LCCC Special 14 selected compiled Opinions, Analysis & Reports
October 25/08

1-Lessons of Beirut.By Timothy J. Geraghty
2-Life After Death: 25 Years Ago. By: Dr. Joseph Hitti
3-Al Qaeda's Propaganda Aims to Affect US Election and future Strategies.By Walid Phares
4-UN Resolution 1701: A View from the United States. By Michael Singh
5-Walid Phares explains al-Qaeda 'endorsement' of McCain-American Thinker
6-A message from Ban Ki-Moon to mark United Nations Day .By Ban Ki-moon  
7-Tehran via Beirut-Al-Ahram Weekly/By: Dina Ezzat
8-Fraternal but independent-Al-Ahram Weekly/By: Raed Refai
9-Any Iraqi deal with America can wait for Bush's successor to take office. The Daily Star
10-Reading the tea leaves on Israel's 'non-belligerence' gambit/By Marc J. Sirois
11-Three Algerian Christians Face 3 Years in Prison for "Blasphemy"
12-Franjieh-Geagea reconciliation bid a charade - analysts/
By Michael Bluhm
13-A Shia affair/ By:Hanin Ghaddar
14-For many reasons, alternative energy is right for Lebanon. The Daily Star

Lessons of Beirut
By Timothy J. Geraghty

New York Post | Friday, October 24, 2008
It was 25 years ago on October 23 that a suicide bomber blew up the Marine compound in Beirut, killing 241 men. My men.
The 21,000 pounds of explosives caused the largest single-day loss of life for the Corps since Iwo Jima in 1945. It marked the start of a series of carefully coordinated attacks - initiated largely by Iran - that have plagued Americans in that region ever since. And the threat continues today.
The recent revelations that Tehran is providing sophisticated weaponry that is killing US Marines and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should come as no surprise. Iran has been waging war against the United States for well over a quarter-century - from the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 to today. Over the years, it has generously supported terrorist groups from al Qaeda and Hezbollah to Hamas and the Palestianian Islamic Jihad.
Examples of Iran's war-making abound. It has supported Hamas' rocket launches and other attacks into Israeli villages across the Gaza border. It has supplied weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon - not only to challenge the legitimacy of the duly elected government there, but to prepare for the next Arab war with Israel.
It has supported Syria in incessant efforts to destabilize Lebanon and Iraq. It has supported the Taliban in Afghanistan against NATO forces. And it has used the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force to help train, equip and finance Iraqi Shiite and Sunni extremist militias warring on Coalition forces.
Just recently, Hezbollah instructors trained Shiite militiamen in remote camps inside southern Iraq and planned some of the most brazen attacks against US-led forces.
Iran has evolved as a major player in the Middle East, with growing influence. Its proxy war with Israel - only one front in a larger conflict - has increased Iranian popularity throughout the Arab world. (Nor does Tehran's ability to cause trouble with impunity augur well for the peace process.)
With its links to the Taliban and its weapons-smuggling in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has been able to wreak havoc via its insurgent proxies while avoiding any blame or retribution itself. Such diversions also draw attention from Iran's primary objective of developing a nuclear weapon.
Here's how to connect the dots on Tehran's involvement in such efforts:
In August 2005, Mustafa Mohammad-Najjar (who'd been commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard expeditionary force that supported the Beirut attack in 1983) was named the new defense minister of Iran. In that job, he is most certainly involved in global terrorist attacks and the acquisition of nuclear weaponry.
Iran will likely use its favorite proxy, Hezbollah, to carry out future attacks against the West, including the United States. Najjar's long association with the late terrorist mastermind Imad Fayez Mugniyah lends credence to this probability. We could well find ourselves the target of a weapon of mass destruction right here in the United States that was planned and executed by some of the same players who carried out the '83 Beirut attacks.
Soon after Najjar became defense minister, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Kazemi was appointed to lead the Guard's ground forces. He is Najjar's close confidant and fellow alumnus of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Lebanon contingent.
Today, Lebanon has again become a battlefield for insurgents to settle their disagreements. The state-within-a-state that the Palestine Liberation Organization created in the late 1970s has been replaced. The Iranian model, establishing Hezbollah as a proxy, has proven more successful.
Hezbollah's development and growth suggest that Iran and Syria settled in 1983 on a long-range strategy to increase their influence in the region and the world. The operational and training base established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that year remains a hub of activity.
As the nation remembers the 1983 attacks on the Marine compound, Americans should also keep in mind how the tragedy came about, and who was - and still is - responsible for preventing the peace that has never come.
Iran isn't just another harmless bully in the Middle East. It's an impediment to peace - and a threat to the United States.
**This article is adapted from the October issue of Proceedings, the flagship magazine of the US Naval Institute.

Life After Death: 25 Years Ago.
Joseph Hitti
October 22, 2008
On the occasion of the 25th commemoration of the bombing of the US Marines Barracks in Beirut (October 23, 1983) by Hezbollah, I am sad to admit to reversing my position of trusting the Republicans in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Having written the piece below in 2003, I do not want to tarnish my respect and deep sympathy for the Marines themselves who gave their life in serving peace in Lebanon in 1983. But unfortunately, the mood of the transformation in US foreign policy that followed Sept. 11, 2001 has soured. In spite of President George W. Bush´s promises of no longer cavorting to dictators for the sake of fake stability, he and his fellow Republicans, like the former Republican administrations of Reagan and Bush senior, have gone back to making backroom deals with dictators, tyrants, warlords and corrupt elites in those countries that had high hopes for genuine grassroots democracy to take hold, like Lebanon. The US administration today is again seeking the favors of the Syrian dictator, has accepted a modus vivendi with Hezbollah in Lebanon, has done nothing serious to stem the Iranian and Syrian influences in Lebanon, and is giving the Lebanese Army lip service and junk weapons instead of a serious effort at strengthening the Lebanese army to the point where it can defeat Hezbollah. Why, I ask, can´t the US do for Lebanon what it did for Bosnia and Kosovo in the Balkans?
I have come to the conclusion that the US Administration has never wanted, and does not want today, a definitive solution in Lebanon that preserves Lebanon´s integrity and sovereignty. The interests of Lebanon are subsumed under those of Israel, which means that a US-chaperoned Israeli-Syrian deal remains the priority, even if at the expense of Lebanon. I honestly believe that the original plan, the "Kissinger Plan" devised in the early 1970s by Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon (another Republican administration) to destabilize Lebanon on religious grounds in order to offer the PLO a substitute country and get Israel off the hook, is still at work. I do not believe any of the statements by US State Department officials that there will be no deal with Syria over Lebanon. I never believed them back when they sold Lebanon to Syria, why should I believe them today?
Having said all that, I am not changing the text of the piece I wrote in 2003, back when I wholeheartedly believed in the change of US policy after September 11. On the 25th commemoration of the bombing of the US Marines barracks and the French Paratrooper Compound on October 23, 1983, I offer my gratitude and deep respect to the soldiers themselves, but not to the leaders who sent them and then betrayed them and their memory.
October 23, 2003
It has been 20 years this October 23d since the suicide truck bombing of the US Marines barracks in Beirut. There is nothing sacred about the number 20 but we humans like round numbers, and so this 20th anniversary of Islamic bombing of the US Marines Barracks in Beirut on a Sunday morning in 1983 is more special than, say, last year's 19th anniversary. Not that the event is less important than the anniversary. I actually remember it every year, because it left a deep scar in me.
But beyond the anniversaries, this year the memory has indeed a very special place because it has mutated from one of complete, hopeless, bottomless sorrow and sadness to one in which the sorrow, for the first time in 20 years, has in the words of Khalil Gibran showed us its other face, its alter ego, hope! As Khalil Gibran said "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." And as the West slowly but surely makes a U-turn, comes to terms with its often-stated but rarely practiced convictions, and begins to seriously fight terrorism, Lebanon and the people of Lebanon cannot help but feel gleeful. Yes, we told you so.
For 30 years the Lebanese people were alone, with bombs in their streets and shrapnel in the bodies of their children, with massacres and destruction, shelling, kidnapping, and sniping. They tried to tell the world that theirs was not a civil war, but the war of terror on gentility, the war of backwardness on civility, of anarchy on stability, of totalitarianism on democracy, of darkness on enlightenment. They tried to tell the world that their land and their history were, for better or for worse, the fault line where the seeds of coming wars were being sown that will come knocking at their doors in the not so distant future. But no one listened, even when the US Marines and the French paratroopers were blown to shreds, or when the US ambassador Francis Meloy and the French Ambassador Louis Delamare were gunned down in the streets of Beirut under the watchful eyes of the Syrian "peacekeepers", or when their own journalists, clergymen, teachers, and diplomats were being snatched off the streets of Beirut to be chained for years in dingy basements. The world insisted that this was a "civil war", even as every symbol of global East-meets-West decency that Lebanon harbored for decades was being shredded to pieces through the terror grinder of Syria, Iran, and their many proxies. Even as embassies were being shut down, Western civilians were being evacuated, schools were being closed, and peacekeeping armies were being blown up, it was the fault of the Lebanese people for being so close to Palestine, and for having borders with Israel and Syria. It was the fault of the Lebanese for being the proxy victims, the scapegoat, the accidental actors in a play not of their making. Lebanon was even accused of being an artificial nation, made of so many tribes - since when was diversity a shame, and pluralism a sin? - Because its history and geography did not allow a single group from "ethnically-cleansing" the others, or converting them to one religion. Lebanon was a Bosnia-Herzegovina a couple of decades too early for the sensibilities of the West to wake up from their comfortable slumber.
And so now the hens have come home to roost. Things have changed and the tables have been turned. For the first time in 20 years, the US Administration is calling the Syrians occupiers. For the first time in 20 years, the US is not running away from the suicide bombings and the acts of terror, but is pursuing them in every far corner of the world. For the first time in 20 years, there will be no retreat from Beirut or Baghdad, because the message is no longer "Bomb them and they will retreat". The message today is "No matter the body bags or the bombs, we will hound you till the end." For the first time in 20 years, State Department did not object to an anti-Syrian piece of legislation and the US Congress is voting a law to hold those behind the terrorists accountable for their acts. For the first time in 20 years the West has finally recognized that what happened in Beirut that Sunday morning had nothing to do with the liberation of Palestine or with what Israel was doing to the Palestinian people. Rather, that Sunday morning was a pure act of hatred, seated deep in the civilizational clash that makes certain people afraid of the modern world. That truck bomb was a pure act of terror, distilled of all the excuses and pretexts that are uttered these days to justify and promote another retreat in front of the terrorist threat. That Sunday morning bombing was a direct precursor for that Tuesday Sept 11 bombing.
For we need to remember why the Marines came in the first place to Beirut that year, accompanied by their Allies, the French, the Italians and the British as the Multi-National Force (MNF). We need to remind Jacques Chirac of France that 56 of his own paratroopers were also blown up at exactly the same time as 241 US Marines were being killed in their sleep, about half a mile away. The MNF was not a force of occupation. The MNF was not there looking for weapons of Mass Destruction. The MNF was not fighting any war. In fact, the soldiers of the MNF were forbidden from loading their guns. The MNF was there to supervise the evacuation of Yasser Arafat's PLO from Beirut, after he had declared that the road to Palestine goes - with much looting, raping, pillaging, killing, mass-murdering - through Beirut. And when the time came to face up to reality, no Arab brother was there to help him out, not even the Syrians. Not even the Saudis. And not even the Iranians. And that is why the Americans and the Europeans had come to Beirut. To save the hide of an Arab. To save a city from the Israeli siege that no Arab "brother", especially Syria, dared to oppose.
And so Lebanon is today the winner. Lebanon was right and everyone else was wrong. The Lebanese people now can, but may choose to have the decency not to, engage in academic debates and make moral judgments about the appropriateness of invading Iraq as a component of the war against terrorism. Or the effectiveness of targeted assassinations as a means to fight Yasser Arafat. Or whether a country such as Israel that cannot control its Palestinians is, like Lebanon of the 1970s and 1980s, an artificial or uncivilized country with many tribes that just can't "sit down and agree" on how to deal with a mortal threat in its midst. Or whether the US government's restrictions on the civil liberties of its citizens is the moral equivalent of General Aoun's government trying to enforce the law by shutting down the illegal harbors of the warlords along the Lebanese coast. Or whether Syria's behavior in opening its borders to Jihadists flocking into Iraq to fight the imperialist American crusaders is really exactly the same as Syria's opening its borders in the early 1970s to Al-Saika, the Yarmuk Brigades, or the Palestine Liberation Army to enter into Lebanon and destabilize the isolationist Lebanese government and kill the indigenous crusaders of Lebanon.
It took 30 years and September 11 for the West to comprehend what Lebanon had gone through, place its tragedy in the right context and stop the condescending sermonizing. Baghdad, you owe Beirut a big thank you because the US has learned a lot from its retreat that year. The Lebanese people were alone that year, and so were the Marines when their government withdrew in the face of their killers. Today, they are no longer alone. Their pain is everyone's pain, and the end of the tunnel, even if it remains distant, is now bigger and more crowded. But most of all we owe the Marines who died in their sleep on that Sunday morning in Beirut a huge debt. The debt of having being the accidental victims, and like Lebanon, they were the canaries in the mine. But no one was listening then. Today the whole world is listening.
**Joseph Hitti is an American Translators Association-certified Arabic translator, a genomics scientist and a political commentator on Lebanon and the Middle East. He was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon and currently lives in Boston. He can be reached at

Al Qaeda's Propaganda Aims to Affect US Election and future Strategies
By Walid Phares
October 23, 2008
A recent Associated Press report and a Washington Post article reported that al Qaeda's web sites have expressed a strategic preference of their organization for the next President of the United States. The Washington Post analysis, observing that multiple sites and commentaries close to the Bin Laden group expressed a similar point of view, concluded that this indeed is al Qaeda's agenda: that a John McCain Presidency would benefit the Jihadi goals.
A first quick reading of the site's claim may appear to be an endorsement of the Senator from Arizona. A thorough reading of the posted material in original Arabic, however, and an analysis of the global strategies of the Jihadist movement along with the psychological war efforts by al Qaeda and their allies around the world, tell us a different story and it is the antipode of the Washington Post conclusion.
Here is my reading of the Jihadi postings:
1) Methodologically: When translating and analyzing material posted by al Qaeda or operatives close to the group, or pretending to do so, one has to keep track of the big strategic picture. Al Qaeda doesn't favor one American politician over another; rather it uses images and slogans to derail the global U.S. response to al Qaeda, regardless of who occupies the White House. It doesn't rely on a left wing/right wing parameter.
For example, al Qaeda (and the Iranian regime) attacked Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair because he joined the U.S. in the offensive in Iraq and praised French Conservative President Jacques Chirac for opposing that campaign. The Jihadists accepted support from the U.S. when they were fighting the Soviets and are now in sync with populist Marxists in their fight against America. In short there is a "Jihadi agenda" and what they care about is how to advance it.
2) Strategic goals: The Salafist networks, including al Qaeda, want a defeat of U.S.-led efforts in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The Jihadi war room (part of it is within the top tier of al Qaeda and other parts are connected to ideologues and propagandists situated in various circles in the region and beyond) has a plan for a McCain Administration and another plan for an Obama Administration. It doesn't operate based on the socio-economic agendas of the two candidates but on their assumed national security policies and beliefs.
If McCain is elected, al Qaeda knows that there will be different teams of advisors to wage a different type of campaign. The Jihadists are very knowledgeable about American and European intellectual debates. They also know the thinking process of the counterterrorism teams under Obama. Hence, there is a difference between what al Qaeda's decision-makers and their analysts know, and what their propagandists wish to instill in the U.S. election debate. What they state should be translated and understood only within the greater picture of what they want to achieve.
3) Al Qaeda's propagandists operate within the realm of what the Jihadi machine has created in terms of political culture over the years. The main ideas are that the U.S., under President Bush, tried but failed to destroy al Qaeda; hence, the Jihadist narrative says that any next U.S. President who continues the policies of the Bush Administration will give victory to al Qaeda. Inserting their arguments in the ongoing Presidential debate, this means that the candidate who advances Bush strategies will be better for the goals of Bin Laden. Hence the site's assertion that al Qaeda welcomes a McCain victory (in a sarcastic style).
4) But this tactic used by the Jihadi propagandists is part of a reverse psychology. It aims at sending a message to the American voters: if you want al Qaeda to win, vote for McCain. The Jihadi web sites cannot state it otherwise, such as if you want the U.S. to win, vote for Obama, because in Jihadi war doctrines there cannot be a victory for America, under any President. Hence, what al Qaeda seems to be attempting to achieve is to affect the perception of the undecided voters by stating to them that the strength of McCain in the war on terror is not really strength. Therefore, in the end, the move is aimed at sinking the chances of the former U.S. Navy Pilot by crumbling the support among undecided voters who might ultimately have come to his camp as late as D Day.
5) The savvy Jihadi operatives know all too well that any material they send out in these critical days preceding the U.S. election will be picked up by the media. They also know that any narrative that can be used by the critics of McCain will lessen his chances on November 4, and that is why the stories were run by AP and the Washington Post. If an "enemy" of the United States asserts that it prefers a particular candidate in the White House, al Qaeda may cause the voters to vote for his opponent. Therefore, the web sites’ material might be read in fact as encouragement for U.S. voters to defeat McCain, not the other way around. Experts in Jihadi strategies would then advance the thesis that a McCain Administration is perceived as more dangerous to al Qaeda's long term plans, which would be an additional 4 to 8 years of global efforts against the Islamist movement. This is why their goal is the psychological manipulation of the electorate.
By comparison, in October 2004, Bin Laden intervened directly via a videotape to threaten the states that vote for a Bush reelection, just a few days before the voting. Most probably, the tactics of the Jihadi machine had to evolve and learn from the previous election: if you threaten Americans with retaliation if they vote for the "tough" candidate, the voters will punish al Qaeda. But, four years later, if you welcome the "tough" candidate as a potential failure, the Jihadists may expect that American voters will punish the candidate, this time. If anything, the analysts of al Qaeda may have learned that the American public is resilient and wants success.
6) But would that mean that Bin Laden's organization prefers Senator Obama to be in the White House instead? It is not that simple. Al Qaeda knows all too well that the American public wants a victory over Bin Laden's network. The Jihadists aren't interested in who would save the U.S. economy or create jobs and opportunities in the land of the infidels. What they wish for is a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, a mess across the Afghani-Pakistani border and, above all, a cessation of any war of ideas against their ideology. You have to imagine al Qaeda - or the war room behind it - as cold blooded calculators of the options, not as emotional backers of either one of the candidates.
In 2004, they specifically affected the Spanish elections by blowing up the trains and boosting the opposition's arguments in the media. It worked, as Prime Minister Aznar was ousted. But this didn't mean that they considered his successor, Zapatero, as a good guy. Al Qaeda cells are still plotting inside Spain, and Madrid is still engaged against the Jihadists. The difference is that there are no Spanish troops in the Sunni triangle and there is little U.S.-Spanish cooperation internationally.
7) In the end, the Washington Post investigation is based on unofficial web sites’ postings rather than on an Al Qaeda public announcement which can still happen at anytime. Besides, the article rushed too quickly to a conclusion the Jihadist propagandists wished the American mainstream to conclude. In short, if this was a planned push by the Jihadi Salafi machine (and we don't know yet), it succeeded in triggering a mainstream journalistic reaction about the election debate.
When al Qaeda propagandist strikes occur, America must always respond with a unified front. Even at the peak of dizzying exchanges between the candidates, the two campaigns must strike back as one against the Jihadists, even if only one camp is attacked. For the ultimate goal of the terrorists is to defeat the United States, not one particular candidate.
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad

UN Resolution 1701: A View from the United States
By Michael Singh
October 22, 2008
This PolicyWatch is the third in a three-part series examining the situation in Lebanon two years after the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. This series coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon on October 23, 1983, an attack that continues to inform U.S. policymaking in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.
Read the two companion PolicyWatches, "UN Resolution 1701: A View from Israel" and "UN Resolution 1701: A View from Lebanon."
Two years after the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war, it is tempting to view another conflict as inevitable: arms continue to flow, Hizballah has rebuilt and enhanced its military strength, Lebanon remains fractured by violent political divisions, and tensions between Iran and Israel have increased. There is, however, cause for hope -- Lebanon's pro-sovereignty leaders have proven courageous and resilient, and the international community has committed significant resources to the country's institutions. If renewed conflict is to be avoided, Lebanon, Israel, and their allies must take advantage of these assets and redouble their efforts to enforce Resolution 1701.
The July 16, 2008, return to Israel of the remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev marked an end, of sorts, to a war that began almost exactly two years earlier, when the two Israeli soldiers were captured and eight of their colleagues killed in a brazen cross-border attack by Hizballah. Almost from the start of the ensuing conflict, it was clear that the international effort to end it would have to address not only the fighting on the ground but also the dangerous dynamics that had allowed Hizballah to draw the region to the brink of a wider conflagration. The product of this effort was Resolution 1701, which delineated three principles -- no foreign forces, no weapons for nongovernmental militias, and no independent authority separate from the central government -- as vital to a lasting Lebanese peace. Underlying these principles was the recognition that while the flow of arms to terrorist groups like Hizballah is the most immediate threat to stability in Lebanon, the true key to long-term peace is an empowered and capable central government in Beirut.
Strengthening the Lebanese Government
The UN resolution's most basic objective, a ceasefire, was quickly achieved: the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the expanded UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) deployed throughout southern Lebanon in late 2006, and the Blue Line (the UN's 2000 border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon) has been relatively quiet ever since. The ceasefire, however, proved to be the easy part. More difficult was dealing with the domestic ramifications of the conflict in Lebanon -- Hizballah was emboldened and Lebanon's central government was weakened. Their ensuing struggle for power culminated in May 2008 in a bloody street battle that claimed sixty-five lives, eventually leading to Hizballah's temporary occupation of Beirut.
In the Doha Agreement that followed, Hizballah gained new political power, albeit at the cost of credibility lost in turning its weapons against its own people. The pro-sovereignty forces, on the other hand, made painful concessions to the opposition but in many respects stood their ground and even made gains by electing a president, forming a government, and promulgating a strong cabinet statement. The true test of their strength will be in how President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora handle ongoing discussions of Hizballah's arms, and how the majority fares in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Built into the UN resolution was the recognition that the Lebanese government would need significant international aid, and indeed it has received an influx of economic and security assistance for the past two years. A massive increase of U.S. assistance, which included $200 million in military aid this year, led international efforts. Events during this period, however, have underscored that while foreign aid can provide vital leverage to Lebanon's government, real change must be led by the Lebanese themselves. For example, international security assistance gave the LAF an edge in its hard-fought victory over the radical Sunni organization Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in mid-2007. But the operation's success ultimately stemmed from the LAF's determination and public support. Hizballah at first sought to limit the LAF's freedom of action, but was forced to backpedal when it became clear that the tide of public opinion supported the government.
The Challenge of Hizballah
The violence in May 2008 underscored one of the premises of Resolution 1701: that any gains made by the Lebanese government could easily be countered by Hizballah with massive military force. Resolution 1701 sought to constrain Hizballah's military capability by securing Lebanon's eastern border, thus limiting both the flow of arms and the ambitions of Iran and Syria. But the active opposition of those regimes and the lack of robust border security measures left the border porous, allowing Hizballah to rearm. In fact, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak asserted that Hizballah's arsenal of rockets has nearly tripled since 2006.
Arms smuggling and an emboldened Hizballah pose a threat to the region that is difficult to overstate. As a vanguard for Tehran, Hizballah frustrates progress on regional peace and stability and acts as a proxy through which Iran can operate without risking direct retaliation. This strategy holds true not only in the Levant, but also throughout the Middle East -- such as Hizballah's training of Iraqi Shiite militants -- and as far away as South America, where Hizballah agents engage in terrorist financing and other activities. Compounding the problem, the Iran-Syria arms pipeline supplies al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in Palestinian refugee camps, as well as other Syrian proxies in the region.
Next Steps
Two years after the summer 2006 war, the need for full and effective enforcement of Resolution 1701 remains urgent. The possibility of renewed conflict looms large and is compounded by tensions between Iran and Israel, the potential for Hizballah to avenge the death of Imad Mughniyeh (the military commander killed by a February 2008 car bomb in Damascus), and the activities of terrorist groups operating in Palestinian refugee camps, which continue to put the country at risk.
In the short term, it is critical to stop the flow of arms to the militias that hold Lebanon hostage. To this end, any further European moves to revive EU-Syria relations should stipulate that Damascus cooperate in ending the flow of arms into Lebanon. The EU should also emulate the British government's recent designation of Hizballah as a terrorist organization. In addition, the international community and Lebanon's regional partners should take meaningful action to secure the Lebanese-Syrian border, or Siniora should charge UNIFIL with that mission under the authority provided him by Resolution 1701. Finally, measures to stop the arms before they arrive at the border should be examined in earnest.
The long-term challenge for Lebanon's allies will be to strengthen the Lebanese state by increasing military, diplomatic, and economic assistance to Beirut. The Lebanese government, in turn, can demonstrate its authority by continuing to address the country's security challenges and wresting control of the Lebanon-Israel relationship from Hizballah and Iran by taking up Israel's offer of bilateral talks. Hizballah and its allies may criticize such a move, but Suleiman could justify the talks by pointing to the peace deals and ongoing talks between Israel and its other neighbors.
For its part, Israel should recognize that effective implementation of Resolution 1701 requires strong Lebanese civic and security institutions. Israeli leaders should see the Lebanese government as a partner and refrain from actions that indirectly benefit those seeking to undermine it, such as Hizballah. While Hizballah, despite its claims of defending Lebanon, dragged Israel and Lebanon into a war neither wanted, the Lebanese and Israeli governments should pursue the peace that both countries need.
**Michael Singh is a Boston-based associate fellow at The Washington Institute and former senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council.

Walid Phares explains al-Qaeda 'endorsement' of McCain
Rick Moran/American Thinker
October 23, 2008
Liberal blogs and websites were falling all over themselves yesterday, breathlessly and gleefully reporting that an al-Qaeda sympathetic website had come out and "endorsed" John McCain for president.
The reason they did this is because back in 2004, John Kerry said his loss to George Bush was not because he was one of the most boring, flip flopping, far left liberal candidates in history but because Osama Bin Laden released a tape a few days before the election that echoed many of the same talking points being pushed at the time by Democrats.
Well the simple minded fools now believe that this "endorsement" of McCain will have the same effect. Aside from the laughably ridiculous notion that anyone believes John McCain would be a better president for al-Qaeda than Barack "root causes" Obama, frequent AT contributor Dr. Walid Phares gives us the real reason behind this move by the terrorists:
If McCain is elected, al Qaeda knows that there will be different teams of advisors to wage a different type of campaign. The Jihadists are very knowledgeable about American and European intellectual debates. They also know the thinking process of the counterterrorism teams under Obama. Hence, there is a difference between what al Qaeda's decision-makers and their analysts know, and what their propagandists wish to instill in the U.S. election debate. What they state should be translated and understood only within the greater picture of what they want to achieve.
3) Al Qaeda's propagandists operate within the realm of what the Jihadi machine has created in terms of political culture over the years. The main ideas are that the U.S., under President Bush, tried but failed to destroy al Qaeda; hence, the Jihadist narrative says that any next U.S. President who continues the policies of the Bush Administration will give victory to al Qaeda. Inserting their arguments in the ongoing Presidential debate, this means that the candidate who advances Bush strategies will be better for the goals of Bin Laden. Hence the site's assertion that al Qaeda welcomes a McCain victory (in a sarcastic style).
4) But this tactic used by the Jihadi propagandists is part of a reverse psychology. It aims at sending a message to the American voters: if you want al Qaeda to win, vote for McCain. The Jihadi web sites cannot state it otherwise, such as if you want the U.S. to win, vote for Obama, because in Jihadi war doctrines there cannot be a victory for America, under any President. Hence, what al Qaeda seems to be attempting to achieve is to affect the perception of the undecided voters by stating to them that the strength of McCain in the war on terror is not really strength. Therefore, in the end, the move is aimed at sinking the chances of the former U.S. Navy Pilot by crumbling the support among undecided voters who might ultimately have come to his camp as late as D Day.
Of course, such subtleties are too much for our leftist friends on the internet. It won't alter either their political perception nor would any of this change their belief that a McCain election actually would be inimicable to our efforts to destroy al-Qaeda - that is, if destruction of the terrorists is what they want. They would much prefer to send them food, educate them, teach them how to improve their economies - all the things al-Qaeda could care less about. What they want are dead westerners and anything that furthers that goal - say, endorsing the stronger candidate believing it will adversely affect his chances thus electing someone weaker than McCain - seems to escape our leftist friends who are doing a victory dance over the terrorists endorsing McCain.

A message from Ban Ki-Moon to mark United Nations Day
By Ban Ki-moon /Daily Star
Friday, October 24, 2008
On this 63rd anniversary of our organization, I join you in celebrating United Nations Day.
This is a crucial year in the life of our United Nations. We have just passed the midpoint in the struggle to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - our common vision for building a better world in the 21st century. We can see more clearly than ever that the threats of the 21st century spare no one. Climate change, the spread of disease and deadly weapons, and the scourge of terrorism all cross borders. If we want to advance the global common good, we must secure global public goods
Many countries are still not on track to reach the MDGs by the target date of 2015. I am also deeply concerned about the impact of the global financial crisis. Never have leadership and partnership been more important.
This makes our success at the high- level MDG event in September all the more remarkable. We brought together a broad coalition for change: governments, CEOs and civil society. We generated unprecedented commitment in pledges and partnerships to help the world's poor. The final tally is not in yet, but the total amount pledged at the MDG event may exceed $16 billion.
Partnership is the way of the future. Just look at the advances on malaria. Our global malaria effort has brought us within range of containing a disease that kills a child every 30 seconds. It is doing so through focused country planning, greater funding, coordinated global management, top-notch science and technology.
We need models like these to tackle other challenges, including climate change, as we approach the conferences in Poznan and Copenhagen. We need them to achieve all the other Millennium Development Goals.
**Ban Ki-moon is secretary general of the UN.

Tehran via Beirut
By: Dina Ezzat
Al-Ahram Weekly
What is Egypt up to in Lebanon? Dina Ezzat looks for an answer
The situation in Lebanon is stable but not beyond relapse and Iranian influence over internal Lebanese affairs should be carefully balanced else it could trigger a new round of civil tension. This is the message that Egyptian officials are giving in response to questions on a sequence of visits by Lebanese politicians to Cairo and the time and attention accorded them by President Hosni Mubarak.
This week, Mubarak met with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. The meeting came two days after a reportedly extensive telephone call with parliament majority leader Saad Al-Hariri and only a week following a meeting with controversial Christian leader Samir Geagea who is known for a precarious history of lethal fanaticism and conspicuous associations with Israel.
For Egyptian officials, the blurred political history of Geagea is part of the sad history of the Lebanese Civil War. It is the future of Lebanon that Egypt is interested in. To prevent a new round of internal civil tension (armed or verbal), Egypt believes that it has to counter the Syria-supported Iranian influence extended to the Shia-dominated opposition headed by Hizbullah in alliance with Maronite Christian leader Michel Aoun.
Sources tell Al-Ahram Weekly that Geagea's request for a meeting with Mubarak during his visit to Egypt (on the invitation of the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut) was only confirmed at the last minute when Aoun arrived to Tehran. It is not political vengeance against Tehran, which is publicly accused by Cairo of inciting instability in the Arab world, but political balancing that prompted the decision to accord Geagea a meeting with the president.
Egypt's increasing attention to Lebanon started in August when Mubarak received Lebanese Sunni figure Omar Karami, who is associated with opposition and who pleaded for Egyptian support for Lebanon's unsteady civil peace. It was followed by an unplanned visit of Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit to Beirut where he met with representatives of all Lebanese political factions, majority and opposition, but excluded an encounter with Hizbullah's influential leader Hassan Nasrallah.
In official press statements and in talks with political figures of the opposition in Lebanon, Egyptian officials and diplomats try to play down the impression -- much emphasised by statements of visiting Lebanese majority figures -- that Egypt is seeking to give the majority government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora a new boost ahead of the countdown to legislative elections due in spring 2009.
Egyptian officials are not hiding their political sympathy with the Lebanese majority, which wishes to keep Lebanon away from any political or military confrontation with Israel. Leaders of the opposition, especially Hizbullah, deem such confrontation unavoidable as long as Israel is occupying Lebanese territories and threatening the security of Lebanon. Nor are Egyptian officials shy about expressing their unease, shared with other regional powers, especially Riyadh, over Iran's influence in internal Lebanese affairs. Egyptian and Cairo-based Saudi diplomats argue that if Syria and Iran are holding extensive meetings with their allies in Lebanon to prepare for legislative elections, it is the right of other political powers to play a balancing game.
As such, following his meeting with Mubarak Monday, Jumblatt said he received Egypt's support for the demands of the majority to get Syria to acknowledge in writing that the Shebaa Farms area, taken and occupied by Israel from Syrian troops during the 1967 war, is Lebanese territory, "to allow for the Israeli handover of the farms to the UNIFIL (pending a peace agreement with Lebanon) or to Lebanon". Like Geagea last week, Jumblatt spoke confidently of Egyptian support to "Lebanon's full sovereignty" -- a typical euphemism for the elimination of Syrian and Iranian support to the Lebanese opposition in its defiance of Israel.
In its pursuit of exercising a certain presence on the Lebanese political scene (in harmony with the marked presence of like- minded Saudi Arabia), Egypt does not seem to be planning to bolster the Sunni community per se in a country sensitive to its ethnic composition. It is rather trying to confront Iran's rising political influence, as it has recently been doing in Iraq.
Last week, Egypt's mufti visited Lebanon for the inauguration of a mosque and for talks with Sunni and Shia leaders, including prominent Shia clergyman Hassan Fadlallah.
Iranian diplomats speaking privately to the Weekly suggested that Tehran is keen to improve relations with Cairo and that it wishes to "discuss all issues" related to Lebanon or Iraq with Egypt. However, they concurred that it is very difficult for the two capitals to agree on a unified agenda of interests in view of the contrasting political agendas that each capital adopts, especially on relations with the US.
Still, neither Egypt, a close ally of the US and a member of the US-Arab anti-Iranian influence mechanism known as 6+3+1, nor Iran, which is playing a tough diplomatic game with the US, are interested in mutual confrontation.© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Fraternal but independent
By:  Raed Refai
Al-Ahram Weekly
Syria and Lebanon have taken another step towards fraternal but ultimately sovereign relations between them, writes Raed Refai
Lebanon and Syria's official sealing of diplomatic ties for the first time since their independence was an important symbolic step towards paving the way for more customary bilateral relations, politicians and analysts say. But according to many observers the prospects of Damascus respecting Lebanon's sovereignty after three decades of direct political influence over it remains uncertain.
"There has been a deep crisis of trust between the two countries," said Future Movement MP Nabil De Freige. "We think the establishment of diplomatic relations is a good step, but we need to see first how it would translate on the ground," he added.
Last Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem and his Lebanese counterpart Fawzi Salloukh signed in Damascus a joint document establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. According to the Syrian national news agency, SANA, this statement stipulates the determination of both parties "to reinforce and consolidate their relations on the basis of mutual respect, the sovereignty and independence of each, and to preserve privileged fraternal relations."
As a first response, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora said in a statement that he hoped the move was "a prelude to a new page that will benefit both Lebanon and Syria, having learned from lessons and experiences of the past."
Already in August, after a meeting in Paris, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman pledged to establish ties at the embassy level. Wednesday's step was hailed by the United Nations as a "historic" move and welcomed by the international community.
"Opening an embassy is good. But who will the ambassador be? Are the Syrians going to use diplomatic channels in their relations with Lebanon?" asked Osama Safa, director of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies, a Beirut-based think tank. "It remains to be seen whether this entails real change in Syrian attitudes and not mere window dressing."
Syrian-Lebanese relations have been sour since the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri in 2005, which was largely blamed on Damascus. Syria denied any involvement and withdrew its troops from Lebanon shortly after. Although the international tribunal formed on the assassination of Al-Hariri is yet to determine the culprits, Lebanon's parliamentary majority decided to separate the trial from the issue of bilateral relations with Syria.
"The tribunal is in the hands of the UN today," said De Freige. "We agreed from the beginning not to link our relations with the Syrians and the formation of the tribunal. We understand that the interest of the country is more important than anything else."
Contacts between Lebanon and Syria have dramatically improved since an accord was sealed in Doha between Lebanese feuding parties with the support of the Syrians. Syria was pushed by the French to help stabilise Lebanon and was pulled out of international isolation as a reward.
Observers say that Syrians feel reassured today with regards to the Lebanese government after their allies have gained more political strength. The election of Michel Suleiman as head of state also helped ease tensions.
"President Suleiman is someone who reassures the Syrians," said Fadia Kiwan, head of the Political Science Department at Beirut's Saint Joseph University. "His recent visit to Damascus was an indication that relations were heading towards a normal course."
The improvement of relations between the two countries is also noticeable with signs of cooperation between the two countries emerging on security matters, especially after the two states were victim recently of bomb attacks believed to be perpetrated by extreme Islamist movements.
"There is a shift in the official Lebanese stance towards Syria, from accusations of fostering instability to an understanding that both countries are facing common dangers," Kiwan said.
But despite a sense of rapprochement between Lebanon and Syria, several issues of dispute are still pending. Although Damascus has agreed to demarcate borders between the two countries, it has not yet been willing to help provide proof of Lebanon's sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms area. This small patch of land is occupied by Israel, which claims it is part of Syrian territory.
Following an official visit to Cairo Monday, Druze MP Walid Jumblatt, who had been one of the fiercest foes of Syria in Lebanon in past years, said that "the rapprochement [with Syria] was started by setting up diplomatic ties and we wait for the border demarcation."
There is also the file of hundreds of Lebanese who went missing during the Lebanese Civil War and who are believed to be detained or dead in Syria. A joint committee was established to look into cases of the disappeared, but conclusive results are still to be announced.
Another complicated issue is the revision of a friendship and cooperation accord that has been tying the two countries together at the economic, political and security levels since 1991. Anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon have criticised these treaties as serving the interests of Syria over those of Lebanon.
No matter how relations between Lebanon and Syria will be shaped, some observers believe that Damascus as a foreign power will continue to have the upper hand in Lebanon for geographical, historic, demographic and sociological reasons.
"Syria will remain the strongest foreign powerbroker in Lebanon," said Ghassan Al-Azzi, professor of political science at the Lebanese University. "Lebanon is much smaller than Syria and it's weaker on the military level. Syrians also have strong allies in Lebanon," he added.
Azzi added that there were two major developments that prompted the return of Syria as a regional power. First, there was the launching of indirect peace talks, via Turkish mediation, between Syria and Israel. Second, there was the French decision to use soft power and diplomacy with the Syrians, which appears to have paid off. "Syria has been successful so far in striking a deal with the West," Azzi said. "The Syrians are gaining time. They are waiting for a new US administration and a new Israeli government, to see what the new regional prospects will be." © Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Any Iraqi deal with America can wait for Bush's successor to take office
By The Daily Star
Friday, October 24, 2008
US officials have tried to bully Iraqi leaders into accepting a controversial agreement that would govern the presence of American troops in the country until 2011. They have warned that failure to conclude the deal would have disastrous consequences and might bring about a reversal of the security gains that the country has witnessed in recent months. But the Iraqis would be better off to ignore these hysterical warnings and simply refuse to negotiate any deal with US President George W. Bush. First, the danger of not signing the deal has been wildly exaggerated, because the Iraqis would in all likelihood be able to convince the Security Council to extend the current United Nations resolution that authorizes the foreign military presence in the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already said that his country would support such a request from Iraq, and the Chinese and other Security Council members have no reason to oppose it. Likewise, the Americans would be forced to approve of the extension, lest they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being recognized by the world body as illegal occupiers.
Second, the Bush administration has shown colossal incompetence at virtually every step of the way through its Iraq misadventure, and there is little reason to believe that they are showing better judgement at this juncture. Are we to believe that the same team that sparked an insurgency by disbanding the national army, excused the plundering of Iraq's archeological treasures by saying "stuff happens" and brought us horrors such as Abu Ghraib is now skillfully looking out for the interests of the Iraqi people?
The Iraqis would be wise to err on the side of caution and simply wait for this administration to leave office before concluding a direct pact with the Americans. By refusing to grant Bush a deal, they will send a strong signal that Iraq is a sovereign nation that cannot be bullied into submission. And they may also be able to negotiate a less controversial pact with the next American president, who will hopefully show better judgement - and more regard for the lives and dignity of the Iraqi people.

Reading the tea leaves on Israel's 'non-belligerence' gambit
By Marc J. Sirois /Daily Star staff

Friday, October 24, 2008
The latest rumblings out of Israel communicate that country's possible desire to negotiate a "non-belligerence agreement" with Lebanon. Given that the current Israeli government is fast approaching the end of its shelf life, it is tempting to dismiss such talk as an irrelevant distraction. But while Tzipi Livni may or may not succeed in forming a new coalition that would permit her to take over the prime minister's office from the indelibly tainted Ehud Olmert, Israel itself will still be around for a while yet, making it useful to examine the possible motivations for the release of its latest trial balloon.
First off, it can safely be assumed that the chatter is not to be taken at face value: Israel was born by an act of belligerence, and it has never honored either the letter or (especially) the spirit of any agreement previously signed with any Arab entity.
Unless Livni cannot take her seat and the job goes to someone else, presumably the fanatical and congenitally belligerent Benjamin Netanyahu, that leaves several possibilities.
One is that Israel is genuinely interested in some form of normal relations in Lebanon, but it is no secret that this country is in no position to break with its Arab brethren by striking a separate peace. Refreshingly, at least one Israeli official has addressed a small part of this issue by opining that any pact with Beirut would have to be preceded by one with Damascus. Realistically, however, any formula that did not also include the Palestinians could only lead to disappointment in anything beyond the extreme short term.
Another is that some members of the current Israeli leadership are concerned that the window of opportunity for a "two-state" solution is closing - and with it the possibility that Israel can survive as a Jewish state in the long run. Considered in this light - and alongside continuing direct talks with the Palestinians, indirect ones with the Syrians, and long-overdue recognition of the obvious utility of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative - the "non-belligerence" idea can start to look more like one component of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli agreement than a standalone, bilateral arrangement.
If one considers the crisis of the two-state approach from another angle, though, there is also the possibility that the Israelis are returning to a strategy practiced openly until the 1990s, that of seeking to coerce and/or placate the Arabs while isolating the Palestinians in order to extinguish any hope of their achieving independence. That would not make much sense because even if one could take all the Arab players off the board, the Israelis would still have several dilemmas, chief among which is the fact that while a single state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea can be many things, it cannot be both "Jewish" and democratic at the same time. It would have too many Palestinians, so the choice would be between accelerating the current policy of piecemeal ethnic cleansing or doing away with pretense and installing an openly apartheid model. Either way, even fully "tamed" Arab regimes like Egypt's would not be able to turn a blind eye, the Palestinians would certainly not be quiescent, and the other regional powerhouse, Iran, would not sit on its hands. Washington might even express "concern."
Other possibilities exist, too.
It may be, for instance, that Israel's goal is simply to widen existing divisions among Lebanon's political parties, which are sharply at odds over the question of what role (if any) this country should play in the Arab-Israeli conflict. By doing so, it might hope to spark another round of internal confrontation by heightening the suspicions of Hizbullah and its March 8 allies that their March 14 counterparts are ready to stab them in the back. Wisely, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has repeatedly declared that Lebanon will be "the last Arab country to make peace with Israel," a pledge expressly formulated as a prophylactic against this particular brand of pot-stirring.
Alternatively, the goal could be to goad Hizbullah into a military action, one aimed at preventing the possibility of any Lebanese-Israeli agreement but which would also draw massive retaliation. This would lead almost inevitably to a crisis of intra-Lebanese confidence of the sort that followed the 2006 war - or worse.
Or it could be to burnish Israel's tattered credentials as an honest seeker of peace in order to reduce the diplomatic fallout from a prospective air campaign against Iran designed to cripple that country's nuclear program. Some Sunni regimes might already relish such an attack, fearing as they do that Shiite Iran's influence has increased to uncomfortable levels.
It could be any one of these, others that escape me, or some combination thereof. Each might be on the table as a contingency, even if some Israeli officials haven't thought all of the potential implications through.
One certainty is that Beirut would risk serious peril if it chose to seriously entertain the Israeli "overture" absent unambiguous backing from key regional powers - and a clear pre-condition that Hizbullah's weapons are a matter for domestic discussion, not external exigencies. Another is that while the Israelis' musings might not deserve to be entertained, they cry out for careful study, if only to figure out what the neighbors might be getting up to next.
**Marc J. Sirois is managing editor of THE DAILY STAR. His email address is


Three Algerian Christians Face 3 Years in Prison for "Blasphemy"
You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address Contact Jonathan Racho, Regional Manager for Africa, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441,
(October 23, 2008) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 21, 2008, an Algerian court held a hearing on the case of three Christians who face three years of prison and a fine of 500 euros. The Court held the hearing in Ain Turk, a town 267 miles away from Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
The three Christians are Youssef Ourahmane, Rachid Seghir and Hamid Ramdani. The public prosecutor accused them of "insulting Islam, its prophet and threatening the former professing Christian that complained against them."
Earlier, a lower court agreed with the prosecutor and handed down a 3 year prison sentence and 500 euro fine. The defendants were not present at the time of the decision. The defendants then appealed the decision of the lower court on July 15, 2008. The appeal court postponed the hearing until October 21, 2008.
The case against the three Christians was brought by the public prosecutor with the help of Mr. Shamouma Al-Aid. Mr. Al-Aid "converted" from Islam to Christianity for a period time during which he also attended a Bible school. According to Compass Direct News, Mr. Al-Aid continued to maintain relations with radical Muslims while attending churches and the Bible school.
Later he "reconverted" to Islam and alleged that the three Christians were blaspheming Islam and its prophet Mohammed. He also alleged that the Christians were threatening him for "reconverting" to Islam.
In a positive development, a lawyer who represented the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs said that the rights of Algerian religious minorities should be respected.
The Judge, after hearing the arguments of the parties, scheduled to decide the case on October 29, 2008.
ICC's Regional Manger for Africa, Jonathan Racho, stated, "As a member of the international community, the Algerian government has the obligation to respect the freedom of religion for its Christian minorities. It is time for Algerian officials to carry out their obligations by ceasing to interfere with freedom of worship of the country's Christian minorities."
ICC calls upon Christians to pray for their Algerian brothers and sisters who are going through persecution. Please pray that the three Christians in this case will be cleared of the false accusation made against them. Please contact ICC for more information on how to help Christians in Algeria.
# # #
ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441

Franjieh-Geagea reconciliation bid a charade - analysts
Deep enmity rooted in still-simmering memories of atrocities committed during civil war
By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff
Thursday, October 23, 2008
BEIRUT: Recent talk of reconciling Lebanon's deeply divided Christian factions represents little more than maneuvering for electoral advantage in next year's polls, while personal animosity and the country's fractious history will continue to prevent any honest reconciliation among longtime rival leaders, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Wednesday
Moves toward reconciliation faltered gravely on Tuesday, as Marada Movement head Suleiman Franjieh said he was "not in a hurry" to make peace with Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea and would reconcile only under Marada's conditions. Franjieh and Change and Reform Bloc head MP Michel Aoun, the March 8 alliance's leading Christian figure, have been sworn enemies of Geagea since the 1975-90 Civil War, long before Geagea wound up opposing them as part of the March 14 camp. However, with general elections slated for next May expected to be a hotly contested battle, the political chiefs are using the latest talk of concord to cover their regular need to partition voters so as to maximize personal gain and yet keep traditional bosses in power, said Hilal Khashan, chair of the department of political science and public administration at the American University of Beirut. The Christian leaders are "dividing the spoils of the system - they call it reconciliation," Khashan said. Geagea has his eye on one of the three Parliament seats up for grabs in the Zghorta district, Franjieh's ancestral home, said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. "Burying the hatchet with Franjieh would probably get [Geagea] one more seat," Safa added.
Franjieh, on the other hand, wants Geagea to acknowledge the Marada chief's status as the political leader of North Lebanon's Christians, Safa said. With Geagea unlikely to meet that condition and Franjieh loath to cede any political ground to Geagea, the reconciliation will probably fail to gather steam, Safa added.
"It boils down to recognizing Franjieh's leadership of the North," Safa said. "Right now it's not in Franjieh's interest to reconcile with Geagea, so it's not going to happen anytime soon.""It's half-hearted from both leaders. It's not a genuine reconciliation," he added.
On the contrary, Franjieh is working to spin the reconciliation chatter to excite his Zghorta base against Geagea, said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University. In general, Christian leaders of the March 8 coalition are plotting to wipe Geagea off the political map, with the LF leader's only certain victory being the two seats from his home district of Bsharre, Hanna added.
"Everybody wants the head of Samir Geagea," Hanna said. "They are trying to eliminate Samir Geagea as much as possible. If there is a 1-percent chance that [reconciliation] would help Samir Geagea, then [Franjieh] would say no. They don't want reconciliation. Why give [Geagea] a blank check?"
"It's mainly political, concerning the coming election," Hanna added. "This is the main issue. The reconciliation charade will probably end with Franjieh pushing Geagea for more and more concessions until Geagea says no, Hanna said.
However, with the bruising campaign anticipated for the 2009 parliamentary polls and incidents already cropping up frequently in the North between Marada and LF partisans, the leaders also hope that repeating the reconciliation mantra will keep their supporters' passions under control, Khashan said.
"They are trying to make sure there would not be an outbreak of violence that could be uncontrollable," he said. With the mood in the region favoring a cooling of tensions, the reconciliation posturing might at least result in a deal on campaign etiquette, he added.
Aside from electoral calculus, the Franjieh-Geagea reconciliation drive also faces the towering hurdle of the killing of Franjieh's father Toni and other family members in the 1978 Ehden massacre, the analysts said. Geagea, at that time a member of the Phalange Party, has said he was one of those in charge of the Ehden assault but was shot before making it to the Franjieh residence and did not take part in the massacre.
Not only have the sides not forgotten the killings, but the slaughter was but one of the more glaring manifestations of the antagonism that divided and still divides various Christian factions, Khashan said.
"It happened yesterday," he added. "It's not really history. We are still living the impact of what happened."
"I just don't see any way that Franjieh and the Lebanese Forces could find" common ground, Khashan ssid. "The massacre reflected the depth of the divisions between the two factions. The tensions antedated the assassination of Toni Franjieh."
"No matter what Geagea would do, in Suleiman Franjieh's eyes he's the killer of his father, and you don't forgive the killer of your father."
But the deep-seated enmity is not limited to Geagea and Franjieh, and so many of the Civil War animosities continue to burn and to preclude reconciliation because the belligerents never confronted their deeds and engaged in reconciliation when the war ended, Khashan said.
"How could we reconcile unless the problem comes to the fore?" he asked. "We did not resolve the past. We cannot talk about the future until we bury the past. We did not properly bury the past.
"Not talking about the past does not eliminate it. Everybody has to admit what happened. That's why it's easy for the Lebanese to go to the streets and fight among themselves, because the past has not been dealt with. Having a leadership handshake would not mean much."
Beyond the Civil War scars, hostility among Lebanon's Christian factions might even spring from the historic basis for the country's emergence, Khashan said. With the rugged terrain of Mount Lebanon limiting the domination of Christian clans there by the Ottomans - and keeping the clans separated from one another - numerous power centers became entrenched, creating a natural source for friction among the various groups, Khashan added.
"The divisions are part of the feudal formation of leadership in Mount Lebanon," Khashan said. "Their pattern for leadership remained feudal."
"What people are calling reconciliation amounts to nothing more than feudal entente or tribal entente," he added. "I can't imagine the factions in Lebanon reconciling. This would no longer be Lebanon."

A Shia affair
Non-Hezbollah voices might be ready to emerge, as Hezbollah’s mask has fallen off
Hanin Ghaddar,

NOW Staff , October 22, 2008
Election observers look at a Shia Lebanese woman casting her vote at a polling station in the southern Lebanese town of Ansar on June 5, 2005 (AFP/Patrick Baz).
During the 2006 July war, Mona Fayyad, a Shia who chairs the Psychology Department at Lebanese University, wrote an essay for the leading Lebanese daily An-Nahar entitled “To be a Shia now.” The article stirred a public debate on the issue of Lebanese Shia who blindly follow Hezbollah.
To be a Shia now “is to block your mind” and let Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, “command you, drive you, decide for you what he wants from the weapons of Hezbollah, and force on you a victory that is no different from suicide,” Fayad wrote. “To be a Shia and dare to write and think such ideas means you are a collaborator and a traitor.”
Fayad's essay gave an outlet to some of the frustration that has built up among many Lebanese Shia. Although a largely symbolic gesture when measured against the widespread Shia support of Hezbollah, the essay offered an idea of a Shia mindset that is not present in the political scene in Lebanon. All this might be changing. For despite a tradition of being guaranteed electoral victories in the Shia areas, Hezbollah and Amal might find the 2009 elections tougher than they think, due to the possible emergence of credible non-Hezbollah/Amal Shia contenders.
Taking in the Shia
The huge public demonstration of March 8, 2005 saw Lebanon’s Shia community, even those who supported Amal, drawn into Hezbollah’s orbit (a trend that would be exacerbated after the 2006 war) and its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, became the de facto Za’im, or leader, of the community. While Hezbollah has succeeded to some extent in convincing the Shia that theirs is a community predicated on resistance – in part because there is some truth to the party’s claim to having empowered the Shia while other Lebanese sects neglected them – they have also succeeded in isolating the community from the rest of the Lebanese society.
During the final days of Ramadan, 2008, an Iftar was held by the Gathering of Independent Lebanese Shia Associations in honor of Sayyed Ali al-Amin, who appeared publicly for the first time since he was forcefully removed from his position as mufti of the South and home in May.
In his speech, Amin noted that there are still independent Shia who continue to resist despite all the pressure and intimidation exerted on them. “The religious parties dominating the Shia community today are displaying a kind of pre-Islamic or Jahiliyyeh behavior. They have transformed this community into a tribe, wherein it is considered a sin to express any diversity of opinion and individuality is shunned,” he said.
Divine tyranny
Hezbollah is not only in total denial of these voices, they do not hesitate to suppress such opinions. According to its leadership, the Shia as a community should find power in its sectarian feelings. Shiism, in this sense, should be the nation for the Shia, instead of Lebanon.
The party’s dictatorial rhetoric and behavior indicates that they have been trying to transform the sect into the Party of God, and woe betide any one Shia who dares argue with Hezbollah’s “divine” decisions. Sayyed al-Amin endured a number of attacks on his office and home, before he was removed from his position, while Hezbollah and Amal threw stones at US Ambassador Michelle Sison in Nabatiyeh on her way to visit Sayyed Abdallah Bitar, senior Shia cleric.
As “divergent” voices among the Shia are becoming louder, Hezbollah is becoming more tyrannical. This behavior may reflect a degree of fear as it realizes that it cannot implement its agenda with force alone. The region is at a critical point, and Hezbollah might be facing a crisis if the regional dynamics did not serve its interests. At the same time, Shia intellectuals and journalists are critical of the party’s behavior, especially since its attempted coup on May 7.
Hezbollah is aware that the majority of the Shia, whether supportive of Hezbollah or not, cannot endure another war, because they are the ones who pay the price and even take the blame, as has been the case since May, with many Shia facing isolation and alienation from fellow Lebanese. That’s why Hezbollah cannot afford to target Israel before the 2009 parliamentary elections. If they do, they’ll face an enormous Shia backlash.
Election vibes
There are a number of families and key figures within the Shia community that could constitute a threat to Hezbollah’s electoral plans. The influence and standing of the Assaad, Amin, Osseiran, Khalil, Shamseddine, Sharafeddine, Hamadeh, Husseini and other families (all of whom have reduced their support for Hezbollah after its Iranian agenda become obvious) is still present in the collective memories of the Shia. So far, these clans have not constituted a threat to Hezbollah electorally but with the enactment of the 1960 law, there is a chance that certain anti-Hezbollah Shia politicians, such as Ahmad al-Assaad, might create an upset.
In addition to the support he receives for the West and March 14 coalition, Assaad will run in the constituency of Marjayoun, which has, along with a good number of Shia who support Assaad, 23,006 Sunni and 14,080 Druze voters. There are 74,441 Shia voters but in the absence of an electoral “settlement” and if MPs Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri give Assaad the Druze and the Sunni votes, there is a good chance that he will sneak a parliamentary seat.
It could happen. In the 2004 municipality elections, in those areas where Hezbollah and Amal ran against each other, Hezbollah won around 40% of the votes in Shia villages and towns, while Amal and a few independent candidates won the rest of the votes. And in the last parliamentary elections, Hezbollah could only win 12 out of 27 Shia seats in the parliament, which has 128 MPs, even though it had allied with Christian, Sunni and Druze parties. Finally, although Amal appears powerless under Hezbollah’s authority, it still enjoys vast support within the Shia community and with regional dynamics at play (if Iran and Syria did not share the same agenda) Amal’s voice will be loud.
Hezbollah has convinced many in the Shia community that protecting the resistance is essential to the preservation of Shia political strength, and that any attempt to disarm the resistance should thus be seen as an attempt at communal disempowerment. However, the Shia who feel safe under the Hezbollah umbrella, must be assured that when politicians, or any other public or private figures, criticize Hezbollah, it is not a step towards re-marginalizing the broader Shia community. For only once the Shia feel secure, and fully recognized as an integral part of the fabric of Lebanese society, that they will be able to stand up to the bullying and intimidation that Hezbollah has made its own.