Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Lebanon’s New Government

Najib Miqati and Michel Aoun are, as of today, the two most important men in Lebanese politics (for now).

Four and a half months after Hizbullah and its allies dumped Saad al-Hariri’s fractious national unity government, Lebanon finally has a new one. It is led by Prime Minister Najib Miqati and is composed of parties from the political coalition known as “March 8th” which includes Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, Hizbullah, and Amal. It also includes a number of “independents” from Walid Jumblatt’s PSP, and a few ministers allied with President Suleiman and Prime Minister Miqati.

As anticipated, the biggest winner today is Michel Aoun. Having spent 15 years in the political wilderness, he returned to Lebanon in 2005 from his Parisian exile to find Saad al-Hariri and Walid Jumblatt rebuffing his demands for a seat at the big kids’ table. Aoun sat out Saniora’s government and then endured the disappointment of the 2009 elections, which failed to deliver the parliamentary majority he seemed intent on getting. Two years later, he finally gets to play the role of the political heavyweight in a Lebanese cabinet.

A few notes on the new cabinet (via the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, thanks Richard):

It is noteworthy that there are no women in the proposed cabinet. Five Ministers are reappointed to their previous positions. Two Ministers have moved portfolios. While a number of the new members of the cabinet have held ministerial positions in previous cabinets, this cabinet includes a high proportion of new members. Media reports indicate that Talal Arslan has already declined his participation in the Cabinet. In line with the Constitution, (Article 64.2), the proposed Cabinet now has 30 days to prepare and present its proposed Policy Statement to the Chamber of Deputies. If the Policy Statement gains the approval of a majority of the 128 Deputies, the Government will be formed. If not, then the Prime Minister may choose to resign, or may seek to nominate a new Cabinet, or may seek to nominate the same Cabinet but propose a new Policy Statement.

There’s much more to say about this new dynamic which we’ll be exploring here at Qifa Nabki over the next couple days, but in the meantime, here’s the list of ministers (click here for a downloadable copy):

Cabinet line-up:

Prime Minister: Najib Mikati (Sunni)

Deputy Prime Minister: Samir Moqbel (Orthodox)

President’s share:

Interior: Marwan Charbel (Maronite, also considered close to the Free Patriotic Movement)

Environment: Nazem al-Khoury (Maronite)

Prime Minister’s share:

Finance: Mohammad Safadi (Sunni) Moved from Economy

Economy: Nicolas Nahhas (Orthodox)

Education: Hassan Diab (Sunni)

Information: Walid Daouq (Sunni)

State: Ahmad Karami (Sunni)

Change and Reform bloc:

Justice: Shakib Qortbawi (Maronite, Free Patriotic Movement)

Labor: Charbel Nahhas (Catholic, Free Patriotic Movement) Moved from Telecommunications

Tourism: Fadi Abboud (Maronite, Free Patriotic Movement) Reappointed

Energy and Water: Gebran Bassil (Maronite, Free Patriotic Movement) Reappointed

Telecommunications: Nicolas Sehnaoui (Orthodox, Free Patriotic Movement)

Culture: Gaby Layoun (Catholic, Free Patriotic Movement)

Defense: Fayez Ghosn (Orthodox, Marada Movement)

State: Salim Karam (Maronite, Marada Movement)

State: Panos Manajian (Armenian Orthodox, Tashnaq Party)

Industry: Freije Sabounjian (Armenian Orthodox, Tashnaq Party)

Progressive Socialist Party:

Public Works and Transportation: Ghazi Aridi (Druze) Reappointed

Social Affairs: Wael Abu Faour (Druze) Moved from State

The Displaced: Alaeddine Terro (Sunni)

Hezbollah:

Administrative Reform: Mohammad Fneish (Shia) Reappointed

Agriculture: Hussein Hajj Hassan (Shia) Reappointed

Youth and Sports: Faisal Karami (Sunni)

Amal:

Foreign Affairs: Adnan Mansour (Shia)

Public Health: Ali Hassan Khalil (Shia)

Lebanese Democratic Party:

State: Talal Arslan (Druze) [The latest reports say that Arslan is refusing to join the government.]

Independents:

State for Parliament Affairs: Nicolas Fattouch (Catholic)

SSNP:

State: Ali Qanso (Shia, Syrian Social Nationalist Party)

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Discussion

104 thoughts on “Lebanon’s New Government

  1. Ghassan,

    You will receive a donation to the charity of your choice; once the government confirmed (vote of confidence and agreement on the ministerial statement).
    I still believe this is a charade that will leave a “government” without any powers lingering around for a long time.

    QN; you celebrate too early dude. Ever heard of LeBron? :P

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 10:21 am
  2. Minister of Economy: Nicolas Nahhas (Orthodox, Free Patriotic Movement)

    Nicolas Nahhas is part of Miqati’s block, and not the FPM… I’m not sure why its being reported otherwise [perhaps because of the "Nahhas" association?]

    Posted by vic | June 13, 2011, 10:28 am
  3. Danny,
    Has Lebanon ever had any cabinet that has been able to govern? :-) This will not be any different.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 13, 2011, 10:31 am
  4. Looking forward to seeing these angels in their white suit photo shoot.

    Posted by Habib Battah | June 13, 2011, 10:31 am
  5. vic, thanks.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2011, 10:32 am
  6. If what Vic says is correct, then who are the 11 ministers not affiliated with the majority? President has 2, PM has 6 plus himself, 2 (3?) from PSP, plus the independant Fattouch??

    If all of them above, that would be 2+7+3+1 = 13 = too many

    The deputy PM, with whom is he?

    Posted by Pas Cool | June 13, 2011, 10:43 am
  7. There were a couple mistakes in the original list. Faisal Karami comes from Hizbullah’s share, not the PM’s. And Nicola Nahhas is with the PM, not C&R.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2011, 10:46 am
  8. So Nabih Berri got screwed and Faysal Karami is in effect the 6th Shiite minister. (Berri had to give up a Shiite minister). I wonder if now that Arslan resigned, Berri can reclaim the ministerial position for a Shiite as I am sure everybody’s reaction to Arslan’s resignation is “good riddance” or bel na2es”…not too many tears will be shed for the Prince’s resignation I think.

    Posted by MM | June 13, 2011, 10:46 am
  9. Danny, Your skepticism is spot on. Already a record-breaking supersonic resignation has happened.

    Posted by Ameen | June 13, 2011, 10:48 am
  10. Note that this cabinet has 5 Shia ministers and 7 Sunni ministers, instead of the traditional 6 for 6. Berri gave up a seat so Miqati can resolve his Karami dilemma. That’s why Berri got a special thank you during the announcement.

    I think Moustaqbal should declare this cabinet unconstitutional for upsetting the sectarian balance ;)

    Posted by RedLeb | June 13, 2011, 10:48 am
  11. With that swap, that still leaves 13 in the centrist block. I was under the impression that Hzb and co had 19 ministers, leaving 11 for the centrists.

    Posted by Pas Cool | June 13, 2011, 10:51 am
  12. At a first blush it does appear that Lebanon will be better off know that the stalemate has been broken. In reality I am not so sure. The Lebanese prpensity over the last 6 years to form ineffective governments that resemble a Tower of Babel goes on. This does not mean that there are no individual winners, of course there are but the country is still running hard on the spot, just like a caged Guinea Pig.

    PM , Mikati, has salvaged his political reputation by insisting on and getting a large contingent of Tripolitans on the cabinet and by controlling a large proportion of the cabinet budgetary expenditures . Obviously the FPM was a clear winner also with 4 important portfolios: Telecom, Energy , Labour and Justice. Walid Jumblatt’s PSP managed to stay in the fray by switching allegiances and kept what is important to it: Public Works, Social Affairs and Displaced. The real winner in this must be Frangieh who was rewarded with the Ministry of Defense , arguably one of the most important cabinet positions.
    The President did not fare so well.(His share is down to practically nothing; the Interior is in essence shared and what he gets besides that is the minister of the Environment with its $8 million annual budget. I wonder whether there is enough left over once the wages and the rent are paid for them to print a brochure?:-)

    Amal on the other hand got the two positions that it cares for and allowed Mr. Berri to play the role of a national conciliator by agreeing to have a Sunni replace a Shite. As usual the pupet master , HA, will be in control of the show even though it is represented by only one meaningful ministry; Agriculture.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 13, 2011, 11:02 am
  13. As I said previously:

    1) There was value to the charade in itself. Mikati has earned some measure of “independent” brownie points. As GK ended his post in #12. The reality is that HA is still the puppet master, despite no meaningful cabinet posts.

    2) Where I disagree with GK#3, is that this should really be different. It should be a “1-color” or about as close to a “1-color” cabinet as you get. There’s only so much BS that one should have to put up with.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2011, 11:19 am
  14. Guys,

    Don’t get yourself too much in calculations. We all know who’s the boss here. It’s Nasrallah and all 30 ministers are form HA’s share. This is how the whole world will look at it:

    “Hezbollah forms gov. in Lebanon”

    Posted by Wael | June 13, 2011, 11:25 am
  15. this is a mostly a victory for bashar al-assad. at a time when his regime has been shown (again) to be just another brutal dictatorship, this demonstrates to other rulers that being a brutal dictator works. if you play regional spoiler, and hold the stability of neighbors and the larger region hostage, you will not be confronted by the international community. threatening to assassinate political opponents of your proxies in neighboring countries works. nobody will stop you.

    Posted by sayke | June 13, 2011, 12:00 pm
  16. Ghassan,

    Exactly. All the bullshit about the President trying to steal the Tayyar shares is just that BS. I think Bashar has calculated that he has reached a point of no return with his standing with the international community; so he wants a HA government now so that he completes his spitting in the face of the international community.

    Ghassan; Miqati has not won anything with his Tripoli ministers. Once STL indictments are issued; Mr. Miqati will be ordered by HA not to act against possible HA conspirators (assuming nassrallah was correct)…Let’s see how many friends he will have in the Sunni community. The whole charade is orchestrated by Assad and holds no political sway in Lebanon or perceived victories.

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 12:26 pm
  17. First off, my hat off to Ghassan for winning our bet and correctly calling this one.

    Secondly, you are all indeed correct in that this will change nothing. This government will likely be just as ineffective as any other in recent memory. I am going to go out on a limb here and wonder if this cabinet will even make it to confirmation in parliament, or if this just ends up being some kind of stalling tactics…

    Thirdly, an observation.
    Isn’t it funny that despite all the fighting about shares, despite the “one-color” vs. “national unity” label…We still see essentially the same overall sectarian breakdown?
    The sunnis control the economy/finance/budget, the Christians get the interior/defense type stuff and the shia get the foreign policy. And everyone else gets the small potatoes “consolation prize” stuff…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 12:58 pm
  18. BV,

    “I am going to go out on a limb here and wonder if this cabinet will even make it to confirmation in parliament, or if this just ends up being some kind of stalling tactics…”

    Right! That’s the last chip for Syrian’s to play. I am thinking the STL indictments will come down before the so called 30 day grace period…and collapse again.

    I see it ending badly for Lebanon either way. Mikati can not save face if he can not arrest the indicted ..Or Bashar will use HA to incite the southern front if things get totally out of control in Syria.

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 1:14 pm
  19. Well, there is this story in Al-Liwa’ (which seems oddly timed, considering we haven’t heard about the STL for the past few months).

    http://www.yalibnan.com/2011/06/13/al-liwa-stl-will-announce-indictment-between-june-20-and-july-5/

    And i still maintain that HA’s main concern with this whole government business IS the STL and nothing more.
    If an indictment does come down soon, followed by some kind of requests made of the Lebanese government by the STL…Look for HA to bring down said cabinet (mass resignation of the HA/AMAL/FPM ministers) just like they did the last one.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 1:30 pm
  20. BV,

    They don’t have to. The cabinet is not legit until it gets its vote of confidence through the parliament and the ministerial statement confirmed. They can have a “hung” government in no man’s land.

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 1:34 pm
  21. That too. I meant in the case where they get the confidence vote before the indictments happen.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 1:40 pm
  22. Maybe the rush to secure the cabinet was due to these upcming Stl indictments.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2011, 1:42 pm
  23. Fear of the STL indictments has been the only constant in shaping Lebanese policy for five years.

    I am personally convinced that this is one of the major factors that has moved the deadlocked cabinet formation into the resolution today. It was announced over two weeks ago to expect the indictments in early July. In such an eventuality a care taker cabinet headed by Mikati is considered safer than the current one headed by Sa’ad Hariri and in case serious trouble is to take place HA/Marada/Syria have the two ministries that count.; Defense and Interior.
    I repeat that the only major big looser in the new cabinet is Suleiman. He has become totally powerless.He lost the Defense, it is presented as if he has Interior when he doesn’t but was given the Environment ministry. He sure caved in to the phone call from Damascus.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 13, 2011, 3:01 pm
  24. I suppose my own confusion in this is that the STL will in fact make the indictments in the next couple of weeks. Seems to me to be quite the explosive thing to throw into an already explosive situation.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2011, 3:16 pm
  25. I see I’ve been named minister of culture :)

    How fitting :)

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2011, 3:17 pm
  26. ghassan #23

    Exactly. One phone call. All along I have been harping away that it was not matter of negotiations…That Syria had the line up and called the shots. they think Arslan is dispensable as far as they have Jumblat as well as the Thief… Could you ever fathom that Berri would willingly tilt the sectarian balance if it was not Syria’s command? wallaw?
    Again, I stick to my “gunz”. It has been Syria all long looking for the vacuum. Ghassan well put re: Caretaker government where HA controls all security apparatus.

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 3:49 pm
  27. All:

    What exactly is the big picture here?

    (1) Does Syria’s go-ahead for the gvmt imply that it is feeling more secure in its position?

    (2) Does Leb Politicians (like Jumblatt, etc) playing along mean they feel more confident in the longevity of Assad.

    (3) Or are they all still biding their time?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2011, 3:57 pm
  28. I’ve been debating with QN for some time now that it was always about the STL.
    I too will stick to that theory.
    The next month or so will prove interesting.

    (And yes, QN, you are still WRONG!)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 3:58 pm
  29. You guys are amazing.

    If the cabinet statement is drafted and the government is voted in, you will all say: “Just wait until the STL indictments come out. Then it will collapse.”

    Then, if the indictments come out and the govt does not collapse, you will say: “Just wait until the trial.”

    Ghassan, have you told danny and BV where to send their checks? I would like a 5% cut please. ;)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2011, 4:03 pm
  30. Gabriel,

    Firstly QN is still wrong and here’s why….and some thoughts regarding your questions…

    a. Syria (Bashar) is feeling vulnerable; NOT more secure. Bashar’s go ahead for HA to form the government reeks of desperation and spitting in the wind (hoping it will hit the west). bashar feels that his next steps in terms of bloodier repression will almost permanently sever his ties with the West in the foreseeable future.

    b. HA led government can now reject any indictments and ignore the UN. HA does not care anymore in Lebanon being branded as a failed state. This is their only move left except for a military takeover that would be very bloody and will cause a civil war (which ultimately will happen if Bashar falls).

    c. bashar has the additional option of igniting the Israeli frontier from Lebanon if he feels that his stay has become very tenuous. So the scortched earth threat that he gave to Moon. He overestimates his ability though.

    d. If QN was right in his premis that Syria did not want a HA government here when there’s a refugee issue in because of the bloody repression…I wonder where’s that rationale when things are even getting worse the past week NOT better…

    Finally QN…Events in the near future will illustrate the prophetic nature of my statements. :P

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 4:20 pm
  31. QN,
    All checks may be sent to dfray some of the out of pocket expenses born by the blog QN. :-) Buy thge help a few cases of beer:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 13, 2011, 4:42 pm
  32. QN,

    I can’t speak for Danny, but I have not changed my story and it does not go by whether it’s indictment or trial phase of the STL or any of that. So what you just said is not really the issue.
    I’ve argued (if you recall) that everything HA has done in the past 6 or so years has been centered around the STL. Or more accurately, centered around protecting their weapons and existence (and by extension, Iran’s hand in Lebanon/Israel) from being neutralized.
    That’s the LARGER picture that sits behind HA’s almost every action. I think we probably agree on that, you and I.
    Looking more closely at the cabinet formation matter, my theory was that it suits HA best to have an impotent cabinet (or no cabinet) that is NOT portrayed as a “Hezbollah” cabinet (so as to prevent international isolation) while still being a cabinet that dare not confront HA in the 2 “sacred” (and inter-related matters) of its weapons and the STL.
    I think a cabinet vacuum was their first choice.
    I think you and Ghassan did call it correctly that the events in Syria changed the equation. I think that these cabinet “obstacles” went away as soon as Bashar called, for his own reasons.
    All well and good.
    My theory will dictate that when push comes to shove: STL indictments are handed down, and followed by some kind of requests made of the Lebanese government. 1 of 2 things will happen:
    1- Mikati and co. will try to uphold Lebanon’s international obligations. And will then be brought down just like Hariri did.
    2- Mikati will do what Hariri wouldn’t do and disavow the STL.

    I still cannot imagine option 2 because all of these guys, even HA, and M8, do NOT benefit from Lebanon being openly added to the “axis of evil” (ie international sanctions, etc.)
    So I still predict things will eventually lead to option 1 (which will be a repeat of what happened this past January).
    In other words, HA’s just playing along for time with this Mikati charade. When push comes to shove, something WILL have to give!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 5:13 pm
  33. Oh and I’ll be glad to donate beer money to the QN cause…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 5:26 pm
  34. Finally, a Lebanese cabinet was formed .The question is why now, and not four months ago. For months ago, Syria was more stable, the Arab spring has not reached the Syrian coast, and Assad’s fear of the STL was his main concern. Now that his whole regime is in danger, The STL seems to be a less of a threat, compared to his fear of loosing his power, and everything else. A friendly Lebanese government might suit him better than a political vacuum. Ghassan’s point of Marada and HA securing the defense and interior mister is very important, but not so much of the fall out of the STL’s indictment, but more so of the need to protect Syria’s border and infiltration of Syrian’s opponent from Lebanese soil.
    If this cabinet receives a vote of confidence from the parliament, we will see a sudden policy and practical changes in the ways Lebanese authority deals with Syria and the trouble facing Assad’s regime. More security will be put on Lebanese /Syrian borders, more security cooperation will take place, and more open support of Syria’s regime will be announced by this cabinet.
    Also, the possibility of a wider conflict would require a friendly cabinet ,that would support HA’s resistance policy as well as Syrian position against the US and Israel.

    Posted by Prophet | June 13, 2011, 6:28 pm
  35. Ya nabi!!!!!!!

    Guy you’ve been sorely missed!

    Posted by Gabriel | June 13, 2011, 6:41 pm
  36. I guess my last statement in #30 brought prophet out! Good analysis.

    Posted by danny | June 13, 2011, 6:51 pm
  37. Thank you Gabi,
    Been dealing with serious personal issues, but still managing to catch up with QN discussions. I’ll visit as often as I can, without necessarily getting into debates.

    danny@36, we finally agreed on something, lol

    Posted by Prophet | June 13, 2011, 7:10 pm
  38. ….and when the STL hands down its indictment for the murder of the Sunni Harriri, a Sunni-majority government will reject it. The 7-6-6 distribution was no fluke, I think it was well thought out.

    Posted by MM | June 13, 2011, 7:11 pm
  39. I agree with MM that it was no fluke. Again…it ALL stems from the STL.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 13, 2011, 7:29 pm
  40. Beer money? This blog falls under the jurisdiction of wilayat al-faqih. Capiche?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2011, 8:17 pm
  41. It is sad that we have to put the religous association of each candidate to know what they stand for, The Mideast is doomed as long as where you belong is more important than what you stand for and plan to do .

    Posted by Norman | June 13, 2011, 8:53 pm
  42. I would be very surprised if a Miqati government rejects the STL indictments. This would go against everything Miqati has said and also put Lebanon in a dangerous position. In addition, it will be political suicide for him.

    The “Feltman press” will now begin in an attempt by the US and the West to influence the government guidelines. I think that Miqati will not bring this government for approval before the STL indictments. After the indictments, it is a whole new game in Lebanese politics.

    Posted by AIG | June 13, 2011, 11:46 pm
  43. AIG, how do you figure out all this stuff?
    You should apply for Lebanese citizenship and run for elections there! “The Free Future Savvy Patriotic Higher Authority Party”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 14, 2011, 2:04 am
  44. This cabinet will last as long as the Assad mafia lasts in Damascus, and not one day more.

    Posted by Hk | June 14, 2011, 2:28 am
  45. Mossad spy arrested in Egypt is US citizen and IDF paratrooper. With those credentials, Ilan Grapel could be mayor of Chicago.
    Syrian lesbian blogger is actually a married American man living in Scotland. Hey CIA, if you want to use a real lesbian, have Hillary Clinton start blogging.
    British admiral says British defense cuts place Falkland Islands at mercy of Argentina and U.S. Sir John Woodward says UK forces “over-committed” in Afghanistan and Libya.
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan buoyed by third term. There is sobbing amongst the worldwide Israel Lobby today….? Naahhhhh! :)

    Posted by Hk | June 14, 2011, 5:11 am
  46. Already some people in the US are picking on the “Hezbollah” govt.

    Key US lawmaker urges aid cut-off for Lebanon

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gZmZPI7vZJRX7uBA0pYZu0P8i50w?docId=CNG.e59fc62cfa8bb03e475fc4d96b489512.d61

    Posted by Won Jang | June 14, 2011, 6:42 am
  47. http://www.ntua.gr/lurk/making/warprayer.html

    Mark Twain’s war prayer. You have to open it to read it all.

    Go SHN Go! Go Hezbollah Go!!!

    Perhaps it is political blasphemy to say so, but I have always admired and respected Hizbullah. I’m not saying they’re a bunch of angels, but they are certainly one of the least corrupted entities in the area, if not the world. We’d be much better off if we would deal with them as a legitimate and capable force in the region. But that would only be possible if we first shook off our Likudnik yoke….says an intelligent American….!

    “O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

    O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

    (*After a pause.*) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

    It was believed afterwards that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said….

    Mark Twain

    Posted by Hk | June 14, 2011, 6:58 am
  48. Orthodox just three Cabinet posts – reduced to be equal with the G. Catholics and Druzes – this is an outrage! Shiia just five positions – two less than either Sunnite or Maronite – another outrage!

    Only kidding – I hope this is beginning of end of quota shares of 6-6-6-4-3-3-2 this looks like a 7-7-5-3-3-3-2 … hopefully a step to forgetting about quota altogether. But it does look like a very Free Patriotic Movement-dominated coalition government – totally dependent on ongoing good will of Progressive Socialist Party and Sunnite elite of Tripoli.

    With ‘party of god’ fighting with the AMAL in the street, collapsing Syrian economy and rising chance of being host to thousands of Alawi refugees (once the al-Assad regime falls), the new coalition might be lucky to last until 2013 elections.

    Does this Cabinet have support of a majority in Parliament? How close is it, if Arslan’s “Democratic Party” MPs vote against on confidence what is the split 65-63?

    Posted by Jean Estiphan | June 14, 2011, 7:32 am
  49. HK’s Yoke

    But that would only be possible if we first shook off our Likudnik yoke….says an intelligent American….!

    HK,

    You haven’t explained to us why were were in Herzliya. It doesn’t seem like you “shook off” much of “Likudnik yoke” on your visit to the Zionist Entity.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 14, 2011, 7:38 am
  50. @Jean Estiphan

    “With ‘party of god’ fighting with the AMAL in the street”
    why on earth would they do that?

    Posted by Jnoubi | June 14, 2011, 8:34 am
  51. Nabi, hope everything sorts itself out on the personal front.
    QN: Doesn’t Almaza have a non-alcoholic line :)

    Danny: Good thoughts. I agree with your analysis. But as I said many times before, I don’t really see much of a difference in how everyone reads those events! Except possibly on tiny details.

    So where are we?

    Everyone seems to agree that Leb gvmts are nothing more than a tool of Syria/HA or whatever.

    So why continue the charade. Dissolve the borders, and make Leb a part of Syria! What better way to punish those slimy politicians than mkaing them irrelevant! Let’s see if HA would like to fall under the control of the house of Assad!

    Posted by Gabriel | June 14, 2011, 10:46 am
  52. AIG comes up with this stuff because he takes the time to read and learn about Lebanon and its politics with a somewhat rational mind (sure, everyone has some biases, and one cannot fault AIG for looking at it from an Israeli point of view).
    The sad thing is that a good portion of Lebanese don’t seem to pay as much attention and think with as rational a mind about their own affairs as AIG does.

    PS: I fully agree with AIG’s conclusion. It is not in Mikati (or anyone else’s for that matter) interest to reject to STL. This is precisely why I predicted that when push comes to shove, the Mikati govt will be brought down exactly in the same manner as the Hariri govt was. I’m taking bets on this one. :)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 14, 2011, 12:40 pm
  53. Would there be any mentioning of the STL in the “Policy Statement”, if/when it is presented to the parliament?

    Posted by Badr | June 14, 2011, 1:07 pm
  54. I would have expected such a line-up a couple of days after Miqati’s designation as Prime Minister!
    If one looks at the result of 5 months of negotiation and compares it to the formulae followed in the formation of the previous government, it becomes clear that there was very little change in the basic principles of “power sharing” or mouhasasa.

    Here are the basic rules that were followed:
    – Same number of seats and portfolios as the preceding government (only the position of Deputy PM was dissociated from the Ministry of Defense)
    – Same communal arithmetics as the preceding government (except for the last minute change in favour of Faysal Omar Karamé).
    – Parties that were part of the former coalition kept their portfolios (true for PSP, FPM, Amal, Hezbollah).
    – New Prime Minister takes the same Porfolios as the former Prime Minister (except for the environment).
    – Ministerial seats allocated to the “March 14 Christians” are distributed quite equitably between Christian parties within the coalition (3 seats to FPM, 1 seat to Marada, 1 seat to Tashnag).
    – Presidential share that was artificially inflated to 5 (in fact the President had no influence on his “share” and 3 out of 5 were not even his… two were close to March 14, and one to March 8).

    I’d like to know why it took so long to achieve so little?! If only PM Miqati had been more transparent during the negotiations with the coalition that had nominated him.

    Does anyone have any information on the 24 ministers line-up he had presented to the President and the Speaker?

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 14, 2011, 1:51 pm
  55. Have you noticed that there are no women in the new government?
    Half of the population not represented at all.

    Posted by idit | June 14, 2011, 1:59 pm
  56. It took so long to accomplish so little for a simple reason: The roadblocks were never about allocation of seats, etc.
    I’ve argued over and over, there was simply no desire to have a government in place by M8 (specifically HA) and Syria.
    Those were really the roadblocks. It’s that simple.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 14, 2011, 2:08 pm
  57. Badr,

    “Would there be any mentioning of the STL in the “Policy Statement”, if/when it is presented to the parliament?”

    If it ever comes for approval, my estimate is no as it would be stupid to proclaim publicly and have the Lebanese parliament approve that Lebanon does not plan to abide by international law and treaties that it signed. You are setting yourself up for sanctions. Also it is redundant to proclaim that you will honor international law and treaties.

    Posted by AIG | June 14, 2011, 2:21 pm
  58. @ Bad Vibel.
    Can you back up this argument?
    Why do you think Hezbollah and/or Syria didn’t desire to have a new government? Do you think they had any interest in having a caretaker government for 5 months? And why do you think they changed their minds now?

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 14, 2011, 2:37 pm
  59. I’ve already explained my theory here repeatedly. I won’t bore you with it again.
    Search the current post and the previous post for my name in the comments. Should be easy enough to find.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 14, 2011, 2:57 pm
  60. Iceman dead in Abu Ghraib? Is that the secret to his long absence?

    On the Iceman Topic, apparently his new favorite Journalist- Bobby Fisk, believes Bahrain is occupied territory :P

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-i-saw-these-brave-doctors-trying-to-save-lives-ndash-these-charges-are-a-pack-of-lies-2297100.html

    Posted by Gabriel | June 14, 2011, 4:52 pm
  61. @Gabriel

    Is it not?

    Posted by Jnoubi | June 14, 2011, 5:03 pm
  62. @Bad Vilbel.
    I actually did read your posts. But I do not understand the link you make between the STL and the relative longevity of the caretaker Hariri Government, the formation of a the Miqati government, or the longevity of the Miqati Government.
    Why would Hezbollah or Syria prefer a Hariri caretaker government to a Miqati government in which March XIV is not represented? Because if they are responsible, as you allege, for the delay in the formation of the government, this means that they had an interest in doing so. And I can’t grasp what kind of advantage that gave them during those 5 months. Why not wait until the indictment is made public? why not wait until the actual trial…
    Actually, I’m not convinced that Hezbollah + Amal + FPM brought down the Saad Hariri government because of fear of indictment. If the Future Movement could govern the country without the FPM and Hezbollah, it would certainly do it. So why not assume that the same is true for the others? March XIV has after all made more accusations against Hezbollah than any report every published by the STL…

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 14, 2011, 5:22 pm
  63. Southerner:

    It’s a mockery post. Long History. Ignore.

    WorriedLebanese:

    So why did FPM, HA, Amal, etc bring down the government? And why did they take so long to draft a new set of names? And why did you post #54?

    If you have alternate theories about what’s going on, why don’t you share them?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 14, 2011, 5:31 pm
  64. @ Gabriel
    If I had an answer I wouldn’t have asked a question.
    I do not understand the delay in the formation of the government, and quite frankly, I believe we have been extremely badly informed about the whole process. I am actually quite disappointed in Miqati because of his lack of transparency. I expected more of him. He disclosed very little information on the process and his approach to it. He fixed no deadlines, no objectives. Up to a week ago, people were still talking about a national unity government and debating if the next government would be technocratic or political. That’s outrageous and unheard of.
    As I told you, I don’t have an alternate theory because I have very little information on the formation process that I could process. Most of the data that is at our disposal is vapid accusations that politicians and their supporters throw at each other.
    What I do have is the conviction that political players are not pawns, and that they pursue what they perceive to be their interests. And they make their choices based on their mindset and according to the information they have…
    In the “theory” that I read over here, these considerations are not taken into consideration. So I asked Bad Vilbel to clarify his argument for me.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 14, 2011, 6:40 pm
  65. WL.

    You dismiss a theory as implausible, then you say you have no alternate theory.

    At the very least you should explain why you think the said theory is implausible! So why do you think it was unlikely that HA Fpm etc brought down gvmt over stl?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 14, 2011, 6:53 pm
  66. ok, i’ll try to keep this somewhat succint.

    Mind you I don’t have all the answers. I am just trying to take the facts on the ground and do a little extrapolation.

    Since 2005, I have seen that HA has gone to great lengths to shield themselves from any potential STL ramifications (What those are, I frankly do not know). Most if not all of their actions have looked to be about torpedoing the STL. Why they are so scared of it, I do not know. But look back. The biggest reason for bringing down the Saniora govt. back in 2006-2008, the reason the shia ministers all resigned at the time, was cited as being the funding and official Lebanese stance on the STL. The demand for a blocking veto was high on that list, for one reason only: STL.
    And back then, HA was again in no rush to provide an alternative to the Saniora govt. choosing instead to go with a longterm sit-in that essentially paralyzed the functioning of the government. They also claimed that if M14 were to go with a one-color M14 cabinet to support the STL, it would be against the interests of HA and Shia community and the “resistance” and would be considered illegitimate etc…So clearly, the STL was dead center of that issue there.
    Another motivation for HA, besides the STL has always been their weapons (which are indirectly threatened by STL, in addition to being threatened in general). And they also went to great lengths to protect their weapons (May 2008 affair, failed national defense talks, etc.)

    Now fast forward to the Hariri government circa 2010.
    HA was basically part of that government, as a minority, with the blocking veto they won by force of arms in Doha.
    As things progressed with the STL, if you recall, before the Arab spring took all the headlines, the majority of the stories in Lebanon revolved around the pending STL indictments, specially when it was revealed that HA was the prime suspect (the mobile phone thing, etc).
    Do you think it’s coincidence that HA and FPM voices got more strident about that topic right around that time?
    Clearly, there was SOMETHING coming that HA was scared of. As long as they felt they could get Hariri to repudiate the tribunal, they thought they could manage (if the son of the slain Sunni PM repudiate the STL as a Zionist plot, then HA has coverage from the Sunnis and a Christian cover courtesy of Aoun). A LOT of maneuvering seemed to be taking place vis a vis trying to get Hariri to openly repudiate the STL. And he came pretty close (under HA pressure no doubt). We heard time and again from HA mouthpieces that even Hariri was “about to repudiate the STL as a foreign plot”. But he never did. And when did the Hariri government finally fall? Not long after Hariri put a nail in the coffin of HA’s expectations and came out and openly said he refused to “Sell the blood of his father” (meaning he was going to stand behind the STL no matter what).
    At this point, it became clear to HA that they no longer could count on getting a sunni cover from STL through Hariri, so they brought down his cabinet.

    Now to your more specific question: Why the delay in forming the Mikati cabinet.

    I think it really came down to more than one factor.

    I have said before, I think that in general, HA is fine having no cabinet because it shields them from having to take ownership of a one-color cabinet, and keeps Lebanon out of international isolation.
    As much as HA hates the USA, they realize full well that if Lebanon were a pariah state, subject to international sanctions, and viewed the same way the Hamas rulers of Gaza are, they’d have the rest of Lebanon turn against them. I think it is more convenient for HA to be “somewhere in between” in a grey area, where Lebanon is officially “not against the west”, but where they (HA/Iran/Syria) still get to make the big decisions (or at least veto the big decisions). That is the meat of my argument for why they preferred a vacuum to a M8-color cabinet.
    I don’t necessarily think they actively undermined the formation of a cabinet as much as they didn’t mind the delay.
    Other factors came into play at the local level (arguing over shares, namely Aoun) and the troubles in Syria that basically left the government formation as a secondary matter, with no rush to come to a finalized cabinet by any of the parties involved.
    Mikati showing an independent streak was probably a factor too.
    But at the end of the day, i think when Bashar calls and said “ok, go ahead and form your damn government”, they all fall into line (as usual).
    Why Bashar decided it was good to have a government now is probably more related to the events in Syria, but I have a feeling he’s the one who made that call and suddenly, all the obstacles vanished.
    Based on my above described theory about HA/STL, I think HA was probably reluctant to finalize this cabinet now, but really, they figured it won’t matter one way or another. In the end it will go back to these indictments and what requests are made of the Lebanese government. When the time comes, HA can once again have the shia ministers (and possibly the FPM ministers) resign en masse and bring down the Mikati cabinet (if, let’s say, it becomes necessary for the Lebanese government to respond to an STL request that HA doesn’t like). And in the meantime, things get to go back to the way they were in 2008 in that HA is not fully “accountable” (note that they only have 2 guys in the cabinet, in lesser portfolios) for running the country. And they hope Lebanon doesn’t get added to the pariah state list (thanks to having a somewhat internationally respectable Mikati as PM).

    Ok that was longer than I expected :)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 14, 2011, 7:33 pm
  67. I’ll add my personal assessment, based on the above theory, that HA, despite their apparent strength, are actually weaker now than they were under Hariri.
    Where once the hope was to have a Sunni/Hariri cover from STL (which frankly, carries a lot more weight than that of a Karami or a Mikati), now even though they are “cabinet makers”, they actually have almost no cover left. Mikati is a much lighter cover in terms of Sunni representation (not to mention that it’s not his dad that got killed). And if things get to where HA have to bring down the Mikati cabinet too, they will have no one left and no cover left (and then you WILL see a long term cabinet vacuum).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 14, 2011, 7:39 pm
  68. BV @67 I did suspect you were setting us up for a long post when you wrote “succint” for “succinct.” Lapsus linguae?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 14, 2011, 9:26 pm
  69. … or lapsus calami?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 14, 2011, 9:27 pm
  70. # 67 & 68,

    “” based on the above theory, that HA, despite their apparent strength, are actually weaker now than they were under Hariri.””

    Absolute hogwash and a lot of prose to say nothing basically.
    Hezbollah is now stronger than ever, it is the talk of the town in MENA and worldwide. You can hardly open any paper, newscast, website or TV station that does not talk about Hezbollah in any country you visit. On top of that, Syria is weaker, and that’s a big plus for Hezbollah, Lebanon is still a Zoo and that’s a plus for Hezbollah, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. USA is much weaker and ill-perceived worldwide. Israel is an apartheid state that refuses any sensible negotiations and is veering more and more to the right, hence the better perception of Hezbollah’s positions on the issues globally.
    STL is a Ziocconned tool and is perceived as such by the whole world, thanks to the efforts of Hezbollah and SHN in debunking this piece of crap made in USA/Israhell dark rooms since 2000….
    You can go on and on with your fantasies about Hezbollah, but it will never be facts on the ground. All the facts point in the other direction, of added strength to Hezbollah and their historic positions about Israhell and USA….

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 2:28 am
  71. It is very hard to promote an international view of sound foreign policies, trade and economics when your own economy is in the toilet. In my travels abroad I have lost count on the derision and contempt that many foreigners now tell me when they talk about President Obomba and his foreign & economic policies …. with such a sentiment it should not be a surprise to then see how weak the U.S. is when it tries to influence world policy forums on foreign affairs, security issues, energy security, war&peace, trade, currency value, and economics.

    The global order as we know it is fracturing, and as long as the U.S. continues with the ‘insane’ foreign policy, economic policies of heavy debt and no fiscal discipline …. this decline will only quicken. :)

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 4:23 am
  72. Aoun: “We did not have any women candidates to nominate , but we welcome their opinions, my house is full of women, and I am very popular among the female population.”

    Whew, that’s a relief. I was worried Aoun was becoming a sexist.

    Posted by Gary C. Gambill | June 15, 2011, 5:41 am
  73. Here comes Gary CIA Gambill, a well known disinformation agent of the infamous White House Murder INC, USCFL and other odious CIA outfits….

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 6:00 am
  74. HK #74,
    A major error that “progressives” commit on a daily basis is clearly shown in this post.
    I would have thought that those that are opposed to a unipolar world would be celebrating a multipolar one instead of implicitly asking the US to maintain its hegemony.
    The same type of a conflict arises when they write, speak and lecture about the need to spread the wealth globally but object to outsourcing, one of the most effective mechanisms of redistribution.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 6:31 am
  75. Gary #73
    I think that it was even worse than the quote that you used:-) At one point he said that there are no qualified Lebanese women!!! As if it would be difficult to measure up to the level of incompetence and irrationality demonstrated by our pols lol. The inanity of it all.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 6:38 am
  76. “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
    – Louis Dembitz Brandeis, A.J. United States Supreme Court (1916-1939). :)

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 7:10 am
  77. Siamese twins CIA/MOSSAD sharing the same brain….and Washington’s civilian and military spheres are increasingly conjoined, with romanticized views of war and a garrison mentality eroding the traditional system of checks and balances that curtailed military ambition and insane spending. With civilian agencies militarizing themselves, citizen-soldiers morphing into full-time warriors and embassies becoming fortresses for utter spying on a global scale, is a militaristic future of jackboots and kamikazes so far in the future?
    By exaggerating threats, defining all responses to those threats in military terms, dismissing dissenters as weak and deluded (even when they prove right), and being incapable of questioning their principles, they repeat the same mistakes again and again.

    Until Americans turn away from militarism and learn again how to “support the constitution” more than US troops (and don’t worry: those troops swear an oath to that very constitution), until they return to a broader vision of national security that deemphasizes a garrison mentality, they will continue to wound, perhaps mortally, a once great republic, before the advent of the Infamous White House Murder INC.

    And that’s no fairy tale, it’s a fact….
    WJA :)

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 7:20 am
  78. HK # 77
    That depends on the definition of democracy. If anything like socialism, then it would hold true. I view democracy not to be like socialism, rather it is a set of laws upholded by institutions that, amongst others, guarantee freedom of religion, freedom of expression and so on. Socialism does not qualify in this.

    But I tend to like what Churchill said, that democracy is the least worst of the political systems that we enjoy today.

    Posted by Pas Cool | June 15, 2011, 7:24 am
  79. I would have thought that those that are opposed to a unipolar world would be celebrating a multipolar one instead of implicitly asking the US to maintain its hegemony.

    GK,

    Your statement above got me thinking to one of the participants here. I think in his case, the term “bipolar” is more appropriate;)

    Israel is an apartheid state that refuses any sensible negotiations and is veering more and more to the right, hence the better perception of Hezbollah’s positions on the issues globally.

    HK,

    Israel is not the not the party refusing to negotiate. It seems the PA has a number of preconditions. Don’t you read the news?

    STL is a Ziocconned tool and is perceived as such by the whole world, thanks to the efforts of Hezbollah and SHN in debunking this piece of crap made in USA/Israhell dark rooms since 2000….

    How was your recent trip to Israel (The “Apartheid State”, where arabs are the freest in the ME)?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 15, 2011, 7:40 am
  80. #73, 76

    Why should he nominate females? He thinks women are good only to be slapped around. His mental deterioration has advanced rapidly.

    Posted by danny | June 15, 2011, 7:45 am
  81. Apartheid State NewZ

    For anyone visiting Israel at this time or doubting America’s foundness of Israel, here’s an article on Glenn Beck’s “rally” in Jerusalem (arabs welcome with appropriate documentation and sponsor).

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4082351,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 15, 2011, 7:46 am
  82. “When people push their luck, things sometimes change quite rapidly.”

    Hezbollah certainly has widespread popular support in Lebanon, in MENA
    and the World over, as a bright example to follow for decades to come. :)

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 8:26 am
  83. My strong belief in human rights, dissent, personal freedom in addition to my abhorence of dictatorships and totalitarianism in any form have always led me to take a position opposed to the brutal Syrian regime. ( My opposition to Syrian dictatorship is not based on Syria’s relationship with Lebanon).
    Another issue that has always concerned me was the potential for a blood bath when the time for change is ripe in Syria. Yet I have not been able to state categorically that I believe that the Syrian opposition will triumph in its current struggle with the Syrian Ba’ath until today.
    I am ready to state that the Syrian regime has reached the breaking point and that the opposition shall triumph. My belief that Syria is at a historical tipping point is not based on a single event but on a review of a large number of developments in a large number of areas.
    The courage and tenacity of the Syrian people has been remarkable over the last 3-4 monthes. They have persisted against great odds and have shed their fear. They seem to have adopted the slogan that “freedom is not free” and so they have organised and stood their ground against a vicious, brutal and unethical leadership that is bent on denying them their most cherished righ of self expression.
    The regime is only making things worse foritself and for the Syrian poulation through its crackdown. The number of the innocents killed in addition to the wounded and displaced will only increase the level of dissatisfaction and willingness to fight the oppresors. Then there is the social time bomb that this crckdown has set in motion. The Syrian economy will implode increasing the level of poverty, misery and exploitation. All of these negative economic developments cannot be avoided and they will help make the failure of the Ba’ath so much more clear. A regime that has had over 40 years has proven itself to be a failure in practically every single field , political, social and economic.
    I am at the stage where I am convinced that the Syrian regime cannot survive, its days are over. My only wish is that the opposition acts only in the interst of all the Syrian people and thus take appropriate steps and adopt enough safe guards as to prevent a blood bath. The opposition must resist the temptations to take revenge since it would not be of benefit to replace a dictatorship by another and definitely it will not help if the pain and misery of any group is increased meaninglessly.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 11:55 am
  84. # 84,

    Amen brother :)
    I would like to add my voice to yours as far as Syria is concerned.

    I will very much long for the day when the same thing will happen to the thugs and Zioconned assassins on the Potomac in Washington DC, home to the infamous White House Murder INC, of Dick Cheney the monster/Satan and bloodthirsty killer/murderer, together with his cowardly assistants at OSP, JSOC, SOCOM, DIA, CIA, & Elliott Abrams and others. That will be the day to really celebrate the demise of the most evil Empire on planet earth. :)

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 12:23 pm
  85. I felt the Syrian regime reached the tipping point as soon as they started deploying the military with tanks (and then gunships).
    As long as it was more of a mukhabart type crackdown, I thought Bashar & co. still had a chance of surviving. Most dictatorships do, while cracking down through their intelligence and security services.
    But the moment the army starts using heavy weapons on the civilian population, there is just no longer a way to whitewash such actions.
    In any case, Bashar is done for. Just a question of time now.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 15, 2011, 12:35 pm
  86. Ghassan@84
    Three things are unstoppable; raging fire, flooding water and angered people. I believe Arab people are angree.
    Although no one can predict how the Arab world will change, One can predict that in five years we will see a different Arab world. The train has taken off, it will be slowed here and there, but it can not be stopped. Walls of fear has been overcome in most Arab societies, including Syria. Assad might last longer than others, and more blood shed is expected before Syria’s opposition succeeds.

    Those who desire freedom and democracy are learning, and showing the willingness, to pay a price .As long as they are willing to pay the price( very costly price in Syria’s case), they will fight.
    That being said, the level of success of Egyptian revolution, would determine the outcome of other revolutions.

    Posted by Prophet | June 15, 2011, 12:46 pm
  87. Well said, Prophet.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 15, 2011, 1:01 pm
  88. Darth Vader pays Well NewZ

    That will be the day to really celebrate the demise of the most evil Empire on planet earth.

    HK,

    How much money did “the most evil Empire on planet earth” pay you while meeting with them in DC? Or was it volunteer work?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 15, 2011, 1:02 pm
  89. It was a beautiful Kim Philby moment through and through in all locations :)

    And the most Evil Empire of Vampires in DC and Tel Aviv are much worse than the Assad Mafia, Stalin and Jack the Ripper combined, since they were able to use the services of these creeps & Asef Shawkat’s goons in their dirty tool box of the most odious White House Murder INC, since January 24th 2002 at 9-20 AM !

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 1:29 pm
  90. Jihadist Doublesbeak

    HK,

    Don’t bore us with how evil the US and Israel are and how innocent and lovely the despots are who run (and terrorize) the ME. We just want to know how much you were paid when you met with “White House Murder Inc”.

    Cat got your tongue?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 15, 2011, 3:12 pm
  91. Prophet it must be alignment of the planets…I wholeheartedly agree. It is time the people in the Middle East make their own free choices unshackeling themselves from decades of tyranny and stagnation.

    Posted by danny | June 15, 2011, 5:02 pm
  92. AS long as the same tribal democracy is practiced in Lebanon, the Lebanon for the Lebanese wont exist, it will rather be the Lebanon blackmailed by corrupted leaders.
    As long as sectarianism and religious discrimination is stronger than civil laws and governmental institutions, we are scattered, segmented, torn, religious segments fighting for power and personal interests that are usually acquired by leaders not by the people.
    As long as only 5 percent of Lebanese people know the complete national anthem, we have no loyalty to our wonderful country that we have been neglecting it on all levels.

    I feel sad really sad.. to watch the news and see the same names, the same families, the same people of war are now giving us lectures on how to be good civilians…

    I am sick of all of you leaders, one goes to Saudi Arabia to get his blessing another goes to Syria, another goes to Iran, another goes to France and the American Embassy…. I don’t know how they don’t feel ashamed of making out of Lebanon a playground for all nations.

    When will we wake up.? when we will realize how far are we from being a strong country?
    why do we have to immigrate.? why do we have to elect those same leaders? there are no other Lebanese who have the integrity or qualifications? Or they are the gods?

    I feel so sorry to see my country destroyed and no one cares, nothing is right except nightlife and clubs, our beautiful nature is destroyed everyday, the sea is contaminated, the infrastructure of roads and transportation is unbelievable.. the congestion and the traffic, the pollution, the respect of human rights…. we have no public Library in Beirut do you believe this? even the donation that was given by Qatar years ago to transfer the old Faculty of law at Sanayeh to a public library , during Mr. Sanyoora’s regime was turned into a police building and what is ridiculous is that they kept the banner that express gratitude to the prince of Qatar for his donation and they have renewed it several times after it got old. Beirut the city of culture….. yes this is how they are destroying Beirut.

    One more thing, I would like to add, in downtown area at the time the construction of Solidere began there were archaeological ruins that go back to 60000 years B.C. our respected leaders they sent the archaeological team back to France, took some of the treasures to their castles and fancy villas and dumped the ruins in the sea… The first law school in the world is now under a building that generates enough money to solidere from the restaurants and cafe’s that pay a considerable amount of rent .

    The question is When are we going to be Lebanese? I love Lebanon, I Love the people, the nature and I am proud of so many great artists and writers who spread the Lebanon we all want… Unlike those greedy monsters who well sell the whole country for not losing their political power…

    Posted by wael | June 20, 2011, 8:38 pm
  93. Wael,
    If there is any truth to the common saying that misery loves company then rest assured that there are a few Lebanese , over 200,000 according to your estimate, who share your frustrations and disappointments about the inability of Lebanon to leave behind its destructive traditions of sectarianism, political feudalism and lack of allegiance to a country.
    Sadly enough, my only disagreement with you is that your implied estimate that about 5% of the Lebanese share your views is probably inflated.
    A district in Lebanon that is populated by residents that are quite highly educated, rather prosperous, well read and well traveled, a population that is way above the mean by any conceivable metric has traditionally “elected” the head of a certain family to the Head of the municipality. At one time a group of young well educated residents decided to challenge this by running an issues oriented campaign. Guess what, it is not only that they lost, they were treated as if they are demented people and clowns. I do not believe they got any support whatsoever.
    Wael, I hope that things will change soon, but I no longer have any illusions. This does not mean that the hurt and the pain is no longer here but one must accept that the battle is an uphill struggle and that it will be long.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 20, 2011, 11:06 pm
  94. Ghassan,

    May be the 5% figure is a bit unrealistic I forgot were i read it. However, we both agree on the essence of problem and the need to change.In this context, the notion of change doesn’t have to be in the form of a traditional revolution or campaign, but more like an organized work of peaceful contributions towards change through art, and positive movements and practices to promote new ways of sending a message and building bridges among Lebanese youth. It’s too bad, that the media in Lebanon is also owned by politicians, which will make the issue even more challenging.
    May be the battle will be Long, but for me it has not started yet and this what make me sad, because I believe Lebanon has a great potential in its natural and human resources which must be protected and invested in rather than destroyed and migrated.

    Posted by wael | June 21, 2011, 5:20 pm
  95. Wael,
    The more you say the more I like what you have to say. It is not possible to create a vibrant democracy without a free and responsible press. Again, you are absolutely right, we do not have that in Lebanon.
    Believe it or not what Lebanon needs is a major consolidation of the printed press and even the media. The economics of the very small and limited market dictate that each and every newspaper needs a deep pocketed sponsor in order to survive and so what happens is that most become nothing else but outlets for foreign governments and political parties. I am convinced that l
    Lebanese politics will be much less divisive had there been “neutral” media outlets that concentrate on delivering the news and an objective analysis. Future TV is a Hariri mouthpiece, OTV is a GMA mouthpiece, … . (Wikileaks revealed the fact that OTV was financed by a $50 million check from Qatar as a result of the Doha agreement :-)
    AlNaar used to be a major respectable newsaoutlet but I question its objectivity, Al Akhbar might be one of the very few reliable newspapers in Lebanon and I also like the Al Balad efforts to introduce a reliable tabloid into Lebanon. ( Keep in mind that all Lebanese papers sell only around a 100.000 issues a day). Keep the faith.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 21, 2011, 6:39 pm
  96. Humans are not mindless drones. And I hardly think that the media should be blamed. I also don’t understand this point of “Free Media”. How much freer to you want media to be in Lebanon?! I mean really is there any information that one cannot access in Lebanon?!

    I think one has to be careful not to conflate disdain for the political class and their associated control of this or that media outlet, with the lack of free media. Or to put stipulations and conditions on what media is to present, when it should be considered “fair and objective” and when it is neither fair nor objective. On that path lies media censorship and media control.

    When GK states, “Believe it or not what Lebanon needs is a major consolidation of the printed press and even the media.”, who is to say who does this consolidation or that they don’t negate the very conditions of a free press.

    What happened to the notion of arguments, and standing/relying on the strength of one’s arguments?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 21, 2011, 7:06 pm
  97. What Lebanon needs has nothing to do with media or consolidation.
    What Lebanon needs is for the Lebanese themselves to think of themselves as Lebanese.
    I agree with Wael and Ghassan, on the need for that.
    I share Ghassan’s pessimism that the 5% figure is overly inflated.

    The thing is, you cannot force people to see the light. In fact, it is against my principles to force anyone into something they don’t want. Even if it’s for their own good.
    The bottom line is that the Lebanese, by AND LARGE, do not appear to want to change the system (although they love to complain about it).
    There is absolutely NOTHING stopping them from doing so.
    Ghassan’s anecdotal evidence (as well as my own personal experience) is that the people really DO NOT WANT change. They may complain about it non-stop, but the fact of the matter is, they secretly like things just fine the way they are. There is absolutely NO ONE forcing them to vote for Hariri/Aoun/Jumblatt/Gemayel when they go to the polls. There is absolutely NO REASON they have to pledge fealty to a Jumblatt/Gemayel/Nassrallah/Hariri except that they do.

    No amount of media consolidation will change that. Trust me.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 21, 2011, 7:30 pm
  98. Gabriel,
    At times I do not know whether you are serious or whether you try to yank somebody’s chain :-) If you are serious or even semi serious about questioning the \\\\need for a free press in a democracy then we have a lot to talk about and I am not sure that this is the forum. I mean we can have discussions about this that will go on and on. Just as an aside why do you think that totalitarian regimes (Syria, N Korea the ex Soviet Union, current day Cuba, China …) fear the most a free press. There must be a reason otherwise why spend so much of the scarce resources on something that is not productive.
    I am almost sure, the figures are hard to come by, that Lebanon publishes only around 100,000 newspapers a day. That is a very low number of papers for the people to get any detailed news. And even then there is no serious investigative journalism and once it exists it is not objective. Whether it is the STL, the Medina Bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank or practically another story we depend on the foreign press to do the investigation for us. How many Lebanese have had an access to the investigative reporting that was done by the American press about the Medina Bank?
    TV stations are neither cheap to build nor inexpensive to operate. You have seen the type and quantity of adds on OTV. I am not sure that the revenue generated is sufficient to even pay the rent. So the question becomes where does the money come from? Well sell yourself to the highest bidder, the national interest and the truth be damned. I am sure that the same is true of the Al Mustaqbal.. Would you ever expect to find an objective coverage of an issue related to Saudi Arabia or the Hariris? Of course not. I am sure that you get my gist. There is no need to repeat the dialogue that pertains to AlManar and NBN …
    Competition is well and good when competitors are free and independent. I am usually in favour of competition at any level but whenever the market cannot support a large number of operators then there is no choice but to accept consolidation. Three or four major media companies will serve Lebanon much better than 60-70outlets that are totally subservient to foreign masters.

    Make no mistake about it that one of the most important institutions for a vibrant democracy is a free and independent press. They are the only ones that can deliver unbiased news and analysis and keep the politicians honest.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 21, 2011, 8:10 pm
  99. Ghassan.

    I didn’t think there was anything comical in what I wrote (or sarcastic). Nor is there anything in it that suggests I am against a Free Press.

    Far from it. I am all for pure unadulterated free press.

    My contnntion was with what was explicitly stated or implied by yourself and Wael… That the problem in Lebanon is somehow that their press is not free, because it is controlled.

    In my fairly limited visits to leb, and especially in this internet age… I did not find that I was not able to access international media in lkebanon.

    Nor do I think that there is any lack of breath of opinions expressed in the Lebanese press. Even if the reason behind it is sinister (press is mnouthpiece of Aoun or hariri or hA or or).

    The point is there is no lack of information.

    I also take exception to the adjective: objective. Not because I disagree with you on what is objective and what is not (issue by issue, I find I agree with u on most issues). But it is a dangerous road to take to predicate a discussion on Free press with the notion of objectivity.

    In this regard, I agree more with BV. The issue in Lebanon is not lack of objectivity or press freedoms.

    It is that the Lebanese accept and secretly like the status quo.

    I asked this question when I first joined QN and I have not had this question answered satisfactorily yet. To what extent is opposition to the STL driven from an objective look at the story or evidence.

    If you took aoun to one side and injected him with a truth serum, what would his honest objective opinion be on the facts? And to what extent can one say that his actions are self-serving and political? That he may be protecting the interests of murderers? Or does he really believe what he projects in his speeches?

    I’m afraid I am more and more inclined to believe the first explanation… That people take positions despite objective truth.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 21, 2011, 8:44 pm
  100. Gabriel,
    the issue is not the diversity of opinions that can be found in the press. The issue is that you cannot pick up a newspaper and hope to find relatively neutral coverage of the news. A newspaper can be as biased as it wants in its opinion pieces but it has a duty to the community to present the unbiased news.
    I am not a sociologist neither am I an anthropologist but I have a pet theory of mine ( I have no clue whether it is credible) that in Lebanon the media are part of the problem. They preach to the choir and do not play the public role of informing or investigating developments. Let me give you a simple example: WSJ has had a rather strong business bias for sometime and even a conservative bias in its editorials but its investigative reporting and its coverage of current developments is one of the most highly respected. Readers make a distinction between its editorial policy and the rest of the paper. the NYT is even better. Most readers pay even more attention to its op ed pages than its editorial. And as you well know its OpEd is structured to have conservative and progressive commentators. That is not true in Lebanon where it is needed more. I for one buy 3-4 papers a day and I get to compare and contrast the coverage and the opinions. In Lebanon very few , and I mean very few buy newspapers, and if they do they buy only one and that is usually a mouthpiece .
    I do not really understand what you mean when you say that on your visits to Lebanon you find that news is widely available. What news and to whom is the first question that comes to mind. In my small town of 15-20,000 I am the only one in my neighborhood who buys more than one newspaper . The so called newspaper stores sell less than a hundred copies a day. I do not blame them. It is too much to expect those that are trying to make both ends meet to spent $2-3 per day on newspapers when they have many more important things to worry about. And I hope that you are not going to tell me that the internet is a major source of information.Lebanon has one of the lowest rates of penetration of the internet and those that are lucky enough to have it would be at the mercy of the slow dial up and electricity.
    Then there is the question of education. The last HDI report had no data about Lebanon but one of the relatively recent reports showed an average years of schooling that is under 5 years. That is not exactly something to crow about either.
    Of course no single factor is responsible for determining the state of a society but there is no doubt in the minds of most political scientists, sociologists, philosophers and political economists that a free responsible press plays a seminal role.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 21, 2011, 9:15 pm
  101. Guys,

    Pondering on the issue of Lebanese Media, I understand both opinions, but honestly I agree with what Ghassan wrote. In this sense, an important question may be raised: Why TL tele Liban channel, which is the official TV channel of Lebanon, has no proper funding, poor technology, poor administration, poor programs?
    Again the issue is not the matter of diversity of media and freedom of speech, its the agenda that these media channels work on. It is very well known that the media is a main tool to affect the mass population and a major means to generate patriotic or national affinity among the people of a country. Imagine if there were no channels promoting for 8 or 14 or march. Think of a channel that is 100 percent independent from politicians and works as a judge to awaken the people and motivate them to stand up and question the corruption. It is a pity that millions demonstrate when a politician points his finger or reads a speech, while very few stand up against the destruction of mountains, or the deliberate burning of forests, or demonstrate against political sectarianism, regional or international intervention, against unfair laws, or to defend the civil rights and laws that preserve the quality of life and ensure a sustainable healthy environment..
    I think the people are used to complain and do nothing, because they have lost hope and because the voice of hope that can be projected and empowered through proper media strategies, through educational programs and useful activities is relatively not reflected or expressed properly. however, the overall strategies are mostly based on political talk shows that do nothing other than philosophizing the political distortion , entertainment programs such as la2la2a w 2al2aly and hizy ya nawa3im, as if we are living in ultimate peace and stability and there are no important issues to think about.

    Another issue is the art in the city is becoming political, I only see statues of politicians, and street names of politicians, why there are no statues for the Lebanese artists like ASsy And Mansoor, Fayrouz, Ziad, Zaki Naseef, Wadee3 ALSAFI , Sa3eed 3a2il Rafic ali ahmad, Marcel KHalife, Carl Ashy, Phoenicians and so many others?. Moreover, Gibran khalil Gibran is represented in a small garden with a statue size that is smaller than the pile of the books he wrote, noting that in one of the big demonstrations his statue was used as a knob to tie the tent to.
    Moreover, think about the sports that we have in Lebanon, i think it is also political, isn’t this something to be ashamed of that, we are unable to attend the stadium to watch a football match.
    Think about the money spent by the media to promote a political campaign that support a party or a leader and think about the money spent to support a truly Free Lebanon, a country that is strong and united. Sadly, the Media in Lebanon promotes for division and hatred because they are biased and enslaved to political directions rather than being objective.
    Another thing, why don’t we demonstrate against the littering of the environment when election campaigns are going to be held, the country is turned to a big photo store each showing his sarcastic smile and posing differently. Millions of photos that litter the walls the streets of the country and at the end the same wonderful winners with their eternal promises and attractive quotes.
    Conventionally, and in another perspective, I can t believe that most prefer to lift up yellow green red orange blue or whatsoever color of flags rather than lifting up one beautiful flag that I believe in the Lebanese flag.
    IF the media is not going to make the change, we all should make the change through the new media of the era that is the social media. Their Lies and actions wont be able to face technology and the hope to build the Lebanon we all dream of.

    Posted by wael | June 22, 2011, 6:57 am
  102. Ghassan#101.

    I hear and understand (and agree mostly) with this angle. But then I would say the issue is not ‘Free Media’.

    A few points:

    (1) You’re a numbers person, and I don’t know the answer to this question. How many people read the WSJ and NYT. You are a learned gentleman. An intellectual. Of course you pick up many different newspaper. Compare and contrast. Make yourself informed. Etc, etc, etc. Can you say the same for the rest of the Americans?

    (2) I will be upfront and admit to being partial to publications across the pond in the UK, where many of the arguments you present on the NYT and WSJ are equally applicable. But I don’t really believe that any publication is devoid of “biases”. Even organisatiions I respect very highly, like the BBC, are not always completely objective or do not necessarily provide unbiased reporting. The best way to describe their reporting is “balanced”. And balance is not necessarily synonymous with objectivity.

    (3) Following on Point 1. If the information is available, but people are not accessing it in Lebanon, whose fault is that? The Media’s? I think that the recent developments in the Middle East perhaps betray a truth different from the one you’ve presented, and that is that the Middle East is wired, despite being ridden with Police States, censorship, etc. Given discussions on how poor the internet in Lebanon is, perhaps the same is not true in Lebanon. But I would like to think that the upcoming and younger generation are more globally connected than we are giving them credit for.

    Either way, if people have that access and choose to ignore it, what is the solution? I don’t think we can predicate progress on society to insisting that everyone becomes as learned and well informed or well read as GK (and others) :)!

    Wael:

    It is very well known that the media is a main tool to affect the mass population and a major means to generate patriotic or national affinity among the people of a country.

    This is what I worry about in your presentation. This is the mantra of the Syrian News Agency. It’s a very slippery slope. Don’t let your frustration that the Lebanese have not managed to work it out yet, to push you down that very slippery slope.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 22, 2011, 11:07 am
  103. Gabriel:

    the statement about the power of media is not something i invented it is adopted by various scholars to name a couple : Lasker and Robins. However, i understand your criticism may be because i didn’t elaborate on this idea clearly. I think you have looked on the other side of the coin.for i didn’t mean with my words to control freedom of speech or to shut down channels and broadcast one voice. definitely I believe all voices and perspectives should be heard, But my point is there should be at least one channel that creates and empowers Lebanese unity (with the exception of TL because we both know, its inability to technically compete with the others:) ) rather than representing a political direction. Every nation needs a positive propaganda to strengthen the love and loyalty to the country and to unite people and this is the problem in Lebanon we are always fighting with each other. so i hope you agree with me now:)

    Posted by wael | June 25, 2011, 6:31 pm

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