September 8/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 5,33-39. And they said to him, "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink." Jesus answered them, "Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days." And he also told them a parable. "No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. (And) no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'"

Iran Allegedly Skirts Hezbollah Arms Ban.C. I. Bosley. September 7/07
Women of Hezbollah: Growing Discontent May Fracture Loyalties. By: Tina Wolfe. Sepyember 7.07
Out but not over.By: Lucy Fielder. Al-Ahram Weekly.September 7/07
Lebanon's Struggle Magnifies Problems Throughout The Middle East. By: Angelique van Engelen. September 7/07
National Unity and President Aoun. By: Elias Aoun.September 7/07
US priorities threaten EU work in Lebanon.By Mai Yamani. September 7/07
Arab regimes ignore Turkey's democratic example.By Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Mensur Akgun.September 7/07
A triangle that in Palestine could well lead to death.By Yossi Alpher.September 7/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 7/07
DNA Result Reportedly Did Not Match Abssi's
Kouchner to Lebanon … Again
World Bank Grants Lebanon 100 Million Dollars
Fadlallah: Ramadan Starts Thursday
Two Syrian members of Fatah al-Islam Arrested
Jumblat Slams Berri's Two-Third Quorum as 'Crippling"
Saniora Urges Syria to Help Prevent Arms Smuggling into Lebanon
Mystery Shrouds Israeli Jetfighters' Mission in Syria
Saudi Embassy Accuses Iranian News Agency of Fabricating Reports
Lebanon in Six Decades of Bitter Syrian-Israeli Relations
Beirut's search for president on.Gulf Daily News
Dennis Kucinich Blasts Bush During Meeting With Mideast Leaders ...AHN - USA
Lebanon, a lesson in conflict management?
Hamas rejects Red Cross request to see abducted IDF soldier Gilad ...Ha'aretz
Lebanon war rebuke `nonsense,' Israelis say.Toronto Star
Support and assistance for Lebanon.ReliefWeb (press release) - Geneva,Switzerland
Aoun Makes Surprise Visit to Berri.Naharnet
US priorities threaten EU work in Lebanon.Daily Star
A collective diatribe on Lebanon's predicament
.Daily Star
Lebanon's move to subsidize flour sparks dispute on prices
.Daily Star
Rights Group Accuses Israel On Lebanon
.Guardian Unlimited
-Daily Star
UNDP awards 23 youth who joined inter-sect dialogue
-Daily Star
Lebanese troops continue to sweep Nahr al-Bared for stragglers
-Daily Star
BMA launches 2007 BLOM Beirut Marathon campaign
-Daily Star
Dar al-Amal fetes new facility for women and girls today
-Daily Star
In aftermath of Nahr al-Bared battle, Palestinian refugees despair over ruined lives.(AFP)
A collective diatribe on Lebanon's predicament
-Daily Star
Beirut wants majors to help produce oil and gas
-Daily Star
Siniora urges Syria to step up anti-smuggling work. Daily Star
Lead investigator taken off Hariri case
-Daily Star
Much ado about something as Berri meets Aoun
-Daily Star
Rights group slams Israel's 'reckless' conduct in war.Daily Star
South welcomes US presidential hopeful's message of peace
-Daily Star
DNA tests on body thought to be Abssi's come back negative
-Daily Star
Human Rights Watch probes Israeli attacks on civilians during 2006 war.
Daily Star

Jumblat Slams Berri's Two-Third Quorum as "Crippling"

Democratic Gathering leader Walid Jumblat voiced reservations on Nabih Berri's initiative, stressing that the Speaker's insistence to elect a new President for Lebanon by a two-third quorum would "cripple" Parliament. "He (Berri) is trying to oblige me with a two-third (quorum), a matter that does not exist in article 49 (of the constitution) and to give up my right (stated) in article 79 which calls on Parliament to convene 10 days ahead of the expiry of the President's term (of office) and use a simple majority vote," Jumblat told Thursday's Kalam el-Nas talk show on LBC TV.
Jumblat explained that, "in politics," Berri's offer means that the Speaker is seeking to strip Parliament of its ability to function just as he tried to win a veto power in government by attempting to secure a blocking minority "which has failed.""He is trying, through personal interpretations of presidential elections, to curtail my rights and bring us a consensus president," Jumblat said. "Agree on what?" "Can we tell the people that we accepted a compromise at the expense of sovereignty, freedom and justice," Jumblat asked. "And then … get a President who could accept a Syrian tutelage or stab (U.N. Security Council) Resolutions from 1559 to 1701?" he wondered. The Druze leader emphasized that a concensus head of state is the one who believes in justice and sovereignty. Jumblatt, however, stressed that is speaking in his "personal capacity," adding that March 14 Forces would meet soon as MP Saad Hariri returns home. Beirut, 07 Sep 07, 06:27

Majadele: IAF regularly flies over Syria
ynet: In first comment by Israeli official on Israel's alleged violation of Syrian airspace Friday, minister says incident not likely to trigger war with Syria
Roee Nahmias Published: 09.07.07, 13:25 / Israel News
Minister Raleb Majadele said Friday that the Israel Air Force enters Syria's airspace on a daily basis, and estimated that the recent plane incident would not prompt a war with Syria, Nazareth-based al-Sinara newspaper reported. According to the minister, the Israeli aircraft possibly entered the Syrian airspace by mistake.
On Thursday Syrian. Minister Bussaina Shaaban told al-Jazeera that Israeli aircraft "dropped bombs on an empty area while our air defenses were firing heavily at them. "They intervened in our airspace... which they should not do -- we are a sovereign country and they should not come into airspace," he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday evening chose to keep silent on the unusual incident with Syria reported earlier in the day.
Olmert delivered a speech at a Kadima ceremony ahead of the Jewish New Year, and many of the attendees had expected him to address the Syrian report that an Israeli aircraft violated its airspace on Wednesday night. Instead, the prime minister referred to other security issues.

Saniora's Office denounces Israeli Aggression on Syria
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's office "strongly denounces the Israeli aggression on the airspace and sovereignty of sisterly Syria," a statement said Thursday.
"This new Israeli aggression proves, once again, that Israel adopts a policy of breaching political, diplomatic and security norms and threatens the region's stability, similar to its daily practices in violating Lebanon's sovereignty," the statement said. "Israel's aggression on Lebanese and Syrian sovereignties is totally unacceptable … and could usher the region into an atmosphere of tension that would not be in the interest of world stability," the statement concluded. Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 19:03

Saniora Urges Syria to Help Prevent Arms Smuggling into Lebanon
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora urged Syria to step up its efforts to prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon, echoing an earlier request by the United Nations after it investigated security along the Syria-Lebanon border. The U.N. resolution that ended last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah banned weapon transfers to the Iranian- and Syrian-backed militant group, but the Lebanese and Israeli governments have criticized alleged violations by Syria.
"We've always expressed the necessity for serious border control and suitable efforts by our brothers in Syria to control these borders," said Saniora, following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. "The continuation of the (current) situation is subjecting Lebanon to the illegal smuggling of more goods, weapons and individuals," Saniora added. The U.S. and Israel have repeatedly accused Iran and Syria of supplying Hizbullah advanced weapons across Syria's border with Lebanon -- allegations that Damascus has rejected.
In late May, the U.N. Security Council appointed an independent mission to assess monitoring along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Following the investigation, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria and Iran to do more to prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon, citing "disturbing reports" from the Lebanese and Israeli government of alleged violations of the U.N. arms embargo.Saniora repeated a similar call for action Thursday, saying, "we hope that serious steps take place" soon.
Saniora also said that he was open to studying an initiative proposed by House Speaker Nabih Berri aimed at ending the political stalemate that has crippled Lebanon's institutions. "It is a question of moving toward what it is possible to create" and what can be "developed," Saniora said after meeting Arab League chief Amr Moussa.
Saniora added that Berri's proposal "merited being studied." Last Friday, Berri, also leader of the Amal party, announced that the pro-Syrian opposition was ready to drop its demand for a national unity government if all Lebanese factions could agree on a consensus candidate for the presidency.
Berri also officially called for a special session of parliament on September 25 to elect a new head of state. The vote for a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud has exacerbated Lebanon's nine-month-old political crisis which has split Beirut into pro- and anti-Damascus camps. Berri's declaration comes amid concerns of more divisions after statements by rival leaders raised fears of two governments and two presidents, a stark reminder of the chaos of the country's 1975-1990 civil war. While the anti-Syrian camp holds the majority in parliament, the opposition led by Hizbuollah walked out of the Saniora cabinet in November, leaving the government paralyzed.(AP-AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 07 Sep 07, 06:34

Mystery Shrouds Israeli Jetfighters' Mission in Syria

Damascus said its air defenses opened fire on Israeli warplanes which violated Syrian airspace at dawn Thursday, escalating tension between the neighboring foes. Israel withheld comment. A Syrian cabinet minister warned that the nation's leadership was considering its response to the Israeli "aggression" while in Israel the military declined any comment.  "Enemy Israeli planes penetrated Syrian airspace from the Mediterranean Sea heading towards the northeast, breaking the sound barrier," a Syrian army spokesman told the official SANA news agency.
"Our air defenses repulsed them and forced them to leave... after the Israeli planes dropped munitions, without causing human or material loss," he said, without giving further information on what exactly was dropped. Syria's allegations came amid a war of words with Israel, with each blaming the other for stoking regional tensions and for failure to revive peace talks that have been stalled for seven years.
Information Minister Mohsen Bilal told pan-Arab satellite television Al-Jazeera that Syria's leadership was "giving serious consideration to its response... to this aggression." In Israel, the military refused to comment on Syria's claims, saying: "We do not comment on such reports." Former major general Uzi Dayan said the military's silence was an indication of Israel's eagerness not to allow the incident to stoke tension with Syria.
"Israel is active on many fronts in the Middle East but we have no intention to bring about a deterioration of the situation. That is why the Israeli reaction was so short and restrained," he told private Channel Two television. A Syrian minister admitted to Al-Jazeera's English-language channel that it remained unclear whether the Israeli aircraft had actually carried out an attack. "They intervened in our airspace... which they should not do -- we are a sovereign country and they should not come into our airspace," Expatriate Affairs Minister Bussaina Shaaban said. "We do not know yet" if the aircraft dropped anything. "The investigation is still proceeding on the ground," she said. In June 2006, Israeli warplanes flew over President Bashar Assad's palace in northern Syria while he was inside, an action Damascus condemned as an "act of piracy."
Over the past few months, Israeli and Syrian leaders have both said their countries do not want a war, but were preparing for any possibility while each side has accused the other of arming for a conflict. Syria and Israel remain technically in a state of war, and peace talks broke down in 2000 over the fate of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981. The previous over flight by Israel in 2006 came amid high tensions in the Middle East after the Jewish state launched a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip to try to retrieve a soldier captured by Palestinian militants.
The Gaza action was followed just a few weeks later by a devastating Israeli war in Lebanon against the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah militia, after two soldiers were captured in a raid by the guerrillas. Syria shelters a number of radical Palestinian groups, and is home to Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) who tops Israel's most wanted list. Last month, Israel said it was reducing its military presence on the Golan Heights and lowering its level of alert.
However, it said it will continue to conduct regular training on the plateau as part of its training following the Lebanon war against Hizbullah, which revealed major shortcomings in the army's conduct. And Israel continues to carry out occasional flights over neighboring Lebanon, triggering protests from Beirut and concern from the United Nations peacekeeping force monitoring a ceasefire there.(AFP) Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 14:24

Saudi Embassy Accuses Iranian News Agency of Fabricating Reports
The Saudi Embassy in Beirut on Thursday accused the Iranian News Agency Mehr of distributing forged information alleging that Ambassador Abdul Aziz khoga had participated in a plan to assassinate Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
The embassy statement termed the report "mere fabrications aimed at misguidance."It said Khoga contacted Nasrallah's political assistant Hussein Khalil and the party's ex-MP Mohammed Berjawi to "enquire about the reason for such fabricated reports and accusations and they stressed that Sayed Hassan Nasrallah has no information about what has been said."The embassy, according to the statement, was informed that Hizbullah "appreciates the ambassador's stands and his role, respects his openness and is keen on him as well as on the continuity of his role."Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 19:48

Elections Canada position on 'faceless voting' undermines electoral integrity and equality before the ballot box
For Immediate Release from the Canadian Coalition for Democracies (CCD)
September 6, 2007
Ottawa, Canada – The Canadian Coalition for Democracies (CCD) regards as unconscionable Elections Canada’s reported new policy of allowing Muslim women to wear identity-concealing face veils, including full burqas, when voting in upcoming federal by-elections in Quebec and Ontario. Canada’s federal elections’ regulator says Muslim women can “vote veiled” merely by identifying themselves with a driver’s licence and second piece of identification. As an alternative, “covered” women need only swear an oath and have another voter vouch for them.
Outbursts of public condemnation overturned a similar initiative earlier this year by Quebec's Election Commission. The Commission was forced to reverse its consent to “burqa voting” when offended Quebec citizens and public interest groups threatened civil disobedience at election time. Highlighting the problem of double standards and arbitrariness, voters promised to attend polls with their faces covered by paper bags, sheets, hockey masks and other head coverings, and to assert “sensitivity” and special religious privilege as their justification for doing so.
"Elections Canada’s initiative violates the basic premise of public voting in Canada and the principle of equality of all Canadians before the ballot box. It is an invitation to fraud, misrepresentation and the debasing of our democratic electoral system," said David Harris, CCD Senior Fellow for National Security.
Beyond the ballot box, religious face coverings have at times been misused in Canada and around the world to facilitate fraud and other criminal acts. Veiling has been used abroad to advance terrorist operations, including suicide bombings. Such risks compelled France to ban the burqa in certain public spheres, and the Netherlands’ government - among others - is considering doing the same. And last fall in Quebec, ADQ leader Mario Dumont went beyond the ballot box issue, stating that he did not “rule out the possibility of laws … to make illegal the wearing of the burqa.” Yet some of Canada’s elites, apparently unfazed by the threat to electoral integrity and public safety, appear helpless in the face of radical lobbying in the name of “accommodation”.
"Canadians call upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition leaders Stephane Dion, Gilles Duceppe, and Jack Layton, to demand an end to Elections Canada’s ill-considered policy of diminished electoral scrutiny for one religious group," said Harris.
"Government must promote one secular law for all, and an end to the appeasing of radical fundamentalism in whatever guise - or disguise."
For more information, please contact
David Harris, Senior Fellow for National Security
Canadian Coalition for Democracies
For an index of CCD in the Media, please visit:

Founded in 2003, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies (CCD) is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-denominational organization of concerned Canadians dedicated to national security and the protection and promotion of democracy at home and abroad. CCD focuses on research, education and media publishing to build a greater understanding of the importance of national security and a pro-democracy foreign policy.

Iran Allegedly Skirts Hezbollah Arms Ban
C. I. Bosley
Arms Control Association,
A year after the United Nations imposed a ban on arms sales to Hezbollah in the wake of its 2006 clash with Israel, the Shiite group in southern Lebanon is rearming. Iran and Syria have been implicated in the weapons buildup.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report June 28 on implementation of last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon, implements an arms embargo on Hezbollah, and requires disarmament of the group, which the United States and some other Western countries have designated a terrorist organization. The 34-day war began last year when Israel launched a July military offensive into southern Lebanon after Hezbollah militants there abducted two Israeli soldiers. (See ACT, October 2006.)
In his report, Ban furnished details of extensive armaments smuggling across the Syria-Lebanon border to Hezbollah, as well as to Palestinian militants. Israel asserts these transfers occur weekly. One such incident occurred June 5, when Lebanese troops in the Bekaa Valley seized a truckload of rockets and mortars destined for Hezbollah. Ban termed the clandestine weapons shipments “of great concern” and in “clear violation” of Resolution 1701.
In a separate report, a UN team of experts tasked with assessing the situation along the Lebanese border concluded June 26 that Lebanese border guards demonstrated a “worrying lack of performance.” The Security Council had commissioned this fact-finding mission, citing “mounting information” on breaches of the arms embargo.
Although the Lebanese army deployed last fall more than 8,000 troops to guard the 250-kilometer boundary with Syria, the UN team determined that Lebanese security forces lacked adequate resources to accomplish their objective. Moreover, the experts faulted border guards for instances of “corruption.” Still, in recent months Hezbollah has publicly protested the seizure of its munitions by Lebanese authorities.
The majority faction of the Lebanese parliament issued a January statement contending that “forces directly affiliated with Syrian intelligence” were transporting weapons into Lebanon. Syria’s government denies any involvement, but an Israeli official told Arms Control Today Aug. 3 that Hezbollah is “feverishly receiving major supplies” from Syria.
The Israeli government claims that Iran is the source of many of the weapons transferred through Syria to Hezbollah. During the 2006 war, ordnance with Farsi lettering was discovered in southern Lebanon. In May, Turkish officials interdicted two shipments of Iranian weapons en route to Damascus, confiscating 300 rockets hidden underneath construction materials.
Iran’s ties to Hezbollah are long-standing. The organization was co-founded by Ali Akbar Mohtashemi Pour, then Tehran’s ambassador to Damascus. Arms Control Today asked Iran’s Mission to the UN about these links, but it declined to comment for this story.
Should Israel’s allegations prove accurate, both Tehran and Damascus would be acting in violation not only of Resolution 1701 but also Resolution 1747. That resolution, implemented in response to Iran’s failure to address the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns over its nuclear program, prohibits all Iranian weapons exports as well as all trafficking in Iranian weapons by third parties.
Ban has urged Iran and Syria to do more to prevent the weapons smuggling. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also called for an increase in international pressure on those two countries.
Hezbollah contends it has replenished its stockpiles. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s head, asserted July 28 that his group again possesses “rockets that can hit any area” in what he termed “occupied Palestine,” meaning Israel. (See ACT, October 2006.)
Hezbollah’s Mohtashemi Pour maintained in an August interview with the Iranian newspaper Sharq that in recent months “the Islamic Republic has made available long-range Zelzal-2 missiles” to Hezbollah. Israel contends that it had destroyed all of Hezbollah’s Zelzal rockets during the first night of the 2006 war.

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Out but not over
The bloody siege at Nahr Al-Bared is over but is probably not Lebanon's last such battle,
By: Lucy Fielder reports
Copyright Al-Ahram
September 6/07
The Lebanese army has prevailed over Fatah Al-Islam militants hiding in the northern Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp after a siege that dragged on for more than three months. But Lebanese have yet to see whether the worst internal fighting since the civil war is the final or opening chapter in the battle with Al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni Islamic militants.
And the 30,000-40,000 Palestinian refugees who fled Nahr Al-Bared must wait to see whether a plan improving their status in Lebanon materialises in the settling dust of their pulverised homes.
The army took over the camp on 2 August after a battle that cost the lives of more than 160 soldiers and showed it to be poorly equipped and ill-prepared. This highlights Lebanon's continued fragility, following a string of assassinations and Israel's bombardment of the south last year. At least 42 civilians were killed along with 222 militants, including their leader Shaker Al-Abssi. More bodies are believed to lie beneath the ruins.
Fatah Al-Islam was initially dismissed as a "rag-tag" militia of a few hundred, but proved larger and better equipped than expected. Hiding out in sophisticated underground bunkers built by Yasser Arafat in the 1980s, the Sunni militants held their ground, possibly with local support.
Army Commander-in-Chief Michel Suleiman, who has described Fatah Al-Islam as a branch of Al-Qaeda, said in an official address the sacrifices "were much less than the price the nation would have paid had the hand of terror remained loose and continued its meddling". He told the Lebanese daily As-Safir "Iraq-style" violence could have ensued.
The question of who funded and supplied Fatah Al-Islam -- a Salafi group made up of Lebanese, Saudis and other Arabs as well as some Palestinians -- is likely to remain a subject of fierce debate. The US- and Saudi-backed governing 14 March movement accused archenemy Syria of backing the militants, who split off from Syrian-backed Fatah Al-Intifada in November. Fatah Al-Islam and Syria deny this, and government critics have accused powerful Sunni leader Saad Al-Hariri of backing the group to court hardline Islamist support to counterbalance Hizbullah's Shia guerrillas.
Despite the huge losses, Lebanese media and politicians celebrated the victory with a festive air, queuing up to compliment the army. Palestinian Fatah officials, who have stood on the side of the army and state, congratulated Suleiman. Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora gave a televised address saluting the "joint Lebanese-Palestinian war against the terrorists". "Lebanon is bound to the Palestinian cause and committed to working alongside its Arab brothers to return you to your homelands with dignity." The state was committed to rebuilding the camp, he added.
But Ahmed Moussalli, an expert on political Islam at the American University of Beirut, said Lebanon's leaders might see Nahr Al-Bared as a model for dealing with the other 11 official Palestinian refugee camps. "I have my real doubts about their interest and ability to rebuild the camp," he said. The Palestinian "security islands", policed by militants and off-limits to the army, have long been flashpoints, and it was widely recognised before the 15-week Nahr Al-Bared siege that their status had to change. The roughly 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon are denied the right to own property outside the camps or to work in more than 70 professions, restricting most of them to manual labour.
Prejudice against the refugees is rife, partly because of fears Lebanon's fragile sectarian balance would be tipped if the mainly Sunni Palestinians were absorbed. Many Lebanese view the heavily armed Palestinian presence in south Lebanon as the spark that ignited civil war in 1975.
Moussalli was among analysts who feared the aim behind Nahr Al-Bared's destruction was to pave the way towards resettling the Palestinians in Lebanon, in accordance with Israel's wishes, to prevent them from returning to their homeland and creating what it sees as a "demographic threat". "I hope I'm wrong but I think we'll see a major eruption in other camps in the next few months," he said. Lebanon's largest camp, Ain Al-Hilweh, was the likely focus and home to militant groups Osbet Al-Ansar and the smaller Jund Al-Sham. Islamist militants killed two soldiers at the camp, near the southern city of Sidon, in early June.
UN Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in September 2004, called for all militias in Lebanon to be disarmed, meaning the Palestinian groups and Hizbullah. Last year, a dialogue among Lebanese political leaders concluded with a rare agreement, sanctioned by the main Palestinian factions, on the need to regulate weapons inside the camps and ban them from outside.
The battle for Nahr Al-Bared threw the presence of militants, especially in Sunni areas of the north, into sharp relief. A minority of northerners appear to have sympathy with Al-Qaeda aims, although the history of such groups in Lebanon has been largely peaceful. "We are only seeing the first phase, and we may see a worse one coming up." Moussalli said.
Experts warn that the UNIFIL force in the south remains a potential militant target. It has sustained two attacks that killed six peacekeepers since it expanded following last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. Hizbullah denied involvement in the attacks and most observers agree they were the work of an Al-Qaeda-type group.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Lebanon’s Struggle Magnifies Problems Throughout The Middle East
Global Politician
Angelique van Engelen - 9/6/2007
The Lebanese army’s victory over the 500-strong Fatah al Islam group might have wiped out the newly established terrorist cell in the space of three months, but Lebanon’s 6-month old political impasse still needs sorting. The country’s muddled situation can be seen as a microcosm of the problems in the Middle East where political gridlocks are tighter than ever and where extremism is flourishing on the ground.
The 106-day battle in the Northern Lebanese camp Nahr al Bared has purportedly rooted out Fatah al Islam completely. The group’s leader, the now deceased Shaker al Abssi, claimed his mission was to ‘bring a religious element to the Palestinian cause’. When he was reported dead last Sunday, his brother told an AFP reporter that he had been driven to extremism by the hopelessness of the Palestinian people’s situation.
The Lebanese army’s siege against Fatah al Islam has drawn attention to questions regarding Lebanon’s own internal situation and surrounding nations’ involvement with terrorist groups in Lebanon. There are persistent reports in the media quoting intelligence indicating that the group was sponsored by Syria, by Iran, by the Lebanese government itself, and by Al Qaeda. There is also evidence that the group robbed a bank before the fighting broke out and made away with a substantial amount in cash.
The Lebanese army’s top official Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman told his soldiers they were fighting an Al Qaeda group. But not all the soldiers were really sure this was the case. Abssi frequently denied direct links with Al Qaeda on an organizational level. Yet he’s also on the record as saying he "agrees with the aim of fighting infidels". What’s more, Fatah al-Islam statements have appeared on Islamist Web sites known to publish al-Qaeda statements, Reuters says.
Judging from reports about Abssi’s track record as a militant fighter, he was well-trained at organising his cronies. A soldier speaking to AFP relayed his conversation last weekend with a captured militant; "Once we captured an underground shelter and inside we found a large amount of food and power generators." Abssi gave money to his militants and told them 'you're on your own', the soldier said.
A few other reports indicate that the Lebanese government itself had supported (Sunni) Fatah al Islam to counterbalance Hezbollah, which groups militants adhering Shiite Islam.
Wikipedia’s article about Fatah al Islam cites a researcher at the American University of Beirut, Franklin Lamb, who claims that highly placed US officials negotiated with Lebanese government official Saad Hariri and the Saudis, to slush funds to Fatah al-Islam. Given Abssi’s alleged involvement in the killing of Laurence Foley, a US diplomat, it could figure; he’s sure to have been on the US intelligence services’ radar screens. The article cites investigative journalist Seymour Hersh as detailing that United States Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams, Saudi National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan, were in on the deal to provide covert funding for Fatah al-Islam.
Various other reports however indicate the Syrian government was supporting the group. It allegedly funded it so it would destabilize Lebanon. It is vehemently denied by the Syrians, who say that Fatah al Islam members are wanted terrorists in Syria. Which is slightly odd, because the Syrians released Abssi from jail. The executive body chairman of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea told media sources on the record of his surprise over this. Abssi, at the time of his release from a Syrian jail was already an extremist leader and also the recipient of a death sentence for allegedly killing Foley, the US diplomat in Jordan in 2002. The Syrian decision to free Abssi is all the more strange because it regularly sentences (way less extreme) Muslim Brotherhood activists to death, or at best to hard labor.
Which group(s) really empowered Fatah al Islam, we’ll likely never know. If the Lebanese government funded the group, others in the government must have thought this to be a bad thing because the army mustered up remarkable vigor in stamping it out. Commander Gen. Suleiman, who leads an army that is in significant portions made up of Hizbollah supporters, said that ‘the sacrifices made in the confrontation remain much less than the price that the nation would have paid had the hand of terror remained loose’. Some 163 soldiers were killed and 400 to 500 were wounded. Terrorist losses totaled 222. Those that are alive are reported to have fled the country. The anonymous soldier speaking to AFP highlighted the confusion that was felt by the troops. He said soldiers feared an endless battle that was a political issue rather than a chase for purported terrorists.
Abssi’s personal history shows how divided the various Palestinian fighter factions on the ground are. His decision to run his own show was a direct result of his anger over the hand over of two members of Fatah al Intifadah to Lebanese military intelligence by a Palestinian refugee camp’s leadership in Tripoli (Lebanon) shortly after his arrival in Lebanon.
Abssi’s afilliation with radical Palestinian organisations started in the early Eighties with Fatah, the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Fatah sent him to train as a military pilot in Lybia. He was still a member of Fatah when Israel when invaded Lebanon to drive out the PLO in 1982 and fought in the war. A year later, Abssi established links with Fatah al-Intifada, a splinter Fateh movement. It is believed that he then moved to Damascus, where he became close to Fatah al-Intifada's number two in command, Abu Khaled al-Omla. This leader helped him to get to Lebanon in 2004, after he spent time in jail there and was sentenced to death by a Jordanian court. In May 2006, Al-Abssi became a wanted man by the Syrians after his involvement in the killing of another man sought by the Syrians.
The Nahr al Bared fight has drawn relatively little international attention. Anyone keeping up with the story over the past months will have been once again witness to a confused mishmash of action, politics and issues that’s become the hallmark of most developments in the Middle East. The rise of Al Qaeda-linked groups wouldn’t be too surprising for an area where extremism makes for every day news headlines. However these groups will not be able to count on public support; most Arabs are loath to see the Palestinian cause linked with Al Qaeda. The Arab League echoed this when they issued a strong condemnation of anyone linking Palestinian issues with Al Qaeda.
Lebanon is currently in a political gridlock over choosing a new head of state succeeding Emile Lahoud whose term as President expires in November. It’s parliament has been paralysed since November 2006, when pro-Syrian opposition forces, led by Hizbullah, withdrew six ministers from the government. Lebanese Hizbullah-led opposition parties wanted a new national unity government ahead of the expiry of the current President’s term next November. They insisted that the new government would need one third of the Cabinet (which they scored in 2005) so it could veto the next Presidential candidate. A month after they withdrew their ministers, they began the ‘2006–present Lebanese revolt’, a series of protest sit-ins. This has continued until recently.
Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has confirmed he is to appoint army commander Gen. Suleiman as his provisional successor if the warring political sides fail to agree on a permanent head of state.
At the moment, parties are negotiating abandoning the revolt in return for consensus over the next president. Suleiman is marketed by Lahoud as a ‘compromise candidate’, but some observers say he’s the Syrian and Iranian candidate of choice. The European Union appears to be buying it. The EU’s Xavier Solana has said that the EU will work for electing a president ‘in line with the constitution’. The deal that Berri has secured might be the most workable option, because all the parties agree. The anti-Syrian, Christian majority has enough votes in parliament to propose a candidate but not enough to secure a quorum to choose a President.
In the meantime, real sentiment among the Palestinian Arab population is edging more and more toward extremism. This will be a major issue in the upcoming peace talks in November that the US is pushing for and which also involves the myriad problems besetting Palestine rule in Gaza. Hamas won the January 2006 elections and attempted to violently take control of the Gaza Strip six months later after Fatah refused to hand over the power. Fatah then sacked Hamas officials. They were replaced by Fatah and independent politicians, but Hamas contests the move.le
***Angelique van Engelen is a freelance reporter based in Amsterdam. She is currently involved in the development of, a site for grassroots reporting that is going to be launched later this month.

Women of Hezbollah: Growing Discontent May Fracture Loyalties
Tina Wolfe | 06 Sep 2007
World Politics Review Exclusive
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Uncertainty about Lebanon's political stability in an atmosphere of increasing sectarian division and rumors that Hezbollah is beefing up for an offensive against Israel are testing the allegiances of women loyal to the paramilitary group. Given the influence of women in Hezbollah, their ambivalence has the potential to spread further and ultimately shake the foundation of its political support among Lebanon's Shiites.
While tens of thousands gathered last month to commemorate the anniversary of Hezbollah's self-declared "divine victory" against Israel (which left more than 1,200 Lebanese and 150 Israelis dead), some Hezbollah supporters question whether the sectarian violence and instability that has gripped the country in the past two years, the worst since the end of the civil war, has been worth it: political assassinations, terrorist bombings, street riots, mass demonstrations, and a war between the Lebanese Army and the Sunni radical Islamic group, Fatah al-Islam.
Since the war, in addition to the violence, Lebanon has endured 10 months of political wrangling between the ruling March 14 Coalition (comprised of Sunni, Christian and Druze factions led by Saad Hariri, son of the slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) and the so called pro-Syrian Opposition (spearheaded by Hezbollah and other prominent Shiite and Christian parties). The March 14 Coalition champions the U.S.-backed government of Fouad Siniora, and the pro-Syrian opposition challenges the rump government's legitimacy (after the Shiite cabinet resigned last year) and covets a national unity government with veto power for minority factions. The coalitions will face off during parliamentary voting slated for Sept. 25, in which a two-thirds quorum is needed to elect the next president, a post traditionally reserved for a Maronite Christian.
In Lebanon's complex, multi-confessional system, power is vested in religious and sectarian leaders. Within Hezbollah's constituency, the war cemented more radical stances toward Israel and the United States among some, but also gave rise to dissenting voices, especially among the women of Hezbollah.
"Before the July war and the current political crisis, my best friend was a Christian Maronite; but now she supports Samir Geagea (leader of the Lebanese Forces, allied to the March 14 coalition that backs Fouad Siniora's government) and I'm with Hezbollah, so we don't speak to each other," says Zeinab Arteil, a Shiite. The broken friendship is just one example of the consequences of Lebanon's deeply divided sectarian politics.
Zeinab, who represents the growing Shiite middle class, holds a bachelor's degree in foreign languages and is currently pursuing a master's in communications from St. Joseph University in Beirut, where most students are Christians. The 22-year-old became a Hezbollah sympathizer in the year 2000 when the Islamic paramilitary group was, correctly or not, credited with ousting the Israeli army from southern Lebanon, after 22 years of occupation.
Hezbollah Support Tied to Aid
But her affiliation grew stronger last summer after an Israeli bomb blitzed her house in Dahiyeh, an overpopulated Beirut suburb that came under heavy bombardment. Like it did for many other Shiite families, the "Party of God" gave Zeinab's family a $12,000 cash grant to rent an apartment until it reconstructs their home.
However, such recovery aid has not made its way so rapidly to the southern town of Bint Jbeil, on the border with Israel, a bastion of Hezbollah where Sana Saad, a tobacco farmer, lives with her sons and a sister in a tent, waiting for her two-story house to be repaired.
"The government promised to help, and all I've received is $300 from Hezbollah, and we can't even harvest our crops because the fields are plagued with [cluster] bombs," she complains.
She's also bitter about Hezbollah's alleged support of $100 per day to the protestors that are still encamped in downtown Beirut, remnants of last year's demonstrations that aimed to topple the establishment. "Why should we suffer because of their fight for power in Beirut? This demonstration isn't working, and many of us here could use that money to rebuild our lives," Sana complains.
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and other Western nations. In Lebanon and in most of the Arab world, it's more often called a "national resistance force." When the group was founded in 1982, it was difficult to imagine that the theocratic Islamic radical group would transform itself into a well-organized movement that today functions like a militia, a social services and public works provider, and a political party - a veritable state within a state.
Since entering Lebanon's political mainstream in the early 1990s, Hezbollah has secured 14 of 128 parliamentary seats and three ministries. (In the confessional power-sharing formula, the unwritten National Pact, Shiites are allotted 21 percent of parliamentary seats and excluded from the presidency and the premiership -- posts that go to the Christians and Sunnis respectively.)
Most Shiites view Hezbollah's "resistance" as both a necessary instrument of defense and a form of temporary compensation for decades of state neglect and isolation. During the Hariri and Syrian era, the Sunni Muslim-Christian Lebanese establishment concentrated its power base in Beirut and left the rest of the country to be run by confessional warlords and family fiefdoms.
In Beirut's southern suburbs, South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, the state's inability to address the needs of impoverished, mainly Shiite, communities enabled Hezbollah (under the thumb of Syria and with substantial Iranian support) to set up a network of hospitals, medical facilities, schools and community centers, as well as its own engineering and construction companies. The latter are now largely undertaking the reconstruction of destroyed dwellings and infrastructure.
The Role of Women in Hezbollah
Women play an important role within these structures.
"Since my early years of studying medicine in the Lebanese University, I knew that I wanted to work for the Islamic health Association, to which this clinic belongs," says Dr. Haji Ali, who directs a Hezbollah clinic in Dahiyeh.
"I admire its merits in the resistance, but also because they practice a modern version of Islam," she says, referring to the group's attitude toward equality between men and women in pursuing professional careers.
In a primary school in the southern village of Qana (which suffered greatly during last year's Israeli air strikes and the bombing of a UNIFIL camp in 1996), a mixed group of 200 Shiite and Christian children attend a mine-awareness workshop to learn about the dangers of mines and unexploded ordinance. The group is supervised by Hebba Al-Rahman, a 19-year old member of Hezbollah's Scouts movement, which she claims has empowered her by teaching the values of trust, leadership and teamwork.
"Besides educating them about the dangers of mines, we also teach them about protecting the environment, healthy nutrition practices, and [we] offer them an opportunity to play and express themselves artistically," says Hebba, who lost four family members while they were trying to flee during the war.
However, when asked if she believes in disarming Hezbollah and whether she would be willing to engage in a peaceful dialogue with an Israeli Scouts group, her reply is adamant, "No, we cannot disarm, I consider them [Israel] the enemy. How can I forgive them?"
Her sentiments echo that of many Shiite families whose lives were shattered by last year's military onslaught, a loathing that feeds Hezbollah's popular appeal and has given Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah more political leverage than he had before the war, effectively shelving any prospect for Hezbollah's disarmament, a mandate of the ceasefire agreement.
However, Hezbollah's "victory" has also contributed to the disastrous political situation in which Lebanon now finds itself. This, combined with the slow pace of repairing last year's devastation, may be starting to inflict a battering on the organization's popularity, not least among the organization's women.
Women like Zeinab, Haji, and Hebba, educated professionals, say they are inspired by the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohamed, Al-Sayyeda Zeinab. The Koran hails her as a role model, missionary of Islam and public activist.
Schoolteachers educate women about these beliefs in schools for women, but also in the Scout's movement and other foundations, where their public service role combines piety and modernity. This spiritual inheritance is primarily transmitted by mothers to their children, rather than by sheiks in the mosques.
As mothers, Hezbollah's women have educated their children to sacrifice themselves to liberate Lebanon's South; as wives, they've encouraged their husbands to fight against the Israeli army; and as resistance volunteers they've traditionally helped with cooking, logistics and fundraising for the purchase of weapons, as well as with monitoring movements of invading troops in the border regions.
Women Question Sacrifices
But many of these women also have paid dearly for their sacrifices, and some are starting to question Hezbollah's core strength, especially in light of Nasrallah's recent defiant speech, which warned Israel of a "big surprise" if it attacked again. After all, many of them note, the two abducted Israeli soldiers that prompted last year's confrontation remain in captivity.
"That is my cousin's son," says Elyssar Khalil, a Nabatieh math teacher and mother of two, pointing at a martyr poster bearing the face of a young, blond man, "last summer he joined the resistance and died." Elyssar actively encouraged women to vote the Hezbollah ticket during the 2004 municipal elections, but now is skeptical of the militia.
"I want peace and with the Syrians and the Israelis out, I don't think it [Hezbollah's resistance] makes sense anymore. I feel badly for the Palestinians, but why should we be the ones to liberate Jerusalem?" she muses, referring to one of Hezbollah's stated goals. She also concedes that if she had the opportunity she would emigrate to Sierra Leone, where she has a brother "At least my children would be safe, and have a chance for a better future," she says.
Fatima Baydoun, a widow with three children aged 10 to 15, says her husband died eight years ago during a confrontation with Israeli forces in the south. "I knew what he was up to and never questioned his activities, because I didn't think we had another option."
She is grateful for the monthly pension, tuition fees and medical coverage she gets through Hezbollah's Martyrs Association, but says, "I'm not encouraging my sons to become fighters, this family has suffered enough."
***Tina Wolfe is a freelance journalist who splits her time between Bucharest and Beirut.

Lebanon war rebuke `nonsense,' Israelis say


JERUSALEM–Israeli officials reacted with anger and defiance yesterday, following accusations their country launched "indiscriminate" attacks resulting in hundreds of unnecessary civilian deaths during last summer's war in Lebanon.
"It's nonsense," stormed retired Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former chief of the Israel Defense Forces' research and assessment division. "They are living in a bubble. They don't have to protect their citizens against terrorist attacks."
"They" are Human Rights Watch, a prominent and widely respected international monitoring agency that yesterday unveiled a 247-page report entitled "Why They Died," based on several months of research conducted mainly among villagers in southern Lebanon, near the border with Israel.
The region bore the brunt of last summer's 34-day conflict pitting Israel's armed forces against Hezbollah, a radical Islamist group.
The report says Israel consistently failed to exercise sufficient caution before unleashing aerial or artillery attacks on targets that had little or no military value, resulting in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, many of them women and children.
But Amidror insists it isn't so. He says Israel did everything required of it, and more, to ensure its forces attacked only legitimate military targets. Unfortunately, he said, Hezbollah fighters often used civilians as a human shield, and that left Israel at times in a difficult position.
"What should we do? Wait for Hezbollah to leave populated areas and put up their flags and say, `Hit us now?'"
The retired officer's outrage and denials were typical of statements made yesterday by Israeli government officials and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) themselves, leaving the impression that this country's leaders and the New-York-based human rights agency were operating in two separate echo chambers, with neither side acknowledging the legitimacy of anything said by the other.
During a mid-morning press conference at an east Jerusalem hotel yesterday, two senior HRW representatives, including Kenneth Roth, the organization's executive director, detailed their agency's main findings, which tax Israel with unleashing "indiscriminate air strikes" against targets in Lebanon.
"Human Rights Watch calls on the IDF to seriously investigate and to change the practices and procedures it uses in determining whether it is permissible to attack a target," said Roth.
"The level of proof last summer was far too low, and that is the reason hundreds of civilians died."
He dismissed Israeli claims that its armed forces first warned Lebanese civilians to flee targeted areas before launching its attacks.
While true, those claims are insufficient, he said. Many people were unable to flee, while others were killed in the act of fleeing.
Roth also refuted Israeli charges that Hezbollah routinely used civilians as a shield for its fighters. While Hezbollah did sometimes fire rockets from populated areas, he said, this did not automatically amount to "shielding." In any case, he said, the Lebanese militants did not use the tactic "systematically."
By contrast, Amidror insisted that two-thirds of the 4,000 or so rockets fired at Israel by Hezbollah during the conflict were launched from populated areas.
"We counted them," he said. "We have the exact number."
Amidror would not divulge the number, however, citing security concerns.
In a companion report released last month in Beirut, Human Rights Watch condemned Hezbollah for repeated rocket attacks in northern Israel that resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, but the carnage inflicted by Hezbollah upon Israelis was lower by an order of magnitude than the bloodshed suffered in Lebanon as a result of Israeli bombardment.
The document released here yesterday urges the United Nations secretary-general to consider whether war-crimes proceedings should be brought against parties on both sides of the conflict.
It also calls on the United States – Israel's leading weapons supplier – to suspend its arms shipments until the Jewish state brings its military practices into line with international humanitarian law.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said yesterday he was not yet aware of an official reaction by Washington to this demand.
In a statement issued to news outlets here yesterday the IDF said it would consider the Human Rights Watch report "seriously," along with its recommendations, but then seemed to belie that commitment by dismissing the document as error-plagued and based on unreliable and incomplete information.
"(Human Rights Watch) is not privy to classified intelligence information possessed by the IDF necessary to evaluate the legitimacy of each attack," said the IDF statement. The IDF also argued that evidence provided by Lebanese villagers was apt to have "limited reliability."
Roth had little patience for those claims yesterday.
"We are accustomed to hearing the usual platitudes from the IDF," he said. "They don't begin to address the very troubling issues raised by our report. HRW has evidence that the IDF does not have. Our evidence shows that their evidence is wrong, and it was wrong over and over."

Support and assistance for Lebanon
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora further support to stabilise the country. Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, has increased aid for refugee camps in the country to four million euros. Merkel and Siniora also discussed the future of the international United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The Chancellor and her guest discussed the situation in Lebanon. Merkel emphasised that the aim of German and European policy is to strengthen the sovereignty, independence and multi-religious character of Lebanon.
For the Chancellor there can be no doubt that the UNIFIL force has been successful. She underlined the fact that in addition to protecting the Lebanese coast the German armed forces are also involved in training the Lebanese armed forces, "to enable the Lebanese navy to gradually assume responsibility for this in future," as Merkel put it. Future efforts will also concentrate on securing the Lebanese-Syrian border. Once again the Chancellor called on Syria to recognise Lebanon and thus make a constructive contribution to bringing peace to the region.
The presidential elections soon to be held in Lebanon will mark an important phase in the stabilisation of the country, according to Merkel. She reported that she had promised the Lebanese government Germany's support, also within the European Union.
Assistance for the refugee camps
After his meeting with the Chancellor, Prime Minister Siniora met Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. She promised the Lebanese government an additional two million euros in support for Palestine refugees in Lebanon. During her visit to Lebanon in June, Wieczorek-Zeul had already made available two million euros. Lebanon's refugee camps are home to 400,000 Palestinians.
"Some people have lived in these camps for decades. Many were born in the camps. Water and electricity supplies in particular are terribly poor. We want to do our bit to improve conditions in the camps," stated the minister. Assistance will also help reduce the influence of radical groups, that are close to Al Qaeda, emphasised Wieczorek-Zeul. Prime Minister Siniora expressed his thanks for the German contingent that is part of the UNIFIL mission, and for the contribution Germany is making to developing his country. The Lebanese Prime Minister last visited Berlin one year ago. The Chancellor was in Beirut in April this year. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier too visited Lebanon in July, August and December.
Currently, some 1,000 men and women of the German armed forces are deployed as part of the Maritime Task Force (MTF) of the United Nation Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Within the framework of this mission they are protecting the Lebanese coast. In close cooperation with the Lebanese navy, they have managed to prevent weapons being smuggled into the country by sea. On 22 August the German government voted to extend the deployment of the German armed forces in Lebanon. This must still be approved by the Bundestag, or German parliament, however. 07 September 2007

National Unity and President Aoun
By: Elias Aoun
Each Lebanese community has elements of strength within it. Since weakening one will eventually weaken everyone, then their survival depends on thinking in terms of utilizing each element of strength to benefit the whole. When Lebanese fail to agree in manners that would benefit all, then they are – unintentionally – agreeing in manners that could potentially defeat everyone.
While some may wish to place an emphasis on religious tensions alone, some emphasis must also be placed on resolving the social, economic, and political problems that feed such tensions. While some may argue about the religious affiliation of a certain politician, the emphasis must be placed on the ethics and principles of the individuals at the helm of power – regardless of their religious preferences. While reconciling leaders of various political and religious communities is certainly beneficial, importance must also be given to reconciling the citizen with the state.
All Lebanese live in one country called the Republic of Lebanon. Those who seek to preserve it, preserve it for everyone. Those who seek to undermine any community within it by aligning with foreign elements against that community, undermine it for all – including themselves.
The Lebanese seem to be always presented with choices:
(1) Iran and Syria or the United States? The answer should be clear: Lebanon and constitutional rights. If government officials win the support of the whole world and lose the country, what good would that be?
(2) Diplomacy or military defense? Those who pride themselves with diplomacy are free to pursue such a venue based on agreed upon national standards and principles. Those who are competent in military affairs will play a role in military defense. The defense of the southern part of Lebanon, for example, is also a defense of the Chouf, Beirut, and the rest of the country. The answer does not have to be one or the other. It can be both working jointly.
(3) Fear from “this” or “that”? The answer can be legal and constitutional systems that ensure individual equality and protection for all citizens regardless of political or religious affiliation. Based on proper systems and policies, neither “this” nor “that” would be threatening.
The Lebanese must be aware that
(1) to reach viable understandings among themselves is obviously more advantageous than being subordinates to foreign influence. Foreign diplomats should not be viewed as more responsible for any community’s or Lebanon’s fate than the members of that community or the Lebanese themselves.
(2) if the international community is truly a “helper”, then it would have respected the will of the Lebanese and internal constitutional standards.
(3) the Lebanese are primarily responsible for their own destiny, which will be defined by the decisions they make.
One of these defining decisions was The Understanding between FPM and Hezbollah. As a result, both General Michel Aoun and Hezbollah leadership created bridges of understanding between many Lebanese across religious and political lines. The opponents portrayed the Understanding as “Syrian-Iranian.” If this is the case, all they had to do was join it and make it “Lebanese”, especially since they never disagreed with its content. And if the content is agreeable to them, would that make them Syrians and Iranians as well?
The opponents also falsely linked the Understanding to the 2006 war – as if the Understanding was a military agreement against Israel, or as if Israel never caused a war before the Understanding was enacted. The Understanding played a role in national unity, civil peace, and victory over Israel – without any of these, there would have been no Lebanon.
In the pursuit of Lebanon’s next president, the candidate who made the most contributions – both in words and deeds – toward national unity is General Michel Aoun. In terms of principles, the presidential candidate who has proven to side with all Lebanese (including his political opponents) against any foreign intervention is General Michel Aoun.
The General is sometimes accused of “leaning” the Christian community toward Syria and Iran instead of the United States. For those making the accusation, why do they have to imply that leaning to the West is better than leaning to the East – instead of simply being Lebanese? The security of all citizens is national unity, and that cannot be imported from foreign countries.
Regardless of what they say about the “leaning”, the General is not a patsy to anyone against his countrymen. If the “Loyalists” want to protect themselves from foreign intrusion, there is no candidate better for them than him. Do the “Loyalists” honestly believe that what most of them could not achieve combined (i.e., stand up to foreign pressure) one of them will be able to achieve alone as a president?
The General is also accused of acting out of “personal interests.” Are his opponents unselfishly practicing politics for the love of God and country? If a person defends the constitution and individual rights, then he is accused of “personal interests.” Those who are violating the constitution and depriving citizens of their rights on whose interests are they acting?
Some have expressed a dislike to labels used by the General against his opponents. No matter what label is used, emphasis must be placed on the rights deprived to the oppressed and not the label used to describe the oppressors.
It is said that the “Loyalists” want a president “they can deal with.” Could they first define the manner by which they want to deal with the president – if such a manner is different from how they are currently treating the presidency – so it would be clear who is to blame in the “dealing process”?
It has been spoken of a “consensus president.” If consensus is on national unity and principles, then General Aoun has a better record than other candidates – and, therefore, the most deserving of the presidency.
* An American Lebanese Lawyer.