News Round Up (7 April 2008)

Syrian Pres Says Ready To Help Lebanon Overcome Crisis
AFP – 2008-04-07  

SAssad Berriyria "stands ready to provide all possible help which the Lebanese could request, to guarantee security and stability in Lebanon," Assad said, according to the official SANA news agency.

Assad made the remarks during talks with Lebanese parliament speaker and opposition leader Nabih Berri.

The Syrian president also expressed support for "an internal Lebanese dialogue" saying such talks between Beirut's feuding politicians would help resolve the crisis that has plagued Lebanon for more than a year.

After the two-hour meeting, Berri told reporters that Syria was putting "no conditions" on the inter-Lebanese talks which he has been trying to organise.

Berri said the visit to Damascus had provided him "with a new boost to launch a dialogue in Lebanon aimed at electing… General Michel Sleiman to the Lebanese presidency" — a reference to the Lebanese army chief.

Berri's spokesman Ali Hamdan had earlier said that the speaker intends to gather Lebanon's political leaders for talks before April 22 when parliament is due to convene for a fresh attempt to elect a president.\

Naharnet writes:

High-ranking Syrian officials have informed Moussa that the Arab initiative could be implemented following approval of three suggestions:

1- Formation of a neutral, transitional government.
2- Agreement on the 1960 electoral law.
3- Agreement on a consensus president.

From Beirut to the Beltway writes: "It pains me to see that Berri's latest call for dialogue is not being met with across the board rejection from March 14. We have heard a few voices, but it looks like at least Jumblatt and Gemayel are willing to humor Berri… How the hell are you going to "win this war" while keeping Berri in charge of you?"

Run on Rice Prompts Exporters to Pare Sales Rivaling Credit Market Seizure

From Cairo to New Delhi to Shanghai, the run on rice is threatening to disrupt worldwide food supplies as much as the scarcity of confidence on Wall Street earlier this year roiled credit markets.

Rice, the staple food for half the world, rose 2 percent to a record $20.910 per 100 pounds in Chicago today, double the price a year ago and a fivefold increase from 2001. It may reach $22 by November.

Ehsani alerted me to the rice crisis and explains: "The reason I sent you that rice story was because its price went up 200% in Syria over the past two weeks from syp 20 to syp 70. Egypt decided to stop its exports." Rice merchants report a dramatic fall in sales as consumers shift to alternative grains, such as the old Syrian staple, burghal.

Persistant rumors that Asef Shawkat has fallen from grace continue to be recycled in the press. This time they have surpassed Assiyassa and other rumor mills to be picked up by Ya Lubnan, the Jerusalem Post, etc. Last Friday I spoke to a journalist at a world class radio station for over an hour about this story. He said he only needed to confirm that Shawkat had not been seen in public for a few weeks in order to go with the story. I said that I did not believe it because we have heard this rumor for over two years and it has never been true. When I see some proof, I will believe it. Here is naharnet:  Khaddam: Assef Shawkat Under House Arrest, and here is The Jerusalem Post

Israeli intelligence experts downplayed media reports on Sunday that Syrian President Bashar Assad had fired his intelligence chief and placed him under house arrest due to his failure to prevent the February assassination of Hizbullah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.

Of course, one of these days it will be true, just as the little boy who cried wolf eventually did have a wolf eat one of his sheep. In the mean time, it is a story that is invoked by opponents of Syria in the hope that the presidential family will begin knocking themselves off and to bolster those who argue that Western powers need not engage Damascus.

Ready for everything but peace
By Zvi Bar'el

Two important headlines appeared in the official Syrian press last Thursday. A day after the big scare that engulfed the Israeli media, which reported on the possibility of war with Syria, the calling up of armored divisions and the movement of large military units that could not be explained, Bashar Assad had different worries: He issued an important decree on the supervision of construction irregularities in Syria.

Another report dealt with the great success of the Arab League summit in Damascus. Editorials in Syria discussed peace between Israel and the Palestinians, U.S. policy in the Middle East, and the need for an Arab embargo on Israel, which is not willing to adopt the Arab peace initiative. War between Syria and Israel? An Israeli attack on Syria? Readiness for a conflagration this summer? Not a word.

In Israel, on the other hand, there was fear and trepidation. Once more the magic word is whispered: miscalculation. In other words, if Assad doesn't comprehend Israel's moves, or Israel fails to understand Assad's moves, or Hezbollah does not understand Israel's intent, suddenly a shot is fired, a shell, a counteraction, and suddenly, with no intention, there is a regional war. So the generals and political advisers are rushing to calm things down, rushed messages are issued to and from Damascus: Everything to make it clear that there is no – definitely no – room for worries. Maybe it will be a different war, but not one of miscalculation. Not this time.

The question isn't whether Syria is sufficiently strong to embark on a war with Israel, or whether Israel is prepared to respond, because Syria had gone to wars with Israel when it seemed it was not ready for them. And Israel, too, went to war a year and a half ago when it was not prepared. Israel's deterrent force also is not enough, because if Syria had really moved divisions to the border, that would have signaled that Israel's deterrent strength does not have an effect on it.

The point is the ease with which the mercury rises in the war thermometer between the two countries; even worse is the absence of a real mechanism for preventing such a miscalculation. The reason for this lies in the Israeli paradox that stems from a serious absence of common sense. It argues that as long as Syria is very weak it poses no threat, so there is no need to make peace with it. But if Syria is really a threat and is planning war, what is the meaning of the panic that miscalculation may lead to war? The other side of that paradox states that only when Syria is powerful and threatening is it worthwhile to make peace.

The main problem is that this paradox only examines relations between Israel and Syria through the prism of battle and not through a diplomatic prism. Peace with Syria is perceived as a tactical step, and the most important aspect is to avoid any miscalculation. If an alternative means were available, a hotline between Damascus and Jerusalem, for example, then there would be no need for peace. But to withdraw from the Golan Heights for a hotline, that is surely too heavy a price to pay.

The result is that Israel is seeking an appropriate tactical return for peace with Syria. Peace in and of itself is simply not "worth it." Peace with an Arab state that also affects Hezbollah, controls events in Lebanon, has close ties with Iran and close allies like Turkey, is party to the Arab initiative and will announce in advance any military maneuver it plans to carry out, and would invite Israeli observers – peace with such a state is considered by Israel as an empty peace.

Israel first wants a strategic change in the Middle East – that Iran breaks ties with Syria, that the Hamas leadership is evicted from Damascus, and that Hassan Nasrallah converts to Judaism. Only then will it "grant" Syria peace. Peace with Syria according to Israel needs to be a not-very-significant by-product, instead of the means by which strategic change is brought about.

This Israeli dream will not come true. Instead, every Arab or Israeli newspaper could rally a panel of Israeli generals that will make it clear that war with Syria is not going to happen. Nor is peace, God forbid. At most, there will be some kind of miscalculation. After all, as the deputy chief of staff said, we are ready for any eventuality. Except for that of peace.

Comments (48)


1. ausamaa said:

NEWSROUNDUP: No Comment !!

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April 7th, 2008, 5:53 pm

 

2. Naji said:

Ambassador Sami AlKhiamy (UK) is on ANB right now… He is always excellent to listen to… better than Mustapha… We do have some working for Syria we can be proud of…!!!

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April 7th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

3. Qifa Nabki said:

What’s wrong with Mustapha?

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April 7th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

4. Alex said:

Why is he “better” than Moustapha Naji? : )

Each one has his style and role…. Imad is more dynamic and combative. Alkhiamy is more diplomatic and conciliatory. You need both, depnding what point you are trying to make.

For example .. at the Damascus summit .. Alkhiyami was more visible than Imad .. Syria wanted to avoid looking like a confrontational member of the Arab world.

Both are Ph.D. engineers.

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April 7th, 2008, 6:44 pm

 

5. Naji said:

Alex,
I agree.
Also, it is remarksble that you mention that Mustapha was at the Summit too… He really did keep very low profile… Somebody IS doing some thinking around here… Quite reassuring…but then again, Syrian diplomacy always has been… almost the the only thing reassuring at times…!

Amazing how engineers are always simply the best at everything… 😉

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April 7th, 2008, 6:48 pm

 

6. idaf said:

I’m posting these again as they are related to Ehsani’s points on rice on this post. I hope Syria will not think of a measure similar to Egypt regarding wheat. This article by the Economist explains why it would be the wrong step.

A number of interesting headlines on Syria’s economy:
Official Report on the increase in prices of basic consumer products 2007/2008

Syrian wheat production will witness a major 30% drop in 2008. It seems that Egypt and Jordan will face more political problems this year as they had been relying on imports of Syrian wheat with preferential rates for years. The angry and hungry Egyptians seem to have reached the tipping point

A decades-late anti-monopoly law is finally issued in Syria:
President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday issued Law No. 7 on Competition and Prevention of Monopoly: Assistant Minister of Economy and Trade, Ghassan Eid, indicated that the law will meet the urgent need for competition control in the light of transition to the Social Market Economy which will gradually lead to liberation of the prices, allowing a growing role for the private sector in the current comprehensive economic development in Syria. He also indicated that the new law will also meet the urgent need to ensure the prices actual subjugation to free equal competition which is unaffected by market forces monopoly practices that may harm the economy and consumer at the same time.

And Finally.. Official Report: GDP grew to 6.5 percent in 2007 and Exports grew to 770 Billion SP – Some interesting breakdowns (the English version is yet to be published)

One additional update on inflation.. Syrian Official Satellite TV just announced a list of society segments that can benefit exclusively from lower Mazot prices. Family cards (daftar el-3a’la) will be used to identify such segments who could get heating diesel for extremely low prices. It is similar to coupons for the poorer segment of society.

Additionally, Syria last week suddenly announced that a certain amount of fuel will be allowed to exit Syria in cars transiting through Syria or exiting from it. Lebanese, Jordanian and Iraqi taxi, truck and bus drivers used to smuggle loads of petrol on each trip. Now they can still do that but they would have to pay on the boarders 45 SP (1 USD) for each liter of petrol going out of Syria. Good steps to redistribute the support to the real people in need.

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April 7th, 2008, 6:59 pm

 

7. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji said: Amazing how engineers are always simply the best at everything…

Careful, Naji. I think that eye doctors are sometimes the best at everything…

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April 7th, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

8. Naji said:

QN,
Nah… Don’t let anybody fool you… they couldn’t do it without the engineers… 😉

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April 7th, 2008, 7:07 pm

 

9. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki

What do you plan to study when you finish your high school?

True, Engineers are the best, but don’t listen to Naji and Alex. if you are more attracted to medicine go for it.

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April 7th, 2008, 7:17 pm

 

10. offended said:

Forget about engineering and medicine.

QN, go for fashion design. When the next president gets elected, Lebanon will be back as stable and as prosperous as ever. You will get to make money and meet hot girls at the same time. But you need to grow few years older. Probably grow your moustache as well. Okay in the fashion world you need to look a bit suave, forget about the moustache. A ponytail will do good.

Okay where were we?

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April 7th, 2008, 7:27 pm

 

11. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

I’m actually thinking about going into modeling.

I might keep up my amateur interests in the Middle East by starting a blog, though, like you and Joshua.

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April 7th, 2008, 7:29 pm

 

12. offended said:

Forget about engineering and medicine.

QN, go for fashion design. When the next president gets elected, Lebanon will be back as stable and prosperous as ever. You will get to make money and meet hot girls at the same time. But you need to grow few years older. Probably grow your moustache as well. Okay in the fashion world you need to look a bit suave, forget about the moustache. A ponytail will do good.

Okay where were we???

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April 7th, 2008, 7:29 pm

 

13. Shai said:

QN,

Is that Alex and Joshua in the picture? I didn’t know camels were indigenous to Canada… 🙂

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April 7th, 2008, 8:00 pm

 

14. ghassan said:

What is the story about Asef Shawkat? If he is not under house or did not commit suicide (with 2 shots to his head) yet, he could easily have a press conference to deny the story!!!

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April 7th, 2008, 8:04 pm

 

15. Qifa Nabki said:

They’re not indigenous; they’re immigrants, like the rest of us!

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April 7th, 2008, 8:07 pm

 

16. Shai said:

QN,

Ok… that makes sense, then. Are there many deserts in Canada?

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April 7th, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

17. Alex said:

QN

Why are you so defensive? …You should be proud of your achievements at this early age.

Ghassan,

How many press conferences did Asef have in the past 20 years?

How many photos of him did you see?

There is one at the funeral of Hafez Assad, and another one.

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April 7th, 2008, 8:49 pm

 

18. Qifa Nabki said:

It’s official:

Murr Quits Aoun, Supports Berri’s Arab Tour

MP Michel Murr officially announced on Monday that he broke away from the Change and Reform Parliamentary bloc to “maintain my independence.”
“I am neither with the opposition, nor with the majority,” Murr told reporters.

“I’ve been independent ever since I started my political career … I support any side that can promote a settlement,” Murr added.

He declared support for the separate Arab tours launched by Premier Fouad Saniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

However, Murr said he has “high hopes” on the outcome of Berri’s Arab tour.

“Every body awaits the outcome of Speaker Berri’s Arab tour, especially his visits to Damascus and Riyadh. These are the two major capitals and Speaker Berri can play a major role during this tour,” Murr added.

“If (Berri’s) Arab tour was positive, and if Syria and Saudi Arabia dismantled major obstacles … that would reflect positively on dialogue,” Murr said.

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April 7th, 2008, 8:50 pm

 

19. Zenobia said:

lol.
young people like Qifa Nabki change so fast…. to be 17 or 18, in every picture they look different…

but for sure, break out of the engineering obsession…. branch out… enough is enough with the engineering…

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April 7th, 2008, 9:01 pm

 

20. ausamaa said:

And whose “man” is MP Michel Al Murr in the end?!

And for all those interested in and worried about Al Harriri invistigation, why is this deafening silence on your side here about the disappearence of your top notch wittness Zuhair Al Siddiq?? Is the seeming worry about the whereabouts of Assif Shawkat a way to deflect attention from this major “unfortunate” development in the Harriri truth seeking crussade?

Many are very well-informed, observant and “objective” here. But mostely when it is convenient and suitable, it seems!!!!

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April 7th, 2008, 9:14 pm

 

21. Qifa Nabki said:

Whose man indeed? Not Michel Aoun’s, apparently.

The FPM has been having some hiccups recently… not just with Murr. They postponed their internal elections because of disagreements about something related to the VP candidates…

It will be very interesting to see what happens to the FPM-Hizbullah alliance, once this crisis is over. At the present time, with all attention focused on the deadlock between majority and opposition, it’s very easy for people to put their concerns on the back burner, and grin and bear it until they bring the government down.

Once they are back in the parliament, one wonders whether the signs of strain will begin to show — not just between the FPM and Hizbullah, but also between the various parties making up the March 14 alliance.

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April 7th, 2008, 9:32 pm

 

22. SimoHurtta said:


Apr 7, 2008 21:57
‘Report on Sept. 6 strike to show Saddam transferred WMDs to Syria’

So Saddam moved WMD’s = North Korean nuclear experts to Syria to a halve ready reactor. And it took several years for Americans and Israelis to notice that transport despite all the satellites and AWACs around and above Iraq before the attack.

A good “packet” to add Saddam, North Korea, Iran and nukes in the same report.

Well this is getting interesting, let’s see what they invent next. 🙂

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April 7th, 2008, 9:36 pm

 

23. ausamaa said:

Right, keep wishing for them and they might happen. All those innocent preditions I mean! But with Syria next door, always expect it to be two steps ahead of others in the game.

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April 7th, 2008, 9:40 pm

 

24. idaf said:

QN,

Honestly, I can’t help but continue to notice that you have a personal issue with Aoun. Why? What is it that annoy you so much about Aoun?

Is it the fact that he is one of the few totally independent Lebanese politicians? Not under the influence of the Saudis, French, Americans, Syrians, or others?

Is it because he is one of the least corrupt of the Lebanese mega-corruption political Zua’ama?

Is because he is one of the least sectarian of the Lebanese Zu’ama? His political party is one of the few in Lebanon that includes people from all major sects.

Is it because of his choices of alliances (which happens to be based on national interests)?

Is it because of his crusade to lawfully go after corrupt Zu’ama in Lebanon regardless of how long they have been in power? This is for example, why he is insisting in getting the Justice ministry in each government reshuffle since coming back to Lebanon from exile.

In my opinion, this is a man worth respect among the muddy sectarian and corrupt Lebanese Zu’ama circle. I used to respect him when he was against the Syrian-Lebanese corruption network in Lebanon during his exile and now while he is putting up with pressure to keep his independence and follow principled (and unpopular) Lebanese national choices.

At least this is the view from the outside.

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April 7th, 2008, 9:45 pm

 

25. Honest Patriot said:

Idaf,

If I may give an independent opinion (nothing to do with QN and I did NOT coordinate with him — he is so elusive!), I will give you my reaction – as a fairly independent, distant, observer, with probably the disadvantage of being exposed mainly to US media. I’ll quote your statements in italic then provide my impression.

Aoun:

one of the few totally independent Lebanese politicians

True

one of the least corrupt of the Lebanese mega-corruption political Zua’ama

True

one of the least sectarian of the Lebanese Zu’ama

True

His political party is one of the few in Lebanon that includes people from all major sects.

Ehem, well, in what proportion? Doesn’t really compute here. I don’t think. The communist party did much better in its days. So did the Socialist party.

his choices of alliances (which happens to be based on national interests)?

Ehem (again), well, yes, that seems to be a problem not so much for who his allies are (after all they are Lebanese with full entitlement), but for what they really were after: foiling of the tribunal by any means, putting the country at risk by operating as state-within-the-state while launching operations not sanctioned by the National will nor vetted through the state. Big Problem here.
It was also a major flip-flopping by Aoun. Doesn’t seem driven by what he thought best for the country. Seemed driven by whatever alliance would give him more political power and increase his chances at realizing his personal ambition of becoming president. Sure, he is sincere in believing he is the panacea if indeed he can become president. Sincere doesn’t make him right.

his crusade to lawfully go after corrupt Zu’ama in Lebanon regardless of how long they have been in power? This is for example, why he is insisting in getting the Justice ministry in each government reshuffle since coming back to Lebanon from exile.

Well, we’re all for this. (At least most of us decent folk who really crave a real civic sense and plain-old-honesty in the “bilad”). Again not necessarily representing QN here but if that’s the only mission Aoun is after, he would have gotten support from 95% of the Lebanese. We like that about Aoun. Sort of like the Eliot Spitzer of Lebanon…. Oops, never mind, or just focus on the good public actions of Spitzer not the scandal.

a man worth respect among the muddy sectarian and corrupt Lebanese Zu’ama circle. I used to respect him when he was against the Syrian-Lebanese corruption network in Lebanon during his exile and now while he is putting up with pressure to keep his independence and follow principled (and unpopular) Lebanese national choices

Worth respect? yes, maybe as you say for his stands against corruption.

Following principled (and unpopular) Lebanese national choices ?
Ehem, not really. Aoun had reneged on the principles he espoused for the political governance of the country (not the corruption thing). YouTube is filled with clips where he stated in the past positions which he now contradicts. Sorry, he doesn’t seem that principled to me. He does seem quite a bit power hungry. Sincere, yes, but inflexible to small perturbations that would make him function well, and, instead, amenable easily to 180-degree-flips (like Spin-Flips in Physics — sorry for that analogy).

Now that I’ve tried at an answer I wouldn’t be surprised to see our hero QN come up with a much shorter and more convincing definitive answer. And so it goes.

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April 8th, 2008, 12:07 am

 

26. Qifa Nabki said:

Idaf,

I will admit that I reserve a special place for Aoun, in my pantheon of annoying politicians. And I think you can guess why.

It is precisely because of much of what you said about him. Aoun, to me, is a great disappointment. He was a patriot, independent-minded, willing to fight for many of the right things (abolishing sectarianism, corruption, etc.) He, unlike most of the current faces, was alone in his defense of Lebanon during the 90’s, lobbying Europe and the U.S. all the way up until 2005 to end Syria’s dominance. So what’s my problem, then?

My problem is that Aoun allowed himself to be manipulated by the very forces that he spent his life fighting (both in Lebanon and in exile), for the sake of his ultimate goal: the Lebanese presidency. Maybe he didn’t have a choice. In the 2005 elections, everybody lined up against him (including Hizbullah), and March 14 made the mistake of underestimating him and then snubbing him completely as a future presidential candidate. That was an unforgivable mistake on the part of March 14.

However, his decision to take part in Syria’s game was a great betrayal, to my mind. Many of the things that you say about him are true, and if he were acting on his own (i.e. not with Syrian patronage) then I would probably be supporting him. With things the way they are, however, I believe that he completely sold out.

If the opposition succeeds in bringing down the government, it will only be a victory for the Syrian regime, not for Lebanon (and not for Syria). All of the legitimate causes that the opposition espouses (sincerely or insincerely) will be swept away.

You see, everything depends on one’s frame of reference. You believe that Syria has no predatory intentions towards Lebanon any more, and so Aoun has no reason to be antagonistic towards Syria. I believe that Syria cannot afford to let Lebanon go; it is a matter of regime survival. They need more than a “friendly” government in Lebanon; they need a government that they can monitor very closely and control to a considerable extent.

Aoun is a part of this strategy, and this is what frustrates me most.

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April 8th, 2008, 12:41 am

 

27. Honest Patriot said:

HP said: Now that I’ve tried at an answer I wouldn’t be surprised to see our hero QN come up with a much shorter and more convincing definitive answer. And so it goes.

Precisely. Except for the “much shorter” bit.

I think I’m going to become a fortune-teller. Not.

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April 8th, 2008, 12:55 am

 

28. Honest Patriot said:

QN said (of Aoun): everybody lined up against him (including Hizbullah).
My sister, who lives in Lebanon, tells me that such line-up (other than from Hizbullah) was because Aoun came on so strong insisting on reopening a whole bunch of financial files and exposing previous corruption and theft, etc.
Given that most, if not all, zu3ama are thieves, then everybody lined up against him
It appears to have been a case of too much zeal on his part and not enough political savvy. Sure it would be nice to clean house from corruption and account for all past sins, but Aoun seems to have gotten his priorities wrong. There would have been time for all this. But now it’s all history.

Corruption is one of the saddest parts of life in Lebanon. An acquaintance who is a Christian pastor in Lebanon illustrated this to me by giving me an example of what happens to a charitable donation of, say $2Million to purchase, say, supplies, for a very large school. Apparently by the time that money gets to the supplies vendor, it would have been discounted by 90% to a mere $200K. Where does the 90% go? I guess one could call it “management fees.” Aoun may be right that such ills are at the core of what limits the country and they need to be dealt with and rectified perhaps even in a revolutionary way. But sadly he failed. His approach was too blunt. Impedance mismatched. Then he started playing politics. Now we don’t like him any more.

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April 8th, 2008, 1:02 am

 

29. Qifa Nabki said:

HP, my family says the same thing.

But people call for this kind of thing all the time in Lebanon, so I don’t think that it was really what did him in. I personally believe that it was Jumblatt, who feared Aoun overshadowing him as a national figure, after Hariri’s death.

Amin Gemayel today called Frangieh’s suggestion about the 1960 electoral law “positive” because it restricted the opposition’s demand. Frangieh has publicly said (and repeated) “Give us the 1960 law, and take whatever you want.”

I believe that March 14 has acted very stupidly and recklessly in not seizing this opportunity. It was clearly, to my mind, a non-too-subtle signal from the opposition that they would be willing to drop their request for a veto, in exchange for the 1960 law.

In my opinion, March 14 should take this deal. The 1960 law will have to be amended slightly because it is quite out of date in terms of electoral district maps, etc. It may cost them seats in some areas, come 2009, but many things will have changed by then. Sometimes, too, people just have to take their chances. If March 14 waits until 2009, I think they will come away with even less.

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April 8th, 2008, 1:16 am

 

30. MSK said:

Dear all,

Speaking about Aoun’s & the FPM’s transparency and not being corrupt:

“Perceived cronyism led to delay of FPM vote – source”

The postponement of Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) internal elections may be the result of in-house resistance toward perceived cronyism within the party itself, well-informed sources told The Daily Star on Monday. The FPM elections, initially scheduled to take place on May 4, were postponed for six months by FPM leader MP Michel Aoun for reasons that remain somewhat unclear.

The postponement of the elections was initially reported by local newspapers over the weekend, and was attributed to the objection of FPM officials to expanded authorities given to Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, who is currently the party’s political relations officer.

Continue reading here:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=90744

Even the service drivers in Beirut say “All Aoun wants is to be president, even if he has to destroy the whole country on the way!” 😉

Cheers,

–MSK*

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April 8th, 2008, 7:48 am

 

31. Naji said:

The good news is that MSK has finally deigned to listen to the service drives…!! Perhaps after a few more rides outside Solidaire he will start to hear other opinions about The General…!? 😉

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April 8th, 2008, 10:28 am

 

32. MSK said:

Naji,

For someone who doesn’t know who I am, where I work, where I live, how often I take service (and microbuses) and who my friends are … you assume quite an awful lot about me.

And seeing how I don’t know much about you, let’s start with a question: Why do you keep referring to Michel Aoun as “The General”?

–MSK*

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April 8th, 2008, 11:51 am

 

33. Naji said:

MSK,
You are right… I do assume an awful lot about you… sometimes out of irritation, sometimes just to tease, …but, I must say, you have been a good sport about it… 🙂

As to why I call Aoun The General, … I don’t know… somehow none of the other available titles: The Sayyed, The Sheikh, The Doctor, The Beik… etc seem to really work for him…! 😉 Every Lebanese politicians has to be called by some title of “reverence”, as you know…!! Aoun’s supporters often refer to him as the General…

Anyway, since you do live around here these days, perhaps we can meet up someday and have our own mini SC conference… I like to travel in Lebanon often… and if you ever find yourself near Damascus, perhaps I could buy you a beer to make up…!

In the mean time, I’ll try to stop picking on you… 🙂

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April 8th, 2008, 12:26 pm

 

34. Naji said:

…and MSK, you will be surprised just how much I do know about you, though… Syrians control everything in Lebanon, you know… 😉 I know all about your movements from Iraq to Berlin to California to Beirut… watch out… I do know who are and where you live… 🙂

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April 8th, 2008, 12:34 pm

 

35. MSK said:

Naji,

I don’t use those “honorifics”. And I find most of them dumb. Sa’d Hariri is no “shaykh”, the fact that Geagea happens to be a medical doctor doesn’t mean s***, and since I’m not a believer, I don’t care that Nasrallah counts the prophet Muhammad among his ancestors. The only one where the title is (somewhat) appropriate is “beg” for Junblat — it’s an aristo title, handed down from the father through the family, and he’s certainly earned it by now. Please note that it’s a value-neutral title. It’s a position more than anything else. And still I wouldn’t use it.

For Aoun, the whole “il-jiniraal” it just reinforces his own view that he (and only he) is the savior of Lebanon. Whatever … seems like every country has its Napoleon. And we all know how he ended …

–MSK*

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April 8th, 2008, 1:36 pm

 

36. Qifa Nabki said:

Maybe Haifa Wehbe should be the consensus candidate.

I shudder to think of what her “honorific” would be…

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April 8th, 2008, 1:57 pm

 

37. Naji said:

…actually, Geagea only went to one year of med school, but, as you said, whatever…

I have lived many places, as you have, and it is always amusing to discover the local political ritual and folklore…

I do sometimes find it irritating that you are often ready to make definitive pronouncements on a particular topic, and without having the fullest grasp on the facts. I am still willing to buy you that beer though…

Cheers… 🙂

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April 8th, 2008, 2:01 pm

 

38. Naji said:

QN,
When Berri was once asked to comment on the “quality vs quantity” remark that upset everyone when the young, now late, Bibo Gmayel made in one of his speeches… Berri responded: When they have a Haifa Wehbe let them come back and talk to us about quality…!! So, Haifa already has Berri’s vote, and does already have many honorifics… 😉

Really must do some work or watch the senate hearings on Iraq right now…

Later… 🙂

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April 8th, 2008, 2:09 pm

 

39. MSK said:

Naji,

You said:

I do sometimes find it irritating that you are often ready to make definitive pronouncements on a particular topic, and without having the fullest grasp on the facts.

Well … OR I do have the fullest grasp & am right? 😉

–MSK*

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April 8th, 2008, 2:12 pm

 

40. Alex said:

Hariri Assassination Witness Disappears in France, Arabiya Says
2008-04-08 10:16 (New York)

By Massoud A. Derhally
April 8 (Bloomberg) — A witness in the assassination of
former Lebanese Prime Minster Rafiq Hariri has disappeared from
his home in France, Al-Arabiya reported, citing French Foreign
Minister Bernard Kouchner.
The Dubai-based news channel identified the witness as
Mohammad Zuhayr al-Siddiq, a Syrian national who has lived in
France since 2005. Al-Arabiya said earlier this month that
Siddiq was not to be found at the home where he had been staying
outside Paris.

Kouchner said he didn’t know the circumstances in which
Siddiq, who was living in France under police protection, had
disappeared. Kouchner said he was “the first to be sorry”
about the disappearance, Al-Arabiya said.

How stupid do they think we are?!

So after Fracne kept their favorite Hariri witness hidden for years … now he .. disappeared.

If Syria did one of these, everyone would be interpreting it as proof that the Syrians are hiding something. But France is a democracy, so no need to wonder about anything not proper.

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April 8th, 2008, 3:34 pm

 

41. Qifa Nabki said:

It is puzzling, and troubling.

So Alex what are you suggesting? That the French took him out?

Maybe.

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April 8th, 2008, 3:57 pm

 

42. Naji said:

Al-Kataeb claimed on their web-site a few days ago that they had exclusive information that Siddiq and his family somehow made it to Abu Dhabi…??!! …perhaps he snuck out in one of those crates they are using to ship the Louvre there…??!!

I don’t know if you remember the NewTV kid who went to Paris and got an interview with the Siddiq and then got arrested and spent a month cooling his heels in jail upon his return to Beirut, but he did a report a couple of days ago on the high security he found around the Siddiq in Paris when he was interviewing him… Basically, the guy could not go ANYWHERE without at least 3 secret agents accompanying him and the kid had to interview him with them sitting one on either side of the Siddiq and the third blocking the exit…!! Even if he did get away from his guards, and with today’s paranoia at airports and border crossings, it is indeed a cause for concern if such a high-profile witness/admitted-accomplice in the crime of the century could make it across… and with his family…!!?? So, make your own conclusions about how he managed to get away…

A couple of papers have claimed they had information that the guy was escorted to Abu Dhabi by an M14-ner… but… who knows…?! He could be in Marwan Hmadeh’s house or at the bottom of Beirut harbor, or… in Marbella again…?? Intrigue…

My bet is that he is on his way to join the losers’ “Summit of the Snubbed” with Mubark, Abdulah, and their boy the Siniora, in Cairo tomorrow… 🙂

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April 8th, 2008, 4:45 pm

 

43. Qifa Nabki said:

I think you mean, Summit of the Snubbers.

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April 8th, 2008, 5:54 pm

 

44. Naji said:

No, I insist, “Summit of the Snubbed”…!

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April 8th, 2008, 5:57 pm

 

45. Alex said:

QN

I see it as the “Summit of the idiots and losers”

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April 8th, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

46. Qifa Nabki said:

Habibi ya Alex

To my mind, all Arab summits are populated by idiots and losers (and murderers, tyrants, and kooks).

We have a long way to go…

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April 8th, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

47. Naji said:

QN,
Hear, hear… 🙂

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April 8th, 2008, 7:27 pm

 

48. norman said:

You can call it the summit of the ( Rejectionist to a united Arab front )

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April 12th, 2008, 8:15 pm

 

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