November 11/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 16,9-15. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, "You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.

Releases. Reports & Opinions
A Maneuver of Many Messages.By: Walid Choucair. Dar Al-Hayat.November 10/07
Lebanese imbroglio.Counterterrorism Blog. November 10/07
Will Saudi King Abdullah opt to add to a long list of 'firsts'? The Daily Star. November 10/07
A former Mossad chief's advice on Iran and Syria.By David Ignatius. November 10/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 10/07-Naharnet
Lebanon postpones presidential vote to November 21.AFP
Israelis shoot two in Lebanon border village.AFP
Bkirki's Potential Nominees Await Backing as France Tests Assad's Pledge to Facilitate Presidential Election-Naharnet
Presidential Election Scheduled for Nov. 21, Sfeir Urged to Sponsor Maronite Gathering, Propose Candidates-Naharnet
EX-PLO member arrested in Philippine After Serving in Lebanon-Naharnet
Maronites Confront Alleged Scheme to Set Up 'Mini Iran" in Lebanon-Naharnet

Beirut hosts leaders ahead of elections.United Press International
Gueant: France 'Strongly Supports Consensus" Among Lebanese to Avoid Power Vacuum-Naharnet
March 14 to Congress: Cedar Revolution in Danger-Naharnet
U.S. Warns Syria Against Intimidation in Lebanon Elections-Naharnet
Kouchner Will Visit Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian Territories
Italy, France in Fresh Effort to End Lebanon Crisis-Naharnet
Israel Shoots Man in Ghajar Border Village-Naharnet

French, Italian foreign ministers to return to Lebanon.Monsters and
Hamas vows to seize occupied West Bank if Israel leaves
-Daily Star
US congressman calls for concrete action on Lebanon-Daily Star
France 'supports consensus' among Lebanese on presidential election
-Daily Star
Fadlallah: Washington playing a 'game' in Middle East
-Daily Star
Jumblatt claims US will back simple-majority election
-Daily Star
Massive security efforts in place ahead of election
-Daily Star
Mirza, Brammertz discuss advances in Hariri probe
-Daily Star
International tribunal to top Cabinet discussion
-Daily Star
Palestinian factions in Ain al-Hilweh want to keep Al-Qaeda at bay.(AFP)
Lebanon to build private power plants
-Daily Star
Association of Banks in Lebanon renews terms of board members
-Daily Star
Beirut Stock Exchange shows signs of revival
-Daily Star

Gueant: France "Strongly Supports Consensus" Among Lebanese to Avoid Power Vacuum

France renewed its efforts to bring Lebanon's feuding leaders to agree on the election of a new president and avoid a power vacuum that could plunge the country into further political turmoil. Envoy Claude Gueant, the French president's chief of staff, said in his one-day-visit in which he held talks with government and opposition leaders that France "strongly supports a consensus" among rival Lebanese factions on the election of the country's next president to succeed pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud who steps down Nov. 24.
Gueant urged the Lebanese to elect a new president on time and according to the constitution, "in such a way to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."
He met Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the influential Maronite Catholic Church, state-run National News Agency reported.
Under Lebanon's sectarian division of power, the president should be a Maronite. The church fears a power vacuum could threaten the Maronites' hold on the post.
Gueant also with met Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, whose Western-backed government is locked in a fierce power struggle with the pr-Syrian opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group, and conveyed a message from French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Without giving details about the message's content, Gueant said it did "not contain any names" of possible presidential candidates.
Gueant also met Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is aligned with the opposition and who expressed optimism France could break the deadlock.
"No doubt, we're counting on France's efforts, especially after the talks between Presidents Bush and Sarkozy," An-Nahar newspaper quoted Berri as saying.
Sarkozy had discussed the Lebanese presidential election Wednesday in a Washington summit with U.S. President George W. Bush, who said he was comfortable with France's attempt to break the Lebanese deadlock through direct talks with Syria.
Gueant's visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity by foreign officials here, reflecting mounting concerns that failure to elect a president could lead to a power vacuum, or possibly the creation of two rival governments.
The visit also came a few days after Gueant and Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's chief international adviser, held talks in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad whose country has been accused by the United States and Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority of blocking the presidential election.
Damascus has denied the allegation. Syria is considered a major player in Lebanon despite the withdrawal of its army from the country in 2005 in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus backs the Lebanese opposition.
Gueant said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who visited Lebanon with the Italian and Spanish foreign ministers last month, will be in Beirut early next week to continue French efforts on the presidential election. "France has distinctive relations with Lebanon and President Nicolas Sarkozy has strong relations with the Lebanese people. Therefore, he cannot watch seeing Lebanon plagued by crises," Gueant said upon arrival at Beirut airport.
"Hence, he attaches great importance to the presidential election in Lebanon being held on time and according to constitutional rules and respect of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence far from any foreign interference," he added. Lebanon is mired in its worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Parliament is to make another attempt to elect a president on Nov. 12, but as with previous attempts in September and October, the government and the opposition have been unable to reach a compromise ahead of the assembly session.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 09 Nov 07, 19:20

March 14 to Congress: Cedar Revolution in Danger
Six parliamentarians from the ruling March 14 alliance conveyed a letter to US congressman Garry Ackerman and California Republican Assembly President Mike Spence telling them that the Cedar Revolution "is in danger" of becoming marginalized. The letter, signed by Druze leader Walid Jumblat in addition to Solange Gemayel, Akram Shehayeb, Fouad el-Saad, Jawad Boulos and Hadi Hobeish, warned that Iran's or Syria's success "mean that Lebanon, the only democratic bastion in the Arab world, will cease to exit." It accused the Hizbullah-led opposition of dragging Lebanon over the past 15 months into an "unnecessary disastrous war."
The letter said it believed that Syria, through its proxies, was blocking Parliament in an effort to hinder implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions on Lebanon particularly that related to the international tribunal that would try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. "What is left of the majority (March 14) pledge to elect a president who puts Lebanon on top … and implement UN resolutions," the letter said. "Only then we could declare a new Lebanon – a coexistence, tolerant and civilized state," it added. "… All we are asking for is your support so Lebanon's resurrection can be guaranteed," the letter concluded.
Beirut, 09 Nov 07, 10:49

Mouawad for Arab-International Help to Protect Lebanon's New President from Syrian Death Threat
By Dalia Nehme
MP Naila Mouawad called for Arab and international protection for the forthcoming Lebanese president against alleged death threats by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
Mouawad, in an interview with Naharnet, said the "Syrian regime … could carry out a desperate operation to kill the forthcoming president."
"Now we have to elect a new president and we, alone, cannot protect this process and we ask the Arab and international communities to protect, first, our right in electing the president and, then, protect the outcome of this election," Mouawad said.
"We cannot set a (confrontation) plan without positive response from the Arab and international communities to our determination and will," she added.
In answering a question as to what would be done if the Hizbullah-led opposition escalated tension and resorted to violence in response to the election by March 14 MPs of a president with simple majority, Mouawad said:
"The Army commander has stressed that his troops would not remain in their barracks in case of riots. It is only normal for the Army to protect the constitution and constitutional institutions.
"Also if we were faced by riots there will be a need to close the borders with Syria, which we cannot do on our own, Pressure is being exerted on the Syrian regime to protect our right in electing a president and after electing a president."
She stressed that "Iran should come under pressure too because the only force on the ground capable of instigating more that riots is Hizbullah."
Mouawad said Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun "has decided to give up his ambition to be elected president … We welcome this approach."
"We had differences with Aoun on political issues, but with Hizbullah we differ on the question of Lebanon's sovereignty," She declared.
She accused Hizbullah of "placing the interests of Iran and Syria on top of Lebanon's interests. As for electing a new president, they haven't even signaled that they are undergoing consultations with any side on this issue."
The Assad regime, according to Mouawad, "does not want to recognize Lebanon as a sovereign and independent state. They refuse to demarcate the joint borders and to establish diplomatic ties. They also reject the international court."
"The Syrian Regime, now, wants to have a say in naming the new president or they will block elections."
Mouawad expressed the belief that the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 killing of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes, would "eventually deal with ex-President Rene Mouawad's assassination" in 1989.
She blamed her husband's assassination on "Syrian intelligence officers" who were in charge of Lebanon
for over 15 years before Damascus was obliged to pull her army out in April 2005 following the Hariri assassination.
Mouawad specifically named a Syrian intelligence officer who goes by the name of Jamaa for playing a role in her husband's assassination, noting that has also been accused of taking party in the Hariri crime.
Asked whether she thought consensus could be reached on a presidential candidate, Mouawad, said: "We need to achieve consensus on Lebanon, the Lebanon we want, consensus on the Taif accord, on topics adopted during the national dialogue process, on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, on the international tribunal, on demarcation of the borders with Syria and on disarming Palestinians based outside refugee camps and on reactivating the 1949 armistice accord with Israel.""let us achieve consensus on these issues first," she concluded. Beirut, 10 Nov 07, 10:27

Bkirki's Potential Nominees Await Backing as France Tests Assad's Pledge to Facilitate Presidential Election
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir is putting together an initiative to facilitate the election of a new head of state by proposing a list of three-to-five presidential candidates so that MPs can elect one of them.
The daily newspaper an-Nahar attributed the information to officials who held talks Friday with visiting French presidential envoy Claude Gueant.
"The Bkirki initiative, for which foreign and domestic support is being marshaled, goes along the lines of putting together a list of three-to-five presidential candidates," the report stated. Such a list, the report added, would be referred either to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri for consideration with Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, or to Parliament for the nation's legislators to elect one of them.
Gueant's mission, according to an-Nahar, focused on "testing" Syrian President Bashar Assad's response to the Bkirki initiative and awaits a "guarantee" from Berri that a Parliamentary session would be held to elect a new president succeeding Syrian-backed Emile Lahoud whose extended term in office expires on Nov. 24.
Berri was quoted by an-Nahar as telling the French envoy that it is "only normal to accept presidential candidates proposed by Bkirki on a consensus base and unanimously backed by Christians."In answering a question as to whether he and Hariri would support a candidate proposed by Bkirki, Berri said: "yes, but the important issue is to achieve Christian agreement on the consensus candidate, whom I will accept unconditionally."
An-Nahar reported that efforts are underway to arrange a Berri-Hariri meeting to "find a political exit for postponing" a parliamentary session set for Monday to elect a president. Gueant held a series of meetings during his one-day mission in Beirut Friday, stressing that Paris "strongly supports consensus" among the rival Lebanese factions on a presidential candidate.
Gueant, the French president's chief of staff, urged the Lebanese to elect a new president on time and according to the constitution, "in such a way to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."He held separate meetings with Sfeir, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Berri, who is aligned with the Hizbullah-led opposition and who expressed optimism France could break the deadlock.
"No doubt, we're counting on France's efforts, especially after the talks between Presidents Bush and Sarkozy," Berri said.
The visit came a few days after Gueant and Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's chief international adviser, held talks in Damascus with Assad whose country has been accused by the United States and Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority of blocking the presidential election.
Gueant said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who visited Lebanon with the Italian and Spanish foreign ministers last month, will be in Beirut early next week to continue French efforts on the presidential election. "France has distinctive relations with Lebanon and President Nicolas Sarkozy has strong relations with the Lebanese people. Therefore, he cannot watch seeing Lebanon plagued by crises," Gueant said upon arrival at Beirut airport.
"Hence, he attaches great importance to the presidential election in Lebanon being held on time and according to constitutional rules and respect of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence far from any foreign interference," he added. Beirut, 10 Nov 07, 09:09

Lebanon's Presidential Election on the World's Agenda
nternational pressure to resolve Lebanon's long-running political crisis is mounting with envoys heading to Beirut as the country approaches a critical deadline to elect a new president. "The international community is worried as we are getting close to November 24" when the mandate of current pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expires, a Western diplomatic source in Beirut told Agence France Presse.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy dispatched his adviser, Claude Gueant, to meet top Lebanese political and religious leaders on Friday, as his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was planning a return to Beirut next week. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema also is expected in the capital over the next seven days, and diplomatic sources told AFP that Arab League chief Amr Moussa may come back in a bid to resolve the long-running crisis.
On October 21, the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain visited Beirut but failed in their bid to break the deadlock that continues to prevent the election of a new president to succeed Lahoud. The Western-backed parliamentary majority and the opposition, supported by Syria and Iran, have been unable to agree on a successor to Lahoud. Some Lebanese officials expect parliament speaker Nabih Berri to postpone for the third time a special session to elect a new president, just before Lahoud's mandate expires.
The current administration has been paralyzed since opposition forces withdrew six ministers from the cabinet in November 2006 in a bid to gain more representation in government. Fears are running high that the standoff over the presidency could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the end of the 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled it out. Gueant met Prime Minister Fouad Saniora as well as Berri, a prominent opposition leader, and Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, the influential head of the Christian Maronite community from which presidents are traditionally selected.
"The international community is putting all its weight to help Lebanon because if the election does not take place the situation will deteriorate," said Rosana Bou Monsef, political analyst at the leading An Nahar daily. "This is a very critical period. We fear that something may happen in order to obstruct the (electoral) process," she said, in reference to a series of bombings and assassinations in Lebanon since 2004.
According to MP Butros Harb, a presidential candidate supported by the ruling coalition, "the world has become aware that if things worsen in Lebanon the entire region will suffer." The wave of attacks in Lebanon has been widely blamed on neighboring Syria, which was forced in 2005 to end 29 years of military domination in the country. Damascus denies being responsible for any attacks.
During a visit to Damascus on November 4, "Gueant relayed a firm message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: Lebanon should elect a president by its own means, without foreign interference," the Western diplomatic source said. On Thursday the United States pledged to use all means available to ensure an open and fair election of a new Lebanese president. "This is a moment of truth for Lebanon," David Welch, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said.
"We will not exhaust any means to support those who want to have a decent fair open election according to their constitution," Welch told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He said Washington would welcome a new Lebanese "president who represents the country of Lebanon much more ably than President Lahoud's regrettable tenure." "I think that Lebanese will settle for nothing less," Welch said. The ruling majority has warned that if no compromise is reached, it would proceed to the election of a new president by a simple majority between November 14 and November 24, when parliament will be in open session.
But the opposition warned that such an election would be illegitimate, and insisted that a quorum of two thirds of parliament was necessary to elect a head of state.
The majority maintains that the new president should be elected from within its ranks, or at least be "attached to the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon."
But the opposition insists on a "compromise" candidate, warning that it could establish a rival government.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 10 Nov 07, 12:32

EX-PLO member arrested in Philippine After Serving in Lebanon
Authorities arrested in southern Philippines a former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) member who had served in Lebanon, a report said Saturday.
Yussef Umar Animour, 41, is suspected of involvement with local Islamist factions. Immigration, police and military personnel arrested Animour, also known as Yusop Omar, in the town of Sibalu in the southernmost islands of Tawi-Tawi on November 1 for illegally staying in the country, an Immigration Bureau report said.
However sources in the intelligence community believe he has ties with local Muslim militants who have battled the government. Intelligence reports say that in 2000 he was spotted in a Philippine camp with insurgents of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) while the military was launching an assault against the group.
It was unclear what he was doing in the Philippines at the time of his arrest. Omar was as a communications specialist with the PLO in Lebanon from 1982 to 1984, he then went to Manila to study in 1986. However schools rejected his application because he did not have a student visa, the bureau report said.
He then stayed with Muslim friends in Manila until he left for Sabah, Malaysia in 1989, only to be jailed there for three years for posing as a Pakistani, the report added.
Omar later slipped back into the Philippines and married a Tawi-Tawi woman. Intelligence agencies say Muslim extremists with ties to the Al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah terror networks are active in the southern Philippines. Groups such as the Abu Sayyaf have been linked to the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.(AFP) Beirut, 10 Nov 07, 10:48

Maronites Confront Alleged Scheme to Set Up "Mini Iran" in Lebanon

The U.S.-based World Maronite Union has set up a special fund to finance the purchase of real estate in Lebanon to prevent Hizbullah from setting up a "mini Iran" in the multi-sect country. The union, in a statement published by Kuwait's as-Siyassa newspaper, noted that Iran has allotted 14 billion dollars to finance the purchase of property owned by Christians in south, east and Mount Lebanon to "link Shiite populated sectors with the aim of setting up the Islamic Republic of Lebanon."
The statement, issued by WMU chairman Sami el-Khoury, said "millions of square meters of land have been sold between 1992 and 2005."
Hizbullah-affiliated investors and real estate companies have purchased land from Christians in areas east of the southern provincial capital of Sidon, Jezzine and the western sector of the Bekaa valley stretching as far east as the town of Zahleh, the statement said.
It said the Iranian government has recently "allotted 30 billion dollars" to finance the project that also aims at linking the Shiite-populated south to the Shiite-populated Baalbek-Hermel Province that borders Syria. Such a project, according to the statement, also aims at linking the Hermel region to Shiite Villages in Byblos and Kesrouan provinces by purchasing the Christian-owned highlands of the western mountainous range. "Speedy efforts are underway to ….set up the mini Iran in Lebanon," the statement warned. "The WMU has decided to sound the alarm and urge Immigrant Maronite Communities and wealthy Lebanese to finance the World Lebanese Fund to confront this conspiracy." The fund, the statement said, aims at purchasing land from Christians who need to sell "to preserve the Christian nature of these areas and avoid demographic changes. Beirut, 10 Nov 07, 09:54

Israel Shoots Man in Ghajar Border Village
Israeli soldiers opened fire at two suspects they said were trying to infiltrate the Israeli-controlled part of the border village of Ghajar on Friday, wounding one of them, a military spokesman said. He said the two had been spotted carrying a sack in the village on the border with Lebanon, without elaborating. One suspect fled back into Lebanon while the other, who was wounded in the legs, was detained by the soldiers for questioning, he said. The United Nations marked the so-called Blue Line in 2000 to ensure the Israeli forces' full withdrawal from Lebanon after 22 years of occupation. It has yet to pull out of northern Ghajar, a village bisected by the Blue Line and occupied by Israeli forces during the 34-day war with Hizbullah in 2006.One third of the village is in Lebanese territory and two thirds in the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel in 1981.(AFP) Beirut, 09 Nov 07, 21:38

Jumblat Warns Against Electing 'Syrian President'
Druze leader Walid Jumblat stressed anew that the ruling majority will elect a president by a simple majority if no consensus was reached on a presidential candidate.
He warned against what he said electing a "Syrian president" who would torpedo international resolutions and the international tribunal. He said the pro-government March 14 coalition would attend a Nov. 12 parliamentary session set to elect a new head of state even if a president was not chosen. Jumblat, though, did not rule out the possibility of electing a president between Nov. 14 and Nov. 24. He hailed Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, saying electing a president from March 14 ranks would set the stage for proceeding with Lebanon's independence. Beirut, 09 Nov 07, 14:08

Italy, France in Fresh Effort to End Lebanon Crisis
Italy's foreign minister, part of an EU troika seeking to end Lebanon's political deadlock, will return to Beirut next week when parliament meets to elect a new president, his envoy said. "Mr. Massimo d'Alema will come to Lebanon next week," Cesare Ragaglini told a news conference at the Italian embassy after a week-long visit to Lebanon. Diplomatic sources told AFP there was a strong possibility that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner would also return to push for a smooth end to the long-running crisis over the presidency. On October 21, the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain visited Beirut but failed in their bid to break the deadlock that continues to prevent the election of a new president to succeed pro-Syrian incumbent Emile Lahoud. Ragaglini said he met Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and many officials from both the March 14 ruling coalition and the opposition, which is supported by Syria and Iran. "The leaders are really aware that if they do not elect a president, or that if they did not elect with consensus, there might be problems," Ragaglini said. "In the state of cooperation which characterizes the democracy in Lebanon, the election of the president is very important," he added.(AFP) Beirut, 09 Nov 07, 08:37

The Dilemma of Democracy in Lebanon
by Bilal Y. Saab and Elie D. Al-Chaer*
06 November 2007 | Common Ground News Service (CGNews)
Also reported by The Brookings Institution
Washington, DC - In the history of US-Lebanese relations, no American president has pledged to support Lebanese democracy more than G.W. Bush. No American president has invited Lebanese officials to the White House more than G.W. Bush. Why? Because there is no question in President Bush's mind that Lebanon can serve as a great example of what is possible in the broader Middle East. Lebanon, as President Bush has repeatedly said, is at the heart of his administration's Mideast democracy-promotion strategy.
Yet despite all this US attention and care for Lebanon, the biggest political coalition in that country – which has a majority in both the legislative and executive branches of government – has been powerless in passing laws and naming a president. Indeed, why has the pro-US coalition of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri failed to rule like any other majority operating in a democratic setting would?
For many, the answer seems fairly simple and obvious: the pro-Syrian/Iranian opposition, spearheaded by Hizbollah (the US-labelled terrorist group), is preventing the pro-American coalition from ruling through a variety of pressure tactics. For example, how can the majority pass a bill when the pro-opposition Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri has shut Parliament's doors? How can they elect a president when Berri refuses to convene a session in Parliament? How can the cabinet implement much needed economic reforms when six opposition ministers are boycotting its sessions? How can government generally function when the other side deems it unconstitutional?
But the situation is more complicated than that. The political objectives of Hariri's anti-Syrian coalition, while perfectly genuine and noble, have failed to materialize largely because of the very nature of the Lebanese political system. Political sectarianism (which means that senior positions in the Lebanese government, Parliament and the administration are allocated on the basis of sectarian identity), not necessarily the opposition's agenda, has let down the aspirations of all Lebanese who are calling for a free, democratic, and sovereign Lebanon. How so?
The Lebanese system sadly resembles that of world politics: it is essentially anarchic. In Lebanon, a delicate balance of power between different religious communities assures public security and political stability. While appealing on the surface, this system has its costs. Any alteration in that balance of power, whether caused by internal dissatisfaction or external intervention, can cause the government to disintegrate.
Since its independence from French mandate in 1943, government in Lebanon has been consultative. The founders of the Republic realized early on that the consultative system was best suited to lead to cooperative and stable life. The events of March 14, 2005 notwithstanding (when more than one million Lebanese demonstrated in unity against Syrian presence and control), attempts to arouse a truly national consciousness have so far failed to overcome particularistic suspicions.
Does this mean that Lebanon should return to, and settle for, consensus politics and abandon its liberal democratic aspirations? The answer is no. Lebanon is not destined to balance political stability with full-fledged democracy. No complex modern society can live and grow solely on consensus; it needs governmental institutions capable of making decisions which consensus alone cannot make.
But if we believe that anarchy is what states make of it, then we should have confidence in the Lebanese people's ability to escape from this condition of non-statehood and peacefully transition from a limited democracy to a developed one.
The governing coalition in Lebanon should not be faulted for its aspirations, but for how it came about and tried to pursue them. By now its leaders should have learned the lessons of the past and appreciated the traps of the system. Simply put, Hariri's coalition cannot rule without negotiating with the other and cannot impose its will or ideas on the opposition. This obviously goes for the opposition too. Hence the critical need to come out of this current mess by electing an independent president who can oversee the transition from a system of particularistic politics (the current one) to majoritarian politics (the one aspired for). The United States can help Lebanon fulfill that project by respecting the balance of power between its religious communities and continuing to protect it from undue Syrian intervention.
Ambitious and wholesale changes of the Lebanese political system as proposed (whether consciously or unconsciously) by Hariri's coalition cannot take place overnight or without elite consensus, since elites are the agents of change in Lebanon. Gradualism is the only steady and desirable path for Lebanon toward full-fledged democracy.
* Bilal Y. Saab is a senior research assistant at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Elie D. Al-Chaer is an attorney and counselor at law and founder of the Center for Democracy in Lebanon. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at

Lebanese imbroglio
By Olivier Guitta
While the deadline for the election of a president is looming fast in Lebanon, the situation remains as murky as possible. World diplomats are trying to deal with this potentially explosive issue. The potential role of Christian General Aoun might turn out to be quite important. For proof, please read on two excerpts (full stories available to subscribers) of two recent stories featured in The Croissant:
1- Lebanese Christian General Aoun, potential next target?
The Beirut antenna of a Western intelligence service recently sent a confidential and secret note to its European headquarters stating that General Aoun is allegedly threatened and that he is sitting at the top of the list of potential targets of political assassinations.
This document bases its analysis on the evolution of Aoun’s policy. In fact, Aoun has been recently accused by its allies of “getting closer to the US again” after he met last week with US ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman.
Indeed some in the US administration still believe that Aoun would be a good president to disarm Hezbollah in accordance to UN resolution 1559.
Aoun also thinks that its allies [mostly Hezbollah and Syria] have exploited him without supporting its candidacy to the presidency.That is exactly why Hezbollah and Syria are concerned about Aoun’s allegiance.
2- General Aoun losing its main financier?
Since he has become an Hezbollah ally, General Aoun does not hold the US close to his heart [The Croissant’s note: this is pretty ungrateful because no country helped more Aoun than the US when his only goal was to kick Syria out of Lebanon.]
In an interview with Le Temps over the summer, the Christian general accused Washington of destabilizing Lebanon.
[President] Bush said he would freeze the assets of those who work against the legitimate Lebanese government. Obviously Aoun felt threatened and said "some of our supporters are getting scared".
According to the brand new revelations of the Kuwaiti newspaper Ar Rai, Wadih Absi is one of Aoun’s main financiers.
Absi is a Lebanese Christian who made a fortune in Kuwait: he arrived there as a worker and is today at the helm of one of the largest construction companies in the region: the First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Company (FKTC).
November 9, 2007 11:42 AM Print

A Maneuver of Many Messages
Walid Choucair - Al-Hayat - 09/11/07//
Did recent maneuvers in South Lebanon over the past few weeks achieve their objectives? And were the implicit messages received by the target audience - be it Israel, Hizbullah or others?
Over the past year, the Middle East has witnessed constant maneuvers, from the Persian Gulf to the banks of the Mediterranean, that have not been exclusively military. Indeed, the nations of the region are witnessing daily events akin to political maneuvers, for few of today's leaders and statesmen speak their minds about the region's crises.
The latest addition to the list of daily and constant maneuvers, however, comes from Hizbullah. The party engaged in what it claims were maneuvers in south Lebanon and areas of south Beirut - something unprecedented or, at the least, something that has never been announced.
If Hizbullah's maneuvers involved mobilizing several frontline brigades - a reply to Israel's recent maneuvers along the Lebanese border and the occupied Golan - they came as part of a contest over the military and security initiative. However, the Israeli and Hizbullah maneuvers both followed maneuvers conducted by UN forces in south Lebanon and by UNIFIL, in conjunction with the Lebanese army, in the eastern part of south Lebanon and in the Israeli, Lebanese and 'internationally' contested region of Ghajar.
Hizbullah's leadership inflated the size of the maneuver, leading some foreign diplomats to accuse them of "exaggerating." Information was leaked that Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah led the maneuvers personally and that thousands of his followers took part (while others reports indicate that participation was in the hundreds, in the absence of any public evidence) and that coordination was done over wireless networks. Hizbullah's leadership decided to transmit the message to the Israelis verbally instead of visually because there was simply nothing to observe: The party's unit leaders received orders and informed the leadership that they had been carried out; the government moved to downplay the maneuver's significance and size; and UNIFIL did the same because it witnessed nothing on the ground and attributed it to "propaganda." In Israel, reactions varied between ignorance and threats of retaliation, as part of a underhanded effort to justify its daily violations of Lebanese airspace and of Resolution 1701.
The deliberate vagueness about the nature of Hizbullah's maneuver serves to send messages in several military and political directions, to several sides involved in Lebanon as an arena of conflict. If the interpretation is that it comes in lieu of regional forces convincing one another that they hold the initiative, then the messages are many.
In addition to sending a message to Israel, Hizbullah traded its usual yearly military operations in the Shebaa area for an alleged maneuver owing to the presence of UNIFIL in the south.
The party's identity as a political and military force linked with the regional struggle makes the following additional messages implicit in the maneuver:
- It is an Iranian message to Israel, which recently launched a massive international campaign against Iran's nuclear agenda
- It is a message to the United Nations a few days after Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's reference to Hizbullah's violation through rearming of Resolutions 1559 and 1791. It also follows visits by three European ministers confirming their commitment to deploying in south Lebanon, in order to inform them of the party's continuing ability to operate in spite of this.
- It is a Syrian message to the international community, which has been pressuring it, that the former is capable of reigniting a front of the regional conflict should this pressure not abate
- It is a domestic message at a time of a political conflict that Hizbullah may attribute to an underestimation of its military capabilities and reach, aimed at reminding its opponents to take this into account and its followers - in case an undesirable political agreement is reached - that the party's real struggle is in the south and on a regional level, since the extent of its arms and training exceeds any demands Lebanon may pose

Sources: Feds Target Hezbollah Cell in L.A.

By James Gordon Meek
Today we report in the New York Daily News about a bizarre case unfolding in the Los Angeles communities Bell and Cudahy, where a special task force collared a dozen Arab-American and Latino suspects involved in a seemingly small-time drug and counterfeit clothing ring. While on the surface it doesn't appear to be terrorism-related, our sources say Operation Bell Bottoms targeted a "classic case of terrorism financing," with the defendants smuggling profits from selling dope and counterfeit goods in L.A. back to Iran-backed Shiite terror group Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.
Neither the press release by the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California or court filings by the government specifically mention Hezbollah or terrorism. But one clue is found in the affidavits filed in court, which are signed by prosecutors from the Justice Department's National Security Division and by an FBI official assigned to "Counterterrorism Squad 4" in L.A., a task force brimming with agents from the FBI, DEA, IRS, Department of Homeland Security and local cops. CT-4 isn't known for making drug and counterfeiting cases.
The counterfeit designer duds were sold out of local stores by the defendants from Bell and Cudahy. My colleague Jeff Anderson has written astounding stories that suggest no criminal activity in Cudahy is done without the blessing - and tax being paid to - the Mexican mafia and 18th Street gang. Also, while unmentioned so far in court papers, Hezbollah is well known to have profited from the illegal sale of name-brand counterfeits produced in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. The Daily News has reported on similar scams before that were proven in federal court to be Hezbollah fundraising operations. Often they have involved smuggling cigarettes and other goods, as CT Blog contributing expert Matthew Levitt blogged about yesterday.
As the possibility of a confrontation with Iran arises, so have fears that Hezbollah operatives involved in the U.S. fundraising schemes could turn operational and attack at Tehran's behest. While that may be a remote possibility, a federal case in 2003 fueled such speculation. Defendant Mahmoud Youssef Kourani was accused by federal prosecutors in Detroit of being a Hezbollah soldier trained in "weaponry, spycraft and counterintelligence." Kourani's brother was Hezbollah's security chief in southern Lebanon. November 9, 2007 11:59 AM Link TrackBack (0) Print

Hezbollah Financing Through Criminal Activity

By Matthew Levitt
A two-year counterterrorism and drug investigation culminated earlier this week with the arrest of a dozen individuals in Los Angeles. Authorities reportedly seized 30 kilograms of cocaine and counterfeit merchandise valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the LA Times, at least one of the suspects is tied to Hezbollah and was referenced - though not by name - in 2005 congressional testimony by an official with the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
I testified at that hearing as well. As I noted then, Hezbollah depends on a wide variety of criminal enterprises, ranging from smuggling to fraud to drug trade to diamond trade in regions across the world, including North America, South America, and the Middle East, to raise money to support Hezbollah activities.
In the United States, law enforcement officials are investigating a variety of criminal enterprises suspected of funding Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including the stealing and reselling of baby formula, food stamp fraud, and scams involving grocery coupons, welfare claims, credit cards, and even unlicensed t-shirts sales. U.S. officials believe "a substantial portion" of the estimated millions of dollars raised by Middle Eastern terrorist groups comes from the $20 million to $30 million annually brought in by the illicit scam industry in America. A senior U.S. law enforcement official concluded, "There is a significant amount of money moved out of the United States attributed to fraud that goes to terrorism."
Hezbollah and other terrorist groups also traffic narcotics in North America to fund their activities back in the Middle East. A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation into a pseudoephedrine smuggling scam in the American Midwest led investigators as far as Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries, including bank accounts tied to Hezbollah and Hamas. DEA chief Asa Hutchinson confirmed, "a significant portion of some of the sales are sent to the Middle East to benefit terrorist organizations."Long before al Qaeda was suspected of converting cash into easily transportable commodities like diamonds, Hezbollah learned to raise significant funds by dealing in so-called 'conflict diamonds' in Sierra Leone, Liberia , and Congo.