Lebanon: Drift Better than Conflict: Hamidi Translated

Anthony Shadid has the best article on Lebanon's failure to elect a new president: "From Hopeful To Helpless At a Protest In Lebanon," in the Washington Post. Anthony has been on leave for the last 6 months writing a book. He seems to be back, inshaallah.

Paul Salem of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace is quoted in the WSJ:

"We are looking at at least another year and a half of drifting, but right now drifting looks like a good option if we can avoid conflict."

He is probably correct. Kicking the ball down the road is Lebanon's best option until the Bush administration is no more. Th stubbornness of all sides has become intractable. So long as Lebanon does not get broken, it will be doing well.

Progress in Lebanon is intimately related to progress in Palestine. It is a large ball of wax. Most actors are making calculations in one place based on their position in the other. This is certainly true of Syria, which views Lebanon as a card that can only be played when the Golan is on the table. So long as the peace process is going no where for Syria, Damascus will not council flexibility among its allies in Lebanon. Likewise, the US cannot expect to force its will on Lebanon while stiffing Syria in the peace process. Israel will not get relief from Hizbullah so long as it refuses to relinquish the Golan. The Palestinians have no leverage at all.

Here is the Hamidi article translated into English thanks to http://mideastwire.com

Dialogue with Damascus to induce it to attend Annapolis & support Ghanem

Ibrahim Al-Humaydi of Al-Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 23: "The information available to Al-Hayat showed that there were several communications yesterday with high ranking Syrian officials to convince Damascus to attend the international peace conference to be held in the American city of Annapolis and to play a role in convincing the Lebanese opposition to accept MP Robert Ghanem as a "consensus candidate". The Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad received phone calls from the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the Jordanian King Abdullah the Second, the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem received a phone call from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov while the French ambassador to Damascus visited the Syrian foreign ministry.

"It was learned that these communications focused on the issues of the presidential elections in Lebanon and the international conference in Annapolis especially as the Lebanese parliamentary session to be held today to elect a new president coincides with the meetings of the foreign ministers of the Arab countries in Cairo to reach a united Arab attitude towards Annapolis. Knowledgeable Syrian sources announced to Al-Hayat yesterday that the Annapolis meeting "is not a conference because any conference necessitates preparations and foundations. It is not right to call it a conference. If the purpose behind it is to recite speeches, then the assembly of the United Nations is more suitable". The sources were talking about the absence of the Golan Heights issue from the conference's agenda and from the letter of invitation sent by the American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Al-Muallem two days ago.

"The sources added: "the region is passing through a crisis. The failure of the conference will complicate the situation immeasurably and strike a blow at the chances for achieving real peace". The final decision about whether Syria will participate or not and about its level of participation, whether though Al-Muallem or through its ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha, remained connected to the final result of the international communications with Damascus and of the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in which Al-Muallem is participating. The sources quoted Prodi telling Al-Assad in his phone call that "any peace related talks in the region can't succeed without the contribution and participation of Syria". The Syrian sources wondered: "what will attending the conference do without enough preparations and in light of the unsuitable internal Palestinian conditions?"

"The sources confirmed that Damascus "supports any real effort to achieve peace in the Middle East". The foreign communications yesterday also discussed the Lebanese presidential elections as Damascus was informed that Robert Ghanem is the "consensus candidate" currently on the table and that Washington "does support Michel Idde" despite the fact that the Lebanese opposition considers Ghanem "as a candidate from March 14 and not a consensus candidate". Diplomatic sources announced that the communications are aimed at convincing Damascus to convince the opposition to accept Ghanem. According to conforming sources, the reports coming in from Beirut show that there are two possible options: electing MP Ghanem after he gains the support of the opposition in return for "guarantees not to target the weapons of the resistance which should be dealt with in the context of the national dialogue" and giving promises of a "big s hare" to the Reform and Change coalition headed by MP Michel Aoun in the coming government.

"The second option is to postpone the electoral session in the context of an "orderly vacuum" which would allow for intense communications later on to reach an agreement about electing a consensus president from outside the list suggested by the Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir who would be acceptable to all the internal, regional, and international factions."

Secretary of State Rice and Samir Geagea, Lebanon’s main anti-Syrian Christian leader on Wednesday accused Syria of blocking a deal on a new Lebanese president, just two days before the incumbent’s term ends.

The United States, a strong supporter of Mr. Geagea and his allies in the anti-Syrian governing coalition, told Syria to stop what Washington said was interference in the process.

“It really ought to be decided without foreign interference, and certainly without any foreign intimidation,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “Those messages have been very clearly sent.”

Lebanese Opposition Offers Deal To End Political Impasse
AFP: 2007-11-22 12:59 (New York)

BEIRUT (AFP)–Lebanese opposition leader Michel Aoun proposed Thursday that his camp name an interim president and that the ruling majority appoint a prime minister to end a long-running presidential row. 

Aoun said in a televised announcement that he would name a candidate from outside his parliamentary bloc to become president until after the 2009 legislative elections, after which a president would be elected for a full six-year term.

He said parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri would name a prime minister from outside his Future Movement to form a national "reconciliation government."

Aoun said his proposal would only be valid until 2100 GMT Friday, just one hour before the end of the mandate of incumbent president Emile Lahoud. 

Aoun made the proposal after a member of the ruling majority announced that Friday's last-ditch session in parliament to vote for a successor to Lahoud would be postponed.

Beirut Is Not Tehran
By Andrew Exum and Stephen McInerney
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; 9:54 AM

When Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term expires on Friday, Lebanese democracy will face a stern test. Political factions there are deadlocked over the selection of a new president, and Lebanon could see the formation of two parallel governments — or, worse, the outbreak of civil war….

Comments (6)

EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis

That the U.S. and its Lebanese allies are yet to “win” in Lebanon is a testament to how cunning and clever has the Syrian leadership been when it comes to using the Lebanon card to advance its strategic objectives.

Hate or love the Syrian leadership, it has played this chess game incredibly well given its own limited resources compared to the vast array of players facing it across the table.

Thus far at least, Syria has proved to be a regional force that must be reckoned with in spit of all attempts to ignore this fact on the ground.

November 23rd, 2007, 3:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

True, EHSANI2, but one mustn’t underestimate the cover given by the threat – implicitly understood – of grinding their opponents’ chess pieces under their feet at any given moment.

It’s not just cloaks, with Bashar.

November 23rd, 2007, 9:38 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Indeed, it’s not just cloaks at all. Not sure if Bashar is the real “brains” behind all of:
– the Machiavellian manipulation of its “pawns” in Lebanon,
– the vicious assassinations and intimidations of the Lebanese slimming “majority,” and
– the strategic alliance with Iran
To be certain, the signature of amoral secret services can be seen bleeding through at least the assassinations. But then again, Bashar is the heir to what Thomas Friedman called “Hama Rules.”
What is surprising is the seeming ineptitude of the true free democracies in the world to bring Syria to account, at least not yet.

As I have always indicated, the Lebanese have never helped themselves with their silly divisiveness and attachment to a feudal system of power families under the cloak of a quasi-democracy. Still, this is no reason for the savagery with which Syria handles Lebanon.

November 24th, 2007, 7:54 am


Alex said:

Honest Patriot

1) do you know things the UN investigators do not know?

2) Also, do you know the difference between “knowing” and “assuming”?

November 24th, 2007, 8:24 am


Honest Patriot said:


No, I don’t. And I AM assuming. You’re right. HOWEVER, anyone who followed the news, analyses, reports of the UN investigators, statements of witnesses, etc., as well as any reasonable correlation between past events, effective deniability methods, and the earlier free-hand given to Syria in Lebanon as reward for its cooperation in the first Gulf war, can only come to the conclusion of Syrian culpability with an almost-certain statistical preponderance. I did concede that, based on his education and statements, it is possible that President Bashar El-Assad was not in the loop (or ensured that he was not in the loop). It’s a bit of a mystery, given what the former foreign minister / vice president Abdel-Halim Khaddam, now in exile, voiced clearly as being a near-impossibility the carrying out of such assassinations without the President’s knowledge and approval.

In fact, on Syria Comment (althought I didn’t keep the exact link) a very detailed analysis by Dr. Landis some time ago all but gave all the highest probability sequence-of-events and rationalizations that led to the assassination of Rafiq-El-Hariri, yes by the Syrian secret service.

Let’s at least agree that the arguments that this is all the work of the Mossad is nothing but arrogant gamesmanship by Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who, while superbly intelligent and personally congenial, is nevertheless blinded by his fanaticism.

I am not an extremist, nor in any one camp, in Lebanon or in the Middle East. I do agree with the statement that Palestinians are victims and have rightful claims to land and country and that Israel has used abusive and oppressive methods, let alone the convoluted argument used to establish the Jewish state. Clearly they (Israel) have a lousy cause and the very best (hors concours!) “lawyers,” and the Palestinians have a just cause and the very worst (also hors concours!) “lawyers.” The fact does remain that the very best doctors I now in the U.S. are Jewish, and the same goes for businessmen, academic, and true family friends. As a community and a group, they are good people. So are the Palestininians and the Arabs, BUT, what (the hell) did they do with their oil money, the massive populations they have, and the tremendous outreach and support from so many different countries: they squandered it all, failed to educate their people, resorted to terrorism, and turned a good cause into a pitiful endeavor that yields things such as or allows perpetrators to justify) 9/11.

I digressed a bit but NOTHING justifies political assassinations in Lebanon. NOTHING. I may not have the 100% objective certainty to prove Syrian complicity, but I just “know” it.

November 24th, 2007, 3:46 pm


Honest Patriot said:


If not Syria, who?
If not for perpetuating the control over Lebanon, why?

Do you have an opinion about Hama Rules and the “accepted” methods of the Syrian regime ?

November 24th, 2007, 3:50 pm


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