Shame on Harvard

Harvard pulled out its official endorsement of the study on the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby on US Policy making.
But the truth is out and academic expertise shouldn’t require political acquiescence.

Wishful Thinking

First of all check out the title of the story:

Syria and Lebanon Discuss Scientific Cooperation

Second,the story, the plight:

Syria and Lebanon discussed ways of enhancing scientific research and cooperation between their universities.
During a meeting, Minister of Higher Education Ghyath Barakat discussed with Rector of the Lebanese University Zuhir Shakar situation of the Syrian students in Lebanese private universities and all problems, damages and difficulties they are exposed to.

And Finally, the wishful thinking:

The Minister highlighted the necessity of boosting Syrian-Lebanese student communication through joint camps and activating joint scientific researches between them.

All this is nice, but now let’s go back to work!

It is truly the dog that wags the tail..

I liked this piece

Some of it is overblown and I do not agree with all of his assertions but it is a great counterpoint to Harvard/Chicago piece on the Israeli Lobby.

Israel’s tactical multilateralism

The Forward has yet again looked for interesting subject to develop: Ori Nir investigates Israel’s changing position toward Palestinian Refugee body UNRWA in order to displace Hamas as a social good provider. Meaning that the Jewish state has a new found respect for International Organizations such as the UN.
That’s history repeated in reverse. There was a time when Israel use to support Hamas in order to roll back Fatah.

The ever changing face of Hamas

Check this interview that appeared in the UAE daily Al Khaleej (Thanks for the translation by Mideastwire:

“Female Minister in the Hamas government: we will not impose the veil…”

In its March 24 edition, Al Khaleej, an independent daily, reported that: “Maryam Saleh is considered the only woman in the new government of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas. She enjoys a remarkable academic and political record, and has obtained a degree in Islamic Law from King AbdulAziz University in 1979, a PhD from the Um Al Qura University in 1993,… and has written many publications and researches about the political rights of women in Islam… In an interview with Al Khaleej, Saleh stated that women were the safety valve of the Palestinian society, denied there was any intention of imposing the veil and assured that no laws will be passed if they are in contradiction with the Sharia. The following is a transcript of the interview:

“Al Khaleej: ‘What can the Hamas movement offer Palestinian women?’
Saleh: ‘We, the Hamas movement, have placed many items in our electoral and governmental program regarding women. We said that Palestinian women were a partner in the resistance and the Jihad and a partner in the restructuring and the decision-making. Palestinian women have suffered as much as everyone else from the occupation and are need of everything that could be given to them on all levels. We consider that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is a palpable achievement and that it should be headed by a woman.

“Our work in the upcoming government might be different from that of the former government, while bearing in mind that many achievements were accomplished by the Ministry. We will deal with the positive aspects and develop them, and we will also develop many other issues related to women. The concern with women’s affairs is one of Hamas’s most distinguished characteristics. This was proven by the active participation of women during the elections, and before that, by their involvement in social services, and the social participation of Muslim women in the movement. Women represent half of the society in number, but their value is much bigger since they are the ones raising the future generations and forging men’.

“Al Khaleej: ‘Nonetheless, Hamas is accused of being against the freedom of women and that it will impose its special social agenda that will restrict women’s freedoms. What are your comments on that?’
Saleh: ‘These are targeted accusations that have been raised against Hamas and the Islamic calling a long time ago. Many people want to impose Western laws, customs and traditions that are strange to our culture [and] our societies. But we are a Muslim society and Hamas came from within this society, and did not land from space on the back of a tank.

“As for what is being said, it aims to create fear amongst women vis-à-vis the movement. No sensible person should believe these false rumors because we have showed the people, in our electoral program, Hamas’s position from women. We will not impose our ideas and thoughts on anyone, because that is our principle, and we will impose the veil… But on the other hand, we will also not pass laws that are in contradiction with the Holy Islamic Sharia’.

“Al Khaleej: ‘How will you run a Ministry full of male and female employees that do not share your political ideas?’
Saleh: ‘I always say that in our dear country Palestine, we all have one cause and one concern. We are all together to achieve one goal, i.e. to topple the invasion and liberate our nation. Even if there are political differences, there are many other areas in which we can collaborate and agree, that are much wider than the areas of dispute. Our principle in Hamas is that we collaborate in our convergences, and discuss our divergences’.”

Syria: Dissidents to meet with Lebanese Politicians

That’s what was missing!!
(from an Italian news agency)

Damascus, 23 March (AKI) – Leading Syrian dissidents belonging to the Rally for Syria group will hold talks with prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians, including Saad Hariri, the son of assassinated former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, in Paris later this month. Other high profile figures attending the talks include former Syrian deputy president Abdel Halim Khaddam – who has been living in Paris since falling out with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad – and Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

“Jumblatt, Hariri and Khaddam head the list of those invited,” Rally for Syria co-ordinator, Fahd al-Agha al-Misri told Adnkronos International (AKI). Misri said that a number of Western political leaders have also been invited to participate in the discussions.

He also said that Khaddam, by severing his ties with al-Assad, had taken “a brave step which merits praise of all the sincere patriots within Syria.

In recent interviews, Khaddam has implicated al-Assad in the February 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri and 20 other people in a Beirut bomb blast.

what desolation means: the Iraqi case

Everybody should read this piece in the NY review of books on what Iraq looks like in terms of chaos and super-militarization. Long gone the hopes of a brighter future without Saddam.
For those who would like to witness revolutions in their own country, take a look at Iraq beyond what the media feeds you everyday.
This is scary… I hope the god(s) can prevent such scenario from materializing in my tiny country delineated a century ago. Because if I have to rely on the current ‘statesmen’ we have around here…

one note though, nobody seems to realize how horrible things should be for the average Iraqi today. peace is precious and nobody realizes this. Sometimes, I tend to forget that, I tend to take for granted the fact that I can wake up in the morning and go walk in the sun. But a couple of years ago, during the civil war, this was not really possible. Is it necessary for me to have known the vicissitudes of the lack of security in order to understand the current desolation in Iraq? Do we need to all go through this before we understand what ideology or the tyranny of ideas can do to so many people?

Ultimately, for those who don’t understand the precious cost of a viable security system for those who don’t understand why the State is such an important agency, actually for those who paradoxically think they understood it all when it comes to formulating concepts such as “liberty”, “democracy”, etc. I tell you, please think twice before screaming the word “injustice”. Your life can suddenly become unbearable.

What we publish back here

The Daily Star run a full-page interview with Matthew Levitt a right-wing hawk that was once at the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy and now is “deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department”.
It’s not even the Daily Star that interviewed the guy but the Council on Foreign Relations (a semi-think-tank that groups prominent diplomats from all over the world).
If the Daily Star does know how to fill his pages, at least don’t go copy the views of ideologues like Levitt and others of the same creed.
I seriously never saw anything else than the views of the neoconservatives in the opinion pages of this newspaper, whether written by “fellow arabs” or pro-Israeli so-called scholars based in Washington. I even saw opinions by Israelis from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, lecturing us about democracy and reforms in the Middle East. Or others on the danger that Hezbollah represents.

Only the editorial represents some constructive point of views as I know that there is a nice lady diverting the flow of wrath. Needless to say what I think of the actual editorialist…

The US well entrenched in the Middle East

and the deepness of its presence will increase. Everything works as planned it seems:

Central to the U.S. military presence in the Middle East to fight both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been the use of pre-positioned war materiel and the quick establishment of expeditionary bases. At the height of operations in both countries in 2003, the Air Force, for instance, operated from 36 bases in and around the region. That number has since shrunk to 14 today, including four main operating bases in Iraq.
The Department of Defense conducted a Global Posture Review in 2004-2005 focused on the realignment of forward-deployed forces in Europe and Asia in light of the military’s predominant focus on the Middle East.

Under the Review, up to 70,000 troops will be relocated to the continental United States, primarily drawn from forces in Germany and Europe, and the Cold War presence in many parts of the world will end altogether (Washington just announced the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iceland, for instance.)

More central to the review though was the articulation of a basing strategy for those parts of the world – especially the Middle East – where no “permanent” combat forces are assigned. Here the strategy relies on a network of forward operating sites (FOS) capable of supporting rotational forces, as well as a set of more austere cooperative security locations (CSL) used for contingency purposes.

Oh, and here’s the US’s National Security Strategy, it’s worth looking at it.

wake-up call for the media

If only we could have articles written in such a systematic way on corruption in the Middle East.
I wonder what are the activities of ‘anti-corruption’ organization? I met one in Lebanon and I still don’t understand why nothing is written on corruption, except generalities in terms of numbers. Why can’t we see statements like this: “This guy diverted that much money from this particular countract in this ministry”, for example.
I’m sure these anti-corruption organization are just political front for adverse corrupted parties so as to slam each other!

US national interest sacrificied for Israeli

A study published by two Americna Scholars is causing intellectual turmoil in the Israeli press.
US Middle East policy has consistently been pro-Israeli during the last decades or so regardless of a clear objective idea of its benefits in terms of US national interests.
That’s a strong statement especially emanating from harvard and chicago school people (John Mearcheimer, Stephen Walt).

But what’s even more interesting is the Israeli reaction. I still don’t understand why Isarelis turn a blind eye on this pattern. Do they really think that American policy is not biased, and that AIPAC is as any other lobbying organization in the US, say environmental groups? Or is it just intellectual dishonesty?

Fatah still exist

But possibly not for long. I mean how pathetic can they be when they form a rally to signal their support for the “Lebanese national dialogue”.
It basically means the following:
Now that we have been crushed by Hamas in the recent elections, even within Palestinian camps, because we were so corrupted and uncompromising in terms of power sharing, we urge different parties to address us when they want to address the Palestinian question in these dialogues.
Second pathetic information:

Members of Hamas were not present at the rally. The Hamas representative in the camp, Abu Ahmad Fadl told The Daily Star “the movement did not receive an invitation from Fatah.”
[Fatah’s secretary general in South Lebanon Colonel Khaled]Aref voiced support for Hamas saying “we will give our brethren in Hamas an opportunity to practice their natural right to leadership.”

And then people wonder why the Left has failed and all we’re left with are Islamic (and other sectarian) parties as triggers of social mobilization. Well think again. the answer is: thirst for power and corruption, creating separation between elite and society. It misses no one, from right to left..

Syria switching from dollars to euros

Something everybody could do, but I wonder which country it is a “partner” with. Not France anymore that’s for sure…

Walid Jumblatt: a sum up from the UN press conference

Fortunately, I have found a perfect post that summarizes the issue. Please read Angry Arab for the details.

Chirac parading in the Middle East

I did not comment on Chirac’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and how this can help French companies profit from high oil prices proceeds.

Suffice it to say that it would explain very well his current post-mandate policies in Lebanon and this is not really that good for the country my friends and relatives.

Likud or Labor party: It’s all the same Sh..

check this out, friends and relatives:

Highly confidential documents from the Ministry of Justice dating from the early 1990s, copies of which were sent to the ministers of defense, justice and housing as well as the attorney general, confirm the existence of a vast network of ties between Likud and Labor governments, and land dealers and settlers’ associations, for the purpose of acquiring land in the West Bank.

Trafficking women

From Iraq to the neighbors although Iraq does not:

join Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries listed as serious problem areas for modern slavery, there is still concern.

and Qatar!

Hamas and Moscow

I am amazed by Hamas’ political bold steps. Many would not agree i’m sure, and i’m not really giving my opinions on the beliefs of this party. But they are way better than the politicla fossiles present in the Arab world.
Now think of it this way, while in Moscow, Hamas stroke a sensitive chord regarding Russian strategic priorities. Accordingly:

What may well have been the main dividend for Russia was a point made by the head of the Hamas delegation, Khaled Meshaal, who described the Chechen issue as an internal Russian problem. That statement angered Chechen rebels, who were hoping for Hamas support of their cause. The Kremlin long has tried to destroy the international support Chechen separatists receive from Islamists outside Russia, and Hamas’ stance on the issue may prove important for Moscow’s fight there.

Hehe, didn’t I say they are good?
What about their current position vis-a-vis Israel that makes the latter fulminating with anger? We don’t “recognize you”, but if you withdraw to the 1967 borders then we are open to peace? It actually means: we reject this part in the Oslo process that put the Palestinians in a weak position: the recognition of Israel in order to negotiate. But we accept the rationale behind the Oslo process, meaning: we will negotiate but first, go back to internationally agreed norms, and then we’ll talk.

That’s why the US and Israel are crying. That’s why the recent AIPAC showdown was even more shocking in its anti-Hamas and anti-Iranian insulting propaganda than Iranian president Ahmadinjad bolstering against Israel.

This is why (on another strategic level), separating the Sunnis from the Shias politically is deemed crucial. This is what is happening in Iraq. This is what is definitely happening in Lebanon.

NB: AIPAC stands for American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and is one of the srtongest lobbying organization in the US.

Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt stopped a Muslim Brotherhood newspaper (read the news in the Safir) from operating. the brotherhood is banned in Egypt so the newspaper (Afaq Arabiya) was owned by a liberal party.
Well that’s not good stuff and needs to be mentioned.

Reinforcements are arriving

What I love in this country is that genuinely local reunion efforts can’t last for long. Fortunately enough, (according to Lebanese daily Al Balad) you have Egyptian Moukhabarat chief Omar Suleiman and Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Saud el Faysal that are expected to push for:
1- disarmament of Palestinians in camps
2- 18 month period given to Hezbollah in order to disarm and specify what they want to do with Shebaa
3- change the president

I love Arab initiatives!

Hariri, the National hero

hey friends and relatives,

I just got this article forwarded. For those who still need some light shed. It’s in French though.

It basically says the following (with my added sarcasm):

1- Hariri “reconstructed” only 1 km square of Lebanon. He did so by literally expropriating a lot of land that he gave to a private company. Reconstruction was turned into a big real estate affairs for cronies and other culprits, thanks to Hariri being prime minister and permitting such thing to happen

2- the debt in Lebanon was mostly due to irresponsible policies carried on by the the Hariri government, promising outrageous returns to mafia-like investors (friends of Hariri) that have weakened the state’s grasp. Hariri is a major shareholder in several prominent Lebanese banks and has appointed the central bank president. So let’s see, is there a collusion of privileges here?

3- the agriculture and industrial sectors (that were once essential parts of the modes of production) in Lebanon were mostly left destroyed by such irresponsible policies. This is was much in line with the train of thought stipulating that Lebanon is “a service economy”. Actually it meant: an economy for the club of the rich investors (primarily benefiting banks who aren’t even profitable enough without their incestuous relation with the state) who wants to sit down, smoke cigars, and make money on speculating on land, enjoy prostitutes in Aley and Bhamdoun, and get the best view in dowtown apartments. Actually even as a touristic center, Lebanon does not fare very far…

4- the privatization rip off (cellular and other ‘promising’ sectors) that constrains the state to pay more than it receives

5- Hariri was never a national hero. He was happy with the prevailing system and only opposed the Syrians when the latter imposed Lahoud on him. Likewise for Jumblatt. If Syrians could have been an accomodating factor like they were for many years, then fine by them! They can make more money! But it took a potential disruptor of the general rip-off system in order for some guys to become “nationalist” heroes.

Oh well, and other things as well.

You always need a middle man

The problem is who to choose
It is interesting to see that the people that are going to mediate between the Hariri house and Osama Saad’s Nasserite of Saida (who accused hariri of arming Palestinian militia near Ayn el Helweh) will be Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya.
Saad said that these armed groups were supposed to create a security void that would suit US interests.
It’s good we still have Islamic groups around to help mend bridges!

Jumblatt is playing with fire

I heard that Jumblatt met with extreme-hawk Stephen Hadley while touring the right-wing side of the US. Hadley has been accused of spying for Israel and has an FBI file pending (can’t find the article, it’s somewhere on Counterpunch’s website, there is a lot on Stephen Hadley there).
Actually along with Paul Wofowitz who discovered the joy of pursuing new cronyist activities at the World Bank, Hadley is a chief strategist of the war in Iraq and a close aide to Dick Cheney.

No wonder why when feudal-warlord Jumblatt went out of today’s meeting with scary Condoleeza Rice he was inflated with fixed ideas that threatened to wreck the fragile negotiations that are paralysing the downtown area. I mean, if you think about it, there is always a master puppet in Lebanon, historically. A “last resort” guy we can pull strings on. This time, it’s Jumblatt’s turn. How can he not see that the Americans are using him as a last option to mess up the talks?
Even his allies (Geagea & Inc.) had hazy looks on television when asked about his recent inflammatory declarations against Hezbollah, and the fate of the Shebaa farms.

Actually if one thinks about it, Jumblatt has no friends left except people like Stephen Hadley, Paul Wolfowitz. He just can’t accept a compromise with the people he backstabbed. The problem is that nobody should want to be friends with the neocons. Unless they are delusional.

Meanwhile, in the real economy

The Lebanese textile sector silently lost over 8000 jobs in a matter of six years. This was reported by Sahar Al-Attar in the French daily l’Orient-le-Jour.
I’m sure the people that lost these jobs are thinking that liberty and freedom comes from regaining nationalistic credentials. The hell with a decent job as long as the Syrians are out! That’s how I become more respected. The fact that I am being exploited by a bunch of people because of poor political and economic planning (add to that high cost of energy, labor, and virtually everything) is not hindering my liberty, although the presence of “occupiers” in “my homeland” is definitely behind the feeling I have that I am not free!
That’s ideology my friend right in front of your eye, spilling over like volcano lava.

According to Al-Attar’s article, the textile industry was the first exporter in Lebanon, now it is merely ranking 8th. Lebanon may be the only country that has no industrial policy whatsoever. And it seems that the main problem is not “Syrian competition”. Products are differentiated along brand, and higher quality criterias.

Joseph Samaha left the Safir

The following should have been the headlines today of all Lebanese newspapers:
One of the only interesting Lebanese journalist is leaving the newspaper. A journalist that has published the most interesting analyses for the past couple of years.
If Samaha is not going to write again then the militants against collective Lebanese propaganda would have lost another curcial sympathizer to its cause.
Very simply, Samaha was the cold shower that energizes your thought system after being too exposed to the meaningless and perverse talks of the people at large, and the leaders in particular.
I hope he will re-surface in an other news outlet. He is desperately needed to bring critical thinking to the intellectually paralytic and lazy Lebanese media.

The ever changing neoconservative mind

Two days ago, neocon sympathizer and Washington Post columnist Robert Kaplan criticized the golden rule of pushing for democracy in the Middle East. This is just one example between so many (that started of probably with chief neocon Francis Fukuyama scepticism with the consequences of the war in Iraq).
I just want to point out the fragile status ideas over time. Ideas change quickly, whether unconsciously or as the result of a thought process. What lay still is materiality my friends. Security impetus, and economic influence, both concepts taken in the largest possible sense of the term. Never let your understanding of the Other (the one outside you), or any other entity deemed real clinging on the ideas they say rule their reasonings.
For ideas are like the leafs that come and ago across the seasons and material concerns are their trees that stays unshakable.

Allies meet finally (bis)

Hey guys, Jumblatt will also speak along with zionist Martin Indyk at the Brookings Institute, while the rest of the Lebanese confessional leaders will be discussing ways to agree on their own in downtown.

Reunions are not what they used to be
Meanwhile, think of it this way, when world leaders met to discuss crucial issues regarding the international system after WWII, they met at Bretton Woods which is far from city centers, in order to be at peace from human concentration and economic activity. They also slept and ate in luxurious villas most probably.
As for Lebanon, they chose THE center of economic activity (of course where a modicum of economic acitivity exists), and simply evacuated it in order to create peace.
World leaders preferred to rely on nature (the woods) in order to get peace. Here, they prefer to create peace by deploying all the security forces of the country and in effect depriving the rest of the country the basic right of getting to the center and get on with their daily life.
Different types of civic attitudes I would say. Couldn’t they have gone to the “Cedars” for example? That would have just been perfect the one and a half Lebanese cedar would get a genuine ideological kick for more population nationalistic identification.
But I blame the people because it is they who give voice to these leaders. So let them suffer the consequence of their choices. That’s democracy after all!

A historical day by all means

Friends and relatives,

I must tell you that I could not but smile when I saw this picture in the newspapers this morning:

What can I say, at heart, I am a sensitive person, and seeing Nasrallah Geagea Aoun even Jumblatt (who still can attract sympathy) and the rest of those confessional leaders is really touching except for Gemayel, it’s just simply too hard to sympathize in this case. I mean what is he doing there? who is he representing? 5 guys in Bikfaya? There will be an upcoming post on “the Gemayel case: a historical perspective”, soon.

First feature of historical day:

I felt that this would actually be great to be sitting on a round table, as simple as that, and be able to say: we want to live together, let’s start by sharing a cup of coffee. I was thrilled by the idea that these people could just be reconciled with simple eye contacts made possible thanks to one day of complete paralysis of downtown. Now seriously, I mean there was not one single foreign ambassador nor a Syrian offical, no one that could influence the talks.
Now of course, Jumblatt and his valet are leaving to New York to meet with foreign policy hawks, but still it was nice to see it lasting for a day at least.

Second feature of historical day

But let’s go back to reality for a second. Is everybody there? Where are the communists? the Syrian nationalist party? the baathists? etc. Notice one thing my friends and relatives, only confessional leaders are there. Only people representing a specific sect are there. Are we back to square one? this means that “Al qiwa al Seyassiyah”, the politcal forces are only sectarian in Lebanon. Et Hop, more than half a century of progressivism gone to waste.

These meetings mean simply the following:
1- Lebanese politics is based on the ability of individuals (“personalities”, “fa3iliyat”) that can mobilize sectarian constituencies
2- Any party that tried to challenge this status either failed miserably because of political incompetency or was prevented to succeed
And here i’m not talking about the phony communists and socialists that sided with Hariri’s cronies such Attallah and others.

Oh and one note on the side (i’ll state a confessional claim): How can Sunnis accept being represented by young Saad Hariri? Answer:
1- They were taken by surprise after Hariri’s assassination losing all potential traditional feudal representation they once had
2- And this is the weakest claim of them: Sunni are the least confessional and the least nationalist of all the sects rendering it accessible to have one guy playing the confessional/nationalist game, while others sit passively not really concerned
3- Sunni politics becoming “Saudized” (we’ll pick up on this claim in later posts), displacing traditionally progressive pan-arab sunni politics towards more fragmented not-yet-clear identities.

Christian reconciliations

These rapprochements are really cute. I mean seeing how militia leader Samir Geagea and feudal lord Sleiman Frangieh are soon getting together brings out tears in my eyes.
Is it because they are scared and eventually think that Christians in the current situation are seriously screwed politically?
I mean you just need to hear the latest League of maronite bishops statement (probably the highest “legitimating” authority in this country ringing red alarms.
It’s funny to see how all leaders (especially Christians) go and lean down in front of these bishops. What do they do to have that much legitimacy, so that they can reconcile different Christian war or feudal or whatever lords? Ok we know they own most of the lands in the mountains, but what else?