Monday, November 27, 2006

Another update for today--Israel using bionic hornets as weapons among much more...

The post below was the first of today's updates. I think from now on I will only post on the front page today's posts, and archive the rest.

The following Deir Spiegel article is a must-read. I read it last week in Deir Spiegel and and couldn't believe it. The article outlines new tactics that Israel is working on to neutralize 'the enemy.' It makes all the Terminator movies look as cute as unicorns.The Israeli army is hoping to use 'bionic hornets' as weapons:,1518,449171,00.html

Deir Spiegel is a German daily that is also translated into English. The paper has interesting reporting on the situation in Lebanon. I wanted to include their perspective of the situation because it's a German one and I find it's fresh and interesting.
I thought these were interesting Spiegel articles that outlines what's happening in Lebanon:,1518,450352,00.html

From last week, right after the Gemayel assassination:,1518,448261,00.html

Comparing Iraq and Lebanon's sectarian rifts:,1518,450868,00.html

The Washington Post printed an interesting article today featuring the Mouqtadar Sadr led Mahdi army. The militia has learnt from Hezbollah and is also stepping in to fill the void and provide state services and philanthropy to it's people, garnering more support with time. Check it out:

Interesting editorial by Haaretz. At first it seems like the same-old opinion piece, cynical about a Palestinian-Israeli peace-agreement, but then get's interesting in the last 2-3 paragraphs:

Also, please check out the links to the right. I've added a Wikipedia link to explain the structure of the Lebanese government (which includes links to all the major parties). However, some of the Arabic words are used to refer to the parties, as opposed to this blog's english references to the parties. Tayyar al Mustaqbal is the Future Movement (headed by Hariri, a Sunni party). Aoun leads the Tayyar Al-Watani Al-Horr (Free Patriotic Movement, a Maronite Christian party). The Druze party led by Jumblatt is called Hizb al-Taqadummi al-Ishtiraki (Progressive Socialist Party. The Druze --also spelt Druise--is a religion unique to Lebanon). Then there's the Hizb al-Kataeb (Kataeb or Phalangist party, also Maronite). Harakat Amal (or just Amal) is lead by Nabih Berri (Shi'ite). Hezbollah lead by Hassan Nasrallah (Shi'ite). The Lebanese Forces (also Christian, headed by Geagea). Those are the main parties. Click on the links included in the Wikipedia link listed to the right, to read about each party.

Surprise, we're bringing down the government!

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora decided to hold cabinet talks on Saturday despite his promise to wait for the five resigned Shi'ite cabinet ministers (CM) and one Christian CM to rejoin the cabinet. The international tribunal was approved in the cabinet and will go through in the UN.
In response Hezbollah and Amal announced that they will protest in a peaceful way and may even request Shi'ite government officials and unions to strike until a national unity government is agreed upon. Also, the parties threatened to call on their 57 MPs to resign. The parliament has 128 MPs and this resignation would topple the government by triggering by-elections. They also failed to set a date for the street protests, but said it wil happen by surprise.

The Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri from the Amal party, announced that he renders void the cabinet's approval of the international tribunal as any cabinet meetings that take place without all sect being represented are unconstitutional. In cabinet meetings all sect must be present for the meeting to be legal. As all Shi'ite ministers have resigned, the sect is not represented.

Also, the Maronite patriarch, Sfeir, (who represents the largest Christian sect, Maronites) held a meeting with top Christian leaders. He lamented the ploitical rifts among the Chrisitan population. Aoun, a Hezbollah ally who is also calling for a national unity government, represents most Christians but is also at odds with the Lebanese Forces party (lead by Geagea) and the Kataeb (also known as the Phalange, who was lead by Pierre Gemayel who was assassinated last Tuesday). Geagea and Gemayel oppose Hezbollah and are allied to the March 14 coaltion of parties (which also includes the Future Movement lead by Hariri).

Also, the UN Human Rights Commission just released a report claiming that during this past summer's war, Israel bombed Lebanese infrastructure for 'destruction's sake.' The report claims that Israel used the assertion that infrastructure could be used by Hezbollah as somewhat of a scapegoat to indiscrimnately bomb Lebanon. The report denies that Hezbollah used civilians as human shields BUT does allege that Hezbollah did use UNIFIL (UN Interim Forces in Lebanon) and Observer Group Lebanon posts as shields to launch attacks into Israel.
The report can be found here:

Naharnet's article on the report:

Reuter's article (Nov. 20) about the UN commission's observation's of Israel's conduct in Lebanon:


Israeli PM Ehud Olmert claims he's ready for a prisoner exchange to recover corporal Gilad Shalit seized in June by Palestinian militants, in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The exchange is part of a move towards peace agreements on both sides. A cease-fire is encompassed in the agreement.

The cease-fire that was agreed upon by Palestinian militants and Israel has been violated in Gaza. Hamas' military wing and Islamist Jihad both claimed responsibilty for missiles launched into the bordering Israeli town of Sderot. The missiles inflict no damage. Both factions claimed that Israel had not withdrawn all its forces from Gaza though the IDF claims otherwise. Israel killed a palestinian militant today and a 55-year-old woman.,0,698255.story?track=tottext


Trying to bring in it's neighbours to help quell the violence in Iraq, Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, visits Iran.

Yesterday King Abdullah of Jordan claimed that the Middle East is facing three prospective civil wars: one in Lebanon, one in Iraq and one in the Palestinian territories.

The king makes these comments ahead of Pres. Bush's visit in Amman where he will meet with the king and Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq. King Abdullah also claims that the situation in Palestine is the pivotal point in the Middle East and remains the heart of the conflict in Iraq and Lebanon. However, many believe that Lebanon's conflict is due to an unfair balance of power between the sects.

Washington Post has an interesting article on NATO's post-reconstruction and stability efforts in Afghanistan. Afgani Fazel Mahmad says something interesting (on the second page) about how the Taleban is split into two: the local Taleban and al-Qaeda trained. The latter apparently has norespect for locals and attacks them regularly.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conditions not right for civil war-Kamal Salibi

So my family went to pay their respects to The Gemayel's again. They went together, my Dad' brother and his wife, his sister and her son, and his other sister. Kamal Salibi also joined them. Salibi is a prominent Lebanese historian who wrote numerous books analyzing the civil war as well as other middle easter issues. Salibi said that the conditions here are night ripe for a civil war. In the lead up to the 1975-90 civil war, Christians wanted an independent Lebanon (among other things, but as a central tenet), Muslims wanted to do away with a Lebanese state and join a grater Arabia. On top of this, the Russians were arming the Palestinians as well as the Lebanese Communist Party and Ba'athist parties both which had a strong Shi'ite following, the Sunnis were using the Palestinians as their army and the Christians recieved their arms from the west and eventually Israel.
But now, the only sect with arms is Hezbollah, so how can there be a civil war?
Now all sects believe in an independent Lebanon, so there is no fight over that notion. But is Hezbollah a little too close to Iran to really look out for Lebanon's best interests?What do you think?

Also, updates for today. Prime minister Siniora decided not to hold a cabinet meeting today, which would have been unconstitutional since all the Shi'ite MPs resigned and the sect is not represented. He decided to appeal for the resigned MPs to rejoin cabinet:


And, Berri and Nasrallah just announced their support of the International tribunal to try those that are suspected in the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination of fromer PM Rafik Hariri. The related artcle's link isn't copying so I can't paste it here. Just click on the above link and look at the box to the right of the article, which lists other available articles. Click on the one "Nasrallah, Berri Support Tribunal, Renew Threats of Protests."

Big day in the Middle Beast

Hezbollah is now considering the ME to be the MB--Middle Beast.

Another interesting development is the elections in Bahrain which reflects what's happening in Lebanon right now--Shi'ites demanding more power in a government that treats them as a minority when they are a majority. Bahrani Shi'ites comprise 60% of the population. The al-Khalifi monarchy is Sunni and the king appoints the upper-house of parliament, which has all the legislative control. Today elections are being held for the lower house, which is more symbolic than productive. The upper house is full of Sunni legislators and due to the demography, the lower house if filled with Shi'ites. Salah al-Bandar, a government advisor, wrote a report in September detailing the government's plans to taper with electronic voting, naturalize Sunni immigrants, pay Shi'ites to convert to Sunni-Islam and the government dished out $2.5 million dollars to implement its plans, in a country where rampant, especially among Shi'ites as Sunnis are favoured for government jobs and many businesses are Sunni-run.


With over 200 killings by Sunni militias of Shi'ites in Sadr city, reatliatory strikes were bound to happen. Moutqtada Sadr, who controls the Mahdi army and is a prominent politician in P.M. Nouri Maliki's government, is warning Maliki not to meet Bush next week in talks to take place in Amman. Also, Sadr is threatening to pull out of the Iraqi government, which would cirpple a weak government. Bush is pressuring Maliki to crack down on Shi'ite militias, but if Maliki does so, the government will crack. Not only does Sadr have one of the biggest militas, but the Finance Minister, Bayan Jabr does too. Jabr--who up until May 2006 was interior minister and then was appointed as minister of finance--often employed Shi'ites in the force and uses them as death squads. This is why all these reports are surfacing of the Iraqi police force killing innocent Sunnis, who at first trusted the state employees, but have learnt to do otherwise. Harper's Magazine, in a report that detailed Jabr's role, even calls him the 'Minister of Civil War,' (article below).

Update on current violence and Sadr's demands:

Information from a Harper articel back in July about Shi'ite death squads and Jabr's bllod-stained, corrupt hands that were strengthened through Paul Bremer, the leader of the Coalition Authority Provisional Government.

I find that newspapers, especially American, have been honest to their readers. Iraq is in a civil war, and many generals, reporters and analysts believe so as well. The Harper's article above proves that the internal conflict is a civil war, especially when the Washington Post reports:
"In a major shift, much of the recent violence has come from militias linked to parties in Iraq's government and from death squads with ties to government agencies. The trend is important because a common benchmark in the slide from strife to civil war is the government falling apart and factions within it fighting each other.
cowardice journalism."--

Yet Jabr's involvement with the death squads has gone way back. So why can't we call it like it is and say there's a civil war in Iraq? And like Lebanon in its 1975-90 civil war, there are regional powers fighting proxy wars on Iraqi land.

American Vice President Dick Cheney visits Saudi Arabia today. He hopes to convince the monarchy to play a bigger role in quelling Iraqi violence through their ties to the Sunni population. This shows a significant change in U.S. foreign policy--instead of America forming alliances with European powers to fix the situation in the Middle East, it now is seeking the advice of the corrupt dictactorial Arab regimes it supports.

From Reuters:

Silencers mailed to the U.S. embassy before Gemayel's death

So, with my ear on the ground (well, with Hicham's help), I recovered an interesting tid-bit of information.
A couple of weeks ago, gun silencers were intercepted in the Lebanese airport. They were headed to the American embassy.
Around the same time, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, intalks with Rice, announced that a Lebanese minister would be assassinated. And then, Pierre Gemayel dies with a silencer.
This was reported by Al-Akhbar. It's in Arabic, but you can get someone to translate?

I like to keep my options open. Of course no one did it, but there are so many interesting coincidences that are surrounding this death.

Also, who knows? During Clinton's era, Clinton ordered the CIA declassified information from the past forty years, much of it revelaing Regan's support of bloody regimes through U.S.-backed coups of democratic governments. And we found that the CIA has taken out Salvador Allende, the democratically elected leader of Chile, replaced him with Pinochet, took out democratically elected Pres. Arbenz to install a ruthless regime that served American banana companies interests, were involved with Nicaragua's sadinistas, and the Iran-contra scandal? Oh how the U.S. still reveres the Regan years though. And they still hail him as one of the best U.S. presidents ever, yet he was involed with all the above scandals except the one in Guatemala (which happened in 1953). U.S.-caused, hush-hush bloodshed, scandals and assassinations have happened in the past, so why not now, in Lebanon?

Links to U.S. scandals mentioned above. Remember that these sources stem from information that the CIA declassified. If they were untrue, they'd be taken off the net for libel or never would have been published as a book:

Installing Pinochet:
From George Washinton Univ. :


Interesting devlopments

Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa, who resigned nine months ago, has decided to resume his position. This is a definite boost for Siniora's cabinet, which is down to 17 ministers from 24. Sabaa decided that due to the volatile political situation he's resume his duties. Only one more minister needs to resign or be assassinated for the government to fall. With Sabaa's inclusion inthe cabinet, now two more ministers need to be knocked-off. Sabaa resigned after bloody riots that took place concerning the Dutch cartoon that mocked the prophet Mohammed.
Odd thins is that this country is in an extremely precariou political situation and we've had no Interior Minister for the past 9-months, after the many assassinations that took place? That's extremely odd.
The article:

In other news, clashes are breaking out between the supporters of Hezbollah and Hariri (Future movement).

The streets are politically charged and really anything can spark another war. Not everyone in Lebanon has the benefits of education so they can't see that actions such as bashing a politican or sect is really not the most ideal action at this precarious moment. Especially when Hezbollah and Aoun announced that they will start protesting maybe as early as the begining of this week. They are protesting for a national unity government:

This is laughable:

I mean c'mon! Businesses closing for two days because they're protesting the assassinations, a push for the international tribunal (to nail hariri's assassins) and civil protests that are deteriorating the economy? Sound counter-productive.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Always looking at the past and expecting Allah to fix the present

One thing I've noted about Lebanon, both when I lived here in my adolescence and now with my move back is that Lebanese always lament the 'what Lebanon used to be like.' Bygone are the days in the early 70s before the war, where the country was beautiful, everything functioned and sectarianism was absent. Well, maybe sectarianism is stronger today but people seemed to still identify with the differences in their mindset as unique to their sect. Then, there was a strong middle class and stronger secular parties, like the Lebanese Communist Party, which served as a conduit for secular-minded people. However, according to foreigners who visited Lebanon in this 'golden-age' the country looked the same and functioned quite similarly. If we keep lamenting the past, how shall we move forward?
Another thing is that many, not all, Lebanese sum up the country's problems with this catch-all phrase: "this country is cursed." Tayeb, tell me, how are we to fix the country if it's cursed? This is throwing in the towel, saying the problems are not in your hands. It's a really cheap way out of trying to seek change on an individual level.
We need to stop looking back, leave Allah at home, and find a way, through a consensus, to fix this country.
Which brings me to another point: the Shi'ites. Honestly, the way that this country has dealt with the Shi'ites is shameful. Since Lebanon fully claimed it's independence in 1943, we built up the country's infrastructure and institutions, but forgot about the South--where most of the Shi'ites come from. Shi'ites are traditionally poor farmers, who at the time of independence, were a minority. Lacking much clout, the government brushed them aside, leaving the south without proper plumbing, electricity, schools, hospitals...And yet we wonder why these people are bitter? We wonder why they support Hezbollah in overwhelming numbers---the party who built infrastructure for them and gave them proper services? The Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) was the main provider of services to these and other sects' poor, unacknowledged areas. But with the civil war of 1975-1990, sectarianism rose and the LCP's membership fell.
To this day things have not gotten better with regards to including Shi'ites into this country and government. I've been to the bekaa valley and the south, two Shi'ite stroongholds. Many of the Shi'ite towns that have been littered with cluster bombs have not been cleaned up. Roads and houses that were destroyed have mostly been repaired by Hezbollah. Many villagers told me they hadn't even see a Lebanese official visit since the fighting ended on August 14. You may say: "why should these Hezbollah supporters
My friend Ahmed, a Sunni, made a good point: "The Sunnis, Druze and Christians leave this country, they go aborad for education and jobs. The Shi'ites are the only ones that stay." So in a way, these are Lebanon's most dutiful citizens, but they are forming a state within a state which contrasts this notion. If we made attempts to include them in the government without shunning their ways and politics, they'd have less of an incentive to form this micro-state. They'd have to play by the rules of the game.
And now, the unity talks:
Well, all things considered, the Shi'ites are the biggest sect in Lebanon at the moment. I don't think people would say otherwise. Fine, the Sunnis, Druze and Christians combined form a larger bloc but it's an alliance of conveinience. And a weak one a that: anti-syrian bloc. As far as party ideologies go, there's apparent differences.
To keep ignoring Shi'ite demands they way we have and catering to more influential sects' needs only serves to further Shi'ites feelings that they are disenfranchised and need to look out for their own. Unfortunately, the way this constiution is formed, is several parties are competing in elections in one area, whichever party recieves 51% of the vote, when's the sates for that area. So this forces people who want to sit in parliament to run with the bigger parties, and in the south and Bekaa, this is Hezbollah.
I don't want a religious state. But we need to break down confessionalism, cater to everyone's needs, not just the rich, and establish a working constitution so we can get this country going. Sometimes things need to get a little worse before they can get better.