Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanon, March 14

Coup-Coup in Lebanon: Minister Baroud Resigns Over Telecoms-ISF Showdown

I've been wanting to do this for a long time...

Lebanese Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud resigned yesterday following a bizarre showdown involving two different branches of the Internal Security Forces, Minister of Telecommunications Charbel Nahhas, and Baroud himself.

March 14 is calling it a Telecoms Ministry-launched coup against the executive branch of the Lebanese government; March 8th is calling it an ISF-launched coup against the state. Who’s right?

There are many conflicting accounts of what actually took place (see here for a translated round-up of the Arabic press’s lead stories) but the basic chronology seems to be as follows:

  1. Nahhas (who is a member of the Free Patriotic Movement’s cabinet bloc and a staunch ally of Michel Aoun) sent a team to dismantle some equipment housed in a building affiliated with the Telecommunications Ministry.
  2. Ashraf Rifi, general of the Internal Security Forces, sent a large group of policemen to secure the building and prevent the telecommunications team from accessing the equipment.
  3. Nahhas then sent a letter to Ziyad Baroud, asking him to order Rifi to have his men stand down. (Technically, Rifi reports to Baroud, as the ISF is under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry).
  4. Baroud did so, and Rifi ignored him, arguing that his orders came from a superior authority (more on that later).
  5. Nahhas also somehow managed to get a second branch of the ISF that is responsible for embassy protection (see here for the ISF website) to accompany him to the building where he tried to access the equipment himself.
  6. Rifi’s men prevailed, but not before the entire sad spectacle was caught on television: two branches of the same police force staring each other down, with one minister prevented from accessing a building connected with his own ministry and another minister issuing orders to his subordinates to no avail.

I’ve been in touch with government officials and other political insiders since yesterday evening, trying to piece together the factors that led to this showdown and to assess the fallout. Here are some preliminary observations:

The first questions that spring to mind, of course, are: (1) what was this mysterious equipment that Nahhas was prevented from accessing? (2) on whose authority did Rifi cordon off the building and ignore Baroud’s orders? On these issues, al-Akhbar provides some help background. It seems that the telecommunications equipment was a gift from the Chinese government in 2007. The Saniora government licensed Ogero (the state-owned company that is responsible for maintaining the telecommunications infrastructure and which has had a deeply antagonistic relationship with the current Telecoms minister) to set up a third telecommunications network in Lebanon. Why they chose to do so at that time remains unclear, but Rifi claimed to have been operating under the executive order of Saniora’s government when he disregarded the orders of Baroud to allow Nahhas access to the equipment.

It is highly ironic (as Mustapha at Beirut Spring astutely pointed out yesterday) that the ordered dismantling of a telecommunications network should again provide the spark for a tense confrontation between Lebanon’s two political blocs. When the Saniora government attempted to pull the same trick on Hizbullah in 2008, we all recall what happened.

As far as the political fallout is concerned, Nahhas and Michel Aoun look like the clear winners here. Ashraf Rifi has long been accused by March 8 politicians of running the ISF like a March 14th militia accountable only to Saad al-Hariri. Baroud’s resignation makes that reading very attractive to many Lebanese who are uncomfortable with the idea of a military officer ignoring the directives of perhaps the most popular civilian leader in the country (i.e. Baroud).

It should also be pointed out that Baroud (a friend of this blog whom I admire a great deal) has long been unhappy in his position at the Interior Ministry. His freedom of movement has been severely curtailed and he has had virtually no authority over many of the security-related fiefdoms that he is supposed to oversee. He has supposedly come very close to resigning on multiple occasions, but was likely prevented from doing so by President Suleiman, who needed a trustworthy ally in this all-important ministry. Yesterday’s events, however, were too egregious for Baroud to ignore. My personal feeling is that he made the right move.

More info will be posted as it becomes available…
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Discussion

91 thoughts on “Coup-Coup in Lebanon: Minister Baroud Resigns Over Telecoms-ISF Showdown

  1. I saw him buying milk at Spinney’s not too long ago, so his personal movement can’t be that limited. ;)

    Posted by sean | May 27, 2011, 10:37 am
  2. The timing of this debacle is the most intriguing. Was the whole affair directed and produced by Nahas for PR purposes? Why now and why the theatrics? Sorry to disappoint you QN, but Barouds’ explosion is a reflection of a personality that will not take a strong stand but that would rather seek an easy way out. I would have wanted Baroud to voice his opposition to what was going on and to carry the fight. I am very disappointed to say the least.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 27, 2011, 10:55 am
  3. What an intriguing story.

    I still don’t understand the background info. What is this mysterious equipment/3rd network that has everyone up in arms?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 27, 2011, 11:00 am
  4. Some news reports say the Chinese equipment was used to operate a “secret” third network– which is spy novel worthy enough–yet others say the equipment was never used at all, and was being transferred to MTC Touch. Does anyone know if there is a connection between Nahas and MTC Touch, and why are the Chinese involved in the first place?

    Posted by Habib Battah | May 27, 2011, 11:02 am
  5. The blame here falls squarely on the feet of Baroud and the President. In his statement yesterday Baroud distinctly implied that he blames Rifi. However it was not very clear what was going on. There clearly is a story behind this issue and by remaining silent he is part of the cover up.
    One of the problem here is those people who refuse to take a stand. In the 70’s Ziad Rahbani touched on this with the
    80% + 80% we are still going through the same issues today.
    What is more maddening are those idiots demonstrating in front of his house as some are reporting.
    I don’t know Baroud and from what i have heard he is a good guy however he lost a lot of credibility for me yesterday.

    Posted by elsheikh | May 27, 2011, 11:16 am
  6. As much as I respect Baroud as an interior minister (for a few weeks in December, I felt safe driving in Lebanon, an unprecedented feat), I don’t think he did the right thing. The Aounist campaign against him never centered around his corruption or any decisions he made (Barroud belongs to a very rare breed of Lebanese politicians), not for lack of trying. They campaigned against him, claiming that he was not able to control the ISF and other departments in his ministry (for various reasons including the president’s ineptitude).

    Baroud had the opportunity to come out a hero in this debacle. He should’ve gone down to Mathaf, and personally ordered the ISF troops out. He could’ve taken a few cameras (just as Nahhas did, which proved to be genius). Instead, he issued a directive ordering Rifi to withdraw his men, which was ignored (as per usual).

    Barroud then held a press conference, whining about the situation in the country. He implied that he’s given up on Lebanon. As an interior minister, he’s the one responsible for controlling the ISF. He proved that he couldn’t handle the job assigned to him. He’s an idealist, rather than a politician who can get the job done. Rifi has been ignoring him for 2 years. Why hasn’t he transferred him? He has the power to do so.

    Posted by W. | May 27, 2011, 11:19 am
  7. With all respect to Ziad Baroud, who I believe is a decent person, he has failed on many occasions as a politician (not to be taken in a negative context). Either you are in the game or not. He should have resigned long time ago.
    What I feel was negative, is the way he dealt with his assumed subordinates through the media (not in this incident only). As if he was trying all the time to show the other side that he is not prejudice against them.
    The other comment that caught my attention was him saying that “few days ago” he realized how bad the situation was… Really? How about many years ago?
    Now that he has liberated himself, I hope he is willing to share with us any plans he has to liberate the rest of the Lebanese people.
    Again, hopeless… Pack and go

    Posted by IHTDA | May 27, 2011, 11:25 am
  8. QN,

    Is this a case where economic benefit to some private parties are simply dictating these actions in order to prevent further competition and creation of better value for the Lebanese consumer?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 27, 2011, 11:40 am
  9. Ziad Baroud is absolutely right to quit. He was surrounded by a bunch of thugs, working for CIA/MOSSAD, KSA, France and the Hariri Mafia. The ISF and the Ma3loumat are financed off the books, through infusions of cash, arms and spy gear, courtesy of USA, UAE, France and the KSA. They are run like a Militia of thugs, best known for their rackets.
    Ziad Baroud couldn’t take all that crap and resigned. Furthermore, Ziad Baroud had enough of the Pussy-Cat Michel Suleiman, who’s only purpose in life is to make his son in law the next Minister of the Interior. Ziad Baroud did the right thing by quitting this cesspool. :)

    Posted by HK | May 27, 2011, 12:54 pm
  10. The Lebanese Army just liberated the building where the Ma3loumat thugs were holed-up. The Ministry of Telecommunications can get on with its mandate. Ashraf Rifi and Wisam El-Hasan should be court-martialed.

    Posted by HK | May 27, 2011, 1:00 pm
  11. If the story is indeed as stated in the QN round-up, then I’d have to agree with Ghassan. Baroud shouldn’t have quit.
    The correct course of action (in the civilized world, where employees are accountable to their superiors) would have been for Baroud to fire Rifi on the spot.
    But we all know that’s not doable in Lebanon….*sigh*

    Hey, Hassan Nassrallah! There’s your “freedom and democracy” hard at work…Will Lebanon EVER understand the concepts of “rule of law” and “accountability”?
    I despair…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 27, 2011, 1:07 pm
  12. According to Al Akhbar, the Siniroa government directed that the equipment be setup and operated on a small scale (10 lines) for testing and training, and later used by Liban Telecom (after Ogero is tansformed into Liban Telecom).
    However, the trial extended from 2008 until the present and extended across Lebanese territory and linked to the international network. These are beyond the cabinet decree.
    Nahas has been opposed to the creation of Liban Telecom. Ogero expanding this trial mobile network appears to be an attempt to establish it de facto. Nahas appears to have tried to stop this.
    I wonder if that really justifies standing up to the minister at gunpoint. Is it simply Hariri fulfilling his threat of making Nahas pay? Or is the network being used for something so vital and expolsive it must be protected at all costs?
    Some M8 voices have been hinting it is being used to support the Syrian protests, which is a very dangerous and irresponsible claim to make without evidence.
    I agree with Baroud’s decision to resign but I don’t praise him for it. He should have explained the situation more at his press conference. I’ve heard so many people express confusion because they did not understand what he resigned for.

    Posted by RedLeb | May 27, 2011, 1:41 pm
  13. HK, the only thugs in Lebanon are Hezbollah’s thugs…

    Hezbollah and company have been trying hard to “liberate” the ISF. They ant them loyal to their Iranian maters agenda.

    Posted by lebanesepatriot | May 27, 2011, 1:50 pm
  14. Do you think he’ll withdraw his resignation? Or is it for good?

    Posted by Blackstar | May 27, 2011, 1:57 pm
  15. Baroud could be a nice guy…Why is he framed as a nice guy; I really don’t know. He really had no control of different branches of ISF…some falling under FM under under HA/Amal mercenary colonels…
    If baroud had integrity and wanted respect he should have exposed everyone and explained the whole saga.

    Now we are left with a minister who hysterically quits. Nahhas I am sure wanted to put Baroud on the spot for their own reasons to basically freeze him out of future cabinets.

    Again; shame on all of us who think people like Baroud are great or amazing even though he has not accomplished much (except having photo radars I guess). The politicians are so corrupt that at any time a person is not affiliated we equate them to sainthood. What low expectations..7Haram. :(

    Posted by danny | May 27, 2011, 3:52 pm
  16. I posted the following by mistake under the previous thread Sorry for the error.

    May 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Like many of you I have been intrigued and fascinated by the debacle de jour in Lebanon. As I indicated yesterday, it is these events that highlight the importance of transparency and independent trustworthy judiciary. Since bot of the above are in short supply in today’s Lebanon we have no choice but to speculate.

    (1)It is clear that the telephony equipment that is involved is not illegal. Everyone in the government seems to have known about it. In addition I think that it would be highly unlikely that the Chinese would donate a gift that is intended for illegal use.
    This also means that the FPM have known about this equipment for 4 years and i imagine Nahas new about it from his first day in office.
    If that is so, which I believe it is, then why did he choose to act upon this dismantelling when he did? Why not six months ago why not last week? If he has always known about this then why not use a less confrontational method of resolving the issue? Couldn’t he just go public about this equipment that is being misused or used illegally?
    The above leaves me no choice but to suggest that minister Nahas has chosen to create a theatrical scene by surprising and ambushing Rifi et al. I believe that Nahas was dotivated by the politics and not the merits.

    (2) the second issue is that of minister Barouds’ resignation. To resign is defineed as to give up and to submit. There is room for resignation but obviously this was not one of them. You resign when a superior insists on following one policy that you feel is misguided. Only one point of view should prevail and so you resign.
    This was not the case in this sordid affair. One of the highest officials in the country does not resign when his/her subordinates do not follow his/her instructions. In this case the minister felt that he was in the right and he owed the Lebanese people, the ones that have entrusted him with carrying and enforcing the law, to take a stand and fight for what is right. He should have not resigned but instead explained in detail the case and what has led to it. He should have insisted on being fired if higher ups are not willing to come clean and enforce the law.
    Baroud exploded at the wrong time.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 27, 2011, 5:01 pm
  17. This whole thing looks like a well organized stunt by Nahas, i am not sure if it is to really to categorically end Baroud chances of coming back to the ministry of interior or to enhance his own chances of return.

    There is nothing mysterious about the “third network” it has been there for a long time now, and here is a link (Arabic) to the celebration of its inauguration with the presence of Nahas himself (April 2010) http://www.almustaqbal.com/stories.aspx?StoryID=402831

    The other thing that I am wondering why we are not hearing about, is Rifi’s accusation that Nahas withheld vital data in the kidnapped Estonians case. Why didn’t Baroud do anything about that?

    Posted by Caustic | May 27, 2011, 5:08 pm
  18. In agreement with Ghassan and Elsheikh… there is something very odd about Baroud giving orders to Rifi to remove himself from the Adliyeh building as soon as Nahas told him whats going on. Wouldnt he atleast investigate something this controversial? Wouldnt he have known about the equipment? to throw in the towel in this way is childish,and makes a mockery of proceedings.
    As Ghassan eloquently put it, Baroud exploded at the wrong time.

    Posted by maverick | May 27, 2011, 5:17 pm
  19. what a bunch of drama queens that sad country has become.

    Posted by CultofAssad | May 27, 2011, 5:31 pm
  20. I will suggest a scenario of a well designed plan to hit several birds with one stone.
    The most recent impasse regarding forming a government involved a spat between Aoun and Miqati with Miqati insisting on taking over the telecom portfolio. That outcome doesn’t suit HA but they have no alternative to Miqati. Therefore they decided to move on the new network under Nahhas while he is minister and put it under their control and then move on the cabinet formation discussions. In this case they envision having the infrastructure under their control and if ever a new government is formed the new minister will have little control.

    The other bird is of course Baroud which makes him a big failure as a result of this saga. Not long ago Aoun was repeating the same line about him.

    Posted by iceman | May 27, 2011, 6:18 pm
  21. Maverick, what do you think Baroud shoulda/coulda done? And what do you think would have been the consequences?
    Would you have done what you would advocate if it involved you personally?
    Talk is cheap.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 27, 2011, 6:53 pm
  22. I think Iceman hit the nail on the head. Makes sense. Consistent with all the happenings.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 27, 2011, 6:59 pm
  23. HP,

    Did you get your prize from last time.

    “Me, me, me,…
    uh,…,uh,…
    the last one?
    Where do I claim my prize?”

    How do I get mine this time?

    Posted by iceman | May 27, 2011, 7:37 pm
  24. The ISF is obviously using the third network as a communications network just as Hizballah have their own land line private communications network to communicate with one another.

    Both networks are operating outside the constitutional legal frame as all communication networks within Lebanon should be controlled by the Ministry of Communication.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 27, 2011, 7:47 pm
  25. HP,

    All we ever ask for is transparency. If he cannot do that, then at least a semblance of an explanation knowing full well the controversy around the equipment. He could have called Rifi for his view, “sorted” it out. Perhaps even asking Nahas for reasons to his unusual move.
    It just struck me, like everybody else, as odd. The onus is on Nahas, not Rifi.So, Baroud’s move kicked up a lot of dust and helped Nahas’ cause.

    Posted by maverick | May 27, 2011, 7:50 pm
  26. The FPM and their ministers are Hizballah patsies.

    To what avail, is stupefying.

    It’s GMA, SHN and Iran against the world!

    Posted by R2D2 | May 27, 2011, 7:53 pm
  27. In addition,
    Nahas’ latest move has to be seen within the context of the relationship between FM and FPM. Nahas has pissed off many others in the former majority govt as he does his bidding for Aoun.
    In true Aounist fashion Nahas and Bassil amongst others make it known that they are against the FM, and will over ride rules as they please and hold a certain cocky attitude. These personal crusades have reached the height of ridicule and the FM have had enough. So what if this latest manouver is seen as partisan politics, Rifi and the FM have every right to protect the data in that equipment if they deem it to be of vital interest to the security of the nation or if it holds truths that can reach a breakthrough. ( notice Rifis comments on Nahas’ witholding info on the Estonians and arrogant attitude of brushing off any call from Rifi in that investigation)

    Posted by maverick | May 27, 2011, 8:03 pm
  28. Maverick,

    Who is funding the Aoun and the FPM?

    I really wonder …

    Posted by R2D2 | May 27, 2011, 8:06 pm
  29. Aoun accepted Saddam Hussein’s funding back in the late 80’s … and he’s obviously accepting Iranian funding today.

    Why else did he send his son in law to Teheran ?

    Posted by R2D2 | May 27, 2011, 8:13 pm
  30. R2D2,

    The village idiot and Gigi used to trek to Doha and come back with suitcases full of $$$. It seems that route is broken. Have you ever wondered how did the clAoun pull off establishing the OTV in a few months??…whose millions still fund that failing TV station?

    Posted by danny | May 27, 2011, 8:18 pm
  31. As far as Baroud’s resignation is concerned … I would have to.

    It’s not worth getting killed by the Syrians or the Iranians for exposing what is blatantly going on in Lebanon these days.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 27, 2011, 8:19 pm
  32. Human beings are a “commodity” to these fuckers.

    I beg your pardon for the strong language.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 27, 2011, 8:31 pm
  33. R2D2, except for your regrettable use of rather unseemly vocabulary, scandalizing to the obviously chaste ears of this distinguished blog’s audience, you are right.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 28, 2011, 12:29 am
  34. If I understand this story correctly, and I’m not sure I do, it would be extremely ironic for March 8, and Hezbollah in particular, to complain about an independent telecommunications network being an attack on the sovereignty of the Lebanese state.

    Posted by sean | May 28, 2011, 1:50 am
  35. I hate to agree with Aoun, but he was completely right about Baroud being ineffective. Baroud was willing to enforce traffic laws in person but when an explosive confrontation with serious political implications takes place he whines from the podium and locks himself in his house? عيب!

    Posted by Mushkelji | May 28, 2011, 2:52 am
  36. Sean,
    In the words of Sylvestre Stallone ” I am the Law”.

    They are the law, the state and everything in between and if anybody has a problem, there is nothing he can do for they have the guns.

    Or if they wanted to engage in intellectual debate just to show how multi faceted they are, they will argue that their telecomm network is for a higher cause, to strike at the heart of the enemy! and the only only one who should have a problem with this network is the enemy, therefore he who dismantles the network is an enemy and will be dealt with accordingly. There cannot be any other parallel network for that can be used by the enemy. ( Here, Enemy can mean anyone including fellow Lebanese)

    I have tried to calm my inner waters for a long time, but i’m on the verge of giving up and saying F*#@ these M8 bastards. Its their way or the highway, always has been, will never change. Theyve cloaked their ideology and attitudes with intellectual and romantic garb but their belligerence and blinding hypocrisy gives them away at every turn.
    Over it.

    Posted by maverick | May 28, 2011, 2:53 am
  37. There is a communication war going in the ME for a long time. Also now in Syria it is acommunication war, some are asying that the IRI is involved. China, in China, is very good in that war. There could have been all kinds of things inside these “Chinese presents”. Also Israel is deeply involved in that war. Does any body knows technically, the nature of these communication equipments? I think that signal flags they are not.

    Posted by Rani Hazbani | May 28, 2011, 6:02 am
  38. Maverick/ Sean/ Mushkalji
    I echo your thoughts and then some.
    As you well know I questioned the timing of this episode even if there was merit in the argument, which there isn’t. So what does all of this mean? Simply what many have been suggesting for a long time that this is connected to the cabinet formation, scoring points, obfuscation and the clear conclusion that neither HA nor the FPM ever embark on a project that is not premeditated. The plan to take over power and change the character of all institutions has been going on for years; withdrawl of ministers, occupation of downtown, May 8 take over, right to veto, a tower of babel cabinet, thefalse witnesses brouhaha, the withholding of funds by Nahas, the irresponsible plan to remove gasoline taxes, the forced resignation of the Saad Hariri cabinet…

    It has been a smart plan superbly executed but the joke is on us, the regular citizens. The master pupeteer will not be satisfied until the whole character of Lebanon changes to that of a mini Iranian authoritarian theocratically inspired state.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 28, 2011, 6:18 am
  39. Did this seriously turn into a discussion about Lebanon turning into an Iranian state?

    Barroud and Nahhas have been in contact for the past week regarding this issue. Barroud did not take a rash decision in ordering the ISF out, but it was a result of his interpretation of the laws (the president, who I just discovered has a voice, even agreed).

    Ghassan Karam, it’s not a surprise when you have 400 men waiting for you. This has been going on for quite a while.

    The third network was licensed by the Sanioura government to operate 10 trial lines, not the 50,000 it currently has. Also, Nahhas had to give the equipment back to the Chinese, as they were setting up the 3.5G network, and the contract stipulated the “Third Network” be used to increase the capacity of the 3.5G network.

    As for withholding data from the ISF regarding the Estonians, why did this accusation come out after the incident? Where are the warrants for going over the telecommunications data?
    I don’t want some sleazy Lebanese guy going over my texts and phone calls without a warrant. On that note, thank you Nahhas for ignoring this thug, who clearly thinks he is above the law, rather than an a protector of our laws.

    Posted by W. | May 28, 2011, 8:23 am
  40. For some reason (not too challenging to ascertain) most all the threads miss the core point of order, namely constitutional and institutional conduct.

    It is simple, really. A government official refuses to adhere to official orders not from one political superior but two: a minister of a portfolio and, more seriously and ill boding, his direct superior. It is reported that the government official in question even refused to adhere to the President’s “wishes”, who could, actually, if he wishes, ask the army to intervene, being commander in chief.

    To me, this amounts to insurrection against a ‘sitting legal authority’ by use of force buttressed by government issued arms.

    All other considerations notwithstanding, financial, political, security etc., one would expect all those who have been calling for the rule of law and the “transfer to statehood” to be unabashed in calling for appropriate measures to be taken.

    Short of this, it will be somewhat difficult for anyone to take them seriously.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | May 28, 2011, 8:47 am
  41. I just love it when the “resistance camp” comes out with indignation any time an infraction is committed by the opposing side. How saintly and democratic of you. Thank you very much for accepting the role of the institutions within a state. :D

    Posted by danny | May 28, 2011, 9:13 am
  42. Thanks for the acknowledgement (meant or otherwise)! How about dealing with the core issue now!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | May 28, 2011, 9:33 am
  43. Even if I agree with some of you on QN who think that minister Baroud was a failure, I have to admit that after his resignation his popularity has sky rocketed. Could this be a well calculated move by minister Baroud in the hope to get the presidency?

    Posted by marillionlb | May 28, 2011, 9:40 am
  44. W. / Questionmark,
    I am not sure that anyone supports the lack of accountability. Actually it is just the opposite. This event shows clearly the dire need , as we have said repeatedly, for a competent independent judiciary. Besides my problem with the timing and the history of theatrics by minister Nahas my prblem is also with Baroud. I do not think that he should have resigned. Resignation is the easy way out. He was entrusted with enforcing the law and that is what he should have done.

    The following is a direct quote from a previous post of mine:

    “Superman Baroud proved to have feet of clay :-)
    As for Nahas , his record of obstruction and self serving acts does not help. Why would he want to dismantle a government owned network in order to give to the private company?
    This case should be investigated by a competent judiciary whose judgment will be accepted by all. ”

    Another quote from a different post of mine: ” He (Baroud) should have not resigned but instead explained in detail the case and what has led to it. He should have insisted on being fired if higher ups are not willing to come clean and enforce the law.
    Baroud exploded at the wrong time.”

    I imagine that you do not agree that Nahas was essentially putting on an act. I do. Coincidentally I did a post last night on this:

    http://rationalrepublic.blogspot.com/2011/05/cabinet-formation-and-telecommunication.html

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 28, 2011, 10:18 am
  45. Ghassan Karam

    MTC is not a private company. It is a state company, managed by Zain. The government (well taxpayer) is paying for the upgrade to 3.5G, neither Zain nor Orascom.

    As for the timing, refer to my above post. As the minister, he has the right to do whatever he deems necessary. Blaming the demonstrations in Syria and Iran on an incident involving telecommunications equipment

    And despite all your antics against the FPM, the only party to have modernised telecommunications in Lebanon since 1990 is the FPM. Bassil (a complete idiot of a politician) reduced tariffs and drastically increased capacity. Nahhas has been implementing 3G. All this in 2 years.

    In my opinion, that isn’t obstruction. Obstruction is turning part of the ministry into an enterprise run by Abdul Monem Youssef, who isn’t even held accountable by the government or parliament.

    I believe you should watch the video of the incident, before discussing theatrics. The minister was banned from entering his own building. I think it justifies a press conference.

    I completely agree that an independent judiciary is necessary for the country. However, it is clear that the country’s institutions must follow the laws and decrees issued by parliament and government, unless they are deemed illegal by a court. Rifi, ignoring a decree from the interior ministry, is tantamount to a mutiny, for which he must be court martialed.

    Posted by W. | May 28, 2011, 10:35 am
  46. The Israelis always love to turn the discussion towards towards iSsues involving espionage using hi-tech gadgets as above. They are now joined by a chorus apparent from the so-called resistance aoun camp.

    I will be happy to satisfy your curiosity on this issue. Nahhas’ immediate prize from his rambo style gambit is a CD supplied by the French not the Chinese. Apparently the CD contains software capable of tracking 50000 calls simultaneously. In other words you could install the software on 50 to 100 computers and you would have the capability to track all callers in Lebanon. In Syria you could install it on few hundred computers and you cover all of Syria. And finally in Iran you’d probably need one to two thousand eavesdropping machines.

    Posted by iceman | May 28, 2011, 11:07 am
  47. And here’s something soooo interesting,

    http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/05/28/150838.html

    Posted by iceman | May 28, 2011, 11:32 am
  48. I wonder if Rifi’s action was connected to M14 exasperation with Nahhas for his continued refusal to hand over mobile phone revenue to the finance ministry, which has crippled the already rather lame government fiscal operations.

    Posted by EIU | May 28, 2011, 11:48 am
  49. W,
    ” Bassil (a complete idiot of a politician) reduced tariffs and drastically increased capacity. Nahhas has been implementing 3G. All this in 2 years.”

    I have little knowledge about telecomunication but from my point of view all TC minsters have failed for the following reasons:
    1- increasing capacity (selling more numbers) without improving the infrastructure negatively affects the quality of the service. This is obvious to anyone using phones in Lebanon.
    2- implementing 3G in 2011 is against the recommendation of many experts. Some even say its a complete waste of money considering that most countries are moving to 4G.
    3- internet services are horrible.
    IMHO All minsters are useless including those of FPM. Hopeless

    Posted by IHTDA | May 28, 2011, 12:27 pm
  50. Ghassan @44

    Indeed, Baroud should have stood his ground and enposed his/the state’s authority. He had several opportunities to do just that and with the same beligerant official entity.

    That Baroud didn’t uphold the law in accordance with the dectates of the constitution, and irrespective of the timing of Nahhas’s action (although I do believe that he, as minister, is within his mandate to take action whenever he deemes appropriate), the fact remains that Reefy embarked on an act of insurrection against the state. Perhaps Reefy’s official position as the guardian of security makes the whole matter even more dangerous and could have slipped the contry into dire straits!

    Accountability is needed, as you stated. After that, let all play politics to their heart’s delight.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | May 28, 2011, 12:27 pm
  51. If the item referenced by Iceman regarding the CD turns out to be true then thi would provide the motive in addition to the political posturing.
    I do not know very well “data mining” but the methods have become common and popular.Most undergraduates in economics and/or finance who take a course in intermediate econometrics spend a month or so using data mining. The largest user of the protocol is Homeland security. The technology has advanced tremendously and the CD described by Iceman can help in setting up satellite interceptions stations that feed into a central super computer that will in turn analyze the data every which way in a very short period of time.

    Posted by ghassan Karam | May 28, 2011, 1:58 pm
  52. Here’s a random thought:

    The 1943 pact between Beshara al-Khoury and Riad al-Solh formalized, among other things, the Maronites’ acceptance of the “Arab character” of Lebanon, and the Sunnis’ acceptance to cease seeking unification with Syria.

    It’s often claimed that Lebanon is and will always be stuck in the same condition, torn between East and West, mired in its sectarian politics. But shouldn’t it be obvious to us today how far we have come from the crisis of identity that necessitated the 1943 pact?

    I don’t know many Maronites today who think Lebanon is (or should be) a fundamentally European protectorate. Nor do I know many Sunnis (or Shiites or Druzes) who want to see the reconstitution of Greater Syria. A distinct Lebanese nationalism has set in, for better or worse, since the 1943 pact. That’s not to say that it is a homogenous thing or that we are a homogenous people. But the old categories of divisiveness (i.e. European vs. Syrian identity) no longer apply.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 28, 2011, 3:09 pm
  53. #40:

    I clearly stated that Baroud should have fired Rifi on the spot. Regardless of the motives behind all this hubbub, having the commander of the ISF openly defy his boss is not acceptable. Period.

    But then again, this is Lebanon, where no one’s ever lost their job for defying their boss, as long as they have political cover….

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 28, 2011, 3:40 pm
  54. Good random thought Qifa.

    Actually Taif must have put those questions to rest by asserting the Arab character of Lebanon and its ‘special’ relationship with Syria.

    However, aside from so-called resistance culture and until further notice, I personally would consider any Lebanese uttering publicly the slogan of ‘long live Israel’ to be a traitor. That sentiment, I believe is widely shared in Lebanon and is not a characteristic of a certain sect in particular.

    Posted by iceman | May 28, 2011, 3:46 pm
  55. QN,

    Whatcha been drinking? Talk about randomly veerying off on a tangent…

    I still maintain there is very little Lebanese national character.
    Just because most don’t speak openly about joining Syria or being a French protectorate doesn’t mean the Lebanese have learned shit about national identity.
    Not a day passes without someone talking about “our joint destiny” with Syria. And you don’t think the Christians of Lebanon still feel (rightly or wrongly) under siege amidst an “Arab nation” that’s predominantly muslim?
    Why do we still have prominent posters of Ali Khamenei or Khomeini in many parts of the country?

    Words like “French protectorate” might be a b it anachronistic nowadays, but don’t think for a second the root feelings and fears that brought forth the 1943 pact don’t still exist today.

    Think about it: The biggest fear of the Christians is Palestinian naturalization. The biggest fear of the sunnis is probably an Iranian style state with allegiance in Tehran. What national identity?

    There’s a reason the Maronites were so close to Israel in the 75-90 era. Our southern neighbors are as close to “European protectorate” as can be found in today’s reality.

    The list goes on.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 28, 2011, 3:49 pm
  56. Whether we like what has transpired over the last 60-70 years in the Arab world or not the fact of the matter is that these so called artificial nation states have over the years developed a dynamic of sorts to justify their existense. I believe also that this is the very phenomenon that has also brought about the end of Pan Arabism. The longer the facts on the ground the greater and deeper is their acceptance. that is one reason that I do not believe that time is necessarily on the Palesinian side. As we can already see the facts on the ground since 1967 are already playing a role in the type of suggested settlement.
    What is ironic about all of this is the fact that by the time we develop separate national identities the world is moving away from the Westphalian system towards cosmopolitanism. Are we destined to be in a catch up phase again? :-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 28, 2011, 4:10 pm
  57. I do not believe that cosmopolitanism will be the ultimate trend for the future.

    It all started with the so-called free trade agreement between Reagan and Mulroney back in the late 80s. It then spread to Mexico, South America and later on the model was sought to be applied universally beyond the Americas.

    It was mostly economics which ushered in this cosmopolitan trend in addition to modern means of communication. Three things happened in the 90s which later on resulted in new challenges facing the trend and applying a brake to the economics benefits envisioned by the pioneers of globalization (North America with the US elephant). The first one was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the later emergence of the European Union. The second one was China reclaiming Hong Kong allowing it to emerge as an economic giant along with other Asian economies. But the most important development was the deregulation of the US financial system in the late 90s which set the stage for the 2008 collapse of the US economy and the rest of most of the world. By any measure the last one was the straw which broke the back of the US by its own doings and its own greed and corruption.

    The US will never recover from that defining economic event. As we speak, the limit on borrowing by the government, which I believe is 15 trillion dollars, is being reached. Further, if you are a PhD graduate particularly in certain disciplines, the place for you to be now is China and not the US as it has been the custom since the 40s. You would get all what your eyes would desire to engage in the dreams of your curiosities and interests. No longer is China satisfied with copying intellectual rights of other ‘nations’, but it will soon surpass most of them.

    There is only one way for the US to proceed. It will soon have to accept the status of a second rate power. You would also see protectionism rising and I would not be surprised if what is happening in the Arab world now would be happening in US cities, particularly when the ordinary American would discover how cheaply the US was sold by corporate America in the name of globalization, the predecessor of cosmopolitanism.

    Pan Arabism failed as it was formulated by the orientalists and not because of the invalidity of Arabism which is a historical and cultural reality, even more vigorous than most national identities of Europe. What we are witnessing now is the reaction from the Arab masses to that model imposed on the region by the colonialist powers of the 19 and early 20th century. Out of this tribulation we would see a re-emergence of Arab nationalism that would be home grown in line with the people’s aspirations.

    Posted by iceman | May 28, 2011, 5:06 pm
  58. Very well read Ice.

    I’ll give you an A- on that.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 28, 2011, 5:27 pm
  59. Ghassan,

    Well said.
    That was the gist of my argument with 3issa and iceman last week: Facts on the ground have a way of becoming fait-accompli as history moves forward. I agree that time is not on the Palestinians side for that very reason.

    But what do I know. I’m sure Iceman will be here shortly to tell me the Palestinians’ claim is eternal or some other such…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 28, 2011, 5:52 pm
  60. I do not wish to engage in a cooloqay but I feel that it is important to make a few observations.
    Cosmopolitanism is NOT the same as Globalization, obviously it has nothing to do with neoliberalism or even multiculturalism for that matter. Its origins preceed all the above.
    Cosmopolitanism is often traced back to the Cynics and was elaborated upon by the Stoics, it is 2500 years old.
    In its modern manifestation , Kant probably manifests Cosmopolitanism better than most. That is one reason that it is more of a European rather than a US idea currently. Cosmopolitanism does not speak or promote the idea of a unipolar world and definitely it does not promote US hegemony or any body elses for that matter. A unipolar moment is the antithesis of true cosmopolitanism that essentially rejects nationality, patriotism and all other manufactured loyalties.
    The two most essential ideas of cosmopolitanism are (1) obligations to others, obligations not based on kin, family,tribe or nation. My moral obligations are not to the near and dear only.
    (20 the utmost of respect for differences, for the other.
    A cosmopolitan celebrates diversity does not believe in authenticity and values contamination.

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 28, 2011, 6:02 pm
  61. To be perfectly candid I am not totally satisfied yet with the analysis of the root cause of what appears to be a personal vendetta between the FPM and Gen. Rifi of the ISF. I have not had the chance to try and reconstruct the chronological record but could it be that the FPM have become more determined than ever to get Rifi not only because he appears to be openly a March 14 supporter but because he seems to have enjoyed getting Fayez Karam. What do you think? Is this a far fetched analysis or does it make some sense?

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 28, 2011, 6:21 pm
  62. GK,

    That is why I gave Ice an A-

    I came back to Beirut trying to invest my hard earned money into alternative energy, alternative agriculture, cater to tourists to our country and provide Lebanese expats around the world with cultural embassies that could also act as second homes to the weary worldwide Lebanese business traveller.

    To no avail.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 28, 2011, 6:27 pm
  63. I am in Istanbul for personal reasons today. Was in Hamburg before yesterday to negotiate with corporate American assholes during a trade show. Will again set up another business in Dubai in the next weeks that requires me to travel to Belgium, Holland, Shanghai and God knows where during the next 2 months.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 28, 2011, 6:42 pm
  64. R2D2,
    Although I do not believe in labels I would not object to the label deep ecologist being pinned to me. That is why i have often felt jealous of what you have tried to do or maybe you are still doing in Lebanon. I am convinced thhat if you have deep pockets that simple alternative energy projects in Lebanon can go a long way. I do not see why simple water solar heaters, simple PV arrays and even small scale wind turbines cannot make it big in Lebanon. Believe me I would have tried to start such an enterprise but there are personal reasons that prevent me from doing so. Kudos to all your efforts.

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 28, 2011, 6:44 pm
  65. BV,
    Facts on the ground are arguably the most important force in shaping the views of the populace. I am old enough to remember the time when Iran practically vetoed an independent Bahrain and to also remember that Iraq objected to the creation of Kuwait. Kuwait got its independence from the Brits in 1961 while all the others ; Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE in 1971. Stop to think about this, the West bank has been under Israeli rule for 4 years prior to the independence of these states whose existence was not assured at the time. You must admit that it would be very difficult, maybe impossible to ask these states to be dissolved right now:-)

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 28, 2011, 6:55 pm
  66. I heart GMA, SHN, Bashar and the Iranian Mullahs.

    They offer mankind a world of opportunities that just is beyond my primitive understanding of what the world is.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 28, 2011, 7:03 pm
  67. I too am the least inclined to engage in a futile exercise. No one can argue the Stoics were the the articulators of the universal polis by acting as the promulgators of Roman Laws. But they chiefly acted on behalf of a Roman establishment in enacting laws that were eventually accepted either willingly or by force by Roman legions. Without such laws the order would not have lasted the millenium or so in which the ‘universal polis’ was more or less real. Can anyone even argue their staunchly adversary stand viz-a-viz the emerging church which did not know how to deal with a corpus of laws enacted mostly from pagan philosophies?

    Todays cosmopolitanism is the result of the globalization of the world economies led by the power houses of North America and aided by modern means of communications. It is mosly benefit driven. It will come to an end when its perceived benefits dry up and the clock is ticking in that direction since the turn of the century, accelerating at an alarming rate since 2008.

    Neiher India nor China nor Malaysia nor Indonesia (the new power houses) would give a rat hole about Kant’s ideas or any such envisioned ‘universal polis’ with no muscles behind it. The same conditions which led to the collapse of Rome are at play today. The years from 2015 to 2020 would be the defining years for the cataclysmic shifts.

    BV,

    We agreed to disagree. First you did not know excatly what you wanted to say or may be I misunderstood. Yes the Palestinian rights to Palestine are not subject to statutes of limitation. So why are you and your friend so keen on looking on a crystal ball that seems to be so foggy? I wouldn’t even consider your hypothesis (both of you) before the passage of at least 200 years.

    Posted by iceman | May 28, 2011, 7:11 pm
  68. Yes, he did the right move. Both Nahhas & Rifi should be condenmend. Both of them work for individuals, and not the state. And they behaved in a quite militant way!

    You just wonder if there will proper investigation, and hope the rule of law would prevail. Of course not, we are in Lebanon.

    I disagree with some people (even famous bloggers) in justifying what Rifi did, on the basis he had to do what he did, to ‘face up’ to Hezbollah and co.

    You have to practise what you preach; It’s a matter of principle, even if somebody said I am a ‘dreamer.

    Posted by @ZakYahya | May 28, 2011, 7:26 pm
  69. Ghassan,

    I am not sure I understood your point above involving Iran/Bahrain, etc. in comparison to the West Bank and Israel.
    What were you trying to say?

    Iceman,

    I don’t think we disagree. I simply think you and I are still talking past each other based on what one WANTS to see happen vs. what one thinks WILL happen.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 28, 2011, 7:49 pm
  70. The following quote is from the encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “Roman Stoicism—especially as developed by Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius—strongly influences modern cosmopolitanism by counting the possession of reason as a sufficient condition of membership in this foremost ethical community. Marcus Aurelius developed the idea of natural law as the common law of the polis of which all human beings are fellow citizens (Meditations, bk. 4).”

    BV,
    My point is to illustrate the importance of facts on the ground. The question of whether Bahrain was to exist as an independent stae was in dispute as recently as 1971. No one disputes that anylonger since the Al Thanis have had 40 years to change facts on the ground. The same is true of most of the Gulf states. Currently they feel very well established but they did not feel so 40 years ago. Their present confidence is primarily due to the facts on the ground for the past 40 years.

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 28, 2011, 8:06 pm
  71. @ZakYahya

    Which famous bloggers?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 28, 2011, 8:11 pm
  72. It is always difficult to accept new ideas especially when they are very different from the normal interpretations in an area. The idea of a parallel state is gaining momentum and should not be dismisse of hand only on the basis that it is a novel solution. I still do not have a clear idea of where I stand on this issue but yet I must admit that I find the concept challenging. I need some more time to think about this issue.

    http://aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/05/2011528132114104574.html

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 28, 2011, 8:41 pm
  73. BV, I am disputing that same statement you mention in your last comment.

    So, from my point of view we disagree on what WILL happen.

    I read you clearly in this case in the previous thread.

    Posted by iceman | May 28, 2011, 9:00 pm
  74. It’s always nice to see the Lebanese people 3am yitfalsafu bala ta3me.

    It seems to be a uniquely Lebanese trait.

    What’s with the Iceman’s engine, it never runs out of steam.

    One moment, the old chap states:

    , I personally would consider any Lebanese uttering publicly the slogan of ‘long live Israel’ to be a traitor.

    Another moment, he states:

    AS for ending Israel and HA’s aim to achieve that, if you go back to my comments and read them carefully, you will find that I am not actually calling for that.

    Well if one is not calling for “ending Israel”, I suppose they really are simply calling “Long Live Israel”. Which I suppose makes Iceman a traitor :).

    But I think we need to enlist the support of HP over here, with his expertise on version control. HP, if you’re still reading, can you decipher Post #57, and turn it to plain English, or some computer language of your choosing.

    I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what essential improvements have been made from Baathism V1.0 to Baathism V2.0.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 29, 2011, 1:46 am
  75. I see the conversation has moved to the upper floors. The idea of parallel states governing one same territory in which societies actually live in parallel worlds is seducing, intellectually speaking. I still don’t know what to think about it and don’t have time for a careful reading right now. But it could be an idea to bridge from the Westphalian system of nation states to the Cosmopolitan Stateless World Government that some dream already of. Any Belgians in this forum?

    Posted by mj | May 29, 2011, 2:54 am
  76. I too come from a country where communities and territories are the source a lot of headaches, and some times more than that. A minister in the central government of my country once said, justifying the refusal of internal nationalistic demands that had been approved in the local Parliament, that “peoples” didn’t have rights, only individuals and citizens had. How many here agree with that?

    Posted by mj | May 29, 2011, 3:13 am
  77. MJ:

    It’s the 21st century. “Peoples” don’t have rights. Only individuals do.

    You can always construct “Group” rights once you’ve granted “Individual” rights. But not the other way around.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 29, 2011, 3:19 am
  78. The following article by L’Orient-Le Jour’s Scarlett Haddad sheds some light on the question of the timing of Nahas’ decision. He is quoted as saying that, after 4 years, the equipment had served its purpose of trial and training, and that it was time to take it to the next step. China, who had donated the equipment, had agreed to upgrade it to 3G, and so the purpose of dismantling the equipment is to return it to the Chinese for upgrade purposes. This was specified in an `internal memo` Nahas sent out on March 31.

    http://www.lorientlejour.com/category/Liban/article/705737/Message_sanglant_a_la_Finul_et_debut_de_sortie_de_crise_pour_les_Telecoms.html

    The whole upgrade story could be a cover up, but it is a valid reason nonetheless.

    Posted by mas | May 29, 2011, 4:41 am
  79. Qifa Nabi

    I hope you didn’t think I was implying someone related to this blog. It’s somewhere else.

    I think It’s unfair to name them here. I should discuss it on their blog.

    Posted by @ZakYahya | May 29, 2011, 4:50 am
  80. Gaby,

    “You can always construct “Group” rights once you’ve granted “Individual” rights. But not the other way around.”

    Ok. Once the individual’s basic rights are recognized and respected, lets say these individuals vote in a sense that they have collective rights as a people (to impose, let’s say, language requirements in governmental posts. Other people whom, for whatever reasons, don’t care for a language that they lost long time ago, or was never theirs in the first place, are forced to learn it in order to keep their work post. In which part of your rights map fall the different rights involved in this example?

    Posted by mj | May 29, 2011, 5:49 am
  81. Gabriel #77,
    What about authoritarian states? They believe exactly in the opposite of what you are suggesting. To them individual rights are not important at all?
    This issue , just like natural rights, has equally intelligent people on each side. It is not a slam dunk in either case.
    If rights are not intrinsic then ,in theory at least, I see no contradiction in offering group rights . I believe that a good example of this is the right for self determination. The right in this case is for the group as a whole and not that of the individual.
    In the complex society of the 21st century we can no longer afford to subsribe to the supremacy of indivdual rights irrespective of their implications. Actually my rights are subservient to those of the commonwealthespecially for utilitarians and consequentialists.

    Posted by ghassan karam | May 29, 2011, 6:32 am
  82. It appears that the basic problem is a lack of state accountability. Two oligarchic factions are standing off against one another.

    The discussion to privatize Ogero goes back to the day of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (and Finance Minister Fouad Siniora) who had the political and economic clout to privatize Ogero and make it his own. From 2003-4, the Syrians severely limited Hariri’s privatizations, which resulted in Moody’s downgrading Lebanon’s bond rating, as the government was not following its own debt restructuring program according to the guidelines set out in Paris II, which included promises to privatize the telecommunications network, the electrical grid, MEA, amongst other things.

    Of course, the re-election of Lahoud and the removal of Hariri put everything else on hold, but Hariri’s men remained in their positions in the ministries waiting for their leader to return to power. Omar Karami’s (and Finance Minister Elias Saliba’s) failures alongside Syrian heavy handedness almost guaranteed Hariri’s return to power and a return to privatizations.

    When M14 won the 2005 elections and then negotiated Paris III, the privatizations were supposed to continue, but did not because of opposition from Jumblatt, Berri, and HA, who humiliated Hariri and Siniora by rudely making their opposition to privatization known during the PM and Finance Minister’s meetings in New York and DC (something we saw them do once again to topple Hariri’s gov’t in 2011).

    The telecoms privatization continued to fester under Marwan Hamade who, despite his affiliation with M14, also had problems with Abdel Monem Youssef who was still waiting to become the director of the newly privatized Ogero and make his millions. The M14 appointed and affiliated director of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) Kamal Shehadeh had major problems with both Hamade and Youssef.

    The transfer of telecoms to Gebran Bassile was a remarkably intelligent move by Michel Aoun. Without a financial power base of his own, Aoun needed a source of wealth to finance his politics, and he went to the same source of money that finances a huge portion of Lebanese government operating costs: foreign backers, and the government owned telecommunications networks that allow Lebanese to do what we do best: talk on cell phones.

    Since then, both specific interests within the Future Movement (not the entire party, and definitely not all of M14) and specific interests within the FPM (not the entire party, and definitely not all of M8) have determined the debate over telecommunications. This debate went from being nasty under Gebran Bassile to being an all out war under Charbel Nahhas, under whose tenure the esteemed technocratic TRA head Shehadeh resigned in disgust (Shehadeh’s personality and political disposition is remarkably similar to Ziad Baroud).

    Hariri/Siniora provide political backing and will reap the profit; Rifi provides enforcement; and Youssef holds the fort. Aoun/Bassile provide the political backing and will reap the profit; Nahhas, OTV, and the ISF Embassy division (this division swears allegiance to the FPM?) provides the enforcement; and Aoun holds the fort through tedious negotiations over cabinet formations.

    In the mean time, Hezbollah established their own network, thus by-passing the squabbling over privatizations, making millions (if not billions) using its own telecommunications network, weakened the Lebanese government through depriving it of one of its greatest sources of revenue (receipts from telecommunications traffic), provided cheaper and better communications for its partisans and others, and defending its own interests with its weapons.

    Sure, there is espionage stuff going on – which Future, the FPM, Hezbollah, Israel, etc. like to play up because once it is brought up Lebanese brains stop behaving rationally, but its really about who reaps the spoils from the biggest honey pot in the country.

    The current squabble is over the privatization of Ogero and the possible creation of a third mobile network. Aoun and Bassile refused to play the Lebanese political game in which they would have made a deal with Hariri and received a cut (Lebanon’s system of creating consensus), and have been trying to take the candy away from Hariri/Youssef for years. Nahhas has been the most effective at dismantling the Hariri/Youssef network, which is why the relationship between the two factions has become so nasty. They don’t understand why Aoun isn’t playing by the corrupt rules of Lebanese politics with them, even though he does with almost every other faction.

    Youssef hunkering down created a stalemate to be resolved in the future. Nahhas is trying to resolve the situation now, because…

    Enter Najib Miqati, and the situation becomes an emergency for both FM and FPM, which is why they are behaving so badly at this precise moment. The Miqati billions were created through telecommunications. Taha Miqati was a small time construction contractor in Khaleej until he established his satellite communications up link, which created enough profit for the Miqati brothers to make their billions. Their business relationships with the Assad regime (and more specifically with Rami Makhlouf) involve telecommunications.

    If Miqati gets the telecoms portfolio in the next government, Hariri will cut a deal and Youssef will get his pay out (and he’s been waiting a long, long time). Aoun and Bassile get screwed. However, Hariri has a much worse hand with which to negotiate if Youssef doesn’t have a full network and doesn’t have a large base of operations that he controls.

    Miqati has the political might to privatize the telecoms networks, or at least upgrade them, but he will have to cut deals all around, including with HA, Berri, and Jumblatt. Hariri is in a much better position if Youssef is in a dominant position. Youssef can throw a wrench in the works of any future privatization deal.

    Nahhas technically had the right to take his action with the equipment, but the FPM isn’t following the “no victor, no vanquished” consensus model of Lebanese politics. They made it personal, and Future is responding in a surprisingly immature manner given how much they have to lose in this.

    Posted by Charles | May 29, 2011, 7:06 am
  83. #82

    An interesting analysis that begs a few questions, in way of clarification rather than debate. One that springs to mind is whether there are any indications/facts/documents that point to the commercial use of HA’s comms network, mass or otherwise.

    I know that this was initially cited as one o the reasons for the related infamous decisions back in 1007, but am still to get my hands on any credible proof.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | May 29, 2011, 8:03 am
  84. Charles,

    So good to see you back here again.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2011, 8:07 am
  85. MJ:

    I’m Canadian. This example is not hypothetical :).

    Officially, here we are bilingual. Unofficially, we are multilingual.

    I don’t think “Individuals” can congregate together and force others to learn a certain language. Only that they have rights to receive services in their language.

    Not every gvmt employee in Ontario speaks French (if you want a government post in Quebec, you better speak French). But say, you can always get hospital services in French.

    There are areas today, in Toronto, where you will find signs only in Chinese. We have a mall called Pacific mall. If you’re not Chinese, you won’t know what the stores are selling, or what the stores are.

    I was in NYC last weekend. I saw signs on the subway that were exclusively in Spanish. I happen to get by with Spanish. I walked into a couple of stores where the employee spoke not a word of English.

    NYC survives as does Toronto.

    Suppose your country is made up of many different groups, each wanting to retain their “own” language, and none caring to share any “common” language. Then maybe it’s time, for convenience sake to consider having separate countries. Or have alternative arrangements whereby if you need medical services in one language, you should go to a hospital in a certain geographic region. In a situation like this, you will see the groups geographically clustered anyways (since the individuals will live in areas where other people who share the same language typically live… we see this all over the place in Canada).

    Posted by Gabriel | May 29, 2011, 8:44 am
  86. Oh, me, Oh, my… @Charles #82
    Where have you been all our lives?
    Thank you for this truly enlightening lesson for those of us who have a genuine interest to see things get better in the country.

    Alas, your input causes me great sadness and disappointment. I guess the youth can still be hopeful and work towards dismantling this despicable mentality of abuse and exploitation.

    Oh me, Oh my…

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 29, 2011, 9:09 am
  87. GK:

    – What about authoritarian states? They believe exactly in the opposite of what you are suggesting. To them individual rights are not important at all?

    GK, I don’t believe in authoritarian states. And since I believe what I believe, and they believe what they believe, I am right and they are wrong :).

    I’m being facetious- but only partly so.

    To me, this question is like the Democracy Dilemma.

    Do you believe in Democracy? What if democracy turns out to be one time? What about tyranny of the majority.

    We address these questions by adding all sorts of adjectives. “Liberal” democracy. Or “Rule of Law”. In Canada, some say they are Cherterocrats, not Democrats.

    All just to resolve the clear contradiction.

    – This issue , just like natural rights, has equally intelligent people on each side.

    I don’t think that being intelligent precludes on from being wrong.

    I am not against in principle “Group Rights”, as long as they are predicated by the most basic of “Individual” right to belong or not to belong to that group.

    – If rights are not intrinsic then ,in theory at least, I see no contradiction in offering group rights .

    In most cases, you are probably right. As long as those rights do not violate a core individual right.

    – I believe that a good example of this is the right for self determination. The right in this case is for the group as a whole and not that of the individual.

    See my response above to MJ. I don’t see a contradiction there. It is a valid “right” that is legitimately structured from individual rights.

    – In the complex society of the 21st century we can no longer afford to subsribe to the supremacy of indivdual rights irrespective of their implications. Actually my rights are subservient to those of the commonwealthespecially for utilitarians and consequentialists.

    By commonwealth, are you talking at the level of the “Nation”, the “Group”?

    Individuals, Ghassan, don’t have rights- willy nilly. Or rights without responsibilities. The sort of provisions that ensure “commonwealth”.

    I don’t think those ideas should be conflated, as they are separate. (See again, my response to MJ).

    Posted by Gabriel | May 29, 2011, 9:10 am
  88. Guys,

    I posted Charles’s commentary to the main page under a new post. Let’s shift the discussion (and any questions you may have for Charles) over there.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2011, 9:11 am
  89. Regardless if it’s a PR stunt by Nahhas or not, if Ziad Baroud lacks balls or not, if we’re disappointed or not, one thing troubles and puzzles me completely:
    we are all here observing.

    One asks people about this issue, and does not see anyone doing anything other than observing. Whatever happened to citizen participation?

    I searched a little here and there, and I only found little groups on facebook supporting Ashraf Rifi. In what I see as a better system, there would at least be some accountability for anyone acting against his boss/the minister’s orders, because there is supposed to be a clear hierarchy of things, clear responsibilities drawn, and whoever does not live up to their responsibilities and performance, should at the very least get fired, and in this case, I would say get even sentenced.

    Yet, here we are, about 10 days later. and what happened to the guy?

    Posted by M. | June 10, 2011, 12:40 pm
  90. QN
    I cannot but agree with you unreservedly. Irrespective of one’s political affiliation, it remains a grave mistake to support insubordination, let alone what was close to an insurrection by a military power that is mandated with maintaining peace, law and order. I wasn’t surprised to observe how tongue-tied were a number of members of 14th March!

    The latest, according to Lebanese media, is that the head of Internal Security made his position clear in a statement that ran thus –and I am paraphrasing in part hence the lack of quotation marks- ‘[we] are the by-product of 14th of March…my relationship with [Baroud] is impeccable…(his role) is one of guardianship and not leadership’.

    This statement, if proved to be accurate, begs several questions about timing and content:
    • Was it a coincidence that it came after 2 publicised meetings he held with the US ambassador to Lebanon? Could the ambassador have alluded to the issue when she visited the commander of the Armed Forces?
    • Are Minister Baroud and President Solaiman supposed to get the message that Internal Security is not accountable to the Minister of Interior or the Supreme Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces? And if this is the case, who does Internal security answer to?
    • Are those who talked about Rifi’s department being groomed to be the armed wing of March 14th, namely Future, now vindicated in the light of this statement?
    • Are we witnessing the manifestation of the oft-repeated belief of some and concern by others that sectarian clashes are imminent?
    • Where is the Army from all this?
    • Where are those who for years called for the supremacy of the state and Constitution?
    The situation does not bode well at all; unless, perhaps, a new government is formed soon!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | June 10, 2011, 3:35 pm
  91. Appologies to both QN & M, my response #90 was to the latter’s contribution!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | June 10, 2011, 3:40 pm

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