A Solution in Doha?

In the spirit of cooperation and problem-solving, two bitter enemies from diametrically opposed camps have come together on Syria Comment to work out a joint agreement for the Lebanese political quagmire, in the hopes of demonstrating to Lebanon’s warring leaders that consensus and compromise are possible, even in the most adversarial of relationships. Therefore, and without further ado, Syria Comment presents…

The Qifa Nabki-Alex Accord

1. The cabinet alignment should adhere to the latest Qatari proposal: sixteen seats for March 14, eleven seats for March 8, and three seats for the president's ministers. Under such an arrangement, the opposition would have a minority veto, which it could use to block unpleasant legislation until next June 2009, when a new government is formed.

2. There should be a public commitment to one specific electoral law: either the draft law devised by the Boutros Commission, or the 1960 law with specific amendments agreed upon by both sides.

3. The immediate election of Suleiman as president.

As Syria Comment went to press, the two sides in Qatar were nearing a deal of this type, with no signs of an immediate breakthrough, however. The challenges that loom over this agreement are large, foremost among them the complete lack of trust between the Lebanese primaries, and the amount of foreign pressure being applied.

It is the belief of these two commentators that the most important outcome of these talks would be a caretaker government that blocks the road to further sectarian fighting in the streets, re-opens the downtown district, and allows the Lebanese people a chance to recover before the mudslinging recommences early next year, in advance of an historic election.

Comments (88)

Shy said:


Well done. But are you submitting this as a possible solution or just a fun intellectual exercise? Do you actually think the opposition would agree on 16/11/3?

Regarding the Boutros Commission, have either side agreed to that yet?


May 20th, 2008, 2:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I think the opposition are worried that the veto is worthless since March 14 will probably opt for early elections based on the new law. Why wait till 2009 and let the opposition sabotage the government? Aoun is as weak as he will ever be and regarding Hizballah the cat is out of the bag about their arms. If March 14 can’t win now, the opposition should rule. It looks though that the opposition are worried about early elections.

May 20th, 2008, 2:32 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


March 14 can’t hold early elections, because the opposition has a veto.

Actually some people are saying the exact same thing that you are saying, except on the opposition’s side. They say that March 14 didn’t want to give them the veto because then the opposition could resign and the government would fall, prompting new elections.

Things are getting close. If Aoun agrees to Murr’s proposal to divide Beirut into three districts (which Hizbullah has already signed off on), then we have a deal.

May 20th, 2008, 2:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why would Aoun accept this deal? He will not be president and he risks an election he is ill prepared to contest.

May 20th, 2008, 2:40 pm


Alex said:


You are forgetting that those who are going to vote are Lebanese, not AIGs. They have their own priorities.

Be patient. You’ll have your own elections to vote there.

On Aoun’s TV one of their reporters is claiming that the opposition did not even hear about any proposal that the Qataris announced. He says that according to him, they are not nearing a solution.

May 20th, 2008, 2:41 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I don’t get it. What happens according to the Lebanese constitution if the prime minister resigns? Or if all March 14 ministers resign? Does it not mean early elections? How about if parlaiment votes to dismantle itself, thus bypassing the cabinet?

May 20th, 2008, 2:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are OTV saying that they are nearing a solution or NOT nearing a solution?

May 20th, 2008, 2:45 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Actually, you’re right about that. Sorry, I’ve been thinking in terms of vetos and majorities for so long that it didn’t occur to me that the majority could pull the same trick as the opposition, and resign to bring down the government.

Yes, of course, that could happen.

But your scenario doesn’t make sense. Why? Because if March 14 wanted to head for new elections, they would have done it a long time ago, thereby relying upon the 2000 law which is much more favorable to them than the one they are currently putting together.

The opposition is currently saying that they are not near a solution. This is after it came out that Hizbullah was smiling upon Murr’s proposal, which obviously embarassed Aoun, whose proposal had been rejected by M14.

May 20th, 2008, 2:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I do not claim to know what is best for the Lebanese. But until now the opposition has demanded a new electoral law and then new elections. I think once the president is elected, March 14 will start pushing for new elections and corner the oppposition. Who will win, I don’t know, but the process will be democratic and that is what matters.

What there won’t be, and that is what Hizballah really wants, is a puppet government which it can threaten. It will either be a robust March 14 government or a robust Hizballah led government.

May 20th, 2008, 2:52 pm


Atassi said:

Wow . excellent “ proposition “ please add Arrak and Taboula … and I am wondering why aren’t you both presently in Qatar HELPING THE LEBANES BORTHERS!!

May 20th, 2008, 2:52 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I beg to differ. First, March 14 wants a president who is not Aoun and is somewhat partial. This was not the case before. They will not resign before Suleiman is elected.
Second, the current situation on the ground favors March 14 in an election. It does not mean they will surely win, but it does mean that it makes sense for them to go for elections now. Hizballah gave them a present and solidified the Sunni vote for FM and the Druze vote for PSP. Furthermore, the FPM probably lost all its non-christian Sunni backing (estimated at 10% of support), and Aoun has probably grown weaker in the Christian street. Certainly his support is less than 70% and perhaps as low as 30-40%.

If I were March 14, I would rather take my chances now than wait a year and let Hizballa sabotage the government by making it look ineffective and weak. In any case, they can score some points against the opposition by asking for early elections and seeing the opposition squirm.

May 20th, 2008, 3:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


It is impossible to speak of who will corner whom at this stage, for a very simple reason:

Lebanon has never held a fair election.

Sure, we have held an election or two that was not strictly rigged, but because of the corrupt practices like vote buying, voter intimidation, zero campaign finance oversight, gerrymandering, and low voter turnout, it is impossible to regard previous elections as free, fair, and representative.

This will all change next year, if we are lucky.

I urge you to read this interview with Arda Ekmeji, the Dean of Arts and Sciences of Hagazian University in Lebanon, who served as a member of the Boutros Commission on Electoral Law. She describes the ways in which the Boutros law aimed to address all of these corrupt practices and to set the system right.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

So then afterward comes the geographical districting, which, if you hear people talk about elections today, is the only thing they talk about. We have 129 articles in this new law, but they’re only concerned with one, which is: Is it going to be caza or muhafaza [governorate]? But if you ask me, no matter what law you have, if all the other articles are applied, very little manipulation will take place. Because if you have control over the campaigning, the media and electronic counting of ballots, and if you have the system well-registered, and if you know that all those people are going to be voting, you will have more people interested in voting – in Beirut you had 20% last time, and you talk about a majority. A majority of 20% is nothing! But if you have either the caza or the muhafaza and you ignore all the others, we’re exactly back at square-one. So any electoral law that has to be worked out, people first have to sit and get out of this geographical system, and then we have to work on the others because this is where the real work is.”

May 20th, 2008, 3:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


We’ll see what happens. Maybe you’re right. I don’t think the current situation on the ground necessarily favors March 14. Aoun has definitely lost support (with Murr’s defection and with HA’s civil disobedience), but all of the M14 politicians have taken a beating over the past several months as well.

May 20th, 2008, 3:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And one more thing. If March 14 wins the upcoming election with an election law agreed by ALL Lebanese it will have a very strong legitimacy. The Aounists were against elections with the 2000 law by the way and that is their main claim for the illigitimacy of the current government. After the new elections, if they lose, what will they say? Getting all Lebanese to agree to a new law is crucial for March 14.

As I see it, March 14 have nothing to lose from a near election. They either win, or lose small, in which case they will also win because without them, any Lebanese government would be Hizballah led and will have no international legitimacy. They can still demand the prime minister post and will probably be given it.

May 20th, 2008, 3:07 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The mediators have already put a propsal that gives the opposition a blocking minority of 11 ministers. The majority would get 16 while three neutrals would be named by the President.

The only discussion now is the electoral law that will govern the election of May 2009.

In the first proposal, parliament would debate the terms of a completely new statute after Sleiman is elected.

The alternative would be to return to a law adopted in 1960 but with amendments to the Beirut consituency boundries. The reason why the majority is reluctant to agree is because the current way the Beirut constituency boundries work give Saad Harriri his bedrock of Sunni support. Substantial “amendments” to these boundries will shake the math. behind this key support pillar

In my opinion, what is already on the table is near a deal. Syrian newspapers are already celebrating the waning influence of KSA and the arrival of Qatar on the scene. Perhaps this is a sign that a deala is not too far now.

May 20th, 2008, 3:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Is part of the deal that elections will only be in May 2009?

May 20th, 2008, 3:21 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Yes. For now, the opposition gets the veto power with their 11 votes. This carries them till May 2009 when the new elections take place. The opposition does not want to win for the next 11 months and lose for the following four years. Hence this fight over the May 2009 outcome and who is going to control that. The opposition would love alternative one which means they draft a new law now. They may accept alternative two if they feel that the Saad support as a result of the change to the Beirut map will weaken him enough that they can win in May 2009. This is going to be a riskier move of course. I believe that alternative two looks the more likely as alternative one would tilt the deal more heavily in the direction of the opposition (even though the negotiations go in force only after a President is already chosen). I guess we shall find out soon.

May 20th, 2008, 3:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Saad al-Hariri has already agreed to Murr’s proposal, which is based on amending the 1960 law (the preferred law for the opposition according to Aoun and Sleiman Frangieh), so Saad has proven that he is willing to split Beirut into three. Here is coverage of that approval:

Murr’s proposal called for dividing Beirut into three constituencies such as:

The First (250,000 voters) includes Mazraa, Musayitbeh, Zoqak al-Blat, Ain Mreisseh, Mina al-Hosn, Ras Beirut and the port area such as the 10 seats are distributed as follows: 5 Sunnis, one Shiite, one Greek Orthodox, One Druze, one Anglican and one from the minority.

The Second (110,000 voters) includes Bashoura, Mdawwar and Saifi. Seats to be distributed as follows: 3 Armenians, one Shiite and one Sunni.

The Third (80,000 voters) includes Ashrafiyeh and Rmeil. Seats to be distributed as follows: One Greek Orthodox, one Maronite, one Shiite and one Sunni.

Murr uncovered that Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah informed him that they approved his offer. He said he got their okay during a Monday meeting.

Murr said he was entrusted by Berri and Hizbullah to discuss details of the offer with Hariri.

“I heard his (Hariri’s) remarks … and we agreed to continue consultations in this regard,” Murr said.

May 20th, 2008, 3:40 pm


EHSANI2 said:

If Hariri had indeed agreed, he is implictly calculating that he will still win even with the amendments. This conviction is giving the opposition a pause as come May 2009, they are back to square one if Saad’s math is right.

This is why they prefer alternative one and of course it why Saad will be very reluctant to choose this option.

May 20th, 2008, 3:44 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Doha negotiations produce two proposals

At a press conference today in Doha, Qatari Foreign Minister Ahmed Mahmoud declared that there are currently two proposals on the table to resolve Lebanon’s political deadlock.

“The Arab Ministerial Committee suggested two proposals for a solution that they consider the best way out of the crisis,” he stated. “One of the two parties requested additional time to study the proposals.” In response, the committee extended its deadline for reaching a solution until Wednesday, when another press conference will be held to announce the results of mediation efforts.

While Lebanon’s feuding factions have agreed on Army Commander General Michel Sleiman as a consensus candidate for president, debate has flared over the election law that will be used during Lebanon’s next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2009. The argument has centered over how to divide Beirut’s electoral districts, with Free Patriotic Movement leader General Michel Aoun and MP Michel al-Murr offering competing plans. According to reports, Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri rejected Aoun’s plan out of hand but appeared ready to “build on” Murr’s proposal, which divides Beirut into three districts.

Murr noted that his plan already received the approval of Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah during their Monday meeting. “They commissioned me to discuss my suggestion with Future leader MP Saad Hariri,” Murr told the Lebanese daily Al-Liwaa, adding that they will go over Hariri’s thoughts on the division of the three electoral constituencies in Beirut.

According to Al-Liwaa, Murr’s suggestion included Zaqaq Blat, Minet al-Hosn, Ras al-Nabaa, Corniche al-Mazraa and Ain al-Mreisseh in the first constituency, which would be represented by nine MPs, among them, five Sunnis, one Shia, one Orthodox, one minority representative and one Druze. This constituency would represent 250,000 voters.
The second constituency would include Al-Bachoura, Saifi and Al-Medawwar and would be represented by five MPs, among them, three Armenians, one Shia, one Sunni and one minority representative. This constituency would represent 100,000 voters.

The third constituency, to include Rmeil and Achrafieh, would have four MPs; one Orthodox, one Maronite, one Armenian and one Catholic representing 80,000 voters.

Still, the two factions appeared hopelessly far apart on country’s most divisive issues for most of the day. An Arab diplomatic source told NOW Lebanon that the Arab diplomatic parties, particularly Qatar, are unhappy with the course of events in Doha. The source confirmed that, if a breakthrough was not made, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa would hold a press conference to name the party responsible for obstructing mediation efforts.

May 20th, 2008, 3:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Is it Aoun just against the deal or is it Hizballah coming to an understanding that an agreement to play by rules everybody agrees on without intimidtion is against their interest and the interest of their patrons?

I think we will probably disagree on this issue…

May 20th, 2008, 4:51 pm


norman said:

The devil is in the details, They will not see any agreement through.

May 20th, 2008, 5:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You may be right and I am wrong. This is from a guy claiming to have inside info on doha on the FM blog so take it with a big grain of salt:
Just learned from a friend in Doha that the Qatar initiative of 1/ elect a president 2/ 1960 + mofdification law and 3/ 16-13-3 has been agreed on between FM, PSP,LF,Kataeb,Kurna,HA,Amal but NOT GMA. After morning calls with KSA, Iran and the USA they all agreed on above. Aoun is once more out of tune. HA and Amal are trying to convince him since this morning with no results, GMA openely blamed HA that he was promised to become president, that M8 needs an electoral law to limit Sunni presence in the capital and wants Baabda to remain with Aley to limit Jumblat’s influence and he wants 1/3 of the cabinet with 3 ministries 2of which are interior and justice. …
It has become clear that HA will not take this shit from GMA anymore and some heard Haj Hassan saying to Gibran Basil, we have doe enough for you and Basil answered you did nothing compared to what we did to you … we offered you a Christian embrella no one will give ito you not even Jesus Christ

The only reason this sounds somewhat plausible to me is that Aoun has nothing to gain from the deal, he really is a huge loser. Perhaps Hizballah are using him again as the spoiler so they will not be blamed if there is no deal but perhaps the general is willing to go against the will of most Lebanese.

May 20th, 2008, 5:12 pm


Shai said:


I know very little about Lebanon’s internal affairs. I am merely an outside observer. But my gut feeling tells me that the Lebanese are simply too split up to come to agreement and, after seeing how easily some of the parties were willing to take up arms against their brethren, will continue to hold on to their emotional scars, and fears, for quite some time. The level of suspicion and distrust is so high, that agreement seems almost an impossibility. I think the exact same thing is happening between Fatah and Hamas. When one side feels betrayed by another, forgiveness tends to come slowly, and usually much farther down the road. I’m not very optimistic about either conflict.

While QN and Alex’s initiative is a blessing, it seems to lack the only spoiling ingredient – emotions.

May 20th, 2008, 5:44 pm


norman said:


We agree.

May 20th, 2008, 5:47 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


And if they obey what would be the reward? And why was God exclusive in his choice? Dosen’t this imply kind of privilege?
I brought up the issue because AP once asked another commentator to show him an incident where a supporter of Israel went public proclaiming the virtue of belonging to the so-called “chosen people”.
In any case, do you think it was appropriate and helpful that president Bush, who wants to facilitate finding a solution to the historical conflict, uttered such a statement? Doesn’t it give ammunition to those who see this conflict as essentially rooted in religion, and hence add to the intractability of the problem?

May 20th, 2008, 6:01 pm


Naji said:

GENERAL AOUN is on NewTV… NOW… Most Important…!!!

May 20th, 2008, 6:02 pm


antika said:

the latest events in Beruit HA and Aoun will be losers all the way through. they will refuse all proposals no matter how they try to solve the problem. it looks to me the Doha meeting an annoucement of war against HA. it completes the circle which HA has put himslef in. HA and Aoun will appear as the main cause of the problem to the International and arabic worlds. then, a certain action will follow which will Bring Nasr allah back to action: this time more severely, jumping from one hump to another. it looks as if all events are planned already.

May 20th, 2008, 6:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The reward is just a life of peace, not even an afterlife. Nowhere in the Old Testament does God promise the Jews an afterlife.

You may be right that what Bush said did not help bring a solution, but as Alex says, Israel and the US are so disliked anyway that it probably also didn’t hurt. As for the conflict having religious connotations, this goes back to the Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini and continues with Hamas and Hizballah with a short intermission for Arab nationalists taking the lead.

May 20th, 2008, 6:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


That anecdote on the FM blog sounds a little apocryphal to me.

But I agree with you that Aoun emerges from this as the big loser, no question.

What is so interesting to me is that he is so ungracious in defeat. He is basically playing the sectarian card right now on NTV, saying that March 14 wants to dominate the Christians of Beirut, and that they would burn all of Lebanon for the sake of a parliament seat.

If anyone is willing to see it burn, at the moment, it is Aoun. The Sunnis and Shi`a (and many of the Christians, for example those represented by Kataeb, LF, and Michel Murr) are on the verge of a fair agreement, which would create the true partnership that everyone is hoping for. Aoun, as usual, stands in the way.

May 20th, 2008, 6:21 pm


Shai said:

Seeking, AIG,

I’ve always claimed that this lack of clarity on God’s part (“Chosen”, but chosen for what?…) has led too many non-Jews to hate Jews, and many a Jews to love themselves. Personally, I get a bit nervous hearing Dubya call us the chosen people… It reminds me of my barber during my college years in the U.S., who used to tell me how Jews are needed in order to bring about the Antichrist… (lovely). 🙂

May 20th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Off the Wall said:

Folks, this may sound off-the-wall, and somehow cynical, but think of the word Tawafoq, and project it to the populas as opposed to the self interested leaders. It may have some merit in the “very special, unique, and unparallelled” lebanese situation,

I think that one possible solution to the lebanese political stalemates is to restructure the election laws in manners that allows members of each sect to vote only for candidates from other sects only but not for candidates from their own sect.

Think “Tawafoq”. What would the lebanese political spectrum look like if sunnies can only vote for Shia candidates, Shias can only vote for Sunnie candidates, and both can vote for any christian candidate but not for their own self declared nobilities.

Our lebanese bretherens have paid in blood and treasures to preserve their sectarian system. All i am trying to do is to help them preserve it but make it real cooperative instead of fudal.

Again, this if off the wall. I know it, and you can call me crazy ( I will not mind that for a bit”

May 20th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Habibi Naji

What did you think of the interview by GMA?

This man is truly unbelievable. He never had any intention of seeing Michel Suleiman become president. He is there only to sabtoage these talks and to push for a transitional government that will oversee parliamentary elections, with a president (himself!) elected subsequent to that.

If I were Hasan Nasrallah I would be sick and tired of this bullshit. No wonder Michel al-Murr left. The guy is a megalomaniac. Too bad, because many of his ideas for Lebanon were on the right track. Now it has become crystal clear, to my mind, that he has one goal and one goal only: Baabda. I am through giving him the benefit of the doubt.

My advice to those who care about the “allies” of Syria in Lebanon: scratch Aoun off your list. He would become an agent for the love child of Olmert and Condoleeza, if that love child would guarantee him the presidential suite.

May 20th, 2008, 6:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why is Aoun needed for an agreement? Let Hizballah have all the opposition ministers. There are enough christians in the government without the Aounists.

It will be interesting to see what Hizballah does with Aoun. They can’t swallow him not can they spit him out.

May 20th, 2008, 7:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


By this point, given Aoun’s intransigence, I think that the FM would like nothing better. In fact, that is essentially what existed in 2005, with the Quadripartite Alliance (FM, HA, Amal, and PSP).

Aoun cannot be abandoned: he has a serious following in Lebanon.

However, he is stabbing himself (and his party) in the back with these tactics.

Aoun told NTV that the opposition sent back a proposal to the majority. Here’s a prediction: it will be a joke, which will force the majority to reject it and make it seem like they are the spoilers, when it is becoming more and more evident that the only party who stands in the way of a solution is Aoun.

May 20th, 2008, 7:21 pm


Alex said:

The interesting thing about General Aoun is that unlike almost all other Lebanese leaders who are meeting in Qatar, he has no external allies he reports to or at least consults with.

He is truly independent .. which seems to be a negative quality in this case, Assuming he is indeed acting as a spoiler because of selfish reasons… it is not like Damascus can call him and suggest anything to him.

Maybe Nasrallah can talk to him and influence him?

May 20th, 2008, 7:44 pm


norman said:

Lebanon needs to revamp the whole System ,,

Band-aids do not help Lebanon, Lebanon needs Chemotherapy to get better.

May 20th, 2008, 7:59 pm


Friend in America said:

This intelligence report should answer some of the questions raised by many interested participants recently:

Experience With Syria Exemplifies Challenge That Detection Presents

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 12, 2008; Page A16
Syria went to extraordinary lengths to conceal its undeclared construction of a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor from spies in the sky and on the ground in recent years, according to a draft report by independent nuclear experts briefed by Bush administration officials.

Spread of Nuclear Capability Is Feared
Experience With Syria Exemplifies Challenge That Detection Presents
A Secret Global Conduit for Nuclear Wares
The effectiveness of the camouflage effort raises new doubts about the prospects for certain detection of future clandestine nuclear weapons-related activities, the Institute for Science and International Security concluded in its report on the Syrian facility. “This case serves as a sobering reminder of the difficulty of identifying secret nuclear activities,” the report said.

U.S. intelligence officials last month released images of the Syrian facility before it was bombed by Israel last September and bulldozed by the Syrian government once the raid became public. U.S. and Israeli officials have said the facility was a nearly completed nuclear reactor built with North Korean help and fitted with a false roof and walls that altered its shape when viewed from above.

According to the ISIS report to be released this week, the fake roof was just the start. Syrian engineers went to “astonishing lengths” to hide cooling and ventilation systems, power lines and other features that normally are telltale signs of a nuclear reactor, authors David Albright and Paul Brannan wrote.

For example, the main building appears small and shallow from the air, but it was evidently built over large underground chambers — tens of meters in depth — that were large enough to house the nuclear reactor, as well as a reserve water-storage tank and pools for spent fuel rods, the report said.

An extensive network of electrical lines appears to have been buried in trenches. Traditional water-cooling towers were replaced with an elaborate underground system that discharged into the Euphrates River. And, instead of using smokestack-like ventilation towers prominent at many reactor sites, the ventilation system appears to have been built along the walls of the building, with louver openings not visible from the air, the authors contended.

The ISIS report noted that early skepticism that Syria was building a reactor there was based partly on the observable absence of revealing features. “The current domestic and international capabilities to detect nuclear facilities and activities are not adequate to prevent more surprises in the future,” the report warned.

Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, said his conclusions were based not only on photographs of the Syrian site but also on interviews with government officials who closely monitored the facility while it was under construction.

Syria has repeatedly denied that the Al Kibar facility was a reactor. Its ambassador, Imad Moustapha, at a April 25 news conference in Washington described the allegations as “absurd, preposterous stories.” “This administration has a proven record of falsifying and fabricating stories about weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

On Wednesday, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohammed Elbaradei said his organization should be able to report in coming weeks whether the facility was an undeclared nuclear reactor.

May 20th, 2008, 8:00 pm


offended said:

btw anybody knows why they are debating the details of electoral law in Doha? I mean isn’t a bit early for that now? Isn’t better to focus on forming the government, electing Sulieman and getting on with it?

May 20th, 2008, 8:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s the new opposition proposal:

Bashoura: 4 seats
Ashrafiyeh: 6 seats
Mousaytbeh: 9 seats

This basically takes one Christian seat away from the Bashoura district, and puts it in with Ashrafieh where the Christian population is much bigger.

This might be accepted. We’ll have to see the details.


They are discussing the electoral law at the insistence of the opposition. I believe this is a good thing.

Non-confirmed reports say that the four-member electoral committee has reached initial agreement.

May 20th, 2008, 8:09 pm


Alex said:


I don’t know about you, but we are a bit more difficult customers in the Middle East.

Every time someone comes up with a valid question (like: where are the power lines?), somehow and somewhere we find a report with new pictures that address that question.

Sorry .. but that does not make them valid. That make them more and more look like they are manipulated images meant to answer any new questions raised by those who doubted the Bush administrations’ claims.

I like this part “An extensive network of electrical lines appears to have been buried in trenches.”

Wow … we asked this question here last month and that time there were no photos in which that extensive network “appears” … Now, miraculously, someone found just the right photos.

Where are the photos that show the Syrians digging those underground electricity lines? … it takes months to do that .. surely there are multiple satellite photos showing progress during that lengthy process.

May 20th, 2008, 8:21 pm


Observer said:

The only solution is to make all of Lebanon into one electoral district and every citizen can vote for whoever he/she chooses. If districts are to be divided up in advance then the results of the elections can be fairly well controlled and predicted and this is where the Beirut division is coming out as a sticking point. Now, this puts the cart in front of the horse as any new electoral law or agreement should be either after or concurrently with a recent census not the 1932 census that guarantees the warlords their share of power.

On a different note, if one looks carefully at the recent visit by the president to the ME, one can conclude that the entire strategy if ever there was one is in tatters. The combined effort of the US and Israel to insure that the later is the supreme power in the region is finished. The Israeli Palestinian conflict can no longer be solved without the involvement of Iran. In Iraq, the country has become a defacto Iranian sphere of influence. In the Gulf, the majority of the members are more than willing to accept to abide by the Iranian presence and have opted to leave the Saudi policies in isolation. The fact that the protagonists of the Lebanese conflict are not talking about the Security Council and are relying on the Arab initiative is also an indication that they no longer can rely on the present administration to bail them out. There is no plan B in DC. If the Arab initiative fails the implications for Arab Nationalism are very grave for it will have shown now that after the first and the second Gulf wars and despite all of the events of the last few years the Arab regimes cannot even come out agreeing on a formula for tiny Lebanon to live in peace. This means that they do not have and will not have anytime soon any plan to deal with Iraq, Palestine, the jobless, the growth of their populations, and the decline of their water, and the growth of wealth in some and not other areas and so on and so forth. When Political Islam replaces Arab Secular Nationalism at a time when Political Islam has not been well defined articulated and thought out well means a period of turmoil and uncertaintity. Likudniks opted for a surrender of the Arab world and awakened a new monster that will make the Arab nationalists that they fought look like Sunday Boy Scouts on a Parade.

In all of this on the long run Israel is the biggest loser, it had the most compliant leader it could possibly dream of having in Abbas and it could not even deliver to him the lifting of a few road blocks. This will go down in history as one of the major follies on the same scale as the taxing of the American colonies by King George, or the selling of Indulgences by the Pope.

May 20th, 2008, 9:01 pm


Kamal said:

Hi all,

The proposed accord is not a bad start but needs to go further.

1. M14 fears giving veto power to the pro-Syrian camp because it will be used to block the Hariri tribunal and the investigation of the Syrian assassination spree. If M14 is forced to concede to pro-Syrian veto power, there must be a condition attached that the veto will not be used against the Hariri tribunal or the assassination investigations.

2. The most immediate danger facing Lebanon today is the presence of an armed, sectarian, fundamentalist, aggressive, foreign-backed militia on Lebanese soil that has formed a state within a state. This militia has unilaterally plunged the country into war with a giant, ruthless neighbor, and has now attacked Lebanese people and civilian areas. We need an immediate commitment from Hizballah that it will NEVER AGAIN take up arms against fellow Lebanese, NEVER AGAIN unilaterally launch an international war. Furthermore, it must provide a clear timetable of when Hizballa will disarm and become a normal political party: When Sheb’a is liberated? When an independent Palestinian state is formed in the West Bank and Gaza? When Israel is destroyed? When the US fully withdraws from the entire Middle East? We need to know.

The rest can be worked out – I hope.

May 20th, 2008, 9:13 pm


Friend in America said:

Alex –
I do not at present have information to reply to all of your questions in above comment. Best I can say, at this time, is the USIS is the first non government organization to have access to all photos since 2001 or earlier plus other intelligence information on this subject. The report is prepared as a study paper for international non proliferation organizations. The authors are two experienced former UN inspectors. I anticipate international agencies will regard the report as reliable.
I remember the dialogue over transmission lines a month ago and this is the first intelligence organization release on that subject. The rest of us were just trying to figure it out from second or third hand sources (or no sources – LOL).

May 20th, 2008, 9:32 pm


EHSANI2 said:


As usual, another good comment.

May 20th, 2008, 10:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The Aounist blogs are reporting a deal.

There will be an announcement tomorrow morning, 10AM, supposedly.

The sit-in will be lifted this week, inshallah.

It seems that Nasrallah sent the message to Aoun.

Fingers crossed.

May 20th, 2008, 11:51 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Lebanon today is the presence of an armed, sectarian, fundamentalist, aggressive, foreign-backed militia on Lebanese soil that has formed a state within a state

Would this be Gemayel’s Phalange?

I saw a photo of Aoun and Berri in Doha and they looked serene and content. What would the world be without those midnight deals? Keep the Coke and pizza coming….er, I mean tea and hummus, coffee and olives…whatever it takes.

May 21st, 2008, 12:43 am


EHSANI2 said:

The Dow Jones Wires already reported a deal has been reached as the opposition gave the nod through Ali Hasan Khalil. The President will be elected Thursday or Friday.

Qatar was not going to allow this to fail.

May 21st, 2008, 12:43 am


Qifa Nabki said:

إنجاز الدوحة: صفحة جديدة للبنان

انتخاب سليمان فوراً وحكومة بثلث معطّل وتقسيم يريح الحريري في بيروت ويرضي عون والأرمن

الدوحة ـ إبراهيم الأمين ونقولا ناصيف

بعيد منتصف ليل أمس، تمّ التوصل في الدوحة الى اتفاق لبناني ـــــ لبناني هو الأوّل من نوعه لإعادة تنظيم الحياة السياسيّة في لبنان منذ اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري في الرابع عشر من شباط عام 2005

وقال مرجع قيادي في المعارضة إن الاتفاق صيغ في ورقة وسوف يذاع صباح اليوم بعد إجراء الترتيبات لإعلان رسمي في الدوحة، على أمل أن تبدأ الترتيبات في بيروت لإجراء انتخابات رئاسية خلال ثلاثة أيام على أبعد تقدير، يليها بدء مشاورات لتأليف حكومة وحدة وطنية قال موالون إن النائب سعد الدين الحريري قد يكون رئيسها أو من ينوب عنه، لكن لن يبقى الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة في موقعه

وقد زار أمير قطر حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني العماد ميشال عون في جناحه، وأنجز معه اللمسات الأخيرة على الاتفاق. ثمّ عُقد اجتماع قرابة الواحدة والنصف بعد منتصف الليل بين مندوبي الموالاة والمعارضة مع رئيس الوزراء القطري حمد بن جاسم، لصياغة نص الاتفاق بصورة نهائية

وكانت أجواء تشاؤميّة قد سادت بعد البيان الصحافي الذي أذاعه وزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية في قطر أحمد المحمود، وصلت الى حدود بدء بعض الوفود بترتيب أغراضها تمهيداً للعودة الى بيروت. بعد ذلك بقليل، غادر الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى الى البحرين، وانتقل أمير قطر الى الدمام للمشاركة في الاجتماع التشاوري لقادة دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي، فيما استأنف رئيس حكومته حمد بن جاسم سلسلة اجتماعات منفصلة مع قادة الموالاة والمعارضة. وبدا عاتباً بقوة لأن هناك من يريد تفويت فرصة على لبنان بالحصول على اتفاق يحلّ أزمته السياسية ويمنع تمدّد الفتنة القائمة

وحسب المعلومات، فإن الاتفاق يقضي بالآتي

أوّلاً: انتخاب رئيس جديد للجمهورية هو المرشح التوافقي العماد ميشال سليمان

ثانياً: تأليف حكومة وحدة وطنية تنال فيها المعارضة الثلث الضامن (11 مقعداً) والموالاة النصف زائداً واحداً (16 مقعداً) وتترك ثلاثة مقاعد لرئيس الجمهورية

ثالثاً: تحيل هذه الحكومة في أول اجتماع الى مجلس النواب مشروع قانون للانتخابات النيابية يقوم على اعتماد ما تم في عام 1960، على أن يكون تقسيم العاصمة بيروت بطريقة جديدة

رابعاً: يدعو رئيس الجمهورية إلى جلسات حوار وطني بشأن بقية المسائل العالقة ولا سيما ملف العلاقة بين الدولة والتنظيمات كافة. ويفترض أن يشير الاتفاق الى التزام جميع الأطراف بالعمل على عدم تجدّد العنف وعدم الاحتكام الى السلاح في أي خلاف داخلي، ويترك أمر سلاح المقاومة الى الحوار المفترض أن يقوده رئيس الجمهورية في وقت لاحق. كما يتضمّن دعوة لوقف الحملات الإعلاميّة والتحريضيّة بين الموالاة والمعارضة

حزب الله والترياق

وفي المشاورات التي جرت لاحقاً، سلم حزب الله، بالتنسيق مع بقية قوى المعارضة، الى رئيس الوزراء القطري اقتراحه للحل في بيروت، ثم جرى نقاش تفصيلي انتهى الى الاتفاق على صيغة تقضي بتقسيمها الى ثلاث دوائر، الأولى تضم أحياء الأشرفية والرميل والصيفي وتضم خمسة مقاعد (ماروني، روم أرثوذكس، كاثوليكي، واثنان من الارمن)، والثانية تضم الباشورة والمدور وفيها أربعة مقاعد (سني وشيعي واثنان من الارمن)، والثالثة وهي الاكبر وتضم أحياء المزرعة والمصيطبة ورأس بيروت وعين المريسة وميناء الحصن والمرفأ وفيها عشرة مقاعد (شيعي، درزي، أقليات، روم أرثوذكس وواحد من الاقليات وخمسة مقاعد للسنّة

وقال اقتراح حزب الله بأن توافقاً يجب أن يسبق الانتخابات، بحيث تكون هناك لائحة ائتلافية في الدائرة الثانية، فيختار كل من فريقي الموالاة والمعارضة مرشّحيهم الى هذه الدائرة. وكانت هذه الفكرة الوحيدة التي جعلت العماد عون يتراجع عن مطالبته بترك ثمانية مقاعد في الدائرة الأولى

بعد موافقة العماد عون ومندوب حزب الطاشناق النائب أغوب بقرادونيان، توجه الجميع الى اجتماع خاص للجنة صياغة قانون الانتخابات. وترأس الجلسة الأولى رئيس الوزراء القطري بحضور مساعده وزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية أحمد المحمود وهشام يوسف وطلال الأمين عن الجامعة العربية والنائبين أكرم شهيّب وجورج عدوان والنائب السابق غطاس خوري والمسؤول في تيار «المستقبل» صالح فروخ عن فريق الموالاة. وحضر عن المعارضة النواب: علي حسن خليل، محمد فنيش، آغوب بقرادونيان والمسؤول السياسي في التيار الوطني الحر جبران باسيل ونائب مدير مركز الدراسات والتوثيق عبد الحليم فضل الله

وحتى الحادية عشرة والنصف ليلاً، كان اجتماع اللجنة مفتوحاً، تخلّلته فترات تشاور من خارج القاعة وفي خلوات جانبية وتنقل بين أجنحة رؤساء الوفود، قبل أن تُعلن موافقة مبدئية للنائب الحريري على الاقتراح، شرط أن يتم التفاهم مسبقاً على عدم حصول معركة انتخابية طاحنة في بيروت، وهو بذلك ضمن المقاعد التسعة في الدائرة الثالثة واثنين من مقاعد الدائرة الثانية، على أن تحصل معركة انتخابية في الدائرة الأولى

وبعدما رفض كل الأقطاب الإدلاء بتصريحات في اللحظات الأخيرة، اقترب منتصف الليل والجميع في انتظار آخر الأخبار عن المواقف النهائية لكل من الحريري وعون بشأن تقسيم دوائر بيروت الانتخابية. فجأة وصل أمير قطر الى الفندق آتياً من اجتماعات مجلس التعاون الخليجي في الدمام. وأجّل لبعض الوقت الاجتماع الثاني للجنة صياغة قانون الانتخابات، فيما كان الجميع من الفريقين يتولون إشاعة الأجواء الإيجابية عن قرب الحل

اعتراضات مسيحيّي 14 آذار

ولم تكد أخبار التفاهم تسري بقوة، حتى باشر أعضاء في الفريق المسيحي لـ14 آذار بالإعراب عن اعتراضهم على أيّ اتفاق لا يقدم صيغة نهائية وواضحة تضمن عدم لجوء حزب الله الى استخدام السلاح في الداخل وتنظم علاقة سلاحه مع الدولة من خلال إخضاعه لآلية تنسيق مع الحكومة اللبنانية

لكن مصادر دبلوماسية عربية ومصادر قيادية في فريق الموالاة قلّلت من هذه الاعتراضات، وقالت إن اجتماعات عقدت لإقناع المتحفّظين بأنّ الامور سوف تأخذ شكلاً أكثر وضوحاً في جلسات الحوار اللاحقة

عدد الاربعاء ٢١ أيار ٢٠٠٨
Al Akhbar

May 21st, 2008, 12:52 am


Qifa Nabki said:

This is very good news.

Bravo Alex. You see, agreements between “bitter enemies” are good for something after all, even if only to set an example for others. 😉

May 21st, 2008, 12:56 am


norman said:

By Nadim Ladki in Doha
May 21, 2008 09:30am
RIVAL Lebanese leaders have reached a deal to end 18 months of political conflict that had pushed their country to the brink of a new civil war.

Delegates from the US-backed ruling coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition said disputes over a parliamentary election law and a new cabinet had been settled on the sixth day of Arab-mediated talks in Qatar.

“The deal is done. The text has been written,” an opposition delegate said.

A ruling coalition delegate also confirmed the deal, which will meet the opposition’s long-standing demand for veto power in cabinet.

Hezbollah, a group backed by Iran and Syria, increased pressure on the ruling alliance this month by routing its followers in a military campaign. The Qatari-led negotiations built on mediation that ended violence which killed 81.

It was Lebanon’s worst civil conflict since the 1975-1990 war and exacerbated tensions between Shi’ites loyal to Hezbollah and Druze and Sunni followers of the ruling coalition.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani joined the Doha talks shortly before midnight after returning from Saudi Arabia – one of the main foreign backers of the ruling coalition.

A deal paves the way for parliament to elect army chief General Michel Suleiman as president, a post that has been vacant since November because of the political deadlock.

The vote in parliament could take place as soon as tomorrow, delegates said.

The anti-Damascus ruling coalition had long refused to meet the opposition’s demand for cabinet veto power, saying the opposition was trying to restore Syrian control of Lebanon.

Syria, a close ally of Iran, was forced to withdraw troops from Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The US has held up the withdrawal as a foreign policy success story.

But Hezbollah’s military campaign this month was a major blow to US policy in Lebanon and forced Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government to rescind two measures targeting the Iranian-backed group.

The deal will include a pledge by both sides not to use violence in political disputes, echoing a paragraph in the agreement that ended the fighting.

May 21st, 2008, 1:44 am


Alex said:

Qif Nabki,

If we see white smoke tomorrow, it will be the first real good news from the Middle East in years for all of us, Syria Comment addicts.

May 21st, 2008, 2:20 am


majedkhaldoun said:

“The deal will include a pledge by both sides not to use violence in political disputes, echoing a paragraph in the agreement that ended the fighting”

very vague statement, it should read, no violence among lebanese,period.

May 21st, 2008, 3:32 am


Enlightened said:

There will be an Official Announcement at 10am GMT time:

May 21st, 2008, 3:50 am


why-discuss said:

The song they have on Al Manar TV : “Thank you QATAR” is more appropriate than ever..

May 21st, 2008, 4:10 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This is indeed good news. There will be quiet until the elections, whenever they happen. It looks though like Aoun has been really screwed. It will be interesting to see what he does.

May 21st, 2008, 4:12 am


Shai said:

Indeed it will be good news. Perhaps Israel and Hamas should adopt a similar agreement… Or at least Fatah and Hamas.

May 21st, 2008, 4:30 am


Enlightened said:

Good news indeed, maybe AIG and Shai you can come over and do the Dabke and celebrate with us?

Anyway I dont think the problem of the weapons will be solved, here is a copy of Times front page in Europe this week:


May 21st, 2008, 4:35 am


Naji said:

What did I tell you…!! You heard it here first, and you owe me that beer on the corniche…!! 😉

(PS. It did not happen the way you think with thr general… History will record that he played the most constructive role of all…!)

May 21st, 2008, 4:51 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Any deal that agrees on democratic rules and has pledges not to use force is a good deal. As for the weapons, they are really a Lebanese problem. Hizballah will never use them against Israel again, even if Iran is attacked. The price of using them against Israel is just too high for the Shia community and for Lebanon.

May 21st, 2008, 4:53 am


Shai said:


If invited, I will do the Dabke, the Falafel, AND the Arak, all at once. Nothing would give me greater pleasure and honor than to celebrate the peaceful end to any conflict in our region. Incidentally, I may be found to be quite popular with the opposition, given that “Shai” is awfully close to “Shia”…

I already exhausted that “joke” with Zenobia before, but thought of bringing it up once more, in light of the situation… (poor humor runs in my family, sorry…)

May 21st, 2008, 4:59 am


Naji said:

I was the only one here who was optimistic about all this for the past couple of weeks. Now, it is my turn to inject a bit of reality into all this euphoria…!
الخجل والحسرة

خالد صاغيّة
بعد كلّ ما جرى، ها نحن أمام حوار في الدوحة، لا يستدعي جدول أعماله وطريقة تناول بنوده إلا الخجل والحسرة. الخجل من أنفسنا، والحسرة على أنفسنا أيضاً. فلنبدأ من بند رئاسة الجمهوريّة: حتّى كتابة هذه السطور، لم يرتفع صوت واحد في الدوحة يعترض علناً وصراحةً على انتخاب العماد ميشال سليمان رئيساً للجمهوريّة. ممثّلو الشعب اللبناني متوافقون على انتخاب رئيس لا نعرف شيئاً عن برنامجه. لا فكرة لنا عمّا سيطرحه للمساهمة في معالجة الأزمة الاقتصاديّة والاجتماعيّة. لا فكرة لنا عن تصوّره لبناء الدولة. لا فكرة لنا عن قدراته التفاوضيّة التي ستؤهّله لأداء دور الحَكم بين اللبنانيّين. لا فكرة لنا عن قدراته في قراءة التطوّرات الإقليميّة والدوليّة، لمحاولة تجنيب لبنان نيران المنطقة المشتعلة. كلّ ما نعرف عنه هو وقوفه على الحياد، اضطراريّاً، منذ ارتفاع حدّة الاستقطاب السياسي والشعبي في البلاد. نعرف أيضاً أنّ قيادة الجيوش ليست مدرسةً في الدبلوماسيّة والتحكيم السياسي. ونعرف أخيراً هول ما جرى في نهر البارد.
رغم ذلك كلّه، المتحاورون في الدوحة لا يكفّون عن إقناعنا بأهميّة انتخاب العماد سليمان رئيساً توافقيّاً.
أمّا في بند الحكومة، فما نعرفه هو أنّ قتال المعارضة المستشرس للحصول على الثلث الضامن أو المعطّل إنّما يحمل عنوانين لا ثالث لهما: المشاركة والمقاومة. وهما عنوانان يُراد لهما إنهاء تهميش التمثيل المسيحي في الحكم منذ اتّفاق الطائف، منع التهميش الشيعي، وامتلاك حق الفيتو ضدّ أيّ قرار يستهدف سلاح المقاومة وحريّة عملها. هذه النقاط، على أهميّتها، لا توحي بوجود اختلافات في طريقة الحكم بين الفريقين، أقلّه في ما يخصّ مسألتين باتتا تهدّدان الحياة اليوميّة للمواطن.
أوّلاً، المسألة الاقتصاديّة: للتذكير فقط. عرف لبنان في الفترة الأخيرة ارتفاعاً هائلاً في أسعار السلع، وخصوصاً المواد الغذائية. لا مؤتمر الدوحة ولا استعراض المعارضة العسكري أدّى إلى خفض الأسعار. نعرف تماماً قصور السلطة وتقصيرها في هذا المجال، ونعرف انحيازها الطبقي. لكنّنا نعرف أيضاً مساهمة المعارضة في مزيد من التهميش للعمل النقابي، ونعرف أنّ رؤيتها الاقتصاديّة ليست بالضرورة مناقضة لرؤية السلطة، ونعرف أنّ المسألة المعيشيّة هي في آخر سلّم أولويّاتها. يكفي النظر إلى ما آل إليه الإضراب العمّالي الأخير، حين «ذهب بين الأرجل». رصدت السلطة له قنّاصين وزّعتهم ميليشياتها على أسطح المباني، واتّخذت منه المعارضة ذريعةً لشنّ حملتها العسكريّة.
ثانياً، المسألة الطائفيّة: ليست المسألة المطروحة الآن تجاوز النظام الطائفي. لكنّ ما يجب أن يُطرَح بشدّة هو التخفيف من حدّة التوتّرات الطائفيّة في الشارع. ليس هذا على جدول الأعمال. على عكس ذلك، تجري الاستعدادات لمزيد من الحقن، إذ باتت قوّة كلّ فريق تقاس بمدى الحقد الذي يتمكّن من تعبئة جماعته به. يكفي إلقاء نظرة على وسائل الإعلام المملوكة من جانب الأطراف المتنازعة. أهذا هو الخطاب الذي يحكم ما يسمّى زوراً بـ«الحوار»؟
لكنّ عشّاق السعار الطائفي عليهم التركيز على البند الثالث من جدول الأعمال، أي قانون الانتخاب. هنا المهزلة الحقيقيّة. ليست الاقتراحات المقدّمة هي المهمّة، بقدر منطلقات هذه الاقتراحات. لقد بات تقسيم الدوائر من دون مبادئ أو ضوابط إلا مصلحة التيّارات السائدة، أمراً طبيعيّاً. واحتلّت مسألة النسبيّة هامش الهامش. فالحلم بالمحدلات وبتسكير المناطق وإلغاء الآخر وإخماد صوته بأي وسيلة، هو السائد. مصلحة الفئات السياسية الصغرى، إبقاء ولو هامشاً للصراعات غير الطائفية، الأخذ بعين الاعتبار مصلحة الوطن الجامع لدى النظر بمصلحة الطوائف… هذه كلّها مسائل لا مكان لها في الدوحة، لا على جدول الرعاة العرب ولا على جدول الفرقاء اللبنانيين.
إنّه حوار لا يستدعي إلا الخجل والحسرة. الخجل من أنفسنا، والحسرة على أنفسنا أيضاً.

عدد الاربعاء ٢١ أيار ٢٠٠٨

May 21st, 2008, 5:04 am


Enlightened said:


We will see how the election pans out in a years time, but it is a good start, a true election with no one ineterfering! Lets hope that in the future they take down the sectarian system, one man one vote.

I hope this has a little tsunami effect across the region! Especially that Pesky neighbour next door!

Anyway Photos of Demonstrators at Beirut Airport holding up signs
“If you cant agree Dont come Back!”



I Know! I am in agreement maybe you can teach me the Jewish version of the dabke!

Ps what is Avram Grants chances tomorrow morning?

May 21st, 2008, 5:17 am


Enlightened said:

Breaking News:

Ambassador Hisham Youssef, director of the office of the Arab League secretary general, told AFP that the statement announcing the agreement will deal with the issue of weapons according to the Beirut Agreement. This declaration will be the first step toward dialogue over this matter and will be continued later with the president in Beirut.
07:20 MP Ali Hassan Khalil to AFP: An agreement has been reached between the majority and the opposition. It is expected that the presidential session to elect Army Commander General Michel Sleiman as president will be held on Thursday or Friday.

May 21st, 2008, 5:28 am


Majhool said:

Heading toward a Lebanese divorce
Heading toward a Lebanese divorce
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 08, 2008

Once we accept that this week’s alleged labor unrest was only the latest phase in Hizbullah’s war against the Lebanese state, will we understand what actually took place yesterday. And once we realize that cutting the airport road was a calculated effort by Hizbullah to reverse the Siniora government’s transfer of the airport security chief, Wafiq Shouqair, will we understand what may take place in the coming days.

Since last January, when Hizbullah and Amal used the pretense of social dissatisfaction to obstruct roads in and around Beirut, the opposition has, quite openly, shown itself to be limited to Hizbullah. Michel Aoun, once a useful fig leaf to lend cross-communal diversity to the opposition, has since become an afterthought with hardly any pull in Christian streets.

Long ago we learned that Hizbullah could not, in any real sense, allow the emergence of a Lebanese state free from Syrian control. Soon after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the party tried to suffocate the 2005 “independence intifada” in the egg, realizing that Hizbullah had no future as an autonomous armed group in a state that would seek to reimpose its writ after decades of subservience to Damascus. That effort failed on March 14, 2005 – mostly useful as an event in showing that a majority of people would not be intimidated by Hizbullah’s rally of March 8.

Hizbullah’s anxieties were understandable. As the party saw things, without a Lebanese state embracing the idea of open-ended conflict against Israel, and Hizbullah’s sovereign, vanguard role in that conflict (and what state truly independent of Syria would ever want to choose so reckless a path?), Hizbullah would not be able to justify retaining its weapons. But without its weapons, Hizbullah could not exist. Post-Syria Lebanon has posed existential problems for the party, problems that began when Israel withdrew from most of South Lebanon in 2000. The irony of this situation – that Hizbullah was always most comfortable when both Syria and Israel were present in Lebanon – the latter to fight against, the former to safeguard that fight – says a lot about the party’s future options.

Aoun will doubtless find an excuse to explain why the calls for a strike were ignored in predominantly Christian areas. But Hizbullah has to be careful. Now the party’s every move is one of the Shiites against the rest. The sharp decline in Aoun’s popularity, not to mention the pressure being felt by other Hizbullah allies like Elie Skaff in Zahleh, all emanate from a single source: Most Christians, not to mention vast majorities of Sunnis and Druze, see no possible coexistence between the idea of the Lebanese state and a Hizbullah that insists on demanding veto power over any decision that might limit its political and military margin of maneuver.

The ludicrousness of Aoun’s latest statements on Monday only underlined this reality. You have to wonder what the general’s electorate felt when he defended Hizbullah’s activities in Kisirwan and Jbeil, which he represents in Parliament. There will always be those who follow Aoun into a brick wall, who will even follow him to Damascus to bestow his blessings on the Assad regime, a trip he should be encouraged to make if only to be kicked to the outer circles of political insignificance. But most Christians are smarter and can see that the general, after having seriously damaged his own Maronite community by refusing to elect a president, does not even rate much inside the opposition, whose errors Aoun continues to endorse to his detriment.

In picking a fight with Hizbullah over its cameras next to the airport, Walid Jumblatt did something different than what the public imagined. The reality is that Hizbullah doesn’t need cameras to know what is going on at the facility. Through its authority over the General Security directorate, the airport’s security unit, and sympathetic employees, Hizbullah has all the information it needs on air traffic. Rather, what Jumblatt did was provoke a confrontation and, to dig up the old Soviet jargon, heighten the contradictions between Lebanese society and Hizbullah. Now the party’s true intentions are out there for everyone to see. Hizbullah can no longer hide behind its “resistance,” a fictitious “national opposition” or imaginary social protests. It is confirming on a daily basis that its minimal goal is to keep alive a Hizbullah state within the state and to force most Lebanese to accept this, even as the party infiltrates the government bureaucracy and has free rein in the airport and ports.

Yet the message on Wednesday was plain. Outside areas under direct Hizbullah control, no one respected the call for a strike. The labor unions were not even able to march through mainly Sunni neighborhoods, for fear of street fights. The only real weapon Hizbullah has is to hold the airport hostage by closing all access roads. But all sides can close roads. How such action can possibly be in the interest of the Shiite community is beyond comprehension. Isolating the airport amounts to thuggery, underlining that Hizbullah now has few means other than to collectively punish all Lebanese to advance its exclusivist agenda. As the commentator Uqab Sakr put it: “Shutting down the airport is what the Israelis did in 2006; it’s not what Hizbullah should be doing today.”

The Lebanese state cannot live side by side with a Hizbullah state. This theorem is becoming more evident by the day, as the party’s actions in the past three years have been, by definition, directed against the state, the government, the army and the security forces, institutions of national representation, the economy, and more fundamentally the rules of the Lebanese communal game. We’ve reached the point where Hizbullah, and more importantly the Shiite community, must choose. Will it persist in favoring a Hizbullah-led parallel state that will surely continue to clash with the recognized state? Or will Shiites try to find a new arrangement with their countrymen that forces Hizbullah to surrender its weapons?

The turmoil will continue, and at this point has already taken on a regional coloring. Hizbullah will not easily swallow Shouqair’s transfer, and the closing of the airport road is its leverage to coerce the government into going back on the decision. But all this will only raise the prospect of escalating violence while focusing hostility against Hizbullah, benefiting no one. If the party wants its semi-independent entity, it is now obliged to state this plainly. The masks have fallen. And if Hizbullah does decide to reject Lebanon, then we shouldn’t be surprised if some start speaking of an amicable divorce between Shiites and the rest of Lebanon.

May 21st, 2008, 5:53 am


Zenobia said:

sorry M,
but the marriage was saved.

May 21st, 2008, 6:14 am


Enlightened said:


I don’t mean to sound condescending, but the marriage is still in counselling! The marriage is still a bit turbulent, but give it time, I think M’s statement was heading for a divorce!

May 21st, 2008, 6:17 am


Zenobia said:

indeed, the marriage is a deeply troubled one, and divorce is always possible in the future. however, clearly Michael Young was a bit hopeful for the divorce and i guess, wrong that it is imminent. He also thought that allll had been revealed, “the masks have fallen”… however, he wrote that days before even this recent storm was finished. I believe in fact there are many masks to keep falling over time… we haven’t seen anything yet… there are veils over veils…

anyhow, i don’t think there is ever going to be a divorce. the lebanese are stuck with each other. they actually need each other, alas.

May 21st, 2008, 6:23 am


Shai said:


I’ll teach you the Israeli “Hora” if you teach me the Dabke. Name the time and place, and I’ll be there. The arak’s on me, if the argileh’s on you…

As for Avram Grant, I can only say that he mentioned that if his team wins tonight, he’ll drink more than one Vodka…

Personally, Chelsie’s been my favorite team also before Grant took over…

May 21st, 2008, 6:27 am


Alex said:

What marriage are you talking about?!

The real marriage is taking place ten years from now inshallah …after both sides fall in love again.

May 21st, 2008, 6:33 am


Majhool said:

A divorce is imminent in Lebanon. It’s just a matter of time. The Doha agreement is just a temporary truce. A re-marriage similar to what Alex is suggesting is possible in few decades (once Syria is more “free”) but not in few years.

Almost all the Lebanese I met (Including Shia) seem very much attached to idea of Lebanon. They seem to prefer political instability in Lebanon over stagnation (political and civic) found in Syria.

I am very pleased to see that all false banners (on each side) have fallen allowing many to see clearly.

May 21st, 2008, 6:51 am


ausamaa said:


When you have divorce in the Arab world, it starts with the Wife leaving to here mother’ house. In the case lo Lebanon where would the Wife (FEb 14) go? They dont have even a mother’s house to go to.

Hanibi, no divorce, wi elli darab darab, wi eli harab harab. WE wish the Lebanese a new and fresh Lebanon, wi 7ubal el Entikhabat el Niabya.

AS to WINNERS, the First Winner is Calm Arab Lebanon, the Second the Opposition, the Third Syria. The Losers? Do we need to name Names???!!! There are many. The same ones, you know!

Mabrook, wi minha lili akbar minha ya rab.

May 21st, 2008, 7:09 am


Naji said:

Thanks to that senile crook, Sfeir, and his little corrupt gang of warlords and village chieftains, the main losers out of this “deal” are the “Christians” of Lebanon…! General Aoun managed to advance their cause a little, this round, but the agreement was at their expense… again…!! Sad… 🙁

The biggest winner is, perhaps, Syria…! Our Moa’llem just announced that Syria approves the agreement… That is worth a hell of a lot more these days than the dozens of ratifications that Bush bestowed on other arrangements that utterly failed…

May 21st, 2008, 8:14 am


ausamaa said:

I have to say it: Siniora in his relatively long speach at the end if Doha conerence did not even have the sense of loyalty or the greatitude to extend a word of thanks to Saudi Arabia who has supported his scame for the long last years.

I do not think Lebanon ows Saudi politicians much, but for Siniora and the Feb 14 gang, they did a lot.Every one ignored Saudi and were rubbing it in Saud Al Faisal face, but the Siniora in particular should have at least made an effort. He could have thanked all the efforts of the “international supporters” and ” our brothers in Saudi Arabia who might not be amongest us today, but have done their utmost to help Labanon throughout .. blah, blah, blah…”

Sahih aleel asel..

But don’t we that already!

May 21st, 2008, 8:55 am


ausamaa said:

Saad Al Harriri had just talked in Doha about the agreement having NO Gahlib and No Maghloub.

Whoever talks about Winner and No loser in the cuurent agreement should talk something to rescue him from the state of self-deception they live in.

I also advise Xanax for Junnblat, heavy doeses of Prozak for Ja’ja and some thing to counter the LCD Bush and his Arab Moderates have been on for a while.

And for me?! just some sleeping pills any Panadol, a glass of white wine maybe; that is befroe someone here reccomends something else for my case!

May 21st, 2008, 9:15 am


MSK said:

Dear all,

Seems to be a good day for agreements:

Israel and Syria to launch indirect talks

Israel and Syria are set to begin peace negotiations brokered by Turkey, the prime minister’s bureau and the Syrian foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

“The two sides have begun indirect talks under Turkish auspices,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said in a statement.

“The sides have declared their intention to conduct the talks without prejudice and with openness,” the statement said. “They have decided to conduct the dialogue in a serious and continuous manner with the aim of reaching a comprehensive peace.”

Olmert’s aides Yoram Turbovitz and Shalom Turjeman, have been in Ankara since Monday holding indirect talls with Syrian officials under Turkish mediation. According to the messages passed between the two sides, Syria is ready to begin peace talks.

The foreign ministry in Damascus confirmed the report, shortly after it was released in Israel, Turkey and Syria.


Even more interesting is this:

Israeli, Syrian representatives reach secret understandings

In a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, Syrians and Israelis formulated understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

The main points of the understandings are as follows:

# An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.
# As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.

# At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.

# Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.

# The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel’s favor.

# According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.




May 21st, 2008, 9:53 am


Honest Patriot said:

Can we have the SC conference in Beirut now? 😉

May 21st, 2008, 10:31 am


Akbar Palace said:

According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.

Professor Josh,

Is this the “flip” you’ve been referring to these past few years? I wonder how all of this will be enforced?

May 21st, 2008, 11:09 am


Shai said:


This is indeed very good news. In Israel, however, this is being received with mixed reaction, as it comes “coincidentally” precisely the same day that the exposure limitation will be lifted regarding the latest corruption charges against Olmert. Even within his own party, Kadima, members are angry at the timing of this “release”. Still, it is a very positive development, at the very least in terms of its effect on public opinion. The real battle isn’t over the Golan, or over water, or even over the Palestinian refugees. It is, first and foremost, over public support in Israel.


If you have it in Beirut, AIG, AP, and myself will have to show up by boat… late at night… dressed as frogmen… (but without the weapons) 🙂

May 21st, 2008, 11:09 am


MSK said:

Dear Shai,

Yes, I gathered as much from the Israeli media …

Well, maybe it was Olmert trying to weasel out of bad limelight. But the process had been underway for a while now, and thus is not a pure PR stunt.

And … sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. 😉

Obviously, the devil is in the details & I won’t hold my breath. Let’s see what this first round will bring, and then what the next round will bring, and then if there’s going to be a third, and if so, what its outcome will be, etc.pp.

The same goes for the Lebanon Accord – let’s see how it plays out over the next days, weeks, months.

Right now, we’re all happy that the downtown siege is being lifted & that Suleiman will be elected within the next few days (some say Sunday). But once that initial adrenalin surge subsides … we’ll have to see if this deal will “save Lebanon” or not.

Right now I just see it as an armistice agreement. None of the issues have been solved, or even begun to be addressed.


May 21st, 2008, 11:22 am


Honest Patriot said:

Dear Shai, my friend, you’ve been living in that region for quite some time; we will have “ways” to sneak you in through the airport with further salutes by the guards and exemplary “guest” treatment by all. If Jewish rabbis can be guests of Ahmadinejad then that sets the bar pretty low for such friendly (albeit argmentative) folks as you, AIG, and AP to be guests of Beirut. Then of course there’s Skype.
On second thought… OK, Montreal or Nicosia it is.

May 21st, 2008, 11:37 am


why-discuss said:

The opposition got exactly what it has been hammering for:

– The blockage minority
– a better representation in the parlement
– A new electoral law
– a non 14 march president
– a silence over the Hezbollah weapons

Plus the commitment of Qatar, that has always been neutral with strong sympathy to the opposition for implementation the deal.
After Siniora’s latest blunder KSA, USA, France and KSA dumped him and his team and they had not choice than to go to Qatar.
A big fuss is made about the victory of Hariri in the division of Beirut for electoral purpose.
Against all the obvious results, Hariri talks about No Ghalib wal Maghlub, funny.

On the other side, it is a amazing achievement for Qatar, who has succeeded where the French and the Arab league failed pitifully. Brilliant! Thank you QATAR!

May 21st, 2008, 12:07 pm


Saroukh said:


You have been saying this will work for the best.

Walking around downtown Beirut today was quite a scene. The feeling in the air was very similar to that on March 14, 2005. You could feel the hope in the air, and see it in people’s smiles. Let’s try to build on this feeling of hope rather than complain that we didn’t get out way. I know it sounds empty coming from Hamade, and it was probably a political slogan spewed out of his mouth in the first place, but nonetheless it was true. For the residents of Lebanon there was no loser in Doha as we the people won. Yes, a corrupt political elite from one branch outsmarted an equally corrupt political elite from another. But alas, this is democracy isn’t it?

Thank you for your words of encouragement and continued hope last week. If it means anything it did have a great impact on my well-being. Cheers to you my friend.


May 21st, 2008, 12:17 pm


Shai said:

Dear HP, MSK,

Where you go, I go. But putting jokes aside, today truly is a celebration for the Middle East. It is living proof that all of us, ex-enemies, ongoing-enemies, can all overcome our differences and make peace. Peace is not a dream, it is a reality, and one we must be ready to fight for. That’s one “reserves duty” I’m willing to show up to day after day after day.

Well Done M.E.!

May 21st, 2008, 12:32 pm


Jason said:


Why didn’t you voice this resolution in the past? I’ve been saying Hezbollah should be given the one-third on here for months and no one ever responds. It was inevitable.


May 21st, 2008, 1:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I think the main breakthrough here is that the Lebanese politicians have agreed on a set of rules to play by and it looks as if the Lebanese public will hold them to it. No more excuses about an unfair electoral system or an illigitimate government. A set of peaceful rules is a first step towards true democracy.

May 21st, 2008, 1:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Jason

I made the same argument, three months ago, in my post “Diagnosing Failure”.

The government should have given up the veto a while ago, as soon as the threat of reversing the tribunal was over.

The opposition may have used it to make the government fall, which Aoun definitely would have taken advantage of to try and get elected president.

But I would have taken Aoun as president to avoid the deaths of innocent people, and all of the sectarian hatred that emerged from the conflicts.

Hindsight is 20/20.

May 21st, 2008, 2:01 pm


Jason said:


Thanks for the info. I didn’t see too many people arguing this in the past, actually none of the so-called experts I read. Sorry I didn’t catch your analysis the first time.

May 21st, 2008, 5:28 pm


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