Arab Politics, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

Syrians and Saudis on the Same Page?

Beirut will host a rare summit of regional leaders this weekend–all the more remarkable for having been organized on very short notice.

There are reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be joined by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Erdogan and Ahmadinejad are apparently planning visits as well in the next several weeks.

The aim of the visit is to “defuse tension” on the local Lebanese scene, a euphemism for figuring out what the heck to do about an alleged impending indictment against Hizbullah members by the U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The fact that the Saudi and Syrian leaders are personally handling this crisis suggests that they are leaving nothing to chance: an STL indictment against Hizbullah could thrust Lebanon into complete political paralysis and possible sectarian violence. What the summit also reveals, however, is that, unlike in years past, the Saudis and Syrians seem to be working together to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Had the current crisis emerged two or three years ago (when the Middle East was in the grip of a mini Cold War) it is safe to imagine that the March 14 coalition and its Saudi allies would have been very happy to use the indictments to try to push Hizbullah into a corner, furthering pressuring its regional sponsors in Damascus and Tehran.

Instead, what we’re seeing today from Saad al-Hariri and the Saudis is a much more cautious policy of containment which recognizes the valuable political capital that may soon be delivered via an STL indictment against Hizbullah, but which also recognizes the folly of bearing down too hard on the Shiite party. If Hizbullah feels pressured, as they did in late 2006, there’s a significant likelihood that they will respond as they did then, by resigning from Hariri’s cabinet along with their allies. If they are joined by AMAL, the FPM, and Jumblatt’s ministers, this would bring down the government.

This seems to be an outcome that both the Saudis and the Syrians want to avoid. The question is, however, what kind of middle path is available? If the summit is a success, we should know within about a week.
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57 thoughts on “Syrians and Saudis on the Same Page?

  1. According to an analysis of DEBKAfile, “King Abdullah’s visit will be presented formally as a gesture of support for the Lebanese national unity government, but its real purpose is to tempt Assad to phase out his support for Hizballah in return for Saudi and Gulf recognition of his dominant role in Beirut. Nasrallah knows what is at stake and is determined to sabotage the move…” They say further on that the recent attack on Al-Arabiya TV offices in Bagdad was a warning for what could happen in Beirut… http://www.debka.com/article/8930/

    Does anyone have more info on this website – DEBKAfile? I don’t really know their background…

    Because the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah also reports that HA is suspicious of the Saudi visit – and I did notice that they publish whatever, as long as it accuses HA.

    So this “HA is scared” story, might very well be another attempt to put HA in a weak position.

    A middle path could be that Nasrallah will not sabotage the move. In exchange for his “cooperation” he will get his Lebanese committee that will look into the false witnesses’ issue? Just guessing…

    Or they will just talk about national unity and say that “we will wait until the STL indictment” – which they will postpone behind the screens…

    I’m curious!

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 28, 2010, 12:03 pm
  2. QN,

    I fully agree with:
    “Instead, what we’re seeing today from Saad al-Hariri and the Saudis is a much more cautious policy of containment which recognizes the valuable political capital that may soon be delivered via an STL indictment against Hizbullah, but which also recognizes the folly of bearing down too hard on the Shiite party.”

    I don’t agree though that they fear HA leaving the government. In fact, that seams to me the face saving solution after the cabinet does not agree to stop supporting the STL. The Syrians and Saudis don’t much care if there is political stalemate in Lebanon. As we know, that is something that Lebanon can live with as it has proved recently.

    The Saudi interest and Syrian interest is in preventing a civil war. The Saudis don’t want it because it will harm their economical investments in Lebanon and because it may turn to be a Shia-Sunni affair which could certainly have destabilizing effects elsewhere. Not to mention that the Sunni have a very good chance of losing to the Shia.

    The Syrians know that chaos in Lebanon, like in 1982, may drag them into a war with Israel, a war that they could ill afford. Furthermore, they face a difficult choice. If they do not support HA, they face losing their influence in Lebanon. But if they support HA in a perceived Shia-Sunni conflict, the regime will alienate the majority of Syrians who are Sunni.

    The bottom line is that a civil war in Lebanon is bad for everybody including Israel. It is very unlikely that if a civil war erupts that our border will stay quiet for long.

    So, as usual, it will be the Lebanese that will pay the price, but not in war this time, only in political instability and having to live with a government that can do very little.

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 12:18 pm
  3. Umm iDriss,

    Debka File is written by a con man that is making money of ad traffic to his site. He seems legitimate because he takes real news and adds just a little more info that he invents. If you try checking what they said in the past against the truth, you have to BUY their archived articles. The site is a complete fraud. Nothing they say is worth anything. But please continue to support Israeli exports by going to it… :)
    (I am only joking, don’t waste your time on debka)

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 12:26 pm
  4. National Inquirer is more truthful than Debka lol!

    QN,

    What middle path? It seems that the Syrians are trying to anticipate every possible outcome and keep variety of options open. Syria is enjoying its role as being courted by all sides as the “moderate” compared to Iran.

    Syria has to weigh in STL and the nuclear issues simultaneously.

    They seem to be preparing for two extreme alternatives! STL indicting both Hizballah & Syrian military personnel as well as a possible confrontation between Iran & Israel or USA…

    The ratcheting up the tension by HA is basically to scare off the Saudis more than the Syrians. The Syrians would welcome a war where they will be asked to reign in the splintered country ala 1976…

    Posted by danny | July 28, 2010, 1:11 pm
  5. AIG,

    Thank you for the background info and also thank you for your interesting analysis in your thread before!

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 28, 2010, 1:30 pm
  6. QN,
    First, a long overdue kudos for your blog. I’ve been following this site for months and I keep telling myself: damn, some gratitude should be expressed for this quality of analysis and debate (this applies to many of the commenters as well). I imagine it’s a lot of work, so: thank you.
    Second, a general question that I already thought of asking you after your two previous posts. I wonder how you see the impact, if any, of the recent developments (i.e., mostly, of the latent confirmation of a STL indictment targeting members of Hezbollah) on Syria-Hezbollah relations.
    I’m following all this from afar but I had a sense (per taking a look at L’Orient-Le Jour late last week) that the March 14 hard wing (I take it that LOLJ is the voice of that) was seeking to capitalize on the near-coincidence of SHN’s revelations and Hariri’s stay in Damascus on the mode: Hezbollah is getting nervous because it is being let down by Syria which has worked its own way out of the R. Hariri assassination mess.
    I think it’s wishful thinking or/and disinformation on the part of LOLJ (and ditto in my opinion for the Debka report above). But I also think that there is something to the idea that the official displacement of Syria by Hezbollah as the main suspect of the STL makes for the possibility of a strain in their relationship that did not exist before.
    Don’t you all fall upon me if it is a stupid question. I’m specifically not suggesting that the reading of the situation by LOLJ might be right, I’m just curious to know what you guys think of the Syria-Hezbollah dynamic in the situation. A lot of things have been written in the last few days about the Hariri-Syria side of the equation, about the Hariri-Hezbollah side, and I’m surprised to find that the Syria-Hezbollah link has not received a lot of attention.

    Posted by Darwish | July 28, 2010, 1:44 pm
  7. Dear Darwish

    Thanks for the kudos; much appreciated. As for your question, it’s an excellent one, but also very difficult to answer, because we’re dealing with the contents of two black boxes: the Syrian regime and the Hizbullah leadership.

    The only way that a strain could be put on their relationship, in my opinion, is if the Hizb feels that Syria is trying to score points with the Saudis or the West by offering to “manage” the resistance. The Syrians, for their part, would not offer to do so unless they were guaranteed a significant quid pro quo by KSA.

    AIG

    I’m not sure that the scenario where Hizbullah leaves the cabinet is a face-saving solution. They would have to be accompanied by AMAL as well, and most probably Jumblatt’s men too. Even Aoun has started talking about the STL as a Zionist project of late, so this signals to me that he may offer to bolt as well. If this happens, the government will fall, and we’ll be in a worse position than we were in 2006-08 when the political paralysis and instability almost did lead to a civil war.

    So I think they’d like to avoid that as well.

    If Hizbullah leaves the cabinet if Hariri does not reject the STL, they will have set the bar almost impossibly high for a reconciliation between the two sides. It’s one thing for the cabinet to reverse a decision to fire the Hizbullah airport guy and to revoke an order to shut down the telecommunications network (as in May 2008). It’s another thing for them to disavow the STL after a multi-million dollar, five-year investigation.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 28, 2010, 2:09 pm
  8. Sometime last week a friend reminded me of the following exchange in AFew Good Men:

    Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
    Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee: I want the truth!
    Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

    It is unfortunate but that describes not only the current but the never ending Lebanese problematic.

    The Lebanese pols can never handle the truth and so they play games. No one ever wins, no one ever loses. They have created a sham political system based on appeasement compromise, no principles, total non accountability; a sham.

    Here we go again playing the same game, don’t call things by their name, paper the deep differences, make belief that there are no problems and above all that there is sovereignty , independence and justice. Lipstick on a pig woks miracles in Lebanon. It always has and unfortunately always will.

    A major assassination takes place and everyone jumps on board pretending to be in favour of an investigation. How can you not be in favour of an investigation after a horrific assassination? But that is where it becomes typically Lebanese. Very few, if any, have a sincere interest in the outcome. A sham investigation with a predetermined outcome will be fine. But when a UN sponsored tribunal was set up , STL, all sides are trying to broker a way out. Many will accept the rulings provided it does not go against them. So why bother an set up an investigation in the first place. This is not a game. It is expected to be a search for the truth. An investigation to learn what has transpired so that the law of the land can be applied against the guilty. But this is Lebanon where no institutions are respected and the national interest is determined outside the country. So an absolute monarch, a young brutal dictator, a spokesperson for an Islamic theocracy in addition to the representative of a Turkey looking for a leadership role in the Middle East schedule meetings in Beirut not to ask the Lebanese to accept the final rulings by the STL, close the books on this matter and move forward. No , all of these representatives are here to negate the ruling of the STL prior to its being issued.
    Pity a nation that cannot accept the truth, and that is on a constant search for a palliative, anything will do as long as we can sweep our dirt one more time under the carpet.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2010, 2:23 pm
  9. QN,

    I was not clear in what I wrote. I agree that all the March 8 would leave the government (including the FPM bloc). Yes the government will fall, but so what? Hariri will be left heading a caretaker government that has a majority in parliament. That is a rare luxury.

    If worst comes to worst, the caretaker government will continue till the next election. What is the big deal? Lebanon has seen worse.

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 3:23 pm
  10. Sorry Darwish but there has been no shifts! These are just preemptive “annoncements” by HA as well as the Syrian regime to coerce the other Lebanese parties to reject the STL before the indictments are out.

    What if? Syria asks HA to attack the STL claiming that if any HA “cadres” indicted that sedition will be the result. Haven’t we witnessed these intimidation tactics before? Assad is acting as if he has no worries…It’s just a shift of the attack from the state to the mafia mercenaries.

    Everyone wants justice. HA(Iran) & Syria want it the way they define it! We are hearing veiled threats and high level “meetings” etc…all in the name of creating enough havoc!

    I am not an international lawyer; however I would think that after years of investigations and reports there would be more than enough to lead to convictions. Otherwise why the charade? Do we all think that UN is also into drama performances?

    Posted by danny | July 28, 2010, 3:48 pm
  11. QN,

    ‘This seems to be an outcome that both the Saudis and the Syrians want to avoid. The question is, however, what kind of middle path is available?’

    Maybe it is what they want to avoid or not. But what scenario would be better for Hariri than this? If HA leaves the government and you all are right about the shia-sunni conflict in Lebanon this will open the way for a Israel-HA war that will let the rest of Lebanon (sunni and christian) out of it. Then Hariri will have his revenge and can handle what will be left of HA. It seems that HA became a problem for Syria in its path to get relevance in the region and it is being asked of her to let HA go. Syria will get rid of its association with HA, get more control over Lebanon and ease the peace negotiation with Israel and get Golan back. Its relationship with Iran will have to wait the outcome of events. The Saudis will save Hariri, unit the arabs Sunnis against Shia Iran, and its investments in Lebanon.
    It looks like a good scenario for Hariri.

    Posted by Alberto | July 28, 2010, 4:03 pm
  12. AIG

    The scenario you are sketching is too rosy. Is that what happened between 2006-08?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 28, 2010, 4:30 pm
  13. Alberto, what are you saying? You speak of an Israel-HA war like a walk in the park!
    Are you aware that a Israel-HA war will wreak unprecedented destruction on Lebanon, the likes of which was never seen before in the Middle East? Sure, Israel will eventually triumph but what will be left of Lebanon? The war will be an extremely dangerious trigger to other wider military conflicts in the region. This is a doomsday scenario. I bet you don’t live in Lebanon nor have relatives there.
    Horrible, horrible!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 28, 2010, 4:33 pm
  14. QN,

    I think it won’t be worse than 2006-2008. Why would it be worse? There were legitimate elections based on a system approved by everybody at Doha. M14 has a parliamentary majority. Ok, Berri will not convene the parliament. So what? Hariri would still hold all the power and all the portfolios left behind by the March 8 block.

    Hariri could even preempt March 8 and when they leave the government, declare early elections. It is a risk, but he can win big, especially if the Christians become convinced that Aoun has become an HA lackey.

    All Hariri has to do is make sure he does not give HA CREDIBLE excuses for another May 7. HA are strong enough to take over Lebanon on a whim but they know that they are not strong enough to hold it together afterwards and that a HA government would be an economic disaster for Lebanon (European and US sanctions will be quick to come). The parasite needs to keep the host alive. If the host dies, the parasite dies also.

    Can there be a spark somewhere that starts a civil war? Sure, but unlikely. I cannot identify any party that would benefit from a civil war. Everyone can only lose even if they “win” the battle. The different sects in Lebanon will all be losers, KSA will be a loser and Israel will be a loser. Maybe, maybe Syria can gain something but I doubt it. They risk being huge losers for maybe gaining a little.

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 4:52 pm
  15. Hey AIG,

    Sorry to hijack things here for a sec, but I didn’t know how else to get your attention.
    I remember we had a discussion a few weeks back (around Flotilla time) where you brought up the Ahmadi repeatedly, in some attempt at criticizing Arab human rights abuses (which, mind you, I agreed with you on).
    I am curious though, what you make of this kind of story, in your own backyard, so to speak. Namely, Israel’s treatment of the Bedouins.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/28/ethnic-cleansing-israeli-negev

    Is this kind of thing commonly known or reported on in Israel? Or is it unknown to the average Israeli? Is there any kind of recognition that there may be human rights abuses there, against Israeli citizens, nonetheless? And if so, how do people reconcile that with the notion of Israel being democratic?

    PS: I would appreciate a civil response. I am not attempting to one-up you or anyone here. Simply found this story interesting, and it brought back to mind our conversation. And I wondered what your take would be. Thanks.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 28, 2010, 5:01 pm
  16. BV,

    You have fallen for propaganda.
    First read this:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8617728.stm

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 5:49 pm
  17. All of these discussions regarding the STL anticipated ruling are as clear an indication as it can ever be about the low regard in which the judicial branch is held in Lebanon and in the Arab world. This kind of an outlook should not be surprising because under any form of an authoritarian system the judicial branch of government serves to enhance the personal power of the ruler since under autocratic monarchical systems civil and political rights do not amount for much.

    It is only in societies that do not have an evolved respect for rights and constitutional authorities that judicial systems are viewed as a dispensable leg on the stool of governance. If on the other hand a society has a Bill of Rights or something equivalent to it then it ultimately believes that the ideal is a “government of laws and not a government of people” as Madison put it. These ideas of the absolute need to create a central authority to interpret the law and adjudicate cases is a necessity in a world such as ours. (For a thorough discussion go and revisit Locke).
    It is very sad to find a society that has no respect for an international judicial body such as the STL. When we call the STL a politicised process or an Israeli court then we are in essence making a statement about ourselves. Do we really believe that the UN SG was bought by the state of Israel or that the staff of the STL including its Chief magistrates are in the pay of Mossad and the CIA? Essentially that is what we are saying when we hold Summits headed by those that have no respect for the rule of law in an effort to pass a judgement on a judicial process that ought to be accepted by all once a ruling is made .
    To expect meaningful guidance about a sophisticated judicial process from those that have no need for such a process is similar to putting a fox in charge of the hen house.

    In my mind the only problem with the STL is an imaginary one. It results from those that have the military power to intimidate others and thus to highjack another democratic practice.In any self respecting democracy the judicial rulings will be accepted, enforced and treated with the respect that they so much deserve.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2010, 5:50 pm
  18. BV,

    Then read this, which lays down all the facts:
    http://www.jpost.com/Home/Article.aspx?id=182848

    Do you still have questions?

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 5:55 pm
  19. BV,

    To summarize, after a 12 year court battle, Israel finally evicted illegal squatters that were given an option to rent the land very cheaply but would not even accept that! And, these squatters have houses in the nearby town of Rahat! And then Israel is accused of human rights violation. I hope you understand why we do not take international criticism seriously.

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 6:04 pm
  20. AIG

    If the government falls and AMAL/Jumblatt/FPM stick with Hizbullah, then Hariri will not even have enough votes in Parliament to be re-elected PM. March 14 no longer has a majority.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 28, 2010, 8:51 pm
  21. QN,

    Even even Jumblatt does not back Hariri on this, Hariri will remain PM of the caretaker government until elections are held. He does not need a parliamentary majority for that and anyway, even if he had a majority he could not use it because Berri would not summon the parliament.

    Or do you think Jumblatt will team up with the M8 gang and form another government without the FM? That would be more unlikely than Nasrallah converting to Judaism.

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 11:39 pm
  22. Ghassan (post #17),

    Impressive post! Of course I agree. I also feel I should get some academic credit from reading all these posts, here. QN university for political science (QN-U: better get the http://www.qnu.edu domain quickly; so far it’s not claimed, although there is a /www.qnu.edu.vn). Yalla, never too late to get another PhD.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 3:09 am
  23. One thing I’m worried about is even if this doesn’t come to a head and Syria and Saudi Arabia come up with a solution that doesn’t alienate Hezbollah too much, the people that will be left out of the loop are some Islamist Sunni elements who may feel sold out by Riyadh and Hariri.

    Since straight up conflict with Hezbollah would be out of the question, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a return to some of the bombings, like the bus bombings, that we saw back in 2007.

    Posted by sean | July 29, 2010, 3:13 am
  24. AIG, fine, on your response to BV, but do you see how, in the long term, the point that Neve Gordon is making in the article posted by BV in #15, namely that “Israel is surely sowing dragon’s teeth for the future” is very valid. Regardless of the legality of the arguments one way or the other, the human aspect of this coupled with expected population growth rates that are probably unfavorable to Israel is likely to continue to make the problem worse until, indeed, it may reach a point of overpressure leading to explosion. So,
    (a) do you agree with the implication for the future, based on population growth?
    (b) what do YOU think is the long term solution?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 3:25 am
  25. HP,

    Don’t be so naive.
    I just said what everyones has said before, but without the catrastophic end. So maybe that is what Hariri have been trying to avoid by touring around the world making sure it will be only between Israel and HA.

    If the scenario YOU predict outcomes it will be very bad but living under fear of HA arms or any militia arms is as bad as well, on the long term.

    Posted by Alberto | July 29, 2010, 9:12 am
  26. QN,
    I think you are a bit too optimistic.
    The Americans already started interfering:

    http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=189871

    Means that something is not to their liking. Let’s wait and hear what the Iranians have to say.

    Posted by XP | July 29, 2010, 9:21 am
  27. I think Jumblat will stay in the Goverment.

    HA is in a dificult position now. It seems Syria is selling it out in exchange for more decision power in Lebanon and ME as a whole.

    HA can change it but will have to let some important assets to go in the process.

    Civil war is unlikely and the result is not that obvious. It would be very naive to believe the sunnis would not have been arming themselves after what happened in 2008.

    Posted by Alberto | July 29, 2010, 9:30 am
  28. HP,

    Since 1948 the Arab Israelis have been about 20% of population. This number has not changed much.

    But that is really irrelevant. During industrialization, the percentage of people working in agriculture went down from 90% to 2%. If the Bedouins think they are going to continue raising goats and sheep and farming desert lands unproductively in the 21st century they are sorely mistaken. The truth is that they understand this themselves. It will take time and be difficult, but they will eventually change. Social changes are not easy but are inevitable.

    As for unrest from them, that is very unlikely. They know very well how their brothers in Egypt and Jordan are faring and understand that it would be stupid. At least in Israel they have a social net that provides health care, education, welfare and social services.

    Posted by AIG | July 29, 2010, 10:12 am
  29. blah-blah-blah …

    Me? I just love Arab summitry: the pageantry, the drama … and in Beirut, no less.

    I recall the Arab League summit in 2002 when they cordoned off downtown Beirut for the summiteers. The big news after the first night? None of the prostitutes could get past the security perimeter — talk about a regional crisis!

    Haggle on …

    Posted by david | July 29, 2010, 10:18 am
  30. AIG,

    Sorry for the delay. Reading your links now.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 29, 2010, 4:47 pm
  31. AIG,

    Not sure what the gypsies in the UK story had to do with any of this.
    Second link was more interesting.
    Not sure what the REAL facts are. The story seems to show two differing versions:

    1) The village existed long before 1948 or the state of Israel. Residents were displaced and then returned to what they consider their ancestral home (but is now state owned in the new state of Israel).

    2) The residents have arrived fairly recently (1998?) and are squatting on state-owned land.

    Not sure which is the real truth in all that, to be honest. Hard for me to say.

    But your point is made. Assuming (2), then yes, a story about illegal squatting is entirely different than one of ethnic cleansing. So I’ll move on.

    Having said that, this isn’t the first time I have heard (and from Israelis, mind you, so I’m not talking about foreign propaganda) about the mistreatment of bedouins in the Negev. I have to think that it’s a problem that needs addressing in some way. And “they’ll just have to evolve” doesn’t necessarily cut it as an answer :)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 29, 2010, 5:00 pm
  32. Thanks for clarifying, Alberto, and sure, “living under fear of HA arms or any militia arms” is bad, both in the short run and in the long run but, as long as war (HA-Israel) has not broken, as the adage says “by golly the horse might talk,” by which I mean there’s always hope that HA will keep evolving politically and away from militarism, and/or that modernity and peace initiatives (along with a possible benefit from Aoun’s years of support for HA)might slowly defuse the tensions from HA’s military and absorb it gradually in the Lebanese Army.

    On the other – and here I have to ask who’s being naive? – does anyone really think that a HA-Israel war can be surgical and spare utter destruction of Lebanon. You didn’t answer my earlier implicit question as to whether you live in Lebanon and/or have relatives there. I have to think that if you did you would not imagine that the scenario of a surgical war is possible. Nor, for that matter, would anyone who has witnessed war. I have. It’s not pretty and it can never be surgical and no one ever really wins.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 5:23 pm
  33. AIG, I thought you made good points and was going to ask you why is it that the press articles don’t articulate these points clearly (they don’t). Then I read BV’s post (#31) and he expressed what I was thinking so much more clearly. There is confusion as to what the real story is. The part about bedouins being oppressed when they are trying to live a simple life they have enjoyed for decades and before the founding of the state of Israel is compelling. If this is the correct fact then dealing with them the way you propose is simply not within today’s civilization norm. This is no longer the era when a South Africa style apartheid or an Australian style “assimilation” can be forced on a people who want to maintain their own way of life.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 5:30 pm
  34. HP #32,
    The expectation that HA will evolve into a political entity that is compatible with democratic institutions is extremely highly unlikely ( never say never:-)). I do not say this lightly ;I have posted on this and even lectured about it over the years; but I will spare you the details. If HA can evolve into an political party that is compatible with democracy then it will have to become the antithesis of what it is.
    Developments could however force the organization to submit to reality and give up on its military wing. Personally I do not think that such an outcome is possible except as a result of regional developments i.e. Lebanon is not in control of its own destiny.
    As a result of the above and since Israel is still one country that believes in war as an effective policy instrument a war is inevitable. I cannot think of any realistic scenarios that could address the concerns of the antagonists without a war short of a Barack Obama brokered miracle, a comprehensive solution.
    I guess that is my round about way of agreeing with your view that this time around the war promises to be devastating. I have no doubt that losses in both life and physical structures will be higher on both sides but logic dictates that our side will bear the brunt of the losses.
    On a personal level, I think that the Israeli war machine is efficient, sophisticated and deadly but ineffective. We live in a different world where occupying land is not the same as victory. Israel won the 1967 war but the peace is just as elusive as ever. Obviously the same is true for the Palestinian side. All the military efforts have delivered tragic defeats and at a heavy price to the civilian population. The policy of violence has failed. In my view the most tragic result of that misguided policy is Hamas ( an aspiring HA) in Gaza. Instead of taking advantage of the unilateral Israeli withdawal from Gaza to build a democratic thriving peaceful economy they chose to lob their ineffective amateurish rockets that have caused a number of Israeli counter invasions, blockades , misery and squalor. A far more effective policy would have been civil disobedience including the demand to become Israeli citizens .
    Oh I digress. so let me sum up: An HA solution must come from outside of Lebanon, a devastating war is inevitable(it will be costly but will not resolve much)Palestinian and Arab sponsored resistance must renounce the random use of violence.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 29, 2010, 6:29 pm
  35. I think most of the comments indicate either hopeful thinking or lack of knowledge of Lebanon, and the history of the UN. STL. Most commentators seem to believe the rumors that HD would really kill R. Hariri. HD had the most to loose by the murder of late Hariri. Even though they had a rocky relationship, Hariri was the most supporter of HA. We all remember how in 1996,He went out of his way to insure that the war with Israel ended to the benefit of Lebanon, and HA. Most comments neglect to admit how that same UN,STL , for four years accused Syria, and the head of the Lebanese security apparatus( who spent four years in jail)of being behind the killing of Hariri. My point here is that the UN.STL has a credibility issue. knowing Lebanon, a and Lebanese, and the belief of conspiracy theory, they have no faith in that Tribunal.The UN.STL, has to repair it’s reputation ,and then, people might believe it’s findings.
    As for civil war in Lebanon, I don’t think anyone wants it. They will all loose. The only winner would be Israel.
    HD, and Amal, wouldn’t leave the government no matter what happens. They all remember how Pm. Seniora, was allowed to rule as he wishes when they Left the cabinet last time. So, I doubt the y would do that again. They can however cripple the government while maintaining their presence.
    As for Saudia Arabi,and Syria, they both have an interest in keeping things quiet in Lebanon. They will convince PM. Saad Hariri not to accept the UN.STL finding….

    Posted by Prophet | July 29, 2010, 6:36 pm
  36. Ghassan, I am in violent (;-)) agreement with you on almost everything you said, actually everything. I have always felt the same way about the morphing of HA into a purely political movement. However, a few years back our friendly commentators on syriacomment.com including our chief friend there Prof. Landis kept drilling the scenario of an evolution of HA that the remote possibility of it slowly migrated in my mind to a well, maybe, maybe, who knows, scenario. I have to say they were effective in their argumentations, but mostly because of persistence.

    The necessity of civil disobedience and struggle a la Ghandi has been my incessant mantra on those earlier posts. Alas, so many emotions drive folks to dismiss it and it’s maybe the Arabic temperament that makes the ineffective violent struggle always either win or foil any real peace attempt.

    Cheers! We should get together for lunch sometime when I’m in Elmsford (once or twice a month for a few days each time)

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 7:01 pm
  37. However, a few years back our friendly commentators on syriacomment.com including our chief friend there Prof. Landis kept drilling the scenario of an evolution of HA…

    HP,

    I would take the advice of our chief friend, Professor Josh, more seriously if he also discussed the “evolution” of the Baathist government in Syria. But he is such a vocal supporter of the Assad regime, that I simply can’t claim he’s an advocate for any change at all.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 29, 2010, 7:49 pm
  38. To Ghassan,
    Civil disobedience and nonviolent struggles does not work in the Arabic word. They would work in a civil society and against a government that believes in civil society. You know as well as I know that most Governments, if not all, believe in the Hama rule( destroying a whole city to maintain power),an imprisonment for political reasons. So forget about civil disobedience in the Arab world, Unfortunately, Arab communities understand their governments much better then you and I.

    Posted by Prophet | July 29, 2010, 7:52 pm
  39. Prophet, I think the civil disobedience and struggle was referring to the struggle against Israeli occupation, not the struggle of Arab citizens against their government.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 8:23 pm
  40. … and, how about we look at history to see when a terrorism-based struggle bore fruit and when Ghandi-like struggle bore fruit. History-nerds, you are called to chime with actual data.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 29, 2010, 8:25 pm
  41. Unfortunately, Arab communities understand their governments much better then you and I.

    Prophet,

    Which is why Israel’s best defense is a TV camera.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 29, 2010, 11:15 pm
  42. Excellent article on “the double standard”:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3927180,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 29, 2010, 11:18 pm
  43. HP and BV,

    Which one of you is working on the project of letting loose the bison on the Great Plains so that the Native Americans can hunt them again?

    Israel is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and it cannot support desert goat and sheep herding with very low productivity farming for hundreds of thousands of people. Yes, Israel has made mistakes in dealing with the Bedouin. We need to try harder. But criticizing is easy. Finding actual solutions for minorities that do not take well to modernization is very difficult. Would you say that the way that the Americans have dealt with the Native Americans or the way the Australians have dealt with the Aborigines was successful? And these are two countries much much bigger than Israel with many more resources than Israel.

    I am not saying that two wrongs make a right. Just saying that the issues are very difficult and we are muddling along as best we can. But the Bedouins do have to change as part of the solution. If you deny this, you do not understand the problem.

    Posted by AIG | July 29, 2010, 11:30 pm
  44. Channel 1 in Israel rarely jump the gun so I would tend to believe this until additional info emerges:
    http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3927186,00.html

    Has anybody seen confirmation for this from Arabic sources?

    Posted by AIG | July 29, 2010, 11:34 pm
  45. One beg the question on which planet do people who cime with such delusions live:

    “Instead of taking advantage of the unilateral Israeli withdawal from Gaza to build a democratic thriving peaceful economy they chose to lob their ineffective amateurish rockets that have caused a number of Israeli counter invasions, blockades , misery and squalor.”

    “Palestinian and Arab sponsored resistance must renounce the random use of violence.”

    Posted by Lebanon | July 29, 2010, 11:36 pm
  46. One beg the question on which planet do people who come with such delusions live:

    “Instead of taking advantage of the unilateral Israeli withdawal from Gaza to build a democratic thriving peaceful economy they chose to lob their ineffective amateurish rockets that have caused a number of Israeli counter invasions, blockades , misery and squalor.”

    “Palestinian and Arab sponsored resistance must renounce the random use of violence.”

    Posted by Lebanon | July 29, 2010, 11:37 pm
  47. To falsifiers of history and facts on what was done to Palestine villages and towns by Zionist terrorists:

    “By the end of the 1948 war, hundreds of entire villages had not only been depopulated but obliterated, their houses blown up or bulldozed. While many of the sites are difficult to access, to this day the observant traveller of Israeli roads and highways can see traces of their presence that would escape the notice of the casual passer-by: a fenced-in area, often surmounting a gentle hill, of olive and other fruit trees left untended, of cactus hedges and domesticated plants run wild. Now and then a few crumbled houses are left standing, a neglected mosque or church, collapsing walls along the ghost of a village lane, but in the vast majority of cases, all that remains is a scattering of stones and rubble across a forgotten landscape.”

    From Walid Khalid, All that remains. The Palestinians villages occupied and depopulated by Israel.

    And here’s what war criminal Moshe Dayan said on April 4, 1969:

    “”Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu’a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

    Posted by Lebanon | July 29, 2010, 11:42 pm
  48. A UN human rights investigator has likened Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories to apartheid South Africa and says there should be “serious consideration” over bringing the occupation to the international court of justice.
    The report by John Dugard, a South African law professor who is the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, represents some of the most forceful criticism yet of Israel’s 40-year occupation.

    Gaza remained under occupation despite the withdrawal of settlers in 2005. “In effect, following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed-off, imprisoned and occupied territory,” he said.


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/23/israelandthepalestinians.unitednations

    Posted by Lebanon | July 29, 2010, 11:47 pm
  49. Handles are interesting but to name oneself after a country is very misleading, “Lebanon.”

    You are confusing a position and opinion about the effectiveness of methods of redressing a wrong with expressing an opinion about whether there was a wrong in the first place. We very much come from this planet earth, thank you. It is the kind of sophism in which you engaged in your posts – consciously or unconsciously – that lends sad credence to those who continue to want to espouse the kind the random violence as a tool to redress the (perceived or real – it doesn’t matter) wrong dealt to the Palestinians.

    The question you have to answer is not whether the Palestinians were wronged. On that point you will find a lot of sympathy and agreement. The question you have to answer is what the violent path (yes, often random and stupidly targeting innocent civilians) has yielded so far. Are the Palestinians of Gaza better off today because of Hamas? Did the Arab countries gain land in 1967? Did the abhorrently idiotic attitude of destroying Lebanon and its sovereignty by turning its hospitality to Palestinian refugees into a base for armed struggle that catalyzed the civil war, triggered many an occupation of the country by Israel, led indirectly to horrors in the country destroying so much of its potential, did this attitude benefit the Palestinians? Did the savage execution of the Israeli athletes in Munich gain Palestinians a square inch of land?

    And you have the audacity to ask which planet we are from and what delusions we harbor?

    It would be entertaining and interesting to debate if it were not so utterly sad to read such confusion in your reasoning. Sadly many an Arab falls victim of such fallacious reasoning. The result? regression and misery.

    Go study the remarkable effectiveness and historic success of Ghandi-like resistance. Debate the correct question instead of ignoring it and arguing incorrectly about a completely different question. Change your handle please. You do not represent my Lebanon. If you only could imagine how effective a concerted, educated, harmonized, and coordinated response to redress the wrongs suffered by the Palestinians can be, were the Arab countries to follow such path, you would understand that decades have been lost to ignorant attitudes of rejection of reason and common sense and to sowing seeds of misery further compounding the suffering of Palestinians. Such attitudes add fuel to the fire instead of working to extinguish it and build on the ashes a new life that proves by its success the triumph of the once great Arabic spirit.

    Alas!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 30, 2010, 2:10 am
  50. AIG

    Every time an Israeli general or TV channel breaks new information about the STL, it makes it that much easier for Hizbullah to sell its case that the STL is a Zionist conspiracy targeting the resistance, and that much harder for others to deny it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 30, 2010, 6:37 am
  51. QN, news is news. I get the bit about an Israeli general chiming in but what is a news outlet to do if they get a scoop from somewhere? Unless it’s fabricated – which would somehow emerge – they seem to just have gotten the scoop. Fact is, there isn’t going to be a penury of excuses to claim a Zionist conspiracy for those who want to claim it. It would be more disingenuous of a media outlet to hold back news as part of a political calculation. Or am I missing something more subtle here or simply being naive?? I can take it, hit me with it.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 30, 2010, 6:57 am
  52. Watching the escalator show…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 30, 2010, 7:27 am
  53. HP,

    My first post was not a wish but a possible outcome due the events that are taking place now in Lebanon with Hariri/Syria/Saudi rendez vous, what will come of it only time will deliver.
    Hariri is possible trying to isolate HA if a HA-Israel war happens.
    I don’t think Syria will let HA go for granted it is an important asset to her for negotiating peace with Israel and get Golan back.
    Syria will try to hold all cards as long as it can.
    HA knows that it cannot lean on Syria in case of war.
    So I think they are planning a way out for HA from this STL thing and in a bigger scenario the war will be between Israel and Iran with no evolvement of HA.
    HA will be a Lebanon problem only.

    I think if the rights moves are played what you said could be not far from happening
    “By which I mean there’s always hope that HA will keep evolving politically and away from militarism, and/or that modernity and peace initiatives (along with a possible benefit from Aoun’s years of support for HA) might slowly defuse the tensions from HA’s military and absorb it gradually in the Lebanese Army”.

    At the end all we can do is guess because what really happens at close doors is never meant to us to know.

    Posted by alberto | July 30, 2010, 9:00 am
  54. QN,

    If an FM related news source breaks information about the STL, then it is clear that it is a political tool. If an American source, then also it is a Zionist conspiracy because everyone knows we control the US. If it is Al-Arabiya or some other Saudi outlet then of course that is also part of the conspiracy.

    What do you want these sources to do? Self censor themselves? For what? For people that will anyway peddle any conspiracy they can think of in order to fool their followers? And if you are not confident enough you can defend the STL from criticism because of what Israeli or Saudi sources say, then the problem does not lie with the sources.

    Posted by AIG | July 30, 2010, 9:55 am
  55. It is interesting to note that the Iranians are not playing any role in the Lebanese summit. I am not sure what that means if anything but it sure is different than the recent Damascus summit.

    Posted by AIG | July 30, 2010, 9:59 am
  56. AIG,
    Ahmadinejad is on his way, Iranian interest is very well represented anyway.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 30, 2010, 11:25 am

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