Hezbollah, Lebanon

What Hizbullah Wants From Mikati

I’ve been having a debate with several of my regular commenters over the past month and I thought it was time to dig it out of the forum and give it its own post. The topic: how Hizbullah plans to face the upcoming indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which everyone assumes will accuse the party of assassinating Rafiq al-Hariri.

Let me set the stage by referring you back to something I wrote immediately after the Hariri government collapsed back in January:

Setting aside the cynicism of Hizbullah’s political strategy, I continue to think that it’s somewhat desperate and uncharacteristically short-sighted. What has Hizbullah really achieved by replacing Hariri with Miqati? […] Even if Miqati did agree to doing [their] bidding, isn’t it obvious that he can’t end Lebanon’s cooperation with the STL on his own? He needs the cabinet to vote on it […] And it wouldn’t work! That’s what so desperate and puzzling about this whole strategy. The court has been set in motion. The evidence is going to be made public sooner or later. It’s just that it will now come out with an angry Sunni audience in Lebanon led by a politician who has less to gain than ever from playing by Hizbullah’s rules. Had they tried to find a way to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again, they could have at least made Hariri do the talking when Lebanon got around to formally denouncing the STL indictments. Now it will have to be Miqati, who has already been branded as a Hizbullah puppet.

Okay, so bringing down Hariri’s government did not solve Hizbullah’s problem with the STL. That much is clear. The question is: what do they do now?

Some of my readers have claimed that Hizbullah’s game plan was simply to keep the government in limbo until after the indictments came out, because it would not be in the party’s interest to be seen as leading a government that refuses to uphold its obligation to the UN and the international community. While they did waffle for almost five months (not quite as long as the king of waffles, but still…) they eventually did form a government with Najib Mikati in charge. This seems to suggest that there is some kind of plan in place for how to deal with the indictments.

One reader, RedLeb suggests the following:

As regards the STL, which frankly is a much weaker threat to Syria and Hizbullah 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 Hizbullah suspicions, to one non-cooperative with the STL, but circumscribed by Sunni sensitivities. It will not collapse when the indictments are issued. Hizbullah will rely on Miqati to maintain domestic stability and manage international relationships while the trial is underway…

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.

Another reader, AIG, finds this unconvincing. He says:

Lebanon may be asked to arrest some of the people indicted. What will the government do then? In addition, Hizbullah will have a hard time disassociating itself from the defendants if higher ups in Hizbullah are named. For example, relatives of Mugniyeh… 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.

So what’s a billionaire prime minister to do? Does Mikati have any options? Or is this government a farce? What is Hizbullah’s calculation vis-a-vis the STL? Are there any deals (in the vein of the ill-fated “Syrian-Saudi” initiative of 2010) to be made between Lebanon and the UN? Here are some thoughts:

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. Many people want to believe that this is simply not an alternative that is available to Hizbullah and they may be right. If the West decides to play hardball with Lebanon and puts 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 is thinking. Even if the STL puts on an incredible show with all kinds of compelling evidence, forensics data, DNA testing, iron-clad witness testimony, etc., Hizbullah will be able to live with that. At the end of the day, they feel confident that most of their supporters will not believe it, while many others in Lebanon just won’t care.

What they want to avoid, on the other hand, is having to take some kind of military action against a Lebanese government that is forced to arrest party members because it is being threatened with a full frontal sanctions regime. If Mikati can find a way of maintaining Lebanon’s formal commitment to the STL while recusing his government from the responsibility of arresting suspects and avoiding sanctions and diplomatic isolation, Hizbullah probably thinks that it will be able to live with the bad press.

Let the rebuttals begin…
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128 thoughts on “What Hizbullah Wants From Mikati

  1. QN,

    Hezbollah is scared shit from the STL. If not, they would not do every single obstacle in the world to delay its work. Check out: http://lebpatriot.blogspot.com/2010/07/hezbollah-and-tribunal.html

    If the STL cannot harm Hezbollah, why it was the single most important issue since 2005? The STL was at the center of every single stand off between the two camps in Lebanon.

    This is my two cents….

    Posted by LebanesePatriot | June 16, 2011, 10:38 pm
  2. Not a rebuttal, but I wonder how the various factions in Lebanon will square the circle in a setting where a) the STL is still an unknown (i.e., indictments, timing, etc…) and b) the fate of the Syrian regime is also unknown (will it survive? if not, when will it fall?). Should the Syrian regime fall, it could happen before the shit hits the fan with the STL. In other words, before RedLeb’s version of events unfolds and the West eventually loses patience with Lebanon’s STL stalling. That (fall of Syrian regime) would be a serious game changer, which I suspect would simply shuffle the deck and force HA’s hand in probably a more belligerent direction. Then of course, there is the question of whether Israel would try to take out HA in the absence of Syria’s Assad (or should I say Assad’s Syria). Those issues must be weighing heavily on Hizbulla’s leadership and I find it hard to believe that Lebanon can weather that potential storm.

    Should the Syrian regime survive, then RedLeb’s version is likely to unfold for a while until either a) elections 2013 come up or b) the west gets fed up and ratchets up the pressure. But the west’s relationship with Lebanon has been predicated on (friendly factions in) Lebanon having been held hostage by Syria and Hizbullah, hence not holding the “victim” responsible. This explains why Lebanon is not under sanctions…

    My read is that most factions in Lebanon are reactive, not proactive and typically conservative about maintaing the status quo. The sole exception may be HA who work on changing realities on the ground, but quietly and behind the scenes. So I would not be surprised if the have contingency plans for all the possible scenarios – or if the contingency plans include imploding the government or Lebanon itself, in the interest of saving HA.

    Posted by R | June 16, 2011, 10:39 pm
  3. I am surprised you haven’t given any space in your analysis to Shakib Qortbawi, the Aounist Justice Minister. By far, this was perhaps the single most important acquisition for Aoun and HA. He is a highly respected lawyer and was once the head of the Lawyers Association. Aoun went for someone with superb credentials and a very good reputation. They’re expecting him, then, to give one hell of a performance with a tribunal prone to mistakes and screw ups. You want an inkling about HA’s strategy, Qortbawi is key.

    Furthermore, STL with a mighty Syria and Assad is one thing. STL in the current circumstance is another. HA is feeling much more vulnerable precisely for this reason.
    Perhaps more attention should be given to how the STL will be played in this context.

    Posted by Amal | June 17, 2011, 12:09 am
  4. A copy of my comment from the previous thread:


    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 17, 2011, 12:19 am
  5. Forming the government had everything to do with preserving March 8’s eroding position and little to do with the STL’s looming indictments, in my view. Mikati has always thought that he could bridge the unbridgeable gap between March 8 and the structure of international obligations created to constrain March 8’s dark side, but he was being too smart for his own good and only heard what he wanted to hear. While the U.S. and others probably would have swallowed hard and let a national unity government headed by the hapless Hariri somehow fudge the issue of the STL, for example, in order to avoid a military confrontation with Hizballah, Mikati will get no such free pass. By pure mathematics alone, he simply cannot credibly argue to be heading anything other than a March 8-dominated government, and no one outside Lebanon is invested in him as a political figure. A freight train is headed his way at a runaway clip (see the recent statements coming out of the U.S. House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle), and he and his friends in the business community will be crushed. It’s not fair that they pay the price for Hizballah and Aoun’s shenanigans, but he should have calculated the risks more realistically before he stepped forward to take the job.

    Posted by Mushkelji | June 17, 2011, 12:28 am
  6. Jinx, AIG!

    Posted by Mushkelji | June 17, 2011, 12:32 am
  7. I agree with Amal, the STL has to be looked at through the prism of the events in Syria and the wider Arab world. Hezbollah supporters just need to be reminded that the STL is a tool to weaken Hezbollah and to help overthrow the Syrian regime, and they will believe every word of it.

    I only see a confrontation coming. Once the indictments are released expect a full on attack from March 14 against Hezbollah and by some MPs against Syria as well. The situation in Syria seems to be going from bad to worse for the regime, and there are many anti-Syrians in Lebanon who are quiet today but will but will start to be vocal once they believe that the tipping point has been crossed in Syria, which at this rate may be at around the same time the indictments come out.

    Either way, I expect that despite efforts to prevent it, there will be a certain amount of trouble in Lebanon before the end of the summer which will not bode well for tourism and bank deposits in the country. Dealing with the STL and Hezbollah is one thing, but dealing with that plus an unstable Syria is a potential lethal mix for a country like Lebanon which just needs any excuse to become polarized once again.

    Whatever Hezbollah plans to do with the Miqati government specifically to me is not the issue. The key thing is how to prevent Lebanon from becoming unstable again and to prevent a relapse into violence. Hezbollah and the Syrian regime both have the capacity and the will to lash out at their perceived enemies if put into a corner. As was seen from 2006, I don’t think Hezbollah cares much about the fate of the Lebanese economy or the country’s relationship with the international community as much as it cares about defending its prerogatives and those of Syria.

    Posted by LL | June 17, 2011, 12:42 am
  8. 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, 12:49 am
  9. 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, 12:50 am
  10. Kudos to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and to the Hezbollah cadre, they sure as hell keep you going day and night, with wild conjectures, speculations, dreary but shallow analysis and more. Hezbollah is here to stay regardless STL. TSL, 1559, 1701 or any other creepy UNSC resolutions now, in the future, till the end of time. Regardless what happens in Syria, Hezbollah is here to stay indefinitely, when there is a will, there is always a way 🙂

    Posted by HK | June 17, 2011, 1:47 am
  11. party of god is getting very close to making the mistake that the kataeb and ahrar made in Libanon in the 1970s and 1980s – and the mistake Nasser made in Egypt in the 1960s, and Arab self-appointed leaders made in the 1940s: i.e. too big for their boots.

    Party of god has made big strategic mistakes since 2006, and when the apartheid regime collapses in Syria the party of god will probably make another big mistake.

    I hope not, actually. But I suspect they have no idea of the actual limitations in front of them. That is very different, of course, from the future for the shiia community – the shiia community has a very positive and leading role in the future of Liban, unlike the shiia in almost every other single Arab state with the exception of Iraq.

    Posted by s al-riachy | June 17, 2011, 3:45 am
  12. I don’t think Lebanon should fear sanctions. That would be a very stupid move. It would allow Iran the chance of gaining much more direct leverage on Lebanese politics for a long time. For that reason alone you can be sure Saudi Arabia would increase their funding and assistance to Lebanon to make up for such a move by the US, EU, and/or UN.

    Posted by Usama | June 17, 2011, 5:25 am
  13. Hezbollah is far from making any stupid mistakes, and the 2006 encounter with IDF cowards was a strategic asset beyond their wildest dreams, and they are ready for an encore anytime. If and when the stupid alawite regime of Syria collapses, the Geopolitical environment of Syria will remain the same, since Israhell is not willing to come to the table anytime soon and will never relinquish the Golan, hence, Hezbollah will know how to navigate those waters when the time comes. Rest assured! 🙂

    Posted by HK | June 17, 2011, 5:39 am
  14. If Mikati can find a way of maintaining Lebanon’s formal commitment to the STL while recusing his government from the responsibility of arresting suspects and avoiding sanctions and diplomatic isolation, Hizbullah probably thinks that it will be able to live with the bad press.

    Of course there is an obvious way for Mikati to avoid the responsibility of arresting any suspects the STL indicts: any suspects in Lebanon can simply leave the country. So long as the do it quickly they can slip across the Syrian border and the army and security forces can plausibly say that they couldn’t stop them. Since both Syria and Iran are in deep trouble with the UN already I doubt either country would mind annoying the UN even more by harbouring STL suspects.

    Posted by Niklas Smith | June 17, 2011, 6:52 am
  15. Qifa Nabki wrote yesterday:

    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.

    Qifa Nabki woke up today to discover:



    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 17, 2011, 8:07 am
  16. The Lebanese political scene has been a captive of Hezbollah and its shenanigans for years. We seem to have moved from the Sheba’a farms, to the seven villages, to the fiber network, the right of Lebanon to make peace with the Zionist entity, the 2006 divine victory, the false witnesses issue, the legality of the STL and cooperation with it … The common denominator in all of the above is the attempt to protect at any costbare non the illegal weapons of the resistance followed by an attempt almost at any cost to deny, delay, waterdown and obfuscate the potential devastating effects of finding them complicit in the assassination of Rafic Hariri.
    The weapons is an existential issue for Hezbollah.The political party will be only a shadow of itself without them. That is why they are expected to do anything to protect these weapons and to move their statys to being quasi legal through their successful machinations to make a distinction between weapons meant to intimidate Israel and weapons used internally. That was the gist of the ex ministerial statetment and we can expect the same wording in the new one.
    Hezbollah , however, does not have a clear strategy towards the STL, since they are not in control of the process, The strategy is made up on the spot dictated by developments on the ground. The goal is clear, make the STL go away, but they know that it won’t and so the next best thing is to resort to delay tactics at every stage with the hope that ultimately something will happen that will render the STL toothless. Their policy towards Mikati and others is similar to that of a corporation or a high networth individual when accused of a wrong doing. The first attempt is to have the case thrown out of the court by calling it frivolous, then a change of venue then any legal stalling tactic to buy time and discredit the court. Simply they want Mikati to be willing to be flexible in the cabinets’ response to the STL. That is all. That will give them time to continue their efforts at discrediting the process and painting it as biased.
    The pressure on Mikati to play along will diminsh if for some reason the fate of Bashar Assad weakons further. The proxy for what awaits Bashar are the developments in Libya. If Qadaffi’s hold on power is weakened further in the next fortnight then the fate of Bashar will be sealed and HA will have then a greater problem on its hands besides containing the damage from the STL. A regime change in Syria will affect its warehousing of weapons and its supply routes. That will shift the struggle to an existential level. The Lebanese state , once it allowed Hezbollah to become stronger than the army, lost the fight against Hezbollah through domestic means. The ultimate fate of Hezbollah will be determined by foreign developments such as the possible one two punch of a Syrian regime change and a strong STL indictment.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 8:22 am
    (Church lady ease off eh? It’s jus a saying…)

    I will try to comment albeit not as eloquently as QN and other esteemed debaters here. 😀

    My premise all along had been that both HA and especially Syria wanted no government in Lebanon. Here are my thoughts.

    *Before the unset of the unrest and turmoil.
    – It ordered the collapse of the Hariri government as the relationship with KSA became hostile because of Hariri’s refusal to denounce STL . It was a volley across the bow to show KSA it still dominates the scene; however a desperate one as it also alienated Qatar by breaking the Doha pledge (of not toppling the government by using the blocking third.

    – It thus would give Bashar the lame duck government as well as the vacuum to continue to use Lebanon as a threat against Israel and at the same time KSA.
    – In the case of STL not indicting any Syrian higher up operatives; it would give Syria the needed breather to bargain with the West as it would hold the leverage over HA. Any government with HA at the helm would restrict the maneuverability.
    *After the turmoil.
    – The ground started to shift as Syria’s unrest has proven that it has legs and the people are not afraid from the regime. The West will eventually breathe down the Syrian necks…
    – Bashar in his desperation ordered his people to announce the line up of the Cabinet. I have always insisted that all the armchair analysis regarding the clAoun are pontificating. My friend basher proved me right by making the CALL.
    – The formation of the Cabinet with HA leading it will spit in the face of the West as well as KSA. It takes effective control of the security apparatus (ISF) and protects its flank from Lebanon. It consolidates and prepares for its final thrust if the developments in Syria turn hopeless. It is creating the Alawite canton by purging large swathes in the north of Syria (ethnic cleansing)…Consolidating the HA grip on the forces and will unleash the final bullet against Israel if all fail.

    HA has to work on four fronts.
    – Lebanese. They own the Shiites in Lebanon: through coercion at the point of the gun as well as social services and brainwashing campaign. The fact that the Shias feel in a position of power now after years of Ma7roumeen holds the PR angle. If there would be any annoying attempts by the rest of Lebanon…Well we have witnessed what they can do through 2005 till present. I will not bore you with the details as they are too well known.
    – Syrian: The lifeline of the guns and ammunition is in a danger of being breeched. If it loses the Assad’s assistance and a hostile government takes over in Syria it has to prepare to take over Lebanon militarily as it would lose the only Arab support it has now. Civil war will erupt. Miqati will supposedly offer him the fig leaf for now.
    – Iranian: They have to acquiesce to their master in Iran. Their calculations regarding the Atomic issue as well as triggers of confrontation re: Bahrain fall into HA’s lap. Iran will use HA against Lebanese Sunnis if things get worse in Bahrain.
    – West. It is the STL stupid!!! Here we go again. Given all the possible scenarios; Miqati or any government would not be able to hold off the schism that will appear as a result of HA high ranking cadres being indicted and the thread pointing to Nassrallah. All the technical or judicial “sidebars” won’t create another judge Ito. The Sunni world will use the STL to clobber HA and Syria. These are nothing new…using Lebanon as a mailbox or settling scores. How can Miqati justify staying on when he tries to do a Texas two step trying to avoid arresting individuals or complying with court that was created under CHAPTER seven. All that is childish speculations. If HA loses the Syrian flank the STL will mean it’s end. It could come through a bloody repression through Syria; civil war or Israeli attack or all or some of all.
    – I do not see Miqati gaining anything. He was thrusted there by his business partners in Syria to bid his time. The turn of events have forced him into plan B of the Syrian regime.

    Sorry for the long winded comment. But in conclusion; if we can put together the following fact: HA is scared stiff from STL and its ramifications in Lebanon and the Arab street (you can see the attack dogs are out already the past week). Hariri backed off SS knowing full well through “informed sources” that his father’s killers wore yellow and green. Obama even accused HA of political assassinations.
    Thank you STL…For whatever it will uncover it would be better than this cesspool environment prevailing in Lebanese justice system.

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 8:39 am
  18. Party of god wants more from FPM and SPS than it wants from the PM designate, I think. All party of god wants from PM designate is the few Sunni MP votes in Parliament to get majority (if it still is a majority with 5 (1 Baath + 4 Lebanese “Democratic Party”) now saying they’ll either abstain or vote against the coalition on confidence – which makes it almost a 50 – 50 parliament, with no majority for either side.

    There are a few articles around about maybe al-Assad gang’s back up plan being to ethnically de-diversify Sunni villages just in case they need an “Alawi state” from Akkar-to-Turkei if the worst comes to the worst – in a manner similar to what became of multi-communal, multi-religious Palestine in 1947-1949. The governments of Turkey and Iraq will do all they can to stop such a result, but a discussion at some stage about what such a outcome in Syria would mean for Lebanon is needed – an open and rational discussion.

    While some in FPM will privately say – and may be some in party of god would say but I don’t know – that they could tolerate splitting Lebanon into 3 mini ethnic based states, there won’t be a single Sunni in all of Lebanon or Syria that would agree with that.

    Posted by s al-riachy | June 17, 2011, 9:03 am
  19. Re Qifa Nabki at 15: The picture of massed ranks of uniformed men doing what we in Europe call the Hitler salute rather encapsulates Hezbollah’s image problem in the West. The vast majority of people in Europe (and as far as I know in America too) have a visceral fear of uniformed (let alone armed) political movements that project a military image thanks to our 20th-century history.

    Out of curiosity, what does that salute represent for Hezbollah (I assume they are not making a deliberate reference to European fascism…)?

    Posted by Niklas Smith | June 17, 2011, 9:08 am
  20. Re s al-riachy at 18: A sectarian break-up of Syria would be an absolute nightmare. I’m willing to bet that there is not one instance of partition that involves moving ethnic groups that has not ended in violence, throughout history. Just take the Indian partition or the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe at the end of WW2 as examples. (And surely any sectarian partition of Syria would require moving people around, otherwise there would be vulnerable minorities everywhere.)

    To be honest, I doubt that Assad’s regime can be seriously considering an “Alawi state” for the simple reason that they would be hopelessly outnumbered. Splitting Syria on sectarian lines would destroy the army, which is currently the key institution protecting the regime. The result would be a lot of angry Sunnis with guns and tanks – you’d have civil war, and Assad would be on the weaker side.

    I know he’s pretty odious but I don’t think he’s that stupid. (Thankfully.)

    Posted by Niklas Smith | June 17, 2011, 9:15 am
  21. One thing that should be considered is the position Lebanon had to the West until the Syrian cry for democracy.

    Will lebanon be that important once the regime changes in Syria? Is not Syria a much bigger asset to the west than Lebanon?

    Will the west cares if Lebanon enters a new endless civil war once they have Syria to spread the spell in ME? Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, a new relationship with KSA, Emirates….who needs Lebanon?

    Lebanon will be the new Palestine, nobody really cares….they just pretend to.

    What will be left to HA with regime change in Syria? The Iran support is very important but then what will HA do with it? what will it be useful for? Take out all Lebanon? Lebanon had been taken from itself for decades and nobody notice it or cared enough about it.

    Make war with Israel? I strongly doubt it, they know they can not survive it. Play political card in ME? Lebanon is not that relevant.

    HA knows that the end of Assad is the begging of the end of HA as we know it.

    The STL indictments will wait for Syria and if necessary the sunnis will make sure they are not sick and tired of it until their leaders say so.

    Lebanon will be let alone to solve its problem….

    Posted by Alberto | June 17, 2011, 10:07 am
  22. What just happened.

    Was it QN or BV who just wrote this new thread?????!?


    Danny- excellent sum-up

    Posted by Gabriel | June 17, 2011, 11:07 am
  23. Is what happened today between Bab el Tabeneh and Jabal Mohsin a prelude of things to come?

    Posted by LL | June 17, 2011, 11:13 am
  24. New discussion topics:

    – will STL release findings before or after the Fall of Assad

    – is the international community going to actively decide timing based on events in Syria?

    – will this further open up charges of politicisations against STL?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 17, 2011, 11:28 am
  25. To some this might look as if it is off topic but it really is not since about cabinet leadership.
    I do not want to deal with details in this post but as many know I have been concerned for a while about the ability of Lebanon to carry its sovereign debt. I do revisit the issue every day but unfortunately Lebanon does not publish a lot of new data and so I wind up reworking old figures. I have not found a single scenario, short of a miracle, whereby Lebanon can carry this debt. IT has to face the music and work for an orderly restructuring as soon as possible. I am willing , at this point to say categorically that Lebanon cannot get from under this debt burden. It will crush it.. And so one must add another complicating factor: Which government is better equipped to handle such an emergency?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 11:36 am
  26. HA knows that the end of Assad is the begging of the end of HA as we know it.


    I agree. Syria twisting in the wind does nothing to strengthen the Hezbos and the Iranian theocracy. Weakening is more likely.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 17, 2011, 11:38 am
  27. QN @#15.

    Here is the (sparse) official info available on HATA HR 2215 thus far. It’s very early in the legislative process so who knows what will change as it proceeds? But this summary does provide a helpful sketch of the goals of HA’s Congressional enemies in regards to Israel’s security wishes.

    Whether or not the goals stated below are achievable is irrelevant:

    “HATA will prohibit U.S. foreign assistance to a Hezbollah-dependent Lebanese government, i.e., a government in which Hezbollah is part of the majority coalition, UNLESS the President certifies that:

    Hezbollah has ceased its support for terrorism, renounces violence, and disarms – and ceases using Lebanon’s territory as a base to launch attacks against the State of Israel;

    OR that

    the Hezbollah-influenced Lebanese government has made demonstrable progress toward dismantling all Hezbollah terrorist and military infrastructure within Lebanon, arresting and bringing all wanted Hezbollah terrorist terrorists to justice, ending all Hezbollah imports of military and terrorism-related equipment, destroying unauthorized Hezbollah arms factories, thwarting and preempting terrorist attacks, and fully cooperating with UNIFIL peace keepers.”


    The exceptions to US aid are of note, especially the funding of IMET which is, of course, the primary pathway enabling American oversight of the ISF and the LAF.

    Posted by lally | June 17, 2011, 12:27 pm
  28. QN,

    I see you saw the story about the US draft law…Maybe these aren’t “sanctions” quite yet, but it certainly appears to be moving in that direction eh? 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 12:37 pm
  29. Lally & BV

    I’ve got some leads out to people in Washington (including to Congressman Berman’s office) to figure out what the implications of this legislation will be.

    BV, my initial sense is that this is a warning shot. They want to have a framework in place to be able to ratchet up pressure. Right now, because of the exceptions built into the bill, it’s not really going to affect the aid packages at all. But if something more drastic happens with regard to the STL, they may try to revise the bill and drop out the exceptions.

    One wonders whether Hizbullah would consider not bothering to partake in the cabinet at all… that would certainly avoid the consequences of the bill as well. But at this point, they definitely wouldn’t do it because they don’t want to be seen to bow under US pressure.

    I’ll be recording a Bloggingheads interview this weekend with Mona Yacoubian from the US Institute of Peace, and she may have more information about this bill. So stay tuned.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 17, 2011, 1:07 pm
  30. BV,

    Have you been smitten with the Canadian bug EH? :p
    I love the fact that the cosponsors are of Lebanese origin. I will route for Daryl Issa for governor of California…and one day Vice President of USA…

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 1:08 pm
  31. QN,

    That would;d be infinitely better interview than the one you had with Alex the five year man. 😀

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 1:10 pm
  32. What a Difference a Day Makes

    Now that the number of deaths in Syria has surpassed the number of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead, my question is why has there been little to no international demonstrations against Syria?


    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 17, 2011, 1:10 pm
  33. AP,

    i am not sure you want to hear the answer…Bibi and Assad are long separated twins. Obama is their Godfather. Once Israel lifts their cover of the murderous Assad clan; you’ll see it fall in a few weeks if not days.

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 1:13 pm
  34. “The military official of the Arab Democratic Party, Ali Fares, and a Lebanese soldier were killed on Friday in clashes between gunmen positioned in the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh in the northern city of Tripoli, state-run National News Agency reported.”

    What’s wrong with this picture. ? Anyone????

    “Those who think that they are above the law are mistaken,” the premier said, noting that he had ordered a probe into the deadly incidents and instructed security forces to strike with an “iron fist.

    Does Miqati know who HA are? Also, an iron fist…Now that is soooo funnnnnnyyyyy!

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 1:41 pm
  35. QN #29′
    If you can influence the choice of background music for the upcoming Bloggingheads interview with the US Peace Institute then please go for Phillip Glass instead of Yanni.:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 2:01 pm
  36. Was there background music the last time? 🙂

    I’m not a fan of either Philip Glass or Yanni.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 17, 2011, 2:05 pm
  37. Danny @17 LOL. First, it’s a nice summary/analysis. Then, re. the church lady thingy, you’re asking me to overlook the use of the word “stupid.” This reminds me of a 4-year old (true story, but let’s call him lucius to conceal his identity) in our neighborhood who was in our car once and blurted about his older friend (6 year-old, let’s call him maximus):
    lucius: maximus is an azzhoole
    neighbor-driving: why?
    lucius: he says bad words
    lucius: he says “Steupiid”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 17, 2011, 2:31 pm
  38. QN,

    The draft law in Congress is most definitely a warning shot. I can tell you now what it is meant to accomplish (and we’ll get confirmation from your sources): It is meant to make it clear to Mikati and HA that contrary to “the past” when the west “overlooked” Lebanon harboring terrorists, etc…the STL is serious business, and the west will NOT accept Mikati or anyone else “walking the proverbial tightrope” that AIG referred to.
    This is precisely what I’ve been trying to argue and why I predict that eventually, despite HA’s attempt at still having a Sunni cover, they will have to jetison Mikati and go back to the “vacuum” formula.
    We’re not there yet. I’ve been referring to that scenario as “when push comes to shove” in my previous comments. But a time will come where Mikati will be faced with making a clear cut choice, and where dragging feet, delaying tactics and half-ass cooperation will NOT be acceptable anymore to the West. When that time comes, it will be a very clear choice, not unlike the one that HA put in front of Hariri back in January.
    This time, it will be the west saying “Disavow the STL at the risk of sanctions, no more loan rolling, no more aid…etc.” And when that happens, HA will have no choice but to bring down Mikati (because HA, as well as everyone else in Lebanon, cannot face the economic mess that would ensue if Lebanon were declared a pariah state).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 3:00 pm
  39. QN,
    That was only a veiled reference to the reputation of the US Peace Institute as New Agers 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 3:13 pm
  40. The “Murder Inc.” no one Care About

    i am not sure you want to hear the answer…Bibi and Assad are long separated twins. Obama is their Godfather. Once Israel lifts their cover of the murderous Assad clan; you’ll see it fall in a few weeks if not days.


    Thanks, but I don’t see an answer in there. Syria’s crackdown and violence against demonstrators is getting virtually no international feedback, whereas Israel’s response to years of mortar and rocket attack got huge international criticism from all over the world.

    In both cases, about the same number of people were killed. The difference: Syrian protestors are not firing thousands of rockets and mortars into population centers, and Israel killed a high percentage of combatants.

    The “separated twins”/”Godfather” thing doesn’t address this difference.

    I don’t think anyone is going to lift the “cover of the murderous Assad clan”. Those sweet Baathist buddies of Hezbollah and Iran will get an international, lifelong “Get Out of Jail Free Card”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 17, 2011, 3:33 pm
  41. QN.

    Do you think that Howard Berman’s HATA bill could be a feint? His usual partner/co-sponsor for House Israel Firster legislation, Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, is calling for Lebanon to go cold turkey in regards to US aid and is MIA when it comes to this piece of Congressional meddling.

    Perhaps Berman is playing good cop…….

    Posted by lally | June 17, 2011, 5:01 pm
  42. AP,

    No international feedback? What planet are you on?
    No offense here, and without getting into the Gaza debate or comparing the two, but everyone on the planet has been condemning the Syrian crackdown. Turkey called it “savagery”, the French and British have demanded Assad leave. The Syrian crackdown is in every news feed that I happen to look at every day (AP headlines, Yahoo News, etc.) The US has already imposed sanctions, and more are being debated across the West on the Assad regime.
    The outrage is there.

    Sure, politicallly, the matter is being handled with gloved hands (and I’d argue that’s mainly because of Israel, and the still-present fear of better the devil you know – Assad – to the unknown instability of a civil war on Israel’s borders).
    Had Syria NOT been so crucial to Israel’s stability, I’m pretty sure the west would have intervened by now ala Libya. The reason they haven’t is pretty obvious. Libya is not smack in the middle of the Arab-Israeli issues, Syria is (and of course Iran is right there too).

    Point is, your claims that the Syrian crackdown is not getting any attention is bogus.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 5:11 pm
  43. In unrelated news. Looks like the King of Morocco is starting to implement reforms towards a “constitutional monarchy” of sorts.
    Good for Morocco, I think.

    And proof that reforms doesn’t require “5 years” (Hi Alex!) and can be implemented rather quickly, when the will is there. King Mohamed VI operated almost under the radar, by the looks of it. Yet more proof that Bashar’s hot air excuses have no ground to stand on.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 5:14 pm
  44. Oh yeah, Akbar Palace! I don’t recall Angelina Jolie visiting Gaza after Israel was done with it…
    Seriously. I don’t get where you got that notion that no one was outraged about Syria.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 5:16 pm
  45. “One wonders whether Hizbullah would consider not bothering to partake in the cabinet at all”

    QN, do you remember when HA decided to run for the parliamentary elections? I assume it was 1992 after Khameini the Supreme leader of the Willayet el Faqih gave the clear sign…It is not in their hands. They are nothing but a tool in the overall scheme of the umma. The cat’s out of the bag and can’t be stuffed back in. They made their bed. I have not seen them being a nationalistic force yet!

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 5:35 pm
  46. “” I have not seen them being a nationalistic force yet! “””
    One doesn’t get more stupid than that…. Ever!
    Who liberated the South of Lebanon from Israhell’s tyranny over 18 years??
    May be it was the Swiss army of the Vatican!

    Posted by HK | June 17, 2011, 6:03 pm
  47. “If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq Theater of operations during the past 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.
    The firearm death rate in Washington , DC is 80.6 per 100,000 for the same period. That means you are about 25 per cent more likely to be shot and killed in the US capital which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the U..S., than you are in Iraq .
    Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington . 🙂

    Posted by HK | June 17, 2011, 6:07 pm
  48. BV.

    The former Israeli position of betterthedevilyouknow re Assad et al has been amended by the current dangerous political “leadership” duo of bibi et barak.

    They now support regime change in Syria.

    No wonder ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan and his fellow security professionals are scared silly of these two “adventurous” lunatics.

    Posted by lally | June 17, 2011, 6:32 pm
  49. HK #47
    You do seem to enjoy misusing figures and hoping that no one will notice:-) Stop it.

    (1) I hope that the US will not evacuate DC for safer grounds because then the whole world is becomes vulnerable:-)

    (2) More seriously your calculations are flawed. Very flawed. The rate of homicide in DC during 2010 was only about a32 and that means that the index per 100,000 was just about 22 since the population is just under 600,000. The figure that you cite for the US military in Iraq, if accurate translate into an index of 702 per 100,000. Ouch that is about 32 times higher than the DC rate.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 6:36 pm
  50. Danny,

    The link I posted wasn’t intended to show government reaction, it was to show demonstrations against Israel by civilian populations vs. those against Syria. Click on the link. Tell us about all the demonstrations worldwide against Syria.

    BTW, Turkey’s “savagery” comment against Syria was FAR less of a response than the words concerning the 9 killed I’m the flotilla incident. You’re not being objective!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 17, 2011, 6:37 pm
  51. lally.
    Are you by any chance a congressional stffer? I ask this in all sincerity because I need help in deciphering the fact that HATA is promoted by Berman but is not mentioned on the Issa, Boustany or Rahal websites. Is this significant?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 6:52 pm
  52. I accidentally read a few comments on Naharnet, below the story about today’s clashes in Tripoli. I have to say, I was beyond appalled at the level of discourse and the narrative a lot of people are willing to honestly believe into. Not to mention the horrendous spelling, but that’s another issue.

    i hope the bomb the whole bab al, tabaneh they deserve more than that,
    they are nothing but a bunch of liars and they are puppets for the jews,
    they call them selfs muslim yet they do nothing that muslims would do,
    saad harri killed his father so he can take power and try to remove hezbollah for the isrealies, everyone knows that march 14 is 100% withe isreal and america, why dont they just come out with it?

    you people are so angry because we took out you stupid Saudi/Israel prime minister saad Sharon harri, who knows nothing about politics he can’t read Arabic he came from the London clubs to take Lebanon in to a civil war, Israel knows that he would be the perfect little puppy dog who would do as they say,

    <iYou are also angry because Hezbollah can take over the country any time they want, you guys remember May 7????
    Let me think, isn’t that the day they took over biuret in five hours,
    also do you remember how we kept the government house closed cause they can, i don’t give a shit about your bullshit request for reform as long as we are in power in Lebanon and Syria, we will always be on top of use, all use can do is lie on Aljazeera

    Wow. Just wow. We truly are beyond all hope.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2011, 7:31 pm
  53. GK.

    I would never be considered docile enough to be a Congressional Staffer nor would my politics pass muster but that said, perhaps the fact that it’s still very early in the process is why the 3 co-sponsors have yet to announce their participation.

    Here’s some additional reporting on HATA by FP’s Josh Rogin:


    Note that Berman claims that Illeana Ros-Lehtinen is considering signing on. We’ll see.

    Posted by lally | June 17, 2011, 9:21 pm
  54. Lally,
    The dynamics of the 3 American-Lebanese co sponsors is also interesting. I don’t have time to double check this but Issa had decent relationships with the Lebanese and even with Bashar. I also think that his family might be from the south of Lebanon. Since it would be fair to assume that their positions on Lebanon are very much influenced by their family members from Lebanon then I am surprised by the position of Issa on this. I am sure someone will remind us of his presidential ambitions but I don’t think that this is a resume builder. Thanks for the FP link.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2011, 10:07 pm
  55. Why does the end of the Syrian regime necessarily entail the end of the Hezb? It is a sure bet that the Syrians, as a people, are anti-Israel. Any regime to come after Assad will probably listen to the people more, but that won’t really change things in terms of policy towards Israel.

    I assume that you people believe the Hezb to be totally dependent on Assad because of the illegal weapons smuggling. Is there no way this can continue in a post-Assad world? Of course not.

    Posted by Nasser V | June 17, 2011, 11:18 pm
  56. “I am sure someone will remind us of his presidential ambitions but I don’t think that this is a resume builder”,,,,,

    Ghassan…Issa is bigger than you think within the Republican party>…and why not have a Lebanese President really elected by people lol. 😀
    Do you recall Ray LaHood’s claim to fame?

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2011, 11:19 pm
  57. Imagine a Lebanese American in the White House and what it will do to the already overinflated Lebanese ego and pretentiousness, inventing Hummus will become the least of our claims 🙂

    Posted by V | June 18, 2011, 1:19 am
  58. GK # 49:

    It was late and I was too tired to post the source …
    Here you go, it wasn’t my own; and I really didn’t check the numbers cited:


    Posted by HK | June 18, 2011, 1:28 am
  59. Nasser…

    Good points and questions and am quite curious about poeples’s thoughts.

    Personally, I think the type of relationship that HA has with the Assads has slightly more trust value than potential relations with post-assad Syrian leadership.

    And while I think their “efforts” may prove to be expedient to new leadership in Syria… I am not so sure how much HNA would actually want to play second fiddle.

    It will most definitely be interesting to see how things evolve.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 18, 2011, 1:34 am
  60. Maybe we should call HP “Mother Superior” from now on 😛

    Posted by Gabriel | June 18, 2011, 1:55 am
  61. Don’t you gentlemen (and ladies?) agree that Lebanon will never grow and prosper in the long term as long as it is dependent on US “acceptance”? If you really hate Iran that much, you can always look further east. But come on though, as long as you keep begging for western acceptance, Lebanon will never be independent and will never grow and prosper.

    The west does not care about Lebanon nor its citizens, unless doing so serves Zionist interests. Like I said before, I cannot imagine the US and EU approving sanctions against Lebanon because then Iranian money will be welcomed, and their influence expanded. Despite its small size, Lebanon is so geopolitically important that the west would be very stupid to cut ties with it over decisions taken by its elected majority government.

    Lebanon would do well to find real friends who don’t punish it for decisions taken by its own elected governments.

    Posted by Usama | June 18, 2011, 2:00 am
  62. Usama,

    We will not rest until Lebanon becomes the 51 State in the USA


    Posted by V | June 18, 2011, 2:26 am
  63. Usama # 61 is right on the money! 🙂

    The freaking useless war criminals and assassins of the most despicable US of A and its Infamous White House Murder INC, in their own words:


    Posted by HK | June 18, 2011, 2:54 am
  64. Usama # 62 words of wisdom!!!

    Posted by HK | June 18, 2011, 2:55 am
  65. The Alawite Mafia of assassins standing at the edge of the abyss…. 🙂

    “Bashar Assad is not in charge. He is showing no leadership. He is depasse. The thugs of Maher, Kudsieh and Asef Shawkat have really taken over for good….”

    Posted by HK | June 18, 2011, 3:07 am
  66. Everything you need to know about U.S.A’s dirty & disgusting politics in a song, 🙂
    you can sing along too!

    Posted by HK | June 18, 2011, 3:13 am
  67. HK,

    You would do anything for a Green Card, probably the reason behind your ridiculous rants about the ” the most despicable US of A” is that you were denied a visit visa.

    Posted by V | June 18, 2011, 3:26 am
  68. Looks like Hezbollah is still firmly backing the murderous Assad regime. Hope no one here is surprised…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2011, 4:52 am
  69. Gaby @61, you didn’t get the joke in #37?
    Five Our Father and Five Hail Mary

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 18, 2011, 8:08 am
  70. HK, here’s a homework assignment for you:
    Compare and contrast HA and the Assad regime, explaining clearly how reasoning by a sane, honest, and self-consistent person can justify glorifying one and demonizing the other.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 18, 2011, 8:18 am
  71. The Syrian unrest has already triggered fighting in The Lebanon.
    Not only will the new Lebanese government fall fast but it will also begin the slow but terminal decline of Hezbollah. Their time is past.

    Posted by harleymc | June 18, 2011, 10:11 am
  72. Post Assad, any Syrian government that hopes to succeed will need good economic relations with the West. That means it will not be able to allow Syria to be a conduit of arms to HA. That does not mean that Syria cannot support HA politically. What happens next is up to HA and how they mend their relations with the Lebanese that do not support them. In any case, it will be a process that takes several years. Even if HA do not receive more weapons, they still have plenty. The good news is that they will not be in a position to take any risks of war with Israel, which is good for both Lebanon and Israel.

    Posted by AIG | June 18, 2011, 10:52 am
  73. Nasser V # 55,
    The very simple answer to your question about HA is the current status of the popularity of HA among the protesters/demonstrators in Syria. Things could change but at the moment one of the most hated figures in Syria next to the Ba’ath is SHN and the whole organization that he heads.
    A dd to that the fact that when a post Bashar Syria emerges it will be more transparent, more democratic and less likely to act as an obstructionist..( Note that I said when and not if::-))

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 18, 2011, 12:24 pm
  74. First time poster. Reading through the comments we have many opinions that have solid fact to back them up. I, for one, think QN Is over simplifying the impact that the STL will have on Lebanon and the Lebanese (It has already had a major one). Once the International Courts place the verdict, they will not simply stop the trial because they can not get the defendants to “show up” at court. There will be a trail in absentia, and as we can see by what has occurred recently with Serbia, eventually they will get their man.

    Perhaps a Mikati government can shield those charged for another few years, but eventually a government will be elected or imposed that will hand over those convicted. If anyone thinks that Hezbollah will try to secure power in such a situation underestimates Israeli resolve. Simply put, Israel will never allow Hezbollah to formally control Lebanon as they would not allow the PLO. This is the main reason why even though Hezbollah may control the current political scene, they mask it via small representation in the government.

    On top of this, due to the imminent fall of the Syrian regime as it exists today (not saying Assad won’t control some parts of Syria via civil strife), Hezbollah had no choice but to make sure a government is in place to deal with the aftermath. Most importantly a cover against the STL. It is short term thinking, but it is the only card they can play at the moment outside of full take over of the Country. They will do their best to “take over” the Country covertly by controlling ministries such as Defense and Interior. Although I am not a fan of SHN, he does play the game of thrones quite succinctly.

    Finally, this government has yet to be voted in, so we need to pass that hurdle for things to become fact. There is a strong possibility that it may not even see the light of day pending the situation in Syria. Pressure could be put on those who answer to the strongest regional player not to vote in favor. Even those in that have ministers may decide to say “nah”.

    Posted by george | June 18, 2011, 12:47 pm
  75. GK@#54.

    I suspect the presence of the 3 Lebanese American co-sponsors is significant. Howard Berman would have no problem recruiting co-sponsors among the broad swath of Israel devotees in the House. The participation of Issa, Rahall and Boustany lends a certain cachet/”legitimacy” to HATA especially if Berman intends to market it to the “international community” in order to encourage wider actions against Lebanon.

    Bad cop Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is certainly playing coy and I can’t help but speculate that this too, is by design:

    “The Hezbollah Anti-Terrorism Act, introduced by Representative Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, is a middle-of-the road compromise, according to sources with knowledge of the legislation.

    According to the sources, it was initiated to pre-empt possible legislation by the Republican head of the committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who issued a statement earlier in the week calling for a complete halt of US aid to Lebanon. “The US should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the US as foreign terrorist organizations participates in it.” The congresswoman wrote.

    As of press time Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s office would not say whether the congresswoman approved of the Berman legislation or not.”

    Posted by lally | June 18, 2011, 12:50 pm
  76. Welcome, George.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 18, 2011, 12:53 pm
  77. I’ll give it another shot. Isn’t it time to start discussing the implications for Lebanon from the coming changes in Syria?

    Posted by AIG | June 18, 2011, 2:34 pm
  78. There is no way that any description can do this poem any justice. If you understand Arabic then you must listen to this. It doesn’t get much better.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 18, 2011, 3:29 pm
  79. AIG #78, I would believe there to be major implications. What are you thoughts on it? I think some don’t reveal their thoughts in fear of jinxing the turn of events.

    Posted by george | June 18, 2011, 3:47 pm
  80. AIG #78,
    My political philosophy, as you probably know by know, rests very strongly on the issues of political freedom, diversity , respect for human rights and an unqualified commitment to social justice.
    As a result I never worry about the question that you raise since I strongly believe that what is good for the Syrian people cannot be bad for Lebanon. A more democratic Syria will establish relationships with its neighbours that will not be built on either hegemony or abuse. How can Lebanon object to that? How can anyone object to a people getting its freedom and dignity?
    A more democratic Syria will benefit Syrians and thus will benefit the Lebanese. I expect many fundamental changes in Lebanon will follow a Syrian regime change and I expect that all of them will be beneficial.
    One of the greatest benefits would be at least a reversal of fortune for the illebral forces in Lebanon such as Frangieh, Arslan, Wahab, GMA, HA and the current unconstitutionally elected president. HA might be forced to accept the unacceptable, consider a merger of its military frces with the Lebanese army and if the current sectarian system is to survive then Frangieh is no longer assured that he is to be the next president. How can any of this be bad.
    Nothing that is good for a democratic Syria is bad for Lebanon or any of its neighbours.This does not mean that there will not be any differences but it means that these differences will be dealt with through a different prism than the current one of gangesterism.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 18, 2011, 3:48 pm
  81. Ghassan

    A little cheesy for my taste. (I would not have thought you went in for devotional poetry…)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 18, 2011, 4:01 pm
  82. QN
    I surprised myself when I liked it since I shun all religious references. Actually I am even repulsed by religious dogma. I imagine that I do not object as much if one is to view religions as a civics lesson which I believe what this one poet does.
    But know that I had to think about it 🙂 I think that the major attraction was the fact that his basic message was to label the Mubaraks of the world as being selfish, unprincipled and strong believers in personal glory and power.
    Did I dig a deeper hole for myself? lol

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 18, 2011, 4:36 pm
  83. Ghassan,
    Why do you think that Franjieh is assured to be the next president (if there are no changes in syria)

    Posted by Joe N | June 18, 2011, 8:01 pm
  84. Dont you think it would have been more fitting for them to be wearing green and yellow for the new cabinet member photo if they really wanted to break the white suit precedent. lol

    Posted by Joe N | June 18, 2011, 8:13 pm
  85. My prediction about what this Miqati Cabinet will do –

    Immediately after the Parliamentary vote of confidence the first thing the cabinet will do is to denounce and break all cooperation with the STL, in essence so that Miqati will be able to pretend that he was not the one who confronted “international resolutions” and the ‘international community”. Miqati will try to hide behind the cabinet decision.

    I believe the US response will go beyond Berman’s HATA bill as this bill is intended as a warning shot before hand as the US is likely aware of the new cabinets plan.

    Posted by Joe N | June 18, 2011, 8:32 pm
  86. Kudos to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and to the Hezbollah cadre, they sure as hell keep you going day and night, with wild conjectures, speculations, dreary but shallow analysis and more. Hezbollah is here to stay regardless STL. TSL, 1559, 1701 or any other creepy UNSC resolutions now, in the future, till the end of time. Regardless what happens in Syria, Hezbollah is here to stay indefinitely, when there is a will, there is always a way 🙂
    USA is a corrupt and crooked Empire on a slippery slope who has been/is acting like an elephant in a china shop. The problem is that no one is buying US bullying anymore and no one is impressed any longer. The Zioconned US’s time is up!

    Posted by HK | June 19, 2011, 2:57 am
  87. Joe N #84,
    There is no one single issue but that is how things seem to be unfolding. GMA is too old and too divisive. There aren’t any other Maronites supported by Syria and Hezbollah besides Frangieh and he has proven to be a loyal supporter of Bashar in particular. Yet he has not cut off his relations with Bkirki and the other Christian parties and has worked or rehabilitating the image of a young mercurial person.
    If Syrian regime survives and March 8 stays in power then the chances of a Frangieh presidency would be practically a sure thing. Why would any young individual seek the presidency in a parliamentary system is beyond on. What else does he do besides count the votes for the PM designate and recieve credential papers from ambassadors? This job was conceived as a reward for an old statesperson. Unfortunately the Lebanese, and especially the Maronites, are still in a state of denial about the fact that post Taif Lebanon is no longer a presidential republic but a parliamentary one.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 19, 2011, 6:27 am
  88. 2 objectives: disrupt STL and effect schism in the ranks of Lebanese Sunnis.
    The pressing question today is: why does Sleiman want to visit Assad.
    Did Leb army have a role in the Hariri assassination?
    For Arabophone check out:
    لماذا يريد فخامة الجنرال زيارة سيادة الجذّار؟

    Posted by KateSaad | June 19, 2011, 7:56 am
  89. The STL is nothing but a distraction intended to weaken the resolve of the Lebanese people, led by the Heroes of the Resistance, from facing down the Zionist agression. Time and agin, the brave people of Lebanon have showed their willingness to express their Arab pride and sacrifice themselves for the liberation of Palestine, only to be thwarted by their cowardly “elected” officials (read israhell stooges and puppets). The zionist invaders’ days are numbered and everybody knows it and can see through their false claims.

    Posted by dontgetit | June 19, 2011, 11:16 am
  90. dontgetit, if Prozac is not working there’s always Lexapro. Then again for instant relief during acute anxiety attacks, Xanax is always best. Stock up but don’t overdose.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 19, 2011, 4:38 pm
  91. HK you are delinquent on your homework assignment. QN readers want to know: reconcile demonization of Assad and Deification of SHN.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 19, 2011, 4:44 pm
  92. iOAD*, but it seems to me that the threat of Iran’s completely replacing the West as the patron and savior of Lebanon will be enough to thwart serious Western action against the HA-led gummint (excuse the Americanism), perhaps indefinitely And this threat may well delay the further progress of the STL as well, perhaps indefinitely.

    * “i’m only a dog” (TM)

    Posted by samadamsthedog | June 19, 2011, 5:27 pm
  93. HP,

    I thought that, since you are an “habitué” on that blog, HK’s stands was not suprising you anymore… But I’m glad to see that you are still curious about him, the same way I do, as a newcomer.

    I recall asking him his take about SHN’s speech where he stated that Lebanese people needs to support the Syrian regime (maybe not this exact formula, but anyway).

    Maybe this time, you and I will see our curiousity quenched… Allah ou a3lem lol

    Posted by 3issa | June 19, 2011, 7:04 pm
  94. Do the Israelis want in on the whole stoning thing?


    Posted by Gabriel | June 19, 2011, 9:59 pm
  95. ………………………………………..Greece…………………………………Lebanon
    Population………………………….10.2 Million……………………………4.2 Million
    GDP 2010…………………………$310 billion……………………………40 billion
    Deficit % GDP………………………9.6%……………………………………12%

    The above are rounded up estimates.

    Based on the above why is Greece sovereign debt the lowest ranked in the world and Lebanese politicians act as if Lebanon has no economic worries? ( Is this related to the fact that ex Finance minister Ria Hasan lists on her official resume being listed on the deans list twice as her only accomplishment?:-)) When will we start making appointments based on qualifications? Who were the economic advisers to Mikati and Safadi during their deliberations last week regarding the monetary policy? Were there any might be a more fitting question?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 19, 2011, 10:07 pm
  96. 3issa mon ami, oases of levity in the hard desert journey that middle east politics is, including the serious aspects of QN, are a welcome respite, whether in humoring dontgetit who truly needs a shrink for the fixation he has, albeit intended to be funny, or once in a blue moon pointing out one of the numerous contradictions in HK’s posts. But deep down, I do think both these chaps are good hearts. Now back to work on the serious stuff…

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 19, 2011, 11:05 pm
  97. HP,

    Thanks mine brouther, i am on the road again and really have no time for the polemics.
    i am always amazed when you all talk about “” inconsistencies “” because the real world for those ” in the know ” is much different from what you all read in the screwd up press…
    I see absolutely no “inconsistencies” in my various messages. it is all anchored in principals, real facts and information and never on the crooked press reports or the tooth fairy!!! 🙂

    Posted by HK | June 20, 2011, 3:34 am
  98. just listened to Bashar’s speech – miserable

    Posted by 3issa | June 20, 2011, 5:58 am
  99. HK # 98, OK I understand that you have some info that I don’t have. But still, is it preventing you from explaining how you can acclaim Hizbulah while cursing Damascus?

    Here, I make the assumption by thinking that Hizbulah and Bashar’s clique are staunch allies (not to mention that one maybe the puppet of the other), If this assumption is wrong, then you are consistent in your endorsment/cursing. But without evidence, I cannot buy it.

    (by the way, the LIES song is da bomb, I keep whistling it all day long!)

    Posted by 3issa | June 20, 2011, 6:19 am
  100. From the “Lebanon is truly a fantasy world” department, I bring you this gem, courtesy of our new minister of the interior:
    “Security forces have the names of everyone who took part in the clashes…their houses will be raided and their weapons will be confiscated”

    Seriously? Their weapons will be confiscated? That’s it? What about justice? The rule of law? Aren’t these thugs responsible for 6 deaths? 6 lives taken away? 6 pairs of parents who lost a son or a daughter? To what is called “MURDER” in every other country in the world, as far as I can tell. And this clown knows the perpetrators and wants to “confiscate their weapons”? Is there no shame? Has anyone in Lebanon heard of the rule of law? Anyone at all? It’s a disgrace when government officials make such statements.

    I’ve been making a point of pointing out these kinds of ridiculous statements when I see them. Going back to the days of the Siniora government, if memory serves. I have yet to see ONE such case where the citizens of Lebanon have demanded the resignation of these clowns, or protested such irresponsibly stupid statements, as would be the norm in almost any civilized country in the world.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 12:31 pm
  101. Bashar continues to dig his own grave, apparently…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 12:34 pm
  102. Why are the Turks not allowing any free access to the media to the refugee camps? They get the good PR re: hospitality and at the same time they are buffering the murderous regime of the Assads!!

    Thank you CBC.

    Posted by danny | June 20, 2011, 4:01 pm
  103. wow stop being stupid. Bashar is in no trouble. Protests can barely go over 100,000 and only on Fridays. For you Hariri and phalange idiots, stay tuned for tomorrow for another real rally in Damascus for Bashar. You’re so pathetic if you think Bashar leaving will solve all your problems. You’re too busy killing each other now, imagine if Bashar leaves, then we’ll see Lebanon really grow and prosper with another civil war.

    You guys really want to solve your problems and make Lebanon better? Then exterminate Hariri’s Salafi gangs!

    Posted by Usama | June 20, 2011, 4:05 pm
  104. Who said anything about Hariri or Phalange?
    Must be nice throwing around epithets without any basis…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 4:12 pm
  105. Usama,

    Your hatred and ignorance is reflected in your stupendous remarks. What’s up dude? Don’t you believe in freedom and liberty and justice?…Off course not! Suicide bombers and virgins must be your forte.

    Posted by danny | June 20, 2011, 4:22 pm
  106. Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Monday that Lebanon respects UN resolutions, adding that those pertaining to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) cannot be cancelled by Lebanon alone.

    Now that the cabinet formation (or lack thereof) is no longer the no.1 topic of discussion, once again, we see what’s at the top of everyone’s concerns….
    (Sorry to keep beating this dead horse, but it’s really all about the STL!)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 4:33 pm
  107. BV
    As well as you know it is usually nor material what the ministerial statement says since the Lebanese pols are never held responsible for anything that they say or do?
    The real test of the intentions of Mikati will be what he endorses after the confidence vote.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 20, 2011, 5:45 pm
  108. You make an excellent point, Ghassan.
    Although i guarantee you that both sides WILL make a big fuss about the ministerial statement anyway.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 5:54 pm
  109. On a slightly unrelated matter, an interesting take on the question we were all trying to answer last week: Why did it take 5 months to form the cabinet? Was it a Syrian call? Why now? etc.

    The following article makes an interesting point that I had not considered in my own analysis.


    The relevant bit:
    The Syrian regime has recently become more cornered than ever, not only because of sanctions and international isolation, but because it has lost two of its close allies: Qatar and Turkey. Because of this, Lebanon could not be left with a government vacuum any longer; Syria needed a stronger backyard. Now the Syrian regime and Hezbollah control everything in Lebanon, formally and legitimately.

    Last week, a Syrian-Hezbollah government was born in Lebanon. Suddenly, all the bickering over shares and ministries that stalled the cabinet formation for six months vanished when the go-ahead came from Damascus. With March 14 already out of the way, it was easy to manage the pro-Syrian politicians’ greedy grabs for more power, and a government was thrown together in a matter of two days.

    The formation of the Lebanese government and its mission shed light on the Syrian regime’s desire to maintain its presence in Lebanon the same way it is dealing with the uprising at home: via confrontation and brutality. With Lebanon in his pocket, Assad thinks he still has at least one regional card with which he could bargain with the international community, as Hezbollah is still armed and strong in Lebanon, and constitutes a major threat to Israel.

    I know we all did kind of connect some dots there already (unrest in Syria…Lebanese cabinet formation…HA….STL).
    I think reading this kinda put a better perspective on the matter for me. Specially the bit about Syria having lost Qatar and Turkey as allies.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 6:00 pm
  110. Also, AIG, follow up on the Wolfhenson affair.


    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 20, 2011, 6:05 pm
  111. BV,

    I had already alluded to Qatar in my post above #17. However, Turkey is not a lost cause yet as it is still trying to act as a kingmaker and a regional powerhouse playing coy; by making announcements but in functional(#103) real terms still supporting(wishing) an Assad led country.
    Either way reinforces my analysis as well as other gentlemen and ladies on this blog who comment with clear heads (no one in specific hinted at lol). 😀

    Posted by danny | June 20, 2011, 6:17 pm
  112. Many of you, who are old enough :-), who have an interest in political science or economics have heard ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall many variations of the two cow joke./story/parody/parable/critique…
    The following on FP is possibly the most detailed and it applies it to the ME. It is a lengthy post but make sure to read all of it including the comments.


    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 20, 2011, 6:32 pm
  113. AIG/AP
    I hope that you will agree with me that this young American Jew has the right to dissent. This is not the first time that this takes place. If I am not mistaken the same thing occured last year but instead of a young American male it was a spontaneous erruption of conscience by an American High School student who was visiting Israel.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 20, 2011, 6:42 pm
  114. QN & all:
    Look at this interesting teaser: http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/8663-miqati-readies-stl-clause-amid-efforts-to-hold-vote-of-confidence-session-end-of-june
    Anyone care to speculate what this panacea of a suggestion by Miqati for a statement re. the STL in the government’s policy statement? He says it’s supposed to satisfy everyone, from HA all the way to the international community. That characterization by itself tells you what a load of crap is being cooked. Miqati now, like those who every now and then propose perpetual motion machines, is going to satisfy all the people all the time. What a self-aggrandizing full-of-ess-ayshe-eye-tee bozo he is. (Uh, pardon my French).

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 20, 2011, 10:24 pm
  115. … and yeah, the church lady does kick azz every now and then 😉 …

    Posted by Honest Patriot | June 20, 2011, 10:25 pm
  116. GK,

    I hope you agree that I have the right to yell anti-American epitaphs during a Fourth of July parade in the US. How quickly will I find myself under arrest or beaten badly if I persist over a few minutes?

    The idiot in question is disturbing the peace during a Jerusalem Day parade. He has no license to demonstrate and is creating a provocation.

    Posted by AIG | June 20, 2011, 10:32 pm
  117. AIG #117,
    You have really answered my question very clearly by calling this American teen an idiot . I am surprised.
    And you really feel that if you shout anti-american epitaphs during a 4th of July parade that the police will arrest . Some in the public will not like that and might even start a fight with you but no police will arrest you. I am doubly surprised .

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 20, 2011, 11:56 pm
  118. GK,

    Seriously, you believe that if you provoke Americans with anti American slogans in a Fourth of July parade you won’t be arrested?

    This is exactly what disturbing the peace is:

    You are disturbing the peace if you use “offensive words or insults likely to incite violence”, and that is what this idiot was doing and that is what would happen if someone started yelling anti-American slogans at a Fourth of July parade (as you yourself admit). If he wants to demonstrate, he should get a license and make sure the police is prepared for his provocation.

    Posted by AIG | June 21, 2011, 12:06 am
  119. GK,

    Here is an interesting example from the US pertinent to our discussion:

    Posted by AIG | June 21, 2011, 12:22 am
  120. On Bashar´s speech,

    I was struck by his demeanour. He seemed nervous, unkempt, gazing and he looked like he just came out of a dungeon. Gone with his lengthy diatribes, he looked really weak and very unsure of himself… 🙂

    Posted by HK | June 21, 2011, 2:44 am
  121. I fail to see Bashar’s regime being toppled in the very near future. The international community is still treading very carefully when it comes to Bashar’s reign of terror, and his last speech (in which he makes more empty promises) could be used as an excuse to postpone even more any action that might have been under consideration. One has to also admit that the people in Syria are still in the “demonstration” phase; the revolution hasn’t started yet.
    As to Mikati’s cabinet (kabbineh), I have this distinct feeling that it will pass the confidence vote and will live long enough so that it takes Lebanon further back into the dark ages. The only way Mikati’s government will fail is when the assassinations resume and a major M14 figure is killed, then the Lebanese (sheeple) will move their arses again, the cedar revolution part DEUX the REVENGE!

    Posted by marillionlb | June 21, 2011, 5:34 am
  122. #115…Church ladies are given a pass one in a while lol. 😀
    To answer your “query” regarding the Lebanese magician Miqati’s comments….

    “An Nahar daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying on Tuesday that Miqati told the diplomats that the “commitment to the STL is coupled with preservation of Lebanon’s security privacy and civil peace.”

    Now that would mean in “Lebanese language” that we will accept any indictments if it is against the butcher or the natoor…Once HA divine warriors are indicted we will state bravely that we can not cooperate because of our concern to ” preservation of Lebanon’s security privacy and civil peace.”

    What a crock of khara.

    Posted by danny | June 21, 2011, 7:24 am
  123. Given the inability of the international community to move fast on Syria and given’s Assad severe state of denial, I am thinking that the Zimbabwe scenario is becoming more probable.

    Posted by AIG | June 21, 2011, 3:31 pm
  124. I have to concur with Danny on the Turkey reading. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. But it’s a like a game of Risk unfolding before our eyes- a game of Risk not yet exposed by Bobby Fisk. There’s a nice rhyme.

    HP#70. I didn’t realize mother superiors run confessionals :).

    Posted by Gabriel | June 21, 2011, 3:39 pm
  125. AIG
    Had I been younger I would have been tempted to create a scene next month. I am certain that had I been willing to do that , I would not be roughed up by the police.Practically every year there is a group that marches against foreign policy during July 4th festivities, there is a group that marches against Columbus on Columbus day, a group that marches against the Wars during memorial day without incidents.
    I guess that we will never know whether the police will rough me up or not because i will not run the experiment 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 21, 2011, 4:23 pm
  126. Finally, a good contribution from HK.

    I also find myself singing along to LIES.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 21, 2011, 4:40 pm

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