July 9/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10,1-12.17-20. After this the Lord appointed seventy (-two) others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.' Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town. The seventy (-two) returned rejoicing, and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name." Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power 'to tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

MEMRI: Possible Eruption of Violent Crisis in Lebanon After July 15/ July 9/087
ANALYSIS-Instability stalks Lebanon a year after Israel war-Reuters-July 9/07
DEBKAfile Exclusive: Iran, Syria Hizballah feared stoking major ...DEBKA file- July 9/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for July 09/07
DEBKAfile Exclusive: Iran, Syria Hizballah feared stoking major ...DEBKA file- July 9/07
Make-Or-Break Presidential Elections Top Lebanon's Priorities-Naharnet
Fatah Islam Blamed for Gemayel's Death-Forbes
Report: Syria removing military checkpoints in Golan
-Jerusalem Post
Report: PM envoy says progress in Hezbollah talks-Ha'aretz
Step away from the bomb shelter - for now-Ha'aretz
Hezbollah condemns US envoy remarks
Lebanon army urges Islamists to
Chaotic Lebanon Risks Becoming Militant Haven
In pictures: Lebanon's leftover munitions
-BBC News
Lebanese investigation says Islamic militants behind minister's ...
International Herald Tribune
Syria intensifying Internet crackdown
-Sydney Morning Herald
Syria denies calling citizens back from Lebanon
-Jerusalem Post
Ross: Risk of War Between Israel and Syria
A Year Later, Israelis Feels Lebanon War Was Lost-Angus Reid Global Monitor
Presidential election takes pole-France24

Make-Or-Break Presidential Elections Top Lebanon's Priorities
Lebanon's forthcoming presidential elections figured on top of the nation's political priorities Sunday amidst Arab and French efforts aimed at patching up differences between the local factions to end the ongoing political crisis.
Ex-President Amin Gemayel, in an interview with the Kuwaiti daily as-Siyassa, sounded the alarm warning that failing to organize Presidential elections on time would result in "catastrophic" repercussions. Gemayel's warning coincided with visits that Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa is to make Sunday to Saudi Arabia and Syria for talks with officials covering, among other topics, the ongoing political turmoil in Lebanon ahead of a meeting in France by leaders of the various Lebanese factions. In Riyadh, Moussa is to meet King Abdulla Bin Abdul Aziz during his several-hour visit.
The Arab League chief is scheduled to arrive in Damascus later in the day for talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem, mainly on the explosive situation in Lebanon, which Syria controlled for over 30 years until withdrawal of its army in 2005. Syria backs President Emile Lahoud whose extended term expires on Nov. 22. A new head of state should be elected in a two-month period prior to that date. Gemayel said "some Christian leaders do not attach the required importance to the presidential election and do not hide their call for postponing it." He did not name such Christian leaders, but warned that "postponing Presidential elections is very serious. It would have catastrophic results."Gemayel added that "there are no guarantees that, if postponed, presidential elections would be ever held at a later date.""A new president must be elected," he stressed.
However, the Syrian-backed opposition, renewed a call for early parliamentary elections or the formation of a national unity government prior to any presidential elections. MP Hussein Hajj Hassan, who represents Hizbullah in Parliament, made the call in a statement to reporters, renewing the stand less than a week ahead of a meeting of Lebanese leaders hosted by France near Paris in an effort to work out a settlement to the mushrooming political crisis in Lebanon
The three-day meeting, hosted by the French foreign ministry, is to open on July 14. It was originally called in an effort to put representatives of the various Lebanese factions face-to-face and initiate a dialogue. However, Arab and Western diplomats believe the forthcoming Presidential elections have become the focal point of interest for the meeting. "The presidential elections are the key to Lebanon's future. If the Lebanese agree on a president the country will be united, if not Lebanon will take a leap into the unknown," A western diplomat told Naharnet. Beirut, 08 Jul 07, 08:04

Syria Blocks al-Mustaqbal Website

Syria has stepped up its muzzling of the Internet, blocking access to a string of websites critical of the regime, including the Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal, a human rights group has announced. Sites blocked by firewalls within Syria include the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat (The Middle East) and the Beirut newspaper Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) run by the family of slain Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria said.
E-mail provider hotmail has also been blocked since July 17 last year, the watchdog added.
"Freedom of the Internet is regressing in Syria after the authorities blocked access to a string of independent websites," the group complained.
In November 2005, media watchdog Reporters without Borders named Syria as one of 15 enemies of the Internet around the world.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 08 Jul 07, 09:36

Syria: Soft on porn, hard on political censorship
Sunday, 8 July, 2007
Syria has stepped up its widespread censorship of the Internet, blocking access to a string of websites critical of the regime, including some run by leading dailies, a human rights group said. Political and pornographic censorship is commonplace in most Arab countries, where ignorance is the perceived bliss.
Many Syrians hoped that Bashar al-Asad, who succeeded his father as president in July 2000, would bring a new era of openness to Syria and to the Syrian Internet. In his inauguration speech, he spoke of the need for “creative thinking,” “the desperate need for constructive criticism,” “transparency,” and “democracy.
Today, the Syrian government relies on a host of repressive laws and extralegal measures to suppress Syrians’ right to access and disseminate information freely online. It censors the Internet—as it does all media—with a free hand. It monitors and censors written and electronic correspondence. The government has detained people for expressing their opinions or reporting information online, and even for forwarding political jokes by email. Syrian bloggers and human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that plainclothes security officers maintain a close watch over Internet cafés.
“The Internet is the only way for intellectuals to meet and share ideas in Syria today.” - Aktham Na`issa, president of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria
In December 2000, not long after the Syrian government first allowed email, the wife of a prominent Syrian businessman received an email containing a cartoon showing a donkey with President Bashar al-Asad’s head mounting another donkey with Lebanese Prime Minister Emile Lahoud’s head. The woman, a resident of Damascus, forwarded the message to her friends. After one of the recipients informed on her, Syrian authorities arrested and detained her without charge for nine months in what one writer described as “deliberately humiliating conditions.”
Sites blocked by firewalls within Syria include the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat (The Middle East) and the Beirut newspaper Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) run by the family of slain Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, the National organization for Human Rights in Syria said.
E-mail provider Hotmail has also been blocked since July 17 last year, the watchdog added.
"Freedom of the Internet is regressing in Syria after the authorities blocked access to a string of independent websites," the group complained.
In November 2005, media watchdog Reporters without Borders named Syria as one of 15 enemies of the Internet around the world.
Syria is among the most repressive countries in the world with regard to freedom of expression and information. Criticisms of the president and reports on the problems of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria remain particularly sensitive areas. Human rights organizations have reported exhaustively on political arrests and detentions.
With a literacy rate of 80 percent, Syria’s main barrier to Internet access lies with its affordability. Only 4.2 percent of the population own personal computers, with just 1 percent of Syrians subscribing to Internet services. The proliferation of Internet cafés has helped raise the Internet penetration rate to approximately 6 percent, but many Syrians still find the cost of these cafés prohibitive.
In recent years, the government has endeavored to expand Internet access by installing hardware and telecommunications capabilities in schools, by subsidizing the cost of personal computers, and, most recently, by fostering competition among Internet service providers (ISPs).
There are four ISPs that are neither owned nor funded by the government. Still, the two government-affiliated ISPs - Syria Telecommunication Establishment (STE) and SCS-net (now Aloola) - continue to occupy the majority of the market. Aya, one of the privately owned ISPs, has close ties to the government.
In addition to maintaining regulatory control over ISPs, the Syrian government imposes financial and technical constraints on Internet users. Syrian Internet subscribers wishing to use ports other than port 80—the port most often used for Web browsing - must apply for a special service and pay a small monthly fee. Aya and other ISPs offer plans that allow users to access the Internet with a fixed IP address, which is necessary for hosting sites; to use Virtual Private Networks; and to bypass the ISP’s proxy server. They may also pay for a special plan that allows them to open otherwise blocked ports, such as those used for Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video chat.
Syrian Internet users said they also used other means to get around the controls the Syrian government has placed on the Internet. At many Internet cafés, customers can request to use “the Lebanese server”—that is, a connection via a long-distance phone call to a Lebanese ISP not subject to Syria’s Internet restrictions—for no extra charge. Indeed, Syrians had connected through Lebanese and Jordanian ISPs before the government officially allowed the Internet into the country. If caught, those connecting through ISPs in neighboring countries face fines and the possibility of their phone lines being cut, but the practice is reportedly common nonetheless.
“What I want to say to you, my friend…is that you and your friends are being watched constantly. They’re watching you as you walk in the street and in your daily life. They’re watching you as you talk on your home phone, on your mobile, and on the Internet. Don’t be too surprised if they’re watching you in your sleep, in your dreams, and in your silence. Don’t be surprised if they’ve come into your bed at night.” - E-mail from an anyonymous Syrian human rights activist in 2005
Contradicting Constitution
The Constitution of the Arab Republic of Syria affords every citizen “the right to freely and openly express his views in words, in writing, and through all other means of expression,” while also guaranteeing “the freedom of the press, of printing, and publication in accordance with the law.” In actuality, these freedoms are limited by other legislative provisions. Article 4.b of the 1963 Emergency Law authorizes the government to monitor all publications and communications. That law also allows the government to arrest those who commit “crimes which constitute an overall hazard” or other vaguely defined offenses.
Two Kurdish Web sites, and, were blocked, as was the Web site of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon (, which campaigns for an end to Syrian influence in Lebanese politics. The Arabic and English-language sites of the Reform Party of Syria were filtered, along with the Web sites of the Hizb al-Tahrir (Liberation Party)—an Islamist group that seeks to restore the Caliphate and that remains banned in many countries.
ONI’s tests found that 115 Syrian blogs hosted on Google’s popular blogging engine,, were blocked, strongly suggesting that the ISP had blocked access to all blogs hosted on this service, including many apolitical blogs., a blog created to campaign for the release of Michel Kilo, a prominent Syrian journalist imprisoned for his writings, was also blocked.
In the past, Syria has reportedly filtered access to popular e-mail sites. ONI testing found to be blocked, along with two, relatively small Web-based e-mail sites, and None of the Arabic-language e-mail sites ONI tested were blocked, though the Arabic-language hosting site was.
Though most foreign news sites were accessible, Web sites of some important Arabic newspapers and news portals were found to be blocked. Examples include the pan Arab, London-based, Arabic-language newspapers, Al-Quds al-Arabi ( and Al-Sharq al-Awsat, (, the news portal, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah (, the U.S.-based Web site of the Arab Times (, and the Islamically oriented news and information portal Islam Online ( publications frequently run articles critical of the Syrian government.
Web sites of human rights organizations were generally available. Sites associated with the London-based Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) marked an important exception; all URLs on the domain were found blocked in this round of testing. As indicated above, some blogs that criticize the human rights record of Syria were also blocked.
Technology website is also blocked, for reasons beyond comprehension.
Only three Web sites tested with pornographic content were blocked:,, and (this last is a message board with pornographic content).
Web sites that focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered issues were generally available.
While Lebanon's internet connectivity leaves much to be desired, at least we have the privilege to free information - a right that every Arab citizen should have.
Sources: OpenNet, Human Rights Watch, Ya Libnan, The Age

A Hezbollah Coup Attempt This Summer?
[W. Thomas Smith Jr.]
Military Blog-The Tank in National Review
Walid Phares checks in today with the latest on the possibility of a surge in the violence in Lebanon over the coming weeks, including possible plans by Hezbollah to overthrow the Lebanese government. According to Phares:
"Yesterday, MEMRI issued a report entitled "Possible eruption of violent crisis in Lebanon after July 15." The report either cites or quotes previous reports published by Lebanese and Arab media, both pro and anti-Syro-Iranian.
.Following are my thoughts on the points raised:
The Syro-Iranian plan to crush Lebanon is not new. It has been incrementally developing since the summer of 2005. The plan moved forward inch-by-inch — assassinations, intimidations, so-called dialogue, urban intifada in Beirut, intelligence activities, war with Israel, propaganda, fighting with Fatah al Islam, etc. — so that by early summer 2007, the gradual crush would be set to begin.
.The Lebanese cabinet of Fuad Seniora is aware of this possibility, but it lost multiple opportunities, early on, to bring in the United Nations and a multinational presence on the Syrian-Lebanese borders and in the major cities. The Syro-Iranian axis took advantage of this to reinforce its own forces within Lebanon.
.The "axis" believes that the United States and its allies will be less-and-less capable of intervening by early 2008, hence during the summer-fall 2007 period we may see moves to gain more territory in Lebanon.
.The main issue now is the presidency of the republic. Elections are currently slated to take place in September. But current, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud will try to postpone the elections as long as he can. The March 14 movement (opposed to the Syrian regime) will try to vote for its candidate — not yet selected — by late October/early November. The new president won't be recognized by Hezbollah and its allies.
.Hezbollah and its allies will form a government of their own and take control of large parts of Lebanon. This plan is two years old. It is being publicized only now by both parties in the propaganda-warfare realm.
.There is a possibility that the "axis" may attempt to break down the Seniora government during the summer (July-September) through ground action, and also by initiating the formation of another cabinet.
.Al Mustaqbal, the pro-Hariri daily is publishing reports about a potential coup d'etat by Hezbollah as a "preemptive strike." The information about Iran-Hezbollah plans for a coup, were made available as early as 2006 by the Lebanese international lobby (also known as the World Council of the Cedars Revolution). The March 14 coalition chose to release this information now, as the other side is also leaking it in an attempt to intimidate the Seniora cabinet. Hence, as both sides are leaking it simultaneously, it has been picked up by international monitors of the various media, including MEMRI. In short, the plan of a coup d'etat by Hezbollah, and backed by Iran and Syria is two years old, but it is surfacing now as the crush moment draws dramatically closer. "

Reports of Syria Instructing its Citizens to Leave Lebanon
Reuters/ July 15
On July 5, 2007, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported that Syrian authorities had instructed all Syrian citizens residing in Lebanon to return to their country by July 15, 2007. [2] The next day, the Israeli Arab daily Al-Sinara similarly reported, on the authority of a Lebanese source close to Damascus, that Syria was planning to remove its citizens from Lebanon. [3] Also on July 5, the Lebanese daily Al-Liwa reported rumors that Syrian workers were leaving Lebanon at the request of the Syrian authorities. [4] In addition, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra reported that Syrian universities would accept Syrian students who were leaving Lebanon due to the instability there. [5]
These sources offered a number of explanations for Syria's calls for its citizens to leave Lebanon. IRNA tied these calls to Lebanese President Emil Lahoud's ultimatum to the Lebanese opposition to decide on how to deal with the crisis in Lebanon, and also claimed that the calls were connected to Syria's intention to mobilize reserve units in expectation of an attack on it by Israel. On the other hand, the Lebanese daily Al-Liwa tied Syria's calls to the upcoming additional report by the International Investigation Commission into the Al-Hariri assassination, which is expected next week.

Possible Eruption of Violent Crisis in Lebanon After July 15

In the past few days, Arab and Iranian media reports have pointed to the possibility that Lebanon's current political crisis may become a violent conflict after July 15, 2007.
It should be noted that certain international events concerning Lebanon and Syria are expected in mid-July, specifically:
1. The U.N. Security Council session scheduled for July 16, 2007, which is to discuss a report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the progress in the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. This discussion will be devoted in part to the report submitted by a delegation sent by Ki-Moon to the Syria-Lebanon border to assess border supervision. According to the London daily Al-Hayat, the delegation's recommendations included the stationing of international experts in border control to aid Lebanon's security apparatuses in monitoring the Syria-Lebanon border. [1]
2. Between July 15 and 17, 2007, the submission of another report to the U.N. Security Council, by the head of the International Investigation Commission into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, Serge Brammertz.
The following are excerpts from these Arab and Iranian media reports:
The Lebanese Opposition: After Mid-July, We Will Establish a Second Government in Lebanon
For the past month, senior officials in the Hizbullah-led Lebanese government, as well as Lebanese President Emil Lahoud, have been threatening to establish a second government in Lebanon, or to take "historical" and "strategic" steps that will be announced in due course.
The crisis between the March 14 Forces and the Lebanese opposition has deepened with the approach of the legal date set for the presidential elections, which the opposition is threatening to prevent, and in light of harsh criticism by the Lebanese government and the March 14 Forces accusing Syria of being behind all the recent attempts to destabilize Lebanon.
On June 18, 2007, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to the Lebanese opposition, reported that Lahoud had postponed until mid-July the deadline on his ultimatum requiring the opposition to apprise him of their plans against the March 14 Forces. According to the paper, if the crisis is not resolved by July 15, the opposition will form the second government. [6]
On June 25, 2007, Al-Akhbar reported that the opposition had already discussed plans to form a second government and to take over the government ministries, in the event that the Al-Siniora government continued to adhere to its current positions. The paper added that the opposition had even begun to name the individuals who will form the second government.
A senior member of the Lebanese opposition told Al-Akhbar that he believed that if the second government is established, the Lebanese army will adopt a neutral stance. He estimated that the regions that would be loyal to the second government would be larger than the ones remaining loyal to Al-Siniora's government. He further said that people from the South, from the Beqa' valley, and from a large part of the Mount Lebanon region, as well as in the North, would refuse to recognize Al-Siniora's government. He added that UNIFIL would find itself facing a new reality when it discovered that Al-Siniora's government was no longer able to support its activities or ensure its security. [7]
It should be noted that an article in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, which is affiliated with the March 14 Forces, estimated that the second government's jurisdiction would include South Lebanon, that is, the area bordering Israel, and the Beqa' valley, that is, the region bordering Syria. [8]
Al-Mustaqbal Warns of Syrian-Iranian Plan for Coup in Lebanon
A series of op-eds in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustabal, by Nusair Al-As'ad, warned of a planned Syrian-Iranian coup in Lebanon. [9] According to these articles, Hizbullah was planning to launch, in the near future, a new stage in the coup being led by Syria and Iran in Lebanon, during which it would use its weapons on the domestic Lebanese front. The threats by the Lebanese opposition to establish a second government in Lebanon were part of this planned coup, and the coup was to be carried out under the banner of establishing a second government.
The articles stated that the threat voiced by Syrian President Bashar Assad during his April 2007 meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, namely, that the situation in Lebanon would "reach the point of civil war," was actually "an official declaration of the coup he is now staging in Lebanon."
Hizbullah Arms Itself in Preparation for the Next Stage; One of Its Military Targets May Be Beirut
According to the series of articles in Al-Mustaqbal, Hizbullah was continuing military preparations in a number of locations in Lebanon, as part of preparation for the next stage in the Lebanon coup. Hizbullah's weapons were for two main purposes: a) to be used in a conflict with Israel, to assist the Syrian regime in a war with Israel, or to assist Iran in a confrontation with the U.S.; and b) to be used for fighting in Beirut.
The articles said that Hizbullah's military preparations fell under several categories:
a) Military activity both south and north of the Litani River, in defiance of U.N. Resolution 1701;
b) Transformation of the Beqa' region into a military zone, so that it could be used as a war zone in Hizbullah's next confrontation with Israel and as a frontline in the next war. In this context, the articles mentioned several events: a recent military parade in the Beqa' valley, in which hundreds of Hizbullah activists participated; days-long truck traffic from the northern villages in the Beqa' towards a village where permanent military positions had been reinstated in several buildings; groups of young people who had gone to train in Iran; and earthworks in Balbeq for installing Hizbullah's private telephone communications network;
c) Hizbullah's training of activists from other organizations loyal to the Syrian regime.
Change in Iranian Policy: From Preventing Civil War in Lebanon to Adopting Syria's Position
One of the articles in Al-Mustaqbal asked whether Iran's involvement in the Lebanon coup was evidence of a change in Iranian policy, which had previously been that everything possible must be done to prevent Sunni-Shi'ite civil war in Lebanon. It read: "The dossier of Iranian-Syrian relations, and Iran's relations with influential Arab countries, has passed entirely into the hands of Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, and Iranian National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani no longer has anything to do with this issue…"
According to the articles, the positions of Larijani - who had previously been in charge of this dossier as the personal envoy of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - had been more flexible, and he had represented the position that Iran's relations with Lebanon should not depend entirely on Syria. Further, Larijani had even expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of the Syrian regime, and at the fact that "Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had closed off all horizons for a solution in Lebanon..."
The articles stated that "during his last visit to the Syrian capital, Mottaki heard from the leadership of the Syrian regime some sort of protest over the 'red line,' to which Iran had agreed in its negotiations with Saudi Arabia with respect to Lebanon [and] which was aimed at preventing civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Lebanon… The fact that Mottaki has [now] been given the entire dossier begs the question: Does this development [mean] a return to the previous stage in the relations between Iran and Syria, that is, the stage at which Iran had to go through Damascus and back it [on the Lebanese issue]?"
The articles also stated: "A review of recent Iranian activities reveals that lately Iran has not refused any Syrian request… Does Iran's current backing of a coup in Lebanon [mean] that it has reneged on the January 2007 agreement with Saudi Arabia on the 'red line'… of [preventing] civil war in Lebanon?..."
***[1] Al-Hayat (London) June 27, 2007. It should be noted that on July 2, 2007, Lebanon deployed about 300 soldiers from the internal security forces along the Syria-Lebanon border to assist the Lebanese army in supervising the border. Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon) July 3, 2007.
[2] IRNA (Iran), July 5, 2007.
[3] Al-Sinara (Nazareth), July 6, 2007.
[4] Al-Liwa (Lebanon), July 5, 2007.
[5] Al-Thawra (Syria), July 5, 2007.
[6] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), June 18, 2007, June 19, 2007.
[7] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon) June 25, 2007.
[8] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), July 2, 2007.
[9] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), June 30, 2007; July 2, 2007; July 3, 2007.

ANALYSIS-Instability stalks Lebanon a year after Israel war
08 Jul 2007 08:43:18 GMT
Source: Reuters
More By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent
BEIRUT, July 8 (Reuters) - Fear that political deadlock may spill into violence is gripping Lebanon, a year after Israel and Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas jumped into a war that shattered trust between rival Lebanese camps.
Assassins have slain two anti-Syrian politicians in the past eight months. More than 200 people have died in battles between Lebanese troops and al Qaeda-inspired militants in a Palestinian refugee camp. And a car bomber killed six U.N. peacekeepers in the south last month. Many Lebanese expect worse to come.
With the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict far from over, they also fear their country could be sucked into any U.S.-Israeli confrontation with Iran or Syria, Hezbollah's main allies.
Already many bright Lebanese youngsters have gone abroad to escape instability, despairing of politicians they see as less interested in forging a national consensus than in lining their pockets and relying on outside powers to gain advantage.
"The Lebanese public is giving in to signs of fatalism about the risk of another civil war," Guiseppe Cassini, political adviser to Italian troops serving with the U.N. force in south Lebanon, told a conference at the European parliament last week.
"The various factions are all re-arming," the veteran Italian diplomat said, referring to Christian, Druze and Sunni communities, as well as to Hezbollah, the only group formally permitted to keep its weapons after the 1975-90 civil war.
No one in Lebanon relishes a return to full-scale conflict -- although Syria's opponents accuse Damascus of destabilising its neighbour to prevent it falling into Washington's orbit and to prove to the West its ability to play spoiler in the region.
Hezbollah has sworn not to use its formidable arsenal against its internal foes -- fighting as a sectarian Lebanese militia would ruin its image in the Muslim world of heroic resistance to Israel and reflect badly on its Iranian sponsors.
Other Lebanese leaders deny they are reviving militias, but say they fear security repercussions if the rift widens between factions aligned with or against the Western-backed government.
Anti-Syrian Druze politician Walid Jumblatt says Lebanon is effectively split into two states, that led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and a Hezbollah entity acting independently.
"Our state is supported by the international community and international resolutions, the other one by the Iranian-Syrian axis," he told Reuters. "Lebanon is squeezed in the middle."
Shi'ite and Christian opposition factions contend that the government lost its legitimacy when ministers representing them resigned from Siniora's cabinet in November. Backed by pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, they say all government decisions since then are invalid.
The political paralysis is rooted in the mutual acrimony generated by last year's 34-day war that erupted after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.
The Sunni-led pro-government alliance accused Hezbollah of plunging Lebanon into war to serve Syrian and Iranian interests.
Hezbollah suspected Siniora and his allies of colluding with Israel and the United States in prolonging the conflict in hopes the Shi'ite guerrillas would be crushed and disarmed.
"After that the hatred was just unbelievable," said a Beirut-based diplomat in frequent contact with all sides. "Both parties felt an existential threat from the other."
Rhetorical barbs that flew between Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and pro-government politicians such as Jumblatt and Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri inflamed communal feelings.
"The leaders are unintentionally exacerbating sectarian tensions," said Sami Baroudi, a Lebanese political scientist. "I don't think anybody wants to destroy the country. But they want the other side to make the concessions."
If the two camps cannot agree on a national unity government or on choosing a new president later this year, the stage would be set for chronic instability and fragmentation of authority.
In those circumstances, Hezbollah might turn away from domestic politics to focus on preparing for what it believes is an inevitable renewal of conflict with the Israelis.
"They are going to war with Israel at some point anyway," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, predicting a regional conflagration.
Lebanon's border with Israel has been relatively quiet since hostilities ended in August and an expanded UNIFIL force took over the area alongside 15,000 newly deployed Lebanese troops.
Hezbollah has kept its arms out of sight in the UNIFIL zone, but security sources say it has fortified its positions just to the north and in the Bekaa Valley to the east, while replenishing its supply of rockets from Iran and Syria.
Ghorayeb said Hezbollah had only held back from military operations, for example in the disputed Shebaa Farms border area, out of political concern for national unity.
Hezbollah's Shi'ite supporters, frustrated by the government's survival and the U.S. support lavished on Siniora, had turned more radical than the leadership. "The popular base is much more hardline than Hezbollah," she added.

DEBKAfile Exclusive: Iran, Syria Hizballah feared stoking major conflagration in Lebanon to forestall Security Council reprimand on July 16
July 8, 2007, 12:11 PM (GMT+02:00)
DEBKAfile cites Western, Saudi and Lebanese intelligence as sighting hectic preparations by Iran, Syria and the Hizballah to foment major trouble in Lebanon up to and after mid-July. They intend the eruption to throw off track the July 16 UN Security Council session called to castigate their non-implementation of its Resolution 1701, especially their defiance of the clauses banning the continued arms smuggling to Hizballah from Iran and Syria.
Our Washington sources report that ahead of the session, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed to a number of European and Asian governments for contingents to bolster the UN force patrolling South Lebanon. None refused outright, only explaining they were short of military manpower. This would also apply to the United States.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources expect the ructions already gripping Lebanon to escalate from mid-July and climax in the first week of September, when the pro-Syrian president Emil Lahoud ends his tenure. Damascus, Tehran and Hizballah are aiming to bring down the pro-Western Fouad Siniora’s government in Beirut or at least shrink its jurisdiction to a number of neighborhoods in the capital similar to Nouri al Maliki’s administration in Baghdad.
Word has reached Riyadh from Damascus indicating that president Bashar Assad means to use the showdown in Lebanon to ignite war clashes in all of Lebanon and against Israel on two fronts, the Golan and the Gaza Strip.

Presidential election takes pole position in Lebanon politics
by Rita Daou
Send by e-mail Save Print With time running short, Lebanon's presidential election now tops the list of priorities in international and regional efforts to pull the country back from the brink of political chaos.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa is this week visiting Riyadh and Damascus, both key players in Lebanese politics, to try to break a deadlock in Beirut on electing a new president, an Arab diplomat told AFP.
The subject will also be at the core of an Lebanese inter-party dialogue to be hosted by Paris on July 14-16.
"Now the priority is the presidential election, given fears of an institutional crisis if it doesn't take place," explained a Western diplomat based in Beirut.
Salim Sayegh, a political science professor and delegate to the talks near the French capital, said the aim would be to narrow the gulf between the anti- and pro-Syrian camps at the heart of Lebanon's political crisis.
"The main aim of the meeting is to create a climate which allows for the holding of a presidential election while taking into account the regional and Western players," he said.
"Everyone knows that if there's no presidential election, everyone comes out a loser," said Sayegh, who will be representing former president Amin Gemayel.
In 1988, Gemayel left office without agreement on a successor and named General Michel Aoun as prime minister, leaving the country with two rival administrations.
Aoun went on to fight a devastating "war of liberation" against Syrian troops who were then deployed in Lebanon. Today, Beirutis fear a repeat of the political chaos and bloodshed that followed.
This time, "the United States and France are determined to keep Lebanon's institutions intact," said Sayegh.
Without a consensus candidate in sight for the election which is carried out in parliament, the sole declared runner is Aoun, who was exiled in Paris after the war with Syrian troops and returned when they finally withdrew in 2005.
While winning by far the most seats in Christian areas during parliamentary elections that same year, Aoun has since seen his popularity slip after his shock alliance with Hezbollah, the Shiite group heading the opposition.
Parliament's challenge is to elect a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose extended term in office runs out on November 25.
A presidential election has to take place within two months of the deadline, with the post reserved for a Christian Maronite under Lebanon's confessional system.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a leader of the pro-Syrian opposition, has set a September 25 date for a first round of voting.
A constitutional amendment would be needed to allow army chief Brigadier General Michel Sleiman, whose name is circulating as a possible compromise candidate, to run for president.
Under the constitution as it stands, top state employees can only run if they stand down at least six months before polls.
During the three decades of Syrian domination, before the February 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri widely blamed on Damascus, three amendments were passed.
The first in 1995 extended late president Elias Hrawi's term by three years, Lahoud who was also army chief at the time needed an amendment in 1998 and finally his term was also extended under Syrian pressure in 2004.
Lebanon's president is elected by a two-thirds majority in parliament, failing which a second round is held with only an absolute majority needed.
The Lebanese parliament has 126 MPs, after the assassination of two anti-Syrian deputies since November, and the anti-Syrian majority in the house has 68 seats.
While the majority controls enough seats to elect a president, it still needs the opposition to take part for the two-thirds quorum which parliament traditionally needs to convene.
Arab League mediation led by Mussa broke down earlier this year when the majority accepted the opposition's demands for a government of national unity so long as it agreed to ensure the quorum.
Hezbollah says it wants a "president by consensus" and will not join a government that only runs long enough to allow the majority to impose a president of their choice.

Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research
A Year Later, Israelis Feels Lebanon War Was Lost
July 7, 2007
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Very few Israelis are satisfied wit the outcome of last years conflict against Hezbollah, according to a poll by Maagar Mochot released by Israel Radio. Only 13 per cent of respondents think Israel won the war, 37 per cent think the Lebanon-based group emerged victorious, and 39 per cent select neither.
On Jul. 12, 2006, Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two more in a cross-border attack. The Israeli armed forces launched air strikes inside Lebanese territory to fight Hezbollah, targeting the country’s infrastructure and its airport. Hezbollah retaliated by firing rockets into several Israeli towns.
A ceasefire brokered by the United Nations (UN) came into effect on Aug. 14. Security Council Resolution 1701 calls for "a full cessation of hostilities" from both sides and allows Lebanese government troops and a 15,000-member peacekeeping force to enter into southern Lebanon during the withdrawal of Israeli forces, but sets no timetable for the disarmament of Hezbollah or the return of the two abducted Israeli soldiers.
A preview of the so-called Winograd Report—which looked into Israel’s handling of last year’s conflict with Lebanon-based Hezbollah—was released on Apr. 30. The document, drafted by a special commission appointed by the prime minister to investigate Israel’s military and political actions during the war, found Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, then defence minister Amir Peretz and then Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff Dan Halutz responsible for "very serious failings" when making decisions throughout this period.
On Jul. 2, new Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak discussed the war, saying, "Was it necessary? Was there any other way? Did politicians do everything, everything, to prevent the casualties? Was the army ready? The inquisitive (Israeli society) demands answers to these questions." Only 15 per cent of respondents think Israel’s security situation has improved a year after the conflict with Hezbollah.
Polling Data
A year after the Second Lebanon War, who do you think won the war? Israel or Hezbollah?
A year after the Second Lebanon War, has Israel’s security situation improved, worsened or remained the same?
Source: Maagar Mochot / Israel Radio
Methodology: Interviews with 512 Israeli adults, conducted on Jul. 4, 2007. Margin of error is 4.5 per cent.