Turkish straightforward analyses

this is a nice Turkish review of what prominent American ideologues thought of Hamas’ leader Khaled Mashaal recent visit to Turkey. For example you have major neocons’ opinions along with more moderate elements. A useful and simplistic way to refresh our memories of the way major American policy “influencers” thinks of Middle East rapprochement that does not systematically go in line with the now acive American strategy of “divide-and-conquer” in the region.

ok that’s it i have to say it. the only person who can still pull things up in this country (if surrounded by the right people that are now politically weak) is Aoun. Unfortunately, between the mad megalomaniac general and the isolationists-cum-playing-with-fire-with-the-americans-wackos, it seems that we have a slight chance to be more on the safe side with the general.
That’s it I said it, and would have never thought I would.
Now may the gods (of the different 15 or so confessions in Lebanon) help us go to the next stage in peace.

Now for a daily commentary i would say that i was amazed how Condoleeza Rice could not wait to meet first and foremost the Maronite Patriarch Sfeir then warlord and severely mentally disturbed Walid Jumblatt. The problem with these Americans is that they really know who to talk to when they want something done. The hell with the protocol! Rice may have seen Siniora and Berri by accident! Check out Joseph Samaha’s brilliant analysis on the subject.
That was Rice’s rationale: Hey Sfeir we need to know (and we need to convince you of the following idea) if we can take out your maronite president without any major damage done, and who might replace him other than Aoun. Hey Jumblatt, good job here’s your money, but not so fast you will never get the political clout you ask for.
Briefly speaking, Rice came to reassure the “14 of march” (or whatever you want to call it) oligarchic (i prefer this label) forces that they still have American support, and that the priority is to remove Lahoud. Then we’ll deal with Hezbollah subsequently. Because for now, there is still a “politesse oblige” vis-a-vis Hezbollah

Another note: how come Christians in Lebanon never learn from past mistakes? I mean I refer to them as Christians because they like to be distiguished as such. Yesterday, Geagea started to change his mind and backed off from the insulting tone he carried two days ago against the president (sorry can’t find a good link on the subject). Why? I wonder if he thought the following: “Shit, I forgot that I am an extremist Christian that has no even faith in the state as a consensual (i.e. confessional) democracy (preferring what can be described as a tiny chunk of Christianstan), yet i am allying with Muslims and Druzes in order to take out the only Christian who could if removed, be replaced by a puppet Christian put in place by the other guys (meaning non-Christians)”.

It won’t take long before other Christians starts thinking the same and the 14 of March forces will just disintegrate. Sadly (or fortunately?) this will not lead to Christian convergence of interests. But it won’t lead either to complete Lebanese convergence of interests either.

Meaning that if you’re right-wing or like fascist in Lebanon, you will never have what you want. And if you’re left-wing or like some king of progressist, you will definitely not have what you want.

Why? Because it’s just about individuals running after the last standing chair. Do you know this game?

Meanwhile in Nigeria

It is interesting to see how instrumental were these uproars against the caricatures of the prophet in shaping the way simple reporting is now taking place. News agencies always have “background” information on daily news in order to make up a substantial article. They end up mixing two pieces of news in a way that would create a correlation between them although in some cases there isn’t any. For example,See how pipelines are held in Nigeria have to do with Muslim “resentment” according to this FT reporter (it is possible that this rapprochement is unvoluntary):

Nigerian militants yesterday threatened to extend their disruption of the country’s oil industry to attacks on oil tankers, after violence and abductions at the weekend led to the closure of an entire oilfield and forced Royal Dutch Shell to abandon loadings at one of its export terminals.

Militant attacks, including the kidnapping of nine oil workers on Saturday, have led to a 25 per cent cut in oil exports from the world’s eighth-largest crude exporter, a cut likely to put some upward pressure on prices when markets reopen today.

Militants said they had destroyed the loading facility at the 380,000 barrel per day Forcados terminal in attacks over the weekend against oil and gas facilities in the western Niger Delta. Shell said it was assessing the damage at Forcados and had shut down its nearby EA offshore field as a precaution, turning off 115,000 b/d of production.

The company had already seen its production cut by attacks last month.

Nigeria produces about 2.4m b/d. Its light and sweet crude is highly sought after, as it is easier to refine into petrol. Nigeria’s central location also means it is well placed to serve the US and Europe.

A representative of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), the group claiming responsibility for the weekend attacks, was quoted yesterday as saying: “There is no shortage of things to destroy.”

His comment underlined the vulnerability of oil companies in the region. In January Mend threatened to cut Nigeria’s export capacity by 30 per cent this month.

And here is the transition that loses the reader. two different news in one article making it look as if both were connected:

The trouble in the delta coincided with an outbreak of violence in the Muslim-dominated north of Nigeria, as a protest in the state of Borno against Danish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed turned violent. At least 15 people died on Saturday in the bloodiest reaction to the cartoons to date around the world as mobs burned churches and other buildings.

And here we are back to normal reporting for the first story:

The clashes will leave the military – which security analysts say is already severely under-resourced to tackle the insurgency in the delta – even more stretched. A spokesman for Nigeria’s military commander in the delta said no reinforcements were expected and “no military option” was being considered while the government worked on negotiating the release of hostages.

The nine hostages, including three US workers for the oil servicing company Willbros and a British security consultant, were kidnapped from a barge in the delta and taken to a jungle hideout.

Mend says it is fighting for the rights of the delta’s majority tribe, the Ijaw, many of whom claim they have been cheated out of their oil wealth by the central government and oil industry and have been politically marginalised through rigged elections. But some analysts believe Mend could be acting on behalf of anonymous political figures.

The group said its weekend attacks were in retaliation for an operation launched by the Nigerian military last week, which coincided with the visitof Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, to the delta.

The group is focusing attacks on Shell, saying the Anglo-Dutch oil company is responsible for severe environmental damage in the delta.

Ni vu ni connu!

Foreing Policy explanations

This article by Stephen Zunes argues religious extremism’s rise is directly correlated with harmful US foreign policy in the Middle East. The logic is interesting, and is important as a source of explanation when such views are lacking in the mainstream media. You will find an exaustive review of US doings in the region.
Yet, it’s not just about that, but we’re almost there…
In any case I love this line:

The United States provides six times more military aid to the Middle East than it does economic aid, and arms sales are America’s number one commercial export to the region, strengthening militarization and weakening financial support for human needs.

What’s really promising is to think that actually the US ambassador in Lebanon is practically giving orders to the petty Lebanon politicians thirsty for power. I try not to think of what this will bring in terms of alienation between the growing poor (confessionally divided), and the increasingly rich and corrupted minority.

Russia supports Hamas-led parliament but will consult Israel for the serious matters

eh oui let’s not forget material concerns. According to Russian news agency Mosnews:

Russia to Seek Israeli Consent Before Selling Arms to Palestine
Russian military equipment will only be supplied to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) with Israeli agreement, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted by Russian media as saying.

“All equipment supplies to Palestine might be carried out only with Israeli consent and through its territory,” Ivanov said. “This issue is under preliminary consideration.”

Ivanov’s remarks came a day after Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky said Russia may supply arms to the PNA after talks in Moscow with leaders of Hamas, which swept the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday a Hamas delegation will visit Moscow in early March.

Reports have said Russia would supply two MI-17 helicopters and 50 armored personnel carriers to the Palestinians.

Baluyevsky said the two helicopters will be delivered without arms. “They are intended to transport the Palestinian leadership.”

Witch-Hunters of "Antisemitism" feel the boomerang effect

This whole “anti-jewish” rhetoric emanating from Iran is simply the most funny aspect of their strategy to create outrage in the Western world. It is reversing the tools Jewish extremists used for over a century to create a modicum of cohesion between jews built on fear so as to attract them to Israel.
Iranian officials are just using this tool to the fullest, pushing it to ironic levels such as asking to send researchers to Poland so as to examine the veracity of facts about some 6 million jews being killed during the holocaust.
It just obliges western officials to answer very seriously as it was done by Poland’s Foreign Minister Stefan Meller who ruled out the possibility of having researchers sent by Iran.
Playing the ideological game by keeping the masses agitated and busy confronting imaginary demons, while real chess players are moving along respective borders.

US financing opposition groups in Syria

Well nothing is new here (the US has a infamous legacy for interfering in other country’s political changes), except that this time it is officially published and it’s Reuters that brings you the information directly to your PC! It partly means that some things are just not taboo anymore, but may even be popular to cite.

From Latin America, to Eastern Europe, and recently the Middle East the US has relentlessly tried to change regimes with a multitude of different means. Iraq was the case where all out war was more strategic, as the hawks preferred to displace opposition groups who were deemed to be not pro-American enough. I remember watching the news once right before the outbreak of the Iraqi war, and having several opposition Iraqi figures and arch-enemies of Saddam, based in London, denouncing the American crusade.

Actually one need not look very far to see double standards in US rhetorical commitment to democracy. Just observe current US pressures against a democratically Hamas-led parliament. It seems that contradictions in US foreign policy don’t need to be looked relative to past history but can be reflected in day to day strategies. It still is very shocking to see Rice warning Middle Eastern state not to help the newly formed palestinian parliament. The crazy aspect of all this is the fact that Arab states will just obey.

In any case, I don’t know if “$5 million for democratic reformers”, supervised by Liz Cheney (the daughter of Dick Cheney, who by the way also has his wife working in political arenas such as the very conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank) is going to be enough to displace Assad’s regime, but it sure is a step towards trying to isolate the Muslim Brotherhood party. I wonder if the website to apply for these grants has a special block mode for Islamic parties. Or maybe, quite the contrary?…

Plus it seems that Iran is not to miss the “democratizing” train through increased use of media propaganda:

The Syrian grant program follows an announcement this week that the Bush administration will ask Congress for $75 million to expand television broadcasts in Iran as part of a campaign to boost democracy there.

there is always someone to clean after you

I have a nice tale to tell:

As I was being taken through Martyr’s square yesterday after the fury was over I noticed something striking that is worth being mentioned.

After demonstrators left the place, quenched from vomiting their wrath, there were loads of wastes left behind, as if monsters were there, had a veracious feast and then evacuated their filth on the spot before going home. The main road that leads to the square, and the parking lots – because a part from the fancy building that’s all there is in downtown – were filled with plastic bags, bottles, food, papers, and cartons.

And who was cleaning? Syrians driving the now famous only public-facility garbage trucks, Sukleen. I saw them starting to clean the long main road that stretches from the street parallel to Monot’s street to Martyr’s square, picking up with their hands the detritus left behind by the demonstrators.

So let me get this straight. Some Lebanese go scream for a couple of hours against Syria , without really knowing what the Syrians have to do with it (we know the main political problems in Lebanon are due to internally narrow power struggles), and against Lahoud (maybe the most misunderstood Lebanese president, most of it because of incompetence), and they call that “social awakening”. Well I saw the results of this awakening: zero civic culture, or communitarian attitude, preferring to let the very same Syrians they despise and find inferior, clean the results of their “social awakening” and of their new found alleged “unity”.

As long as Lebanese don’t understand little details such as these (Syrians cleaning after them) and start looking at them in a horrifying way, I don’t think there will be serious “social awakening”. For now, alas, Lebanese are a bunch of fascist, although sometimes good-hearted fascists. Driven by vague nationalistic concerns, their patriotism stinks fascistic tendencies that prioritize ideas and pride on top of material concerns. Syrians cleaning after them is a highly symbolic image of the horrible reality of the political process in Lebanon. There is always someone cleaning after them. It is also the remnants of bad bourgeois habits that, when mixed with tribal tendencies, gives an explosive fascistic mix you can find in many cases around the world, like in Eastern Europe or Mid-USA.

There is no politically stable future for this country, before all tribal decentralization urges are disseminated. Start today, destroy the idols, especially when masked with the veil of the tyranny of concepts.

the critical question of the Shebaa farms

Well the following article helps us clear out the true nationality of the Shebaa farms: definitely Lebanese since the French mandate. But thanks to hazy United nations’ record that were never amended it triggered the famous international institution’s response that the area is Syrian. Hell, in Shebaa, taxes are paid to the Lebanese government.
Whether we like it or not, and even if it plays in the favor of the “other side” of Lebanon (sic), it seems that the Shebaa farms are more than just a strategic card in the hand of the Syrians, but actually is crucially important to the Israelis and is, according to experts, part of Lebanese territory.
An illuminating (higly informative) article by Akiva Eldar in the Haaretz published on the 26 June 2002 makes that argument clearly:

During the French Mandate, Shaba was Lebanese

The dispute over the Shaba Farms, the narrow 14 kilometer-long, and 2 kilometer-wide strip near Mount Dov is a microcosm of the Israeli-Arab dispute. That’s what sent Dr. Asher Kaufman from the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University all the way to the archives and Cartographic Institute in Paris, where he found documents that buttress Lebanon’s claims to the land.
“Many Israelis view this conflict as yet another indication that the Arab world has no intention to reconcile with Israel’s existence in the region,” writes Kaufman in an article about his research, meant for publication in a journal on the Middle
East. “The Israel Defense Forces have left the last grain of Lebanese land, it is believed, and yet Syria and its proxy, Hezbollah, found a pretext to continue the armed struggle against Israel. The zero-sum game rhetoric of Hezbollah combined with
its fundamentalist Islamic ideology only strengthens this belief among Israelis.”

“From the Arab side,” says Kaufman, “it is seen as yet further proof of Israel’s expansionist nature. The Lebanese, who for decades suffered from Israeli occupation, find it difficult to believe in Israel’s good intentions. Many truly believe that Israel still occupies this area in order to exploit the region’s abundant water resources – some also claim that since the 1980s Israel settled Ethiopian Jews on the farms. It is an ungrounded imaginary accusation but it fits well within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, since, according to the Arab stand, one of Israel’s major vices is settlement of new immigrants.

Lebanese also claim that 80 percent of the Golan Heights wine production comes from the farms. Indeed, wine production is a successful business in the Golan Heights, but not even a single vineyard exists in the area of the farms. Facts, so it would
seem, are intertwined with fiction and fantasy, making it difficult to analyze the situation per se. The Shaba Farms even contain a religious aspect that well complements the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the center of the region lies a site where, according to both Islam and Judaism, the Covenant of the Pieces between Abraham
and God occurred.”

Although Kaufman agrees with the security establishment, which is convinced that if Israel quits Shaba, the Syrians and Hezbollah will find another excuse to perpetuate the conflict, he rejects the official Israeli version, which says that Shaba is not part of Lebanon. That version, which says Shaba never belonged to Syria, has won the support of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Annan based his position on existing maps, but noted that the UN commission that marked the border did not find any official border markings in the area. This allows Israel to continue claming the land is part of its territorial dispute with Syria. [emphasis added]

But maps and documents Kaufman found in Paris pulls the rug out from under the Israeli distinction of the farm area. Some of that evidence is published here for the first time. All the documents found by Kaufman from the period of the French
Mandate over Syria and Lebanon, and which was supposed to mark the border between Lebanon and Syria, back up the Lebanese argument about the border, which they say goes through what they refer to as Wadi al-‘Assal, and Israel refers to as Nahal Si’on. That line clearly leaves Shaba Farms about a kilometer or two inside

One of the documents deals with a dispute over water from the area. French arbitrators and the various parties to the dispute wrote an agreement for cooperation over use of the water. That agreement placed arbitrators in the area, and they referred to Wadi al-‘Assal as the border between Syria and Lebanon.
A second document: In November 1937 the administrative councillor of south Lebanon, Pierre Bart, “wrote an illuminating report as to the situation in the area of the Shaba Farms. He noted a discrepancy between the boundary as determined by the 1:200,000 Ottoman map and the reality in the region. He had to collect unofficial information, he wrote, from various sources concerning the border due to the absence of a regular border demarcation and official documents.

Bart’s conclusion, says Kaufman, “was twofold: the village of Nkheileh [Now known as Hirbat Nahila, north of Tel Dan – A.E.] not only belongs to Lebanese nationals – but actually pays all its land taxes to the treasurer in Marjayoun.” In addition, on the right bank of Wadi al-‘Assal (Nahal Si’on) there are three or four sheep pens, which, Bart said, belong to the residents of the Lebanese village of Shaba. Each winter they send their flocks to that area.

According to Bart, as quoted by Kaufman, “the forests that cover the right bank of Wadi al-‘Assal are also an integral part of the village of Shaba and belong to the territory of the Lebanese state. If the inhabitants of Shaba want to cut down trees in this forest, they must receive permission from the Lebanese government and pay the Lebanese authorities the relevant taxes.” Bart added to his report a schematic plan indicating the official border as outlined in the Ottoman map and the de facto border
as existed in reality.

Two years later, Kaufman reports, the head of the Services Speciaux in Quneitra, a man referred to only as Bernoville, wrote a report about an incident in the area and reached similar conclusions. “Bernoville explained that an anomaly had existed in the region since 1920 concerning the Syrian-Lebanese border. The boundaries, as marked on the 1:200,000 map of the Bureau topographique de l’armee, do not correspond with the borders in effect. Bernoville explained that Nkheileh not only belongs to residents of Hasbaya but also that its inhabitants pay taxes to the Lebanese government and in fact the village is like a “Lebanese enclave within Syrian territory.”

Similarly, the sheep pens which belong to the residents of Shaba on the right bank of Wadi al-‘Assal are also considered to be part of Lebanon by the residents of the area. To clarify this point, he attached a map, and warned that the anomaly between
the official border and the de facto border might cause difficulties should tension arise between the two countries. Little did he know, adds Kaufman in his article.

Maps from 1942 and 1945 clearly show that since 1939, the year Bernoville wrote his report, and until the departure of the last French soldier from Syrian territory in 1946, nothing was done about the sovereignty question in the Shaba area nor about formally designated border marking. [emphasis added] Kaufman notes that Lebanon related to the area as its own, as did the residents of the area, as shown in tax reports and French reports. The anomaly continued through Lebanon’s independence, and remains in effect
to this day.

Israeli defense establishment officials involved in the matter said this week that there are many indications Syria treated the area as its own over the years. They note there was a Syrian census in 1960 that included the residents of the strip. Kaufman says that during the 1950s, Syria indeed took over the area. And, he adds, Beirut never showed any particular interest in the dispute regarding its southern periphery – unless Israel showed interest.

So let me just summarize with some added thoughts: We are still caught in a regional crossfire, and Lebanese still want to leave in complete autarcy, despite the fact that they hate each other. Israelis and Americans are playing it subtle waiting to see who will break the fine string that still accounts for the modicum of political stability. And the more Iran is nervous (with due cause!).
What’s really amazing (and so sad in a way) about the whole thing is that Lebanese are floating somewhere else, between isolationist tribal ignorance and the aspirations of a lazy bourgeoisie. And they call this revolution!

the 14th of February

Joseph Samaha in the Safir a day after the 14th of February demonstrations is simply brilliant. He may be the only intellectual that is not caught in the hegemonic euphoria of narrow patriotism that blinds the average Lebanese citizen today.

It is the way he dissects with scrutiny and acute analytical skills the daily affairs of the little country that is so fascinating. Every time there is a big event that could create generalized stupid euphoria, Samaha waits silently to deconstruct the symptomatic event. In his world, only struggles for power prevail along with corruptive practices, exploitative manners, and cold strategic calculations.

One should look at the frontpage of newspapers a day after the commemoration of PM Hariri’s death: a mob colored red and white, and a big close shot of the three heroes of the day, Geagea, Hariri (the son), and Jumblatt, holding hands pointed towards the sky. Apocalyptic image of extremes joining forces for practical reasons. Right under the reporting article on the demonstrations, you find Samaha’s counterattack in the Safir, quite a relief.

Samaha’s basic argument in this article is that Lebanese problems that seem to voice demands for external changes (Syria out, and Lahoud client of Syria out) are actually the product of internal struggles and clashes (power struggle between Druze Warlord Jumblatt and the Shia denominated parties, Aoun’s isolation which benefits the upper class Christian coalition and the extreme right-wing Christian popular group, the Lebanese Forces).

This article is all the more so a reference because it contains a classical argument made throughout most of Samaha’s writings. This external VS internal perspective is crucial to understand the nuances of Lebanese politics on the one hand, and draw conclusions for instable political systems in general throughout the world. Especially in the case of systems that are dominated by fascistic political structures such as Lebanon.

The perspective that looks at Lebanon as a country that faces an identity crisis begs the real political question of why the state has failed to establish itself as a useful machine for regulation and an effective guarantor of authority. It is identification disarray at the popular level that is an outcome of the failed state, ripped between the conflicting interests of sectarian and/or tribal elites.

Now those who emphasize external factors as a trigger for political change in Lebanon have missed part of the reality. First it is only through internal factions that external agents can arrive at political outcomes. Second, the Lebanese state is structurally permeable to significant external influence because of its size, geographic location, and security weakness. Third, labeling outside influence as the primary enemy of “Lebanon” is a kind of psychological escape that Lebanese citizens enjoy a lot. A sort of patriotism defined as a reaction to a specific enemy.

This escape process (the politics of the ostrich) has contributed to the paralysis of civic culture in Lebanon as citizens are busy creating enemies and overwhelming their thought process with vague ideas to strengthen their pride instead of focusing on the true source of their despair that is their exploited social and economic condition, by the very same elite that feed them with these weak beliefs through discourses channeled by the prevailing medias. (ok that was a long sentence, no time to amend)

I would love to see these people mobilize against poverty, or corruption, or against abuse of weak groups, etc. This is without considering that half of the “Lebanese” weren’t even there. Actually more than half of the political constituency was not there this time as it depends usually on how elites scramble against each other. Remember for example the Christian fight over the real protagonist of the 14th of March (Aoun’s group vs the bourgeois/extreme-right-wing coalition). It seems that they also fought in the Mar Maroun church after the wackos from the north came to show to evacuate their frustration at Ashrafieh’s opulence. No I’m the boss of the Christians, no i’m the boss of the Christians, you could almost hear them scream.

I think that what is really dangerous is the Sunni-extreme-right-wing coalition that has surfaced lately after Hariri’s assassination. Traditionally Sunnis (now dominated by the house of Hariri) are moderate consensus-driven players, but they just allied, even if it is for electoral purposes with the most isolationists of all, luring them with their wealth. The Christian extreme-right think it can get some sort of lost political influence. But if you think about it, the Lebanese forces are made of many new comers on the political scene. They are not the traditional elites. They resemble in a way Hezbollah’s social corpus although lack the discipline and the political maturity of their party.

In any case, Samaha is right to say that the house of Hariri still don’t know where they are heading and that it is the uncanny thirst for power (and refined tactical tools) of Jumblatt that is posing the rules of the game. Jumblatt wants to corner Hezbollah at all cost, as it is the last bastion for his ascendance to an influential position of power. Although allying with isolationist Christian he is lending a hand to Aoun (although a shaky one). Everything is good for Hezbollah to be neutralized. So Jumblatt plays the American and French card fully.

Aoun’s rapprochement with Hezbollah although tactical is ingenious in terms of political diplomacy. But everything intelligent is always discounted on Lebanon’s political stage. For all the above mentioned reasons and political dynamics, we are still locked in an internal power struggle that threatens to wreck the country in pieces, and leave it to the regional vultures (including the US as you can count it as a regional player today). Mmm, although the US is already ‘vulturing’ very efficiently, wispering in the ears of Lebanon’s many kings.

May the god(s) forbid such happenings!


Just to remind the readers of how this blog works. There is Bech (a Lebanese pessimistic lazy observer) and Davidovich (an American “mixed race” with an irremediably colonialist heritage, though cold analyzer, who possess a lot of poetic undertones in his style of writing).
I remind the readers of the producers of knowlege because the structure of the blog makes it hard for someone to know who types what.
Now sometimes it is better to think that there exist a supra-human entity englobing the two other called: Bechodavich. When blogs are explicitly signed it means that it was meant to be a personal comment, where the individual in question breaks from the fusion (like the preceding post), for practical reasons no more no less.

A lazy sum up


I have been out of Lebanon for quite some time (three weeks, a remarkable amount of time in my standards). I have been shuffling the daily evolution of ideological structures in the thoughts of the various Medias in a very superficial manner. I was feeling weak and did not want to comment on the disasters awaiting the little country, and the rest of the region.

I preferred to keep myself away from the conflicting political concerns of failed statesmen that you find swarming around our region. I played music in Lisbon where I saw the richest city I have ever seen, with a rebuilt downtown that wasn’t botched like the one in Lebanon. But Portugal was witnessing a return of the right to power as the left could not lift the country out of its economic paralyses. Then in Madrid, I felt the tension between the right and the left, between the greed of the right and the eccentricities of the left and in Paris I paid a lot to eat the most horrible food and watch cold French attitudes and violent immigrant behavior.

It made me think that the place where I come from is not so bad, and wished we could at least have basic agreement on few existential questions that threatens to wreck the country.

Suffice it to say that three main points are changing the face of the near east:
1- the continuing split in the Lebanese cabinet between the Sunni-Christian coalition and the Shia Hezbolah-dominated party
2- Hamas’ overwhelming take-over of the Palestinian parliament
3- Increasing threats facing Iran and Syria

We will try to develop these in forthcoming comments.


some thinking after the storm

Lately violent demonstrations erupted in certain parts of the Muslim world as a reaction to the prophet’s caricatures drawn by a danish guy.
Well, there is a good analysis made in the Forward, arguing that demonstration in Lebanon, Syria and Iran are political manipulations aimed at voicing the discontent of these countries to the recent European foreign policy siding with the US.

Protests erupted across the Muslim world this week, from Indonesia to Nigeria, despite appeals for calm by European leaders, the United Nations and the 55-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference. Some of the most violent outbursts, however, were in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut, where mobs stoned and firebombed Danish and other embassies. That led to suspicion in some Western capitals that Iran and Syria were fanning the dispute in order to punish Europe for siding with Washington on several fronts in recent months. (…)
“What is happening in the Middle East is primarily political manipulation — Syria taking revenge for its expulsion from Lebanon, Hamas striking back at the European Union for its rebuff on financial aid, Afghans anticipating the replacement of U.S. troops by European ones, and Iranians lashing back at the E.U. for its stance on the nuclear issue,” said Olivier Roy, a leading French expert on Islam.

It makes sense in any case as the crux of the debate revolves around overused concepts like “the liberty of the press” and Western media struggles to emerge from this traumatic state as if it was the principal victim of these demonstrations.
Public “European” opinion should know that the main problem if foreign policy. Although debates of freedom of the press are worthy of interest, they should not be at the center of understanding what recently happened especially in the beloved regions of ours.

Now this explains state behavior and their inclination to efficient political manipulation but in order to understand why some groups got excited on the ground requires us to understand something else: social differences and the strength of ideologies. Everybody should understand this. It is the same drive that moves people against an anti-Syrian demonstration (the famous 14th of march gathering). Once on the ground, ideology prevail in order to create the movement. Whether these sets of beliefs are based on idea of “the nation” or other religious attachments the result is the same.
But initially ideological structures emerge from different economic situations. It is not a coincidence that it was one of the richest neighborhood of Beirut that was vandalized.

Here you have it. Deconstruct it.

before i forget that Israel is getting nervous

Check this out, an analysis by Israeli military ‘expert’ Alex Fishman on Israeli challenges in the region from Hezbollah, to Hamas to Iran. Although separate cases they are all potential targets:

Key officials in the army and Defense Ministry describe the Hamas victory in worst-case terms as the opening of a “second front” against Israel. Previously they had spoken of one “wing” of Islamic terrorism, pressing Israel on its northern border in the form of Hezbollah. Now, following the elections, they speak of a “second wing” of the threat emerging in Gaza and the West Bank.
In effect, this would be the fulfillment of an Iranian dream: a pincer action, surrounding Israel on all sides with extremist Islamic movements. Each wing of the pincer is based on an Islamic organization — Hezbollah to the north in Lebanon, Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza — that is well integrated into local society and possesses an independent military force capable of serving Iranian goals. Both are extremist Islamic organizations with links to international Islamic movements, and both have joined their respective parliaments after competing in free elections.
Of the two, Hezbollah is tightly controlled by Iran, which shares its Shiite religious orientation. Iran has little influence now within Hamas, a Sunni organization. But Tehran gives high priority to establishing a foothold in Hamas. Hamas’s intentions are unclear.