December 12/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18,12-14. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Misestimating Iran's Nuclear Strategies.By Walid Phares. December 11/07
The powers behind Lebanon's president.By Sami Moubayed, December 11/07
The price of being suckers for Syria-By Hussain Abdul-Hussain-December 11/07
What is the real value of a free press in the Information Age? The Daily Star. December 11/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 11/07
Geagea: 'Painful Solutions" to Deal with the Presidential Crisis-Naharnet

Hariri: March 14 Will Not Stand Handcuffed-Naharnet
Suleiman for Strict Security Measures as Southern Suburbs' Residents Burn Tires-Naharnet
After Postponement of Presidential Elections, Majority Hints at Resorting to Half-Plus-One Vote-Naharnet
Germany Deports Lebanese Hizbullah Member and Iranian Secret Agent-Naharnet
March 14 Explains Why New Vote Could be pushed to March-Naharnet
Lebanese Media Predict President Elections Could Drag on Several Months-Naharnet
Husseini: Amendment Has to Go Through Government-Naharnet

Blame Lebanon's failed statesmen-Daily Star
Lebanese MPs get set to delay presidency vote for eighth time-Daily Star
Emigrants to Mexico honored - twice-Daily Star
Lebanese generals don't bring uniforms to presidency-Daily Star
Hikers mark International Mountain Day-Daily Star
Hospital in Ain al-Hilweh put on hold as funds dry up
-Daily Star

Presidential Election Likely to Be Postponed Amid Political Bickering-Naharnet
Jumblat for Absorbing Hizbullah Fighters in the Army, Creating Senate-Naharnet
Suleiman Not Sure About Tuesday's Presidential Election Session-Naharnet
Kouchner: Electing Gen. Suleiman Faces Difficulties-Naharnet
Gemayel Calls for Government Role in Amending the Constitution-Naharnet
Lebanon Differs on How to Elect a President-Naharnet
Citizens Burn Rubber Tires in Hizbullah Land-Naharnet
Aoun: No Election Likely before Holidays-Naharnet
Top level talks on Lebanon crisis-BBC News
Lebanon: French FM new president to be elected by end of 2007-Al-Bawaba
EU Gives Lebanon 80 Million Euros-Motley Fool
Lebanon's Solidere in $4 bln joint work with SODIC-Reuters

jumblatt backs compromise, reaches out to hizbullah

By Mirella Hodeib -Daily Star staff
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
BEIRUT: The parliamentary session scheduled for Tuesday to vote on a new Lebanese president is likely to be postponed as government and opposition leaders have yet to agree on a mechanism to have the constitution amended, sources from both camps said late Monday .
The poor chances of holding a session to elect the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), General Michel Suleiman, as president were acknowledged by a source close to Speaker Nabih Berri and by one of his allies, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. Sports and Youth Minister Ahmed Fatfat offered much the same prediction in a brief telephone interview.
The postponement would be the eighth since Parliament first attempted to elect a president in September.
Aoun warned Monday that a presidential election was "unlikely to take place before the end of the year."
"We are not scared of chaos should vacuum persist," Aoun told reporters following the weekly meeting of his Reform and Change parliamentary bloc. "It seems that there will be neither election nor constitutional amendment on Tuesday."
He accused the parliamentary majority of "blocking" Suleiman's election.
"I think that the majority does not want to elect General Suleiman and all this is nothing but a maneuver," Aoun said.
Aoun has tied the election to the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement on several political issues, including the shape of the next government.
Also Monday, Suleiman met with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir for 30 minutes at Bkirki. The LAF commander declined to comment following the visit.
Article 49 of the Constitution bars public servants, including Suleiman, from acceding to the presidency while in service. But articles 76 and 77 offer two different means to have the constitution amended and both require the approval of the government - which is not recognized by the opposition.
MP Robert Ghanem, who heads Parliament's Administration and Justice Committee, and Future MP Bahij Tabarra - both of the ruling March 14 coalition - are expected to submit a petition to amend the Constitution at Tuesday session. The petition will be signed by five MPs from each side.
However, Article 77 specifies that the petition requires the approval of both two-thirds of MPs and the Cabinet. The opposition brands the government headed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as illegitimate, after six ministers, including all five Shiites, submitted their resignations in November 2006.
Thus far, opposition MPs have refused to send a draft amendment to a government they do not recognize, and visitors to Siniora on Monday quoted him as saying that he would not accept any amendment that does not pass through the government. He also reportedly rejected calls for a Cabinet resignation before the presidential election takes place. According to the National News Agency, the premier made a series of phone calls to the ambassadors of Russia, Egypt, and China on Monday to explain his government's stance concerning an amendment, as well as recent political developments.
Fatfat, who represents the Future Movement in the Siniora government, said that an election on Tuesday "is unlikely to take place."
"MPs from the opposition will not show up at the Parliament and the scenario witnessed in the past seven sessions is likely to be replicated," the minister told The Daily Star on Monday. Concerning the amendment, Fatfat said the Constitution makes it clear that "any amendment should go through the government."
"Articles 76 and 77 of the Constitution propose two options to having the Constitution amended and both scenarios require that the government approves or supervises the amendment," he added.
Meanwhile, Berri's spokesperson, Arafat Hijazi, told The Daily Star that the speaker "strictly opposes" having the amendment go through the current government, adding that Berri was working on having the Parliament "amend the Constitution itself." "Exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures, especially since the Parliament is a full-fledged independent entity," Hijazi said. While dismissing the possibility of an election taking place on Tuesday, Hijazi said that MPs from Berri's Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc "will report to Parliament tomorrow."
"One never knows what might happen," Hijazi added. In other developments, the head of the Democratic Gathering, MP Walid Jumblatt, said the "political concessions" made by the March 14 Forces "are not to be seen as a sign of defeat or surrender." "It is not a drawback, as some are calling it. It is rather a step forward and a pre-emptive measure against attempts to hamper democracy and civil peace," he argued in comments carried by his Progressive Socialist Party's Al-Anbaa newspaper. He told the weekly that any deal that does not take into consideration March 14's principles would be "treason."
He also said that Lebanon's independence could not have been achieved "without the sacrifices of the resistance," adding that Hizbullah "should be gradually merged with the Lebanese Army so as to stand in the face of Israel." "This merger, if achieved, would spare Lebanon a number of problems, including that of excessive foreign interference," Jumblatt said.

Lebanese generals don't bring uniforms to presidency
Path of military leaders to political pinnacle deviates from regional habits

By Michael Bluhm -Daily Star staff
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
BEIRUT: Even though Lebanon's presidency appears likely to pass from one former general to another, the presence of military leaders atop the state here differs from the regional pattern of uniformed officers dominating the political sphere, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Monday.
The place of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in Lebanon's social order does not resemble the role of the military in many Middle Eastern countries, where the army serves as another power center for a narrow elite, said retired General Elias Hanna. The reasons behind the rise of generals to the political pinnacle here also deviate from the regional paradigm, and the circumstances that pushed the former officers into the executive branch have differed throughout the country's history, he added.
LAF commander General Michel Suleiman stands at the threshold of the presidency as a compromise candidate accepted after neither of the country's feuding political camps could muscle through their own favorites, Hanna said. The Hizbullah-led March 8 opposition had mentioned Suleiman as a compromise candidate months ago, but the March 14 ruling coalition was cool to his nomination. The ruling March 14 faction unexpectedly endorsed Suleiman two weeks ago, but opposition presidential candidate and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun - himself a former general - has insisted that Suleiman take office only under Aoun's conditions.
Aside from the March 14 camp, Suleiman has long had the support of Hizbullah and appears to have the blessings of regional powers Iran and the US, as well as Syria, Hanna said.
"General Suleiman is like the center of security [and] of the connection and interconnection between these guys," Hanna said. "This consensus fits the criteria needed these days."Suleiman's candidacy stands on the army's much-lauded conduct during the three-month battle this summer against Fatah al-Islam militants at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon, as well as its showing in the summer 2006 war with Israel and its exemplary neutrality amid the ongoing political deadlock, Hanna said. "The army performed very well," Hanna said.
Unlike Suleiman, former LAF commander and former President Emile Lahoud ascended to power as a Syrian protege during the nearly three decades when Damascus was the main power broker here, Hanna said. Lahoud, who became president in 1998, was a favorite of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who was cobbling together a network of collaborators here even before the death of his father Hafez in 2000, Hanna added.
"Lahoud was a major part of it," Hanna said. "The Syrians were controlling everything at that time. When you control the security dimension, you control everything in Lebanon. No one would say no."Former President Fouad Chehab, who ruled from 1958-64 after leading the LAF, took power during a nascent civil war as the choice of the US and Egypt, Hanna said. "At the time the army played a major role by staying neutral," Hanna added.
Despite the succession of military leaders in the presidency, the armed forces do not function primarily as an elevator to political power, said Shafik Masri, who teaches international law at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. Young men have enlisted in the military mostly because of financial considerations, he added.
Hanna said he joined the armed forces for economic reasons - he came from a poor family in Akkar and could not afford university, although he had many relatives in the army. In the era before he enlisted, the army had served as something like a finishing school for some sons of elite families, but by his time the military had become a more inclusive institution, focusing on cadets' merits instead of their lineages, he added.
In days gone by, "the profile of an officer was like a gentleman," Hanna said. "They used to teach us how to dance." With his relatively large class of 258 graduating cadets, the army had undergone "a major shift. You can find the poor guys like me."In any case, those who chose army careers did not do so to build their resumes before jumping into politics, he said. "You don't pre-plan this," he said. "When you're a general and you are highly ranked and there is a possibility, you start to think about it."
Lebanon's traditional separation of the military from its political institutions contrasts with many of its neighbors - Lebanon is unlikely to witness army officers seizing control of the country, as has happened in Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and others, Masri said.
"The military in itself does not give the person any privilege," Masri said. "That's why any military coup d'etat would fail in this country."
Military rule in the Middle East would often arise when officers were representatives of a country's elite which already controlled much of society with a largely impoverished rural population. After the 1967 war, military leaders assumed power under the banners of liberating Palestine and modernizing at home, he added.
One common factor, however, between military rulers abroad and the former generals here is the frequent welcome from the US received by the military men, Masri said. The US "is always inclined to deal with an army officer," whether in the Arab world or other parts of Asia and Africa, Masri said. "They'd like to deal with an army officer because they feel that this man can implement order. These democracies are not deeply rooted."
Lebanon's military rulers have also emerged because of a deficit of democracy, but a different one than in countries where officers overthrow the regime or where a near-absolute monarch reigns, Masri added. Lebanon's leaders often articulate a belief in democracy but have weakened the country by putting sectarian concerns ahead of national goals, he said. Compared to neighboring countries with military rulers, Lebanon "politically differs, economically differs and even democratically differs, but, unfortunately, the style of power-sharing is always toward the chieftains of the factions," Masri said. "These Lebanese sects are following a tribal system - they have chieftains. This is, of course, a deformation of democracy."
Lebanon has been forced to turn to the military because the prevailing tribal loyalties have turned the political system stagnant and unable to generate new leaders not ultimately beholden to confessional interests, said political analyst Simon Haddad. "In the absence of normal political parties, that's the result," he added. "It's a deficiency of the system. As long as the system cannot provide new leaders, we always have a potential candidate in the leader of the army."

Jumblat for Absorbing Hizbullah Fighters in the Army, Creating Senate
Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblat stressed that nominating Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman for president is a political settlement based on the agenda of setting up normal diplomatic relations with Syria and absorbing Hizbullah fighters into the army.
Jumblat, in an editorial to be published on Tuesday by the PSP mouthpiece al-Anbaa, said the settlement stems from Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir guidelines that called for consensus. "That means consensus on principles of national dialogue", that is demarcating the borders with Syria, setting up diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, handling the issue of Palestinian weapons outside the camps and, then, within the camps and the international tribunal," Jumblat wrote.
The nation's independence, he said, "can be achieved with the resistance and with its acceptance to be gradually absorbed by the army to confront Israel, which would highly add to the army's capabilities. "This absorption, if achieved, would gradually lead to the acceptance by all the political parties of the positive neutralization of Lebanon" by which Lebanese would cease being an arena for settling disputes of others, according to Jumblat.
He concluded by calling for the full implementation of the constitution, which includes the full implementation of the Taif accord, including the creation of a senate .That should be seriously dealt with after the forthcoming presidential election because it "preserves the national balance of powers." Beirut, 10 Dec 07, 18:02

Aoun: No Election Likely before Holidays
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said Monday the holding of presidential election prior to the holiday season is unlikely, accusing the majority of hampering the vote. Aoun, talking to reporters after a meeting by his Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, said: "We are not scared of chaos should vacuum persist … go have fun during the holidays and after that, we'll see.""It appears that there will be neither election nor constitutional amendment tomorrow," Aoun said.
He blamed the majority for allegedly "blocking" the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president. "I believe that the majority does not want to elect Gen. Suleiman," Aoun said. "I tell the majority MPs that my stand is clear, we support Gen. Suleiman," he added. Beirut, 10 Dec 07, 17:29

The price of being suckers for Syria
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The question as to whether Damascus can be made to break its alliance with Iran and alter its ways, as Western and Arab governments have sought of late, has confounded all those answering in the affirmative.
When Lebanon's March 14 coalition recently approved the candidacy for president of army commander General Michel Suleiman, the pro-Iranian Hizbullah displayed reluctance in accepting. This suggested a possible crack between Syria and Iran, because Syria had long been viewed as supportive of Suleiman. Yet Syrian-Iranian divergences might really be more a product of Western wishful thinking than anything else.
Diplomats believe that during his recent visit to Damascus three weeks ago, Jordan's King Abdullah relayed to Syrian President Bashar Assad what he described as a "final offer" for Syria to distance itself from Iran. Abdullah's package reportedly included proposals that Syria would regain control of the occupied Golan Heights and would receive international aid, while the international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri would be scaled down. In return, Damascus would have to ratify a peace treaty with Israel, cease its intervention in Lebanese affairs, end its ties with Iran, and cut off Iran's proxy groups, particularly Hizbullah and Hamas.
The idea was that if Assad walked in the footsteps of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, he would end his country's isolation and rejoin the international community as a full partner. Alternatively, if Assad refused the offer, he would have to endure more international opprobrium and be abandoned to his alliance with an increasingly isolated Tehran. The assumptions behind such a scheme jar with what we already know about Syria and its behavior in the past. The Syrian regime has never taken one side or another when asked to do so, and this is particularly true of its relationship with Iran. For example, recently Damascus sent Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to Annapolis for the conference on Middle East peace. Yet only days earlier, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem had flown to Tehran to explain to the Iranians his country's perspective on the gathering, which Assad had depicted as a likely failure.
Damascus wants to have the cake and eat it too. It wants the Hariri tribunal scaled down and its international isolation ended. At the same time, the Syrian regime wants to maintain its links to Hizbullah, preserve its ties to an Iran that has bought off Syria's debt to Russia, and re-impose its hegemony over Lebanon. No matter how much international aid Syria receives, this would never sweeten Syria's financial pot as did its control over Lebanon before 2005, the year its army withdrew from the country.
The Syrian regime also believes that if the international community is not willing to give Syria all it wants now, it might be willing to do so in the future. Damascus feels it has plenty of time to wait for the balance of power to change in a way that all its demands are eventually answered.
Now that the Annapolis conference is over, the Syrian regime can pretend that it has actually taken Abdullah's offer. However, once the United States sends its ambassador back to Damascus and the international community scales down the Hariri tribunal, Syria would only ask for more. Among these demands is the restoration of its influence over Lebanon. As time goes by, Damascus would find excuses to reestablish its links to Tehran - assuming it severed them at all. In no time, Syria would have reneged on all its commitments, while the regime would have raked in all the benefits the international community had to offer.
Some history might be useful here. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in summer 1982, Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Beirut. Five years later, however, Damascus managed to send its forces back into West Beirut not only to restore civil peace after Amal and Hizbullah had fought a bloody conflict in the capital's southern suburbs, but also supposedly to help release Western hostages. Washington approved the return. Between 1982 and 1987 circumstances had changed, yet the Syrian regime stood its ground and heightened its chances for a comeback. It succeeded.
There is no guarantee this won't happen again. In early 2008 there will be a new administration in Washington and international circumstances will have probably changed. The recent release of a US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program has the potential to substantially alter American calculations in the Middle East, which could offer Syria greater room to maneuver. Nothing guarantees that Damascus won't try to take advantage of the new situation in order to return in some way to Lebanon and take the country back to where it was before the Cedar Revolution. The world should be aware that this is the real Syrian game.
**Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a journalist based in Washington. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Blame Lebanon's failed statesmen
By Marc J Sirois -Daily Star staff
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Blame Lebanon's Lebanon is at one of those historic crossroads that countries encounter every few decades or so - unless they are Lebanon, where the intervals between such intersections can be as short as a few weeks. The rapidity with which crises recur here is only partly due, though, to the larger number of problems engendered by a dysfunctional domestic political system, problematic neighbors, and the back-and-forth flows of contests between great powers. All of these are major sources of Lebanon's woes, of course, but the effect of each is multiplied by the tendency of the country's own politicians to delay, deny, demonize and/or dissemble, thereby painting themselves and their compatriots into corners.
The crisis du jour, for instance, is over the presidency. There are many facets to this issue, including how to amend the Constitution in order to make General Michel Suleiman, commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), eligible for Baabda Palace; what effect the process will have on the next president's mandate; and what precedents it might set for future presidential selections. The latest question is over how much (if any) linkage there should be with the leadership, makeup, and platform of the Cabinet that will be installed after a president has taken office. To be sure, all of these are important issues, each having the capacity to impact the performance of key individuals and institutions. They are therefore more than worthy of nothing less than exhaustive debate and discussion.
Unfortunately, however, the timing is all wrong to deal with these particular questions. A better time would have been virtually any time in the past couple of years, but when the country's politicians were able to sit down for the "national dialogue" that preceded the summer 2006 war with Israel, they failed to agree on very much - and then disagreed on what little had been decided. After the conflict, the dialogue was replaced by more traditional means of Lebanese political discourse, namely mutual recrimination through the media. Almost nothing was done to head off the constitutional impasse that promised to rear its head when Emile Lahoud left office at the end of his (extended) term, and the failed efforts that were made came largely at the urging - and with the direct participation - of foreign governments.
Now the horse-trading over the next Cabinet has extended the hiatus that has left Lebanon without a head of state since midnight on November 23. If the negotiations succeed, the next president's authority will almost certainly have been diminished before the ceremonial sash has been draped over him; if they fail, a potentially explosive situation will test him from his very first hours in office.
Some of this is the fault of the framers of Lebanon's Constitution and of all those - both Lebanese and otherwise - who have contributed to its pell-mell alterations over the years. The document is riddled with ambiguities, not to mention something like two dozen avenues that lead to legalistic dead-ends. There are also pronounced disagreements over where authority to interpret the Constitution lies, and in any event, none of the institutions that might do so have anything like the popular support to impose their views.
It is primarily failed statesmanship, though, that has failed the Lebanese in this instance, not flawed statecraft. Whatever its weaknesses, nothing in the Constitution prevented the current crop of politicians from getting down to business months ago. Their own poor judgment - manifested in ways too numerous to count - did that. The most obvious examples were the dithering over whether or not there should be a consensus candidate and then the charade-like search for one that seems to have ended at Suleiman. How it took so long for his candidacy to emerge is a mystery: He has been a respected national figure for years, and Lahoud, his predecessor as LAF chief, was all but assured the presidency in 1998 from the moment he stepped aside in favor of an extension of Elias Hrawi's term in 1995. A cynic might write that seeming continuity off as the product of Syrian engineering, but at least that engineering got the job done. The same can emphatically not be said of Lebanese officialdom since it was left to its own devices by the Syrian withdrawal in 2005. In no way does this mean that Lebanon would be better off if it were back under the Damascene thumb, but it does indicate that this country needs desperately to improve the quality of its leadership.
With a little luck, Lebanon will get through this latest brush with disaster, perhaps because larger powers have agreed on larger issues and therefore on ending that facet of the local struggle that was really a proxy war between them. None of this should be of any comfort to the Lebanese, though, because the ingredients for the next imbroglio are still present in large quantities: Key political figures view one another as traitors, even less extreme parties on both sides have almost no trust in one another, and the general public has yet to demand something better of its leaders than the usual tribalism.
What can be done about this last point will decide the matter. Some of the rules have changed radically since the Syrians left, but Lebanon remains an asterisk democracy. It cannot, will not - and, some would argue, should not - take the next step unless and until it has an electorate capable of recognizing and rewarding capable leaders, and of identifying and punishing poor ones. Most of today's dominant politicians will not help voters to develop these skills, because they would be the first casualties of well-informed and responsible balloting. Indeed, they need private citizens to remain backward if they are to retain their power and privileges, so they have a vested interest in this element of the status quo.
The task must fall instead to civil society, whose first priority must be to remedy the sickening sectarian hatreds that shape the political opinions of so many Lebanese of all backgrounds and socioeconomic strata. These ugly tendencies infect people at all levels of society, including many of the academics and journalists who do so much to shape opinions through what they teach and write. If their influence cannot be sharply reduced or radically reoriented, the aforementioned asterisk will become superfluous because Lebanon will have no democracy of any sort, qualified or not.
**Marc J. Sirois is managing editor of THE DAILY STAR.failed statesmen

The powers behind Lebanon's president

By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News
Published: December 10, 2007
For many years, Lebanon meant different things to different Syrians. That is why the Syrians loved Beirut, and that is why they are happy today, hoping that if General Michel Suleiman gets elected to the post of president, they would feel secure enough to go there - having been absent in large numbers since 2005. That is why the Syrians will not tolerate an anti-Syrian president in Beirut.
Whether the Lebanese like it or not, they are situated in a troubled region, with two ambitious and stronger neighbours - Syria and Israel. Due to the weakness of Lebanon, there is no such thing as a president who is "Made in Lebanon". There never has been. That is a sad reality perhaps - but a reality, nevertheless.
Presidents in Lebanon have been "made" in Paris, Washington, Damascus, Cairo and Tel Aviv. Back in 1943, the Syrians supported Bshara Al Khury because he was allied to the statesmen in Damascus, particularly president Shukri Al Quwatli. When Al Quwatli was toppled in 1949, his successor General Husni Al Za'im tried to oust the Khury regime in Beirut.
A few years later, Khury's opponents were given political and financial assistance by the Syrian regime of General Adib Al Shishakli. Then came a joint Syrian-Egyptian effort to oust president Camille Shamoun for what came to be known as "the first civil war of 1958".
Members of the Lebanese opposition -statesmen such as Kamal Junblatt and Saeb Salam -came to lead their "revolt" from Damascus.
Frantic, Shamoun turned to the US, seeking protection. His successor Fouad Shihab came to power with the direct blessing of Jamal Abdul Nasser (then ruling both Damascus and Cairo). In his memoirs, the veteran statesman Raymond Edde, running for the presidency in August 1958, recalls how the then US ambassador to Lebanon Robert McClintock visited him to congratulate him on being elected president - only to be stopped short by a US diplomat - who advised him to "wait" because Abdul Nasser had decided - with the state department - to name Fouad Shihab for Lebanon.
The saga continued with the civil war, with Israeli support for Bashir and Ameen Gemayel in the 1980s. Then came the last two "Made in Damascus" presidents, Elias Hrawi and Emile Lahoud.
This all leads us up to the presidential candidate General Michel Suleiman. Was Suleiman "made in France?" Or was he "made in the United States" or "made in Syria?" Or was he "all of the above?"
The Syrians wanted him because he was close to Hezbollah and sees Israel - rather than Syria - as the enemy. If elected to power, he would hamper UN resolutions 1559 and 1701, which target Hezbollah power in Lebanon, and certainly, grant more political room for the Shiite community.
Initially, the Syrians pretended to support Michel Aoun (without saying it), and this discredited Aoun in the Lebanese street. Deep inside, they did not trust Aoun. They wanted Suleiman. The General was suddenly supported by the Americans, the French and the Saudis.
One can understand the ambitions of strong regional countries and the vulnerability of small and weaker ones.
Let us pretend that we had a different Lebanon -a Lebanon with no Arab surrounding, no Palestinians, no Syrians, and no Israelis. Let us pretend that we had a Lebanon with no confessional rivalries, where everybody loves everybody else.
Simply... I couldn't see it. The Lebanon I see was one of 19th-century feudalism and sectarianism. In 1940, the Muslims of Lebanon complained that president Emile Edde was treating them as second-class citizens. Reportedly, he replied sarcastically to the complaint, saying: "Lebanon is a Christian country. Let the Muslims go live in Makkah."
In 1946, King Abdullah I of Jordan toyed with the idea of uniting Syria and Jordan under his Hashemite crown in a scheme he called "Greater Syria".
The Maronite patriarch Antune Arida supported the plan, but only if Abdullah would annex the Muslim territories of Lebanon to Greater Syria.
In 1976, tension between both parties escalated tremendously, encouraging president Suleiman Franjiyeh to issue a constitutional document giving Muslims some key concessions. The proposal was flatly turned down by the Muslims themselves.
When then Syrian president Hafez Al Assad met with Kamal Junblatt for 12 stormy hours on March 27, 1976, he asked: "Why are you escalating the fighting? The constitutional document gives you 95 per cent of what you want. What else are you after?" Junblatt angrily replied that he wanted to get rid of the Christians "who have been on top of us for 140 years!"
That is the Lebanon I see, and with statesmen like these (they have not really changed), it would be difficult to expect a leader who had been "made in Lebanon".
**Dr Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

Misestimating Iran's Nuclear Strategies
By Walid Phares
The release to the US Congress of the NIE Iranian threat report has unleashed a wave of discussions streaming directly into the debate about the war on terror. From there, obviously, the ripple effects of the findings - plus their politicization - are feeding the critics of the War in Iraq; but more importantly, impacting both the friends and the foes of the United States, including principally the Iranian regime.
Basically, Americans and their allies are faced with a new assertion, created by this intelligence estimate, that the decision makers in Tehran had already abandoned their nuclear military strategy as of 2003; and hence, the US and its coalition would be at fault if it engaged in any military action against targets inside Iran. Specifically, due to American intelligence conclusions, the public - both domestic and international - are being led to believe that in the fall of 2003, the Iranian leadership had decided to stop its process of building an atomic weapon; and that further, today, in the fall of 2007, there isn’t an Iranian nuclear threat to America, to the region and to the international community.
Thus, logically, as a conglomeration of various interests is using the NIE findings as tacit approval for shielding the Iranian regime, Washington naively has trapped itself with the product of the best of the best in its national intelligence apparatus. Every word now used by this writer will be put to the task of demonstrating to my readers that, if anything, this NIE Report has revealed a major systemic problem with United States national security analysis; and that further, America’s ability to understand and detect threats against itself has been compromised.
The end product of this top US evaluation of the Khomeinist menace is not so different, unfortunately, from previous assessments in the 1990s which dismissed - or even ignored - the threat posed by our other foes: Jihadists, Salafists in general, and al Qaeda in particular. This NIE report is drawing significant debates at critical times; but the most serious conclusion I would make about its findings is that the systemic crisis, about which the 9/11 Commission warned the US Government and public, is still alive and evolving.
Here are talking points to demonstrate why the message of the report is flawed; how it is being used against US national security interests; and what the consequences will be of this derailment in threat analysis.
1. The NIE findings based their final conclusion - that the Iranian regime had abandoned its nuclear strategy - on information obtained from Iranian officials who stated they’d stopped their nuclear program in the fall of 2003. So, our best senior analysts’ conclusions are based on statements made by Iranian regime cadre known for their deceptive tactics. The document insisted that the findings didn’t attempt to analyze the Iranian regime’s intention but instead were meant merely to assert that Tehran is changing attitude; but yet the key assumptions made by the NIE bosses used the statements of the regime, not the intentions behind these statements, to construct conclusions about a course of action. That would be the equivalent of considering the statements of Adolf Hitler as true when he assured Britain and France that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was the end of his Nazi program in 1938.
My counter argument is that stopping a single production process of a nuclear weapon is not equivalent to putting an end to a strategic policy of obtaining such arms. A real change in Iranian strategy would be indicated only if the office of Ayatollah Khamenei and the central powers of his regime openly would state that they have abandoned the pursuit of military nuclear power. That has not happened; and worse, the opposite has been happening. The ruling elite have been increasingly boasting about their intention to achieve nuclear parity and their right to obtain these weapons and even to use them.
Note well: the NIE’s referral to the 2003 decision by the Khatemi Government to halt its previous method of obtaining the nukes is not the equivalent of Mohammar Qaddafi’s strategic choice to abandon the pursuit of WMDs, or the South African and Ukrainian choice to de-proliferate, as examples.
2. The NIE architects chose not to inform policy makers and the public about the wider context in which that specific 2003 decision was made, or about the subsequent steps in the Iranian nuclear strategy. Such selectiveness crippled the political conclusion of the document. Not to analyze why a foe halted a process, while he resumed many other processes to obtain even greater results, derails US analysis of the enemy’s global strategies.
Indeed the real story is that the Iranian regime reconfigured its previous nuclear strategy - gradual build up - because by the end of the summer 2003, with “hostile forces” (the US-led coalition) deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, they knew if they didn’t alter the pursuit of that initial route, they could expect a lethal reaction. Since the US strategic intentions weren’t clear in the eyes of the Iranian strategists, they acted as if Washington and its allies were moving forward to disarm Iran’s regime. The Khatemi Government, preferring to avoid an unbalanced confrontation, decided to suspend the open build-up of nuclear power, because it simply concluded that the US would be able to strike them from two borders. Hence, the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) seized the nuclear program and reconverted it in the underground. Thus, the global strategy wasn’t halted, but an alternative strategy was begun.
3. In 2004, a US election year, the deep American divide over the War in Iraq was perceived by the Iranian hardliners as an aid to re-launch the rapid-pace nuclear race. Ironically, it was the efforts of the so called “antiwar” movement within the United States that encouraged the Jihadists of Iran to reignite the military nuclear program. By early 2005 Ahmadinejad was brought to power, and greater Syro-Iranian backing of terror in Iraq was employed to weaken the hostile forces to the west of Iran. From an Iranian perspective, one of the “insurgency’s” goals was to give Tehran the time and the ability to run faster towards deploying the nuclear weapons-to-be.
4. The NIE failed to see and explain that the 2003 decision was a change of strategy not a halt to a strategy; for the Ahmadinejad plan was to ensnare the US in Iraq so that it couldn’t destroy the process of Iran’s shifting the balance of power in its crucial early stages. Tragically, what was missed in Washington is that Tehran was building the missiles before completing the fissile. While attention was focused on the uranium enrichment process, the Pasdaran were setting up the delivery system, i.e., the actual threat system.
The bomb part of the Iranian nuclear strategy was the last stage, while the missiles were the most urgent to acquire first. Strategically it makes sense, because if the Iranians had produced a weapon, it could have been taken out via airpower without the risk of a second strike (since the delivery system would have been absent). But if the missiles were obtained before, the world couldn’t intervene preemptively against them. And when the bombs were ready (through assembly or purchase) they would be locked on the rockets. At that particular time, unilateral strikes against the Iranian weapons would run the risk of Iranian missile counter attacks against the free world.
Tehran played it very wisely and outmaneuvered its enemies in the West; it got away with the missiles, which are now advanced and deployed. Hence all that the Khomeinists need to achieve by the end of 2007, as their delivery systems are developed, is a conclusion in Washington that will deter it from acting against the nukes, the fusion centers, the launching ramps and other types of deployment. The NIE report has paved the way for that decision.
By cleverly convincing the American intelligence community and the public that Tehran had already abandoned the whole nuclear strategy in 2003, Iran has delegitimized America’s ability to act against the missiles. Hence the field is wide open for the secret nuclear program to accelerate, as the delivery system is being completed. By the time America discovers it has been duped, the nukes will be sitting on top of the missiles. All the Jihadi strategic planners had to do was to use America’s political systems against itself. Hence, because the NIE analysts failed to provide the global context of the Iranian strategy and have been pressing for a political agenda over national security priorities, Iran’s Khomeinists are winning, regardless of who will occupy the White House in January 2008.
Our next President will be faced with security crises by far more dramatic and formidable than any challenges we’ve witnessed since 9/11: Iranian missiles with Jihadi bombs aimed at two thirds of the world.
Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of the War of Ideas
December 7, 2007 07:55 PM Print