Buying arms, selling votes… and driving white Mitsubishi vans

The ISF on Tuesday announced that they had caught (with a little help from their Syrian counterparts) the Lebanese man who helped Shaker al-Abssi (the leader of Fatah al-Islam) escape from Nahr al-Bared during the fighting there in 2007. With unusual attention for detail, they added that al-Abssi was driven over the border in a white Mitsubishi van. For those not up with the Lebanese conspiracy set, a white Mitsubishi van was seen on camera approaching Rafiq Hariri’s motorcade on Valentine’s day, 2005, ‘minutes before the assassination‘ when a ton of explosives detonated and killed Hariri and 22 others… I’m not entirely sure what to make of that, unless we assume that the ISF want to subliminally broadcast the message that Hariri was killed by the same salafist fundamentalists that fought the Lebanese army in Nahr el-Bared (which is strenuously denied by those who prefer to implicate the Syrian regime). Incidentally, it gets even stranger than this: if you do a search for ‘white Mitsubishi van’ on the English-language Wikipedia, you are directed immediately to the article on ‘Motorcade‘, even though the article contains neither the word ‘Mitsubishi’, nor the sequence ‘white * van’…

In more predictable conspiracy news, Franklin Lamb has an article out on Counterpunch discussing some recent and interconnected developments in Lebanon, including the US and Saudi Arabia buying votes for M14 in the upcoming parliamentary elections, and Lebanese leaders, notably US/Saudi buddy Saad Hariri, negotiating with Russia to buy arms. The realization that the US is not going to supply the LAF with actual useful weapons finally seems to be dawning even on the M14 lot. Lamb also expands on the extent of Lebanese territory still occupied by Israel, which includes not only the Shebaa farms, northern Ghajjar (from which the Israelis keep ‘mulling’ to withdraw) and the Kfar Shuba hills, but also the rarely-mentioned ‘seven shia villages’ which were occupied since 1947. The following is a passage on the US buying votes in Akkar: ‘It must have been pure coincidence last week (11/12/08) that U.S. Ambassador Michele Sisson, and USAID/Lebanon Mission Director Denise Herbal, announced that the U.S. embassy has launched a six million dollar humanitarian assistance program “to help 21 villages adjacent to the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared who were affected by the war”. (Nahr al-Bared is the camp near Tripoli/Akkar that was destroyed during 12 weeks of fighting between salafist Fateh al-Islam and the Lebanese Army during the summer of 2007 and where serious reconstruction is yet to begin partly because donors pledges have not been honored). The Embassy did not explain to some Lebanese who were astonished by this widely perceived interference and electoral ploy how these 21 villages, at least two from which this observer witnessed snipers firing down into the sealed Palestinian Camp, during the May of 2007 siege, were themselves affected—since most of the villages were far removed from any fighting. Also unexplained is the coincidence that the 21 selected villages just happen to be those where US allied candidates are facing possible defeat at the polls.’

Another interesting article is the one Marc Sirois wrote in last wednesday’s Daily Star on the latest turnaround of the ever kaleidoscopic Walid Jumblatt: Jumblatt is re-positioning himself and his tribe – including adherents of his principal Druze rival, (…) Talal Arslan – to ensure that whenever the music stops, his community will have at least its fair share of chairs. The entire Lebanese political order has been in flux since the assassination of Rafik Hariri and almost two dozen other people in February 2005, and we now appear to be in a decisive phase. As always, the new status quo in Lebanon will be heavily influenced by the state of affairs in the broader Middle East, and by the policies and priorities of foreign powers near and far. By coincidence, several of those outside actors are themselves in periods of transition: Israel and Iran are both scheduled to hold elections next year, the Palestinians might have a civil war of their own over whether they go to the polls, too, Israel and Syria have resumed indirect negotiations after an eight-year hiatus, and the American electorate has just taken a revolutionary step by sending Barack Obama to the White House. And looming over all these shifting conditions are the clouds of a global financial storm whose potential to bring down the world economy can be expected to preoccupy some of the international system’s most important leaders for the foreseeable future.’

Oh, and for the record: an Israeli jet flew low over Beirut yesterday. Not that anybody cares…

Oh, and for the record 2: Lebanese teachers held a one-day warning strike yesterday to protest insufficient wage increases. The strike wasn’t taken over by political fighting like the one last May, which was what many people were afraid of, so maybe more will follow. There’s a lot of sound economic reasons for a lot of workers in virtually all sectors to strike, which you wouldn’t know about when listening to the mindnumbing drivel and empty sloganeering which most political leaders are oozing out every day…

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