“You are leading the forces in the field,” the army chief told cadets. “The IDF permanently stands in one of two situations: war or preparation for war. We must continue to prepare for war; otherwise there is no justification for the existence of the IDF.”

Foreign interference? What foreign interference?

Al-Akhbar today reports: ‘During the past two days, US Ambassador Michele Sison visited several pro-government leaders and directly voiced the displeasure of the Obama administration with what she referred to as “submission to the other party’s will.” Sison said that “she genuinely fails to understand what kind of agreement is sought by Hariri with Hezbollah and General Aoun” and that she “is not in favor of such agreements if it means meeting Hezbollah’s and Aoun’s demands, nor does she even support a settlement that would ultimately be at the expense of the US administration’s Christian allies.”

As-Safir today reports: ‘US Ambassador Michele Sison conveyed to some Lebanese officials the US opposition to King Abdullah’s visit to Damascus, saying that the visit “is useless” and that Syria “has offered us nothing (in Iraq) so that we reward it for free.” Sison also said that Washington, which is against the 15-10-5 formula both during the first and second attempt to form the government, advises the prime minister-designate and the March 14 forces not to accept this [power-distribution] equation. Some of the March 14 Christian leaders were responsive to Sison’s advice. However, MP Walid Jumblatt rejected the instigation against King Abdullah’s visit to Damascus and stressed the importance of abiding by the 15-10-5 formula. Jumblat warned that any other [power-sharing] equation would be “tantamount to suicide,” saying: “I will not take part in any government that is not formed according to the 15-10-5 formula.”’

These interventions clearly prove that nothing has changed in US policy in the Middle East with Obama’s presidency, not even the heavy-handed dictating of that policy to local actors – whose obedience will of course not get them any protection against the US’s really important ally’s next attack – as at least Walid Junblatt has leaned by now.

Btw, these translated summaries are taken from the daily press round-up of the otherwise fairly useless Nowhariri website, which can hardly be accused of anti-American leanings…

Mother of sparks is back…

The Lebanese Arabic-language daily As-Safir has again – as two years ago, read my blog post about it here – published a frontpage article (unsigned) about US plans to set up military bases (in this case an airbase) in Lebanon. Practically, the plan is to revive the never-finished civil war-era Pierre Gemayyel airport in Hamat, a village in the Batroun district between Byblos and Tripoli. I have been there to see it, and today it is a severely deteriorated strip of concrete with some concrete sheds evidently used by junkies as well as housing a few bored Lebanese army conscripts and used primarily as a racing track by local youths. The idea is to have an airport which is not situated in areas ‘under the influence of the Shia sect’. As-Safir claims the issue is currently being discussed at the highest echelons of the Lebanese Armed Forces and pushed aggressively by various high-placed civilian and miltary US players, including general David Petraeus. Unfortunately, the article quotes only anonymous sources and ‘followers of the file’, in addition to ‘eye witensses in Hamat’ (and one Junblatt quote dating from early 2005). Unsubstantiated as the story might appear to be, it does keep cropping up at regular intervals (only last year, during the May clashes, there was talk about reviving it when Beirut’s airport was temporarily closed by Hizbullah) and holds an obvious importance if only for the reactions it would elicit among the US’s many opponents in the country. After all, it would imply using Lebanon as a base for operations in the entire region, which is the one disaster the country’s feuding warlords have managed to avoid so far. So here is a (rather shoddy and basic) translation I made of the entire article, which was published last Monday, September 28th, 2009.

‘A Lebanese or US airbase in Hamat? Washington insists and its military team is scouting the area…while the army leadership is taking (it) into (serious) consideration’

Unsigned front page article, cont. on p. 16

‘The Americans once again prove that Lebanon will not be contracted out to anyone (but them), nor will it be left to the Lebanese, and the Americans themselves will decide on its business. Once again, the Americans give tangible proof that they bet on Lebanon being, one way or the other, (their playing) field not just for their politics and its complicated calculations, but even for their military and strategic projects for the whole of the Middle East. Why this conclusion, which to some might seem rash, or an exaggeration which the case doesn’t merit? Continue reading “Mother of sparks is back…”

Oh right, the government…

… totally forgot about that. For those among you (and me) who gave up trying to follow the endless bickering and cowtowing between the nation’s politicians since the June elections, the invaluable Elias Muhanna (aka Qifa Nabki) provides a handy concise update in the National. Not forgetting to include his usual lucid analysis: ‘In Lebanon, where political power is distributed between different religious groups, the ideal of consensual government is seen by many as an essential ingredient to maintaining a modicum of inter-communal harmony. Indeed, as the oft-repeated formula goes, conflicts should have “no victor, no vanquished” – so as to prevent the domination of one sect over the others. However, to conflate communal coexistence with consensual politics (and, by extension, with unity governments) entails three dubious assumptions: first, that sectarian communities are discrete entities whose interests are fully represented by political parties; second, that the practice of politics is nothing more than a zero-sum competition between these sectarian communities over the resources of the state; and third, that the best way to ensure that one sect is not allotted more than its fair share of spoils is to give every sect the ability to throw a spanner into the works. It is to assume, in other words, that political affiliations and sectarian identities are one and the same thing, which has the inevitable effect of further legitimising sectarianism as a dominant feature of Lebanese political life. To put it another way, interpreting coexistence to mean “consensual decision-making in government” mandates that national politics should be nothing more than a meeting of tribal elders, who gather periodically to brainstorm about how to divide the harvest and keep the peace. Sharing power with your political rivals may be a nice idea in theory, but it is almost impossible to achieve in practice without regular breakdowns and severe inefficiencies. The claim that such a scheme prevents sectarian strife and violence by giving all political players a place at the table is simplistic and naive. As we have witnessed over the past four years in Lebanon, power-sharing governments, based as they are on an unrealistic ideal of consensual decision-making, are highly vulnerable to paralysis. This is the case because they provide no pathways for forward progress under the likely scenario that disagreements between political players arise. The only option is to agree; otherwise, the system collapses. The dynamics of such an arrangement virtually demand that the main business of government is the prevention of state failure. Rather than attending to real problems facing the country – like the crippling national debt and the sagging infrastructure – the cabinet inevitably becomes the arena for petty infighting masquerading as consensual co-existence. And while it is commonplace for Lebanese politicians to argue that unity governments help to immunise Lebanon against foreign interference in its domestic affairs, in fact, it is the very fluidity of the Lebanese system that makes it so susceptible to manipulation.’