Lebanon, Syria

The Last Meeting Between Rafiq al-Hariri and Walid al-Muallim

The Lebanese newspaper al-Joumhouria (recently launched by former Lebanese Defense Minister Elias al-Murr) published a four-part series last week containing an alleged transcript of the final meeting between Rafiq al-Hariri and Walid al-Muallim. The date of the meeting is not specified, but based on a few contextual remarks from within the text, I would guess that it had to have taken place mere days before Hariri’s assassination.

At the time, al-Muallim was Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister and al-Hariri had recently resigned as Prime Minister of Lebanon. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the upcoming parliamentary elections, but the two men spent a great deal of time talking about the rocky relationship between al-Hariri and Bashar al-Assad.

Several months earlier, in mid-2004, the US and France had started to put together UNSCR 1559, which demanded an end to the Syrian presence in Lebanon and the disarmament of Hizbullah. The resolution passed on September 2, and the following day the Lebanese parliament (under Syrian pressure) voted to extend President Emile Lahoud’s term for an additional three years, despite widespread opposition.

A month later, there was a failed assassination attempt on the life of former minister Marwan Hamadeh (who had resigned from his post in protest of Lahoud’s extension). A few weeks later, on October 20, Hariri resigned from his post as Prime Minister, and there were rumors that he had joined the anti-Syrian opposition (comprised at the time of Walid Jumblatt, the exiled Michel Aoun, and some other Christian politicians.)

The meeting with al-Muallim took place against this background. As you will see, Hariri attempts to burnish his bonafides as a stalwart Syrian ally while also expressing his frustration with Bashar’s leadership and the Syrian security regime in Lebanon. He simultaneously insists that he had nothing to do with 1559, while hinting archly that even if he had played a role in organizing it, he would have had good reasons for doing so.

Shortly thereafter, al-Hariri was dead.

There is a noteworthy resemblance between the historical moment captured by this transcript and the present situation. In both instances, Bashar is faced with a mutiny from unexpected quarters. In 2004-05, it was his formerly trustworthy allies in Lebanon and usually-dependable France; today, it’s a considerable segment of his own population, along with valuable allies in Ankara and Riyadh.

More comments later. For now, enjoy the transcript (Arabic readers should read the entire thing by following the four links posted below.)

PS: For another interview with Hariri from roughly the same period, see here.

**

Excerpts from Part 1

Hariri: I am dedicated to the success of the Syrian-Lebanese relationship, and I want this to be your achievement, in view of my great respect for you, and I know that you are a good and decent man and that you don’t have any hidden agendas. There’s no doubt that the Lebanese-Syrian relationship is not in its best of times, and it may get worse, but this does not concern us. It has been shown and I’ve told you personally that Syria is of utmost importance to me, and I could not do anything to hurt it. I’m someone who has a say in the affairs of this country, and I will not accept that the governance of this country will be in the hands of someone who is opposed to or even neutral with respect to Syria. I want our government to be allied with Syria. But Lebanon will not be ruled by Syria forever, and we’ve reached a stage where we are hurting ourselves and hurting Syria in every respect…

[They discuss the proposed district map which Hariri claims is designed to diminish his parliamentary bloc.]

Hariri: My dear Walid, I’m going to speak to you honestly. In the Ta’if Accord, we agreed with our Christian brothers to give half the deputies of parliament to the Muslims, and half to the Christians. And we agreed at the same time to hold elections on the basis of governorates [i.e. larger districts, as opposed to the smaller qada’, which was used in the 2009 elections]… as long as Beirut remained a single district, because we didn’t want any radical Christian deputies. Name me a single one of my Christian deputies in Beirut who is radical. When Suleiman Frangieh threatened to divide Beirut in such a way that would separate Christians and Muslims, the deputy Ghattas Khoury, a Maronite, began to adopt more moderate positions so that he could be nominated. In this district map, Gebran Tueni will be nominated. They say that Michel Aoun will also run, and Solange Gemayel as well. What will we do? I will personally run in the same district, and this district map will not help them. I will win this district and that one, and the radical Christians will win this one. They won’t be saved from al-Hariri, however the three or four radical Christians who win will curse Syria all day long, and this will be the genius result that they will have achieved.

[…]

Al-Muallim: This is not our concern.

Al-Hariri: It’s absolutely your concern. You want us to kid ourselves? I’m telling you the truth. Through these games of spite and electoral strategies, Lebanon is going to end up opposed to Syria and to me, and this gang [i.e. the “radical Christians”] is going to get away with their plan. The Maronite Patriarch – and they did all of this to satisfy him – … says that UNSCR 1559 is an international matter and that we have nothing to do with it. The electoral law was passed in the Parliament while he was in Rome, and before he met with Chirac, he said that he supported 1559. And after he saw Chirac, he said that the Lebanese should work hand in hand to apply 1559. Why?

I once said to the President [Bashar al-Assad]: “At the end of the day, your supporters [in Lebanon] are the Muslims, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. We may disagree or agree with you, we may get fed up of you, you may be disgusted with us, but at the end of the day, we cannot separate ourselves from you, nor can you separate yourselves from us. No one can shed his own skin…

Excerpts from Part 2

Hariri: I know who is behind UNSCR 1559. [Syrian Foreign Minister] Farouk al-Shara has convinced Bashar that I’m behind it, because he failed and he want to cover his failure up with me. You’ve known about 1559 since June, and the French told you about it, and the Americans knew. And you know that were it not for the extension [of Lahoud’s presidency], 1559 would never have come out, and you know that this talk [of me being behind it] is wrong.

Muallim: Your Excellency, we want to solve the problem… I have gone to great trouble to come and see you and to convince President Assad. There are intelligence reports about the role of Rafiq al-Hariri in UNSCR 1559 […]

I don’t want to say it, but there’s a negative view of you right now, a view that the Lebanese opposition [comprised at the time of Jumblatt and the anti-Syrian Christian parties] would not be able to stand on its two feet were it not for Rafiq al-Hariri, and that the Future Movement is in the opposition. […]

President Bashar, like any responsible president, defers to the intelligence reports.

Hariri: I spent four years fighting these reports, and I gave up because I couldn’t fight them anymore. My communication with you and President Assad is cut off. You have your people in Lebanon who are solely concerned with Rafiq al-Hariri and sending reports about him. They’re going to send a report saying that I met with you and they’ll change the details completely and invent a dialogue … And I told him [i.e. Bashar]: “Look where Abu `Abdo [i.e. Rustom Ghazaleh] has gotten you.” […]

The Syrian ambassador in France was summoned and they spoke to her about Lahoud’s extension many times, and you concluded that Rafiq al-Hariri was behind anything that came out of France, as if France has a flimsy government that is controlled by Rafiq al-Hariri. Am I French or American, or the earth’s center of gravity??

Muallim: You were Lebanon and Syria’s foreign minister.

Hariri: These were the words that infuriated Farouk al-Shara`.

Muallim: Abu Baha’ [i.e. Hariri] was the foreign minister of both countries.

Hariri: Think about this. Let’s imagine a friend of ours whom we’ve known since 1982, i.e. for 22 years, and we never lost touch with him. And he was a prime minister for 12 years. Why did he change this year? Let them [i.e. the Syrians] ask themselves before they ask me. Why did he change to such an extent that he was prepared to work with everyone against Syria? There’s a reason. He did not change and he remains himself, but he was brought to a point where he couldn’t take it anymore. Why? What happened? Is it his fault or theirs? Am I a French, or European, or American collaborator at heart???

Muallim: They are talking about your influence…

Hariri: Why did I use my influence there? I’ve known Chirac from the beginning, and for the past nine years he’s been walking in lockstep with Syria. When he came to the Lebanese parliament, he said that the Syrian presence would remain in Lebanon until the announcement of peace. I made him say those words and I made him say whatever else he said…

Muallim: They’ve put you in a corner.

Hariri: Why? Who?

Muallim: Us, and our [security] apparatus here.

Hariri: Listen, Walid. There are several elements to the French position. Syria’s diplomats have not grasped the importance of Lebanon to the French. I know what will happen.

Muallim: I am speaking with honesty because I want to deal with this issue.

Hariri: And I am speaking honestly and I know what is going to happen. And I knew about many things that were happening but I didn’t get involved. I was not behind 1559, but I didn’t stop it either. I’ll tell you why. There was a petition launched by Michel Aoun in France after the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSRA) came out, and 103 French deputies signed it. So Hani Hammoud came to me, and he is a Lebanese-French journalist [and current senior advisor to Saad Hariri] living in France. He came to this exact office and he said: “Mr. Prime Minister, Michel Aoun has launched a petition and 103 French deputies have signed it so far, out of a total of 560 or 650, and it has to do with SALSRA. And some of those who have signed it belong to Chirac’s bloc.” I asked him: “When?” He said that it had happened within the past 24-48 hours. So I contact Chirac and he told me that he had not known about it, and on the same day or the next I called him again and he informed me that the matter was true, and that he had raised hell and called the head of the parliament and had put a stop to it. And I thanked him. At that point, it was claimed in Syria that al-Hariri was behind it!

Muallim: You did not tell the President about what you did.

Hariri: I didn’t tell him. There were many things I did that I did not tell him about… I assumed that this all took place spontaneously, but they assumed that I was behind it and that I then put an end to it so as to pretend I was doing them a favor. And at the time, I was going through a period of being attacked and defamed, so I told myself: “Even if you bend over backwards for these people [i.e. the Syrians], they’re not going to be satisfied and they won’t trust you.”

Muallim: What, so suddenly?

Hariri: Yes… Bashar probably spoke to Farouk [Shara`], who told him that “Hariri was behind this whole thing, and that he put an end to it so as to ‘do us a favor’. There are 103 deputies who have signed the petition, and there will be 400 within three days…” I can’t do anything more than what I’ve already done. And this whole thing happened a little over a year ago [i.e. in late 2003, shortly before SALSRA was passed by the US Congress], and ever since then, I have not gotten involved, until the Arab League Summit in Tunis [on May 22-23, 2004]. Prior to that, I’d had a very angry meeting with Bashar and Ghazi [Kanaan] and Mohammed Khallouf [a Syrian intelligence commander] and Abu `Abdo [Rustom Ghazaleh]. This was a meeting that even God wouldn’t dare put anyone in, and very serious things were said, both by Bashar and the others.

Muallim: Even by Ghazi? [Hariri and Kanaan were known to have a good relationship].

Hariri: Yes. Ask Ghazi about it. I left the meeting having realized that the situation had gotten to be extremely dangerous, and that I was dealing with a young president, and that if I clashed with him, I’d be clashing with Syria. And I said to him: “Do you really believe that I was behind the petition and then put a stop to it so as to pretend I was doing you a favor?”

He asked me what I thought. I said: “If this accusation is true, then I should not return as Prime Minister of Lebanon, and if it is not true, then the accusation should not be made.” After this discussion, I did not meet him until the summit in Tunis. I asked to see him, and they told me that he would see me in Damascus. After I knew what the issue was, I asked to see him to explain the truth to him but he refused. And I didn’t want to speak with Abu Jamal [Abdulhalim Khaddam, Syria’s vice president] or “the guy here” [i.e. Rustom Ghazaleh]. So several months passed, and I didn’t meet with Bashar until Lahoud’s extension happened. He asked to see me, and it was publicly announced that we met for only 14 or 15 minutes. First of all, I’m a prime minister, and you summon me to a meeting for fifteen minutes? Ok, so what’s the point? This was made public, along with the details of our meeting in all the media outlets. Why? On the day of the extension, he summoned me and said: “You always say that you are with Syria, and this will prove if you mean what you say, or if you don’t.” So I said to him: “Mr. President, I’ve been allied with Syria for 25 years. Are you telling me that if I don’t agree with you on this issue, this means I’m against Syria?” He said: “Yes.” So I responded: “I need to think about this.”

So I went to my house in Faqra, and I considered the issue from all angles. And I knew that with the number of deputies in my parliamentary, I could thwart the extension, but that would mean that I would be thwarting Bashar al-Assad, and I couldn’t accept that. There would be a reaction to that, and they would try to elect Suleiman Frangieh instead and make a huge issue out of it. On the other hand, I also knew that the extension would hurt Bashar. He didn’t ask for my opinion; he simply said: “I’ve decided.” So I sat alone racking my brain all night long, and I thought that perhaps he would reconsider his position. I spoke with him the following day and met with him, and we agreed and made the decision.

Then I got on the plane the next day and flew to Morocco, and came back the same day to Beirut. And because I was so frustrated, I fell in the shower and broke my shoulder. That’s the story of my shoulder [which everyone in Beirut joked had been broken by Rustom Ghazaleh]. At that point, Chirac contacted me and asked me not to go along with the extension. He said: “We’re friends, and I reject this whole move.” And I said to him: “It’s ok, I’ve made my decision.”

Excerpts from Part 3

Hariri: There’s something I don’t understand. Farouk al-Shara` got in touch with [Spanish Foreign Minister] Mouratinos on Thursday morning [i.e. Thursday September 2, 2004, the day before Parliament was scheduled to convene to vote on the Lahoud extension.]

Muallim: Mouratinos contacted Farouk, and asked him to postpone the parliamentary session by 24 hours. That’s what Farouk told me.

Hariri: It was Farouk who contacted Mouratinos, and there’s no point in lying about this, because what happened is the source of the problem. And Farouk told him: “We’re trying to get in touch with the French, and they’re not responding. We want your help.” And Mouratinos said: “I’m ready.” And Farouk said: “We are willing to not go forward with the extension [of Lahoud] if France and the US stop the resolution [i.e. 1559] in the Security Council, at which point we will come to an agreement on a Lebanese president and we can discuss the Lebanese situation.

Muallim: I was told that the exact opposite happened [i.e. that Mouratinos made the offer.]

Hariri: [ignoring him] Mouratinos conveyed this to the French, and it was passed along to the US and other countries. I learned these details later. Ten countries responded positively. Meanwhile, Farouk changed his mind and informed them that “We [i.e. Syria] cannot stop the parliamentary session. You have to speak to Nabih Berri.” So they spoke with Nabih, so that it wouldn’t be said that Syria was pulling the strings. Nabih came and chastised Mouratinos, called the session to be held the next day, we voted for the extension, and I couldn’t understand what was going on.

Why did this happen? The UN resolution was going to be stopped. Did the Syrians think that it would not pass in the Security Council, so they agreed to a deal one minute and then changed their mind the next? I don’t want an answer.

Muallim: And I don’t have an answer. I was recently put in charge of this issue, so I’ve only come to learn.

Hariri: You’re the teacher! What are you talking about?

Muallim: I’m telling you honestly that I can’t imagine a positive role for Syria in Lebanon without Rafiq al-Hariri, nor can I imagine a diplomatic relationship [between Syria and Lebanon] that would harm France. What are we to do now? Leave France aside for the moment…What concerns me is you and Bashar al-Assad, nothing else. What steps need to be taken to make this relationship blossom again without the intelligence apparatus?

Hariri: The situation in the country has progressed to the point where there can be no return to the prior state via a mere cosmetic situation. I have no desire to return as Prime Minister, and you have my word of honor on that… [unless Bashar al-Assad tells me he wants me to be]… But at the same time, I would want to be a Prime Minister with full powers, not one with the cabinet against him.

The interests of both countries demand that we define them and agree on them together, not that Syria appoints all the senior and junior officials in the country. I have not gotten to the point where I’m “butting heads with Bashar al-Assad”… this is empty talk… Why wouldn’t he summon me and ask me what actually happened?

Muallim: This is what should have happened.

Hariri: I heard that Hosni Mubarak told Bashar that Chicac told Mubarak that I had told Chicac that Bashar had “put a gun to my head.” I never said that. Maybe Chirac said that to Mubarak, but this is an expression that only foreigners use which means that someone has done something against his will.

Muallim: For goodness sake.

Hariri: I know that Syria will be hurt by this issue, but it didn’t ask my opinion or listen to me or treat me as a friend. Rather it treated me according to the logic of “You’re either with us or against us.” Let me ask you a question, Walid. If this matter was in your hands, wouldn’t you have summoned me and asked me for my opinion?

Muallim: Of course.

Hariri: Nobody contacted me. We’re not children [i.e. like Bashar]. You would have gotten in touch with me and said: “Ya Abu Baha’. There are some bastards behind this issue and we don’t believe them. How can you help us resolve it?” But this did not happen.

Muallim: During the previous stage, Farouk was in charge of everything.

Hariri: What is required of me? When an ambassador of such-and-such country comes to me and tells me that the Syrians are saying this and that, what should I do? Should I contact you? … It doesn’t require anything. Why wouldn’t Walid al-Muallim or Farouk or your deputies in Lebanon come to me and say: “Ya Abu Baha’, we don’t want you to be prime minister anymore.” I would have tendered my resignation in fifteen minutes. You saw what happened after the extension took place. Rustom said to me: “Things are not working out,” and I resigned. Did I start releasing statements and organizing demonstrations? I remained quiet for four months.

[…]

Muallim: How are we going to deal with the issue? I have no doubt that you are innocent [of the accusations].

Hariri: Our brothers need to know that I respect them and esteem them, but that I also respect myself. I’ve been faced with insults to my honor. Why? Let’s imagine that Rafiq al-Hariri did what he was accused of. Why did he change now after being with us for 25 years? They didn’t ask themselves this question. And the false talk that Marwan Hamadeh and Ghassan Salameh visited Rafiq al-Hariri in Sardinia and came up with UNSCR 1559… whoever says that is basically saying that we tried to kill Marwan Hamadeh. And this is one of your problems with Walid Jumblatt… Marwan Hamadeh did not come to Italy in 2004.

Muallim: He is a patriot. Is Walid Jumblatt not a patriot?

Hariri: Why did Walid Jumblatt get to this stage [i.e. opposing Syria]?

Muallim: He has his reasons.

Hariri: What are these reasons?

Muallim: There has been some bad behavior in the past, but things should not continue.

Hariri: But it is continuing. Syria cannot build its policies on the basis of intelligence reports. In the end, there are personal relationships between us, and there’s the general condition of the country to take into account…

Muallim: I know.

Hariri: In addition to that, nothing prevents others from causing problems for you – and with great ease – because there are major interests in play. You can’t imagine what’s happening right now. There are major financial interests, and the great nations have gotten involved and are coming between us. The question of the Syrian presence in Lebanon has been raised. What are you going to do? Are you going to continue to listen to so-and-so and so-and-so? This will not solve the problem.

The Ta’if Accord has two parts, one dealing with the relationship between Lebanon and Syria, and the other dealing with reforms… During my presence in the government and during the government of Salim al-Hoss, the President of the Republic was given prerogatives that he had not enjoyed since before the Ta’if Accords. And today we’re dealing with the issue of small districts [in the electoral law] and this will lead to the end of the Ta’if Accord and the return to the pre-1975 state. If small districts are used with the current electoral maps for Beirut, I would win more parliamentary seats than I could ever have dreamed of. I could run candidates in all the districts where I had a chance, and I reckon I would win. But even if Rafiq al-Hariri won, Lebanon would lose, and I don’t want that to happen.

[…] If the [proposed] law is passed in the Parliament, I will resign along with my deputies, and I’m giving you a formal notice of this.

Excerpts from Part 4

Muallim: I’m not comfortable with the break between you and President al-Assad, and this situation will lead to mistakes. You are reacting in certain ways because you don’t understand why things are happening.

Hariri: I know what’s happening. I can’t live within a security regime that is dedicated to interfering with me and writing reports to Bashar al-Assad that he believes. And I don’t know the contents of these reports, so I can’t respond to them.

Muallim: I will pass this on to the President.

Hariri: May God judge me for these words on the Day of Resurrection: it is a disgrace to suggest that Rafik Hariri is part of the opposition. Recently I learned from the Spaniards that they were going to put Hizbullah on their terrorism list. Do you know who prevented them from doing so? The French did. Do you know who prevented the French? Me. Why? After all, I’m in a dispute with you and perhaps you will use Hizbullah against me; I have no desire for a “gift”. I’ve sacked the deputies in my bloc who are loyal to you. I want to return with my own deputies.

[…]

Three quarters of me are now in the opposition on account of the way that I’ve been treated, and everything I’m hearing says that Syria has written off Rafiq al-Hariri. Abu `Abdo comes to see me with a nice letter and the upshot is that the electoral law is in my pocket. How can that be, when the law works against me? What’s the relationship between the talk I’m hearing here and the other talk [from abroad] and the actions I’m seeing?

[More discussion. Muallim concludes that the time is not ripe for a meeting between Hariri and Assad.]
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Discussion

68 thoughts on “The Last Meeting Between Rafiq al-Hariri and Walid al-Muallim

  1. “Why? After all, I’m in a dispute with you and perhaps you will use Hizbullah against me; I have no desire for a “gift””

    Posted by Odno | August 13, 2011, 4:59 pm
  2. very interesting, awaiting your comments… even in absentia, bashar comes across as dangerous somehow.

    favorite parts: Muallim referring to ‘bad behavior that happened in the past’ as the reason for Walid Bek’s opposition. And Hariri’s ‘you’re the teacher’ to al-Muallim, whose name is not only Muallim but who comes from a country where everybody is addressed ‘ya m3allim..’

    Posted by bint abeeha | August 13, 2011, 5:50 pm
  3. Thanks for the translation.

    Any hews on how this got leaked?

    Posted by Jester theFool | August 13, 2011, 6:13 pm
  4. Jester

    This is Murr’s newspaper. I’ll let you guess. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 13, 2011, 6:42 pm
  5. A good op-ed by Fida Itani.

    “The electricity of the majority”
    On August 12, the pro-government Al-Akhbar daily carried the following piece by Fida Itani: “Prime Minister Najib Mikati is undoubtedly taller than former Prime Minister, Sa’d al-Hariri. He is more pleasant and better looking and more capable of expressing himself… Even Mikati’s choice of neckties is better than his predecessor… But these were not the reasons why the former opposition decided to overthrow Sa’d al-Hariri and the governments of the Hariri family that had been succeeding [each other] for around two decades.

    “…The forces opposing political Harirism ran their strongest reasons and slogans in the face of the reproducing cabinets all through the past phase, especially the phase that followed the assassination of Martyr Rafik al-Hariri based on economic and social observations that mainly focused on the “method of running the state” and projects resulting from this method. The (former) opposition called for the need to offer plans and projects for economic revival…

    “But when the last Al-Hariri cabinet was overthrown, the new majority started to follow the same practices and even to continue the practices of Fouad Siniora…with the major difference that the new majority has no talent and no experience in these practices. This aspect was clearly revealed the day before yesterday when the cabinet presented its projects and demands to parliament and when it asked for the sum of 1.2 billion dollars for the ministry of energy…

    “When it reached power, the new majority offered no program or project or plan in any of the country’s sectors. It reached power as if it was going to rescue the country. [However] it failed to offer promises of sector reforms or the development of the country’s infrastructure, and we do not even dream of asking it to hold the violators accountable or to halt the spending and corruption. All that the current cabinet has offered consists of political speech with a lower ceiling than that offered by Sa’d al-Hariri during the last phase of his authority…

    “Apart from the fragile political agreement between the components of the majority on confronting the phase of the international tribunal, halting pressure against the Resistance and campaigns of hostility against Syria, nothing brings the current government or the forces that formed it together. They have no unified economic vision, nor do they have similar financial approaches.

    “The new majority is shying away from adhering to laws under the slogan of refraining from sabotaging them. This constitutes a violation of the basis of rule, and weakness in confronting the mechanisms of authority, and an attempt at implementing projects (all the while preserving the ratios of corruption and money spending) without carrying out structural reform in the state. The abortion of projects such as the electricity project implies an additional attempt at imposing privatization or the liberation of major economic sectors for the interest of [some specific] investors. The electricity of the majority resembles that of the minority. However, the necktie today is nicer and better.” – Al-Akhbar Lebanon, Lebanon

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 13, 2011, 8:47 pm
  6. This is an excellent video where Leb. MP Sakariya (The Resistance) outlines his plans for the region and the role Lebanon and its allies can play:

    The core of the strategy is at the 1:15 mark and is outlined in simple math that anyone can understand.
    Good luck!!

    Posted by dontgetit | August 13, 2011, 9:19 pm
  7. So sad to read how Hariri almost knew he was going to be killed with a “gift” from HA and was pleading for those evil bastards to understand him and give him a chance. May we soon see Assaad and his murderous gang hang in Damascus and go to hell

    Posted by Vulcan | August 13, 2011, 9:35 pm
  8. dontgetit,

    … and Western Europe, Russia, China and the US will idly stand by and not interfere.

    However, and more importantly, will you and this MP sacrifice your kids to that frontline to become part of the hundreds of thousands of “martyrs” that he outlines, in simple math, is part of the equation to liberate Palestine?

    Good Luck !!

    Posted by R2D2 | August 14, 2011, 1:32 am
  9. Very interesting reading.

    Still not clear on where the details came from? Were there minutes of meeting taken during the convos between Hariri and Muallem that somehow landing in Murr’s hands?

    Posted by Gabriel | August 14, 2011, 2:07 am
  10. Waw, dontgetit linking to Memri, Sukariya going ballistic on numbers of victims in the next confrontation -he seems ready for no less than nuclear attack!-, and Pablo Escobar

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH13Ak01.html

    summarizing in a single piece all the reasons why no one should dare writing articles about people and places without first hand knowledge…this must be the end of the world…or maybe I woke up too early again.

    Posted by mj | August 14, 2011, 2:38 am
  11. On the other hand, Qifa, I wouldn’t call Fida Itani’s article good: maybe my poor English or a hasty translation are to blame, but the fact is I couldn’t find the sentence that indicates which political party the author is exactly blaming in the majority?

    Posted by mj | August 14, 2011, 2:51 am
  12. MJ

    I think the blame falls on all of the majority parties.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 14, 2011, 7:23 am
  13. Wow! If the details are not fudged and are a correct transcript; it reinforces all the fears and concerns of the day. It seems that Syria treated Lebanese PM as a water boy…and he was almost pleading for his life.
    I guess the truth does hurt. My conviction that Syria masterminded and contracted out the assassination of Hariri and other assassinations and bombings to HA is as solid as ever.

    unravelling events of the day along with STL indictments will tell the story soon…Could you imagine the weath of information that will come to light when the Syrian murderous regime collapses? Just think about how HA will react when Syrialeaks start taking shape.

    Live be the gun…die with one.

    Fida Itani just repeats we all know. Corruption is the culture. Who the hell thought that HA and FPM are not corrupt?

    Posted by danny | August 14, 2011, 8:53 am
  14. danny,

    Pretty much most HA and FPM followers…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 14, 2011, 1:14 pm
  15. Unf*cking believable. Syria is a land of thugs, murderers, and liars. When will the day of judgement come to Assad and his gang?

    Poor Lebanon…It has suffered enough already and paid dearly in so many ways. Unbelievable that the fate of mllions of people is in the hands of a handful of bad people that decide our future.

    Posted by Leb Guy | August 14, 2011, 2:09 pm
  16. “Hariri: Why did I use my influence there? I’ve known Chirac from the beginning, and for the past nine years he’s been walking in lockstep with Syria. When he came to the Lebanese parliament, he said that the Syrian presence would remain in Lebanon until the announcement of peace. I made him say those words and I made him say whatever else he said…”

    nice takeaway

    Posted by TC | August 14, 2011, 2:48 pm
  17. Let’s assume that the STL will prove beyond the shadow of any doubt that Hezbollah, the Assad regime and numerous Lebanese figures were behind all the assassinations in Lebanon.

    Let’s assume that the international community will assist in bringing these culprits to justice.

    What then?

    What is Sa’ad Hariri’s project for Lebanon? Or Michel Suleiman’s? Or Nabih Berri’s vision?

    Posted by R2D2 | August 14, 2011, 3:43 pm
  18. R2D2,
    Remember that if the first part of your post becomes true then there will not be a role for either Suleiman or Berri. One would also hope that the Lebanese will become discriminating enough, politically, as to shun away from the incompetent and favour those that are qualified to play a role in creating a transparent and vibrant democracy. That will be a huge accomplishment.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 14, 2011, 5:30 pm
  19. comedy contribution.

    Posted by Gabriel | August 14, 2011, 8:01 pm
  20. R2D2,

    I have a feeling that the fall of the Assad’s regime will reveal the culprits even before the STL comes to its conclusion. HA is more fearful of that. SyriaLeaks coming to your TV soon.

    Posted by danny | August 14, 2011, 8:34 pm
  21. Regardless of what this transcript says about the Hariri assassination (after all, there really is no smoking gun in the transcript), it shows one thing more clearly than anything else: Lebanon was pretty clearly treated as a province of Syria by the Assad regime.

    It is taken for granted and glossed over during the discussion that:
    1) Hariri is “summoned” to Damascus like a lacky. So are others.
    2) Rustom Ghazaleh and the Syrian intelligence types were Assad’s defacto “governors of Lebanon”
    3) The Syrians had the final say in everything from districting, to Lahoud’s extension, to who should be prime minister (Hariri mentions resigning within 15 minutes if Assad doesn’t want him).

    None of this is new, or a surprise.
    But it’s very interesting to see it in print, black on white. From the mouths of these scumbags (All of them).

    Not a single independent country in the entire world would accept this kind of defacto treatment and meddling in its internal affairs.
    Not one, except Lebanon and the dumb Lebanese.

    What sickens me most is the nonchalance with which this is discussed as if it is no big deal. Hariri saying he’d resign the moment Assad wants him to. Hariri talking about election districts with the Syrian minister. As if it’s NOTHING.

    Show me one prime minister in ANY country, no matter who “brotherly” and close that acts this way.

    And all biases aside, will those who constantly talk about American and Israeli and Saudi interference in our affairs (I am speaking to the FPM/HA crowd here) finally stand up and admit the hypocrisy of glossing over Syria’s role in Lebanon?

    Come on guys!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 14, 2011, 9:15 pm
  22. PS: I hope to God and whatever other forces exist in the universe that what Danny/Ghassan/R2D2 hope for above comes to pass.
    I’d like nothing more than to see the entire Lebanese political class swept away into an abyss.
    I know the STL is not likely to have the kind of aritight proof that will convince all and makes head roll (or we’d already heard of it), but one can dream…

    Maybe, just maybe, one of these days, the sheeple of Lebanon will grow some brains and common sense and realize that none of these bozos they follow (from either side) is worth a bottle of piss….

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 14, 2011, 9:18 pm
  23. BV:

    Don’t dismay. If Hariri were putty in the hands of the Assads…

    Chirac appears to have been putty in Hariri’s hands :).

    The French seem quite receptive to the servile role.

    Posted by Gabriel | August 14, 2011, 9:28 pm
  24. This is a wonderful video clip that uses the words of Nassrallah against him. Well done.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 15, 2011, 12:27 am
  25. This transcript backs up exactly what Blanford said about this meeting in Killing Mr Lebanon. I wonder if this was his source, or if his source had access to the minutes of this meeting. Some FPM supporters have decided to twist away from blaming Syria by suggesting that it’s ridiculous to think they would have wanted to get rid of Hariri since he was such a loyal ally. This meeting gives a pretty interesting run-down of exactly how that relationship soured.

    Posted by Jonathan | August 15, 2011, 12:45 am
  26. Very interesting transcript, probably taped by Hariri and transcribed later. Even though on good terms with Mouallem, he was paranoid enough to tape the whole thing–and that also means that he would say anything in the spirit of politics as usual, I.e. machiavellan machinations, notwithstanding the various references to honesty…

    In response to BV and others: this is the way politics functions everywhere and not just Lebanon. A small elite of obedient technocrats leading sheep and being les by powerful economic and military global power players. How do you think politics in DC functions? In exactly the same way. Enough with idealistic projections; there are no true democracies anywhere today and all people are being led by the nose. In the US, one party does the bidding of a power elite that wants to not only control and exploit people but also wants to economically bleed dry poor people while another party wants to control and exploit in the same way, but would prefer to cover that up and assuage their guilt by giving some help to the poor….. Wake up and smell the coffee. The idealism of democracy, liberty, and equality has been extinguished from real politics worldwide starting in 1794 and ending with great success in in 1989….

    Posted by parrhesia | August 15, 2011, 5:30 am
  27. Well Parrhesia, “paranoid” is maybe not the best word to describe it, knowing what happened to him soon after…

    As for there not being true democracies in the world, nothing to argue here. But democracy does accept degrees, is not like being pregnant, a country can be more or less democratic…meanwhile, you might call it delusion, but the fact is, when one is looking for a future in dignity, the so-called “democratic” countries still attract more people than other regimes, do you wonder why? I personally think that the knowledge of having only one life to live weighs in heavily…

    Posted by mj | August 15, 2011, 5:56 am
  28. Parrhesia,

    Although there is no doubting the picture you have described, it is not the only force that carves the realities of this world. If it were, we better just sit down,cross our arms and wait for our destiny being planned by forces greater than ourselves. ( GOD anyone?)These conspiracy theories that involve the great nations planning to take over the world and whatnot is starting to lose its legitimacy.
    The PEOPLE have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with, and that they too can carve destinies.
    What is happening in Syria, is a classic case of this….Although i do concede there are greater powers at play, I dont see any of them rushing in to carve out a destiny to their own liking. I believe the PEOPLE have caught everyone by surprise.
    There are no real democracies true, but dont you think a somewhat quasi democracy is way better than a dictatorship of a brutal nature….The Middle Easterners seem to think so.

    Posted by maverick | August 15, 2011, 6:12 am
  29. As Churchill put it:

    ‘Democracy is the least worst of existing political systems.’

    There are degrees in hell, shades of gray or however one wants to put it. In response to Parrhesia, this is NOT how politics function everywhere. Where on earth did you get this idea?

    Posted by Pas Cool | August 15, 2011, 7:07 am
  30. @6 dontgetit,

    Glad you’re reading from the MEMRI website. These clips and videos are posted mainly because the Arab and muslim media only want them for local consumption and find them too embarrassing to replicate on english speaking websites.

    Anyway, this clip shows Leb. MP Sakariya is in complete denial. “The Resistance” isn’t going to “defeat” Israel. Also, the demented MP Sakariya doesn’t seem to mind that it will take hundreds of thousands of Arab “martyrs” to do this. This is just more, dangerous, suicidal Arab bravado that we’ve all come to expect.

    Meanwhile, the only killers of Arabs and Muslims are the Arab despots and jihadists. MP Sakaruya should ask Syrian gunboats to fire on Haifa and not Latakiya. These ME thugs have no conscience when it comes to messing up their own countries.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 15, 2011, 7:31 am
  31. Parrhesia;

    “In response to BV and others: this is the way politics functions everywhere and not just Lebanon”.

    I guess you have not participated actively in any political party. I have never heard of the hint that the USA Ambassador or CIA operative sitting down with PM Harper in Canada and let him know on how the elections will proceed…Or assign even the janitor at the CN tower. I guess USA REALLY got us to committ to the Iraq war…Didn’t it?? 😀

    Your assertions or vain attempt to blur or even condone a disgusting Syrian regime’s brutal treatment of Lebanese and its people is not amusing.

    We all know how negotiations work and how politics works. It is NOT the mafioso and street gang style practiced by the Syrian regime. If you would like to tell us what a democracy is in your dictionary…We are happy to listen.

    We have more freedom in this civil society than Lebanon has had at any moment of its anguished history.

    Posted by danny | August 15, 2011, 8:12 am
  32. QN:

    Do we know how the meeting ended, or is there a follow up to be reported? My mind is running wild with imagination here, both Harriri and Muallem look as though they have downed a few falafels in their time, did they simply jump into their sumo suits and slug it out?

    The suspense is killing me!

    Posted by Enlightened | August 15, 2011, 10:23 am
  33. Enlightened

    I don’t know how it ended, and in fact the whole thing strikes me as if it were edited before publication. So there may have been sections that did not appear in the transcript.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 15, 2011, 10:49 am
  34. Muallem reminds me of Jabba the Hut!

    huthttp://images.wikia.com/starwars/images/2/2e/Jabba_the_Hutt_SoC.jpg

    Posted by R2D2 | August 15, 2011, 11:13 am
  35. Posted by R2D2 | August 15, 2011, 11:14 am
  36. Fascinating transcript. At the time I recall seeing Muallim’s appointment as perhaps indicating a different approach to Lebanon by Assad, and a rebuke to Farouq al-Shara for his more abrasive style. Muallim was appointed on Jan 10 2005, and immediately viisted Beirut for talks with a number of political figures. He made positive noises about sovereignty and independence in his public remarks and refused to be drawn on the question of a Syrian troop pullout. Shara then said in a CNN interview on Jan 23rd that Syrian troops would be in Lebanon for “a couple of years”. Muallim went back in early February — the transcript would appear to arise from this second visit.

    Posted by EIU | August 15, 2011, 11:21 am
  37. I’ve been suggesting Bashar retire in Marbella for a while now.

    It Now (Lebanon) seems to be official!

    http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=300973

    Posted by R2D2 | August 15, 2011, 11:22 am
  38. Parrhesia,

    I know this is how politicians work everywhere. It is not the politicking that I find issue with (well I do, but for other reasons), it is the fact that it is TAKEN FOR GRANTED that the PM (and others) in one country are at the beck and call of another.

    Don’t tell me THAT happens everywhere.

    I highly doubt Chirac would ever “resign if GW Bush wanted him to” or Obama resign if Netanyahu wanted him to. Or vice versa.
    Allies “consult” and play politics, sure.
    But this is an entire different level of servility and debasement that no national of any sovereign country should accept. “Sovereign” being the operative word here.

    But then again, none of us are surprised. Lebanon is not and has almost never been sovereign. It truly is and has always been a vassal, no matter what they would have you believe.

    I guess, even though I knew all this for years, it was still somewhat sickening to read it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 15, 2011, 11:45 am
  39. Parrhesia. you are being dellusional again. its probably the Welayat Al Faqih infection.

    Posted by Vulcan | August 15, 2011, 11:59 am
  40. There is a deep responsibility in bringing all mankind forwards to an understanding of the human condition and the reality of the Universe we live in.

    When it is that we can focus on that, instead of the bullshit so many of us focus on a day to day basis, I don’t know.

    Posted by R2D2 | August 15, 2011, 12:16 pm
  41. General question:

    Anyone know who the “radical” christians are that Hariri refers to in above text.

    Posted by Gabriel | August 15, 2011, 2:38 pm
  42. Gotta love stories like this one:
    http://www.yalibnan.com/2011/08/15/pflp-gc-rocket-launchers-on-888-hill-outrage-jumblatt/

    “Politics is the same everywhere” indeed….*eyeroll*

    I don’t know how anyone can say things are normal in a country where random people put rocket launchers on hills, to send messages (or for any reason). Why is this accepted by so many? Why are any kind of weapons (no matter what direction they point at) acceptable?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 15, 2011, 2:44 pm
  43. BV, its the rule of the majority. accept it and stop being idealist. its like that everywhere, havent you been to DC or Paris lately ? !

    Posted by Vulcan | August 15, 2011, 3:23 pm
  44. gabriel he mentions;”In this district map, Gebran Tueni will be nominated. They say that Michel Aoun will also run, and Solange Gemayel as well.”…

    I guess anyone who opposed Syrian hegemony over Lebanon was dubbed as a radical. Anyone who brown nosed was a loyalist “moderate”…

    Posted by danny | August 15, 2011, 4:06 pm
  45. I agree with many commenters that democracy is about levels and degrees and I concur with those who described oppression as unacceptable. But fighting against oppression is not the same as fighting for democracy. It is clear that I do believe in a democratic process that entails negotiations between somewhat autonomous individuals and somewhat autonomous collectivities but democracy is about participation first and foremost in shaping one’s laws and customs and it is not merely a non totalitarian system. Voting for candidates is not the hallmark of democracy; true democracy is about informed and educated citizens empowered to establish and change their laws and constitutional frameworks, as well as about civil, communal, and individual liberties and an egalitarian system of opportunities that undermines economic or caste hierarchies. Such a true democracy has become an impossible project due to neoliberal class hierarchies at the foundation of global and nation state systems. Furthermore, autonomy is no longer a political project in most communities that are driven by consumer culture, and by its by product: subjects whose dreams and hopes, whose needs and desires, are produced by capitalist social imaginaries. The anti oppressive and reformist uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere may have revolutionary potential only if the people can change their laws and constitutions to establish institutions that empower the people and that supports new equal of reimagining community without the inevitable neoliberal culture of control and exploitation. If the people just want to get rid of their dictators in order to replace them with biopolitical forms of domination, where they can have the freedom to become consumers in a world where freedom is equated with choices, and where autonomy is subsumed by the blind belief in markets and I’m casino capitalism, then there is no positive change here, except replacing tangible oppression with intangible one.

    Harper, Bush, and Obama are mere technocrats who are not directly elected by the people but are rather offered and marketed as a consumer products to so called voters. This illusion of choice is no better than the lack of choice in Lebanese politics. Where is the autonomy? But there is still a chance of creating a new kind of autonomous politics I’m the ME built on Arab Islamic sense of justice, instead of relying on the dominant sense of individuated capitalist freedom. That is why Lebanon needs to build on HA’s sense of justice along with the dominant sense of freedom to create a democratic experiment…

    Posted by parrhesia | August 15, 2011, 4:25 pm
  46. Harper, Bush, and Obama are mere technocrats who are not directly elected by the people but are rather offered and marketed as a consumer products to so called voters.

    What a bizzare, bizzare statement. “So-Called”-Voter. Is that what I’ve become?

    Danny- so does that mean that Aoun has now become a moderate? 🙂

    Posted by Gabriel | August 15, 2011, 4:35 pm
  47. “That is why Lebanon needs to build on HA’s sense of justice along with the dominant sense of freedom to create a democratic experiment…”

    Now that’s the jewel in your analysis. HA sense of Justice eh? Once the archives of the murderous regimes are opened we will see more of the details of the so called HA “justice”. Kill off your opponent…Cut off the tongues and limbs of those who don’t agree with you…create a monster like Mughnieh…Most likely assassination of Hariri and others…Smuggling….Protecting chid killers of Ziad & Ziad…Protecting al Jaafars; the killers of the LAF soldiers…. May 2008…and the beat goes on…

    Posted by danny | August 15, 2011, 5:24 pm
  48. Parrhesia,

    I’m curious. Where do you live? In Lebanon? In an Arab country? or in the West?
    If it’s the latter. Have you ever participated in the electoral process (be it at national or local level)? Ie. can you and do you vote?

    I’m curious because it seems pretty ridiculous to me to read those statements you just made. It leads me to believe that you are a Lebanese living in Lebanon who has never seen or participated in a true democratic process (flaws and all). But I’m curious if that’s the case or not.

    Anyone who has lived and participated in Canada/France/USA/Germany/etc. knows for a fact that, despite MANY flaws in the system, and yes, corruption and “marketing” and all that, there is still a degree of accountability and a degree of democracy that puts some power in the hands of the voters.
    I have no love for the tea party. But the fact that a grassroots movement like that can be born out of common housewives and living rooms should tell you something.

    Vulcan,

    I’d LOVE to see the reaction of the French when the PFLP-Paris Chapter plunks down rockets on the butte of Montmartre….

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 15, 2011, 6:01 pm
  49. Parrhesia,

    I meant to comment on this but forgot to in the previous comment.
    Your definition of democracy and ensuing explanation is actually correct and one I agree with 100%.
    I believe Ghassan and myself have been big proponents of repeating that here ad nauseam: Having free elections does not make a democracy.
    A democracy is not about the majority ruling.
    That is a common mistake (which I hear on the tongue of Lebanese quite often: “We have elections! We’re a democracy!”)

    Elections and majority is all nice and well, but in my mind, those are the least important part of a democracy (albeit necessary).
    What TRULY makes a democracy is the protection of minorities and the rule of law (the 2 go hand in hand, with a strong constitution).

    The guaranteed protection of minorities is what ensures that the majority will never oppress the minority and that all are equal before the law.

    The biggest problem with Lebanon (and what makes it one of the least democratic states in the world, by my definition, yes…i’ll repeat it : least democratic – and spare me the tale that we’re more democratic than other arabs) is the sectarian nature to the system.
    By its very nature, by DEFINITION, it oppresses and divides and offers NO PROTECTION to anyone.
    Not to mention it’s pure apartheid to say “So and so cannot be president due to their sect”.

    The pro M8/HA crowd are often trumpeting their dislike of the sectarian system and declaring how the Shia are oppressed by it (fair enough). And they clamor for a universal vote, type of thing.
    While commendable, that sentiment comes from the wrong place. It comes from a desire to rule as a majority. It comes from the knowledge that they are the biggest sect in the country. It is still a sectarian line of thinking.
    The Christians and their obsession with Palestinian tawteen and their dwindling power are even worse. They hang on to the sectarian banner, thinking it their only protection, while it is quite the opposite. It is the anchor dragging them down.
    The truth of it is, true democracy, secular and enshrined with protection for all under the constitution, would mean that Christians would never fear extermination simply because the tyranny of a majority would not be permitted. And true democracy would ensure that a druze, a shia, or a woman could be elected to any post they wanted, without the logic of “we’re a majority, so we should have this post or that.”

    I ramble, as usual, but I just wanted to say, while I disagree with you on your delusions about democracy in the US/France/Canada, I actually agree very strongly with your definition of democracy.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 15, 2011, 6:11 pm
  50. An interesting read…I wasn’t aware of what’s being said in the Iranian press these days…

    http://www.yalibnan.com/2011/08/14/opinion-khamenei-wont-support-assad-to-the-end/

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 15, 2011, 8:11 pm
  51. ‘..Arabic Islamic sense of justice..’

    Personally I don’t believe religion has a place in society other than your individual belief. It seems to me though that you suggest it should have a place in society.

    ‘HA’s sense of justice’

    This corrobates that thinking.

    If indeed you suggest some kind of Islamic democracy based on Shia-islamic values (opposition to what you describe as neo-liberal capitalism, individualism and the like) then please tell me how your view of an egalitarian society will treat women, legally speaking. This is Islam’s biggest flaw I find, talk of equality amongst people which however does not translate into equality before the law. Perhaps because Islam’s point of reference is not the individual but rather ‘the community’. I’d hate to be born a free thinking woman in your idea of society (if indeed I’m interpreting it correctly).

    Posted by Pas Cool | August 16, 2011, 3:14 am
  52. when assad falls, more transcripts need to be released to show how destrcuctive the assad diarrhea has been on lebanon vis a vis lebanese politicians and assad arrogance. its time for the lebanese to break the fear barrier of the assad regime they’ve had for so long.

    i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, lebanon will not prosper into a functional government unless there is a democratic syria which respects lebanese sovereignty.

    Posted by blueblood damascene | August 16, 2011, 6:17 am
  53. The news in review today:

    * Aoun threatening to quit cabinet if he doesn’t get his way:
    Looks like the clown is up to his usual antics. Apparently it doesn’t matter if it’s Hariri, Saniora, or Mikati; M14 or M8…

    *Qobeissi: Overthrowing Arab regimes is in Israel’s interest
    Now that’s rich! Aren’t these the same guys who spent the past 10 years pointing accusing fingers at the “corrupt Arab regimes”, describing them as despots, Zionist allies, and so on….Apparently now that it’s their patron that’s in trouble, it’s some kind of Israeli conspiracy…as usual.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 16, 2011, 1:40 pm
  54. BV,

    I know you “love” stories like this one.

    In case you missed it. Here it is. You can add it to your “news in review today”

    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/12922-7-injured-in-fighting-over-front-seat-in-southern-town

    Posted by htj | August 16, 2011, 2:56 pm
  55. HTJ,

    Thanks for that one….Made me laugh.
    And we wonder why our politicians are such imbecilic thieves and charlatans.

    Never have I been more a true believer that the government is a true reflection of its people, even in dysfunctional places like Lebanon where the accepted wisdom is that the politicians aren’t representative of the average Joe. (I happen to think they are).

    How truly pathetic that a jackass would get annoyed at a man of lower status sitting in front of him at a FUNERAL. How even more pathetic that people would disrupt a funeral by entering and firing in the air.

    And these are the guys who claim to want to build Lebanon properly, if only Americans/Israelis/Syrians/Iranians/Saudis would stop messing with us…Hah!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 16, 2011, 4:29 pm
  56. Here’s a question that comes to mind….(Totally random).

    If the unrest in Syria is the work of foreign agents, and terrorist groups, as is claimed (let’s play along for a minute), why are the security forces surrounding mosques?
    I don’t know about you guys, but do you think cells of terrorists would congregate at friday prayers at Mosques? And if they did, don’t you think the local residents who frequent said mosque would notice a sudden appearance by armed strangers in the middle of prayers?
    I know the anti-Assad people here need no convincing. But I ask this of the Alex types (and others like him). Does this compute to you? I mean, only 6 months ago, Syria was a safe place, with no terrorists (the regime assured us of that over and over, right?)
    And suddenly, there are foreign infiltrators in every mosque in most major cities? And ALL The people who have lived there for decades and gone to these same mosques for decades have suddenly morphed into terrorists?
    Thousands of long time Hama/Homs/DeirZor residents were terrorists all this time? Sleeper cells? Biding their time for decades until they got the word from Washington (or wherever) to suddenly start trouble in their local mosque?
    That seriously adds up for you guys?

    And what kind of “terrorists” require heavy shelling with tanks and gunboats? The word “terrorist” usually implies a fairly small group of people, with crude arms (plane hijackers, suicide bombers, etc.)
    Indiscriminate shelling is usually not the correct method of dealing with the such.

    I mean. I don’t believe any of the above. But every now and again, I am so amazed at the bullcrap that some people choose to believe that I put myself in their shoes, and I try to follow their narrative, just to see where it might lead. The problem is, it just hardly ever follows much logic or common sense.

    I don’t know the actual facts on the ground. I am not there to see with my own eyes.
    Short of that 100% knowledge, I try to use common logic and degrees of plausability. That is how the human brain usually works.

    If I make a claim on the internet, there is no way for anyone reading this comment to know for sure. But usually, they can try and make an educated guess based on plausability.

    If I say “I”m having a sandwich right now”. You have no way of knowing if that’s true.
    But if I say “I’m currently writing this from the Space Station, orbiting the earth”.

    Well, can you prove it’s not true? No.
    Is it possible I am truly writing from the space station? Well, for all you know I’m one of the astronauts currently up there…
    But what is the most plausible explanation?
    What are the odds that one of the 3 or 4 guys currently in the space station is so interested in Lebanon that he’s posting comments on QN?
    Isn’t it more likely I just made all that up?

    Common sense, folks…use it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 16, 2011, 4:43 pm
  57. Pas Cool,

    “Arab Islamic” designates a historical development of various cultures intertwined and inclusive of dynamic linguistic and religious sets of meanings and values that build major foundations for “sense” and “belonging” in social settings (a “generalized other” for social psychologists), but not excluding minor sets of cultural creations (Persian, Kurdish, or Turkish…). It is a term that some scholars use to designate social imaginares in/of West Asian or Middle Eastern time/space. Islam as a dynamic cultural force has always been part and parcel of the meaning of eixstence of peoples who flourished there (no matter their religion or ethnicity), but it is not the petrified “religion” created by Orientalists and Fundamentalists (Keep in mind that “fundamentalism” is a Western-inspired creation, that Qutb and Maududi imagined as a “third way” to Capitalism and Socialism, and that copied and integrated European fascistic values).

    Difference and diversity has always been accepted in this region, for thousands of years, and the fanaticism of the “right” textual interpretation of the religious or secular laws is a modern and western import (there were some historical exceptions due to unique politicial siutations, for example with the Ummayads and the Almoravids, etc.). The situation of women, and that of any human being, has always been open to interpretation and to negotiation in Arab Islamic regions–before Westernization and Colonialism–since in reality, most Qadis had to adapt to varying dominant social cirumstances in their fatwas, including late in Ottoman times (for support and guidance, consult Hussein Mroueh, Mohamed Arkoun, and Tala Asad). Thus individual and collective “autonomy” was possible then and is possible today, if you do not buy the Western constructs of “ijtihad is closed” and/or “there is ONLY one truth that is accessible.” Historically, Islam and Judaism shared the belief that there is only “divine truth” and “divine justice” that humans can only approximate or try to follow through example, study, and exprimentation. European Christianity, on the other hand, developed the kind of freedom proper to the construction of consumer subjects (the narcissictic and self-centered, greedy and destructive “individual” who can only be satisfied by conquering, controllling and reducing “others”) by integrating “truth” into the reflection/judgment of individuals’s conducts (for support and guidance, consult Max Weber, Michel Henry, and Michel Foucault) and by constructing truth of oneself as “salvation.”

    All this to say that all cultures are dynamic and malleable, and that a historical study of the past can elinghten us about the present, and that the history of “Arab Islamic” social imaginaries not only allows for “autonomy” but it also privileges “justice” as well as a “freedom” that is not however separated from its social and historical context, or essentialized and integrated into individuating processes (as with “liberal” freedom). Maybe many of Hizbollah’s actions today are less than honorable (because of the sway of blind belief in Western ‘realpolitik’), but what drives the institution and the “social solidarity” (Assabiyah) behind it is a an (im)possible desire for justice. Politics is about the belief in the possibility of a “different” future!!!!

    BV,

    I do not think that personal experiences have as much to do with our grasp of the world around us as the reflectiveness and awareness of the discourses and practices that shape our needs and desires. Rather than telling you whether I live in Lebanon, France, or the USA, I would prefer to tell you that I read J.S. Mill, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, and Maurizzio Lazzarato.

    Posted by Parrhesia | August 16, 2011, 7:45 pm
  58. Parhesia.

    That was a rather lengthy academic/theological discussion that has zero bearing on the real world in this day and age, in my opinion.
    Some of us aren’t religious, for starters. And believe in a modern, secular system based on certain standards we believe as self-evident (human rights, for example). It is of ZERO import to me what fundementalists vs. orientalists vs. colonialists did or didn’t do, believed or didn’t believe. It is of zero import to me how Islam evolved or didn’t evolve, for the simple fact that I believe human rights are innate and have nothing to do with religion or political system. They come first and well ahead of historical evolution of this or that religious/political system.

    As to telling me what you read vs personal experience. I will have to strongly disagree with you on this one, respectfully (I appreciate that you are well read, educated, and respectful in your arguments with me and others).

    I think it is self-evident to all that one’s personal experiences are probably most relevant to one’s beliefs and biases. I don’t know how you can even argue that. It is near impossible for an say an Inuit man, born and raised in near the arctic circle, to have any kind of understanding of the Lebanese civil war, current arena, etc, no matter how well read they are. Our personal experiences, environment, etc. shape us. That is undeniable.

    As to telling me what you read…That doesn’t mean anything for 2 reasons.
    1- I read a lot. I’ve read crackpot stuff, just cause I’m curious. Doesn’t make me a believer in crackpot theories. Telling me you read Foucault doesn’t necessarily tell me that you agree with him, or disagree with him. etc.

    2- Going by books/literature/philosophy, you’re already one step removed into second hand knowledge. You are reading Foucault/Arendt/whoever based on THEIR personal experiences (and we’re back to personal experiences). It is impossible to separate any literature from the context in which it was written and the author’s personal experiences.

    My question about where you reside (in fact, i don’t care where you reside now, I was more curious if you’d lived in Lebanon during the past 30 years, at a given time) still stands on account that I am curious as to whether your beliefs and narratives come first hand, or second hand (through all these books you mention). I feel there is an important difference here.

    My thing is trying to understand where another person is coming from. Specially when I disagree with their views.
    I wanna put myself in their shoes, and try to understand the logic, the narrative, that leads them to where they are. Why they think what they think, etc.
    And to answer that, context/personal experiences are crucial.

    If you were to tell me you believe the earth to be flat. I’d want to know why you believe that and where you get your information.
    If you told me you were raised in the 15th century in Europe…I’d understand.
    If you told me “It’s not important where I lived. But I read such and such astronomer’s works.”, that wouldn’t tell me the slightest whether I should take you seriously, or laugh you out of town for believing the earth to be flat.
    You see?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 16, 2011, 8:20 pm
  59. Hi BV,

    Nice and thoughtful reply. We both disagree on two major and irreconcilable issues: 1) you believe in human nature; I believe that ALL meanings and values are constructed through social/cultural adaptations to natural conditions AND 2) you believe that the “individual” is the starting point for any understanding of positions, even through you accept that an individual’s history is shaped by her/his experiences within specific while I believe that “culture” or “social imaginaries” determine the discourses, practices, needs, desires, beliefs, and positions that shape and create individuals.

    I do agree with you that the “individual” is important today and has the capacity to change/transform her/him-self–as well as try to effectuate social transformation. I disagree with you that “academic” analyses are not relevant to the “real” (practical) world: as a matter of fact, I think that only a geneological study of culture/history, including the multi-layered and sedimented beliefs and practices of yesteryears, can provide some kind of a “truthful” explanation of the present.

    Since you explained your purpose for asking such a question, I did “experience” the Lebanese war(s) until 1985; I did not experience the later conditions and upheavals. Thank you for your “generosity of spirit” (your open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity): you do prove your own thesis wrong–that ALL Lebanese are close-minded fanatics!

    Posted by Parrhesia | August 16, 2011, 9:00 pm
  60. Parrhesia,

    quite an effort to gel together many grand narratives just to conclude that HA has a desire for justice. What drives the institution is power (Foucault?), what fuels the drive for power is fear. What consolidates the drive for power out of fear is identity (Communal/Confessional/political). HA have all the makings of a classic power seeking structure.
    Lets not get all academic..As BV said, all it takes is common sense.

    Posted by Maverick | August 16, 2011, 10:56 pm
  61. BV,
    The denial or the twisting of the facts relating to the demonstrations in Syria by regime advocates is a mindboggling phenomenon. I try empathising with them as any good would-be psychologist would. BLANK.

    I cant put a finger on it, but I’m in the vicinity of identity attachment and how the ideology of a regime spawns minions to their liking, making it impossible to detach or seperate the individual from the machine (Pink Floyd anyone?)
    So any attack on the regime is an attack on their whole being existentially and physically.
    If anyone has input on the matter, Im all ears….

    If anyone has

    Posted by Maverick | August 16, 2011, 11:06 pm
  62. Parrhesia,

    I appreciate the kind words. We’ll the overly philosophical debate here for now before we put everyone to sleep.
    I will say though that i never claimed that ALL lebanese are close-minded. But when it comes to this topic, we all generalize, so I say that yes, in general, the Lebanese are close-minded self-serving bigots who are also quite naive.
    But clearly, that’s not every single person.
    And clearly that’s a generalization.

    PS: ’85 was an interesting year. You “missed out” on the Aoun phenomenon then. And the HA phenomenon for that matter….
    Have you been back since or was that your last encounter with our Lebanon?

    Maverick,

    It really does boggle the mind. I don’t get it either. Except to invoke various socio-psychological phenomenons (Stockholm Syndrome, etc)…
    There is a huge disconnect with reality. It’s one thing not to like reality, or to agree with how events are turning out.
    I don’t like the way Lebanon is going. I don’t like HA being in power, etc.
    But I also don’t deny it. I don’t delude myself by claiming that they aren’t really in power and that Mikati is really a Zionist stooge, or whatever.
    Basically, one can admit reality, even if it isn’t to one’s liking.

    But when it comes to the Syrian revolt…I don’t know.
    Some people would simply rather construct a magical world of unicorns and fairies rather than admit a reality they fear or dislike.
    That’s the best I can come up with for an explanation 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 17, 2011, 2:55 am
  63. Parrhesia, you have evidently read more on this subject than I have, although I’ve read some. I respectfully disagree with your labelling of European culture having brought about an individual that is self-centered, greedy and destructive that wishes to reduce others. To me that sounds like the same thinking that lies behind muslim political parties rejection of the law that amongst others would make it illegal for a husband to rape his wife – the belief that western civilization is morally corrupt. I don’t believe that would hold to scrutiny. I think it more or less impossible to say which culture is morally superior (although you seem to think that the Arabic-Islamic one is) but I do believe that rights emanate from the individual, which you don’t. The reason for the difference is of course to be found in respective civilization’s history: The Arab world, or any other civilization for that matter but the Western European one, saw a development similar to the role the Catholic church played. It did away with tribalism AND agreed with political leaders on the separation of religion and politics (the latter through the Concordat of Worms in 1122). At the time the church agreed to this out of self-interest, but with time it developed into an elevated standing for women and minorities not seen before in the history of world civilizations. The Arab-Islamic world did not see this development for various reasons which of course helps to explain the prevalence of tribal thinking, of a religious-political cocktail that does not allow for secular societies as Europe came to develop. So when you and I speak of ‘justice’ we do so from different starting points. I agree that the world today is more materialistic than I’d care to see, but I believe this to be a phase born out of unprecedented advances in productivity. This will pass, and you can see this happening already today. By contrast, heirs to a great civilization, the Persian, have more or less corrupted their society by building a society based on resistance to the western way of life and thought. This Iranian theocracy, which you don’t mention but which seems to fit in your model of society (correct me if I’m wrong) is anything but a model to me.

    As for Syria (BV and Maverick), part of what you seek is to be found in the educational system. In my home country I was taught to question and criticize and seek various possobilities to the same question. In Syria the educational system is very much about remembering sentences in books. Many years after university graduation Syrians can still not only remember which page they read this specific information, but also which row on that page. This, together with state propaganda from kindergarten to deathbed, has created two generations of uniform ‘Baathists’ that do not question the official narrative. Although of course many exceptions, this helps explain why many are late (not blind) to understand (or admit) current events.

    Posted by Pas Cool | August 17, 2011, 5:06 am
  64. Things that “Characterize” the Orient:

    > Difference and diversity has always been accepted in this region, for thousands of years

    > privileges “justice” as well as a “freedom”

    > believe in “divine truth” and “divine justice” that humans can only approximate or try to follow through example, study, and exprimentation.

    > Islam as a dynamic cultural force has always been part and parcel of the meaning of eixstence of peoples who flourished there (no matter their religion or ethnicity)

    Things that “Characterize” the Occident:

    > “fundamentalism” is a Western-inspired creation (Qutb and Maududi imagined as a “third way” to Capitalism and Socialism)

    > copied and integrated European fascistic values

    > narcissictic and self-centered, greedy and destructive “individual” who can only be satisfied by conquering, controllling and reducing “others”

    Sometimes, blips in the natural order of things happen. For example

    for example with the Ummayads and the Almoravids

    but worry not… for those are only….

    historical exceptions due to unique politicial siutations

    Occidentalist Much?

    Ladies, and Gentlemen, we have a new Iceman, Parrhesia, on our hands! Hooray!

    Posted by gabgoob | August 17, 2011, 9:24 am
  65. Apologies all for previous post.. It is I, Gabriel!

    Posted by Gabriel | August 17, 2011, 11:55 am
  66. You know what strikes me, now that I read the way Gabriel “extracted” pieces of Parhesia’s speech.

    – The Middle East is characterized by diversity and tolerance. In addition to justice.

    – The west: Fundementalism, fascism, intolerance.

    Does anyone else find the above hilarious? Considering the nowadays, the west appears to be a lot more diverse, tolerant and upholding of justice..whereas our Middle East is filled with fundementalism, dictatoriships and oppression…

    I think you have it backwards, Parhesia!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 17, 2011, 1:05 pm

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