Archive for February, 2008

Presidential etc…

26, February, 2008

Yep, Moussa didn’t manage, and so it’s been delayed for the 15th time, to the 11th of March.
Hezbollah meanwhile managed to kill 2 Iraeli soldiers without lifting a finger: they were on an Israeli military base ‘testing’ a Hezbollah anti-tank rocket they’d found in Lebanon during the July war, and lo behold! it worked
Here‘s an interesting interview my friend and colleague Gabriela Keller did with Tunisian psychoanalist Fethi Benslama in 2006, discussing the (in)compatibility of psychoanalysis and islam.
Here‘s a Lebanese socialist blog linking to many similar ones, throwing a different light on some Lebanese issues.
Here‘s Raid Khoury on Electronic Intifada doing a good analysis of Mughniyeh’s significance from the resistance’s point of view. Ramzy Baroud shines his light on the same issue here.
And here‘s a hilarious, cutting-to-the-bone editorial of Marc J. Sirois, managing editor of the Daily Star – a man I’m getting to appreciate more as I read more of his editorials. This one’s set up as a ‘beginner’s dictionary of Lebanese politics’. Some excerpts:
Hizbullah: “Party of God.” Powerful movement based on confrontation with Israel, supply of social services to historically disenfranchised community, and austere religiosity. Only thing in Lebanon that works as advertised but pursues risky strategies that threaten to destroy that which it has fought so hard to achieve.
Israel: Nasty neighbor. Individual citizens met in airports are often perfectly normal, but ruling class is led by mystic racists bent on punishing Arabs for monstrous but decades-old crimes perpetrated, in any event, by an Austrian who was himself a mystic racist.
Lebanon: A magical but forlorn place stuck between two devils and the deep blue sea. Filled with beautiful scenery, great food and wonderful people who don’t get along very well.
(more…)

Kuweiti Hezbollah?

23, February, 2008

Did anyone ever hear of ‘Hizbullah Kuweit’? It was invented a few days ago as a name for a the shia who were mourning Mughniyeh in Kuwait. Suddenly the story takes on a life of its own, and we are now told: ‘Mughniyeh, the Iraqi official said, had also sponsored the so-called Thaarullah (God’s Revenge) underground group operating in the southern Iraqi province of Basra. The group, according to reliable sources, is in charge of supervising activities of the so-called Kuwaiti Hizbullah that surfaced after the Mughniyeh assassination.’ Hajj Ridwan is meanwhile being elevated to legendary status: not only was he personally responsible, according to Nasrallah, for both of the Israeli defeats in Lebanon (2000 & 2006), he apparently founded the Mahdi Army and Thaarullah as well and single-handedly trained all of the Iraqi resistance (presumably during the coffee breaks in his core business of training the Lebanese resistance). Makes you wonder if there still is a Hezbollah left after his assassination. Nasrallah for one doesn’t doubt it. Of course, believers never doubt anyway, they can’t really afford to… But still, consider the following syllogism:
Premise 1: Nasrallah never makes promises he can’t deliver. He has never been known to lie or bluff and always does what he says (so admit even his worst foes in the Israeli government).
Premise 2: Nasrallah yesterday assured the world that Hezbollah, when attacked, will utterly defeat the Israeli army and that Israel, left without an army, will ‘cease to exist‘.
Conclusion? Anybody?

Belgium & Lebanon

22, February, 2008

The new Belgian ambassador Johan Verkammen, speaks to L’Orient-Le Jour, suggesting, not unsensibly, that the Lebanese should consider taking inspiration from the Belgian federal system with its built-in ‘gardes-fous‘ and other safeties preventing one community dominating the other (well, theoretically anyway). Belgium, interestingly, is going through a constitutional crisis not unlike Lebanon’s, having been without  a government since the elections in June 2007. There’s some differences though: one is that Belgians don’t all have kalashnikovs in the attic, another is that we still have a functioning parliament. And most importantly, of course, as Verkammen points out too, is that any foreign interference there may be, is largely positive, in the sense that Belgium is safely couched inside the EU. Thankfully for us, Germany and France don’t play the role of nasty occupying neighbours (anymore). The time when Belgium was the battlefield of Europe and a pawn in the game of the great powers of the age to be sacrificed as the need arisies, is long behind us. We leave that honour to Lebanon.

Islamic Resistance Week

22, February, 2008

Blow-by-blow live coverage from Nowlebanon (or see naharnet here – not a permalink):

‘Nasrallah: Israeli aggressions against Lebanon have not stopped since 1984 (sic – Nasrallah actually said 1948, of course)
Nasrallah: I tell the poor Lebanese who speak of war-and-peace decisions that this decision is not in your hands, but in Israeli hands. We are exercising our right to retaliate against Israeli aggressions.
Nasrallah: Let us turn to the memory of Moussa Sadr when we deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict and internal issues.
Nasrallah: Hajj Imad Mugniyah was among the most prominent leaders in the recent confrontations with the enemy.
Nasrallah: In his position in Hezbollah, Hajj Imad Mugniyah was the leader of victory from 2000 to 2006.
Nasrallah: They think the murder of Imad Mugniyah is an achievement. We consider that his battle against the enemy for 25 years is the achievement.
(more…)

The great game

22, February, 2008

‘”This is all a game between the major powers and we are helpless in the face of all this,” he added, raising his hands to the sky.’

As-sifara al-kuwaitiya

21, February, 2008

The Kuwaiti embassy is where the minibuses leave for Tyr. Today, ‘”Reuters news agency received a telephone call from an anonymous person at 9:50 am saying the embassy would be bombed with two rockets at 10 am,” a security official said. He said the caller then hung up. The agency called Lebanese authorities which immediately boosted security around the embassy compound in Beirut’s Bir Hassan neighborhood, still under renovation, and an office building annex opposite Arisco Center on the main Hamra thoroughfare.’ Kuwaitis are now getting the same travel advice from their government as their Saudi neighbours. On Saturday some Kuwaiti lawyers filed a complaint against two Kuwaiti shia MPs who had been organizing mourning sessions for Imad Mughniyeh, attended by hundreds of Kuwaiti shia: ‘”We accused them of being founders and members of Hizbullah Kuwait, undermining national unity and declaring loyalty to Lebanon’s Hizbullah,” Mutairi said after meeting the public prosecutor. The charges are punishable under Kuwait’s penal code, he said. Lebanon’s Hizbullah does not have a known offshoot in Kuwait, but some people in the Gulf emirate believe there is such a group operating underground and refer to it as “Hizbullah Kuwait.”Presumably today’s threat (which was never carried out) had something to do with that. Mughniyeh was a wanted man in Kuwait too, being accused of involvement in a plane kidnapping in 1988 in which 2 Kuwaitis were among the dead.

Some people I met today are saying tomorrow undefined ‘troubles’ will be made by unspecified persons, presumably in Beirut. No sign of this rumour in any local media here, as far as I can see. Most of the rumours that have been going around in the past few weeks have turned out to be false anyway. I’m writing about this one because a) more than a few persons seem to be spreading it and b) if it does come true, you’ve read it here first!

Coming closer…

20, February, 2008

A sure sign: the price of Kalshnikovs has risen tenfold: ‘AFP quoted an anonymous Lebanese arms dealer as saying, “One year ago, Kalashnikov rifles were sold on the black market at a price ranging between $100 and $150. They are now sold at about $1000. Prices for hunting rifles have also surged from $800 to $2700.” The dealer added that demand was highest for Russian-made Kalashnikov rifles and shotguns or American M-16’s. The anonymous source noted that one of the most important routes for smuggling weapons was through Syria, and that the arms were purchased in Iraq before being transported by road.’

Another sure sign: talk about the weather is not the preferred subject anymore (even though it’s unusually cold and snowstorms keep hitting): ‘Why are we talking of war? There are the constant rumblings from Israel, the rumblings of an arrogant, expansionist military power that was defeated and refuses its defeat. Hard to deny the comings of another war when we have our history with Israel showing us a series of wars every few years, and when the Israeli government continues to issue promises and preparations for another war against Lebanon. Talk of war has thus become quite regular, more common than talk of the weather. There are also the domestic rumblings, the cries from sect leaders Walid Jumblatt, Saad Hariri and Samir Geagea in which they rather openly state “bring it on” in their references to a possible civil war. Nevertheless, while we talk about the probabilities of a civil war, we only talk about the timing of an Israeli war. We are certain of that war.’

Yet some people are hopeful, at least on the ‘purely domestic’ front (if such a thing exists in this ‘internationalized’ conflict): ‘Commenting on Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s return to Beirut, Berri said he heard no objections to the 10-10-10 power-sharing formula that Moussa proposed as part of the Arab initiative.“This formula is the result of the Arab initiative and is still applicable. The Arab League stressed on rejecting giving any party the ability to obstruct or monopolize decisions,” Berri said. He also noted that all Lebanese factions welcomed this suggestion, and the opposition discussed it with Moussa during their last meeting. “I informed Moussa that I am willing to support this suggestion and go to the parliament to elect a new president,” Berri said.’

No such optimism at the Friday Lunch Club, where an entirely new prospect is raised: (more…)

It’s turning into a habit

20, February, 2008

While Lebanon is being ravaged by a snowstorm which has cut off roads and power in the mountains, the Syrian border guards have again shot a Lebanese and killed the 13-year old boy, says the National News Agency. The report doesn’t say whether the Syrians actually crossed the border (the link is to an English report on naharnet).

Bits & pieces 2

19, February, 2008

The French are closing two of their cultural centres, in Saida and Tripoli, ‘for security reasons‘.
Israel is deploying Patriot missiles around Haifa and soldiers along the Lebanese border.
Sheikh Nabil Kauk (Hezbollah) on Sunday announced: ‘It won’t be long before the conceited Zionists realize that Imad Mughniyah’s blood is extremely costly, and it makes history and brings about a new victory. (… Israel is) standing on one leg of fear and trepidation, having become the hostage of its own act of stupidity.’
Fuad Siniora, possibly reacting to the Israeli leak I mentioned in my previous post, has reiterated Lebanon’s army doctrine and official government position which states that Lebanon
wants good relations with all countries in the world except for Israel, ‘which is our only enemy.

US military doctrine in a nutshell: ‘But we don’t want it to be a fair fight. We want to win with overwhelming force.’ (more…)

What conspiracy?

18, February, 2008

(edited & updated 19/2)

‘Al Manar reports that the respected Israeli political analyst Emmanuel Rosen disclosed that a “well informed political source” admitted to him the Olmert government “received a letter from the Lebanese government in the last 24 hours of the war asking them not to stop the war before Hezbollah was crushed, adding that it is extremely preferable to liquid Nasrallah.”
Ha’aretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff, in his book ‘Spider Webs – The Story of the Second Lebanon War’ (…) says: “For the first time, we reveal that moderate Arab states and the people close to the Lebanese government have conveyed messages to the Israeli government via different sides demanding Israel continue the war until Hezbollah was completely crushed.”
(…)
When all of these facts are brought to the forefront, the duplicity of Lebanon’s government becomes truly remarkable. They seek to convince us of being the victims, yet they suffered the least and complained the most about the war. The people of southern Lebanon and Beirut on the other hand, who suffered the most from the Israeli onslaught, complained the least, even when left homeless. A third of the cabinet positions, in order to exercise some measure of restraint on those cutting deals with the United States and Israel-against them no less-is their only demand. Plainly stated, Lebanon’s March 14 Coalition is the War Party and Siniora, Hariri, Jumblatt, Geagea and Gemayal its foot soldiers. They have the support of the War Party in the United States and forged an alliance with Israel (every government of which constitutes a War Party) against their own people.

And speaking of conspiracies, the same well-informed blog (Friday Lunch Club) where I picked up the above, today (19/2) translates the following parts of an article in Al-Akhbar: (more…)


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