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

Mikati’s Cabinet and the 2013 Elections

I’ve written a brief essay for Foreign Policy about the challenges facing the Mikati government, which you can read here. There are a couple of other observations I’d like to make that are too Lebanon-wonky for FP’s audience but may be of interest to regular readers of QN:

Veto politics: Najib Mikati has made a point of saying that while the March 8 coalition holds a majority in his cabinet, they don’t hold a two-thirds-plus-one supermajority. Out of thirty ministers, only eighteen belong to the FPM, Hizbulah, Amal, and their allies, while the remaining twelve are divided among the shares of Mikati, President Suleiman, and Walid Jumblatt. Is it an accident that Jumblatt’s share is just big enough (i.e. three ministers) to give March 8 a supermajority of twenty-one, if push comes to shove? Once again, Jumblatt makes sure he’s the man in the middle.

FPM: Mikati’s cabinet is already being labeled a “Hizbullah government”. This, to my mind, is an oversimplification, given that Hizbullah only holds two ministries (and insignificant ones at that). Of course, cynics will scoff and say that the Hizb doesn’t need ministries to exert its dominance over the cabinet, and that may well be true. But if they don’t need ministries to dominate a cabinet, then what makes the dynamic in this cabinet different from every other time they have held two or three insignificant ministries?

To my mind, what really makes this cabinet different is the considerable haul that the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies in the Change & Reform Bloc were able to net. Think about it: Defense, Justice, Telecoms, Energy, Labor, Tourism, Industry, Culture, plus a couple freebie ministers without portfolio. That’s tremendous, no matter how you spin it. The Aounist movement has never held that kind of power, and you can bet that they are not going to squander this opportunity to consolidate their position and win more supporters. (See here for my profile of the FPM, which dates back to just before the 2009 elections, but in certain ways remains very relevant to the situation the party finds itself in today).

The 2013 elections: The fact that Tripoli has several of her most prominent sons represented in this cabinet has not been lost on anyone. Mikati is clearly making a play to boost his profile as the most popular political figure in Tripoli, which is the first step toward challenging Saad Hariri’s claim to uncontested leadership of Lebanon’s Sunnis. When Mikati was first appointed back in January, he appeared on Marcel Ghanem’s show Kalam al-Nas, and was asked by the host about what he had to say regarding Hariri’s claims that Mikati did not represent the Sunnis. Mikati, who is usually very cool under pressure, exploded into a comical tirade of sectarian one-upsmanship (click here for the YouTube video in Arabic; English translation below):

Mikati: “I don’t accept anyone to question my Sunnism. If there’s a Sunni in Lebanon, it’s me. I won’t accept it! And those who want to hand out certificates (of Sunnism) can go do it on their own. I’m Sunni in belief, Sunni in practice, Sunni in politics, and I’m the number one defender of the Sunnis in Lebanon. If you want to talk about Sunnis, I’m the one with the highest number of Sunni votes. In the ballot boxes of Tripoli, 87% of the Sunnis voted for Najib Miqati, which has never happened in the history of elections in Lebanon. So [whoever is questioning my Sunnism] can get lost, with all my respect for the muftis and who else is concerned with this issue. I’m the number one Sunni in Lebanon!”

Marcel Ghanem: Great. Moving on…

That always cracks me up. I see great potential for some sort of party game…

It should also be noted that the FPM appointed two ministers (Nicholas Sehnaoui and Gabi Layyoun) from tough electoral districts that they lost in the last elections (Achrafieh and Zahle, respectively).

More soon.wordpress stats

Discussion

89 thoughts on “Mikati’s Cabinet and the 2013 Elections

  1. What a bizarre sequence of statements:

    (1) That’s tremendous, no matter how you spin it.
    (2) The Aounist movement has never held that kind of power,
    (3) and you can bet that they are not going to squander this opportunity to consolidate their position and win more supporters.

    Bizarre in that even if one were to accept that a cabinet has been “formed”, it was done through an OK from powers that be. How then can you say that the Aounist movement “has that kind of power”. That power is predicated on behavior. It’s not really power.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 15, 2011, 11:58 am
  2. QN,
    My disappointment with the cabinet is not because it is a one colour cabinet. Just the opposite. My first choice was for a small cabinet of technocrats but if that was not to be then the cabinet should have been solidly one colour.
    That however cannot be done since Hezbollah and their allies do not have a single credible Sunni that is capable of performing that trick
    That is where Mikati came in to play the “saviour” when he was driven only by self interest. No billionaire is going to oppose clearly 1701 and the STL.
    My point is that Hezbollah are dominant over their allies but are not strong enough to form their own cabinet withoutthe distractions of an “independent” PM, “a presidential share” and a “Jumblatt bloc”.
    It is because of the above that I maintain that this cabinet is not that different from the previous ones except for essentially two mininstries.; Defense and the Interior. Frangieh of old will tow the Syrian line which means that Defense is “safe” and I do not buy that Charbal of interior is anything but an FPMer inn disguise.

    Coincidentally I posted last night a column that deals with this:

    http://rationalrepublic.blogspot.com/2011/06/mikati-1-lebanon-0.html

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 12:25 pm
  3. QN, Ghassan,

    Go read my long-winded “theory” in the previous post if you haven’t already.
    Every thing that you guys are saying continues to reinforce my theory.

    As for the FPM being “more powerful than ever”, I think that’s all good and well, but in the grand scheme of things, is immaterial. The only reason FPM is where it is its alliance with HA.
    As you pointed out, HA only has 2 insignificant ministers, because they are not interested in actual governance, but rather leave that to their proxy FPM. HA is only interested in a cabinet where it can block STL related matters, and if not, bring down the cabinet.
    In that sense you guys are right when you say “This cabinet is really no different than the previous ones” (again, an argument I made in my dissertation of yesterday…)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 15, 2011, 12:43 pm
  4. Also, it’s been a while since we played the “How much of a hypocrite is Michel Aoun” game.

    I had forgotten this little nugget of his:
    “People who lost parliamentary elections should not be ministers since they do not represent the people”

    Remember that? Back when the Hariri cabinet was formed?

    And how many FPM ministers in the current cabinet have lost their parliamentary elections? I’ll let you count em.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 15, 2011, 12:47 pm
  5. BV @4: Brilliant!
    I wish the true journalists (if there are any) in Lebanon hold the politicians to their record, statements, and inconsistencies as you do.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 15, 2011, 1:00 pm
  6. GK, is that Mikati kissing SHN’s hands in your post ?
    QN, what the heck? what does that mean and will Mikati’s detractors on the International scene make of this picture? What does it say? Why did he do it? What do the Lebanese think of it? Has it been mentioned/published before? If so, did anyone make comments about it? How does that contrast with Mikati’s protestation in the Ghanem interview that he is the first Sunni in Lebanon?
    I’m shocked!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 15, 2011, 1:08 pm
  7. HP,
    BVs balderdash is brilliant crap as usual.
    You guys are really living in La La Land !
    FPM was strongest in the 2005 elections with over 70% of the Christian votes, when in actuality Hezbollah and the skunks of Mini Hariri and his other toddlers were allies for better or for worse in the infamous “Hilf Rouba3i” ….. 🙂

    Posted by HK | June 15, 2011, 1:22 pm
  8. HP

    That picture actually looks Photoshopped to me.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 15, 2011, 1:39 pm
  9. QN, you accusing Ghassan of doctoring evidence now? tsk tsk!
    Next thing you know, it’ll turn out Ghassan is really a scottish blogger perpetrating a hoax on the rest of us!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 15, 2011, 1:59 pm
  10. QN/BV/HP
    I chose the picture of Mikati kissing the hand of SHN because it fit what I was attempting to portray. But as you might suspect I simply browse through Flicker and Google for an appropriate photo since I have no idea how to photoshop.
    It would be interesting if someone can say rather conclusively whether this photo was made up .

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 2:24 pm
  11. If you live in the ME get out and look at the moon. You will see a full moon eclipse

    Posted by Rani Hazbani | June 15, 2011, 3:05 pm
  12. Photoshopped or not. The caricature is a reflection of effective reality.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 15, 2011, 3:36 pm
  13. HP
    Good call. I would have not suspected the photo since I would have expected such a relationship. I will remove from my personal aggregator/blog. I did not use it on my Yalibnan.com post.

    QN,
    As much as I would hate to bother you with this small technical detail I am at a loss about what to do. The Leave a reply on, whenever I log on to QN, has a
    lengthy old post that I eliminate by using the backward key for the 15-20 lines which is rather tedious. do you have a cure for this?:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 4:21 pm
  14. Ghassan

    That’s very odd. I’ve never had that problem. It must be related to the new commenting “upgrade” that we recently got. I will check with WordPress support and get back to you.

    In the meantime, don’t use the backspace key to delete 15-20 lines! Simply click the textbox, type Ctrl+A to select everything in it, and then hit backspace.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 15, 2011, 4:29 pm
  15. QN
    This is a test post. I think that the technical issue is resolved. Just in case someone else is encountering this issue of having an old post in the Reply to box. I think that this occurs once one uses the FB log in and posts but fails to log out from fb. This is a redundancy but , at least in my case, that is the only way to resolve the issue. And by the way thanks for reminding me of the Ctrl+A which I have not had to use in a while.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 5:33 pm
  16. Ghassan,
    I was going to bring the picture you posted in your article, but I forgot . I can’t say that this picture is made up or not, but what I can say is that it is most likely made up since Nasralla is high enough in his religious position for any one to attempt to kiss his hand . AS bad and as demeaning(by all religious leaders) this practice is, only high ranking clergy men allow or demand this type of practice. Nasralla has never been seen in public or on TV engaging or allowing people to kiss his hand.
    I’d say that this picture is made up. I f this picture was real, we would have seen it publicized all over M14 media.

    Posted by Prophet | June 15, 2011, 6:02 pm
  17. I meant to say Nassralla IS NOT high enough,

    Posted by Prophet | June 15, 2011, 6:04 pm
  18. Prostrations and handkissing should be reserved only for the highest of figures…

    … Like Iceman 🙂

    QN: that issue gk was complaining about also happens on my smartphone. Except it ain’t smart enough to do ctrl-a 😛

    Posted by Gabriel | June 15, 2011, 6:38 pm
  19. QN said “FPM: Mikati’s cabinet is already being labeled a “Hizbullah government”. This, to my mind, is an oversimplification, given that Hizbullah only holds two ministries (and insignificant ones at that). Of course, cynics will scoff and say that the Hizb doesn’t need ministries to exert its dominance over the cabinet, and that may well be true. But if they don’t need ministries to dominate a cabinet, then what makes the dynamic in this cabinet different from every other time they have held two or three insignificant ministries?”

    Off course it is dear QN. While we all know that a few “black T-shirts” are all what Hizballah needs to change the power dynamic in the cabinet, we also know that Hizballah is also too smart and conniving to not have a backup plan. So if you go through the cabinet dynamics, you will also discover that Hizballah can also bring down the cabinet without the FPM if you add the ministers under its influence: 5 Shiite ministers+ Faysal Karami+ Arslan + Fattouch + the ever easily swayed Jumblatt (3) = 11
    So if Hizballah (or Syria) wants to bring down this government they can still easily do so and have Aoun and Mikati save face (and play hero in their communities) for the next elections (2013)
    Now I don’t see many scenarios where bringing down the cabinet is necessary other than having a power vacuum as an excuse, or defense, against the STL. However having that option in HSN’s pocket, or abaya, is not a bad option to have.

    Posted by MM | June 15, 2011, 6:48 pm
  20. Maybe some smarter people here can share a scenario(s) where Hizballah bringing down the government as I described above is useful for them.

    Posted by MM | June 15, 2011, 6:55 pm
  21. Prophet, look at HPs post #11

    the only question is to know who is the culprit who photoshoped the picture with Nasrallah to include Najib’s mother 🙂

    Gabriel #20, your are missing your fellow Iceman I can tell…lol

    Posted by 3issa | June 15, 2011, 7:18 pm
  22. BTW.

    What’s with POMED misspelling QNs name multiple times. I won’t stand for it.

    3issa:

    Re: mikati’s mother… LoL. You stole my line :p

    Re: the Iceman… Hey I’m not ashamed to admit it. He’s my guilty pleasure.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 15, 2011, 7:27 pm
  23. Vote Politics: Let’s not dilute ourselves with Miqati’s bullshit about 18 ministers. As QN aptly pointed out Jumblat does not have to be nudged. Only a couple of black shirts on his way to Muklhtara. Wallaw. Who the hell does Miqati think is fooling? Oh ya…The dumb Lebanese sheeple!

    FPM: Hahahahahahaaha…that’s all! If you think the Christian votes has a sway because of the blessing of Nassrallah…?? Remember the village idiot is at the service of the Supreme Ayatollah nassy! You are totally on acid.

    The 2013 elections: …and I though iceman had the Super sunni claim. 😀
    Ministers from Acrafieh…Again acid on flying donuts (trying to emulate HK). 😛

    Its all scata at the end. You can shovel all the calculations into any manure truck from Syria. STL will crack this so called “consensus governamnt” (Miqati’s words) right at the seams. Interesting summer ahead for sure…and I am certain the sunnis in Tripoli are so enamoured that Nasrallah was kind enough to allow their ‘sons’ be in this cabinet. Ask Iceman!!

    Posted by danny | June 15, 2011, 8:41 pm
  24. Danny
    I don’t think I understood a single thing you just said.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 15, 2011, 9:23 pm
  25. شكلت الحكومة الجديدة
    ….. لجنة لاعداد وصياغة البيان الوزاري برئاسة رئيس الحكومة نجيب ميقاتي تضم 9 وزراء

    The above is another proof about why the Lebanese cabinets do not work: Too many chiefs . Nine out of the Thirty are to work on the ministerial statement. Who is in charge? Is there a unifying vision? What is the role of the PM? Is he a traffic cop? Do you want to know which is the least productive committee on a campous or a corporation? Just ask for the one with the least defined goals and the one with obscure lines of authority. What a recipe for disaster. …

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 15, 2011, 10:02 pm
  26. QN#26

    Translation: See Post#1

    You chaps are getting fixated on minutia and missing the big picture.

    The FPM is irrelevant. All this bravado about Aoun and Mikati is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

    As for the Tripolites… we saw already Iceman chastising BV for not taking out his pompoms for the Mikati government (he asked “What do you prefer.. no gvmt (like HA”.). At least one Sunni seems to have bought into the charade.

    Acid, Flying Donuts = HK Lingo = Hashish from the Beqaa3. People high on drugs don’t see the forest from the trees.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 15, 2011, 10:14 pm
  27. QN,

    That’s a start.

    Basically. It is a Syrian government extension par excellence. Aoun and his groupies don’t get any advantages in elections sucking up the Iranian prunes. Mikati has only your imaginary support. Not of Tripoli or sunnis.
    capishe?

    Gaby…Where’s Ice? or was he another personality of QN?? 😛

    Posted by danny | June 15, 2011, 10:15 pm
  28. Gaby,

    You are da man!!! 😀

    Posted by danny | June 15, 2011, 10:16 pm
  29. I tend to agree with BV’s analysis on the delay of the cabinet formation and how it was beneficial to HA while waiting to see which way the STL’s wind blows.

    I think the reason of its sudden formation is due to what is going on in Syria. Bashar wants to broadcast to the world that he’s still relevant and still holds the Lebanese card. Not many cards left in his deck, but Lebanon is one that he can still flash around.

    Plus HA can still bring the cabinet down if the need arises without the help of even FPM as MM outlined in #21

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 15, 2011, 10:37 pm
  30. I would not place much credence in anything specific that Gabriel or Danny ever say.
    You are both fulla’ baloney.

    Posted by HK | June 16, 2011, 1:06 am
  31. وقال رئيس لجنة الادارة والعدل النيابية النائب روبير غانم، في تصريح ان «حسن النية والتضحية من قبل رئيس مجلس النواب بوزير شيعي لتشكيل الحكومة يجب الا تكون على حساب دستور الطائف في ادق توازناته ومبرر وجود لبنان في كيانه وتركيبته الفريدة. وهذا ما يحملني على السعي الى ايجاد آلية قانونية تعتبر هذا التنازل استثنائيا ولمرة واحدة، للحد من النتائج المستقبلية لهكذا تصرف استثنائي»، مؤكدا أن «المس بالثوابت الدستورية المعمول بها منذ الطائف حتى اليوم هو أمر دقيق وحساس تجب معالجته».

    ya msha7ar hal 7aky ….. kiss ekht libneen

    Posted by V | June 16, 2011, 2:11 am
  32. That is as it should be…

    ” expect the role of Lebanon’s Valiant Resistance of Hezbollah, of women and spirituality to become much more acknowledged, admired and emulated, in regards to the future of Lebanon, MENA and this planet earth ….”

    🙂

    Posted by HK | June 16, 2011, 3:03 am
  33. The biggest change in this new cabinet is that March 14 is out of power. On the international front, this is a sign of waning US influence in the region, despite its preponderance of military power. It was outmaneuvered by regional players.

    On the domestic front, it is a very dangerous situation for the FM administrative apparatus entrenched within the state that Saniora has been building for two decades.

    I would expect that the FPM will be able to proceed unhindered with its capital projects (electricity rehabilitation and telecom upgrade). Change at the Finance Ministry will be more circumscribed. On the one hand, Safadi was put in charge to ensure some continuity. On the other hand, the scale of the state accounts discrepancies (billions of dollars) means some cleaning will have to be done, just to keep the boat afloat.

    It will be interesting to see what will happen to the trio of Rifi, Hassan, and Mirza. Miqati has gone out of his way to reassure Rifi and Hassan with kind words, and saying ‘revenge’ will not be allowed. But Miqati would not rest easy having Hariri’s right hand men in charge of security. Rifi demonstrated last month who is his real boss, institutions be damned. I would expect some changes, but with velvet gloves.

    As regards the STL, which frankly is a much weaker threat to Syria and HA than Syria’s domestic strife, there will be a course alteration, but not a full 180 degrees flip. We will switch from a cabinet that cooperated with the STL, but circumscribed by HA suspicions, to one non-cooperative with the STL, but circumscribed by Sunni sensitivities. It will not collapse when the indictments are issued. HA will rely on Miqati to maintain domestic stability and manage international relationships while the trial is underway.

    Just my two cents… you may now resume your paroxysms over the Wilayet El Faqih cabinet 🙂

    Posted by RedLeb | June 16, 2011, 4:02 am
  34. V #33,
    So you don’t think that Lebanon is unique lol Who are its siblings? 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 5:31 am
  35. Yes it will be very interesting to see if the Free Patriotic Movement and PSP can hold their seats, and whether the majority of Sunni in Trablous give votes again to the “Tripoli Solidarity Party” in two years from now.

    My feeling is this government needs to deliver something significant for those that voted for them in the past if they want to get re-elected. For example, an agreement and compromise by Hizbullah that it has NO authority to begom “liberation” of occupied village in south; a signed promise from the Shiia party that decisions regarding “war and peace” can ONLY be made by the President and Prime Minister, or may be by a two thirds majority decision in Cabinet or a formula like that.

    If this coalition doesn’t deliver something that gives people feeling that it will take country in a more positive direction, then they could be in a very hard position to get re-elected because of the economic times – very high food prices, high unemployment, big problems in euro zone many – maybe most – people feel more insecure with their finances and also people are just scared because of the big trouble al-Assad alawi apartheid state is causing as it collapses next door…like Lebanon may become (again) the dumping ground for the losing minorities in a civil conflict occuring in an apartheid society.

    Posted by s al-riachy | June 16, 2011, 5:48 am
  36. The Secretariat of the Arab Tawheed Party issued the following:

    قد قامت مجموعة من حزب التوحيد العربي بالدخول الى منزله والحصول على المعدات التي كان يستعملها

    which translates as follows: A special group from the Arab Tawheed Party entered his house and obtained the equipment that was used ( by this spy)

    The party gestapo entered the home and gathered evidence and no politician thinks that something is wrong. What is wrong with this picture? Is that what is meant by institutions? It is not only that a political party committed a great violation of personal rights but they are boasting about it since they do not see the error of their ways. And the beat goes on.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 5:52 am
  37. “And the beat goes on…..”

    GK, Lebanon is still a House with Many Many Mansions 🙂
    Kamal Salibi

    http://books.google.com/books/about/A_house_of_many_mansions.html?id=t_amYLJq4SQC

    Posted by HK | June 16, 2011, 6:47 am
  38. RedLeb is probably right on all counts.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 16, 2011, 6:53 am
  39. Ghassan,

    Why do you see anything strange in what happened. This is Lebanon my friend. The country of Willayet el faqih, That’s so irritating about hypocrites who dare not make a slight protest against such a blatant transgression against simple laws. They “lure” the bodyguard (amazing word for kidnapping him) to Dahiye and interrogate him…Then go into his house…AND THEN they hand him over to army “intelligence” unit.

    I know it is therapeutic for us to discuss events/politics in Lebanon…But BV is right all along. That sliver of land called Lebanon never existed as a nation! Now its the pasdaran’s turn to enforce their laws.

    Posted by danny | June 16, 2011, 7:13 am
  40. RedLeb, QN,

    OK but the statement that the cabinet will be “non-cooperative with the STL” is very vague. What do you mean by that? How can Lebanon uphold its international commitments and be “non-cooperative with the STL?”
    The minute any hesitation or “non-cooperation” is detected, you can bet that all hell will break loose and the attacks against and isolation of the Lebanese government, to the detriment of the people of Lebanon, will begin. At that time, Miqati (why do they write it with a “k” when it should be a “q”?), will lose all credibility and be subject to international condemnation. He will have burned himself in the pursuit of his self actualization (uh…. arrogant ambition).
    We’ll see. It won’t be easy for Miqati to preside over “non-cooperation with the STL.” Maybe he won’t. Maybe there will be continued cooperation. Time will tell. One thing is for sure. All international eyes, not to mention many Lebanese eyes, are on him. He can’t hide and he can’t fudge or bluff his way in this one. Then again, by the time this becomes an issue, the Syrian regime may already have collapsed. The developments do not augur well for that regime.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 9:06 am
  41. I don’t quite understand your indication to Jumblatt’s share. You could be take it over the top here: The 3 minister is a ‘standard’ Druze/ and/or Jumblatt share in a 30 seats cabinets. And when Jumblatt can’t get the three ministers to be Druze, he will have the third from another religion for example (like in this government, or in the previous Hariri government, or the previous Sinoria government, or even the previous ones etc).

    Yes, if Jumblatt swerved towards March 8, they have the majority. But I think the magic number is the ‘18’ rather than ‘3’; notice It’s 18 seats for March 8 and not 17 or 16, which makes it obvious why Berri’s ‘sacrifice’ doesn’t put March 8 in a worse position.

    Posted by @ZakYahya | June 16, 2011, 9:06 am
  42. RedLeb, QN, HP@42

    As HP pointed out, the statement that the Mikati gvt won’t collaborate with the STL is somewhat vague.
    I find it very hard to believe that it would be in anyone’s interests, including HA, to have Lebanon go into “Pariah” state mode and be subject to sanctions, etc.
    Not to mention that non-cooperation with the STL by Mikati and the Sunni bloc would be seen as a betrayal by the Sunnis and thus political suicide for Mikati himself.
    I am sure the cabinet can do some foot-dragging when it comes to STL requests to turn over this or that piece of info or paperwork. But I cannot imagine the Lebanese govt officially disavowing the STL, refusing to fund it, or openly refusing to cooperate.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 16, 2011, 12:05 pm
  43. The methodology that is expected to be applied by the Mikati cabinet vis a vis the STL has been spelled out by GMA and his spokespersons. The cabinet will honour all of Lebanon’s international obligations meaning 1701 and STL but will not play dead.during these proceedings. Lebanon will take measures to gaurd its interests and interpret its obligations.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 12:16 pm
  44. It’s always been about the STL, stupid! (as the saying goes…kinda)

    Arab Tawhid Party leader Wiam Wahhab said on Thursday that the newly-formed cabinet will not be successful if it adhered to international resolutions.

    “If the cabinet opened the door for the international resolutions – which are known to target the whole Arab nation – then it will not succeed,” the National News Agency quoted him as saying.

    “[The cabinet] should deal with its people’s concerns before [dealing with] these resolutions, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in particular, which we will not be committed to,” Wahhab added.

    I know Wahhab talks a lot and represents no one. But the fact that him and his ilk find it fitting to continue harping about the STL (as opposed to any number of other issues that face Lebanon, be it the economy, sectarianism, corruption, etc…) should be telling.
    Now that the cabinet is formed, do not be surprised if the attack dogs and M8 mouthpieces go back to the kind of obsession with the STL that we saw in the months preceding the Hariri cabinet fall.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 16, 2011, 12:22 pm
  45. Danny:

    With all sorts of Gay girls being middle aged 40-year olds… you never know!

    BVI46:

    I think that’s the point. They keep harping about the STL while claiming that their concerns are everyday issues, economy, jobs, security.

    As I’ve said before, and will say again for the umpteenth time. The divisions in opinion are in minutia- not in the big picture.

    Who here disagrees with the following two overarching facts (and they are facts):

    1- The government was formed as a result of a push/blessing from Damascus

    2- HA prefers a role in the shadow of government, and winning control of this ministry or that ministry is not high on its priority list.

    Any non-takers?

    So the whole purpose of the government is to be, first and foremost, a tool for Damascus to change the narrative. It doesn’t matter what the issue is: STL, Internal strife in Syria, your mother’s failed Kibbeh recipe!

    Or as Danny said… all scata on the manure trucks coming from Damascus.

    This is the first and foremost goal and policy statement- whether or not explicitly stated- of the government.

    Sure Aoun will have his cronies in this ministry or that ministry. Who knows, they may cut the price of fuel here, or lower a tax there. Or maybe they will change this or that electoral law so that in 4 years, they are better positioned. But are they really going to change something big? Something profound?

    And really, if they had interests- political, or economic, or otherwise- that contradict the conditions of their role in office- that of bending where it matters to the will of Damascus- then they really have no power in it.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 16, 2011, 1:08 pm
  46. HK:

    Dude, what’s your position?

    You’re all over the map. You’re just like the Iceman, you have a muddle in your head.

    I thought you are all anti-the-CIA-Crony-Syrian-Shawkat-Teezee bla bla bla..

    And now you have a government in Lebanon that is a tool of this same organisation, and you’re for it?

    Make up your mind.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 16, 2011, 1:13 pm
  47. #47 should read: middle aged 40 year old married men.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 16, 2011, 1:13 pm
  48. Gabriel #47
    That has been my position all along pretty much vis a vis this government formation business.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 16, 2011, 1:19 pm
  49. I agree, “non-cooperative with the STL” is very vague. It’s meant to be. They will not disavow the STL. They would have gotten Omar Karami as PM for that. They will go along with the bare minimum required to not cause a confrontation, without any enthusiasm. We’re talking foot dragging, endless discussion of every request, and haggling over semantics. Any time they sense the US is losing patience, they will give just a little to keep things afloat.

    What you impatient ones are not realizing is that indictments are not convictions. There will be no cataclysmic moment of defeat for HA. Things will play out in slow motion. There will be indictments, and then a lengthy trial, during which the presumption of innocence (and then some) will be assumed by the cabinet. Even the conviction (if it happens) will not be clear cut. Possibly the exact nature of the relationship between the accused and HA will be the next narrative dissonance in Lebanon: HA will claim they have never met them before while M14 will claim they were hand trained by Nasrallah.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 16, 2011, 3:18 pm
  50. Does anyone have any details about the news that Rami Makhlouf has donated all his holdings to the Government? Is it true? What are the details ? and What does this mean? Is this an attempt to pacify the public by donating only a small part of what has been accumulated through wrong means? Is this an implicit confession about the corruption? or is it something totally different?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 3:26 pm
  51. 3issa @23
    Thank you for pointing HP’s post out.

    Posted by Prophet | June 16, 2011, 4:12 pm
  52. RedLeb, much better. This narrative makes sense.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 4:13 pm
  53. Ghassan,@52
    If it is true that Makhlouf “donated” anything (returned back) to the Syrian government, it would mean a total confession of guilt, and it would be the first time ever that a thief volunteers to returns what He stole back.

    Posted by Prophet | June 16, 2011, 4:18 pm
  54. Prophet, I have not seen any new details about the Makhlouf giveback and so I do not yet know the details. His ill begotten wealth is spread in many countries. So what has he given back and why? If this turns out to be true and if he has given back a small portion of his holdings in only one country then I think that this move will back fire if it is meant to demonstrate good will. The only two reports about this are in AlManar and Lebanonfiles who credit the story to Almanar.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 4:41 pm
  55. Ghassan @56
    Good will in this case, means panic .lol

    Posted by Prophet | June 16, 2011, 4:52 pm
  56. Ghassan,
    According to LBC website, this is the story;

    أعلن التلفزيون الحكومي السوري أن رجل الأعمال السوري رامي مخلوف ابن خال الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد سيترك العمل في التجارة ليشارك في الأعمال الخيرية.

    وتأتي هذه خطوة استجابة لمطالب المحتجين المطالبين بإنهاء حكم الأسد.

    ويملك مخلوف أكبر شركة للهواتف المحمولة في البلاد، كما يملك العديد من شركات البناء والنفط.

    Posted by Prophet | June 16, 2011, 5:07 pm
  57. RedLeb,

    I’m in complete agreement with your explanation/narrative.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 16, 2011, 5:38 pm
  58. First salvo against STL post the new government:
    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/8456-wahhab-cabinet-that-commits-to-international-resolutions-will-fail
    Optimists, what say you?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 5:40 pm
  59. BV, you da man. You are right. It’s all about the STL.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 5:42 pm
  60. Redleb,

    Not so fast. Lebanon may be asked to arrest some of the people indicted. What will the government do then? In addition, HA will have a hard time disassociating itself from the defendants if higher ups in HA are named. For example, relatives of Mugniyeh.

    The only solution which works for Lebanon is not to have parliament approve the cabinet and remain with the caretaker one. But maybe I am missing something.

    Posted by AIG | June 16, 2011, 5:54 pm
  61. This is the US reaction to the cabinet:
    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/8394-u-s-warns-lebanese-cabinet-from-consequences-if-it-doesnt-respect-its-commitments

    Miqati will need to perform a tight rope act on a non-existent rope. There is just no way he can please both the US and March 8. Unlike Syria, Lebanon will suffer greatly from sanctions on its banking system or from its inability to roll its debt. The best solution for Lebanon is to hide behind the excuse of a caretaker government. Any other strategy is super risky.

    Posted by AIG | June 16, 2011, 6:02 pm
  62. In my humble opinion, the whole government issue is a side show. To put it in colorful terms, you are admiring a new plant in the garden while the house is burning.

    What happens in Syria will affect Lebanon much more than any cabinet. As I see it, there are possible scenarios in which Lebanon is profoundly changed both politically and geographically.

    Posted by AIG | June 16, 2011, 6:15 pm
  63. AIG is correct.
    My prediction is that Mikati will walk the so-called tightrope by dragging his feet (like RedLeb suggested) for the time being.
    But when push comes to shove, and the cabinet is required to fullfill some international obligation (like arrest someone, or whatever) or else…HA will bring the govt down, because as I’ve argued, it would be deadly for Lebanon (AIG makes a good point about rolling our debt) to become a pariah state by openly defying the international community.
    But until then, we can trudge along on the Mikati tightrope act…for now.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 16, 2011, 6:28 pm
  64. QN,

    You starting to come around to my theory yet? 🙂
    It’s been all of 2 days since the cabinet was miraculously midwifed and what’s the chatter all about (both from the M8 side, via Wahhab and the West, as AIG’s link points out)?
    The STL.

    I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record (for those of you who remember records…) here. Sorry.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 16, 2011, 6:31 pm
  65. BV,
    We have been on the same side of the STL but I am not sure that the government will be much harmed by levereging its position as I have already sted in @45. GMA has started circling the wagons by making it clear that they are for honouring all the international agreements but this does not mean that they will just move out of the way. They will not refuse the STL pronouncements but they will not facilitate their execution either. My bet is that GMA and HA will throw the whole weight of the Lebanese judicial system in order to clarify and then clarfiy again the process. they will create obstacles. That is the power of being in charge of the agenda and the gavel. I am not predicting success in their delaying efforts but delay they will.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 6:47 pm
  66. GK,

    Delaying makes no sense if at the end the judiciary will endorse the STL requests. So after 3-6 months the government will reject both international law and Lebanese law?

    Furthermore, if the STL requests Lebanon to arrest someone, the Lebanese government has to do it and then the person arrested can start a legal proceeding to stop being handed to the STL. At least that is how it would work in a country that abides by international law. So what exactly is Lebanon going to delay? It will have to actually arrest the indicted people to even start the legal process. Maybe someone can give an example of a legal delay procedure that does not involve arrests.

    Posted by AIG | June 16, 2011, 7:12 pm
  67. TSK TSK TSK.

    BV, GK, AIG, RedLeb, BlueLeb, Danny, Abbas, Dabbas, All the rest….

    Minutia, Minutia… oh wait… even more minutia.

    GK (quite specifically).

    How can you- after bemoaning the useless Ministry of the Environment designed specifically to squander funds since it doesn’t have a respectable enough budget to do much else- say…

    . My bet is that GMA and HA will throw the whole weight of the Lebanese judicial system in order to clarify and then clarfiy again the process. they will create obstacles. That is the power of being in charge of the agenda and the gavel.

    Is this a position a Hizbi or a Aounist agrees with?! Speak up chaps!

    Is that what “You” (Aounis and Hizbis) support? Squandering of government funds to create obstacles? How about a Mission Statement from the Legal System, the Judiciary, and whatever other instruments of the state dedicated to create a just society… not one that hides behind legalese to “create obstacles”. One that is commited to solving the mystery of the “murders”.

    RedLeb seems fixated on whether this government will fall or not based on the STL issue (Danny seems convinced the STL will be its downfall). But that is the only essential difference I am reading in the narrative. This is a detail.

    If the best the Lebanese can do is hide behind technical details, and expect little in terms of the society they live then, well then…………….

    Posted by Gabriel | June 16, 2011, 8:44 pm
  68. Here’s the Makhlouf story on the BBC…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13802770

    Comedy Par Excellence.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 16, 2011, 8:47 pm
  69. BV

    I would happily come around to your “theory” if it didn’t keep changing!

    First you argued that we wouldn’t see a government in Lebanon because, and I quote:

    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.

    What happened? A government was formed. So now the theory has to be revised…

    What you are now arguing (pace RedLeb) is that the government will trudge along under Miqati until it is really tested by the STL indictments, at which point HA will bring the government down.

    That’s certainly possible, but it’s not what you were arguing before. The new version of your theory is more reasonable because it recognizes that while having a functional government that is accountable to the international community is problematic for Hizbullah and Syria, it turns out that it’s worse than having NO government. Otherwise, why would the green light have come from Damascus? If they were playing by your rules, they should have dragged things out until after the indictments came out.

    So let’s try to figure this out together, based on what we know now.

    (1) We have a government.

    (2) This government is in the process of drafting its policy statement.

    (3) That statement could be rejected by the Parliament, in which case we are back to square one, and your original theory becomes plausible again.

    (4) If the statement is accepted by the Parliament, we have to assume one of the following:

    (4a) Mikati and Hizbullah and Syria have come to some kind of agreement about how to handle the indictments when they are released, such that Lebanon does not risk being sanctioned and punished by the international community;

    (4b) Mikati and Hizbullah and Syria are just improvising and hoping that they can ride out the storm, but they have no real plan.

    Since we are in agreement that improvisation is not Hizbullah’s style (nor the Syrian regime), I’m going to assume 4a is the correct choice. The problem is, nobody knows what the content of the indictment is. So a certain degree of improvisation is going to be necessary.

    AIG,

    Regarding Mikati and his imaginary tightrope… I think there’s some truth to that. But what’s the alternative? Having a caretaker government in place when the indictments come out would solve nothing. That govt would also be required to uphold its obligations to the STL and go about arresting people. In such a case, Hizbullah couldn’t resign to bring it down. What does that solve?

    What Hizbullah wants from the Lebanese government is what it has always wanted: a certificate of legitimacy (and in this case, innocence). Has Lebanon ever been sanctioned for “harboring terrorists”? No. Has a Lebanese government ever faced an attack on its banking sector because Hizbullah has members of parliament and ministers? No. Has Lebanon ever had to deal with the repercussions of a cabinet statement that justifies the existence of a national resistance against Israel? No.

    Hizbullah is hoping that it can maintain this status quo even in the context of STL indictments. It wants Mikati to find a way to fudge Lebanon’s responsibilities to the STL without having the country pay an exorbitant price (in the same way that Lebanon gets to harbor a militia with tens of thousands of missiles pointed at Israel without facing serious sanctions by the West.)

    This is the game plan. You want to believe that this is an alternative that is simply not available to Hizbullah and you may be right. If the West decides to play hardball with Lebanon and really put the screws on it as a way to pressure Hizbullah, then they can certainly do that. But Hizbullah is betting that it can win that battle as well. They are betting that people are sick and tired of the STL and want to get on with their life and don’t really give a hoot about Rafiq al-Hariri anymore and will become more angry and frustrated with the West and Israel than with Hizbullah if sanctions are applied.

    That, in my view, is what Hizbullah (and to some extent, Mikati and Aoun and the rest of them) are thinking.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 16, 2011, 8:54 pm
  70. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/06/16/when-syria-says-jump-lebanon-still-asks-%E2%80%98how-high%E2%80%99/

    Ghassan,

    You have been quoted! It is a good read boys and girls…

    gaby,

    All the freaking nonsense analysis is loaded with BS!! Fucking spinsters at Murder Inc are so happy to have another match dude!!!

    Posted by danny | June 16, 2011, 8:54 pm
  71. Gabriel,
    That Makhlouf story is even worse than my wildest expectations lol Isn’t there anyone in that inner4 circle who has any understanding of the real world?
    Gabriel, don’t mix an analysis of what one likes to see and that of what is. ( An is is not an ought or is it that an ought is not an is:-))

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 8:56 pm
  72. Comedy? walaw ya Gaby, at least say tragicomedy. I for one don’t think it’s funny but quite tragic for the whole region. It’s intriguing that Makhlouf is making this move, indicating clearly some deeply felt fear (terror?) of being hung by his feet and scheming for a method to get away with less than his full fortune but yet enough to have a supremely cushy life. I wouldn’t be surprised if the scheme involves also appropriate amounts for many of the key Assads along with a location that is willing to take them as political refugees for asylum.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 9:00 pm
  73. Damn that was a long comment.

    I’m going to cut and paste it into a new post and you guys can attack me for my ignorance there. Ok?

    🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 16, 2011, 9:02 pm
  74. To all the commentators here allowing themselves to sneak obscene words either in English or in Arabic: you really only end up demeaning yourselves and showing a bumbling incompetence in your inability to express yourselves without the crutch of such swear words. I really don’t care what argument you’re putting forth, whether you agree or disagree with me or with others, decorum and respect have been the norm in this forum since its inception (except for some craziness from HK and others and very early attempts by “V” at obscenities which was promptly nipped in the bud).
    Behave wleh.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 9:04 pm
  75. #74 is for #70
    #76 is for #72

    QN, come again? what long comment?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 9:09 pm
  76. QN,

    The caretaker government is a viable alternative because no one expects them to arrest HA members. They will simply say that they do not have the power to do so. Hariri was not expected to disarm HA pursuant to 1701 and would not be expected to arrest them. But that is an excuse that a “HA government” cannot use.

    Which leads directly to the second point. Why has the West not sanctioned Lebanon? Because Hariri made a pact with the West and Saudi and they wanted to help him consolidate his power in Lebanon and they believed (hoped) he could peacefully win over HA and make it a political force only. Sanctions while Hariri was in power would only harm Hariri.

    The circumstances with the “HA government” are completely different. What exactly is the US interest to support the new Lebanese government? On the contrary, they will make life difficult for it to help Hariri in the 2013 elections.

    So HA hoping for some “fudging” is just wishful thinking in my opinion. Since HA are not prone to wishful thinking, I think that the cabinet will not be approved by parliament, but I sure hope it will.

    Posted by AIG | June 16, 2011, 9:09 pm
  77. HP,

    Cool down dude! What’s up with your chastising? Have you not blurted out before? Take a chill pill and read the bible. I meant freaking…Are you happy?

    Get over this nonsense!

    Posted by danny | June 16, 2011, 9:17 pm
  78. “GMA has started circling the wagons by making it clear that they are for honouring all the international agreements but this does not mean that they will just move out of the way.”

    Gus did you read the disclaimers after that pronouncement?

    Posted by danny | June 16, 2011, 9:49 pm
  79. Danny,#80
    Again I do not see much light between what I am saying and what you have said. I am simply stating that GMA and even HA have come to the realization that they cannot ignore the STL as they had promised a few months ago. Their modified position is that they will not reject it outright but they will not be very cooperative but will attempt to use legal arguments to slow down the process. Whether that will work or even whether they will adopt such a strategy remains to be seen.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 16, 2011, 10:07 pm
  80. I’ve devoted a full post to this damned debate. Take your naysaying there. 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 16, 2011, 10:13 pm
  81. QN, you say:
    “If the statement is accepted by the Parliament, we have to assume one of the following:

    (4a) Mikati and Hizbullah and Syria have come to some kind of agreement about how to handle the indictments when they are released, such that Lebanon does not risk being sanctioned and punished by the international community;

    (4b) Mikati and Hizbullah and Syria are just improvising and hoping that they can ride out the storm, but they have no real plan.”

    In fact, there are other possibilities. here is one such scenario:
    Mikati, Hizbullah and Syria may be operating under different strategies and priorities. For example, Syria’s need for an ally state may have overridden its fear of the STL given its ongoing internal strife. Hence, Syria may have decided it wants a government in Lebanon. Hizbullah, happy to oblige for now can implode the government should the need arise. Should that prove difficult; for example if a schism should pop between the various M8 factions, HA can implode Lebanon. I am sure they are intelligent enough, ruthless enough, and motivated enough to consider such possibilities. On the other hand, based on the pace of the STL, those needs may not arise until after the 2013 elections (but I doubt that it will take this long). That leaves Mikati, well he is just a fig leaf so he doesn’t really need to factor into the calculation.

    Posted by R | June 16, 2011, 10:22 pm
  82. HP,

    I am convinced you are the Church Lady from SNL

    Posted by V | June 16, 2011, 11:21 pm
  83. We were good the way we were…. and…wee…liiik’d itt!!!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 11:45 pm
  84. Pill taken, HP chilled. HP like breaking. Danny forgiven. Amen.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 11:47 pm
  85. HP like freaking Danny.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 16, 2011, 11:48 pm
  86. QN,

    I’ll post a brief comment here before moving on to rebuttals in the next post 🙂

    I just wanted to say, I was wrong on the government formation (i ate crow on that one, beer money pending…)

    I think you’re kinda missing the bigger picture of my theory though. The basics of it have not changed. I don’t quite know the minutiae. For example, I never said HA prefers having no government UNTIL THE INDICTMENTS (as you state in your new post). I simply postulate that HA is operating on the following premises:

    1. They are very concerned about the STL, and everything they do IS in fact related to the STL and protecting their weapons. I think we both probably agree here.

    2. Regardless of how things play out (and i admit to being wrong on the cabinet formation), my argument is that it does not serve HA to be officially in control of Lebanon (we all know why) but that it DOES suit them just fine to be able to bring down a cabinet (or have no cabinet) WHEN THEY NEED TO. I emphasize the last bit because the “when they need to” is unknown to me. I don’t quite understand what it is exactly that they are afraid of vis a vis the STL, but I think they want to have the ability to basically say “NO” to anything they don’t like (as they did under Hariri). The same applies today with this Mikati cabinet.

    3. Finally, I have repeated that it is NOT in HA’s interest to have Lebanon under sanctions, so it is important for Lebanon to maintain what RedLeb dubbed “relationships with the west”, even if said relationship is not very responsive to STL demands, or drags its feet, or whatever. This relationship is needed for completely different reasons. If Lebanon were to be sanctioned, the economy would collapse (Ghassan made a very good point about the ability to keep rolling our debt, for example). So for HA to keep playing their game, they need Lebanon to still be “alive” (even if barely) economically. They need for the barely functional state to keep barely functioning, paychecks to be paid, and so on. This is why IMO, they did not care if it were a “caretaker cabinet” or a Mikati. In both cases, Lebanon gets to still present a somewhat “acceptable” face to the international community, which enables HA to avoid a direct confrontation.

    What has actually happened with the cabinet does not contradict any of these 3 tenets above. I may not have predicted everything correctly, but i think my overarching “theory” still stands. I think that RedLeb predicted it correctly: Mikati will present the acceptable face for the time being, while HA continue playing their state within a state game. They get to maintain the status quo, as they had under Hariri, as they had under the “caretaker govt”. The status quo SUITS HA right now (that might change depending on the events in Syria, but for now it still holds).

    I don’t think my theory really “changed” over time. The details changed, but the motivations of HA are still what I think they have been all along.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 12:37 am
  87. QN,

    One more thing.

    You made the assumption in your above dissertation that Mikati and HA have an agreement or some kind of joint understanding.
    I don’t think that is necessarily the case. I think Mikati is playing his own game, for his own interests. I don’t think he promised HA anything of the sort you suggest.
    I think HA simply holds the card that when push comes to shove, they have the ability to take him down (since they can get the FPM/AMAL/Karami/HA ministers to resign).
    So from that standpoint, they don’t really NEED Mikati to promise them anything. They can simply let him run the country until they deem it necesary to take his cabinet down. And they get their “friendly to the west” face in the meantime.
    I don’t think they necessarily know what the STL has in store for them.
    You made some good points about the fact that Lebanon has not been punished for “harboring terrorists”, etc. so far. But again, the reason for that was that it was never the “official government of Lebanon” that did so. There was always a face friendly to the west, saying “But we’re weak and powerless and we can’t arrest anyone”.
    I think HA is scared of the STL because they realize that this time, it may be different.
    I don’t necessarily think they know what’s coming, but they’re doing their best to be prepared and hold whatever cards they can hold.
    They tried the national unity thing because Hariri gave them a form of cover. When he refused to play ball, they brought him down.
    Now they are trying Mikati, and hoping that things can hold and that they can maintain their status quo, their weapons, etc.
    They still have the card of bringing Mikati down. But as I said yesterday, HA is fundementally weaker now. Mikati’s “cover” is not as good as Hariri’s. And if Mikati ever comes down, then they will have no cover at all.

    If they had wanted someone less “friendly face” but more loyal. Someone they could have an “agreement” with (such as the one you speculated about in 4a), it would have been Omar Karami.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 12:45 am

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