Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Reform

The General Begs to Differ

In a week from today, Lebanon will have been without a functioning government for three months. That’s not quite as long as the four and a half month stint that the country endured in 2009 following the legislative elections, but it’s still an embarrassingly long delay.

Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about it is the fact that the March 14th coalition has opted to stay out of the next government, giving March 8th (the new majority) free rein to put together a cabinet without having to manage the whims and stalling tactics of its opponents. When Saad al-Hariri set about forming a government in 2009, he had to deal with the demands of his own allies as well as those of Hizbullah, Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement, and Abu Tanjara, who all had something to say about a myriad of contentious issues, from the sanctity of the resistance to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

This time around, things should be simpler, right? So what’s taking so long? Inquiring minds (not just my own, but also Nabih Berri’s and Ghazi al-Aridi’s) want to know. There has been much speculation on the various issues that are at stake, but it seems clear that the main obstacle can be summarized as follows:

Two former Lebanese Army generals named Michel want the right to appoint one of their allies to the Interior Ministry. One of the generals represents the largest bloc of MPs in the current parliamentary majority. The other general is the President of the Republic and must sign off on any cabinet lineup for it to be legally approved. Without the bloc leader’s votes, the President would have no cabinet decree to sign. Without the President’s signature, the bloc leader would have no seats in the cabinet.

In other words, you’ve got two equal and diametrically opposed forces bearing down on the same area. What is the result? Stalemate.

As usual, the problem is basically a structural one. The Lebanese Constitution does not provide any elucidation for how to move beyond the current impasse. Aoun is within his rights to demand any portfolio he would like, and President Sleiman is within his rights to accept or refuse any cabinet lineup that is placed before him. Both men are at each other’s mercy. Ironically, however, they are also each at the height of their own powers. Consider the following:

Aoun has never had a better opportunity to shape a cabinet under circumstances as favorable as the current ones, where his bloc represents the senior partner in the parliamentary majority and where the opposition has decided not to join the cabinet. (Given his age and health concerns, he may never get a clearer shot to control the agenda than this one.) Without Aoun, there would be no March 8th cabinet, and if Miqati fails in his efforts, it would be exceedingly difficult for Hizbullah and its allies to appoint anyone else to the job who could pick up where Miqati left off. Aoun knows this, so he is doing what he does best: sticking to his guns and waiting for his opponents (or, as the case may be, his allies) to blink first.

Similarly, Sleiman knows that a Lebanese president is never more powerful than when he is being asked to sign off on a cabinet-forming decree. Almost all of the president’s powers are either ceremonial or revocable. One of the only truly significant things that he can do is to refuse to sign a decree forming a new cabinet. For a nice reflection on the importance of this principle, take a look at the following excerpt from Wikileaks cable  07BEIRUT1724 (which dates back to Nov. 5, 2007, when the US was pushing its March 14th allies to elect a new president with a simple majority.)

The danger is that a compromise over the presidency combined with the “blocking/toppling third” in the cabinet that the pro-Syrians will insist upon puts March 14 in potentially a worse position than it is today, no matter how stellar a good PM’s March 14 credentials might be. The pro-Syrian ministers could not topple Siniora’s cabinet a year ago because they did not have sufficient numbers to do so. In a new cabinet, they are likely to have that third, meaning that they can topple the cabinet at will. This is not an insurmountable problem if the president is March 14: he can work with the parliamentary majority to see that the replacement cabinet is an improvement, without a toppling third given again to the pro-Syrians. But if the president is weak or under Syrian influence, he will likely use his signatory power over the cabinet formation — signatory power that cannot be overridden — to insist again that the pro-Syrians have the toppling third, continuing the cycle of pro-Syrian vetoes over cabinet action… All of this argues, of course, for a credible president committed to March 14 principles as the first step to resolving Lebanon’s political crisis.

In other words, once Sleiman signs that piece of paper, the clock strikes midnight and his carriage turns back into a pumpkin. He has virtually no way to dictate the government’s agenda besides holding out for the best deal he can get right now. What this means, among other things, is that he is probably coming under a great deal of pressure from March 14th (and perhaps also the US ambassador and the Saudis) to continue to play hardball with Aoun.

So why all the fuss over the Interior Ministry? That’s a subject for another post.
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43 thoughts on “The General Begs to Differ

  1. I don’t believe the issue is just one minister. I think no one is really interested in putting a government in place.

    March 14 are happy being care takers and do not want to see others play with their pet projects.
    Mikati wants closure on the STL and would like to see the indictments before creating a government. He does not want to lose support in the Sunni street nor does he want to be PM of a sanctioned government.
    Hezballah also is unsure that it wants a government in Lebanon that will be called the “Hezbollah government”. Of all the parties though, Hezbollah are the ones that most want a government, but still not enough to force the hands of the other players.
    Aoun does not want a government. He wants to be president and if he is part of the “Hezbollah government” his chances will go from slim to none as he will never get Western support.

    Posted by AIG | April 19, 2011, 3:04 pm
  2. I just noticed that QN made a visit to his ‘ex-comrades’ at SC and took ‘revenge’. It was not just personal ‘revenge’ for that matter; it was a very well articulated, short, straight to the point and cunning ‘revenge’ of high ‘patriotic’ national repercussions. I feel it may take the die-hards in that blog a lot of head scratching to come up with a convincing and coherent reply. But I believe they will just brush it aside as an anomaly as usual. It is also likely, QN may now become classified as a ‘mundass’ (intruder) or even worse an MB member-in-hiding – a conspirator par excellence against Syria and its ‘great’ and ‘irreplaceable’ brave ‘rabbit’ son of the valiant ‘rabbit’.

    Posted by anonymous | April 19, 2011, 3:21 pm
  3. Anon

    Revenge? 🙂 Hardly. As you should know (having become an expert on my SC career), I’ve always been regarded as something of an agent provacateur over at Josh’s blog.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 19, 2011, 3:24 pm
  4. I have to disagree with the entire premise. During the past months a few of us have echoed our rationale on why there was going to be no government for a long time if at all… None would envision a tug of war between two Syrian appointed cronies.
    All the players on the M8 are bashar’s “supporters” (as evidenced by their proclamation yesterday). It used to be the STL; now the unstable situation in Syria has made it even more than likely that Lebanon will live without a functional government till the Syrian situation and STL are sorted out. Lebanon, unfortunately will be the “theater” of these events and its subsequent repercussions.

    Posted by danny | April 19, 2011, 3:46 pm
  5. Nauseated but Functional

    Let’s have a show of hands.

    How many people out there will puke the next time they hear the word “sectarianism”?

    C’mon QN, dirt poor, jobless, hungry, stifled Syrians who can’t speak their minds or enter a voting booth aren’t “sectarian”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 19, 2011, 3:57 pm
  6. Hypocrisy is a sharpened pencil jabbed in my eyeball.

    How does one support the revolution in Egypt but reject the uprisings in Syria?

    I have puked too many times, we have heard it all before, the issue is not sectarianism, the MB, pro-American/pro-Iranian,pro-democracy whatever whatever.

    Food, dignity, freedom, jobs, future, welfare, security….this is why the people are taking to the streets and here we are over- analysing, justifying, working out possible strategies. What goes on in the mind of Bashar? Nothing. That is his edge. Because it is so simple, that the audience ( West and East alike) figment a hypothetical character over analysing his Machiavellian moves. He’s got nothin, he has always had nothing. He and the whole degenerate, rotten to the core regime must fall like a house of cards if there is any semblance of justice in the world.

    Posted by Maverick | April 19, 2011, 5:47 pm
  7. The Lebanese are rapidly making an entry to the Guinness Book of records as the hosts of the world’s capital of hypocrisy. Creating just a bigger bowl than previous holders Israel. Alas, do not be concerned, the Israelites shall not be outplayed for too long.

    Posted by Maverick | April 19, 2011, 5:53 pm
  8. Just stating a simple fact here. It has been revealed via Wikileaks that the US has been funding opposition groups since W. Bush’s administration. Now whether this provides justification or not to praise Egypt’s but not Syria’s uprising is not answerable by me; but it at least tells you what one side is going to be arguing.

    Posted by Nasser V | April 19, 2011, 6:56 pm
  9. Nasser V,

    As it turns out, Wikileaks did not reveal anything. The US support for Syrian opposition groups has been public knowledge for a few years and the US government made no secret of it. The following is from the NY TIMES:


    On Monday, just as the Syrian government was pressing its claim that the unrest sweeping the country was not a peaceful, popular uprising against decades of oppressive rule, but an “armed mutiny” by extremists financed by foreign enemies, WikiLeaks chose to publish six cables from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus about recent American attempts to support activists working to promote democracy and human rights in Syria.

    The timing of the release, and a related front page article in The Washington Post headlined, “U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Cables Released by WikiLeaks Show,” could hardly have been better timed for Syria’s Baath Party, which is facing perhaps the most serious challenge to its rule since it seized power in 1963.

    Given that WikiLeaks is run by an activist dedicated to undermining excessive state power, the decision to publish these cables, at a moment when the documents might make it easier for Syria’s repressive government to tarnish supporters of freedom and human rights in Syria, is curious.

    What makes the release of the cables even odder, though, is that the American financial support for democracy in Syria has been public knowledge for more than five years. While The Post’s analysis of the cables claimed that “The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country,” this aid was first announced in a public statement by the Bush administration in 2006.

    Here is how the news was reported in the February 18, 2006 edition of The New York Times:

    The United States will allocate $5 million to finance the Syrian opposition and ”accelerate the work of reformers,” the State Department said, two days after announcing a similar $85 million plan for the Iranian opposition. The Syrian money would come from the department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative, it said, and ”will build up Syrian civil society and support organizations promoting democratic practices,” the department said.
    In fact, a look at the 2006 cable released by WikiLeaks on Monday, written three days after that news item was published in The Times and other newspapers, reveals that it is titled, “ANNOUNCEMENT TO FUND OPPOSITION HARSHLY CRITICIZED.”

    The cable, from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, was mainly concerned with complaints from Syrian democracy activists that such a public show of support for their cause from the American government was counterproductive and stated that opponents of the Assad regime inside Syria would be loathe to accept any of the money. The cable began:

    Post contacts have been quick to condemn the [U.S. government’s] public statement announcing the designation of five million USD for support of the Syrian opposition, calling it “na[i]ve” and “harmful.” Contacts insist that the statement has already hurt the opposition, and that the [Syrian government] will use it in the coming months to further discredit its opponents as agents of the Americans. We have also heard repeatedly that no bona fide opposition member will be courageous enough to accept funding. Contacts noted that the announcement could benefit the [Syrian government], since NGO’s with ties (often covert) to the [Syrian government] or its security services could be encouraged to apply for the funds. Several contacts insisted that the initiative indicated the U.S. did not really care about the opposition, but merely wanted to use it as “a chip in the game.” One contact praised the funding but said the amount was paltry compared with what had been set aside for the Iranian opposition.
    The most recent of the newly-published cables, from September, 2009, reported not on extensive, secret American support for activists inside Syria, but just on the fact that the Syrian government continued to accuse activists of receiving money from the fund announced in 2006.

    As has been the case with some of the other cables released by WikiLeaks, it seems likely that many people who do not actually read the text of these dispatches from the U.S. Embassy in Syria will assume that they reveal previously secret information about hidden American influence.

    But some reports from Syria suggest that American support for exile groups, and a television station based in London, has been relatively unimportant to the current protest movement.

    The Guardian’s correspondent in Damascus, who writes under the pseudonym Katherine Marsh, reported on Monday that an activist in the Syrian capital told her: “Even if the U.S. gave money to these groups, it has no bearing on the protests…. It is clear that this movement was started by normal people, not the opposition – which barely exists anyway – and not even us activists.”

    Ms. Marsh added: “Few people in Syria watch Barada TV,” the London-based television channel financed under the U.S. program. She also reported that “Syria’s weak, and mostly exiled, opposition,” which might have benefited from American support, “has little influence inside the country.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 19, 2011, 7:01 pm
  10. QN, now that rules of the game are clearer, we are hungry for the answer to:
    So why all the fuss over the Interior Ministry?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 19, 2011, 7:23 pm
  11. If the photo in this post is a recent one (?) then it shows the good General (the Napoleon guy) with a relatively unhealthy corpulence in comparison to the svelte Suleiman.
    Tsk tsk tsk, not so good for the good General.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 19, 2011, 7:27 pm
  12. HP

    The short answer is that he who holds the keys to the Interior Ministry will be able to (a) have a formative influence on the next electoral law, which will govern the 2013 legislative elections; (b) dismantle or reinforce what Saad al-Hariri has tried to do with the ISF.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 19, 2011, 8:08 pm
  13. I understand (a) but (b) is an enigma wrapped in a mystery:
    – which is it, dismantle or reinforce?
    – what has Saad al-Hariri tried to do with the ISF?

    I’m a patient dude (Honestly ;-)). I’ll wait for the next post.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 19, 2011, 8:48 pm
  14. Thanks Mr Nabki for the information. I am surprised the US gov is being so outspoken and forthcoming about aiding the opposition…I guess it just goes to show how clueless they are when it comes to the Mid-east.

    Posted by Nasser V | April 19, 2011, 9:16 pm
  15. Interesting and true about the signing power of Prez, QN:

    But really the “structural” problem goes much much deeper than the piece-of-crap constitution that can be changed in 15 minutes with one phone call from Syria (and was) or totally trashed even in a presidential election (and was).

    Also, re no government, who cares? Karame went much longer without one in the 1960s and the resulting “solution” ultimately destroyed the country.

    Posted by OldHand | April 19, 2011, 11:28 pm
  16. I’ve been wondering about the Estonians.

    I’ve been of the opinion from day one that they were kidnapped by Hezballah, based on bad Syrian intel. They then tried to pin in it on some obscure group (the way Hariri’s assassination was pinned on some poor goof).

    Now this ?!

    Posted by R2D2 | April 20, 2011, 7:26 am
  17. AIG, I agree with your comments except for “Of all the parties though, Hezbollah are the ones that most want a government, but still not enough to force the hands of the other players.”

    I still believe that there will be no government until the indictments content are somehow clear. Until then, HA will not want the government to be formed.

    QN @12, there is one more key the minster of interior holds which is the cooperation with the STL.

    btw, what happened to the false witnesses issue?

    Posted by IHTDA | April 20, 2011, 12:21 pm
  18. Well, several of us predicted quite accurately, 4 months ago, that there would be no new government for a long while. There’s absolutely nothing surprising in the current “tug of war”. And as AIG pointed out, this is really not necessarily just about the interior portfolio or whathaveyou. Nobody really has much of an interest in having a full government at the moment.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | April 20, 2011, 12:57 pm
  19. You should not miss JL’s latest ‘Skype’ show with guess who?

    Ammar Abdlhammid…

    JL is losing it completely. He is splitting hairs just regurgitating regime’s propaganda line. If JL is so bankrupt then so is the regime.

    No one in his right mind would consider Ammar a spokesman for the revolution or even of any weight in it. But the guy was brilliant in the way he handled the hapless JL.

    Also, the Syrian propaganda machine has been spewing for over a week the preposterous story that the famous video showing members of the regime hooligans abusing the people of Banias is an old fabricated video from Iraq. Just today, the Syrian government detained the head of political security (which is like the head of the regional Baath bureau) because was shown to appear in that video.

    But what is going on the revolution front? Well, this is Easter Friday. You probably guessed what the revolution dubbed the coming Friday. Exactly that: Great Friday which is Easter Friday in Arabic.

    Dr. Burhan Ghalyoun, a well known head of strategic studies for the near east at the Sorbonne, called Assad government latest manoeuvres spent ammunition and with no practical value. In his opinion, the state of emergency rule has been terminated by defacto through the continuing month long demonstrations and not by government decision.

    Posted by anonymous | April 20, 2011, 2:43 pm
  20. On April 19, the Saudi owned Elaph website carried the following report: “The Lebanese Speaker Nabih Birri told Elaph that the process of the new cabinet formation being led by the Appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati depends on the problem of the Ministry of Interior portfolio. This portfolio is being disputed between the President of the Republic, General Michel Suleiman, and the President of the Change and Reform Bloc, General Michel Aoun. He declined to set a deadline for reaching a solution concerning this issue.

    “Birri gave no importance to the information indicating the presence of another problem as represented by the representation of the Sunni opposition. He declared that he supports the appointment of Faysal Karami, the son of former Prime Minister Omar Karami. He also added that PM Mikati is not a stranger to this direction although he does prefer not to upset his ally, MP Ahmad Karami in this regard based on the principle of being loyal to those who have always stood by him in good times and bad times.

    “The Speaker mentioned that, as he was visiting Kuwait yesterday in order to offer his condolences for the passing of the late Businessman Nasser al-Khirafi, he met [the Kuwaiti] Prince, Sheikh Sabbah Ahmad al-Sabbah who asked him about the current situation of the cabinet to which he replied with a smile: “Our situation is similar to yours in the issue of the cabinet formation. It seems that we both need a prayer to bring the rain down…”

    “As a response to the request of general Aoun to hold a legislative hearing today in order to consider a number of hanging issues, mainly the issue of electricity especially since summertime is nearing…, Birri said that he wishes that General Aoun would come up with a fatwa in order to hold such a hearing knowing that the best way to solve the problems at hand is to speed up the cabinet formation.

    “And when asked about his plans concerning the issue of the Future Bloc MP Jamal al-Jarrah, who was accused by the official Syrian television of providing destructive cells within Syria with money and weapons, he said: “I have met with MP Al-Jarrah a few days ago and he left me on a happy note. However, it seems that his bloc is not happy and some sides want me to be a judge or an investigator while others are asking for a hearing in order to discuss this issue.”

    “And concerning his view on what is being said about the Lebanese cabinet formation being connected to the situation in Syria, the speaker said that those who are saying that are completely ignorant when it comes to politics. He asserted that the Syrian leadership aspires for a quick cabinet formation. However, we must speed up this process from our side in order to be able to confront any problem that might face us.” – Elaph, United Kingdom

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 20, 2011, 3:13 pm
  21. The last paragraph leaves a blank ?!

    Posted by R2D2 | April 20, 2011, 3:30 pm
  22. #20,

    I believe everything Berri said about Syria’s non involvement in Lebanese politics. 😀

    Posted by danny | April 20, 2011, 3:34 pm
  23. Anonymous

    You and I must have watched completely different videos.

    I thought Joshua asked very relevant questions and hardly came across as a regime propaganda regurgitater.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 20, 2011, 3:38 pm
  24. Anon

    Who, in your opinion, CAN speak for the opposition? Name names.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 20, 2011, 3:39 pm
  25. I don’t doubt that Aoun and Sleiman are in a Michel tug of wars of sorts, and are taking it seriously in their own way. Even though they may realize the whole thing is a big joke.

    But I think this is more emblematic of the general problem which is that at the end of the day. They’re Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee (you get to pick and choose who is who). They’re quite irrelevant in the big picture.

    Whatever may have been true 3/4 months ago regarding a stall in government as a result of the STL has now been complicated 100-fold. I don’t think anyone in Lebanon will be rushing to make decisions with all the regional turmoil in the background.

    Posted by Gabriel | April 20, 2011, 3:47 pm
  26. So Qifa you watched the video?

    And you still defend Landis?

    Well, how about when he keeps stoking ‘fears’ of the past? How about his continuous beating around the bush of sectarianism? Why does he keep bringing up the ‘examples’ of Lebanon and Iraq? What year does he think he lives in? 1980? Aren’t those strictly government propaganda lines?

    You may say he has the right to be critical of the revolution. Of course, no doubt. But the guy has a history of scandalous bias. Here is what one visitor (an old timer) had to say to him and others on his site very recently:

    “Zoubaida: I read your blog for years. Now I have to say it is over and I can’t take it anymore. I can’t read one more word about Syria you publish. I am going to unsubscribe, just like canceling my Facebook and shutting the TV. I did the same after 9/11. I couldn’t hear anymore. This is a nightmare and it is not ending. I hope God will prove you all wrong and that after the people causing this destruction to Syria get the freedom they want, we, the people get to keep the Syria we love. A Syria that is not part of a Great Israel or greater Turkey. Not part of a Irani / Iraqi Empire or Muslim brotherhood kingdom. I don’t know if prayers are heard but I am praying to God to prove you all wrong. None of you really care about Syria the place or the Syrian people. None of you care to preserve the little we have. We want our Syria back and away from your news. May God prove you all wrong, may God save and protect Syria.”

    There are no leaders for the revolution at the moment. Did Egyptian revolution have any leaders? Even now, does it have leader(s)? Or even Tunisia? But as Ammar said many in Syria will emerge when the right time comes. I am sure you agree Syria’s 20 million-plus have a lot more talent than a single individual who has to expose his behind daily otherwise the sun may fail to rise.

    As a matter of fact it is a good thing not to have leader(s) at this stage of the game. You know why? It will help eliminate the cult of personality worship which has been the staying power of all these regimes. It is a mean for empowering the people, and makes them feel directly responsible for making their destiny.

    Posted by anonymous | April 20, 2011, 4:15 pm
  27. On a slightly different note, can one of the “Resistance” supporters please explain to me why the glorious and divine resistance, which is so freaking noble and righteous, allows and encourages its members to build on public land, illegally?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | April 20, 2011, 4:40 pm
  28. Wow.

    “Anonymous” truly is shameless.

    Posted by Gabriel | April 20, 2011, 4:48 pm
  29. QN:

    On a serious note though. I was just reading JL’s blurb on Abdulwhatever (the chap he interviewed)… click on the link attached to name.

    Apparently he had a little stint with “fundamentalism”, and is now a certified, “atheist”, I mean “agnostic”.

    It seems whereever you are: Egypt, Tunis, Syria. The Pro-Democracy media keeps pushing the atheists to the fore. The Ikhwan (and related groups) are taking a back seat and are uninterested in any power.

    I think it hardly can be any better a time to be an Arab atheist. It’s almost a badge of honor one can wear. I should move back to the region.

    They may make me President!


    Posted by Gabriel | April 20, 2011, 4:55 pm
  30. Anonymous

    I think you are being unfair to JL on this score. Since when does raising the question of sectarianism amount to regurgitating regime propoganda? He does not engage in fear-mongering in that clip; he simply raises the obvious questions that many people are already asking in order to get Ammar’s take on them. In my opinion, Ammar was very strong on most of the issues but very weak on the sectarianism question. I’ll be blogging about this later.

    By the way, I agree with your broader point about the regime’s tactic of trying to scare people by playing the sectarianism card. But just because the regime is playing that card, doesn’t mean that it is not a legitimate issue. And pretending that Syria is “exceptional” and unlike Lebanon and Iraq is way too hazy an argument for me.

    Finally, if the revolution has no representative yet, what’s wrong with someone like Ammar to come out and play a role? Well-spoken, camera-friendly, Western secularists are useful instruments for a movement like this one; witness Wael Ghoneim.

    More on this soon enough. Thanks for your input.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 20, 2011, 5:05 pm
  31. Qifa,

    You may have misunderstood me.

    First, there is nothing wrong with Ammar, who is undoubtedly articulate, to come out and speak about the revolution. Besides, he did not claim to be its spokesman. He was presenting his take as you said.

    Secondly, JL is packaging government line for local consumption in this part of the world, which was and still is his function. That is his whole objective.

    Thirdly, I read your rebuttal of Ammar’s case vis-à-vis sectarianism at SC. I agree partly. But if this is what you stoke in the Middle East, this is what you get in the end. In other words the regime that claims to have learnt the lessons of Lebanon and Iraq is using those lessons to immerse Syria in the same dilemmas. That means they learnt the wrong lessons. They are to blame for any possible sectarian fallouts and not the revolution. (I still believe it will fire back in their face and my reasoning is a scenario I outlined here not long ago).

    Fourth, the regime is as guilty of using and manipulating these same ‘demonized’ and ‘unseen’ forces as any one else and perhaps even more so. Here’s a rundown:
    1) They court Meshaal (an MB) in Damascus and outlaw MB’s in Syria.
    2) They court Hamas (MB) in Gaza and seek to destabilize Egypt and are even partly guilty for the 2009 Gaza destruction.
    3) They prevented Palestinian reconciliation in 2006 when the factions agreed to it in KSA. Mechaal reneged on his obligations the moment he landed in Damascus. Syrian government was so proud of its achievement at the time and ability to manipulate.
    4) They exported the Fatah el-Islam to Nahr el-Barid in Lebanon. Al-Abssi (their leader) is a known graduate of Syrian jails.
    5) They were responsible for all or most the Jihadists who crossed to Iraq and helped fuel the sectarian strife in that country.

    And many more.

    In short, if this is what you sow, this is what you harvest.

    The argument that Ammar and Ghalyoun are raising which is very powerful, in my opinion, goes as follows. You (Assads and Baath) have been the cooks for 50 years. You have been producing the same rotten menu over and over. Now when the people are fed up you cannot pretend to continue to be the cooks and promise a new menu and expect the people to take it. In other words the same people who have been running the show for 50 years cannot produce the sought-after reforms that would be acceptable.

    Thanks to you as well.

    Posted by anonymous | April 20, 2011, 5:41 pm
  32. R2D2 @16, that video was removed! (it’s also the same link from naharnet). I found it posted again here.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 20, 2011, 7:47 pm
  33. … sorry, here’s that link:

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 20, 2011, 7:48 pm
  34. Third is a charm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXFAOBHSGBM

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 20, 2011, 7:49 pm
  35. Then again (deep apoloties): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJQacdI7iF0

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 20, 2011, 7:50 pm
  36. QN, if you have a moment, you might want to consolidate 32-35 into a single post with the correct link (the last one).

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 20, 2011, 7:51 pm
  37. Anon, who calls it “Easter Friday?”
    Al-jum3a-al-3azimah is “Good Friday” as far as I’ve always known, at least in the U.S.
    “Easter Friday?” is that in the U.K., Australia?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 20, 2011, 7:56 pm
  38. I have to agree with anonymous regarding the esteemed JL.

    I placed a short little post on SC regarding the issue of “sectarianism”. This word makes the hair on my back stand up. It’s basically a “red herring”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 20, 2011, 8:02 pm
  39. HP,

    I take it back. It is Good Friday as you said. I was just thinking Easter as a holiday and made the Good Friday Easter. You had a term for that kind of ‘mishap’ recently, what was it?

    And was there anything else you found missing?

    My point was after Insistence Friday (Israr) and the other Fridays dubbed with ‘colorful’ description (like honor, martyrdom, etc…), now we have al-Jumoa al-Azima just in time. And preparations are underway from today in Der’a, Zebadani (Suburb of damas), Banias, Aleppo. But the most defiant is Homs, even after the Tuesday ‘massacre’ and the government’s latest ban on demonstrations. Here’s a recent clip from that city,

    By the way what kind of help are the kidnapped Estonians looking for? Are there any specific demands from the kidnappers? There should be, otherwise they wouldn’t allow such clip to come out.


    Posted by anonymous | April 20, 2011, 8:25 pm
  40. Ok, I put the new post up.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 20, 2011, 8:38 pm
  41. QN, I stopped reading JL long time ago. He is definitely a propagandist for the Assad regime in the west, and the interview with Ammar was conducted exactly as anonymous said.

    Posted by Tarek | April 24, 2011, 11:11 pm
  42. I agree with all you points QN, but I think the “interior ministry” issue is overplayed, and the rivalry between the two Michels could be managed, if anyone was willing to do it. Both man can be reasonable (withstanding their egos and stubbornness), and they are the easiest players to manipulate in the political arena. March XIV® have become experts in waving a red rag… to get either one of the Michel to run charging (especially Michel Aoun)!

    To be fair, during the first two months, Mikati was busy postponing the formation of the government to survive the Future Movement’s campaigns (and symbolic dates), and to build on his sunni and international credentials.
    And even now, I wouldn’t downplay the “sunni” issue, even if it is not making the headlines. It has not been solved now, and it raises a lot of problems. For the first time since 1992, one of the largest political forces in Lebanon (and the largest parliamentary bloc today), is going to be out of the government. But this doesn’t mean that it is out of the system. After nearly 20 years of appointments, it controls several administrations and has considerable weight in others. And it also is the largest player on the financial/banking sector. So even if it’s out of the government, it’s not out of the system of governance…
    I honestly don’t know how Miqati will be able to govern a country that ressembles a roman chariot pulled by four forces… but holding only three of their reins.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | April 26, 2011, 2:57 am
  43. Thank you WL

    All very good points, as usual.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 26, 2011, 8:25 am

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