Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Mikati Squares the STL Circle

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati was expected to make a major address today concerning the stalemate over the funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which was threatening to bring down his government.

Mikati did speak to the media, but it was only to say that he had transferred Lebanon’s share of the funding (around $33 million) earlier this morning. The STL confirmed receipt of the funds, so it seems that Lebanon has dodged another bullet.

As of this moment, here’s what we don’t know:

  1. We don’t know what kind of deal Mr. Mikati cut with his cabinet partners in order to prevent their resignation;
  2. We don’t know if funding the STL in exchange for valuable concessions was the hidden agenda of the Aounist bloc and Hizbullah all along, or if they decided on this path as a result of more recent developments (like Jumblatt’s defection, the situation in Syria, etc.);
  3. We don’t know if a vote will be required in the cabinet or in parliament to “approve” the funding. Apparently, Mikati transferred the money from the premiership’s own budget, so maybe there will be no need for a vote. This strikes me as a very dicey precedent.

A few minutes of Internet research turned up the 2011-2012 budget for the Prime Minister’s office, which is around a billion US dollars per year (click here to see the spreadsheet, to which I’ve added an extra column converting the figures from [thousands of] liras to dollars).

I have no idea how accurate these figures are, or which pot Mr. Mikati pulled the STL funding from. There are line items in there that are extremely vague (see for example #32, which is devoted to “foreign funding” to the tune of one third of a billion dollars). One would have to assume that there are more detailed figures elsewhere.

At any rate, I’m no expert on government budgets, but it seems odd to me that a Prime Minister of a country like Lebanon should have discretionary spending powers on over one billion dollars. The President’s budget, by contrast, is around $11 million, and the budget for the entire Parliament is $45 million. If anyone has more information on this issue, please feel free to leave it in the comment section. In the meantime, I will try to get an answer from Mr. Mikati’s advisors about where the money for the STL is coming from.

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Discussion

120 thoughts on “Mikati Squares the STL Circle

  1. I was discussing the same thing today about the budget with @angienassar and @mattnash13. It’s all so vague, and not only that, how can a PM be allowed to spend what seems like tax payers money without the prior approval of the cabinet? Something smells fishy. Thanks for the post.

    Posted by zizastan | November 30, 2011, 11:52 am
  2. Could anyone spare a few minutes to translate that sheet into English ?

    Thanks

    Posted by R2D2 | November 30, 2011, 11:59 am
  3. zizastan,
    But that is precisely why the current crop of pols can never be looked upon to save the country. They would not want a culture of “rule of law”:-) If they did then they will be taking away their privilege to pull the proverbial rabbit from the hat. And the beat goes on.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 30, 2011, 12:02 pm
  4. “it seems odd to me that a Prime Minister of a country like Lebanon should have discretionary spending powers on over one billion dollars”

    Agree.That amount of money to use at the PM’s whim seems to amount to a slush fund for a country of any size. The cabinet could change its mind on the issue at any point, they never voted on it, and now the money is already gone.

    Posted by S_Dockery | November 30, 2011, 1:00 pm
  5. zizastan,

    Smells like sweaty polyester induced Athletes’s feet to me. Much worse than fish !

    Posted by R2D2 | November 30, 2011, 1:03 pm
  6. I’ll get back to Mikati/STL after I read the news for this morning.
    But this struck me as a bit “odd” in today’s headlines:

    Lebanon will enforce Arab League sanctions imposed on neighboring Syria even though it did not back the punitive measures, Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas told Agence France Presse on Wednesday.

    Considering our own FM announced the exact opposite a couple of days ago. And the well-known stance (or lack thereof) of Lebanon as a whole towards the Syrian matter.

    I wonder if I’m reading too much into this, or if it’s somewhat connected to the sudden “whimper” (as GK put it so well) in which the STL funding matter was handled.

    Thoughts?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 30, 2011, 1:17 pm
  7. Ghassan & R2D2.

    Agreed. But then again, I feel we are responsible as citizens (but really, would you call Lebanon a state?) to hold Mikati accountable, even though it “seems” that he has saved our asses from int’l sanctions. for now. That’s about it. Internally, one can’t be sure that that wasn’t Hezbollah & FPM’s plan all along (although it doesn’t seem like it. Nasrallah was pretty adamant about not funding the STL. I remember when he made my ears bleed with promises of not funding the STL. I think I even got some spit off the TV).

    Posted by zizastan | November 30, 2011, 1:19 pm
  8. 1 Billion dollar budget? That doesn’t seem right. Not in any country the size of Lebanon’s economy.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 30, 2011, 1:19 pm
  9. Bad Vilbel,

    It seems our esteemed PM has “frata” or change lying around the PM’s office. Some $33 billion. You know, the usual.

    PS What budget? I didn’t know our cabinet issued a budget in the last 6 years.

    Posted by zizastan | November 30, 2011, 1:23 pm
  10. BV
    Minister Nahas is either cluless , which I think that he is not, or trying to play both sides against the middle. This must be in our DNA. Lebanon does not want to create a conflict with the Arab countries but yet is beholden to Syria. So Nahas and his group are trying to say that satisfying both is not a problem , yes and the moon is made of cheese.

    BTW, the private sector does not share the view expressed by Nahas.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 30, 2011, 2:14 pm
  11. As a sidenote to my above statement about sanctions on Syria: Regardless of Lebanon’s official stance on the matter. Is there any actual way to ENFORCE such sanctions (even if, say, Lebanon were to abide by them)?
    How do you prevent Lebanese from doing business with Syrian officials, considering how porous the border is, and how there’s never been much control over anything that goes back and forth between the 2 countries?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 30, 2011, 2:39 pm
  12. If the funding is from a Lebanese public source, and the government holds on, then I see it as a blow to HA.

    Posted by Badr | November 30, 2011, 3:00 pm
  13. Firstly i am happy Lebanon will be spared sanctions.
    I really don’t get it how on earth Miqati or Aoun for that matter can justify this so called transfer? Why isn’t the mad colonel barking up a storm?
    This is what ails this country. They tell you what the hell do you care how it was done? HA & the village idiot can say it was not done through a cabinet vote and go on with their whining ways about Zionism…while the Big man tells the Sunni’s that he delivered on his promise. See everyone wins. HA/FPM have no honor left! After burning our ear that they will never fund it; they come up with this bogus so called PM stash? What kind of country do these people want?
    Ask anyone in Beirut right now…and they gladly will tell you that problem is solved! No accountability of implementation of laws.
    It really frustrates the hell out of anyone who was borne there!!!

    Posted by danny | November 30, 2011, 3:08 pm
  14. The Supreme leader of Lebanon will let us imbeciles know what he knows…or he thinks we should know.:D

    http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=338008

    Posted by danny | November 30, 2011, 5:55 pm
  15. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I go back to my point from the previous post.

    I am missing the big picture here, and perhaps, based on this new QN contribution, everyone else is too?

    Are the events unfolding now theatrics?

    It seems at face value as though they are.

    Posted by Gabriel | November 30, 2011, 7:07 pm
  16. Gabriel,
    Each person sees the events in a slightly different light. That is to be expected since this is not science but subjective statements. I have used this phrase before but allow me to bore you with it again; each person sees the world from where s/he is standing.
    My view is that this is not theatrics. That is too cynical of a view for me. I neither think that the HA/FPM are that diabolical and I think that Mikati is a well meaning person who finds himself in an uncomfortable situation..
    I am opting in this case for the simple explanation. HA and the FPM have been sur[rised to find out that Mr. Mikati is willing to stick to his guns on this matter. Actually he has never deviated from it for a second ever since he wa nominated. Once it became clear that Mr. Mikati will not budge the other side had to scramble to find a way out.The PM was willing to accommodate them by agreeing to an unorthodox procedure but let us not forget that Lebanon is the land where everything goes. Had there been a decent constitutional council and a decent independent judiciary then things would have ben different . But to lament that they are not there does not help the present. The only way to explain this is to score one for March 14 crowd, 1 for Mikati and 0 for FPM and 0 for HA. Whether there was a Syrian pressure or not is not very clear but I would not be surprised if Bashar and company asked Mikati to be accommodative.
    We will find out soon enough the spin that SHN will put on this…

    Posted by ghassan Karam | November 30, 2011, 7:42 pm
  17. Ghassan,

    Not to shoot a hole in your narrative here. But if Mikati stuck to his guns, and HA/Aoun had to scramble. Why not follow through on Aoun’s threats of quitting the government?
    Clearly, having a government in place was deemed more important than whether or not the STL was funded…I wonder why.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 30, 2011, 9:30 pm
  18. BV
    But that is exactly my point. Mikati won this round simply because Aoun could not or would not resign. A cabinet was deemed to be more important than a vacuum and its potential harmful effects. HA was not a winner no matter what SHN says tomorrow but as of this moment Aoun might be the biggest loser.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 30, 2011, 9:38 pm
  19. I tend to agree with BV and GK that it seems that a power vacuum and a powerless caretaker government was the last thing all parties wanted at this particular junction. I am not as concerned as many of you are about the source and method of payment of the STL expenses; here, the executive decision of the PM to preserve the Lebanese people from a power vacuum paid off. Wouldn’t’t you prefer that a similar resolution in the face of impeding disaster be taken by democratic governments elsewhere, and that funds be made available to ensure such a resolution? Yes, processes could or should have been in place to ensure checks and balances, but this one time, the ability to decide and circumscribe a deadlock due to illegitimate political reasons makes it worthwhile to have a stash of money allocates to the PM (even though the action is not justified, in a Kantian universe).

    This also means that HA is indeed now more and more in “Lebanese mode” as Danny out it, and SHN may very well convey that, directly or indirectly, HA is no longer interested in paralyzing the government in such a critical moment.

    This is a positive development.

    Posted by Parrhesia | November 30, 2011, 11:32 pm
  20. P.S. I am assuming that no deals or concessions were made (as QN believes) but that Berries and Miqati worked out on a way to allow everyone to save face, while reacting/adapting to changed historical realities. I may be quite wrong.

    Posted by Parrhesia | November 30, 2011, 11:41 pm
  21. Lol, I love how some of you guys are so outraged that this ended peacefully. I’m personally not happy about the funding, but I realize that had Lebanon not funded it, some Saudi prince would have donated his spare pocket change and the STL would keep leaking/going on as normal (with the addition of Miqati being labeled a traitor). So just accept that apparently both sides win… for now. I agree with QN though that this is a dangerous precedent, especially when you’re talking about $1 billion budget.

    Posted by Murad | December 1, 2011, 2:32 am
  22. Murad, I don’t think anybody in this blog was expecting (and certainly not hoping) any blood in the street for the STL funding at this point…On the other hand, I disagree with you on the score of the game. It is more like Ghassan #16 put it, and I would add half a point to Berri, who managed to look good and responsible one more time at time of “emergency”. As for the others, if it has become to the point that keeping walking in the storm amounts to victory, then things look really bad for Syria right now. Because we agree that Syrian government’s difficult situation is the reason why “anything” was better than this government collapsing, or we don’t? It is true that Lebanese political memory is remarkably short, but, anybody remember what were the reasons last government was overthrown for ?

    Posted by mj | December 1, 2011, 6:52 am
  23. Here’s why some people like (??fill in your name??) are happy that Lebanese “leaders” are nation saviors…

    What a corrupt bunch of thieves & mass murderers.

    WE should be happy we are not as bad as Somalia (which I don’t think can be defined as a country anymore…). We are 134th!!

    http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/#CountryResults

    Posted by danny | December 1, 2011, 7:18 am
  24. Going through the day’s press reviews, seems that almost everyone agrees to give some part of the spoils to Berri. The Al Akhbar assessment is quite blunt (although it doesn’t point to any movements in the opposition’s score -which could be correct, since one of the opposition’s specialty is not to recognize their own points when they score one!):

    “PM Najib Mikati may be the only winner or share the spoils with Speaker Nabih Berri. Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun may have lost, whether together or separately, but the result of the past few hours is that the cabinet is ongoing for a long time and the majority will remain as it is.

    This means that PM Mikati has successfully wielded the threat of his resignation in Hezbollah’s face.

    A trustworthy envoy was sent to Syria to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss the financing of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon with him. The envoy reported that Assad stressed two basic principles, namely the need to preserve the cabinet chaired by PM Miakti and its stability, and the need to act in the interest of the Resistance for the time being. Syria actually indicated that it wanted to prevent the resignation of the cabinet at all costs”.

    http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=338137&MID=101&PID=2

    Posted by mj | December 1, 2011, 7:43 am
  25. March 14 General Secretariat on Wednesday condemned the way Lebanon’s share of funding to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was transferred.

    “March 14 rejects the way the funding was [sneaked to the STL],” the statement issued by March 14 General Secretariat said.

    M14 is comical, they pushed the security council to establish the STL under the auspices of a CH 7 UN SC resolution, thereby subverting the Lebanese Constitution, in the most undemocratic way. And when M8 gets a little creative in their funding of an undemocratic “unLebanese” institution they start screaming. keep on dreaming of a cabinet collapse, M14 should take up tweeting in their new found free time.

    Posted by tamer k. | December 1, 2011, 7:45 am
  26. QN,

    What would happen if the Lebanese government said, “No thank you, but we aren’t interested in the STL any longer. The process is taking too long, and the country wants to move forward.”?

    This is like watching grass grow.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 1, 2011, 7:50 am
  27. @25,

    Really now? Do you forget who walked out of the cabinet? now we all know why?
    A little creative eh? Let’s see the governor of your state make creative decisions without accountability. Let’s see how long he/she will stay in office.
    Why do you want scum for your country? I can’t comprehend the amount of hatred that brews inside of people to make irrational comments like those!

    Posted by danny | December 1, 2011, 9:49 am
  28. Hatred is by definition, an irrational emotion.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 1, 2011, 1:25 pm
  29. BV, hmm, picking up on that psychoanalytic foray, the accepted norm is that love and hatred are two forms of the same passion (or emotion, as you put it). So, is love also, “by definition, an irrational emotion”?
    The reality is that despite reference to “the heart” as source of emotions in fact it all comes from the brain which then, depending on the action/activity, stimulates nerves in various parts of the body which, in some cases, involve nerves at or close to the heart, hence the mistaken concept of “emotion.”
    One of the most remarkable areas of research nowadays center on an analytic approach to the functioning of the brain, using both advanced functional imaging techniques as well as simulations.
    But wait, we are discussing Lebanese politics! Sorry, never mind…

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 1, 2011, 1:40 pm
  30. The Supreme poo pah has totally ran out of gas! What a load of crap…

    Posted by danny | December 1, 2011, 3:56 pm
  31. yeah. Love is totally irrational. I thought that was a given.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 1, 2011, 5:23 pm
  32. @29 From Church lady to Dr. Phil. :D

    Posted by danny | December 1, 2011, 5:53 pm
  33. Ghassan,

    Surely there must be a driver for political decisions that follow some rational thought process. If nothing else (like solid principles), at least for the argument of political relevance or longevity (ala Jumblatt)!

    Mikati may himself not have dithered on this point. Can the same be said of the FPM? Surely the walkout must qualify as theatrics then!

    And surely, the fact that crises pop up one day only to be magically resolved seemingly in a matter of hours is testament that some theatrics is behind everything we are seeing!

    Mikati is far too seasoned a politician, and so are all the rest, not to have thought through these events!

    Posted by Gabriel | December 1, 2011, 8:13 pm
  34. HP….

    Just like my love-hate relationship with the Iceman…. I love him…
    and he hates me :).

    Posted by Gabriel | December 1, 2011, 8:14 pm
  35. Come on everybody, politics is theatrics everywhere, except in the mind of idealists who have not experienced anything but localized politics. The whole nuclear weapons issue in Iran is nothing but theatrics: everybody in the know is aware that there is no shred of evidence that Iran is practically working towards acquiring nuclear weapons, but that does not stop politicians across the world from theatrics that may have lethal consequences…. I think that the question of democracy (an impossibilty in any neoliberal realm) is all about whether politics is possible without theatrics. I have been reading Dewey, Hook, and Putnam on democracy, and they all understand that democracy as a political system (active participation of educated citizens) is not possible without economic democracy (economic decisions and instititutions being controlled by the citizenry) or without genuine critique and difference of positions leading to deliberations. It is obvious that it is not the lack of transparency that leads to theatrics but the actual impossibility of democracy everywhere where experts (politicians) have to delude their citizenry and control their impulses and desires, as well as the affects. What are we doing here but watching good episodes of a soap; when the soap turns into an opera, we all get excited. But weare looking for the more appealing forms of theatrics.

    Posted by Parrhesia | December 1, 2011, 8:52 pm
  36. iceman, where are thou?

    Posted by 3issa | December 1, 2011, 8:52 pm
  37. Iceman is training the FSA ?

    Posted by lally | December 1, 2011, 9:15 pm
  38. FSA? He is working on a Texas pipeline cracking humorous one liners with dubya Bush.:P

    Posted by danny | December 1, 2011, 9:32 pm
  39. Gabriel,
    Politics is about power, That’s it No other driver is needed..

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 1, 2011, 9:35 pm
  40. I remembered dreamy comments about the Turks and/or Jordanian forces invading Syria and extrapolated a little……

    Doubt if the iceman was a fun enough type guy for Jr.

    Posted by lally | December 2, 2011, 12:19 am
  41. Iceman is leading the Al jazirah Sheild forces in Bahrain :)

    Posted by Vulcan | December 2, 2011, 12:39 am
  42. Having the prime minister (and all other ministers) decide freely on how to spend huge amount of money without control, shows us again that Lebanon is mafia-like governed…

    Why should Hizballah object? Regardless of the money source, Mikati will never dare traying to arrest anyone ;)

    Posted by Ibrahim | December 2, 2011, 6:55 am
  43. I still see this as PR damage to HA/FPM. Theyve expressed their protests about the STL with fire in the sky. All of a sudden it passes under their noses and all they can come up with is recycled rhetoric. ” It wouldn’t have passed through cabinet” and ” for the sake of “Lebanons stability”. Sad.

    Posted by Maverick | December 2, 2011, 5:00 pm
  44. My oh my!

    … and Ghassan thought I was the cynic, lol. :).

    Posted by Gabriel | December 2, 2011, 5:27 pm
  45. Parrhesia:

    there is no shred of evidence that Iran is practically working towards acquiring nuclear weapons

    Well I, for one, am most certainly not in the know. But I would say that steps to go nuclear at all are measures of “practically working towards..”. One, can at the very least, follow the other.

    Also, and I don’t count myself in that crowd, given the amount of “democratic” voices that oppose nuclear power (Germany phasing out it’s systems, demonstrations in France over nuclear waste, etc), “Democratic” Iran seems not to have many environmentalist voices with too much of an opinion with the nuclear development program in their country.

    And Beelzebub knows (he knows best), that all the issues surrounding Iran are theatrics. But that doesn’t change the fact that it really is quite likely, if not most likely, that they are actively working to get nuclear weapons!

    Posted by Gabriel | December 2, 2011, 5:37 pm
  46. Lebanon (with the current government) is currently one of the few Arab countries sympathetic to Syria, who is planning to count on it to break any sanctions imposed on it. In light of this, I think it is really not that difficult to understand what happened. Syria had two options: either push Mikati to shoot down the funding, which I believe was their preferred one, or push HA to accept a “solution” for the funding. The problem of the first option is that it will be risking sanction on Lebanon, and a suffocated Lebanon is of no use to Syria. While the second solution may spell trouble in the future, it definitely trumps risking trouble at present. Hence the decision to keep the cabinet at he expense of the letting the funding pass through.

    Finally in the winning and loosing ledger, i believe that Mikati is the biggest winner and HA is the biggest looser. At least for now.

    PS. Note that according to reports, Mikati insisted on hearing the approval from HA themselves. Obviously he did not give a rat’s ass about FPM’s opinion.

    Posted by Caustic | December 3, 2011, 9:44 am
  47. @46 Caustic

    That’s a good assessment of the Syrian position vis-a-vis their need to maintain an open Lebanese valve for the time being.

    Could you post your comment about the FPM issue on the FPM forum, please :) ?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 3, 2011, 1:20 pm
  48. Shou Ya Elias?

    Too much Hummus, Mashawi, Araguil and Arak still clouding your mind to make any sense of your last visit to Lebanon ?

    Upper Legislative Chamber … ?

    How about adding a footnote to Darwin’s thesis on the evolution of Species in 21st Century Arabia (which you could thereafter easily sell to a Turkish Media mogul for a 6 season TV production as “Battlestar Arabica”).

    Posted by R2D2 | December 4, 2011, 3:16 pm
  49. Not sure how it works in Lebanon, but it isn’t unusual in parliamentary systems for the Office of the Prime Minister to have its own Vote – an annual budget that can be drawn down by the responsible Minister – in this case the Prime Minister. As long as the Cabinet has the support of a majority in the Parliament, Ministers typically have discretion to spend their budgets in most of western Europe and they are each budget round held to account in the chambers of parliament for how they spent monies to promote the policies and programmes and interests of the government. But it would be interesting to know if this is the case in Lebanon – and whether or not it is a “new precedent” for Lebanon.

    Posted by Jean Estiphan | December 5, 2011, 6:06 am
  50. Jean:
    The method of financing the STL was unorthodox but is not illegal. The cabinet ministers are in charge of their own budgets but most have very small budgets that do not offer much room for anything. The office of the president of the ministerial council , on the other hand,does have a very large budget although most of it is not discretionary. Yet the shifting of funds from one account to another , with the approval of the membership is perfectly legal.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 5, 2011, 9:08 am
  51. Moody downgrades Lebanon banking sector…interesting…

    *cue Ghassan commentary…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 5, 2011, 2:16 pm
  52. And another rather interesting tidbit…News of Hamas discreetly moving out of Syria.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 5, 2011, 6:54 pm
  53. Jean,
    In a new study released today by AnNahar the former MP Hasan Rifai looks at the STL funding process and concludes that the PM did in fact exceed his powers and that the only proper method should have been for the President to set in motion his ability to establish a special new account.

    http://www.annahar.com/content.php?priority=5&table=main&type=main&day=Tue

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 6, 2011, 12:40 am
  54. Nasrallah wants to bring down the Lebanese government. Do you all agree? Will this benefit Hezbollah?

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,245063,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 6, 2011, 10:28 am
  55. AP

    That story is almost 5 years old.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 6, 2011, 10:42 am
  56. AP. WTF?

    Ghassan et al. No comments on the Moody downgrade? I thought that story would generate more interest around these parts.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 6, 2011, 1:45 pm
  57. Well, here’s something hilarious from this morning’s news roundup:

    “Those trying to disarm Hizbullah are serving Israel and are seeking through dialogue to achieve what Israel had failed to accomplish for 33 days,” he said about the Jewish state’s July 2006 aggression on Lebanon.

    The real security problem in the country is the arms found in the hands of all Lebanese, he told his supporters.

    Feel free to comment… :)
    I personally wouldn’t even know where to start.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 6, 2011, 1:50 pm
  58. BV,
    On the merits the Lebanese economy would have imploded by now. Its relative small size, the political interest in a relatively stable Lebanon by KSA and the West in addition to the continuing inflow from the Lebanese abroad has saved the day. But all of this is temporary. Lebanon, as is often the case, applies band aids and does not go to the root of the problem. It is the large debt burden, the artificial rate of exchange, the inequitable income distribution and the lack of growth that will combine to create a major crisis.
    S&p and Moodys know this but they pass a judgment on the present without looking through their crystal ball. As a result they do not downgrade the credit rating as much as they should. None the less few countries in the world boast a commercial banking sector that is 3 times as large as the economy. Unfortunately many Lebanese think of this as being good for the economy when in fact it is the opposite. It puts the economy at tremendous risk if anything goes wrong to any of the larger banks. That is what Moodys is saying. The individual banks are profitable but their continuing profitability depends on the financial health of the neighbouring countries in addition to the flows from the immigrants. We all know what has been going on with the neighbours but are there any guarantees that the capital remittances will go on?
    Lebanons economy is not as solid as many think but what concerns me most is that most Lebanese have not participated in the relative growth and are unlikely to do so. The economy does not provide jobs for the high skilled and most of the growth is aimed at the very well off. It is also important not to neglect the reality that the interest burden of the sovereign debt is larger than the expected growth in the economy by a factor of 2-3. This means that the debt/GDP ratio can only increase unless the rate of inflation is high enough as to compensate for the difference. But a high rate of inflation will affect the interest rate that is being charged.
    Lebanon is dably in need of political stability and a targeted growth policy in addition to a major restructuring of its sovereign debt.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 6, 2011, 2:15 pm
  59. BV. Of course you wouldn’t know where to start as your HSN “quote” made no damn sense! Game on:

    “Nasrallah addressed those who say that the resistance’s weapons will lead to a civil war he said, ‘Small arms present in every house might, but ours never will; no civil war has ever started with long-range missiles’”.
    http://www.lbcgroup.tv/news/12110/sayyed-nasrallah-personally-in-dahiyeh-on-ashura-d

    Helps to have the full quote, doesn’t it? What WAS your source for the disingenuous “interpretation” ?

    You are perfectly welcome to dispute the notion that long-range missiles wouldn’t be useless/massive overkill in a civil war in a country the size of Lebanon.

    (The USofA is another case entirely as I could see some American Yeahoos lobbing missles into the Castro district of San Francisco, Berkeley or the Silverlake area of LA).

    Posted by lally | December 6, 2011, 3:47 pm
  60. lally,

    I think the quote, even with its proper context, is still pretty damned ridiculous.
    Or at least, it’s ridiculous in the context of accepted civilized modern world notions.
    Any attempt at justifying non-state armed actors are pretty ridiculous in my worldview. A state worthy of the name implies a monopoly of force by the state and only the state.
    Statements such as Nassrallah’s can only be taken seriously in our crazy country. Such tripe would be laughed at everywhere else in the world (including other relatively backwards countries, mind you).
    His attempts at distinguishing between personal weapons that every Lebanese has, and his missiles is pretty freaking ridiculous from the get go. And if one were to play devil’s advocate, and accept that premise (which I don’t), even then, it still makes no sense. Missiles cannot start civil wars? I dont know about you, but I seem to recall missiles being used quite frequently during the 1975-1990 years.
    Didn’t Michel Aoun launch his “war of Liberation” and his “war against the LF” by launching batteries of missiles on West Beirut at one point? Didn’t all the various civil war parties use missiles and tanks?
    In fact, had they all been using pistols and hunting rifles, I’m fairly sure the Lebanese would have been smashed to smithereens by the PLO in 75. I’m also fairly sure the war would’ve lasted all but 48 hours.

    What a bunch of nonesense.

    What’s truly sad is that people actually sit there and gobble up Nassrallah’s bizarre rhetoric, all the while nodding their heads and going “oh yeah…he’s making sense.”

    NO HE’S NOT!

    Nor did he make any sense the other day when he attempted to explain why a government that he put in place, with him and his partners as majority stakeholders, approved the STL funding that he described in the same speech as an “Israeli-American” tool. Only to add a few sentences later that “It was for the greater good of Lebanon not to fight this matter” (I paraphrase here)…
    Seriously? People don’t see what’s wrong with these statements?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 6, 2011, 5:38 pm
  61. Oh and I forgot the most obvious example of how ridiculous this is:

    May 7, 2008.

    Who “almost started a civil war”? The guys with the hunting rifles? Or the militias with the heavy weaponry?
    Even if one is to, again, play devil’s advocate, and assume that it was all started by Mustaqbal’s poorly armed goons. The fact that HA and its proxies responded en force says what about the startings of civil wars? Nassrallah’s goons were part of the events of that day, no? THEIR small arms don’t count? Only those of the “other Lebanese”?
    No sir. Those arms were involved in what nearly started a civil war.
    So his logic again, makes ZERO sense.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 6, 2011, 5:42 pm
  62. QF. I just found out you are a Stanford guy. Let me buy you a coffee at Coupa. I would love to catch up in person.

    Posted by Paul Matuk | December 6, 2011, 6:29 pm
  63. Nasrallah is a classic orator who speakes to the hearts of his followers. His style is over simplification of over arching subjects inciting the passions. To a level headed logical bieng, Nasrallah is laughable as he contradicts himself time and again in the same paragraph.
    Adding to the examples above in BV’s posts, Nasrallah called the Syrian opposition American-Zionist tools but at the same time calling for peace in Syria. He congratulates the Iraqi people for “defeating” the strongest army in the world, while the Iraqis are blowing up each other to shreds probably oblivious to American presence.
    If Shakespeare was still alive, Nasrallah would make a great character, nothing more, nothing less.

    Posted by Maverick | December 6, 2011, 6:36 pm
  64. All these these insults to SHN merely delude the Zionazis into thinking the people are not united behind the Resistance, which can only lead to more aggression from “israel”.

    Posted by dontgetit | December 7, 2011, 9:20 am
  65. From Pres. Assad’s interview with Barbara Walter, re. the UN:
    “It’s a game you play; it doesn’t mean you believe it.”
    I say this will go down in history as the day where unconsciously President Assad admitted to his hypocritical and, yes, criminal involvement in the Harriri assassination and all the horrible crimes against civilians who protested his rule of late.
    “It’s a game.”
    He has played it and continues to play it. His poise and self-righteous assertions in Western media interviews (remember the one with Charlie Rose?) are but “a game.”
    In this respect, Assad is more dangerous than Ghaddafi.
    Prove that you can correct my perceptions and I’ll stand corrected.
    If not, alas, this is true horror if ever there was one.
    http://abcnews.go.com/International/defiant-syrian-president-bashar-al-assad-denies-ordering/story?id=15098612
    Time stamp starting 4:33
    “It’s a game you play; it doesn’t mean you believe in it.”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 7, 2011, 10:14 am
  66. Yes, Asad is more dangerous than Gadhafi because he’s rational, unwavering in support for resistance, and clearly popular. It makes you so angry! Sucks to be you :(

    Posted by Murad | December 7, 2011, 11:34 am
  67. Hi Paul

    I’m officially affiliated with Stanford this year, but actually still based in Cambridge. Thanks for the offer, though.

    Best
    Elias

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 7, 2011, 11:59 am
  68. HP,

    I’m with you on this one.
    I haven’t watched Assad’s interview yet, but what I’ve heard of it so far made me cringe. How can a man in his position go on denying that he has any knowledge or responsibility in what’s happening?

    Btw, has anyone seen our good friend Alex lately? Now that some time has passed since his predictions and our heated debate, I wonder if he’s changed his mind about Assad, or if he’s dug his heels in and remains in complete denial about what’s really happening in Syria.

    In fact, I’m a bit surprised we haven’t been discussing Syria much here lately. Apathy has settled in it seems, 9 months into the uprising (as far as QN readership goes at least)?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 1:21 pm
  69. Assad claims he’s not responsible and is NOT IN CHARGE.

    Ok. Beyond the fact that everyone and their sister knows for a fact that Assad and his family are quite in charge, and have been for 40 years, let’s play the “logic” game.

    If we concede that Assad’s not in charge (for shits and giggles, as we say): Then why is it HIS portrait that’s plastered on every street and on every government vehicle, etc? It’s a rather strange phenomenon that an entire country would be covered in the portraits of someone who is not in charge, no?

    If we concede that Assad is not in charge. Then, as a responsible (since he claims he is) president, who’s no longer in charge of his country. Wouldn’t the right thing to do be to resign and point the finger at those who ARE in charge? That’s what any self-respecting president or PM would do. Typically, the day an official leader is no longer in charge is the day they step down and wash their hands of what is being done in their name by those who are, in fact, allegedly in charge.

    So no matter how I look at it, I do not understand with what self-righteous logic, this man can sit in front of ABC’s cameras and make the claims he is making.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 1:26 pm
  70. And not one word about THE news story of the month? Wow not even a mention????? finally and after month all the way from his undergrougnd bunker 3oqb Saker will answer questions tomorrow night on Kalam el Nass.
    Do you feel the anticipation? will we know where he is? the suspense is killing me. Tune in tomorrow for the climatic conclusion of the best story of the year (where in the world is 3oqab Saqer?????)
    or maybe he will pull a Saad Hariri and decide not to show up. Saad it seems did not want to use a giant screen in Tripoli for fear of being seen as imitating Sayyed Nasrallah. But in hindsight is there an equivalent for 3oqab on the other side???
    I’ll be in front of my computer to watch the interview and hear what he will say.

    Posted by elsheikh | December 7, 2011, 2:38 pm
  71. @70

    Are you O Saqr groupie lol? :P

    Posted by danny | December 7, 2011, 2:55 pm
  72. Murad @66: I’m not angry. I’m sad and bewildered by the horror of the abject violence against civilians and by the hypocrisy of Bashar. He indeed is a very devious person. You could see the worry in his eyes in that interview. He is exposed now and, as many have predicted, his reign will end in not too long a time.
    By the way, you said something? you provided facts? opinions? Murad or Ghayr marghoob?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 7, 2011, 4:11 pm
  73. Well, as I am a human being, I am angry and im tired of making an effort to hide it. On top of the anger is filthy disgust and then mind boggling shock when you have pseudo intellects defending the regime and Bashar the ‘mahboul’ as if its their own father.Enough already, these morons in the Baath machine are spitting out lies and contradicting themselves and no one is fooled except the Murad types.

    Posted by Maverick | December 7, 2011, 4:23 pm
  74. Heard a few excerpts from the Assad interview just now. Amazing.
    The guy literally said that “It’s not my armed forces, I don’t control them”.
    Well, then who’s are they? Who’s ordering them?
    Let’s concede he is not in control (yeah, right), then as President, isn’t it his job to find out and take action? Even his lies don’t seem to have any logic to them. I wish I was the one interviewing him. I’d have asked “If you’re not in control of Syria, then why are you President? And who is in control?”

    The excerpts I heard were completely ludicrous. I mean, beyond the pale ridiculous with no rational logic to them whatsoever.
    Assad seems to be in complete denial and manufacturing his own reality.

    Based on what I heard, I don’t think his regime is long for this world. The feeble attempts at excuses and complete fantasy-world logic show a man that’s beyond desperate.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 5:17 pm
  75. HP,

    To be fair, the reference to a “game” in the interview is the United Nations. And it is true that the UN is not essentially “objective,” since it does not always function within the principled parameters of the laws and rules governing its interactions and that can be linked to its mission as a medium for universal peace and inter-/cross-cultural dialogue, but it is quite often the site of power play and geopolitical games. Let us not distort reality or construct it when there are objective standards of textual interpretation.

    Posted by Parrhesia | December 7, 2011, 5:19 pm
  76. “The game” comment was frankly the LEAST of the ludicrous or ridiculous statements in the interview. Not even worth dwelling on that one.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 5:41 pm
  77. Choice quotes:

    “We don’t kill our people… no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person,” Assad said.”

    Oh the irony. (This applies not only to Assad, but to countless other dictators engaged in repression).

    “We never said we are democratic country… We are moving forward in reforms, especially in the last nine months… It takes a long time, it takes a lot of maturity to be full fledged democracy.”

    So you heard it from the horse’s mouth himself. Syria is not currently a democracy. A slip of the tongue? Or is he pretty much admitting what we all know already…That those 99% approval ratings and election results are/were bogus? And if so, then how does he claim legitimacy?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 6:02 pm
  78. After reading all this, I recall a truism that’s been bandied about often (in this forum and elsewhere): There may be more than one narrative out there, and a lot of cognitive dissonance, but in the end, the fantasy-based narratives do not stand the test of time. Sooner or later, their own adherents start contradicting themselves while trying very hard to make their “stories” stick.
    We’ve seen this with Assad, and we’re seeing it more and more with what’s coming out of Nassrallah lately.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 6:05 pm
  79. The Assad interview was directed at Iran. Its message was simple, “I am here to fight to the end and maybe win” and to prove this to you I have committed to it in English to all the West. So you should continue backing me.

    Posted by AIG | December 7, 2011, 7:50 pm
  80. Meh. I don’t buy that. He doesn’t need Barbara Walters to send messages to Iran.
    I honestly believe this was a desperate attempt at making excuses (as ridiculous as it may sound). Specially in light of the extensive news coverage and interviews that were given to/by the Syrian National Council guy last week.
    Assad really had nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing this interview. I question what was going on in his mind and that of his advisors when he agreed to it. What was the point really? Besides showing us all how disconnected from reality he is?
    He should have known full well no one in the west would buy his story. Not to mention that according to him, the western media is an Israeli tool that’s been distorting the facts on the ground. So what would he stand to have them interview him? Since all they ever say are lies about him and his allies?

    I honestly don’t get it, beyond it being an act of desperation.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 8:25 pm
  81. If you do not assume rationality in what your opponent is saying, you are letting yourself off the hook too easily. Let’s assume Assad is rational. He knows the West is not buying his message. He needs to prove to the Iranians that he is not planning on saving himself cutting a deal behind their back. He needs to prove to them that he is their best investment to keep influence in Syria. Ergo this interview which completely cuts him from the West.

    Posted by AIG | December 7, 2011, 8:34 pm
  82. I think you’re all giving Assad too much credit for being that much of a thinker. In my opinion he has a superiority complex that makes him think that he can fool anyone anytime. And while the “game” comment may on its surface appear innocuous and justifiable the reality, if you engage in a level of intuitive psychology and couple the analysis of the words, their contexts, with his non-verbal communication, is that, as I have posited, a singular admission of a manipulative, hypocritical nature and nurture. Assad is toast. The only question is how much longer he has. I personally think that his undoing started when he gave the order to get rid of Rafiq Hariri. He crossed a red line at that point challenging his fate by going a bridge too far.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 7, 2011, 8:41 pm
  83. AIG,

    Quite the opposite. If you re-read my previous comments, I was giving Assad the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he was following some kind of logic. Problem is, his logic didn’t add up.

    Furthermore, if we’re to follow your theory…
    1) Why would Assad need to embarass himself in front of Walters to prove to the Iranian anything? Aren’t his actions proof enough? (his refusal to accept the Arab League proposal, for example). I don’t understand what talking to ABC buys him with Iran, over all the other gestures he’s done that cut him off from the West anyway (such as continuing to kill his own people, for example). Your argument doesn’t make sense to me.

    2) Would the Iranians, or really ANY seasoned political player anywhere in the world, today, or through history, really BELIEVE that someone will sacrifice themselves and go down swinging for the sake of your pretty eyes? You seriously believe that the Iranians are now going “Oh wow! That Bashar is really a swell guy! Despite all the crap they throw at him, he’s going to stick by us Iranians and go down swinging. What a true friend!”
    I’m quite sure the Iranians (and everyone else) understand full well that NO ONE goes down swinging for anyone else’s sake in politics.

    And after reading HP’s comment #82, I am starting to think that may be the better explanation.
    Assad is not irrational (ala Ghaddafi), but he’s proven over the past 10 years or so that he’s not really cut out for this. He’s had a pattern of promising things that he didn’t follow through with, blackmailing, starting fires and then offering to douse them. There’s a real pattern in his behavior that I have seen over and over again of trying desperately to play both sides against the middle (and sadly, it’s never been anything but transparent to most). Look back at his promises to the US (circa Colin Powell era) vis a vis Iraq. His maneuvers towards Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Iraq, France, and everyone else. His actions have the hallmark of the guy who’s constantly trying to “pull a fast one” on his visitors…And the current interview seems cut from the exact same mold.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 7, 2011, 8:55 pm
  84. HP,

    Could be. But it is always best to overestimate your opponent than underestimate him. What do you guys think his dad Hafez would do in this situation?

    Posted by AIG | December 7, 2011, 8:56 pm
  85. AIG,

    Hafez would not be in this situation…Even if he were; times have changed! I agree with BV. There was no message to Iran. In his feeble brain he thought by sloughing off questions about massacres he would look cool and unperturbed; he projected just the opposite!
    Iran’s leaders are much too clever to be “encouraged” by Assad’s performance. He was trying to look in control while his body language, demeanor and answers laid bare his insecurity. He says he’ll be gone if he does not have the support of the people…while saying Syria is not democratic…while he is killing people at random. I had this eerie feeling that his and Nassrallah’s speechwriters dwell in the same bunker and plagiarized!

    Posted by danny | December 7, 2011, 9:07 pm
  86. …oh ya!! Alex where art thou??? Only 300 people demonstrating eh?

    Posted by danny | December 7, 2011, 9:08 pm
  87. The only purpose Bashar hoped to achieve with the Barbara Walters interview was to portray an image of civility to arouse favourable opinion. He speaks softly, in English, dons a suit and tie and maintains sensible body language. Here he is saying ” Im not like the Gaddafis of this world”, that I cant be capable of the killings. Walid Muallem and Bouthana Shaaban use the same techniques. It is a veneer pulled over the eyes of the useful idiots only. Try not to read too much into it. He is really that simplistic, its almost moronic!

    Posted by Maverick | December 7, 2011, 11:58 pm
  88. I think that most have seen either this or something similar to it but just in case:

    “Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, …psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.”

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 8, 2011, 12:51 am
  89. Thanks Ghassan. What an eloquently stated definition!
    A Google search seems to credit the wording to Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz in a 2007 Scientific American article:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-psychopath-means

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 8, 2011, 1:51 am
  90. That was a perfect description Ghassan. Very well said (or quoted)…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 8, 2011, 2:26 am
  91. Bashar’s mistakes were the following:

    He killed Syria’s Foreign Minister.

    He gave in to foreign pressure and moved his troops out of Lebanon.

    He made clear he had no stomach to stand up to Israel militarily.

    He was foolish enough to think Israel would be interested in returning the Golan for a quasi-peace deal.

    He became a non-asset to push Israel to the table with the Palestinians for a comprehensive regional peace deal.

    Obama/Clinton, the Europeans, the Arabs and the Turks understand he needs to go … and go quickly.

    It’s the only way to turn the tables on the Israelis to understand that the situation demands “some” compromise on their end.

    Hafez understood all that.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 8, 2011, 3:34 pm
  92. It’s the only way to turn the tables on the Israelis “for them” to understand that the situation demands “some” compromise on their end.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 8, 2011, 3:40 pm
  93. And Lebanon will keep on getting bitch slapped … because her “heritage” remains contested and nobody that marries her really takes her that personally.

    It’s either a marriage of convenience … or one apparently made in the foolish heat of the moment.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 8, 2011, 3:55 pm
  94. “Putin out”
    Russian spring?

    Posted by IHTDA | December 10, 2011, 2:10 pm
  95. I don’t understand why Israelis aren’t more vigorous protesting that their Govt. isn’t doing enough to suck the rest of humanity out of more Milk and Honey for their Holocaust Grandchildren … seeing how difficult it is for these kids to cope with the immensity of the crime perpetuated against their Grandparents 70 and 2000 years ago?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 1:03 pm
  96. Comment removed – QN

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 1:17 pm
  97. What does it mean to be European? Arab? American ? Chinese? Indian? Taiwanese?

    Who defines it?

    What defines it?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 1:27 pm
  98. Jewish women ?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 1:44 pm
  99. Comment removed – QN

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 1:49 pm
  100. Comment removed – QN

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 2:12 pm
  101. However, no worry.

    An Upper Lebanese Legislative Chamber will take care of all that.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 11, 2011, 2:28 pm
  102. R2D2

    Enough with the silly comments please. You’re offending people.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 11, 2011, 7:34 pm
  103. And Palestinians are an invented people.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 12, 2011, 1:58 am
  104. QN… do you anticipate posting anything on the whole nahas labor/min.wage/universal-healthcare proposal?

    Posted by TC | December 12, 2011, 3:12 am
  105. And Palestinians are an invented people.

    R2D2,

    Some people think the Jews are an invented people. Pretty silly, don’t you think?

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/09/201192614417586774.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 8:08 am
  106. I would be interested in some reactions to a post about dictatorship and occupation, if you have the time. Tnx.

    http://rationalrepublic.blogspot.com/2011/12/syrian-dictatorship-israeli-occupation.html

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 12, 2011, 11:41 am
  107. GK,

    I skipped to the last concluding paragraph (I’m impatient and I understood the issue from the title of the article):

    Syria is obviously in need of a revolution and there is nothing better than what Henry David Thoreau called “peaceable revolution” in his essay about Civil disobedience. A peaceful and non violent Syrian revolution is the best option for the Syrian uprising. I am certain that it will succeed and once it does then it would have set up another example of the efficacy and attractiveness of “civil disobedience” for the whole world in general and for the West Bank in particular. When the people ask for freedom, respect and integrity then no dictatorship can possibly deny them their intrinsic rights.

    My reaction:

    Of course, pro-Palestinians and most Arabs have always had a double-standard with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, since the rights of Palestinians were always of primary importance and the rights of Arabs in arab countries were of NO importance.

    But the times have changed:

    1.) Arabs living under Israeli occupation of much fewer and almost negligible since Gaza and most WB arabs are now living under Palestinian-controlled governments (Hamas and the PA, respectively). Palestinians living under Israeli-occupation are very few.

    2.) Israeli-Arabs have more rights than other Arabs in the ME. Just a fact.

    3.) The Arab Spring is showing the world the opposite of the myth that was established years ago: “The Arab-Israeli conflict is essential to peace in the region”. Not so. It is freedom and democracy that is … ” ” ” “.

    4.) The issue of civil disobedience is important to all peoples of all countries. Grievances always need to be addressed. In Israel and Israeli-occupied territory, civil disobediance has been accomplished several times to the benefit of the Palestinian people. Since the Palestinians are governed over-whelmingly by the Palestinians today, the remaining issue is merely, final borders. This is much different than the issues of freedom and democracy plaguing arab countries today (including Palestine), where issues of basic human rights, power-sharing and elections have yet to be realized.

    Hope this answer satisfies your curiousity!;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 12:48 pm
  108. AP,
    To be honest, I was hoping to get a reaction from you. Thanks.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 12, 2011, 1:21 pm
  109. GK,

    On QN’s website, it is always a learning experience, both Arab, Jew, and jihadist alike…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm
  110. Post #109 forgot to add: ;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 1:49 pm
  111. Obama Hypocrisy NewZ

    Another factual tidbit I’d like to share (sorry for those that hate my posts):

    Right now, Obama is holding a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    Therefore, if Obama was president instead of GWB and Obama had his way (because Obama as Senator voted AGAINST the war in Iraq from the very beginning), Iraq would still be governed by His Excellency, Saddam Hussein, and this press conference would never had happened.

    Just something to think about.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 1:56 pm
  112. Apologies to all for the hiatus. I’ve been swamped with work. I’ve got a post coming out soon at the NYT blog, which I’ll link to, and something else on electricity in Lebanon, perhaps later tonight.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 12, 2011, 3:28 pm
  113. Re 111

    Therefore, if Obama was president instead of GWB and Obama had his way :
    Iraq would still be governed by His Excellency, Saddam Hussein, and this press conference would never had happened.

    To continue your post you missed to mention that 1 million Iraqi’s would still be alive, 4000 Americans would still be alive. hundreds of thousand would not be maimed, disfigured tortured. A country would not be destroyed. Believe it or not the press conference would still have happened maybe with Different participants. Now that is something to think about…

    Posted by elsheikh | December 12, 2011, 4:05 pm
  114. Hard Pills to Swallow

    To continue your post you missed to mention that 1 million Iraqi’s would still be alive, 4000 Americans would still be alive. hundreds of thousand would not be maimed, disfigured tortured. A country would not be destroyed. Believe it or not the press conference would still have happened maybe with Different participants. Now that is something to think about…

    elsheikh,

    To correct your post,

    a.) Your death count is only off by an order of magnitude or so. I see accuracy is not one of your strong points (see link).

    b.) Deaths caused by Saddam Hussein (mass graves included) and muslim/arab insurgents are also at least an order of magnitude more than those caused by coalition and American forces.

    c.) Assuming Saddam was still in power another 10 years, there would still not be freedom, elections or power sharing and mass graves most certainly be expanding.

    But, or course, it’s always harder dying under an foreign American occupation than our beloved Arab thug and “resistance” autocrat.

    http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 5:30 pm
  115. AK,

    That kind of logic is silly. It does no one any good to go back and say “what if” as an attempt at pointing at hypocrisy. What’s done is done, and where we are today is what matters in terms of what everyone’s actions are.

    It does no one any good to say “Had the Americans never gained independence from the british, there would be no superpower USA, so there would have been no Iraq War, sure, and Saddam might still be in power today, but the germans might have won WW2, There might be several million fewer jews alive today thanks to Hitler and his cronies. And you’d be giving off your left nut to be living under a muslim brotherhood regime, as a “humane” alternative to the Nazis…And thank King George for that!

    Engaging in alternate history speculation is kinda silly.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 12, 2011, 5:48 pm
  116. AP

    really go sometime read some independent stuff. propaganda can get you so far:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORB_survey_of_Iraq_War_casualties

    As for Saddam Hussein i will be the first to NOT defend that mass murderer. Let him stay buried. Do not forget who brought him to power and who kept him in power who armed him and funded him, Who actually provided him with Chemical weapons in the first place?

    All the talk about freedom and elections and democracy would lead somebody to believe that you believe in that. However we know better

    Posted by elsheikh | December 12, 2011, 6:13 pm
  117. Engaging in alternate history speculation is kinda silly.

    Bad Vilbel,

    I think some speculation is more accurate than others. Generally I agree that this type of speculation IS usually silly. However, historians do it all the time to varying degrees.

    Certainly, having Obama standing next to the Prime Minister of Iraqi “rings hollow” when, then, Senator Obama voted vociferously (and in the minority) NOT to go to war against the Saddam Hussein regime.

    elsheikh,

    Iraqi Body Count is an anti-Bush website and the numbers they produced have been quoted by numerous objective news sources. Note, IBC does not distinguish between deaths caused by coalition forces and those committed by jihadis, insurgents, and the other mentally and socially challenged (who always seem to get a free pass by the “Arab Street”).

    Do not forget who brought him to power…

    My information shows that Saddam Hussein was your typical Arab thug who took power on a whim while whacking any opposition. No different than the Italian mafia.

    In 1979 al-Bakr started to make treaties with Syria, also under Ba’athist leadership, that would lead to unification between the two countries. Syrian President Hafez al-Assad would become deputy leader in a union, and this would drive Saddam to obscurity. Saddam acted to secure his grip on power. He forced the ailing al-Bakr to resign on 16 July 1979, and formally assumed the presidency.

    Shortly afterwards, he convened an assembly of Ba’ath party leaders on 22 July 1979. During the assembly, which he ordered videotaped (viewable via this reference[23]), Saddam claimed to have found a fifth column within the Ba’ath Party and directed Muhyi Abdel-Hussein to read out a confession and the names of 68 alleged co-conspirators. These members were labelled “disloyal” and were removed from the room one by one and taken into custody. After the list was read, Saddam congratulated those still seated in the room for their past and future loyalty. The 68 people arrested at the meeting were subsequently tried together and found guilty of treason. 22 were sentenced to execution. Other high-ranking members of the party formed the firing squad. By 1 August 1979, hundreds of high-ranking Ba’ath party members had been executed.[24][25]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddam_Hussein

    Who actually provided him with Chemical weapons in the first place?

    Weapons and chemicals are available to anyone. How they are used, is the responsibility of the owner. That includes hand guns, gas bottles, and ammonium nitrate like the type Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City bombing.

    Just because the US, Israel, and other western countries have tried various times to engage the PLO, PA, Hamas, al-Queda, Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, Hezbollah, etc doesn’t make them guilty. At least they tried.

    The guilt would be warranted if the support continued AFTER further atrocities and crimes. Sort of like continued western support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Assad today.

    All the talk about freedom and elections and democracy…

    Is occurring across the ME by Arabs. Are you telling them to “shut up”?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 9:17 pm
  118. “My information shows that Saddam Hussein was your typical Arab thug who took power on a whim while whacking any opposition. No different than the Italian mafia”.

    Yes and i you really believe that and i have a bridge i would like to sell you.

    as for the rest of your rambling post no person in his right mind would or should take the time to answer such B.S. Live in your dream world i have better things to do…

    Posted by elsheikh | December 12, 2011, 10:19 pm
  119. A World Without Zionism

    Live in your dream world i have better things to do…

    elsheikh,

    My dream world is the Arab Spring.

    What’s yours? ;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 12, 2011, 10:29 pm
  120. If you are interested in a rather detailed analysis about Saudi Arabia (60 pages) by Professor Gregory Gause for The Council on Foreign Relations then follow the below link and download a free copy.

    http://www.cfr.org/saudi-arabia/saudi-arabia-new-middle-east/p26663

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 13, 2011, 9:19 pm

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