Arab Politics, Lebanon

Révolution à la Libanaise

A friend of mine, J of Chalcedon, left a great comment a couple days ago in the midst of a discussion about Lebanese electoral politics. I reproduce it below:

“Greetings and salutations. I don’t comment here much anymore, largely because work and the general regional upheaval occupy my attention. I do check out the conversation from time to time, and am struck by the following: why isn’t a forum devoted to Lebanese politics talking about whether a mind-bending general moment affects the beloved kingdom?

“Big chunks of the U.S.-brokered regional security apparatus are collapsing like papier-mache castles; people long dismissed as irrelevant to the fates of their respective polities are forcing the question of their existence; and the idea of an Arab Middle East suddenly matters in a way it hasn’t for decades. And the local conversation basically amounts to who will be the second deputy dogcatcher in the Upper Metn. I get that all politics is local, but Jesus, who cares?

“If people think that Lebanon is so singular that none of what is happening elsewhere matters, then I’d love to have that view explained. And if the general view is that dominant politics can’t be pierced by grand tumult in the neighborhood, then great; let’s hear that explained too. But I look at what conversation takes place here and wonder whether there’s a news blackout that strikes this forum in particular. If nothing else, don’t you want ask why Lebanon can’t/won’t/mustn’t be a candidate for volcanic political change?

“Pardon for the interruption. I too care about the all-important appointment of the next Lebanese minister in charge of administrative reform. Some s*** matters, after all.”

To reiterate, here’s your question for today’s discussion:  “Why can’t/won’t/mustn’t Lebanon be a candidate for volcanic political change?”

Here’s a very quick stab, from my perspective. At the end of the day, Lebanon is relatively inoculated from everything going on in the region precisely because of the lack of any credible center to rebel against. Who could possibly be the target of a nationwide revolt? Every political leader with enough clout to matter has his base, and the last time Lebanon successfully “revolted,” it was only because there was a (foreign) regime to revolt against.

This is not to say that the country will not be affected by the general upheaval. Obviously, in the long run, the new security architecture will have an impact. But trying to predict what that might be is pointless, given that no one even knows who is going to take the place of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and their comrades.

For more on Lebanon’s resistance to revolution, have a look at a couple of good recent pieces in the press: Maya Mikdashi at Jadaliyya, and Fida’ `Itani at al-Akhbar. See also Ghassan Karam at his blog Rational Republic.

And finally, a note to newspaper and magazine editors everywhere: it seems likely  that you’ll be running stories on Arab protest movements for at least the next several weeks, if not longer. Would it be too much to ask to dust off the old thesaurus and start coming up with a few different metaphors for what’s going on? You know what I’m talking about: …And now to Lebanon, where the winds of change sweeping the region have failed to rustle any leaves in the land of the cedars, while the bedrock of Lebanese sectarianism remains firm even as the sands of Arab authoritarianism shift beneath the feet of their subjects…

Winds of change? Shifting sands? Please. You’re in the word business; why not try to use some new ones? If you’d like, I could help.

The floor is open.
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279 thoughts on “Révolution à la Libanaise

  1. Badr, there are subtleties in all speech. However, an unequivocal statement about the fundamental human democratic rights (not to mention belief in them) is, to me, indispensable for the credibility of any modern leader. Assad has not be advised wisely (or not been advised at all).

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 27, 2011, 1:43 pm
  2. Prophet, OK, we’re all rooting for the outcomes you predict.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 27, 2011, 3:00 pm
  3. HP,

    There is a misconception that the Iranian regime can be reduced to the issue of the so-called supree leader. There is also a misconception that we have to wait to see if a revolution will take place. First, the issue of the supreme ledaer even though central but also there is a whole class of clergy benefiting from the system and milking the population of its possessions under the guise of religous injunctions. Khomeini came in to power with a political program that he clearly outlined in his book which is available from several publishers. It is called Hukomati-Islami. He oulines in thta book the authority of mullah class as well as the ‘Ultimate Faqih’. By any standard this book would be best thrown into a garbage bin. Also from any Islamic standpoint that book ould be considered a full fledged heresy not worthy of any consideration.

    The Iranians have already revolted against the mullah regime two years ago. Their revolt is still ongoing and the revolt leaders are actually under severe persecution by the government, the RG and the mullah class.

    It is also false to contend that Egypt under Mubarak did have political outlets to oppose the regime. The Egyptians had freer press than anywhere else in the Arab world. They had political parties that span at least a century or more in history. The Mubarak regime moved to despotism gradually as it was more open in its earlier stages. Most of the recent corruption is blamed on Jamal Mubarak, an amateur and spoiled kid who may have succeeded in disgracing his father at the end of his life.

    Also, it is laughable for somebody to com

    Posted by anonymous | February 27, 2011, 3:38 pm
  4. HP, I may have pressed Submit by mistake and my comment prematurely came out


    It is also false to contend that Egypt under Mubarak did not have political outlets to oppose the regime. Egypt had freer press than anywhere else in the Arab world (take Lebanon out). They had political parties that span at least a century or more in history. Their first contact with the Napoleonic Code made them the first Arabs or even first among Muslims to experience what can be considered something of an enlightenment. The Mubarak regime moved to despotism gradually as it was more open in its earlier stages. Most of the recent corruption is blamed on Jamal Mubarak, an amateur and spoiled kid who may have succeeded in disgracing his father at the end of his life. Mubarak actually was not unpopular until very recently.

    Posted by anonymous | February 27, 2011, 3:47 pm
  5. Thanks anonymous for an instructive perspective.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 27, 2011, 7:21 pm
  6. QN, Mahjoob is the artist of the graphics in your post?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 27, 2011, 7:26 pm
  7. prophet/anon….
    Many have made references to Iran and the Iranian revolution that is feeding off its own . If you are interested in a very highly well written and a scholarly book on the subject; I think that it is the best in its field; then take a look at:

    Human Rights in Iran: the Abuse of Cultural Relativism by Reza Afshari. A peperback updated edition is just about to hit the bookshelves.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 27, 2011, 7:48 pm
  8. Thank you Ghassan,I shall.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 27, 2011, 8:27 pm
  9. Prophet @ 188

    I hope your optimism will be validated, too. I don’t think it’s just wishful thinking to believe it will be. Thanks again for your posts. I’ve gotten a lot from them.

    Posted by j | February 27, 2011, 9:08 pm
  10. Ya3eesh Prophet, ya3eesh ya3eesh ya3eesh

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 27, 2011, 9:16 pm
  11. Thanks Ghassan and HP.

    Posted by anonymous | February 27, 2011, 9:21 pm
  12. HP,Take it easy on me.I’m just a humble little Prophet,not a king,lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 27, 2011, 9:35 pm
  13. 212
    …and after last night(Oscars) I thought you were going on a rambling speech lol. 😀

    Posted by danny | February 28, 2011, 7:49 am
  14. Prophet @198,

    I wish your statement was true: ‘The chances of a Muslim style government in Egypt are close to Zero.’ The dialectics of the Egyptian state versus the Muslim Brotherhood is not over yet. While you are hoping for a Turkey, you might get a Pakistan instead. Let’s not forget the Saddat years, when the MB was used to counterbalance the Nasserites and the leftists.

    I agree that we should wait and see, and keep a close eye on the military’s moves. The situation is too nebulous and dynamic, but unfortunately one can’t help but remember Lenin’s revolutionary theory of the organized and professional minority that can seize the opportunity. And nowadays the only organized political movement is the MB.

    At the end of the day I really hope that you are right.

    Posted by XP | February 28, 2011, 10:15 am
  15. The Assad Mafia in Damascus on the way out…
    It is only a matter of time before the protests sweeping across the Middle East wash the filth of the Ba’ath party in Syria in to the gutters… They ruled like Syria is North Korea, but I wouldn’t wager a cent that they will last out the year.

    Posted by HK | February 28, 2011, 10:34 am
  16. XP,214
    Although no one can guarantee anything, but my prediction is based on historical and realistic facts;
    Muslim Brotherhood (MB) may be the most organized political group in Egypt, But they do not represent more than 25% of the public.
    Being one of the oldest, one of the most organized, and one of the most active movements, one would imagine the MB to have much more appeal and support than it has shown, considering that religious organizations have more appeal under dictatorships than democracies.
    I think MB will try to have a better image, knowing that the Mubarak regime always used them as an excuse for its brutality and harsh treatment of Egyptians. MB knows, and has admitted that they didn’t start this revolution, and they could not take credit for it. At one point they didn’t think it can succeed, and they were the first to answer Omar Suleiman’s call for dialogue.
    If an honest and fair election is carried, we might be very surprised that the MB may not get the 20 % mark.
    My only worry is the military establishment and its aging leadership, who don’t seem to like changes. They seem to be forced to take steps, instead of initiating them.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 12:05 pm
  17. I didn’t think it would take this long for the reprehensible mullahs to act:

    From Naharnet:

    “Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been arrested along with their wives and jailed at Tehran’s Heshmatiyeh prison, their websites reported…”

    Well they along with their franchise (HA) in Lebanon will crash and burn along with the rest of oppressive and murderous regimes! It is only a matter of time. Long live the INTERNET!!

    Posted by danny | February 28, 2011, 2:13 pm
  18. So what was the turn out for that “anti-sectarianism” protest in Beirut the other day?

    News reports say “A few hundred”. Anyone was there? Care to corroborate?

    If that’s the best the Lebanese can do, then it is truly sad and pathetic.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 28, 2011, 2:35 pm
  19. BV,
    Considering the severe weather, the number was about 2 thousands,according to people I spoke to.With the sectarian divide of Lebanese society, I think It’s a good start. Another demonstration is being planned;It will be the real test. I expect,and hope for, a much better turn out.If the next event brings out 10 thousand or more, then I would say we may have some thing.
    Most Lebanese TV stations are sectarian as well, so don’t expect them to be enthusiastic about this movement ,or its coverage .

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 2:50 pm
  20. Danny #217,
    Do not praise the internet publicl otherwise King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia might buy it and shut it down. It is already rumoured that he has offered to buy FB for $150 Billion. Why else was he in NYC for that long?:-)

    Posted by ghassan karam | February 28, 2011, 2:57 pm
  21. Gus you made me laugh very hard man. 😀 😀 😀
    I guess that’s why they are jacking up the prices eh?

    Posted by danny | February 28, 2011, 3:04 pm
  22. BV,

    Lebanese do not like to get their hair wet or ruffled according to Prophet! …So when it is 24 degrees and plenty of sunshine… then they might entertain the thought of supporting the ever so important rallying call to eliminate sectarianism!!

    Posted by danny | February 28, 2011, 3:09 pm
  23. Thanks for the replies guys.

    Yeah, between sectarianism, and not liking one’s hair ruffled….Lebanon is looking at a LONG ways off before we might start seeing any kind of meaningful change.

    Sad. But not surprising (as I’ve stated numerous times).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 28, 2011, 3:11 pm
  24. Did I start something with the wet hair thing?lol
    I heard it was severe

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 3:19 pm
  25. Yeah BV, when political/sectarian/M8/M14 “Leader(s)” call, the followers flood the streets.
    So it is an uphill run for sure.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 3:29 pm
  26. Ghassan,

    I wonder if you could tie up these assumptions and let us know if it makes sense.


    1. Lebanon’s population: 4 million
    2. Population equally split among major “sects’. 30% Sunni, 30% Shiite 30% Christian and 10% Armenian & Druze.
    3. Most households receive monthly “endowments” from emigres in the Gulf and others from the West.
    4. Assuming HA has 50,000 under employment…from full time “soldiers” and blackshirts to “construction” companies, hospitals, schools and hashish growing enterprises…in their statelet.
    5. Hariri & KSA have Beirut subsidized.
    6. The “government” “employs” 20% of the population.(including the ghost workers of Amal”.

    Considering Tripoli and Bekaa rely heavily on trade with Syria (mostly illegal)to survive…

    How many people do you think would be left who are not “controlled” or dependent one way or another on their militia, relatives etc…to have the freedom to “demand” anything?

    In a country that seems to be bought and paid for, whereas corruption is carried on as a badge of honor; whereas it seems that the only industry is that of tourism and carpet begging…What are the chances AT ALL the “citizens” of this country screaming for freedom?

    Posted by danny | February 28, 2011, 3:54 pm
  27. ‘MY PEOPLE LOVE ME’: Gadhafi Denies Demonstrations Against Him Anywhere in Libya.
    “President Obama is misinformed about what is happening in Libya”.He says.
    This clown is in denial.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 4:18 pm
  28. It would be funny if it was so deadly and atrocious!

    …A blast from the past. remember this?

    “”NO”, snapped Mr al-Sahaf, “We have retaken the airport. There are NO Americans there. I will take you there and show you. IN ONE HOUR!”

    Posted by danny | February 28, 2011, 4:35 pm
  29. Just in case you missed “Muammar Gaddafi – Zenga Zenga Song”

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 4:49 pm
  30. BV,

    It wasn’t raining it was “pouring” !

    It was as if all the Gods mankind invented over the last 6,000 years pissed on us at the same time.

    I decided not to catch pneumonia … got back into the car with wet socks and pants and went home after twenty odd minutes. There were around 300 people when I got there at noon. Mostly 20-somethings (some with their parents).

    It was held too soon, in my opinion anyway. But it will build.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 28, 2011, 5:40 pm
  31. Let’s hope so.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 28, 2011, 5:49 pm
  32. @229

    Looks like Qaddafi finally “got” the internet generation … “rapped” up his speech to package it to them … and released it for them to “dig” it.

    Yo !

    Anyone interested in co-sponsoring a bad boy band I’ll be managing called “The Qaddafis”?

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 28, 2011, 6:05 pm
  33. On Oscar thoughts …

    Anyone interested in co-sponsoring a movie I’m producing on Qaddafi?

    Al Pacino’s signed up for the main role.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 28, 2011, 6:14 pm
  34. The $1 million question, though, is … which Egyptian actors will incarnate Wael Ghoneim and Hosni Mubarak and who will in Hollywood … soon on our silver screens 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 28, 2011, 6:25 pm
  35. 233,
    should be dubbed over by Kirk Douglass.

    Posted by Maverick | February 28, 2011, 6:31 pm
  36. Danny #226,
    Believe it or not your list of questions should not be dismissed outright because I believe that demography is destiny.:-)
    In that light ,one can learn a lot about the real dynamics by looking at te real demographic numbers. The following are a few important numbers:

    The concentration on Beirut and Mt. Leb. is justified since they account for just over 50% of the population. The Bekaa on the other hand has only 12.5% of the population.
    The Lebanese population of around 4 million is roughly estimated to have a Labour force of only 1.22 million only. That is a very law labour rate of participation. Yet the actual number who are working is estimated to be about 1.1 million. The labour force is essentially composed of 19% of the females eligible and 61% of the males.
    Afurther breakdown reveals that the highest rate of female participation is among College gradsand among those that live either in Beirut or Mt Lebanon. TYhe largest segment of the Lebanese work force works in Mt Lebanon and the highest median montghly income is only $450. What is surprising is that the highest rate of unemployment is among the skilled while the lowest is among the unskilled.

    Based on the above it would be reasonable to conclude that the March 14 supporters are probably in Beirtut and Mt Lebanon where educational attainment is highest, median income is the largest and female labour participation is the greatest. Does this mean that the typical March 14 potential supporter represents what Lebanon aspires to become?:-) Educated, prosperous and liberated lol.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 28, 2011, 7:51 pm
  37. Ghassan, OUCH low blow,lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 28, 2011, 8:28 pm
  38. “Educated, prosperous and liberated lol.”

    ……in addition to skilled and unemployed?

    Sounds good.

    Posted by lally | February 28, 2011, 11:59 pm
  39. lally,
    I do not spend lots of time on Lebanese Macro data because it is not very reliable and not collected on a regular basis. As a result it would be difficult to note trends. Yet I find the above data fascinating because I believe that the high unemployment among the skilled (college grads) is essentially due to the higher proportion of females who enter the labour force and so they are counted as job seekers while the low skills have a low er unemployment rate because less females are seeking employment. So I guess that you are right : They are liberated, skilled, unemployed and when they can find a job will work for peanuts lol.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 1, 2011, 12:24 am
  40. Job seekers are counted?

    Wouldn’t the employed females be largely those who are involved with the “service” sectors with a few ladies running OB/GYN clinics thrown in here & there?

    Posted by lally | March 1, 2011, 1:10 am
  41. The internationally recognized definition would count all those that are actively looking for a job as in the labour force.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 1, 2011, 1:43 am
  42. Thanks Ghassan.

    Posted by danny | March 1, 2011, 9:07 am
  43. Berri’s latest pronouncement proves him an idiot.

    Posted by anonymous | March 1, 2011, 9:47 am
  44. Haven’t been here for a while.

    Ghassan: Interesting analytics. Many thanks.

    Nabi: LoL (video). I’ll miss Qadafi when he’s gone. I was hoping he’d stick around just to provide Shits and Giggles for the foreseeable future!

    Posted by Gabriel | March 1, 2011, 1:02 pm
  45. Gabie, Rumors has it that you were missing because you were recruited to help Gaddafi stay in power, so you will have your giggles .lol
    I’m glad you are back .

    Posted by The Prophet | March 1, 2011, 1:48 pm
  46. It took you this long to figure out Berri was an idiot???

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 1, 2011, 1:54 pm
  47. Although I often find the positions of GMA bewildering most of the times yet I do agree with some of his demands. I have often argued that the Taef has created a weak presidency model for Lebanon and that is fine. Weak presidencies work for many countries such as Israel, Italy and Germany to name a few.
    I think that those that appear to find it difficult to accept the new formula, it is not new any longer; are usually the traditional Christians ( usually the Maronites) who feel that the survival of Lebanon depends on having a powerful Maronite at the helm. I wish that the advocates of this position would explain to the general Lebanese population the benefits of either the Lahoud Presidency or the first two years of the Sulaiman one. Both can be described as highly unproductive and troubled periods in Lebanese history. What the Maronites should bring themselves to admit is that the future of the country does not depend on its sectarian formula but just the opposite, the future depends on the abolition of this formula starting with the President.
    Back to Aoun. A constitution that espouces a weak presidency model would be contradicting itself by offering the weak president an agreed upon allocation of representatives in the cabinet. The constitution does not suggest that and common sense should oppose it. Let the PM designate, whoever she is, form a cabinet that has the support of the majority in the chamber and let that cabinet govern as long as it enjoys the support of the chamber delegates. GMA is absolutely right on this issue that it is unconstitutional to allocate ministries to the president. I only wish that he saw it this way two years ago. But it is better late than never.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 1, 2011, 4:57 pm
  48. I agree with everything you said there, Gus.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 1, 2011, 5:07 pm
  49. GK.

    I wasn’t clear that my question referred to the mechanism of counting jobseekers.

    Posted by lally | March 1, 2011, 5:41 pm
  50. Gus you were sailing till you said:”I only wish that he saw it this way two years ago. But it is better late than never.” without adding a disclaimer.

    He is an incompetent sick man. His utterance is correct however he just did NOT come to his senses. He is like a shark smelling blood in the water. Yup, now we should call HA theocratic militia and mercenary clAoun democratic parties.

    It is totally maddening that we should see that these demagogues and terrorists are defenders of the constitution.

    Posted by danny | March 1, 2011, 6:13 pm
  51. Even incompetent and sick men sometimes stumble upon the truth (for their own reasons).
    I think that was Ghassan’s point.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 1, 2011, 6:42 pm
  52. danny,
    I guess that I could have used another disclaimer at the end but I started by saying that I find most of his positions bewildering. I am not a psychologist but I do think that he suffers of the same psychosis as Moamar Qaddafi: delusional behaviour. ( I am sure that GMA thinks that he is the smartest , the most creative and the most essential persona;lity in Lebanon:-))

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 1, 2011, 7:49 pm
  53. BV,

    The point is he KNEW the truth but it did not suit his circumstance. That’s the point. 😀

    Posted by danny | March 1, 2011, 8:11 pm
  54. Who said that the Presidency is weak?

    The Prseident alone has the power to approve or disapprove any cabinet. He does not need to abide by any majority for that purpose. He should make it clear that as per the constitution he will only approve a cabinet that he ALONE is satisfied with its make up.

    Sleiman’s only mistake is insiting on certain number of ministers and certain ministries to be under his control. If he behaves as I said then the ClAoun will have no choice but to continue with his futile circus performance.

    Sleiman can insist, for example, that he will only approve a cabinet that will include none, one, two or three ClAoun ministers or whatever he deems appropriate.

    In the process do not overlook another emerging clown, the good old acrobat W.J.
    The guy seems to be in mute reminscing mood on days bygone when he could easily afford a private jet. Those days are gone courtesy of Moqren’s ‘decree’. He also seems to be in count down mode for apocalypse 2013 when Lebanon may lose its Za’im, unless the country ‘conveniently’ breaks up for him before then.

    On another hand, BV, it is not an easy task to ascertain that Berri is an idiot. But I gave it enough thought and determined that he is indeed an idiot.

    Posted by anonymous | March 1, 2011, 10:10 pm
  55. anon
    Lebanon is always classified as a parliamentary system of governance. That implies by definition a weak presidency. Unfortunately, many of the Lebanese , especially the Christians, still act as if we have a presidential system which we do not. It is very simple, our president is a symbol, a figurehead, a ceremonial job.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 2, 2011, 12:14 am
  56. I neglected to say that the Red is constitutional monarchies and the orange parliamentary republics.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 2, 2011, 12:17 am
  57. Report: Lebanese-Canadian Bank to be Sold for $500-600 Million

    Ooops! Looks like someone is trying to wash his hands off the affair:)

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 2:13 pm
  58. Israel supplied mercenaries to Qaddafi. Global CST, an Israeli firm, provided mercenaries from Chad. No wonder Israel’s “other UN ambassador” — Susan Rice — sought an exemption for third parties in referral of Libya to International Criminal Court…

    Posted by HK | March 2, 2011, 2:40 pm
  59. RTOTD,
    Actually the owners did not want to sellbut the US Treasury worked out this arrangment with Mr. salameh last week when he visited Washington. If you recall Washington gave the bank 60 days to respond to the charges and Salameh wanted to limit the potential damage to the Lebanese banking system and so wanted to clean this affair as soon as possible. Salameh has forced the bank to accept an offer for $500-$600 million which is a good price. This goes to show the fragility of the banking system and yet its ability for resilience.
    I do believe that had Salameh not worked out this solution then the potential repercussions could have been major. This way the problem is resolved and in a few weeks all of this will be behind us.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 2, 2011, 2:42 pm
  60. GK,

    What about the accusations? They disappear following the sale?

    Nobody goes to jail?

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 2:57 pm
  61. GK,

    Why would the US treasury “work out this arrangement with Mr. Salameh” ?

    On whose behalf? The majority local GMA supporting owner of the bank that has been Hizballah’s bankers for the last ten years? The Lebanese banking system that the US treasury gives a hoot about?

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 3:45 pm
  62. I’d like to hear more about this banking affair. Ghassan, can you let us know where you got that information you posted from?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 2, 2011, 3:53 pm
  63. And where’s the tape Siddiq promised us just last week?

    Where’s the beef, QN ?!

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 4:03 pm
  64. RTOTD/BV
    The accusations were that a bank had facilitated laundering funds. That in itself does not mean that the financial comdition of the bank is not sound. It only means that the bank is involved in illegal activities. Obviously that has a price. The US would have taken stiff measures against this accused bank by preventing it from having any dealings with a US bank or a US financial facility. That would be the equivalent to the kiss of death. Many depositors would be tempted to withdraw their funds and the bank will be in trouble. By arranging for the acquisition of the bank by a larger and a “clean” bank the US Treasury would have attained its immediate objective.; stop the money laundering and remove the bank from facilitating the illegal activities it is accused of. If any of you still remembers the press release by the accused bank the day after the accusation was made then you would have noted that the bank denied having knowingly laundered funds, it never denied as some have said laundering . The other point to keep in mind is the 60 days grace period that the US Treasury gave the bank to respond. That is why Salameh went to the US immediately thereafter to find out what can be done that will satisfy the US demands and yet limit any potential damaging spillovers to the Lebanese banking sector.
    As soon as Salameh came back from DC he issued a stament that things have been worked out is a positive and satisfactory way. That can only mean that the US agreed to drop the charges if the BDL takes measures that in effect liquidates the bank. BDL has the authority to presure the member banks to merge and in this case this is similar to what the FDIC does periodically in the US by forcing a weak bank to sell all its assets to a larger and healthier institution.

    I do not believe that I have a single source that says all the above but if you integrate the various news items ever since this story broke out then that is how the various pieces fit together.

    Score this 1 for the US and 0 for HA and a positive outcome for the Lebanese banking system whose reputation could have been damaged with a run on the accused bank.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 2, 2011, 6:51 pm
  65. Gotcha Ghassan.

    I only ask because I had been monitoring those news items (as this subject interests me) and noticed it to be mostly under the radar.
    I made note of Salameh’s visit to the US, but did not see anything about the US Treasury agreeing to “resolve the matter” or that it was the BDL that had basically told LCB it needed to liquidate/get bought. So i must have missed a few news clippings 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 2, 2011, 8:08 pm
  66. GK,

    In other words … no one goes to jail for laundering drug money.

    The founder and chairman of the bank and his investors walk away with $600 million.

    End of story.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 8:24 pm
  67. I’ve always wanted to be in banking …

    I just never understood my economy professors in college.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 8:40 pm
  68. RTOTD,
    I am not a lawyer but I imagine that this is as good of a case as any to demonstrate how difficult it would be at times to prove that an illegal act has been “knowingly” allowed to take place. I imagine that the Treasury is not as interested in prosecuting individuals as much as it is in closing a pipline. I would not understate in this case the role played by Mr. Sa;lameh. Usually I am not a big fan of Salameh but in this case he did manage to “prevent” what could have become a major story about Lebanese banking.. I think that he must have used this line of thinking , what is ultimately important is the closure of the illegal channel. I think that the outcome is the best of all possible alternatives for Lebanon.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 2, 2011, 8:44 pm
  69. GK,

    What is Lebanese Banking ? Is it Lebanese? Is it patriotic?

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | March 2, 2011, 8:52 pm
  70. RTOTD,
    Are you trying to test me:-) What I meant by the phrase “Lebanese Banking” is the financial system of Lebanon which is the bedrock for the economy. If Lebanese finacial institutions are to stumble then Lebanon will face a major problem in financing its sovereign debt; both the domestic and the foreign held.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 2, 2011, 9:05 pm
  71. Let’s not forget that the Lebanese fiscal system did collapse once before. When I first came to the U.S. in 1981, I exchanged 3.5 LL to $1.
    By the time I made my first visit back in 1991, we were at 1500 LL to $1.
    Over 400x loss of value, or 40,000%.
    My late father’s life savings (our inheritance, kept patriotically in LL in Lebanese banks) which could have financed 3 college educations became enough for us to buy two dress shirts.
    Ours is only one of thousands of such stories.
    We recovered with the one asset that gets never diluted: education.
    Nice to know the Lebanese banking system is A OK. However, many victims of the previous collapse never recovered.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | March 2, 2011, 10:35 pm
  72. Introductions from the “Devine Hand” NewZ</b


    The "Devine Hand" has spoken already. HK meet Israel; Israel meet HK.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 3, 2011, 2:59 am
  73. The following is from Libancall:

    “PM-designate Miqati talking to Al-Manar: Certain parties are preparing an international resolution against Lebanon under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.”

    The above, if it is true does not bode well for the short run stability of the country. I am willing to speculate that Chapter 7 will be used if the Lebanese government or any of the other Arab countries refuse to cooperate with the indictments when issued by the STL. If that turns out to be the case then turbulence will be the order of the day.
    Isn’t it time that we seek a real and meaningful solution for the Lebanese stalemate by jettisoning the silly and unworkable “La Ghaleb Wa La Maghloob”. It is time that both parties accept the logical ramifications of their action. Let the winners govern and the losers become the opposition. It is time to put an end to the pretense that we are all one happy family where no one ever loses and no one ever gains. If that is the case then what is the incentive to do the right thing?

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 3, 2011, 2:40 pm
  74. GK, Let the winners govern and the losers become the opposition.
    Isn’t this what M14 wanted to do last time and what they’re preparing to do now?
    Junblatt caved in to the May 2008 terrorism. M14 so far has not.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | March 3, 2011, 2:54 pm
  75. HP #275
    I understand what you are saying about the intentions of March 14 but unfortunately it is actions that count. They should have never agreed to a national unity government with an implicit right of veto given to HA. (This criticism applies , equally, to Saniora as well as Hariri). Let us hope that they have learned from history and that we will never have to revisit the “La Ghaleb Wa La Marghloob”.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 3, 2011, 3:13 pm
  76. Or let Lebanon be divided. Most Lebanese can’t live with HA government just like the rest of the world.

    Posted by anonymous | March 3, 2011, 3:14 pm
  77. Hi everyone; there’s a new post (and poll) up.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2011, 3:43 pm
  78. “tidal wave of freedom now crashing down across the Middle East….”

    This is an especially wince-worthy example.

    Posted by lally | March 12, 2011, 1:28 pm

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