Counting Lebanon’s Shiites as Slaves: Why the Lebanon Deal is Obstructed

The isolation of Syria appears to be breaking as Damascus seeks deals with the Saudis and the Lebanese, writes Nicholas Blanford. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will travel to Syria soon, marking a resumption of high-level contacts between Damascus and the Europeans. The prospect of a thaw with Syria has caused howls of protest from Lebanon's obstructionists who continue to believe that America's plan for changing the Middle East is working. They call on the US to ratchet up military and economic pressure on Iran and Syria in the benighted belief that reform of the Greater Middle East is on the horizon. Michael Young insists in the Daily Star that Syria is on the verge of breaking. He believes Syria will change its policies and fall in line with the US. This is the identical line that Junblatt and Raghida Dergham have been trumpeting.

The biggest assets of the obstructionists is US Ambassador Feltman, who has been working assiduously to keep a deal from being struck in Lebanon. He refuses to allow the Syrians satisfaction on their demand that the establishment of the International tribunal be delayed until after a Lebanon deal is clinched. His fear is that if the Lebanese opposition gets a 19+11 cabinet sharing formula before the Lebanese government signs over permission for an international tribunal, it will never get established. To avoid such a prospect, the US is willing to sacrifice Lebanon's future and any prospects of economic growth for the country. Stagnation and paralysis will continue to be the order of the day in Lebanon. With a deal, all the participants gain. Feltman has a most unusual arrangement with Secretary Rice; he has a weekly video conference with the Secretary  - access of the like only the Ambassador to Iraq can boast. Colonel Pat Lang writes:

Everyone was happy, even giddy about the prospect of a typically muddled but non-violent solution to the impasse in Lebanon.  Today the leaders say "not so fast."  What happened overnight?  Was it Feltman that happened?  Was it Rice? Was it our unending malicious meddling in other people's business? 

Michael Young is particularly outraged because his good friend David Ignatius recommended negotiating with Syria and Iran. Ignatius writes that a senior Bush administration official explained: "We think our Iraq strategy is consistent with Baker-Hamilton. We want to get to the same place, but not on the same time-line." Ignatius proposes that Baker be appointed to begin negotiations with Syria and Israel because the administration's hard line tactics have failed. Ignatius does not believe that Iran and Syria are about to crack.

Martin Kramer supports Michael Young in his belief that the Shiite Crescent is the true enemy of the West and liberty in the region, but his animus is directed at the Iranian end of the crescent, which most directly threatens Israel, and not the Syrian end. In a MERIA article, A New Middle East: Islamism and Terrorism, he argues that only by destroying Iran's nuclear ambitions and arrogant attempts to exploit the Palestinian and Lebanese problems can the West bring peace to the region.

The only problem with this analysis is that it is has led to a long list of failures and the needless death of thousands of Iraqis and Americans. Michael Young recommended the invasion of Iraq in 2003, claiming that the "consociational" Lebanese model of government that has served his country so well would bring peace and happiness to Iraq and quickly be replicated throughout the Middle East. It has taken the West four long years of watching Iraq descend into ferocious civil war to come to grips with the short comings of this analysis. In 2006, Young advocated keeping the incompetent Lahoud as president of Lebanon rather than giving Michel Aoun a chance at elections. (Aoun was the most popular candidate in Lebanon at the time.) This obstructionism led directly to the summer war between Lebanon and Israel. With no prospects of a non-violent adjustment to Lebanon's lopsided power-sharing formula, Hizbullah and its opposition allies fell back on the old formula of "resistance" and demonstrations. When war broke out, Young began excitedly prognosticating that Israel could break Hizbullah and international forces disarm it. He insisted the Shiite party did not represent authentic Lebanese demands, being merely a creature of Iran and Syria. Again, Young's dreams didn't materialize. Instead, the inconclusive war led to paralysis in Lebanon as Hizbullah and the Siniora government stand face to face, each unwilling to bow to the demands of the other. Rather that admit that he has misjudged the opposition or the ability of American and Israeli power to reshape the hearts and minds of Middle Easterners, Young continues to insist that Syria and Hizbullah will buckle if only the US will inflict a bit more pain on them.

Rather than come to grips with the real flaws of Lebanon's democracy, Michael Young, like many other Lebanese, believes that the use of force by foreign powers can preserve the skewed status quo in Lebanon. He wants international forces to disarm the Shiites in the South, and the US to inflict more pain on Syria. The Lebanese obstructionist solution is to import violence into Lebanon and the region. They refuse to allow a "typically muddled but non-violent solution to the impasse." Importing foreign armies to keep the Shiites in their place will only lead to further war and extremism on both sides.

What is wrong with the "consociational" system that is held up as the epitome of Lebanese democracy and power-sharing? Quite simply, it treats Shiites like slaves. In pre-civil war America, black slaves were counted as half a white person. In Lebanon they are accorded the same political weight. Although Shiites are estimated to make up some 40% of the population, the Taif Accords, Lebanon's constitutional arrangement, permit the Shiites only 22% of the seats in parliament.

The defenders of Taif will scoff at this analogy between Lebanese Shiites and American slaves. They will say, "But we don't treat Shiites as slaves. They can vote and they are allocated the third most powerful political office in the land: the President of the Parliament. All true, I admit, but this doesn't obscure the simple fact that Shiites are accorded only half the political worth of other human beings in Lebanon.

Hizbollah and its opposition allies have repeatedly stated that they have no intention of challenging the Taif Accords. Instead they ask for a greater number of cabinet posts. They make these diminutive demands in order not to appear as revolutionaries. They do not want to threaten the Sunnis, who have most to lose from a more equitable power-sharing formula. What the obstructionists fear, however, is that if the governing coalition makes one concession, it will lead to others. It is a slippery slop. If they concede more cabinet positions to the Shiites today, the sons of Hussein will call for a proper census and a reconsideration of Taif tomorrow.

In a recent PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer during which I debated opposite the al-Arabiya reporter Hisham Milhem, I was left speechless when he insisted that the "Shiites wanted to turn Beirut into a Tehran on the Mediterranean." I was not prepared for such super-heated rhetoric. The only way to counter such fear mongering, however, is to shoot back that Beirut today is Mecca on the Mediterranean. Yes, Club Mec. Or, perhaps a cross between the Vatican and Mecca on the Med. Sunnis and Christians enjoy the lion's share of power. The mellifluous and jolly sounding term "consociationalism" cannot hide the ugly fact that Lebanon is a religious state, in which Sunnis and Christians are privileged, politically and economically.

Undoing the mutual fear and resentment which divide the opposition from the governing coalition will not be easy, but obstructing the kind of deal that the Saudis and Egyptians are trying to broker is not the answer. It will invite further violence. Young rightly fears for Lebanon's sovereignty, but only concord among Lebanese can act as proof against foreign influence. Young is one of the smartest hawks in the Lebanese firmament and he has written thoughtfully on the need for a more equitable power-sharing in Lebanon. Now is the time to do it.

At the same time, Michael Young once said to me that if Taif were rewritten and Christians were allocated less than their present 50% share of Parliamentary seats, he might be forced to leave Lebanon. That is a sad comment on the state of Lebanon's consociational system and the prospects for a political deal in the immediate future.

If the United States is sincere about promoting democracy in the most democratic state in the Arab East, burnishing its reputation for justice, and promoting freedom, it cannot stand on the side of counting Shiites as slaves. If any nation in the Middle East has a chance to point the way toward a more tolerant and democratic future, it is Lebanon.

Comments (147)


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101. Gibran said:

Well what should I say to you Alex? Do you think any of the Saud members would care the least about the opinion of some aliased Alex? Positive, negative or neutral.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:01 am

 

102. Syrian said:

Gibran,

Parliamentary elections > Registered voter turnout: 45%

Source
http://www.nationmaster.com/country/le-lebanon/dem-democracy

Then the Lebanese population must have been mis-calculated. There are actually 9 million inhabitants in Lebanon distributed along the percentages specified in Aljazeera.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:04 am

 

103. Gibran said:

Olmert is ready for peace

Olmert backs regional summit to discuss Saudi peace initiative

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel was willing to treat the 2002 Saudi peace initiative “seriously,” and said he supports a regional summit to discuss the plan.

“We have said more than once that the Saudi initiative is a matter which we would be ready to treat seriously and we have not altered our position,” Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“We hope very much that at the meeting of heads of Arab states to take place in Riyadh, the positive elements expressed in the Saudi initiative will be revalidated and will perhaps improve the chances of negotiation between us and the Palestinian Authority.”

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The Saudi initiative calls for normalization of ties between Israel and the entire Arab world in return for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries, as well as an “agreed, just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees in conformity with [UN] Resolution 194.”

The is the first time that the prime minister has backed a regional dialogue on the Saudi plan, although he has previously commented on its “positive elements.”

Abbas, meeting Saturday with MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), reiterated that no changes will be made to the Saudi initiative – as called for by Israel – but urged critics of the plan to explore the initiative before ruling it out.

The initiative is set to be relaunched at the Arab League meeting at the end of the month. It was first adopted by the League at a summit in Beirut in March 2002.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has expressed hopes that changes be made to the initiative, addressing specifically the document’s section on the Palestinian refugees, which was not part of the initial Saudi draft, but was added at the 2002 Beirut summit.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has also stressed that no changes will be made to the current format of the initiative.

SYRIAN,
Now, don’t be overly too ridiculous. Even if the voters turnout was 45% for the sake of the argument, it only means not evryone on the list cast his vote. The percentage composition of the Lebanese would not change as shown by the voter’s list. Now go and take care of some Syrian statistics – bring some liberty, democracy, freedom to your country man. Leave Lebanon alone, it is Democtratic and Free already.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:06 am

 

104. Syrian said:

Alex,

I thought we were not to discuss the Mitri affair until you know who gave direction on how they want us to spin it.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:11 am

 

105. Samir said:

It’s very dangerous for shias to compete with sunnis in the region,they are and will remain a small minority in the islamic and arab world, so sooner or later they will pay heavily their mistakes if they chose to compete with the majority and to be executors of a foreigner agenda.
And if that happen ,then dont be surprised if again they greet with rice the israeli army.
The lebanese sunnis have relatives inside Syria,many are married to syrians and palestinians..100 000′s of syrians and palestinians are resident in Lebanon.
So there is several facts which are not in favour of the shias of lebanon,they are geographicaly isolated in a small land ,they dont have family ties outside lebanon ,even not in Syria.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:12 am

 

106. Syrian said:

Gibran,

Sorry you need to take your ball and go home.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:13 am

 

107. Gibran said:

SYRIAN
Sorry SYRIAN you seem so ridiculous. It is unbelievable. I thought you have brains. It is more like hay inside. O’ did you say 9 million inhabitants in Lebanon? If that’s the case, what should the Lebanese fear? We can easily build a 1 million man army and march on Syria to liberate it from its dictator. I wish.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:19 am

 

108. Syrian said:

Dear Moron,

45% voter turnout and 3,000,000 voters leaves number of eligible voters at 6,666,666. With 25% of the population not eligible to vote means total population of 8,888,888 people. Now either population is 3.5 million with voter turnout of 45% makes aljazeera numbers suspect (at least how you chose to use them) or all the problems cited by others in using those numbers are valid. EITHER WAY YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT THE SHI’A BEING 27% OF THE LEBANESE POPULATION. Where on the SLIDE you referenced do you see the source as the official government voter list. IT CLEARLY SAYS SOURCE BBC WEBSITE AND CIA WORLD FACTBOOK OR DO YOU NOT READ ARABIC.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:28 am

 

109. Samir said:

Lebanese Muslims outnumber Christians’

November 13 2006 at 03:39PM

By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent

Beirut – Lebanon’s political system, which is once again in crisis, aims to share power equally between Christians and Muslims, but a survey published on Monday shows that Christians form only 35 percent of the population.

Private statistician Youssef al-Duweihi, a Maronite Christian, said his figures were based on identity registration records and electoral rolls throughout the country.

“This is scientific, not political,” he told Reuters by telephone from his north Lebanon home. “I want to tell the Lebanese this is Lebanon and if there is a problem, resolve it.”

According to his survey, published in the independent an-Nahar newspaper, Lebanon has 4,855-million people, of whom just over 35 percent are Christian, 29 percent Shi’a Muslim, 29 percent Sunni Muslim and 5 percent Druze.

Such figures are so sensitive in Lebanon that the last official census was conducted in 1932 during the French Mandate, which said Christians made up 55 percent of the population.

Duweihi, a mathematician, said his survey showed Lebanon’s demography was at odds with the power-sharing setup. “It’s time to discuss the political system and the electoral law,” he said.

His figures appeared at a time of political crisis that pits an anti-Syrian majority coalition government against the Shi’a Hezbollah and Amal factions backed by a Christian group.

If Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government falls, there may be calls for new parliamentary elections, reopening controversy over how to reform a Syrian-designed electoral law that most Lebanese leaders say should be scrapped.

The Taif agreement which ended the 1975-90 civil war modified the complex religious power-sharing system, set up at the birth of modern Lebanon in 1943. Taif gave Muslims and Christians equal representation in parliament instead of the 6 to 5 advantage Christians had enjoyed previously.

It stipulated that the president should remain a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shi’a, while calling for the eventual abolition of the system that distributes state posts among Lebanon’s 17 recognised sects.

Duweihi’s figures show the number of Lebanese entitled to passports, not the number actually residing in the country. Lebanon also hosts more than 400 000 Palestinian refugees and a substantial number of Syrian and other guest workers.

Abdo Saad, the director of the Beirut Centre for Research and Information, said Duweihi’s results appeared “reasonable”, but added that he did not know what methodology he had used.

Saad said he had had access to Interior Ministry figures in 2000, which showed Christians made up about 33 percent of the population, Shi’as 31,5 percent and Sunnis about 30 percent.

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March 12th, 2007, 1:39 am

 

110. Alex said:

Gibran,

No, nothing dramatic, you’re right.

But this blog by “landis” that you are not too impressed with, happens to be very well read. For example, here is one place my piece last week was copied as is;

Saudi Arabia and the Arab Summit

Syria’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been strained at best since Syrian president Bashar al-Asad’s August 15, 2006, speech in which he railed against Arab leaders who did not support Hizballah in the war against Israel — notably Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Asad described such leaders as “half men.” The deterioration in their relations has been compounded by Syria’s suspected involvement in the killing of Hariri, a Saudi citizen, and by Syria’s implication of Saudi Arabia in the September 2006 attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus. In December, Syrian vice president Farouk al-Shara attributed the strain to personal reasons: “We Arabs become angry and calm down quickly.” In Saudi eyes, his statement trivialized the depth of the problems between the two states.

Most recently, the relationship suffered a flare-up after a caustic op-ed appeared in the Saudi-owned London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. Although the newspaper consistently reflects the Saudi position on issues, and is notoriously anti-Syrian, Abdul Rahman al-Rashid’s March 4 article pushed the envelope. A former editor of the paper, he outlined Saudi grievances — including Asad’s August speech and Syrian attempts to bring down the Lebanese government — and claimed Syria had lost nearly everything in the Middle East as a result of its leadership’s inexperience and miscalculations. He added that Syria was even risking its alliance with Iran and predicted the upcoming Arab Summit could not save Syria from a dark future.

For its part, Damascus has sought to project a very different image. According to Syrian sources, Saudi King Abdullah sent Asad a personal invitation to the Arab Summit via an emissary in February. Asad assured the emissary that he would attend and conveyed his personal respect for the king and the importance of the Saudi-Syrian relationship. The summit will include separate bilateral talks between Abdullah and Asad. In the wake of the invitation, the Syrian media has shown a noticeably more positive tone toward Saudi Arabia.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:03 am

 

111. Gibran said:

Dear Hay-Packed SYRIAN
Assuming %45 of voter turnout as you claimed, means out of a total of 3,007,927 eligible voters as on government records only 1,353,567 cast their votes (3,007,927 * 45% = 1,353,567). That leaves the total number of eligible voters at 3,007,927 and would leave the percentage composition of voters as in the voter’s list.
Now, I am not sure you can do any good to your country with so much hay packed under your skull. Let some other brighter Syrian take care. But, please get the hell out of Lebanese statistics affairs, will you? You don’t even know how to multiply!

Thanks Samir for the important information in your latest post. Perhaps, Landis and his chorus will reflect and come back to their senses. But to tell you the truth, I doubt these ideologues would listen to reason.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:04 am

 

112. Syrian said:

Moron

You keep referring to the voter list. Where the hell is the voter list. What you referred to is Aljhazeera.net slide that is based on the BBC and CIA world fact book and that is presented with no description of how it was contructed. We presented you with sources that are as credible as any that can be found on the web that Says the Shi’a represent 40 percent of the Lebanese population but you keep referring to this mythical voter list. Even Samir’s article shows an estimated distribution of registered voters based on the 2000 interior ministry records. If you were a disenfranchised shi’a why would you bother to register to vote. If you already know who is going to win the election because a big chunk of the parliamentary seats were won by default, why would you bother register to vote and then vote anyway. Are you really so ideologically driven to continue to deny that there is a tragic under-representation of a Lebanese sector of society or are you just too dump to understand the difference between voting, voting registrations and population?

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March 12th, 2007, 2:16 am

 

113. Gibran said:

Courtesy of Samir above:
“Private statistician Youssef al-Duweihi, a Maronite Christian, said his figures were based on identity registration records and electoral rolls throughout the country.

“This is scientific, not political,” he told Reuters by telephone from his north Lebanon home. “I want to tell the Lebanese this is Lebanon and if there is a problem, resolve it.”

According to his survey, published in the independent an-Nahar newspaper, Lebanon has 4,855-million people, of whom just over 35 percent are Christian, 29 percent Shi’a Muslim, 29 percent Sunni Muslim and 5 percent Druze.”

Now buzz off stupid SYRIAN.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:23 am

 

114. Syrian said:

By the way, I did not claim anything about voter turnout. The 45% figure comes from a documented web source, if you bother to click the link you will see that they have all kinds of statistics about all kinds of countries. For example it states

Parliamentary elections > Turnout: 0.0% (1998)

for syria. No one here will doubt this number. Or are they regime apologists who are trying to cast Lebanon in a bad light too???

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March 12th, 2007, 2:28 am

 

115. EHSANI2 said:

Gibran,

Your participation on this forum has been a massive dissapointment.

I have learnt absolutely nothing from you. Given the frequency of your participation, it is regrettable that you have added precious little to our collective knowledge or understanding of the issues.

Your main pitfall is that you think that you have a monopoly over the truth. You also have the other negative baggage of labeling people according to a tired and sick formula.

You will surely not take my words here well. Sadly, you will again act very predictably. You will go on a tirade against me and everyone else who disagrees with your idiotic general characterizations of people, events and history.

You seem to have convinced yourself that your participation here is necessary because you are fulfilling a higher mission of some kind.

Let me just tell you that you are making a fool of yourself every time you decide to write.

Your message is incredibly repetitive and lacking in depth or breadth. It is like playing an ugly tune over and over.

Please do most of us a favor and do something else in your sad life. You must surely be able to find something other than writing repetitive nonsense on Syriacomment.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:34 am

 

116. Gibran said:

EHSANI
I have a lot of good things going for me in life. Honestly, I don’t need your advise with all due respect to your opinion which I know you think has some ‘distinctiveness’ to it. I’d suggest that you skip my comments and make the most of your time at Syriacomment. It is easy. I do the same to most of the comments (including yours most often).

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March 12th, 2007, 2:38 am

 

117. Syrian said:

Moron

Samir’s article is fine in that it comes with the caveat that we do not know the methodology employed. That does not negate the arguments that Voting rolls do not necessarily reflect population breakdown.

At least the article does not come as the absolute truth that cannot be denied. Unlike the Aljazeera slide which was written by Jesus himself. If you want to say that 29% of registered voters in Lebanon are Shi’a I’ll agree with you. But do not try and take that to the next level of trying to determine population. Doing that will just exaggerate the errors inherently present in the voter registration tendency of the different groups.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:40 am

 

118. Syrian said:

Ehsani,

Gibran’s advice is worth taking. he skips most comments and from what he writes, it seems that he skips most of his own comments too.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:43 am

 

119. EHSANI2 said:

Gibran,

The fact that you don’t read the comments of the people you don’t like is rather obvious. This is evident by the fact that you don’t seem to have learnt much from your experience here. I must admit that, contrary to your failed tactics, I do try to read your comments. I do so because I keep hoping that you would have learnt something from the many other thoughtful and intelligent commentators here. Regrettably, I am yet to detect any change in your tone or the one-dimensional nature of your commentary.

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March 12th, 2007, 2:45 am

 

120. Gibran said:

OK EHSANI, from time to time I’ll read your comments. I’ll be just curious to know your ‘distinctive’ opinion about my progress in my Syriacomment journey. It means so much to me. You must know from this that I read your last comment at least.

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March 12th, 2007, 3:08 am

 

121. ausamaa said:

GIBRAN,

Do not worry, just hang in there, sooner or later some one will see your point. Meanwhile, do you see any possibility that after the International Tribunal has concluded its work, and after Hizballah and the Palestinans have been disarmed, of any chance of some sort of a Union or Fedration between Syria and Lebanon? Like the Syrian Lebanese Arab Republic, or just Syrian Lebanese Republic?

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March 12th, 2007, 3:22 am

 

122. K said:

All the propaganda in the world will not change Hizballah into the nationalistic, social-justice activist organization imagined by the segments of the global Left. Talk yourselves blue, propagandists, but long after you lose your breath Hizballa will remain a sectarian Shi’a fundamentalist organization, used as a tool by Iran and Syria.

Landis – the representation of Shi’a in parliament is NOT an item on the agenda. It has nothing to do with the current situation. I support a restructuring of Lebanon’s parliamentary system to increase Shi’a representation. But I refuse to even discuss this or any other issue so long as Hizballa is armed to the teeth (by foreign imperialist powers), more powerful than the Lebanese Army. Forget it. The obvious path is to arm myself, to negotiate with them on level ground. But he March 14 leaders act under certain restraints that have prevented this path – so far.

The real issue on the agenda is the Hariri tribunal. What is its significance? It is Lebanon’s one and only tool against the tyrannical Ba’thist regime that terrorizes Lebanon with car bombs and assassinations, killing out innocent civilians, journalists and politicians. That’s why it matters to me. Not because I care about Rafiq Hariri. I want Syria to be punished for its crimes and prevented from hurting its tiny defenseless neighbor, Lebanon.

Until the day I am powerful enough to resist Syria myself, I have no choice but to call for outside help in this endeavor. So far, March 14 hasn’t called for violence against Syria, but for UN resolutions, diplomatic pressure from friendly countries (ex-friendly), and sanctions. Now, I wish reliance on foreign powers were unnecessary. I wish the Syrian people would rise up and overthrow the evil Ba’th themselves – that is the ideal scenario for regime change. But I’m not just going to sit around with my fingers crossed.

This underlies the present deadlock. It’s not March 14 “obstructing”. It’s Syria obstructing through its Lebanese tools. It’s Syria, panicking that a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement leaves out Syria’s one single concern – averting judgment for its killing spree in Lebanon.

That’s why the Hizballa-led opposition demands a “blocking third” in cabinet – to veto and bury our own single weapon against the Syrian regime, the Hariri tribunal. But how does Landis frame this demand? “Hizballa is a social justice organization struggling for Shi’a rights. Hizballa is so moderate, instead of revolutionizing the Lebanese confessional system, they’re only asking for a few cabinet seats, as a compromise.” Ludicrous. Poisonous.

It’s not just disingenous when you blame March 14 for calling on foreign powers to intervene militarily on their behalf. It’s sheer deception. Let me put it this way: As long as Iran and Syria arm and use Hizballa, I have the right to ask America and France to intervene on my behalf. I am powerless to fight them myself, using domestic political tools, so long as they are an armed force, answering to foreign capitals (tyrannical dictatorships, I add in passing). I will not bow down to their bullying so easily. I will call on outside help.

And I will never be enslaved by my foreign patrons, as they are. March 14 does not organize massive rallies chanting “Thank you USA, thank you France”, while Hizballa does chant “Thank you Iran and Syria.” March 14 does not wave portraits of Bush and Chirac; Hizballa waves pictures of Bashar and Ahmadinejad, and scream “we sacrifice our soul and blood to you”. March 14 does not incite its followers to chant “Death to Syria! Death to Iran!” while the Shi’a mob’s favorite chant of all is “Death to America!”

When I enter my own capital city, Beirut, I am confronted on the Airport Road (Hizballa territory) by the ugly mugs of Shi’a fundamentalist tyrants from Iran, like Khomeini and Khamene’i. (I find this deeply offensive. Seriously, try the mind experiment. Would a Chilean like to see Kissinger portraits in his hometown? Would any person like to see the evil face of any dictator from any foreign country in her own town?)

My neighborhood, in contrast will never EVER sport the mug of any tyrant from any nation in history, whether he funded my movement or not. I would sooner emigrate.

SO, Landis – don’t lecture me about reliance on foreign powers. There is NO COMPARISON between March 14′s relationship with the West and 90% of the international community, and Hizballa’s relationship with Iran and Syria who arm the militia, order it into war (at Lebanon’s expense), send it to paralyze Lebanon’s politics and economy to protect their own asses from judgment by the international community.

I remember your old post after the Hariri assassination where you gave kind advice to Lebanon and its movement for freedom from Syrian colonization. Put the past behind you, you advocated. Close the file on Hariri, abandon all (non-Syrian) foreign help, and re-establish “good relations” with Syria – that is, bow to Syrian mastery. We’ll save ourselves a lot of bloodshed that way. Of course you knew what you were talking about, issuing threats on behalf of the Syrian regime, threats duly carried out by these killers.

My response to you then was NEVER. And my response to you now is NEVER, again.

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March 12th, 2007, 3:43 am

 

123. Gibran said:

AUSSAMAA
I didn’t expect you to be completely out of your mind. Sorry, man you’re hopeless case.

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March 12th, 2007, 4:00 am

 

124. ausamaa said:

GIBRAN,

Well, I just thought it might be a good idea.. I mean merging Lebanese deomcracy, liberalisem, networking skills and enrepenurship with Syria’s population, natural resources and access to nieghbouring markets. You know, sort of like the Mainland China and Hongkong deal.

Anyway, just a thought…

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March 12th, 2007, 4:46 am

 

125. Gibran said:

AUSSAMA
We have to build a city like Shenzhen (a city newly built on the border of Hong Kong and mainland China. It is less than 15 years old.) on the Syrian/Lebanese border. It will be like a special zone where only certain people who have special permits can enter. Designated special zones exist in mainland China. People from higher zones are allowed to enter lower zones but not vice versa. The zones and their status have to be agreed upon by both governments. Populations in designated zones will have to be made transparent, i.e. their ID’s, personal information, social status etc. will be made available to the Lebanese government. They will also be subject to Lebanese Laws. Permits can only be issued and approved by the Lebanese government. Zone patrols will remain exclusively under Lebanese jurisdiction.
Before any of this can happen, however, the International Tribunal must be formed and the indicted criminals brought before the judges. Nothing can bypass this issue. Syria must also prove its good intentions by completely refraining from arming rogue militias such as those of Hezbollah or any other groups.

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March 12th, 2007, 5:09 am

 

126. ausamaa said:

GIBRAN, Ok, its worh thinking about!!!I see your point regarding Syria arming “bad” militias, but this has to be cleared by Saudi Arabia and Tehran. The Katta’ib and Lebanese Forces of Jaja we can absorb within the united Syrian-Lebanese army I suppose. So it is no problem. However, we have to find a proper way to share the burden of Lebanon’s forty billion dollars debt. And we have to find a suitble post for Junblat; Minister of State for Strategic Planning?. Amin Al Gemayel may pose a problem if he insist on retaining the Ministry of State Money. Fatfat, this is a no, for sure. So is Al Sabe’a, you know, security of the Union can not be left to ammatures. This post we should retain. But all this can be accomodated in an amicable manner I believe. What is a dollar or two, or a post or two, among brothers.

Let us think about it. After all this is the “cooperation” season as you can see from the Baghdad and Mecca conferences. Let us hope for the beast, sorry, the best.

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March 12th, 2007, 5:15 am

 

127. Gibran said:

AUSSAMAA
Now hold on please. We haven’t started talking about unions or any of that stuff. Lebanon is Lebanon and Syria is Syria – There will be no union. I only proposed creating a special zone city on the border similar to Shenzhen – No more and no less. Now don’t start dreaming; Jumblat, Jemayel, Geagea and all the rest, well, these are Lebanese icons – untouchables. Lebanese debt: it is our responsibility; no Syrian will be made to pay a penny towards that debt. No Syria-Lebanese army or any of that stuff, out of the question. Lebanese army is Lebanese army and Syrian army is Syrian army. Creating that special zone city will only function to integrate on a limited scale a liberal democracy with a centralized system for the purpose of promoting free market economy that could be mutually beneficial – no more no less.
I have to go to sleep now.

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March 12th, 2007, 6:01 am

 

128. Abu Takla said:

It is people like you Mr. Landis who come and provoke one sect over the other that are causing us our misery!!!
Your analogy of Shiites and American slaves is ridiculous, Sunnis also should be represented by more than they are granted in the parliament, but you do not remember that here, you might use it later when you find it useful for your purpose.
Moreover, it is laughable and at the same time pathetic how you bluntly say that the fear that the Hizballah alliance will not agree to establishing an international tribunal, but to you this should not matter because Lebanon’s economy and growth are being obstructed by Hizballa and Syria so long that the Lebanese are not accepting to seize their call for a tribunal!! Ofcourse for you, who cares who killed R, Hariri? Why should it matter? Just get Syria out of its isolation and get over Hariri,
well, over our dead bodies,
we are ready to die for justice to be served. And anyway, your friends are already killing us.

Thank you for your effort anyway, and stay well.

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March 12th, 2007, 5:25 pm

 

129. ausamaa said:

Over your Dead Bodies? Wow, Do you really die for Causes? Other than Sectarian Causes? So un-…enlightend!

And before we know it, Josh Landis has become part of the axis-of-evil! Along with Seymour Hersh, King Abdullah of KSA, Mr. Ignatius, and the distinguished gentelmen: Baker and Hamilton.

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March 12th, 2007, 7:36 pm

 

130. ausamaa said:

AHHHH GIBRAN, you mean on the so-familiar COMMISSION BASIS! And were will that free zone be? Anjar, Reef Dimashq, Dair al Asaker? Ok, anywhere you choose but not Bakfaya. We want to make money out of this enterprise,you know. And this will be on a state-to-state basis. No commission agents and stuff. OK?

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March 12th, 2007, 7:42 pm

 

131. Abu Takla said:

AUSAMAA,
so, is there any argument in what you said, or just personal insults?
Take care, and stay safe,
all the best my friend,
A.T.

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March 13th, 2007, 5:15 pm

 

132. CW said:

Just read Michael Young’s article, “The Blogosphere’s Foreign Informant.”

Young nails perfectly what I’ve been thinking of Landis’ acedemic output of the past few months.

Does anyone else find it ghoulish of Landis when he uses euphemisms like, Syria’s “sphere of influence?”

Makes me shudder.

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March 15th, 2007, 12:35 am

 

133. Maya said:

I think K summerised very well all the issues including that of Landis and what he stands for, I’ld like to thank him and others who wirte hwere against this crowd of heyenas that Landis stirs so well. An agent on the Syrian Moukhabarat payroll wouldn’t do better than Landis I’m sure.

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March 16th, 2007, 10:40 am

 

134. Oussama said:

So, Josh your wife is an Alawite, it seems. Any relation to the Assad family?

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March 16th, 2007, 11:49 pm

 

135. Paul Nassar said:

“Quite simply, it treats Shiites like slaves”.
Obviously sir, you don’t know the facts. Not only that, these are lies.
It is this kind of false propaganda that hurts and skews people’s opinion.
If I were in your shoes, and you really believe in this statement, I would personally advise you to quit commenting on the politics in the middle east, because obviously, you don’t know what you are talking about.

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March 17th, 2007, 9:04 pm

 

136. ausamaa said:

Oh, we – readers- are from the middle east and just happen to know the Shia’ats were treated on a less than equal basis in Lebanon. Lebanon’s Shi’ats attest to this; what is Harakat Al Mahroumin? Have you heard of it before. It was not Landis who called that,Right?

Has the lebanses government fully paid compensations for the Israeli destroyed houses in Dhahiya and South Lebanon yet? It is eight months since the war has stopped, you know! That is kind of the Shi’at hinterland is it not?

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March 17th, 2007, 10:44 pm

 

137. Omega80 said:

Sorry Mr. Landis, but reading this post really made me sick!

First off, you really don’t know much about Lebanon, and you dont know much about Syria as well, or you do, but choose to hide that fact. Your ideas seem to come out of some fairy tale written by your goon friends in Damascus. Those thugs and killers will never be let off the hook, and niether will people like you, who TRY and give them intellectual cover.
Your blog was one of the first I started reading to be quite honest, however I have not been on this site for months. It is a shame you went from being an academic to a mere megaphone.

You are not welcome in Lebanon anymore.

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March 18th, 2007, 8:48 am

 

138. The Arabist » Landis contra Young said:

[...] In a March 10 post discussing efforts at obstructing a deal between the US, France and Syria over Lebanon, Landis counts Young as one of the intellectual obstructionists of such a deal (its political advocates include Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt and US Ambassador to Beirut Jeffrey Feltman). Landis goes on to attack the obstructionist line as one that is dangerous for Lebanon and the region as a whole as well as one that puffs up a “Shia crescent” threat and gives Lebanese Shias “slave” status in a Christian and Sunni-dominated polity: The only problem with this analysis is that it is has led to a long list of failures and the needless death of thousands of Iraqis and Americans. Michael Young recommended the invasion of Iraq in 2003, claiming that the “consociational” Lebanese model of government that has served his country so well would bring peace and happiness to Iraq and quickly be replicated throughout the Middle East. It has taken the West four long years of watching Iraq descend into ferocious civil war to come to grips with the short comings of this analysis. In 2006, Young advocated keeping the incompetent Lahoud as president of Lebanon rather than giving Michel Aoun a chance at elections. (Aoun was the most popular candidate in Lebanon at the time.) This obstructionism led directly to the summer war between Lebanon and Israel. With no prospects of a non-violent adjustment to Lebanon’s lopsided power-sharing formula, Hizbullah and its opposition allies fell back on the old formula of “resistance” and demonstrations. When war broke out, Young began excitedly prognosticating that Israel could break Hizbullah and international forces disarm it. He insisted the Shiite party did not represent authentic Lebanese demands, being merely a creature of Iran and Syria. Again, Young’s dreams didn’t materialize. Instead, the inconclusive war led to paralysis in Lebanon as Hizbullah and the Siniora government stand face to face, each unwilling to bow to the demands of the other. Rather that admit that he has misjudged the opposition or the ability of American and Israeli power to reshape the hearts and minds of Middle Easterners, Young continues to insist that Syria and Hizbullah will buckle if only the US will inflict a bit more pain on them. [...]

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March 18th, 2007, 2:37 pm

 

139. Nicolas said:

Dear Mr Landis
I am not sure during your visit to the Middle East what the Syrian regime served you in your drink. I am under the strong impression that you were served a potent hallucinagenic drug that made you so blind to the truth and facts in lebanon…
The shia in Lebanon despite beeing described by you as slave: do not pay almost any taxes to the governemnt. Do not pay any electric, water bill to the government companies. They also have vast area under their control where no police, army can go. They also have their own security apparatus and have their own jail where they have many prisoners they keep without the konwledge of the Lebanese government. They also have most of the key positions in the goverment, they took those position when Lebanon was under the syrian occupation……
Beside that, they have their own army and weapons more than the official Lebanese army………
so who is the slave????
The truth is most lebanese are enslaved by the shia hegemony on Lebanon…….We are trapped by their Syrian-Iranian masters……..
I hope that by now the potent drug effect have gone and you will be able to see the truth with your own eyes…

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March 19th, 2007, 2:12 pm

 

140. ausamaa said:

Nicholas

“to see the truth with your own eyes”

More than the half the Lebanese people at least SEE this same truth you do not like! Are they “drugged” also? If you think they are, get the hell out of there quick. Drugged people can be for your health!

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March 19th, 2007, 4:26 pm

 

141. Alex said:

“So far, March 14 hasn’t called for violence against Syria”

Really?!

So what do you call Jumblatt’s promise to one day send a son of the mountain to assassinate the Syrian president?

And What do you call Jumblatt’s call on the US to invade Syria and overthrow its government by force? (Interview with Ignatius last year)?

And what about the killing of Syrian workers … many more innocent Syrian civilians were killed in Lebanon the past two years than all the Lebanese politicians that you insist to blame Syria for their killing.

And Nicolas, Maya, and all of you who are still blaming your misery ONLY on Syria two years after it withdrew its army out of Lebanon … you will never change, you will never realise that you have no “country”… without a dominant outside power Lebanon does not look like it will be calm. Don’t kid yourself … you are a badly split nation. Your only hope is to have one group of outside powers (Syria and Iran or KSA America France) act as a monopolistic sponsor and manager of your country. Today, this is not the case … the two groups are competing 50/50 for your country and until one of the two groups “wins” you will still have the ongoing misery.

And you are a collection of narcissists who think they are democratic.

You think anyone of us here loves what Tony Badran writes about Syria? no. But we don’t go to his blog and cry like you all showed up here at the first article you read that you did not like. Why? because unlike you, we are tolerant of other points of view. We have here Israelis, Americans, Lebanese March 14th supporters who help make this the most successful Syria or Lebanon blog in the world! … too bad if you are disappointed in Dr. Landis’s supposedly biased opinions … go find another blog that has 100+ comments in every post.

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March 19th, 2007, 6:20 pm

 

142. G said:

Thank you Alex, for giving us our only hope. It’s that much more profound coming from a Syrian, run by an Alawite family, and where all the sects are more divided than in Lebanon, and the only thing according to you and Landis that’s keeping them together is the boot of the Alawite regime and their thugs who have been addressing you and your people as “monkey” and “piece of shit” and such. A country whose entity doesn’t even exist in the school books, and country and a people who cheer their president as he sends murderers to all their neighbors. A country whose economy smells as good as the sewers of Calcutta. A country run by a total of less than 10 people. A backwater that thinks it is on the level of “powers” with even more delusional idiots like yourself to cheer it on.

Yes, coming from you, and from the basket case that you call your country, your “hope” seems so refreshing and convincing! After all, who doesn’t want to be run by the same people who have been calling you monkeys and shitheads, and stepping on your necks for the last 40 years! It’s such a dream!

Bunch of idiots.

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March 19th, 2007, 6:47 pm

 

143. ugarit said:

Do you guys notice how the “March 14th” supporters never really talk about substantive facts and issues? It reminds me of Bush supporters.

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March 19th, 2007, 7:12 pm

 

144. Alex said:

Exactly Ugarit, not that they were much more logical in the past, but the Bush administration’s good/evil mentality made our Lebanese neighbors even more close minded .. in the past they used to believe Syria was to blame for 80% of their problems, now it is 100% of their problems.

G, habibi … look at your last 100 posts .. collect them and print them … you will see that 90% of them (at least) were not much more that name calling and character assassination … that tells you a lot about your ability to engage in a discussion with those you disagree with.

Oh, and if you only knew about this Syrian “bunch of idiots” commentators here that you are feeling superior to … I think most of them are much better educated, and much more successful financially than your majesty.

And G … Notice how you are still using Syria’s “homsis” to make your jokes … when you are self-confident enough as a nation to have your own Homs … maybe then you might be a bit closer to being a genuinely confident country.

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March 19th, 2007, 8:27 pm

 

145. TJEX said:

Why would anyone in their right mind support the Syrian regime? I’m at loss! It has done nothing good for the region and seems to just want to play the playground bully with Lebanon.

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March 19th, 2007, 10:59 pm

 

146. The Beirut Spring » And the winner for the, ehmm, least insightful po… said:

[...] And the winner for the, ehmm, least insightful post on Lebanon is.. [...]

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April 17th, 2007, 4:17 pm

 

147. The Beirut Spring » Michael Young responds to Joshua Landis (Remembe… said:

[...] Michael Young responds to Joshua Landis (Remember him? the guy who won my award for the least insightful post on Lebanon?). Here’s a highlight: “Having been denied a timely chance to respond on his site, I do so here. Why should a row matter? It matters to me because in the polarized Lebanese atmosphere, fabricated accusations can be irresponsible, even dangerous. The theme of Landis’ post is that Lebanon’s Shiites, since they are under-represented in Parliament, are comparable to black slaves in America. For some reason Landis makes me the embodiment of those Lebanese denying Shiites their rights. This is troubling for being visibly personal in intent, given how inconsequential I am in the matter of Shiite power; but also because I’ve repeatedly argued that the Taif agreement needs overhauling so Shiites receive a greater stake in the system. I wrote last summer that “Taif was designed to build a post-war state. It should be re-tooled to bring the Shiite community back into the Lebanese fold.” [...]

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April 17th, 2007, 4:19 pm

 

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