Interesting times…

I’ve been off the blog for a while and a lot has happened since. A global financial meltdown and a new US president, to name but a few events. The first seems to strangely pass by Lebanon (as per the time of writing), the second might make a difference here – but don’t raise your hopes too high: Obama’s first appointments haven’t been very promising to say the least. My guess is that Obama might bring some change to the US domestically, but won’t make a big difference in foreign policy – witness his continuation of the ridiculous lies and warmongering against Iran and his vows to dive even deeper into the Afghan swamp.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, we have been witnessing strangely bomb-, assassination- and generally trouble-free times lately, while all parties (except for the christians internally) are – at least formally – reconciling ad nauseam, no doubt mostly with an eye on the upcoming parliamentary elections of May 2009, when the complicated pseudo-democratic system of this country will force even the most ardent enemies to share lists and swap votes. On concrete issues such as the modification of the election law or the devising of a national defense strategy, meanwhile, the fighting and bickering goes on unabated despite all the reconciliation rituals. Reconciliation with Syria has also been cautiously moving ahead, although Syrian troops have been massing up along most of the Lebanese border and Damascus has just rejected all four Lebanese ambassadorial candidates. The national TV channel of the country has this week paraded a host of arrested Fatah al-Islam members who have accused Hariri’s Mustaqbal movement of financing them. Not exactly a new accusation – Lebanon’s (only?) investigative journalist Fida Itani has substantiated them extensively on the pages of al-Akhbar, but the M14 propaganda crew is up in arms and out in full force to deny them so strenuously that they actually lend a lot of credibility to the accusations.
In the meantime there’s been a legion of spy stories and conspiracy discoveries coming along. Robert Fisk provides a concise overview here.
And then there was the strange US raid on Syrian territory – at a time when Syria is restoring diplomatic contacts with France, the UK and Arab countries. A welcome present from W to Obama? I have spent some time in Damascus recently, for the first time since 2005, and it has changed a lot in a positive sense: better kept and maintained, new parks and lots of new shops and bars, far fewer presidential and ex-presidential posters around and a generally more open and lively atmosphere. Things seem to be looking up there economically, although I am happy to confirm that there are still no MacDonald’s or KFC’s in sight and Ugarit coke still outsells Coca Cola in no small way. Seems like the Syrians finally got their act together in their own country after they got rid of those troublesome Lebanese… Meanwhile, the Israelis are making ever more aggressive sounds to the south, promising to consider the whole of Lebanon as Hezbollah-terrain now (not that they didn’t do so anyway) and that’s even before their election campaigns take off. The promise of ending their occupation of northern Ghajjar has remained unfulfilled until now. Anyway, with elections in Israel, Iran, Lebanon and possibly Palestine coming up in the next 8 months or so, interesting times should lie ahead of us.

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