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10 May 2008

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londanium

Heh.

If one believes Robert Fisk in the Independent today, some of the weaponry being sent by Iran is, er, American. I'm sure that's a detail the NYT would love to share with its readers.

David W.

Given your comments about your Iraqi students behavior, it's no wonder pan-Arabism failed. I'm sure it's all in good fun, but the rejoinder may be that the parents of those 'swishy' Beirutis were all neck-deep in Civil War, while the 'tough' Iraqis were cowering under Saddam. (sorry if that's harsh, but I think it's a deserved reminder, if that's how they get their kicks).

It sounds like the same old macho bs. that is heard from the Red States to Baghdad--as if being 'tough' is the ultimate virtue. Another way of looking at it may well be that the Beirutis have evolved in ways that their Iraqi cousins have yet to.

Regarding the Bushco M14 backing, it's all too predictable--being 'westernized,' usually means being open to corruption and co-option. The old 'whiskey, women and money' carrots tend to not be so effective with religious movements like Hizb, and I think there is a tendency to believe that the westernized arabs are more 'like us.' (well, I guess that is ironically true for Chalabi, the poster boy for this movement).

The kicker is, of course, that this is blowback from earlier stupidity by the US and Israel, in backing religious groups as a counter to secular movements like Nasser's and the PLO. Doh!

Will

who are the obama baby's advisors?

arbogast

This comment is probably inane, but I am impressed with Obama's intelligence. Listening to him speak, you have the feeling that he understands and has created what he says. I trust him.

Before I am consigned to the deepest dungeon of self-deception, please recall that the country has trusted its leaders for quite some time. That trust has been misplaced. But it does not need to forever be misplaced.

VietnamVet

Quoting Helen Cobban “This administration seems to have a just about unique capacity for both belligerence and incompetence. This is an extremely dangerous combination.”

Cheerleading Israel’s bombing of Hezbollah; instigating Christian Ethiopia’s invasion of Muslim Somalia; or supporting Iran’s proxy government in Iraq because it does not oppose continue American occupation. The contortions American foreign policies are comical except for the death and destruction they cause.

At fault is a Bully’s conviction that Muslims are evil and must be destroyed but he is not told or even conceive that he does not have the manpower, treasury or the will necessary to conquer anything let alone his own School Yard. So he is always picking fights and terrorizing others, ultimately for nothing.

GSD

It seems like President Bush and his lackeys need a new magic wand because as of late they seem woefully unable to create their own realities.

-GSD

Montag

Well, they're not called the "Mayberry Machiavellis" for nothing. Don't bother watching a Keystone Kops movie for lessons on proper police procedures, either--you'll be wasting your time. There's an apt Arab proverb, I believe: "A viper is soft to the touch, but if it turns upon you, its fangs are deadly."

Why do U.S. quislings perform so poorly? One should rather ask why their opponents are so motivated to the point where defeat is not an option. Frantz Fanon has given us the key in his analysis of the Haitian Insurrection 200 years ago:

"I do not carry innocence to the point of believing that appeals to reason or respect for human dignity can alter reality. For the Negro who works on a sugar plantation in Le Robert, there is only one solution: to fight. He will embark on this struggle and he will pursue it, not as the result of a Marxist or idealistic analysis but quite simply because he cannot conceive of life otherwise than in the form of a battle against exploitation, misery and hunger."

wcw

The one smart, expert, probabilistic person I know working (indirectly) for either campaign is working for Obama's shop.

For what little that's worth, of course. In summer 2000, not everyone associated with the W. Bush team was an idiot. Unfortunately, most everyone in the faction that since has made most foreign policy was.

I will agree: FDR Obama ain't.

jonst

This level of utter and complete incompetence by the Bush Admin surprises even me. I'm stunned. This is the Gaza debacle all over again. With the so called 14 March movement playing the role of Dahlan et al. I mean somebody MUST have gotten their signals crossed. There MUST have been some plan that went awry...right? Well with Bush you never know. And this was timed right before his trip to the ME? Beautiful. The Saudis? They look like buffoons as well. Rarely, if ever, has one man (Cheney)done so much strategic harm to American interests. Kinda takes one's breath away. And McCain wants to throw Russia out of the G-8? IOW...challenge Russia when we are at our weakest? Brilliant.

Leila  Abu-Saba

Why would Iraqis know much about Aounistes? My experience meeting other Arabs and living in Egypt is that the Beiruti/Lebanese in the stereotype are the rich Christians. There are many, many Lebanese, including Christian Lebanese, who are not rich and not eager to pretend to be French, Italian or American.

Also - Beirut is not only Achrafieh ("Beirut's Upper East Side") - it is also Dahihey (Hizbullah stronghold decimated by Israel in '06, now rebuilt). And there are many trendy Beirutis with cute accents and cool electronic gadgets who are children of peasant villages elsewhere; such citizens have layers of steel beneath the external trappings of soft Western life.

Patrick Lang

All

Lots of partisans here for the Lebanese factions. Just remember that when you take sides in tis as in all other ME disputes, then you are part of the problem.

"The Iraqis were cowering under Saddam Hussein?" What a wrongheaded remark. Did you ever hear of the Iran-Iraq War, numerous wars in Kurdistan, the First Gulf War? Know anything at all about that except the word "gas?" pl

Grumpy

I believe you are accurate, or at least, as accurate as anybody can be in this type of situation. The only comment, in my view, your last paragraph should include Hillary Clinton. Her advisors are no better than the rest. This omission sets us up for drawing one of two exactly opposite views. 1. Clinton has absolutely no chance of winning, therefore any examination of her comments are of no value. 2. The opposing view would be, she has a good chance of winning, therefore we should "assume" she has good advisors on the Middle East. My view is this, There are only a handful of knowledgeable people on this very complex subject as a region. This would include Persia, Arabia and Jews. This would involve all of the various shades of these cultures. As a U.S. Senator, she would be a real force to be reckoned with, no matter who wins.

Just an old vet,
as always,

"Grumpy"

John Howley

"Just remember that when you take sides in this as in all other ME disputes, then you are part of the problem."

Amen.

Grimgrin

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/10/africa/11lebanon.php

Once again, I'm impressed by how disciplined Hezbollah seems to be. They were threatened by a Pro-US government, that wanted to dismantle their communications network. They responded with a show of force but avoided picking fights with the army which everyone here seems to agree they could have won. Now, if the IHT article can be believed, they're accepting a compromise that seems to go back to the status quo.

The cynic in me thinks that this restraint has two reasons. First, Hezbollah doesn't want to commit itself to the kind of all out fight that would occur if they really did decide to stage a coup because it would create an opportunity for Israel to attack in the south, and they're not strong enough or dumb enough to want a war on two fronts. Second that they think they're going to inherit the government and most likely the army anyway, based on their popular support and military strength, so why smash up a house you plan on owning?

Finally there's the fact that Hezbollah talks and acts like a Lebanese nationalist organization rather than a purely sectarian organization. They may be genuinely opposed to a civil war in Lebanon, even one they can win, and only taking the steps they see as necessary to protect their organization and it's capabilities.

http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4940

Here's an on the foreign policy teams of both the Democratic candidates.

On the Obama side, I think Zbigniew Brzezinski is a tool, but that's more because of a few grandiose statements he made about bringing down the Soviet Union than any serious assessment of the man's capabilities as a thinker and an adviser.

Cloned Poster

Taking sides?

60 years ago Jewish refugees from WW2 got a free pass to invade Palestine because of "Western" actions etc.

How can you not be on the side of the refugee Palestians?

Will

thanks grimgrin. the obamababy is not perfect, but he showed good judgment about the Irak adventure appears to surround himself w/ like minded advisors.

Leila Abu-Saba

I hope my comments above don't lead you to believe that I take the side of anyone I'm describing, particularly the Aounistes. I merely meant to add more details to the stereotypical picture of Beiruti Lebanese. Not all Lebanese are Beiruti; not all Beirutis are rich, effete, disco-dancing, French-speaking right-wingers.

General Aoun's reappearance in Lebanese politics alarmed me almost as much as Samir Geagea's; my memory, backed up by a little research, is that Aoun was responsible for a great deal of death and destruction toward the end of the civil war. Geagea may have killed more people (most observers credit the deaths at Sabra and Shatila to his account, as well as the slaughter of the family of Tony Franjieh, a fellow Christian and political rival) but Aoun was a pretty bloody-minded fellow during the war. There are no parties without blood on their hands in Lebanon.

Another thing I've learned from conversations with relatives - as alliances shift in LEbanon, people line up behind political parties for all manner of reasons, including pure survival. A Shi'ite member of parliament, whatever he might think of Hizbullah, has to line up with Hizbullah these days. It would be unwise not to. Not long ago he might have been in the Syrian bloc (not the same as the Hizbullah bloc, at least then, but now...)

Christians in South Lebanon find themselves acquiescing to Aoun, because they are in South Lebanon, controlled by Hizbullah, currently allied with Aoun. Some may actively support Aoun. Others just keep their mouths shut.

BTW I have long had an interest in the Partie Populaire Syrien, the Syrian Socialist Party - and have kept an eye out for descriptions of this group. You get different stories from different historians, natch. Wikipedia tells me something I didn't know - just today - that the SSP in its early years under Antoun Saadeh was supposedly right of center, anti-Communist, and against Nasserist Arab nationalism. In '58 they fought with the Government; in 61 they fought against the government and were suppressed. At this point they began discussing Marx, mostly in jail, and re-emerged as a leftist group in the 70s. I assumed they are now about as important as the Armenian political party in Lebanon, but today they seem to be running whole neighborhoods of West Beirut. There were dark rumors about their activities during the civil war. Very curious.

One of my uncles has a degree in political science and has always followed Lebanese politics closely, from inside Lebanon. He told me thirty years ago, in the beginning of the war, that "even I don't understand Lebanese politics, how can I explain it all to you?"

David W.

Col, my remark was reactionary, designed to strike a nerve, just as yours did. I'm not doubting the 'toughness' of your Iraqi friends, but think it's a mistake to scoff at the 'soft' Beirutis. Is this a competition?

At any rate, I am for 'soft power' in Lebanon--the original March 14 was a popular movement, not a Bush creation, and it exists separately from the political faction that appropriated its name. These are the younger generations and 'liberals' of Lebanon, who are comfortable with a multicultural multireligious existance, and who have a pro-western orientation. This is the faction that is easily forgotten in the sectarian puzzle of Lebanon, but I think they are worth supporting as the future of Lebanon.

Curious

From a blog, A person living in Beirut

http://landandpeople.blogspot.com/2008/05/time-zones.html

This is what I have to say about the latest series of political speeches in Lebanon: Nasrallah speaks as if there is no future, but Jumblat, Hariri and Sanioura speak as if there is no past. For Nasrallah, the past performance and actions of the Loyalists is the only reference point. The past (?) collusion of some of them with Israel, their current alliance with the US and the intersection of some of their positions with the Israeli agenda, as well as the incapability of the Lebanese state to liberate the South and to protect the resistance appear to be the only unit of measure. On the other hand, the trio JHS has been delivering speeches and addresses as if the past did not exist, as if the resistance was not under threat of physical elimination by the Loyalists very allies, as if members of the Loyalists had not destroyed Beirut many times and invited and supported the Israelis when they invaded it, as if there had not been a number of youth killed by the thugs of the Future movement in Tarik al Jadideh and Ard Jalloul, as if there was no Future movement militia in Beirut brought from the North (seen by many on TV and in the streets before the fighting) or PSP (Jumblat) militia (which has murdered Druze political opponents in the mountains), and as if the State was all powerful, belonged to all its citizen, and capable of extending its authority onto the 4 corners of the country and to fend off Israeli agendas. When you start so far away from each others, the next stop is Xanadu, as my friend Anna would say. The first thing these guys should do is get into the same time zone. This is if they want to find a way out.

Leila Abu-Saba

"Curious" quotes Rami Zurayk, a professor of agriculture at the American U. of Beirut. He usually blogs food policy, agriculture, water wars and the problems of poor farmers. I admire his recent reporting from Beirut greatly - he and his young family are in the middle of the mess; the sixteen-year-old son of the neighborhood baker was killed by a sniper downstairs from them just Thursday. I am sorry his children have to have this "baptism of fire" (bullets whizzed into their apartment, missing his 10-year-old by a meter).

Clifford Kiracofe

From a close observer on the ground:

"The main losers obviously are the Bush administration, Israel and their Welch Club allies. Personal losers are Amin Gemayel, barely still the "leader" of the Phalange Party, as he talks tough and tries to rally his 'forces'…from Paris. Samir Geagea has pretty much nudged him aside and is reportedly casting his dark gaze toward Saad Hariri who may be planning to retire from politics and help with the very big family business. After the parties meet with President Bush next week, a 'shaking out' process may begin.Walid Jumblatt is another loser since his provocations, taunts, and Welch Club cheerleader role to take on Hezbollah left him at its mercy both in the Mountains and in his Beirut home. Whatever credibility he had has evaporated. ...

"The major winners are obvious: Lebanon's Christian population allied with General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, Amal and their Sunni, Druze and international supporters.

Hassan Nasrallah's position is probably the strongest it has ever been, not just in Lebanon but throughout the region..."
http://www.counterpunch.org/lamb05102008.html

Syria Comment/Landis:
"Hizbullah has done what it said it would do - not more, nor less. The constant grinding among the religious communities is making Lebanon more sectarian with each new conflict. Fewer Sunnis than ever will be able side with Shiites and vice-versa. The Shiites will become ever more convinced that they cannot give up their arms without first getting constitutional guarantees that they will get their fare share of representation. As things stand today, the Shiites allocated 21% of parliamentary seats even though they may represent close to 40% of Lebanon's population. This is a lingering institutional imbalance left over from Lebanon's colonial legacy, when Shiites were discounted politically as poor sheepherders and dirt farmers. The notion that Lebanon can achieve stability before these sectarian imbalances are rectified is not a sound one."
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/

Fisk, on the ground:
"For the war in West Beirut is not about religion. It is about the political legitimacy of the Lebanese government and its "pro-American" support (the latter an essential adjective to any US news agency report), which Iran understandably challenges."

Seems to me the Bush Admin Lebanon policy is run by Neocons Abrams and Cohen with Condi (and Welch) fronting.

As I don't follow Lebanese politics, it would be helpful to hear from those who do.

Anyone have some insights/hard facts/leaks on the US policy process per Lebanon, and the players?

Just what SHOULD US policy be now in Lebanon? and WHY? Any suggestions and explanations out there?

I did follow Lebanese politics some years ago and recall exchanges of view with Dany Chamoun and other leaders. Dany, his wife, and two sons were later (1990) murdered.


Curious

"Just what SHOULD US policy be now in Lebanon? and WHY? Any suggestions and explanations out there?
Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 11 May 2008 at 12:27 AM "

Bush has destroyed US legitimacy in Lebanon. (whatever left of it in remaining pro US group.)

At best US can start instigating factional war, that's about it. Obviously there is no political appetite to open third front, and neither has Israel.

Bush has no time, he has only 8 months in the office. With Condi in charge of diplomacy (the dumbest high ranking diplomat ever) and Pentagon trying to hold afghanistan/Pakistan together, there is not a lot of option.

Hezbollah seems to want political legitimacy more than anything and they will get it in next election. After that, Lebanon will fall into Syria/Iran/Russia orbit.

Not too bad really, this will stabilize the region, since Israel won't be able to mount attack that will change the political landscape meaningfully.

I think it would be interesting to see how Hezbollah will rule Lebanon, so far they are playing playing their position pretty good. That deserve some note.

Jonathan House

I just came across two series of articles by Franklin Lamb.

The first earlier series gives a useful if tendentious account of history relevant to recent events and is now being re-published in The Arab American; it runs 25 pages as a Word document. These three articles, also published in CounterPunch on April 24, 25 and 26, are entitled:

Part One: Historical Context and Current Posturing
Bush to Nasrallah: an Offer Hezbollah Cannot Refuse? (April 24)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb04242008.html

Part Two: The Israeli Project Has Failed in Lebanon
Why the Bush Administration Wants to Negotiate Now with Hezbollah (April 25)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb04252008.html

Part Three: What's in it for Hezbollah?
Will U. S. Policy in Lebanon and the Middle East Ever Change? (April 26)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb04262008.html

The second series(May 8, 9 and 10) gives Lamb's daily reporting of the recent events. Because things unfolded rapidly it is possible to assess Lamb's judgment which, at least as to these events, seems pretty good. All 3 together are a 13 page Word document. The titles and URLs are below.

Blindsided, Hezbollah Mulls Its Response (May 8)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb05082008.html

Street Notes from the Hamra District (May 9)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb05092008.html

Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters (May 10)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb05102008.html

I’d be happy to send them as Word documents to anyone who wants them – my email is Jonathan.House@gmail.com. Or they can be found as above.

Jonathan House

I just came across two series of articles by Franklin Lamb.

The first earlier series gives a useful if tendentious account of history relevant to recent events and is now being re-published in The Arab American; it runs 25 pages as a Word document. These three articles, also published in CounterPunch on April 24, 25 and 26, are entitled:

Part One: Historical Context and Current Posturing
Bush to Nasrallah: an Offer Hezbollah Cannot Refuse? (April 24)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb04242008.html

Part Two: The Israeli Project Has Failed in Lebanon
Why the Bush Administration Wants to Negotiate Now with Hezbollah (April 25)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb04252008.html

Part Three: What's in it for Hezbollah?
Will U. S. Policy in Lebanon and the Middle East Ever Change? (April 26)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb04262008.html

The second series(May 8, 9 and 10) gives Lamb's daily reporting of the recent events. Because things unfolded rapidly it is possible to assess Lamb's judgment which, at least as to these events, seems pretty good. All 3 together are a 13 page Word document. The titles and URLs are below.

Blindsided, Hezbollah Mulls Its Response (May 8)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb05082008.html

Street Notes from the Hamra District (May 9)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb05092008.html

Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters (May 10)
http://counterpunch.com/lamb05102008.html

I’d be happy to send them as Word documents to anyone who wants them – my email is Jonathan.House@gmail.com. Or they can be found as above.

Babak Makkinejad

Curious:

I have been thinking of the role of the Shia in the Arab Middle East and I am thinking now that the Shia domination in Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain could make these polities more coherent and more stable.

In fact, if you consider the Allawaites as honorary Shia, then many among the Syrian opposition will admit that their rule has been beneficial to Syria.

As for Dr. Rice; Iranians seems to think well of her (and Dr. Albright) - "what is that females in US government have a better grasp of the realities of the region than the men?" said Mr. M. Mottakki, the Iranian Foreign Minister.

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