Posted by Joshua on Saturday, August 4th, 2007
Lebanon's by-election to be held in the Metn, the heartland of Christian Lebanon, is a bellwether. It will give us a good indication of whether Michel Aoun, an ally of Hizbullah, or Amin Gemayel, an ally of Saad Hariri, is stronger in the Christian north.
Aoun addressed the rally in Dbayyeh from behind a bullet proof shield and dubbed his electoral opponents "windmills of lies" with nothing to offer voters but lies and unfulfilled promises. "I will not call them sons of snakes, but sons of rumors, and rumors are like a rootless weed, once you pluck it out it dies," Aoun said of his opponents.
"They frighten you and tell you there will be trouble [Sunday], we tell you have no fear, the army and security forces are there to protect you and so are our [fists]," Aoun said, warning all those who try to use violence, close roads or attack supporters Sunday, adding that the Metn is a peaceful and civilized place.
"Our choice is that of peace for Lebanon, but not the peace of the weak," Aoun said, adding that his electoral opponents thought the FPM was weak when they tried to reach a consensus to avoid the electoral battle. He said that not one of the government's promises have been met in the last two years.
At the rally in Antelias, Gemayel warned his opponents that "Metn will never be a suburb of Damascus" building on anti-Syrian feelings to warn the people of Metn that a vote for Aoun is a vote for the return of Syrian tutelage.
As for opponents' claims that voting for Khoury is like voting to return Lebanon to Syria, Khoury said: "It is well known who struggled against the Syrian line over the past 15 years … We not only faced the Syrians but many Lebanese who today claim to defend sovereignty and independence and are among the ranks of March 14 but who made deals with the Syrians to return to Lebanon."
Polling by Information International ahead of next Sunday's by-elections in the Metn to fill the seat left vacant after the assassination of March 14 MP Pierre Gemayel. The pollers said that Amin Gemayyel would receive 60 percent of Maronite voters, while Khoury would get 85 percent of the Armenian votes and 55 percent of the Orthodox votes. It said both candidates would get an equal number of votes from Catholics.
Friday Lunch Club writes that the Metn Polls suggest that Aoun's candidate will win over Amine Gemayel by 6000 votes. He also writes:
Kataeb nomenklatura instructed their voter-supporters to "vote very early in the AM and go home". The plan is to create "disturbances" at the ballot locals, prompting early closures.
Elaph carrries an anti-Aoun story:
BBC MidEast: Lebanon's Awn Reportedly Meets Syrian Security
2007-08-03 16:30 (New York)
Text of report by London-based, Saudi-owned Elaph website on 3 August
A Western diplomatic source has disclosed that Lebanese Deputy Michel Awn who visited Germany last week on the pretext of meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier went to this European country to hold a secret meeting with senior Syrian security official Major-General Muhammad Nasif (Abu-Wa'il).
The source said the meeting between Awn and "Abu-Wa'il" focused on the parliamentary battle in north Al-Matn which Awn is contesting in an attempt to prevent Shaykh Amin al-Jumayyil from winning the seat that was occupied by his son Pierre who was assassinated last November. The source stressed that Maj-Gen Nasif underlined the need for Awn to contest the elections battle against Al-Jumayyil to the end and that Syria is willing to place all its resources at his disposal.
The Syrian official insisted that Awn should not back down on the attle and reiterated that Damascus would ask the parties it influences to back Awn's candidate to the utmost limit. He pointed out in this respect that Syria is capable of pressuring the Armenian Tashnaq Party to have all its votes go to Awn's candidate.
It was noticed that Awn returned from Germany with hard-line stands that prevented any compromise in Al-Matn after Muhammad Nasif asserted to him that Syria was capable of ensuring his candidate's success and would put its weight and that of all its allies behind achieving this goal.
It is known that Maj-Gen Nasif is responsible for the Shi'i dossier in general and the Shi'i one in Lebanon in particular and has a history of strong relations with all the Shi'i parties, foremost of them "Hezbollah" and "Amal." The senior Syrian security official visits Germany frequently for treatment.
(c) 2007 BBC Monitoring Middle East.
Michael Young gets in a few wacks at Aoun as well, but in contrast to Elaph, he argues in "Is Michel Aoun walking into a trap?" that Syria is not backing Aoun, but secretly hopes he will lose in order to divide Christians. He writes:
Syria is looking to weaken Aoun, just as its main intention is to push the Christians into a destructive internecine crisis. Why? Perhaps to advance an alternative presidential contender at the right time, and to ensure that the Christians are so divided after the Metn election that they will be unable to agree on a different consensus candidate for the presidency.
Murr and Feltman discuss US military aid to Lebanon
Itamar Rabinovich has published an article today (in the mean time I believe it is only in Hebrew) saying basically that situation today reminds him of Egypt and Israel back in the early 70's, when Sadat wanted to have peace but ended up in waging a war.
He also says Syria and Israel had secret nego's in the 90's and 2000, not always with the presence of the Americans.
He suggested that Israel should reject the condition set by Assad in his last speech – that Israel agrees to withdraw from the Golan prior to opening talks – which is a much tougher condition than before. Nevertheless, he says, Israel should not push Assad to the corner.