arab spring, Bashar Al-Assad, Beirut, Hezbollah, Kamal Jumblatt, Lebanese Civil War, Lebanese Communist Party, Lebanese Left, lebanon, Nabih Berri, syria, Syrian Army, Syrian moukhabarat, Terrorism, YouTube, Ziad Rahbani
I am from a generation who loved Ziad Rahbani, growing up with his music, songs, shows, plays and ‘revolutionary’ appearances and quotes like most of the youth of my time.
I can nearly recite all his plays, which I think they were masterpieces and will be engraved in our cultural heritage. I can never forget Joseph Sakr’s great songs in Sahriyyeh, the revolution of Abbas and Fahed in Nazl el sourour (which suits our current mood by the way), the social struggles of both Thurayya and Zakariya in Bennesbe La Boukra Shou, the Western conspiracy and our sectarian disease in Film Ameriki Taweel, the broken Lebanese society in Shi Fashel and the stubborn Lebanese people in his last series of Bikhsous el Karameh wel Shaab el Aaneed and Lawla Fos’hat el Amal. I adore his music and songs whether were part of his plays or not. He composed the greatest music and anthems, not exhaustively, but I mention Mays el Reem, Prelude 83, Abou Ali, People’s Winds and The Revolution Anthem.
Here we go again. Another Lebanese national figure and innocent people are wasted. Together with reportedly eight others, the head of the Information Branch in the Internal Security Forces (police) in Lebanon Wissam Al-Hassan have been assassinated yesterday in a street bomb in Achrafieh in Beirut.
Early on, I warned and speculated that Saad Hariri could pay a high price for his leading involvement in Syria, and it may now be the payback time. And I feel we are just at the start of something bigger.
Sadly we got used to this terrorist method of political elimination since 2004. This is the 26th political explosion since then, with most ending as assassinations. Ten of these 26 explosions targeted anti-Syrian regime figures, two targeted Information Branch figures (anti-Syrian regime), other ten targeted areas largely known to be Christian, three targeted the Lebanese Army including a military chief, and one explosion targeted a non-leading but senior official in a pro-Syrian party.
As the Syrian revolution turned violent, comparisons of the situation there have been made to every possible recent regional conflict. The Syrian conflict has gained some sectarian momentum which guaranteed its resemblance – according to many analysts (to different degrees) – to the Iraqi, Lebanese or former Yugoslavian conflicts.
Now, for us the Lebanese, we can very much relate to the sequence of events in Syria. It’s déjà vu for us. We can tell what comes after bombings for example; kidnappings, revenge killings, sectarian mobilisation, rise of local warlords are always on the menu. Continue reading »
Al-Akhbar has close links with Hezbollah, with Al-Amine considered the unofficial spokesman of the Party of God. I am not talking about the portrait of Imad Mughniyeh behind his desk, but rather his editorials.
He is a staunch supporter of Bashar Assad’s regime, but he goes out of his way sometimes, mostly in the wrong way, but I can’t fault him this time. This is what he gave us this time:
Today the Syrian revolution is one year old, and the day is featuring a frenzy in the main and social media over the leaked emails of Bashar Al-Assad and his wife Asma Al-Akhrass, published yesterday by The Guardian. The emails were obtained by The Guardian via some activists who were monitoring the Assads email accounts since last year. The emails are full of luxurious shopping lists, iTune downloads, games, music, Harry Potter and other silly YouTube video links exchanged between the couple themselves and with others.
When I read How Israel Could Remove Assad Diplomatically and Bring Peace to Syria, I thought it’s kind of science fiction. I thought Bruce Riedel, [another] veteran former CIA officer and senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, to be going the extra non-reasonable and non-needed mile. He was basically proposing to offer the Golan Heights back to Bashar Al-Assad as the carrot, in return for Assad moving on, and allowing a democratic post-Assad Syria to start and flourish, away from the influence of Iran and Hezbollah.
Every time I discuss the Syrian tragedy with an anti-revolution or pro-Assad person, I would be faced with these questions: how do you know the numbers of killed people are right? Can you verify them? Why not count the killed soldiers too? Obviously, these people try to muddle the core problem and cover (unintentionally sometimes) for the Syrian regime atrocities. This is exactly what blogger Sharmine Narwani did in a long article in Al-Akhbar English. From a previous conversation with her on twitter, Sharmine might not be a pro-Assad person, but she is doing her best to doubt the genuine outcome and intentions of the peaceful uprising (yes peaceful, that’s how it started, ok).
In her mentioned piece, she asks:
Perception is 100 percent of politics […] How then does one count 20, 40, or 200 casualties in a few hours while conflict continues to rage around them?
Despite the rumours that there are anti-regime protests in the country for the past 11 months, and rumours that they are being fired at, and persecuted, and that parts of the country are not the under the government rule anymore, and that some of these parts are under siege and heavy bombardment, Syrians are heavily turning up today to the ballot boxes to say YES to the new draft of the constitution.
Bashar Assad considers any efforts to stop the current killing in Syria as a “conspiracy” and “foreign intervention”, despite the fact that Syria intervened in Lebanon for donkey’s years, participated with the United States in the first Gulf war in 1991 against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and sent fighters to Iraq in the post-2003 era.
Now Russia is undergoing just the same self-denial position, and adopting the same double standards for their assessment to the situation in Syria. Russia does not only oppose any military threat to Assad, but also any proposal that lead to a peaceful transition of powers. Apparently their current position, including their arms sales and their only military base abroad in Tartous are not classified foreign intervention.
Hence, why I liked this week’s cartoon from The Economist.
The theory stating that turning the Syrian peaceful uprising into a violent insurgency will start a civil war is treated as a matter of fact now. Signs of Islamization of the revolution recently surfaced, and coincided with the loss its peacefulness – due to the brutal regime crackdown. Syrian activists always interpreted the Quraan background or Allah ow Akbar chants in some YouTube videos as spontaneous representations of the personalities in some rural areas. This might be true, and quite irrelevant but it doesn’t mean that AlQaeda won’t enjoy the fertile ground of chaos, and may attract some local followers.
Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, the Syrian regime has faced all the accusations of human rights breaches with pure denial. They denied the existence of protests and the lack of support to its leader Bashar Al-Assad. Bashar Al-Assad claimed instead that protesters were saboteurs and armed gangs, and the Syrian people wanted Assad in power (no mention of the 97% anymore though).
If there are any experts in the ‘zoom-in-zoom-out’ strategies to manipulate crowd images, it’s surely the Lebanese politicians who impressed us in the last decade or so with these technologies. In recent years, both the pro-western (March 14) and anti-western (March 8/Hezbollah) camps spent a bulk of their political airtime discussing the ‘zoom politics’ as I call it.
After 10 months of an internal uprising, the Syrian TV has ‘mastered’ fabricating news tricks, but today we discovered its skills in zooming. These below two videos are footage of the same event: the attendance of the Bashar Assad at supporting rally usually called a ‘spontaneous rally’ with a ‘Nasrallah style’ entrance; the top one was directed by the Syrian TV, in which Assad said @04:00: ‘Allahu Akbar for this crowd’. The bottom one was taken by an amateur/activist.
If you believe he is a leader, symbol, hero, eternal, wise, strategist, impeccable, exclusive, fair, educated, comrade, Lieutenant-General (highest military rank in 6 years military career), father, loving, doctor, reformer, secular, early starter of his working day, fighting corruption, building modern Syria, maintaining the country and region’s stability, protecting Lebanon, fighting Israel, protecting the Palestinian people, fighting for their cause, defusing all conspiracies against Arabs, fighting imperialism, facing a UNIVERSAL (yes, from universe) conspiracy, cracking down on terrorism in general, finishing Syria’s armed gangs, and spreading the spirit of Arabism, unification, freedom and socialism, then I think you truly deserve to be his slave, kneeling on your knees and kissing his poster. Even better, if his father previously did all these things, and still his qualities exceeded the above top marks, then he truly deserve you worship him FOREVER.
One of good articulated stories that came out of Syria was A Tour Inside Syria’s Insurgency by Paul Wood (of the BBC) to The Atlantic; a really fascinating read, but black in its overall theme. I highly recommend reading the full 4,000-words article, which is comprehensive and diverse in its coverage.
The article shows how corrupt and brutal the regime is, but paints the picture of how the peaceful protests were forced to turn their dignity struggle with the government to be increasingly violent (check this Arabic announcement which I copied from a local revolution facebook page) and militarised. The story talks about the torture of Qutaiba, the peaceful protester who is looking now to buy pistol silencers in Lebanon to protect himself.
Continue reading »
I wanted to post the same interview of the Syrian President Bashar Assad as a ‘caricature of the day’! But then I came across Annahar’s Armand Homsi’s caricature which I thought is convenient enough.
The interview was done by Barbara Walters of ABC, and aired last night on the American channel. You can watch its “highlights” below, but basically it seems Bashar Assad has defected from the Syrian presidency.
Continue reading »
I followed political caricaturists in the Lebanese press for years now, and I can say I have two favourites. They are Armand Homsi in Annahar newspaper and Saad Hajo in Assafir newspaper.
I like Armand Homsi’s caricatures as they are spot on in summarizing explicitly the political situation or position(s) of different players, while Saad Hajo (a Syrian) does just that but in a very very abstract way or implicitly if you want. Hajo gives no hints or indication (in words), but he leaves the reader to ‘imagine’ what he is trying to say. I always loved it…try to follow him, he is very different! He has been with Assafir for the past16 years.
The below caricature showed up in Assafir by Hajo on 15.10.2011. I am sure you see how this applies to any dictator’s ‘ruling chair’ with some ‘medical context’, and it gets more applicable as you get closer in your thinking to your home country. But hey, Saad Hajo didn’t say anything, did he? For God’s sake, it’s just a red chair!
The below video is a warning message from the hacktivist group Anonymous to the Syrian regime.
If the real Anonymous is behind this, I will be worried if I was in the Syrian regime propaganda tools shoes. Anonymous, with a bit of anarchic background, had been involved before in high profile hacks (usually for good causes hence hacktivist term). Anonymous got big names under their belt like Bank of America, Sony, and many governments around the world. They have been heavily supportive to Wikileaks by targeting governments which censored their leaked documents.
They participated in the Arab Spring before by hacking government websites during the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria. Syria’s share accumulated last month by hacking into Asma Assad (the Syrian President’s wife) personal website, and the website of the Ministry of Defence. They published passwords of email addresses of officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco during the pro-democracy protests. They supported the Green Movement in Iran by participating in launching an Iranian Green Party Support site called Anonymous Iran, but they still defended the Iranian nuclear programme by announcing an attack on the Israeli Knesset website. Continue reading »
Many of the US diplomacy documents leaked by Wikileaks on Lebanon and Syria were based on the US ambassador/charge d’affaires describing an event or reporting the stances of different politicians, but few involved the authors’ personal and direct comments, and opinions about the subject leaders. Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and others were among these leaders in Lebanon. But this time, there is specific American cable leaked by Wikileaks, that fully assesses the Syrian foreign policy, and gives very brutally blunt opinion about the Syrian President Bashar Assad and his team(s). I think this cable is ‘gem’ from a research point of view! it clearly details the American view of the Syrian hollow diplomacy. This assessment is an outcome of the working relationship for decades, between Syrian regime and the United States of America
The cable is written by the US charge d’affaires in Damascus at the time Maura Connelly, who became later (and still) the American Ambassador in Lebanon. She wrote that President Bashar Assad is different from his father, former President Hafez Assad. Meetings with the father had wealth of detail and historical perspective, but seems it is not the case with the son. The cable describes Bashar as ‘neither as shrewd nor as long-winded as his father but he, too, prefers to engage diplomatically on a level of abstraction that seems designed to frustrate any direct challenge to Syria’s behaviour and, by extension, his judgment’.
For all those who believe that Bashar Assad can and wants to reform, this is for you:
If you did not see the need for reform before what happened in Egypt and in Tunisia, it is too late to do any reform. This is first. Second, if you do it just because of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, then it is going to be a reaction, not an action; and as long as what you are doing is a reaction you are going to fail.
…It is not realistic to have a timeframe because you are not living in situation where you can control the events. I just started by saying that every week we have something new.
Western journalists were given access to Syria 3 days ago, which was the first time since the start of its uprising 100 days ago. I counted three organisations: CNN, Sky News, and The Sunday Times. The latter did not wish to name its reporter, but I noticed the others from their TV and Twitter reporting; they were Jeremy Thompson from Sky, Hala Gorani, Arwa Damon and Jomana Karadsheh – all from CNN (unless I missed others).