Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

Lebanese Stalemate: The Syria Theory

I have tried to resist viewing the current stalemate in Lebanon’s cabinet formation as the product of Syrian meddling. After all, there are  more than enough local obstacles in Lebanon for Syria to bother getting its hands dirty. Some of these obstacles include:

The longer this stalemate continues, however, the more I begin to suspect a Syrian dimension to Aoun’s stalling tactics. When virtually every other member of the March 8 coalition has expressed their support for Najib Miqati and their satisfaction with his efforts to form a cabinet, Aoun is the only one who has consistently put up a fight and threatened to withdraw his support for Miqati’s candidacy (besides, of course, Wi’am Wahhab…)

The question is: why would Syria have an interest in preventing the formation of a government by its own allies in Beirut? The past four months have made Hizbullah, Amal, and the FPM look completely hapless. The only conceivable reason for putting the brakes on would be to spare a “Hizbullah-led” government from being painted as an accomplice to Syria’s crackdown on its protesters.

Let’s imagine that Miqati succeeds in forming the government tomorrow, and let’s also imagine that the protests in Syria escalate over the next several weeks to the point where the regime has to launch a major security operation, killing hundreds more people and sending thousands of refugees (including many opposition activists) streaming across the border. If a March 8 government in Lebanon denies asylum to the Syrian opposition (which is a safe bet), Hizbullah and its allies would become easy targets for March 14th’s media outlets. Saad Hariri and co. would not miss a chance to paint the Lebanese government as an extension of the Assad regime, and this could easily galvanize enormous protests in Lebanon in support of the Syrian people.

That would be a publicity nightmare for Damascus and its Lebanese allies, all of whom came out in strong support of the populist movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain.  So perhaps the current state of affairs does indeed have foreign fingerprints all over it. If the cabinet is formed the day after Bashar al-Assad declares victory over the Syrian opposition, we may know for sure…

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58 thoughts on “Lebanese Stalemate: The Syria Theory

  1. Cynic.

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 20, 2011, 10:44 am
  2. You rang? 🙂

    (Btw, are you vandalizing my Facebook page?)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 10:45 am
  3. Wouldn’t Occam’s Razor suggest that Aoun is just a douche?

    Posted by sean | May 20, 2011, 10:49 am
  4. QN,

    I think the explanation why there isn’t a government is more simple. From the start even March 8 understood that a “Hezbollah led” government is bad for Lebanon and will isolate it internationally. They want March 14 in the government to counter that and for the following reasons:
    1) They do not want to set a precedent that the PM, Speaker or President can be from a party supported by the minority of the appropriate sect. Miqati is not a “consensus” candidate. I think Berri is especially worried.
    2) Miqati would rather wait for the indictments before committing to a government that may be his end in the Sunni street if the indictments are strong. Alternatively, he needs FM in the government to cover his ass in case the indictments are convincing.

    Posted by AIG | May 20, 2011, 10:49 am
  5. Sean: 🙂


    I think that you are right and the likelihood is that there are multiple reasons for why the process is taking so long. The problem, though, with this explanation is that March 8 would not have toppled the government if they knew that they would have to rebuild it again with M14 in it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 10:53 am
  6. You are reading the events in reverse. Your conclusion might make sense, however, I don’t think the delay of the formation of the Cabinet has anything to do with the current situation in Syria.

    *Miqati has had the post since january while the Syrian protests started in middle of March.

    * All the M8 actors serve at Bashar’s pleasure. Since 2005; Aoun has been used by Syria/Iran/HA to push forward their agenda; and stall complicate or delay…

    * Slyman is also Syria’s man in the palace. Remember the unconstitutional president was the one who delayed the PM consultations on Syria’s behest to “convince” Jumblat and Miqati to change their votes.

    In my opinion there are several reasons to delay the formation of the Cabinet.

    * STL. Syria and HA especially are scared stiff of the ramifications and the isolation pursuat to the indictments. To them it makes sense not to have a functioning cabinet to allow them flexibility in dealing with STL

    * Current rise of the protests in Syria
    * I am certain that Hariri was happy to be “coup d’etated”…Now he does not bear the responsibility of having to arrest any HA operatives should indictments be against the.

    If the situation worsened in Syria I could envision a battalion of HK’s divine warriors being sent to Damascus to “help out”…

    Finally whether M8 or M16…It does not make any difference. If we had thousands of Syrians fleeing the conflict; NO ONE can be stupid enough to close the borders in their face!

    Posted by danny | May 20, 2011, 10:54 am
  7. I don’t think so, thought of that saying in the positive sense, then realized it may have another.

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 20, 2011, 10:56 am
  8. QN,

    March 8 toppled the government because they were sure the indictments were right around the corner. In addition, they believed they could coerce FM to join the government because Hariri would be afraid to lose his influence and have his men replaced in government. Hariri called their bluff and they are stuck. As many on this blog suspected, March 8 did not think through the end game and it appears that they just do not have one.

    Posted by AIG | May 20, 2011, 11:25 am
  9. The Syrian Alawite Butchers of the Assad Mafia do not need any “Divine Warriors” or Persian War Hogs. If push comes to shove, they are fully capable of pulling another Hama9 anytime. They seem to be getting there and they are certainly desperate to regain some semblance of normalcy!
    SHN will never get involved in Syria and Hezbollah will not be needed. It will make matters much worse for the Baath lunatics because of the complexity of the sectarian make-up there. In 5 days SHN will formulate Hezbollah’s position. The situation in Syria will end in a blood bath soon, if things last another month or two.

    Posted by HK | May 20, 2011, 12:10 pm
  10. Miqati’s job, from the beginning, was to form a cabinet that would ultimately resign or not be granted a vote of confidence in Parliament.

    Ultimately, this strategy was concocted under the premise that the STL would issue its indictment in the period directly following the M8 January “coup”.

    By forming a cabinet that wouldn’t see the light of day Miqati would pander to the Syrians, establish himself as the alternative Sunni politician, and ultimately avoid the historical labeling of being the Sunni politician who killed the STL (or tried to, at least).

    M8, by contrast would succeed in establishing a vacuum in which Hizballah could comfortably continue pursuing its paramilitary agenda [on behalf of its Iranian patrons] while the Syrians could continue to present themselves as the saviors of Lebanon by pledging to step in and help “convince” their allies.

    In the meantime, and this is the most important part, the Miqati cabinet – resigned as it would be – would become the caretaker cabinet with full control over the institutions of the state.

    A dream come true for M8, a vacuum would be established with M8 inside the institutions themselves … or what’s left of them.

    Posted by Theodore Arz | May 20, 2011, 12:14 pm
  11. I agree with AIG.
    There will be no government until the indictments are revealed. When the dust settles, The next government will be a “National Salvation” one (to the dislike of GK and many of us on this blog). Hopeless…

    Posted by IHTDA | May 20, 2011, 12:39 pm
  12. Another anti-Israeli European. What a surprise!

    There’s some director who said Israelis are a “pain in the ass”. Does this concern you?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 20, 2011, 12:49 pm
  13. QN,

    I think you’re looking at this all wrong.
    Some of us predicted there would be no M8 (or any) cabinet long before the Syria unrest, and back where the topic du jour was the STL.
    I think it was never in HA/Syria/Iran’s interest to have a functional government that would be accountable to the international community (no one cares about accountability to the citizens) when it came to STL logistical matters.
    I think Miqati’s efforts were destined to fail before he was even selected as PM candidate, and I think none of that has changed.

    I think Walid Jumblatt was well aware of this, btw. Note that he didn’t really make a big deal out of backing Miqati’s candidacy at the time, because he knew very well that it wouldn’t matter. And since he was under duress (by all accounts) to quit M14, why the hell not…Not much to lose.
    Which is why he’s now sitting around taking potshots at his “allies” in M8 as well.

    Of course, with the situation being what it is in Syria now, there is no added incentive for Iran or Syria to mess with the status quo (lack of government) in Lebanon…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 20, 2011, 12:50 pm
  14. PS: AIG nailed it, I think. Good read and good analysis, sir.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 20, 2011, 12:53 pm
  15. AIG and BV

    It should be straightforward that the reasons that brought about the fall of the Hariri govt may not be the same ones that are preventing the formation of the Miqati govt. In a four month period, many factors can influence the process, and I’m suggesting that the events in Syria may be one of these factors, not the only one.

    As you guys may remember, I made the argument that M8 was acting short-sightedly on the day after they took down Hariri’s govt. It was a very silly move indeed, but I don’t think that the cabinet is now being held up by only by anxiety about the indictment and setting a bad confessional precedent. At the end of the day, they’ve already broken the precedent by taking down Hariri. What’s more, how would a govt without the FM represented in it handle the post-indictment period any worse than a govt led by the FM?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 1:32 pm
  16. QN,
    your basic premise is that its aoun’s fault.have you ever considered that
    miqati isunder too much pressure from saudi/american… we have been
    told that there is no gov. because of aoun’s demands for the ministry of
    thhe interior and now that it is settled wtf is going on?

    Posted by Erraticideas | May 20, 2011, 2:54 pm
  17. QN,

    The government is held up because M8 do not want a government without FM. There is a difference between asking Miqati to form a government and actually having a government without FM.

    Post indictment, the Lebanese government will be asked to hand over the indicted. It will make a huge difference if a government with M14 or without M14 is asked to do this and the consequences for Lebanon would be different.

    The main reason the government is held up is that M8 know that without M14 in the government, Lebanon will be isolated internationally and in a dangerous situation before and after the indictments. They would have terrible relations with the West and serious problems recycling the Lebanese debt, just to name 2 problems. Why would they want to march into a certain failure? M8 believed they could coerce M14 into the government to act as a fig leaf, but Hariri called their bluff.

    Posted by AIG | May 20, 2011, 2:56 pm
  18. I’m not buying this either. March 8 are getting the negative publicity anyway..

    Posted by Mustapha | May 20, 2011, 3:28 pm
  19. It would be utterly naive to think that GMA, STL’s shenanigans, or Hariri’s “smarts” are an impediment to a stupid Government formation process in Lebanon.
    Michel Sleiman, Hariri, Siniora, Miqati, Ra3i and many other actors are mere pawns in the Great Game. The stakes are much much higher than this. The whole Geo-strategic equation is at stake from Pakistan to Morocco and Lebanon/Syria are the front door and the laboratory. Steering the Sectarian pot is extremely dangerous and irresponsible. It’s a make or brake situation for the crumbling US Empire. The slightest miscalculation risks triggering a mega regional war, and June’s window of opportunity for such a war is right around the corner…

    Posted by HK | May 20, 2011, 3:34 pm
  20. AIG

    Your reading is too simplistic. There have been no reports of meetings between M8 and FM officials. If this was truly the major thing holding up the cabinet formation, we would have heard of attempts to woo Hariri’s bloc back in, at some point over the past 4 months. Instead, all we’ve heard about is in-fighting within M8 about cabinet shares.

    Having M14 in the government (but not leading it) would not solve anything for M8 when it comes to indictments. If the Lebanese govt refused to turn over the indicted individuals, M14 ministers would surely resign in protest, thereby isolating M8 again.

    Maybe there are anxieties in the M8 camp (particularly with Berri and Jumblatt and some in Hizbullah) about going it alone without M14, but at the end of the day this is not the major obstacle in my view.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 3:43 pm
  21. HK

    How do you decide whether to eat a manqoushet za3tar or jibneh in the morning? The slightest miscalculation risks triggering catastrophe… 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 3:48 pm
  22. Hezbollah and allies seem to have made a strategic error when they decided to designate Mikati. He has proven himself to be much more independent than they ever dreamed and much more in favour of the general policies of the March 14 group than March 14 is willing to admit.

    Based on the above my interpretation is that GMA acts on behalf of HA and does not lead. They will and they have used him before as a cover of convenience. Whenevr they are ready to cut a deal they will call their bulldog off. The fact that they have not done so means that he is operating with their total approval.

    Mikati will not burn his bridges with the Sunni community and wants to be seen as a saviour or at least as a problem solver who was able to build the gap between the two opposing forces.
    HA will not be able to get Mikati to form “their” government but he will be willing to form a cabinet in which they play a major role provided that they do not dominate the cabinet totally.

    That is why we are at an impasse. I believe that Mikati has an opportunity to tell both sides that he is determined to form a cabinet that is guided only by the national interest and one that is totally technocratic.That has been my personal preference for the past four months and I will not be surprised to find that Mr. Mikati will be forced to have a show down with the 128 MP.

    I have written about the above in a post at:

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 20, 2011, 4:30 pm
  23. QN,

    I don’t like either, so you are miscalculating again my friend…
    I prefer Kellogg’s cereals with French skim milk 🙂
    The Empire still has some great things to offer us mere mortals 🙂

    Posted by HK | May 20, 2011, 4:36 pm
  24. GK,

    The technocrati baloney is a non starter in Lebanon. There are none. Everyone is politicized to the bones.

    Posted by HK | May 20, 2011, 4:41 pm
  25. HK
    I think that the 90 day Mikati governemt of 2005 worked very well.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 20, 2011, 5:12 pm
  26. hmm, this reads as a who dunnit mystery.
    But if i can throw my two cents worth, I’ll go straight to the top and weave around the political landmines on the Lebanese scene.
    There might be a rift between Syrian and Iranian policies in regards to Lebanon. Iran, via Hizbollah want to see a Unity Govt not unlike the Palestinian reconciliation. Where the boys in suits can look after the accounts and other details and the boys in beards can maintain the “defense” policies…and the last word on major decisions.
    While Syria , prefer a one coloured cabinet as much as they can or no cabinet at all.This would explain Aouns pig headedness, and the pro Syrians threatening to withdraw their nomination for Mikati.

    Posted by Maverick | May 20, 2011, 6:11 pm
  27. QN,

    I don’t think AIG is being simplistic at all. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that the simplest explanations are usually not too far off the mark.

    As I said, some of us made this prediction long before the Arab spring or any such considerations. There is absolutely NO reason why HA would want a functional government in Lebanon. It’s that simple.
    They did this before in 2006-2008.
    It suits them just fine to have their state within a state, with the official government being completely unaccountable one way or another to the outside world.
    With the STL approaching, their situation was going to be untenable come indictment time, under a Hariri govt. so they torpedoed that government.
    Being officially in charge of Lebanon does not suit M8. It puts Lebanon’s aid packages at risk due to the “Terrorist designation”, it gives Israel an excuse for all sorts of things, not to mention the UN (let’s not forget chapter 7) when indictments do come and there’s an official government that has to respond, or face the consequences.
    This way, HA gets to keep running our foreign policy (basically), the caretaker government gets to run the day to day crap of paying our employees and all that fun stuff that HA doesn’t want to get saddled with. No one can make any big decisions (except HA of course), and no one is accountable to the UN or any potential donors, etc.

    It makes perfect sense. It’s NOT shortsighted (from HA’s point of view), it’s exactly what they wanted all along.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 20, 2011, 6:58 pm
  28. BV

    Why would Hizbullah’s position have been untenable under a Hariri government?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 7:16 pm
  29. HA is not in the position it used to be in.
    in light of the money laundering fiasco, Irans sanctions and the new realities in Syria, HA is feeling a little boxed in economically, and politically.
    They must have some intention of forming a cabinet for relevancy purposes, and lets not forget, their constituency are suffering like any other citizen in this vacuum.
    Usually, HA would poke at Israel and sound the drums as a deterrence, but in light of the shaky regional events, that option is off the table. The only way they can muster relevancy right now is through the traditional structures of power in the form of the cabinet.

    Posted by Maverick | May 20, 2011, 7:26 pm
  30. Let’s think back to that time period, before the whole Arab spring.
    What were we spending our time discussing here on QN? 🙂
    The STL’s impending indictments.

    We were clearly not the only ones concerned by this. Not a day passed without a HA mouthpiece (Qassem, Raad, Hajj-Hassan, etc.) talking about the STL and how it was such a big conspiracy against the resistance, etc and making vague threats and so on…
    Clearly, HA was concerned, or else they’d have spent their time talking about something else for months on end.

    Had the indictments come down, there was clearly something HA was nervous about. I don’t quite know what it was. But it was clearly there. Be it a UN mandate, an excuse for foreign intervention, some kind of demands made of the Lebanese government that would put the happy balance of M14/M8 in jeopardy that might even put HA in a civil war type corner (ala May 2008).

    See, I am of the opinion that HA is not really interested in “winning” the M8/M14 “cold war” or winning elections or governing Lebanon. It suits them perfectly fine to have an M14 camp, as long as said camp doesn’t cross red lines (the weapons). M14 provides a great balance and patsy for HA. It provides a semi-legitimate government, with which the west can interact, that can still ask for aid, that can still bring in the money, while HA still pulls the real strings when it comes to foreign policy and so on.

    Back to my original point: With HA getting near hysterical about the STL, and probably fearing that when push come to shove, if Hariri’s government is asked by the international community to do something like hand over suspects, or whatnot, it would force us into a situation very similar to May 2008 (remember the decrees to close the HA phone network, etc)….HA decided it would be better to not have Hariri able to make any “BIG” decisions (he can still run day to day affairs under the aegis of caretaker government). So they took his government down.

    They never had any intention of forming a M8 government because that would actually make matters worse if/when the STL were to rear its head. It would place the official government of Lebanon on a “terrorist” list, and possibly open Lebanon up to sanctions for refusing to comply with whatever chapter 7 mandate the UN might come up with.

    For HA, the current status quo makes perfect sense.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 20, 2011, 7:33 pm
  31. BV

    Hizbullah was (and is) obviously concerned about the STL, but it wasn’t because they ever imagined that Hariri’s government would dare to try to turn over suspects. What worries them about the STL is the effect it will have on their reputation. That is why they supported Hariri as PM in the first place, because they hoped to be able to pressure him to cut a deal, whereby he would exonerate them and end Lebanon’s cooperation with the court.

    That is what was so surprising about their decision to take down that government. As I wrote back in January, it solved nothing for them. So that was clearly a mistake.

    All that being said, I don’t believe that “they never had any intention of forming a M8 government.” At some point, you have to form a government. You can’t leave things in limbo indefinitely, or else you start to look completely pathetic.

    My sense is that there are a variety of factors impeding the process, among them:

    (1) Aoun’s demands
    (2) The uncertainty in Syria
    (3) Uneasiness among some, like Berri, Jumblatt, and certain members of Hizbullah’s leadership about being blamed for isolating Lebanon and breaking the confessional precedents
    (4) Pressure being placed on Sleiman by the Americans and the Saudis not to give in to Aoun’s demands (who would allow Syria to regain control over the ISF)

    But I just don’t see the STL as featuring that prominently in the calculus. The STL’s effect on Hizbullah (providing the indictments target their members and the evidence is compelling) is going to do what it does regardless of who is leading Lebanon, UNLESS that person is Hariri.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 7:46 pm
  32. Guys, look at this story.

    There have already been 5,000 refugees from Syria crossing into Lebanon, according to Human Rights Watch. That organization along with Jeffrey Feltman is now calling on the Lebanese government to grant asylum to these people instead of turning them back (where they will be jailed and possibly tortured).

    Now imagine that this number swells to 50,000 and imagine that the government is a March 8th one that is refusing them asylum. How easy would it be for Hariri’s people to whip up Lebanese outrage, given that many people in places like Tripoli are already furious with what’s going on in Syria?

    What’s odd to me is that Hariri has not already made a statement or taken a stand on accepting the refugees, but that’s probably because he’s nowhere to be found. What a nincompoop.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 20, 2011, 7:53 pm
  33. IMO everyone overlooked the most obvious reasons that brought down the government. According to HA and Syria Hariri failed to ‘honour’ a certain vague deal about the STL brokered by KSA and Syria. You should recall the press conference of Hariri in which he said it plainly that his father’s blood is not for sale. That announcement convinced both HA and Syria that Hariri cannot be trusted and contained in order to behave according to their wishes. So the decision was taken to bring down the government by both Syria and HA without even considering the consequences due to the public display of defiance. As many pointed out, from HA’s perspective it doesn’t make much difference if there is a government or not and in case of indictment it is preferable not to have one. So the government was brought down just before Hariri stepped into the White House just for HA to enjoy the moment of telling him that it has the power to make him an ex-PM before he meets the President of the US. So there was no need for them to consider the consequences as long as they have their state within state. And for that matted they still don’t.

    Everyone also overlooked the fact that March 14 made its participation in the government contingent on obtaining a blocking veto which was a no-no for HA as it will mean any government will again fall at the whim of March 14 depriving HA of any benefits from its ‘coup’.

    I do not think that GMA is a tool in the hands of HA. I believe it is the other way around as HA will become isolated if it loses him. So HA would have applied pressure on GMA if it had known such pressure would work. Miqati miscalculated, and I said since day one that he has no Arab support even though some here argued otherwise. It has been shown on many occasions that the Gulf States have opposed him and they still do.

    March 8 is a collection of disparate groups with divergent agendas. It was expected that they would fail.

    Also, a technocratic government is not ‘constitutional’ and would not get a vote of confidence. Today’s Lebanon cannot be ruled by technocrats.

    Posted by iceman | May 20, 2011, 9:04 pm
  34. QN 33,

    Actually Hariri did make a statement about the Syrian refugees. I just read it few minutes ago. Will have to look it up again and link it.

    Posted by iceman | May 20, 2011, 9:06 pm
  35. “But I just don’t see the STL as featuring that prominently in the calculus. The STL’s effect on Hizbullah (providing the indictments target their members and the evidence is compelling) is going to do what it does regardless of who is leading Lebanon, UNLESS that person is Hariri.”

    Sorry QN. You are wrong on this one. It was Syria who toppled the Hariri government NOT HA. It is STL as I stated above along with BV. We have been saying this from the beginning. The miscalculation was Syria’s. . Syria has been wrong ever since 2005. HA has no reputation to uphold ever since May 2008.

    STL was it and will always be the pendulum that swings the mood. However, Syria even lost that trump card. Even if they try to make a deal to squash HA it will not get them anywhere. that ship has sailed. The Syrian people hold the cards now.

    Posted by danny | May 20, 2011, 9:43 pm
  36. Aoun is an important contributor to M8. Aoun does not and cannot operate in a vacuum, does not and cannot have the last word and his actions are closely aligned within the larger strategy put forth by HA…Stalling is simply a means to buy time and/or provide cover…

    HA benefited and continues to benefit from a semblance of a state and does not approve of the scratching of the status quo unless and until it has the largest say in the architecture of a new Lebanese state…

    Mikati is reading the events unfolding around him quite well and his perceived inability to form a cabinet is about more than portfolios…He is M8’s nominee yet he needs to stay relevant in the Sunni equation. And the unfolding events in Syria have to factor in his actions/inactions…

    Syria cannot distance itself from the Lebanese cabinet formation. The Lebanese card is simply too valuable – closely tied in to its relevance in the Arab Israeli conflict and the larger Middle East – and it perceives it as vital to its security. With the crisis in Syria moving in a dangerous direction, international sanctions targeting Assad himself, and an STL waiting in the wing, the Assad regime simply cannot take the risk of having the wrong cabinet in Beirut – One that is viewed with suspicion by the international community –

    I agree with QN…I believe Assad has calculated the lack of a Lebanese cabinet formation especially at this time buys him badly needed time…With M8 obliging…

    Posted by CK | May 20, 2011, 9:48 pm
  37. Danny #36/ BV …
    Those of you who suspect a major role of the STL in the Syrian behaviour might be right. Have you seen the latest from the Figaro? It is claimed that the Frecj intel has given the STL solid info about Syrian involvment in the Assassination of Rafic Hariri. No names have been revealed but it is suspected that they are hisg ranking officials and that the names might have already been among the 13 against whom the EU has issued sanctions.
    If this is true then what many of us have argued for years seems to be true: HA might have provided the footwork but the plan was Syrian. and also recall all the assertions by some that H=Sa’ad has sold the case and agreed with a settlement, that iis looking increasingly to be false since again as many of us have argued, neither Sa’ad nor anyone is in a position to derail the STL. since the train had already left the station.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 20, 2011, 11:39 pm
  38. QN #32

    Oh I don’t disagree that all these other factors, including HA’s reputation, and more importantly being blamed for Lebanon’s isolation, play a big factor in all this.

    But think about it, by your calculus HA made a dumb mistake by taking down the Hariri gov. You were SURPRISED.
    My explanation makes more sense. It really wasn’t a mistake or a surprise to me.

    I’ll latch on to the “being blamed for isolating Lebanon” that you mentioned as playing exactly into my earlier point.
    They needed Hariri for exactly that reason. And they need limbo now for exactly that reason. They get to keep Lebanon non-isolated (as opposed to how it would be under a HA govt.) and they get to have Hariri only as caretaker (ie unable to make any major decisions regarding STL). As I said, it makes perfect sense.

    Also, what’s this you’re claiming that Lebanon HAS to have a govt. and cannot be in limbo??? You forget that HA had absolutely no problem leaving us without a president for nearly 2 years and with a crippled under-siege govt. for nearly that long. Put down the pipe, man!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 20, 2011, 11:41 pm
  39. Iceman,

    I’m in complete agreement with you. It makes perfect sense to me that HA would take down Hariri once he was clear that he wouldn’t speak up against the STL (Blood of his father not for sale quote). At that point, he stopped serving a purpose for HA and they were better off with no govt (since they cannot rule alone without causing Lebanon isolation).

    Ghassan’s comment is interesting. Plays into the same line of thinking as mine.
    I have never really thought that HA would have been behind a major assassination like Hariris on their own. I have always believed the order came from Tehran and Damascus, and was simply carried out by HA cadres.
    Regardless, it all goes back to the STL. It always has. Every single thing HA has done since 2005 has been about the STL (if you don’t believe me, go look back at the history, and parse out the daily distractions of he said, she said). The STL has been first and foremost the prime driver for every single “move” by HA in Lebanon since then.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 20, 2011, 11:47 pm
  40. GK, # 26

    We are not in 2005, different era, different set of constraints, STL’s shenanigans notwithstanding. STL is not a game changer, and it does not set the rules. It is one more tool for the Empire in the Great Game….[ I wish it was different. I would have targeted the infamous White House Murder INC, 🙂 ]
    I personally liked Miqati’s performance in 05 and i still believe that he can be an excellent PM. He is a no nonsense guy, very pragmatic, shrewd and smart. He is an action man and I like that. I hate all the Lebanese politicking that leaves the country falling behind because of daily bickering and the usual litany of who received whom to discuss the general bullshit of the day…with glaring cameras etc. That drives me nuts. Miqati is different and I want him to succeed, but I maintain that the whole political environment is governed by what I said @ 20.
    The Lebanese are still amenable to all the foreign interference, and it is growing daily. That is unfortunate. Real Statesmen are nowhere to be found.

    Posted by HK | May 21, 2011, 2:02 am
  41. Statistics can now be called upon to prove that there is a direct correlation between the numbers of killed demonstrators on a certain day in Syria and most recent public usage of the word ‘refom’ by the White House when referring to Assad,

    They’re speaking of another day of massacres in Syria with huge demonstrations throughout.

    But the official Syrian media says shamelessly there were very few peaceful demonstrations with no friction whatsoever with security thugs.

    Posted by iceman | May 21, 2011, 2:15 am
  42. The White House’s song and dance about the possibility of “Reforms” with the Assad thugocracy in Damascus is a by-product of the association in the most Infamous white House Murder INC, in the Levant, between Asef Shawkat and CIA/MOSSAD creeps, dating back to January 24th 2002, up until Feb 12th 2008.
    The Odious White House Murder INC, is still around, deeply buried within the Lebanese Republic’s entrailles, & fully operational.

    Posted by HK | May 21, 2011, 2:48 am
  43. You guys are all confusing two issues: (1) What was it that led to the fall of Hariri’s government? (2) What is it that is preventing the emergence of the next government?

    The STL was clearly at the heart of the first issue. But since everyone is in agreement that it was a shortsighted move to bring down Hariri’s govt on account of the STL because it solved nothing for Hizbullah, then we should all be in agreement that the STL should not be preventing the formation of the next government. Whether or not there is a functioning government in Lebanon and whether or not that government is a majority cabinet that includes Hizbullah has very little effect on the STL’s repercussions.

    The other factors that people have brought up (anxieties about international isolation and breaking with confessional precedent) are much more logical, in my opinion, along with the calculus about Syrian refugees, etc. I just don’t see what the STL’s indictments have to do with the presence or absence of a Hizbullah government. They are going to be revealed to the world and the Lebanese public whether or not Hizbullah is wearing the pants with the zipper on the front or the back (to use one of Michel Aoun’s favorite expressions).

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 21, 2011, 6:22 am
  44. From the Daily Star:

    The military investigative magistrate in Mount Lebanon, Mohammad Badran, requested that Ihsan Atrash be sentenced to three years in prison for distributing flyers that called for the toppling of the Syrian regime.

    According to the indictment, Atrash is a member of a secret organization called “The Free National Gathering,” and was allegedly engaged in distributing flyers to both Syrians and Lebanese in the Chouf area. “It [the flyer] contained calls for changing the regime in Syria … and it was mainly distributed to Syrians from Daraa working in Lebanon,” the indictment read.

    Posted by sean | May 21, 2011, 6:26 am
  45. FYI

    I have it on very good information that the Lebanese cabinet will be formed tomorrow morning, after Michel Aoun is raptured tonight.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 21, 2011, 7:47 am
  46. Sean #45′
    The news item that you reference is very disturbing at least for two things.
    (1) I have not been able to find it reported by other newspapers. Is it because no one considers this to be a serious violation of the freedom of speech? I am stunned.
    (2) I imagine that the same logic that led to the arrest of Mr. Atrash can be applied to many commentators on this blog including yours truly who have said clearly and openly that Syria is in need of a revolution. That is ludicrous.
    (3) Where is the outrage about this very serious infraction? Where are the NGO and above all where are the Lebanese journalists?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 21, 2011, 10:29 am
  47. I do realize that it is easy to make all sorts of accusations during the “fog of war” and whenever events are not transparent but you may recall the video of a week or so ago that shows clearly Lebanese sounding thugs beating up Syrian demonstrators in Syria. Well there is another item in the news today, but no solid proof, that 10 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria as they were crossing the border to help the Assad thugs. What is also worthwhile is the fact that HA has not commented on this yet.
    It would be easy to refute the item about the 10 dead fighters since no evidence has been provided but it would be more difficult to refute the video clip of 10-14 days ago. If any solid proof is to accompany this new “rumour” then that would be a blow of sorts to the image of HA who have maintained that their only purpose is to fight intrusions from our southern neighbour.

    I think that HA will launch a campaign declaring that protecting Syrian dictatorship is just as important as fighting the Israelis if any evidence of their direct involvement is to be found.
    What would be the reaction of public opinion in Lebanon to that and what would that do to their public image in the Arab countries? This is pure speculation on my part but it is a scenario that might unfold.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 21, 2011, 12:39 pm
  48. QN,

    You must have a direct line to Berri. 😀

    Posted by danny | May 21, 2011, 12:58 pm
  49. “I think that HA will launch a campaign declaring that protecting Syrian dictatorship is just as important as fighting the Israelis if any evidence of their direct involvement is to be found.”

    Ghassan are the main speech writer for Hassan Nassrallah? 😀
    I hear that’s exactly what he will declare (as the emperor of Lebanon) in his speech on “Liberation Day”.

    Posted by danny | May 21, 2011, 1:01 pm
  50. we should all be in agreement that the STL should not be preventing the formation of the next government

    Qifa Nabki,

    Has Hizbullah and its allies reached an understanding with Miqati about the extent, to which the next government would cooperate with the STL?

    Posted by Badr | May 21, 2011, 3:02 pm
  51. GK, # 48

    There are a Dozen Ghassan Karams that I am aware of… 🙂

    You have nothing to worry about. You are giving too much credit for these intelligence thugs. Trust me, they are too slow and almost illiterate. Mr. Atrash was most probably disclosed by some of his comrades…since most of these so called “secret Cells” operating in country would be penetrated. That’s how they operate in this neck of the woods.

    I would worry more about someone getting hold of the IP addresses of the posters on QN, especially those of us who are Globe-Trotting all the time, but coming back home often….

    QN, your IP infos would be a Gold Mine for the Leb./Syrian Intelligence creeps 🙂

    Posted by HK | May 21, 2011, 4:06 pm
  52. QN #44:

    You say everyone is in agreement that HA gained nothing by the fall of Hariri. I disagree.
    I’ve already explained that IMHO, the whole thing is exactly what HA has been wanting all along. It’s all part of their masterplan that goes back to scuttlebutting the STL.

    They brought down Hariri the exact same way they brought down Siniora (the shia ministers resigning), and for the same reasons. They never even bothered to hide that in both cases, the issue was the government’s collaboration with the STL.

    Basically, HA has always had to fundementally walk a line between being in complete power (read “officially” to where they cause Lebanon to be isolated internationally) and being in complete opposition (where M14 gets to govern and more importantly, support the STL).
    HA’s game is therefore (and has always been since 2005): Allow others to be in charge “officially”, while preventing them from effectively governing, and more importantly, while making sure that said “others” don’t embrace the STL completely and faciliate its work.

    If you look at it that way, it made sense to allow Hariri to be PM after Doha, giving Lebanon a friendly face (so to speak). And since then, HA has made every effort to torpedo Hariri (while keeping him in power) until it got to a point where they couldn’t have him in power anymore without him officially endorsing the STL. So they brought him down.

    Take this line of thinking to the post-Hariri era and you get this:
    HA cannot officially govern. So they won’t form a government on their own.
    HA also cannot allow Hariri back, since he won’t give cover from the STL anymore.
    So best have no government, for all intents and purposes.

    I still think it makes perfect sense.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 21, 2011, 6:51 pm
  53. BV is right and both QN and Noe are wrong. Noe is even more wrong since he cannot tell a man from a woman. He is also anti GMA.

    QN has a direct line to Harold, the Evangelist. Make sure you keep your basic survival kit next to bed. Tonight is the end of the world.

    Posted by iceman | May 21, 2011, 7:46 pm
  54. BV

    I still disagree with you, but I’m too tired to debate the finer points. Maybe tomorrow.

    Iceman, you’re always right. Even when you’re wrong.

    Good night.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 21, 2011, 8:08 pm
  55. “Iceman, you’re always right. Even when you’re wrong. “

    Thanks in all cases.

    But here’s something worth looking at.

    تكشف هذه الوثيقة التي أعدت بناء على لقاء جمع المستشار في وزارة الخارجية السورية سمير التقي مع المستشار السياسي في السفارة الأميركي في دمشق، أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد كان يتحدث عن صفقة أبرمها مع رئيس لجنة التحقيق الدولية آنذاك ديتليف ميليس وتقضي بحماية شقيقه ماهر.

    ووفق الوثيقة فإن الاسد كان يسعى الى حماية اللواء آصف شوكت ( زوج شقيقته بشرى) حتى لو اقتضى ذلك، تسليمه لضباط أمثال رستم غزالة،ولكنه اعترف بصعوبة توفير الحمية المطلوبة.

    الوثيقة تشير الى أن الطائفة العلوية قررت عدم حماية آصف شوكت وأن تتعاون مع التحقيق الدولي، من أجل أن تحفظ النظام السوري.

    وتكشف الوثيقة عن مكتب المحاماة البريطاني الذي اختاره النظام السوري، ليساعده في تجاوز ما سماه “الورطة”.

    معطيات الوثيقة

    أولا، هويتها

    ,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 006068

    E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2015



    Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Stephen A. Seche, per 1.4 b,d.

    ثانيا: معلوماتها

    في 20 تشرين الثاني أبلغ سمير التقي، المستشار في وزارة الخارجية الأميركية، المستشار السياسي في السفارة الأميركية في دمشق أنه سافر الى لندن وبرلين وأوسلو في الاسابيع الثلاثة الأخيرة لاستخدام هيئة قانونية متخصصة في القانون الدولي، يمكنها أن تساعد سورية في إخراج نفسها من ورطتها الحالية( المتمثلة بصدور القرار 1636 عن مجلس الأمن الدولي الذي وضع التحقيق الدولي في اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري، تحت الفصل السابع من ميثاق الأمم المتحدة).

    ووفق التقي ، فإن سورية لا تهدف، من وراء ذلك، الى تنفيذ مندرجات القرار الدولي، بل التوصل الى أفضل اتفاق حول واجباتها التطبيقية.

    ويفيد التقي أن اختياره وقع على خبيرين قانونين لهما سمعتهما الدولية، وهما : إيان براونلي وماري وليم وورث.

    ويشير الى أن وورث أتت الى سورية وأعدت تقريرا مكتوبا، وعرضت للتقرير شفويا أمام لجنة التحقيق السورية في قضية اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري.

    ولفت التقي الى أن الرئيس بشار الأسد، إطلع على نسخة مكتوبة من التقرير.

    وقال إن براونلي سيصل الى سوريا في اليومين المقبلين، وان الحكومة السورية اعتمدته، وهي ستدفع له 750 جنيه إسترليني مقابل كل ساعة عمل.

    ويفيد التقي بأن المستشارين القانونيين البريطانيين متفقان على أنه في الوقت الذي يفرض القرار 1636 شروطا قاسية وغير منصفة على سورية، فإن لا خيار مطلقا أمام سورية سوى التنفيذ.

    ويقول التقي إنه التقى الرئيس الأسد، لمدة 45 دقيقة، بين رحلتين له إلى أوروبا وحصل على موافقته على استخدام براونلي واعتماد المسار القانوني.

    وقال التقي إن على الأميركيين أن يدركوا خلفيته من استخدام مستشارين قانونيين، فهو يهدف الى أن تستجيب سورية وتخرج نفسها من الورطة الحالية بطريقة، تجعل الثمن المطلوب دفعه، يقع على عاتق النظام وليس على عاتق أولادنا.

    وكان التقي غامضا، عندما سئل رأيه في ما إذا كان الرئيس الأسد سينجو من الأزمة الحالية، ولكنه ألمح الى أنه يأمل ذلك، حتى يتمكن الأسد من توفير انتقال السلطة في المستقبل.

    وأفاد التقي بأن اللواء آصف شوكت إستخدم مستشارين قانونيين واستقدم خبراء في القانون الدولي من فرنسا والبرتغال ومصر، ولكنهم جميعهم ينتمون الى التيار اليساري ولا يهتمون سوى بالحديث عن ظلم القرار 1636 ، وعن خروج ديتليف ميليس عن ضوابط هذا القرار.

    وإذ أعرب التقي عن اعتقاده بأن هذا الاسلوب لا يجدي نفعا، كشف أن الخبير القانوني المصري صلاح عمار، لا يزال في دمشق.

    التقي أعرب عن أسفه لكون صديقه وليد المعلم يجنح نحو تأثير آصف شوكت، مشيرا الى أن المعلم بدأ يتخذ مواقف متشددة، معيدا السبب الى توتره من تسميته في تقرير ديتليف ميليس.

    وكشف التقي أن بشار الأسد يركز على حماية شقيقه ماهر.

    ويقول التقي إن الأسد يتحدث عن اتفاق مع ميليس لإنقاذ شقيقه.

    ويضيف التقي أن الأسد يود لو يستطيع أن ينقذ آصف شوكت، إذا استطاع ، وسيقوم بما يمكنه من أجل تحقيق هذا الهدف أيضا، ولكن- كما يلمح التقي- فإن هناك شيئا من الإقرار لدى الأسد ، بأن ذلك قد لا يكون ممكنا.

    ويفيد التقي بأن الطائفة العلوية تريد “تسوية” من شأنها السماح للحكومة السورية بالتعاون مع القرار 1636 ولكن تحفظ النظام.

    ولهذا السبب- يقول التقي- آصف شوكت هو في وضعية محرجة للغاية . هو لا يحوز على دعم الطائفة العلوية، ولذلك لا يمكنه أن يحارب دفاعا عن نفسه.

    وبالإستناد الى التقي فإن آصف شوكت قد يفتعل مشكلا مع الرئيس الأسد، ولكنه لا يستطيع أن يكسب.

    ويلفت التقي الى أن ما يهدف اليه الأسد هو إيجاد مخرج لائق له ، راميا فكرة على عجل مفادها، بأنه يمكن التخلي عن رستم غزالة وآخرين، إذا أنتج ذلك حماية لآصف شوكت.

    ولكن ، حتى هذا المخرج سيكون له تأثير قوي على استقرار النظام، على اعتبار أن هؤلاء الرجال سيعاملون كقتلة، مما ينعكس على سورية، ويحدث خللا في شرعية النظام.

    وعندما سئل عما إذا كان تأثير ذلك سيكون تدريجيا، أجاب: ” سيكون فوريا”.

    أضاف التقي: ” إن النظام سوف ينتهي بمجرد بدء محاكمة أول متهم سوري.”

    التقي وبصفته رئيسا لمركز أبحاث واستطلاع صغير يعمل برعاية وزارة الخارجية السورية (مركز الشرق للدراسات الاستراتيجية) أبلغ المستشار السياسي في السفارة الأميركية في دمشق أنه أجرى استطلاعا للرأي شمل 4000 سوري من كل أنحاء البلاد، وظهر له أن غالبية ساحقة كانت راضية عن القرار الدولي و”سعيدة” أنه استهدف النظام وليس الشعب السوري، وأنها تريد أن لا تتصادم الإدارة السورية مع الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ومع المجتمع الدولي، وأنها لا تفهم السبب الذي يربط إرجاء الإصلاح الإقتصادي الموعود بالتأزم الناجم عن اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري.

    ونقل التقي عن الأسد أنه لا يسعى الى صدام مع الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ولكن السوريين سوف يقبلون بمواجهة إقتصادية.

    ووفق التقي فهذا يشكل دليلا على أن الأسد لا يزال مستعدا لمواجهة المجتمع الدولي واستيعاب العقوبات.

    التقي عزا التصعيد في خطاب الأسد في 10 تشرين الثاني الى أنه جاء والرئيس السوري تحت الضغط وهدفه الإستهلاك الداخلي، لا غير.


    *ملاحظة: سمير التقي عاد وعيّن في العام 2008 في عداد الوفد الذي يفاوض إسرائيل من خلال تركيا، وقد كشفت وثيقة أميركية أنه هو من اجتمع مباشرة مع الوفد الإسرائيلي، بعيدا من الإعلام، في أول مفاوضات مباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل

    Posted by iceman | May 21, 2011, 8:52 pm
  56. # 57

    Very Very Interesting indeed… Ehemmm ehemmm
    It Is Quite Telling, an eye opener for all those doubters… Open your eyes 🙂

    # 54
    A Lopsided analysis through and through!

    Posted by HK | May 22, 2011, 12:47 am

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