September 6/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 4,38-44. After he left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon's mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. And demons also came out from many, shouting, "You are the Son of God." But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Messiah. At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, "To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent." And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Iran's plan for Iraq.By Walid Phares,World Defense Review - USA. September 5/07
Lebanon: The civil war has begun.y Ben Judah -ISN - Zurich,Switzerland. September 5/07
Berri's Initiative: The Best Possible. By: Hazem Saghieh. Dar Al-Hayat. September 5/07
If You Suppport Terrorists, You Are a Terrorist.By: by Hilda E. Davis. The Conservative Voice.September 5/07
Cut Out the Hypocrisy on Terrorism. By: Yossi Melman/Washington Post. September 5/07

Private talks could help buttress Berri's public initiative. The Daily Star.September 5/07
The speaker's questions which the US government should not answer.By Chibli MallatSeptember 5/07 
Russia is building up its power on feet of clay.By Joschka Fischer.September 5/07 

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 5/07
Merkel Urges Syria to recognize Lebanon, Supports Presidential ...Naharnet
Lebanon seeks German aid in arming, training army to fight militants.Ha'aretz
Pope meets with Syrian VP, discusses Iraq refugees, Christians and ...International Herald Tribune

Berri Calls MPs to Elect a President on Sept. 25-Naharnet
Bomb Defused at residential Building-Naharnet
Lebanon Celebrates Army's Victorious Return from Battleground
Saniora: Victory over Fatah Islam Helps Bring Peace to Lebanon-Naharnet
Lebanon Still Awaits March 14 Response to Berri's Initiative-Naharnet
Government Seeking to Use Army Victory in Lebanon's Interest-Naharnet
Solana Calls for the Election of a President In Line with the Constitution-Naharnet
Lebanon speaker sets September 25 for presidential vote.AFP
US praises Lebanon victory over Islamists.Africasia

EU wants Lebanon presidential poll free of interference.AFP
Solana: EU supports timely andconstitutional presidential polls-Daily Star
Murr warns fresh political crisis could mar army's victory-Daily Star
Lebanese-German border force expected to start work soon-Daily Star
Moallem slams America's 'unconstructive' role-Daily Star
March 14 denies internal divisions over Berri's presidential initiative-Daily Star
Palestinian groups rule out clashes at Ain al-Hilweh-Daily Star
Southern homes still in tatters as owners await compensation-Daily Star
Seminar advises Lebanese businesswomen-Daily Star
Amid the fanfare after Nahr al-Bared, some voices call for reconciliation-Daily Star
Sidon expands dump despite environmental risks-Daily Star
Getting kids talking: UNDP-sponsored retreat forges dialogue among youth of different backgrounds-Daily Star
'Lebanon is a melting pot that never really melted' -Daily Star
Ramadan will tell the tale in Iraq - senior US general-Daily Star
French first lady describes 'mission of mercy' in Libya.(AFP)
Iran warns of 'problems' if US attacks.(AFP)
Saudi reformists face trial for 'inciting protest'.(AFP)
Tight-lipped ceremony: a Baghdad marriage.(AFP)


The speaker's questions which the US government should not answer
By Chibli Mallat
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
First person by Chibli Mallat
The absurd, Ubuesque dimension of Lebanese constitutional life knows no bound. After three years of a coercively prolonged mandate for a president whom no respectable ambassador and no decent Lebanese is prepared to visit, Emile Lahoud continues to assign himself a role in deciding how the country should look like when his usurped power comes to end. Meanwhile, after he physically shut down Parliament for over a year, Speaker Nabih Berri has been insistently requesting from the United States government answers to his questions over the Lebanese Constitution.
Why should the speaker need to ask a foreign power, in that case an unfriendly power for him and his camp, for their views over an eminently domestic matter? Not even local Gauleiters sought responses from Berlin, let alone London, before going about their government business; at least they did not do so publicly.
Let us suspend our disbelief and give Berri, a lawyer who knows his trade, the benefit of the doubt over his latest democratic erring. Let's imagine that his questions are valid in a post-modern global world where democratic countries share a common denominator, here Lebanon and the US, and are willing to learn from each other.
In a lecture given in San Francisco in 1995, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, one of the icon figures of American contemporary law, formulated three central points as lynchpins for democracy: free choice by the majority of the people of their leadership, respect for basic rights, especially the freedom of expression for the press, and an independent judiciary that protects these rights.
Let's apply the three tests to the Speaker's questions.
Question 1. Does the US government consider that a presidential election requires a half or two thirds for the parliamentary quorum ?
The hairsplitting over Article 34 of the Lebanese Constitution, which sets the quorum at half, or over Article 49, which stipulates that the president requires two-thirds of the vote for the first term, is beside the point. Lebanese taxpayers pay MPs to perform their job, which is to meet as requested by the Constitution, debate, pose questions to the government, reject or approve its performance in a vote of confidence, cast their votes to pass bills, select half of the members of the Constitutional Court, and vote for a new president once every six years. For over a year, they have received their salaries without doing their job. People do not elect MPs and pay them to stay at home, and this includes presidential elections. An MP could vote blank if he wishes, but he cannot abstain from coming to Parliament. The issue of the quorum should simply not arise, the less so if it is designed to frustrate the cardinal principle of a regular change of their leadership by the people.
Question 2. Does the US government accept that Lebanon amend its Constitution again, in the hallowed formula 'for once and exceptionally' ? True, a Constitution is made by human beings, it is not sacred. But amendments are serious business, and the cardinal principle for any amendment is to enhance democracy, including freedoms and basic rights understood as universal norm in Justice O'Connor's second element. What is the right that needs to be defended in the speaker's purported amendment? Amending the Constitution 'for once and exceptionally', as has happened in this country three times in less a decade to extend the mandate of incumbents against the central principle of democracy or allow those not entitled to be president short of having resigned their official position way in advance of the mandate, is grotesque. It stands blatantly against the first democratic principle. Further, it takes the form of a bill of attainder. A bill of attainder is when a law designed to punish or reward (attain) one specific person, which is its worst possible use. It is expressly prohibited in the US Constitution.
Question 3. Does the USG seek a consensual president, or is it happy to allow one group (read here the majority) to prevail ? The issue is so absurd that it will be hard to find someone in the world even posing it. Any Constitution and any election require contenders, competitors, and a vote. What is democracy for otherwise ? If someone can convince the Lebanese, through their freely elected MPs, that he or she should get 80 percent of their votes, so much the better. In that case, there will be a loser, or more, with the 20 percent remaining. Same for 51 against 49 percent. This is a basic majoritarian principle of any democracy.
The point is that any democrat in the world knows this. It's just odd that a speaker of a country which is sovereign and prides itself as the only democracy in the Arab world would need to ask the American, or any other government for that matter, to answer such basic questions.
**Chibli Mallat is SJ Quinney professor of law at Utah University, EU Jean Monnet professor at USJ, and a presidential candidate. His campaign has just published its latest, sixth book, "Presidential Talk," at Dar al-Jadid.

If You Suppport Terrorists, You Are a Terrorist
by Hilda E. Davis
September 04, 2007 01:56 PM EST
I recently read an article where Michigan Representative John D. Dingell, made the statement: “he wasn’t for or against Hezbollah”. I found this a rather strange and insulting comment, and wondered if this man was crazy. It was especially strange coming from a “Politician”. Then I was forced to realize, perhaps he was buttering up his “Muslim Voters.”
After getting over my initial shock and anger that an American Politician would make such a comment, I remember thinking: “This man, a Michigan Representative, a Politician, an individual that should represent the U. S. Citizens, the American people of his state, and their safety and welfare, how could he make such a statement? How do the people of Michigan feel about this comment? I’m just glad he’s not a North Carolina Representative, and if he were, I’d rather he be gay than a terrorist supporter. This way, I might still vote for him.
I’ll tell you how I felt, and it didn’t take long to reach my conclusion. This man should be removed from the United States as a Traitor. How can he represent the United States and its people, and not be against Hezbollah?
It’s one thing to be a Democrat or a Republican, these are our political parties, but the last I heard, Hezbollah was the most dangerous Terrorist organization in the world. This organization has caused more harm to American’s nationwide than any other terrorist organization. I can’t help but believe the Muslim supporter’s of Dingell are well aware of Hezbollah’s crimes, and support their actions, i.e., The most obvious war crime Hezbollah has committed is firing rockets into towns in Israel.
Now, why would I doubt Dingell would make the same supportive remark about Hezbollah while speaking with the “American Jewish Committee.” Is this is what’s called “Politically Correct,” or being out and out two faced?
What was he thinking? Does he support Hezbollah, if so, let him carry his butt to Lebanon, or any other far eastern country, and do his supporting there. We certainly don’t need it here in the United States.
Now bear in mind, I’m a resident of North Carolina, not Michigan. In trying to make connections between North Carolina and Michigan, I just happen to remember that North Carolina’s “Appalachian State’s football team whipped Michigan State yesterday, that’s a good thing. That’s a sport, not a terrorist offense, and didn’t cheat Michigan out of their cigarette tax money.
Then I recall that part of the Hezbollah cell in North Carolina was convicted in Federal Court for smuggling our low taxed cigarettes to Michigan where they have a high tax rate. The 18 tried and convicted for cigarette smuggling, money laundering, fraudulent marriages, and funneling money to Hezbollah, with the leader Mohammoud Hammoud being sentenced to 155 years in Federal Prison. Now, that’s a really good thing, not to mention it took another illegal alien off our streets, but at the same time, we’ve got to feed and cloth him, pay guards to watch him, and cover any medical expense he may have….now, that’s not a good thing.
Now we’ll give a few hoorahs to Michigan. Over the past few years, the feds there have finally rounded up a few of John Dingell’s supporters and charged them with basically the same crimes: i.e., cigarette smuggling, money laundering, funneling money to Hezbollah, etc. Some of the supporters convicted in Michigan for the same crimes as the North Carolina group, with the most serious of the charges being funneling money to Hezbollah. Granted, Michigan lost the income from the cigarette tax on the cigarettes brought there, which isn’t a good thing. With Hezbollah coming out the winner. There’s no doubt, they got a large amount of the profits. Ooops, I stand corrected, perhaps a lot of the profits went to support John D. Dingell, but that’s something the Michigan authorities will have to check out, that’s not my job.
FOOTNOTE: Wake up America, this is no longer the 50’s 60’s or even the 90’s, this is a whole new world we live in. Open your eyes, and look around you. Be aware of what’s happening in your own back yard. Does your state allow corporations to be formed by Illegal Aliens? Do they issue a Business License to Illegal Aliens, allowing them to open their own business, all while here illegally, never requiring any evidence of the individual’s legality in our country?

Cut Out the Hypocrisy on Terrorism
By: Yossi Melman/Post Global
September 5/07
To negotiate or not negotiate with terrorists is not the question. The real issue at stake is the degree of governments’ hypocrisy and the double standards they uphold. Time and again over the last three decades, many governments have stated publicly that they would never allow themselves to be blackmailed nor surrender to terrorists' demands. Leaders made emotional appeals, delivering passionate speeches for domestic and international audiences, about how they would stand firm. Their rhetoric was very high. Their actions were very disappointing.
In reality and in practice, governments have done exactly the opposite of their preaching and promise. President Ronald Reagan and his administration pledged publicly in the 80's to fight terrorism. Secretly, his officials were talking to Hezbollah and eventually clinched the arms-for-hostage deals – also known as Irangate or Iran-Contra affair – to release American hostages. This is only one example of U.S. administrations' double standards. Of course, the U.S. is not alone. The French, the British, the Italians, the Germans, the Japanese and, now, the South Koreans have followed suit in their dealings with either local or foreign terrorist groups. Governments paid in arms, in cash, in commercial benefits, in oil, in goods, and above all, in releasing terrorists from jails.
There is no better example than the behavior of my own government. Israel has gained the reputation as the high priest in its war against terrorism. It is depicted worldwide as a country that refuses to bend to terrorist demands. In many circles, Israel is considered a role model in that regard. To a certain degree, Israel does deserve such credit. It is surrounded by hostile nations. It must confront terrorist groups that have not hesitated to use the most vicious, cruel and inhumane methods to inflict death and destruction against Israeli civilians. In response, Israel has developed anti-terrorist weaponry and doctrines that are studied and adopted in many parts of the world. Israel has even sent its commandos on daring operations to rescue prisoners and hostages.
But at the same time, Israel has proved that its heart and mouth are not on equal footing. In public, many Israeli governments swore to fight terrorists to the bitter end. But in several cases Israeli governments have agreed to cave in. In 1985, Israel swapped more than 1100 Palestinian terrorists for three of its soldiers who had been captured by a Palestinian terrorist group. In 2004, Israel released dozens of Arab and Palestinian prisoners and terrorists in exchange for the bodies of three of its soldiers and a former colonel whom Hezbollah was holding in Lebanon. The deal went through even after the public learned that the colonel was a criminal and a drug dealer.
The truth is that governments are not motivated by the dilemma of whether or not to negotiate. Instead, they operate by a variation of the Prisoners' Dilemma, taken from game theory: they fear that if they don't talk to the terrorists, they will lose out to someone else who will.
What really is needed is an international consensus, an international acceptance that no one talks to terrorists. This should be not a theoretical concept but a very practical decision, shared by all governments around the world. But apart from sounding utopian, this idea simply cannot be implemented as long as there are governments and states sponsoring and supporting terrorists. So my advice to governments is cut out the hypocrisy. To quote an immortal line from, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", an Italian western B-movie from the 70's, starring Clint Eastwood, “If you come to kill, kill – don't talk.”
Governments must do what they say they’ll do. If they are convinced that talking to terrorists would only increase terror, they should not negotiate with them, regardless of what might result. If they believe that negotiating with terrorists is inevitable because the public can't bear the consequences of doing otherwise, so be it – but they should say so, rather than pretend to do otherwise.
***Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. more »
Main Page | Yossi Melman Archives | PostGlobal Archives

Kucinich Continues Middle East Peace Mission in Lebanon
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Presidential candidate and Congressman Dennis Kucinich met with Lebanese Prime Minister
Fouad Siniora here last night for a wide-ranging discussion that included possible diplomatic initiatives in which Lebanon could participate in a
peace plan that could bring security to Israel.
The two spoke at length about the imperative of peacefully resolving issues relating to the rights of Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in order to bring about long term peace and security for Israel.
"The Prime Minister and I agree that a fair, just and equitable resolution of matters between the Israelis and Palestinians must be seen as central to establishing peace not only in the region but throughout the world," Kucinich said.
"America must lead the way in this regard, by taking an even-handed approach in the Middle East which includes establishment of two states, together with the protection of the social, economic and political rights of Palestinians simultaneous with mandatory, firm long-term structural security assurances for Israel," Kucinich said.
While meeting with the Prime Minister, Kucinich noted that the Lebanese army was concluding operations against a terrorist group that had been attempting to gain a foothold in one of the Palestinian camps. Kucinich said he was very impressed by the commitment of the Lebanese government's commitment to regional and international stability by taking action against groups trying to foment unrest and undermine the peaceful, diplomatic resolution of grievances.
Wrapping up the third day of a planned six-day fact finding and peace initiative in several Middle Eastern countries, Kucinich, who has a large Lebanese-American community in his Congressional District, said he and the Prime Minister also discussed the upcoming elections in Lebanon. Siniora stressed the importance of his country's religious, political, and ethnic diversity being represented in the decision-making process. "Lebanon has a very delicate structure," Siniora said. "We are a mosaic. It is what gives Lebanon diversity, and it is what makes it unique. It shows that people can live together," Siniora told the Congressman.
Also yesterday, Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth had a special audience with Lebanon's leading Christian cleric, Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Church. Sfeir, who has visited the United States to meet with President George Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, underscored his commitment to the philosophy of peaceful, multi-cultural co-existence that Lebanon embodies. "Lebanon is a message of freedom for all people of West and East living together,"Cardinal Sfeir told the Kuciniches. "We have to appreciate living together with persons who are not of our faith or religion," he told them.
The Kuciniches recounted their own visit to southern Lebanon last year and the deeply emotional experience of walking through the rubble of the bombed-out village of Qana. They plan to visit the village again todaybefore returning to Beirut for a televised "Town Hall Peace forum" this evening.
While in Beirut yesterday, the couple also met with a large contingent from Democrats Abroad Lebanon, a branch of the U.S Democratic Party's official international arm. "American citizens who live here and work here know firsthand about the failings of the Bush Administration's foreign policy. Their personal insights are exceptionally valuable in understanding the effects and the implications of the decisions that our elected leaders make from the comfort of their offices in Washington, D.C."
SOURCE Kucinich for President 2008

Berri's Initiative: The Best Possible
Hazem Saghieh- Al-Hayat - 04/09/07//
If the Lebanese were a real "people" enjoying a consensus-based agreement on certain fundamentals, while differing over the how's and why's, Nabih Berri's initiative would be considered bad and would have deserved to be met with distrust or suspicion. This initiative prevents the translations of wide-ranging agreements, if they exist, into institutional, symbolic and programmatic form. But if the Lebanese, contrary to the rosy picture they paint of themselves, were two political peoples at the least, and several ideological peoples, Berri's initiative is reasonable and sound, and perhaps promising.
This is because an "intersection" might become possible, while "concord" or "agreement," in light of the division over the meanings of the nation and sovereignty, will not.
Without getting involved in the customary Lebanese exaggerations upon describing the positives, or negatives, one simple correction is in order: as long as the lack of unanimous agreements gives the outside world the biggest say in designating the path of this nation, the ability of the initiative, any initiative that is "made in Lebanon" is of limited magnitude by definition. However, under the ceiling of this "limited" situation, we can see a good aspect of the initiative: it helps avoid an institutional vacuum, and thus defuses the domestic situation in terms of the possible repercussions of chaos and violence. The possibility of avoiding death and destruction, for one day, deserves to see everything possible done to make this happen. The speaker of Parliament's initiative excludes from the presidency of the Republic anyone seen by 14 or 8 March as extremist, while allowing for the downtown area to be cleared of protestors and reactivated as a financial centre.
Further, the initiative can be described as democratic, in two aspects. One is that it responds to the desire of the huge Lebanese majority of avoiding a war (here, we see that the Lebanese can still achieve a negative unanimous agreement in return for their inability to perform positive agreements). The second is that it reflected the balance of power in society, as both 14 and 8 March appear completely unable, even if they deny it, of achieving the maximum of their "program."
Each of the two big camps can find, in Berri's initiative, elements that serve its interest. The 14 March group strips away all of the doubts about the legitimacy of their government, the Cabinet of Fouad Siniora, but adds to it a president of the Republic who cannot be as bad as Emile Lahoud (is there such a person?). The 8 March group keeps Lebanon suspended, and dealing with its fundamentals postponed. This, in the end, is the essence of "their program." But as long as they, unfortunately, gather half of the Lebanese under their banner, and as long as half of the Lebanese are enticed by the suspension or freezing of their country, a political settlement must be concluded with them, since being seperated from them, for realistic and practical reasons, is impossible.
None of this does away with the possibility of an assassination here, and a bomb there, but such acts would be deprived of the energy to start a civil war. Of course, it does not do away with the regional developments, in their reflection on Lebanon, although this is beyond the power of Berri and his initiative, and beyond the power of all Lebanese, in view of the current, deep division in the country. As we wait for the external situation to modify the balance of power among local players, this remains the best possible

Lebanon: The civil war has begun
A cold civil war between pro-western government and Hizbollah-led opposition reaches a turning point as a presidential vote that will tip the balance of power nears.
By Ben Judah in Beirut for ISN Security Watch, with additional reporting by Jonathon Tabet (04/09/07)
St Martyr's Square is empty and downtown Beirut is closed-up and silent as the tourist season that never came draws to a close. Armed policemen are positioned at every corner, soldiers waiting for violence chew gum behind roadblocks as the seat of government in the Grand Serail is encircled by the nine-month-old tent city, built by opposition protestors, that now festers in the summer heat.
The silence is filled with crackling tension as campaign posters and graffiti demand diametrically opposed realities for tomorrow, marking out the frontlines of the deepening struggle for Lebanon's political identity.
The lines of division
Nadim Shehadi, a senior advisor on Palestinian affairs to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the British-based Chatham House's Lebanon Representative, spoke to ISN Security Watch at his Beirut office about the struggle.
"Lebanon is a divided country, one bitterly at odds over the future of the state. The government, led by the Sunni Muslim Hariri Bloc and its Christian allies, espouse a Riviera vision for the country: One where a weak and independent central state at peace with its neighbors and open to the West returns to what the country was before the civil war," he said.
"The opposition, dominated by the Shia Muslim Hizbollah and Amal, sees Lebanon as a fortress on the frontline in the war with Israel and the United States, closed to the West. France and Saudi Arabia have been the chief investors in the Riviera, Iran and to a lesser extent Syria are the stakeholders in the Citadel."
Shehadi added that Lebanon is as much in danger from itself as it is from other Middle Eastern powers.
"There are many - and there is no conclusive evidence on the matter - that suggest that Hizbollah's decision to kidnap Israeli soldiers last year constituted an effective coup d'etat forcing its agenda on the population. There is also evidence that Israel enacted a premeditated attack, again showing Lebanon's vulnerability to foreign powers today.
" It is also plausible," Shehadi said, " to conclude that last summer's wars - in Lebanon, Gaza - and the upsurge of violence in Iraq, were coordinated in a regional conflict. This could happen again."
Depths of difference
Leah Mansour is a trendy, 20-something daughter of the Lebanese elite. Chic and westernized in fashion and taste, she feels her way of life is at risk.
"Let me tell you what it was, that day, the 14th of March. There were a million and a half people all gathered in St Martyrs Square - not Christians, not Muslims - all Lebanese.
"It was the day we forced the Syrians out, and we had only just heard Gibran Tueani promising us all that we would never fight, Muslims and Christians, against ourselves again, when we turned around to see Hizbollah had already organized a million peasants to have a 'Thank you Syria' demonstration. It dashed my hopes.
"There were two camps, two nations. And all I can say is thank you to Israel for having made them so much stronger!"
During a taxi ride to Dahiya, the driver shared his opinion. "This is Shia. This belongs to [Hizbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. To Hizbollah. If I have to fight them, I fight. But Lebanon has had many wars and I am tired," he said.
Ibrahim Moussawei used to direct Al Manar, Hizbollah's TV channel, and now runs Alintiqad, the organization's weekly publication. He emerged as one of Nasrallah's chief spokesmen during the July war.
Speaking to ISN Security Watch, he outlined their position. "The current government is illegitimate as it contains no Shia representation. It is not serving the whole Lebanese people. This must change."
Anan, a member of Hizbollah and a veteran of its struggles, is more visceral than his superiors. "The government is for America and Israel. It's a puppet. It's not for the Shia, it's not for Lebanon. It has to go. That is why have been protesting in this tent city for months. We will win over them - I promise you!"
The storm clouds of crisis
The crisis began when negotiations about increasing Hizbollah's power in the cabinet broke down, over opposition demands that would have given them an effective veto over all decisions. As a result, Hizbollah and Amal pulled out of the government, making it unconstitutional given that it no longer had Shia representation in line with Lebanon's sectarian system. Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament and leader of Amal, has since then refused to let parliament convene.
Since then, the state has been paralyzed and basic services and urgently needed reforms have ground to a halt. As a result, economic collapse has continued, with the economy now in full recession. With under a month to go to a scheduled parliamentary vote to decide the next president, the system is under severe strain. The constitutional crisis that has erupted is so unclear and fragile that without compromise and in light of the regional situation, the cold civil war could turn hot.
Jacqueline Ghorayeb, an aging grand dame who has lived through the history of Lebanon's tumultuous statehood, is gravely concerned about the effects of the economic meltdown. "All of those who are intelligent, modern, turned on and energetic have left.
"The only ones who are left are the uneducated, violent and terrified poor. They have always fought, and now that the middle classes have gone, there are only the priests, the imams and the super-rich who will lead them. It is a dire situation."
The two sides have made no moves toward compromise. The country is becoming more increasingly sectarian and trigger-happy. Clashes at the Arab University in Beirut during the general strikes organized by the opposition in December raised fears that under the shadow of Iraq, Sunni-Shia violence could spill over into Lebanon.
The leadership of the slain former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri and the economic stability that Lebanon enjoyed during the past decade have turned the overwhelmingly urbanized Sunni population into one of the most westernized and modern of the Arab peoples, driven by an open and rising middle class.
However, the radicalization and poverty of the Shia population has widened the gulf between the sects more than ever before. Religious passions may meld into political divisions very easily, especially as the standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Islamic leadership seems set to deepen.
The siege of the Nahr el-Barad camp, where Fatah al-Islam militants fought government forces, shows that at any time another front to the already complex cold civil war can erupt. The Palestinian populations, descended from refugees forced from their homes in the birth pangs of Israel, continue to live in economic misery, locked out of politics and the economy due to restrictions on what jobs they can hold.
With the Palestinian cause at its lowest ebb since Yassir Arafat was driven from Beirut, Nahr el-Barad shows how very easily this hopeless group may turn to Sunni extremism as a new form of liberation ideology. In the slums, the vicious insurgencies of Palestine and Iraq seem to be fusing.
Under these storm clouds, Michel Hajji Giorgio, from L'Orient le Jour, Lebanon's daily newspaper for the francophone elite, is concerned violence could erupt as the political deadlock and poverty continues. "We are all deeply concerned. The presidential elections may well be the detonator for something grave."
The polls
Both sides are digging their heels in as the date set for presidential elections and the expiry of the term of the discredited and Syrian-backed current holder of the office, Emile Lahoud, draws closer.
The president is the symbolic representative of the Lebanese people and the final arbiter of the political process. Lahoud has consistently set himself against and blocked government-proposed reforms, and the seizure of this office by either side would mark a turning point.
The office is reserved for Lebanon's Maronite Christian minority, traditionally the most Western-orientated of the Lebanese sects.
The opposition looks set to throw its weight behind the presidential bid of General Michel Aoun, a formerly staunch anti-Syrian Maronite leader who returned to Lebanon during the 2005 Cedar Revolution, which forced out Damascus' forces. Against expectations, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has entered a political alliance with Hizbollah.
Aoun's strong candidacy means that a compromise that bypasses the opposition is now uncertain.
The government has yet to endorse a candidate, stating only that it will back a single individual under the banner of the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces. In this atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty, there has been significant public discussion of a compromise candidate, but few moves from political figures that raise expectations such a nominee can be found.
The fear is that if a consensus candidate capable of winning the support of both sides is not put forward, this could create a rupture in the fragile Lebanese system and lead to the establishment of competing governments. One would be led by Hizbollah, Amal, the FPM and other pro-Syrian groups, the other by Druze, Sunni and Maronite parties currently grouped in the March 14 Forces bloc.
This scenario still appears improbable, as Rosana Bou Monsef, an analyst and senior staff editor at the An Nahar newspaper, the Arab world's flagship independent, explained in an interview with ISN Security Watch.
"If neither side can agree to compromise we might see two governments appear. I don't think that is out of the question, just unlikely as a series of strong compromise presidential candidates have emerged. I don't think they will be so stupid, rather I think we could see Boutros Harb take over from Lahoud."
Boutros Harb, a longstanding MP with extensive ministerial experience during the Syrian occupation, has good relations with Damascus and has always been a vocal opponent of Lahoud.
Harb participated from the beginning in the Cedar Revolution, making him well placed to be accepted by both sides.
Escalation to two governments
The deepening constitutional crisis over the presidency means that either side will have to outmaneuver the other or reach a compromise within the unclear rules of the game.
Article 49 of the constitution clearly stipulates that "The President of the Republic shall be elected by secret ballot and by a two-thirds majority of the Chamber of Deputies. After a first ballot, an absolute majority shall be sufficient."
However, if the Siniora government decides to elect a president in the second round with an absolute majority, Lahoud has indicated that he will dismiss the government and appoint an interim administration.
Article 53 of the Constitution allows the president to "issue, on his own authority, the decrees accepting the resignation of the Cabinet or considering it resigned." This means that, before stepping down on 23 November, Lahoud could dismiss the Siniora government and appoint a minority government drawn from the ranks of the pro-Syrian opposition. This would spark a crisis that would see two governments appear and mark a point of no return for Lebanon.
On 30 August, Lahoud made his intentions clear, declaring that if the opposition and government failed to agree on a compromise candidate, he would nominate an interim government headed by General Michel Sleiman, head of the Lebanese Armed Forces. This would be unconstitutional and anti-Syrian parties would refuse to consult with Lahoud on the matter. However, their absence would allow Lahoud to appoint a new government unopposed.
The March 14 Forces, led by Future Movement head Saad al-Hariri, the son of the late prime minister, would then use its constitutional right to elect a new president, utilizing its parliamentary majority. The new president would appoint a new government, creating parallel anti- and pro-Syrian administrations.
Hizbollah and other opposition factions would consider this an attempted coup and would use all the means at their disposal to prevent it.
Saad al-Hariri and his allies will have to carefully assess their own position and decide whether to reach an agreement with the opposition for the sake of national unity or to take a gamble and try and secure the presidency on their own terms.

Iran's plan for Iraq
by Walid Phares, Ph.D.
World Defense Review columnist
[Part one of a series on "Freedom Lines," adapted from seminars conducted for the U.S. House of Representatives' Caucus on Counter Terrorism, summer 2007]
In March 2003, the United States made a strategic decision to send troops into Iraq and defeat the Saddam Hussein regime militarily. This decision is still being debated nationwide and internationally as to its legitimacy and rationality.
One camp claims Washington didn't have a right to change the regime and engage in an armed confrontation with Iraqis. Another camp says Saddam was a threat, the region is now better off without him, and Iraqis have been liberated from a bloody dictatorship.
Above, general Directions of the Iranian Syrian Plan for Post Withdrawal Iraq.
Above, final advances
1. Iran: Central, South, West
2. Syria: Anbar, borders enclaves
3. Al Qaeda and Jihadists: in the Center
In reality, only historians will determine if it was the right decision at the right time for one simple reason: While U.S. military operations aimed at dismantling the regime's military power ended in April 2003 – very successfully as a matter of fact – the second much longer road for the following set of U.S. goals is now under scrutiny.
Should American and Coalition forces withdraw immediately, begin pulling out, or staying the course, is the center of the ongoing debate. But to answer, one has to understand the goals of the adversaries in this ongoing conflict. Al Qaeda has a plan for Iraq, and U.S. forces are fighting it along with Iraqi units. But the direct geopolitical threat that is linked to the role of U.S. troops in that country is the Iranian regime and its allies in the region and inside Iraq. How does Tehran see the American presence, what are its plans for Iraq, and what will happen if U.S. forces are withdrawn abruptly?
Prior to 2001, the Iranian regime had developed regional ambitions, including a military alliance with Syria, continuous support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and a slow-pace development of a nuclear weapon. In the 1980s, its proxies delivered blows to the U.S. in Beirut and by May 2000, its allies in Lebanon had reached international borders with Israel.
During the decade following the first Gulf War, the Pasdaran were training and arming Iraqi militias for future mission in Iraq. The Khomeinists and Hafez Assad had an Iraq plan years before the U.S. invaded in 2003: overrun the Shia areas in the center and the south and open a land bridge between Iran and Syria.[1] But 9/11 shook off the foundations of the Iranian plan. By December of that year, U.S. and Coalition forces removed the Taliban and opened the path for a democratic government in Afghanistan.
The regime change in Kabul was a first problem for the Mullahs in Tehran: democracy defeating a Jihadi regime wasn't a good example to watch. By April 2003, a second catastrophe hit the Islamic Republic: Saddam was removed, but worse, democratic elections were succeeding each other in Iraq. But more dramatic was the fact that U.S and NATO forces were deployed to the East and to the West of Iran.
In strategic reading, the Khomeinist project was geographically contained: no more bridge to Syria and a greater menace was hovering over the nuclear program. Even more catastrophic was the proximity of two democratic experiments to the Iranian society. Students, women and workers have been challenging the theocratic regime since the late 1990s.
To Khamanei's ruling elite, successes across the borders meant a condemnation to the regime inside Iran. Thus the Pasdaran were tasked with a plan to destabilize Afghanistan and crumble the political process in Iraq. Since the summer of 2003 and for the following four years, Iranian backed Terrorism against civilians, Syrian passage for the Jihadists and pressures against U.S. and Coalition forces aimed at provoking a quicker and chaotic pull out.
If Washington withdraws catastrophically from Iraq what would the Iranian regime do? In about six to nine months, this is what would happen:
The pro-Iranian militias (SCIRI, Badr Brigade, Muqtada al Sadr, act.) would seize the control of two thirds of Iraq between Baghdad and Basra. The militias would create "security enclaves," perform several terror acts and assassinations leading to a crumbling of the central Government, and a pro-Khomeinist regime established.
Most moderate Shiite politicians and liberal elements in those areas would be eliminated, as did Khomeini with his partners in the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Within less than a year, most Shia partners of the Pro-Iranian forces would be eliminated.
And as it was practiced in Lebanon in 1990, the pro-Iranian future regime of Iraq will call in Iranian "brotherly" forces to assist in security and in the defense of the borders. The Pasdaran and the Iranian army will deploy in the southern Oil fields, along the borders with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and would connect with the Syrian forces across the borders. The latter will be asked to help in the Anbar province.
The Sunni areas will be left to be dealt with later, along with Syrian interventions.
The Kurdish areas will be submitted to isolation, pressure and internal divisions, in a concerted effort with Syria and the Islamic Government of Turkey.
This is not a theoretical scenario. This is the projected reality if U.S. forces would prematurely and abruptly withdraw from Iraq before achieving one major strategic objective in Iraq and the region: Helping the independently minded Iraqis to reform and solidify their Government, erect their Army to a regional level and along with U.S. forces establish a containment system for Iranian expansionist ambitions. Any lesser goal achieved in Iraq is a direct invitation to the Iranian regime to become the greatest threat in the 21st century against Peace and Security, in the region and worldwide.

[1] See Phares, Walid "The Syrian-Iranian Axis" Global Affairs. Spring 1992.

— Dr. Walid Pharees is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C., and director of the Future Terrorism Project of the FDD. He is a visiting fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. His most recent books are Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2006) and The War of Ideas: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2007).
Dr. Phares holds degrees in law and political science from Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese University in Beirut, a Masters in international law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami.
He has taught and lectured at numerous universities worldwide, practiced law in Beirut, and served as publisher of Sawt el-Mashreq and Mashrek International. He has taught Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University until 2006. He has been teaching Jihadi strategies at the National Defense University since 2007.
Dr. Phares has written eight books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications such as Global Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, the Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies and the Journal of International Security. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, BBC, al Jazeera, al Hurra, al Arabiya, as well as on many radio broadcasts.
Aside from serving on the boards of several national and international think tanks and human rights associations, Dr. Phares has testified before the US Senate Subcommittees on the Middle East and South East Asia, the House Committees on International Relations and Homeland Security and regularly conducts congressional and State Department as well as European Parliament and UN Security Council briefings.

Visit Dr. Phares on the web at and
© 2007 Walid Phares

Also by Walid Phares:
• Iran's plan for Iraq [05 Sep 07]
• Military Jihad in modern times is illegal [31 Jul 07]
• Preventing the West from Understanding Jihad [18 Jul 07]
• The Car Bomb Jihad: Is Britain seeing clearly? [02 Jul 07]
• Palestinians: "Taliban" versus "Mujahideen"? [26 Jun 07]
• Syro-Iranian massacre of politicians in Lebanon [16 Jun 07]
• The Syrian-Jihadi "highway" in Lebanon [02 Jun 07]
• Losing the War in Congress: Not in Iraq [24 Apr 07]
• Royal Navy incident: The larger plan of Teheran's regime [26 Mar 07]
• A Muslim Resistance against Jihad? [08 Mar 07]
• London warning: A new step in Jihad Terror [08 Feb 07]
• President Bush's new plan: Redirecting Iraq's campaign [29 Jan 07]
• FUTURE JIHAD – Terrorist Strategies against the West and other Democracies [11 Jan 07]
• Hezbollah offensive in Lebanon: Days One, Two, and Three [08 Dec 06]
• On Iraq: Listen carefully to General Abizaid [20 Nov 06]
• Hezbollah's offensive in Lebanon has begun [13 Nov 06]
• The "Caliph-strophic" Debate [23 Oct 06]
• The Continued Misunderstanding of the Salafi Jihad Threat [09 Oct 06]
• U.S. Embassy: Assad allows attack, offers "protection" and aims at confusion [13 Sep 06]
• Hezbollah's Political Blitzkrieg [14 Aug 06]
• Israeli targets in Lebanon [27 Jul 06]
• Zarqawi: Killing the future chief of al Qaida [09 Jun 06]
• From London to Toronto: Dismantling cells, dodging their ideology [05 Jun 06]
• The Strategic Waves of Iraq's Liberation [01 May 06]
• Are you ready for Hezbollah's Preemptive Terror? [10 Apr 06]
• A Jihad window at the Emirates' gate? [28 Feb 06]
• Osama's unmistakable message [26 Jan 06]
• The US and Pakistan
Allies or Not Allies Is the Question [16 Jan 06]
• Catch them, but do not watch them!
Spying on al Qaeda in America [20 Dec 05]
• Iraqi Victory, American Achievement
The October 15 Referendum [17 Oct 05]
• Debate on al Qaida's losses in Iraq
Newsweek's speedy conclusions lead to analytical crash [29 Sep 05]
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of World Defense Review and its affiliates. WDR accepts no responsibility whatsoever for the accuracy or inaccuracy of the content of this or any other story published on this website. Copyright and all rights for this story (and all other stories by the author) are held by the author.