“Lebanese diva arouses emotion, controversy in Syria,” by Oweis

Lebanese diva arouses emotion, controversy in Syria
Mon 28 Jan 2008
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis: Reuters

DAMASCUS, – Legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz performed to a sell-out crowd in the Syrian capital on Monday, defying politicians who criticised her for going to what they consider enemy territory.

The Arab diva, who burst onto the music scene on Damascus Radio in 1952, returned to the Syrian stage after an absence of two decades, and moved many of her fans in the Opera House audience to tears.

She played the lead role in "Sah al-Nom", a musical satire about a careless ruler who is challenged by a poor woman, and received a standing ovation. The show was performed as part of cultural celebrations in the ancient city of Damascus, chosen as the 2008 Arab Capital of Culture.

"Fairouz transcends politics. In Damascus she has been always treated as an empress," Syrian sculptor Mostapha Ali told Reuters.

Fairouz, who is in her 70s and is a cultural icon of the Arab world, aroused controversy by accepting the invitation from the Baathist government in Damascus at a time of increased tension between Syria and its neighbour Lebanon.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt accused Fairouz of playing into the hands of Syrian intelligence services he blamed for a series of political assassinations in Lebanon.

Another Lebanese member of parliament said Fairouz should not perform for "Lebanon's jailers", a reference to Syrian dominance and military presence in Lebanon for most of the period from 1976 until Syrian troops withdrew in 2005.

A group of Syrian political activists also called on Fairouz to boycott Damascus, pointing to a renewed crackdown on dissidents. Just one hour before the play began, intelligence officers arrested leading opposition figure Riad Seif.

Ten other dissidents were charged earlier in the day with undermining the state, and could face long prison sentences.

Syrian political commentator Ayman Abdelnour said Fairouz performed for the Syrian people, not its rulers.

"The Syrians consider Fairouz one of their own. Before they studied geography and went to school they learned about Syria's rivers and mountains from listening to her songs," Abdelnour said.

Fairouz has not responded to the criticism. She last performed in Syria in the 1980s, during the iron rule of President Hafez al-Assad, father of current President Bashar al-Assad, when Syrian troops were still in Lebanon.

The gaunt, enigmatic Fairouz with her trademark long red hair is considered a national treasure in Lebanon. When she returned to Lebanon's Baalbak cultural festival in 1998 for the first time since the 1975-1990 civil war, Beirut's Daily Star newspaper described her return as "catharsis on a national scale".

"The high point of my life was when broke through a crowd in London and kissed Fairouz's hands," said leading Syrian painter Fadi al-Yazigi, who has sought to organise joint exhibitions with Lebanese artists to counter political tension between the two countries.

The late Egyptian composer Mohammad Abdelwahab called Fairouz "our ambassador to the stars". She is Lebanon's biggest artistic export and her recent collaboration with her son Ziad has appealed to a more international audience.

The musical she performed on Monday was composed by her late husband Assi al-Rahbani and re-arranged by Ziad, whose musical creations have ranged from political musicals to jazz.

Comments (86)

ANNIE said:

I am SO sorry I missed that; what a beautiful article about beloved Fairouz.
Mornings in Damascus you always heard Fairouz on the radio.

January 30th, 2008, 2:31 pm


Nour said:

Anyone who takes these thuggish politicians in Lebanon seriously and actually listens to them should have themselves checked into the nearest mental hospital. What a bunch of lowlife scumbags, who are nothing but murderers, thieves, and warlords, and who have the nerve to give Fairouz lessons about patriotism. Those stooges and current collaborators with the US and Israel are merely performing their latest assignment of creating further rifts and hatred between the one people on both sides of the border. They are leeches and parasites that Lebanon’s sectarian mentality brought into power, and that have wreaked havoc on the country ever since their assumption of such power.

January 30th, 2008, 4:00 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Nour, you illuminate everyone with your shining words. Way to enhance the confidence and appreciation between the Syrian and Lebanese people. Your “one people” phrase betrays the real thinking and driver behind many a Syrian politician. Clearly, one can have one country with two or more “people” but one cannot have one people with two or more countries. Right?

January 30th, 2008, 4:12 pm


Nour said:


I really don’t understand what your exact point is. There can be more than one people in a single political entity (i.e., the former USSR) or there can be a single people divided into two political entities (i.e., East and West Germany). In the case of Lebanon and Syria, it is one people divided into two states. And those Lebanese warlords are making it their objective to continuously drive wedges between the one people, not just in Syria and Lebanon, but also within Lebanon itself. Don’t be fooled into thinking that their latest rants have anything to do with Fairouz, as I can assure you that these people couldn’t care less about Fairouz or where she sings. Rather, the main objective is to incite hatred and spite between the people under direct orders from the US/Israel.

January 30th, 2008, 4:26 pm


norman said:


Well said.

January 30th, 2008, 5:05 pm


Disaffection said:

اعتصم مئات من الشباب و الشابات السوريين أمام الباب الرئيسي لدار الأسد للثقافة و الفنون حيث كانت تباع بطاقات مسرحية فيروز و ذلك احتاجا على حجب بطاقات فيروز عنهم لصالح “أصحاب الواسطة و النفوذ” حيث أنه
لم يتم بيع سوى 300 بطاقة من أصل 1200 بطاقة
كان بإنتظارها 700 مواطن ينتظرون ساعات طويلة في البرد القارس فالبعض كان ينتظر منذ العاشرة صباحا فيتفاجأ عند الثامنة مساءً بأن البطاقات قد نفذت ؟؟؟
فما كان منهم إلا الإعتراض و الأحتجاج فتجمعوا أمام الباب و جلسوا جميعهم و بدأوا يغنون أغاني فيروز و بقوا على هذا الحال حوالي الساعتين
في هذه الأثناء اتت سيارة الإطفاء تحسباً لأي عمليات شغب

و قالت أحدى الشابات و هي طالبة جامعية بأنها اتت من 8 ساعات و لم تحصل على بطاقة و ” صرلي تلات تيام على هالحالة” و أوضحت ان يوم غد لديها امتحان و فضلت بطاقة فيروز على الأمتحان لكن للأسف لن تحصل على الأثنين معا بسبب “النزاهة و التنظيم المثالي” لفريق احتفالية دمشق المحترفين في مجال تنظيم الحفلات و المناسبات!!!!0

بشار شعبان

January 30th, 2008, 6:17 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Nour and Norman,

No quibbles whatsoever with what Nour said in the second post (and Norman’s acquiescence). Also no quibbles abou the futility and stupidity of letting politics interfere with culture and art. HOWEVER … 🙂 … you saw it coming… I read through what you say the claim that Lebanon needs to (re-?) become a province of Syria. That, I beg to differ with. If I’m mistaken about your true desires, intentions, and allusions, then I ask your forgiveness but will also ask for an unequivocal statement from you to that effect.

Na3am ya sadiqi

January 30th, 2008, 6:32 pm


norman said:


I look at Lebanon and Syria as i look at New Jersey and Pennsylvania , two states with different laws but one country under federal laws and one people , the American people with many ethnic groups ,far more than in Syria or Lebanon, Lebanon should not be part of Syria but the Lebanese should consider Syria and Lebanon interest when they try to make enemies out of these two countries,

January 30th, 2008, 6:52 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Thank you Norman. You are honest, straightforward, and clear about your view. I respect that tremendously even if my “look” is different, one in which Lebanon is neutral politically and completely independent – the Switzerland of the Middle East. It might be a pipe dream and a long ways away, if it ever happens, but I believe a silent majority of Lebanese share this view – even if the current generation of leaders is failing miserably in advancing such a cause.

January 30th, 2008, 7:10 pm


Nour said:


I am not trying to dictate what the political system should be in Lebanon and/or Syria. I am merely saying that the people in both states are one people. I believe we must separate between political manifestations and national realities. The Syrians and Lebanese share a common national identity and a common interest and thus any attempt at dividing and fragmenting them will only damage this interest. As such, denying our national identity and the unity of our life can only be to our detriment. This does not mean that Lebanon should be a province of Syria or that Syria should be a province of Lebanon. Rather, it means that all efforts should be done to promote cooperation and unity rather than division and enmity.

January 30th, 2008, 7:11 pm


Shai said:


Though I feel a bit out-of-place in this forum (i.e. it’s not really MY place to make any comments here), but I did read the article, and more importantly, I read your response. What does Israel, of all places, have anything to do with the internal politics of Lebanon? I can accept a US-puppet regime, etc., but one that listens to Israel??? My god, if Israel had anything to say here, it would insist that not a single member of the Lebanese government did anything positive during the last war in Lebanon. Of course there are some in Israel who would just “love” to have a separate peace with Lebanon, but I think even those few recognize that’s impossible without Syria and, in fact, will never happen before we first make peace with Syria. So why are you suggesting Israel has ANY influence over events in Lebanon, or their leaders?

January 30th, 2008, 7:20 pm


Nour said:


We all know that due to various internal circumstances, most Lebanese leaders would not dare state publicly any position other than one which rejects cooperation and collaboration with Israel. However, we also know that historically such positions have not always been honest. First, there does not need to be direct contact between Israeli and Lebanese leaders for there to be a collaboration on the latter’s part with Israeli interests. The US has always acted as an intermediary in that regard, as it has always represented Israeli interest in the Near East. Second, direct contacts between Lebanese and Israeli leaders have in fact taken place on several occasions, although they are later denied or minimized. In fact, direct collaboration with Israel was undertaken by various Lebanese factions and parties throughout the civil war. And as recently as a couple years ago, one Lebanese leader was known to have met with an Israeli politician in France and discussed with this politician regional issues, only to later claim that this meeting arose by mere coincidence.

This of course is what is known to us as a result of leaks and other admissions on the part of Lebanese and Israeli leaders. However, many other activities take place behind the scenes which we are unaware of. The bottom line is that the current position of the loyalist camp in Lebanon is one which is in line with Israeli interests. The fact that Lebanese politicians have met and cooperated with the likes of Elliot Abrams, whose objectives and intentions are well-known to be very pro-Israeli can lead to only one conclusion.

January 30th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Shai said:


Please forgive my suggestion, but it almost sounds like you’re an avid subscriber to “conspiracy theory”. You think that meetings between Israeli and Lebanese “leaders” constitute behind-the-scene deals of mutual interest? What about such meetings with Syrian, Saudi, even IRANIAN diplomats? Are we suddenly falling in-line with one another’s interests because we meet? I can tell you that Israel has been “burnt” more in Lebanon than anywhere else in this region, and it is the LAST place Israelis are going to trust when it comes to serving our interests. It would be FAR easier to make peace with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, maybe even the Palestinians, than it would with Lebanon. We MUST have Syria behind us in such a peace, hence Syria first. I don’t think that ever since the fatal mistakes of Sharon in 1982-83, thinking he could re-arrange Lebanon to his liking, would another Israeli leader/diplomat even dare go there in thought, let alone in action. Lebanon and any of its factions is much more likely to be an American-puppet, than an Israeli one.

January 30th, 2008, 7:40 pm


Nour said:


Call me whatever you want, but even if Lebanese leaders are American puppets, then they are serving the interests of Israel, as this is what America represents in the Near East. And no, I don’t believe that every meeting between two diplomats constitutes a behind-the-scenes conspiracy, but the nature of the meetings between various Lebanese sectarian leaders and foreign diplomats, leaders, and policy-makers can only arouse suspicion, as they are abnormal and unusual meetings that only manifest themselves when certain agendas are being implemented.

Israel may not be sending troops into Lebanon anytime soon, especially after the results of the July, 2006 war. But this does not mean that Israel has a diminished role in interfering in Lebanese affairs, as it is most definitely in Israel’s interest to prevent the rise in Lebanon of a pro-resistance government and it is definitely to its liking to see the resistance eliminated.

January 30th, 2008, 7:46 pm


Shai said:


I understand what you’re saying. But trust me, we are much less likely to dive into internal politics in Lebanon than we might have been 25 years ago. And by the way, I believe it’s the exact opposite when it comes to Israeli interests in Lebanon. If Hezbollah took over, the chances it would attack Israel become miniscule, because it finally has something real to lose. Same goes for Hamas getting control over the entire Palestinian territories. The absurd is, that if Israel’s enemies were in full control, there’d be much greater stability in the region, than if not… 🙂 But truth is, that this is precisely when peace would be easiest to achieve, after all, we make peace with enemies, not with Mahmoud Abbas, who’s been visiting Olmert more than I’ve been visiting my father in Tel-Aviv…

January 30th, 2008, 7:53 pm


norman said:

It is ashamed that there are not more of you in Israel, you should visit your dad though.

January 30th, 2008, 8:15 pm


Shai said:


In’shalla, I will take my dad who was born in the British mandate of Palestine, and unfortunately had to fight in two bitter wars (67, 73), to visit Cairo, Damascus, Beirut, Amman, and E. Jerusalem. It is high time we all put away our bitter memories, and embrace each other as brothers, sons of Abraham. We have so much more in common with each other, than we do with either the Europeans or the Americans. We are, and always have been, brothers.

January 30th, 2008, 8:24 pm


T said:

Quick update on the latest US plan for the Middle East. Lebanon is absorbed into Syria. ME Policy, as always, drafted by American dual-nationals for Israel’s benefit. Article starts typically with an anecdote about some crazed Islamofascist terrorist ‘animal’. Tired.


January 30th, 2008, 9:12 pm


t_desco said:

Very important article by Fidaa Itani in Le Monde diplomatique, Février 2008 (all typos mine; t_d 😉 ) :

Les étranges alliances des groupes radicaux islamistes

Enquête sur l’implantation d’Al-Qaida au Liban

Entre mai et septembre 2007, l’armée libanaise a fait le siège du camp palestinien de Nahr Al-Bared, dans le nord du pays ; une organisation jusque-là inconnue, le Fatah Al-Islam, s’y était retranchée. Ces événements, comme les attentats contre la Force intérimaire des Nations unies au Liban (Finul), déployée dans le Sud, témoignent d’un fait nouveau : l’implantation de réseaux islamistes sunnites radicaux, parfois liés à Al-Qaida, qui considèrent désormais le pays du Cèdre comme un important champ d’action.

Par Fidaa Itani

« Nous avons été jetés de force dans un combat qui n’est pas le nôtre ; j’aurais préféré ne pas affronter l’armée libanaise. » C’est en ces termes que M. Chahine Chahine, un cadre du Fatah Al-Islam, s’adresse à un négociateur, durant le siège du camp palestinien de Nahr Al-Bared par l’armée libanaise en 2007. On ne sait pas encore qu’il est le propre fils de M. Oussama Ben Laden et un dirigeant de haut rang d’Al-Qaida. La réticence dont il fait preuve par rapport aux combats reflète l’ambivalence des positions de cette organisation à l’égard du Liban : le pays est-il un terrain d’affrontement avec les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés, ou doit-il être considéré comme une simple base arrière pour l’entraînement et le transit des combattants d’Al-Qaida ?

Dès le 4 septembre 2007, deux jours après la chute du camp, le général Georges Khoury, directeur des renseignements de l’armée, reconnaît que les combattants du Fatah Al-Islam sont bien des membres d’Al-Qaida. Mais les racines de cette organisation au Liban plongent dans une histoire plus ancienne. Dans les années 1990 déjà, les tribunaux libanais avaient jugé des salafistes (…) pour « crime de constitution de cellules terroristes liées à Al-Qaida ». Les militants condamnés étaient des Libanais qui avaient suivi la voie ouverte par M. Salem Al-Chahal, créateur à Tripoli (Liban), dès 1974, des groupes Mouslimoun (« Musulmans ») et Shabab Mohammad (« Jeunes de Mohammad »). M. Al-Chahal avait tenté d’imposer les règles « du licite et de l’illicite » dans la ville, commençant par s’attaquer aux salles de cinéma et empêchant les jeunes de les fréquenter. Son influence s’étendra même à certaines villes syriennes. Mais, à cette époque, la pensée salafiste ne disposait pas encore d’assises solides.

Aux origines du Fatah Al-Islam

Partagés entre la bourgeoisie commerçante ou administrative et le petit peuple des campagnes souvent analphabète, les sunnites exprimaient leur nationalisme arabe et leur soutien à la lutte palestinienne par leur adhésion aux courants nassérien ou de gauche. Cependant, plusieurs groupes sunnites penchèrent vers I’islamisme radical après I’entrée des troupes syriennes au Liban en 1976 et les grandes campagnes de répression menées par celles-ci. D’autant que, au même moment, les Frères musulmans syriens renforçaient leur influence et menaçaient le régime de Damas à travers les actions armées de leur « avant-garde» combattante.

A I’issue de la guerre civile libanaise – qui prit fin avec les accords de Taëf, signès en 1989 -, les salafistes, à I’influence encore réduite, s’attaquent surtout à d’autres organisations islamiques, notamment à I’ Association des projets de bienfaisance islamique, plus connue sous le nom d’AI-Ahbache (1). Ces affrontements vont permettre aux groupes salafistes d’affûter leurs arguments intellectuels et missionnaires, et d’enrôler des adeptes dans nombre de villes et de villages. Leur influence s’étend surtout parmi les diplômés et les salariés des couches moyennes, ainsi que parmi les étudiants en religion qui ont obtenu leurs diplômes en Arabie saoudite et conservé des liens avec les oulémas les plus radicaux de ce pays. Mais ces groupes restent divisés, le plus connu étant Al-Hidaya Wal-Ihsan (« Prédication et aumône »), réorganisé par le propre fils de l’initiateur du courant, M. Dai AI-Islam Al-Chahal.

Le 31 août 1995, un de ces groupes assassine le cheikh Nizar AI-Halabi, chef de I’Association des projets de bienfaisance islamique. Cet attentat provoque une onde de choc: c’est la première fois qu’un mouvement salafiste procède à l’élimination physique d’un adversaire. Des membres de I’organisation avouent le meurtre, assurant, jusqu’au pied de l’échafaud, qu’ils en sont les seuls responsables. Pourtant, les autorités Iibanaises et les services de renseignement syriens (qui contrôlent alors le pays) préfèrent Iier le crime à M. Abdoul Karim Saadi (Abou Mahjan), de nationalité palestinienne et chef du groupe Ousbat AI-Ansar, installé dans le camp palestinien d’Ain Héloué, près de la ville de Saïda, dans le sud du pays. Ce groupe, créé par d’anciens combattants d’Afghanistan, se verra aussi attribuer, en 1999, I’assassinat de quatre juges en plein palais de justice de Saïda.

C’est à cette période que se tissent des liens entre les salafistes et I’organisation de M. Ben Laden. Ainsi, une organisation probablement tchétchène, liée à AI-Qaida, demande à M. Bassam Kanj (Abou Aïcha), qui a abandonné ses études aux Etats-Unis en 1988 et s’est formé au djihad mondial en Afghanistan, de faciliter le passage de combattants musulmans vers Israël. M. Kanj crée le groupe dit « de Danniyé », mais demande un délai de deux ans pour s’ imposer aux côtés du Hezbollah comme force de résistance anti-israelienne.

A l’époque, les négociateurs russes, qui supervisent avec les Syriens la mise en œuvre du retrait israélien du Liban sud (25 mai 2000), fournissent aux autorités libanaises et syriennes I’enregistrement d’une conversation entre M. Kanj et des moudjahidins tchétchènes. Cette information précipite une intervention militaire libanaise pour éradiquer le groupe de Danniyé durant la nuit du Nouvel An 2001. Parallèlement, les autorités syriennes procèdent, de l’autre côté de la frontière, à une vague d’arrestations dans les rangs des islamistes radicaux, ce qui confirme le caractère « transnational » de ce réseau.

AI-Qaida attend l’invasion américaine de l’lrak en mars 2003 pour appeler ouvertement à la création de groupes au Liban – rappeIons, cependant, que cette organisation est aussi un « label» et que sa structure est loin d’être centralisée, ce qui laisse une marge de manœuvre importante aux cellules locales. A la fin 2005, elle est bien présente, et les autorités libanaises parviennent à mettre la main sur les premiers éléments de ce qui va être appelé le « réseau des 13 », dirigé par le Libanais Hassan Nabaa. Composé aussi de Saoudiens, de Syriens et de Palestiniens, il soutient AI-Qaida et la résistance irakienne. Il opère au Liban et en Syrie, où il a affronté à plusieurs reprises les services de renseignement, surtout dans les zones frontalières – on a même dit qu’il avait abattu un hélicoptère syrien.

Ces arrestations suscitent de fortes polémiques, car les aveux des inculpés contiennent des détails les impliquant dans l’assassinat de I’ancien premier ministre Rafic Hariri, le 14 février 2005. Pourtant, de nombreuses interrogations persistent sur la manière dont ceux-ci ont été obtenus, ainsi que sur le lien supposé du groupe avec le jeune Palestinien Ahmad Abou Adas, qui a revendiqué dans un enregistrement video I’attentat suicide contre Hariri (2).

Au printemps 2006, une scission frappe le Fatah Al-Intifada, une organisation créée en 1983 et très liée au régime de Damas, dissidente du Fatah de Yasser Arafat. Quelque soixante-dix de ses membres se rallient à un officier palestinien d’origine jordanienne, M. Chaker AI-Abssi (Abou Ali). Les dissidents se dispersent dans divers camps palestiniens: à Bourj Al-Baraneh (banlieue sud de Beyrouth), à Aïn Héloué (Saïda), à Chatila (Beyrouth), ainsi que dans les deux camps de Baddaoui et de Nahr Al-Bared dans le Nord. Ils sont rejoints par une cinquantaine de militants conduits par M. Chehab AI-Qadour (Abou Hourayra), un Libanais qui a passé le plus clair de son temps dans la clandestinité, après que les renseignements syriens I’eurent arrêté a Tripoli, en 1986, alors qu’il n’avait que 14 ans.

Dès sa formation, le Fatah AI-Islam reçoit le soutien d’un représentant du mouvement djihadiste dans le camp d’Aïn Héloué, qui lui assure un financement d’Al-Qaida. Parallèlement, certains de ses membres sont entraînés par le responsable militaire du groupe Jound AI-Cham, installé lui aussi dans le camp. Ce groupe a été créé en 1999 en Afghanistan par des djihadistes venus des quatre pays du Cham (la « Grande Syrie », qui revendique aussi les territoires du Liban, de la Palestine et de la Jordanie), et il se distingue par une rhétorique particulièrement radicale.

C’est alors qu’éclate, en juillet 2006, la « guerre de 33 jours» entre Israël et le Hezbollah. Les groupes djihadistes profitent de la confusion pour élargir leur implantation. Ils exploitent également la décision prise par l‘« Etat islamique en Irak» (créé par AI-Qaida) de renvoyer hors de ce pays les éléments dépourvus de compétences militaires particulières ou ceux qui n’arrivent pas à se fondre dans la population locale. Le Fatah AI-Islam va attirer nombre de ces soldats perdus, ce qui provoque une réaction hostile du Fatah et des autres groupes membres de l’Organisation de libération de la Palestine (OLP), qui souhaitent « nettoyer» le camp palestinien d’Aïn Héloué. D’autre part, l’armée libanaise, qui vient d’opérer un vaste deploiement au sud du Litani après la fin des combats entre le Hezbollah et Israël, s’inquiète de la présence de ces djihadistes à quelques kilomètres des douze mille soldats de la Force intérimaire des Nations unies au Liban (Finul) au Liban sud. Dans ces conditions, le Fatah Al-Islam décide de se réfugier dans le Nord, une zone à majorité sunnite et donc considérée comme amie.

Plusieurs rencontres ont préparé le terrain de cette migration, non seulement avec des salafistes locaux, mais aussi avec des députés du Courant du futur de M. Saad Hariri, fils de l’ancien premier ministre assassiné, qui s’inquiètent de l’influence du Hezbollah. M. AI-Abssi, le chef du Fatah AI-Islam, s’entretient avec un député sunnite de Tripoli, un médecin issu de la gauche. Ce dernier a exprimé ses craintes de voir le Hezbollah chiite s’en prendre aux sunnites (3). M. Al-Abssi lui a répondu que, sans entrer en conflit avec une force combattant Israël, il « ne permettrait à personne de nuire aux sunnites ».

Faire face à la « menace chiite »

C‘est donc à Nahr Al-Bared, où il publie son premier communiqué le 27 novembre 2006, que s’installe le Fatah Al-Islam. Parallèlement, de nombreux combattants liés à AI-Qaida vont et viennent au Liban, soit à travers les points de passage légaux, soit en traversant clandestinement la frontière syrienne. Certains, après un court séjour dans le camp de Nahr AI-Bared, se dispersent pour créer leurs propres réseaux dans les zones a forte densité sunnite. Ces nouveaux membres sont originaires du monde arabe, mais aussi de Russie, de Tchétchénie, de Turquie, étc.

A la fin 2006 arrive au Liban le Saoudien Ahrned Touwaijiry, un cadre d’ Al-Qaida. Il y rencontre à plusieurs reprises des dirigeants du Fatah Al-Islam, ainsi que d’autres groupes salafistes. Les financements abondent; les dons publics ou privés – provenant de « djihadistes par l’argent », ces riches hommes d’affaires qui souhaitent aider le djihad – parviennent d’ Arabie saoudite et du Koweït.

Dans le même temps, les associations salafistes (4) cherchent à regrouper leurs forces afin de faire face à la « menace chiite ». La crise politique au Liban et les affrontements ponctuels entre sunnites et chiites, comme entre partisans de la majorité et de I’opposition, créent un contexte favorable (…).

Les membres locaux d’AI-Qaida profitent de I ‘urgente nécessité, pour le Courant du futur de M. Hariri, de former une milice lui permettant de faire contrepoids au Hezbollah chiite. Conscient des risques que comporte le fait de traiter avec des groupes fondamentalistes, le Courant du futur opte néanmoins pour cette stratégie dans sa lutte contre le Hezbollah, la Syrie et l’Iran. AI-Qaida, de son côté, faisant preuve de pragmatisme, exploite I’occasion d’obtenir I’argent qui lui permet de recruter des dizaines de combattants supplémentaires, d’organiser des sessions d’entraînement dans le camp d’Aïn Héloué et d’élaborer des plans d’attaque contre les forces de la Finul dans le Sud, ainsi que des missions d’espionnage des ambassades des pays occidentaux et du Golfe a Beyrouth et dans ses environs.

La Syrie préfère fermer les yeux sur ces activités, laissant ses adversaires, du Courant du futur aux djihadistes, se fourvoyer dans leurs choix. En revanche, elle resserrera l’étau chez elle et se débarrassera de bon nombre de ces militants, qui choisiront alors de se réfugier au Liban.

Durant le premier semestre 2007, une vingtaine de groupes plus ou moins liés à AI-Qaida s’activent: visites de cadres, entrée de combattants, départ de groupes relevant d’Al-Qaida vers l’Europe (France, Royaume-Uni, Pays-Bas ou Allemagne) une fois leur entraînement achevé. Al-Qaida tisse ainsi, en collaboration avec le Fatah AI-Islam, un vaste réseau qui ne sera pas démanteIé lors des affrontements de Nahr AI-Bared. Son armement est assuré par un trafic à travers la Syrie, des achats à des marchands locaux et la prise de contrôle de dépôts d’armes de l’OLP dans ce camp du Liban nord.

L‘explosion se produit dans la nuit du 19 au 20 mai 2007, lorsque la section des renseignements dépendant des Forces de sécurité intérieure (FSI) décide d’effectuer une descente contre un groupe d’AI-Qaida dans la rue AI-Mitayn à Tripoli. Ces hommes, recherchés aussi par les Saoudiens, assuraient un soutien technique aux moudjahidins d’Irak. Ils travaillaient sous la protection du Fatah Al-Islam et, très rapidement, les combats s’étendent au camp de Nahr AI-Bared. Ils vont durer cent six jours – cent soixante-dix soldats sont tués ainsi que quarante-sept civils palestiniens et deux cents combattants du Fatah Al-Islam. Alors que plus de cent cinquante membres et responsables de l’organisation réussissent à s’évader, quarante combattants ont trouvé la mort dans les derniers jours, la plupart exécutés d’une balle dans la tête. L‘armée occupera un camp vide et empêchera toutes les organisations civiles ou humanitaires d’y entrer, interdisant même de photographier les alentours. Ses bulldozers raseront finalement les immeubles et feront disparaître toute trace de combat.

En juin, un mois après le début des combats, les services de sécurité libanais découvrent que M. Chahine n’est autre que le fils, dénomme Saad, du fondateur d’AI-Qaida, M. Ben Laden, qu’il s’est infiltré dans le camp quelques jours après le début des affrontements et qu’il a acquis un grand prestige parmi les combattants. Ces mêmes services avaient repéré, quelques mois auparavant, son entrée au Liban. Le fils de M. Ben Laden, l’un des responsables les plus actifs de la section des opérations d’AI-Qaida, a mis en place des cellules et des relais sur tout le territoire, en collaboration avec M. Al-Qadour.

Malgré ce revers militaire, les groupes liés à AI-Qaida n’ont pas réduit leurs activités au Liban. Ils sont présents dans le camp palestinien d’Aïn Héloué, ainsi que dans des zones sunnites de la Bekaa et dans certains quartiers pauvres de Beyrouth. Un mois et demi après le début des combats, M. Saad Ben Laden (M. Chahine) m’avait déclaré: « Crois-tu vraiment que nous ne soyons que cinq cents combattants encerclés à Nahr Al-Bared ? » D’ailleurs, les assassinats de personnalités politiques, les attentats à Beyrouth et contre les forces de la Finul – imputés par l‘armée au Fatah Al-Islam dans sa conférence de presse du 4 septembre -, ainsi que les informations recueillies par les services de renseignement après I’arrestation de plus de deux cents membres de la mouvance salafiste et djihadiste, confirment ‘Importance de ce groupe lié à Al-Qaida au Liban.

Les observateurs se demandent toujours pourquoi le numéro deux d’AI-Qaida, M. Ayman AI-Zawahiri, n’a pas fait référence aux combats de Nahr AI-Bared, se contentant de bénir l’attentat du 24 juin 2007 contre le contingent espagnol de la Finul au Liban sud, exécuté par un groupe proche du Fatah Al-Islam. C’est que, comme nous l’a expliqué M. Chahine, I’organisation voit d’un mauvais œil son enlisement dans un affrontement clos, à l’intérieur d’un camp, et aussi son isolement – la plupart des forces politiques libanaises, y compris salafistes, se désolidarisent du Fatah Al-Islam. Le siège a réduit la marge de manœuvre d‘Al-Qaida et a été l‘occasion pour l‘armée de procéder à des centaines de perquisitions et d‘arrestations.

Mais la persistance de la crise politique libanaise et la tendance croissante de toutes les factions locales à s’armer et à entraîner des combattants peuvent permettre à AI-Qaida de se dissimuler derrière le mouvement sunnite le plus important, le Courant du futur, qui s’emploie à enrôler des combattants sous couvert de sociétés privées de sécurité. Le mouvement de M. Hariri a ainsi pu embrigader deux mille quatre cents miliciens; il envisage d’en enrôler quatorze mille autres dans le seul nord du Liban. Mais, d’un autre côté, les combats de Nahr AI-Bared ont conduit une partie de I’élite sunnite libanaise à estimer que le prix à payer pour une alliance avec AI-Qaida était trop élevé.

Sentiment d‘injustice, absence de solution

Les événements de Nahr AI-Bared ont aussi suscité une mobilisation salafiste de la communauté sunnite, sur la base de faits avérés: certaines mosquées du camp ont été dégradées par les soldats chrétiens ils y ont profané des corans, comme dans la prison de Roumieh, ou sont enfermés des djihadistes. Plusieurs sites Internet affirmant ouvertement leur appui à AI-Qaida et glorifiant les martyrs du Fatah AI-Islam sont apparus. Sur I’un d’eux, on peut ainsi lire: « Patience… AI-Qaida est de retour au Liban: la fin de Nahr AI-Bared, c’est le commencement d’AI-Qaida. »

Las d’un conflit local sans horizon politique, des milliers de jeunes sunnites regardent avec envie les chiites, qui ont réussi à monopoliser I’effort de résistance contre Israël. Ils se réjouissent aussi des attentats d’AI-Qaida en Occident et de ses victoires, même limitées, en Irak. Une nouvelle génération fréquente les mosquées, où la pensée salafiste-djihadiste la mobilise, dans un contexte de discrédit de la structure officielle de la communauté sunnite – que ce soit le Dar AI-Ifta (organisme du culte sunnite), les fonds islamiques de solidarité ou les tribunaux religieux. Ce discrédit tient à la fois à la prise de position de ces institutions en faveur de M. Hariri et du Courant du futur, mais aussi a leur corruption. A quoi s’ajoutent le sentiment d’injustice et I’absence de toute solution au conflit avec Israël. AI-Qaida peut jouer à la fois sur la peur du chiisme et du Hezbollah, sur la crainte des sunnites d’être marginalisés et aussi sur les sentiments antiaméricains (alors que le gouvernement et les fore es sunnites officielles apparaissent comme des alliés de Washington). Pour certains, la solution de ces problèmes réside dans I’islam, et la voie à suivre est celle d’AI-Qaida.

Pourtant, AI-Qaida – pas forcément tous les groupes qui s’en réclament – semble avant tout vouloir faire du Liban une base arrière, un camp d’entraînement et de formation et un lieu de passage sécurisé pour ses combattants vers l’Irak, et de l’Irak vers l’Europe. Le pays est donc prioritairement un laboratoire, où le mouvement peut travailler à développer de nouveaux moyens militaires: de petits avions télécommandés porteurs de trente kilogrammes d’explosifs, des engins explosifs télécommandés capables de résister au système de brouillage des blindés de l’armée américaine en Irak, ou encore des programmes informatiques permettant aux responsables d’AI-Qaida de communiquer de par le monde et de coordonner leurs activités via Internet sans que leurs messages soient interceptés par les services de renseignement locaux, ni même par la National Security Agency (NSA) des Etats-Unis. Dans ce contexte, comme l’expliquait M. Chahine, AI-Qaida n’a pas intérêt à s’impliquer dans les luttes internes libanaises.

Comment I’ organisation conciliera-t-elle cette « neutralité » relative avec les récentes dénonciations de la présence de la Finul par son numéro deux, qui furent suivies d’attentats? Les groupes locaux se réclamant d’AI-Qaida accepteront-ils de se tenir a l’écart de la scène libanaise? Quelles que soient les réponses à ces questions, une chose est sûre: l’avenir d’ Al-Qaida au Liban est bien assuré.


(1) Il s’agit d’un groupe soufi, fondé par M. Abdallah AI-Harari, un Ethiopien – d’où le surnom Ahbache (« éthiopiens » en arabe). Ce groupe a été instrumentalisé à différentes occasions par les services de renseignement syriens.

(2) Cf. I’enquête publiée par le quotidien AI-Akhbar, Beyrouth, entre le 7 et le 10 septembre 2007, notamment http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/46169

(3) Ce médecin a confirmé cette rencontre dans un entretien à la télévision. Il a affirmé que les services de sécurité libanais avaient aidé I’organisation radicale Jound AI-Cham à assurer son transfert du camp d’Aïn Héloué vers Nahr AI-Bared, afin d’y rejoindre le Fatah AI-Islam, tout ceci sous couvert d’« action humanitaire ».

(4) Parmi ces associations, les plus importantes sont: AI-lttihad AI-Islami (« Union isIamique »), Wakf AI-Tourass AI-Islami (« Patrimoine musulman ») à Tripoli, Wakf AI-lhya AI-Islami (« Renaissance islamique ») également à Tripoli, Wakf AI-Nour AI-Khayri (« Lumière bienfaisante ») à Chaba, Arqoub Wakf AI-Burr AI-Khayri (« Œuvre pie de bienfaisance ») à Danniye, le wakf du centre islamique et de la mosquée Abdoul Rahman Ibn Ouf dans la Bekaa, I’association Irshad (« Orientation ») et I’école Ibda (« Invention ») au Akkar. Elles couvrent donc I’ensemble du territoire libanais.

January 30th, 2008, 9:31 pm


offended said:

I second Norman on the thought that things could have been much better and easier if there were more people like you. Please continue to contribute to this forum and DO NOT feel out of place.

January 30th, 2008, 9:54 pm


Youssef Hanna said:

Thank you, T_Desco.

The author shows how jihadism benefitted (i) from the SR’s repression of leftist sunni movements, starting 1976 [maybe also the SR’s repression/weakening of the PLO] (ii) from the fear from Hezbollah, which grew also thanks to the SR and was allowed by the latter to monopolize the struggle against Israel to the detriment of Sunni leftism, (iii)and from the authority and State organization vacuum due to the Israeli invasion and to the political crisis.

Consequently, (i) HA must disband and disarm, so as not to provoke the continuous reactive rise of salafism, which HA will not do unless, possibly, invited to share power (ii) and the authority and State organization vacuum must be filled thru the settlement of the political crisis, which also requires that HA share power.

On the long run, if the State is allowed to stand on its feet, it could develop the economic and social policies able to solve the problem of poverty and uproot radical islamism.

However before both parties can come to sharing power, they shd negotiate an agreement setting forth a platform of joint government, including matters like the international tribunal, Syrian diplomatic representation, privatization of cellular phone operation and other State utilities, enforcement of other reforms allowing the benefit of Paris III, fighting Al Qaeda, disarmament of HA and unification with the Army.

Shd this negotiation be done before, or after presidential elections? neither before, nor after, actually: there’s a president already, though not elected; i fail to understand why Suleiman is sitting idle, and silent, instead of calling already and patronizing an 8/14 dialogue moderated by him.

The man is surprisingly passive.

January 30th, 2008, 10:56 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Your brothers the Syrians did not leave one Jewish shop unharmed in Aleppo in 47 and murdered many Jews. Your brothers in hebron in 1929 murdered the Jews that lived with them as “brothers” for hundreds of years. Your brothers have told you many times that they would like to throw you in the sea. In 1948, if Israel would have lost, what do you think your brothers would have done to the Jews?

The Arabs are not my brothers. They are my enemies until they accept a Jewish state in Israel or they kill me and destroy the Jewish state. But unlike you I respect my enemies and don’t tell them BS I don’t really believe and in the process also bad mouth my fellow countrymen.

January 30th, 2008, 11:43 pm


Honest Patriot said:


You said in an earlier post answering my question:
“It is not religious at all. I am an atheist and your [HP’s] view of Israel as a religious state is just wrong. But that is another matter.”

Then you just said above:
“The Arabs are not my brothers. They are my enemies until they accept a Jewish state in Israel or they kill me and destroy the Jewish state.”

So, putting on a Tim Russett mask, I ask: consistency? is Judaism a religion or is it not? if not, is it a genetic commonality among certain people?

I believe your second response (the one just above this posting). Your earlier attempt to answer my question (in the thread of “A letter from Alon Liel”) was driven by either confusion or evasion. I don’t quibble with your second response. I argue that – with that set of principles and agenda – you would be better served by actively engaging the “moderate” arab states and working through the Arab League initiative without worrying about how the solution will be something forced upon some who you fear will then find way to torpedo the accord once again. Times have changed. There may be cyclical recurrences of events but there is an underlying non-zero slope in the third dimension along with a covergence factor. The slope will be positive towards a peaceful conclusion and, at long last, peace along prosperity for Israel, or…, if you choose the wait-and-see [or option (3) No Deal], the negative slope will slide towards the eventual success of the Iran/Hamas agenda. [The only other option is a war of annihilation]. — Of course this is just as I see it, at this time, from my angle, with the data at my disposal.


January 31st, 2008, 12:15 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Nour said (in a previous post):

As for those suggesting that the French/US/Saudi/Israeli influence in Lebanon cannot be compared to Syrian influence are actually correct in their conclusion but completely wrong in their reasoning. The Syrians and Lebanese are joined by a singe interest and a common destiny.

Oh God, here we go again with the “Syria and Lebanon share a common interest and destiny” stuff. Cue orchestra please…

Nour, can you explain what you mean by this? You keep hitting us over the head with it; what are you talking about?

They enjoy a single socio-economic life-cycle, such that events on either side of the artificial border will have a tremendous impact on the other side.

This is…ummm… wrong? Yes, wrong is the word I’m looking for. If our economies were so in sync, then what’s with the million Syrian workers who were happily flooding across your “artificial border” into Lebanon during the 90’s and early 00’s? Why is it that Syrians have historically come flocking to Lebanon, as Sami Moubayed writes, for education, business, entertainment, freedom from oppression, employment, medical care, etc etc etc.?

You underestimate the differences in Lebanese and Syrian society, ya Nour. The differences are great, and growing, which is sad. I actually agree with you that the Lebanese and Syrians share a tremendous amount — we are, after all, the same people: we eat the same food, speak the same language, laugh at the same jokes, read the same books, watch the same movies, etc. We share perhaps more than Americans from different parts of the U.S. share — but you’re laying the blame for divisiveness at the wrong door.

The M14 leaders are taking advantage of a deep distaste for the Syrian regime in Lebanon; they didn’t create this distaste, and neither did the U.S. or Israel. The Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies did. Your blindness to Syria’s role in creating and exploiting divisions within Lebanese society is especially evident when you protest:

It is not normal for ambassadors of foreign nations to summon politicians and leaders, including potential presidential candidates, of their host country into their office to discuss matters of internal politics. They are in fact acting as the rulers and lords of Lebanon giving orders and directing specific political representatives on what to do and say.

What, may I ask, did Syria do in Lebanon from the end of the Civil War until the assassination of Hariri? Were they not meddling “in matters of internal politics”? Were they not “in fact acting as the rulers and lords of Lebanon giving orders and directing specific political representatives on what to do and say”? Oh, but wait… Syria is not a foreign country, I forgot! We share the same national psyche!

Your arguments would be more acceptable if you occasionally let some of your cynicism toward the U.S. spill over in the direction of Syria. Otherwise, what you say is pure emotion, no logic.

January 31st, 2008, 12:53 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have answered this question several times.

Judaism is both a religion and a nation. Zionism is a SECULAR movement orginated by secular European Jews who understood in the 19th century that they will not be assimilated into Europe because the Europeans viewed them as a different nation. Herzl created Zionism following the Dreyfus affair. It is critical to understand this affair in order to understand Zionism. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_Affair

Dreyfus was a secular Jew but the French would not accept him as a French compatriot. To them he was a member of a different nation, the Jewish one.

Over several decades the Zionist idea created the Jewish nation, which is the way many Jews have self determined themselves. Think of the historical process that created a specific Palestinian nation out of people that viewed themselves as Syrian or Arab.

It is an interesting twist of history that by rejecting the assimilation of Jews, the Europeans created the Jewish nation. Many Christians died in the Holocaust because for Hitler they were Jews. You could not stop being a Jew by converting to Christianity according to Hitler. For most Europeans, including Hitler, Judaism was not just a religion, and the Jews absorbed this lesson.

There is genetic commonality between many Jews but it is not what makes you part of the Jewish nation. The way to do that is to tie your fate to that of the Jewish people. If you are willing to suffer with us, you are a Jew.

January 31st, 2008, 2:52 am


norman said:


I share your feeling and hope that the Jews and the Arabs Christians and muslims will live in peace advancing the lives of their children and remembering that they all came from Arabia during the semitic migrations ,Hebrews, Ara-means , Assyrians and all the others including the Canaan, It is time to have peace and to do that without any body’s help including the US as nobody wants the Arabs and the Jews to have peace , that will destroy the weapon industry.

January 31st, 2008, 3:19 am


T said:


What do you think of the Winograd Report?

January 31st, 2008, 3:27 am


norman said:

America’s democracy,

million Iraqis dead in war – studyArticle from: Agence France-PresseFont size: Decrease Increase Email article: Email Print article: Print Submit comment: Submit comment January 31, 2008 08:32am

MORE than one million Iraqis have died because of the war in Iraq since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to a study.

A fifth of Iraqi households lost at least one family member between March 2003 and August 2007 due to the conflict, said data compiled by London-based Opinion Research Business (ORB) and its research partner in Iraq, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS).

The study based its findings on survey work involving the face-to-face questioning of 2414 Iraqi adults aged 18 or above, and the last complete census in Iraq in 1997, which indicated a total of 4.05 million households.

Respondents were asked how many members of their household, if any, had died as a result of the violence in the country since 2003, and not because of natural causes.

“We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been in the order of 1,033,000,” ORB said in a statement.

The margin of error for the survey was 1.7 per cent, making the estimated range between 946,000 and 1.12 million fatalities.

The highest rate of deaths throughout the country occurred in Baghdad, where more than 40 per cent of households had lost a family member.

According to a July 2007 estimate by the United States, Iraq’s population is around 27 million.

The country has been wracked by conflict since the March 2003 invasion which deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, with United Nations estimates putting the number of displaced people from the conflict at more than four million, nearly half of which have fled to neighbouring countries.

A small number of those refugees had begun returning to Iraq – around 20,000 arrived from Syria in December – the Iraqi Red Crescent said earlier this month, suggesting an improved security situation.

January 31st, 2008, 4:11 am


Honest Patriot said:

AIG, thank you! This is good. Even though I caused you to repeat what I evidently missed from your posts in the past, this is a case where repetition is very helpful as it clarifies thinking and interpretation.

I don’t think anyone has room to quibble with you here because you’re (a) stating facts, and (b) expressing your rightful opinion of how you see Judaism.

There is, however, (I think you’ll agree), a segment of the Israeli population (and we won’t need to argue percentages at this point) which is profoundly religious – Jewish in a religious way – and holds beliefs in this area so strong that they indeed argue that this or that piece of land is a God-given right that no human can take away. The degree to which they are extreme in their views to the point of irrationality is the degree to which I categorize them as the extremists that Israel would be well served to keep under control. The secular Jews of Israel are the ones who will make the reasonable compromises of ceding some land, making adjustments in the land exchange for practical boundaries reflecting demographic, geographic, and political realities. I think that would include you. Oh, but I forgot, you want to wait several more decades… [I had to throw in that last sentence since I have so far failed to persuade you otherwise (I’ll keep trying – or maybe events will change the mind of one of us)]

Soooo, if I may interpret further, AIG, you probably would be one who would have seriously considered locating Israel in another geographic location – if that were more practical. In that vein, you’ll find many friends in the Arab world – and I’m not being sarcastic. I won’t repeat my admonition about the urgency of resolving the crisis now – since I just rephrased it in the post above, but yeah, time for peace is now for the highest likelihood of survival of Israel.

Now, may I comment that the geographic choice of locating Israel for a secular Jew was one of the worst choices one could come up with? It was smack in the middle of a region where religious forces controlled and continue to control much of peoples’ behavior. Unlike the Europeans – the Hitler-following Germans and the Dreyfus-hating French – it seems to me (while myself not a Muslim) that by contrast to the Europeans, Muslims welcome anyone from any religion or race who wants to convert to Islam. This aspect of Islam has got to be indeed admirable and is probably one of the reasons for the romantic attraction it has to many converts. Many Arabs and of course the Persians of Ahmadinejad’s Iran argue precisely that the greatest injustice was committed when the choice for the creation of the state of Israel was a location whose people had nothing to do with the Holocaust and yet were now asked to cede land and undergo ethnic “separation” to provide a compensatory and expiatory accommodation to the acknowledgment of European guilt in the treatment of the Jews before and during WWII.

Having said the above — which no doubt will endear me to SH, Ausamaa, Offended, and many others on this blog — I hasten to indicate that the way forward, if it is to be successful, must move beyond those interpretations to dealing with the realities on the ground today and with the solution I have often claimed is well-known [land exchange, generous compensation, return to the new Palestine and not the current Israel, absolute verification with the most advanced technology of border security, etc.].

There is a sad irony, as I ponder personally our lot as humans and what we’re making of it in the Middle East region, that while Nature’s laws direct us towards the increasing entropy of greater homogeneity, we somehow continue to seek to recreate artificial segregations (hence “order”) that seek to locally decrease entropy, not realizing that its total must increase and so whatever part of the balloon we squeeze in one area will be popping up and out with a bigger volume in another. — Forgive the perhaps esoteric attempt at scientific allegory. [Please no one comment on this last paragraph].


January 31st, 2008, 4:17 am


Alex said:

HP … I liked that last paragraph : )


“The M14 leaders are taking advantage of a deep distaste for the Syrian regime in Lebanon; they didn’t create this distaste, and neither did the U.S. or Israel. The Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies did.”

You are right. That deep distaste existed. But the M14 group enhanced it and worked systematically and tirelessly to sustain it. If you have any doubt, look at my “soldiers of truth” post earlier … M14 sites were active in promoting anti Syria propaganda.

What, may I ask, did Syria do in Lebanon from the end of the Civil War until the assassination of Hariri? Were they not meddling “in matters of internal politics”? Were they not “in fact acting as the rulers and lords of Lebanon giving orders and directing specific political representatives on what to do and say”?”

True again. And the Syrians made a mistake in taking Lebanon for granted .. they did not realize that outsiders (Saudi/American/and French in this case) can mobilize the unhappy Lebanese against Syria … like they did after Hariri was killed and most Lebanese (initially) were sure (rightly or wrongly) that Syria did it.

But Lebanon never matured enough to survive on its own … since the civil war, Syria managed Lebanon … we don’t know what would have happened if Syria simply left Lebanon on its own in year 2001 for example (after Israel withdrew from most of the occupied Lebanese territories)

I believe that Lebanon would have been in trouble …. simply because most of its politicians still allowed themselves to be influenceable by Syrian / Iranian / American / Saudi / French /and Israeli politicians. Since those countries did not agree on their vision for post Syrian controlled Lebanon, you would have had the same mess you are seeing today in 2001.

You think Hariri and Hizbollah would have agreed on some easy formula for sharing power? .. you think the Saudis and Americans would not have pushed Hariri to do something about Hizbollah?

You think with the power vacuum resulting from Syria’s departure there would have been no fighting (political or otherwise) to fill it?

While I think Syria should have worked harder to make its influence on Lebanon less perceptible (through a faster withdrawal of the Syrian army to start with) .. Syria still needed to “control Lebanon” until there was a regional agreement on Lebanon and more.

January 31st, 2008, 5:04 am


Alex said:

I think this opinion piece in Asharq alawsat today answers many questions.

In Arabic only.

Rough summary/translation:

1) The Syrians said they will “solve everything at the summit”

2) Michel Sleiman is their favorite candidate. They did not really lose confidence in him.

3) They are not worried at the findings of he Hariri tribunal (there is nothing there), but they are worried that the process can be impossible to live with if the Americans still want to use it to pressure Syria.

سوريا للعرب: سنحل كل المشاكل في القمة

يقول مرجع عربي زار دمشق أخيرا إن لبنان مقبل على أيام صعبة، وسيشهد تكراراً للحادثة التي وقعت بعد ظهر الأحد الماضي وستبقى التوترات متنقلة، ويعيش اللبنانيون ظروفاً قاسية بانتظار الحل، لكن المرجع العربي يوضح أن أحدا لن يسمح بخراب لبنان الذي لن يشعر بالاستقرار قريباً ويقول: «من المستبعد وقوع حرب شاملة فيه، إنما هناك أمر أساسي يجب التنبه له، إذ يتوقع الاميركيون أن يحوّل «حزب الله» سلاحه إلى الداخل، وهذا لن يحصل، أما الذي سيحوّل سلاحه إلى الداخل فهو حركة «أمل»، لأن «حزب الله» يريد التفرغ للحدود، وإذ لم تعد هناك دولة لبنانية عندئذ يسيطر «حزب الله»، لذلك لا يناسب الغرب ولا إسرائيل أن يفلت الوضع، مع الإشارة إلى أن تسليح «أمل» يأتي من «حزب الله».

وماذا عن سوريا يجيب المرجع العربي: «أن سوريا قلقة من اندلاع الحرب في لبنان، لم تقوَ سوريا في الماضي إلا عندما «لملمت» اللبنانيين، وفرضت الهدوء في لبنان بغض النظر عن الأخطاء التي ارتكبت. إذا خرب لبنان تتضرر سوريا بشكل مباشر». ويضيف المرجع العربي أن اتفاقاً سورياً ـ سعودياً ـ مصرياً يساعد اللبنانيين على إيجاد تعريف جديد لوطنهم. ويضيف: «لقد تعقّد الوضع اللبناني كثيراً، صار هناك شيء اسمه السنّية السياسية، والشيعية السياسية، في السابق كان العرب يرون انه لا بد من حماية المسيحيين في لبنان لأنهم يشكلون استثماراً، ويظهرون للغرب نجاح تداخل الأديان، وكان ذلك أفضل من أن يهاجر المسيحيون فتبهت المنطقة، هذا الطرح ضعُف كثيراً بعد اتفاق الطائف».

ويبدو، انه بعد غزو العراق، والكسب الذي تحقق لإيران من جرائه، وبعد حرب تموز/ يوليو 2006، صار الشيعة في لبنان يريدون اعترافاً بهم. وحسب محدثي فإنهم «ثلث الشعب ويريدون المشاركة في السلطة بحصة الثلث وهذا يفترض تغيير الطائف على المدى البعيد، أي المثالثة».

ويقول إن المشكلة في لبنان، أن السنّي كان دائماً الموفّق، ويُقدم مصالحه الاقتصادية، وتجارته على المسائل الإيديولوجية، الآن صار أيديولوجيا أكثر من الباقين، وترك المجال كي يشعر «حزب الله» بحاجة شديدة الى الجنرال ميشال عون، لم تكن من ضرورة لهذه الحاجة لكن، العدوانية التي واجه بها السنّة مناوئيهم جعل تحالف عون ـ حزب الله قوياً». ومع هذا، وحسب ما سمعه المرجع العربي في دمشق، وعلى الرغم من ان السياسيين هناك يعتبرون أن فؤاد السنيورة رئيس الوزراء اذكى من الآخرين، «إلا انه احرق أوراقه»، وعلى الرغم من رفضهم مسامحة وليد جنبلاط «رغم كل محاولاته للتقرب وآخرها منذ شهرين»، إلا أن سوريا لا تزال فاتحة الطريق أمام سعد الحريري رئيس كتلة «المستقبل» ويقول: «إن سوريا تكون مرتاحة اذا اتفق الحريري وعون و«حزب الله»، هذه حالة مثالية في نظرها، وبهذه الطريقة يتولى الحريري إدارة الاقتصاد ويدير الآخرون السياسة! لكن سعد لم يقرر بعد». وبعد أن يقول انه لم يفهم في دمشق سبب المشكلة بين السعودية وسوريا، يورد بأن سوريا مستعدة أن تعرض على السعودية اتفاقاً إقليميا يضم تركيا وإيران ويتجاوز قصة الشيعة والسنّة، فيرتاح الخليج بأن لا خطر عليه، ويتحرر قليلاً من الضغط الاميركي» ويضيف: «لا بد من احتواء إيران وليس طلب عداوتها، إذ لا يمكن نزع تأثيرها في المنطقة، فهناك شيعة في العراق، وفي البحرين، وفي الكويت، وفي عُمان و«حزب الله» في لبنان، من لا نستطيع مواجهته الأفضل الاتفاق معه، وتأتي تركيا فيتم تجريد او تطبيع إيران. وقد جرى جس نبض تركيا في هذا الشأن».

ولكن لماذا تتمسك سوريا بإيران ضد المعادلة العربية، يجيب محدثي: «لأن لا خيار أمامها، ولولا قطر وإيران لكانت حالتها الاقتصادية سيئة جداً، النفط يتقلص والعرب لا يقدمون لها شيئاً، لا مساعدة، لا تمويل ولا تسليح. أن سوريا تشعر بأن وضعها الجيو ـ سياسي يجعلها دائماً تعتمد طريقة في التفاوض تبقيها قوية، سياسياً هي قوية، إنما اقتصادياً فإنها تعبة». ويضيف: «لقد واجهت سوريا إيران من اجل الخليج، وطلبت من المسؤولين الإيرانيين عدم التصريح بتهديده إذا ما تعرضت بلادهم لخطر، ثم التصريح بأنهم يريدون سلاماً وجيرة حسنة، لأن اختلاف المقال هذا يؤثر على الخليج، وتعتقد سوريا بأن هذه المواجهة دفعت بالمسؤولين الإيرانيين إلى زيارة المنطقة الخليجية، لكن أحدا لم يأت على ذكر الدور السوري في هذا المجال».

وكان الكاتب والصحفي البريطاني باتريك سيل نشر مقالاً أخيرا أشار فيه إلى أن سوريا ليست متخوفة من نتائج المحكمة، إنما من إجراءاتها، ويقول لي المرجع العربي: «إن سوريا تتخوف من استعمال المحكمة سياسياً، وبأن يتم استدعاء احد المسؤولين فيها، للاستماع إلى شهادته، وهي ترى في هذا إهانة للنظام، اذ ماذا لو طلبت لاهاي استدعاء شخصية كبيرة، وليس عند سوريا الضمانة التي حصلت عليها في السابق عندما توجه بعض مسؤوليها للتحقيق معهم في فيينا. ما الذي يضمن بأن الشاهد السوري غير المتهم سيعود، ربما تقول المحكمة إنها تحتاج إلى بقائه ستة اشهر مثلاً!»

واسأل: ماذا لو طلبت سوريا الضمانة وحصلت عليها، هل تتجاوب؟ يجيب محدثي: «ربما يتم إيجاد طريقة، لأن سوريا لا تملك القدرة على فتح معركة قانونية كبيرة، فهي لا تستطيع تعيين مجموعة مكاتب في الخارج لمحامين كبار مهمتهم عرقلة عمل اي محقق ينوي التلاعب بنتائج التحقيق». ويقول المرجع العربي: «إن سوريا أخطأت في ردة فعلها الأولى على جريمة اغتيال رفيق الحريري، ذلك أن جماعة الاستخبارات كانت تقول بازدراء اللبنانيين وعدم أخذهم في الاعتبار، وسارت ردة فعل سوريا إزاء الجريمة على هذا المنوال فوقعت في الخطأ الكبير».

واسأل محدثي العربي عن دور سوريا في اختيار رئيس جمهورية لبنان فيجيب: «على اللبنانيين أن يحفظوا هذا المنطق البسيط: ان سوريا لا يهمها كثيراً ان يكون الرئيس اللبناني تابعاً مطلقاً لها، ولا يهمها تعيين رئيس، إنما يهمها جداً ألا يأتي رئيس يؤذيها». ويوضح: «اذا كانت الحكومة في لبنان ضد سوريا، فكلما أصدرت مرسوماً يمكن للرئيس أن يوقعه، ويسهل للحكومة الأمر، وتصبح كل المؤسسات الدستورية في جهة واحدة». واسأل: لكن سوريا تريد ان تكون شريكة في تشكيل الحكومة؟

وينفي محدثي هذا الشيء «لأن للمعارضة صوتا مدويا». ويضيف: «لقد أدركت سوريا أن «اتفاق الطائف» لن ينجح في لبنان لذلك جمدته! وما يكتشفه اللبنانيون الآن اكتشفته سوريا سابقاً، وهي اخترعت آليات مختلفة له. وكون «الطائف» لم يعط الرئيس المسيحي أي سلطة أعطته سوريا السلطة. لقد كان إميل لحود أقوى بكثير مما يسمح له «الطائف»، وكان رفيق الحريري يدرك ذلك.

وهل لا تزال دمشق تؤيد قائد الجيش العماد ميشال سليمان كمرشح توافقي لرئاسة الجمهورية؟ يقول المرجع العربي: «ان دمشق تعتبر سليمان احد حلفائها الأقوياء، فمواقفه ظلت واضحة، وتعرف سوريا أن الاميركيين حاولوا تطويقه، لكنها تشعر بأن سليمان قوي وليس من مشكلة معه». أما عن فارس بويز وزير الخارجية السابق الذي عاد اسمه يتردد كبديل عن ميشال سليمان فلا يعتقد المرجع العربي بأن سوريا تطرحه «ربما هو يطرح نفسه باسم سوريا، هي تعرف أن علاقته بوليد جنبلاط جيدة». ولتخفيف الضغط على لبنان، هل يمكن لسوريا أن تسير بانتخاب رئيس أولا؟ يجيب محدثي: «انها لا تستطيع التأثير على المعارضة، الا اذا وقعت اتفاقاً مع السعودية تتفقان فيه على تبادل أمور بينهما، أما أن تُسهل انتخاب الرئيس وتحرج الأكثرية لتقول أنها كسبت، وتقرر لاحقاً تشكيل الحكومة كما تريد، فان سوريا تتأثر والمعارضة لن تقبل، ثم من الضروري أن تطمئن الأطراف لبعضها البعض، إذ أن الثلث المعطل ليس بالضامن، فكيف يمكن لـ«حزب الله» مثلاً ان يضمن عون او بري؟ ويضيف محدثي: أن سوريا أبلغت العرب انه في القمة «سنحل كل شيء». وحسب المصدر العربي، فان سوريا تشعر بأن فرصة ضاعت بـ«تفشيل المبادرة الفرنسية» وهي تتوقع أن يعود الفرنسيون إلى إحياء تلك المبادرة بأي طريقة، على أساس أن المبادرة العربية لن تنجح، لأن كلها تمنيات، وسيقوم عمرو موسى بزيارات شكلية فقط». ولا يفوت محدثي إبلاغي، بأن سوريا لا تعتقد بأن المنطقة مقبلة على حرب، وأنها تستبعد أن تقوم إسرائيل بضرب إيران «إلا إذا ضغطت أميركا».

January 31st, 2008, 6:22 am


Shai said:


Unfortunately, you entered this forum as well, with your purely-good intentions. This is the last time I plan to address you directly.

When I tell Norman, and Offended, and Sami, and many others, that we are all brothers, I don’t pretend that we have a love-relationship. In fact, we don’t. We fear, and hate, and distrust, and suspect one another, and we have been doing that for almost a century now. What I mean when I say that, is that our history is richer together than it is separate, that we are descendants of the same Abraham, and that we should have more in common with each other, than with a lot of other cultures.

As I’ve told you before, you’re the LAST person that should talk of badmouthing fellow countrymen. The way you’ve communicated with me, from the very beginning of my participation in Syria Comment, has been disrespectful and despicable. You are NOT my “fellow” countrymen, certainly not someone I’d be proud to speak of. I am ashamed of people like you representing Israel and Israelis on the Internet. People like you perpetuate the hatred towards us, do nothing good for mankind, and at best should be ignored.

January 31st, 2008, 6:55 am


Honest Patriot said:

AIG, please don’t respond to SHAI, and SHAI, please hold to your pledge to not address AIG directly again.
Your squabble is an internal family squabble and should stay that way. You have the same goal but disagree on how to reach it. I think we all get that. Spare each other the public trading of “I am ashamed of you” against the “NO, I (AYE) am ashamed of YOU” etc.

Engaging each of you is – I find – extremely productive in maintaining a civil exchange with the various arabic counterparts in this forum. Convergence may not seem to be occurring but that’s only a superficial impression. There is a deeper evolution taking place. And it’s good. And thank you Josh. And thank you Alex.

OK, ‘nuf lecturing. I feel like I’m scolding my children again. I probably miss that since they’re both out of the house now.


January 31st, 2008, 7:15 am


Youssef Hanna said:


The central assertion in your post reflects an important ideological foundation of SR’s hegemonism on Lebanon: “Lebanon never matured enough to survive on its own…”.

Which State can best assure the tutelage on the non mature Lebanon? here comes the 2nd ideological foundation of SR’s hegemonism, that we can find in Nour’s post: “the people in both States are one people”; indeed, “sha3bon wa7idon fi baladayn”, said late Hafez el Assad.

One by-product of this hegemonistic dream is the denial of internal lebanese divisions, a mere fabrication by corrupt and thuggish lebanese zaims in this theory: if they themselves are not One People indeed, by which logic can Lebanese be One People with Syrians?

The hidden objective is: if we are one people then the division in two States is a temporary abnomaly born of colonialism; to Austrians before the Anschluss, Hitler shouted: “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer”.

The truth is, the enduring power of Christians, based on their long lasting relations with the West, made of Lebanon a distinct social and political entity.

The distinction with Syria increased as the two States followed over the last century a diametrically opposed way of life and social/political/educational organisation: democracy and freedom of expression vs dictatorship, censorship of free ideas, and repression, economical liberalism vs socialist dirigism, open culture vs autarcy (cellular phone, internet, came of late to Syria).

Should Syria syrianize Lebanon? should Lebanon lebanonize Syria? this is what’s all about; this is the reason why the SR fears Lebanon, its free press and media, the appeal on Syrians of the Lebanon way of life.

Shd democracy and liberalism come to prevail in Syria, we shall all call for Unity.

January 31st, 2008, 7:53 am


annie said:

Coming back to Fairouz : it is near impossible to get tickets. A friend waited for four hours, then got one from the “second” market.

January 31st, 2008, 8:02 am


Alex said:


The part you quoted from my comment has nothing to do with the Syrian regime’s vision. It is reality. If Syria quit Lebanon in 2001 the same chaos of today would have resulted in 2001. Why? … forget I used the maturity argument … think hierarchy. Lebanon has no clear hierarchy and they can not have a clear ultimate authority (President? Prime minister? Nasrallah? Sfeir?)

I am one of those who believe that within 15 years Syria will be “Lebanonized” enough that the lebanese people will probably be happy with some sort of unity with Syria.

January 31st, 2008, 8:27 am


offended said:

I am one of those who believe that within 15 years Syria will be “Lebanonized” enough that the lebanese people will probably be happy with some sort of unity with Syria

Come on Alex!

January 31st, 2008, 8:41 am


why-discuss said:

WADIH AL SAFI in the hospital

Do you know who is paying for his treatment in the hospital? Bashar Al Assad!
Do you know who paid for the hospitalization of Assi Rahbani (Fayruz husband)? Late Hafez Al Assad

Ragheb Alame, a famous lebanese singer, declared on TV that yes, lebanese officials would visit Wadih Al Safi but only to get money from him.
So it makes me laugh and grind my teeth when some nationalistic lebanese are shocked that Fayruz sings in Syria.

January 31st, 2008, 8:42 am


why-discuss said:

Lebanese christians have always look down to Syria as a third world country while Lebanon was the Switzerland of the Middle east.
It is nothing new and nothing to do with the occupation by the syrian army after the disastrous civil war. A further humiliation for the Lebanese: Be occupied by a third world country!
Syria is now developping and is becoming a touristic hub while preserving its arab and moslem identity. Already among the few tourists that visit lebanon are the iranians who come for a day tour to beirut after visiting moslem and biblical holy sites in Syria. Guess what is their favorite spot in Lebanon: Our Lady of Harissa!

January 31st, 2008, 8:51 am


Youssef Hanna said:


It’s a pity that Iranian tourists shd visit such an architectural monster, only built on this height to show all moslems passing daily from Beirut to Tripoli the christian domination.

They shd visit the 12th century modest church of Mar Youhanna, in Jbeil, the 12th century church-mosque of Beirut downtown, other magnificent mosques in downtown, Baalback, the old Tripoli, Sour and Saida. Not to mention the wonderful historical and antic sites of Syria.

I strongly disapprove your insistence on Lebanese christians “looking down to Syria as a third world country while Lebanon was the Switzerland of the Middle East”, and fully understand the reason why Umr el Qays was not banned; it helps you all on this site live comfortable with your certainties.

Is becoming a “touristic hub while preserving its arab and moslem identity” Syria’s ambition? i understand what you mean: opening up to 15-day visitors, but deeply staying unchanged. Poor ambition WHY-DISCUSS. I wholeheartedly hope that democracy and liberalism shall come, and join with Alex in the wish of unity between Lebanon and Syria in the next 15 years.

January 31st, 2008, 10:54 am


t_desco said:

No reaction (apart from Youssef Hanna misreading of it) to Fidaa Itani’s article? May I ask why?

January 31st, 2008, 11:29 am


T said:

Is it possible to get article in English (sorry- i only know German and Arabic).

Do you have any thoughts on Winograd?

January 31st, 2008, 12:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Trying to change reality will lead you nowhere. Ben-Gurion and Begin, Sokolov and Jabowtinski, Herzl and Weizmann were first and foremost EUROPEANS. There was nothing Arabic about them. They had zero ties to the Arab world. What cultural bonds are you talking about exactly?

And as for the Jews from Arab countries, in 47-48 they were rejected by the Arab world. The fact is that most of them think exactly like me and you know that. They are much more right leaning because they know the Arab world first hand.

You try to peddle optimism and roses. This is dishonest. We are not going to get to peace with our neighbors if we lie to them. Israel is not an Arab country. The Arabs are not our brothers or even our cousins. Israel is culturally much closer to the US and Europe than to Arab countries. This is the truth. But that does not mean there cannot be peace based on understanding and respecting our differences.

And Shai, if you are ashamed of 70% of your countrymen who think like me, maybe you should go live in Syria. You would be a great asset to Tishrin. They would be happy to let you write a daily coloumn in which you can explain how wrong Israel is and how right the Syrians are.

January 31st, 2008, 1:13 pm


offended said:

T_Desco, I love to read all of your posts. But alas, I can’t read or speak French (except the obvious ‘Et si tu n’existais pas… dis-moi pourquoi j’existerais….’)

January 31st, 2008, 1:17 pm


offended said:

Alex, for the sake of everything obscene: PLEASE excercise your admin powers. ; )

January 31st, 2008, 1:27 pm


Honest Patriot said:


You were superb in your first answer (with historical examples), then, my friend, you blew it with your “christian domination.”

Surely what you should mean there is “positive influence of the Lebanese Christians in moderating any penchant at islamic or arabic fanaticism and contributing to the open trade of commerce and culture with the West while at the same time being outstanding contributors to Arab culture (as in poetry, grammar, etc., and as we well know). The tone of your rhetoric here and the choice of words can easily overwhelm any good arguments you would have made.

In arguing for the inevitability of SR influence, its advocates on this blog – for the most part (and with exceptions of course) – use genteel, subtle, and logical arguments. The only effective way to counter the argument is through persuasion using the same style. Don’t let things get under your skin. You argue very well and hey, you got me convinced (except for the christian domination thing).

January 31st, 2008, 1:28 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AIG, I’m mulling a punishment for you for having ignored my admonition NOT to have a public argument with SHAI here.
As we say in Arabic: bass ba2a!
SHAI, please talk to the rest of us and don’t perpetuate the back-and-forth with AIG. There’s no convergence there but a mere endless cycle of repeating the same things.

January 31st, 2008, 1:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Per the location of Israel, I addressed this issue also.
I can’t find the post but basically there was a serious discussion in the Zionist movement about whether to create the Jewish state in Uganda. See: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/Uganda.html

Yes, there are religious Messianic Jews in Israel. They form the backbone of the settler movement. This is by the way a post 67 phenomenon. Historically, few religous Jews were attracted to Zionist ideas.

As for Shai, I think it is helpful for others to understand the internal dynamics of Israel and the internal debate going on here. Peace can only come when we understand each other, and not when we have false expectations from each other. Shai is a little thin skinned but that is ok. He will survive.

January 31st, 2008, 1:37 pm


offended said:

AIG said:
“Shai is a little thin skinned”

On the other hand, AIG is a thick-skinned twat.

January 31st, 2008, 2:02 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Ya Offended, bass ba2a inta kameyn. Ya 3aybishoum 3aleyk.

January 31st, 2008, 2:08 pm


offended said:

No HP, I am afraid you didn’t get it : )

I am not insulting AIG; I actually love him.

However, he was trying to pose like the tough guy who is in charge of protecting the sissies (like Shai), so I just helped him speak his mind more clearly.

January 31st, 2008, 2:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I encourage you to exercise your right to freedom of speech as much as you want. Unlike you, I am not offended.

January 31st, 2008, 2:19 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AIG, in the link you offered, I read “this [Uganda] program would not affect the ultimate aim of Zionism, a Jewish entity in the Land of Israel.” That consideration was for a temporary “escale.”

I believe you’re sincere but without facing head-on the religious fanaticism element on the part of Israel (and you know I make the same accusation to the other party) and affirm willingness to deal with it, then such fanaticism will be just as scary to Arabs who will fear what it will do after a peace is established, as much as you fear what will happen if peace is, in your words, “forced” upon rejectionsists in the Arab camp.

I am NOT persuaded. I still see what I advocate: progress based on the moderates of each side and based on the Arab League initiative as, currently, the only viable hope for peace in the short term, AND survival of Israel in the long time.

I know you don’t agree, and I understand your reasoning, so no need to repeat it. We just have to agree to disagree on the solution:
me: Now, based on Arab League initiative, land-for-peace, generous compensation, return to new Palestine and not to Israel, pragmatic adjustments of borders, time is NOT on Israel’s side
you: Wait for democracy in (part of) the Arab world, wait till “they’re ready,” wait decades, maybe 50 years, keep advancing technological capability of Israel, time is on Israel’s side

So let’s set the above aside. Enough rehashed. Now address this:

Why not Olmert offering to visit Syria and speak in the parliament with a (truly) bold offer of peace ? Time to match Sadat’s courage and vision.
[I’ve read the intermediate CBMs (I got the acronym right this time) advocated by Alex and SHAI, but I don’t see them working: this crisis needs a shock treatment]

January 31st, 2008, 2:23 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

First, you summarize well my position. One small remark. I like the Palestinain part of your plan and am not against it, I just do not think it is realistic know. I have no objection for it being explored. I am not against the Annapolis process which is an important part of what you are suggesting.

The reason Olmert cannot do what you suggest is that he has no public backing for it. His government will fall in an instant. Unlike Sadat, Olmert is constrained by the democratic system and cannot make such a move without a public discussion and at the very least a vote of support in the Knesset.

January 31st, 2008, 2:37 pm


Shai said:


These AIG’s couldn’t offend me if they tried (and, in fact, they try). The more they disrespect me online, the more everyone sees what they’re all about – hot air, which very often stinks. They look at the mirror each day saying “I love YOU… and… yet I don’t…” And instead of figuring out why they hate us “sissy-liberal useless idiots” (courtesy of AIG), they go online to waste their time and ours telling the world why it’s CAN’T move forward, until it starts subscribing to THEIR crap. Thin-skinned? The best you’ve done for your country is allow the Mohel to do his job. You couldn’t help a old lady cross the street if you tried, certainly not “your” country. Incidentally, how’s the weather in New Jersey?

January 31st, 2008, 3:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

First, you are only a “useful idiot”. The rest of your quote is from somewhere else. I also fully explained why you are a useful idiot.

I engage your arguments and show why they do not make sense as well as being contradictory and only help the rejectionist line in the Arab world. You on the other hand have stopped using reason and began to be ultra defensive. That is usually the case when you lose an argument.

And for your information I live in Ramat-Hasharon and am quite sure I spent many more years in the IDF than you. So if you want to insult me, which is your right that I fully support, please use more inventive insults.

As for the weather in NJ:

January 31st, 2008, 4:26 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Please “move forward” and leave the Golan and the West Bank (you’ve already left Gaza).

Then after you do that, Dr. Bashar, Mr. Mashaal, and Mr. Haniya will be happy to chat with you about peace. Both Shai and myself can assure you. No need to be concerned.

January 31st, 2008, 4:50 pm


norman said:

Hanna Montana was in town, we had to pay hundreds of Dollars for 75 $ tickets, I guess Fairose is as popular, that is called supply and demand , Syria is going into free market economy.

January 31st, 2008, 4:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said:

And for your information I live in Ramat-Hasharon and am quite sure I spent many more years in the IDF than you.

Oh boy, here comes the pissing contest.

Is IDF service still a measure of Israeli-ness? Is it like World of Warcraft: the more time spent in a uniform translates to more Israel Points accumulated, which can be used to purchase more trappings of Israeliness?

January 31st, 2008, 5:52 pm


Alex said:


Why do you think Shual and others here insist that you live in New Jersey?

January 31st, 2008, 6:13 pm


norman said:

Because he does.

January 31st, 2008, 6:51 pm


Shai said:


Since I promised I wouldn’t address this AIG directly, I won’t. But here’s a suggestion – how about putting AIG’s ideas (Democratic Middle East First) as a topic by itself – a forum on its own. My guess, this IDF-general with so many years “under his belt”, will have a few less visits than your interesting forums. What do you think, shall we give it a try? 🙂

January 31st, 2008, 6:53 pm


Shai said:


I believe Alon is abroad for a few days. If he doesn’t respond right away, he’ll probably do so this weekend. Sami D, and yourself, gave some nice responses, and things for us to think about. Why is it that out of the 270-plus comments, less than 10% are about the topic, and the rest are peace-bashing, etc.? Is it that unrealistic, or are you and Joshua just a little “too nice”? 🙂

January 31st, 2008, 7:05 pm


offended said:

As expected, the ‘Weenie’grad report didn’t tackle the issues of war crimes committed by the IDF (which happens to be the previous employer of the currently New Jersey-based AIG), during the summer war of 2006.

Those Amnesty International sissies they don’t get it, it wasn’t a matter of hiding or circumventing facts. It was more like a practical environmentally-sensitive act; why waste ink and papers on matters like ‘indiscriminate killing of civilians’?

You see…they just don’t get it…

January 31st, 2008, 7:06 pm


offended said:

Shai, I have to disagree with you here.
Amongst the 270 comments there were fours types: 1-The few pertinent ones, 2-There were the peace-bashing ones, 3- The irrelevant, 4-And the cynical.

Now cynicism, in my humble opinion, is something that should be addressed in detail and in depth.

And hey, both Joshua and Alex are nice; in fact they are super-nice. : )

January 31st, 2008, 7:19 pm


Shai said:


What did you expect? Vinograd was a government-appointed (Olmert-appointed) committee. For a while there, the entire nation thought they were really going to “give it to ’em”, and in fact the media pretty much celebrated in tearing apart the previous chief-of-staff (Dan Halutz) and Defense Minister (Amir Peretz). This pressure lead to their resignation. But… there was one guy who survived it all – good ‘ole Olmert. And now, that the public sees what a farce this report is, when it comes to passing judgement not only on those who executed their orders, but indeed on those who issued them, there is a good likelihood that they won’t accept it, and demand Olmert’s resignation. If he steps down, there may not necessarily be a need for new elections, as there is a chance (although small) that our young and inexperienced foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, will take over! For peace with Syria options, that’s probably the best (out of Olmert, Barak, and her). For further “analysis”, or my personal opinion, see also my comment to Norman in the Liel Forum, from today.

January 31st, 2008, 7:22 pm


Shai said:


Yeah, you’re right… after all, they’re letting this particular “sissy, useless-idiot, liberal” Israeli continue his nonsense… (I’m referring to myself of course) 🙂

January 31st, 2008, 7:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shual insists on something wrong because he is not very knowledgeable about computers and networking and how to use proxies.

January 31st, 2008, 8:26 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


Isn’t it possible to hide and change an ip address for anonymous web surfing? I’m not suggesting that you’re doing it, I merely want to make sure of a technology fact.

January 31st, 2008, 9:18 pm


t_desco said:

T, Offended,

I am sure that the article will soon be translated into English and other languages for the international editions of Le Monde diplomatique.

I did like the fact that the article mentions the Hassan Nabaa – Ahmed Abu Adass link (perhaps a first for Western media?), but the major scoop has to be the claim that Fidaa Itani talked to a man in Nahr al-Bared who called himself Chahine and that Lebanese security services later identified that man as none other than Saad bin Laden:

“En juin, un mois après le début des combats, les services de sécurité libanais découvrent que M. Chahine n’est autre que le fils, dénomme Saad, du fondateur d’AI-Qaida, M. Ben Laden”.

You have probably heard the rumors, even Nicholas Blanford wrote about them, but they become a lot more credible when you have a journalist who actually talked to the man. If there are voice recordings, one could even do voice analysis.

January 31st, 2008, 9:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes it is possible. I am getting the same effect just because of how my company’s network is setup.

January 31st, 2008, 9:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes it is possible. I am getting the same effect just because of how my company’s network is setup.

Aha! Conclusive proof that Israel’s tentacles are wrapped tightly around the American economy! Today New Jersey, tomorrow the world!

January 31st, 2008, 11:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

My goose is cooked!

PS I am also the editor of the Protocols of Zion and responsible for keeping it up to date. I will invite you to the next meeting of the Elders.

January 31st, 2008, 11:08 pm


Youssef Hanna said:

Honest Patript,

Many and warm thanks.

To clarify the isolated point that maybe as a believer hurt you and for which then i am very sorry, i suspect that contrary to ordinary cult edifices hidden in valleys, and small town streets, for which modest beauty and religious purpose i hold respect, the gigantic Harissa on the mountaintop, or Christ King of Nahr el Kalb, and similar pharaonic moslem cult edifices, such the Al Amine new Mosque in downtown Beirut, look like they mainly aim, instead, at self affirmation vis-à-vis other communities.

I hope this clarifies the matter.


February 1st, 2008, 6:14 am


why-discuss said:

Youssef Hanna

I disagree with you about Harissa. It is not a sign of christian domination at all. The Virgin is worshipped by both Moslem and Christians. The iranians who visit it is not because of history or the architectural majesty but because they worship the Virgin Mary.
Secondly the iranians who vist Damascus visit mostly religious sites, like Seyyeda Zeinab and Rokaya and also Caen and Abel sites.
They dont look for Casinos, alcools or prostitutes. I guess they are quiet and well behaving tourists.
I dont know where you are but my experience with lebanese christains have always showed me that disdain towards Syrians even in the early 50′. It is is visceral, like the greeks toward the turks.
I also wish that one day Lebanon and Syria will forget they small differences , respect each other and be united to benefit from each other richness.

February 1st, 2008, 10:36 am


Youssef Hanna said:


May the Virgin Mary, who as you say is revered by Christians, Sunnis, and Shias alike, protect us against our internecine violence.

Regardless of what some morally retarded people may think about their illusory intrinsic superiority, we all know that any disparity in development between Lebanon and Syria is essentially due to the christian-driven connection with the West (American University and St Joseph University in the 19th century, emigration to the Americas), and to the different political system consequently adopted.

The gap can be easily reduced/closed; yes, once Syria adopts democracy, as a system for building internal compromises, rather than exporting its internal unresolved violence to neighboring countries (through exportation of jihaadis, and of direct State violence), unity between both countries, in the frame of an Arab Union, though, where cultural differences are protected, will become a reachable goal.

February 1st, 2008, 11:01 am


why-discuss said:

Youssef Hanna

Interesting point about the disparity. The presence and attraction to the western education system reflects the doubts that many christians ( and moslems and syrian bourgeoisie) still have about the arabic/moslem education system which remains fragmented and unmanaged ( is there an arab league commision on education??).
No wonder the lebanese and syrian bourgeoisie send their children to christian-western schools and university in Lebanon to insure their integration in the high ranking western university.
The penetration of the western education system was much less in Syria but in Iraq american Jesuit Schools like Baghdad college brought the western influence ( but not the religious) to many of the educated iraqis.
Why was Syrians more opposed to the western education? I would like to know

February 2nd, 2008, 8:15 am


Youssef Hanna said:


Maybe the Great Omayyad capital lacked the humility, and courage, to face the reality of Arab decadence, and try to catch up with modernity through seeking Western education, like the West did, in contrast, by seeking the Ibn Rushd knowledge when intellectual power was on this side of the Mediterranean.

The reluctancy turned even to some kind of hostility when the West through Israel inflicted on the Arabs repeated military humiliations.

Christians in Lebanon, meanwhile, welcomed with relief the cultural and political interventionnism of the West, so that the Americans set up the AUB and the French the St-Joseph University, some 120 years ago, and imposed on the Turks a political autonomy for Lebanon (Moutassarrifiah). Simultaneously Lebanese Xtians went by the tens of the thousands to the Americas (starting 1870); a lot of them returned, and a lot sent money to help parents who remained get out of poverty and illiteracy.

It is this western minded elite that took power in independent Lebanon: Raymond Eddé, Pierre Gemayel, Camille Chamoun, etc…

My grand grand mother, and grand grand father, went to Ohio, in the 1870. He fell in love with an Irish woman and disappeared from the family record. He was lost to the West. She courageously sold vegetables, that she transported in a large basket on her head. She sent money to her son, who graduated as a physician at the Faculté Française de Médecine in 1911. This is how this family, to give but one example, grew away from poverty. Later on the doctor lived a number of years in the States, and as many in Cuba. Then my dad emigrated to Africa. I live abroad.

Ever since more than 135 years, this family moved between Lebanon, America, Africa, France, etc…

Will i accept America is evil, Ashaïtan el Qabiir? hell not. Does Hezbollah realize they insult hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who owe America and France their cultural and economic freedom, and have their families split between the States and Lebanon? hell yes. With all due respect for Hezbollah, i shall fight for Lebanon to keep strong ties with the West, without which this singular experience of cultural dialogue named Lebanon would not exist.

Long live Lebanon, high stay the mountains ever blue the sea, welcome to the West throwing its great waves on our shores, welcome to the East shining its yellow rays on our mountains.

14 March i am, 14 March i shall ever be.

Hand in hand with 8 March we shall continue the march.

February 2nd, 2008, 3:12 pm


why-discuss said:

Youssef Hanna
I am not sure when Hezb decries America, they mean the people. They mean the foreign policy of the US and you know that. The same as lebanese, iranians have strong fanily ties with the US, yet they disagree with the administration policy. Average iranian in Iran love americans, I know it by experience.
The US is a great country as France is but these last decades, they both do not live to the expectations they build in lebanese or iranians minds since the fall of the ottoman empire. In the contrary they have brought violence, double standard, arrogance, greed and selfish interests they call ‘national interests’
Many US citizens feel the same as Hezb and their allies about Bush.
Let us hope 2009 will bring a readjustement of relations for Lebanon, Syria and the US

February 3rd, 2008, 7:38 am


Youssef Hanna said:


Where there’s democracy and people elect the government, it is hard to claim being against the State government but simultaneously with the people that appointed it. Merkbar America, used to shout the Iranian crowd (before the youthful at universities and elsewhere turned in favor of America and against old bearded mullahs). Same is the (hidden) motto of Hezbollah.

While i sympathize with Hezbollah’s fear that the globalized culture will swipe out peoples’ traditions, i disagree with the strategy of violence as the means to stop the U.S from culturally invading Lebanon and the world, and continue to think, instead, that the Arabs shd engage the peaceful and efficient fight to culturally survive then thrive: not only do they have the glorious history, the present pride and will, not only do they occupy a stretch of land extending from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, but they furthermore have the money to carve a place on the media map, which they did with great success in the past decade, in finance as well, in the politics of the world, to grab modernity where it is (be it in the West) and build a future into which all other cultures, French, Chinese, Russian, etc… want to have their share notwithstanding American cultural and scientific hegemony.

Let us hope indeed 2009 will bring a defusion of tensions.

February 3rd, 2008, 4:54 pm


Alex said:

How sad … these people need serious therapy.

From Beirut to the beltway’s reaction to Fairuz singing in Damascus … half an hour from their border.


Goodbye Fairuz
She gave them a pleasure they did not deserve. So much for her claim that she “sings for the people”. The play she performed in Damascus, the “Arab cultural capital” for 2008, is ironically about a despot who wakes up from his slumber every full moon to steal his people and then goes back to sleep. Fairuz, who can barely sing at 73 years of age, and who refused to sing in Lebanon during the civil war, stood on the Syrian stage today and gave the 24-hour despots what was bestowed on her by her own people– the ones her new audience is burning alive.

Fairuz the singer died when her voice tragically aged. But her art was kept alive by the people who worshipped her as a symbol of their existence, and as a nostalgic reminder of home. Today, she betrayed them, and their memories. Syrian media hailed her “return to her people”. Let them have her. Many of us will pretend that she died in the war, like many other people and things of value.

February 5th, 2008, 4:37 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No. These people are very sane. The regulars on beirutbeltway are at least not in denial. You should read that blog more and maybe you will understand the point of view of Abu Kais, a Shia by the way, that understands how Hizbollah and Syria are wrecking Lebanon.

February 5th, 2008, 4:57 am


Alex said:


I don’t think that you – an enemy of Syria who is proud of how good his IDF are at killing Arabs when they win – can tell me how I should feel about that man’s reaction to Feiruz singing in Damascus.

February 5th, 2008, 5:47 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

First of all I can tell you, because I can read both sides of the story and make up my mind. His view is more principled and his arguments make sense. And it is a fact that Hizbollah and Syria are strangling Lebanon.

Second, I am proud Israel wins but would be quite happy if Israel could do it without hurting any Arabs.

February 5th, 2008, 1:49 pm


SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » “Al-Qaida in Lebanon,” by Fidaa Itani said:

[…] French version here (with four footnotes that are missing in this version). […]

February 5th, 2008, 4:37 pm


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