Electoral math: The history of a failing formula

Posted by Qifa Nabkicalculus2.jpg

Every four years, voters in the United States are given a glimpse of political strategizing in the form of the media’s ponderings about “electoral math”. Which states are crucial for which candidates? Where should campaign funds be spent? What are the must-win battleground states?

The Lebanese deadlock revolves around a similar piece of algebraic acrobatics: the debate on the makeup of the new cabinet.

Various scenarios have been proposed: we’ve seen 19-10-1, 12-10-8, 14-6-10, and enough other configurations to make one’s head spin. The latest formula is the Arab League’s proposal, to split the cabinet into three equal shares, with ten ministers going to March 14, ten going to the opposition, and ten hand-picked by the president. The beauty of this arrangement is that it would (theoretically) deprive all parties of a “blocking third” (which requires one third plus one vote). In order to veto any initiative – most importantly, the execution of UNSCR 1559 and the charge sheet for the Hariri Tribunal – any side would have to solicit the support of another party.

On the face of it, this arrangement would appear to be a dream deal for Syria’s allies. When March 14 announced its support of Suleiman for president, many commentators close to the opposition trumpeted it as a major victory for Syria. After all, Suleiman has a spotless record on Syrian-Lebanese ‘partnership’ and cooperation, and is a strong supporter of the Lebanese resistance. With the help of Suleiman, Syria would be able to secure the future of Hizbulah’s arms (at least in the short-term), deal a blow to the Tribunal, and potentially bring down the government in the event of another deadlock (according to the Constitution, the government must fall if over 1/3 of the Cabinet resigns).

By all accounts, however, the opposition is strangely not biting. Why? Is it simply because they distrust the full-throated support of Saad al-Hariri? In addition to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the French and Americans have come out in force for the Arab League Proposal, and even Syria had to publicly ‘support’ it, and yet Beirut remains mired in the same muck.

Back to UN if Arab plan for Lebanon fails: French PM

 

RIYADH (AFP) — French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday that Lebanon's political crisis would have to be taken to the United Nations if an Arab League effort to end the impasse failed.

"If it's not working with our friends of the Arab League, we will come back to the UN," Kouchner, who was accompanying French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Riyadh, told reporters.

"But we hope strongly that it will work," he said without elaborating on the possible resort to the UN.

Sarkozy told the Saudi Shura (consultative) Council on Monday that France "unreservedly supports" the Arab League plan, describing it as "fully compatible" with proposals made by France.

"Like Saudi Arabia, France will spare no effort to enable the Lebanese parliament to elect as soon as possible a president which the diverse components of the Lebanese nation will deem representative," he said.

The Arab League's three-point plan calls for the election of army chief Michel Sleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government in which no one party has veto power, and the adoption of a new electoral law.

Hizbullah is still insisting on a veto of its own, while Aoun is now championing a one-man one-vote, power to the people scenario, which makes one wonder whether he is the sole remaining obstacle to an otherwise satisfactory deal for the Syrians. Or do they know something about Suleiman's likely allegiances that the rest of us don’t?

Comments (38)


1. . said:

Suleiman can easily be assassinated, and a pro-US, anti-Syria Pres installed. The new one can appoint 10 anti-Syria, anti-Hezb cabinet members, and the opposition is worse off than before as they ‘approved’ the deal and can be branded as spoilers again. They would be nuts to embrace this ruse. In a democracy, one man should not have that much unhindered power- whether he’s pro or anti-Syria/US.
1/3 of a government unelected? Sounds like dictatorship to me.

One-man, one-vote and now is just as good a time as any to start the process.

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January 15th, 2008, 2:44 am

 

2. Qifa Nabki said:

If the president is assassinated, the Chamber has to move immediately to elect a successor. At the moment, no one holds a 2/3 majority in parliament to “install” their choice, but after the first ballot, an absolute majority is suffifient.

This would not change anything even if the opposition held a veto, because they would not be able to block a parliamentary vote. The most they could do would be to resign and cause the government to fall, in which case they would again be branded as spoilers.

So, it’s not clear to me how a Cabinet veto gets around the assassination problem. Could you elaborate?

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January 15th, 2008, 3:00 am

 

3. Nur al-Cubicle said:

What are both Sarkozy _and_ Bush doing in Saudi Arabia today?

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January 15th, 2008, 3:08 am

 

4. . said:

If the plan was adopted, and a Mar 14-type group was allied with the Pres, who then appointed the other 10 agreeing w/ the Pres/Mar 14 group they would have that 2/3. Hezb would protest, resign, the gov fall & we’d be back where we are today. The veto is also not so wise.

One man- one vote and the cabinet distributed proportionately. Which explains why the Mar 14 dont want it. But why doesnt Hezb? Population is trending their way. Very odd.

And yes it is ominous to have both of the gang in KSA today, together- esp since Francé’s biggest carrier fleet the Charles de Gaulle is off Iran’s coast along w/ the US’s. My guess is the attack will have NATO support, but not in name. Scary.

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January 15th, 2008, 3:33 am

 

5. Qifa Nabki said:

Again, I don’t quite see your argument.

My feeling is that Suleiman is much more likely to be a pro-Syrian candidate than pro-US. So if the plan is adopted, it’s more likely to work toward Hzb’s favor. This is why I don’t get why the opposition is not biting.

One-man one-vote is not M14’s ideal because Aoun would have a pretty good chance at being the more popular candidate. Nasrallah actually proposed this himself a few months ago and everybody pooh poohed it, not surprisingly.

One-man one-vote is likely to be the solution in the future, but the rest of the governmental structures are not there yet. Once there is a fair electoral law and a more logical legislative arrangement (preferably bicameral, as stipulated by Ta’if) then the executive branch can be decided by the people.

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January 15th, 2008, 3:59 am

 

6. Surtur said:

It’s time for a black presedent. I hope Obama will make it all the way.

P.s. There are big news else ware in the world i.e. Oldest parliament in the world burned down

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January 15th, 2008, 4:23 am

 

7. ausamaa said:

Very nice analysis! Electoral Math!

As if the decision by the Feb 14 crowd is an an-house matter! 12 ministers, 10, 14, 30 or whatever is an issue used now as a cover and for internal consumption purposes. The real issue is wether the Bush Admn and KSA are willing to comporomise and acknowledge the facts on the ground and, hence, hand the Opposition and its allies, a second victory ( selecting Gen. Sulieman was the first, and they thought the last). They are so worried that such a compromise would be seen as a total and final defeat to their three-year efforts to hijack Lebanon into their own sphere which indeed does not seem to have been successful.

Too bad the Bush Admn does not have any “troops” on the ground in Lebanon as it did in Iraq, if it did, I am sure someone will be shouting: Surge please, right now!

But the only Surge we are going to see, I think, would be a Surge by the Opposition. In coordination with Hamas defieance and the Jihad Jibril rockets of the PFLP-GC from Gaza (can one see the clear message here?), and the small Iranian boats “innocent” intrusion in the vicinity of the US Armada in the Gulf while Bush was tripping on the expance of the Red carpets rolled out to “welcome” him, and while the Jordanian King was fleeing to Morroco lest Bush impulsively decides to make an unwelcomed stop-over in Amman. Aint the Bush Admin people getting the defiantly daring message yet? And if they are, how will they respond without slipping into their customary lose-lose corner and messing things further.

Like a student who knows that he did bad in the exams hoping that some miracle will get him a passing grade, the Bush Admin and Allies now think that they can somehow make One plus One equal Four, the Lebanese Opposition is not buying, nor is it in a “further” compromising mood it seems. So rather than looking at the Electoral Math, we should be looking at the forces on the ground and the staying power of the players.

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January 15th, 2008, 5:10 am

 

8. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I feel another Nasser moment is coming to the mid-east. So much trash talk and provocative action with nothing to back it up. All that is required is somebody making one small mistake and we will have another mid-east changing war, but this time the Americans and Israelis will be fighting together against the Iranian axis that includes Syria, Hamas and Hizballah. Should be quite interesting because this time there is no Soviet Union to stop the war and any UN action will be blocked by the US.

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January 15th, 2008, 6:09 am

 

9. majedkhaldoun said:

A woman had her baby through C.Section, next day she was told her Baby disappeared, a Veiled woman was seen carrying a baby,and leaving the hospital.
several patients died because of anaesthesia problems.
Syrian manufactured drugs,are not effective,or not reliable.
Pharmacists prescribe medicines to the patients.
Doctors in Syria they do not use CT scan to diagnose appendicities.many normal appendectomies are performeds.
vascular specialist they do not have vascular evalution devices in their clinics.
and many other compaints.

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January 15th, 2008, 6:17 am

 

10. ausamaa said:

Another Israeli Guy,

Dont you wish!!!!!

Hizbullah alone kicked the IDF ass around in July 2006, and so did the Iraqi resistance with Rumsfeld troops in Iraq (untill some one?! decided to cool things down there and give to Bush a face-saving chance to come back to his senses), and now you are wishing/proposing/waiting to take on all together, Hizbullah, Hamas, Syrian and Iran also -thrown in for good measure- in one shot? In addition to the ever present ghosts of Al Qaida of course, unless priorities have changed.

Sounds like a “very” SMART objective.. Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Time limited!

Why do not Israel and the Bush Admin stop acting like a mere “threatening” bullies and get the job done? In other words: Put up or shut up and Negotiate for example. They have tried to do it in a step-by-step fashion and failed, now you are proposing that doing it in one shot will work!

Go for it champ.. it is gonna be American and Arab blood that will be spilt mostly. Dont you? After all, trying never hurts you may think, or does it?

But if your lot thought that this wish-list had even a slim chance of success, they would have gone for it since day one.And you can not really fault them on account of lack of trying. But, for all we who know, maybe the Israeli Army has regained its fighting spirit which was broken both in Lebanon and even Gaza (where the harmless Qassams keep coming despite Israeli superiority and prutality), and maybe the Surge has really strengthened the hand of US in Iraq permenantly.

That is why the World think neo-cons and Likudniks are so peace-oriented and a real assest to the World’s stability and order. And, Freedom and Democracy one may add!

KMA…!

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January 15th, 2008, 6:55 am

 

11. offended said:

It is thought that a peace agreement between Abbas and Olmert will bring down Hamas in Gaza.

How?

Well, because if there is to be a referendum on the agreement, and it got voted for by the Palestinian people, that will automatically bring down Hamas since it doesn’t recognize Israel from the first place.

Ahmad Abu Al Ghiet is a very funny guy…

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January 15th, 2008, 8:22 am

 

12. t_desco said:

“One-man one-vote” – please correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t it Nasrallah who first proposed that in one of his speeches?

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January 15th, 2008, 10:02 am

 

13. why-discuss said:

“One-man one-vote” – please correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t it Nasrallah who first proposed that in one of his speeches?

The “alleged majority” in Lebanon has the habit of dismissing any new proposal to solve the situation invoking the sacro-saint Constitution (that has been violated so many times). They did that when Michel Sleiman was suggested as a candidate, even the “angry” patriarch shouted that no way we will have a president with military background and that the Constitution should not be changed. Now they are all begging for the rapid change of the Constitution and the election of Sleiman: The patriarch is one the the most vocal.
The “one to one” vote has been decried vehemently since Aoun and Nasrallah mentionned it, as it is seen as the sure victory for Aoun. Would it be ultimately imposed by the UN resolution Kouchner is promising: Lebanon becomes a UN protectorate as it is apparently too weak and divided to manage itself.

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January 15th, 2008, 10:56 am

 

14. t_desco said:

Beirut blast hits U.S embassy car: TV

At least three people were killed in an explosion in Beirut on Tuesday which wounded a passenger in a diplomatic car, security sources said, and Lebanon’s LBC television channel said a U.S. embassy car was hit.

Security sources said the explosion occurred in a Christian neighborhood of Beirut.

Witnesses said ambulances rushed to the scene, as smoke rose into the sky.

The blast was heard loudest in the Dora suburb in north Beirut, the sources and witnesses said. …
Reuters

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January 15th, 2008, 3:14 pm

 

15. T said:

One-man, one-vote is a staple of Democracy that dosent need a Hassan Nasrallah to “come up” with. It was raised at the UN over 4 years ago, esp regarding Lebanon who hasnt had a census since ’32. Anyone really interested in democracy ANYWHERE, would think of that option FIRST.

…Waiting for the US media to declare “Syria carbombed the US Embassy vehicle” or better yet- Iran! That would be even more effective in igniting Israel’s attack on Iran.
Time frame unfolding?????????????????????

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January 15th, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

16. Alex said:

I watched Mr. fatfat, Lebanese minister, on Aljazeera. The anchorwoman who interviewed him was very tough on him. She asked him “how many more assassinations and car bombings need to take place before you and your government will admit that YOU are the problem? you failed miserably in governing or in maintaining security” … he answered “you are wrong. We actually have people in prison now who are suspected of some of these attacks. We are uncovering the truth and we made considerable progress”. She asked “but we have not heard anything about that progress? why?” Fatfat answered “but we are a civilized democracy. We won’t accuse anyone publicly until they are proven guilty. It won’t be fair for them” … so she told him “is this why you rush to accusing Syria the minute any assassination takes place”?

And he answered “but this is politics. Our accusations of Syria are of a political nature, not legal nature”

It seems Aljazeera is not completely tamed by the Saudis.

Did anyone notice that President Bush did not visit Qatar? visited Bahrain, but not Qatar.

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January 15th, 2008, 3:55 pm

 

17. Qifa Nabki said:

It’s a bit misplaced to argue that the government is “the problem” on the basis of a never-ending string of assassinations and bombings that have targeted (with one exception) M14 or otherwise (pro-)Western figures.

What a terrible government! It can’t even keep its own people and supporters from getting assassinated!

Surely what we need is to realize that this failure-to-not-be-assassinated makes one unfit for governance and we should brush these fools aside so that those-who-are-better-at-avoiding-assassination can take charge.

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January 15th, 2008, 4:15 pm

 

18. Alex said:

QN

That was not my opinion by the way : )

I was only reporting the Aljazeera exchange for two reasons

1) Aljazeera has been very neutral on Lebanon ever since they agreed in a meeting with the Saudis to calm things down. And they stuck to that agreement ever since. this interview was, as I said, very tough … I don’t respect or like Fatfat, but the anchorwoman was confrontational big time.

I was wondering if President Bush’s skipping Qatar was a big disappointment to them.

2) Fatfat’s answer “we are civilized …. we can’t accuse anyone until they are proven guilty” is a classic … they rushed to accuse Syria every single time someone was killed. Even when elHajj was killed many accused Syria.

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January 15th, 2008, 4:57 pm

 

19. Qifa Nabki said:

Attack on US vehicle in Beirut kills 4 By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer

An explosion targeted a U.S. Embassy vehicle Tuesday in northern Beirut, killing four Lebanese and injuring a local embassy employee just ahead of a farewell reception for the American ambassador, U.S. and Lebanese officials said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said two embassy employees — including the driver — were in the vehicle damaged in the blast, which could be heard across the Lebanese capital and sent gray smoke billowing near the Mediterranean coast.

The driver was slightly wounded and the other staffer is fine, McCormack told reporters. He said no American diplomats or American citizens were in the car.

“My understanding is there were four Beirut residents who do not work for the embassy who were killed in the blast,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families.

A senior U.S. official, who was not authorized to release the information and spoke condition of anonymity, said no Americans injured or killed.

A senior Lebanese security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military rules, told The Associated Press the explosion targeted the U.S. vehicle and was in the predominantly Christian Dora-Karantina neighborhood.

It came shortly before a farewell reception for departing U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, which was being held at Beirut’s seaside Phoenicia Hotel.

McCormack could not offer specifics about the blast or whether the vehicle had been targeted, but said it had been hit directly “by the explosion itself.”

He said agents from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security would be working with Lebanese authorities to investigate the blast and that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was reviewing its security.

“We are going to take a look at what implications, if any, there are for our security posture in Beirut,” McCormack said.

Television footage showed several damaged cars, including an SUV with tinted windows. Plainclothes security agents were seen removing an automatic rifle from the SUV.

Beirut has had a long history of attacks against Americans since the turmoil of the 17-year civil war, which ended in 1990.

At least 17 Americans, including top CIA officials in the region, were killed in a 1983 suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy. Later that year, 241 American service members died in a massive truck bombing at the U.S. Marine barracks at Beirut airport.

The U.S. withdrew all diplomats from Beirut in September 1989 and did not reopen its embassy until 1991.

In the past three years, a series of explosions in Lebanon have targeted mainly anti-Syrian politicians and journalists.

The last car bombing on Dec. 12 in Beirut’s suburb of Baabda killed Lebanese army Maj. Gen. Francois Hajj and two other people

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January 15th, 2008, 4:57 pm

 

20. T said:

Well I hit it right on the assassination theme anyway, and the timing was perfect. Broached it last night and here we have it.
No I dont agree w/ Hezbollah getting a veto. No one faction should be able to exercise that much arbitrary power over the others. Still think one-man, one-vote though Sfeir has come out today against it.

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January 15th, 2008, 5:10 pm

 

21. EHSANI2 said:

The American Ambassador had a Goodbye party arranged for him at the Phoenicia Hotel today. That farewell reception was quickly cancelled of course. The vehicle was returning from the airport after dropping off a U.S. official.

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January 15th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

22. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

Fatfat is loathsome, no doubt about it.

And I assumed that you were not making that argument; it just rubs me the wrong way, no matter how many times I hear it.

This latest action is far more significant (even though the targets were spared by an ironic twist of fate) than any of the other ones, except Hariri. It finally sends the direct message that all of the other bombings have been hinting at, namely: the U.S. must get its hands off Lebanon, or there will be chaos. The U.S. cannot and will not “use Lebanon” against the interests of the Iranian quartet, and if it continues to try to do so, American interests that are closer to home than M14 politicians will be steadily liquidated.

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January 15th, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

23. majedkhaldoun said:

This time it is american who are targeted, we have to make connection between Al-qaeda threat,saying to receive Bush with bombs,and this incident.

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January 15th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

24. Alex said:

QN

I don’t agree. you jumped to two conclusions

1) All the other attacks were ordered by the same party.
2) This attack is not by someone who is trying to get HA or Iran in trouble with the American administration. I hope you remember this one:

“According to Victor Ostrovsky, a defector from Israel’s secret service, Mossad, Israel decided to mount a false flag operation designed to further discredit Libya, and provoke the US to attack an Arab nation. A transmitter loaded with pre-recorded messages was planted in Tripoli, Libya, by a Mossad team.

The `Trojan Horse’ beamed out fake messages about Libyan-authorized bombings and planned attacks that were immediately intercepted by US electronic monitoring. Convinced by this disinformation that Libya was behind the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco in which a US soldier died, President Ronald Reagan ordered massive air attacks on Libya, including an obvious- and illegal (under US law) attempt to assassinate Qadaffi himself. Some 100 Libyan civilians were killed, including Qadaffi’s two year old daughter. Libyan officials had no idea why they were attacked.”

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January 15th, 2008, 6:37 pm

 

25. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

You anticipated my follow-up, namely:

(a) We cannot rule out a false flag in this case, especially since no Americans were killed, and the U.S. will be able to insist on having its own security forces ‘investigate’ the crime. If any evidence comes out in the next couple of days that links Iran to the bombing, then I will be very suspicious.

(b) It doesn’t really matter whether the attacks have all been carried out by one group or multiple groups. In fact, I’ve stated previously that I believe more than one group is at work. However, it’s possible to have multiple ‘speakers’ with the same ‘message’.

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January 15th, 2008, 6:56 pm

 

26. Alex said:

I am already suspicious.

If HA or Iran wanted to express their anger at the US, they would have done it long time ago, not now. Now HA, Syria, and Iran are much more relaxed about what is happening in Lebanon .. things have been going their way. Besides, President Bush is not the type of man you can scare with a single unsuccessful car bomb. If anything, such attacks will make him more negative and more confrontational.

Plus … Sarkozy is already trying to internationalize the Lebanese problems … and M14 people love to internationalize everything in Lebanon so that America and France will custom design “solutions” to their liking.

But suspicious is the most I can be … everything is possible in Lebanon, and we probably won’t know what happened for sure and who was behind any of these attacks, unless if it was small, primitive l-Qaeda style groups. If it was Iran, we will not know… the big guys all know how to do these things without being caught.

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January 15th, 2008, 7:04 pm

 

27. Alex said:

Beirut bomb evokes terrible déjà vu

By Tim Butcher, Middle East Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:33pm GMT 15/01/2008

Analysis

The bomb attack on an American diplomatic vehicle in Beirut and the spiralling violence in Gaza that claimed almost 20 Palestinian lives provided a bloody endpoint to President George W Bush’s tour of the Middle East.

It came after days when President Bush sought to give the impression of moderation and control, nudging the two sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict towards negotiations, and leading an anti-Iran chorus among moderate Arab states.

But just as he was preparing to wind up his eight-day trip, the Middle East once again showed that no outsider, let alone an outgoing US president with a reputation tarnished by Iraq, is fully in control here.

The bloodshed in Gaza illustrated graphically the elephant in the room of Mr Bush’s strategy for dealing with the Middle East conflict in the Holy Land.

For months, Mr Bush has placed all his diplomatic capital in the moderate Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and president of the Palestinian national authority.

No matter that more Palestinians voted for Hamas than Fatah in the last general election and that Hamas routed Fatah in Gaza last summer, thereby taking control of the lives of a third of all Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Mr Bush steamed ahead on the assumption that a meaningful deal between the Abbas leadership and Israelis could be forged.

The assumption was that Gaza could be ignored as the eventual deal would be so attractive that Hamas would come round, bringing Gaza with it.

But the latest military strike by Israel deep into the Gaza Strip, intended to take out militants firing rockets across the perimeter fence into Israel, showed you ignore Gaza at your peril.

It ended up with at least 13 militants dead along with, crucially, three Palestinian civilians.

The leadership of Mr Abbas cannot be expected to ignore those civilian casualties and so bilateral negotiations between his team and the Israelis were presented with yet another huge obstacle to overcome before progress can be made.

Even more importantly, the action of the Israeli forces prompted an immediate military response from Hamas.

Israel blames Hamas for every rocket fired from Gaza as it is the supposed governing authority there. But the men who have actually been firing the salvoes these past months have belonged to militant groups other than Hamas.

That all changed in the afternoon when a salvo of at least ten rockets was fired by Hamas militants in retaliation for the morning’s bloodshed. It was the first fired by Hamas since last June’s takeover of Gaza.

It is unlikely to be the last, worsening dramatically an already volatile situation.

Meanwhile in Beirut, there was a terrible sense of déjà vu when the first news emerged of a bombing against an American diplomatic target.

It was the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, killing of 63 people, that did so much to cast the die of modern Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Among the 63 dead were eight very senior members of the CIA, the Middle East region’s main US intelligence experts. Their murder still casts a dark shadow over CIA thinking in the region.

Hizbollah was blamed by Washington for the atrocity and this explains in part America’s recent rebuff of attempts by the Shia militant group to reinvent itself as a political party in Lebanon.

In American eyes Hizbollah is a terrorist organisation, pure and simple, and no end of diplomatic smooth-talking by apologists for the group suggesting it has changed its spots will be able to convince Washington to change its opinion.

There is no suggestion that the latest blast in Beirut was the work of Hizbollah. It is more likely to be the work of pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon.

But it reveals starkly how far Lebanon has moved from the heady days of spring 2005 when tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Beirut in what a wag at the White House called “The Cedar Revolution”.

It was a name that never proved popular in Lebanon as the Cedar image is too closely associated with one of the country’s religious minorities.

Three years ago, Americans spoke of democracy blooming all over the Middle East, offering new guarantees of freedom for millions.

The latest bloodshed across the region showed how much it was a false spring.

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January 15th, 2008, 7:21 pm

 

28. Observer said:

I am intrigued about the visits of Bush and Sarkozy to the region. I believe that both would like to have a coalition of Arab countries formed to face Iran and to give cover to a joint US/Israeli strike. The NIE may have gotten the winds out of the argument of WMD but the administration seems to have increased the rethoric. I think that the Arab regimes are absolutely terrified of such a prospect and have concluded that there is a lot of incompetence on the part of the administration.
Several points that need to be made:
1. The Strait of Hormuz is not in International Waters but in joing Omani Iranian waters. It is too narrow to allow for an international passage.
2. The US navy and any other ship usually has to declare intention to “passage” and the transcript of the video clearly shows that the US ships asked exactly for that. It is expected that the maritime rules would result in safe passage unless these have been declared war zones as it happened in the 1973 October war in the Mediterranean.
3. At present, there is no Nasser bluffing his way and there are no clear cut casus belli situations such the closer of the straits of Tyran
4. I cannot imagine a sane administration willing to go to war and risk worldwide depression for a threat that is seemingly non existent on the short term. However, I do think that the bunker mentality may have left people deranged.
5. The former Iranian FM declared about a year ago that a wounded US is more dangerous than a defeated US. He said that the US is severely wounded in Iraq and may lash out irrationally. This is when all of a sudden the Mahdi army declared a unilateral cease fire and things improved in Iraq.
6. The current visit of Bush has found a lot of Arabs convinced more than ever that they cannot rely on the present administration. The next day after Bush left Kuwait, the FM flies to Tehran to confer with the Iranians. Saud Al Faisal has gone a long way to distance his country from any adventure that may involve a direct confrontaion with Tehran.
Please consider adding this to the blog
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JA16Ak02.html

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January 15th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

29. Qifa Nabki said:

I may have to change my moniker to Filipino Monkey.

That would be too good to miss.

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January 15th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

30. Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] At SyriaComment, Qifa Nabki discusses the recent Arab League proposal to divide the Lebanese cabinet into three groups – with ten ministers chosen by the Siniora-March 14 coalition, ten chosen by the Hizbullah-Michel Aoun opposition, and ten chosen by the new President Michel Suleiman.  Nabki sees resistance from the opposition to the deal: ”Hizbullah is still insisting on a veto of its own, while Aoun is now championing a one-man one-vote, power to the people scenario, which makes one wonder whether he is the sole remaining obstacle to an otherwise satisfactory deal for the Syrians.” […]

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January 15th, 2008, 8:09 pm

 

31. T said:

Soon, the assessments of Julian Robertson may hold a better clue to date of Iran War than the St Dept or any political blog. Those issues are among those red lines that are fast converging (on the American side). Did anyone catch the latest decision re Northern Rock?

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January 15th, 2008, 8:11 pm

 

32. majedkhaldoun said:

Can someone explain why large amount of arabic money,help major american banks, the banks made mistakes,they should be responsible for their mistakes.
george Bush asked KSA to lower the price of oil, what is causing the price to go up is his policy and rhetoric,the only way to lower the price of oil, is to change Bush,and his policy.

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January 15th, 2008, 8:42 pm

 

33. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I see you have no problem believing people like Ostrovsky and their ridiculous claims. Do you also go to fortune tellers and read your horoscope daily? That would explain a lot.

Oh, I know who you believe. You believe people like Asad who have no problem throwing people in jail and murdering them in cold blood. Of course, Asad would never lie or try to kill Americans.

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January 15th, 2008, 9:44 pm

 

34. T said:

AIG,

Look into your crystal ball and talk to us about Abu Ghraib, Ketzion, Guantanamo, Khiam and Camp 1391- among many others. Isnt there a tarot card called The Devil?

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January 16th, 2008, 12:35 am

 

35. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

T,
And who made these known? A free press, the exact thing Asad does not allow because he is hiding 1000 Abu Ghraib’s in Syria. The Devil is the person that denies his own people basic rights and is able to convince them that it is for their own good.

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January 16th, 2008, 1:05 am

 

36. Alex said:

AIG,

“ridiculous claims” … “murdering in cold blood”

I love it when you impersonate Netanyahu. He is adorable, and so original.

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January 16th, 2008, 1:16 am

 

37. T said:

AIG,
And who made WHAT known???????? This is world history- its from the Qabbala via the ancient Babylonians/Assyrians/Sumerians. Being secular is no excuse not to know this stuff. Get with it.

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January 16th, 2008, 1:59 am

 

38. T said:

SURTUR,

What is going on in Iceland? Why are people protesting?

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January 16th, 2008, 4:36 am

 

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