The American rhetoric has got stiffer against Assad in the due course of the revolution in an increasing order until it reached its peak three months ago, when it started reversing to an extent it is moving to the other extreme of the scale. Let’s revise this impressive timeline on Syria: Continue reading
Newly declassified documents show the close coordination between the United States and Syria’s Hafez Assad over the Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976. The documents confirm what has been always known in the political and diplomatic domains, that America gave the green-light for such a move in liaison with the Israelis – despite being hesitant.
With the rise of sectarianism and talks about separatism in the region, there is no surprise if the federalism is back as a subject in Lebanon. As always, Lebanon is an incomplete project.
I used to detest the idea which represented a confirmation of both the lead of the negative non-loving forces in the society, and the conspiracy to divide up the Middle East to smaller states. Although the conspiracy is not entirely fictitious but let’s just focus here on the subject of the viability of the federalism to Lebanon.
Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday in Al-Quds day – which is an Iranian gesture started with a call by Al-Khomeini in 1979:
…We are after strong relations with all the Palestinian factions despite our differences regarding some Palestinian and Syrian issues. Al-Quds must unite us regardless of any jurisprudential, political, national, religious or ideological dispute
Lebanese individuals might have been involved in Syria’s war from early days. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Aseer declared Jihad and went himself there couple of months ago with his fighters too for a show-off exercise, but permanent or independent Lebanese fighting battalion are not known to be present as of yet.
If I want to draft my cultural shock caused by Hezbollah on a chart, it would look to be at its peak now.
May be that shock started mildly in 2005 when Hassan Nasrallah thanked Bashar Al-Assad in public on March 8, just after the Lebanese protests at the time helped to push a foreign Arab army off the national soil.
Then the dramatic political events that caused the deadlock in the country afterwards pushed this chart up. Then it spiked around May 7th 2008 when Hezbollah attacked Beirut and Mount Lebanon for whatever reasons. Now, the chart is heading to infinity with Hezbollah’s fight in Syria.
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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.
And he finally did it. PM Najib Mikati resigned on Friday after lots of previous calls for resignations, explicitly by March 14 and implicitly – in form of threats – by Hezbollah’s camp. But Mikati did not do it to please those guys, it was simply the best action for him.
Michel Aoun is one of the direct and blunt politicians in Lebanon which makes him say stupid things a lot of time, if not most.
In his continuous and pointless sectarian defence to his sectarian electoral law proposal (Orthodox Law) which stipulates each sect electing its MPs, and getting the Christians to elect 50% of the parliament, he said:
After nearly 29 years on the implementation of the federation of sects which started in 2013 with the Orthodox Gathering electoral Law, strong voices are reappearing again calling for the “correction of the injustice” that some minorities within the same big sects still face.
These minorities include the Maronites living outside Mount Lebanon, Shiites living outside the South and Bekaa, and Sunnis outside Beirut and the North. Their concerns revolve around their feeling of being third grade citizens within their big sects. These feelings led to the formation of extremist organisations like MMMM (Maronites Mad Max Man), MWSJ (the Military Wing of the Shiite of Jbeil) and DMB (Druze Militia of Beirut). Also, Sunnis show relatively more severe disintegration than other sects with another dimension of the clash being between the four main religious doctrines: Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanafi, and Hanbali.
In an unsigned article, Al-Akhbar reported yesterday that Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah told his cadres in a private gathering that the Party of God “has changed” and that its ultimate priority is to “protect Lebanon”, which is different to the 1980s priority of establishing an Islamic state. He also emphasised that they “must work to apply it”.
We can interpret these words in many ways, but let’s rewind to a previous 2004 statement by Mohammad Raad made to the writer Nicholas Blanford who recorded it in his book Killing Mr Lebanon. Although some anti-imperialist writers unjustifyingly discredit Blanford for being politically biased to Hariri, the book did show how Rafiq Hariri used his money to achieve political objectives i.e. what we call corruption. So page 190 says:
Raad hinted that the party could one day trade the Islamic Resistance for greater political influence, in which Hezbollah would capitalise in the numerical superiority of the Shiites.
When Raad was asked if the presidency should still then be reserved for the Maronites, he replied with a sly smile. Quite funny when the Maronites are on a totally different wavelength these days, with their main leaders asking to “correct the injustice” against their sect/Christians in the electoral law.
Are we near the time when Hezbollah trades his weapons with agreed privileges in a new state? Knowing they previously received generous financial offers but they declined them?
Should the Maronites stop asking for more like the current Orthodox Law proposal and come to terms with the hard reality that other powerful sects presumably look with envy to the top state position, top army position and biggest share of MPs in the parliament?
I think it’s a matter of time for these “corrections” to be raised, although now could seem a suitable time for Hezbollah to start the process with the electoral law currently being cooked.
So what is an acceptable salary for a government or government-affialted employee in a country where the minimum wage is less $600 per month? I suppose the answer is not an easy, especially if the job differs massively from a role to another.
This issue was strongly brought up last week in the media with the big salaries allowed to the members of the newly formed petroleum committee in Lebanon. Minister Gibran Bassil wanted to pay them $25,000/m as a total package, but the cabinet reduced that to nearly $17,000 with a 17% allowance on top for not taking any employment at the end of contract (paid in two instalments at the mid and end of the employment). The approved compensation includes a $2,000 housing allowance.
At last, some movement is being recorded on the front of the exploration of oil and gas in Lebanon according to Assafir, who said that in the cabinet will approve the tendering timeline in its next meeting on Thursday.
Better late than never; we will keep a close eye on the progress, the but timeline is looking like this:
1- January 2013: start of the pre-qualification period for the interested companies
2- May 2013: start of the tendering period for the shortlisted qualified companies
3- December 2013: deadline for submittal of tenders
4- February 2014: announcement of winning tender after evaluation
5- May 2014: sign the contract after a period of negotiations
6- Some time in 2015: start of exploration works
Lebanese twitterverse and blogosphere have rightly highlighted yesterday what it seemed an act of censorship by the traditionally pro-Hariri NOW Lebanon website. The unfortunate incident resulted with an anti-Hariri English editorial been taken down shortly after publication.
But to loudly shout ‘censorship’ and just stop, doesn’t give describe the full picture, and give much justice to the website that is trying to change. It is, actually, changing towards more balanced and professional reporting.
You probably heard couple of weeks ago how our Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui brought the future to our students (according to him), by planning to provide them with computer tablets. A deal, done with Intel Corporation Vice President for Sales and Marketing Group, comprised supplying the Intel product which could be powered by an operating system called MANDRIVA (you probably haven’t heard of it).
Today Lebanon Spring blog has been featured in the Lebanese daily Annahar. You can check Reine Abu Moussa’s post on this blog here. So thanks to her.
Also, I have an article in Arabic that was published with a title “Muddling The Arab Spring”. I plan to publish an English translation of it, but you can check the current Annahar version here.
The Lebanese people won’t accept, after today, the continuation of the government of assassination
In a half-civilised country, if a cat was killed in the same way as Wissam Al-Hassan was killed, a government or at least a minister would resign. So no question what should happen when a security chief gets bombed.
But let’s be honest here, Lebanon is an abnormal farm that makes such a move a high-risk venture with unknown consequences. At its best, we could be looking at political vacuum. At its worst, we are taking about sectarian civil war here. And this message was clearly passed on by the US and EU that they don’t mind this Hezbollah-controlled government to keep going.
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.
I deeply thank Habib Battah for his blog post on The Beirut Report for highlighting an example of the bad conditions under which construction workers (foreign most of the time) live in Lebanon. Construction in general is a subject close to my heart, and “health and safety” is a main aspect of delivering construction projects, considering this industry is statistically one of the most dangerous in terms of accidents and casualties numbers (relative to other office and non-office jobs).
A new addition is expected to the Lebanese political scene, which would seriously contribute to its contrasting colourfulness. Apparently, Lebanese Salafists are looking to establish a political party to participate in the 2013 electoral elections and the beyond scene.
This could a bit advanced for them considering they don’t usually recognise post-Caliphates states, so some internal rifts within their movement is possible.
A few conversations took place yesterday between the Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar (Ghadanfar) Roknabadi. It started with a phone call…
(ring ring ring, ring ring ring, ring ring ring…)
Michel: oh thanks for picking up, at last.
It was not long time ago when I declared the death of the political peaceful argument of March 14. Now, I can ‘safely’ declare the near-completion of their combating formations. All what you need to do to know this, is to watch the festival that took place yesterday by the Lebanese Forces in commemoration of the 30th anniversary election of Bashir Gemayel as a President.
I was gobsmacked to watch a ‘Lebanese Resistance Anthems Concert’ (on MTV) glorifying the military past of the Lebanese Forces and Bashir Gemayel – after all their current talk about the peaceful resistance and building the state. Although it didn’t look very odd with the current chaotic mood and high sectarian tensions in the country. It did actually blend well in that scene…