Demystifying the Cedar Revolution and warning of future nightmares

Etienne Sakr’s Group “The Guardian of the Cedars”, an extreme right-wing group based in Lebanon (next to the three four cedars that we have left) announced their program for the year 2005 that pledged every Lebanese “to kill Palestinians”.
Whether it is an old scratched disc or an acid flashback, these people really asked for extreme fascistic goals a week ago, and it was all over the press.
Joseph Samaha (Lebanese daily AL Safir main columnist, and only relevant opinion journalist in Lebanon) wrote lengthly on the phenomenon basically saying that we should not be that surprised as the Guardian of the Cedars are but the “Bastard offspring of the 14th of March Cedar Revolution”.
What an insightful and closely read account of the main events that shook the country since the death of the former prime minister Rafic Hariri.
The Cedar Revolution (as it was labeled at the time) presented any political analyst or intellectual for that matter with all the facts needed to understand that the 14th of March was sum of isolated aggregates that are at odds with how to “lebanonize” the country.
Even if the Mustaqbal party and the Lebanese Forces united for the legislative elections, they are divided on several issues, as the Lebanese Forces is an open advocate of a federalist Lebanon with a tiny Christian enclave whereas Mustaqbal’s profound mercantile culture would not know what to do with a smaller economy.
In any case, sparing you a detailed analysis of the political goal of each party in Lebanon, whether Aoun’s party, to Hezbollah and others, all of them are at odds on how to define the “identity” of the country.
However, one important aspect is often ill-observed. The current regional events taking place are cleaning the Middle East from the last remnants of Arabism.
Phenomenon like Guardian of the Cedar resurgence, “Cedar Revolution”, Anti-Syrian feelings etc. are consequences of an embryonic formation of a “nation” built on a reaction to other ill-defined entities like “Syrians” “Palestinians” “Islamists” etc.
The region is being divided and nobody is talking about it.
All events that are taking place from the killing of an influential Sunni politician (Rafic Hariri) to playing with the electoral process in Iraq, to arming Gulf States with expensive weapons they can’t use, to spreading the rumour that there is a Shiite threat on the horizon, to putting bombs in Christian areas in Lebanon, to ,to,..

The Maronite International League (i think based in the US) just condemned the last explosion that took place in Getaoui a Christian neighborhood of Beirut and has put the blame on Hezbollah “and other illegal armed organization”.

And the media! the media is sleeping blocked in “we want the truth” speeches. The media is blinded by ideologies that are of no use to understand real political conflicts. No wonder why! the media has been fed with intellectuals that preach “democracy” and “independence” and “free Lebanon”, and “security service is the most horrible creature for you right now”.
No one preached about how entities were being created, divisions were being nurtured, how creative (although difficult) ideologies are being displaced for destructive ones.

I blame this on Leftist organizations. They should have been the bridge. They should have understood firstly the plight and rationale of Islamic movements, they should have saved the popular constituency from lining up with right-wind groups with isolationist principles. Unfortunately, they preferred to stay at home and in conference halls having obsolete dogmatic debates on how to understand socialism here and there. They also began espousing vague nationalistic causes, precipitating the very discrimination waves they were supposed to fight.

But the truth is in front of you. It is in the facts that are taking place. Connect the dots and write about it. Lebanon is especially in a very difficult situation. And nobody seems to care.

Why Iran is not an easy target

I don’t know what to make of this article, whether it has propaganda consequences is undeniable. Painting the picture of a strong Iran serves the interest of those who want to see a heightening of the coming clash with the US. But then again, arguments made are sound and Iran has strategic cards in its hands such as the price oil (main argument of the article), regional deals, a couple of western contracts here and there, Hezbollah, etc.
But Iran is still basically acting out of a self-defense mechanism. If it does not acquire nuclear weapons the US will swallow it in one single bite.

Arab states biggest importers of Arms in the World

I was shocked this morning to learn that the biggest importer of military equipment in the world is tiny United Arab Emirates with 3.6 Billion worth of goods received in 2004. Then comes Saudi Arabia with 3.2 billion.
And then.. then comes China (2.7), India and Egypt (1.7bn), Israel (1.5bn though bearing in mind that Israel locally produce most of its military equipment), etc.
Check the facts here.
So I sent an e-mail to a specialist in arms trade in the Middle East Prof. Yahya Sadowski who tought me political science as well as useful modes of thoughts at the American University of Beirut. And this is what he answered:

Between 1975 and 1985 the Arabs exported more than a trillion dollars of oil to the world, more than the total value of Japanese exports. During the same period, they spent more than 350 billion dollars on arms imports. The Gulf states import more weapons than they can actually use: Saudi Arabia has three times more tanks than it has trained drivers. They pay for this equipment because it is part of the “deal” in exchange for which Washington agrees to guarantee their security.
I wrote a book about this back when I thought the Clinton administration might do something about it, but the Democrats are as addicted to foreign arms sales (America’s number one export) as the Republicans. Arms sales are an easy way to create jobs and patronage in critical states such as Texas and California.
Back in 2002, when Israeli attacks on Jenin using Apache helicopter gunships provoked outrage in the Arab world, I suggested organizing a boycott of Boeing Co., whch manufactures these weapons. Saudi Arabia actually buys more Apaches than Israel, and if a single Gulf state looked like it might drop its Boeing contract it might force a rethinking in Seattle. But my students in Beirut were much more interested in boycotting Starbucks.
The situation is fraught with ironies. The Arabs, who cannot effectively deploy these weapons, are the biggest customers in the global arms trade. And by buying them they underwrite the very American hegemony that they complain about.

I think that any responsible Arab in the region should know these facts by heart, just as I should.

Two important events

There is an article in Haaretz An israeli delegation in the UAE signals increased economic ties between the two countries.
Also, as reported by Asharq Al Awsat (English version) the US and Saudi Arabia have finally signed a bilateral Free-trade agreement.

Welcome to the bipolar Arab world.