Posted by Joshua on Friday, November 23rd, 2007
Anthony Shadid has the best article on Lebanon's failure to elect a new president: "From Hopeful To Helpless At a Protest In Lebanon," in the Washington Post. Anthony has been on leave for the last 6 months writing a book. He seems to be back, inshaallah.
Paul Salem of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace is quoted in the WSJ:
"We are looking at at least another year and a half of drifting, but right now drifting looks like a good option if we can avoid conflict."
He is probably correct. Kicking the ball down the road is Lebanon's best option until the Bush administration is no more. Th stubbornness of all sides has become intractable. So long as Lebanon does not get broken, it will be doing well.
Progress in Lebanon is intimately related to progress in Palestine. It is a large ball of wax. Most actors are making calculations in one place based on their position in the other. This is certainly true of Syria, which views Lebanon as a card that can only be played when the Golan is on the table. So long as the peace process is going no where for Syria, Damascus will not council flexibility among its allies in Lebanon. Likewise, the US cannot expect to force its will on Lebanon while stiffing Syria in the peace process. Israel will not get relief from Hizbullah so long as it refuses to relinquish the Golan. The Palestinians have no leverage at all.
Here is the Hamidi article translated into English thanks to http://mideastwire.com
Dialogue with Damascus to induce it to attend Annapolis & support Ghanem
Ibrahim Al-Humaydi of Al-Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 23: "The information available to Al-Hayat showed that there were several communications yesterday with high ranking Syrian officials to convince Damascus to attend the international peace conference to be held in the American city of Annapolis and to play a role in convincing the Lebanese opposition to accept MP Robert Ghanem as a "consensus candidate". The Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad received phone calls from the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the Jordanian King Abdullah the Second, the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem received a phone call from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov while the French ambassador to Damascus visited the Syrian foreign ministry.
"It was learned that these communications focused on the issues of the presidential elections in Lebanon and the international conference in Annapolis especially as the Lebanese parliamentary session to be held today to elect a new president coincides with the meetings of the foreign ministers of the Arab countries in Cairo to reach a united Arab attitude towards Annapolis. Knowledgeable Syrian sources announced to Al-Hayat yesterday that the Annapolis meeting "is not a conference because any conference necessitates preparations and foundations. It is not right to call it a conference. If the purpose behind it is to recite speeches, then the assembly of the United Nations is more suitable". The sources were talking about the absence of the Golan Heights issue from the conference's agenda and from the letter of invitation sent by the American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Al-Muallem two days ago.
"The sources added: "the region is passing through a crisis. The failure of the conference will complicate the situation immeasurably and strike a blow at the chances for achieving real peace". The final decision about whether Syria will participate or not and about its level of participation, whether though Al-Muallem or through its ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha, remained connected to the final result of the international communications with Damascus and of the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in which Al-Muallem is participating. The sources quoted Prodi telling Al-Assad in his phone call that "any peace related talks in the region can't succeed without the contribution and participation of Syria". The Syrian sources wondered: "what will attending the conference do without enough preparations and in light of the unsuitable internal Palestinian conditions?"
"The sources confirmed that Damascus "supports any real effort to achieve peace in the Middle East". The foreign communications yesterday also discussed the Lebanese presidential elections as Damascus was informed that Robert Ghanem is the "consensus candidate" currently on the table and that Washington "does support Michel Idde" despite the fact that the Lebanese opposition considers Ghanem "as a candidate from March 14 and not a consensus candidate". Diplomatic sources announced that the communications are aimed at convincing Damascus to convince the opposition to accept Ghanem. According to conforming sources, the reports coming in from Beirut show that there are two possible options: electing MP Ghanem after he gains the support of the opposition in return for "guarantees not to target the weapons of the resistance which should be dealt with in the context of the national dialogue" and giving promises of a "big s hare" to the Reform and Change coalition headed by MP Michel Aoun in the coming government.
"The second option is to postpone the electoral session in the context of an "orderly vacuum" which would allow for intense communications later on to reach an agreement about electing a consensus president from outside the list suggested by the Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir who would be acceptable to all the internal, regional, and international factions."
Secretary of State Rice and Samir Geagea, Lebanon’s main anti-Syrian Christian leader on Wednesday accused Syria of blocking a deal on a new Lebanese president, just two days before the incumbent’s term ends.
The United States, a strong supporter of Mr. Geagea and his allies in the anti-Syrian governing coalition, told Syria to stop what Washington said was interference in the process.
“It really ought to be decided without foreign interference, and certainly without any foreign intimidation,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “Those messages have been very clearly sent.”
Lebanese Opposition Offers Deal To End Political Impasse
AFP: 2007-11-22 12:59 (New York)
BEIRUT (AFP)–Lebanese opposition leader Michel Aoun proposed Thursday that his camp name an interim president and that the ruling majority appoint a prime minister to end a long-running presidential row.
Aoun said in a televised announcement that he would name a candidate from outside his parliamentary bloc to become president until after the 2009 legislative elections, after which a president would be elected for a full six-year term.
He said parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri would name a prime minister from outside his Future Movement to form a national "reconciliation government."
Aoun said his proposal would only be valid until 2100 GMT Friday, just one hour before the end of the mandate of incumbent president Emile Lahoud.
Aoun made the proposal after a member of the ruling majority announced that Friday's last-ditch session in parliament to vote for a successor to Lahoud would be postponed.
Beirut Is Not Tehran
By Andrew Exum and Stephen McInerney
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; 9:54 AM
When Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term expires on Friday, Lebanese democracy will face a stern test. Political factions there are deadlocked over the selection of a new president, and Lebanon could see the formation of two parallel governments — or, worse, the outbreak of civil war….