Lean, Mean (Kurdish) Killing Machines …

Via ad-diyar.

Summer Luvin’ … Got Me So Bad …

Lahoud said such steps were needed to ensure a “good summer season.”

Fishy "Improvements"

The statement quoted Makkawi as saying the government “had executed part of its national and ethical duty toward our Palestinian brothers by making such achievements.”

“Even after the end of the summer 2006 war with Israel, the government continued to provide camps with the necessary aid,” it said, adding that UNRWA has rebuilt 350 Palestinian homes.

Two simple comments (which probably need elaboration):

1 – Lebanon has no “national duty” to help the Palestininans, but the Lebanese do have a moral one to provide non-Lebanese (Palestinians included) with civil and social rights.

2 – The concept of “aid” disappoints me in that it is used to build walls around the potential for change. If the government – past, present, future – really wants to parade achievements they are proud off, they need to remove restrictions that being a Palestinian in Lebanon brings.

Yawn …

It seems someone woke me up from my nap with news from New York. Why do they do that? Be a dear and close the door on your way out … Thanks … zzzz ….

A Reply to an American Mother`s Message

From Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s official blog (once you’re on the page click on the ‘english’ link at the top right):

Venerable mother
Greetings

First of all, I apologize for the delay of answering your question. This is due to my heavy schedules. So far, I have received many letters – with the same type of messages – such as yours.
If your son opposed to go to Iraq and impose pressure on the people of that region, and then was forcibly taken there, certainly Almighty God would help him. And those who have forced your beloved son to go to the war are responsible for his blood and the bloodshed that they have caused. They should answer Almighty God in the Day of Judgment.
In regard to statement you have made, since I did not want my reply lead to any problem for you, did not send it through e-mail, because if some agents are getting into private life of the American citizens and eligitimatley control them, may create problem for you. Instead, I decided to post the reply on the web log that those who may have the same views such as yours, get the answer …

Written by Mahmood Ahmadinejad at 14:27 (emphasis added)

A Do It Yourself World …

There used to be a most hilarious strip club* just two blocks from the bail window of the Manhattan Detention Center. And while our efforts to have it named a historic landmark by the proper authorities in New York City failed to keep it from being shuttered in favor of some trendy bar, it lives on in the tall tales of the those in the know, then and now.

What has this to do with Lebanon? Well, I would like to share my memories of Hamra’s al-Jazz and similar establishments in Lebanon at some point on this blog, but today my mind drifts toward Fatah al-Islam and the shadowy world of home-made porn.

For those unaware of the Manhattan club’s lost charm, we used to say: imagine I told you had 30 minutes to create a strip club in your unfinished basement and your clientele would be those who had just posted bail after spending a week in the company of men for whom the laws of polite society had remained somewhat of an abstraction.

If your mind is beginning to churn over the possibilities therein, let me now provide you with this most telling video purportedly produced by the boys of Fatah al-Islam. If this indeed is the enemy, I will sleep soundly knowing that those who obviously don’t take themselves seriously are surely not worthy of my seriousness.

Indeed, if anything is to disrupt my slumber, it is the glossy, perfumed nonsense of those who would have me take them seriously. They are the true purveyors of pornography, fraudulently trading on the air-brushed plasticity of my most sordid fantasies and fears. I would ask them to leave us work-a-days alone. We are better off with our beer and baby-powder.

* A million points to anyone who knows the name of the club.

The Facebook Revolution …

Part II.

Now, I know it has been made clear that this blog is for serious postings :), but considering that even the LA Times mentioned Lebanese facebook groups in a recent article, I cannot resist the urge to post the most “interesting” group I have found (thanks to Hassan for sending me the link).

Open at your own risk.

Attn: Warning to Bloggers …

Gillian Dowling, technical consultant at Croner, said the situation was similar to the widespread introduction of e-mail in the 1990s.

She said bloggers had to take care that they were not lulled into “a false sense of security” by the informality and ease of posting their thoughts and opinions.

Goldsmith on Human Rights …

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is facing accusations that he told the Army its soldiers were not bound by the Human Rights Act when arresting, detaining and interrogating Iraqi prisoners.

Previously confidential emails, seen by The Independent, between London and British military head-quarters in Iraq soon after the start of the war suggest Lord Goldsmith’s advice was to adopt a “pragmatic” approach when handling prisoners and it was not necessary to follow the ” higher standards” of the protection of the Human Rights Act.

Is the Room Spinning …? Or Is It Me …

Aoun in Paris? The Poles at Baabda? The Americans breaking bread with the Iranians in Iraq? The Security Council getting ready to vote? Jumblatt calling for a “peaceful” resolution to the camp crisis? Netanyahu on a war campaign in the US (those with sensitive stomachs should avoid his recent “interview” in the Wall Street Journal)? The Syrians issuing brainless propaganda about al-Qaeda targetting the “opposition”?

Where is the aspirin?

For now, I will try to focus my eyes on Jumblatt, the eternal weather vein. The call from Bahiya Hariri is just weird and his distrust of Geagea should not be underestimated, especially if he knows something we don’t. Similarly, if the SC passes a tough resolution on the tribunal, I would not be surprised to see Walid Bek start to back away from Hariri, Inc and let it be known that his services are available for the right price.

Some like to see his anti-Syrian turn as some sort vindication for the death of his father, but I would argue he is more likely to being playing Saad Hariri for the fool. As Lahoud’s term comes closer to an end, we will see if he does indeed decide to take the money and run. That is, of course, the problem with Swiss and Lebanese bank accounts, no accountability. I would aver, however, that his natural position, whatever the day’s protestation, is with the land, which means with Syria and Hizbullah — not so much their parochial interests, but what they represent as political currents. Thus while he may travel abroad for transactional purposes (literally and figuratively), he remains feudal through and through. Here is steadfastness, however disorienting the twists and turns.

Still dizzy? Maybe a nap is best … zzzzz ….

The Sayyed (revisited)

“Let us overcome all this and calm the situation and form a national emergency government where there will be genuine partnership to save our country. Congratulations and may God’s peace and blessings be upon you. I beseech the young men not to fire shots in the air. This is a very bad custom. Those who want to get rid of the bullets they have in their houses let them send them to me and I will take them and thank them for this.”

Does This Mean …

(Me, Gemayzeh, and the beer, are waiting for the explosion)

Mazen
is now famous? Or was before, and more so now …?

For Any Paranoid Types Like Myself …

Let me offer the following.

For now, I take the USM airlift to be largely a symbolic act, but make no mistake this is all about Hizbullah such that support for the GOL (and M14) is merely functional toward other ends. It is not difficult to get small arms into Lebanon, so don’t lose your breath over the ammo shipment, because there are easier ways. That being said, this will be a real test for Hizbullah’s intelligence operations both within the LAF and at the points of entry, especially if the care package from the US includes unenumerated goodies.

I am still of the position that the US, the Saudis and their Lebanese allies do not intend to go for broke, but REAL danger lurks where their interests diverge. So expect some amount of the military aid to be diverted to the most obvious sources. That being said, Hizbullah (and its allies) would be wise not to make fuss over that, as they would only be playing the Americans’ game of baiting them. For now, this is a just pyschological operation (a kind of trial balloon) and should be treated as such.

I believe the Americans are aware that Hizbullah cannot be defeated in any military sense, so they will be attempting the lesser strategy of boxing them in, while at the same time trying to keep Lebanon from slipping into the abyss. Most likely, this strategy will target HA’s strengths (the national legitimacy of its weapons) through its weaknesses (the security, political and financial needs of its current domestic allies). Here, I would add that the Israeli bombing pattern last summer may be worth a rethink — it was senseless in terms of military objectives, but if viewed in light of certain political objectives, it might have been all too clever (how do they just always know how to whet the appetites of Lebanon’s cannibals?).

As it is impossible to know American intentions toward Iran, it is equally impossible to know how hard the Americans will push, i.e. they may well let developments on the ground determine their course of action and a political defeat that neuters their military threat may be enough (keep your eyes on Geagea and Aoun, as there once again will be the rub).

Regardless, it is a highly dangerous course of action due to the schizophrenic nature of Lebanon’s dueling coalitions, the country’s worsening economic miseries and the very serious policy battles occuring in Washington. All should hope for the best.

Self-Doubt …

Sometimes I wonder if I am completely wrong, but then I come across something like this and I remember that things could be worse. Such work suggests that it is indeed possible to become completely detached from reality (of course, having motivation$ for such is another matter). And so for my threadbare tethers, I am eternally grateful, compassionate for the further lost, and confident in final victory, by which I mean something other than the total defeat of unannounced dispatch into oblivion.

Of Asses and Alberts: The Other Sayyed …

The dizzying pace of the conspiracy theory machines has me recalling when Jamil al-Sayyed told al-Hayat that the killers of Rafik Hariri had to be “either donkeys or Einsteins.”

Indeed, but in truth, there are among us very few donkeys and even fewer Einsteins (I will leave it to the moral philosophers to tell me whether this is a “good” thing or not, although I tend to agree with St. Augustine that the “City of God” suggests that it does not matter much). The truth of the matter is always somewhere in between, so the question is always: what is by design and what is by accident. As the “light of london,” otherwise known as bech-bouche, has pointed out: “there are no conspiracies only post hoc policies following specific readings of political bursts.” Thus, Jamil’s comment (actually I believe it is best understood as a kind of warning) is telling in untold ways.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. All we can do is adopt a healthy attitude of doubt toward the givers (and signs) of meaning, (all who remember, doubt. Who calls that strange?), while at the same time refusing to submit to the paralysis of despair. In all things, we are truly called to heed both “the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will” (even good athiests like Gramsci cannot escape the Passion). The eternal discipline of patient circumspection is very much its own reward.

And in that spirit, let me just offer this as you join me in trying to wade through all of this: the only difference between politicians and gangsters is that politicians also read newspapers.

Enter the Jackals, Stage Right …

“Khaddam hired the good offices of Sandra Charles to lobby for him and obtain access for a high profile visit he’d like to make to Washington.
Sandra Charles is on a substantial retainer with the Hariri family (from father to son) Her group has one of the more potent rollodexes in Washington, and she was amongst Brent Scowcroft’s most able advisers (she sat on G W Bush’s NSC) She also does limited work for Bandar .She is friends with Amal Mudallali, a Hariri, who is Saad’s point woman in Washington, having served his late father.
If our government (US) chooses to work with this slug, I believe that we have slipped to a level I did not think possible. Perhaps we should grant citizenship to the assassins of Ambassador Francis Meloy and Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring!”

From the Friday-Lunch-Club, an “interesting” little blog.

The Sayyed …

“You know, they used to bring billions of dollars and to distribute them among themselves. We were even accused by some analysts, politicians, and observers of naivety and lack of political experience. They said that Hezbollah knows how to fight, but it does not know how to work in politics. This is because we did not know how to steal, and we still do not know how to steal.”

Franklin Lamb reporting

With very intermittent internet access and this ancient pc with one lone wire running from the spaghetti wiring system tied to the ceiling and taped to a single bare light bulb socket, plus 8 toddlers, two babies, crawling over and under this ‘foreigner’ in a 10 x 12 concrete room where 28 or more of us slept on the floor last night, this blurb may never be sent. But if it does get out and for what it’s worthan update on the situation in the Palestinian Nabr al-Bared and Bedawi Camps. Will try to send results shortly of my interviews with 11 Fatah al-Islam fighters regarding who paid them and got them travel documents and weapons and what was their mission. There was no bank robbery by them. That was a fake story put out by the Welch Club. Sorry I misreported it. BBC was suckered. Also, no, repeat no heads cut off. Where are the medical reports from those who claim it? That was black propaganda to smear Fatah el-Islam. Must leave this building nowmay not be until tomorrow or so.

Check his earlier article too.

So Mustaqbal MP Bahya Hariri thought it would be important to call Druze Feudal lord Walid Jumblatt to clarify that Jund al Sham has no connection with Fath al Islam. For those who don’t know, Jund al Sham is yet another Sunni Islamist group based in Ayn el Helweh Palestinian camp. The Mustaqbal party payed Jund al Sham to go play in Tripoli.

The Americans … And Other Mysteries …

Readers of this blog know that I have serious doubts about the US ability to maintain its position in the Middle East and across the globe. While I usually explain this “management crisis” in the context of the “collapse” of the Soviet Union, it is important to remember that when it comes to public affairs, resource allocation is almost never logical or rational because it is largely reactive (e.g, the Pentagon is the largest band-aid dispenser in the world and US immigration policy is largely a response to what happened 11 years ago). In truth, the private business world is most often the same (boo hoo to any free market know-nothings out there), but I want to pause here and let you consider a particular manifestation of this problem.

Critics of the US administration, especially US Democrats, like to argue that the Bush White House has prized loyalty over competence (see: the continuing Alberto Gonzales saga). This, to my mind, is wishful thinking in the extreme. The simple fact of the matter is that nature and structure of US politics (both at the elite and mass levels) lack sufficient incentives to identify and pursue quote, unquote national interests. See this:

Patrick Lang told a hilarious story the other night, for example, about a job interview he had with Douglas Feith, a key architect of the invasion of Iraq.
It was at the beginning of the first Bush term. Lang had been in charge of the Middle East, South Asia and terrorism for the Defense Intelligence Agency in the 1990s. Later he ran the Pentagon’s worldwide spying operations.
In early 2001, his name was put forward as somebody who would be good at running the Pentagon’s office of special operations and low-intensity warfare, i.e., counterinsurgency. Lang had also been a Green Beret, with three tours in South Vietnam.
One of the people he had to impress was Feith, the Defense Department’s number three official and a leading player in the clique of neoconservatives who had taken over the government’s national security apparatus.
Lang went to see him, he recalled during a May 7 panel discussion at the University of the District of Columbia.
“He was sitting there munching a sandwich while he was talking to me,” Lang recalled, “ which I thought was remarkable in itself, but he also had these briefing papers — they always had briefing papers, you know — about me.
“He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’
“He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’
“And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’
‘That’s too bad,” Feith said. The audience howled.
“That was the end of the interview,” Lang said. “I’m not quite sure what he meant, but you can work it out.”

For the record, I disagree with many things Colonel Lang has to say about “Arabs,” but it is impossible to imagine the US military producing someone more astute or informed as to the issues of the region (disagree with him at your own peril). So yes, it is true that guys like Lang do seem, at times, to suffer from a small Lawrence of Arabia complex, but this says less about their intelligence than it does about the mental dexterity of the dimwitted troglodytes they have to deal with back at home. I should pause here, however, and offer a small caveat. However, idiotic Feith may be (Tommy Franks thought him to be “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth,”), it is not for nothing that he reached to No. 3 spot at the Pentagon, whose annual spending tops “the combined GDP of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa and oil giants Nigeria and Angola, in 2005, according to the World Bank.” One might very much to say that the current neoconservatives in the US represent the classic spoiled child syndome, in which ease at home breeds difficulties further afield.
Now, of course, the Americans are a particular concern for Lebanon watchers, but explaining the American role poses signficant analytical difficulties. There is perhaps no better illustration of these difficulties than the work of Sy Hersh. The national security state, established at the end of WWII, poses real challenges for any journalist seeking to elucidate some of its more hidden operations. Hersh and others and the quality of their work are almost entirely dependent on the reliability of their sources, because they simply do not have access to the information required to verify what their sources tell them. I would add here that even the sources, especially the more honest ones, will admit to a similar information deficit. Anyone who knows how governments process information and the role of bureaucratic boundaries in the flow of information would accept this as nothing less than a truism. And when we are talking about issues and policies that cross national boundaries, things only get messier.
Having laid out some of the basic difficulties, let me turn to the eternal question: what is to be done? Well, I would argue that Hersh is to be read, but read carefully. His work is positively invaluable, but not because I agree with his particular narratives on international events or believe that he captures the full reality of any particular situation. No, instead, I believe it is invaluable because it speaks directly to some portion of the policy and political debates over a particular issue. [To be continued … ]

Essential Reading on the Current Crisis …

Please read the following post on the most excellent blog, Land and People. Excerpts below:

On the fighting:

The army went completely mad at the killing of the soldiers and started shelling the camp indiscriminately with very heavy artillery fire, from both the southern and the northern ends of the camp. The photographer told me that he believed that many of the casualties of the army were due to friendly fire, because the two entrances to the camp are so close to each other. The rows of houses closest to the army positions were totally destroyed, and so was a large part of the camp. After the initial mayhem, which went on for several hours, the street were littered with bodies, and there were dozens of injured. The heavy shelling subsided, but the army responded with canon fire to any bullet from the camp. People remained locked inside their houses, and the dead remained in the streets. The residents woke up in the morning to the sound of feral dogs fighting over pieces of dead bodies.

On the human costs:

Relief is trickling into the camp, and most of it is missing the neediest. Both Fateh and Hamas are distributing aid. The bulk of the aid is going to a couple of large schools, but nothing is reaching the small schools or the overcrowded houses. Supporting the people in the houses is particularly important because the families hosting them are already poor, and can barely provide for their own needs. The end result will be even more impoverishment in Baddawi.

Read the whole thing and visit regularly and more importantly, contribute if you can here or here.

"The State will Vanish"

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a leading member of the governing coalition, urged Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas to act against Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared camp.

“Either they root out (the group) in Nahr al-Bared or the state will root out the terrorism,” he said. “The state cannot … accept a compromise. The moment that it accepts a compromise, the state will vanish,” he said.

Oddly enough, Jumblatt is one of those guys I could see myself drinking matteh with, in the same way I can see myself playing golf with Bush, and drinking black label with Saad Hariri (although rumor is he’s a blue label fan). But sometimes he just makes no sense. Instead of using hysterical language, can he – or anyone else for that matter – explain why the current approach taken by the government and the army is the ONLY approach possible? I would actually argue that the longer this continues, the less chance this (non)state will have of surviving. And the more this army overstretches itself, coupled with increasing civilian deaths, the higher the probability that last sentence will come true.

Just to make it clear

I was never fond of conspiracy theories. Not because people don’t conspire, far from it. But because in politics, people are not that shrewd and are not endowed with awareness of the long-term. In light of this, a couple of points so as to make sure everybody agrees on this:

1- It is the ‘ruling majority’ government (specifically the Hariri camp) that gave the possibility (directly or tacitly) for Fatah Al Islam to develop. As would say Al Haqid, Fatah al Islam is a Lebanese political actor, or is a product of the Lebanese political system. It is also the result of the corruptive and incompetent practice of post-Syria-withdrawal Lebanon government.

2- The US administration may have overseen or even financed the formation of the such groups, even if today it is possible that they cannot control what they started (recent history is replete with such examples from Afghanistan).

3- It is much less likely that the Syrians are behind the whole thing in the sense that Syria would not want to jeopardize the Lebanese army (one of its only remaining ally), and neither would want to put Hizbullah in an awkward position (which is clearly the case today).

4- Both actors can benefit though from likely future developments, although the US will definitely have a much more important role to play (maybe military) in Lebanon. Syria is to remain on the defensive trying to collect pieces of what is left from the US elephant-like advancement in the Middle East.

Exodus

Sitting in one of the hospital’s many full rooms, Rehan Khoadr, 20, was recovering from shrapnel wounds to her abdomen, chest and legs. A thin woman, she appeared drawn but gestured animatedly despite an intravenous needle inserted into her arm.

“When the war started we became scared and tried to flee the camps,” she said. “As we were getting ready to leave a bomb fell on our house. That is all I remember. Now I know my father is dead and my mother is in a coma.”

But She Never Lost Her Head Even When She Was Giving …

Speaking of the Carribean, it seems a pleasure cruise of a different sort is underway in the Gulf and is likely to continue for several weeks. With the good people who brought us Iraq facing a possible “disintegration of thought,” is it any wonder things have heated up in Lebanon?

I remain confident that the conflagration at Nahr al-Bared was not orchestrated or planned for political effect. Whether you chant “death to America” or “death to Syria,” the simple fact remains that both sides have a lot to lose if Lebanon goes bad. The triple bombing (Sassine, Verdun, Aley) is sobering and indeed suggests that someone might very much want the militias back on the streets, but neither side can afford such a development. It’s is simply too risky, and while it is fun to imagine that warlords are maniacal in machination, they are very much petty merchants — bean counters who just happen to trade in death (I would add here that Aoun is very much the non-warlord and this very much explains his lunatic reputation among the Lebanese).

Even the dim-witted Americans appear to be aware of this. Notice how the State Department did not want to make much political hay out of Lebanon’s recent troubles, although the OVP did, as is its way, try and throw gasoline on the fire.

And now let me offer words of hope to any nail-biters like myself concerned that we are at the edge of the precipice. While events on the ground are worrisome and the human costs should be of utmost concern to all, there are several reasons for optimism:

1) TAIF’S LOSERS ARE STILL LOSERS.

The post-Taif order has been very good to some (Hariri, Hizbullah, pro-Syrians Christians, etc.) and thus the major players are likely to be united in not rocking the boat too hard. Our eyes should be trained like lasers on Taif’s losers as they are the most likely groups to go for or at least be recruited to start a shake up. And thus while Geagea and his ilk send chills down my spine upon sight, they still lack sufficient resources for an outright power grab on the streets, no matter how many USG or Saudi dollars may be flowing into their pockets.

2) POLITICAL GHETTOIZATION OF THE CAMPS

As a result of dramatic changes in the regional and international order over the last 25 years, the camps in Lebanon are no longer a flashpoint for upheaval in Lebanon. The progressive marginalization of refugees has come at enormous social and human costs to the refugees themselves, but from a political and security point of view, the camps, and what they represent, are now little more than pentitentiaries. While it makes me want to vomit when the PLO in Lebanon applauds the shelling of the camps, this reality very much speaks to the fact that there no longer is a formidable “resistance” that can alter the course of events in Lebanon. Moreover there exists too much consensus among Lebanese players for any factions within the camps to find Lebanese allies. Thus while isolated acts of violence may occur, the camps cannot and will not send Lebanon under. Those harkening back to the eve of the civil war are either delusional or merely providing a convenient cover for the highly immoral and completely insane assault by the LAF.

3) TRIBES, NOT TRIBUNALS

The tribunal will not alter the current political tensions in Lebanon or the region. To be sure, certain Lebanese groups might benefit a bit, some might lose a bit, but it is impossible to imagine how such a trial would alter the fundamental dynamics that divide Lebanon. Ever heard of an event that could not be politicized in Lebanon?

This is also true with respect to the Americans and the Syrians. While the Americans no doubt enjoy have an international stick to hammer the Syrians with, they are not interested in any development that would seriously undermine or destabilize the regime (I would add here that I think this is the cause of Jumblatt’s depression over the last year — he simply never came back from the White House with enough goodies to feel at ease). The US is far too hamstrung in Iraq and far too pre-occupied with Iran to go for everything at once. This, of course, should give pause to those who want to put too much weight on the work of Sy Hersh. While the Likudnik wing of the OVP may very well want to go from broke by doubling down in the region, they face way too much domestic opposition, in Congess and at the Pentagon and in Foggy Bottom. It is thus my sense that while their rhetoric suggests the Michael Leedens of the world are running the show, the horrible debacle that is Iraq suggests that what we are seeing is the triumph of the Kissingerian theory of irrational compellence. It is in many ways a brilliant strategy as it lets one’s opponents, domestic and international, to do all the work for you.

Similarly, I believe the Syrians are convinced that they can weather the tribunal. To be sure, they may say ominous things about the tribunal, but this only suggests that they too are aware of the benefits of irrational compellence and don’t mind using it where useful, especially if they feel the Russians and the Chinese are listening. The Syrians remained deeply entrenched in Lebanon’s political and economic life, and it is beyond stupidity to think that they will surrender that asset by dramatically opposing the tribunal. No, instead, they will do as the Syrians always do, hang on and play the long game and this will be sufficient to attract enough Lebanese allies.

4) GENUG IZ GENUG

Israel is not interested in Lebanon going sideways or in seeing the regime in Damascus seriously wounded. Like the Americans, they will support any effort to embarass the Syrian regime, but they are very much hostile to any American or Saudi plan whose unintended consequences might end up on their doorstep. This is the unspoken part of the Winograd Commission. There exists currently considerable anger within the Israeli military over the heavy-handedness of the Americans pushing for total war on Lebanon last summer. While the Netanyahus of the world may be able to score political points calling for armageddon, the government itself is much less inclined currently to pay the price for America’s vision of the “new middle east.” Whether or not talks with the Syrians over the Golan are being seriously considered, Israel position vis-a-vis Syria remains one of benign neglect.

As for Israel’s position on developments on the Lebanese scene, this is much less clear. On the one hand, some in Israel might be happy to see Hizbullah dragged into civil strife, but I believe that last summer’s war has given most Israelis cause to doubt that they can control events in Lebanon. And again, they are likely to be very hostile to any American promises about what will be up north. There is nothing more fun than reading what Israelis thought of their Lebanese allies during the civil war — ever have a girlfriend so crazy you cannot remember why you ever dated her?

5) SITTING PRETTY

Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are in pretty good shape and can play the long game by sitting and waiting. Moreover, if anyone in the region has shown some intelligence in reading developments, it has been these three. Whatever you think of the three, they have done well for themselves and bolstered their domestic, regional and international positions. While at times I would say it seems that Hizbullah is just simply smarter and more disciplined than everyone else, the reality is that they have strategic depth. The path to their continued success remains the easiest as all they really need to do is avoid being bated by their enemies. Same for Iran and Syria. They simply do not need hostile posturing or bloated rhetoric.

6) SMALL FISH EAT LESS

The Lebanese players who stand to gain the most or lose the most right now are for the most part veterans of the Lebanese game and know how to play it. For example, Jumblatt has needs (he more than anyone benefitted from post-Taif Syrian order in Lebanon and thus has the most to lose in a post-Syrian order), but these can be met without a major shake up in Lebanon. While some might accuse him of being mortally afraid of a deal between Hariri and Hizbullah, this ignores the extent to which in Lebanese politics, there is always room for one more at the table. I would say the same for some of the more notorious Syrian apparatchiks in Lebanon. Moreover, it is not for nothing that these factions are small players and thus their ability to stir the pot is limited by their reliance on other larger players in the Lebanese game, i.e. the PSP and SSNP can have fist fights but nothing more.

CONCLUSION: THE TRUTH

So what does it all mean? It means that the falcons can still hear the falconer, but that things will continue at a low simmer as long as the region remains tumultuous. And yes, if you were curious, the status quo is sometimes a good thing, no matter whether you want Lebanon to be a confrontation state or a disneyland for rich gulfies. To be sure, this will not satisfy all, but it will satisfy enough.

Anyway, the work of improving Lebanon for all Lebanese and importantly all those who find themselves in Lebanon will not come in the space of a few years or at the Security Council or at the end of a gun barrel. It will be tortoruously slow, with dangerous side tracks at every turn. That slow hard work to eliminate the political and economic injustices in Lebanon, however, is the only path to redemption. So, lovers of life, consider your judgment served, because that is the real “truth.”

*All of this is just off the top of my head, so this will be edited, updated, and linked. Comments welcomed and perhaps required.

Carribean Conspiracy …

It seems the forces of darkness are gathering in the Bahamas. I wonder if a certain Lebanese blogger has gotten his swimsuit yet.

Thanks …

“My sister was beside me and fell down with her head bleeding. She haemorraged from 5.50 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon. At last my brother brought us all out in his car. But let me tell you this. The Palestinian people have heard Walid Jumblatt and we say ‘thank you’ to him and let us have more shelling.
“And I would like to thank Prime Minister Siniora, and say thanks – really thanks – very much to George Bush and to Condoleezza Rice. I really want to thank them for these shells and these wounds we are suffering. And if Rice really wants to send more materiel to the Lebanese Army, she had better hurry up. There is a woman still in the camp who is very pregnant and the child in her womb will be born and will grow into a man – and then we’ll see!”

Explosion in Aley

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On the fourth day …

The Lebanese army yesterday asked the Pentagon to provide more ammunition to continue its assault. It also asked for bulletproof vests and helmets. The US, which has given $30m (£15.2m) in equipment to the Lebanese army over the past 12 months, including Humvees and helicopter spare parts, is likely to comply.