Hezbollah, Lebanon

Defense Strategy, STL, Democracy

A few notes:

1. Defense strategy: Mara Karlin, the former Pentagon Levant director, has an interesting piece about U.S. military assistance to Lebanon, in The Daily Star:

A Lebanese soldier's yearly ration of bullets. Seriously.

“One year ago, my first effort after leaving the US Defense Department was to publish a piece in a major Israeli newspaper explaining why Israel should support a strong Lebanese military. As one of the architects of the United States’ program to re-build the Lebanese Armed Forces, a concept Israel has resisted, I thought it vital that the Israeli public understand how important this effort was for regional security.

“I now realize that I was wrong, not in terms of substance, but in my audience. Instead, I should have written a piece for the Lebanese media explaining why Lebanon should support the effort.

“After a host of meetings I held in Beirut this month, it is painfully clear to me that the American program to train and equip Lebanon’s armed forces is misunderstood. Its purpose, substance, and pace were criticized by nearly every political or military leader with whom I met while on my trip…”

(Keep reading)

2. Hezbollah and the STL: There is a great deal of speculation about what Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah is going to say in an interview tomorrow night with respect to the rumors regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its questioning of Hezbollah members.

A source tells al-Akhbar that Nasrallah intends to send the message that any attempt to accuse the party will lead to a “political May 7”, referring to the events of May 7 2008, when Hezbollah forces took over Beirut and forced the Saniora government to rescind an order to dismantle the party’s private communication network:

ويوضح المرجع المذكور «أن الرسالة الفعلية التي يريد السيد نصر الله إبلاغها الجميع في لبنان والعالم هي أن التورط في مسألة اتهام الحزب سيقود حتماً إلى 7 أيار سياسي». ولفت إلى أن نصر الله الذي قال قبل أيام إنه «سيقول المناسب من الكلام في هذه المرحلة» يعطي إشارة إلى أن لديه الكثير من الأوراق في جعبته، وهو يحاول تنبيه الآخرين إلى خطورة ما يقدمون عليه. لكن المرجع نفى علمه بما إذا كان نصر الله سيكشف عن خفايا بعض الاتصالات التي جرت بشأن هذا الموضوع مع حزب الله من قبل جهات محلية وخارجية».

(Keep reading)

3. Arab Democracy: The 2009-2010 Arab Democracy Index has been published. Lebanon now ranks fourth out of the ten countries surveyed, and made the biggest leap forward between 2008 and 2009, in terms of democractic reforms adopted. I’ve posted the recommendations below, but you can download the entire report here (PDF).

1- Reform the election system by adopting an election law based on proportional representation and not the sectarian register. The new law should reduce the voting age, adopt a quota for women at least in the nomination process, and give the Election Commission (which oversees elections) administrative and financial independence as well as judicial authority. The Commission should not be affiliated with the Ministry of Interior; it should organize and oversee elections independently.

2- Implement the Municipal Law, passed in 1977, with amendments to provide direct election by the people of chairperson and vice-chairperson, to shorten the terms of the municipal councils, and to remove obstacles that hinder their performance. This should be accompanied by ratification of the Administrative Decentralization Law to ensure administrative and financial independence for municipalities and curb central surveillance, in order to activate local participation. A comprehensive development process is also required, which should limit the influence of politicians in local development.

3- Adopt a law to protect individuals who uncover corruption, and create a monitoring institution, such as an ombudsman, to promote administrative reform and combat corruption in public institutions.

4- Finalize the process of transferring jurisdiction over prisons from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Justice; prosecute and punish in accordance with the Lebanese Penal Law those who commit torture in Lebanese prisons; and release detainees arrested without judicial warrant.

5- End prior censorship of publication and free publications and periodicals from the obligation to obtain a license.

6- Amend the Constitutional Council Law to give the Council authority to interpret the constitution, and not merely to monitor the constitutionality of laws and to settle parliamentary contestations. Appeals to the Constitutional Council must be facilitated, and its independence, initiative, and ability to review laws must be supported. The right to review laws – which Article 19 now limits to the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, ten members of Parliament, and the heads of the recognized sects in Lebanon – should also be reconsidered. Under the present system, a political accord can lead to agreement on unconstitutional laws when the required majority to contest them is not available. Another very important recommendation here is to amend the selection process for members of the Constitutional Council, increasing its independence and immunizing it from political intervention and political attractions.

7- Confirm the independence of the judiciary and strictly enforce guarantees fully protecting judges from intervention from any source. This should involve comprehensive reform to enhance the status of the judiciary as an authority parallel to the executive and legislative authorities, as well as constitutional and legal amendments to protect the judiciary and judges from interference in their judgments and from external pressure. This can be achieved by changing the mechanism for the appointment of members of the Higher Council of Justice and by giving it authority to appoint and move judges from one place to another.

8- Enact an amendment to the Citizenship Law to entitle Lebanese women, like men, to pass Lebanese citizenship to their offspring, regardless of the spouse’s citizenship.

9- Establish a social security network with the power to draft a law for pensions, social security, and care for the elderly through serious, active dialogue among relevant parties (the state, laborers, and employers.)

10- Adopt an economic and financial plan to encourage productive sectors in industry, agriculture, and handicrafts in order to reduce unemployment and achieve comprehensive development in the country.

11- Special interest should be paid to education, especially the issue of school drop-out, and increased government expenditure on education.

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25 thoughts on “Defense Strategy, STL, Democracy

  1. It is interesting to note that Lebanon ranks 4 out of the ten countries in the study when so many in Lebanon keep on repeating the mantra that Lebanon is the most democratic state in the Middle East. Please also note that Lebanon was ranked 6th out of the eight countries in 2008.
    So why is the rank so much lower than the perception, at least by the Lebanese themselves?
    Essentially the answer is simple. Lebanon , as many of us have been saying for a very long time, is a hollow democracy. It sets up institutions, passes laws and holds elections but the institutions do not function, the laws are never implemented and the elections are based on a backward,sectarian non representative and a non democratic formula.
    Reform , political, economic and social is the only path forward if Lebanon is to ever transform itself into a vibrant modern society.

    Please also note that the two Arab countries with the most influence on the Lebanese politicians are at the bottom of the Democracy Index and the third lowest :

    Saudi Arabia: 402

    Yemen: 457

    Syria: 461

    Pity a country whose mentors are the ones that are the most in need of remedial help.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 30, 2010, 1:59 pm
  2. Qifa, what do you think of the Arab Democracy Index recommendations? And what about the chances of anyone trying to implement them any time soon?

    Posted by Benjamin Geer | March 30, 2010, 3:35 pm
  3. I was in a rush earlier today and so I did not get a chance to say that the Mara Karlin article is one of the clearest statements thus far about the real needs of the LAF which is effectively an Internal Security Force . Some of us have made this argument before but can you imagine the state of readiness, morale and training of an army whose total ammunition is 3-5 bullets per soldier per year. Is that an army that is ready to go to the top of the technology class and handle sophisticated toys that it does not know how to use and more importantly does not need.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 30, 2010, 4:23 pm
  4. QN,

    Joshua Landis is recommending the trashing of Lebanon by Syria in his new post. He is endorsing Syria start a Hizballah-Israel war. If you can’t find the exact place, I will point it out for you.

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2010, 5:49 pm
  5. AIG

    Please do. 🙂

    I didn’t read Josh as saying what you are suggesting. He is pointing out that Syria has no cards to regain the Golan besides Hizbullah.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 30, 2010, 8:25 pm
  6. QN,

    Here goes:
    ” No(w) that Obama has pushed health-care through congress and looks as if he might tangle with Israel and the question of Arab-Israeli peace, Syria must push the question to the forefront. One way to do this is to bear his teeth and raise the flag of resistance, a third intifada, and possible rekindling of war between Hizbullah and Israel.”

    Is there any other way of reading this except that Landis is recommending that Syria push its issues to the fore by among other things rekindling the Hezbollah-Israel war?

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2010, 10:36 pm
  7. AIG,
    I am not doubting you but it seems that we are not looking at the same article /commentary. Could you give a precise reference. (BTW, I am not a Landis fan :-)).

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 30, 2010, 11:24 pm
  8. Ghassan,

    It is ok to doubt me, I am not infallible.
    The article is currently the last one he posted on his blog:

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2010, 11:45 pm
  9. Unfortunately,the quality of Syria comment posts have been deteriorating sharply in the last couple of months.
    I almost stopped going there.

    Some of the regular commentators are equally appalling.

    Posted by i | March 31, 2010, 6:06 am
  10. AIG,
    I still cannot find the quote that you are refering to. Could it be that Landis has edited the post in question?

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 31, 2010, 6:31 am
  11. AIG

    Thanks, I missed that particular quote.

    I’ll ask Josh to comment on it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 31, 2010, 7:13 am
  12. AIG, et al,

    Just from the title of Professor Josh’s article one can see that he is recommending that Syria return to “resistance”:

    Why Syria Must Burnish its “Resistance” Credentials in the Face of Obama’s Inaction on Settlement Expansion

    But this is nothing new, Professor Josh has always been a Baathist sympathizer, never promoting any sort of peace, and never too hard on one of the most oppressive regimes in the world today.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 31, 2010, 7:42 am
  13. Ghassan,

    It is still there. Here is the paragraph:
    “Had Syria not helped to build up Hizbullah or had Hizb been destroyed in 2006 – there would have been no Turkish talks in 2008 and Syria would have lost whatever negotiating power it had. The only reason Israel and the US still talk about flipping Syria is because of its relationship to Iran and Hizbullah. From a purely balance-of-power point of view. Iran’s pursuit of Nukes increases the likelihood of Syrian–Israeli peace. No that Obama has pushed health-care through congress and looks as if he might tangle with Israel and the question of Arab-Israeli peace, Syria must push the question to the forefront. One way to do this is to bear his teeth and raise the flag of resistance, a third intifada, and possible rekindling of war between Hizbullah and Israel.”

    Try doing a search for the word “rekindling” on the page.

    Posted by AIG | March 31, 2010, 9:17 am
  14. Here was my comment to Josh:

    Dear Joshua,

    You write:

    “Now that Obama has pushed health-care through congress and looks as if he might tangle with Israel and the question of Arab-Israeli peace, Syria must push the question to the forefront. One way to do this is to bear his teeth and raise the flag of resistance, a third intifada, and possible rekindling of war between Hizbullah and Israel.”

    This seems counterintuitive to me. You are saying that because there currently exists a rare opening for the U.S. to act as a more even-handed broker between Israel and the Arabs, Syria should seize this opportunity by promoting a third intifada or a war between Israel and Lebanon.

    How would such a move serve Syria’s interests? It seems to me that nothing would really close this window of opportunity faster than a repeat of the Gaza or Lebanon wars. How will such a strategy convince the Obama administration (and more importantly, provide them with political cover) to become even MORE critical of Israel, rather than less critical?

    I would argue that this is the time for Bashar to engage in precisely the opposite strategy. He should be using this opportunity to improve his standing in Washington and to make a case for the strong role that Syria can play in helping to broker a comprehensive deal, now that many in the U.S. political establishment are finally realizing that such a deal is in their country’s interests.

    A strategy of resistance and stoking the flames of conflict at this juncture would be, it seems to me, a serious miscalculation on Bashar’s part. It will give Netanyahu more support at home, more support in Washington, and will pull the rug out from under Obama’s “tough love” policy.

    My two cents…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 31, 2010, 10:36 am
  15. More importantly, who really still believes that Hizballah is a Syrian card?

    Posted by mo | March 31, 2010, 11:05 am
  16. QN,

    You know, sometime a little moral outrage is in order. No one here is a saint, but no one wants war, that is except Landis. And aren’t you just a little bit angry that Landis thinks it is ok to trash Lebanon in order to advance Syria’s interests? Syria has every right to advance its interests. But does it have the right to do so at the expense of Lebanon?

    Posted by AIG | March 31, 2010, 11:08 am
  17. Mo said: “More importantly, who really still believes that Hizballah is a Syrian card?”

    Syria does. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 31, 2010, 11:08 am
  18. AIG,

    I don’t think Joshua believes that “it is ok to trash Lebanon in order to advance Syria’s interests.” I think that he is making the argument from Syria’s perspective. He is saying: if Syria wants the Golan back, this is what it has to do.

    I actually believe that his argument is incorrect, not because of what it means for Lebanon, but because it wouldn’t advance Syrian interests.

    I know, from my own discussions with Josh, that he fully sympathizes with those Lebanese who are frustrated with their country being used as a pawn in Syria’s foreign policy. The question, though, becomes: what are the Lebanese going to do about it? Everyone from Saad Hariri to Jumblatt has run back into the arms of Damascus. So if the Lebanese politicians themselves are tripping over each other in their attempts to welcome Syria back into Lebanese affairs, who is Bashar to take the high road?

    So, yes, I am not happy at all with the presumption that Syria can trash Lebanon in order to improve its own standing. But I also don’t think that Joshua holds this opinion.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 31, 2010, 11:15 am
  19. Syria does

    They cant think that when they have always known it isn’t. It has always been a bluff which worked for both parties.

    Posted by mo | March 31, 2010, 11:30 am
  20. QN,

    I understand your factual argument and agree with you.

    What I don’t agree with is that Landis does not support the trashing of Lebanon.

    Here is a simple thought experiment for you. Let’s assume Assad “rekindles” a Lebanon-Israel war. Will Landis be critical of Asad? Will he condemn Asad for putting Lebanon in danger? Or will he sing an ode to the lion of Damascus, the genius to put all other geniuses to shame, the best thing since hummus was invented? You tell me.

    Posted by AIG | March 31, 2010, 11:35 am
  21. History Repeats Itself

    Or will he sing an ode to the lion of Damascus


    That and he’ll blame it on BB.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 31, 2010, 11:43 am
  22. AIG

    Here is Joshua’s response:

    Dear QN,

    I am not proposing war or recommending it.

    I am merely trying to imagine what Syrian thinking is. I do not think that Syria wants or can afford a war.

    I do think that Syria calculates that there will be no real move to peace without US pressure.

    The only thing that may get Washington off its duff is the notion that war will break out if peace efforts don’t advance.

    This is hard to do because Syria is so weak, but Syria is trying.

    Why else is Syria doing what it is doing?

    If Syria didn’t complain and there was no resistance front…

    There would be no reason for Obama to break any eggs and get into a tangle with Israel. You heard what Clinton said… The world is a dangerous place. Not making peace is too risky.

    The only reason she says things like that is because of Hizbullah, Syria and Iran. If they didn’t speak up, Clinton would be talking about… China.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 31, 2010, 4:06 pm
  23. QN,

    Landis is justifying as rational brinkmanship by Syria. Let’s just plainly say it, Syria, according to Landis, needs to blackmail the US in order to get the Golan. But, since it cannot really afford war, it is really bluffing. Since everyone knows this, how is this helping the Syrians?

    And if this is the strategy they are pursuing, isn’t what Lieberman said the best antidote? He said Israel will change the regime in Syria if there is war. That just makes the price of war really high for Asad and reduces the chances of actual war. Asad is making Lieberman look good!

    Posted by AIG | March 31, 2010, 5:07 pm
  24. AIG,
    Your logic is impeccable. No one thinks that Syria has the capability to do much except create trouble for the Lebanese since so many of them are willing to do a dictators bidding (I just wish the Lebanese will stop enabling Wahab :-)).
    I am the first to admit that monetary measures ought to be given much less importance in the world but Syria is a broken economy. It is so dysfunctional that its GDP per capita is only $2500.00 at current exchange rates. Syria has five times the population of Lebanon and and only 180% of its GDP. They are not in a position to go to war or to to embark on any adventures. They can create trouble small time. What is important in all of this is that the world knows Syrias capabilities. It can hardly feed itself. What Syria needs is peace, democracy and unleaching of the creativity of its people. As time marches on Syria is falling more behind the rest of the world. It is one of the few economies that is expected to contract in 2010 by over 1%. Syrian medlling is an affront to its people.

    Sorry about all what I had to put you through earlier regarding the Landis quote but I imagine that what scientists warn about is true: ability to multitask diminishes rapidly when one is over 40 lol.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 31, 2010, 5:31 pm
  25. 8- Enact an amendment to the Citizenship Law to entitle Lebanese women, like men, to pass Lebanese citizenship to their offspring, regardless of the spouse’s citizenship.

    No. You cannot say regardless of the spouse’s citizenship. If the native country of the wife Does Not Grant the husband mutual citizenship (meaning Arab countries), then Lebanon should not Grant the Wife a reciprocal citizenship.

    Posted by Jester theFool | April 1, 2010, 2:54 pm

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