Conspiracy Chronicles, Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon

Lessons in Medieval Campaign Finance Law

Conspiracy Chronicles series, no. 5coins

We are frequently told that these elections are the most expensive, per capita, in the history of the universe. Recently, I asked an opposition MP running for re-election how much he was spending on billboards and TV appearances.

“Well, I just can’t afford to spend the kind of money that others are spending,” he said wistfully. “I’ve got one big picture of myself on the side of a building, and that cost me a lot. The unipoles [large billboards on the side of the highway] are especially expensive, anywhere between $6000-9000 each, for the campaign season.”

Where’s all of this money coming from? In the case of March 14th, there’s an assumption among Lebanese that Saudi Arabia is footing the bill. What about for the FPM?

“Well, candidates are expected to finance their own campaigns, but also to make a contribution to the overall bloc. Of course, not everyone can pay the same amount,” the MP continued.

So how does the FPM pick up the slack? For enlightenment on these matters, I turned to my friend Hussein, who keeps a close eye on opposition relations.

“So what do you think, Hussein? Who’s funding the FPM campaign? Wealthy candidates? Rich Lebanese abroad? Qatar? Dubai? Iran?”

Hussein flashed one of his signature smirks. “Who’s funding it? Please… Obviously the Hizb is funding it.”

“Hizbullah is paying for the FPM campaign?”

“Of course. Do you think the FPM has that kind of money?”

“Ok… but how is that different from saying that Iran is funding it?”

Hussein gave me a weary look. “Iran does not fund Hizbullah. Whoever told you such a silly thing?”

“Umm… It doesn’t?”

“No. Iran, as a state, does not give us any money at all.”

“So where does your money come from?”

“The khums, of course.” (Hussein is referring to the one-fifth share of the spoils of war and other income, a kind of tithe whose payment is deemed a religious duty within both Sunni and Shiite doctrine).

“Ahh yes, the khums, how could I forget?”

“We don’t get our money from Iran, but rather from the worldwide Shiite community.”

“Ok, but it still is more or else channeled through Iran, right?”

“Not through the state. It’s channeled through the office of the highest religious authority (marja`).”

“Which one?”

“Ayatollah Khamenei of course.”

“Ok, so let me get this straight. You are saying that the FPM campaign is not being funded by Iran.”

“Of course not. That would be preposterous.”

“Fair enough. So it’s actually being funded by the tithes collected from the worldwide Shiite umma via the intermediaries of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and Hizbullah?”

“Naturally.”

“Alrighty then.”

“What, you don’t believe me?”

“Seems like kind of a stretch.”

Hussein smiled, patted me on the shoulder, and walked away.
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Discussion

46 thoughts on “Lessons in Medieval Campaign Finance Law

  1. If the opposition MP only got one meager poster of himself on the side a building, then he’s not financed at all! Or the Shiite umma just went broke… 🙂

    Posted by Joujolie | May 14, 2009, 3:54 pm
  2. Funny post, yet, if true, is indicative of the self-delusion that most Lebanese practice. A point of order however: The ‘Khoms’, as opposed to the ‘Zakat’, is the domain of the Shiit sect of Islam. It is paid -or supposed to be paid by those able- over and above the requirement of ‘Zakat’ stipulated in the Qura’an. The ‘Khoms’ is a ‘contribution’ to the Profit Mohammad’s offspring (i.e. the children and grandchildren of Fatima & Ali) towards their keep and to ‘spread the word of true Islam’. To simlify it further, the ‘Khums’ is supposed to be ‘donated’ to the ‘Sayyids’ (marked by the black turban worn by religious leaders such as Hassan Nassrallah for example). That said, I know of many ‘civilian Sayyids’ who annually tour the Gulf contries for example collecting ‘what is due to them’ in terms of ‘Khums’ from Shiit communities there.

    In essence, I guess what I wanted to say is that the practice of ‘Khums’ is not islamically universal.

    Cheers

    Posted by Question Marks | May 14, 2009, 4:41 pm
  3. uhuhm, If it cost that much per billboard, Im guessing the FPM has more than one freindly Philanthropist. I mustve spotted hundreds in my area alone. Unless offcourse they own presses and avertising agencies.

    Posted by Maverick | May 14, 2009, 6:47 pm
  4. The FPM work with advertising agencies, as do all the others parties. (I used to work in advertising in Beirut and so I can probably find out which ad agency works for which party, although I already have a general idea I’d rather double check). Advertising agencies work with print shops and media agencies all year through and can secure reduced fees as part of bigger deals (general bartering, you scratch my back I scratch yours kind of deals). The more billboards they use, incidentally, the lower the price paid by billboard. The people who usually end up paying most are independents, who don’t have a constant need for media services.

    Posted by Joujolie | May 14, 2009, 9:25 pm
  5. I am now a firm believer that Harvard University can produce better Sheikhs of Islam than what the Muslims themselves know about their religion and perhaps better than some known Muslim institutions of learning.

    QN (Dr. Muhanna) has shown better understanding of Islamic tenets than “Question Marks” (see Comment #2 above). Of course we don’t know what “Question Marks’ credentials are or whether he is actually a Muslim. His comment on the subjects of Khums and Zakat clearly indicates an interest at least. But whatever sources he is relying upon are clearly inaccurate. My proof follows.

    QN said, “The khums, of course.” (Hussein is referring to the one-fifth share of the spoils of war and other income, a kind of tithe whose payment is deemed a religious duty within both Sunni and Shiite doctrine).”

    Question Marks said, “A point of order however: The ‘Khoms’, as opposed to the ‘Zakat’, is the domain of the Shiit sect of Islam. It is paid -or supposed to be paid by those able- over and above the requirement of ‘Zakat’ stipulated in the Qura’an. The ‘Khoms’ is a ‘contribution’ to the Profit Mohammad’s offspring (i.e. the children and grandchildren of Fatima & Ali)”

    The Qur’an which is the book of ALL Muslims says in Ch. 8 V. 1, “They ask you about Al-Anfal (the spoils of war). Say: “Al-Anfal are for Allah and the Messenger.” So have Taqwa of Allah and settle all matters of difference among you, and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you are believers.”

    The Qur’an also says in Ch. 8 V. 41, “And know that whatever of war booty that you may gain, verily, one-fifth of it is assigned to Allah, and to the Messenger, and to the near relatives (of the Messenger), the orphans, the poor, and the wayfarer, if you have believed in Allah and in that which We sent down to Our servant on the Day of Criterion, the Day when the two forces met; and Allah is able to do all things.”

    It is clear from the above that the Khums (or spoils of war) is prescribed upon ALL the Muslims when they gain those spoils, and the Khums should go the Prophet, the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer. The Muslims used to deliver the Khums to the Baitu al-Mal (Ministry of Finance) and it used to be delivered by the State according to the Qur’an’s commandment as above. The Zakat on the other hand used to be collected based on a certain percentage the Muslim’s property and profits (about 2.5%) and it used to also go to the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, QN’s interpretation is correct and “Question Marks” comment is false.

    “Question Marks” also claims that those who wear a black turban are descendants of the Prophet. He did not provide an evidence to support his claim, and such evidence actually doesn’t exist, try as you may. It is well known that Muhammad is the one and only person in history who has acquired the greatest claims of kinship even though he did not leave a male descendant behind him! Furthermore, there is nothing in the Qur’an or anywhere else in the authentic traditions which give the household of the Prophet (meaning Ali and his descendants in how the Shia interpret the term even though Muhammad had several daughters besides Fatima) any special status in Islam except that of respect earned based on the quality of the Taqwa that the person may or may not have. For as the Prophet said to his own daughter, the wife of Ali, “O’ Fatima, your father will not avail you of anything on that Day.” And he also said, “If it comes to my attention that Fatima has committed an act of theft, I’ll be the one to cut off her hand.” In fact Abu Bakr, when he succeeded Muhammad, even refused at first to give an inheritance of the only piece of land owned by the Prophet that was bequeathed upon him by a Jewish convert to Islam who died in battle, on the basis that Muhammad had said: “Prophets do not leave inheritances. Every thing they leave behind goes to charity.” Abu Bakr only gave in to Fatima’s request when she told him that he had caused her much anger and that her father had also said:”Whoever angers Fatima angers the angels.” He consulted with Ali about this dilemma who advised him to give Fatima the piece of Land, and Abu Bakr only agreed to do so after Ali promised Abu Bakr that he (Ali) will answer on his behalf on the promised Day.

    Posted by mike | May 14, 2009, 9:39 pm
  6. Actually, I know from personal sources that the FPM is funded by a few wealthy individuals. I happen to know some of them by acquaintance. I am pretty sure that the FPM campaign is not financed by Hezbollah.

    Posted by Nidal | May 14, 2009, 10:37 pm
  7. Mike impressed me with the level of his research, to a point that is, more about which will follow.

    First to answer his burning question about religious disposition, I say that I am a Moslem by birth and later on by interest; not an expert, as he correctly intimated.

    I said I was impressed with the level of research when I read the quotes from the Qur’an he relayed to us. Yes, Mike is correct in the fact that I didn’t quote my source when assuming a difference between ‘Khoms’ and ‘Zakat’. However, Mike seems to have fallen in the same trap when elaborating on the episode pertaining to Fatima, Abu Bakr and Ali. It sounds to me, the non-expert observer, that the episode referred to may well be a part of the rhetoric between the two Islamic sects, Sunni and Shiite, in their attempt to add credence and historical (and dare I add political) legitimacy to ones stance.

    As to the black turban, Mike could have his own perception/belief about the issue, however the fact remains that both Sunnis and Shiites recognise a ‘Sayyed’ -a male descendant of the prophet through the offspring of Fatima (his daughter) and Ali- from his attire, namely the black turban.

    That said, I stand corrected and declare that I learned something new today, and hope for more every day, especially when Mike enlighten me as to the source from where he depicted the conversations that took place between Mohammad and his daughter Fatima, as well as that between the Khalifat Abu Bakr and Ali.

    Cheers

    Posted by Question Marks | May 14, 2009, 10:40 pm
  8. Question Mark,

    This is not the proper forum where such topics should be discussed. The references that I have for those episodes I mentioned are not close by. I left them behind quite a while ago in Lebanon. I now live very far away. But they are authentic and I am sure with a little research on your part, since you said you have the interest, or perhaps with the help of others you can find them.

    The subject of the main post of QN is not zakat or khums. It is the medieval nature which the financing of this election campaign has assumed. Hence, the use of khums and zakat in the justification for the financing of the campaign is what brought this discussion of medieval politics. I felt compelled to make corrections to your comment despite the fact that it clearly strays outside the main subject. Your claims were so unjustifiable that I felt they should not be left without correction.

    To recognize a ‘sayyid’ (which to you means a descendant of the Prophet) from his attire is perhaps the most naïve belief that any faith can come up with. The well known fact is Muhammad, as I said in my previous comment, is the one and only person in history who can boast (if he is still among us) of the greatest number of claims of kinship, and they are mostly false. Ali’s household does not represent a dynasty from the Prophet, despite the respect that he (Ali) and his sons command from all the Muslims, and certainly no more so than Othman’s progeny who had the privilege of marrying two of the Prophet’s daughters (not at the same time of course). Furthermore, your assertion that this khums, which according to the Qur’an is a spoil of war, should be paid to such ‘sayyids’ lacks any means of justification based on the Qur’an itself. If khums is a spoil of war, how could such ‘sayyids’ tour the Gulf or other places to ask for khums money? Which war were they engaged in and which spoils did they gain to pay one fifth (khums) of it to such impostors? This is contrary to the Qur’an itself and we are not talking about any other source here. So these so-called ‘sayyids’ are actually as fake as their claim of kinship to the Prophet, and I can assure you that Hassan Nasrallah (with all due respect) first and foremost is as far away from such kinship as Mussaylama.

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 12:47 am
  9. More on election money.

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 1:57 am
  10. All the political parties are using their over seas networks to collect money and raise funds, The FPM has been doing this in Australia for the past two years, a close friend gets dragged (kicking and screaming) to these events by his wife ( a rabid FPM supporter)

    We have also had visits by sitting politicians from M14 in the last twelve months, from both sides of the sectarian divide ( promising free flights etc to get back to vote etc).

    You have to love elections!

    Posted by Enlightened | May 15, 2009, 2:40 am
  11. QN:

    Just a question from an American who knows nothing about Lebanon aside from your blog and the Angry Arab: (evidently Rafik Hariri is also called Mini-Hariri or Xbox Hariri, that much counts for something, right? Thanks Dr AbuKhalil!) namely, if what Hussein says is true, the opposition is funded by the shia ummah via Khomeini, how is that any different in truth than “Iran funds the opposition?” If someone could explain the salient difference I’d be very much obliged.

    Posted by Andrew | May 15, 2009, 2:49 am
  12. Andrew,
    What Hussein is trying to say is that Khamenei in addition to being the supreme leader of Iran is also like the wali-faqih of what QN called “Shia ummah” which transcends the State of Iran. Those Shia who believe in the concept of wali-faqih (rule of the learned jurisprudent, which in this case is Khamenei) can easily accept this even if it contradicts their allegiance to their home state. Hassan Nasrallah was able to sell this concept to a sizeable part of the Shia of Lebanon. He succeeded in doing this through the money that he receives from Iran. But Hussein paints this money with a ‘pseudo-Islamic’ paint under the guise of money collected through zakat and khums, two Islamic forms of tithe, from Shia other than and not exclusive to the people of Iran.

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 5:06 am
  13. Andrew,
    To make a point that Mike did not, Hussein was saying that the money does not come from the Iranian government’s budget. And although QN thinks this is a stretch, it is probably accurate. I have not followed Iran as closely as I should (too, I have not followed Lebanon as closely as I should), I do know that there is a fair amount of transparency in Iran’s budgeting process, and the budget is vigorously debated in the Iranian parliament every year. Although Hizbullah is popular in the government circles in Iran, if a mass amount of money was going to Hizbullah, it would be something of a scandal. So, it makes sense that individual donors give money to Hizbullah through the clerical establishment.

    Mike,
    Of course we know you have a lot of hostility to Hizbullah, and that is fine. But it seems unnecessary to vent your hostility via a religious discussion…

    Posted by Joe M. | May 15, 2009, 6:39 am
  14. Joe M,
    Thanks for the remark. What you see as a hostility is actually another point of view which could be quite different than yours but not necessarily hostile. My response to “Qustion Marks” was forced by his own misrepresentations, and I don’t see how you can address that without discussing religion. I did make the remark (in 8 above) that his original comment (in 2 above) strayed off subject. With all due respect to your point of view, your concerns of your last address to me are redundant and have no basis.

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 7:34 am
  15. Ya shabab (wa Sitt JouJolie)

    This wasn’t meant to be a discussion of khums/zakat, Sunnis/Shi`a etc. but I’ve been quite entertained.

    Andrew, Angry Arab refers to Saad Hariri (not Rafiq) as mini-Hariri. As for your question, I think others have clarified the distinction. The point is that Hizbullah’s budget comes from the religious authorities in Iran, not the government itself. So, for example, if someone other than Ahmadinejad wins the election on June 12, this will not necessarily compromise HA’s funding.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 15, 2009, 10:20 am
  16. Two questions:

    1) Has anyone been experiencing problems viewing the blog? (I’ve gotten one report of something strange happening, like multiple windows opening etc.)

    2) Someone suggested to me that we create a Facebook group for the blog, so that people who are in the same town can connect with each other, on the basis of an interest in things Lebanese, etc. Is this a dumb idea? Feel free to comment here or send me a note at qifablog at gm@il d0t c0m.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 15, 2009, 10:23 am
  17. Mike,
    In No. 8 above as well as other posts by you, one cannot but detect, indeed be shocked by Such hostility, denial of other’s opinions and, to my disappointment sectarian hostility. I will elaborate:

    It was you, sir that brought up the need to support one’s narrative with available references and reliable quotes. I accepted that argument as the way to hold a debate that could be informative, and based on that canvassed you to enlighten us about the source of alleged conversations you narrated that seem, at least to you, of historical importance. To say that the references were left behind by you in Lebanon long ago but still insist on its reliability is far from being a forceful support of your point of view. The same could be said about you shifting the burden of proof onto others to substantiate your own argument.

    In paragraph 2 of 8 above, I wonder why you felt obliged to repeat yourself, with a measure of venom, about the need to set the record straight re ‘Khoms’ and ‘Zakat’. I already conceded the point, in the light of you quoting a learned scholar’s references from the Qur’an. One cannot but wonder why!

    You started your contribution no.8 by “This is not the proper forum where such topics should be discussed”, yet you took upon yourself in paragraph 3 to do just the opposite. You exerted so much energy, albeit negative, in this paragraph as to be very close to dismissing, indeed demonising the beliefs of millions of people around the world who are of a disposition and conviction that are clearly not the flavour of this month -or any month, it is clear- for you.

    I read my initial post trying to find out whether I was defending the use of ‘Khoms’ in the financing of the election, but alas, couldn’t find any. I started wondering why the repetitive sharpness in your tonality. My light hearted mention of some laymen taking advantage of the ‘Khoms’ to avail themselves of some financial resources, was not by way of agreeing to such practice, but simply a reference that this practice does take place. There was no position there, for or against.

    I will heed your call above that “This is not the proper forum where such topics should be discussed” and refrain from debating the accuracy of the comparisons between Ali, Othman and others who could be mentioned; this kind of comparison requires a framework i.e. are we comparing them on basis of deity, statesmanship, swordsmanship or other criteria.

    What I will allude to with abundant sadness and disappointment however, is the attempt to demonise a person, and by reference a substantial majority of your -and my- compatriots no less as the case here is, who follow that person, by mentioning his name in association with a personality, real or imagined, that is detested by Moslems the world over, namely Mousaylima who for those who are not familiar with this character is considered by Moslems, Shiites and Sunnis alike as the embodiment of evil who declared himself, falsely according to Islamic folklore, messiah/messenger of God .

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | May 15, 2009, 10:48 am
  18. QN, i’d be up for a facebook group, why not. those who don’t want another source of electronic and other distractions can just stay away from it.

    mike, the tone of your posts is not exactly growing on me since you made your first appearance in the comment section of this blog. last time we checked, this was not supposed to be a propaganda forum to host the views of certain christians within M14. your replies to question mark indeed sound inappropriate and are, on top of that, about something that clearly was not the point of any argument made.

    QN, which arabic word did hussein use for ‘preposterous’? 🙂

    Posted by bint abeeha | May 15, 2009, 11:24 am
  19. Luckily our two frends are NOT in the same town…not even in the same FB group!

    Lebanon is a house with many rooms indeed…with at least one elephant in each one of them!

    Posted by mj | May 15, 2009, 11:27 am
  20. Now seriously, dear QN, could you please shed some light on the Constitutional Council stalemate?

    Posted by mj | May 15, 2009, 11:47 am
  21. QN & Others,

    While Ahmadinejad is the President of Iran, i wouldn’t ignore the fact that his position is not where the buck stops. The Supreme Leader is not only the highest ranking religious authority but also political one. Khoemini appoints “the heads of many powerful posts – the commanders of the armed forces, the director of the national radio and television network, the heads of the major religious foundations, the prayer leaders in city mosques, and the members of national security councils dealing with defence and foreign affairs. He also appoints the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, special tribunals and, with the help of the chief judge, the 12 jurists of the Guardian Council – the powerful body that decides both what bills may become law and who may run for president or parliament.”

    So I believe your statement “The point is that Hizbullah’s budget comes from the religious authorities in Iran, not the government itself. So, for example, if someone other than Ahmadinejad wins the election on June 12, this will not necessarily compromise HA’s funding.” is inaccurate. I would compare Ahmedinijads position with that of Prime Minister in an absolute monarchy (like Jordan) but with more public exposure becaus Iran’s “King” is camera shy.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | May 15, 2009, 11:52 am
  22. Innocent Criminal,

    What part of QN’s statement are you saying is inaccurate? It seems like you are agreeing that Khameini holds enough sway to keep the dollars flowing.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 15, 2009, 2:18 pm
  23. We’re talking about Hezbollah here, a group famous for violence not transparency and openness. At best, Hussein was obfuscating, more likely he was being dishonest.

    Tony Badran’ latest blog post, on the May 13, relates to this topic.

    Posted by Chris | May 15, 2009, 5:32 pm
  24. QN:

    Ah, of course I meant Saad and not Rafik. One bottle of arak and mistakes like that start piling up.

    And thanks all for the explanation. QN, you mention that Hizbullah’s funding won’t be compromised if Ahmadinejad loses the election, but would a more moderate president want to decrease support for the hizb, or even be able to if he did?

    Posted by Andrew | May 15, 2009, 6:09 pm
  25. Did you forget to provide a link to Tony Badran’s article Chris? It is, in fact, very informative and clearly shows that Hezb is a tool in the hand of the Supreme Leader in Qom.

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 6:45 pm
  26. Question Marks,
    Without going into elaborate and convoluted forms of speech, could you please make clear to us your position on Hassan Nasrallah vis. a vis. the Lebanese State represented by the current establishment, i.e. President, Government, Parliament, Laws, Media, Army, etc…?
    In particular, is Hassan Nasrallah, in your view, above the Lebanese Law and answerable only to the Wali Faqih of Qom? In other words if he was found to violate certain laws of the Lebanese State, or was found to act or to have already acted against the higher National interests of Lebanon, should he be subject to arrest and brought forward in front of a court for prosecution as is the case in every civilized country on this planet?

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 8:27 pm
  27. Question Marks,
    I do not intend to revisit the previous discussion. But just because you accuse me of not supporting my narration (due to no fault of mine living where I live, I had to make overseas calls and get the sources just to answer you), I give you two references from which you can follow and satisfy yourself and your quest for research. Please see Ibn Sa’d a known 9’th century scholar. Also, see the well known Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari.
    Regards

    Posted by mike | May 15, 2009, 8:46 pm
  28. Abraham,

    He said “The point is that Hizbullah’s budget comes from the religious authorities in Iran, not the government itself.”

    This might be interperted as if Ahmedinijad is the true head of the political system and Khomeini is the head of the religious one only. I am sure he didnt mean to, I am just highlighting the fact that Khomeini is not only more senior than the President because religion is superior to the executive branch in Iran but also because the iranian legal system actually gives The Supreme Leader more Executive powers as well. So Khomeini is the true head of the government as well

    hope that makes sense now

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | May 16, 2009, 10:13 am
  29. Instead of spending huge amount of money on elections, they probably should help people who are in need.
    It is a shame how they keep lecturing the masses about making the right thing and elect/re-elect them to make a change.

    Posted by greekanese | May 16, 2009, 4:30 pm
  30. It’s Khamenei, not Khomeini. The latter died two decades ago. 🙂

    Posted by Nidal | May 16, 2009, 4:47 pm
  31. oops sorry, not that there is a big difference between the two 😉

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | May 16, 2009, 5:48 pm
  32. Back to the original topic of the post, FPM’s money comes from, in order of magnitude, Iran via Hizballah, Qatar, and wealthy hardline Christian expats. This is purely in my opinion based on anecdotal observations. Hizballah uses carrots and sticks (the Sayyed reminded us of the sticks yesterday)in implementing its politics. With the FPM and Aoun, the Hizb is using carrots (funding and parliamentary seats) FOR NOW. The elephant in the room, and I hope QN you can write a detailed post on it, is what will happen to FPM, the Hizb’s current ally, if they (FPM, Aoun) ever disagree with Hizballah. Will Rabieh ( Gen Aoun current area of residence) fare much better than west Beirut when Nasrrallah’s former ally, Hariri, dared to disagree with Mr. Nasrallh.
    I think this point was not lost on the editors at Tayyar.org today as you can NOT find a trace of Mr Nasrrallah’s fiery speech from yesterday even though it is the talk of everybody this morning. Perhaps the the people Mr Nassrallah was referring to as those who should learn a lesson from May 7, 2008 are not March 14 after all.
    QN – I am awaiting a post on Mr Nasrrallah speech, would love to hear your take on it.

    Posted by MM | May 16, 2009, 7:21 pm
  33. bint abeeha,

    if I recall correctly he said “3ajeeb w ghareeb”

    MM,

    I only caught the highlights from SHN’s speech. I was frankly a little surprised that he brought up May 7. It seems that the Future Movement’s billboards have touched a nerve.

    I have no good answer to your question about if/how the FPM will deal with the Hizb in areas of disagreement. (But I’m working on a post about a conversation with someone along these lines).

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 16, 2009, 9:47 pm
  34. Good points MM,
    Im sure Nasrallahs glorification of May7 was not intended to win over election voices, but to let everyone know who calls the shots in the coming post election period, regardless of the low number of seats HA has in parliament. Its intended for M14 as it is to Amal/FPM.

    Posted by Maverick | May 16, 2009, 10:53 pm
  35. Like QN I was somewhat surprised that SHN chose to bring up the subject of 7th May. However upon reflecting on the segments of the speech relevant to that particular issue, and having first hand knowledge of the general attitudes among the rank and file of the Hizb and the opposition in general, I felt I understand what drove SHN to venture into a potentially explosive area a few days before the elections.

    It is not a well kept secret that opposition public opinion, including a substantial (some allege influential) minority within the Hizb itself have become less convinced of the wisdom of not engaging in public serious debate about the happenings of that day. This sense of injustice was exacerbated recently when M14 launched wide scale public campaign that reached its apex on 7 May during an election speech by MP Sa’ad Hariri, which some observers perceived as a breach of the ‘understanding to use calm political rhetoric’ reached between SHN and MP Hariri during their last meeting (MP Walid Jumblat made sure the morning after the speech to stress that as far as he is concerned the ‘entente’ still persist).

    The way I see it is that SHN wanted to achieve a bundle of objectives, and as usual has calculated his speech nuances to manifest these objectives. On the one hand, he felt the time has come for the Hizb, and the opposition in general to articulate their view of what precipitated the ‘crisis’, namely the perceived attempt at disarming the ‘resistance’ of what SHN claimed to be “its number one weapon” being its telecommunications infrastructure, and comparing its threat to Israel as stipulated by the Wenograd post 2006 war report, with the Lebanese government’s attempt to impede it. He went about doing this utilising the simplest of terms using a logic that is quite straight forward that has a good chance of resonating amongst ordinary people. What aided his argument, and possibly might well lessen the impact on public opinion of the inevitable backlash, is the sobering saga of alleged Israeli agents discovered by the Lebanese military and security authorities in the last few weeks (I believe three have been before the court and have been found guilty as charged).

    It remains to be seen whether SHN’s speech would translate to more votes from Sunnis for M8 come 7 June. That said, it was a quite a touch on behalf of SHN when he signalled out the “young men imported from Akkar and Biq’a” for being “brave and dependable” and that these qualities would have been clear if they were thrust against Israel. What is sure, however is that it would be welcomed by a vast majority of M8 public opinion.

    The logical progression was indeed ‘rehabilitating’ the occasion of 7 may from ‘murderous misadventure’ to a “glorious” day in the life of the ‘resistance’ comparable with other such occasions.

    I remain to be convinced as to the wisdom behind SHN alluding to threats by sarcastically asserting that he is happy that they (M15) will not forget the crisis (a clear reference to a media campaign widely used in Lebanon saying, and I am paraphrasing, that ‘we will not forget so long as the sky remains blue (corporate colour of Mustaqbal). Granted, he did qualify his statement by saying that this (not forgetting) would make sure that the “idiocies” (ministerial decision to outlaw the main weapon possessed by the Hizb) that preceded the crisis would not be pursued again.

    I am still not sure, though.

    QN
    I would love to know your take on the ‘discovery’ of so many Lebanese co-operating with Israeli security authorities from a domestic political perspective as well as the more serious matter, I believe, of the security dynamic in the region and the prospect of renewal of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.

    Cheers

    Posted by Question Marks | May 17, 2009, 12:55 am
  36. Hassan Nasrallah has just delivered a message from Khamenei to the region through Lebanon in his latest speech. Khamenei recently voiced serious criticism to countries in the region similar to the nonsense normally used by Nasrallah – the well known diatribes of so-called treason and subservience to America. The whole speech was organized on an occasion that is not in its season yet – graduating students from colleges and universities.

    Nasrallah in this latest speech is burying the Doha pre-emptively as well as the election results. It is a clear message of a threat both to the local theatre (Lebanon) and from there to the region.

    He avoided mentioning the real problem of the installed cameras on the visitors’ tarmac of the airport which is a gross and obvious violation of the sovereignty of the State, as well as a clear indication that some officers are receiving orders from the Hezb rather than the National military command.

    Iran and Syria are very disappointed by President Obama. They are now convinced the new American President has only changed in oration but not in substance as compared to Bush – Hence the attack by Kahmenei on some regional powers and the follow up by Nasrallah.

    Hoss, Miqati, Siniora, Hariri, Karami and few others all came out today with words of condemnation, rage against and criticism of Nasrallah. Obviously, Nasrallah is not interested in winning votes for the election from. He is faithfully following the edicts of his handler in Qom. Expect trouble after May 7.

    Posted by mike | May 17, 2009, 5:05 am
  37. Nasrala’s threats could also be a message in response to Prez Suli’s latest “fo pa” (excuse my french)!!

    Posted by V | May 17, 2009, 7:26 am
  38. Agree V. Your French is execused as France made it clear already: Sul’s a red line. Whatever that means when it come to it.

    Just one small correction. I meant June 7 not May 7 at the end of my previous comment.

    Posted by mike | May 17, 2009, 8:24 am
  39. Hassan Nasrallah a href=” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsRH7YNH_gA“> May 7 Glorious Day Video With English Subtitles</a

    Posted by mike | May 17, 2009, 9:40 am
  40. well i am against aoun and hizballah and all these garbige people but i want them to win the election just for the fact that the lebanese economy will be derainged and no one will invest in lebanon because all the christians who are coting for aoun desrve to have a bad economy

    Posted by immigrant | May 18, 2009, 5:14 am
  41. Isn’t the economy bad enough? Can it get worse than that?

    Posted by Nidal | May 18, 2009, 9:16 am
  42. Nidal,

    Yes, the economy is pretty bad, with nearly $50bn in external debt … and yes it could worse in the absence of any real -declared at least- strategy to build the national economy on solid productive grounds rather than the service economy that we have abused for decades, and one that has almost annihilated the middles-class and widened the gap between rich and poor to unprecedented proportions. It is a miracle, really, that the worsening economic situation did not spill into social strife since the 90s. This is one of the blessings of having a sectarian, tribal society dressed, very flimsily I might add, in the guise of ‘glorious democracy’.

    Immigrant:

    While I respect your right to have a political view because it is incumbent on every ‘real and concerned’ citizen to be involved in political discourse for the betterment of his country, I am at loss as to understand how one can wish his country ill in order for one to express his/her political views.

    On a related note, I do not believe that, in the short term at least, the economy would change much as a direct result of the elections irrespective of who wins. There are some people out there who have already invested a great deal of resources, monetary as well as in other ways, in the country, and consequently would be inclined to follow through. Yes some would elect to cut their losses and turn to pastures greener, but looking at the scene from a strategically and political perspective, I do not feel that an unstable Lebanon would be be condoned by nay of the major players, regionally and internationally, with the sole exception of Israel, that is. If you are counting on further economic hardships as a result of the current parliamentary minority becoming a majority after 7 June, I would propose that you somewhere else to convince people to vote this way or the other, and there is plenty there to ponder.

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | May 18, 2009, 12:38 pm
  43. Immigrant

    I am glad that you want the current opposition to win irrespective of your opinion of HA and the Tayyar. I wish there are many like you.

    Question Mark

    As a matter of fact over 60% of the %50bn public debt is internal. Moreover, a big chuck of the $30bn has been subscribed by few banks (close to the current government) at high return.
    Once the current opposition takes over the government the $30bn should be negotiated down to $10bn at most.
    The other external debt should be refinanced at much lower inertest rate.
    Even without any reform, the government budget will balance.
    However, both structural & parametric reform is needed to ensure a Just Social Program in Lebanon.
    Much more could be said at later date.

    For the record, as the Lebanese were getting poorer the Ruling Party was getting richer.

    Posted by i.e. Lubnan | May 18, 2009, 1:18 pm
  44. i.e Lubnan

    Point taken, thank you. I wouldn‘t argue with how the debt is split, although your assertion that more than 50% of the debt is sourced from domestic banks is encouraging for a better, less debt-laden future. I will agree with you wholeheartedly however that a very small well-placed minority have been benefiting for decades while the masses at large are paying the price, in more ways than one.

    There is no doubt, I maintain, of the need for reform in our country. I do warn however of reforming one sector i.e. financial while disregarding others. Reform has to be general and comprehensive, covering sectors such as the judiciary social areas, just to name a couple.

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | May 18, 2009, 2:14 pm
  45. @All Y’all

    That is certainly a lot of books, which I’ll get into as soon as I can. As soon as I bury my father. Which I’m not entirely sure why I’m sharing with a gaggle of total strangers on a blog about Lebanon, but whatever. I’m drunk right now. I’m afforded certain liberties.

    Posted by Andrew | May 23, 2009, 7:15 am
  46. In response to Mike’s early post regarding QN’s comments concerning khums, it is inaccurate. Khums is a domain of the Shiah Ithna Ashari. While the Qur’an commands it which is the Shia contention, it is meant for in his absence his near descendants. It would be those descendants of Ali & Fatima as clealy defined in mutawwatir hadith found in Sahih Muslim, Tirmidhi, and numerous others. So Mike, in response, while Harvard may be able to provide good education on Islam and perhaps the Shiah, you have to live this, love this and learn this to understand this. There’s much more to be said but you may contact me at my e-mail address. Take care and may Allah bless.

    Posted by Djibril Sankofa | December 8, 2009, 10:13 am

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