Syrians Silent and Disappointed but Ready to Put Lebanon Behind Them

March 14th

Syrians Silent and Disappointed but Ready to Put Lebanon Behind Them
By Joshua Landis in Damascus, Monday 8 June 2009

The fairly resounding loss for Hizbullah and Aoun comes as a shock to many Syrians, who having been following the polls in Lebanon carefully. They are in the dumps. This morning I received my first calls from friends to tell me the “bad news.” I have spoken to many reporters since, including to the charming and resourceful Anita McNaught from al-Jazeera International, who has been covering Syria. They are having a hard time of it getting a Syrian story. Syrian officials are not going on air about the elections on the wise assumption that it is better to stay out of the mix. Syrian officials have been silent on Lebanon for weeks, unlike Americans – an irony that must really tick them off given how insistent American officials have been about the need for smooth elections untainted by foreign meddling.

There is considerable teeth gnashing and dratting going on. For the ordinary Syrian, the excitement is largely about the drama that is Lebanon. As one young man said to a friend yesterday. The Lebanese love drama too much. But of course, Syrians are captivated by it as well. The Lebanese are masters of the sound bite and political pose. Without much politics taking place in Syria, it is all too easy to get one’s political fix by watching the Lebanese parliament. As one Syria reporter confessed, “We all know the Lebanese politicians much better than our own.”

My mother-in-law is particularly down cast. She has always been a Nasrallah devotee. She called me in the States during the 2006 Israeli bombing of South Lebanon to tell me how she would go volunteer for Hizbullah if she weren’t so old and overweight! She is in the village with the rest of my Syrian family. The pro-Hizbullah sentiment in the coastal mountains is very strong indeed. In Damascus, sentiments vary. Many people here have Lebanese branches of the family so one must poke around delicately before drawing conclusions about their true sentiments. All the same, most Syrians are pro-Aoun-Hizbullah. The tension between Lebanon and Syria over the last 5 years has inflamed national sentiment and produced greater unity on Lebanon issues than used to be the case. Among the taxi-driver segment, there is less interest. At least three drivers have responded to my Lebanon questions in the last few days with emphatic denials that they care. “The Lebanese can do what they want and it makes not a fig of difference to Syria,” they will protest. “They can live their lives and we will live ours.” But later in the conversation they may start to praise the resistance or explain that Aoun was against Syria when Syria was occupying Lebanon but is now with us, claiming that as soon as Syria quit Lebanon, he recognized that Lebanon needs Syria and that they belong in the same ranks against Israel and America. Many Syrian Christians are gratified by Aoun’s turn toward Syria because it provides them with a strong political figure who is not a Geagea or Jemayyal. It shows that even Lebanese Christians stand with Syria. They are not alone.

The newspaper, al-Watan, runs a large headline reading: “Political Money Wins in Lebanon.”

So what does this mean for policy? Much depends on whether March 14 tries to rewrite Doha and get rid of the blocking third in Lebanon’s cabinet, as Hariri said he would do. He may feel obliged to carry through with this, or at the very least, raise it as his initial battle cry, because his win was more substantial than expected. My hunch is that any attempt to undo Doha will threaten to take Lebanon back to the paralysis and dark days of the pre-Doha era and will thus be abandoned. There is no stomach for such extremism today — not in Washington, Riyadh, or in Damascus or Tehran. The Obama era has changed things and Syria is waiting to move ahead with the US.

In many respects, Syria-US relations have been on hold, awaiting the outcome of the June 7 elections. Now that elections are over business can resume. The US, gratified at their results, can send Mitchell to Damascus as a sign of magnanimity in victory. Washington will be in a stronger position, but ironically, Damascus too may feel a certain relief in the very highest halls of the foreign ministry. It has avoided the complications of an Hizbullah win, which could have strained already bad relations with the US even further. The Lebanon situation will take some of the oomph out of Syrian hardliners, who may believe that Syria is winning the long term struggle for Arab public opinion and can afford to play hardball with Washington.

A dovish lobby is also taking root in Damascus. As more and more Syrians begin to make money due to of the liberalization process, they develop a keener taste for the joys and promise of wealth. Equally, they gain a keener awareness of the price tag that comes attached to “resistance.” In this they are not unlike the Lebanese. A significant internal lobby for getting rid of the sanctions is building in Syria. All the same, Syria is a long way from accepting to abandon the Golan to Israel. Even those who feel the real urgency to move ahead economically are not prepared to concede the Golan. It is a bind that we all keep returning to.

The elections should raise the probability that Mitchell comes to Damascus this coming week. They will also raise the probability of the US returning an Ambassador to Damascus in the near future. The Lebanon hurtle has been crossed to Washington’s satisfaction. If a coalition government can be formed in Lebanon without too much grandstanding and escalation of threats, Lebanon should no longer be an impediment to improving US-Syrian relations.


Here is what Qifa Nabki writes about the likely political outcome in Lebanon:

Qifa Nabki Says:

Most commonly encountered scenario is that M14 will offer the following deal:

In a 30 member cabinet, they will give March 8 ten seats, and two or three seats to the President, reserving the remaining 17-18 for themselves.

This means that the opposition would not have a veto, but that the president could step in to put the brakes on, should things get out of control. Syria might be okay with that scenario, provided their links to Suleiman are still solid.

Comments (42)

Sasa said:

The best analysis I’ve read so far. Why oh why do you not have a column in The Guardian?

June 8th, 2009, 12:24 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

Only an astute observer like you can see the bright side of this result for a country like Syria.

Washington can now take the rapprochement towards Syria another notch higher since it does no longer have to worry about its image (too soft).

Damascus on the other hand can no longer be accused of dumping its allies by flipping on them. The leadership is not fond of betting on losing horses. It rode this horse till the end and now that it lost, the time may have come to jump ship to the greener looking yard. Were Damascus to make such a decision, it is likely that it would move in a very subtle way. The leadership is not a fan of looking weak or of making hasty decisions.

Some of the economic issues that Dr. Landis highlighted in his article are very real. If there was ever a time for Syria to start setting its sails westward, it has to be now and under an Obama Presidency.

Let us hope that both Mr. Obama and Assad can seize the moment.

June 8th, 2009, 1:18 pm


Akbar Palace said:

My mother-in-law is particularly down cast. She has always been a Nasrallah devotee. She called me in the States during the 2006 Israeli bombing of South Lebanon to tell me how she would go volunteer for Hizbullah if she weren’t so old and overweight!

Professor Josh,

Sorry about the bad news. Oh well!

Anyway, you’re the first Co-Director, Peace Studies I know who has a Hizbullah-supporting mother-in-law! Isn’t that interesting?

It must be frustrating trying to convince your mother-in-law about the benefits of making peace with the Zionists, no? I do not envy the difficult position you are in as a “peace studies” co-director in this region of the world!:o)

June 8th, 2009, 2:19 pm


abbas said:

thanks for the report. it is very real. I think what happened in Lebanon and the silence in syria mark a few important issues here. First, it shows that any form of democratic show is envied and it is strongly felt by the syrian people this time. would this bring any change? sure hwo powerful…noboday knows. the playdown of the elecetion issue in syria is also important because the regime there is not even ready to associate itself to defeat even if it is done democratically. they should be always winners and they have the right to do what they want.

I feel sorry for the syrians and hope one day they will be able to cast their voice not on “the big issues” but on the smallest issues you can think of…

June 8th, 2009, 2:24 pm


offended said:

spot on analysis. thanks.

June 8th, 2009, 2:26 pm


Ford Prefect said:

The demise of HA and Aoun in the Lebanese elections is directly related to the moderation of American policies towards the region.

Next on the agenda is the Iranian election – Iranians might prove that voices of reason and moderation in the Middle East are reciprocating to those in the US. Israel: are you listening?

The spotlight is now on Syria. Are you, ladies and gentlemen in high places, willing to transform your policies to reciprocate and give the world some confidence-building measures? It is just about time.

June 8th, 2009, 2:56 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

The Angry professor tells us about his (Sunni) mother embarrassment
over her (Sunni) family support of Hariri; now we hear on SC about
Josh’s mother-in-law supporting Nasralla…

Could someone explain to me this phenomenon of Arab old ladies radicalism..?

June 8th, 2009, 3:03 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

I guess voters in Lebanon responded to US offers of billions in loans and grants, military assistance and maybe even keeping the Israelis off their backs. That would make me vote March 14, too: 78 seats to March 14, 58 to Hezbollah & Co.

However, Lebanon remains highly unstable, never having had the courage to conduct a census in 60 years, maintaining languishing non-citizens in sprawling camps and enduring embedded corruption and would-be warlords.

Anyway, I see that Jimmy Carter and the EU Special Election Observer José Ignacio Salafranca were there throughout the election period.

June 8th, 2009, 4:05 pm


t_desco said:

“There is no stomach for such extremism today — not in Washington, Riyadh, or in Damascus or Tehran.”

I certainly hope so, but if I may quote Marwan Bishara (via Robert Fisk): “It is easy to be “dazzled” by presidents.”

How about Mr Ross…?

The Tehran part of that sentence may still require some work.

I’m all for A.B.A., but the poorer segments of the Iranian electorate may still vote for Ahmadinejad, not because they cherish conflict with the West, but for social reasons, because they don’t necessarily trust Rafsanjani and his circle.

Regarding Lebanon, we also shouldn’t forget the 800-pound gorilla whose shadow may already be looming over the cabinet table: the Hariri trial.

June 8th, 2009, 4:53 pm


why-discuss said:

The result of this election may help more Syria than it will help Lebanon.
Syria can now receive Mitchell quietly and show to the international community that it did not meddle in Lebanese elections. An accusation that would have been certainly used if the opposition won and that would have been detrimental to Syria’s attempts to lure the west back.
Syria will soon restart its negotiations with Israel about the Golan. It will absorb the palestinians in Syria as part of a peace with Israel with financial compensations.
Lebanon will get economical gratifications but will have to negotiate with Israel the tough issues of the occupied land, the destiny of the destituted palestinian refugees now infiltrated by terrorists, all this within an atmosphere of internal tensions of resistance and hedonism. The only change are the hopes that Obama’s administration can help to solve these huge pending issues with Israel.
A moderate victory in Iran, a rapprochement between Iran and the US may also play in favor of Syria.
Paradoxically, the victory of the 14 march may get tangible political results for Syria and only money and wishful thinking for Lebanon.

June 8th, 2009, 5:24 pm


norman said:

It might not be as bad as it looks ,

Paul Salem, of Carnegie in Lebanon, stated that these are the first proper free elections since 1972 and outlined three posts-election scenarios:

1. Hung parliament what Salem sees as most likely. “This is where each camp holds large minorities and a group of independents, close to the President, holding the balance of votes,” Salem said. Outside powers of Saudi, US and Syria are directly and indirectly trying to push for this occurrence Salem stated. Interestingly, Salem claims that Syria does not want an all out March 8th victory because Aoun has a difficult relationship with Syria and Hezbollah is closer to Iran. So for Syria the best result is a hung parliament and Syria successfully sold this idea to the US and Saudi as the best option, according to Salem.

2. March 14 win. March 14 have stated that they will refuse to grant veto power to March 8 but Salem warns this could lead to violence and should instead get clear commitments from March 8 to move forward on key political and economic issues.

3. March 8 win. Salem states that this could lead to a situation where there is a collapse in support for Lebanon from the international community and the Gulf states. This could lead to “a collapse in confidence in Lebanon and a precipitous decline into economic and social unrest.”

June 8th, 2009, 5:56 pm


Shai said:

Dear Ford Prefect,

Yes, there are some of us here in Israel that ARE listening! And you’re absolutely right – people tend to come to their senses when their leaders finally do the same. In my country, for too many years, our leaders lacked courage, wisdom, foresight, and… yes, leadership abilities. They were too afraid of being overthrown (Netanyahu 1998, Barak 2000, Olmert 2006, Livni 2009), so they continued nourishing their weak and impotent governments and, worse, their destructive policies.

As a leader, introduce to your people hope, and sanity, and they’ll surprise you time and again with their wisdom and strength, support, and courage. Do nothing, and watch them dig their heads deep in the sands of apathy. And then it truly will be left for God to save us from our own leaders.

Inshalla Iran will follow Lebanon’s suit. And then Syria and Israel. Let’s stop leaving things for our children, or for theirs.

June 8th, 2009, 6:15 pm


Shai said:


I hope our readers do not understand from you that it is innately an Israeli thing to disrespect others (elderly Arab women, in your case). Please clarify that this is your own “special” way of communicating some odd thing or another going through your mind at the time.

June 8th, 2009, 6:22 pm


Alex said:

President Obama called on the winners to continue governing by seeking majority, and not by force

“يتعين على حكومة الشعب وضع معايير موحدة لكل من يملك السلطة ويتعين عليكم المحافظة على سلطتكم بالاجماع وليس بالقسر

The questions today are:

1) Will M14 give the opposition which got close to 50% of the popular vote a veto power in the new government? (11 seats out of 30)?

2) will they appoint a compromise prime minister (Miqati, or even Bahia Hariri) or will they appoint a confrontational one?

3) Will they declare that Hizbollah’s weapons are untouchable or will they leave the door open for disarming Hizbollah?

The answers to all these questions will lead to a stable Lebanon, or one that is crippled.

We know from the past few decades that Lebanon was never quiet when any leader, party or group tried to disrupt the delicate balance of power.

Part of the reason Aoun and Nasrallah lost was that they both gave the impression they were about to rock the boat in Lebanon.

Aoun wanted to investigate the Hariris and other corrupt politicians for example. A majority of the Lebanese people did not seem interested in exposing all their corrupt politicians apparently.

Saad Hariri and the rest of the M14 leadership would be wise to realize the limits of their mandate.

June 8th, 2009, 7:21 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Innately Disrespectful Israelis vs. the Polite Hezbollah Moms

…that it is innately an Israeli thing to disrespect others…*

*except for that Zionist abberation we humbly refer to as “Shai”, oh, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with hebrew, “Shai” appropriately means “GIFT” in english q;o)

Professor Josh,

Please tell your Hezbollah-supporting mother-in-law, that when she fires her missiles into Zionist-controlled population centers, that she do the utmost to avoid Shai’s place of residence.


June 8th, 2009, 7:26 pm


Alex said:


Do you think it would be funny if some Syrians here make fun of your mother because she supports Israeli soldiers even though they killed many more innocent Palestinian and Lebanese civilians than Hizbollah ever killed Israeli civilians?

June 8th, 2009, 7:39 pm


majid said:

Hey Alex,
Why are your numbers in comment 13 so overblown?

I checked the official results and they were 56% popular vote to majority and 44% to minority? So what is the deal here? Are we going to continue the nonsense of the last four years? That is a comfortable majority by all standards.

You are splitting hair to come up with a consolation prize to the loser. What business of yours is it? This is a Democracy and not a dictatorship like in Damascus. Would Bashar give a veto power to abd-alhalim or al-bayanooni? Notwithstanding that Bashar doesn’t really have even a democratic mandate to govern so absolutely!

On the other hand Nasrallah keeps splitting hair about popular and parliamentary majorities, like in today’s speech:
“”It is likely the majority is parliamentarian but not popular.”

Guess what? I just made a simple calculation and found out that multiplying 44% (popular vote) with 128 seats (total number of parliament seats) would give Hassan Nasrallah 56.32 MP’s. He got 57 seats!!! It is the majority which should be whining about the unfairness of the election law and not Nasrallah, for God sake!!! He got more MP seats than his popular share would allow him by 1 seat. It is a simple rule from simple math that you round down the number when you get a fraction of less than half and not up.

It is understood he’s trying to justify his underperformance to his supporters. But he pretty well conceded defeat and he knows people are fed up with his obstructionist strategy.

So give us a break, will you?

June 8th, 2009, 8:08 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


A clarification, specially for you and to all innocent readers:
When I write in this blog (or others), I do not represent Israel.
Or Israelis. I hardly can represent myself.

What I said about radical old Arab ladies, was a funny thought that
past in my mind, which I wanted to share. At least I thought it was funny.
Had no intention to insult or disrespect.


Feel free to comment about my Zionist bloodthirsty Mother.
We (me and my Mom) can take humor.

June 8th, 2009, 8:41 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Do you think it would be funny if some Syrians here make fun of your mother because she supports Israeli soldiers even though they killed many more innocent Palestinian and Lebanese civilians than Hizbollah ever killed Israeli civilians?

Alex –

Who here “made fun” of someone’s mother? I don’t think anyone here is that familiar with anyone’s mother.

I think the point you are referring to is any mother’s support for Hizbollah, and more specifically, a mother-in-law who is a Hibollah supporter and also has a son-in-law who is a director of “peace studies”.

BTW – The Americans killed Orders of Magnitude MORE German and Japanese civilians than the opposite. Yet, at this past weekend’s commemoration of D-Day, no one even thought about it.

So ponder that thought, and then perhaps you’ll see why I think your question is moot.

June 8th, 2009, 8:45 pm


Alex said:


I do see the humor in what you wrote and I had no problem with it, Akbar though consistently and systematically tries to portray Dr. Landis as someone who is a terror supporter …

It is his silly old style robotic tactics … he won’t understand that no one (other than his own friends) will buy it. It has been years that we had to read his “humor”


I am quite aware of the numbers … but you are dreaming if you think the Arabs are the Nazis and Israel is the United States in the example you gave me.

You obviously see it that way, and many idiots in Washington see it this way thanks to the brainwashing machine of Israel’s friends.

And people from all sides will continue to die thanks to your brainwashing which is ensuring that Washington is lost … and you personally are taking a tiny part in it here.

June 8th, 2009, 9:10 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for the clarification. I might be “innocent”, but if a non-Jew or non-Israeli would say “radical old Jewish woman”, I would probably find it offensive.


You don’t win extra bonus-points for exaggerating on SC. Come on, are you suggesting Joshua’s mother-in-law should be looked at like the Japanese or Germans in WWII? Has she elected into power some modern-day Hitler? Has she volunteered to fight the Americans in the Pacific (or the Israelis in the Mediterranean)? Why always go for the “If-you-support-Hezbollah-you-deserve-an-atomic-bomb-over-your-head”? Is Hezbollah any worse an enemy than Egypt was? The same Egypt with whom we signed a peace treaty? Who killed more Israelis, HA or Egypt?

By the way, it is true America killed far more Germans and Japanese. But America also killed far more innocent Iraqis as well. And somehow, I don’t see you losing any sleep over it. Do you?

June 8th, 2009, 9:13 pm


Alex said:

Majid said:

I checked the official results and they were 56% popular vote to majority and 44% to minority? So what is the deal here? Are we going to continue the nonsense of the last four years? That is a comfortable majority by all standards.


I will wait to see the final numbers of the popular vote, both Nasrallah and Aoun’s people are implying it was closer to 50/50.

But regardless, it is indeed a comfortable majority and if this was not Lebanon, then Saad Hariri would have been perfectly justified to form his own government.

But in Lebanon, no one can govern alone. Many tried and failed.

You will be surprised that I wrote to Qifa Nabki last week that I did not care who wins as long as both sides are represented in the next government … until Lebanon changes dramatically, the only thing that works is the same old way … la ghaleb wala maghloob.

As for your question about my interest in Lebanese elections … I suggest you question first your own interest in Syrian affairs since you have been participating in Syria Comment much more often than I have over the past few months.

June 8th, 2009, 9:18 pm


Majid said:

You say Alex, “You will be surprised that I wrote to Qifa Nabki last week that I did not care who wins as long as both sides are represented in the next government “

Does that not sound like you’re contradicting yourself here? On the one hand you say that you do not care who wins, but on the other hand you state your condition in the same statement that you want both sides to be represented in the government!

Why don’t you have similar concerns with regards to Syrian opposition? And why shouldn’t this opposition get a veto power in the Syrian government? Once you show this kind of concern about Syria getting properly represented in government then your altruistic concerns about the Lebanese government become more forceful. So let’s start at home and then preach to the neighborhood.

Those numbers I quoted are interior ministry figures, and they are pretty much final.

June 8th, 2009, 9:37 pm


Friend in America said:

Joshua’s summary is very good, but from my perspective it is hard to understand why hopes for Auon were so high. Look at the blocs of electorate. Auon’s opportunity to pick up more votes was very limited. There is an opportunity today for Syria to gain leadership in the ME as Ephansi2 (#2) and others suggest. When a person is far from the scene as I am, the details and subleties will be missed, but in a broad scope a strong strategy for syria is so apparent. And, I agree the time to start is during President Obama’s first term.
Notwithstanding such opportunity we are witnessing another one step forward and two steps backward in dDamascus. The following article describes yet another “two steps backward” endevour.
“U.N. inspectors discovered particles from an undeclared uranium supply at a research reactor in Syria, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency stated in a report issued Friday to the organization’s governing board.
(Jun. 8) – International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Friday that his agency had uncovered particles from an undeclared uranium supply at a Syrian research reactor.

“In May 2009, the agency received the results of the analysis of routine environmental samples taken in August 2008 at the [Miniature Neutron Reactor Source facility] in Damascus. The results showed the presence of particles of anthropogenic natural uranium, of a type not declared at the facility, inside the hot cells and from associated equipment,” the report states.

Last week, Syria provided a response to the discovery that “did not address the presence and origin of the anthropogenic uranium,” the U.N. nuclear watchdog said, adding that it had requested additional explanation from Damascus.

The finding followed the agency’s 2008 discovery of uranium traces at a suspected nuclear reactor site at Dair Alzour. Israel destroyed the facility, which Damascus denied was nuclear in nature, in a September 2007 airstrike.

“The existence of a possible connection between these particles and those found at the Dair Alzour site requires further analysis by the agency,” the report states.

The uranium finding indicates that Syria might have redirected nuclear material originally intended for the bombed Dair Alzour facility to a small-scale reprocessing experiment at the Damascus reactor, according to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security.

In a February letter to the agency, “Syria provided information regarding the procurement of certain equipment and materials, specifically the water pumping equipment observed at the Dair Alzour site, a large quantity of graphite and large quantities of barium sulphate,” the report states, referring to materials that could indicate the existence of a nuclear reactor.

“Syria indicated that the procurement efforts were civilian and non-nuclear in nature and related, respectively, to civil water purification, the domestic Syrian steel industry and shielding material for radiation therapy centers,” the report says, adding that the agency has requested additional details on the acquisitions to help confirm the Syrian claim.

“The information provided by Syria to date does not adequately support its assertion about the nature of the site,” the report says. “In order for the agency to complete its assessment, Syria needs to be more cooperative and transparent” (Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire June 8)”

June 8th, 2009, 9:41 pm


Alex said:

I don’t think there is any contradiction in what I said … I want a stable Lebanon and I want a stable Syria … each country is at a different stage and each country has its own risk factors. What works for Sweden does not necessarily work for Lebanon and what works for Lebanon does not work for Syria.


I wonder why you are so fascinated with any news about Syria and traces of Uranium. You never fail to show up here when such news appears anywhere.

June 8th, 2009, 10:42 pm


Shami said:

Dear Bro Alex,

You should have a long term approach and avoiding to be satisfied by this non justifiable statu quo.

The question we should ask ourselves,what would be the consequences of all these dangerous mistakes done by the regime on Syria’s future ?

Alex,the biggest threat on Syria’s long term stability is not Israel (our struggle for palestinian rights unite the syrian people)but the wrong doing of this regime.

Better for you to adopt this long term vision,instead of this cheap relativiztic approach.

June 9th, 2009, 12:20 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I can speak for small group,they envy Lebanon for having free election,and remembering 1955,Nasrallah is a good man we like him,but somehow he follow Tehran shiite faqeeh,Lebanon must stay in the arabic camp.
congratulations to the Lebanese

June 9th, 2009, 12:58 am


Alex said:


I do have a long term vision for Syria. I will write about it one day. I am not satisfied with the status quo forever … just for now.


You need to read a it more about how the system works in your elections. Here is a hint why M14 need to share power:

في دراسة أعدت امس في ضوء النتائج الرسمية للانتخابات النيابية، وفي احتساب لمعدلات الاصوات التي نالتها لوائح المعارضة والموالاة في كل لبنان، تبيّن أن متوسط ما حصلت عليه لوائح المعارضة هو 815 ألف صوت مقابل 680 ألف صوت للوائح الموالاة من اصل نحو مليون ونصف ناخب اقترعوا يوم السابع من حزيران، علماً بأن هناك مشكلة مساواة على مستوى التمثيل بين الكتل الناخبة وحصتها من المقاعد النيابية.

Alakhbar says that the opposition got 815,000 votes and the opposition got 680,000 votes.

Let’s wait a day or two until the dust settles

June 9th, 2009, 12:59 am


Akbar Palace said:

You obviously see it that way, and many idiots in Washington see it this way thanks to the brainwashing machine of Israel’s friends.


“The brainwashing machine of Israel’s friends” operates in an environment (and I’m speaking of BOTH the US AND Israel) where there is absolutely NO interference from the government in the media, NO restrictions to opposing points-of-view, NO restrictions to the internet or any other public resource.

That’s saying a lot compared to the police state of Syria, where a person can get thrown into jail if they say ANYTHING remotely anti-Syria or pro-Israel.

The “idiots” are the excuse-makers who have always been pointing in the wrong direction.

June 9th, 2009, 1:03 am


Rex Brynen said:

One quibble (and its a fairly large quibble) on your commentary, Josh: one can’t really talk about “rewriting” Doha since the sections of the agreement pertaining to cabinet representation only applied to the outgoing national unity government. The agreement certainly didn’t bind anyone to providing a blocking minority to anyone else following the elections, or even require that future governments be inclusive of all groups.

June 9th, 2009, 1:30 am


majid said:

I think either you or Akhbar (unreliable hezb mouthpiece anyway) read the numbers backwards. Baroud, minister of interior, has been congratulated by all parties inside and outside the country for running the most organized and seamless election ever announced the final official results as I mentioned:
Popular vote 56% majority and 44% minority
# of MP’s 71 majority and 57 minority.

So according to my calculations the minority owes the majority one seat.

My study is more accurate than a syrian/hezb propaganda story. Time to swallow the pill and call it quit. You know, most Syrians by now are asking themselves why can’t we be like our neighbors in Lebanon? Why should we be ruled like as if we have no voice? So it is understood for people like you to come up with all sorts of execuses to cover up the shortcomings of your government. How long can you continue to burry heads in the sand? I would say when the next storm blows the sand away you have to raise your heads up and face the ugly reality.

June 9th, 2009, 1:43 am


majid said:

The last comment was meant for you Alex. Sorry for the oversight.

June 9th, 2009, 1:49 am


norman said:

I want to disagree with this statement,

Many Syrian Christians are gratified by Aoun’s turn toward Syria because it provides them with a strong political figure who is not a Geagea or Jemayyal. It shows that even Lebanese Christians stand with Syria. They are not alone.

Syrian christian do not look at leaders because they are Christians , they look up for leaders who stand for Arab rights no matter what religion they have , they are the most secular Arab nationalists in the Mideast ,

June 9th, 2009, 2:59 am


norman said:

Dr Landis in the news,

Lebanon Election Victors Must Reach Terms With Beaten Hezbollah

Share | Email | Print | A A A

By Massoud A Derhally

June 9 (Bloomberg) — Lebanon’s pro-Western coalition needs an accommodation with Hezbollah after beating the armed Shiite group and its allies at the ballot box, to prevent sectarian divisions flaring into fresh violence, analysts say.

The last time civil strife erupted in Lebanon a year ago, Qatari mediators resolved the conflict under a plan that brought the Hezbollah bloc into government with a veto over policy. Since then, all-party talks on disarming Hezbollah have yielded little progress.

Saad Hariri and his supporters, who won elections on June 7, say Lebanon can’t function as an independent state so long as Hezbollah — backed by Syria and Iran — keeps a private army. Any new drive to disarm the group, or deny it a veto, may revive tensions that brought the government to a standstill last year and sparked clashes that killed at least 80 people.

“No one would even suggest that the Lebanon military is in a position to force Hezbollah to disarm,” said Jeremy Binnie, an analyst at Jane’s Defense Weekly in London. “It would lead to a civil war situation. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to disarm them.”

Hezbollah’s militia won support in Lebanon by driving the Israeli army out of the south of the country in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation. The group, classified as terrorists by the U.S., also fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006 during which it fired thousands of rockets into north Israel.

While Hezbollah’s precise military strength isn’t known, “it’s generally considered to be the most powerful non-state group in the world,” Binnie said.

UN Resolutions

U.N. resolutions have called for Hezbollah’s disarmament. President Barack Obama, welcoming the election results in a statement yesterday, said the U.S. supported “the full implementation of all United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

Pursuing that goal, as Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush did, probably won’t advance the U.S. cause in the region, said Josh Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

“They may try to dismantle Hezbollah,” he said. “If they do, the Americans are going to waste a lot of time in the region, and Lebanon is going to go back into paralysis.”

Obama said in Cairo last week that he wants a “new beginning” in relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. He’s especially seeking better ties with Hezbollah’s backers Iran and Syria, both ostracized by Bush.

The Hezbollah bloc’s election defeat may make it easier for the U.S. and Syria to start talks, since there’s no longer a concern about Syria regaining its influence over Lebanon via a Hezbollah-led government, Landis said.


“The normalization of Syria’s relations with the U.S. has been waiting for these elections, and that’s why the Americans haven’t wanted to give anything to Syria,” he said.

Syria ended a three-decade military presence in Lebanon in 2005 amid public outrage over the assassination of Hariri’s father and former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The past year’s stability may also be endangered if the new government refuses to give Hezbollah and its allies the veto right that they used to block government plans including the national budget during the previous parliament, said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University.

Marwan Hamadeh, a close ally of Hariri, said yesterday that any talks on a new national unity government with Hezbollah must be “without preconditions” — a signal that the defeated group can’t assume it will retain the veto.

Veto Power

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, speaking on the group’s Al-Manar television last night, acknowledged his bloc’s defeat and said he’d meet allies in the coming days to discuss its strategy.

“If the pro-Western coalition is intransigent about not giving veto power to Hezbollah and its allies then we will witness a renewed political crisis, and a return to the period before the Qatar agreement,” Saad-Ghorayeb said.

U.S. allies in the region such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia will likely welcome Hariri’s victory.

Egypt has accused Hezbollah of plotting terrorist attacks in the country, and earlier this year detained 49 people it said were the group’s agents. Saudi Arabia has expressed concern over growing Shiite and Iranian influence in the region.

Hezbollah’s defeat is also “good news for Israel,” though Lebanon’s “conflictual ethnic makeup” means the new government probably won’t be as strong as Israel would like, Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, said by e-mail.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday that any new Lebanese government must ensure the country isn’t used as a base for attacks on Israel, and clamp down on arms smuggling.

‘Ideological Battle’

Obama has made progress on resolving the Israel- Palestinian dispute a cornerstone of his Middle East policy. The win for Hariri’s coalition may help him reinvigorate peace efforts in the region.

“This was the first real victory by pro-American groups in the ideological battle that has defined this region in the last ten years,” said Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Previously, “every time the U.S. tried to help somebody in the region, it hurt them and they lost.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A Derhally in Beirut at

Last Updated: June 8, 2009 19:07 EDT

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June 9th, 2009, 3:39 am


majid said:

You know Norman, we all know Amal Saad Ghrayyeb is in a state of wishful thinking due to a severe and unexpected shock and awe. Give her few days until she absorbs the shock and she’ll definitely go back to her senses.

As for Dr. Landis, we all know he has been wrong on many occasions with his predictions regarding the Middle East and Lebanon in particular.

I agree with your observation about Aoun and the Syrian Christians. That was a good one, and you’re the only one who caught it. You have principles.

June 9th, 2009, 4:10 am


Soul Of Sydney said:

Thanks for sharing that mate… great read. I had a feeling they would be down in Syria after the election results were announced, but I couldn’t find any articles in English.

June 9th, 2009, 5:10 am


Wrong Landis said:

Oh, the Zionists here think they’re clever, though they’re only tiresome.

As for the “resounding loss,” it’s unfortunate Landis repeats the tired mantra from the Western media. The details show a loss, but no to the degree Saudi media has been crowing about. Stick to Syria, Landis.

June 9th, 2009, 5:45 am


Alex said:

Majid #30

I don’t feel like answering.


Don’t compare Israel to the United States … in Israel you can criticize Israel (Haaretz?), in the United States, those of you who label your groups as “friends of Israel” have made it very difficult for others to criticize Israel without risking being subjected to the headache of Israel’s annoying friends. (see

That’s why someone running for a seat in a place like Louisiana usually will still be expected to explain at some point how much he loves Israel and how he will stay awake at night to protect Israel’s security …

By the way, try to not reply to me with your old charges of conspiracy theory tactic. If you have nothing else to say, keep it to yourself… I did not say that “the Jews control America”.

June 9th, 2009, 6:51 am


Joshua said:

Dear Rex, (comment 30)
Touche. You are technically correct about my misuse of “rewriting” when referring to the Doha arrangement that provided the opposition with a blocking third. It was not an agreement for all time. But Hizbullah has made it very clear that it understood the spirit of Doha differently and is insisting on carrying forward the blocking third. My argument is that if March 14 believes that it can disregard this (as it said it will in the campaign), we are in for a long and protracted struggle that will take us back to the pre-Doha paralysis. Thanks for the clarification.

As for those who believe that supporting Hizbullah is radical, I can only say they misread Syria and the Middle East’s political landscape. Hizb is widely admired for liberating its land from occupation and protecting its people from dispossession and humiliation. These are qualities admired by peoples other than Arabs. It is not radical to support Hizbullah, which is why almost half of the Lebanese voted in its favor, and probably a majority admire the qualities it champions even if they did not vote for it.

Many thanks to those who said kind words about my analysis. I am taking much of it from the interesting comments I read here, which are interesting and lively. Shai, you are a gift!

I have been meaning to write about the many physical changes apparent in Damascus, but haven’t had time. I am still in the gathering stage. Hopefully soon.

June 9th, 2009, 8:34 am


SimoHurtta said:

Feel free to comment about my Zionist bloodthirsty Mother.
We (me and my Mom) can take humor.

Yes you Israelis have a “good” (=strange) sense of humour as the following story indicates. Galilee communities: We’re not racist, we just don’t want Arabs. What if Europeans would say “We’re not racist, we just don’t want Jews”? Without doubt you and I would condemn such demands as racist. But when the chosen people make exactly same demands in the promised land it seems not to be racist. But equal demands against chosen people outside the promised land are racist. Funny isn’t it.

More Israeli humour. Peled proposes Israeli sanctions on US

Well Amir will your mother soon be a Palestinian citizen, when the settlements on the West Bank will become a part of the new state?

By the way Amir in Tel Aviv I do not understand if ethnic or better said religious division in this case is the goal of the solution based on two states why then on the negotiation table are not the Palestinian “settlements” inside Israel? Israeli “Arabs” represent 20 percent of the Israeli population so why not go all the way and give of 20 percent of pre 67 Israel to the new Palestine. For example North Israel, then your security concerns would be dealt when you would not any more be neighbour of the “dangerous” Hizbollah Lebanon and Syria.


Majid I am a bit confused with the Lebanese election results.

Let’s take for example Elections Results – West Bekaa and Rachaya. The number of cast votes was 65,237. Each of the elected six got 33,000 – 35,000 votes as the document states. That alone makes about 200,000 votes. Seems that in Lebanon each voter has more than one vote. I tried to find more exact information how the Lebanese election system works but with no big success and have no time now for a detailed information search. Let’s assume that in West Bekaa and Rachaya not a single Maronite votes. How is it then possible that Maronites could get the quota of one representative they have?

Maybe Majid you as an “expert” of Middle Eastern democracy can explain me how this Lebanese system works.

June 9th, 2009, 8:50 am


t_desco said:


I made one important mistake in my comments on the Follath article:

“He committed the unbelievable indiscretion of calling his girlfriend from one of the “hot” phones.” (Follath 2009)

“Phones”, not “lines” or “phone cards”.

Mobile phones or “handsets” (Brammertz) also transmit a unique ID number with each call.

You can deduce from Mehlis/UN I 121. and 147. that the records also include these ID numbers.

It is possible that “Ghamlush” used the wrong phone card to call his “girlfriend”, but that would lead to the Kasparovian memory problems that I described.

The second possibility is that “Ghamlush” put his normal phone card that he used for calls to his “girlfriend” into the wrong, “hot” mobile phone/handset. In that case it would indeed be easy for the “girlfriend” to identify him.

If Malbrunot got confirmation of the FSI/Hariri aide story from somebody close to Jean-Louis Bruguière (but not too close to the DGSE), that would strongly suggest that the “Ghamlush” part of Follath’s article is correct.

In addition, it is entirely consistent with the various Brammertz reports (however, that doesn’t say much, the way these reports are written).

June 9th, 2009, 9:13 am


majid said:


Who said I’m an expert on elections?

Anyway, I’ll give you whatever I know. You don’t add those numbers that were cast based on the number of candidtes. For any district there are a certain number of representative to be elected. The voter votes for all those representatives as a list. So he only votes once.

The maronites have 7630 voters in W. Bekaa and 1693 voters in Rachaya.

June 9th, 2009, 2:59 pm


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