A Political Breakthrough In Doha

Mabrouk! Lebanese politicians reach agreement to end eighteen months-long political crisis

Posted by Qifa Nabki

After over a year and a half (556 days, to be precise) since five opposition ministers resigned from the Lebanese cabinet, precipitating the worst political crisis since the Civil War, a solution was finally reached between Lebanese politicians in Doha, early this morning. 

The agreement brings to a close a turbulent period which saw downtown Beirut shut down by demonstrators, dozens of civilians killed in street clashes, the Nahr al-Bared conflict, a string of political assassinations, and the return of ugly displays of sectarianism, which threatened to drag the country back into civil war. 

The solution came in the form of an agreement on the 1960 electoral law with approved amendments relating to the shape of Beirut's electoral districts, coupled with a cabinet alignment which accords a minority veto to the opposition parties. General Michel Suleiman is expected to be elected President of the Republic on Thursday or Friday, with dignitaries and foreign heads of state arriving on Sunday to celebrate the political breakthrough.

Here are some news items on the deal:

Political Agreement Reached in Lebanon (NY Times)

By NADA BAKRI and ALAN COWELL

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Hezbollah-led Shiite opposition and the Lebanese government backed by the West and Saudi Arabia, reached an agreement on Wednesday to resolve an 18-month political crisis that has crippled the country and recently triggered the worst fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war.After five days of fraught negotiations among Lebanon’s rival political groups in Doha, the Qatari authorities said the agreement called for moves within 24 hours for Parliament in Beirut to begin the process of electing Gen. Michel Suleiman, the commander of Lebanon’s army, as president.

The deal was also expected to lead to the formation of a cabinet in which Hezbollah, supported by Iran and Syria, along with its allies will enjoy the veto power it had sought in the negotiations .

Under the terms of the agreement, the government will also debate anew electoral law designed to provide better representation in the country’s sectarian system of power-sharing.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the Qatari Prime Minister, told a formal ceremony in Doha that Lebanon’s feuding parties “agreed that the speaker of Parliament will call within 24 hours for the election of Gen. Michel Suleiman as president of the republic.”

Nabih Berri, the Parliament speaker, said the new president would be elected soon, possibly on Sunday. Lebanon has been without a president since November. Mr Berri also said a protest camp in Beirut’s central commercial district would be dismantled.Opposition supporters began to take down their tents Wednesday morning.

The agreement negotiated in Doha foresaw the creation of a government composed of 16 cabinet seats for the ruling majority, 11 for the opposition and three to be nominated by the new president.

The deal enjoined all parties to “commit themselves not to use weapons or violence in order to achieve political gains under any circumstances.”

Despite the agreement, many of the differences that ignited Lebanon’s newest crisis remained unresolved. They include how to deal with Hezbollah’s weapons stocks, and Lebanon’s relations with Syria which ended its 29-year military presence here in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The issue of cooperation with a United Nations tribunal to investigate Hariri’s murder and 10 others that followed was not resolved. Pro-government officials accuse Syria of involvement in these assassinations.

Media reports said that the agreement was reached when Qatar stepped up pressure Tuesday night following signs that the talks were deadlocked over the new electoral law, which will determine how the factions share power in Beirut and thusinfluence next year’s parliamentary elections.

The Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani was reported to have intervened personally Tuesday night to clinch the deal, after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he attended a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting. The Saudis are important supporters of the current Sunni government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The Doha talks came after an Arab League delegation headed by Qatar mediated a deal between Lebanese factions that ended a week of violence earlier this month in which more than 60 people were killed during street clashes between gunmen loyal to Hezbollah and Sunni backers of the government.

Hezbollah and its allies, angered by government decisions that threatened a private communication network and an attempt to dismiss the head of security at Beirut’s airport,a figure close to the group, sent their fighters into the streets on May 7, blocking roads and engaging in clashes with Sunni fighters in Beirut. Violence also raged in eastern and northern Lebanon and the central mountains. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, called the government’s actions a declaration of war.

The agreement in Doha drew quick approval from Saudi Arabia and from France, whose President, Nicolas Sarkozy, called it “a great success for Lebanon.” Iran and Syria, Hezbollah’s supporters, also approved the deal, Reuters reported. 

إنجاز الدوحة: صفحة جديدة للبنان

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

الدوحة ـ إبراهيم الأمين ونقولا ناصيف

بعيد منتصف ليل أمس، تمّ التوصل في الدوحة الى اتفاق لبناني ـــــ لبناني هو الأوّل من نوعه لإعادة تنظيم الحياة السياسيّة في لبنان منذ اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري في الرابع عشر من شباط عام 2005.
وقال مرجع قيادي في المعارضة إن الاتفاق صيغ في ورقة وسوف يذاع صباح اليوم بعد إجراء الترتيبات لإعلان رسمي في الدوحة، على أمل أن تبدأ الترتيبات في بيروت لإجراء انتخابات رئاسية خلال ثلاثة أيام على أبعد تقدير، يليها بدء مشاورات لتأليف حكومة وحدة وطنية قال موالون إن النائب سعد الدين الحريري قد يكون رئيسها أو من ينوب عنه، لكن لن يبقى الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة في موقعه.
وقد زار أمير قطر حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني العماد ميشال عون في جناحه، وأنجز معه اللمسات الأخيرة على الاتفاق. ثمّ عُقد اجتماع قرابة الواحدة والنصف بعد منتصف الليل بين مندوبي الموالاة والمعارضة مع رئيس الوزراء القطري حمد بن جاسم، لصياغة نص الاتفاق بصورة نهائية.
وكانت أجواء تشاؤميّة قد سادت بعد البيان الصحافي الذي أذاعه وزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية في قطر أحمد المحمود، وصلت الى حدود بدء بعض الوفود بترتيب أغراضها تمهيداً للعودة الى بيروت. بعد ذلك بقليل، غادر الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى الى البحرين، وانتقل أمير قطر الى الدمام للمشاركة في الاجتماع التشاوري لقادة دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي، فيما استأنف رئيس حكومته حمد بن جاسم سلسلة اجتماعات منفصلة مع قادة الموالاة والمعارضة. وبدا عاتباً بقوة لأن هناك من يريد تفويت فرصة على لبنان بالحصول على اتفاق يحلّ أزمته السياسية ويمنع تمدّد الفتنة القائمة.
وحسب المعلومات، فإن الاتفاق يقضي بالآتي:
أوّلاً: انتخاب رئيس جديد للجمهورية هو المرشح التوافقي العماد ميشال سليمان.
ثانياً: تأليف حكومة وحدة وطنية تنال فيها المعارضة الثلث الضامن (11 مقعداً) والموالاة النصف زائداً واحداً (16 مقعداً) وتترك ثلاثة مقاعد لرئيس الجمهورية.
ثالثاً: تحيل هذه الحكومة في أول اجتماع الى مجلس النواب مشروع قانون للانتخابات النيابية يقوم على اعتماد ما تم في عام 1960، على أن يكون تقسيم العاصمة بيروت بطريقة جديدة.
رابعاً: يدعو رئيس الجمهورية إلى جلسات حوار وطني بشأن بقية المسائل العالقة ولا سيما ملف العلاقة بين الدولة والتنظيمات كافة. ويفترض أن يشير الاتفاق الى التزام جميع الأطراف بالعمل على عدم تجدّد العنف وعدم الاحتكام الى السلاح في أي خلاف داخلي، ويترك أمر سلاح المقاومة الى الحوار المفترض أن يقوده رئيس الجمهورية في وقت لاحق. كما يتضمّن دعوة لوقف الحملات الإعلاميّة والتحريضيّة بين الموالاة والمعارضة.

حزب الله والترياق

وفي المشاورات التي جرت لاحقاً، سلم حزب الله، بالتنسيق مع بقية قوى المعارضة، الى رئيس الوزراء القطري اقتراحه للحل في بيروت، ثم جرى نقاش تفصيلي انتهى الى الاتفاق على صيغة تقضي بتقسيمها الى ثلاث دوائر، الأولى تضم أحياء الأشرفية والرميل والصيفي وتضم خمسة مقاعد (ماروني، روم أرثوذكس، كاثوليكي، واثنان من الارمن)، والثانية تضم الباشورة والمدور وفيها أربعة مقاعد (سني وشيعي واثنان من الارمن)، والثالثة وهي الاكبر وتضم أحياء المزرعة والمصيطبة ورأس بيروت وعين المريسة وميناء الحصن والمرفأ وفيها عشرة مقاعد (شيعي، درزي، أقليات، روم أرثوذكس وواحد من الاقليات وخمسة مقاعد للسنّة).
وقال اقتراح حزب الله بأن توافقاً يجب أن يسبق الانتخابات، بحيث تكون هناك لائحة ائتلافية في الدائرة الثانية، فيختار كل من فريقي الموالاة والمعارضة مرشّحيهم الى هذه الدائرة. وكانت هذه الفكرة الوحيدة التي جعلت العماد عون يتراجع عن مطالبته بترك ثمانية مقاعد في الدائرة الأولى.
بعد موافقة العماد عون ومندوب حزب الطاشناق النائب أغوب بقرادونيان، توجه الجميع الى اجتماع خاص للجنة صياغة قانون الانتخابات. وترأس الجلسة الأولى رئيس الوزراء القطري بحضور مساعده وزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية أحمد المحمود وهشام يوسف وطلال الأمين عن الجامعة العربية والنائبين أكرم شهيّب وجورج عدوان والنائب السابق غطاس خوري والمسؤول في تيار «المستقبل» صالح فروخ عن فريق الموالاة. وحضر عن المعارضة النواب: علي حسن خليل، محمد فنيش، آغوب بقرادونيان والمسؤول السياسي في التيار الوطني الحر جبران باسيل ونائب مدير مركز الدراسات والتوثيق عبد الحليم فضل الله.
وحتى الحادية عشرة والنصف ليلاً، كان اجتماع اللجنة مفتوحاً، تخلّلته فترات تشاور من خارج القاعة وفي خلوات جانبية وتنقل بين أجنحة رؤساء الوفود، قبل أن تُعلن موافقة مبدئية للنائب الحريري على الاقتراح، شرط أن يتم التفاهم مسبقاً على عدم حصول معركة انتخابية طاحنة في بيروت، وهو بذلك ضمن المقاعد التسعة في الدائرة الثالثة واثنين من مقاعد الدائرة الثانية، على أن تحصل معركة انتخابية في الدائرة الأولى.
وبعدما رفض كل الأقطاب الإدلاء بتصريحات في اللحظات الأخيرة، اقترب منتصف الليل والجميع في انتظار آخر الأخبار عن المواقف النهائية لكل من الحريري وعون بشأن تقسيم دوائر بيروت الانتخابية. فجأة وصل أمير قطر الى الفندق آتياً من اجتماعات مجلس التعاون الخليجي في الدمام. وأجّل لبعض الوقت الاجتماع الثاني للجنة صياغة قانون الانتخابات، فيما كان الجميع من الفريقين يتولون إشاعة الأجواء الإيجابية عن قرب الحل.

اعتراضات مسيحيّي 14 آذار

ولم تكد أخبار التفاهم تسري بقوة، حتى باشر أعضاء في الفريق المسيحي لـ14 آذار بالإعراب عن اعتراضهم على أيّ اتفاق لا يقدم صيغة نهائية وواضحة تضمن عدم لجوء حزب الله الى استخدام السلاح في الداخل وتنظم علاقة سلاحه مع الدولة من خلال إخضاعه لآلية تنسيق مع الحكومة اللبنانية.
لكن مصادر دبلوماسية عربية ومصادر قيادية في فريق الموالاة قلّلت من هذه الاعتراضات، وقالت إن اجتماعات عقدت لإقناع المتحفّظين بأنّ الامور سوف تأخذ شكلاً أكثر وضوحاً في جلسات الحوار اللاحقة.

Lebanese Voice Relief at End to Political Crisis

Beirut, 21 May 08, 12:42 (AFP) 

Weary Lebanese expressed relief on Wednesday at the announcement of a deal to end 18 months of crisis that drove the country to the brink of civil war but concern it might be only a temporary reprieve."Hopefully this is not a Band-Aid solution and is a long-lasting one," said Aleco Assaf, 64, a resident of Beirut. "People need to live in peace."

Throughout the country people were glued to radio or television sets listening to the Qatari prime minister announce the deal between government and opposition leaders after six days of talks in Doha.

"I am very optimistic because finally we're going to be able to live," said Josiane Nakad, who sells swimwear in the Hamra district of west Beirut.

"I haven't had many sales lately because people didn't know whether they would be spending their summer on the beach or under the bombs. "I just hope this is a long-lasting accord and not just a reprieve."

On the streets, in coffee shops and in telephone conversations, people could be heard congratulating each other on the end to the deadlock between the government and the opposition that erupted in sectarian bloodshed earlier this month.

In the southern coastal city of Tyre, drivers honked their horns on hearing the announcement with some shouting "Mabrouk" (congratulations).

"Since the deal was announced sales have been brisk," said Abu Fadi, who sells Lotto tickets in Beirut. "In the last two days no one was buying but today everyone is hoping that the deal will bring them luck."

Beirut resident Zeinab al-Said, 28, said she was especially happy that the agreement had brought an end to the opposition's 18-month-old protest camp outside the government's headquarters that turned part of the city center into a ghost town.

"I am ecstatic," she told AFP. "I am sure things will get better. We're going to be OK."

Some older Lebanese expressed skepticism, however, that the rival leaders had really buried the hatchet.

"I have seen a lot in my 85 years and it usually only calms down a bit to start over again later," said Elie, who would not give his last name. "Maybe I'll be lucky enough to die when it's calm."(AFP) 

Comments (158)


why-discuss said:

NPR Morning Edition, May 21, 2008 · Rival Lebanese leaders have reached a deal to end 18 months of political conflict, agreeing on a new president. Hezbollah and its allies will gain more representation in the Lebanese government.

Rami Khouri, director of the Fares Public Policy Institute at the American University of Beirut, discusses developments with Renee Montagne.

Listen
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90664163&ft=1&f=1001

May 21st, 2008, 12:20 pm

 

norman said:

Israel, Syria Reveal Peace Talks in Turkey
Israel and Syria Announce Indirect Peace Talks with Turkish Mediation
By Jeffrey Heller
Reuters
JERUSALEM

Israel and Syria said on Wednesday they had launched indirect peace talks mediated by Turkish officials in Istanbul, the first confirmation of negotiations between the two neighbors in eight years.

In coordinated statements, the two governments said they had launched an open dialogue with the aim of a comprehensive peace. Turkey said delegations of both countries, officially at war since Israel’s creation 60 years ago, were already in Istanbul.

“It will be a very long process. The direct talks themselves have not yet started,” said a senior Israeli official, an expert on Israeli-Syrian relations.

There was no immediate comment from the United States, Israel’s key ally. U.S. hostility to Syria and to its allies in Iran and Lebanon has been cited as a barrier to a final deal under which Israel has said it could return the Golan Heights.

“The two sides have begun indirect talks under Turkish auspices,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said in a statement released two days before he was due to undergo further police questioning over suspected bribe-taking. “They have decided to conduct the dialogue in a serious and continuous manner with the aim of reaching a comprehensive peace.”

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the two sides would conduct the talks in a spirit of good will.

Turkish officials said talks were likely to continue in rounds lasting several days, once or twice a month.

Government officials in Israel said discussions on reopening dialogue with Turkish mediation had begun last year.

Olmert, one the officials said, gave Syria a “formula” on the Golan Heights “that (President Bashar al) Assad wanted,” though the details remain secret.

U.S.-SPONSORED TALKS

Israel and Syria last held peace talks, in the United States, in 2000 but they collapsed after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the fate of the Golan Heights, Syrian territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

A dispute over control of the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which the Golan Heights overlook, was widely seen as the main stumbling block. The territory is also close to Damascus.

Olmert, who relaunched peace talks with the Palestinians six months ago, has said he is willing to discuss handing back the Golan to Syria in return for Damascus severing ties with Iran and guerrilla movements hostile to Israel, notably the Palestinians of Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

Last September, Israeli warplanes bombed what U.S. officials said was a suspected North Korean-built nuclear facility in Syria. That drew no apparent retaliation from Damascus.

Analysts, including former senior Israeli officials, believe there is little prospect of a peace deal between Israel and Syria without a shift in U.S. policy toward Damascus, possibly once President George W. Bush steps down in January.

One view is that, aside from territory, Israel has little to offer Syria and that Damascus would move its allegiances away from Tehran only on the prospect of being embraced economically and diplomatically by the United States and its allies.

An Israeli official said Olmert discussed Syria with Bush during the president’s visit to Israel last week. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said earlier this month Washington would support Turkish-brokered talks between Israel and Syria.

Paul Salem, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment in Beirut, said: “The Americans are not obstructing it, but they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“If Syria and Israel make progress, this could be presented to the next U.S. administration some time in 2009, when such an agreement could become part of a wider agreement that might involve other regional issues like Lebanon, Syria and Iran.”

“At that stage it would require the United States to be more engaged. For now they (Syrians, Israelis) want to focus on the technical issues, bilateral issues, on the Golan.”

Israeli analyst Moshe Maoz noted that opinion polls show that Olmert is deeply unpopular and that most Israelis do not want to give back the Golan, an important area for Israel in terms of water resources, tourism and border security.

Adding Bush’s hostility to Assad into the mix, he said: “I am skeptical on the results.”

Maoz said he believed the announcement this week could have been tied to Olmert’s domestic political problems and might be a bid to “divert attention” from corruption allegations.

Olmert will be questioned by police for a second time, on Friday, over suspicions he accepted bribes from an American businessman. He denies all wrongdoing.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Oweis in Damascus, Alistair Lyon in Beirut, Paul Debendern in Ankara and Brenda Gazzar, Alastair Macdonald and Adam Entous in Jerusalem; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Copyright 2008 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

May 21st, 2008, 12:33 pm

 

annie said:

What a relief ! It was about time.

If all the powers that be could let the Lebanese settle their problems without interference, would it not be wonderful ?

Interesting interview of Khoury quoted above.

May 21st, 2008, 12:34 pm

 

norman said:

Q&A: Lebanon crisis deal

Rival faction leaders have signed a deal to tackle outstanding disagreements between the Western-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition which has the backing of Syria and Iran.

What does the deal involve?

Hezbollah, Lebanon’s strongest armed group and main representative of the large Shia Muslim minority, had been insisting on a share of political power to reflect its importance in Lebanon’s multi-confessional sectarian make-up.

It has secured a blocking minority in a new unity cabinet and changes in election laws that could mean it is better represented in its stronghold in southern Beirut.

The deal brokered by a Qatari-led committee of Arab states gives the government 16 seats in cabinet and the opposition 11 – more than enough for the one-third-plus-one-vote needed for a cabinet veto on government decisions. Three ministers will be appointed by the president.

The deal also tackles the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons – a vital tool of resistance the group says, but a dangerous and destabilising factor according to its critics.

No armed group will be permitted to use weapons in any internal conflict – an important commitment after street fighting earlier in May that left 65 people dead.

What are the next steps?

The deal paves the way for the election of army chief Michel Suleiman as president – a consensus candidate who has been poised to take office while parliament postponed 19 sessions because of the political impasse .

He is expected to be appointed by a parliamentary vote within days, filling an important constitutional position that has been vacant since Emile Lahoud left office in November 2007.

Hezbollah and its allies, including Maronite Christian and Sunni Muslim elements, are ending their occupation of central Beirut that has brought life in the vibrant city centre almost to a standstill.

These are just the first steps, however, as Lebanon still faces fundamental problems which need to be solved.

What are the main obstacles ahead?

The new government must decide whether to co-operate with the court being set up by the UN to try suspects in the killing in 2005 of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The issue causes sharp division between the pro-Syrian opposition and the anti-Syrian bloc led by Mr Hariri’s son, Saad, which blames Syria for his death and for subsequent assassinations.

A possible future peace deal with Israel could be a major bone of contention. Hezbollah revels in resisting militarily what it sees as an occupier and violator of Lebanese sovereignty. But Hezbollah is blamed by critics for provoking disastrous and unnecessarily confrontation with Israel.

The anti-Syrian bloc will be unlikely to drop its call for the disarmament of militias, in particular Hezbollah, as demanded by UN resolution 1559.

There is a great need to sort out relations with Syria – Lebanon’s saviour after the 1975-90 civil war, but forced out by popular protests following Mr Hariri’s assassination.

Lebanon’s economy, with all the other challenges the country faces, has suffered terribly in the last three years and needs drastic treatment and an end to internal strife for it to recover.

Are there any winners or losers?

Clearly Hezbollah’s military superiority and organisational strength has been reflected in important gains on the political front.

Now it needs to rebuild its reputation for sectarian and political magnanimity, established in the period after it drove the Israeli occupation out of southern Lebanon in 2000, but which it lost in the aftermath of the 2006 war with Israel.

Members of the governing bloc, strongly backed by the US and Saudi Arabia, are describing the deal as a victory for Lebanese unity, though they have come off second best. How Washington digests this news will be another matter.

For the moment, unless the new accord quickly disintegrates, Qatar can boast about a major diplomatic success. Lebanon’s fiendishly complicated history of conflict has confounded many efforts to find solutions before now.

Can the deal hold?

It is often said the leaders of Lebanon’s various sectarian-dominated factions know well that they would lose more than they would gain in any new civil war.

Nervous Lebanese have been desperate for them to come back with a deal to end a frightening period that sometimes looked like the brink of civil war.

These factors may be what led the leaders to set aside the vicious accusations and searing rhetoric of recent months and sort out their current differences in a civilised way in Doha.

However, the new deal does not solve the fundamental questions of Lebanon’s political system, which gives the presidency to a Maronite Christian and the premiership to a Sunni Muslim – despite the growing power of the Shia Muslim constituency.

Nor is it likely to remove that other bane of Lebanon’s history – that it is the place where foreign powers – Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the US, and others – fight out their battles at the expense of the Lebanese.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/7412543.stm

Published: 2008/05/21 11:59:11 GMT

© BBC MMVIII

May 21st, 2008, 12:59 pm

 

ghat Albird said:

The least that can be said is “about time” and the most that can be said is “think Lebanon first; live Lebanon first; believe in Lebanon first and foremost; and just because you may speak French that does not make you French and the same applies to all other non-arabic languages as well as personal beliefs.

Respect each other as well as those who speak your native tongue.enjoys your native foods and feels a communal unison in all Lebanese. As this or that pro or opposing faction one is left as simply a faction.

Excuse my pontifications. Salams to all. Hope to visit soon. Again best wishes on your future journey.

May 21st, 2008, 1:02 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

The Syria/Israel “public” announcement is part of this big picture deal. The train has just about left the station now for good. One must brace for the ensuing boom in the region. All the signs point in that direction now as the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

May 21st, 2008, 1:31 pm

 

JustOneAmerican said:

“Ensuing boom?” The multiple interpretations of that phrase scare me.

I’m glad to see there looks to be an agreement – hopefully someone doesn’t screw it up.

May 21st, 2008, 1:34 pm

 

David said:

Does anyone know what happened with Aoun? Where he ended up in this agreement?

May 21st, 2008, 1:38 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

I stand by my ensuing boom comment

May 21st, 2008, 1:40 pm

 

norman said:

The Deal in Lebanon , The talks between Syria and Israel and the possible deal between Hamas and Israel could indicate a movement toward peace in the region or a move to isolate Iran and attack it,

I wonder what it will be.

May 21st, 2008, 1:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

It is not exactly Joy to the World, the King HAS Come.

Noting how the Parlimentarian seats issue became the crucial one, one should note that this was not a demonstration of a return to a lost Love, to an exhibition or a display of new-born wisdome by “Lebanon First” types of caring politicians, and definitly not a show of an overwhelming sense of patriotisem that suddenly landed on us by a parachute. This more of a return to realisem by the Feb 14 and the Bush Arab Moderats.

Let us not forget that this is a Political Settlement which reflects the new realties in Lebanon and the expected tilts in the balance of Power in the area after the neocons and their local allies realised the faiulurs of their Prpject in the Region. More of the same signs will be hopefuly seen around this area.

But in general, godbye to the New Middle East project formulated by the neocons and their locals, Welcome to a New Middle East more reflective of the hopes – and wills- of its own people.

May 21st, 2008, 1:51 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ehsani,

What do you think the time horizon is on a Syrian/Lebanese-Israeli peace deal? Let’s say nobody throws up any major roadblocks (i.e. Americans don’t block it, Iranians don’t stall for time, Hizbullah doesn’t get involved, Israel doesn’t invade Gaza, etc.)

A peace deal will work wonders, as we will finally begin to see some well-earned stability. Hizbullah will transition from national resistance to just another party that has to earn its stripes in the political arena: this will enable the emergence of other Shi`a parties as well, although Hizbullah will remain dominant for a long time because of their popularity.

It will be interesting to see what the Tribunal turns up, and how that “piece” fits into the puzzle. My instinct is to regard Bashar’s big peace push as a block against whatever incriminating evidence emerges from the tribunal; if the peace talks are far enough along, the Americans will want to deflect damage away from a regime that is within striking distance of a workable deal. A nice strategy by Bashar… and a win-win one, provided he can find a way to appease the Iranians and Hamas. (Hizbullah will be easier; they have already transitioned to big-time politics, and look like they will approach this deal pragmatically, as long as there is some kind of face-saving mechanism, like a release of soldiers and withdrawl from Shebaa.)

It will be good for Bashar as well, as he will emerge as the national hero who regained the Golan, something his father could not even do. I wonder how closely he has consulted with Hizbullah’s elders about the future, and what they have committed to.

Let’s hope for the best.

May 21st, 2008, 1:51 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
Yesterday you were agreeing with Observer that Israel by treating Fatah badly will usher in a period of radical islamic regimes and now you are predicting a boom in the area. So which is it?

The Syrians know that there is a good chance that Iran will be attacked in the near future. They have the issue of the tribunal and the issue of the nuclear plant they were hiding. They want to make sure that they don’t get in the middle of a US-Israel/Iran fight. That is why all the peace talks now.

As for Israel, all the news is very good. The Tel-Aviv stock exchange posted major gains today. It looks like Iran can be dealt with without going through a regional war.

May 21st, 2008, 2:13 pm

 

why-discuss said:

What is the impact of a separate peace deal between Syria and Israel?
If the return of the Golan is not a very complicated issue, would Bashar want to spoil it all by trying to solve the thorny issue of the return of the palestinians in Syria and … in Lebanon?
If Syria is willing to accomodate the palestinians provided they get a good price from Israel, the USA and the UN, what would Lebanon do with its palestinians refugees? Would they give them citizenship too? What can they use as a bargaining tool in dealing with Israel?

May 21st, 2008, 2:20 pm

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Qifa Nabki,

“Let’s say nobody throws up any major roadblocks” that is impossible, someone if not many will throw up major roadblocks. As for your deflection strategy by Bashar, I agree it would have been smart if that was the case. But your assumption would require the other parties (Israel & particularly the US) to actually want a deal, which I don’t believe is the case. Not unless it means huge sacrifices from the Syrian side which is even more unlikely.

Ehasani,
I am not as optimistic as the others but i wanted to understand from you what do you feel is coming?

I was asked by a friend’s mother (a saudi living in Beirut) if I think this is part of a wider regional agreement. And i said i am cautiously optimistic but that a lot of the damage has already been done already to the lebanese civilians. and that any regional agreement will not last for long due to severely different strategic interests. this regional agreement was made for the sake of the Lebanese assets. Anything else such as the syrian-israeli peace talk, or ceasefire in Gaza is not much more than political smoke IMHO.

May 21st, 2008, 2:21 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear QN,

The Israel/Syria peace talk will not be viewed seriously until the U.S. gets involved publicly behind it. Thus far, there is not a single piece of evidence to indicate that the U.S. Administration’s stand towards Damascus is softening enough to have the U.S. sanction these peace talks. My own view is that we need to watch out for public signals from key people in the U.S. Administration (Mr. Cheney comes to mind) before we can be sure that this issue will gather any traction going further.

As for the Lebanon issue, Syria had to deliver a deal to Qatar. It was simply inconceivable that Damascus would risk losing Doha as a key and an influential supporter given how ugly its relationship is with KSA and Egypt to a lesser extent.

With this deal, Syria and its allies bought time till May 09 (when a new U.S. Administration is in place). HA and the opposition got its veto till then. This veto power will help limit the Government’s cooperation in the tribunal as HA can now undermine the process. Round two will start in May 2009. HA of course still has those weapons. For now, the parties can take a break and get ready for the next round.

Everything can change of course if Syria is able to get the Americans to publicly support the peace talk. Cheney and co. may not be keen to join this party regrettably.

Dear IC,

You are right. It is a little early to link the Lebanon breakthrough to the Israel/Syria talks. The only thing to go with so far is the “al-hayat” story that “U.S. officials” are prodding the Turkish government to speed up the Israel-Syria talks. This needs to be confirmed either publicly or by a very reputable U.S. media outlet. The clear loser thus far is KSA at the expense of Qatar which has suddenly become a key regional power broker. Syria can now count Doha on its list of friends (Tehran and Ankara being the other key ones). The U.S. Administration is watching these events unfold. David Welch called described the accord as a “necessary and positive step” but added that this is “not the end of the crisis. Lebanon has to go through implementing the deal”. By all accounts, Qatar delivered this deal without U.S. involvement. Let us see what the hawkish wing will have to say over the next few days/weeks.

May 21st, 2008, 2:27 pm

 

Atassi said:

Mabrook !

May 21st, 2008, 2:28 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ehsani,

Very nice analysis. I agree with your reading.

IC,

We’ll have to see. I insist on remaining optimistic, perhaps naively, at least for this week. 😉

May 21st, 2008, 2:36 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

M. Aoun,is a looser as of now.

May 21st, 2008, 3:06 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

JustOneAmerican,

The share price of Solidere is up 30% today. I guess someone believes in the “ensuing boom” theory.

May 21st, 2008, 3:25 pm

 

offended said:

Mabrook ya shabab!

As a gesture of good will, and since the Mu3alim approves of this deal, I won’t mock Sanyorah no more on this blog.

May 21st, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,

Are Solidere shares back to their pre July 2006 value?

I guess you are extrapolating that tomorrow Solidere will also go up 15% since the maximum day limit is 15% in the Beirut stock exchange.

By the way, a real estate boom is not a general boom. There could very well be a real estate boom but will there be robust job growth in any other sector? Will there be a boom that helps most people? How about inflation? This real estate boom will make things worse.

May 21st, 2008, 3:46 pm

 

JustOneAmerican said:

Ehsani,

My only point was to suggest that “ensuing boom” can mean several things – an economic boom, or a literal boom from a bomb or missile. History suggests that sooner or later the latter will happen which will throw yet more sand into the cogs of peaceful progress. I hope the boom is all good, but I’ve learned to be pessimistic.

May 21st, 2008, 3:55 pm

 

offended said:

Hilarious satire of Amr Mousa. (produced in Dubai)

May 21st, 2008, 3:57 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

The GDR (overseas listing) is trading up 30%. The limit-up of 15% was hit in Lebanon already.

May 21st, 2008, 4:29 pm

 

norman said:

LEBANON: Rights group calls for law banning sectarian incitement
IRINnews,Tue 20 May 2008 Email this story to a friend
Print this story

A Mosque and a Church in Downtown Beirut, Lebanon
web

Photo: Lucy Fielder/IRIN BEIRUT, – Lebanon needs a new law banning sectarian prejudice and incitement, to help heal rifts that widened after last week’s fighting between opposition and pro-government forces, the Beirut-based Khiam Rehabilitation Centre said.

The Khiam Centre’s call for such a law was made against a backdrop of fears among citizens that, unless checked, sectarian incitement might unleash another wave of killings as in the 1975-1990 civil war which had serious humanitarian consequences.

The Khiam Centre and New-York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) have both condemned attacks on civilians and violations of international humanitarian law during the conflict, which broke out on 7 May after the government tried to ban the opposition Hezbollah’s communications network and remove the airport security chief, viewed as an ally of the group.

“There is a severe psychological crisis within the citizens, as well as a serious sectarian rift that will have devastating consequences, especially in Beirut, due to abuses against citizens,” Khiam said in a statement issued on 18 May.
More on Lebanon crisisArmy “under tremendous pressure” but still unitedAid agencies hampered by threat of further violence  Political, sectarian crisis entrenched – analysts  Opposition continues military takeover, enforces siege  Battle for Beirut High prices, low wages feed violent political stand-off
HRW called for impartial investigations of the violations, which it said included kidnappings, summary executions and the killing of at least 12 unarmed people. At least 81 people were killed in total and 250 wounded.

Lebanese leaders meeting in Qatar to try to resolve the 18-month political crisis that erupted in violence must not try to shield supporters suspected of crimes, HRW said in a statement, also issued on 18 May.

“We’re talking about this now because the leaders in Doha are just trying to get seats in the next government, or arrange the electoral law so they can win,” Mohammad Safa, general-secretary of the Khiam Centre, told IRIN.

Phase-out of sectarian political system?

Safa pointed out that the Taif agreement that ended Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war called for the establishment of a national body to oversee the phasing out of the sectarian political system.

“But no one’s talking about that any more,” Safa said. “Last week’s events didn’t fall from the sky, they’re a result of this sectarian structure. If we don’t change it, we’ll find that this was just the latest chapter of a civil war.”

Photo: Lucy Fielder/IRIN Opposition barricades on the airport road were removed before leaders went to Doha, but the political impasse remains
Incidents documented by Khiam showed gunmen on both sides were checked for signs of sectarian affiliation at impromptu roadblocks, a worrying throw-back to the civil war. Lebanese ID cards no longer denote the bearer’s sect, but it can often be guessed by the name.

Khiam called on the two sides to abide by international laws concerning the expulsion of civilians in armed conflict, respect freedom of opinion and refrain from resorting to arms to resolve political differences.

Both groups said supporters of the US- and Saudi-backed government and those of the opposition led by Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah had attacked civilians.

“Accounts of abuses by the gunmen are spreading like wildfire and raising tensions,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, in the statement. “Unless the state acts quickly to hold the perpetrators accountable, there are likely to be further reprisals.”

lf/ar/cb
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights

[ENDS]
[They should have a law banning attacking Syria too.

May 21st, 2008, 4:40 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

AIG said –

The Syrians know that there is a good chance that Iran will be attacked in the near future. They have the issue of the tribunal and the issue of the nuclear plant they were hiding. They want to make sure that they don’t get in the middle of a US-Israel/Iran fight. That is why all the peace talks now.

Which is why, despite the loud chorus of Bush naysayers, President Bush could (it’s not over yet) be viewed in the future as the one President who did the MOST for peace in the Middle East: he confronted the terror supporters and beat them.

Mind you, I’m not gloating here. All Middle Easterners deserve to live in peace, deserve a future, and deserve freedom. Gee, even one or two out of three isn’t that bad (and it’s certainly better than nothing).

May 21st, 2008, 4:49 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

Bush’s biggest problem, at least the one historians may well crucify him for, is Iraq. Unless some miracle happens, and suddenly most Iraqis adopt Japanese-like subservience and acceptance of their Conqueror, and then a modern-day Douglas MacArthur appears to run the show for 4-5 years, democracy is unlikely to appear anytime soon. When, god-forbid, Americans start counting not only more body bags, but indeed POW’s, we’ll see how long McCain as president will last in Iraq. Obama will most certainly start pulling troops out before finishing his inauguration speech. I’m afraid Iraq just didn’t prove to be Japan. And Bush was neither FDR nor Truman. This will be the thing that’ll offset any “success” he may still have. ‘Course, his preacher is probably telling him otherwise… 🙂

May 21st, 2008, 5:00 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

I can tell you there is no deal at the expense of Iran, Hizbollah, Hamas or anyone… and this is a good thing for everyone including Israel, as you will one day realize.

You really think the Emir of Qatar will be relaxed and smiling while the United States is planning to hit Iran (with his approval)?

Want to try to locate Qatar and Iran on this map?

May 21st, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

Leila Abu-Saba said:

Mabrouk to all concerned. I wish peace, justice and harmony upon every soul in the region. Thank God. Let us bless the news and hold off on nay-saying for at least a week.

May 21st, 2008, 5:25 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
But this is the whole point, when Israel/US attack Iran, what excuse could Iran give for attacking Qatar? The Emir can smile because Iran understands that it would need to retaliate only against Israel and the US if at all.

May 21st, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

Naji said:

So, … While I am the one who has been predicting all this good news for the past couple of weeks and have been so certain about the outcome that I have been indulging in pre-party celebrations of araq and falafel for a few days already,…Ehsani has been grumpily complaining about the proceedings and, at the same time, quietly speculating on the outcome and making a good mint at it…!! That’s how bankers got to rule the world… 🙂

May 21st, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

In light of recent developments, if indeed Dubya is planning a “4th quarter hail-mary” in Iran, I doubt Israel will be a participant. Why start talking to Syria now, if we knew we’re about to launch an attack? In such a case, Syria would immediately cease all contact with us, would read right through the game, and would be 10 times more careful next time. If, however, Olmert knows that Bush is about to hit Iran, but Israel won’t participate, then now is the perfect time to shift gears to 3rd or 4th with the Syrians, because while F-117’s are bombarding targets in Iran, Israel and Syria will be able to sit aside and wait. Course, the Iranians have more than hinted in the past that if they’re attacked (even if only by the U.S.), they will retaliate also against Israel. But first, let’s see that actually happening, and second, if it does, Israel will respond back naturally, but Syria will recognize this as Israel’s defensive right, and will not join in on behalf of Iran. Either way, things will be much calmer for the rest of the region, and it will indeed seem much more an America-vs-Iran type conflict, than an America/Israel one. Don’t you agree?

Naji,

I wouldn’t be surprised if Hariri sold a few options minutes before the agreement was publicized… 😉 That’s how political leaders manage to “feed the kids”…

May 21st, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

Observer said:

Political radicalization is not incompatible with a boom in the economy. One of my dear friends upon visiting the ME in 1974 made a comment that startled me: she said that the people of the ME are surely the smartest people on earth. With her background from an extremely well discplined and organized northern European country, I asked her to explain pointing out to her the bureaucracy, nepotism, chaos, lack of planning and she responded by saying something that stayed with me to this day: she said precisely because the conditions are so chaotic and yet people are able to make a living and more than a living, with the little they have, families on Friday pack their kids into the back of a tiny truck without any safety precautions and go on to have a picnic on the green dividing the local streets and they are happier than the happiest European. She said if there are countries that export petroleum others export sadness and gloom and at least till now sadness has not arrived to the shores of the ME. Moreover, during the height of the Lebanese civil war, one of my friend’s wife, being pregnant had a craving for an exotic fruit and when they called the local store to find out if they had any, the store manager said we have both Thai and Chinese which one do you want.
These examples are truly a testimony to the resilience of the people of the ME. I do not think that a country like Israel would have remained intact in the face of an 18 month standoff.

Israel remains the biggest loser in all of this and Israel has been most violent towards Lebanon because it is and will remain a glaring example of coexistence and a multiconfessional albeit imperfect counter example to the exclusivist Zionist and racist ideology of the chosen people.

May 21st, 2008, 5:38 pm

 

offended said:

Habibi AIG, what for the US shall attack Iran?
Haven’t you read the bit of news Yesterday about the concessions Iran is willing to make over the nuclear program?

can you tell me how much would be of an oil barrel the moment your most-coveted war starts?

Seriously, where are you living? because you need to move.

May 21st, 2008, 5:41 pm

 

Alex said:

I wish the Syrian government will invest more energy in warning young Syrians about he dangers of smoking Shishah.

May 20, 2008
Vital Signs
Hazards: Despite Dangers, Hookahs Gain Favor
By ERIC NAGOURNEY

First the casbah, now the campus.

A new study finds that the use of water pipes may be on the rise among college students. Some believe that smoking tobacco this way is less dangerous than smoking cigarettes —which is not the case, the researchers say.

The study, which appears in the May issue of The Journal of Adolescent Health, looked at water-pipe use among students at Virginia Commonwealth University. It found that of more than 700 students surveyed, more than 40 percent reported having used a water pipe in the previous year.

The pipes, often called hookahs or shishas, are perhaps best known in the Middle East and are used to smoke flavored and sweetened tobacco. The tobacco is heated over charcoal, and then is cooled as it passes through a bowl of water and is inhaled from a hose.

Despite the belief of some students, water pipes may expose users to more toxic materials than cigarettes. Each puff has as much as 100 times the smoke as a puff from a cigarette, the study said. And smokers are also inhaling fumes from the charcoal.

“There is every reason to believe that this adds to the problem,” said the lead author of the study, Thomas Eissenberg.

Most of the smoking takes place in water-pipe cafes, and one reason they are becoming more popular, the study said, is that unlike bars, they are open to students.

Water-pipe users were most likely to be men, many of whom told the researchers they thought it made them look cool.

May 21st, 2008, 5:42 pm

 

Shai said:

Observer,

I of course disagree. Forget for a minute who is a loser or a winner in all this (personally, I think we all win whenever a conflict of any sort is resolved peacefully). Just as internal matters inside Arab countries will be better handled when Israel finally ends its Occupation and mistreatment of the Palestinians, so will internal matters inside Israel improve. Though we certainly have much to do within our own nation, I am convinced that Israeli Jews can and will change their behavior and acceptance of Israeli Arabs once there is peace. There is certainly racism within Israel, just as there is within most nations, including the most modern ones. But just as less Arabs will preach anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rhetoric once the Palestinians have achieved their freedom and their rights, so too will less Israelis look upon Arabs in our country as 2nd-class citizens, or even a potential 5th-column. Of course, those who believe that Jews and/or Zionists are innate racists, will not accept what I said.

May 21st, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

Shai said:

Offended,

I certainly hope no such attack will occur on Iran, but if it does (by the U.S.), then much of the timing and development of recent events will be explained. Certainly Israel’s “sudden” push for restarting talks with the Syrians, while nothing substantial has changed on the ground except for Olmert’s latest corruption allegations…

May 21st, 2008, 5:56 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
The US has oil supplies for one year in its strategic reserves. If you have not followed the discussions between Israel and Bush regarding the Iranian issue then you should. Israel will make every effort to stop Iran getting the bomb and of course there will be consequences for Israel. But this is a price we will have to pay.

Observer,
The BEST thing for Israel is a democratic and prosperous Lebanon. That is the Lebanon that will least want radical groups from within it to attack Israel. The BEST thing for Israel is that Hizballah is shackled by the other players in Lebanon and cannot act on its own. The more a country agrees to solve issues using talks and not violence, the less it is in the “resistance” camp. It looks as if slowly but surely, Lebanon is leaving “resistance” behind as Hizballah’s options are becoming very limited militarily.

May 21st, 2008, 6:05 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I agree. I think there is a good chance now that the attack on Iran will not result in a regional war. This is good for Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

May 21st, 2008, 6:08 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

null

May 21st, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

Alex said:

Here is something for Naji.

May 21st, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Good analysis on HA. I think in many ways, Israel’s situation vis-a-vis Hezbollah has improved. It is far less likely now to go on additional adventures. It now, finally, has much more to lose. This will also serve to relax many “advisors” in Israel, who may have had all sorts of “plans” to go destroy HA. Things are likely to be calmer on our northern border.

May 21st, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ya Alex,

Could you release the image I posted?

Thx

May 21st, 2008, 6:14 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

NAJI,

Good one. Was hoping you had not noticed.

May 21st, 2008, 6:20 pm

 

Alex said:

Ahlain Mr. Nabki

I have no idea where to find the image you linked. Can you send me the link and I will post it in your empty comment above?

May 21st, 2008, 6:20 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Syria and Israel: tactical advantage

by Jon Alterman

It would be nice to think that Israeli-Syrian negotiations represent a key strategic advance. While I wouldn’t rule out such an advance in the future, this all has the whiff of tactical advantage to me.

On the one hand, the talks don’t represent a change in the Syrian position. I’ve met Bashar al-Asad twice, and both times he’s talked about his keen desire to negotiate with Israel. And he kept saying “Israel,” not “enemy forces” or the “Zionist entity” or any such circumlocution. Further, he didn’t wince and have a hitch in his voice, the way American politicians often do when they talk about Palestine. On this (and perhaps many other matters), he’s a realist. There are any number of reasons he has wanted such negotiations, the most obvious being that he’s not going to be able to re-conquer the Golan with troops. If he wants it back, it will be at the negotiating table.

But there are other, less noble reasons for wanting to open an Israel channel now. He is in a position of some strength, as he looks to consolidate his allies’ gains in Lebanon. He is also quite eager to ease his isolation—life is tough when your greatest friend in the world is Iran—and engaging with Israel presumably renders kosher a whole range of countries’ dealings with Syria. Not least, I think Syrians believe that such negotiations will protect them from attack by both Americans and Israelis, which are the two countries they fear most.

Ehud Olmert’s political troubles give him every reason to negotiate with Syria, because it makes him look like a statesman. Further, the Syrian track is less emotional and less morally difficult for Israelis than his indirect talks with Hamas, and it helps deflect attention from the very difficult choices Israel will have to make in Gaza. Also, such talks serve to light a fire under the Palestinians, who fear that the Prime Minister will lose interest in their track to concentrate on Syrian negotiations.

While each side has powerful reasons to negotiate, however, there are equally powerful reasons not to conclude a deal. Such reasons start with the political weakness of each leader, who would be hard pressed to make monumental concessions to a longstanding enemy whose ultimate intentions are disputed. The Bush Administration’s keen disinterest in engaging Syria also dims hopes, as one of the prizes the Syrians seek is U.S. acceptance. A year from now, with a new U.S. president and likely a new Israeli Prime Minister, the situation might be different, and in the interim, there are certainly common understandings that can be reached.

I wish I could say this was the beginning of the end of the Syrian-Israeli conflict, and I certainly can’t say it’s the end of the beginning. Unfortunately, it seems to me we’re still right in the middle, and I fear we’re going to stay in the middle for some time.

May 21st, 2008, 6:21 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Hezbollah Deals

From Tamara Cofman Wittes

A Lebanese friend of mine made a close study of the new deal announced today in Doha between Lebanese factions, and didn’t think it was so bad. He argued to me that the deal effectively forbids Hezbollah from using its cabinet representation as a veto on government decisions, and that the electoral law is a net benefit for Lebanese democracy. He further noted that the primary Hezbollah achievement in the deal is not in the new electoral law or in the shuffling of cabinet seats, but in safeguarding their weaponry from any efforts at disarmament of political factions by the Lebanese state.

If this reading of the deal is correct, it says a lot about where Hezbollah’s priorities are, and where their ambitions lie: their armed capability is their paramount concern, not political hegemony inside Lebanon. This is not a domestic agenda, but a regional one—and one that portends more violence. As far as Lebanese democracy is concerned, Hezbollah’s military capability is an absolute bar to effective democracy, whether the deal “allows” them to use their weapons internally or not.

Some suggest that an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement is the best way to neutralize Hezbollah’s armed status—the theory is that a peace agreement would require Syria to end its support for Hezbollah (and Hamas and the other Palestinian rejectionists), thus cutting off Hezbollah’s arms supplies from Iran and reducing its scope for action. I am not optimistic that an Israeli-Syrian deal would have this effect. It seems to me that one clear lesson of the period since the 2006 Lebanon War is that Hezbollah has resources and decisionmaking now very independent from Syria, such that Syria today could not, even if it wished, “deliver” Hezbollah in a deal with the Israelis. Thus, the international community and the status-quo states of the Middle East must now recognize that Hezbollah is a regional power that is here to stay, with ambitions that go far beyond the “defense” of Lebanon’s Shia.

The other elephant in the room, of course, is Iran’s role in the Levant, as revealed by these events. From an Israeli perspective, perhaps a deal with Syria helps in this regard: the testing (and likely failure) of this long-perceived linkage between a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement and the disarmament of Hezbollah would clarify the extent to which Iran has invaded the Levant (via Hezbollah), and thus free Israel’s hands further in confronting this threat. It has long been obvious that Israel perceives the Iranian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis as presenting a far more significant and strategic threat than Syria.

May 21st, 2008, 6:28 pm

 

Shual said:

Its still breathing.

Maybe it shows us that its alive, too.

May 21st, 2008, 6:33 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

While Alterman may be right in the end (“… we’re going to stay in the middle for some time.”), a few things seems pretty clear to me:

1) Previous negotiations have essentially covered and reached agreement over 80% of the problems.
2) Talks that have restarted now will solve another 10%.
3) The last 10% will have to be guaranteed by a new American administration.

I want to see the U.S. president, or Israeli PM, that will not allow for the last 10% to take place. We’ve all faced so many failures over the past two decades, and no one wants to fail yet again. My gut feeling tells me that this time, if Israel and Syria are able to continue talking long enough for a new administration to arrive in Washington, we’ll make it to the Finish-line.

May 21st, 2008, 6:34 pm

 

Alex said:

Tamara needs to believe that the relation between Syria and Hizbollah is that of close relatives. Syria helped Hizbollah a lot in the past, Hizbollah is helping Syria now … and in the future they both intend to help each other.

Nasrallah knows how Syria wants to settle its conflict with Israel. he already approves. No need to do deals behind his back. He will be happy for Syria and he knows what he needs to do to continue being a constructive and powerful player in the new Middle East.

Syria would never do a thing to make Lebanon’s Shia population its enemy … they are next door … they are going to be the new majority in Lebanon within ten years probably.

and besides these pragmatic considerations, there are many more “soft” bonds between the two sides.

May 21st, 2008, 6:38 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I hope you’re right, Shai.

Nobody stands to gain more from a deal, in my humble opinion, than Lebanon.

Life in Syria and Israel will not change that noticeably, since the conflict has not been played out in those two countries. But things in Lebanon will change markedly.

In other news, the LFers are pissed off. Geagea came off pretty badly, maybe worse than Jumblatt. Their blogs are covered with gloating (and frustrated) Aounists right now, it’s actually rather amusing. As they say: ma bi-7arte2 bi-ttanjara illa l-3adm (“all that rattles in the pot are the bones”)

😉

May 21st, 2008, 6:41 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex, can I invest in some of these “soft” bonds?…. 😉 I’m kidding. But I definitely agree with what you said, and I’m trying to explain it to as many Israelis as I possibly can. The same, incidentally, can be true of Iran. This is why Syria IS the key to so many of the problems here.

QN, everything in our region is inter-related. Look how Israel’s stock exchange reacted upon hearing rumors of the announcement. I just hope Grant’s Chelsea won’t lose focus tonight… 🙂

May 21st, 2008, 6:44 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai,

Israel can certainly invest in these soft bonds … it was a lost opportunity when Israel did not know how to make the Egyptian people friends. I was in Cairo at the time, I know that it was doable.

Egyptians believed Sadat who told them that Israel will be much better friend to Egypt than the selfish rich Arabs.

Well … Israel did not know how to be a friend.

Soft bonds’ yields can easily eclipse any other profits from negotiated deals.

Ausamaa will be happy to know that …

السفير السعودي في لبنان يعود اليوم إلى بيروت

May 21st, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

All of the ambassadors will be coming back. 😉 Do you think they would miss out on a Lebanese summer?

Beaches, restaurants, sunshine, beautiful women, mountain breezes, grilled lamb, and…

… electoral law reforms!!

What could be better?

May 21st, 2008, 7:07 pm

 

Alex said:

That’s right Q.Nabki.

Which reminds me … who was here calculating two days ago how many Saudis will visit Damascus and not the chaotic Beirut? : )

May 21st, 2008, 7:10 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

That wasn’t me! That was Zenobia.

May 21st, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Leila Abu-Saba said:

Thanks for the Lebanese electoral map. I saw reference to it elsewhere but it pops up so clearly as an image that I understood it immediately.

For years I’ve known that the MP from Zahrani is somehow connected to our village east of Saida – now I can see how the district goes. I still don’t understand how the voting works – there are MPs from the district for each of the main represented sects, but since I have yet to exercise my right to vote in Mieh-Mieh, I don’t quite understand who I would be voting for as a resident of same (and technically a member of one of the sects, not saying which, Lebanese mostly know but even they get it wrong, if they’re from north of Ozai – and that is not a clue by the way). Anyway. Lebanese election law is very confusing – Mrs. M.P. from Zahrani tried to explain it to me once and gave up.

May 21st, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Some Zionist named Shai just rained on our parade:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3546206,00.html

QN states:

A Lebanese friend of mine made a close study of the new deal announced today in Doha between Lebanese factions, and didn’t think it was so bad.

Haven’t we seen agreements like this broken shortly after they’re signed? I don’t have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of broken agreements! For Yassir’s sake, how gullible can you be? Thugs and their bankrollers are not accountable to anyone.

May 21st, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

A smart comment from Angry Arab:

Not much time to blog on the recent agreement in Doha, Qatar. If I had written that the Ta’if accords merely postponed the next round of civil war, you can imagine what I would say about this lousy sectarian agreement. It can be clearly said that the opposition scored big in the agreement, and an Iranian analyst told AlJazeera that the new axis in the Middle East is the Iran-Syria-Qatar axis and not the Saudi axis. At that point he was interrupted. Qatar does not want to spoil its relations with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and US will not like this agreement, and the opposition could not obtain those concessions prior to the armed actions in the streets. Saudi media are clearly not pleased, and opposition media are trying hard not to gloat. It is, like all other agreements in Lebanon, a sectarian agreement and deals with sectarian matters. The electoral law that they agreed on will ensure the prevention of the formation of national unity, as the electoral districts get smaller and smaller–that is what Patriarch Sfayr (who is touring the US to showcase his impressive hat collection)–always insisted on. The ultimate political question regarding who will hold the majority in the next parliament will be decided in one district or two: namely, the first district of Beirut. We don’t know how `Awn standing will be then. This is where the worst part of the conflict is: the fact that both sides care about the promotion of their petty and electoral districts, and both sides are beneficiary of sectarianism. (See Khalid’s piece here). I know it does not look likely now, but really don’t be surprised if Hizbullah reaches an agreement with Hariri in the elections, and even with Jumblat. Sectarian groupings are always likely to bury the hatchet–literally in this case.… And one more time: this is the opportunity for the Left in Lebanon to stand up and assert a new path: neither with the sectarian majority or with the sectarian minority.

May 21st, 2008, 7:14 pm

 

Naji said:

QN,

your comment https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=722#comment-147949
reminded me of my comment https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=706#comment-143208 … I am not letting you off on that corniche treat…!! 😉

Alex,

Thanks for that link…! I don’t care what anybody says, in my book you are down as a Cool Dude…!! 🙂 This also makes me miss America so much… It is still the coolest place on earth, and I don’t care what anybody says either…!

May 21st, 2008, 7:21 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Naji

Of course not, habibi. Ahla w sahla!

Let’s hope that things stay quiet between now and then. 😉

May 21st, 2008, 7:23 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

You’re going to get me in trouble here… People will start to believe I’m Bibi Netanyahu’s ex-press secretary (Shai Bazak). Thanks a lot buddy!… 😉

May 21st, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

ALEX_No said:

I think there is a good chance now that the attack on Iran will not result in a regional war. This is good for Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

I think AIG is being optimistic to think that Israel can cut Syria out of the equation by making a few small concessions. While I don’t pretend to know Asad’s thinking, he is certainly aware of this possibility.

Personally I think that if a major attack is made on Iran, one to which they would be obliged to respond to, an overt aggression, everything will be up in the air again. An Israeli-Syrian agreement wouldn’t be worth much; Olmert knows it too.

However, what is being touted at the moment, bombing some al-Quds training camps, if I were in the place of the Iranians, I would not respond to. Complain, yes, respond, no. Better to wait and see if the US/Israel ratchet up to a major attack.

May 21st, 2008, 7:37 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What will the Iranians do if just Nantanz is attacked? Or Nanatanz and 2 or three other facilities? I expect nothing much. In any case, it is a risk Israel will have to take.

Would it be in the interest of Syria to be destroyed as part of a regional war? I think not. Its best strategy would be not to take part in the war giving the negotiations as an excuse.

May 21st, 2008, 7:44 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

What is your cold take now?

Now that the Labanon internal card has been squandered by the Feb 14, Arab Moderats and Bush, what are other themes would be revived by the neocons against Syria? The International Trinunal, Internal Reform and political freedoms, Saudies crossing th Syrian border into Iraq, or the rise price of tomatoes in souq el hall?

And by the way, and at the expense of being a cold hearted beleiver in the dictates of Balances of Power on the ground, I do not see a possibility of reaching a Peace Agreement between Israel and Syria any closer than it has ever been since the Clinton area. The status qou needs to swing heavily and decisively into the direction of one side or the other, which does not seem forseeable in the near furure. Syria needs at least three or four years to attain such a position. The Israeli politicians would not do anything until such a change becomes a reality, and by then it may too late.

Olmert has already started backing down from his promise to Turkey, maybe only to appease the embarrased neocons or for internal reasons related to early elections.

But peace between Syria and Israel anytime soon? Forget, and let us not forget that for Syria, it has to go in parallel with the Palestinian issue which is going nowhere now.

I think Tzivni Livi, daughter of Eshkol, ssems the only one to have the legitimacy, the nervs and the guts to become another Rabin and reach the moment of truth before the moment of truth is upon us with thousands of Syrian and Israeli rockets and tanks head towards their possible destinations.

May 21st, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa said:

I think Tzivni Livi, daughter of Eshkol, ssems the only one to have the legitimacy, the nervs and the guts to become another Rabin and reach the moment of truth before the moment of truth is upon us with thousands of Syrian and Israeli rockets and tanks head towards their possible destination.

You just think she’s cute. 😉

May 21st, 2008, 8:02 pm

 

ausamaa said:

That helps, would it not…. and she is as not a teaser like Condi.

No, seriously, I love the arroagant way she treats Olmert and the rest of the politicians in Israel. It like she is forced to sit among idiots and wannabes, but not among equals.

May 21st, 2008, 8:08 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

No, seriously, I love the arroagant way she treats Olmert and the rest of the politicians in Israel. It like he is forced to sit among ideots and wannabes, but not among equals.

hal 2ad 3ajbitak?? lah lah ya zalameh, minshain hek biwazfo l-niwseyn bil mossad…

May 21st, 2008, 8:13 pm

 

Joe M. said:

Qifa Nabki,

Just last week you seemed quite depressed about the situation in Lebanon and you were pretty convinced that Hizbullah’s decision to resort to arms in the political conflict with March 14 was a huge mistake. Now, seeing the political outcome (who knows, it could yet fail, but let’s judge what we have at hand) have you changed your opinion? Do you now believe that Hizbullah’s use of arms was a good political move? Clearly, it seems that it was enough of a kick to move the process forward, but do think it was a mistake overall? Strategically it seems to have been successful, but maybe the violence dug them a hole that we do not fully understand yet. What do you think?

May 21st, 2008, 8:16 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Joe M.

That’s a good question, and I will admit that any speculation on my part at this point is pure conjecture.

Judging means on the basis of ends is tricky business. If I were to say that Hizbullah’s move worked out for the best, then wouldn’t I also have to give Walid Jumblatt a gold star for provoking them in the first place? And so on and so forth.

I think that Hizbullah’s use of arms was not a good idea for them in the long run, and their allies have said so, including Michel Aoun and Suleiman Frangieh. People will always be able to score points against them now by pointing to the takeover of Beirut, despite all interpretations to the contrary.

However, it certainly pushed the Qataris to take action and wrest the negotiations out of the hands of the Arab League. I would also say that it brought to the fore the issue of the Hizb’s weapons, which will certainly be raised again over the next few weeks by the new cabinet. In the worst case scenario, this will lead to more political bickering and inaction. In the best case scenario, it will lead to a productive statement and affirmation of the goals of the resistance, something akin to the memorandum of understanding between the FPM and Hizbullah.

As I wrote to Alex earlier today, if Hizbullah is willing to be more concrete in its demands (e.g., prisoners, Shebaa, and nothing more… i.e. no “seven villages” or whatever), then I think that this will be HUGELY positive for Lebanon, and it will also help facilitate the Syrian-Israeli track, because it will be an indirect signal to the Israelis that Hizbullah will accept a peace treaty. And no one will doubt Hizbullah’s word, because, as we know… wa3duhum sadiq. 😉

May 21st, 2008, 8:30 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa,

Right, and did you notice and still remember the local female escort of Mehilis while he was doing his bit in Lebanon, and Siniora’s femal personal assistant ( he even took her to Doha)…

And would you rather listen to Buthaina Shaaban or to Nayla Mouaawad?

May 21st, 2008, 8:33 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
The answer to Joe M. is simpler. Will the Sunnis build serious militias in Lebanon following what Hizballah did? The answer is yes, and that is why Hizballah’s move was bad apart from the fact that solving problems via violence in principle is not a good idea.

May 21st, 2008, 8:39 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa,

Also please do not kid yourself. Internally, Hizbullah is satisfied with what agreed upon, externally, Hizbullah still want the Seven Villages and then the concrete Stategic Defence Policy and then Jerusalem…of course. These guys are not after Parliment seats or money or power. They are after other, bigger and more nobel causes. Else, how do you think they won against Israel in 2000 and 2006 and against Bush yesterday.

Guys come on, are we not reading and watching the same news aticles? Or are we trying to impose our wishes on reality.

May 21st, 2008, 8:42 pm

 

ausamaa said:

FROM THE ECONOMIST:

A peace deal for Lebanon

Peace for a while
May 21st 2008 | CAIRO
From Economist.com

An agreement stops the fighting in Lebanon but boosts the opposition led by Hizbullah

AFP
AFTER violence this month that left at least 81 people dead, the leaders of Lebanon’s factions have pulled back from what had looked ominously like a reprise of the country’s civil war of 1975-90. The deal reached on Wednesday May 21st, after five days of haggling in Qatar, seems to have ended an epic 18-month squabble that had left Lebanon politically paralysed.

“Today we have no victor, no vanquished, but one winner, which is Lebanon,” declared Marwan Hammadeh, a cabinet minister loyal to the pro-Western majority coalition in parliament known as “March 14th”, which embraces the dominant Sunni and Druze parties as well as liberals and right-wing Christians. Yet it appeared that most of the gains had been made by the opposition, an alliance led by Hizbullah, the Shia party-cum-militia, but also including a powerful Christian party and pro-Syrian leftists. This reflects changed realities on the ground, following the swift but brief take-over on May 9th of loyalist districts in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, by opposition gunmen. It was this dramatic event that had prompted urgent intervention by Arab foreign ministers.

The deal has four main points: parliament must quickly convene to elect as president General Michel Suleiman, chief of staff of the Lebanese army; a national unity cabinet must be formed; new rules for parliamentary elections next year must be agreed upon; and incendiary propaganda must cease and all sides must forsake armed force. In addition an opposition sit-in in Beirut has been called off.

Agreement on Mr Suleiman for president was reached long ago, but parliament’s Hizbullah-allied speaker, Nabih Berri, had refused to convene the body to elect him unless other opposition demands were met. First of these was granting the opposition an effective veto over policy with a so-called “blocking third” of cabinet seats. That demand reflected feelings among Hizbullah supporters that, following the Shia militia’s self-proclaimed “divine victory” over Israel in a war in the summer of 2006, the government could not be trusted to protect Hizbullah’s guerrillas from UN Security Council orders that they be disarmed.

The opposition had backed up this demand by withdrawing six Shia ministers from the cabinet in November 2006. It had also mounted a campaign of civil disobedience, which led on several occasions to ugly sectarian clashes.

March 14th had rejected the demand, suspecting the opposition would use a cabinet veto to bring down the government or to block approval of the UN tribunal which is to investigate a series of assassinations, mostly targeting March 14th people, that loyalists blame on Syria. Yet in Qatar, March 14th’s leaders agreed to the formation of a 30-strong cabinet in which the opposition would get its blocking third of seats, while the new president would name another three.

Passage of a new electoral law was the opposition’s other main demand. The rules under which March 14th gained 72 seats in the 128-strong parliament in the 2005 elections were widely recognised as unfair. It was under Syrian tutelage that the law had been fixed, creating broad electoral districts that tended to box Christians, who are allotted half of parliamentary seats, inside majority-Muslim areas.

The Qatar deal provides for a return to an older electoral law that divides the country into smaller districts. A compromise was reached to split Beirut into three districts. The new rules will make it harder for the ruling coalition to retain a strong majority, and should benefit Hizbullah’s Christian allies.

Before heading to Qatar, loyalist politicians had insisted that Hizbullah’s weapons should be on the agenda. This was not only because the Shia group had so blatantly betrayed its own commitment never to use its guns in internal politics. It was also because the unique exception granted to Hizbullah to bear arms, under terms reached at the close of the civil war, has helped turn Lebanon into a zone of struggle between other powers, such as Iran, Syria, Israel and America. Yet loyalist politicians let themselves be placated by a vague promise that the issue would be looked into by Lebanon’s new president.

So the March 14th alliance appears to have beaten a diplomatic retreat that, while helping Hizbullah to consecrate its armed presence, is likely to spare Lebanon more immediate trouble. Yet the real losers may not be the loyalist camp, which could, conceivably, win another election, but rather its foreign sponsors, especially the United States and Saudi Arabia, which had pushed hard for Hizbullah to be cornered.

May 21st, 2008, 8:46 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
You have identified the inherent contradiction. Hizballah’s external goals are tied to its internal goals. It cannot be an offensive “resistance” and be a responsible partner in the Lebanese political scene at the same time. The more they are integrated internally, the less they can do externally. Not even FPM supports Hizballah deciding by themselves about war and peace.

May 21st, 2008, 8:47 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

I would much prefer to understand reality, and not impose my wishes. So please, if you have insight into what Hizbullah wants, tell me what it is. What will convince them to disarm?

a) Shebaa
b) Prisoners
c) Seven villages
d) Strategic Defense Policy (what does this mean?)
e) Jerusalem (what does this mean? One state solution with Jerusalem as its capital? Or two state solution with international Jerusalem?)

I disagree with you that they are not interested in parliament seats. If that is true, then they are foolish. The Shi`a are a plurality in Lebanon, and their proportion will only grow in size. It is important for them to have strong and responsible representation in government, so as to ensure that Lebanon moves toward de-confessionalization in a just and equitable way.

I guarantee you that Hizbullah’s Christian allies are not interested in seeing an open-ended resistance, and deep down, neither are most of the Shi`a. It is easy to speak about noble causes when you’re not the one losing your house and your livelihood every three years.

May 21st, 2008, 8:51 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki, Ausamaa,

Things change. Nasrallah in the early 80’s for example is not the same Nasrallah of today.

No need to analyze what Hizbollah wants today. Hizbollah will change and its demands and objectives will change.

May 21st, 2008, 8:59 pm

 

JustOneAmerican said:

No need to analyze what Hizbollah wants today. Hizbollah will change and its demands and objectives will change.

I would think it’s necessary to understand current wants/needs in order to understand and anticipate future wants/needs. Of course things will change – everything does. The question is how will things change and what can be done to facilitate change and steer it in a desirable direction. That can’t be done without a good understanding of where Hezbollah (or any other group/party) currently is and what their current goals are.

May 21st, 2008, 9:06 pm

 

Joe M. said:

Qifa Nabki,

As I see it, and I have not been following the details of this situation as closely as I normally would, it seems like Hizbullah potentially planned every step of this project. Just based on their history of strategic planning, I would not be surprised if they had planned a very limited military operation that was to be followed by an immediate and intense diplomatic push. They would clearly know, if just from discussions with FPM, that such a military procedure would greatly hurt their strategic standing unless it was followed up by a major deal. And it is obviously unclear how much they anticipated the moves by Jumblatt and M14, but the quickness and effectiveness of the whole operations gives me reason to think that they might have considered these moves as a package in relation to increasing M14 pressure.

Anyway, needless to say, the main difference between the likes of Hizbullah’s moves and those of Jumblatt is that Hizbullah has control over the outcome of its actions, where Jumblatt desn’t/didn’t. Plus, there does not seem to be any relationship between Jumblatt’s actions in pushing for this confrontation and the results (he had to backtrack on every single point he was previously advocating), while Hizbullah won concessions on every level.

The last point I want to make is that it seems that this political deal, if it holds, could really be the foundation to further political alliances. While the angry arab seems to look down on the possibility of a future alliance between Hariri inc. and Hizbullah, that would seem to me to be the most logical way to move forward a few years down the road. The simple fact is that Hizbullah is the largest single party (by far) in Lebanese politics, and this has to be taken into consideration in government. All the other factions will have to accommodate them, rather than the opposite. So when i look at the political situation in Lebanon, I assume that the groups like LF and Jumblatt will end up marginalized as Future and Hizbullah (and Aoun, if his faction maintains its alliance with Hizbullah) move toward reconciliation. The major problem is that Hizbullah has the most coherent ideology of all factions in Lebanon, and thus they will constantly be exposed to backstabbing as other factions deal with each other based on immediate political calculations…

Anyway, overall, I do think this is a possibly transformative political agreement, and it looks (on its face now) that Hizbullah has pulled a masterstroke.

May 21st, 2008, 9:21 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

I find it worthwhile to repeat a comment I made a few months ago, that the best realistic hope for the region is crisis management: not allowing things to go out of hand. The odds; it seems to me, are very much against having rosier predictions.

May 21st, 2008, 9:43 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa, you say: It is easy to speak about noble causes when you’re not the one losing your house and your livelihood every three years.

I say: I was repeating what Nassrallah has been saying. And it seems that Hizbullah people know and are ready to pay the price to achieve thier goals. After all, they are paying with their wealth and blood the “bulk” of such price.

The problem is: It takes one to know one. And some here are not the “ones” who can understand what the other “ones” like Bashar Al Assad or Hizbullah are all about, so they always fail in second guessing them. For example, you can not really count on a capitalist to understand how a socialist thinks, he can only fault him and refute his theories, but understand him? Very difficult. Two really different schools of thought.

And pardon me sir: Why are we now quibbling over what Hizbullah wants and how it will evolve and change, while only few days ago, some “past” comments from very “inteligent and well-informed” bloggeres here, the prevailing CW was that Hizbullah is a Syrian and Iranian tool working to execute their Agenda without regards to Lebanon’s Interests. Has Hizbullah changed its skin in a week, after acheiving its aims in Lebanon which was: stay away from the Arms of the Resistance? And as far as I can see, niether Iran nor Syria has made any great changes in their. Or are we now going to waste endess efforts to discuss if Hizbullah can be FLIPPED????

Remember?

Wrong data,or reading data the wrong way, leads to wrong conclusions, no matter how determined and motivated the researcher is. If in doubt, ask Bush, he will surely confirm this part.

May 21st, 2008, 9:45 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Justoneamerican

“That can’t be done without a good understanding of where Hezbollah (or any other group/party) currently is and what their current goals are.”

Unfortunately the situation in the area is very volatile. There are a lots of pending issues that would directly affect the pragmatic goals of Hezbollah:
– will there be peace between Syria and Israel?
– Will Iran come out clear on the nuclear weapons accusations and will have more influence in the region, or it will be continuously harassed by the US?.
– Will Syria come out clean from the Hariri investigation or would it be harassed and shaken internally.
etc.. etc..
Hezbollah being influenced politically, financially and ideologically by Iran, its goals and strategies will remain linked to the situation in Iraq and Iran. So it may have short term goals, but its long term depend on the area pace and direction of transformation.
Some in SC, deep down, are disappointed by the result of the Doha accord and the obvious success of the opposition. They prefer to continue suspecting Hezbollah of being just an Iranian puppet and predicting its collapse. I hope they are wrong.

May 21st, 2008, 9:53 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Official U.S. comments on the Israel/Syria talks are going to be very important to watch as I wrote earlier. Here is what David Welch said today on the subject:

“We think the expansion of the circle of peace would be a good thing. And of course it would be very, very helpful if that included an agreement with Syria”

So, it is not only one very but “very very” useful.

Welch said that the U.S. would be willing to consider playing a mediating role in the talks but there “has been no request for U.S. assistance”.

This sounds like an invitation-for-an-invitation-of-mediation to me.

An interesting take from the hawkish J-Post:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1211288140224&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

May 21st, 2008, 9:59 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Such an invitation would be denied to Bush and the neocons, it may be extended to Peolsi (as it seems such a deal was stuck in principle when she visited Syria) once a Democrate is elected and can move with a higher degree of freedom and even-handedness (than the current election-time pro-Israel requierments permit) towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.

So, let Welch save his smarts for somthing else other than resolving the ME conflict. Something like finding the most rewarding job he can land once his boss departs the White House.

I bet you, his insincere and opportunistic remark would be neglected, or even rediculed by Syria, if Syria choses to add insult to the Welch Club injury.

May 21st, 2008, 10:13 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Could it be that the economic situation of Syria is pushing Asad to make concessions in the same way as Sadat? Has he finally realized that you cannot have economic growth and “resistance” together?

Even Olmert would not be wasting time on this unless Syria has shown some indication that it would flip.

May 21st, 2008, 10:22 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

Bashar has played this masterfully. Hate him or love him, no one can deny the fact that this man proved to be an able and fine young lion indeed.

Trying to link his move to the poor status of the Syrian economy is not credible.

For a man with such few natural resources to be able to pull off his act over the recent past is nothing but remarkable.

Remember, Qatar is a very wealthy country. Surely, Syria can get the help it needs from such a great partnership.

Instead of the Syrian economy pushing Bashar to do this deal, it is more the fact that his adversaries have come to the conclusion that it makes more sense for them to flip their bets on their losing horses.

The U.S. bet on the KSA/Hariri horse and lost.

Syria bet on the HA/Iran horse and won.

Israel watched this race and decided to place its wager on the winner too. It is only natural, no?

May 21st, 2008, 10:33 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
What has Syria exactly won? A 12 month veto power on the Lebanese government? The tribunal is going forward and the reports about the nuclear facility are soon coming out. Qatar, however you spin it, is a US protectorate with good relations with Israel.

I always look for fundamental reasons, not tranisent ones. The only thing that would push Asad to take the risk of his “resistance” image being shattered, is a dire economic situation.

By the way, for me there is only one form of winning: Are the citizens of the country on average better of? When you show me that indeed Asad is delivering above average jobs and eocnomic growth, then I will call him a “winner”. Surviving at the expense of your people is not winning.

May 21st, 2008, 10:47 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

If the metric is “above average jobs and economic growth, then I am afraid that I cannot show you that.

Indeed, if there is one thing that the young lion does not have, it would be sound economic policy.

May 21st, 2008, 10:51 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
What has Syria exactly benefited from the Doha accord? I grant you the 12 months veto. What else?

May 21st, 2008, 10:53 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

In a nutshell:

That he is a regional player that cannot be ignored. That he has invested and wagered on the horses that won. That so long that HA has its weapons, he continues to be the go-to man in the future. That KSA could not outsmart him and eliminate his influence in Lebanon. That he can make new key alliances like Qatar and Turkey while the world shuns him. That he can start lifting the subsidies and survive. That his Sunni populace did not revolt against him while he took on KSA and Hariri in Lebanon. That Israel has realized that by making peace with the man, she may reduce the majority of her headaches.

May 21st, 2008, 11:01 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

To all those praising Qatar, isn’t Qatar a “puppet” regime like all others in the Gulf? They have a huge American base and presence. The security of Qatar is guaranteed by the US. If anything, the influence of the US over Qatar is much larger than it is over Saudi Arabia. Israel has much better relations with Qatar than with Saudi Arabia. What exactly is neutral about Qatar?

May 21st, 2008, 11:03 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
A little early to jump to those conclusions. Let’s wait a few months. As for the Israelis, my read is that Asad’s actions have made most of them even more against giving him the Golan, but let’s wait for the Israeli elections and you will be convinced.

The world has changed. Power does not come from spoiling. It comes from constructive things like trade and economic aid. Asad is going about it all wrong. His only way to be a regional power is to be a thriving economic center, not by spoiling for others.

May 21st, 2008, 11:14 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Go back to 2005 .. read what was written about Bashar at that time and you will understand who he was against and how determined they were to get rid of him.

Sometime next month I will do my regime drummer duty and write a post to recap the past three years : )

And Qatar is not a puppet regime … remember when president Bush visited every ocuntry in the Gulf (Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) … but not Qatar?

Qatar has been aligned with Syria for many years now.

May 21st, 2008, 11:17 pm

 

ausamaa said:

يا أخوان, مفيكن تشوفوا لــ أي أي جي شي وظيفة بدوام كامل خلليه يحل عن سمانا شوية. شو!!! صاير زبون مداوم وصاحب مطرح كمان

May 21st, 2008, 11:27 pm

 

Alex said:

Bizarre things happening with the “puppets”… I think they realize that there is no way they can be popular or influential in the Arab world is they continue to be the predictable puppts that they have been in the past.

The Saudis supposedly refused to increase oil production, Seniora canceled his meeting with President Bush in order to go to Qatar, Mahmoud Abbas was very critical of the Americans ..

ANd now … (in Arabic) look what Egyptian officials are saying! … “only force can liberate Palestine”

حكّام مصر ينتفضون: القوّة لتحرير فلسطين!

هبّة قوميّة ضربت المسؤولين المصريّين، أم أنّ الانزعاج المصري من الكلمة الأخيرة للرئيس الأميركي جورج بوش في شرم الشيخ، المنتقدة لوضع حقوق الإنسان في مصر، يُترجَم بتصريحات عروبيّة تحمل إشارات إلى مراجعة طبيعة العلاقات المصريّة ــــ الإسرائيليّة؟ مردّ التساؤل يعود إلى تصريحين لافتين صدرا عن كل من رئيس مجلس الشعب أحمد فتحي سرور ورئيس الحكومة أحمد نظيف، يُعَدّان ثوريّان ضدّ إسرائيل والولايات المتحدة؛ الأول رأى أنّ القوّة وحدها هي السبيل لاسترداد كل الأراضي الفلسطينية التي تحتلّها إسرائيل، فيما كشف الثاني عن وجود نيّة لتغيير عقود تصدير الغاز الطبيعي إلى الدولة العبريّة.
ونقلت وكالة «أنباء الشرق الأوسط» عن سرور، وهو قيادي بارز في الحزب الوطني الحاكم، قوله في كلمة أمام البرلمان، أمس، لمناسبة الاحتفال بالذكرى الـ60 لنكبة فلسطين، «يتعيّن علينا أن نتذرع بكل مناحي القوة وتنحية كل الخلافات والصراعات العربية جانباً حتى تعود فلسطين إلى أبنائها». وأشار سرور إلى أنّ فلسطين «سوف تظلّ محتلة إذا كنا نعتقد أن أميركا وغيرها يمكن أن يعملوا على عودة الحق الفلسطيني»، مشدّداً على ضرورة «كسب العالم بقوتنا العسكرية والاقتصادية، لأننا أخذنا عهداً على أنفسنا بأن نحرر فلسطين».
بدوره، أكّد نظيف، في مقابلة مع فضائية «العربية» السعوديّة، أنّ «هناك عزماً على تغيير هذه العقود (الغاز المصري الذي يُباع بأسعار رمزيّة إلى إسرائيل) وهناك تجاوباً من الجانب الإسرائيلي لفتح المفاوضات في هذا الاتجاه».
وكانت شركة كهرباء إسرائيل قد أعلنت بداية الشهر الجاري عن بدء تدفق الغاز الطبيعي المصري عبر خط أنابيب للمرة الأولى إلى إسرائيل.
(يو بي آي)

May 21st, 2008, 11:34 pm

 

Alex said:

From Newsweek

‘A Huge Day’

The start of peace talks between Israel and Syria could re-align regional politics and change Damascus’s relationship with Iran, says a veteran Israeli negotiator.
Kevin Peraino
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 5:22 PM ET May 21, 2008

For weeks, the Middle East has been buzzing with talk that Turkey has been mediating secret peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. On Wednesday, the speculation ended: both governments confirmed the reports, issuing statements just minutes apart. The dialogue, according to the Israeli version, is intended to be “serious and continuous” and would aim for a “comprehensive peace in accordance with the Madrid Conference terms of reference.” The brief mention of the Madrid Conference, Israeli-Arab negotiations that were cosponsored by Washington and Moscow in 1991, is particularly important because it may signal renewed U.S. involvement, according to former Israeli foreign ministry official Alon Liel, who spent nearly two years between 2004 and 2006 in secret talks with a Syrian mediator. Shortly after the announcement, Liel spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Kevin Peraino. Excerpts:

NEWSEEK: Is this the real thing?
Alon Liel: I think it’s a breakthrough.

Do you think this was done with an American blessing?
I think it was coordinated with the Americans. The fact that the three leaders agreed on the Madrid framework means that the Americans will be a part of it. Not only would the Americans be involved, but the Palestinians. The leaders see the talks as including the Syrians and the Palestinians, which is very, very meaningful.

Why do you think the Madrid language is so important–because the talks would be multilateral instead of bilateral?
Exactly.

Didn’t [U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice say recently that she supports indirect talks between Syria and Israel?
The Americans have always said that they have nothing against [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert talking to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad–but that they wouldn’t participate. It was hypocritical because they knew that if they didn’t enter the talks, nothing would change. I see, from today, the Americans as a player. I think this is probably related to a change in the American position.

What do you see as the most problematic potential sticking point in the upcoming negotiations?
I think the most complicated area will be the relationship between Syria and Iran. I see a big battle here. Syria will want to maintain contact with Iran. Once you have such a statement, imagine the feeling of Iran. It’s not only Olmert taking a risk, it’s also Assad taking a very big risk. Both leaders are doing something very courageous. Also, Syria will have to bring about a change of behavior regarding Hamas.

Is it realistic to expect Syria would completely sever ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas as part of a deal?
I’m not sure Syria and Iran can be strategic allies [after a peace deal]. A comprehensive peace agreement will necessitate meaningful changes. I don’t think Syria can have peace and normal relations with both Israel and Hizbullah, or Israel and Hamas. It’s almost mutually exclusive.

Could you see a day when Hizbullah is carrying out military operations against Syria as a result?
I really don’t know how Hizbullah will act. I don’t think they’d want to destroy–in a stupid way, from their perspective–this ongoing contact they have [with Damascus]. I don’t know about the Iranian reaction. Nobody should start speculating.

Less than a year ago Israel bombed Syria, and many believe the Mossad was behind the assassination of Hizbullah leader Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus earlier this year. What do you make of the timing?
[The talks] wouldn’t happen if it weren’t in the strategic interests of both countries. It’s in the very basic interest of Syria to preserve ties with the West. For Israel, peace is a must. These are things that are far beyond the military developments. From day one it was clear that it will happen because it’s a vital interest of both sides.

Do you think a deal is possible before Bush leaves office?
He might get an agreement before the end of his term. But it doesn’t really matter whether it’s December 2008 or February 2009.

Olmert is unpopular and in the midst of what appears to be a serious police investigation. Is he really politically strong enough to make peace right now?
I don’t know. Maybe Olmert won’t be the one to finalize it. But it’s not Olmert personally–it’s the state of Israel. It’s an official move, nothing personal. Olmert is not alone.

How do we know this announcement isn’t just timed to deflect attention from Olmert’s scandals?
It’s not spin. It’s a real thing. It might be helpful to Olmert politically. But I don’t care who brings the peace–I’ll welcome it. When you see a statement published simultaneously in Damascus, Ankara and Jerusalem–it’s short, but extremely meaningful. It’s done in good faith. It’s a real thing, and I’m really happy. For me, it’s a huge day.

May 21st, 2008, 11:41 pm

 

Alex said:

Deal in Lebanon a win for Hezbollah

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 21, 2008; 2:27 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah secured veto power over Lebanon’s Western-backed government on Wednesday, leaving the militant group virtually free to build up its weapons, including rockets aimed at Israel. But as the political winner, Hezbollah also faces pressure to seek compromise rather than confront opponents, as it had done violently in recent weeks.

The deal to end Lebanon’s long stalemate allows a triumphant Hezbollah and its allies back into the government after street fighting reminiscent of the 1975-1990 civil war. Hezbollah patrons Iran and Syria praised the agreement, which seems certain to strengthen Iran’s hand as it vies for influence in Iraq and across the Middle East.

Washington also put on a positive spin, despite the new power gained by a group that fought Israel in 2006 and is labeled as terrorist by the United States.

“It’s a necessary and positive step,” said David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East. “It’s not for us to decide how Lebanon does this.”

For most observers, the deal appeared “a pretty straightforward win” for Hezbollah, in the words of Paul Salem, the Beirut-based head of the Middle East Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But he noted: “The flip side is that it would usher in a period of accommodation and calm and stability” in Lebanon. That could help calm other parts of the Mideast, given Lebanon’s frequent role as a proxy for regional battles.

Tension in Beirut seemed to unwind almost immediately, with Hezbollah and supporters dismantling a protest camp near the prime minister’s office. The camp had sapped activity from Beirut’s modern downtown and created a dour, even menacing aura.

Even if Lebanon remains calm for a period, however, the deal only increases the potential for instability in a weak state where religious and clan loyalties often seem to trump national allegiance.

Hezbollah in effect operates a “state within a state” inside key parts of Lebanon _ the south, Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa valley near Syria _ with its own police, army and social services. That makes Lebanon an ideal incubator for the group’s military clout, just as Afghanistan served as a haven and staging ground for al-Qaida.

Unlike Sunni al-Qaida, Shiite Hezbollah is a social and political movement inspired by Iran’s Islamic revolution. It is believed to have pulled back from the kind of spectacular terrorist attacks it conducted in the 1980s and 1990s against U.S. targets.

Nevertheless, its private army is growing with Iranian and Syrian assistance and it clearly still targets Israel.

The agreement struck in Qatar does not force Hezbollah to give up its weapons, putting no restraints on its ability to obtain rockets and bury them in south Lebanon for potential use against Israel.

It also has a private telephone network _ an important communications tool for any military force, and the spark for the violent fighting with government supporters that led 67 deaths and then prompted the political deal.

In addition, Hezbollah managed to force the government to overturn efforts to dismiss an airport security chief linked to it. That could potentially allow Hezbollah to funnel money or contraband through the airport.

It also is a sign that Hezbollah, as part of the government, will have no future problems in having a say in the appointments of top security officials, in the police or army.

Such developments are likely to raise concern in Israel of another looming confrontation.

Already, said Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence, there is a “massive Hezbollah presence,” including rockets, combat forces and observation points, south of the Litani river near Israel, in violation of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the 2006 war.

U.N. patrols in the area have not reported similar claims, though the United Nations has complained about illicit arms shipments to Hezbollah and Israeli overflights.

Overall, there are only two likely brakes on some future Hezbollah action against Israel.

One would be a Syrian-Israeli peace deal, which would push the Syrian-backed Hezbollah toward accommodation with Israel. Syria and Israel confirmed Wednesday they are holding indirect talks but many obstacles remain in the way.

The second possible brake is the fact that Hezbollah is now compelled to work within Lebanon’s government, rather than against it, in a country with a multitude of sects and shifting alliances.

It is almost impossible for any one group to dominate such a diverse country, as foreign invaders or occupiers over the centuries have learned. That could force Hezbollah to compromise with other Lebanese factions not eager for another war with Israel.

Yet the same deal that gave Hezbollah a veto over unfriendly government actions also set up a new electoral system likely to give its allies a bigger chunk of parliamentary seats.

Hezbollah spokesman Ghassan Darwish said after the deal was announced: “We are now strongly participating in the country’s decision-making, after having been kept away from participation.”

____

Christopher Torchia is the AP’s bureau chief in Istanbul, Turkey, and has covered the Lebanon crisis.

May 21st, 2008, 11:48 pm

 

Alex said:

And Ehsani just got some backup from … the editor of Asharq Alawsat
(still trying to make Syria evil, but now he says the Syrians are the smartest)

السوريون شطار.. وأنتم لا!

نعم السوريون شطار، فقد باعوا العالم العربي الوهم. إذ أداروا مفاوضات على جانبين؛ واحدة من أجل استمرار احتلال لبنان، وترسيخ عملائهم وعملاء إيران، الذين يستخدمهم السوريون كورقة إلى حين. والمفاوضات الثانية مع إسرائيل.

الطريف أنه عندما أكد وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم رسميا التصريحات التركية ـ الإسرائيلية عن المفاوضات بين دمشق وتل أبيب، نقلت كثير من وسائل الإعلام العربية الخبر بصيغة «أعلنت سورية وإسرائيل بشكل مفاجئ اليوم…».

المفاوضات السورية ـ الإسرائيلية ليست مفاجئة إلا لمن ارتضى الوهم، وقرر تصديق دمشق. فعندما خرجت صحيفتنا في 14 مايو 2008 بعنوان رئيسي يقول «لبنان يحترق.. وسورية تفاوض إسرائيل» وجهت لنا الاتهامات، لأن البعض يحكم على الأحداث من خلال عاطفته، وليس عبر المعلومات.

ولذا أقول اليوم أشغلتكم سورية في حرب صيف 2006 في لبنان باستخدام سياسة الصوت العالي، وما هو أسوأ من ذلك، من دون أن تفعل شيئا من أجل بيروت، وأشغلتكم على مدى العامين الأخيرين، باستخدام أوراق «أمل» و«حزب الله» و«حماس».

وها هي سورية تستمر في مسلسل توزيع التهم والتخوين والشتائم للدول العربية، حيث تتهم الدول العربية بأنها حين قابلت بوش أضاعت القضية الفلسطينية، في الوقت الذي تفاوض فيه دمشق أولمرت عن الجولان فقط، وبذلك تكون قد قذفت بالقضية الفلسطينية إلى الهاوية.

أمر آخر مضحك عن حق، وهو وصف السوريين لعمرو موسى بالضيف الثقيل في الدوحة.. موسى الذي أشغلنا بالحديث عن الصف العربي، والحق العربي، وترطيب الأجواء مع دمشق! سورية لم تشغل العالم العربي في لبنان وحسب، بل إنها أشغلت العراقيين بأمنهم، وأذاقتهم الأمرّين، لتقدمهم على طبق من ذهب للإيرانيين الذين يفاوضون الأميركيين على العراق.

أشغلتكم سورية على أنها دولة ممانعة، وما هي إلا دولة مخادعة. لا خطأ في أن تستعيد دمشق الجولان، ولكن السؤال هو: هل من أجل أن تستعيد سورية أراضيها فعليها أن تحتل لبنان، وتعربد به، وتقوم بتفتيت المعسكر الفلسطيني، وتشتيته من الداخل؟

السوريون شطار لأنهم خدعوا الرأي العام العربي، المخدوع أصلا منذ قرابة ستين عاما، وبإرادته. كما لعبوا بعملائهم في لبنان، واستغلوهم أسوأ استغلال لتنفيذ أجندتهم، ففي الوقت الذي ينتظر فيه الإيرانيون و«حزب الله» نتائج التحقيق في عملية اغتيال عماد مغنية، خرجت لهم نتائج المفاوضات السورية ـ الإسرائيلية.

ومن المهم الإشارة هنا إلى تصريح وزير الإسكان الإسرائيلي زئيف بويم يوم أمس تعليقا على مفاوضات بلاده مع السوريين حين قال إن «أي اتفاق يجب أن تكون له ثلاثة شروط مسبقة ربما تم التعبير عنها بالفعل أثناء المفاوضات غير المباشرة: إزالة مقر الإرهاب في دمشق، ووقف إمدادات السلاح لحزب الله، ووقف العلاقات الاستراتيجية بين سورية وايران».

السوريون شطار.. وأنتم لا، لأن دمشق قررت خداع العالم العربي الذي استجاب لخدعتها، وأحيانا رحب بها. كره إسرائيل جعلنا ننجر خلف الخدع، وبتنا نكره تل أبيب أكثر مما نحب قضايانا وأوطاننا.

May 21st, 2008, 11:51 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Joe

I don’t agree with your reading. Certainly HA had contingency plans for a major miltiary operation like this, and they executed it beautifully when Jumblatt provided them with an opening. But they lucked out with the diplomatic initiative.

The point about Angry Arab that I agree with is the need to find a third way in Lebanon, because right now all the parties are sectarian to the hilt. All that is needed is organization, because the political will is there. We sit on Syria Comment and talk about “the Sunnis” and “the Shi`a” and “the Christians” and while plenty of people identify as such (especially when they are goaded by the sectarian leaders to think in this way), there are more and more people who are tired of this tribal mentality and self-identify as Lebanese first and foremost. So what is needed is some kind of organized political movement to create the kind of pressure necessary to lead to deconfessionalization. There have been some initiatives, but nothing major.

Ausamaa,

Nasrallah has said a lot of things. But chief among them is that Hizbullah is a LEBANESE resistance, designed to liberate LEBANESE land. Now, you may say that “it takes one to know one” and that I am fooling myself, but habibi, that means that so are millions of other Lebanese who are taking Sayyed Hasan at his word, and that includes plenty of Shi`a. If you lived in Lebanon and had good friends among Shi`a from Saida and Nabatieh you would be privy to the odd slips of tongue every now and then that reveal other feelings besides pride and honor: frustration, cynicism, criticism of the endless wars and instability.

Ehsani:

I have mixed feelings about your analysis. You say, for example, that Bashar is a regional player that cannot be ignored who bet on the right horses, protected his assets, and outflanked his opponents.

The thing is: if he doesn’t use his cards to actually DO something, then all he will do is survive, and survive, and survive, until he doesn’t. I have hope that he will actually try to make peace instead of just talk about it. But Ausamaa (and many others) see this is a non-starter.

What then?

May 22nd, 2008, 12:43 am

 

Alex said:

PM to Haaretz: Talks with Syria are ‘historic breakthrough’
By Amos Harel, Barak Ravid, and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Israel and Syria will begin indirect negotiations in Istanbul in a few weeks, in an effort to reach a peace agreement. The talks will be held through Turkish mediators.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz on Wednesday that “there had been a development in Syrian positions and the contacts with Syria are a historic breakthrough.” Olmert added that “these exchanges have been ongoing for a long time and they have now matured.”

On Monday, a secret mini-conference was held in Istanbul to establish the framework of the negotiations and its content. At the end of the meetings a coordinated joint declaration announced that talks will begin.

“Israel and Syria began indirect peace talks under Turkish auspices,” the statement read. “Both sides declared that their intention is to conduct these talks in good faith and with an open mind. They decided to conduct the dialogue in a serious and continuous manner in a bid to reach a comprehensive peace in accordance with the framework established at the Madrid peace conference.”

At the 1991 Madrid peace conference, it was decided to hold direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors on the basis of United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.

The efforts to reach agreement on starting talks began in February 2007 with the exchange of informal notes between Syria and Israel through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The talks on Monday involved, on the Israeli side, the Prime Minister’s Bureau chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, and his political adviser, Shalom Turgeman. Syria was represented by the legal counselor of the Foreign Ministry, Dr. Riad Daoudi. The Syrian official is a veteran of behind-the-scenes talks with Israel, and held talks with Uri Sagie, adviser to Ehud Barak, even after talks with Syria broke down in 2000.

Facilitating the indirect talks was Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser, Ahmet Davutoglu.

Speaking Wednesday at a Tel Aviv conference on education, Prime Minister Olmert said that “negotiations with Syria will not be easy and will not be simple, it may take a long time and it will involve concessions.

“After evaluating all the data and receiving the opinion of the defense establishment, I reached the conclusion that the chance [for success] is greater than the risk, and with this hope we are today getting on our way.”

Olmert added that the resumption of negotiations with Syria is a national obligation that must be tried. “That was the same conclusion that [Yitzhak] Rabin, [Benjamin] Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak had reached when each in turn invested efforts in this direction and were even willing to make painful, extraordinary concessions in order to reach peace with Syria,” Olmert said.

“The years that have passed have not improved our security situation along the northern border, which is still a source of major concern regarding the deterioration of our security situation. Under such conditions it is always best to talk and not shoot, and I am happy that the two sides have agreed to talk.’

A senior source in the Prime Minister’s Bureau declined to offer details on the content of the talks but said they were held while the representatives of Israel and Syria sat in separate rooms, with the Turkish facilitators shuttling between them. According to the Israeli source, the two sides agreed to hold indirect meetings every few weeks in Istanbul.

“The fact that the Syrian president agreed to the framework of the negotiations grants credibility to his intentions,” the senior source said. “It is obvious to us that if we reach agreement it will be respected and it will be possible to implement it.

“During the talks Israel did not make any preliminary promises on the Golan Heights and did not refer to the promises made by Rabin,” the source said. He was referring to a 1994 promise Rabin made to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, that if Syria met Israel’s security conditions, Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights.

However, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Wednesday night during a visit to Bahrain that Israel had commited to withdrawing to the June 4, 1967 lines, noting that this was not a new development.

“Already in 1993 the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin commited to this, and since then all other prime ministers have followed,” the Syrian minister said.

He also expressed hope that Israel will be serious in the talks so that progress will be achieved and make direct talks possible.

Talks between Israel and Syria at Shepherdstown in 2000 stalled over the question of the border of June 4, which the Syrians claim constituted the border on the waterline of Lake Kinneret, while Israel maintains that because the lake has dried up over the years, the waterline moved several hundred meters. Over the years, the waterline had served as an unofficial border.

Former Syrian information minister, Mahdi Dahlallah, said Wednesday night that if there is a peace agreement “then there will no longer be any need for resistance,” a direct reference to Hezbollah in Lebanon and also Hamas.

Dahlallah said that the “resistance is not an end in and of itself but a means for restoring land that was taken away, and therefore if this territory is restored there is no reason for resistance.”

Meanwhile, senior Israeli security figures suggested Wednesday that there should be no exaggerated expectations of the renewed talks.

The same sources said that it is hard to believe that the exchanges will come to fruition in the near future, certainly not in terms of a peace agreement between the two countries.

At the Israel Defense Forces, the assessment is that a major component that may encourage a Syrian agreement for an accord depends on American involvement.

IDF sources say that if the Bush administration is willing to place the talks under its aegis and Syrian President Bashar Assad is convinced that U.S. support will be extensive in return for peace with Israel, progress will be achieved.

Syria “is not as interested in making peace with Israel as it is in making peace with Washington,” said Itamar Rabinovich, who served as an Israeli negotiator in the last round of talks with Syria.

The U.S. administration had been updated on the status of the talks between the two sides, and Washington announced Wednesday that it is not opposed.

“We were not surprised by it, and we do not object to it,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino on the unexpected joint announcement by Israel and Syria on Wednesday that they were conducting indirect talks through Turkey.

Perino said that the United States was not involved in the effort, which was “a decision undertaken by Israel,” but added that the administration hoped “that this is a forum to address various concerns we all have with Syria – Syria’s support of terrorism, repression of its own people. And so we will see how this progresses.”

Israel informed Egypt and the Palestinian Authorities of the existence of indirect talks with Syria before the official announcement Wednesday. It sought to assure the Palestinians that Israel is in no way opting for the Syrian track at the expense of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

May 22nd, 2008, 12:47 am

 

offended said:

أتفق مع الأخ Aussama.

لاحظوا أنو كلما كان في مكسب معين لسوريا أو أي خبر إيجابي ,يقفز السيد أي آي جي باستنتاجاته لكي يبعص الحديث…

May 22nd, 2008, 12:51 am

 

Alex said:

hehehe,

Offended, …he is not the only one … can you name another person here who also gets depressed when there is any good news for Syria?

May 22nd, 2008, 12:55 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

طيب اذن خلينا نحك ظهر بعضنا لكان؟؟

بلا ما نتحادث بالمرة ما زال استنتاجاتنا بياخذوا العقل

May 22nd, 2008, 1:01 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Gotta love As`ad Abu Khalil, always the party pooper:

“Let the Lebanese people enjoy the festival of self-deception now. Let them claim falsely that all their conflicts have ended, and that the threat of civil war has been eliminated once and for all.”

May 22nd, 2008, 1:09 am

 

Enlightened said:

No talk of Divorce! But something radically new, the Bride and Groom are getting along!

Something radically new after Doha
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whatever else is said about the agreement between Lebanon’s leaders reached in Qatar on Wednesday, it will likely transform the country’s political landscape. With the election of a president, alliances will change and with that we may see growing intricacy and reversals in the relationships between March 14 groups and opposition groups.

One thing that will not change, however, is the attitude of a majority of Lebanese when it comes to Hizbullah’s behavior. Party officials have recklessly downplayed their armed occupation of Beirut two weeks ago, but no one, least of all the Sunnis, will soon forget what happened. So even if genuine politics return, those of compromise and shifting calculations, the structural inability of Hizbullah to coexist with a sovereign Lebanese state will not disappear. This may push domestic parties to acquire weapons for when Hizbullah again uses bullets to overcome its political shortcomings.

Like most compromises, the Doha agreement has created winners and losers on all sides – but remains nebulous enough so that the losers still feel they might gain from it. But it’s difficult not to interpret what happened in Qatar as a definitive sign that Syria’s return to Lebanon is no longer possible. No doubt the Syrians were in on the arrangement, and the suspicious delay in establishing the Hariri tribunal until early 2009 makes one wonder whether a quid pro quo is taking shape behind the scenes. Reports of a breakthrough on the Syrian-Israeli track, the Iraqi Army’s entry into Sadr City, certainly with an Iranian green light, and signs that a truce may soon be agreed in Gaza, suggest a regional package deal may have oiled the Lebanese deal.

If there was one message emerging from the recent fighting, it was that Syria could not conceivably return its army to Lebanon without reconquering the country. Hizbullah committed several mistakes, of which two were especially egregious for Syria: The Sunni community, like the Druze and many Christians, are mobilized and will fight any Syrian comeback; and the Lebanese file is more than ever an Iranian one, because Hizbullah’s destiny is at stake. Syria’s allies, other than Hizbullah, were ineffective in Beirut and the mountains, in some cases even siding with the majority. This confirmed that Damascus has less leverage than ever when it comes to employing those smaller armed groups it completely controls.

The election of a president, even if he is the troubling Michel Suleiman, opens a new phase in Lebanon, one in which it is possible to imagine consolidating a state gradually breaking free from Syria’s grip. That’s the priority today, and has been the priority since April 2005 when the Syrian Army withdrew from the country. Whether Suleiman likes it or not, from now on he is a president, not a candidate maneuvering to become a president, which will require him to take a strong position on defending the sovereignty of the state both vis-ˆ-vis Syria and Hizbullah. That could either push him closer to the position favored by March 14 and most Lebanese, or it could damage him if he proves to be indecisive.

Will March 14 survive after this? It probably will in the face of an armed Hizbullah and Syria’s foreseeable efforts to regain a foothold in Beirut. But the parliamentary majority may transform itself into a looser alignment, united on the large issues but with its leaders behaving parochially when it comes to elections and patronage. Once Suleiman is elected, he becomes an arbiter, an axial figure, in the political game. Politicians will have to position themselves either for or against him, as the president strives to build up a power base for himself in the state, particularly in Parliament. Expect Suleiman to use the army as his bludgeon, which would be regrettable, and expect tension between the officers and traditional politicians.

One unanswered question is who will be prime minister. If it is Saad Hariri, and it is difficult to imagine it won’t be, the relationship between him and Suleiman will determine the face of Lebanon in the coming year before parliamentary elections. Neither of the two would relish a return to the discord between Emile Lahoud and Rafik Hariri. On top of that, if Saad becomes head of the government, he would benefit from using that position as a foundation to create networks of alliances transcending those of March 14. An electoral compact with the Armenians, particularly the Tashnag Party, would be a smart move, and could shift the balance in Beirut decisively away from Hizbullah, Amal and Syrian peons.

Another question is what happens to Walid Jumblatt? The Druze leader has placed himself at the center of March 14 – a key mediator and usually prime initiator of the coalition’s policies. With a new president in place, Jumblatt’s role will be largely determined by the relationship between Suleiman and his prime minister. If the prime minister is Hariri and Hariri and Suleiman work well together, Jumblatt could find himself isolated. In that case, and if history provides any lessons, he will soon be contesting Suleiman and the officers the president relies upon. Jumblatt also will have to keep Suleiman away from his Christian electorate in Aley and the Chouf. Expect him, in that case, to move closer to Christians as unenthusiastic about Suleiman: Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun.

Aoun is the great loser from a presidential election. It’s not like the old general wasn’t warned. He could have used his parliamentary bloc to be presidential kingmaker; instead he decided to obstruct everything in order to be elected himself. Now he has only dust to feed on, and in his final years he may find himself trying to protect his shriveling flock from the overtures of Suleiman, who, if he is clever, will pick up a large share of the disoriented Christians. One can already imagine most of Aoun’s parliamentarians in the Metn gravitating toward Suleiman, knowing that their re-election depends on the goodwill of Michel Murr, who will be instrumental in moving the district the president’s way.

Samir Geagea is in a better position than Aoun, both because of his close ties to Hariri and the Christian community’s propensity to create counterweights to its presidents. However, his power in the Cabinet is uncertain and he too will have to fight off Suleiman’s poaching among his voters. That’s why his rapport with Aoun is bound to improve.

The matter of Hizbullah’s weapons will be the first test for Suleiman once he is elected. The president risks losing the Sunnis if he comes out with a limp formula that sidelines any serious discussion of the topic. Now is the time to put the question of weapons on the table seriously, and Suleiman, as a former commander of the army, is in an ideal position to propose a sensible compromise. A second test for the president will be the choice of a new army commander. The head of military intelligence, George Khoury, is pining for the post, but given the army’s indolence during the fighting in Beirut and Hariri’s deep doubts about what happened, Suleiman may need all his dexterity to propose a successor who satisfies all sides.

Can Hizbullah be pleased with the result? It will now be able to say that it received veto power in the government and that the matter of its weapons was not discussed in Doha. It will also be able to convince its supporters that this was its latest victory after the government’s decision to withdraw the two decisions last week that Hizbullah found offensive. But that may be only half the story. By so foolishly taking over Beirut militarily, the party only scared the other communities into sustained hostility. The two decisions the government went back on were decisions it could never have implemented anyway, so Hizbullah effectively revealed its coup plan at an inopportune time and for little gain. The party also has lost two cards: It has dismantled its downtown protest camp and won’t be able to close the airport road for some time. Its weapons have become a subject of legitimate national discussion. And what kind of war can Hizbullah hope to wage against Israel in South Lebanon when most Lebanese, and quite a few Shiites, have no desire for war? Most importantly, Hizbullah has been about the negation of the state. If the post-Doha process is about the building of a state, then the party and that state will eventually clash.

Much will depend on Michel Suleiman. That the president will get only three ministers in a new Cabinet affirms he has serious credibility problems on all sides. Suleiman is an unknown quantity. Will he be a faithful partner of Syria, as when he was army commander? Or will he realize that he can be more than that? In many ways Suleiman is a peculiar creation as president, someone never destined to inherit the office. Now he has a chance to become the long-awaited patron of a new and consensual Lebanese political order. Let’s hope he’s up to it.

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

May 22nd, 2008, 1:21 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Lebanon has given itself a chance to end a miserable, murderous cycle

By The Daily Star
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Editorial

For over 18 months, international efforts to find a solution to Lebanon’s harrowing political crisis seemed a lot like searching for a needle in a haystack. Various teams of Arab and international mediators had tried to prod feuding Lebanese leaders toward compromise, but none of these efforts brought about concrete results. It was only after the crisis escalated to the verge of renewed civil war – and after Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani thankfully intervened – that the leaders of rival Lebanese factions managed to secure what once seemed like a permanently elusive deal.

The brilliance of the Doha accord is that it has resurrected the Lebanese agenda on Lebanese terrain. For far too long that agenda had been both strangled by local players and dictated to the Lebanese in the form of unrealistic demands from foreign capitals. But the Qatari emir successfully brokered an accord that makes Lebanon the priority, and resolves all outstanding political issues, while incorporating mechanisms for strengthening the Lebanese state. The responsibility for ensuring the full success of the Doha initiative now rests with Lebanese leaders – every one of them, from Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea.

Over the past few days we have witnessed the transformation of the sentiment on the streets from one of tribulation – when Lebanese leaders pushed this nation to the brink – to one of jubilation – when Lebanon’s executioners were summoned away to the dialogue in Doha. The prevailing sense of joy has increased exponentially now that an agreement has been reached and the Lebanese can for the first time in over three years begin to envision new and boundless horizons for their homeland. The possibilities that the resolution of the political crisis allow for are infinite. One can easily imagine how it can pave the way toward economic development and political reform, as well as rapprochement with Damascus, and even an eventual peace deal with Israel if that country is willing to be reasonable (a possibility that is even easier to envision in light of the Turkish-brokered talks between Syria and Israel). The return of a Lebanese state that is at peace with its own citizens will also enable Lebanon to return to its role as an incubator of talent and creative energy that benefits, rather than destabilizes, the entire region.

This is not to suggest that the road ahead is not fraught with potential pitfalls. Indeed, the greatest of these is that Lebanon’s leaders might be lulled into a false sense of security and fail to follow the path of Lebanon’s revival to its inevitable destination: the creation a civil state. Now that we have all (again) seen that the current sectarian-state model serves to stimulate breakdown, failure to complete that journey would be tantamount to committing national suicide. Without a new system of governance, we would no doubt find ourselves back in the same miserable, murderous scenario.

One other potential snare that must be noted – and hopefully avoided – stems from the fact that the outcome of the Doha talks might not meet the unrealistic expectations of foreign parties. None of these has shown a greater propensity to disregard common sense than the administration of US President George W. Bush. The US president has been among the most vocal backers of the governing March 14 coalition, but it must be recalled that his friendship yielded few tangible results for the state of Lebanon. Given the United States’ close relationship with Israel, Bush could have easily applied pressure on the Jewish state to desist from its relentless incursions into Lebanese territory, or to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms, for example. He could have also adopted a more reasonable policy toward Syria that would have served to safeguard what he misleadingly hailed as one of his own greatest regional achievements, as opposed to a feat achieved by the Lebanese: the “Cedar Revolution.” But none of these gestures, which would have gone a long way toward stabilizing this country and strengthening the Lebanese state, ever materialized.

One would hope that the Americans, along with the Syrians, Iranians and other international actors in the Lebanese crisis, will understand that their time for meddling here has passed. The Lebanese are embarking on a new chapter in their history, one that will hopefully succeed in finally putting Lebanon first. The best thing that all of these foreign actors could do is to step aside, and perhaps even utter the word that was on the lips of millions of Lebanese when they relayed the news from Doha on Wednesday: mabrouk, or congratulations.

May 22nd, 2008, 1:58 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Naji

I think Ghassan al-Ra7bani says it better than either of us:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FavPmmqZHDw

😉

May 22nd, 2008, 2:42 am

 

norman said:

Alex ,

This is the only right words in the Alsharq awsat article

السوريون شطار

May 22nd, 2008, 3:02 am

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

Abu Khalil article is straight talk but a bit melodramatic. What civil war he is still worried about. Todays Lebanon is not that of 1975. The Lebanese people are Shuttar also because they do not have the will or the precieved threat to distroy their country. Who knows, maybe he is right but I doubt it. What I did not like about his article is that he is still calling for a “leftist” elite to spark a leftist uprising and a leftist movement. That is something from the past I think.

Alex

The Syrians are not Shuttar they were Sahyeeen when the others were Halimeen. That Al Sharq al Awasat article is filthy. It is soooo full of hatered and deception that even the sane elite Al Saud members would not like it. I think Saudi has had it with leaving its foreign policy in the hands of a vindictive strike-team against Syria and Iran. And looking at the Egyptian comments gives me the feeling that a wider Arab reconciliation is in the cards. They are all suffering from the efects of the neocon adventure – to whom they were eager if shy participants- after the neocons delivered not a single thing of what they promissed them.

Arabs are good at kissing and making up usually.

At least Lebanon is safe and calm now (against their efforts), let us see how SMART the Saudies and their comrads are now on the morning of the Day After!

May 22nd, 2008, 5:35 am

 

Alex said:

Ausamaa,

It is an improvement … Asharq started in 2005 promoting an image of Syria that is both stupid and evil … at least now they are sticking to the evil part only.

Give them few more months.

May 22nd, 2008, 6:03 am

 

Alex said:

Here is an excellent piece about Saudi owned media:

الاعلام السعودي: محاور لتدمير العالم العربي

مقال نشر في القدس العربي بتاريخ 19-05-2008

منذ أن اندثرت التعددية الاعلامية العربية ومصادر تمويلها التي ولت مع أفول محاور عربية قديمة وجد الاعلام السعودي الممول ـ إما مباشرة من خزينة الدولة أو من جيوب الأمراء الرسميين أو غير الرسميين ـ نفسه سيد الموقف، وباستثناء تجربة خاطفة تحت راية قناة الجزيرة القطرية التي انتهت صيف العام المنصرم باتفاقية أنهت التعاطي مع الشأن السعودي من منظور آخر لذلك المتبني رسمياًً في السعودية، نقف اليوم وجهاً لوجه أمام الحقبة الاعلامية السعودية بلا منازع.

لا بد لنا أن نقيم هذا الاعلام ونحدد تأثيره علي العالم العربي من خلال سياساته المتناقضة والهادفة الي تفتيت هذا العالم من الداخل. وإن كانت الهجمة الأمريكية علي المنطقة العربية والتي بدأت بالعراق أمراً خارجياً يقاومه من يقاومه علي طريقته الخاصة إلا أن العالم العربي المتلقي لخطاب وصور الاعلام السعودي فاقد للمناعة والقدرة علي المقاومة بانعدام وسائل إعلامية قوية التمويل والخطاب وقادرة علي التصدي والتحدي بنفس الأسلوب الذي يتبعه الإعلام السعودي.

هناك أربعة محاور مدمرة ظهرت بوضوح للقارئ والمشاهد والمستمع لما تنشره الوسائل الاعلامية السعودية الموجهة للعالم العربي وليس يهمنا هنا الاعلام المحلي المنحسر في عصر الفضائيات والعولمة.

المحور الأول ظهر بشكل واضح خلال أيام الأزمة اللبنانية الحالية حيث تصدرت التعليقات الطائفية التحريضية شاشات الاعلام السعودي، وانبري المراسلون والمذيعون والمعلقون يفككون طلاسم الوضع اللبناني المعقد والمتشابك، حريصين علي إرجاعه إلي جذور مذهبية وطائفية، ومهما حاول البعض توسيع دائرة الحوار والنقاش والابتعاد عن محور التحريض وبث سموم الفتنة يعود المذيع أو مقدمو البرامج وكاتبو السطور الي موضوعهم المتفق عليه مسبقاً. من تابع الاعلام السعودي خلال الأيام السابقة لا بد أن يستنتج أن هناك حرب إبادة شاملة لأهل السنة والجماعة الذين دخلوا مرحلة اللطمية والمظلومية تماماً كما سبقهم اليها الشيعة في مراحل سابقة، ولم يكتف هذا الإعلام بذلك بل راح يعمل جاهداً علي اسقاط الطوائف والمذاهب علي خارطة لبنان ومدنه وقراه، بعضها جاء باللون الأحمر وبعضها بالأخضر والآخر بالأسود ليبين أماكن الصراع الحالية والمستقبلية وكأنه لا يكتفي بنقل الأحداث العنيفة بل يروج لبؤر قد تشتعل في المستقبل القريب. خلط هذا الإعلام بين الحدث وتحليله وما يطمح له الممول السعودي. ولكننا نعتقد أن هذه المحاولة الاعلامية الفاشلة قد أسقطتها السرعة التي تم فيها الوصول إلي اتفاق علي الخطوط العريضة للحوار اللبناني ـ اللبناني والتي ستتبلور في الدوحة. ستكون تداعيات الطائفية والمذهبية مقيتة ليس فقط علي الشارع اللبناني بل علي العالم العربي بأكمله إن لم تتوقف الآلة الاعلامية السعودية عن دورها المشبوه.

المحور الثاني هو عدم قدرة السعودية إعلاما وقيادة عن الابتعاد ولو قليلاًًً عن المخطط الأمريكي للمنطقة والترويج لهذا المخطط من خلال وسائل الاعلام، وبما أن الخطاب الأمريكي يعتبر أن أي معارضة لمشروعه هي إرهاب وتطرف فكذلك هو حال الاعلام السعودي الذي قتل في النفسية العربية حتي الحلم بالمقاومة ناهيك عن المقاومة ذاتها، وهنا لا نقصد العنف والقتل وإنما نقصد حالة الاستسلام التي تروج لها مصادر الاعلام السعودي والقبول بالأمر الواقع، وكل ما يستنطق المشروع الأمريكي ويشكك في جدواه ونجاحه نراه يحارب ويُقتل حتي وإن كان كلمة حرة أو اشارة ايحائية لا يفهمها الاّ اللبيب والمتيقظ والعالم بمسارات التاريخ والتحولات الفكرية والسياسية والاجتماعية. المحور الثالث لعملية التدمير الاعلامي السعودي الموجه الي العالم العربي ينطلق من سياسة التعرية والخلاعة والرقص المجون التي تتبناها بعض القنوات المملوكة من قبل الامراء السعوديين والذين يوجهون ذبذباتها الي أكبر شريحة اجتماعية في العالم العربي الا وهي الشباب الذين تقل أعمارهم عن 25 سنة. يتلقي هؤلاء الفنون الاستهلاكية والطرب الماجن الممتزج بالابتذال وربما هناك علاقة حميمة بين الترويج للبرامج الساقطة والفن المبتذل وبين ارتفاع معدلات الاعتداء الجنسي علي المرأة والتحرش بالأطفال والعنف الأسري وحالات الطلاق المرتفعة التي تعاني منها السعودية أكثر من غيرها من الدول في المنطقة. انها المرة الأولي في تاريخ العرب التي يجد فيها المشاهد نفسه وجهاً لوجه أمام حالة انفصام اجتماعي وتناقضات نفسية حيث يعيش المرء في ما يسمي مجتمع الفضيلة محاطاًً بقيود ثقافية ودينية تحرم عليه الانغماس في الاباحية بينما هو يتلقي صوراً وايحاءات مفرطة في شهوانيتها. نحن هنا لا نعترض علي الفن واللهو والموسيقي ولكننا نحذر من قدرة هذا الاعلام علي ترسيخ انفصام في الشخصية والهوية نتيجة التناقض بين حلم الشاشات وحقائق الواقع المجتمعي للوطن العربي. وكل هذا يصدر من قيادة حرصت علي أنها تمثل الورع والتقوي.

المحور الرابع المدمر في الاعلام السعودي هو تصويره لدور المرأة في المجتمع والذي يتأرجح بين تمويل الاباحية من جهة وتمويل العفة والطهارة من جهة أخري. البرامج الممولة سعودياً والمتعاطية بالشأن النسوي تمزج بين دعايات التجميل والعناية بالجسد والبشرة مستحضرة شرحات الخيار والأفوكادو من جهة، ومن ناحية أخري تستحضر العفة والفضيلة في دعايات أدوات التنظيف المنزلي. فالراقصة المتباهية بشعرها الأسود الطويل لا تنفصل عن بنت جنسها الأخري المحجبة والمنهمكة بتنظيف قعر المرحاض مستعملة آخر انتاجات المواد القاتلة للبكتريا والحشرات. لا يفصل الأولي عن الثانية سوي ضغط الأصبع علي أزرار الريموت كنترول، كلتاهما تتصدران شاشات الإعلام السعودي بصوره ورسائله المتناقضة. يسترخي المشاهد العربي أمام هذه التناقضات. طبعاً له أن يختار بين الأولي والثانية ولكن هل هو بالفعل يملك حرية الاختيار في حقبة تاريخية أهم ملامحها استفراد المال السعودي والخط الاعلامي المرتبط به بالساحة الاعلامية المرئية والمسموعة والمكتوبة؟ لا بد لنا ان نتساءل لماذا اختار ممولو الاعلام السعودي خط التناقضات؟ هل هو الرغبة في الثراء الناتج عن ثورة الاتصالات الحديثة؟ أم هل هو فسق ومجون ونعرات طائفية واسترخاء في أحضان المشاريع الأمريكية؟ هل هو محاربة للتطرف الاسلامي كما يسمونه من خلال الانغماس في الاباحية والشهوات التي تصرف الشباب عن الانخراط في مشاريع أبعد من الذات وشهواتها والجسد ورغباته؟ تناقضات الاعلام السعودي الممول بطريقة مباشرة من قبل أشخاص داخل القيادة السعودية خطر علي المجتمعات العربية سيفككها من الداخل ويقوض السلم الاجتماعي في كثير من المناطق.

انه اعلام انتجته أموال النفط وليس الباع الطويل في العمل الاعلامي وتراكم الخبرات والتجربة والرؤية المستقلة لحاضر العرب ومستقبلهم ومحنهم المتراكمة.

الصراخ الطائفي وتبني مشاريع همجية قادمة من الخارج تستهدف أمن المنطقة وتركيبتها الاجتماعية وحقبات التعايش السلمي بين فئاتها المختلفة لن تظل موجهة الي خارج الحدود السعودية بل ستنقلب علي السعودية ذاتها والتي طالما حرص الخطاب الرسمي السعودي علي تصويرها وكأنها وحدة متجانسة تسبح بحمد القيادة ونعمتها. الاختلاف والتعددية وتسييسهما عند الحاجة من الأمور السهلة التي تنذر بعواقب وخيمة لن تنجو منها السعودية بسهولة أو دول الجوار التي تحتضن محطات الاعلام السعودي كونها أكثر انفتاحاًً من القاعدة السعودية الممولة. بغياب التعددية الاعلامية العربية ـ ما عدا تجارب قليلة حاولت السعودية إسكاتها تماماًَ كما حصل لتجربة الجزيرة حينما تعاطت مع الشأن السعودي الداخلي بشيء من الحرية ومن ثمة تم الغاء المشروع ـ نجد المشاهد والقارئ العربي محاصراً بإعلام سعودي يتبني محاور قاتلة تنذر إما بموت بطيء أو تنويم دائم أو أسوأ من ذلك بكثير: انفصام شخصي واجتماعي وقتال طائفي مذهبي طويل الأمد.

كاتبة واكاديمية من الجزيرة العربية

May 22nd, 2008, 6:05 am

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

A time for reconcilliation!!

Despite the above, I think it may be prudent on Syria’s part for Syria to try to size up the momment and to go out of its way to make up with Saudi and make an effort to pull them out of the hole they got themselves into and to win them over and not keep them isolated and fermenting over what has happened.

Syria would now be acting from a position combining Righteousness and strength the same time, and the victor would not find it beneath him to reach down to the losers. The lebanese problem is nothing if compared to the huge muddy Iraqi ocean. And without a concerted Saudi, Iranian, Turkish and Syrian effort, the DC policy makers (even in a wise Administration) can not be trusted to handle it safely.

It time now for the Men to reach out to the Half Men who have been cut down to lower sizes even. How would Syria do that? Would an angry and humiliated Saudi respond positively? I doubt it now, but they can be made to come around when their anger subsides. How would Syria go about it? I do not know, but Syria’s position as the Host of the Arab League can help.

It takes two to tango… true, and Syria may have to teach the Saudies the right steps even, but it is worth the effort.

May 22nd, 2008, 6:35 am

 

offended said:

Mark my word fellas; now that Syria is engaged in direct peace talks with Israel, you will gradually see a shift in the Saudi Media (and its subordinates) toward portraying: 1-Israel as the real enemy, 2- Syria as a defector and traitor regime, who’s selling the Palestinian and the Lebanese short and stabbing everybody in the back while conferring with the enemy, 3- they might even go further to portraying Hamas as the real resistance and maybe even call for its support…

‘Moderate Arabs’ my as*.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:20 am

 

Shai said:

Offended,

Nrs. 1 and 3 seem true already, no?… 🙂 But on a more serious note – what is the matter with us? We own and manage Chelsea, yet lose to Man U. We own and manage Maccabi Tel-Aviv, yet lose to CSKA Moscow. What good is it to make it to the Finals, if you can’t even win???? I’m starting to believe the old saying “White Men Can’t Jump”…

May 22nd, 2008, 10:03 am

 

ausamaa said:

Shai,

What does that have to do with the price of tomatoes in the market as they say in America???

Just Jocking…

BTW, is it correct that Tzipi Livni is the daughter or grand daughter of Livi Eshkol ( her Godfather perhaps,,?)

May 22nd, 2008, 12:10 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I thought the Doha agreement was more detailed than it actually is. It turns out that the cabinet ministers were not determined and that the Wayan al Baziri (the principles of the government) was not determined either. Also the finer details of the electoral plan have not been negotiated.

There could well be several more months of negotiations before us. One interesting outcome would be March 14 saying that it is difficult to reach an agreement and suggesting going to early elections.

Lebanese politics are so complex that we will really only understand what Doha means after the next elections.

May 22nd, 2008, 12:15 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Livni is the daughter of two staunch Irgun members and not related at all to Eshkol who by the way was the Israeli prime minister during the six day war, so I am a little confused why Ausamma would like him.

May 22nd, 2008, 12:18 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Because he was a diplomate and because I am beating my brains to find a courages Israeli politician, with no bad bad blood on his hand, and who is not bribed or have been cought screwing his secertary or country, and who the Israelies will trust to make peace with the Arabs when the time comes years from now.. Somebody Nassrallah Style who I hear the Israelies respect him and trust his word.

Off to the airport, cheers all.

May 22nd, 2008, 1:25 pm

 

Shai said:

Ausamaa,

Made that comment to Offended because he and I discussed basketball a while back… Livni’s father (Eitan Livni) was also a Likud MK. And, according to Wikipedia, Tzipi herself, at age 16, participated in anti-Kissinger demonstrations voicing Israeli reluctance to withdraw from Sinai and the Golan. This was 34 years ago… (she’s 50 today). So by now, she’s already accepted the Sinai bit (I hope), and all she has left to do is the Golan… 😉

Ausamaa, such a man is called “Jesus Christ”. And although he knows our territory quite well, I don’t know if he’s free nowadays… good flight!

May 22nd, 2008, 1:29 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are many honest Israeli politicians, you just do not read about them in the paper because honesty is not news. Israelis will only trust Arab actions, not what politicians say. The political environment in Israel is very different than that of the Arab world. Even Rabin had the slimmest of the slim majority and support in him was waning fast becuase of suicide bombings.

But don’t worry, years from now when there is democracy in the Arab world, it will be easier to make peace because Israelis will know the intentions of the Arabs based on the parties they will vote into power.

May 22nd, 2008, 1:36 pm

 

Shai said:

Wait a minute, if Israelis respect Nasrallah (and we do), and if Nasrallah knows how to resolve conflicts in the region, and if he is one of the most popular leaders in the Middle East, and highly respected on the Arab street, why not do the obvious – elect Nasrallah to be Prime Minister of Israel! With our current leadership’s record, and endless corruption allegations, and obvious political impotency, I’m not sure too many Israelis would oppose such an idea… 😉 What do you say, AIG, are you in? And by the way, Happy Lag Ba’omer!

May 22nd, 2008, 1:39 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I do not trust nor respect Nasrallah. I do not even understand Nasrallah one bit. The guy proclaims to be happy to have lost a son fighting Israel.

Moreover, would you really support an Israeli politician that would start a war in which 1,200 Israelis were killed, many towns flattened and the economy ruined? You would deplore such an Israeli politician. Why do you respect Nasrallah then????

May 22nd, 2008, 1:57 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG, well I was kidding. But the one aspect many Israelis respect about Nasrallah is his tendency to say what he means, and mean what he says. Many analysts in Israel projected calm, or concern, based on Nasrallah’s words during and following Summer 2006, because they trusted his honesty. But no, no one here would vote for him…

I doubt he was happy to have lost his son. His comments were probably intended to rally people behind him, especially the thousands of Lebanese men and women who’ve lost their sons and daughters since the early 80’s.

May 22nd, 2008, 2:02 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Bitter and frustrated Michel Young wrote:
“One unanswered question is who will be prime minister. If it is Saad Hariri, and it is difficult to imagine it won’t be, the relationship between him and Suleiman will determine the face of Lebanon in the coming year before parliamentary elections”

God help us!

May 22nd, 2008, 2:15 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
He could have said he is proud to lose a son for a just cause. But he choose to say that he is happy to have lost a son.

May 22nd, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

Shai said:

I just read a poll taken by Yediot Ahronot yesterday (following the news out of Israel and Syria) regarding the willingness to give up the Golan. Remember, not too long ago, around 70% of Israelis were against such a withdrawal, even in return for peace with Syria. Today, 48% are willing to withdraw from the Golan, while 49% think the negotiations are a “spin”. If the poll is representative, or an indication of the direction of things to come, then certainly this is good news. Even if we have to have a national referendum over the issue of the Golan, all we need is 50.1% for it. Let’s see how things develop in the coming weeks. I’m sure there will be endless polls taken. Syria is going to supply our newspapers plenty of material now. Hopefully, only positive.

May 22nd, 2008, 2:20 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG, true. But remember, even in the Bible we’re told that God himself asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

May 22nd, 2008, 2:25 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Can you provide a link to the poll?

Yes, but Abraham was not happy about it.

May 22nd, 2008, 2:58 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai, can you provide a link to the poll?

: )

May 22nd, 2008, 3:19 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I think I saw the poll yesterday and 80% were against withdrawing from the Golan or thought it was all Olmert spin. Perhaps the voting changed in the last 24 hours. It would be good to know if Shai is talking about the same poll.

May 22nd, 2008, 3:24 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

It is. I wanted to see the poll too, I was not being sarcastic.

May 22nd, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

Alex said:

Ausamaa,

I agree. But the Saudis do not want Syria to extend a hand of friendship. Bashar did few weeks ago when he mentioned in an interview that he would like to go on an Arab tour during which he wil visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Saudis denied it.

That was a clear rejection.

Syria does not want to lead the Arab word like the Saudis the pat few years tried to do (with encouragement from President Bush). Syria simply wants to go back to the 90’s … sharing the Arab leadership responsibilities with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Maybe we need few more months (till the end of this administration) .. maybe we need to wait for a new generation of younger Saudi an Egyptian leaders who will not be offended to act as an equal to a Syrian leader who is half their age.

May 22nd, 2008, 4:21 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

There is no going back to the 90’s! I won’t stand for it. 😉

Interesting piece in an-Nahar:

وطن نقف عليه ؟!

فجأة ازدحمت الايجابيات على مستوى المنطقة كلها:
1 – أعلن اتفاق الدوحة بين الافرقاء اللبنانيين وفُتحت الابواب امام الحلول مهما تكن متانتها وقدرتها على التأسيس لاخراج لبنان نهائيا من مسلسل أزماته القاتلة.
2 – أعلن في وقت واحد في دمشق وتل ابيب وأنقرة عن مفاوضات سورية – اسرائيلية غير مباشرة، وعن تعهد اسرائيل الانسحاب من الجولان الى خط 4 حزيران من عام 1967، وهو أمر سيقلب الاوضاع في المنطقة رأسا على عقب في حال نجاحه.
3 – أنهى الجيش العراقي بالتعاون مع الاميركيين سحق “جيش المهدي” الذي كانت ايران تدعمه سابقا واندفعت الدبابات في مدينة الصدر. بما يؤكد ان هناك تفاهما حدث وراء الاسوار بين واشنطن وطهران على مثل هذا الامر.
4 – سارعت اميركا الى تكذيب بيانات اسرائيلية تحدثت عن امكان توجيه ضربة اميركية الى منشآت ايران النووية قبل نهاية عهد جورج بوش.
5 – صرحت واشنطن، وفي خلال ساعات الفجر الاولى امس بتوقيت اميركا، على اعلان تأييدها أولا لاتفاق الدوحة، وثانيا للمفاوضات التي تديرها تركيا بين سوريا واسرائيل.

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ماذا يعني كل هذا؟
ربما يعني هذه المرة: “إفتح يا سمسم” ولكن على مستوى المنطقة كلها وليس على مستوى الازمة اللبنانية التي يستطيع المرء اذا صح الترابط بين كل هذه الحلول، ان يقول انها كانت فعلا معلقة في انتظار أن تنضج الحلول الاخرى بما يعني ان لبنان استعمل وقودا حيويا لتحسين الاوراق والمواقف.
اذاً رحم الله الموتى الشهداء الذين سقطوا، وكان في عون الذين عطلتهم الازمة إفلاسا أو هجرة أو يأسا.

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ان القراءة في بنود الاتفاق الذي أذاعه الشيخ حمد رئيس وزراء قطر تحض على تبني الاجماع الذي ظهر من كل الاطراف، معتبرا ان هذا الاتفاق متوازن ومهم ويمكن ان يفتح صفحة جديدة ويؤسس لحل نهائي في لبنان، وانه رغم انغماسه في تفاصيل الدوائر والتقسيمات الادارية الانتخابية، قدم مخرجا يراعي مبدأ لا غالب ولا مغلوب الذي لا بد منه في لبنان.
عمليا لا تستطيع المعارضة الحديث عن انتصار سياسي يثمّر الاجتياح العسكري الذي حصل أخيرا، من منطلق القول انها حصلت على “الثلث المعطل” الذي طالما أصرت عليه:
أولا: لأن التعطيل كان واقعا عمليا في السلطة التنفيذية منذ خروج الوزراء الشيعة منها، وقد تبعه تعطيل الوسط التجاري وتعطيل السلطة التشريعية كما هو معروف ثم جاء التعطيل الامني الذي كاد ان يشعل لبنان والمنطقة كلها.
ثانيا: لان النص المتعلق بتشكيل الحكومة في الاتفاق دعا صراحة الى “عدم الاستقالة او الاعاقة” بما يعني انه عارض التعطيل صراحة، ثم ان ابقاء حصة النصف زائد واحد للأكثرية يعطيها حق اقرار المشاريع التي لا تتطلب توافقا في مجلس الوزراء.

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الأمر الجوهري الاساسي في الاتفاق والذي سيبقى موضع تساؤل وحذر هو مسألة استعمال السلاح والعنف لتحقيق مكاسب سياسية والخروج عن عقد الشراكة الوطنية اي محاولة الخروج من الطائف.
هذا الامر جرى التشديد عليه في ثلاث فقرات متتالية قرأها الشيخ حمد بن جاسم وفيها ان رئيس الجمهورية العماد ميشال سليمان الذي سينتخب يوم الاحد المقبل، سيرأس جلسات الحوار التي ستتناول هذا الموضوع ويفترض ان تضع الصيغة الملائمة لترجمته عمليا.
طبعا تبدو الامور هنا رهنا بحسن النيات ومدى الرغبة في التزام ما نص عليه الاتفاق المذكور الذي شدد على احترام سيادة الدولة وحصر السلطة الامنية في يدها. ولكن الاحتمالات والتوقعات هنا تبدو واضحة جدا.
بمعنى انه اذا كانت هناك تسوية على مستوى اقليمي على ما توحي الايجابيات المزدحمة وقد اشرنا اليها اعلاه، فان من المؤكد ان اي اتفاق سلام بين سوريا واسرائيل سيُسقط ضمنا غلواء السلاح في لبنان وخصوصا ان هذا الاتفاق يفترض ان يضع حلا واضحا ينهي الالتباس حول مزارع شبعا.
اما اذا تعرقلت المفاوضات وفشلت الوساطة التركية في انتزاع سوريا من جبهة الممانعة على خلفية الاتفاق على التسوية والانسحاب من الجولان، فان كل ما قيل عن موضوع حدود الدولة وسلطتها وحدود سلاح المنظمات والمقصود هنا “حزب الله”، يمكن ان يصير حبرا على ورق، وخصوصا ان استمرت الاندفاعة التي اوصلت نفوذ طهران الى مناطق استراتيجية وحيوية على الساحل الشرقي للمتوسط.
طبعا من المبكر اطلاق احكام مطلقة ونهائية على ايجابيات اتفاق الدوحة وامكانات تحوله مجرد هدنة او استراحة طويلة كما قد يرى بعض المتطيرين. فالامر يحتاج الى وقت والجروح ساخنة وان تكن النيات حسنة.

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في اي حال لقد اختلط الحبور بالاسى في عقول اللبنانيين عندما استمعوا الى كلمات الرئيس نبيه بري. الحبور لان الاتفاق أُعلن والاعتصام رُفع. اما الاسى فلأن بري، وهو المبدع في الكلام عادة، أذهلنا فعلا عندما قال ان 10452 كيلومترا مربعا لم تتسع لجمعنا وهو ما فعلته طائرة قطرية وفندق في الدوحة الى جانب البحر!!
هكذا يستحق اللبنانيون اذاً يا دولة الرئيس؟
رغم شكر اللبنانيين اجمعين للجهود القطرية الاخوية المستميتة لانجاح الحل، فان مساحة لبنان تبقى اكبر من مساحة طائرة او فندق. واذا كانت اللياقة وعرفان الجميل يفرضان فعلا الاشادة بالجهود المخلصة للمسؤولين في الدوحة وهو امر حق، فإنهما ايضا يفرضان ومن الدوحة تحديدا، توجيه الشكر ايضا لكل الدول الصديقة والشقيقة التي بذلت جهودا جبارة ومتواصلة وحثيثة لمساعدتنا بحثا عن الحل على امتداد عامين، لكن الطبخة الكبرى والطباخين الكبار لم يكونوا على ما يبدو قد وصلوا بعد الى ما ساعد على انجاز الاتفاق الذي اعلن في الدوحة!
فرنسا واسبانيا والاتحاد الاوروبي تستحق الشكر ايضا منا جميعا وكلنا نعرف ماذا فعلت. والمملكة العربية السعودية تستحق ما هو اكثر من الامتنان والشكر على كل ما بذلته سواء على مستوى قيادتها العليا خادم الحرمين الشريفين او سفيرها المتفاني في بيروت د. عبد العزيز خوجه الذي تعرض للتهديد مرارا وهو يجهد بحثا عن حل والرئيس بري يعرف هذا الجهد اكثر من غيره.
ايضا مصر تستحق الشكر وقد كانت ازمة لبنان من هموم الرئيس حسني مبارك شبه اليومية حيث بذل سفيره السابق حسين ضرار والحالي احمد البديوي كل جهد ممكن للمساعدة في الحل. وكذلك اليمن وكل الدول العربية التي حملت الهم اللبناني في مسلسل الاجتماعات الطويلة.

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في اي حال ذهب اللبنانيون الى الدوحة وتفاوضوا على طريقة رودس اي في غرف منفصلة تحرك بينها القطريون. تماما كما يتفاوض السوريون والاسرائيليون الآن في تركيا في غرف منفصلة يتحرك بينها الاتراك.
ولكننا اخوة واشقاء، يفترض ان لا تفصل بيننا جدران في الوطن الواحد الذي وان يكن بمساحته قد عجز عن الاتساع لنا كما اتسعت طائرة الشيخ حمد بن جاسم مشكورا، فانه يبقى الارض التي نضع عليها ارجلنا بدل ان نحلق بعيدا!

راجح الخوري

For those who do not read Arabic, Mustapha over at Beirut Spring has a translation of the first couple paragraphs:

“In today’s article in Annahar, Mr. Khoury couldn’t help but notice a deluge of good news in the region, citing 5 specific items:

1- The miraculous birth of the Doha accord

2- The simultaneous announcement in Damascus, Ankara and Tel Aviv of Syrian-Israeli indirect peace talks

3- The finishing off of the Mahdi Army in Iraq and the advancement of American Tanks into Sadr city

4- The swiftness with which the US denied Israeli reports of an imminent bombing of Iran

5- The Announcment at dawn (US time) by Washington that it supports both the Doha accord and the Israel-Syria negotiations

Mr khoury concluded that “something” could be in the works between America and Iran and Syria.”

May 22nd, 2008, 4:26 pm

 

offended said:

Shai, what’s the big deal mate?

Syrian teams lose all the time and we never complain, do we?!

Btw, we’ve got a couple of world-class swimmers in Syria, ever heard of them?

May 22nd, 2008, 4:48 pm

 

Observer said:

Tactical level:

HA demonstrated that it is prepared to wage war on two fronts one internal and one external at the same time.

HA managed to get all of its demands met at Doha. The new President who is slightly biased towards HA will essentially appoint his 3 ministers so that there is parity with the majority ministers.

Jumblatt lost big time, although his community may not have lost its overall strategic position or at least not yet. He is no longer the kingmaker he wanted to be.

HA preserved its prerogative to defend its red lines and without defining its red lines fully. Instead of arguing with the coalition about the extend of its communications network it struck a blow and cut off any discussion about compromise on this issue. This will remain the Rubicon that no future power can move.

HA broke the Israeli communications code yet again according to most sources and pre empted any Israeli intervention by acting swiftly and by informing the Israelis that they can expect daily barrage of 600 missiles for months at a time if they are looking for war. They have now established a deterrent force.

The WSJ article today clearly shows that the communications network is linked to the Syrian one and that the Iranian reconstruction effort was used to build it throughouth Lebanon. And this is the known part of the network.

I do not think that KSA or Syria had bet on this or that faction. I do believe that the KSA has had a failed strategy and vision from the outset as I will explain later whereas Syria having established a network of allies over the years and seeing that the US is stuck in Iraq decided that it will settle its scores in Lebanon to insure that no regime is established there that can act against it with the Lebanese border a mere 20 minute drive from Damascus outskirts.

The coalition’s inablity to get the necessary support from the administration, France, and ultimately from the KSA will lead to recrimination and divisions more so than in the opposition ranks. I would predict that the Hariri group will blame Jumblatt for putting them in the current situation when they were not ready or able to take on HA

Strategy

Syria has shown that it has at least three cards that it holds to strengthen its position in the ME: HA, Hamas, and Iran relationships. This is why Livni is demanding that Syria abandon them completely for the peace deal to go through and for a full return of the Golan heights. In a previous post, I have always argued that having the major water resource of Israel in Syrian hands and without guarantees for its use and safety is like allowing the Syrians to have a hold on your wind pipe and therefore giving up the Golan is the easiest part. What Syria can do on the Golan is a different matter altogether. Also, Israel asking Syria to severe its relations now with 150 000 troops in Iraq and bolstered UNIFIL in Lebanon, is like asking Israel to severe its relationship with the US for a peace deal to occur. However, Israel will try to have a deal at the expense of HA and Hamas. This is because Israel wants to isolate the Palestinian issue completely and solve once and for all the demographic bomb and the right of return. It sees an opportunity to do so and hence the talks.

US

It is increasingly marginalized. The defeat of its policy in Iraq and in Lebanon and the fact that Qatar has supplanted KSA as the power broker in the dispute is one more blow to the influence of the US.
Obama and if not Obama then his ideas about engaging the world will hold sway in the US as the pendulum is swinging towards a correction of the blunders of the present administration. Everyone in the region is therefore positioning themselves to be at the table when Iran and the US sit to talk.

This may very well be the last opportunity for some form of secular Arab national agenda to remain on the table. The US and Israel will find a new set of forces on the scene that are much more militant yet much more willing to engage in all forms of political and overt and covert activities to achieve their aims. The forces of political Islam will have a field day if the moderate Arab Nationalists are swept aside. If I were in the shoes of the Syrian leadership, I would try to assume this leadership fully and quickly and organize it effectively. I would offer a hand of reconciliation to the KSA and ask them to join in a true Arab coalition.

KSA

The twin pillars of the regime are the Islamic legitimacy on the one hand and the reliance on US protection. UBL shattered that once and for all, Iraq added a few more nails to the coffin of such a policy. In championing the Islam legitimacy, the KSA marginalzed the discussion into the rituals of the religion while ignoring the fundamentals of political Islam thereby leaving the field open to an aggressive movement that they can no longer control. The Sunni leadership is compeletly sclerotic, the religious authority is busy discussing the virtues of ablutions and the prohibition of porc while at the same time asking the disaffected youtht and the population at large to pledge allegiance to a corrupt Mafia like rule of one family beset by obesity and irritable bowel syndrome. They have lost their influence in the GCC, they have lost their influence in Lebanon, and they have not been able to protect the Sunnis of Iraq, the Sunnis of Lebanon, the Sunnis of Syria. They cannot afford to throw out the Syrians in their kingdom for it will further erode their prestige in the eyes of other Sunnis and will drive them straight into the Salafi arms.

In the immediate future

There will be no war this summer
The troops in Iraq will start to leave as the Iranians replace the Americans as the power brokers within the Shiite factions
The Iranians will offer a set of incentives for a complete cooperation with Europe and Russia and China in return for a token set of guarantees of its peaceful nuclear program, thereby isolating once and for all the US from Europe.
Iran will consolidate its relation with both Syria and HA as well as Hamas. Egypt just like the other members of the GCC will adapt to the new role Iran is playing.
KSA will seeth with the Bandar faction becoming more desperate than ever. Internal Saudi strfe will increase and I would not be surprised if a white palace coup occurs.

Cheers.
In a future post, I will outline my thoughts about the moral responsibility when it comes to the Palestinian people’s plight.

May 22nd, 2008, 5:37 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Offended said:

Mark my word fellas; now that Syria is engaged in direct peace talks with Israel, you will gradually see a shift in the Saudi Media (and its subordinates) toward portraying: 1-Israel as the real enemy, 2- Syria as a defector and traitor regime, who’s selling the Palestinian and the Lebanese short and stabbing everybody in the back while conferring with the enemy, 3- they might even go further to portraying Hamas as the real resistance and maybe even call for its support…

Funny, that’s exactly what Syria and its allies were saying about KSA and the U.S. allies, not too long ago.

It’s all the same game, isn’t it?

😉

May 22nd, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

Alex said:

Offended,

Forget the swimmers. We have Shahad

May 22nd, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“The Syrians hate to be on the wrong side of international law and now they are looking at the prospect of sanctions and international inspectors rummaging through the site with bulldozers,” a European diplomat in the Syrian capital said.

Some level headed analysis from Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL223975220080522?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

May 22nd, 2008, 5:56 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

Are we having a premature optimism?

From the BBC:
Analysts suggest that, in return for any withdrawal, Israel would demand Syria sever its ties with Iran and the Hezbollah group in Lebanon.

However, they add that withdrawal from the Golan would not be popular with Israelis.

The reports of talks in April sparked outrage in the Israeli parliament, where several MPs said they would try to accelerate the passage of a bill requiring any withdrawal from the Golan to be backed by a referendum.

Mr Olmert is currently battling corruption allegations, and the BBC’s Katya Adler in Jerusalem says the prime minister’s critics believe the confirmation of peace talks may be an attempt to divert some attention from that.

May 22nd, 2008, 5:57 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa,

La 7abibi … it is not all the same.

– Syria is still saying that Israel is the real enemy
– Syria will not turn into a puppet like the others
– Syria was not against the Saudi(Arab) peace plan just because it was Saudi… Syria supported from day 1.

So Syria is not changing its position on anything … the Saudis and Egyptians seem to be in the process of flipping their PR in order to imitate Syria’s after all those articles in Asharq Alawsat in which they have been ridiculing the Syrians for their “wooden language” … referring of course to Syria’s use of old expressions like “the Israeli enemy” …

THEY are stupid losers … they can’t accept anything if it comes from Syria … they meet with Ahmadinejad but criticize Syria for meeting with him.

At least Bashar never held Nejad’s hand like Ming Abdullah did

May 22nd, 2008, 5:59 pm

 

Alex said:

Seeking,

I am only about 10% more optimistic this week compared to last week … no dramatic shifts.

There will be ups and downs for sure

Israel sets demands in new Syrian peace track
Thu May 22, 2008 11:25am EDT

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel set terms for concluding a peace deal with Syria on Thursday, closing ranks with Washington in demanding Damascus distance itself from Iran and stop supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants.

Coordinated announcements on Wednesday by Israel and Syria that they had begun indirect talks in Turkey, the first confirmation of negotiations between the long-time enemies in eight years, drew a lukewarm response from the United States.

Many analysts say U.S. hostility to Damascus, and to its Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies, makes a Syria-Israel deal unlikely before President George W. Bush steps down in January.

Summing up three days of discussions in Istanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Ala Babacan said both sides were satisfied they had found “shared ground”. He said future talks would be held periodically in Turkey.

“The Syrians know what we want and we know what they want,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in Jerusalem. Olmert revealed the talks two days before he faces a second round of police interrogation over graft allegation.

Syria is demanding the return of the Golan Heights, a plateau overlooking Damascus on one side and the Sea of Galilee on another, since Israel captured the strategic territory in the 1967 Middle East war.

Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal condemned Israel’s setting of any prior conditions.

“These conditions have already been rejected as is the phrase ‘difficult concessions’ as what the Syrians are demanding is their right,” Bilal told Al Jazeera television.

Olmert, who recently took a vacation on the Golan Heights, has not said publicly that Israel would give up all of the area. But he has spoken of “difficult concessions” Israel would have to make in any land-for-peace accord with Syria.

Echoing U.S. comments, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Syria needed to “distance itself completely” from “problematic ties” with Iran.

Syria, she told reporters, must also stop “supporting terror — Hezbollah, Hamas”, groups backed by the Islamic Republic.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who as prime minister in 2000 took part in U.S.-hosted talks with Syria that failed over the key issue of the future of the Golan Heights, said in a speech that both sides would have to make “painful concessions”.

May 22nd, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

Alex said:

Israelis not ready for peace with Syria

Poll: More Israelis object to Golan accord than to Jerusalem deal
By Lily Galili
Tags: Golan Heights, Syria, Israel

About two-thirds of Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace with Syria – more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for ending the conflict with the Arab world, a recent survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute headed by Professor Yitzhak Katz for the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. The survey, intended to assess Israel’s sovereignty and independence in its 60th year, was initiated by Dr. Udi Lebel of Sapir and Ariel colleges.

The section referring to the state’s borders shows two main tendencies. One is harsher positions – 68 percent of the people surveyed want to preserve the existing situation including keeping the West Bank and Golan. The other tendency is to prefer the Golan to any other region.
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Only 4 percent of the interviewees chose the option of “the Green Line borders with the West Bank but without the Golan” compared with 18 percent – 4.5 times more – who preferred “the Green Line borders with the Golan but without the West Bank.”

About a third – 35 percent – said they were “moderately or highly likely” to take illegal action to prevent the Golan’s evacuation. About half of them – 18 percent – said they were prepared to take illegal action to prevent the evacuation of a large settlement such as Ariel.

MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) told Haaretz that in his experience such public opinion polls influence state leaders. “I have no doubt that the intention of such a poll is to signal: ‘Don’t touch the Golan,’ as Ehud Barak was told at the time, and it scared him,” Beilin said. “Does it affect a leader? It certainly does. Should it affect him? Certainly not.”

Beilin says this position will change the moment Israel’s prime minister explains to the public the full significance of such an agreement – such as the possibility ‘to get into a car in Israel and drive to Paris,’ and the agreement’s implications on an agreement with Syria and on Israel’s position vis-a-vis Hamas and Iran.

Beilin suggests that all peace negotiations be accompanied by a public information campaign. He said he would support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and vote for every move he makes toward peace. “In these situations the prime minister doesn’t need moral backing but a Knesset majority,” he said.

May 22nd, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

I’m not convinced yet. It’s all PR, to me.

– Syria is still saying that Israel is the real enemy

Sure, until it starts saying that it is a “partner for peace.” You yourself looked favorably upon Turki al-Faisal’s statement about how the Arabs would welcome the Israelis as “Arab Jews”. So then why will Bashar get more points for using such language, when he gets around to it?

– Syria will not turn into a puppet like the others

Do you think that the Qataris regard themselves as puppets? Being a puppet is in the eye of the beholder. Once the talks start getting someplace, and Syria has something to lose, do you think that Bashar will refuse to do things that others can easily portray as being “puppet-like”? Again, is Qatar a puppet? On good days (when it suits Syria), it is not. On bad days (when it doesn’t suit Syria), it is one of the biggest puppets of all, housing a huge American base. Puppetry is a slippery term, ya Alex. Some people are already wondering if Bashar is working with the Americans behind the scene, and if the deal in Lebanon was part of a quid pro quo. Does this now make him a puppet?

PS: don’t interpret my silence at your response as being convinced! (I’m off to NY)

Cheers!

May 22nd, 2008, 6:37 pm

 

Alex said:

Nonsense

But since you won’t be here to provide a counter argument, I will hold my comments till you are back in two days.

No hurry : )

May 22nd, 2008, 6:49 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG, Alex,

The poll figures I mentioned (poll taken by Mina Tzemach Institute), I got straight from Yediot Ahronot’s front page in their printed edition from this morning. I haven’t seen it on Ynet (their online edition), but I’ll keep looking.

Offended, doesn’t Syria also have a female Olympic gold medal winner in the Heptathlon (Ghada Shouaa)? I didn’t know about Syria being strong in swimming. But for Enlightened’s sake, I certainly know of Australia’s Thorp…

May 22nd, 2008, 6:58 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai,

Then how does that explain the other poll I linked to above? … 70% against.

Check your email when you have time.

May 22nd, 2008, 7:15 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Yeah, I don’t really have an explanation, though the 70% figure is also the one we’ve been seeing in a number of polls over the last year or so. I was almost shocked to see the 48% “for” vs. 49% “spin” results, but it was on one of our top three papers (very respectable, not leftist like Ha’aretz), and on the front page… so if it’s a mistake, it’s a huge one. So my guess is it’s not a mistake, but perhaps Mina Tzemach’s people asked the question in a different way. Ya’ani, for instance, “If Olmert used part of the money he’s been getting illegally from Talansky to pay you $100 to say ‘I’m for giving back the Golan’, would you agree to say it?…” 😉

Got your mail, and responded.

May 22nd, 2008, 7:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

The Democratic Desicion Making Process in Israel!!!

Did Barak resort to polling Israelies first when he decided to withdraw from Lebanon in May 2000?

did srael withdrawl from Gaza come in the aftermath of an sraeli public opinion poll?

Did Olmert and what is his name (the Defence Minister with the covered binoculars) agree to withdraw from Lebanon in August 2006 based on the results of a poll of sraelies then?

Can we cut the crap about Israeli Public Opinion Polls, not facts reated on the ground, being the deciding factor in the the direction of Israeli retreats or attacks?

See this stuff can be used for PR purposes, but for those of us who live around here, we know what ‘motivates’ Israeli actions and Israeli withdrawls from Arab lands. And such Puplic Opinion POlls are not at the top of the Israeki decision making tree. If we want to wait until the Israeli Public finds it in their heart to agree to withdraw from occuoied Arab lands without the usual military “encouragement and persuasion” from us, I am afraid we shall have to wait for a long long time..

And this not a special and excelusive Israeli trait by any means. Did Nixon conduct a referandum when the famous last US helicopter took off in a hurry from the roof of the US Enbassy in Saigon back then?

Some motivation and encouragement by the ‘natives’ is always needed. Polling comes way afterwards.

Please tell me I am wrong!

May 22nd, 2008, 9:55 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamaa,
Well, for some reason the Asads have decided not to follow your advice since 73. Perhaps you will volunteer to cause Israel problems in the Golan, or are you sending others to do it?

May 22nd, 2008, 10:05 pm

 

ausamaa said:

We were talking about the role Israeli Public Opinion plays in shaping Israeli policies (and Peace Moves) I guess. Can we get a straight answer to that question first?

May 22nd, 2008, 10:22 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The straight answer is that Israeli public opinion plays a critical role in Israeli politics especially when governments are based on small coalitions. That is because politicians have to take into account the possibility of snap elections and if they adopt unpopular measures, they may lose big.

One of the reasons Barak won the elections is because he promised to leave Lebanon. He made the promise because it was a popular one. If Netanyahu would have won the election, Israel would not have left Lebanon. I for example thought it was a good idea to leave Lebanon. Now I am not so sure. The cost on average of staying in Lebanon was 10 soldiers a year. Given the cost of the 2006 war for both Israel and Lebanon, leaving was a bad idea.

May 22nd, 2008, 10:30 pm

 

why-discuss said:

AIG
If Israel had to wait for a democratic polls of Egyptians on the peace deal with Israel, where would it be today? same applies to Jordan. In the case of peace deals, authoritarian regime are more decisive in reaching goals than democracies. Israel is now trapped by its democracy and if Arab countries become democracies before peace deals are concluded, that would be postponed for one or two generations.
Do we want democracies or peace first?

May 23rd, 2008, 1:32 am

 

Shai said:

Ausamaa,

You have a valid point about public opinion in Israel, but you’re also wrong about its lack of significance to decision makers. On the one hand, indeed there were leaders that did not await poll results to carry out significant steps such as withdrawals, as well as military operations and war. In theory, returning the Golan could also occur without receiving a 50.1% approval from the Israel people. However, it is rather unlikely in this particular case. Reasons being, that unlike withdrawing from Lebanon or Gaza, negotiations over the Golan will take a very long time (probably 1-2 years), and even if a national referendum will not be required for the withdrawal, there’s no doubt that an Israeli PM will bring this “peace agreement” for approval before the Knesset. While the Knesset isn’t 100% representative of the Israeli public (but close enough), if 61 members of Knesset do not approve of this agreement, it is doubtful the existing PM will carry it out. Instead, he will immediately resign, and call for new elections. Any which way you look at it, for us Israelis who ARE interested in peace with Syria as soon as possible, the battle is very much over public opinion, even more so than over the actual arrangements within the agreement. Plus, the longer the talks last, the greater the chance that a law will be passed to force a national referendum on the issue of the Golan, in which case public opinion will be the ONLY thing that matters, not even the views of the political leadership.

But you are also correct to suggest that Barak and Sharon did not require the approval first of 50.1% of the people, before carrying out their recent withdrawals. They assumed they had this support, but certainly wouldn’t risk even bringing the initiatives for approval in the Knesset, for fear they would be rejected. But, unlike Gaza or Lebanon, or even the West Bank, most Israelis see the Golan now as part of Israel, not as “occupied territories”. Israelis call other Israelis living in the West Bank “settlers”, but not so with ones living on the Golan. Unlike the West Bank and Gaza, you’ll recall that the Golan was formally annexed by Israel. So it’s a lot more difficult than it may seem to the outside. Still, I am very optimistic, because I know that those 20-30% we need to switch over are numb, or pessimistic, or suspicious of Syria’s intentions, but they are not innately anti-Arab or anti-peace. Given enough time to change those polls (which our politicians and their parties initiate), I believe we can succeed. The more CBMs we have along the way, the easier this task will be.

May 23rd, 2008, 8:28 am

 

Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

Good point. There are definitely “advantages” in this case to authoritarian regimes. AIG will claim that we are therefore making peace with a leader, not with his people, but in this particular case, I believe the Syrians have no reason not to support such a peace agreement. They gain everything – they lose next to nothing. What Israel will be guaranteeing Syria is only the Golan back, not Bashar’s power for the next 5 decades. Democracy will come faster to Syria if its leadership will no longer be able to use “resistance” and “Golan” excuses towards its people.

May 23rd, 2008, 8:33 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

The syrian people have very strong links to the cause of the palestinians and arab nationalism in general. An agreement on the Golan ignoring the palestinians may not easily accepted, but as Syria is an authoritarian regime, Bashar, if he decide about it, will push it through. This push will be totally impossible in ‘democratic’ Lebanon and of course in Israel. For me this peace deal looks like a very lengthy process for Israel as it needs to shift the mind of the majority of Israelis. With all the negative campaign the US is waging on Syria now, that shift looks even more remote. It is true that the US cannot blame no more Syrian’s role in lebanon, after the Doha agreement, but the thorn is Iran.
Do you seriously believe thet Syria will renounce to the good and profitable relation they have with Iran for the sake of the Golan?

On another register, I noticed something interesting about the attitude towards the tourists in Damascus. While of a different culture (and brand of islam)) most Syrians seem to respect more the iranians, quiet, respectful and religious to the arrogant sex and alcool-craved saudis, despite their money.
Syrians and Iranians can share their old and rich cultures, in addition to a political and strategic alliance. If there weren’t the language issue, these countries will be even closer culturally. By the way Damascus university offers now Turkish and Persian classes that are very popular.
Iran-Syria-Turkey could be a very a successful and powerful trio in the region.

May 23rd, 2008, 1:49 pm

 

Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

I don’t think Syria will change its relationship with Iran much, with the exception perhaps of its defense agreements. Nor, by the way, do I think it should. Remaining an ally of Iran is no less in Syria’s interest as it is in Israel’s. Many find it hard to understand my rationale for this, but if they try hard, I’m sure they’ll succeed… 🙂

As for the “powerful trio” you mentioned (Iran-Syria-Turkey), though I believe many would like to see such an alliance form, I seriously doubt it will turn into anything “powerful”. If Syria is indeed serious about making peace with Israel (I believe it is), and getting closer to the West, it will not need to form a Muslim alliance, unless it still feels threatened. Even if it did, I doubt it would be with Iran, which is not a natural “friend” of Syria, though it has been for the past two decades, mostly out of mutual interest. All three nations, in fact, have certain issues with one another. Although certainly various agreements can and probably will take place between these three, I doubt actual organized alliances will be formed.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

I don’t understand when you say that Iran is not a natural friend to Syria. What do you mean by natural friend? I think Iran has been a much more consistent and faithful friend than the US or France or any other western or even arab countries who have a history of betrayals, suspicions and shifting with Syria. Iran has no such history with Syria, they have always had a harmonious relation and there is no reasons that would change.
In the contrary I believe a rapprochement between Turkey, Iran and Syria can only benefit them as they complement each other. Having a strong presence in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea is a huge asset that can transform the area. It may not happen tomorrow but I think it is quietly happening by more economical and cultural exchanges. By experience I have observed that Syrians and Lebanese are more similar to the Iranians than they are to the Saudis or the Yemenis, except for the language.

May 24th, 2008, 2:10 am