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

Coalition of the Unwilling

bestfriends4everI have a short piece over at ForeignPolicy.com‘s “The Argument” blog about the cabinet formation. Here are the first couple of paragraphs, with a link to the rest. Come on back and comment, if you’re so inclined.

Coalition of the Unwilling

By Elias Muhanna

When the March 14 coalition won a parliamentary majority in Lebanon’s national election two weeks ago, there was much crowing and backslapping heard the world over. The United States, Europe, and the Sunni Arab regimes hailed the result as a victory for Lebanon’s “moderates” and a defeat for the allies of Syria and Iran — foremost among them Hezbollah. After a campaign season full of bleak predictions about March 14’s electoral prospects and indeed its political future, the result gave the coalition a much-needed shot in the arm and put to rest, if only temporarily, any doubts about its governing mandate.

Now comes the hard part. Consultations to choose a prime minister and form a cabinet have run aground on a shoal of familiar disputes. Although Saad Hariri (son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) has widespread support to become the next premier, the parceling out of ministerial portfolios is a much trickier task, due largely to the opposition’s demand for a veto-wielding share of the cabinet. Without a “one-third-plus-one” proportion of cabinet seats, Hezbollah and its allies have said that they might simply boycott the government altogether, leaving March 14 to govern alone.

In a country other than Lebanon, such a state of affairs wouldn’t necessarily be cause for concern in the eyes of the ruling coalition. However, the nature of the Lebanese political system mandates that all of the country’s sectarian communities be represented within government, and so the absence of parties like Hezbollah and Amal — who command overwhelming support among Lebanese Shiites — would seem to be a contravention of the spirit of consociationalism embodied by the Lebanese Constitution.

(Read the rest)
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Discussion

31 thoughts on “Coalition of the Unwilling

  1. “to navigate the political wilderness without a satisfactory constitutional road map”

    The constitution is very clear on how a government should be formed. It has to include all confessions, but not all political parties (or militias). It also requires the confidence of a simple majority in parliament, not the street.
    We are all aware of HA’s capacity to shift the balance of power by force, but that would be illegal.
    The issue at hand is not the ambiguity of the constitution, it is how far do we go in the appeasement of HA. They have the guns, and they are willing to use them. Should these precedents, established under the threat of violence, become enshrined in the consititution? Or better yet, should the “1/3 plus one” formula be our Sudetenland?

    Posted by Blacksmith Nick | June 24, 2009, 10:31 am
  2. QN says it so:

    “In a way, then, the debate about the veto is essentially a debate about the viability of Lebanon’s current political system, raising questions about how consensus-based decision-making can coexist with an effective executive mandate, and how the interests of confessional minorities might be preserved under the tyranny of political majorities”

    The first question is surely rhetorical. Consociational political systems do not make for effective executive mandates. Consociational policies act like crude ‘holding pools’; they are supposedly the answer to sectarian conflict but simply act to protect this sectarianism in a political form. This is because they entrench horizontal inequalities in the political system. Warring politicians representative of their sect use their position in the consociational system to win political settlements for ‘their people’ at the expense of those who are not. Eventually this becomes a mandate, not for an effective executive, but for civil conflict, as regional, sectarian and religious disparities are fomented.

    The second question is intriguing in the event of QN’s earlier reminder that the political majority and popular majority are not one and the same thing in Lebanon. In the Lebanese system it seems that gerrymandering (much to Ghazi Kanan’s chagrin no doubt) continues to be successful at protecting Lebanon’s most prolific minority – i.e. the Maronites, not that they are particular quick to admit to that one.

    Accordingly, some might argue that with Sunnis and Maronite heading up the M14 coalition that Lebanon is fast becoming the a tyranny of a coalition of minorities. Another stick to chew then?

    The Medlar

    Posted by The Medlar | June 24, 2009, 11:29 am
  3. “As long as the Lebanese continue to navigate the political wilderness without a satisfactory constitutional road map, they will have to depend on outside powers to help show them the way.”

    Is there absolutely zero chance of setting up an independent judiciary that will interpret the constitution?

    Posted by AIG | June 24, 2009, 1:10 pm
  4. Welcome to Blacksmith Nick and The Medlar…. some great points.

    I’ll try to re-join the conversation in a bit, but in the meantime, here’s what the Constitution has to say about the formation of the cabinet (article 95.3)

    “During the transitional phase [i.e. prior to abolishing political confessionalism]:
    a. The confessional groups are to be represented in a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the Cabinet.”

    Just to play devil’s advocate, might one not suggest that several non-Hizb/Amal Shiite cabinet members don’t represent their confessional group in a just and equitable fashion, given the overwhelming support of Shiites for Hizb/Amal in this election?

    Of course, nothing is said about a veto.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 24, 2009, 7:14 pm
  5. QN,

    “Veto Politics” was the subject of a Byzantine-style argument among the Lebanese in the past 4 years. I hope we won’t spend the next 4 years arguing about it.

    According to article 95.3, “…The confessional groups are to be represented in a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the Cabinet…”.

    Taken together, this and the un-written National Covenant (al-Mithaq al-Watani) would suggest that if the opposition got 57/128 MP seats backed up by winning the popular vote, then asking for a 1/3 +1 cabinet seats should only be “just”.

    Blacksmith Nick (or is it Jade???),

    the constitutional road map is far from being satisfactory. How else would you explain panels of constitutional experts arguing about “veto politics” and the like for endless hours that extended to days and months and not reaching a concensus on it? During the political saga that followed the previous elections, they went as far as consulting with the French constitution experts. Come on, it was that bad that we had to ask the French for advice!

    As QN put it nicely, as such we’ll “continue to navigate through the political wilderness”.

    and oh, …”how far do we go in the appeasement of HA”.

    You have to ask MPs Hariri and Jumblat about it. Soon, you may have to contact them at their summer residences in Reef Dimashk. I wonder if they’re revamping their palaces there only because “HA has the guns, and they are willing to use them.”

    Posted by PN | June 24, 2009, 10:30 pm
  6. Absent an independent judiciary and a state apparatus strong enough to enforce the judiciary’s decisions, discussions over the meaning of Article 95.3 seem beside the point. Clearly there is no mention of a blocking third in the Constitution and the wording is sufficiently vague to permit all the suggested formulae for the Cabinet.

    The more interesting question- and one Elias’s piece doesn’t seem to address- is how will divisions within March 8 playout in the coming days? Lately, the FPM and Marada seem to be the staunchest factions within the Opposition, demanding proportional representation and the blocking third respectively. Meanwhile, today’s an-Nahar suggests that the quid pro quo for Hariri’s support of Berri’s re-election is Berri’s support for a Hariri led government without a blocking third. In fact, in an interview Berri talked about “fusing” March 8 and March 14 rather than emphasizing the veto. If he really wants that veto then such remarks are poor brinksmanship. I also don’t recall hearing the Party of God explicitly demanding a blocking third either.

    Posted by Al | June 25, 2009, 1:45 am
  7. If by “party of God” one means Hizbullah, then it is noteworthy that the Hizb has declared on numerous occasions that it reserves its decision on the composition of the government until such time as ‘real’ discussions ensue. The Hizb didn’t rule out any configuration be it proportional or power of veto.

    It is quite possible that the seemingly ‘divergent’ stances by pillars of 8 March, namely Aoun, Franjieh, Berri and HA, are mere politicking, rather than a sign of disunity.

    The bug of public romancing between Berri and Jumbalt has been caught by Hariri; this is quite obvious. Could that be one of the fruits of Hariri’s regional labours, and a reflection of the famous ‘SS’ formula that Berri advocated so long ago!

    Article 95.3 and its different interpretations notwithstanding, if the current lords of Lebanese politics agree on a course (…and it is a small if), all this debate will become obsolete.

    Does anyone out there see in the formation of a new Parliamentary block ‘Lebanon First’ an indication of a re-drawing the alliances’ map; a recipe credited by some observer to the endeavours of the current ‘king maker par excellence?

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 25, 2009, 8:00 am
  8. Very interesting read QN. Thank you for this insightful analysis.
    There’s only one ingredient missing in your report, that of the “president’s share” in governmental appointments, another extra-constitutional innovation, similar to the “securing/blocking third”, but with an indeterminacy in numbers.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 25, 2009, 9:09 am
  9. Article 95.3 refers to the number of ministers from a certain confession in relation to the others. For example, in the last cabinet of 30 ministers, there was 6 Shiites, 6 Sunnis, 6 Maronites, 4 Orthodox, 3 Catholics, 3 Druze and 2 Armenians. This formula is not only applied in the cabinet, but in every single committee or government body including the military. It has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of votes a party received in the elections. Constitutionally, the number of votes does not translate into executive power, only legislative. The parliament, as an independent body with fair representation of all confessions, then votes in a cabinet by simple majority. Constitutionally, there is no ground for “veto politics”. The veto is earned by winning a majority in the parliament, which then translates into executive power. The debate about this is political noise pollution.
    With regards to appeasement, after May 7th, you’re damn right Hariri and Jumblat are going to make amends. Sayyed Hassan reminds them every time he grabs the mic that he is open to a sequel.
    Be assured though, we are going to witness a change in the political landscape. And as Question Marks suggested, this issue is non-factor if an agreement is already in place.

    Posted by Blacksmith Nick | June 25, 2009, 11:28 am
  10. Blacksmith Nick

    A few observations about your comment.

    1. “Article 95.3 refers to the number of ministers from a certain confession in relation to the others… Constitutionally, the number of votes does not translate into executive power, only legislative.”

    The article says that the confessional groups are to be represented in “a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the cabinet.” Your interpretation addresses the word “equitable”, but not the word “just”. Let’s say that every Shiite in the country votes for Hizbullah. In what sense is it “just” to hand the cabinet’s Shiite seats to non-Hizbullah members? How do they represent their confessional group in a just fashion?

    2. “The parliament, as an independent body with fair representation of all confessions, then votes in a cabinet by simple majority.”

    The parliament is actually not an independent body with fair representation of all confessions. Christians are estimated to account for 25-33% of the population and yet they are awarded 50% of the seats. Shiites are estimated to account for 33-40% of the population and yet they are awarded 21% of the seats.

    My point is that one can’t turn a blind eye to equitability and justice in the legislative branch and then expect the executive branch to function like a nonconfessional, political party system. It either has to be all consultative, consensual, consociational… or entirely non-confessional.

    I personally wish that the Constitution was as clear as you make it out to be. In fact, your interpretation would be a perfectly reasonable one, in a country other than Lebanon. But as long as we are living in Lebanon and dealing with a consociational system that is trying to grow up into a bicameral party-based system with proportional representation (or whatever it ends up being), then, yes, I do believe that our constitutional roadmap is inadequate to the tasks ahead.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2009, 12:06 pm
  11. Al,

    You’re right…that’s the most relevant question right now. What’s your take? I get the sense that Hizbullah is just not willing to spend political capital fighting an uphill battle for an unconstitutional veto when it can get what it needs (hands off the weapons) through a cabinet declaration and some back-room dealing.

    My guess is that they’ll make some deal whereby Aoun gets his seven ministers inside of a 10 minister opposition share. Although, it’s entirely possible that Aoun will boycott the cabinet again as he did in 2005. He’s very unpredictable.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2009, 12:14 pm
  12. QN,

    The purpose of the article is to ensure the NUMBER of ministers in a “just” and “equitable” manner per confession. If we take HA to represent all Shia (something they have been trying to convince us of for years) then to exclude HA from the cabinet the majority can simply not include any Shia in their cabinet. This specific article ensures Shia representation at the executive level even if the political party most of them voted for lost in the parliamentary elections.

    “Christians are estimated to account for 25-33% of the population and yet they are awarded 50% of the seats. Shiites are estimated to account for 33-40% of the population and yet they are awarded 21% of the seats.”

    Give me a break QN. People always refer to these estimates and numbers when their legal arguments do not hold up. The Taif agreement, which was in part written by Hussein el-Husseini, secures a 50-50% split in power between Muslims and Christians until sectarianism is eventually weeded out. If Taif is implemented in full, and the government moves towards desecularization, these numbers will be meaningless.

    The reality of Lebanon is that it is “managed” in a consociational manner eventhough its constitution and laws clearly support a mechanism where power lies in a parlamentary majority. Basically, you can not apply our laws when HA threatens to bring down the entire country regardless of its representation in parliament. What you and others suggest is changing our constitution so that a sectarian, consociational system becomes protected by law. I think that if we truly want to live in a free, non-sectarian society, this can not be allowed.

    Posted by Blacksmith Nick | June 25, 2009, 1:50 pm
  13. Blacksmith Nick

    This specific article ensures Shia representation at the executive level even if the political party most of them voted for lost in the parliamentary elections.

    So you say, but this is not a universally accepted interpretation. Hence my call for constitutional clarifications.

    “The Taif agreement, which was in part written by Hussein el-Husseini, secures a 50-50% split in power between Muslims and Christians until sectarianism is eventually weeded out. If Taif is implemented in full, and the government moves towards desecularization, these numbers will be meaningless.”

    Thank you for making my point. Has sectarianism been weeded out yet? Have we moved towards secularization? No. Therefore, these numbers continue to have meaning. As long as the legislature plays by the rules of consociational compromise, why is it acceptable for the executive branch to pretend like it lives in a party-based majoritarian non-consociational democracy?

    “What you and others suggest is changing our constitution so that a sectarian, consociational system becomes protected by law. I think that if we truly want to live in a free, non-sectarian society, this can not be allowed.”

    Please show me where I have argued in favor of changing our constitution so that a sectarian consociational system becomes protected by law.

    Last I checked, I have consistently argued for the exact opposite.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2009, 2:12 pm
  14. QN,

    “Has sectarianism been weeded out yet? Have we moved towards secularization?”

    Sadly not, but falling back on population estimates does not get us anywhere. All that does it create an argument for a new sectarian system. Some of us know what that entails, do you?

    “As long as the legislature plays by the rules of consociational compromise, why is it acceptable for the executive branch to pretend like it lives in a party-based majoritarian non-consociational democracy?”

    My argument is that the executive branch should reflect the political reality in parliament. After the “civil” war, all the players (except you know who – but that was for personal reasons) agreed that parliament should remain the heart of political power in the country. The laws it operates under were agreed on, and those laws are VERY CLEAR as to the formation of the government (see above). If those who failed to achieve a parliamentary majority wish to participate in the government, they must reach an agreement with the majority on some political platform or other. That is politics and it happens all over the world. However, to demand a share that can scuttle any executive decision is ludicrous. In that case, why did we have elections in the first place? We could have just agreed on a cabinet right from the start.

    A consociational agreement at some level was necessary to end the civil war, that is obvious. However if we sincerely want to live in a civil, secular society democracy and law and order have to be respected.

    Posted by Blacksmith Nick | June 25, 2009, 3:02 pm
  15. QN,

    Let me play the devil’s advocate…If what you say about the “just” portion of representation; why are these not uniformly enforced for other sects?

    When the cabinet was 24 persons; Armenians received one minister who was a member of FM although Tashnag represent arounf 70-80% of the Armenian vote. Same reasoning could be applied to the druze represenation of the past cabinet whereas Talal Arlsan was a respresentative although he does noyt have 10% of the Druze votes…

    Or is it that only Shia sect is the point in question because of the HA guns and threats (occupying downtown, Jan 2007 , May 7…etc)…

    Any thoughts?

    Posted by danny | June 25, 2009, 4:11 pm
  16. “Sadly not, but falling back on population estimates does not get us anywhere. All that does it create an argument for a new sectarian system. Some of us know what that entails, do you?”

    I don’t understand what this statement means. How do population estimates create an argument for a new sectarian system? To my mind, population estimates provide an indictment of the current system, and a reason to move beyond it.

    I’m in favor of a strong secular state in Lebanon, and I’m also against the cabinet veto. But I still think that the constitution needs to be clearer about how the executive branch is supposed to interact with the legislative, and why an executive veto is detrimental to our political life. If it were perfectly straightforward, then why bother giving any seats to the parliamentary minority? What is to be gained from tossing Suleiman Frangieh a ministry or two? When M14 won in 2005, why did Saniora even bother trying to bring Aoun into the government? What’s the point of giving up seats to your political opponents? Aoun didn’t have a militia that could overrun the country and he hadn’t yet allied with Hizbullah. Why bother with him?

    The answer is that Lebanon remains beholden to sectarian manipulations, whether we like it or not, and it’s not just Hizbullah that can play this game. I would like to be able to cut off all of this debate and simply say: “The constitution clearly states…” but as long as we are in this constitutionally-described “transitional phase”, I’m afraid that this kind of argumentation is disingenuous.

    National unity governments and veto-wielding cabinet minorities are not unusual in consociational democracies. The problem is that Lebanon is not sure what kind of democracy it is. The ambiguities in its behavior are manipulated by political players when it suits them. (Jumblatt’s rhetoric is a good example.)

    PS: I’ve spent the past six months writing posts about why the veto is a terrible idea, and now you have me defending it. Thanks a million.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2009, 4:28 pm
  17. danny

    That’s a good question. The answer is that again, to my mind, there is too much ambiguity in the constitution. If we want a strict majoritarian system where executive power goes solely to the winning coalition (whether it wins 51% or 99% of parliament) then the cabinet should theoretically not include a single member of the opposition, no matter what sect he/she represents.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2009, 4:45 pm
  18. I still believe as I pointed out in a previous comment sometime ago, that it is in the opposition’s best interests to hinge its participation in the government not on the number of portfolios it is being offered, but on an insistence on the full implementation of Taif within the time frame of the next government’s tenure. Of course, this would be the ideal solution if you have a non-vengeful set of politicians who put the interests of the whole country ahead of their feudal interests.

    Since, the latter condition seems to be the case with the politicians of Lebanon, then other solutions need to be explored. Of course, the majority can always choose to go it alone, and take all the portfolios or just give out some to those willing to participate, which most likely would exclude Aoun, Frangieh and perhaps Hezb. Berri is most likely willing. The outcome of such arrangement will further polarize the sectarian divide in the country, of course.

    There is another solution which would satisfy proportional representation, but would require that all decisions arrived at in the cabinet be based on a simple majority vote. In a cabinet of thirty portfolios, for example, the majority would get 17 portfolios and 13 would go to the opposition. President Suleiman would get none. All the decisions will pass with a vote of 16 members. The Parliament would have to become active in ratifying these decisions, and that is when the blocking third may come into play when dealing with certain issues. It should be understood that if Berri chooses to play games as he did in the last four years, then the government would have the choice to call parliament into session and resolve the dispute. Berri and others should not object in this case. In other words Berri is given a job. Either he fulfils the responsibilities of his job or let the MP’s speak out.

    Posted by majid | June 25, 2009, 6:45 pm
  19. majid,

    All scenarios aside this seems more like a solution and agreement made outside; between Cairo/Riyadh and Damascus…In this fluid times especially in Iran it serves Bashar better to cool off the rhetoric and still have his henchman Berri in place.

    The cabinet formation seems to be fluid as well since HA seems not to have gotten explicit instructions on how to move…Whether to insist on 1/3 or just “assurances”…As if the majority can do anything against HS’s wishes (May 7).

    Thus in this environment I would expect these “consultations” to drag long enough until the picture in Iran clears up.

    Berri currently is the disposal of HA. I am certain he is chomping at the bits hoping more deterioration in Iran so that he can deliver for his masters in Syria.

    In the meantime country is on “neutral”….

    Posted by danny | June 25, 2009, 9:17 pm
  20. danny,

    I think the picture is already clear in Iran. Next Iranian government (it will be AhmediNejjad of course) will be a lame government. The regime of the rule of the Juri-Consul has been exposed and it can no longer rely on its cultivated image of omnipotence. I wouldn’t say it is mortally wounded at this point. It still can choose to export its internal dissent to the outside like lashing out on the US in Iraq and Afghanistan through its agents at the cost of further alienating its population and further losing legitimacy accelerating its downfall. Or it can choose to consolidate its base by answering to its population. I’m leaning towards the latter because the Ayat’s have always proven to be very pragmatic. In this case Hezb, Syria and Hamas will receive very little, if any, support from them for quite sometime in the foreseeable future. They have serious economic problems to deal with at home. Just today, Mesha’al called on the Arabs to come to his help by formulating a common Arab-Palestinian strategy, something he seems to have completely forgotten about for the last three years since the Mecca accord which he and Syria helped to trash. So, realism is setting in and the events in Iran are already getting translated into shifts in policy and/or thinking of players in the Arab theatre. When it comes to Cabinet formation in Lebanon, Hezb will be more interested in assurances than having any ministers in the government. But my guess it will take any reasonable portfolio offers for its share.
    Hezb and Syria will have no choice but to follow suit (as in Mesha’al’s case), and somehow they have to find their way back to the Arab camp. This will reflect positively on Lebanese politics. I believe this is where Aoun miscalculated when he made his famous unorthodox visits.
    Regarding the government formation in Lebanon, it seems that expectation for forming a government is within 15 days, at least according to some media reports. The speedy election of Berri is an indication of the speed at which the government will be formed.
    That’s my reading.

    Posted by majid | June 25, 2009, 10:02 pm
  21. Majid:

    “There is another solution which would satisfy proportional representation, but would require that all decisions arrived at in the cabinet be based on a simple majority vote. In a cabinet of thirty portfolios, for example, the majority would get 17 portfolios and 13 would go to the opposition”

    While this might seem like an ‘equitable’ and ‘just’ solution to the formation of Lebanon’s government (as QN highlights, this the supposed basis of Article 95.3), in fact this dividing of the cake would only further entrench weak governmental institutions characterized not by effectiveness but by sectarian ministerial capture. Dividing ministerial posts in such a way only results in the creation of narrow-minded fiefdoms that tend to focus their attentions on particular regions and groups and the expense of others. This ends up being less democratic rather than more.

    Posted by The Medlar | June 26, 2009, 3:07 am
  22. Danny,

    It is naive to intimate that HA as awaiting instructions from Tehran on how to play the domestic game, as it is naive to say that M14, and its more recent manifestation(s), is waiting on the doorsteps of Washington awaiting the white smoke.

    I do agree with your analysis however that national players on the domestic scene have alliances that they can call upon if/when the need arises. That said, it is quite clear that HA has demonstrated over the years, especially the past 3-4 years, which it has its own views and it does take action accordingly. If anything, it is regional powers that behold to HA in its endeavours to maintain a feasible position the game of nations, as Jumblat loves recently to term it. HA, as I see it, has developed a momentum that has made it immune to a large degree to pressures that run against his regional STRATEGIC vision.

    I also cannot see real indications that point to a sustentative rift between Tehran and Damascus, a much longed for state by the West in general. Consequently, any talk about an imminent parting of ways between Berri and HA is wishful thinking at best.

    The opposition of pre-7 June is the same opposition of today. After yesterday’s parliamentary fiasco, it seems to me that the single most needed ingredient in a smooth formation of a government i.e. trust, will be a rare commodity in Lebanese politics, I am afraid.

    No one has any intentions to spoil what promises to be a economically vibrant summer in Lebanon. Come Autumn, perhaps!

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 26, 2009, 6:53 am
  23. Question marks,

    “It is naive to intimate that HA as awaiting instructions from Tehran on how to play the domestic game, as it is naive to say that M14, and its more recent manifestation(s), is waiting on the doorsteps of Washington awaiting the white smoke.”

    I respectfully disagree. Hassan Nassrallah has publicly proclaimed his ‘membership” to the W of F even offering Lebanese limbs as a sacrifice in “defence” of khameini…Nassrallah has asserted that anyone W of F is against Shia sect and Islam. He has time and time again proclaimed HA allegiance to Khameini. I do not see HA’s independence anywhere. They are funded by Persia in the tune of $500m to $1billion annually in some estimates.

    You can not compare HA’s existence to that of M14 which is a patch up coalition of anti HA parties and do not have the statelet like HA… M14 does not have the jolly benefactor like Iran who unabashedly interferes in Lebanese state affairs by pumping billions of dollars to win over the Shia population (hospitals, schools and the social network that exist under HA control). We can also not ignore May 7th; as the HA leaders constantly remind us of that “glorious day”!

    As for the opposition; HA ratcheted up the rhetoric a week prior to election to firm up the Christian swing vote against Aoun (Hassan Nassrallah describing May 7 as a glorious day; Qassem declaring war against UN and Raad threatening the opposition against any talk about their weapons are some examples). I have the distinct feeling that HA did not want to be in majority with the mentally unstable Aoun for several reasons. They can dominate and have their own way without having to govern and be accountable to the people. They did not see any advantage to being in the majority!

    I hope your prediction and analysis trumps mine and we have a functioning government soon.

    Respectfully

    Posted by danny | June 26, 2009, 9:53 am
  24. * anyone against W of F

    Posted by danny | June 26, 2009, 9:58 am
  25. Danny basically summed the fundamental issue at play in this ongoing saga. I disagree with him with regards to funding. M14 has as much access to foreign funding as HA, if not even more. However, in my previous comment, I pointed out that HA’s funding may suffer a dramatic drop due to developments in Iran, so will Syria’s and Hamas’.
    The main issue here is what Danny called the W. of F. or the Rule of the Juri-Consul. Hassan Nasrallah has recently elevated this issue to the level of fundamentals in the faith. By doing so he treads on very murky waters and he causes further polarization within the Muslim community in Lebanon and at large. There is no Islamic basis for the concept of the Rule of the Juri-Consul that would make it rise to such level. What Mr. Nasrallah’s statement implies is the possibility of adherents to the faith exchanging accusations of apostasy as relating to whether or not a person subscribes to such belief in this concept as part and parcel of his faith and this, exchange may even extend to within the Shiite community itself causing further fragmentation. The concept was developed by the late Muhaqiq al-Karki during the rule of the Savavid Dynasty (1501-1736) in Iran. Essentially, Al-Karki extends the concept of infallibility of what the Twelvers believe in with respect to the last Imam who disappeared to his deputy i.e. the Juri-Consul, in this case Mr. Khamenei. This concept was used by Mr. Khomeini in his book Hokumat-e-islami to extend legitimacy to a government over-ruled by such Juri-Consul. I must point out that Muslims at large, or the vast majority, do not believe in the infallibility of any of the twelve or fourteen individuals the Twelvers believe in; even the Zaydis who are considered Shiite are aligned with the vast majority and not the Twelvers.

    What we’ve seen in Iran recently cannot yet be considered as a total rejection of this concept, at least not by the upper echelon of the establishment which includes the so-called opposition figures. But the Juri-Consul’s ‘infallible’ authority has come under attack publicly by Karrouby, Moussawi, and others and a sizeable part of the population condoned such attack.

    As Amir Taheri points out in an article here, the divisions within the Iranian society run deep and they go all the way up to the top including the military establishment. He names individuals in his articles and how they are aligned. Some may object to Taheri as too pro-right. That’s true. But you cannot dismiss his report solely on this basis, since we’ve seen some of what he described in this report playing out in public. It is for this reason that Hassan Nasrallah found it important to make his statement with regards to the fundamental nature of this concept, as he claimed, to the Shiite community. The same divisions that have appeared in Iran may well appear within this community in Lebanon and that bodes ill for the legitimacy of HA’s claim to representing this community – hence the need to make the statement.

    I may even raise the following possibility. Did anyone consider the possibility that Imam Sadr’s dispapearnce may be somehow related to this inter-Shiite struggle? That doesn’t absolve Kaddafi (even though he is not formally charged). He could still have acted on behalf of certain groups and I’m not laying charges here. But remember Khomeini’s book appeared in 1970 well before Mr. Sadr disappeared.

    What about all the other Shiite authorities, such as the late Shamsedeen, Fadlallah, al-Amin and others? How will they line up in this struggle?

    Posted by majid | June 26, 2009, 12:22 pm
  26. Every time someone has come along and wanted to deliver a “strong State” (1958 “National Liberal’s Chamoun” or 1975 “Kateeb’s Gemayle” and “their man in Baabda” (Marada’s Suleiman Franjieh) … it all leads to civil war.

    “Lebanon” functions much better when it is just an idea, a loose concept, a place to do business and where each community does it own thing and looks after its own interests – so long as it doesn’t try and come and impose some “State” or authority on other group’s turf and domain.

    The last thing Lebanon needs is a strong State, a clear constituion, proportional representation or any else of this non-sense talk that would take us to either (1) a separation wall like in Cyprus or (2) the use of a powerful State by one ethnic group to permanently oppress and supress other ethnic groups (as is the case in the “Islamic Republic” of Iran or in the “Jewish State” in Palestine).

    Who wants to be like that? Permament walls – permanent oppression of one group against another – that is what a “strong State” would mean for Lebanon, that it becomes like Israel/WestBankGaza or like Cyrpus or Iran. Forget it!

    Posted by Keep the State Small | June 27, 2009, 12:10 am
  27. Danny (#22),

    It is clear that you have a lot to say, this is commendable. It is similarly clear that you feel strongly about some of if not all what you believe in, a potentially positive trait if, and only if aligned to context and thread.

    I would have loved to share with you my thoughts about Wilayat Al Faqih, but for 2 basic hindrances on my part: 1) it is outside the purpose of the initial thread, and 2) I cannot claim to understand the concept (and I really do not believe a lot of laypeople can claim otherwise as the concept is based on core Shiite religious tradition within Islam, husbanded to various political, social and economic theories born out of the sect‘s characteristics.

    That said, I can attempt to allude, with due respect, to certain points made by you that I find somewhat questionable and/or deserving of further consideration:

    1- SHN did not declare “membership” rather he pledged allegiance to a Shiite socio-political concept that he believes to be workable. If you are quoting SHN you ought to recall also that he specifically said that he will in no way reflect his and his party’s beliefs on Lebanon. Let us remember that Lebanon, as small in size as it is, harbours more than its fare share of diverse political and socio-economic beliefs represented by several tens of parties and movements. This fact has been lauded by all as a shining example of Lebanon’s vitality and democracy;

    2- I am afraid I failed in my search to ascertain your claim that the Hizb or SHN has “… offered Lebanese limbs in the defence of Khamenei”. What is universally recognised is that the Hizb, even before SHN, has paid dear for liberating Lebanese territories from Israeli occupation, freed hundreds of Lebanese POWs from Israeli jails, and made Lebanon strategically more immune to Israeli ‘attacks-at-will” as used to happen since the late forties, well before the existence of the PLO and the Hizb. Is it possible that these points were missed by you, or is it that political expediencies and the requirements of political debate dictate that one ignores the founding principle of the Hizb?

    3- Another case of misrepresentation is your assertion that SHN proclaimed that being against Wilayat Al Faqih is tantamount to being anti Shiite. You said: “… Nassrallah has asserted that anyone W of F is against Shia sect and Islam”. In fact, if you review SHN speech regarding that issue delivered mere weeks ago you would find him saying that there is even conflicting views regarding the concept within the Shiite community itself, let alone among adherents of other traditions of Islam e.g. Sunnis;

    4- Yes the Hizb is well funded, some of which comes from Iran (your choice to use the term Persia rather than the official name of Iran is quite transparent in its attempt!). Let me share with you a fact that is at the core of the Shiite tradition of Islam: Shiites the world over are duty-bound to contribute a certain percentage of their wealth to presumed descendants of the prophet Mohammad. There are many rules and regulations to these contributions that I cannot claim to understand. These contributions amount to millions and millions of dollars. Iran being what it is, an Islamic Republic in the way of the Shiite tradition has some of the largest donation centres. One wouldn’t be particularly surprised to learn that a substantial portion of the contributions collected in Iran reaches the Hizb in Lebanon. I will accede the point that assistance to the Hizb comes from Iran and it is varied from material (weapons and training) to financial. But to make Iran the sole provider of the Hizb’s funds borders on misrepresentation;

    5- I do not think that you are bemoaning the fact that the Hizb builds schools and hospitals and runs successful, indeed much needed social programmes in the areas of the Shiite population. Far from it, I thought you would applaud such endeavours as it is for the betterment of a large segment (the largest, in fact) of your co-citizens;

    6- You stated: “You can not compare HA’s existence to that of M14 which is a patch up coalition of anti HA”. I never heard any M14 member saying that the coalition is anti-Hizbullah, rather a gathering for Lebanon and meant to bring the country in all its components (including the Hizb, one would presume) into a new trouble-free and prosperous era. M14 might have issues with some of the Hizb’s politics or views, and this is legitimate, but to infer that M14 is in existence just to be anti-Hizbullah requires more corroboration;

    7- You further stated: “patch up coalition of anti HA parties and do not have the statelet like HA… M14 does not have the jolly benefactor like Iran who unabashedly interferes in Lebanese state affairs by pumping billions of dollars to win over…”. I agree with you. M14 is not supported by a ’statelet’, as you put it, just by the only superpower on earth and the vast majority of what is termed in political jargon as ’the West’ not to mention the official Arab regime that would not hesitate to ‘contribute‘ vast amounts of money and various resources to their ’allies’. In support let us review US media that talked about the vast amounts of money that poured into Lebanon to subsidise the last elections. As to interfering in Lebanese domestic affairs, one has to be objective when analysing this particular issue: Iran’s president Ahmadinajad responded to a media question regarding the Lebanese elections. While on the other hand the US Vice President, no less, took time off from his official duties to come to Lebanon in a clear endeavour of support for the anti-opposition camp; it seems his visit was ‘official business’ after all. Similarly, the US Secretary of state unequivocally warned that a result putting the opposition in power after the election would jeopardise planned and greatly needed US assistance to the Lebanese national army. Let us compare interference, indeed;

    8- Your reiteration of the theory, first advanced by Angry Arab as far as I am aware, that the Hizb didn’t really want to win the election for a variety of consideration, remains valid, although the Hizb is on the record saying that such a proposition is baseless. While I do take the official position by the Hizb at face value, as one should, I agree that it did make tactical mistakes that ought not have been committed by a party known for its meticulous thinking and preparation;

    9- Dear Danny. Name-calling flies right in the face of intellectual purity and renders contributions lacking in credibility. If you wish, you can point out and elaborate on what you believe to be failings of a politician, but labelling a leader who remains the holder of the largest Christian block in the Lebanese Parliament “mentally unstable” hardly bodes well for a methodical argument.

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 27, 2009, 4:56 am
  28. Question Marks,

    I don’t like going back and forth, however, I will this time as you seem to think that your analysis are correct and mine faulty…We all have opinions and can articulate them differently. However, if you based your conclusions on certain premises while excluding others; then your conclusion is faulty…

    9) My friend the medical condition of Mr. Aoun has been well known in some circles. He was admitted to Asfourieh in late 60’s and early 70’s. I cannot provide you with certificate of admission…This has been confirmed by the head of the hospital, Dr. Manoogian; in those days. It is up to you to believe it or not! Mr. Aoun’s outbursts and demeanor have been psycho anayzed by many all coming to the same conclusion of his mental instability. Again I was making my comment based on the fact that he was under observation in Lebanese Mental institution for a few years…I do not know past that period!
    As for the holder of the largest Christian block has no bearing on my point.

    8. I do not read Angry Arab…
    7. You have not refuted that the statelet exists independent of the Lebanese institutions. Iran blatently pours their cash into HA coffers to build those schools, hospitals etc…They neglect that a legal government exists and deal with HA as if it is a state of its own…As for the elections; billions was spent by KSA and Iran to bring in emigres. Ok.

    6. Corraboration is simple…Read what was talked about during the elections and both sides projected their vision as a diametric oposite of the other…In practical terms May 7th…

    5. Again all good deeds. However all bypassing the legal elected government to support the statlet. You see my friend it is a matter of proving that the State does not care for the Shias while the HA does…Money is not flowing in legally…If you think the end justifies the means; then that’s your opinion!

    4. You are correct Iran is not the sole illegal funding that HA receives. Recently we heard about the convictions in USA and South America of HA operatives who were smuggling contraband and drugs to funnel the proceeds to HA…I will not mention more about Bekaa valley!

    3. #24 elaborates better than me.
    2.It was in an interview in early 2008 to the Iranian TV…I apologize for lack of the link. However, it was discussed extensivelly in the Lebanese media and politicians alike.

    1.Again, HA has not changed its stance in its charter its goal of the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Lebanon. As for speeches there are a multitude of them and even more analysis and interpretation.

    Respectfully

    Posted by danny | June 27, 2009, 12:02 pm
  29. Danny,

    You managed to confuse me, I am used to coherent logic; still I see your point!

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 27, 2009, 12:35 pm
  30. Funny…

    Posted by danny | June 27, 2009, 12:50 pm
  31. Danny,

    Far from it, my dear compatriot; far from it being funny, if you hear what I am saying!

    May whatever higher power exists look favourably upon us Lebanese.

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 27, 2009, 1:39 pm

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