, FOR A FACT, that the Army can be counted on to maintain this country's integrity when, not if, it will be given a chance.

Turbulent times ahead (as if this wasn't enough!)... Pessimistic scenarios see a military transitional government taking power. This could come after "security breaches" happen all over the country and the President orders the military to seize control. It would not be the Army I was lauding above... Optimists see a chance for a semi-neutral restrained government to take over and organize parliamentary elections based on the caza system. The investigation in Hariri's assassination left to the UN team and the bulk of the pressure for Syria to withdraw left on the international community and Arab diplomacy (sic).

I'm of the optimists. What about you?