Observations of a German journalist in Beirut

Here is a fascinating personal account of recent events in Lebanon from Heiko Wimmen, a German journalist and political analyst who resided in Beirut for the better part of the past fourteen years. He would like to share it with readers of Syria Comment. 



Dear everybody,

So the civil war has started, or maybe it is over already. Thursday night was fighting almost non-stop. In the afternoon and evening, salvoes of fire from automatic weapons into the air during and after the speeches of the two main opponents, Nasrallah for Hezbollah and Hariri for the pro-American Future Movement, as has become fashion for a couple of months now. Then the rhythm changes, the firing moves closer, becomes fire and counter fire. Names of places in the news are more familiar now, are finally only two blocks away, where Jumblat lives, the one opponent singled out by the Hezbollah chief as the image of evil collaboration with the American and the Israeli enemy. But it might as well be in the alleyway under our bedroom window, punctuated by the dull pounding of missiles from a kilometer’s distance. Small fry compared to what the Israelis administered on the suburbs two years ago, but much, much closer to us. Our three year old son dismisses our stories about firecrackers and decides it’s thunder. We deliberate where to sleep – civil war lore has it that you are supposed to sleep in the bathroom, but it’s too small there. The corridor, the hallway – anything with no outside windows. In the end, we stay in the bedroom – anybody who takes up position in that alleyway, we tell ourselves, must be plain mad – it’s a trap, if there ever was one. Finally, the thunder really comes: a furious and unseasonal thunderstorm hits the city, pounding the streets and our windows with relentless rain, drowning out the sounds of the explosions for nearly an hour. For a night of long knifes, this is terrific choreography.


Shooting continues until the morning, when Jumblat’s house is finally surrounded. Somehow, the wave just rolled over us and our alleyway. Across the hallway, the door of an abandoned house – the owner, an old Armenian woman, lives in Spain, and hasn’t been seen since the last war – has been kicked in. Apparently they came to check if the owner of the building, a 150 % Hariri man and possibly training in the Future militia, was using it as a weapon’s cache. Carefully, we venture in: nothing but stale air, dust, covered furniture. Not a drawer has been opened, not a sheet crumpled. They walked in, checked the place, and walked out. As it turns out, that pretty much sums up the style of the whole operation.

One by one, the quarters and positions held by government supporters fall. By all accounts, it is a rout. Within less than eight hours – fighting only really started in earnest after the speech of Saad Hariri in the evening – it is all over. Hezbollah and Amal, their rather low-brow and thuggish auxiliaries, have taken over most of West Beirut, flushed out most strongholds of the “Future”-movement and forced their media to shut down (some of the offices were also trashed). The Army, after standing by throughout the fight, has deployed to secure sensitive spots, in particular where pro-government officials live. Around 10, army vehicles take up positions in our area. On Friday, all quiet and deserted streets, intermittent gunfire – some last pockets of resistance, or maybe just militia shooting in the air in celebration.

On Saturday, a semblance of normality seems to return, but everybody remains on edge. We cross to the East, where nothing has happened (yet) – the old demarcation lines have been reinstated, and as was the case during the 1980ies, fighting only occurs in the Muslim areas, despite the bitter animosity that also divides the Christians in government and opposition supporters – yes, there are Christians, possibly the majority, who support Hezbollah. We spend the day on the seaside, feasting on fish and Arrack and giving our bored kid some dearly needed entertainment, after being locked into the house for three days. In the afternoon, two thuggish guys in their mid-thirties enter the place, and the head waiter turns all jittery and flustered, lavishing attention on those unsmiling characters – if our radars are good for anything, those must be men of Geagea, the shadowy and staunchly pro-American former henchman of the Lebanese Forces who vies for leadership of the Christians, patrolling their turf. We prefer to leave.

Areas like Tarik El-Jadide where lower middle class Sunnis – the power base of the Hariris – concentrate are tense with wounded pride and barely contained rage. Six are shot dead during a funeral procession for one of the victims of the day before, the pro-opposition shooter claims self-defense. Saturday night, fighting between pro- and anti-government Druze, vicious antagonists divided by clan rivalries, erupts in the hills to the South-East of the capital. In their strongholds around Tripoli, the Hariri supporters battle the Alawis of Jabl Muhsin, who have the bad luck to adhere to the same religion as the rioters’ favorite but unreachable enemy, the Syrian regime, on top of old wounds from the civil war. After a long night with several dead and hundreds displaced, again the army moves in. In a nearby town, a dozen supporters of the Syrian National Socialist Party, a particularly despicable formation of rabid Jew-haters following a wacko Arab/Levantine nationalist ideology are killed – allegedly, they were executed after a negotiated surrender. Soon enough, a gory video with bodies showing head wounds circulates. Jumblat’s men kidnap three Hezbollah fighters and execute them, mutilating the bodies. Clashes keep flaring up on and around the two main roads leading to Syria.

On Sunday, Hezbollah and its Druze auxiliaries fight it out with Jumblat, the strategic mastermind of the government camp, in the mountains above the capital. A friend receives a hysterical call from the sister of a Druze friend, an engineer with a master’s degree and a career ahead of him, who just called in wearing fatigues, determined to fight Hezbollah (he didn’t reach in time to put himself in harms way). Ominous growling of missiles all afternoon, but even the result of this battle is sealed from the start, despite the heavy armor that the Druze are rumored to have – it appears that Jumblat has neglected his home base for too long, and that his formerly fearsome fighters are no longer what they used to be. In the afternoon, he orders them to stand down and hand over their arsenal to the army, all under the oversight of his Druze arch nemesis, the Hezbollah ally, ending a very long weekend (nobody has been to work since Wednesday). The Airport remains closed, as are the roads to Syria and the port. Soon, the fuel oil for the power plants will run out, and the Lebanese electricity grid, already strained by three postwar decades of corruption and mismanagement, will falter again.
The good news (so far): while the conflict does have a sectarian dimension – the fighters are mostly Shiites on one side, Sunnis and Druze on the other – it is still first and foremost a struggle between two irreconcilable political agendas, and has not (yet) turned sectarian, despite the best effort of pundits in the pay of the government and its Saudi masters (who control much of the Arab media) to discredit Hezbollah as hell-bent on turning Lebanon and the Levant into an Shiite-Arab foothold of a new Persian Empire. People are fleeing the fighting, but no ethnic cleansing is occurring. Likewise, news of plundering or rampage, or deliberate bombing of residential buildings not home or very close to armed positions. Hezbollah and Amal have uprooted their armed opponents from their positions in neighborhoods that are often Sunni-dominated but mostly mixed or intertwined with Shiite neighborhoods. Those captured in the fighting are handed over to the army. In some areas, they have forced known Future-activists out of their neighborhoods. Uninvolved civilian residents, regardless of religion and sect, are largely left alone. Some thuggery does occur, inevitably, and in particular Sunnis feel intimidated by the sight of the gunmen and their symbols. But apart from those unlucky enough to be living in the vicinity of actual clashes, most people living in Beirut were not under immediate threat. The prime minister decries “massacres” and “people being attacked in their houses”, but it remains unclear where those actually occurred.

How it all started: a few days ago, the government or what is left of it took a twin decision to fire the chief of airport security, and to dismantle Hezbollah’s private telephone network – a “declaration of war” according to the party’s secretary general. And war it was. Why were these decisions a casus belli? According to Hezbollah’s secretary general, replacing the chief of airport security was part of a plan to convert the airport into “a base for the CIA and the Israeli Mossad” – a rather outlandish accusation (since it would constitute criminal high treason and be nearly impossible to conceal within a complex structure like an airport), if well in line with the party’s rhetoric, expressed constantly since the aftermath of the 2006 war, of casting the government as a tool in the hand of those forces.

The communication network appears to be quite a different matter: Nasrallah’s assertion whereby this system was of crucial importance for Hezbollah’s operations during the 2006 war (directing their fighters and orchestrating the missile attacks on Northern Israel) and would be of equal importance in any future confrontation, seems to make immediate sense – it does not require a degree from a military academy to realize that in any armed confrontation, to be able to maintain secure communication between headquarters and the troops in the field is critical, and that having your communications penetrated or disrupted can very easily be the beginning of the end (for a good article on this, click here).

So why were these decisions taken in the first place, and why now? The Airport Security Chief, who has served in this position for years, stood accused of not moving decisively enough against “surveillance equipment” which Hezbollah allegedly installed close to the Airport – but the areas around the Airport have been Hezbollah strongholds for more than two decades, and hundreds of residential buildings overlook the runways, where people will happily welcome Hezbollah to install just about anything. The phone network has been in place for years, and even if were true that illicit profits are reaped from it – which Hezbollah categorically denies -, that hardly seems sufficient reason to risk civil war – illegitimate telephone services are available all over Lebanon.

Moreover, it appears mysterious how the decision was meant to be physically implemented. Surely, Hezbollah knows where the wires are, has means to know about any attempts to dig them up, and would have not stood by and watched.

So that leaves us with several possible explanations:

  1. Bazaar – the decision was taken without any real intention to see it through, but rather, to score a political point and create a political asset, first by seeing Hezbollah obstruct it – voila, here you have the state within the state –, and then to trade it against concessions in the ongoing haggling about the formation of the new government, electoral law, etc. etc.
  2. Posturing – a move to please their Western benefactors, and deliver a show of strength and determination to boost morale among the follower base, after a grinding 18 months of political stalemate. To be sure, a purely rhetorical show of strength – since no army or police commander in his right mind would have exposed his troops to such an adventure.
  3. Hubris & Underestimating the adversary – after three years of receiving military, financial and moral support and restructuring the Internal Security Forces to become government loyalists (nowhere to be seen during the event), the government may have felt strong enough to risk a confrontation. Former flare-ups, both politically and in the streets, may have helped create the impression that once seriously squeezed, Hezbollah would always back down, fearing the stigma of illegitimacy and the potential for uncontrollable sectarian (Sunni-Shiite) strife (which both Hariri and the religious head of the Lebanese Sunnis evoked heavily on the eve of the fighting).
  4. Conspiracy – all of this was a bait and a trap to draw Hezbollah out into the open, discredit their nationalist credentials and expose them as sectarian warmongers staging a coup, thus preparing for some sort of international intervention to take them out. A variety of scenarios circulate that center on the highly publicized Turkish-mediated initiative for a peace deal between Israel and Syria, starring a variety of actors (determined by the position of he who presents the scenario) who may want to use the Lebanese crisis to shoot such a deal down (American neo-cons, Israeli and Syrian hawks, Iran). And even the long standing argument about Iran being ready to fight the Americans until the last Lebanese and Arab, and being ready to sell its allies out once the US are offering the right terms, is being rehashed by pundits of the Egyptian and other regimes, who are known for their own close ties with the Americans, and despised by their people for that.

As it were, Hezbollah decided to not take chances and linger long wondering about the government’s intentions. Or maybe they decided that, blunder or brinkmanship, rhetoric or conspiracy, the time had come to bite rather than bark and draw a very clear red line, preempting additional demands and more pressure. They may have also thought it high time to crack down on the proto-militias the government was building, before they could turn into something like a real fighting force, and they may have finally lost patience with stalemate that has been going on for 18 months now.

Exploiting or rather hijacking a general strike that the labor federation had called over purely economic demands, they sent their youth to the street, who quickly blocked all roads to the airport. By touching the airport – the one lifeline out of the country for anybody opposed to Syria, named after the late Rafik El-Hariri and iconic for his project of turning Lebanon into a leisure hub for petrodollar Arabs – a response from the other side was virtually assured. And surely it came: hails of stones exchanged between youth supporting either side, who live side by side on the southern edges of the city – a stone-throw from each other, quite literally. First gunshots (as always, we will never know who fired first), then the fighters were deployed.

When we saw the first footage of those guys, we knew that a whole new game had just started. Those were not some angry youth or neighborhood thugs who just picked up some old Kalashnikovs: these guys were well trained and equipped for urban warfare, advancing slowly and well-coordinated down the alleys, seeking cover and securing positions. As it were, the Hariri militia – a lot of them young guys recruited from dirt-poor areas in the North, with a few yalla-rounds of basic military training – were no match, and it appears that some of their commanders abandoned ship and ran even before the fight had started. So devastating was the defeat that the government felt compelled to deny that a battle ever took place – only a few “unprotected citizen defended their houses” – with automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades, stuffs we all store under our beds. (click here).

So where do we go from here? The victors, Hezbollah and Amal, have in fact largely withdrawn, leaving the army to control the streets. Agency reports whereby "Beirut is in the grip of fear and chaos" as bearded fundamentalist militias are roaming the streets are absolute rubbish, poor and simple. Even the one day they WERE roaming the streets of the city, what reigned was relief – that the fighting was over, and that those guys, scary as they may have looked to some, by and large acted with discipline, even the Amal-guys, who do not have a reputation for such behaviour. Bringing in the army so far is the smartest move in a game they have played with perfect planning, timing and tactics – staying within the framework of a legal institution, denying as it does its opponents the opportunity to portray what has happened as a coup, absolving the party of the effort to maintain security, and leaving it in the hands of a legal institution that is neutral, if not sympathetic to them. Almost a game of bad cop – good cop.

But withdrawing does not wipe away the past days. The shadows of war linger. Invisible, the fighters are there as a ghostly presence. We know that they can be there any second. We know that nothing will stand between them and simply wiping the state out of existence. The army, the last institution potentially functioning as an arbiter, has lost that ability, if it ever had it. Over the past days, they have largely acted as an auxiliary or second-tier force shadowing Hezbollah, doing things that could have tied down or compromised the party – controlling masses prone to riot, moving in and securing the areas that were “cleared”, leaving the fighters with their hands and backs free to knock out their opponents elsewhere. Yes, weapons that are illegitimate and positions that should not have existed in the first place, in particular for parties who have been singing the hymn of state sovereignty for the past three years, are handed over to the army – but it’s only weapons and positions of the pro-government parties who are handed over, and while Hezbollah and Amal voluntarily withdrew from the streets, the others had to surrender. Amal-“offices” have sprung up all over the city, with bored thugs hanging out outside – and nobody comes to check what they store in their closets. In some areas, they even dress up as policemen but are given away by their beards, which police are not supposed to have. In Shiite quarters – in particular those located close to or surrounded by Sunnis – the party is on, and youths roam the streets with ostentatious swagger. In Sunni areas, all posters of Hariri father and son have disappeared, many shops are closed, people avoid being on the street. The balance has been changed – and the prime minister, now more than ever, has been reduced to little more than a janitor of the Saray, the Ottoman barracks-turned government palace overlooking a city that is now in the hand of his enemies.

In any other place, a government with even a token residue of self-respect would have resigned, or exiled itself. But they are hanging on, propped up by foreign backing. Yet, pretending that nothing has happened is simply not going to work. It appears highly unlikely that things can return to the status quo ante of political attrition that has lasted for 18 months – we don’t know yet what the new balance of power will be, what the rules of the next phase will look like, but one thing is sure: they will be different. Soon, not much will be left of the political institutions, some of which have already been reduced to mere ciphers. The army, touted now by everyone as the one institution with untainted national credentials, seems to be set to perform a much bigger role (already, the army chief has been pre-selected to become president, if there is ever going to be an election). The next government, if there will be one, will certainly have a very different colour.

So is it over? Militarily speaking, and barring outside intervention, the answer is probably yes, as the defeat of the government camp has been so complete that there is hardly anything left to fight with. The question remains what the Americans want, and if they know what they want, and whether they are even free to think about it. No doubt, the demise of the Seniora government, praised right left and centre by anybody in the Bush administration who ever said a word about the Middle East, is another black spot on the Middle Eastern report card of this administration, and not exactly reassuring for those Arab regimes who rely on American support for their own survival. Are they going to do anything about it? Can they do anything about it? Is this still part of a “grand plan”? Really a plot to sabotage Israeli-Syrian peace (as if Olmert has any authority or credibility to see such a thing thru)? Or just another addition to a long book of blunders, a list of assorted self-inflicted messes that Mr. Bush will happily bequeath to a democratic successor, or which a republican successor will happily convert into an occasion for a new show of force (though I am not sure a democratic successor will deal any different). Most likely, however, the fading Bush administration will have just enough momentum or rather inertia left to continue supporting Seniora, and pressure its Arab allies to do the same, thus keeping the living corpse that his government is propped up in the Saray, possibly prompting the other side to push even further.

Now the Arab foreign ministers are in town, and last night the offending decisions were formally withdrawn. Apparently, some in the government still wanted to play tactical games about the timing, but were told to shut up and not waste the time of the delegation. Maybe those guys mean business. Maybe Saad Hariri has re-inflated himself enough through his televised post-defeat rants (in a puzzling twist of logic almost to inane to repeat, he claimed that Hezbollah operated under the cover and with the implicit support of Israel – after all, the Israelis did NOT bomb the Hezbollah fighters when they approached Beirut, and they could have done that, so NOT BOMBING is indirect assistance…) to sit down and make the necessary compromises.

Comments (169)

Alex said:

I have a question to “H” (the author)

How much longer do you think the fear of Shia fighters will last in the hearts of Beirut’s Sunnis? .. will they forget this unpleasant episode, or wil it forever make them feel insecure in their own homes knowing that the same Shia fighters can break the lock with ease.

And … how effective was the Saudi owned media in amplifying the negative feelings against the Shia lately? .. some here suggest that the media did not make a difference …that Sunnis were obviously going to to react in the same way, Saudi media or not.

What do you think?

May 18th, 2008, 5:55 am


ausamaa said:

This appears as the first neutral, complete and well-rounded account of what has happened. Most intersting are the reasons he listed for WHY the Siniora crowd plundered into taking its ill fated decisions.

And Alex, if we Feb 14 crowd and their supporters aside, do you really think that the Sunnies in Lebanon harbor reak Fears of the Shie’a. Are they scared of he Shie’a as they were of the Lebanese Forces and the Junblat militias in the old days? Of course, they like any other Lebanese would be worried and upset by the sound of gunfire and hated the spector of sectarian fighting, but really scared of the Shie’a? Scared like they were in the civil war days of being masacered, thier business looted and their life at risk if they arecstopped at the wrong check point, by the Phalangists, the LF or the Druze militias?

If some of them are really “worried” or “scared”, I believe they will get over it soon. And give it a couple of months and most Lebanese (except the Losers and their hard core supporeters and direct benificiaries), be it those who like Nassralah and the Opposition or those who did not support Opposition, will tell you: In retrospect, this was the best thing could have happened to Lebanon.

May 18th, 2008, 7:15 am


offended said:

This is yet another account which shows that the 14 March camp did indeed have a militia, (or a militia in the making). So one would wonder why some on this forum still insist otherwise. The Saniora government received all kind of aid from the US. (not barring military kind).

Another VERY important question raised by the author of this account (but no answers were offered) is that why the internal security forces (lead by the heroic..legendary..General …..Ashraf Reefie; who’s practically reporting to Harriri) were utterly invisible during the fight. (This has occurred to me then and still no answer was offered…or maybe I missed it)

May 18th, 2008, 9:17 am


Counter revisionist said:

Wow, the only Western article out there which wreaks of propaganda and lies, and you choose to be the vehicule for it huh?

It doesn’t matter much though, for your audience is so limited and like you wants to believe anything that goes those evil Lebanese that dared end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

– Hezballah swore they would never use there weapons against Lebanese. For those who still believed this, that myth is over
– The pro government forces does not have a militia
– Pasdaran support teams were found, arrested and some killed
– Hezballah wreaked havoc in Beirut, forrcing shops to close at gunpoint.
– Sunni members of the Future Movement were arrested, illegally detained and tortured by Hezballah
– The true colors of the opposition was shown by the silencing of news media (however much I dislike FTV)

But the Syrian ap-ologistm Ben laden celebrating dudes, and revisionists on this website, would rather comfort their biases by feeding on the crap the propagandists feed them.

May 18th, 2008, 9:40 am


ausamaa said:


And who the hell believed that the Future and Junblat and Ja’ja do not have militias? Remember Junblat a few weeks ago saying to Hizbullah:” And the Rockets; we shal take it from your hand.”!!!

AS to Ashraf Riefi, it is really buzzling as to why his thousands strong Internal Security Forces and his Shu”bat Al Maaloumat were no where to be seen or to be heared from during the last week. Maybe he is afraid and moved then the new Ministry of Interior minister in the next government will kick him out! Maybe he is a good or a smart man! And remember all the BS about how strong the Internal Security Forces and Al Fouhood has become, after all the supplies it has received and after the attention it was given by the FBI and others. I guess it did a good job terrorizing the Opposition simpathiezers before, but was more involved in Tashbi7 and in poustering to get the attention of the Sabaya in Beirut rather than focusing on the job it was recruited to do. The LA seems to say that they were a bunch of mercenaries. It seems the LA report on them and on the Hariri private security firms was correct.

What has also been proved correct once more is the saying: Money can’t buy you Love, and nor can it buy you political will and courage in the absense of a “true cause” you beleive in.

May 18th, 2008, 10:44 am


ausamaa said:

Ya Su7an Allah!! FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS AND ALLIES…. Did we not tell you so????

This is From Today In Lebanon

Siniora disappointed in Bush using Nakba anniversary to support Lebanon
May 17, 2008

PM Fouad Siniora said today that the dialogue that is happening today in Doha is a sign that all parties want to reach an agreement.

“We have to give all the chances for the dialogue to succeed,” Siniora said, adding, “We have to do everything we can to we reach an agreement in these hard times.”

Siniora, in statement to Voice of Lebanon, expressed his disappointment in the way US President Bush took the 60th anniversary of the Nakba as a platform to support Lebanon, expressing that president Bush has exerted no real pressure to form an independent Palestinian state.

“If President Bush wants to support Lebanon and the Lebanese cabinet, then he has to pressure the Israelis to end their occupation, and accept the solution that the Lebanese agreed upon in the seven points that were incorporated in 1701 resolution,” Siniora said, “The final solution for the Palestinian problem requires that Israel withdraws from the Golan Heights and all the Palestinian lands occupied since 1967.”
-NOW Staff

May 18th, 2008, 11:18 am


majedkhaldoun said:

The only solution , as I see it, is that the Sunni must get arms to defend itself, and the Lies that say the resistance will not use its weapons against the Lebanese people, this is pure lie, It is the responsibilitiy of KSA to supply huge weapons to the rest of Lebanese, enough to neutralize HAA, and much more.
Also the line to supply HAA must change, what HAA did is never to be forgotten, they will never be trusted anymore, it is all out war.

May 18th, 2008, 12:25 pm


Observer said:

This is a microcosm of the plight of the Sunni Arab world.
The sclerotic leadership has no agenda, no plan, no strategy, and no vision.
The intellectual debate within the community has been long stifled with stupid discussions about the proper length of your dress and the amount of flesh one shows on the one hand and absolute mind boggling “Star Academy” voyeurism shows on the other.
The only Sunni group that has an equivalent prospect to HA is the Salafi group. The bell weather person is Jumblatt and he clearly realized that the cavalry is not coming to the rescue.
Now I believe that the HA actually performed a preemptive coup based on knowledge of an impending attack on it with the help of the Hariri and Jumblatt militia.
If one recalls how Jumbaltt was talking about burning the green and the dessicated and how he was for all out war, he clearly had received assurances that Israel and the US and France were coming to join an attack on HA in an effort to emasculate it once and for all.
Haaretz had intimated yesterday that this preemptive coup indicates that HA has broken the “Israeli code” and therefore knew of what was coming. That to me is more ominous than the actual fighting as it indicates that the HA had penetrated the coalition’s communications network completely. I wonder how many secrets they hold right now.

I can imagine how upset and enraged the Sunnis are today, but they have only themselves to blame as they have never been able to have a coherent political vision and agenda. They practice bluster and nothing more except for the Salafis.

Today the president “ordered” the nations of the region to confront Hamas, HA, and to isolate Iran. The fact that he said the people of the region must do so means that “the US will not confront them for you”.

Thomas Friedman today in the NYT has clearly seen the righting on the wall as he said this is a country that is weaker, more hated than ever, and less effective than ever in the ME.

As Majed writes on this blog, he expects the KSA of coming to the rescue. They are barely able to think beyond what is for dinner my friend, they are scared to the bone. Their only salvation is to do a 180 degree and espouse the Salafi agenda fully. They are the only ones capable of being a counterweight to the other forces.

May 18th, 2008, 1:57 pm


Shai said:

MK, Observer,

Given the last few weeks, and what seems to be a new and feverish Arabic media campaign, supported by Hariri & Saudi, to divide up the region into “with Iran” vs. “against Iran”, how do you see things unfolding now? Will HA in essence take over control of Lebanon? It is doubtful whether KSA has the ability to do anything about it, but do you think there’s a coalition in-the-making here, with KSA, Egypt, U.S., Israel? Will this coalition do anything, other than behind the scenes? Is the U.S. hoping to drag the region into another serious war, thus forcing it to join in on behalf of the “Axis of Good”, opposing militarily the Axis of Evil (Iran, Syria, HA, Hamas)? If Israel is about to begin another Lebanon 2006 style adventure into Gaza (my estimation is that it will happen, and soon), how will this effect Lebanon? And how will that effect the region?

May 18th, 2008, 2:22 pm


why-discuss said:

“The only solution , as I see it, is that the Sunni must get arms to defend itself, and the Lies that say the resistance will not use its weapons against the Lebanese people, this is pure lie, It is the responsibilitiy of KSA to supply huge weapons to the rest of Lebanese, enough to neutralize HAA, and much more.”

I think Hariri should make a private call to Ben laden to get reinforcement and training in Afghanistan for his sunni militias!
Both are sons of billionaire, they have lots in common, expect that Ben Laden has brain.

May 18th, 2008, 2:28 pm


Shai said:


I responded to your question in the previous thread: https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=717#comment-146422

May 18th, 2008, 3:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This long and tedious article is neither neutral nor informative.

Ok, the “Sunni plan” for the region is bad? What is the Shia plan, more countries like Iran?

May 18th, 2008, 3:04 pm


Shai said:


For Israel’s long-term interests, what do you think it should do if there is indeed a new “coalition” being formed here, that will define friend or foe based on the support of the Shia and/or Iran. Can Israel afford to side with anyone? It is my opinion that we cannot. We cannot support Sunnis against Shia or vice-versa. For us, it would be a lose-lose situation. Just as we shouldn’t have supported Fatah against Hamas. What do you think?

May 18th, 2008, 3:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I totally agree. In any case, Israel is a liability to the anti-Iran side. The model is the first gulf war. Israel was not part of the coalition against Iraq. In any case if I have to choose between the followers of the hidden imam and wahabism I would even prefer Yossi Beilin 🙂 .

May 18th, 2008, 3:19 pm


majedkhaldoun said:


May 18th, 2008, 4:05 pm


sam said:

I have a question? Does anyone even know if those pro-govt militia are lebanese? They could have been mercs. So did HA use their weapons on Lebanese? Wouldn’t there have been more funerals in the Saudi media crying slaughter by HA? No funerals, means no family for the many sunni pro govt fighters that died in the fighting, because they were not from Libnan. Who really knows who? You have that billionaire moran (Hariri), that actually stated that HA and Isreal conspired together to take over Beirut. Has he gotten so desperate to try to use the Isreali card in there favor to drum up empathy, what a joke he turned out to be. It goes to show you money can’t buy everything. He should at least by a brain and some personality.

May 18th, 2008, 5:11 pm


Naji said:

Things seem to be looking good in Doha, and looking up for Lebanon…! Apparently, after the playing field has been leveled, there has been some genuine haggling over the details, brokered by a fairly honest broker…! Saudi/US etc. are as irrelevant/incapable/ineffective right now as they are ever likely to be…!! They will either lash out in some final act of desperation, or go quitely lick their wouds…! Today, I think the latter…

May 18th, 2008, 5:34 pm


Shai said:


Leaving aside all the “looking good” stuff, bottom line, is HA going to be essentially in control of Lebanon, or are they handing back power to anyone? And if they are, to whom? Not that internal matters in Lebanon should be the business of Israel (it shouldn’t), but certainly the potential for things to go wrong also depends to a large extent on who’s controlling the show in the nations of our region. Syria is very stable. Even Iran is stable. But the Palestinian territories, like Lebanon, aren’t. Is Lebanon about to become more stable?

May 18th, 2008, 5:57 pm


Naji said:

I shouldn’t really respond, but “looking good” for Lebanon means power sharing and a more stable Lebanon…, of course…! HA will not be “essentially in control of Lebanon”, and neither will anybody else…, hopefuly…!

May 18th, 2008, 6:16 pm


Zenobia said:

This article was indeed long , but rather fascinating and very informative.
It was an excellent personal narrative with some good insights.

I thought at first that the security firms must be mercs. However, the LA times article (linked) reports and describes at least the general security guys as mainly “poor Sunnis” from “the north” paid a salary of $350 dollars a month to guard buildings, banks, and private residences or something of this sort, probably as legitimate cover while waiting for the big moment. In one place it said there are many plain clothed back ups everywhere (a quote from an employee of Secure Plus) and in another place it described them as dressed in beige pants and maroon shits.

Anyhow, I think there are plenty of foreign Mercs too. Last summer when I was in Beirut- I happened in on a lunch with someone who was with another friend and a ‘guest’. The guest was a tatooed British man (very working class by his accent) who had apparently spent some in Iraq in the last three years by his account guarding officials and doing security work. His hope now was to start up a new business in Lebanon, creating a private security firm, very “cutting edge” according to him.. not something like guards at a bank.. etc…noo something much more “high tech”.. He was obviously looking for some introductions and contacts in government from my friend who is a lebanese business man.
Anyhow, the guy was a complete sleeze-ball. I gave him a nasty glare and said very matter of factly, “ohhh. so you are one of those mercenaries!”… at which point- there was an extremely nervous silence (and a wide eyed look from my friend) after which mr. tatoo defended the reputable work he was doing in Iraq, “protecting very important people”.. and lunch was cut rather short.

Well, this is Lebanon these days. Perfect money train for mercs. The sharks have smelled blood… in the water, and they are interested in feasting on the human remains of the sinking ship.

May 18th, 2008, 6:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I met some Sunni Lebanese this weekend who strongly hinted that they are prepared to receive the Israelis in open arms if it helps defeat the Shias. One suggested the need to “close the Syrian border and open it with Israel”.

May 18th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Zenobia said:

haven’t we seen that movie before? except the Sunnis were Christians in that first version.

May 18th, 2008, 6:31 pm


Naji said:


Also, do not forget that many of the mercenary private security firms in Iraq these days are owned and run by enterprising Lebanese…! All this bloody experience passing back and forth between American playing fields…!!

May 18th, 2008, 6:31 pm


Shai said:


Oh… you’re getting us into trouble again… 🙂 Like Naji just said to me, perhaps I too “shouldn’t really respond”. As I wrote above, Israel must not side with anyone against the other. It is a dangerous and foolish game, with a lose-lose result. Indeed a tricky dilemma for any Israeli leader who might be approached by Saudi, or certain Lebanese, or in theory even Syrians (in Syria) who’d be willing to sell out the Palestinians and Iran together… Israel must stay focused on our long term interests. They are, after all, to live in peace here in the region, with ALL the sides, all the peoples, all the religions, and all the sects. If we’re at peace with the Sunnis, but at war with the Shia, there will still be no peace in the region. Like Alex suggested before, Israel should certainly view as a real possibility the day we’re negotiating also with Hezbollah, Hamas, and even Iran. We can’t afford to go on some “fun ride” with Sunnis against the Shia. We must stay out of it.

May 18th, 2008, 6:35 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Indeed, the same movie. I was actually surprised (may be I should not have been) to hear it from so many different people over the past 48 hours. The hatred towards Syria by the Lebanese Sunni community is running very deep. It is a massive balancing act for the Syrian leadership given its own population mix.

On another topic, another democratic elections in the region saw Islamists gain ground on liberals. Kuwaits’ salafists doubled the size of their representatives. The country’s shias also won an extra seat. Not a single woman was able to win. The liberals and the nationalists also lost.

Another great democracy experiment yielding the same results as those preceding it.

May 18th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Zenobia said:

interesting. NO, actually I did not know that. I was only aware of american security firms like the big ones- Blackwater etc. I didn’t know that there are Lebanese ones in Iraq. I would be interested to know more about that, indeed.

absolutely. There is no winning that game at all. A short win strategy for Israel of allying itself with one group or country for that matter, has not brought lasting results for exactly the reason you have describes. The feud or playing off one group to another results in greater external conflict which just comes back to bite Israel later.
And as well, alliances with Israel by Sunnis will come back to bite them too.
This is why there has to be a region wide comprehensive resolution to all these problems. The capsule theory does not work for the long term. Ever.

May 18th, 2008, 6:40 pm


Shai said:

Ehsani2, Naji, Zenobia,

If somehow Israel worked out with Syria a return of the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon, do you see a possibility whereby HA puts away its weapons, is incorporated into the Lebanese Army (Norman’s so-called “Golani Brigade”), or morphs into a purely-political Lebanese entity?

May 18th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Naji said:

When will everybody understand that HA will stand down only when everybody else does…! It is that simple…! Neither HA nor anyone else will feel secure enough before there is a comprehensive regional peace…!

May 18th, 2008, 6:49 pm


norman said:


The Lebanese that you talked to are as the rest of our brothers , they talk a lot and do nothing while Hezbollah is acting like the Israelis , they keep their mouth shut but they have contingencies for all kind of challenges.

May 18th, 2008, 7:01 pm


ausamaa said:

From the Israeli DEBKA.com those two items: MY take: Bush may have tried but the Israelies did not fall for it. They are becoming like the Arabs, all talk but no bite!

1) Exclusive: Command vessel USS Mount Whitney posted opposite Lebanon
May 17, 2008, 6:16 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Saturday, May 17, the USS Mount Whitney , considered the US Navy’s most advanced command, control, communications, computer and intelligence vessel, took up position opposite Lebanese shores for an “unscheduled mission.”

The Sixth Fleet spokesman Lt. Patrick Foughty said the ship would be there “to support additional communication requirements for our ships already underway.”

DEBKAfile’s sources add that the USS Cole missile destroyer arrived in that sector last week, while the USS Harry Truman carrier strike group began cruising in the Mediterranean around Greece, whence the aircraft on its decks can reach Syrian and Lebanese skies. The fleet spokesman added there are no long-term plans to keep the Mount Whitney away from its home base.

Although the US lieutenant did not name those plans, military observers gained the impression that the American navy-air build-up off Lebanon was designed for a short stay or a specific operation, after which it will disperse.

Our sources disclose that, during the fierce Hizballah onslaught on Beirut last week and its closure of the international airport, the Americans ran a helicopter lift from Cyprus to the US embassy landing pad with provisions of food, water, medicine and personnel.

The Mount Whitney enables a joint task commander to effectively control all the units of his force. The ship can receive and transmit large amounts of secure data from any point on earth and provide timely intelligence and operational

2)DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
Israel’s Missed Boat in Lebanon
May 18, 2008

Sunday night, May 11, the Israeli army was poised to strike Hizballah. The Shiite militia was winding up its takeover of West Beirut and battling pro-government forces in the North. When he opened the regular cabinet meeting Sunday, May 11, prime minister Ehud Olmert had already received the go-ahead from Washington for a military strike to halt the Hizballah advance. The message said that President George W. Bush would not call off his visit to Israel to attend its 60th anniversary celebrations and would arrive as planned Wednesday, May 14 – even if the Israeli army was still fighting in Lebanon and Hizballah struck back against Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion airport.

American intelligence estimated that Hizballah was capable of retaliating against northern Israel at the rate of 600 missiles a day.

Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Lvini, the only ministers in the picture, decided not to intervene in Lebanon’s civil conflict. Iran’s surrogate army consequently waltzed unchecked to its second victory in two years over the United States and Israel.

DEBKAfile’s US and military sources disclose the arguments Washington marshaled to persuade Israel to go ahead: Hizballah, after its electronic trackers had learned from the Israel army’s communication and telephone networks that not a single troop or tank was on the move, took the calculated risk of transferring more than 5,000 armed men from the South to secure the capture of West Beirut.

This presented a rare moment to take Hizballah by surprise, Washington maintained. The plan outlined in Washington was for the Israeli Air force to bombard Hizballah’s positions in the South, the West and southern Beirut. This would give the pro-government Christian, Sunni and Druze forces the opening for a counter-attack. Israeli tanks would simultaneously drive into the South and head towards Beirut in two columns.

1. The western column would take the Tyre-Sidon-Damour-Beirut coastal highway.

2. The eastern column would press north through Nabatiya, Jezzine, Ain Zchalta and Alei.

Sunday night, Olmert called Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora and his allies, the Sunni majority leader Saad Hariri, head of the mainline Druze party Walid Jumblatt and Christian Phalanges chief Samir Geagea and informed them there would be no Israeli strike against Hizballah. Jerusalem would not come to their aid.

According to American sources, the pro-Western front in Beirut collapsed then and there, leaving Hizballah a free path to victory. The recriminations from Washington sharpened day by day and peaked with President Bush’s arrival in Israel.

Our sources report that, behind the protestations of undying American friendship and camaraderie shown in public by the US president, prime minister and Shimon Peres, Bush and his senior aides bitterly reprimanded Israel for its passivity in taking up the military challenge and crushing an avowed enemy in Lebanon.

While the president was busy with ceremonies and speeches, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley took Israeli officials to task. Hadley in particular bluntly blamed Israel for the downfall of the pro-Western government bloc in Beirut and its surrender to the pro-Iranian, Pro-Syrian Hizballah. If Israeli forces had struck Hizballah gunmen wile on the move, he said, Hassan Nasrallah would not have seized Beirut and brought the pro-government militias to their knees.

One US official said straight out to Olmert and Barak: For two years, you didn’t raise a finger when Hizballah took delivery of quantities of weapons, including missiles, from Iran and Syria. You did not interfere with Hizballah’s military buildup in southern Lebanon then or its capture of Beirut now.

IDF generals who were present at these conversations reported they have never seen American officials so angry or outspoken. Israel’s original blunder, they said, was its intelligence misreading of Hizballah’s first belligerent moves on May 4. At that point, Israel’s government military heads decided not to interfere, after judging those moves to be unthreatening.

The Americans similarly criticizes Israel for letting Hamas get away with its daily rocket and missile attacks on Israel civilians year after year. A blow to Hizballah would have deterred Hamas from exercising blackmail tactics for a ceasefire. In Sharm el-Sheikh Sunday, May 18, President Bush called on Middle East countries to confront Hamas and isolate terror-sponsors Iran and Syria.

May 18th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Shai said:


Although you know much more about this subject than I do, I believe HA has always maintained that their reason for holding arms is purely Lebanon-related (i.e. the protection of Lebanon, the retrieval of Lebanese land, etc.) and not outside it. As far as I know, I’ve never heard Nasrallah suggest that as long as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, HA will continue to harbor its weapons. So are you suggesting that only when an entire regional and comprehensive peace is reached, will HA disarm, and not a moment earlier? I would guess that should cause even further concern amongst Lebanese, as it suggests that essentially HA does not see itself subject to any Lebanese policy or rule of law. That doesn’t sound like recipe for “good things” ahead. By the way, I just happened to click on CNN an hour or two ago, and saw the headline “No Progress in Qatar”. Where did you see that things were “looking good”, as you mentioned earlier?

May 18th, 2008, 7:11 pm


norman said:


Everybody fears Israel and as long as Israel does not sign peace treaties with it’s neighbours and promise non interference in their affair , no body will disarm as i do not think that Israel will disarm if the Arabs recognise it’s existence.

May 18th, 2008, 7:15 pm


Shai said:


I understand that. But I’m not suggesting that any neighbor disarm. I don’t expect Syria, or Jordan, or Egypt, or Lebanon to disarm, even after we sign peace agreements. There will of course be disengagement and demilitarization treaties and whatnot. But no one will put down their weapons, even in peace. But I do expect, that a particular party (recently labeled “state within a state”) that has armed itself to resist foreign occupation on its own territory, will eventually disarm. There is still a big difference between having two separate armies (very much at odds with each other) within a single nation state, no? Imagine in the north of Israel, along the Golan Heights and on the border with Lebanon, we had the “JASJOA” (Judea and Samaria Jewish Orthodox Army), which was armed to the teeth directly by KSA (not America), and was occasionally fighting the IDF, taking control of Tel-Aviv, and some other cities, and had, every now and then, fought the Lebanese. Could any of our neighbors accept such a situation? Wouldn’t the international community call for the immediate disarming of this JASJOA (sounds like “Joshua” doesn’t it?) and its inception into the Israeli army or politics, but not as a separate armed entity?

May 18th, 2008, 7:24 pm


Shai said:


I actually enjoyed reading that stuff from Debka, it made me laugh. I don’t know much of Debka (have gotten emails forwarded to me with articles here and there), but it sure seems like the local version of “The National Enquirer”. Western column, Eastern column, Olmert calling everyone in Lebanon, Bush senior aides reprimanding Israel, blaming for the fall of the pro-Western government… Wallahi, only thing it didn’t mention was that the commander of the USS Cole was none other than Captain Monica Lewinsky! That would have tied everything together real nicely. Stop listening to anything that starts with “Our sources report that…” It reminds me of Fox TV reporters professionally calling to one another “back to you guys…” Read Ha’aretz. It’s much more serious.

May 18th, 2008, 7:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Hizbollah will never disarm peacefully. If you read carefully the Lebanese blogs, you will see that Shebba is not the last part of Lebanon that Israel occupies. According to Hizballah, there are what they call “the seven villages”, which are deep in the Galille. So let us not fool ourselves, Hizballah will not agree under any realistic circumstances to disarm peacefully. Whatever Israel ofers will never be enough. I know HP and QN think otherwise, but in this case they are just wrong. They are just not willing to face the consequences of what I am saying being right.

Frankly, with the new rules of the game, Israel can live with an armed Hizballah just as it can live with an armed Syria. What use are Hizballah’s rockets if it can’t use them without Lebanon and the Shia community getting trashed? Not much. July 2006 marked the end of Hizballah being a problem for Israel and started the period of Hizballah being a problem for Lebanon.

May 18th, 2008, 8:02 pm


Shai said:


Perhaps you’re right. But you don’t have to be a MidEast expert to anticipate serious instability in Lebanon as long as HA uses Israel as the prime excuse for maintaining an armed militia. Which by chance, is supplied by Iran, through Syria that has just left after decades of ruling over Lebanon, and still maintains great interests in the country. We might be able to “live with it”, but can the Lebanese? My guess is no way. They will seek out any and all allies that will help them overthrow HA, or force it to disarm. If they can’t get the U.S., or Israel, or KSA to help, they’ll go to ‘fricken Micronesia to seek assistance. I don’t buy this “things are looking good in Doha” update.

May 18th, 2008, 8:12 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

Akbar Palace,

So after all, there are really folks who do believe in the existence of the so-called “Chosen People”; and among them, none other than your great president:
What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

May 18th, 2008, 8:12 pm


Zenobia said:

that Debka crap sounds so much like someone’s midnight fantasy about what goes on behind the scenes. How do they present that as substantiated news with a straight face, i don’t know.

Re: Shai’s comment to Naji,

I think what he is saying is that Shebaa farms is a minor issue in this cauldron of problems.
And, HA is not going to back down until they have very strong control and power in the government of Lebanon, so as that even if their own militia is subsumed within the main Lebanese army or becomes a wing of it- they are sufficiently in control of that national army and the political decisions of the government. If this happens then they can retain control over any peace with Israel or not, so that, Lebanon will not go the way of Egypt or Jordan and be peeled away in a treaty with Israel before any regional peace is reached.
As well, I think all the Lebanese will never accept (in fact, whether HA gets their way in gov’t or not) a peace with Israel that simply leaves hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on Lebanon’s hands to deal with themselves. They will never let that happen, although nobody talks about this problem much. And I am sure the US thinks that if they can have a pro-US govt dominate in Lebanon – they can influence it once again (play the movie again) and attempt to enforce a Lebanese separate peace with Israel that does not require any resolution to the larger problem of the refugees.

This is again why I will argue that there will be no lasting peace agreements or treaties until the Palestinian resolution regionally is settled. Who cares about Shebaa Farms when Lebanon has hundreds of thousands of non-citizens sitting there with no solution to the limbo of their existence.

May 18th, 2008, 8:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nobody ever denied that the Jewish people are described in the bible as “chosen”, but the question is chosen for what? The answer is that they were not chosen to be above the rest, they were chosen to obey a very strict set of laws, and if they didn’t, they would be punished.

May 18th, 2008, 8:20 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I do not know what the Lebanese will do with Hizballah problem, but we have enough problems to solve at home.

It would be nice to have a peace agreement with Lebanon, but why does Israel really need it? Lebanon is not a security threat and we can trade with the Arab world through Qatar. And Zenobia is right about the Palestinian issue.

May 18th, 2008, 8:25 pm


Zenobia said:

AIG, and…
according to their disturbed ‘friends’ in the American bible belt, the Jews are also chosen to return to Israel so they can eventually be born again as Christians or burn in hell for all eternity….

i actually didn’t mean that to be rude. I mean to say, that I think the Israelis need to think about how better to be chosen for good, not to be used in this insane end of times story…and instead do something very good in this world.

by the way, I didn’t realize until recently, that Ahmadinijad has the same bizarre apocalyptic belief about the return of the messiah etc etc… strange. i wonder how his version ends….

May 18th, 2008, 8:27 pm


EHSANI2 said:


What do you make of the Kuwaiti democratic election results?

May 18th, 2008, 8:30 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Only those that don’t convert will burn in hell. I am planning on converting as the rupture begins…

Since we agree with them on most other things, I am willing to wait till the rupture to see who was right. It is much better than those that want to kill Jews now.

May 18th, 2008, 8:30 pm


norman said:


Chaos is not good for Israel so it should move to stabilize the borders and have peace with it’s neighbors,

By the way your scenario will destroy Israel not Israel’s Arab neighbors,

They might help you have an army like that.

May 18th, 2008, 8:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I make of it the ususal, that liberal movements in the Arab world are beaten down in order to create the situation where the west believes there is no alternative to the dictators except the religious parties. Mubarak is the master in doing it. It is either him, or the Muslim Brotherhood, there is no middle ground in Egypt because of his actions. Bashar is doing the same thing.

Let the liberal parties work freely. Let them receive donations from abroad and provide social services. Let them open schools and education programs and then we will see. Until then, the dictators are just playing a dirty game.

May 18th, 2008, 8:35 pm


Zenobia said:


lol. its a “rapture” silly, not a ‘rupture’… although, these days we are possibly in the stage of rupture.
I guess the notion of ‘rapture’ means we have a orgasmic journey up to heaven in our future if we are willing to be born again… : ) it might be worth it! lol

so you think you have so much in common with the evangelicals?? oh, poor you. have you been to a mega church? do you really aspire to be aligned with white trash, suburbia numb, jesus freak, brain dead americans? … and have an IQ of 95? please… i don’t believe you….I would rather make friends with my enemies so they no longer want to kill me…

you think this is not possible, i know.

May 18th, 2008, 8:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The muslim version ends with the Jews hiding behind rocks and trees and the rocks and trees giving them up and the muslims killing the Jews. However, there is one tree, the Jew tree that won’t give up the Jews hiding behind it and apparently we are planting many of those.

May 18th, 2008, 8:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

For me it is a rupture…

May 18th, 2008, 8:41 pm


Zenobia said:

Tree protection, I like it…. sounds very post modern green world.

look, i have hope for you that you won’t need to convert nor hide behind trees. Hope for all of us, i should say.

May 18th, 2008, 8:45 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Mubarak and Bashar had nothing to do with my question on Kuwait’s elections. You have been calling for democracy in the region. By all account, the Kuwaiti elections fits your description. Of 27 women who tried, not one won. The Islamists now control 50% of the seats.

May 18th, 2008, 8:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Unlike you, I am not an elitist. People with 95 IQ are very nice.
Since about 45% of the population has an IQ of less than 95, do you find so many people useless?

May 18th, 2008, 8:47 pm


Zenobia said:

Actually, your stat is wrong… i mean, technical mental retardation starts at 80 and below so… but..nonetheless

do you find so many people useless?

no, who said ‘useless’. but they shouldn’t run the world either.

May 18th, 2008, 8:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How free were the liberal parties in Kuwait to campaign? To build themselves?

And if democracy in the middle east means islamists, then I will bite the bullet. Let the islamists rule, if that is what the people want. If they don’t rule well, they will be replaced in the next election if there really is democracy. And if they rule well, all the power to them.

May 18th, 2008, 8:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Get used to one person one vote. Votes are not weighted by IQ nor by how many books you read.

May 18th, 2008, 8:53 pm


Shai said:

AIG, Zenobia,

Of course I don’t think we’ll have peace with Lebanon until the Palestinian issue is dealt with (Shebaa Farms is indeed silly in comparison). The issue of HA disarming has nothing to do with peace with Israel. I think it’s an internal matter that will bring about further instability, as we’ve seen happening in recent days.

As for the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, that’s a very tough issue. I cannot see them, or even most of them, returning to Israel proper. They could, of course, return to future Palestine. Incidentally, Abu Mazen recently said that much of the discussion with Israel has been about the Lebanese Palestinian refugees, and that not a single refugee would be required to stay. I don’t know if Hamas would accept whatever Abu Mazen has in mind, but I can assure you that Olmert didn’t offer to accept 50% back. I’m not talking at all about the financial compensation, which will obviously have to be reached, but rather about the pure right-of-return. On the Syrian side, we’ve already heard from the Syrians that they’d be willing to consider giving all their 400,000 refugees full citizenship status. I don’t know if the Palestinians themselves will accept that, or if they’ll want to go back to Palestine.


Of course chaos is bad for Israel. But Israel also should not interfere with the internal matters of Lebanon, and should not side with anyone. We should stay focused on our own goals, and move forward with Syria and the Palestinians.

May 18th, 2008, 8:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The 95 number was taken from your comment. My stat is accurate. 50% of the population by definition have an IQ less than 100. Less than 95 about 45%

May 18th, 2008, 8:58 pm


Zenobia said:

dear AIG,
100 is average yes. but of that 45% that fall below… a very large portion is close to the top of the bell curve. Who cares. you are being obsessive. 100 is still pretty dumb these days. (it is a ridiculous test too by the way)

i thought we were talking not about voting but about who one wants to align one’s self with and also who will be saved and go on to heaven and rule the next life in heaven.

Anyway, voting is actually about less qualified people choosing more qualified to represent them and make good judgments on their behalf, not about being so intelligent or capable one’s self. Voting doesn’t require much intelligence these days…

anyhow, you have no sense of humor anymore. If you want to take your affection for the Christian Right in America so seriously.. so be it. Apparently, your sparing with those on this blog has continued to harden you into a humorless being.

the unashamed ‘elitist’

May 18th, 2008, 9:01 pm


Shai said:


I’ll support that as well. But my biggest fears when it comes to religious parties (Shas in Israel, Hamas in Palestine, etc.) is that they may well use democracy to instill very undemocratic rule. Not that there are any comparisons, but let’s not forget Hitler’s famous “We used democracy to come to power”. If indeed religious parties do not rule well, and can be replaced in the next election, then I’m all for letting them have a fair chance. There’s no doubt that Hamas was in many ways better for the Palestinian people than the corrupt Fatah was. Shame Israel couldn’t find the way to talk to Hamas immediately following the elections.

May 18th, 2008, 9:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, I will lighten up, sorry.

May 18th, 2008, 9:07 pm


Shai said:


Do not blame AIG for not being humorous. Ever since Maccabi Tel-Aviv lost to CSKA Moscow so miserably at the recent Euroleague Championship, few Israelis are humorous… 😉

May 18th, 2008, 9:11 pm


Zenobia said:


well, ys , we had this discussion before and i agree with you, as before you agreed with me – that of course the Pals in Leb are not returning to Israel.
Though, i feel sorry for them that nobody is telling them that straight up.

Anyhow, nonetheless, acceptance of that does not solve the problem. I think the problem is in Lebanon, not Syria. Syria can be resolved much more easily. The people there are better off and just need citizenship, and they are easily integrated.
Lebanon cannot sustain all the Pals there. Politically, and economically. And these people are very very restless and determined. It is going to be a big deal to solve and the cost will be high.
therefore, it will not be ignored in some separate peace arrangement possible prior to a comprehensive agreement.
HA is clearly, not fighting on behalf of Pals, they have their own grudge (to put it mildly) but.. the issues got intertwined.. because… they are also fighting Israel.
So, in order for HA to lose its power militarily and in terms of resistance, that raison d’etre has to be dissolved permanently. Right now, with the situation as is… the equation is too complicated.
True, resolution of the Palestinian problem will not solve all the dangers of ideologues and nutcases..whether they be Al Qaeda or Taliban, or the Iranian leader (to be distinguished from the Iranian people themselves) but it would certainly go a long long long way to untangling a big mess and take a lot of juice out of the situation.
It is very important. Not sufficient, but certainly necessary.

May 18th, 2008, 9:12 pm


ausamaa said:


Actually he is very funny..

May 18th, 2008, 9:18 pm


Shai said:


I completely agree with you, and I believe many Israelis understand that we’re not after another Egypt or Jordan-style “peace”. We want a final end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, on all its components. We want to start living and enjoying a real peace, not a superficial one. The challenge is to take the few last steps, which to many seem so distant and insurmountable. But, we haven’t given up hope, and many of us each day are putting on our “uniform”, ready to fight for peace.

May 18th, 2008, 9:18 pm


Shai said:

Ausamaa, what do you mean by “the results of the July 2006 IDF conquest did it to him (them??)!”?

May 18th, 2008, 9:22 pm


ausamaa said:

The guy who is “not being humorous”. What did you think??

May 18th, 2008, 9:23 pm


Shai said:

Oh, you mean AIG? Yes, he is funny. But all of us are, no? After all, what the hell are we doing spending endless hours typing at some keyboard instead of being with our family and friends, so that some other “not humorous” blogger on the other side of the world, quite possibly one that hates my country, would hear my so-called wisdom for the evening? And then, instead of saying “Hi, good to see you again”, would respond with “You are the scum of the earth… but I love reading your comments…” 😉

May 18th, 2008, 9:29 pm


ausamaa said:


Re- the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon,

Do you think they will bus all 400,000 of them somewhere? They will stay where they are but with full civil rights and with the right to visit (and maybe some can retire in) their original homeland after a settlement is reached. But they aint going nowhere despite their wish and despite the wish of the “hospitable” country that “jailed” them in the refugee camps and refused to allow them access to honest empolyment in the name of not letting them forget their national identity (LOL). And as to Lebanon can not sustain them, LOL again, when Lebanon is bragging about its readiness to reaching a figure of 1.5 million Gulf tourists during the summer months!! Let us grow up. They are already “sustained” in terms of being there for 60 years. A second uprooting in the name of justice? 60 years after the fact?

May 18th, 2008, 9:37 pm


ausamaa said:


The ones in Syria are Ok and they enjoy the same rights as the Syrians. And the Syrians never made a sectarian, political or exsistential issue of their blight. They took them with open arms and did not de-humanise them as happened in Lebanon. Syria took their case, the Palestinian case to heart and helped them keep their identity and supported their struggle. Official Lebanon did not. And for Syria, there is already a mil and half Iraqies right now and Syrians are not really beating their heads in fear of them.

BTW, the Palestinian refugees in Syria number more than 650,000 not only 400,000.

May 18th, 2008, 9:50 pm


Observer said:

Ehsani comments that Sunnis would welcome the Israeli army now. This is one more proof of how stupid, leaderless, and clueless they are. If they think that Israel is going to come to put them back in power, they should not be even on the political table at all.

The Christians have now understood very clearly especially after the failure of conventional forces to subdue Iraq, that the days of Marines landing to rescue the Chamoun regime, or the French and British storming to undo the nationalization of the Suez canal are over.

This means that the present administration has two options and these are not mutually exclusive: covert action and an attack on Iran using limited nuclear weapons or perhaps massive air power and cruise missiles.

As for the action by HA in Beirut Nasrallah clearly said that they had planned for a two front war in the South and in Beirut against the Israelis and the coalition militias. The action was so complete and so swift that it did not even leave the Israelis or the Americans time to get their act together. The civil disobedience was nothing more than a smoke and mirror to hide the war preparation that were under way.

Now the next two items that need to be closely watched are going to be the planned Israeli attack on Hamas on the one hand and the signing if at all of the status of forces agreement between the Maliki regime and the US. It seems to me that Maliki by mounting one campaign after another and flying to this and that city is essentially trying to avoid meeting with Americans. The campaign to subdue Sadr into accepting the status quo has failed for the police and the army have not been able to subdue them and he did not even cancel his cease fire order. It is telling that the cease fire was negotiated in Tehran and not in Baghdad.

I like to read the newspapers of the coalition for the way the headlines are arranged, the language used, and the tone of the commentators is usually quite telling about the state of mind of the patrons. Most importantly, what Walid Bek says, his tone, his body language if available is the best indicator of who is in control and who is begging for mercy.

For the KSA, my advice is for Bandar to consult some Salafi Jihadists on how to proceed, for he has spent so much time in DC that he thinks that he can just get a foreign policy to work in the ME the way his credit card used to work in the US: “Charge it”.

May 18th, 2008, 9:57 pm


SimoHurtta said:

The muslim version ends with the Jews hiding behind rocks and trees and the rocks and trees giving them up and the muslims killing the Jews. However, there is one tree, the Jew tree that won’t give up the Jews hiding behind it and apparently we are planting many of those.

Now I understand why Jews are stealing the Palestinians’ olive trees by uprooting them and selling them to other Jews. Thanks AIG for explaining. You need them for a war, I understand.

I had a long time been wondering why the rich Israelis are stealing big trees from poor people, their livelihood. Before I thought it was because you IGs are good business men, buy cheaply (or “take it for free”) and sell it expensively. But now I know better – you want to fight in a forest. By the way we Finns love to fight against Russians in our wast forests (75 percent of Finland is a forest), especially in winter. Forests are good. 🙂


May 18th, 2008, 10:03 pm


ausamaa said:

I refuse to accept that Ehsani really beleives that Lebanon Sunnies (as opposed to Gaza Sunnies, and other Arab Sunnies) would welcome the Israelies with open arms now. It might be a reference to the Harriri, Fatfat and Siniora Sunnies who made sure that the Future Movement “social centers” were well stocked on Wine bottles and Firearms as we have seen. In that case he may be right. But to extend such a claim to the majority of Lebanese sunnies is outragouse.

To say the least, this will be an unprecedented insult to the Lebanese Sunnies if nothing else. They just can not change their skin within one week. That is an execlusive trade mark of Junblat!

May 18th, 2008, 10:06 pm


ghat Albird said:

All would gain immensely by reading the listed link. Its written by Peter Chamberlain and is fron the Golbal Research web. Finished reading a synopsis of a speech given by US Congress person Nancy Pelosi to the Israeli Knesset in which she claims that when it comes to Israel the Democrats and Republicans speak with one voice.

The listed link amplifies on some of the extreme Israeli/American plans for the entire Middl East and the dubious role being played in support of it by Saudi Arabia.


May 18th, 2008, 10:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Good article. In a world of wonky think pieces (of which yours truly is just as guilty) a first-hand account is nice to read every now and then.

There’s a piece in the New York Times today, entitled “Hezbollah Ignites a Sectarian Fuse in Lebanon”. It is long, so I won’t paste it here. (But if you are interested, you should click it sooner rather than later, because NYT links expire fairly quickly.)

The article deals with the subject that we have been discussing, namely Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Some will read it and say that it represents more of the same kind of “fear-mongering” that we see in the Saudi press. However, I would like to point out, as Ehsani and Observer did, that Lebanon has a legitimate sectarian problem right now. The Arab presses may be whipping it up and taking advantage of it, but there is no denying that many Sunnis are boiling over with rage at the moment, and Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah can only say so much to keep a lid on things; eventually, we may have a catastrophe on our hands.

God forbid.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all Sunnis are preparing for a jihad, though. Many people are just sick of the situation, sick of their inept leaders, sick of being called Zionists and American collaborators, sick of the paralysis in Lebanon, and, yes, sick of Hizbullah rubbing their face in it.

Observer, if you’re around, I’m curious as to what you think a “coherent political vision and agenda” would mean, for the Sunnis. What is the Shiite political vision and agenda? You say that Iran is ascendant, and this seems to be true, but how does it translate into palpable gains for Lebanese Shiites (beyond being able to out-muscle their co-nationalists with their militia)?

I am still committed to believing that a political solution in Lebanon will undercut the tension dramatically.

May 18th, 2008, 10:20 pm


norman said:


Israel has to make peace with Syria, The Palestinians , Lebanon and the Iranians at the same time , the others called Moderate will follow , they have no plans ,Israel’s peace with Iran will address the Iranian and the Israeli nuclear status.

May 18th, 2008, 10:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

From today’s DS editorial:

“Of necessity, Hizbullah’s role in this process will be crucial. There has never been any doubt that it is the opposition’s center of gravity, and the recent clashes in which its fighters bested pro-government gunmen only confirmed its vaunted military prowess. What the party has to prove now is that it has the sense and the savvy to ensure that all of the blood that was spilled – on all sides – was not wasted. It can do by demonstrating that its frequent calls for “genuine partnership” with the ruling March 14 coalition are something more than posturing, that it truly recognizes that its own best interests, like those of all Lebanese of all sects, lie in bolstering the state and updating its practices.

No positive purpose can be served by seeking to impose its will on other parties: Lebanon cannot be ruled unilaterally, and a facade of partnership that masks an uneven relationship can only further undermine the standard of “no victor, no vanquished.” Likewise, no good can come from a failure to reach some form of agreement in Doha, because that would only cause the resistance to stew in its juices without these being diluted by evidence of March 14’s willingness to compromise.

What is required is a formula that allows both sides to come away with something they can call a victory – not for one camp or the other, but for all of Lebanon. This means agreement on a process to restore the authority and the credibility of the state around an unambiguous recognition of Israeli aggression as the number one threat to this country’s security and stability. This has been the case since before Hizbullah was established, and even before its current leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, was born, so acceptance of the facts should not be an issue. The challenge is to obtain official acknowledgment of this history and therefore of the right and principles of resistance – not in spite of the state, but in partnership with it.”

May 18th, 2008, 10:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman,

Would you oppose a peace deal between Syria and Israel alone? Do you think that Bashar would make such a deal?

As you know, I personally believe that Syria cannot make peace with Israel, without a simultaneous Lebanese deal, since Israel’s primary security concern is Hizbullah and not the Syrian army.

Therefore, let me ask you: do you think that Bashar is serious about peace in the very short term (i.e. 1-2 years)?

May 18th, 2008, 10:37 pm


norman said:


Syria will never make peace with Israel without a way for a full peace between Israel and Lebanon and the Palestinians at the same time, Israel had the chance for separate pace with Syria in the year 2000 when a deal between Israel and the Palestinian looked as it was underway,, and yes bashar will be glad to push for peace with Israel and take with him Lebanon and the Palestinians , I will be the first to protest if Syria makes peace with Israel without Lebanon and the Palestinians ,

I hope that will make my opinion clear.

May 18th, 2008, 10:48 pm


norman said:


(( majedkhaldoun said:

The only solution , as I see it, is that the Sunni must get arms to defend itself, and the Lies that say the resistance will not use its weapons against the Lebanese people, this is pure lie, It is the responsibilitiy of KSA to supply huge weapons to the rest of Lebanese, enough to neutralize HAA, and much more.
Also the line to supply HAA must change, what HAA did is never to be forgotten, they will never be trusted anymore, it is all out war. ))

Nasrallah is loved by the Arab Masses,

Bin laden is ( like or not ) loved by the Arab Masses,

the question is what is the link between these two men ,

They are not Sunni

They are not Shia

They are not Lebanese

They are not Saudis

Yes Mejed they are loved by the Arab masses because they stand

for Arab and Muslim rights ,

Now tell me : Do you or the people you know want to be loved or

hated by the Arab masses ,

You and the Lebanese Sunni just have to stand for Arab rights

( Not like the Saudi royal family ) to be loved and supported no

Arab or Muslim have to die.

May 18th, 2008, 11:03 pm


Zenobia said:


regarding the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, I was not thinking of anything as simplistic as ‘busing’ them somewhere.. (like where? out in the desert? an island in the gulf?…)
But my point is that if the Lebanese as a whole were or had been prepared to welcome the Palestinian refugees as citizens after the civil war ended and PLO gone, wouldn’t they have done that by now?? I think they are completely unprepared to do this. I am referring to many many groups. The problem is not one simply of prejudice , but of resource scarcity and competition.
And of course, long standing anger at the prior civil war conflicts involving the Pals.
When I hear Lebanese talk about the Palestinians in their midst, and the Pals themselves, they talk as if these people are going to go back to where their parents came from.. or some to a new state. But that new state cannot take an influx of millions of Palestinians either especially when they aren’t even from the West Bank originally!

As you said, none of these conflicts have occurred on the Syrian side.

So, I think in any final status negotiations and comprehensive peace agreements involving the region, the Lebanese are going to kick and scream about the expectation that they are supposed to now offer full citizenship and rights (including voting rights!) to 400,000 Palestinians. How is this going to happen?
Look at what is happening now… regarding even the demand for a new power arrangement with HA and a large legitimate section of the society as it is?
they will fight this tooth and nail… and it could end up bringing such negotiation to a halt.

I am suggesting that there will have to end up being a big compensation program. Additionally, there will be a sharing of responsibility. Most likely Pals who are not living in refugee camps will be most clear to stay in Lebanon. However, personally, i if I were living in a refugee camp, I would not mind to be ‘unrooted’ as you call it. I believe that many other of the developed countries will have to offer citizenship to a percentage of Pal families who are interested to immigrate into better circumstances.
And finally, some may be able to be admitted to Israel or to the West Bank- if that is where they came from or where they would like to be. But I wrote awhile ago, that I think you can minimize interest in returning to Israel/Palestine by offsetting the benefits in terms of greater financial incentives to stay in Lebanon or to immigrate to a third country in the West.

Maybe you will be right, but I really can’t see how even if the Lebanese offered full citizenship (which they won’t) that you can sustain that many people living in poverty. Lebanon offers little opportunity for economic elevation even with citizenship. One only need look at how long the Shia (who were citizens) remained an underclass to see how this problem needs a better resolution.

May 18th, 2008, 11:19 pm


norman said:

I think that the Palestinians are better of immigrating to North-and south America , Australia , there and only there they will have equal rights .whoever wants to go back to future Palestine is also welcomed , i do not know why any will prefer that option.

May 18th, 2008, 11:24 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Let me briefly expand on my above remarks about the Lebanese Sunnis:

Of course, I did not mean that “every” Sunni feels this way. Generalizations in such matters must be avoided. I had merely described the personal feelings of close friends of mine. They happen to be very smart Doctors practicing in the U.S. But, it was not only them. I think that this sentiment is spreading faster than many want to admit. The sectarian tensions are extremely elevated.

May 18th, 2008, 11:56 pm


norman said:


I am sorry to say that i think you are more right than you think and than what ausamaa wants to believe ,

The Saudi media is reaching them , It looks like the fight between the Catholics and the Protestants of the middle ages.

May 19th, 2008, 12:13 am


sam said:

EHSANI2, I know who you mean. The kind of sunni or christian that ran to syria for help during the 06 war. I was in Syria during the 2006 war, and poor Syrians that couldn’t even fead themselves were giving refuge to the same Lebanese that talk shit about Syria.

May 19th, 2008, 12:17 am


majedkhaldoun said:

my dear friend, when I mentioned the rest of lebanese, I did not meant only sunni, for one group to control the rest is wrong, as I strongly believe in freedom for all, I meant sunni christians and druze, in the USA we have balance of power,and I believe that fear , which is very ugly feeling, was all over lebanon, as a result of HAA action.
what is common between Nasrallah,and BinLaden, is both believe in violence, to use it against occupier is one thing, I will hail them for this, but to use it against own brothers,and friends, is wrong, I want Nasrallah to prove that he can gain the trust of the rest of Lebanese.
I believe that the dialogue in Douha will fail, just like Amr Mousa who tried several time, very hard, and fail, this mean USA and France will have to do something, it is HAA action that invited
such bad reaction, I said before Nasrallah has to do something, but he did not do it, it is the ecstacy of vicory that blinded him, the drums of war is beating next to our doors.three war ships are going toward lebanese coast.

May 19th, 2008, 12:21 am


why-discuss said:

Lots of bellicous reactions from Israel and a proposal for a deal with Syria at the expense of Lebanon:

“Israel must make it clear that war with Hizbullah will lead to Lebanon’s destruction..”
Giora Eiland

And as reported by L’Orient le Jour:

Yaron London du Yediot Aharonot gives the following precision:
“With the elimination of the Christian hegemony on Lebanon, it is not in the interest of Israel that Lebanon remains independent. Having to choose between a Iranian Lebanon and a Syrian Lebanon, we should negotiate a new pact with Syria on which Syria could annex Lebanon, with a heavy price to pay, the Golan for exemple”

May 19th, 2008, 12:46 am


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Sam,

It is funny that you mentioned the 2006 episode and how some Lebanese ended up in Syria at the time. Just this weekend, I had attended a function where so many Lebanese friends were present. One of the attendees was a woman who had entered Syria trying to catch a flight back to the U.S. She had two kids with her. When she found out that I was Syrian, she went on a tirade about how poor and backward Syria was. She described how so many people were trying to milk cash out of her hands at the airport, border crossing, Taxi stop and so on. The two kids were supposedly so traumatized by the experience that they kept on saying “Mommy, we hate Syria”. She was saying this loudly to a number of people standing in the same circle.

When I looked calm and amused by her stupid tirade, my wife was anything but calm. She explained to the woman how helpful Syria was to so many who had crossed the border. She informed her that Syria suffered more acute electricity shortages than normal because the country had decided to give some of it to Lebanon at the time. The woman could not be convinced or stopped.

The only way was for us to politely excuse ourselves and leave the gathering.

I mention this personal story from this weekend because it is not an exception. The people of these two countries are finding it very hard to have anything positive to say about each other. This trend is not close to reversing and is very unfortunate.

May 19th, 2008, 12:56 am


norman said:


I am sure QN will be happy to Syria back in Lebanon!.

May 19th, 2008, 1:02 am


majedkhaldoun said:

that woman was not a polite person, Syria has helped lebanese, Iraqee, Palastinian, Arman,Sharkas, etc, and we will be glad to help jews too, if needed.

May 19th, 2008, 1:13 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Such people are an embarrassment to Lebanon, just as the pitiful state of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is a shameful travesty, which should be condemned by any Lebanese with a conscience.

If I may say so, your wife was right to put this woman in her place.

May 19th, 2008, 1:53 am


Qifa Nabki said:

A powerful video, urging the Lebanese to wake up:


May 19th, 2008, 2:16 am


Enlightened said:


It takes a lot to remain civil in such a situation and I commend you on doing that despite the obvious taunts. Well done.

As some of you know that my wife was stuck in Lebanon during the 06 war, along with her family they were there for her brothers wedding when the war broke out.

At the time I posted here writing about the wonderful treatment they got in Syria, they stayed with relatives in Damascus at the time.

Now getting back to that woman, I don’t condone her behaviour, while she should be thanking her lucky stars that they got out and escaped the conflict with her young children, I think the flaw in her argument relates to the children about “hating Syria”, this is the bit I don’t believe, but it rather shows her own “prejudices” .

Now our gathering on Saturday night My school friend Fadi married a Syrian Girl we went over for a first visit, and they were wonderful hosts, our young children played together, our wives got along great and there was no talk of politics, Until Fadi confessed for the first time that he was of Palestinian origin, then the real trouble started, I told him that they are the cause of all Lebanons ills, started the civil war, we would never have been friends if he told me the truth earlier, I gave him a gobfull! (just joking) it never happened.

But I did ask him why he never told me before, his response was he never knew what my response would be given the Lebanese attitude towards the Palestinians etc.

The woman you encountered obviously lacks manners and social graces, you did well in the handling of the situation.

May 19th, 2008, 2:30 am


Enlightened said:


There is something missing from that video, for it to have some real impact we should have had actors dressing as the politicians, and they receive two slaps each, the second being a backhander.

Anyway that can be used for the next Lebanese elections if someone is smart enough to run on a anti incumbent platform.

May 19th, 2008, 2:34 am


why-discuss said:


This woman is no exception. The pretention, loudness and the condescending attitude of the Lebanese is known throughout the Arab world and to a lesser degree in the western countries. They are convinced they are “superior and more advanced” than everybody and especially than the Arabs. In particular toward Syria, they have an additional resentment: Having to be grateful to a country they consider as inferior. I think these people should be put in place and responded with more toughness, that is the only language they understand. I think the Syrians are far too polite.

May 19th, 2008, 3:08 am


why-discuss said:


Who is slapping? Too easy to show the lebanese as victims of a external bully. The video should show them bullying and slapping each other, that’s is what is happening.

May 19th, 2008, 3:14 am


Shai said:


It infuriates me whenever I see an Israeli intellectual (such as Yaron London) not only meddling in the internal affairs of another nation, but in fact voicing a readiness to accept the takeover of that nation by another. It’s one thing to suggest that Israel should not be happy with an Iranian-controlled Lebanon. It’s a whole other thing to voice support for negotiating with Syria its re-annexation of Lebanon! In Hebrew we have a good word for that – Chutzpah.

May 19th, 2008, 4:17 am


Naji said:

IMPORTANT article by Khaled Saghieh…

الوجه الآخر
خالد صاغيّة
كثر الحديث في الآونة الأخيرة عن السلفيّة والسلفيّين في لبنان، وكأنّ ثمّة مارداً نائماً أيقظته فجأةً الأعمال العسكريّة التي قام بها حزب اللّه وحلفاؤه في بيروت والجبل. وبدأ ارتفاع منسوب التحذير من أنّ انهيار الحريريّة لن يخلّف وراءه إلا نموّ التيّار السلفي. هذا الكلام الذي يقال في بيروت، يرتفع مثيل له في أماكن أخرى من العالم العربي، حيث ينبري مثقّفون تنويريّون في الدفاع عن نظام وهّابي أو العمل في خدمته، بحجّة أنّ بديله لن يكون إلا تنظيم «القاعدة».
يفترض مثل هذا المنطق أنّ ازدهار النظام الوهابي كان منفصلاً تماماً عن نشوء القاعدة، وأنّ صعود الحريريّة في لبنان تزامن مع ضمور التيّار السلفي. أمّا خلفية هذا المنطق، فتستند إلى ازدراء كامل لأبناء المناطق والحارات المحرومة (في البقاع والشمال أساساً) التي نمت السلفيّة في ربوعها. فليذهبوا إلى الجحيم، ما دامت السلطة في بيروت والزعامة السنّية معقوداً لواؤها لسلالة الحريري «المودِرْن».
والواقع أنّ صعود الحريريّة في لبنان قد ترافق مع نموّ التيّار السلفي. وبقدر ما كانت السياسات الإنمائية والإعمارية تهمل المناطق المحرومة، كانت السلفية تنمو في هذه المناطق تحديداً. وليست الصدفة وحدها ما جعل السلفيّة تزدهر في أكثر مناطق لبنان فقراً، وليست الصدفة وحدها أن يصبح مفتي عكار من دون سائر المناطق هو نجم المرحلة الصاعد.
لقد تعامل الحريري الأب مع أبناء هذه المناطق كفائض سكاني لا مكان له في النظام الاقتصادي الناشئ، ليس بإمكانه إلا متابعة نشاط ريفي لا يدخل حتّى في حسابات الدخل القومي. إنّه فائض قد يجري ضمّه في أي لحظة إلى صفوف الجيش الاحتياطي للعاطلين عن العمل. لكن، حتّى الدخول إلى جيش الاحتياط هذا، تأخّر بفعل العمالة الوافدة من الخارج، وبفعل استهداف القطاعات المنتجة.
كان الحريري الابن أكثر تسامحاً مع هؤلاء المنسيّين. فأذِن لهم بالدخول إلى جيش الاحتياط، لكن ليس احتياط العاطلين عن العمل، بل احتياط الطائفة. فتعامل معهم على أنّهم الوجه الآخر لتيار المستقبل، الوجه الذي لم تصل إليه منح مؤسسة الحريري التعليميّة، ولم تطأ قراه بعثات الإنماء والإعمار. الوجه الذي تتفاداه كاميرات ثورة الأرز المنهمكة في البحث عن فتاة جميلة تصدح بصيحات الحرية والسيادة والاستقلال في وجه ديكتاتوريّات الشرق الأوسط وأنظمته الأمنيّة.
وإذا كان رفيق الحريري قد اختار نوعاً من الرأسماليّة حوّلت هؤلاء إلى فائض سكاني كامن، فإنّ سعد الحريري اختار نوعاً من العلاقات السنيّة ـــــ الشيعيّة حوّلت أولئك أنفسهم إلى فائض سنّي كامن. صحيح أنّ الحريري الابن لم يشأ للفتنة السنّية ـــــ الشيعيّة أن تتحقّق نزاعاً مسلّحاً على الأرض، لكنّ التعبئة الطائفيّة التي تبنّاها «المستقبل» وأذْرعُه المتعدّدة كانت تتوسّل دائماً فتنة سنّية ـــــ شيعيّة أريد لها أن تبقى كامنةً هي الأخرى. لقد كان غريباً حقّاً كيف يتبسّم نوّاب ووزراء من المستقبل، وهم يحذّرون حزب اللّه من الفتنة السنيّة ـــــ الشيعيّة.
لقد حدث أن استخدم سعد جيش الاحتياط. استخدمه تحديداً في اللحظات التي أراد فيها للمواجهة السياسيّة أن تتّخذ طابعاً سنّياً ـــــ شيعياً. فتماماً كما أدّى مفتي الجمهورية الصلاة في السرايا الحكومية المحاصرة، جيء بالمناصرين السلفيّين من طرابلس وعكار، وألقوا خطباً ناريّةً على مرأى ومسمع من «رجال الدولة» والساعين ليلَ نهار إلى بنائها.
لم تكن تلك المرّة الأولى التي وفد فيها هؤلاء إلى شوارع العاصمة التي جاؤوها بالباصات في الرابع عشر من آذار. فقد سبق لبعضهم أن شارك في حرق السفارة الدنماركيّة في الأشرفيّة. كلّفَتْ نزهتهم تلك عزلَ وزير الداخليّة، وجاء من لقّنهم الدرس: أنتم لستم جيش المستقبل. إنّكم فرقة الاحتياط!

عدد الاثنين ١٩ أيار ٢٠٠٨

May 19th, 2008, 11:55 am


Heiko Wimmen said:

To Alex’s question:

How much longer do you think the fear of Shia fighters will last in the hearts of Beirut’s Sunnis? .. will they forget this unpleasant episode, or wil it forever make them feel insecure in their own homes knowing that the same Shia fighters can break the lock with ease.

– This is very hard to judge, and depends on a lot of unknowns, so it is even harder to predict. Obviously, it will be no problem NOW to find hundreds of Sunnis and make them shell out pronouncements of rage, or fear, to find those who are hell-bent now on (re)arming etc. I find it very questionable to draw any conclusions from this. Slightly older people (i.e. those in their mid-thirties and up) have seen and do remember wave after wave of violence. The Druze and Christian politicians who are now on the government side and supposedly allied with “the Sunnis” were once (not SO long ago) butchers in their own right, and any atrocities that may have happened during the past days absolutely pale in comparison. People in West Beirut clearly remember the days of the “Cowboy” and other thugs of Jumblat’s PSP militia who terrorized them during the 80ies (alongside with the Amal militia), and also Samir Geagea is not precisely a reassuring presence…
So one thing is that people here seem to have an impressive capacity to adapt themselves to new power equations and forget, or maybe rather to shelve such experiences, add them to a pile of similar events, all never addressed and dealt with, and ready to be exploited for the next occasion and mobilization.
The other thing is that there is a stunning and somewhat depressing readiness to be goaded along by the leaders of the community. For nearly two decades, relations between the Christians of Southern Mount Lebanon and their Druze ex-neighbors, who massacred and displaced them in the mid-80ies, were sub-zero – and when Jumblat decided to make peace with the Christian leadership, in a move foreshadowing the new balance of power that was to bring down the Syrian rule over Lebanon, and they “reconciled” over night. Likewise the sudden love or at least trust of the common Aouni Christian for the Shiites and Hizbollah, and the re-focussing of all their Muslim-hating energy on the Sunnis. It would be rude and preposterous for an outsider or a guest (even a permanent one) to say this, so I’d rather quote the late Jibran Tueni who described the mass basis of political movements in Lebanon as “sheep” – he was of course only referring to the followers of Hizbollah, Amal and other parties opposed to his political line, but I’d venture to say that it seems only fair to extend his comment across much of the supporters of each side. Then again, this may be good news in the short run, since it would mean that once there is a deal, people may actually actively suppress these feelings and get a fresh start with their neighbors.
Some accounts from staunchly Sunni/Hariri areas seem to suggest that there are also people there who thank God that they did NOT have more weapons, and NO central command etc., since that spared them much heavier damage and loss of life, with the same end result virtually assured. I suppose also that in a quiet moment, quite a few of the older people will acknowledge to themselves that this was very different from what happened in the past, that this was not a “massacre”, that the amount of sectarian harassment and intimidation that occurred was much, much less than what most people feared would happen.
Finally, there are of course those Sunnis who are on the other side, who still put their Arab-nationalist beliefs beyond their sectarian identity, who despise Hariri and dispute his leadership, and who strongly disagree with the pro-American tendencies of Seniora & Co. Just as there were Christians, back in 1975, who fought with the Palestinians and leftists parties when that war was still about political issues. The problem is, of course, that the sectarian card is the strongest ace in any power game, and the most efficient move to play it and make your sect unite behind your leadership is to initiate murder, mayhem and retaliation. We escaped this logic in this round – mainly, I’d think, because it was so short – but obviously there can be no guarantee for the next one.

Then again this is obviously played out on a much larger template. You have Iraq. You have the whole sectarian propaganda that comes out of Saudi and other places. On a deeper level, you have the permanent, morbid fear of the Lebanese Sunnis to be out-bred by the Shiites, and the historical experience of partly losing privileges that should have never existed, but since they were there, they became something to be defended, and their loss painful (that is what made the Maronites such vicious and (self)destructive defenders of the status quo in the 60ies and 70ies). You have the fear that the urban folks have of the villagers, a very deserved fear, given a history of uneven development (in that context, it is a sad irony that the most committed foot soldiers of the Hariris are even poorer and more marginalized than the “Shia masses”, and have never received more than crumbs from the table of their great benefactor). And of course you have all that history, starting in Kerbala…

So the answer would probably be that if there is a temporary compromise, people will make some efforts to patch things up and remain on their guard. In the remote case of a “solution” that deserves the name, they will actively work to overcome what happened, and probably succeed. And if the leadership is interested to fan the flames of sectarian resentment and violence, the ember is alive and active – and some of it, I would think, would also respond to Sunni radicals, of which there is no lack.

And … how effective was the Saudi owned media in amplifying the negative feelings against the Shia lately? .. some here suggest that the media did not make a difference …that Sunnis were obviously going to react in the same way, Saudi media or not.

Again, hard to judge without any poll data… Definitely, papers such as Al-Sharq Al-Awsat went quite far in casting this as a sectarian conflict, and may have further inflamed those who read them (not too many I’d think). “Saudi-owned” is also a difficult and maybe too narrow criteria – what about media outlets whose advertising revenue mainly comes from the Saudi or Emirati market? Journalists who write for “independent” newspapers but would not make ends without work for not so independent papers? Is “Future TV” Saudi-owned (since the Hariris hold Saudi citizenship)? etc.
But I think anyway the question as such is too narrow. What we know is that media are an essential element in actually constructing the feeling of commonality for a certain group, for the way that such an “imagined community” talks to itself, thinks about itself etc., and that they need to touch upon what the individuals feel strongly about. So it is always a two-way street, and the whole idea of media indoctrinating people to do this or that is overly simplistic, I’d say. What we have in Lebanon is that many people are ready to believe whatever their leaders will tell them, and in that case the media are not much more than transmitters and amplifiers – and in the end, the speaker should be blamed, not the amplifier. Of course, as a matter of principle, journalists should also be blamed for being willful amplifiers – but for many, it’s a hard job to eek out a living, and I’d find it over-righteous to blame them too much.


May 19th, 2008, 12:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t think the video suggests that the Lebanese are being “slapped” by an external bully. It’s is fairly obvious to everyone that we’re doing this to ourselves, but everyone has someone behind them providing them with authority and legitimacy.

That’s how I read it, at least.

May 19th, 2008, 12:57 pm


why-discuss said:


For a plain Youtube viewer, the way you interpret it is not ‘fairly obvious’ at all, sorry.

May 19th, 2008, 1:25 pm


norman said:

Bouthaina Shaaban: Politics versus ethics
Published: May 19, 2008DAMASCUS — The world was surprised by pictures at the U.S. Congress of the virtual Syrian site that was bombed by Israel almost a year ago. The question that was reiterated by most media specialists is: “Why now?” No one remembered, then, the timing of renewing U.S. sanctions against Syria. But anyone who reads the executive order of U.S. President George W. Bush and his letter to Congress will discover how the presentation of these fabricated photos came handy for him.

Bush says: “I took these actions to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions of the government of Syria,” which added to his hyperbolic accusations of Syria possessing “weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, including the recent revelation of illicit nuclear cooperation with North Korea.”

If you miss the name of the country, Syria, you would think that Bush is speaking about an economic and political giant in the Middle East. One wonders how the acts of the Syrian government could be a threat to the national security and economic wellbeing of the United States of America.

This reminds us of the claims of Colin Powell, then U.S. secretary of state, about the WMD in Iraq which had proved to be utterly baseless, but nonetheless which justified a crazy war that destroyed a country and its people for 100 years to come.

What we are faced with is a mighty military power that circulates misleading information in order to launch wars and torture people without being brought to task by anyone.

If anyone thinks that there is any kind of exaggeration in what is stated above one only has to read the memories of the Americans themselves, such as Ricardo Sanchez who was the Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq in 2003-2004.

In “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story,” an account of his life and service in Iraq, Sanchez related in his memoirs how secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld lied, pretending that he was not aware of key issues in redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq.

In his memoirs Rumsfeld stated that one of the biggest strategic mistakes of the war was ordering the major redeployment of forces and allowing the departure of the CENTCOM and CFLCC Staffs in May, June 2003.

Sanchez said, “I stopped reading after I read Rumsfeld’s statements that he did not know about the orders nor did he know that Sanchez was in Iraq.”

Sanchez adds that “all of the senior leadership in the Pentagon knew what was happening….” And he wondered, “how in the world Rumsfeld could have expected me to believe him.”

Sanchez says: “When I was on the ground in Iraq and saw what was going on, I assumed they had done zero phase VI planning. Now, three years later, I was learning for the first time that my assumption was not completely accurate.”

He further explains that there was 12 to 18 months of phase IV activity with active troop deployment. But then CENTCOM had completely walked away by simply stating that war was over and phase IV was not their job.

Sanchez concludes: “That decision set up the United States for a failed first year in Iraq.”

Perhaps this decision is at the root cause of the U.S. failure in Iraq and the destruction of the country. According to Sanchez: “This action by the Bush administration amounts to gross incompetence and dereliction of duty.”

If this is what the commander of American forces in Iraq says what could the Iraqi people who faced the bloodiest times in their history say? The bigger question is where is the democracy that Bush talks about?

And how far could a government go in distorting facts and circulating lies in order to justify its wars and aggression? Historians may decide to describe the first decade of the 21st century as the decade that witnessed, “the ethical collapse of the American military empire.”

Bouthaina Shaaban is Syrian minister of Expatriates. The views expressed in this article are her own and do not represent the view of the Middle East Times, or that of its editors.

May 19th, 2008, 1:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well then, why won’t minister Shaaban let journalists visit the site and see for themselves that it is not nuclear?

Shaaban is the ultimate example of the hypocrite. She expects her “opinions” (which are just propoganada) to be published by newspapers in other countries but the Syrian government heavily censors any opinion from abroad and will not publish any of it in Syrian papers.

She takes at face value anything one American general says but nothing Khadam says is true nor anything anyone in the opposition says.

Bottom line, what is more ridiculous than a Syrian minister trying to improve democracy in the US?

May 19th, 2008, 2:32 pm


ausamaa said:

A Saudi King who is trying to preach Democracy to Lebanese, and an Israeli Kenesset who claim it supports Freedom and Humanitarian causes, and a Bush Administration that says all what it is doing is bringing Peace and Liberty to the Middle East!

That is much more rediculous I guess!!!!

And someone like me who wastes time replying to a comment made by Guess who…..!

May 19th, 2008, 3:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Many Syrians have come to the US for its freedoms. Not many, if any Syrians have gone to Syria for its freedoms. Shaaban preaching to the US about freedom and ethics makes her look like a fool.

Many Syrians have gone to Saudi Arabia to work. Very few Saudis come to Syria to work. Yet you criticize Saudi Arabia? You should be thankful they do not expell all Syrians and that they help cushion poverty in Syria, poverty that your beloved regime is perpetuating.

May 19th, 2008, 3:42 pm


ugarit said:

AIG: thank you for agreeing with AUSAMAA.

May 19th, 2008, 4:01 pm


ugarit said:


If the only two choices people had for a type of government, Saudi (KSA) or Iranian, most sane people would pick Iranian. Iran is approaching democracy but certainly not a liberal one. KSA has nothing in comparison to Iran. What is the direction of KSA? Their interpretation of the middle ages? But since I am an atheist neither one would suit me well.

May 19th, 2008, 4:06 pm


ugarit said:

I think it would be safe to say that most Syrians come to the the US for economic freedom and not political freedom.

May 19th, 2008, 4:09 pm


norman said:

US Congressional leaders say they don’t rule out military option against Iran

The Associated Press
Monday, May 19, 2008
JERUSALEM: Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives said in Israel on Monday that they do not rule out military action against Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear bombs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a “full array of tactics are on the table” in efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Speaking at a news conference at Israel’s parliament during a four-day Congressional visit to Israel, she also listed diplomatic and economic options as important components.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer backed Pelosi. “No options should be taken off the table,” Hoyer said when asked by Israeli journalists if military action should be taken against Iran.

Both Pelosi and Hoyer are Democrats.

The United States, the European Union, Israel and others suspect Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons, though Iran insists its program is aimed solely at producing nuclear energy.

The 13-member Congressional delegation was visiting Israel to take part in its 60th anniversary of its founding. The trip, led also by Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, included meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli leaders and stops at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. Pelosi took time out Saturday for a quick trip to Iraq.

Pelosi said she does not rule out Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Such negotiations could help pull Syria away from Iranian influence, Pelosi said.

U.S. President George W. Bush told Israeli reporters earlier this month that he discourages the renewal of Israel-Syria talks.

Olmert has said he wants to resume talks with Syria, which broke off in 2000. Olmert said that the two countries have been in contact as part of efforts to reopen the negotiations.

Pelosi visited Israel and other Mideast countries a year ago. In that trip, Pelosi said she relayed an Israeli message to Syria that Israel wanted to reopen peace talks.


Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

May 19th, 2008, 4:11 pm


Alex said:

Dear Heiko

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

I agree with you that “the source” (leaders) is more to blame than the amplifier (the media). And I was indeed referring to more than “Saudi owned” media … including Saudi finance, Saudi, influenced, Saudi aligned …etc.

I watched on LBC a set of short interviews with regular Lebanese people sitting in downtown cafés … they were expressing these opinions:

“look around you .. it is a beautiful and peaceful country .. do we really need our leaders to mess it up? … when they are not here (away in Qatar) we have peace and quiet. When they are here, we are all tense and suspicious of the others … the country functioned without a president and practically without a government for the past year, and today when they are in Qatar it is functioning even better … so, let us do away with our leaders”

These might be the exception though… It is a nascent sentiment I guess.

But, as you suggested, large numbers of Lebanese people still follow their leaders blindly.

And … if these leaders are often ex-murderers, always corrupt, sectarian types … what can we expect?

Hariri is driven by what? … I would say he is driven by the need to take revenge for his father, plus his common believe (with the Saudis) that Lebanon’s Sunnis must protect their power that they gained after Ta’if. Hariri, who often stays in Saudi Arabia for two months at a time, does not seem to be especially motivated by the addiction to playing power politics in Lebanon that other leaders surly have.

What drives Junblatt and Geagea?… corruption? … protecting their communities? … proving they can deliver on their promises to their American allies? …

And Nasrallah? … What are his priorities? … Defending Lebanon? … helping Syria? helping Iran? … empowering Lebanon’s Shias?

Going back to Asharq Alawsat, two days ago Abdel Rahman Elrashed wrote “if Qatar thinks it can help them reach a solution, they should realize that this is a very costly process which Qatar probably can not afford”

May 19th, 2008, 4:19 pm


why-discuss said:

I am really enjoying the vocabulary used for Iran’s nuclear issue. They keep talking about putting and removing things from “the Table”, while insisting that it is still “on the table”. Nancy Pelosi is bringing more things “on the table’. This table is becoming crammed with garbage.
They talk about “carrots and sticks”, I wonder what new recipee they are preparing on the table. It smells bad anyway, the Iranians are not eating it. I think I am mixing up CNN and the Martha Stewart show!

May 19th, 2008, 4:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There is no democracy except liberal democracy, all the rest are just shams. Iran is not a democracy. There are elections but only those approved by the Mullahs can run and there is ZERO freedom of speech in Iran.

Syrians in the US are not afraid at all to talk against the US government. Syrians in in Syria cannot talk against the Syrian government unless they want to live in jail. Are you so blind as to not see that? Do you really believe Syria porvides the same political freedoms as the US?

I agree that the Saudi regime is awful. How do you explain then that over a million Syrians prefer it to the Syrian regime? It tells you a lot about how good the regime in Syria is.

And if Iran is such a great place, why do the pro-Hizballah Shia that leave Lebanon go to the US and not Iran? Actions speak louder than words and they cut through propoganda and lies.

May 19th, 2008, 4:29 pm


why-discuss said:


“What drives Junblatt and Geagea?… corruption? … protecting their communities? … proving they can deliver on their promises to their American allies? ”
My opinion:
Addiction to power, revenge (Geagea for his jailing, Jumblatt for his father’s murder), Greed ( They are failed professional, where do they get their money from?), psychological megalomania (By provoking, both want to prove they are no failed politicians).
They are not religious at all, they have a very limited view of where they are going. They can be easily bought as they have no real moral values.

“And Nasrallah? … What are his priorities? … Defending Lebanon? … helping Syria? helping Iran? … empowering Lebanon’s Shias?”

My opinion
His main priority:
He is deeply religious person, he looks for changing the mentality of the lebanese who are becoming more and more materialistic. The Palestinian and the Shia’s right cause is a way to become more altruistic and to give priority to social justice. In his eyes that would ultimately lead to create human bonds among lebanese others that mercantile.
Short term:
Fight corruption and injustice, provide pride and shelter to poor people.
He uses all ressources he can as long as they go along with his goals. He cannot be bought because he has high moral values and he knows where he is going.

May 19th, 2008, 4:41 pm


why-discuss said:


If Israel is such a paradise, how do you explain that more and more Israelis prefer to live in the US or back in Europe?

May 19th, 2008, 4:44 pm


EHSANI2 said:

How do you explain then that over a million Syrians prefer it to the Syrian regime?


$126 Per bbl can do wonders.

May 19th, 2008, 4:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Still, just for a job, Syrians are willing to “suffer” in Saudi instead of living under the great secular Syrian regime that cannot provide employment to its people (nor education etc.).
By the way, how many Syrians were there in Saudi when oil was $40 per barrel?

Currently the average Israeli is 6 to 7 times richer than the average Syrian. There is no basis for comparison between the countries. But if you insist, please provide the statistics about Israel and Syria and let’s compare how many want to live and how many want to stay.

May 19th, 2008, 5:10 pm


Shai said:

Ugarit, AIG,

Most people in the region, just like elsewhere in the world, make choices based on financial opportunities more than political ones. Syrians that work in Saudi are willing to “live” under Saudi law, which is far less liberal than Syrian law, because they’re earning 10 times as much. If Iran offered them salaries surpassing $10K-$15K per year, they’ll go work there. Wealthy people, that can live almost anywhere and still make money with their businesses around the world, make their choices differently perhaps, though even that could be argued. Most high-tech industry Israelis that work in the U.S., for instance, are doing so to earn more money, save for a number of years, and come back. They don’t marry an American and become U.S. citizens. If Saudi Arabia was willing to accept Israeli workers, and would pay them annual salaries surpassing $50K-$60K, you’d find some Israelis going there as well… Political freedom is of course important, but normally for the citizens of that country, not as much for foreign workers. It’s all about financial opportunities.

May 19th, 2008, 5:38 pm


ugarit said:

May 17 / 18, 2008
What Next in Lebanon?
In the Wake of the Doha Truce



After the rout of pro-US March 14 militias at the hands of the Hizbullah-led opposition forces in Beirut and Shouf mountains last week, a Qatari-led Arab League delegation sent to Beirut on 14 May succeeded in brokering a truce. The seven-point agreement reached includes the immediate resumption of national dialogue in Doha–with the main aim of finally forming a national unity government, electing a president by consensus, and agreeing on the details of an electoral law—and the pledge not to use force to settle political disputes. The airport, port and main border crossing with Syria, as well as schools and shops, were promptly re-opened as militias on both sides removed roadblocks and hid their weapons.

With the army deployed throughout key areas, Lebanese citizens once again resumed their everyday activities under the more familiar conditions of a devastated environment, massive traffic jams, unregulated construction and urban planning, electricity and water shortages, state-sponsored theft or abuse of public lands and resources, rising poverty, inflation and unemployment, and one of the worst budget deficits per capita in the world. The illusion of normalcy, in other words, has returned returns for the time being but the real question is: for how long?

There is little doubt that the Doha truce averted a descent into the nightmare of a large-scale civil conflict most Lebanese were dreading, and as such was welcome by all. However, there is equally little doubt that this truce represents a temporary pause in an on-going regional war fomented by the unrelenting US ‘war on terror’. In this larger war, unlike the street battles of last week, there can be no winners among the Lebanese people, only losers, just as their has been among the Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis and others who have been caught in the same global, and apparently perpetual, conflict.

The continued US, Israeli and Saudi obsession with Iran (which these days is being used interchangeably with “Shia’a” in a bid to fan sectarian flames) means that they will already be planning ahead for the next battle, probably in Lebanon and almost certainly in Gaza (since Hamas is placed in the “Iran” column), in order to halt the perceived Iranian gain in Lebanon last week. In such a case, the recent conciliatory sentiments expressed by some March 14 leaders like Walid Jumblatt must be read as a strategic objective to gain time and space to regroup.

The disconcerting silence of Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most troubling. Not only have the Saudi-sponsored sectarian militias in Lebanon been defeated, but now its tiny but increasingly ambitious Gulf rival state of Qatar has rubbed salt into its wounds by stealing the diplomatic limelight and consolidating its role as regional peacemaker. The Saudis have both the means and influence to mobilize Sunni Salafist groups in Lebanon in a protracted sectarian war against Hizbullah, or precipitate the collapse of the Lebanese economy, if it decides it has ‘lost’ the country to Iran. As such, the Doha participants will want to pacify the Saudis.

……” ==> http://counterpunch.org/makdisi05172008.html

May 19th, 2008, 6:05 pm


Alex said:


Forget where Syrians work … ask yourself where do may, many Saudis spend their Summer vacation?

In Beirut and in Damascus… year after year after year.



Check your email please.


in the case of Nasrallah … do you think the Lebanese Sunnis (and Christians) are not going to be worried that an obviously religious and strong Shia leader will at some point tell them what to wear and what to do or not do?

May 19th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Shai said:

Alex, got it, and responded…

May 19th, 2008, 6:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is your point? Because many Americans vacation in the Carribean that does not make the countries there a better place to live than the US.

As for this year, do you think as many Saudis are going to come to Beirut and Damascus? I am not so sure.

May 19th, 2008, 6:35 pm


Shai said:


I’d guess Damascus would have far more Saudis visiting this year, because many less will be in Beirut… You know, speaking of Saudis, about 15 years ago I was vacationing in Eilat along the Red Sea. We went out in the evening, and suddenly a super-fancy white Lexus caught my eye. I was wondering why, until I noticed the Saudi plates! It was almost shocking. In those days, it was impossible to even see Jordanian license plates (today you see them every now and then), but certainly not Saudi. I never saw the driver, unfortunately, but I would have said “Ahlan wa-Sahlan!”

May 19th, 2008, 6:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are probably wrong, I predict less Saudis will go to Damascus this year as the tension between the two countries is rising.

May 19th, 2008, 6:52 pm


Shai said:

Maybe. But Syria is still much more stable, has not made any threatening gestures towards Saudi, or Saudi citizens, and I imagine those vacationers are not there to talks politics, but to simply enjoy themselves.

May 19th, 2008, 6:54 pm


norman said:


Very wise notes.

May 19th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Shai said:


If I got an invitation to come smoke Argileh in Damascus with a Syrian and a Saudi, I’d be there in two hours! (literally…) 🙂

May 19th, 2008, 7:01 pm


abraham said:

Israeli operation in Syria was helped by US troops in Iraq

Israeli aircraft received help from US land forces stationed in Iraq in the bombing of the Syrian Deir Ezzor site last September, wrote the Jordanian Arabic daily Alhadath.

“A commando from the Israeli special forces was stationed in Iraq weeks before the attack, with the approval of US forces,” indicated the newspaper. “The US army gave the commando the green light and helped them enter Syrian soil to reach the targeted site early in September”, the newspaper added.

According to Israeli intelligence: “The special intelligence unit was on the Syrian-Iraqi border as early as August and later moved into Syria to mark the site for Israeli planes to carry out a night attack.”

The same sources confirmed that the Israeli force was guided through the region by the “Peshmarga”, which were informed that the operation assisted a “Western intelligence mission”.

Israeli aircraft bombed an alleged Syrian nuclear site that was under-construction with the help of North Korea on September 6 last year. Syria strongly denies the claims.


The still untold story is how Jordan assisted by letting Israel use its airspace to allow the attack to come in from behind Syrian defenses.

May 19th, 2008, 7:05 pm


abraham said:

Israel at Sixty by Ran HaCohen

Christians – the ancient self-designated heirs to the Jews – commemorate Christ’s tormented way to resurrection and redemption in the weeks leading to Easter. Zionists – the modern self-designated heirs to the Jews – have their Lent after Passover, commemorating what they construct as their via dolorosa leading to the “Jewish State.” In the weeks following Pesach the country indulges in a nationalistic orgy, hardly imaginable in any other modern state, reminiscent of a primitive tribe. If you want to understand how a whole nation is led to defy its own interests, to follow a corrupt, de facto military leadership wasting the nation’s fortune and blood on unnecessary wars and immoral occupation for decades, pay a visit to Israel shortly after Pesach.

Read more:


May 19th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Shai said:

I thought Israeli planes used only Turkish airspace before penetrating into Syria, and from the north, not the south, no?

May 19th, 2008, 7:09 pm


Alex said:


Many Saudis are married to Syrian women. They go back to Damascus to see the family. Others want to marry a Syrian women. For example King Abdullah and Saad Hariri (a Saudi) are both married to Syrian women.

Many others do not speak foreign languages and they have no option when they need to escape the 50 degree summer days than to go to either Damascus or Beirut.

AIG would also love to go to Damascus … get into frequent arguments with Syrians until he gets into a fight one day … then he can use that as proof that Syrian are antisemites.

May 19th, 2008, 7:14 pm


why-discuss said:


“Do you think the Lebanese Sunnis (and Christians) are not going to be worried that an obviously religious and strong Shia leader will at some point tell them what to wear and what to do or not do?”

This is the usual leitmotiv of the 14 March people and is a cheap propaganda. The ‘veil’ phobia, that seems to terrify the christians. By the way, I don’t see why you include the sunnis who already wear veil and if the influence of Saudi had grown in Lebanon, like in pakistan, lebanese women would be wearing a black veil and would neither drive nor vote!

You are not giving any credit to Nasrallah’s pragmatism. In Iran and Turkey where the large majority is muslim , they may have problems with Islam and modernity. Lebanon as Syria, are levantine countries with a tradition of religious tolerance. Nasrallah made an alliance with the maronites, the most irreductible and suspicion-prone christian sect in Lebanon, just to dispel any insinuation or interpretation of his goals. And he is a man of word, which Hariri is not.
I prefer to believe in a man of faith than in bourgeois puppets looking for powerful and rich masters.

May 19th, 2008, 7:21 pm


Shai said:


Imagine people of all nations could freely travel anywhere they wanted. Israelis to Syria, Syrians to Israel, Palestinians going out to Tel-Aviv, Israelis going out to Gaza. We’d have peace in no time. Because our people would develop empathy and understanding towards one another. But because we let our “leaders” do as they will with our future, we are where we are. What miserable failure and a waste of life these past 60 years have been. Although nowhere as extreme as that Ran HaCohen in Abraham’s article above, I must admit that I too had mixed feelings on this recent 60th Independence Day. It’s not easy celebrating, when you know your “great achievement” has come at the expense of so many.

May 19th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Alex said:


I like Nasrallah and I trust him. I was not expressing my own opinion. I was asking about the opinions of Lebanese Sunnis and Christians.

In fact I was referring to secular Lebanese in general, Christian or Sunni or Druze … or even Shiites.

They are not only worried about having to cover their hair .. but about being able to drink their Arak … or to see Haifa’s sexy skin on TV… or to continue to be able to keep personal moralily questions a strictly personal decision where their leaders have no ability to influence or to legislate.

May 19th, 2008, 7:29 pm


Alex said:


The good thing about the internet is that it is becoming much more difficult to escape reality … 25 years ago you did not have to read about, and watch youtube clips about the mistakes that your country make. Now you can not escape them easily.

This applies to all … I learned from Ehsani here that Syria’s economic reforms are not as promising as I initially though they are. Journalists get negative feedback by email as soon as their stupid opinions are posted …

It is hopefully going to be easier to correct, or at least to recognize mistakes.

May 19th, 2008, 7:35 pm


ugarit said:

“The still untold story is how Jordan assisted by letting Israel use its airspace to allow the attack to come in from behind Syrian defenses.”

But I thought that US and Israeli offensive capabilities were so effective that Syrian defenses were useless. If true, the above quoted sentence implies that Syrian defenses are to be reckoned with, but I guess why would one go through air defenses if one can avoid them entirely.

I’m not sure what “behind Syrian defenses” is. Doesn’t RADAR have a spherical range so there is no behind.

Interestingly this image:


shows Deir Azzour to be out, or nearly out, of range of all air defenses. Perhaps that’s what’s meant by “behind”.


May 19th, 2008, 7:36 pm


ausamaa said:


That is it then. Syria again is the reason for all this mishape. Maybe we should blame their Syrian wives for not controlling their husbands’ (mini Harriri and King Abdullah) irrational behavior.

May 19th, 2008, 7:38 pm


Shai said:

Alex, no doubt about that. But one still has to be strong enough inside to believe what he hears or sees. Most people aren’t… unfortunately. But that too can change.

May 19th, 2008, 7:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I just read that the Israeli special unit came from the space shuttle via a moon walk into Syria. Is there anything you guys won’t believe?

May 19th, 2008, 8:19 pm


ausamaa said:

Who says people learn? Look at the 14 Feb behavior in Doha!

If there is no agreement in Doha, it is high time for the Opposition to go for full civil disobediance, storm the Saray and kick mini Hariri out immediately upon their return to Beirut. Normalcy can come back within weeks of such a move once the Opposition proves to the Lebanese what they have been preaching. The hell with the useless USS Cole and its sister (they are show pieces only), the hell with Saudis who are trying to put the sticks in the Lebanses wheel out of sheer vengance, and the hell with Amer Mousa who is acting as if he is morning a dear friend, and the hell with the the Feb 14 fake and broken record of Reconcilliation, National Dialouge and all that stuff. They are Liars, opportunists and shamelss losers.

The Opposition should tell this as a final threat to the Qatari mediators, give them and the Feb 14 24 hours to get their butt on the table and sign, or else, all bets will be off. That is the only Language Feb 14 understand while the dosage last..!

In Arabic they call them: ناس بيخافوا بس ما بيختشوش

Hizbullah, Berri, Frangieh, Arsalan, Aoun and Karami are people who people can trust at least. And they represent 70% of Lebanese. You want democracy, that is democracy and enough razaleh wi shatarah…

Time for action we bala kalam fadi ba’aa…

May 19th, 2008, 8:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If the Syrian anti air ability was good, Syria would not be afraid of war with Israel and would have retaliated to the Sept 6 attack.

May 19th, 2008, 8:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I see you have mastered the democracy they teach in Syrian textbooks. That kind of democracy is called “Hama rules” democracy.

May 19th, 2008, 8:27 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What behavior are you talking about? Both sides are behaving badly. The weekend started out promisingly, but both sides have retreated to their maximalist positions as of late.

Aoun threatened to leave this morning when he heard the Qatari proposal, which involved electing Suleiman as a president simultaneously with an agreement on the shape of the next cabinet (13/10/7… no veto for March 8, no majority for March 14), and a postponement of discussion of the election law until after the election.

It is not looking good. The same obstacles that prevailed before are re-surfacing now. Berri seems to be caught in the middle.

May 19th, 2008, 9:06 pm


zenobia said:

Summer in Damascus is filled with guests from the gulf. However, it need not be summer. Downtown Damascus has Saudis visiting all the time.
This is especially so now that there are a plethora of strip clubs and other ‘places’ where they can watch naked Iraqi girls along with the naked Russian girls and likely more than watch.

I am pretty sure they are not going away. They can drive up for the weekend for christsakes.. no visa needed! and get a lot of bang for their buck (or riyalle) so to speak…..

as of a few months ago, I saw more Saudis on the streets of Damas then I saw in Beirut, that is for certain.

But also, on the border between Lebanon and Syria, I was always waiting in line behind many Iranians. Bus loads of Iranians! (i guess they travel as a pack) They were traveling back and forth from Beirut to Damascus in buses. And there were always lots of Iranians on pilgrimages to Damascus. Now they are greeted by a zillion Iraqis.

So , come all to Damascus, where you will see everyone from all across the middle east. It is a fascinating sight to see.

May 19th, 2008, 10:07 pm


Alex said:

AIG said:

“Is there anything you guys won’t believe?”

hmm … let’s try to remember the first week after we started to hear leaked stories … you, and the rest of the western media believed and quoted all kinds of conflicting leaked stories … one of them was that Israel bombed missile parts intended for Hizbollah, another story said that Israeli commandos were on the ground pointing to the planes where to bomb .. another story said that Israeli commandos first went in there to remove the radioactive materials before Israel bombed the place and that explains why nothing was registered after the bombing …

May 19th, 2008, 10:36 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

Ok, and you say:The same obstacles that prevailed “before” are re-surfacing “now”.

That is correct, except you forget that “before” is different than “now”. NOW represents a shift in the Balance of Power on the ground (some samples below):

1-Junblat has not been able to take the Rockets from the Hands of Hizbullah as he threatened only weeks ago (LOL), and the Harriri paid or enthusiastic supporters had outdone themselves fleeing away when push came to shove.
2- Bush, Israel and the Moderates has proved to all that there was nothing more they can do for the almost disbanded Feb 14 crowd
3- And Saudies had stupidly squandered any clout they could use with Berri and Syria to resolve the conflict in a face saving manner

So the same obstacles are still there for sure, but NOW is not like BEFORE. The changes on the ground has to reflect itself in the new Picture. There is a Victor, and there is a Loser. And it is natural that the loser, should lower his expectations to reflect the new reality. Plain and Simple.

Why are wars waged and conflicts take place? To change the balance of power. Right? In Lebanon the balance of power has shifted drastically and irreversibly in the last week, and there is nothing to give hope to the defeated Feb 14 that they stand a chanced to have it reversed in any meaningful manner soon. So, they should swallow whatever they need to swallow while fervently and sincerly thanking God that things did not end up worse than they did.

Losers bite the dust, not act like victories! Unless they are still being “instructed” and maybe “threatened” by the Arab Moderats/BUsh to hold on for only a little longer till the Sky becomes little more blue. Then, they are not only mere losers, but also stupid criminals or paid agents for outside powers who seek to settle their accounts with other at the expense of Lebanese blood. Which they are in my humble Opinion; both, the Feb 14 and the Moderates.

That is why the Opposition has to act not only to defend itself and save Lebanon, but also has to save the Feb 14 loonies themselves of their own stupidity. That is why the Opposition needs to act swiftly and decisively NOW.

The NOW that is very different from the BEFORE you mentioned in your qoute above.

By the way, the whole issue for the Feb 14 freedom-fighters now seems to be how to slice the Parliamentarian Seats Cake. Forget Independence, Liberty and Freedom. And the funny thing is that they will lose which ever way that cake is sliced. And that is enough reason to drive some of them to bet on the Supernatural rather than to acknowledge a Realty which is going to hit them in the face sooner or later. Let’s have it sooner for every ones sake.

May 19th, 2008, 11:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


There may or may not have been a commando team on the ground, but why would a Jordanian paper know about that (especially one with anonymous sources)? And don’t you find it ridiculous that the peshmerga (the Kurdish forces) would help Israeli commandos so far away from their home base, an area where the Kurds don’t live and are not familiar with?

You blame the Saudi press for incitement, but when incitement looks you in the face you do not recognize it. Clearly, this is a piece aimed at inciting against the Amercians and Kurds (and the Israelis).

Incitement works in the middle east because each side is prepared to believe the worst about the other side.

May 19th, 2008, 11:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Would you give the same advice to the Palestinians? Would you tell them that in wars there are victors and losers and that the Palestinians “should swallow whatever they need to swallow while fevrently and sincerly thanking God that things did not get end up worse than they did”?

Would you give the Syrians the same advice regarding the Golan? Should they accept the fact that it is likely always to remain Israeli because any other way will lead to more blood?

May 19th, 2008, 11:21 pm


ausamaa said:


Sorry to say it, but I bet you that the expression on many faces of SC visitors when they see your “contributions” must be similar to the disgusted look on the face of restaurant customer when the waiter brings a plate he did not order.

That is if one wants to put it mildly!

May 19th, 2008, 11:37 pm


Alex said:

AIG said,

“don’t you find it ridiculous that the peshmerga (the Kurdish forces) would help Israeli commandos so far away from their home base, an area where the Kurds don’t live and are not familiar with?

You blame the Saudi press for incitement, but when incitement looks you in the face you do not recognize it. Clearly, this is a piece aimed at inciting against the Amercians and Kurds (and the Israelis).

Incitement works in the middle east because each side is prepared to believe the worst about the other side.”

First, tell me about the first story you believed and strongly defended and asked us why are we refusing to believe it even though the prestigious London Times was behind it … that story about Israel bombing Missile parts for Hizbollah …

Are you still going to believe everything that the London times comes up with?

Next, I do not believe, and I do not reject with absolute certainty any of those stories about the Israeli raid on the building by the Euphrates … or about who killed Hariri …

Probably nine out of ten stories are not true .. the tenth one might be true but we will never know which one it is.

Finally .. no one needs to waste his time to work on incitement against the Americans or Israelis … the “popularity” of the two countries is practically zero in the Arab world.

May 19th, 2008, 11:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t agree with you about losers and victors. What happened last week in Lebanon proved nothing… besides the fact that Hizbullah has a powerful and well-trained militia, and we knew that.

The crisis in Lebanon today is a political one. It cannot be solved by a takeover of Beirut. Nor can it be solved by civil disobedience. It can only be solved when politicians sit down and solve the problems of the country, problems like our crooked electoral law, our out-of-date power sharing formula, and our too-ambiguous national security strategy. Do you think that the sun would have risen on a beautiful new day in Lebanon had Hizbullah stormed the Grand Serail and removed Siniora by force? No, habibi, nothing would have changed. The price of kishk would be the same and the Constitution would be the same.

Coups always try to style themselves as revolutions, but they eventually fall apart if the root causes are not addressed. Sayyed Hasan understands this; that’s why he didn’t storm the Serail as you suggest. You see, the man is wise.

May 20th, 2008, 12:49 am


why-discuss said:


“It can only be solved when politicians sit down and solve the problems of the country, problems like our crooked electoral law, our out-of-date power sharing formula, and our too-ambiguous national security strategy.

They have been sitting for the last 18 months, ruin the country economy, instigate hatred, encourage lebanese to emigrate and if there has not been this crisis where Hezbollah said enough is enough they would be still sitting, hoping that a “divine’ intervention will make them talk to each other!
So the 14 march ARE the loosers and the opposition is a winner. Please let’s stop this BS of no looser no winner because we don’t want to hurt the pride of these criminals. This government bears the full responsibility of the death of 62 persons and no one talks about it and they rescinded their stupid decisions and now reject all responsibility. Come on, they created the s… they got the s.. back on their face and they have to eat it now.

May 20th, 2008, 1:57 am


norman said:


You said ,

Coups always try to style themselves as revolutions, but they eventually fall apart if the root causes are not addressed. Sayyed Hasan understands this; that’s why he didn’t storm the Serail as you suggest. You see, the man is wise.

May 20th, 2008, 12:49 am

I am glad you beleive me that Nasrallah is wise

May 20th, 2008, 1:59 am


Qifa Nabki said:


There is no point being vulgar. You see things your way, I see things mine. I think there is more than enough blame to go around.

May 20th, 2008, 2:16 am


Honest Patriot said:

It really comes down to 2 options, either accepting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and then working through the peace agreements needed to establish coexistence and prosperity for all in the Middle East, or insist on “wiping Israel off the map,” or “throwing the Zionists in the sea” and establish a single state in Palestine. Those who believe in the first option should know that those who are pushing the second option are standing in the way of the solution whose elements are quite known. Judging from history and applying wisdom I see the first option as the sensible one. All those here who argue for HA weapons, for the righteousness of the Syrian regime, etc., are really in the other camp. There is no middle ground. You cannot root for the Syrian regime and claim you are for a 2-state solution. It simply does not compute. Alas Lebanon is caught in the middle of an Arabic quagmire. The true Lebanese want their country to be non-aligned, prosperous, completely independent of any foreign influence, with clearly delineated borders with both Syria and Israel, with diplomatic relations with both Syria and Israel, and working in the most effective way to voice persuasive arguments defending the rights of the Palestinians (which will be, for a change, the most effective way to claim those rights). Those who disagree are in the other camp, and are repeating the mistakes made by the Arabs over and over again. They never learn, and the most ironic aspect of this, is that they are not the ones who are paying the price but are rather mere loud mouthpieces for the (losing) rejectionsist stand. I know I speak for many readers of this blog even if they don’t bother voicing their opinion (or if they stopped reading in utter disappointment). This camp will soon include me, I’m afraid. I apply objective, reasoned, scientific anlaysis to all this and I don’t see it any other way.

May 20th, 2008, 2:20 am


Zenobia said:

Only “two options” ? and no middle ground?
of course there is middle ground…. tons and tons of middle ground. Swaths of middle ground.
People actually don’t fit into one camp or the other. They agree on some terms and not on others… with all kinds of nuances and specific differences and agreements.
this with us or against us, black and white dichotomous choices picture is not reality either.
It is very easy to see this even on the most basic views. For example, I personally am in favor of a lasting Israel and peaceful coexistence between all the countries there, but at the same time- I am not against HA asserting themselves this way or taking things to this level. Sounds contradictory, but it is possible to have these things both in ones mind.

May 20th, 2008, 2:52 am


norman said:

US and Russia ranked among least peaceful nations
By James Blitz in London

Published: May 20 2008 03:00 | Last updated: May 20 2008 03:00

An annual study ranking nations in terms of how peaceful they are has given poor marks to the US and Russia, placing them firmly in the bottom half of a list of 140 states.

Iceland tops the survey, which analyses how peaceful countries are both in terms of international policy and domestic conditions. For the second year running, Iraq is in last place due to the continuing violence since the 2003 US-led invasion.

However, the different results scored by the world’s leading powers remain the most striking feature of the Global Peace Index, the brainchild of Steve Killelea, an Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist. The survey, published today, finds that 16 of the 20 most peaceful states are European democracies – most of them members of the European Union. If the EU is judged as a bloc, it would come in fourth place.

However, China is put in 67th place, the US is 97th and Russia is at 131.

The Global Peace Index is drawn up by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an independent think-tank, together with the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit. It tests each nation against 24 “peacefulness” criteria, including a nation’s relations with its neighbours, arms sales and foreign troop deployments.

It also takes into account data on a nation’s crime rate, its prison population and the potential for terrorism within its borders.

The low ranking of the US, which comes below Syria, Rwanda and Mongolia, reflects its high level of -military expenditure and engagement. It also has proportionally more citizens in jail than any other state.

Russia remains in the bottom 10 despite a lower score in the measure of domestic conflict, which partly reflects increased stability in Chechnya. Relations with neighbouring countries are moderately tense and Russians have low levels of trust in other citizens, probably a reflection of the country’s high rates of violent crime.

In Europe, France, Britain, Cyprus and Greece fall out of the top 20. Relatively high levels of militarisation in the UK and France are one of the main reasons the states receive a lower ranking.

Iceland’s position reflects its internal political stability and its good relations with its neighbours. But internal factors also count, Iceland has no standing army and among the lowest proportion of its citizens in jail.

Iraq’s position at the bottom of the table is no surprise, given that 4m Iraqis are now said to be in exile. Among the least peaceful states clustered at the bottom of the list are Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan.

The 2008 list also reveals the biggest risers and fallers since the first survey was conducted last year. The nations making the biggest jump up the table are Angola, Indonesia, India and Uzbekistan.

Angola has risen 13 points because, five years after the end of the civil war, it has an increasingly stable political scene and is set to hold elections this year for the first time in 15 years.

Kenya, which witnessed serious internal violence after December’s presidential elections, has been the biggest faller.

For full ranking see: http://www.ft.com/peaceindex
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

May 20th, 2008, 3:13 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

You know, maybe the fact that the Lebanese warlords are in Doha is a good thing. It seems the are willing to freeload as long as Doha is willing to pay the tab…this may be the solution everyone’s been looking for!

May 20th, 2008, 3:21 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

My line on the bombings has always been the same: Israel would take the risk in doing such a thing only for a nuclear facility. So what you are saying is just not true, I did not believe any other story.

The Jordanian article is inciting against the Kurds, Americans and Israelis. If you are against incitement, then at least be consistent. Even when the incitement serves your interest you should not support it.

There are plenty of people that view the Americans as a force for good in the Arab world. They are of course silenced and threatened by the voices of “resistance” so their support is not public.

May 20th, 2008, 4:07 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

HP has got it right.

Take the case of South Korea and North Korea. One is US “puppet” and for over 50 years has US troops stationed there. The other has “resisted” the US for years. Where would you rather live?

Take the case of Israel and Syria. Israel has been the “puppet” of the US and Syria has led the “resistance”. Which country is in better shape and has provided better for its citizens?

Take the Kurds and the Sunni in Iraq. The Kurds have become American “puppets” and have accepted US hegemony. The Sunni are blowing up Americans. Who is in a better situation?

Yes, American hegemony is so so bad. You get aid, you get loans, you get technology and you get security and in cases like Germany, Japan, South Korea and the Kurds, you get democracy and a chance to be a first world country.

When a Syrian moves to the US he must by definition accept US hegemony. This is why I find it utterly amazing that Syrians in the US are rejecting for their countrymen what they themsleves accept freely (after all, they can move back to Syria).

May 20th, 2008, 4:14 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I wish that for once an American Lebanese who is a supporter of Hizballah would explain his line of thinking. Why do you personally accept US hegemony and find it good but think that Lebanon as a country should reject it? Why would it be so bad if the Lebanese in Lebanon had a life like you have in the US? What would be so bad if the Shia got a fair representation in the political process in Lebanon and Hizballah disarmed?

May 20th, 2008, 4:20 am


Naji said:

أضرار «جانبيّة»
خالد صاغيّة

مهما تكن النتيجة التي سيتمخّض عنها مؤتمر الدوحة، فإنّ قوى الأكثريّة التي ستعود إلى لبنان، لن تكون هي نفسها الأكثريّة التي عرفناها في السابق. لقد أدّت أحداث بيروت والجبل الأخيرة إلى فقدان المعارضة الكثير من رصيدها، لكنّها أدّت إلى فقدان الأكثريّة لنفسها.
نحن أمام مشهد يتراوح بين نقيضين: يمثّل وليد جنبلاط التسليم المطلق بنتائج الحملة العسكريّة. وهو مارس ضغطاً لإلغاء قرارَي الحكومة المشؤومين بالقوّة نفسها التي مارس بها الضغط لإقرارهما. انتقل جنبلاط سريعاً من موقع القيادة الفعليّة لقوى 14 آذار، إلى موقع قيادة طائفته الصغرى التي تعرّضت لضربة موجعة. في موقعه الأوّل، كان يقابل كلّ ضربة بمزيد من التطرّف. أمّا في موقعه الثاني، فلا خيار إلا اعتماد سياسة الحدّ من الأضرار.
على الضفّة المقابلة، يبدو سمير جعجع في حال إنكار كامل للواقع المستجدّ، ولا يكفّ عن الترداد أنّ ما جرى على الأرض لن تكون له انعكاسات سياسيّة، وهو العسكريّ الذي بنى كلّ أمجاده السابقة على قلب المعادلات السياسيّة بواسطة انقلابات عسكريّة. لكنّ جعجع المحاط بحلفاء مسيحيّين ضعفاء، والمحاصَر بميشال عون المتفاهم مع حزب الله، لا يملك غير إنكار الواقع وسيلةً لمواجهته. يزيد من صلابة هذا الإنكار أنّ أيّ نافذة على الواقع لن تطلّ إلا على استيعاب دروس «حليفه الاشتراكيّ».
يقف فؤاد السنيورة وسعد الدين الحريري في الوسط، وهما أقرب إلى الزوجين المخدوعين. الأوّل خدعته نفسه، وخدعه حلفاؤه السياسيّون الذين شكّل غطاءً لهم. بقي يردّد لازماته بشأن بناء الدولة، حتّى كاد يصدّق أنّ المعركة في لبنان تدور حول هذه النقطة بالذات، وأنّ قادة 14 آذار، وكوندوليزا رايس من وراء البحار، لن يتمكّنوا من النوم قبل تأمين احتكار الدولة للعنف، وقطع دابر الفساد.
لم يكن السنيورة قائداً شعبياً. لم يخضع نفسه لأي امتحان انتخابي، ولا يحمل من الصفات الكاريزميّة أكثر من نظيره سلام فيّاض. لكنّه لم يكن مجرّد واجهة لأمراء الطوائف والحروب والنهب المنظّم الذين يشكّلون قادة 14 آذار. لقد أراد أن يكثّف في شخصه ما يمكن أن نسمّيه أيديولوجيّة الدولة. لكنّه سقط في فخّ انعدام القدرة على التمييز بين المتخيّل والحقيقي. فذهب بعيداً في خطاب الدولة، وبدلاً من التعامل مع الأيديولوجيا وسيلةً لـ«صناعة» الأفراد أو وعيهم، تعامل مع الجماعات وسيلةً لخدمة الأيديولوجيا. فكان أن أدّى الدور المطلوب منه بأمانة: مزيد من تحلّل الدولة أمام زحف الطوائف.
خديعة الحريري الابن كانت مختلفة. إنّها خديعة ملعقة الذهب، إذا جاز التعبير. جاء إلى دنيا السياسة محاطاً بدعم شعبي ودولي جارف، فضلاً عن القدرات الماديّة الضخمة. لقد خدعه المحيطون به، أو ربّما لم يجدوا طريقة أفضل لتفسير تعقيدات العالم له. قسّموا له الدنيا، كما في الأفلام الهوليوودية، إلى الرجل السيّئ والرجل الجيّد (Good guys and bad guys). كان يجول في عواصم القرار في العالم، فلا يجد من يدحض له هذه الاختزالات. فالدور المراد له أن يؤدّيه لم يكن يتطلّب إدراكاً أكثر عمقاً. وجد الحريري نفسه فجأة في منتصف الطريق، وسط تعقيدات لا قدرة لمفرداته الضيّقة على التعبير عنها، فضلاً عن إيجاد تفسير لها أو التعامل معها.
لقد كانت لضربة حزب اللّه العسكريّة تأثيرات متفاوتة الأحجام على مركّبات السلطة. لا يمكن فريقاً أصيب بهذا القدر من التهشيم، أن يخوض حواراً منتجاً، وخصوصاً في ظلّ خصم ضاق ذرعاً بالسياسة، فلم يتورّع عن استخدام القوّة الصلفة.

عدد الثلاثاء ٢٠ أيار ٢٠٠٨

عنوان المصدر:

May 20th, 2008, 4:30 am


Shai said:


You said: “Incitement works in the middle east because each side is prepared to believe the worst about the other side.”

I completely agree with you. But I would also say that we are not only prepared to hear more terrible things about one another, we indeed continuously seek such “reinforcements” to our own distorted views. We are not open minded, we do not wish to hear opposing views, and as time passes we lose those last shreds of hope. At best, we adopt apathy and cynicism as a way to handle life.


I don’t think HP means that there is no middle ground in the process. I think he’s stating that in the end, you will either have an Israel which is a Jewish state, or you will have an armed HA (as an example). That you cannot have both. So while you may, at the moment, support both, HP is saying that while that may be legitimate, it is holding up the end result. I agree with HP about the end, but not about the process. Unfortunately, we are nearing the end precisely because HA and Hamas are armed. If these were never created, nor the Syrian-Iranian alliance, we may still be contemplating continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, the Golan, and Southern Lebanon. HP probably believes that once Israel has shown signs it is willing to give up on the West Bank (as it did on Gaza and the Sinai), and on the Golan, then anything that may counter her on the ground impedes in reaching these goals. I just don’t see how we can remove those elements of (armed) resistance, one nanosecond before signing the final peace agreements. Of course I wish we could, but I’m afraid my own country would only take advantage of it, and change its course for the worse, not for the better. I am sadly forced to admit, that Israel (as well as some others in this region) only responds to force. In the immediate term, it reacts wrongly (another operation into Gaza). In the long term, correctly (withdrawal from Gaza, West Bank, Golan).

May 20th, 2008, 4:43 am


Zenobia said:

yes, i see what you are saying. I don’t disagree with HP about the end, but i disagree about the process involved and the evolution of societies which is not so amenable to our control.

I don’t think you know what the definition of Hegemony is. Or i simply don’t understand what you are saying about it. Why did you keep saying that by living in the US, one is accepting the notion or principle legitimacy of US hegemony? Nonsense. Lots of americans are opposed to it. And certainly immigrants who come to the US are agreeing to play by the US laws while they are here. However, they may completely disagree at the same time with the foreign policy or the role in the world that the United States is playing. There is no contradiction there. What goes on inside the US is not equivalent to how this country treats the rest of the world. Hegemony is about the country’s relation with other powers and the world.

and by the way, there are many Syrians, my own cousins for example, who have come to the United States to get education, and some to make money, and some just to get an American passport (ironically,in part, so if the US ever bombs Syria they can get out! and just as ironically… because the passport has prestige when you try to get engaged.. although this prestige is now waning fast) and then they leave to go back to Syria. Many have no intention of staying in the States … no matter how materially better it is and how much better the standard of living is… and even no matter how “free” the individual is comparatively. Interestingly enough – they don’t like how lonely they are in America, how segregated it is culturally (actually)… and that it is a place that generates a lot of feeling of alienation, particularly for the immigrant.
but I think these are subtleties that you don’t consider in your evaluation of life or in this bizarre way of comparing life across the worlds different countries.
Ultimately, not all life is evaluated by the type of terms you have laid out. Even democratic participation and any feeling for it – is a luxury to experience. A huge number of people everywhere and even in America really are very passive and dismissive of such participation and concern.
In fact, I never heard from any personal acquaintance or relative of mine that they are soo determined to get that citizenship so they can vote and politically have a voice. It rarely had anything to do with that.

May 20th, 2008, 5:09 am


Majhool said:

I have to agree with both HP and AIG.

resistance has become a banner under which all ills are justified.

May 20th, 2008, 7:08 am


Shai said:


Let’s switch roles for a second – you represent Israeli interests, and I’ll represent Arab ones. Are you suggesting that armed resistance should end? Should it morph completely into non-violent resistance (e.g. diplomatic, economic, etc.)? Do you honestly think Israel listens better to diplomatic outcries than to Qassam missiles? If you’re saying HA’s excuse for holding arms is to resist Israel, and in so doing, it legitimizes its own use of these weapons also against the Lebanese, that’s one thing. But if you’re suggesting HA and Hamas should disarm, become purely-political organizations, and resist Israel on the international diplomatic arena, rather than on the battlefield, you may be exercising wishful thinking here, unfortunately. Look at the absurd – I, as an Israeli, am considering the benefits of an armed enemy that vehemently hates me and my people. It really should seem hallucinatory to any objective party observing from the side. But the problem for me is, that only this resistance caused officials in my country to start thinking about changing our ways. Without it, 3 million Palestinians would remain refugees within their own territory for another 60 years. And my people, and my children, would continue to suffer the consequences of that.

May 20th, 2008, 7:45 am


SimoHurtta said:

Take the Kurds and the Sunni in Iraq. The Kurds have become American “puppets” and have accepted US hegemony. The Sunni are blowing up Americans. Who is in a better situation?

AIG when Sunnis and Shias in Iraq have “solved” US invasion, against who do think they will then turn? By the way the democratic Turkey under US hegemony is blowing up “democratic” Kurds and US is clapping hands.

“Who is in a better situation” changes in time. Some times rather fast and unexpected.


Peace index, thanks Norman for the link. Very interesting. I can’t wait the IGs commenting it. Strange that the FT story did not mention Israel. 🙂

Syria on place 75, Iran on place 105. Egypt 69. Lebanon 132.

And the miserable bottom of the list. Israel on place 136, just before Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and Iraq. Even North Korea is better in this aspect than Israel. And even Myanmar. (smile mark if it would be proper)

Interesting data in the list details. For example

Number of paramilitary personnel per 100,000 people
Lebanon 492.6, Israel 114.1, Syria 556.4, Iran 56.9

Freedom of press (Source Reporter Without Borders; Year: 2007)
Syria 66, Israel 32, Lebanon 28.8, Finland 1.5.

Hmmmm free press IGs??? Why so bad results?

May 20th, 2008, 8:58 am


norman said:

institute for war & peace reporting

Bush Visit Won’t Affect Syria

Syrian analysts and activists say President George Bush’s recent visit to the Middle East will not have a significant impact on their country, arguing that the United States leader enjoys little credibility in the region.

Bush made a few public comments on Syria during his five-day trip to the region, which ended on May 18.

Maintaining his administration’s tough stance towards Damascus, Bush urged Arab nations to reject both the Syrian and Iranian governments, saying he envisioned a democratic future Middle East that did not include the current Syrian regime.

The pro-government press in Syria ignored Bush’s visit.

Fuad Aliko, a former member of parliament and secretary of the Syrian Kurdish Yakiti party, said he did not believe the remarks represented a major threat to the government.

“I don’t think that the American administration has any intention of overthrowing the Syrian regime,” he said.

Aliko predicted that the US would not change its policies, which include putting pressure on Syria to institute democratic reforms and to cut links with Tehran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

An activist in Syria’s anti-globalisation movement described Bush’s regional trip as “a waste of time.”

“Bush has lost his credibility in American public opinion,” he said. “So what is his credibility in a region like the Middle East, to which he has brought agony and war? His crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan have made him a man of war rather than peace.

“The American president has damaged the image of the American people in the eyes of people in the Middle East, Arabs in particular.”

Bush’s credibility may have plummeted since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but Aliko argues that the US retains some authority in both Syria and the rest of the region. Damascus has, for example, repeatedly demanded that Washington sponsor peace negotiations with Israel, and some regional states like Egypt and Jordan have strong ties with the US.

While the activist maintained that it was better that Bush did not visit Syria, others said his decision not to engage with the country during this trip was unimportant.

“It isn’t necessary for the American president to visit in order for the two countries to communicate,” said one political activist.

He noted that the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Syria over a year ago and met President Bashar al-Assad. Many members of Congress and former US president Jimmy Carter have also visited Syria.

Although these visits were heavily criticised by the Bush administration, the political activist suggested that “perhaps these visits are being used to convey messages to the Syrian leadership”.

A student at Damascus University’s department of information said Bush did not lay much emphasis on Syria during his visit because his administration does not have a clear policy on how to deal with the country.

He expressed concerned, however, that Bush might consider launching another war against Syria, Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah.

“The tragedies of the American war in Iraq are the most obvious proof that the decision to launch a war against Iraq was a mistake,” he said. Despite this, he said, “Bush might make another similar decision before departing.”

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country, whose identities cannot be revealed for security reasons.)

© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

May 20th, 2008, 12:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Miracle, at 60

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 16, 2008; Page A19

Before sending Lewis and Clark west, Thomas Jefferson dispatched Meriwether Lewis to Philadelphia to see Benjamin Rush. The eminent doctor prepared a series of scientific questions for the expedition to answer. Among them, writes Stephen Ambrose: “What Affinity between their [the Indians’] religious Ceremonies & those of the Jews?” Jefferson and Lewis, like many of their day and ours, were fascinated by the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and thought they might be out there on the Great Plains.

They weren’t. They aren’t anywhere. Their disappearance into the mists of history since their exile from Israel in 722 B.C. is no mystery. It is the norm, the rule for every ancient people defeated, destroyed, scattered and exiled.

With one exception, a miraculous story of redemption and return, after not a century or two, but 2,000 years. Remarkably, that miracle occurred in our time. This week marks its 60th anniversary: the return and restoration of the remaining two tribes of Israel — Judah and Benjamin, later known as the Jews — to their ancient homeland.

Besides restoring Jewish sovereignty, the establishment of the State of Israel embodied many subsidiary miracles, from the creation of the first Jewish army since Roman times to the only recorded instance of the resurrection of a dead language — Hebrew, now the daily tongue of a vibrant nation of 7 million. As historian Barbara Tuchman once wrote, Israel is “the only nation in the world that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, and with the same religion and same language as it did 3,000 years ago.”

During its early years, Israel was often spoken of in such romantic terms. Today, such talk is considered naive, anachronistic, even insensitive, nothing more than Zionist myth designed to hide the true story, i.e., the Palestinian narrative of dispossession.

Not so. Palestinian suffering is, of course, real and heart-wrenching, but what the Arab narrative deliberately distorts is the cause of its own tragedy: the folly of its own fanatical leadership — from Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem (Nazi collaborator, who spent World War II in Berlin), to Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser to Yasser Arafat to Hamas of today — that repeatedly chose war rather than compromise and conciliation.

Palestinian dispossession is a direct result of the Arab rejection, then and now, of a Jewish state of any size on any part of the vast lands the Arabs claim as their exclusive patrimony. That was the cause of the war 60 years ago that, in turn, caused the refugee problem. And it remains the cause of war today.

Six months before Israel’s birth, the United Nations had decided by a two-thirds majority that the only just solution to the British departure from Palestine would be the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state side by side. The undeniable fact remains: The Jews accepted that compromise; the Arabs rejected it.

With a vengeance. On the day the British pulled down their flag, Israel was invaded by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq — 650,000 Jews against 40 million Arabs.

Israel prevailed, another miracle. But at a very high cost — not just to the Palestinians displaced as a result of a war designed to extinguish Israel at birth, but also to the Israelis, whose war losses were staggering: 6,373 dead. One percent of the population. In American terms, it would take 35 Vietnam memorials to encompass such a monumental loss of life.

You rarely hear about Israel’s terrible suffering in that 1948-49 war. You hear only the Palestinian side. Today, in the same vein, you hear that Israeli settlements and checkpoints and occupation are the continuing root causes of terrorism and instability in the region.

But in 1948, there were no “occupied territories.” Nor in 1967 when Egypt, Syria and Jordan joined together in a second war of annihilation against Israel.

Look at Gaza today. No Israeli occupation, no settlements, not a single Jew left. The Palestinian response? Unremitting rocket fire killing and maiming Israeli civilians. The declared casus belli of the Palestinian government in Gaza behind these rockets? The very existence of a Jewish state.

One constantly hears about the disabling complexity of the Arab-Israeli dispute. Complex it is, but the root cause is not. Israel’s crime is not its policies but its insistence on living. On the day the Arabs — and the Palestinians in particular — make a collective decision to accept the Jewish state, there will be peace, as Israel proved with its treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Until that day, there will be nothing but war. And every “peace process,” however cynical or well meaning, will come to nothing.

May 20th, 2008, 1:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I do not know what American hegemony is, but somehow many Arabs resent it. So perhaps you can help me out here. What exactly are they resenting? And I am not looking for a general answer like “foreign policy”. What aspects of foreign policy do they resent? It seems to me that it all boils down to support of Israel. What is your take?

You are letting your compatriots off the hook to easily. Obama supports Israel just as much as any Republican. US support has been going on for decades both under Democrats and Republicans and will take decades to change if it will change at all. Every person taxed in the US knows that he is supporting Israel militarily. Yet, Syrians and others accept this “hegemony” or whatever you want to call it. Why? It seems like muddled thinking to me. Take Avorres who won’t buy Israeli made hummus but by living in the US agrees to pays taxes to support Israel and to support the military that attacked Iraq and may one day attack Syria. I don’t get it.

May 20th, 2008, 1:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


There’s a new post up. Let’s leave this one alone because poor Joshua can’t load such a long comment board with his connection in China.

May 20th, 2008, 2:41 pm


Neoprofit AI