Syria, United States

A Compromise in Syria: The Regime’s View

syria-parliament

The recent decision by the United States to start arming the Syrian opposition, coupled with the intervention by Hizbullah in al-Qusayr point to a deepening conflict in Syria. In the current context, the prospect of a peaceful solution based on a political compromise at the Geneva II Conference next month is desperately slim. The regime appears determined to eradicate the opposition using the tactics of 1982, while Assad’s opponents have doubled down on their efforts topple him with a better-funded and increasingly radicalized insurgency.

Given the reluctance of the Obama administration to get its hands dirty in Syria up to this point, what to make of its recent policy shift? Hizbullah’s strike on al-Qusayr was both a military operation and a PR campaign about the intransigence of the Resistance Axis; similarly, the US decision to provide arms to the rebels is less an operational game-changer than a warning that Obama will not sit idly by and watch Assad cut his way to Aleppo with Hizbullah’s help. 

The tone set by pro-Assad commentators on the Lebanese talk show circuit last week was unusually triumphalist: one politician after another trotted out the same narrative that Hizbullah’s victory in al-Qusayr means that the regime is winning, and so their opponents need to adjust their expectations and demands accordingly. In the war for public opinion, the opposition desperately needed a shot in the arm, which they finally got last week. 

Which brings us back to Geneva. I am not very hopeful that either side is willing to discuss seriously a “democratic transition” (which has now eclipsed “peace process” as the most disputed term in Middle Eastern politics). In the current environment, even the most basic set of confidence-building measures is very difficult to achieve, partly because the opposition is unwilling to legitimize Bashar al-Assad by negotiating with him, and partly because the regime does not want to offer any meaningful concessions before a framework is established.

In this respect, the Geneva conference ironically presents even more hurdles than the Syria-Israel peace negotiations in 2008, because in the latter case both sides were mostly in agreement about the shape of the final compromise. No such agreement exists today. 

Putting aside these objections, however, it is still worth reflecting on what each side’s view of that compromise might be, assuming a political solution is worth contemplating. Just for the sake of argument, what might such a transition look like from the regime’s perspective?

This is the question I recently put to a few people with close contacts in the Syrian government, and certain key principles emerged from our conversations. I can’t confirm how far up the chain this goes and how current it is, but I thought it would be worth giving it a public airing for the purposes of discussion.

**

1. The opposition and its foreign supporters must end their calls to topple the regime: There can be no political solution that sets as a precondition the toppling of the regime. This is an impossible demand given the support that the government enjoys among many Syrians, and also because of fears that Assad’s departure would create a power vacuum that the opposition would not be able to fill, given its own fractiousness and the role played by radical Islamists.

The regime is willing to accept major far-reaching changes to the power structure, but a “decapitation” scenario (as in Egypt and Tunisia) is simply not feasible given Syria’s confessional and ethnic makeup, the loyalty of the armed forces to the political leadership, etc. The call for Bashar al-Assad to step down is a non-starter.

2. A national coalition government and constitutional amendments: The first step in the transition process would likely be the formation of a national coalition government composed of loyalist and opposition figures. The government’s role would be to discuss further amendments to the Constitution, which would eventually be put to a vote in an internationally-monitored referendum. For any election to be seen as legitimate by all Syrians, it would have to be supervised by a balanced set of monitors agreeable to both sides. This is true of the broader political settlement as well. 

3. Televised negotiations: Initial negotiations between the regime and the opposition could be publicly televised, in the interests of transparency and accountability, as well as national reconciliation. The regime would also be open to holding public discussions about constitutional amendments, as mentioned by Bashar al-Assad on more than one occasion. Obviously, this process would have to be carefully planned and managed so that it doesn’t turn into a political circus…

4. A strengthened premiership: The regime will accept the results of free and fair parliamentary elections monitored by credible election monitors. The Parliament would elect a Prime Minister who would be fully empowered — in practice, not in theory — to carry out the powers granted by the Constitution. Foreign policy and defense would remain the prerogative of the President, while the Prime Minister’s office would oversee the economy, education, public works, etc.

5. Presidential elections: The regime is committed to holding free and fairly monitored presidential elections in 2014. It is also open to discussing the question of the current president’s future role in the country at the Geneva conference, but the official position is that the Syrian people will decide whether or not President al-Assad will be re-elected in 2014.

6. Separation of religion and politics: The current political parties law, which disallows the formation of  parties on the basis of religious or ethnic identity, must remain in force. Parties must hold members from all confessional communities in order to be considered legal and eligible to contest elections. This does not prevent a religious conservative candidate from running as an independent and joining a coalition government. It simply means that candidates cannot form religious or ethnic parties and run on such platforms.

7. Not a final solution: The settlement reached at Geneva would only be the beginning of a political transition. Changes in the regional climate — with regard to Arab-Israeli peace, for example — would naturally change the pace of internal change, as would a dampening of sectarian tensions in the region.

**

As I said, I am not going to pretend that Bashar al-Assad scribbled this on a napkin when I saw him in Damascus last Tuesday, but I trust that this schema is not a terrible distortion of reality. My sources have historically been very good at assessing the strategic mindset of Syria’s leadership, which is why I publish it here today.

The floor is open.

Discussion

85 thoughts on “A Compromise in Syria: The Regime’s View

  1. Reblogged this on YALLA SOURIYA.

    Posted by #yallasouriya | June 17, 2013, 9:17 am
  2. I think the government has publicly been pretty clear that this is their vision for a compromise so I don’t think this is anything the opposition doesn’t know already. But I think the only way it will work is if Assad supporters re-envision what preventing the “decapitation” of the regime means.

    Syria is going into its 3rd year of bloodshed and there is just no way that the government will get the opposition to accept Assad as head of the regime, just as Assad’s supporters rightly point out that there is no way that a large portion of the population will accept the chaos and/or Islamist ambitions the rebels have brought.

    The best case scenario that could work, simply because the fighting is likely to go on until this point anyway, is an agreement that Assad won’t run again. I think that’s a deal the regime should take. Then they and the opposition can instead negotiate about a person they can all agree on to lead, and keep much of the state institutions in tact.

    if we learned one lesson from Iraq it’s that you can’t just dismantle a state…That, incidentally, is something Assad’s people would be able to get cooperation on from the rebel Supreme Military Command, which has openly said that it’s fighters shouldn’t pull apart Syria’s security apparatus if they manage to win. Likewise most of the National Coalition agrees it would be a bad idea to try to dissolve other state institutions. So there is room to shape a system here if Assad’s people work with these elements of the opposition — which is still part of the real opposition, not the “nationalist” opposition that they wish was the opposition but is mostly a fantasy.

    I actually disagree with the idea that we don’t know what the end solution could be for Syria. I think we do–it’s creating a way for Assad to ease out, maintaining most state structures but offering more democraticization/powers to legislature and PM, but also not “toppling” or dismantling anything.

    The problem isn’t that there’s no solution possible, it’s that everyone still thinks they might be able to win outright. The hate that all the bloodshed has engendered is still too strong. Sadly, people in Syria are just not tired enough yet to call this off themselves and foreign and regional powers still have too much interest in keeping it going to force them to stop.

    Posted by Lena | June 17, 2013, 9:39 am
  3. I’m wondering if there may have been another napkin indicating whether the regime has given much thought to how it might persuade the opposition and well-meaning outsiders that it can be trusted to deliver any of the above. For example, internationally monitored ceasefire, constructive proposals on distribution of humanitarian aid, release of prisoners etc.

    Posted by David Butter | June 17, 2013, 9:40 am
  4. Really excellent comment, Lena. I’ve scribbled it onto a napkin and sent it to Bashar. (oops!)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 17, 2013, 9:46 am
  5. The linchpin of the Assad plan is item 4. As I have written here before they believe they can trick the West with this. The idea for Assad and Iran is that Syria remain in the “resistance axis” while evading the sanctions and even getting help to rebuild since the premier will be a Western choice while Assad stays as president. This of course will not work. At some point the Assad regime will understand that internal policies and external policies are strongly i
    connected.

    The Syrian problem is intractable on two levels. The first one is the opposition against the government. There is a major trust issue there. There is no way the opposition is going to let Assad be the only one controlling the security forces in Syria. By the way, that is one of the main issues impeding Hamas-Fatah reconciliation on the Palestinian side.

    The second level is the Iranian versus the West one. There is no way the Iranians will agree to a solution in which Syria does not remain in the “resistance” camp. And there is no way the West will agree to be part of a solution if it does so. There might be a solution without the West because clearly the Iranians are more committed to having Assad stay than the West is to making him go. But it leaves Syria a sanctioned hell hole with no chance of rebuilding and also a money pit for the Iranians.

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 10:11 am
  6. David, I agree with you: all of this is well and good in theory, but what guarantees do Assad’s interlocutors have (assuming they are even willing to sit down at the table with him)? I also have a question about AIG’s point, namely the idea that anyone opposed to the regime would accept that the armed forces remain under the same command that sent them against Baba Amr and al-Qusayr.

    Lena’s proposal strikes me as very sensible. There could be no better confidence-building measure than for Assad to step aside and let someone else run. I know what the pro-regime people will say, though: if Assad doesn’t run, then every other candidate who does will be bought by Saudi money.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 17, 2013, 11:31 am
  7. Another excellent post by QN, and an excellent comment by Lena. A few points:

    To picture a negotiating table where regime and opposition officials sit and compromise their way out of the current conflict is, to me, a flawed conception. Even the term “opposition” can create some misconceptions, because it gives us the illusion of the existence of a united front with one figure head whose commands will trickle down to most or all branches of the opposition. That, as most of us know, simply does not characterize the myriad of opponents of the Assad regime.

    To me, there are 3 main branches of the Syrian opposition, and are likely mutually exclusive: 1) those that marched down the streets and demanded for reforms/downfall of regime early on in the uprising, 2) the rebels on the ground, many foreigners and increasingly radicalized, who are also divided extensively amongst themselves, and 3) the “representatives of the Syrian people” abroad – i.e. SNC officials that wine and dine in Geneva and Paris while discussing the “democratic future” of Syria.

    It is the second branch that concerns me the most. Exactly whom will or can the regime negotiate with? Sheikh Moaz al-Katib and his colleagues? Even if the regime strikes a deal with the SNC, are we sure that the rebels on the ground, who are the main players in the current conflict, will respond to whatever deal the SNC and regime can come up with? Will the growing Islamist faction amongst the rebels accept a secular, democratic transition? And what happens if they don’t? Will they continue to fight, forcing the regime to respond and prolonging the conflict once further and spoiling the ceasefire deal?

    The vision of negotiations between moderate opposition and regime figures was much more appropriate in the early months of the uprising, but today’s Syria is comprised of a complex web and a myriad of of groups visions that are not entirely compatible nor responsive to one another. Perhaps it is the skeptic in me, but I simply cannot foresee that a surprise peace deal with a component of the Syrian opposition, even along the points mentioned in this post, will actually end the current conflict.

    Posted by gbeaino | June 17, 2013, 11:33 am
  8. It seems the problem is that neither side can rely on the other to deliver. The rebels don’t trust the government, plainly, and seemingly with good reason. But the rebels are too divided, militarily and politically, by sectarian loyalties among those inclined to sectarian worldviews and between sectarians on one hand and secularists on the other, whether they are “really” secularists or just feel that secularism gives their group the greatest protection.

    Even assuming all these problems away, how feasible are free and fair elections, really: current conditions certainly are not propitious, so how could they be improved? And assuming they could somehow be attained, why have Assad just abstain, instead of running, if he wishes, and, presumably, being openly defeated?

    Posted by maxdaddy | June 17, 2013, 12:16 pm
  9. It is meaningless if security retains immunity from law. The revolution was borne of one simple theme and I see nowhere that this is mentioned or even acknowledge as a viable grievance. Because of that, I conclude that the Assad regime still thinks they can play a game deception and double talk while they shoot, jail, and torture their way back into full control.

    Posted by Moron99 | June 17, 2013, 12:23 pm
  10. The point about the opposition being fragmented is an important one. The forces on the ground are not exactly waiting breathlessly to hear what the opposition representatives abroad have to say.

    Though I would love to be proven wrong, from the regime side they may be correct that there is no alternative to Assad. The salient issue is not being bought by the Saudis. Rather, the Assads have built a cult personality over the years and the regime cadres estimate that without an Assad at the helm, the legitimacy that the regime has with the non-aligned Syrian public will dissipate. Even if they have hope that Assad may actually win a free election in Syria, they know that any other regime figure won’t. It will also be much harder to keep the core of the regime motivated with anyone else at the helm not to mention that all the disagreements within the regime may erupt into a power battle.

    This is the tragedy of Syria. The Assads deliberately made sure that there would be no democratic and secular alternative to the regime, and within the regime they made sure there would be no alternative to the Assads. That strategy worked until it stopped working with horrendous consequences for Syria.

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 12:52 pm
  11. AIG,

    Can you assign probabilities to these various scenarios predicted by you?

    “The way the US is going to approach this is the same way it approached the Iran-Iraq war. Assad is going to lose . . . because his support base is also bleeding and quite badly as the war goes on and there are strong Western and Arab interests to curb Iranian influence.”

    “Eventually, both sides will grow tired and Syria will be de facto partitioned,”

    “There might be a solution without the West because clearly the Iranians are more committed to having Assad stay than the West is to making him go.”

    Posted by Badr | June 17, 2013, 1:57 pm
  12. I agree with Lena as well. In any “revolution” it will take time for a dominant force to rise to reign it the neighborhood groups. I think by strengthening the moderate FSA; especially with weapons and training as well as logistical support from CIA special operatives; in time we will see a dominant group jell. I would suggest that the IDF can attest to the power of tank busting rockets….Shoulder fired anti aircraft missiles to deter the Syrian antiquated helicopters and fighter jets to even the ground.

    The assistance of KSA/Qatar and other groups in achieving this would be paramount as they seem to have drawn the line on Assad’s departure.

    I don’t think Assad’s even existence should be negotiated. After all this bloodshed and destruction; it would be a non starter to even negotiate it.

    As for the “party goers” who are celebrating the fall of Qusair as if it is a turning point…HA will be bogged down there and it will become their quicksand.

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2013, 1:59 pm
  13. The dilemma we are facing is that there are axioms “the international community” adopted since the start of the conflict that are not considered obvious to many other Syrians (“regime supporters”, or even some neutral) or their regional and international supporters.

    The question of Assad’s role is one of the main areas of disagreement. I have no problem considering the option of his not running in 2014. But I have a problem of deciding a specific outcome here or there, instead of properly debating the question in a proper forum … Geneva 2 perhaps, then the televised debates suggested above for the initial phase of the dialogue.

    Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji | June 17, 2013, 2:02 pm
  14. Badr,

    I am not sure I understand your question, all three statements are the same scenario. After a long fight, both sides will grow tired and Syria will be de facto partitioned. That is a loss for Assad even though he stays in control over parts of Syria. The solution is the de facto partition in which Assad is maintained in power over parts of Syria by Iranian support.

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 2:10 pm
  15. I honestly do not know if this is meant to be taken seriously. I don’t know who your sources are, QN, but these points you list for discussions seem to be a bit in the realm of fantasy.

    Let me elaborate:

    1. The opposition must end its calls to topple the regime. Ok. Fair enough. I think that one is a valid point that could possibly be compromised on not saying that it should. Or that it will be. But it’s possible.

    2. Can you give me one example of “monitors agreeable to both sides” that’s ever been accepted and worked in the past? Where the losing party hasn’t come out complaining that the elections were not fair, and that the monitors were not impartial? Specially in the Middle East. You really think that is a realistic compromise that the Syrian regime and the opposition will agree to?

    3. Televised negotiations: This one made me laugh out loud. In a part of the world where NOTHING is ever negotiated in public, you honestly think anyone will go for televised negotiations? This is the Arab world man! Accountability and transparency are non-existent. We don’t even have televised negotiations in Washington, where transparency and accountability are supposed to be one of the best in the world. You honestly think this can be done in the ME? What have these contacts of yours been smoking?

    4. Yeah. This I can see being a semi-serious point of discussion. But this is somewhat predicated on item 1: Assad has to stay, but the opposition gets the premiership. Basically. In my mind, this would have been a feasible solution about 2 years ago. Now that so many lives have been lost in such a brutal way, I’m afraid there is too much hatred and too much radicalization (Sectarian above all) to make any kind of co-existence and reconciliation feasible. I can’t imagine how you could possibly convince the populace on either side that it’s now ok to now reach your hand out to the same people who’ve been butchering and raping and pillaging your “community”. I don’t see it.

    5. Same point as 4, for me. All this talk of compromise seems like “pie in the sky” stuff at this point. I don’t see how you can get either side and their followers to compromise while having these kind of non-starter points (the main one of those being Assad staying in place). The Syrian regime is not a system that can be “tweaked” here and there to compromise with others. It has been built for 40 years around a kind of “all or nothing” approach around the Assads. I frankly don’t see how it can be made to work in any kind of watered down version. There really is no such thing as an “Assad-lite” system that would work at this point. Not after all the brutality of the past year or so.
    Like I said, if this compromise talk had gone on over a year ago, before the worst of the atrocities, then yes, there could have been some room to work for both sides. But now, it’s gonna be a hard sell for either side to explain how they can compromise with each other.

    Try explaining to pro-regime supporters why you’re willing to admit “takfiri terrorists, funded by Israel and KSA” into your government and giving them prime ministerial powers. Try explaining to your Alawite/Christian constituency why they shouldn’t fear Sunni extermism all of a sudden, after 2 years of brandishing those guys as bogeymen.

    And on the flip side, if you’re FSA or opposition. try explaining to your supporters who have lost so much and have had their sons and daughters raped and mutilated why you are suddenly willing to accept leaving Assad the Butcher in office, just so you can get some dinky Prime Minister chair. Try explaining to your followers why these apostate Alawite shabiha who have been committing atrocities in your villages should be your best friends.

    And then try explaining to your more extreme followers from Al Nusra or similar, why they should lay down their arms, and give up all they feel they’ve accomplished, while still having to accept not having religious parties in the next regime, and where they probably won’t be allowed to be part of this compromise govt.

    There is simply no way any of these points listed here have a chance in hell of passing. Unfortunately.

    Just being realistic here.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2013, 2:14 pm
  16. It is mostly Russian support that is making a difference for the regime’s side. Economically, Iran and Iraq are helping. For your information, there are some serious disagreements between the regime and Iran… moderately serious.

    There is no certain outcome … “division” has different shades … we are already experiencing division among the Syrian people in what they fear and in what they aspire to achieve. But division is not permanent unless it is part of a final, signed or forced, agreement.

    There is a chance for every conceivable outcome and the one that will take place is the one that enough parties support. This support (direction, extent, nature) is still a variable and where the different active players settle will decide where Syria moves next.

    For those who seek solutions, leaving the scene is the worst possible decision.

    Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji | June 17, 2013, 2:18 pm
  17. I see, after reading further, that Lena made very similar comments to what I was trying to say. Only she/he did it a lot more concisely and eloquently 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 17, 2013, 2:20 pm
  18. Alex,

    What are the disagreements between the regime and Iran?

    No, it is Iranian support that is making a difference. Without Iranian support Assad would not be able to support the war effort. The regime has no revenues, not from taxes and not from exporting oil. Without the Iranian support, it will not be able to pay salaries without causing runaway inflation.

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 2:28 pm
  19. AIG,

    OK, I got your prediction. So “The solution is the de facto partition in which Assad is maintained in power over parts of Syria by Iranian support”, even though “[w]hat exactly are the Iranians gaining from that except a big headache? Without the oil, that state is bankrupt from day one let alone the sanctions and the fact that the rich Sunnis for the most part are not going to stay and live there. It is going to be a huge burden for Iran with no clear benefit.”

    Posted by Badr | June 17, 2013, 2:42 pm
  20. The regime had zero foreign debt to pay and had a comfortable foreign reserves. Iran AND IRAQ and China and Russia are helping economically. Iran is helping with some training and support.

    I won’t tell you what are the disagreements, but if you can review what Iran’s reps to the Tehran Syrian dialogue conference (a few months ago) were saying to the participants, you will realize some of those disagreements.

    Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji | June 17, 2013, 2:43 pm
  21. Camille,

    Come on now. Say thank you to Iran. Without its Lebanese wing’s (HA) militia’s intervention (invasion) in Syria; your forces were as lost and losing…

    Posted by danny | June 17, 2013, 2:55 pm
  22. Alex, give it a rest. The bulk of the money is coming from Iran. The Russians are getting paid for everything. War costs a lot of money, money that Syria does not have. The Syrian government has no revenues and huge expenses and would be bankrupt without Iranian support.

    And as the war continues, you will see more and more Iranian troops in Syria.

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 3:07 pm
  23. Badr,

    Exactly.

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 3:08 pm
  24. With all these militias in Syria, how do you tell one from the other?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 17, 2013, 3:13 pm
  25. Danny … how many Hezbollah fighters are operating in Syria?

    How many foreign jihadists?

    What’s the size of the Syrian army?

    Who did Nasrallah say provided Hezbollah with their missiles in the 2006 war?

    Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji | June 17, 2013, 3:29 pm
  26. Alex,

    The answer to all your questions is 42.

    Fighting a war is extremely tiring, both physically and mentally. After two years of fighting with no end in sight the Syrian army is grasping for air. Even those not injured are dead tired. If about 40,000 regime soldiers/militia have died, this means that at the very least about 160,000 have been injured. More likely 200,000. Now, how does that compare to the size of the Syrian army? Do you understand why they need Iranian and Hezbollah soldiers?

    Posted by AIG | June 17, 2013, 4:03 pm
  27. casualties of army are much less than 40,000 … and even those (perhaps 20k is a closer estimate) are not all army … they are army plus pro government fighters … NDF etc.

    They definitely don’t have 160,000 injured either. and those who were injured were not all serious injuries … many are fighting again.

    Hezbollah fought Israel with 2000 to 3000 regular fighters… in Syria they have hundreds.

    It is not about needing their numbers. Their participation was more valuable for their experience in urban warfare, they ARE exceptional.

    Plus it was a public announcement that if the other camp continues to import Jihadists (estimated at 15k now) then Syria (the regime) wants to prepare the public … that it will start importing regional help if needed.

    Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji | June 17, 2013, 4:34 pm
  28. Alex,

    Do you think it was wise for Nasrallah to help Assad stay in power? The anti-regime/sunnis on SC are Livid.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 17, 2013, 6:36 pm
  29. It’s clear from many of the comments that any political settlement is possible to contemplate, both sides still believe they can win.
    Unfortunately for the opposition, they are constantly shooting themselves in the foot, literally and figuratively. They very quickly ceded the moral high ground by their conduct and many Syrians are hoping for intervention to bring an end to the regime as the best hope for a positive outcome, the FSA has proved capable of fighting, but very poor at governing or unifying their military and political structure. The regime toppling scenario is simply not going to happen at this point.

    The best hope for the revolutionaries is some sort of transition with strong security guarantees for the opposition, as well as getting monitors they can trust and to win a free and fair election. In parallel their must be a truth and reconciliation commission based on the South Africa model).

    Posted by OAB | June 17, 2013, 11:30 pm
  30. Akbar,
    My Sunni friends on Facebook are not livid. Ask AIG.
    Nasrallah’s decision to publicize his intervention in Syria is a gamble, but all players in Syria (Syrians and non Syrians) are gambling… this is a highly complex crisis. No one controls its outcome.

    Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji | June 18, 2013, 1:15 am
  31. Syrians are not ‘gambling’, they are reacting to the violence on both sides, Hizballah OTOH are the real gamblers, their losses outweigh their gains by 50-1, and their reasoning is a preemptive attack to stop the Zionist-Imperialist-Takfiri take over of the ME.
    2006 was a long time ago, they just stuck their fingers in the wasps nest and are probably not going to recover from the PR disaster they are going through.

    Posted by Maverick | June 18, 2013, 3:35 am
  32. Alex,

    Thanks. I sense you are still somewhat pro-regime.

    AIG’s favorite ME maven;), Barrack Obama discusses the situation in Syria with Charlie Rose. The issue with Syria starts at 3:25 minutes into the discussion….

    Sitting on our hands allows Iran and Hezbollah to secure Syria. If you thought Gaza was a jail, Syria is a much bigger one. And a graveyard to boot.

    http://www.charlierose.com/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2013, 7:39 am
  33. Are we meat eaters or vegetarians?

    Posted by Whatever | June 18, 2013, 9:45 am
  34. And should we hold other animals that eat meat accountable?

    Posted by Whatever | June 18, 2013, 9:49 am
  35. Whatever,

    Yes to both questions.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2013, 10:05 am
  36. On the face of it some kind of negotiations may appear in a 6 point template as above, with it all being about Assad, Syria and SNC. However the flavour of the negotiations will depend on which side is winning on the ground or may have “won” by the time negotiation process starts, which can have any manner of scenarios from best through worst for either side. Inevitably one side should be weaker approaching the table, apparently its the rebels at the moment, and realistically the rebels have few draw cards maybe apart from the continuing destabilization of Syria to force Assad to his knees. Perhaps the biggest prize when negotiations are over is to establish who won, as in Hizbullah won in 2006, though many would disagree. As then the process of the victor writing history can begin, While actually no one really wins in a Syria type war scenario, something will be scraped out of the ashes and placed into popular conscious as victory. In this war so many reputations are on the line in Syria – US, UK, France, Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, Qatar – who all fall into 2 opposing coalitions. These coalitions have different direct and indirect hopes and aspirations entirely of their own not to mention the individual countries within a coalitions differing often wildly. The hand wringing and recriminations of the losing side will be severe to catastrophic when seen as the a loser. Possibly that is where compromise lies, as I really doubt that the belligerents inside Syria namely Assad and the disparate FSA can stop fighting. Assads aim to fight is survival and the rebels are taking orders from outside the borders. These two groups of allies need to have their own negotiations beforehand to pull off their war dogs under the two poles of the US and Russia as the inside belligerents will not stop fighting until either one is convincingly pulverised. This could end tomorrow if supply lines were cut and the dogs called off, and ALOT less people would die or be displaced. As it stands this war could go on for alot longer that one thinks, bar an equally destructive no fly zone or full foreign invasion. For humanities sake and to quell a hideous wider sectarian war its better to act sooner rather than later. Negotiating a government type and or composition of who is in it barely matters when whoever gets the top job is going to have a huge task of reconstruction, nation rebuilding and healing. So as to the six point plan its probably best to try to alter as little as possible what governmental structures are already there, so to cause the least ructions initially, later once humanity is restored to a degree then institutions can be altered.

    Posted by lungumabel | June 18, 2013, 10:22 am
  37. As long as it is marinated in a good bottle of Chianti.

    Then again, what do these animals really, really, know about preparing meat?

    Nothing !

    They have the manners of Zombies, I say.

    Posted by Whatever | June 18, 2013, 11:10 am
  38. Discussing Steaks until the Next Smart Guy chimes In

    Whatever,

    When we were in Italy a few summers ago, you can take a 1-day wine country bus trip from the central Florence bus stop. It was a great trip, and we made a visit to an old local winery and did wine tasting, etc.

    Wow! I didn’t realize Chianti, like Champagne, has to be made from certain grapes in specific locations.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chianti

    But I usually don’t marinade my steaks in wine. I put’em on my Weber grill and eat them like the cavemen did. And a little Montreal Steak seasoning.

    http://www.mccormick.com/Spices-and-Flavors/Grill-Mates/Seasoning-Blends/Grill-Mates-Montreal-Steak-Seasoning

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2013, 1:02 pm
  39. QN,

    On another subject entirely: The way Hezbollah has been able to stop the discussions in the constitutional court because of lack of quorum should be a warning that adding a senate to the Lebanese system will only add another choke point to manipulate. The more moving parts you have, the more places the system can be sabotaged.

    Posted by AIG | June 18, 2013, 1:33 pm
  40. AIG,

    Everything in Lebanon will be controlled as far as one group acts as the state by using its power of guns. To fix the Lebanese system; you need all parties sitting down and establishing on what kind of a nation do they want. HA so far has demonstrated that they answer to the regional masters in Iran. I do not see any way out unless in this case HA decides that their allegiance is to the STATE not their definition of it (UMMA)…or their outright allegiance to the W of F.

    Posted by danny | June 18, 2013, 1:46 pm
  41. …and in case of HA creating enough “security incidents”; to justify their use of brute force to supposedly negate the chaos or vacuum.

    Posted by danny | June 18, 2013, 1:49 pm
  42. Choke points are an important feature of any system of governance, as long as there are override mechanisms. Witness the filibuster crisis in the US. Twenty years ago, only the most divisive bills would be filibustered. Today, nearly every piece of legislation is impeded using a battery of administrative delay tactics.

    I agree that a Lebanese senate could be a disaster, which is why my study of the issue was not so upbeat. Along these lines, see this good post by George Packer:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/01/senatus-decadens-can-filibuster-reform-save-the-senate.html

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 18, 2013, 1:55 pm
  43. QN,

    Theoretically, is there an override mechanism in the Lebanese system for lack of quorum in the constitutional court?

    I did a superficial check and it seems there is no override mechanism also if this happens with the Israeli supreme court. How about in the US? In the US 6 justices are required for a quorum. What happens if 4 decide not to show up when a law is challenged as being unconstitutional?

    Posted by AIG | June 18, 2013, 2:19 pm
  44. Any of these systems require a minimum baseline of its participants operating in good faith, and in the notion that the outcome is to be accepted by all, in a civilized fashion.
    The US supreme court works because the justices take their job seriously and operate in good faith. ie, they show up and play along, whether they win or lose, and when they lose, they accept the outcome, as does the rest of the country. That is the whole premise of having institutions that are RESPECTED.

    No matter what system you put in place, it will never be fullproof unless the players abide by the rules, and operate with a modicum of good faith. That is the difference between Lebanon and the US.

    The Lebanese system would work just fine if the players respected the rules and operated in good faith.
    Conversely, the US system would be a farce if no one took their job seriously. In the end, it’s really the people and their mentality that dictate the success of a system, not the system itself.
    Even the US system would fail miserably in Lebanon because the justices would not show up if they thought they were going to lose their battle, and nothing would ever get done.
    The US system would also fail miserably in Lebanon if we had a US style senate, or a US style system of confirming the cabinet level appointees, and so on.
    In the end, it’s really about the players, not the system. No amount of checks and balances will work if the players aren’t willing to play ball.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 18, 2013, 2:33 pm
  45. I am a bit confused here. If the constitutionality of a law is challenged…and just because a few judges for whatever reason decide not to show up…does that law become constitutional? I am baffled! Either the court convenes and passes a decision or it declines to review it. Right?

    Posted by danny | June 18, 2013, 2:37 pm
  46. The “overide system” (are we talking about a new car transmission?) is the VOTER. The government fails so badly (perception), that the voters over-compensate by electing many more representatives and/or a president from the opposing party.

    Example:

    Nixon/Ford then Carter

    Carter then Reagen

    Bush 1 then Clinton

    Clinton then Bush 2

    Bush 2 then Obama

    Obama then …

    Notice you rarely get two “Obamas” in a row.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2013, 2:41 pm
  47. QN, AIG:

    The obstructive actions within a government body by any political organization cannot always be attributed to the existence of the government body itself, and rather should be analyzed through the political context that allows such a behavior to take place.

    Constant political gridlock will tend to strive in an atmosphere of drastic local and regional geopolitical changes that lead to increased polarization, while effectively operating in a static political system unaccustomed to the new political realities. I think that’s the situation that best describes what is going on in both the US and Lebanon. In the case of the US, the bicameral Congress was designed by the forefathers in a world where states still held the majority of powers, and the role of the President was fairly limited to foreign policy, while Congress was responsible for broader national issues (e.g. tax revenue, central banking, etc.). I believe Congress at that time was less polarized in the early days of the US, primarily due to the relatively lower number of issues and responsibilities it would have had to deal with today. The many checks and balances in the US federal government system were designed for a limited federal government – a characteristic that hardly describes the situation in the White House and Capitol Hill today.

    How this relates to Lebanon is the idea that, often times, when the political atmosphere of government (be it in its responsibilities or capacity and other demographic, geopolitical and socioeconomic factors) changes across time, and when this change is not met with a simultaneous change in the system of government, then the result will often lead to political gridlock and an overall weakening of the state’s capacity to govern effectively. The current sectarian system may have worked in the early days of the Lebanese republic, but it is clearly no longer fitting in the present local and regional context. An effective national and democratic government is where politicians represent all of the people, and not just a certain sect. Lebanon’s current political system does the opposite of that: it incentivizes parties to mobilize supporters along sectarian lines (although I am not trying to emphasize that it is the lone catalyst for the increased sectarianism in Lebanon). Instead of the system working to mitigate dangerous pressures that could lead to the collapse of government, it is instead encouraging the spread of the sectarian fire gripping the region.

    This is where the idea of the Senate comes in: establish a bicameral legislature, whereby the lower house is elected with absolutely no sectarian quotas, while we can throw a bone to the sectarianists by establishing a Senate based on equal representation for all sects. Allow the people to think differently about politics: not who best represents my sect, but who will increase my standard of living and ensure my children can go to school and have brighter job prospects. Parties will no longer be dictated by foreign loyalties based on sectarian lines; they will have little incentive to obstruct government that always leads to political paralysis and a freeze in essential government services. The loyalties to the party will be to the people, and not just those from their sect, but every Lebanese that has grown careless about the sectarian dynamics of the region and increasingly concerned about the country’s socioeconomic conditions.

    So I disagree that the Senate would just add another layer of obstruction that parties could use; if implemented effectively, whereby a lower house is voted in with no sectarian quotas, I think we could see the proliferation of a new kind of politics – one that ditches the divisive, sectarian and self-destructive mentality that makes the country vulnerable to outside crises (e.g. Syria today), in favor of a nationalistic, secular atmosphere where actual social and economic ideas are at the forefront of Parliament’s agenda.

    Posted by gbeaino | June 18, 2013, 3:24 pm
  48. AP,

    Agreed. But again, to repeat what I said, every system is predicated on responsible players. In the US system, the voters do indeed throw out the incumbent as a means of “override” to the current policies.
    In Lebanon, the electorate is irresponsible, hence the failure of the system. Imagine if Americans kept re-electing the same 3 guys to run the country for the past 30 years (or longer, if you take into account the hereditary aspect of Lebanese politicians).
    All systems have checks and balances and overrides. What makes one system more successful than the other is in the responsibility of those who use it and live in it.
    The US system would be a joke if used in Lebanon because the half the voters would keep voting the Clintons into office, and the other half would keep voting the Bushs into office, at the same time. Congress would never meet. The US supreme court would never meet. And Chelsea Clinton and Jeb Bush would would spend 18 months trying to agree on a cabinet, while waiting to see who wins the war on drugs in Mexico.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 18, 2013, 4:56 pm
  49. Bad Vilbel,

    Well, I understand your description of how the American system wouldn’t work in Lebanon. My cursory understanding of Lebanese politics is that there are a lot of parties that are made of the different religious sects and everyone votes for their favorite “rabbi”.

    Here in the US, we are pigeon-holed into 2 parties. I wish the US could have more parties and build coalitions.

    Right now we are split between wage earners and rural America vs. welfare-recipients and the urban vote. This is a generality, but a fairly accurate picture. And so Obama has succeeded in getting more people on food stamps, welfare, and illegal aliens inside the US. He’s no dummy.

    I am of the opinion that we may have seen our last Republican president, as the majority of America is increasingly liberal, urban and on government assistance. I believe a conservative may return (to the presidency and the Senate), if Obama falls on his face. He’s doing a really good job of F-ing things up, except that the stock market is still nicely green. I fear a Republican is still a long-shot.

    In Lebanon, due to the large number of parties and sects, I suppose things don’t change. Then you have a military that doesn’t control half the country and is beholden to Iran. I’m afraid Lebanon is multiple band-aids that can come apart at any time. So I don’t agree that “all systems have checks and balances”, because when it comes to the ME, Russia and other countries run by despots, checks and balances are not anywhere to be found.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2013, 6:46 pm
  50. I think you kind of took my wording too literally. My point was comparing this or that system that have checks and balances, and asserting that having the checks and balances in and of itself, is no guarantee of success. It takes committed and responsible participants to use these checks and balances, or else the whole thing devolves into a farce.

    Obviously, I’m comparing system A and system B that have this or that checks and balances. Systems that are autocratic in nature have no place in this comparison and are their own discussion.

    That aside, and to go off on a tangent, I think it’s quite the oversimplification to state that America is increasingly liberal, urban and on govt assistance. Your wording seems to imply that the liberal urban folks are on govt assistance. (If not, I apologize). That is pretty far from the truth, IMHO. It is in the urban areas that you find the more successful (and yes liberal) middle class, and I would argue that segment is far from being on govt. assistance. The urban elites, the professional middle class are the folks that tend to be the most liberal. And they tend (IMHO) not to be the same people who are on govt. assistance.
    But that’s a discussion for another forum, really. 🙂

    PS: Where in the USA are you located? I’m curious.

    As for Lebanon, yeah, the whole country has been essentially cobbled together with band-aids since day 1. Which is why I have said over and over that in my mind, Lebanon has always been a failed state (and continues to be so). And it will be a failed state until the day one of 2 things happen:
    1. The Lebanese people develop that responsible civic mentality I’ve been trying to allude to in my earlier comment.
    2. Lebanon is officially and formally partitioned or absorbed or whathaveyou and ceases to exist.

    Those are really the 2 only ways Lebanon ceases to be a failed state. No amount of “fixing” will otherwise do the trick.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 18, 2013, 7:47 pm
  51. Bad Vibel,

    Thanks again for your response.

    …having the checks and balances in and of itself, is no guarantee of success.

    So you have clarified this term “checks and balances”, that is, “responsible participants to use these checks and balances, or else the whole thing devolves into a farce.”.

    I submit, that politics, worldwide never has “responsible participants” as a rule. As Woody Allen stated in “Annie Hall”, “…you know the ethics of those guys (politicians), it’s one notch below child molester”.;)

    Every country, it seems to me, has a different political flavor. Some work well and are well mannered, but most are only looking out for their own glory and their own party. I don’t think Lebanon, in this sense, is much different. Israel no different as well.

    Back to American politics and my admitted conservative bias, the American presidential election has been so fine-tuned and so over=covered by the media, election outcomes are practically known before the voting begins. It is amazing how each state, each county and each district falls, red or blue (republican or democrat). The last few elections have shown dramatic RED in sparsely populated states and counties. I am from Maryland. Maryland is overwhelmingly BLUE. Not because of the western, southern and eastern-shore counties that show RED, but because of the BLUE city districts like Baltimore and Washington. And that is where the population resides, the main concentration of government handouts accumulate.

    Sure cities attract high-paying jobs, but to a much smaller population than the city dwellers. My sister is a social worker. Can you believe that 2/3rds of Baltimore youth do not graduate high school. The numbers are improving a little, but who knows. Cleveland and Detroit are even worse.

    So guess who pays for their drug addictions and their food and their shelter and their lawyers? Those that are working. Which brings me to my next point. Only 1/2 of the working age adults are working. Disability and food stamp recipients are at ALL TIME HIGHS.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/jun/13/20070613-113138-6093r/

    So getting back to your first comment, please define “success”. Lebanon is a basket case, but seems OK compared to Syria. Syria was fine and Professor Josh of Syria Comment was OK with Assad rule until the revolution.

    The US is totally F’ed-up per my description above, however, light years better than most ME states including Israel.

    Lastly, if we are in a democracy, things will plod along more or less until a major crisis. It is these crises where political change occurs the fastest and here in the US, the voter usually makes the change. Then the next schmuck has 4 years to do something positive.

    AP

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 18, 2013, 10:50 pm
  52. “Foreign policy and defense would remain the prerogative of the President”

    So Assad remains commander in chief of the army and police?

    Saudi Arabia would never accept this. They are terrified of a Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beriut axis and will do anything to stop it.

    Posted by Will | June 19, 2013, 12:59 am
  53. AP,

    Continuing on the American politics (even though I know this is not the right forum for it).
    I have to throw in a joke here: Baltimore? That’s not exactly the best example to use when talking about urban middle class and all…NYC, the bay area, Boston, the Los Angeles area (where I reside and have lived for the past 20 years) are more what I had in mind. I give you that Baltimore or Atlanta are good examples of what you’re describing. These are urban areas, cities, with what I would qualify as a “poor populace” overall (ditto Detroit).
    And I can see why coming from one of those less prosperous urban cities, one would feel like a majority of the populace is on government assistance and voting Democrat.
    I counter that some of the bigger and more prosperous cities (NYC, LA, etc) offer a different picture, in my opinion. Those are cities that vote overwhelmingly Democrat, but not so much because they’re poor, uneducated and on government aid. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    But anyway, let’s leave it at that and move on.

    I think saying that Lebanon is a few steps better than Syria in terms of “failure” is rather hilarious. Syria is a mess today. Granted. But that only goes back 2-3 years. Syria has been a pretty stable country for the last 40 years or so. Trust me when I say this. I grew up in Lebanon in the 70s and 80s. I can promise you that it’s a far more dysfunctional place than Syria, and has been so for about as long as there has been a Lebanon.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 19, 2013, 2:30 am
  54. Bad Vibel,

    Los Angeles. I used to fly out to Californian a lot for work. Nice weather. The traffic, especially downtown, is horrible. It seems rush hour lasts the whole day.

    My favorite town outside of my own is San Diego. Smaller town, less traffic, great weather.

    I did a google search: 2012 presidential election results precinct and I found this map (2008):

    http://storymaps.esri.com/stories/2012/precincts-2008/

    If the election were based on AREA, the republicans would have won 90 to 10!

    So the population centers is what turned most states blue. Rural areas red. This, I think, is the new demographic of America: Urban vs Rural Half of America pays taxes, half of America doesn’t. The top 1% of wage earners pay about 40% of all taxes into the federal government. Something is wrong with this picture.

    http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2011/apr/20/tom-graves/tax-burden-overwhelmingly-wealthy-congressman-says/

    Yes, a lot of very successful people vote liberal, and they also tend to be Urban. University students: Liberal

    So yes, we conservatives are a dying breed.

    They are terrified of a Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beriut axis and will do anything to stop it.

    Will,

    If we had a Republican in office, Assad would have been gone by now. We should have directed a Tomahawk cruise missle at the infamous opera house where the illegitimate Syrian government was meeting to discuss Syria’s “terrorism” issues. Instead we have let Russia and Iran call the shots and the dominoes and the Syrian people are falling. We’ve gone from victor to loser in 5 years. Without the Assad family, the Syrians could have fought a fair fight. Now we’re negotiating with the Taliban for heaven’s sake:

    http://news.yahoo.com/united-states-meet-taliban-seek-afghan-peace-031731310.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 19, 2013, 7:10 am
  55. The Clinton – Peres “Man-Crush”

    Oh no, a bunch of liberal Israelis are now making love to each other in public. Pass the sickness bag please!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22965779

    Israeli terrorist receives Phd…

    http://stevenplaut.blogspot.com/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 19, 2013, 7:52 am
  56. AP,

    The contradiction in your statement is kind of what I’m talking about.
    According to you the urban population does not pay taxes, while the rural population does? That makes no sense.
    The rural population is far poorer as a general rule and I’m fairly certain the majority of taxes come from the urban centers in the country.
    I get the appeal of generalizing (and of course, I’m generalizing too). I agree that the divide in American society is somewhat along urban vs. rural these days. But to assume that the rural population is the one paying taxes is outright silly.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 19, 2013, 12:15 pm
  57. Camille Alexandre Otrakji,

    your sunni lebanese friends are not upset about nasrallah fighting to protect Assad? Seriously? Does March 14 ring any bells? How about Taef accords and Hezzbollahs failure to disarm. Perhaps they like black shirts and burning tyres everytime the government does not bow to Hezzbollah. Or, maybe they are just afraid of being assasinated with a car bomb if they do not support Iranian hegemony over Lebganon.

    or, possibly, you don’t really have any M14 aligned Lebanese friends – sunni or christian.

    Posted by Richard | June 19, 2013, 12:16 pm
  58. The contradiction in your statement is kind of what I’m talking about.

    OK. Let’s see if I can clarify…

    According to you the urban population does not pay taxes, while the rural population does? That makes no sense.

    When it comes time to VOTE high income people, the top 1% who pay 40% percent of the Federal tax burden, are insignificant. Urban income (W2s, etc) is very low. The cities are overwhelmed in terms of population, by low wage earners and entitlement recipients. They generally vote BLUE. Fact.

    The rural population is far poorer as a general rule and I’m fairly certain the majority of taxes come from the urban centers in the country.

    I don’t think that’s true. If you look at the map I linked to, clearly the rural America is RED. Fact. And so either they’re RED ideologically or their making ends meet or they’re not taking (as a group) so much government assistance in terms of population.

    I get the appeal of generalizing (and of course, I’m generalizing too).

    When you’re dealing with election results, you have to generalize. Of course there are many exceptions.

    I agree that the divide in American society is somewhat along urban vs. rural these days. But to assume that the rural population is the one paying taxes is outright silly.

    Taking into account that most african-Americans live in urban areas, vote 90%+ liberal, have a higher percentage on government assistance than whites, it is no surprise why urdan areas are BLUE. And the numbers are so high, the small urban areas make the whole state (yaani Electoral College) BLUE. Maryland was RED in most counties but the state was comfotably BLUE. This was the case in a lot of states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, etc.

    your sunni lebanese friends are not upset about nasrallah fighting to protect Assad?

    How can you tell who is Sunni? Is there a language difference? Does one have kinky hair and longer noses;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 19, 2013, 2:03 pm
  59. AP,

    I wasn’t talking about the top 1%. I was talking about the average middle class professionals that live in the big metro areas. Your accountants, and attorneys, and doctors, and engineers and small business owners and architects and so on…
    Those people tend to make up a good portion of the big cities, and while some of them vote red, I suspect a large chunk of them votes blue in places like SF, LA, Boston, San Diego, etc.
    Yes, the rural populace is poorer than the average city dweller. That is a pretty well documented and accepted fact. There is a reason why rural America is losing people as they move more and more to the cities. You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that the inhabitants of small towns in Missouri, Montana or Idaho are well-to-do professionals (although, of course, some are, but we’re talking averages here).

    The point that I’m making is that rural America votes red not because of entitlement, or wealth or any of that. By and large the divide is a social one. The values of middle America are more conservative. That part of the country tends to be more religious, more attached to conservative values (gun rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigration, so-called “family values” and the such) and the truth is that is the main reason that part of the country votes Republican. The big cities are more likely to have more liberal values.
    Sure, there is a segment of the urban population that’s also poor, and getting government assistance, but to paint the entirety of urban America with that brush is wrong, IMHO. It’s not like 90% of LA, NYC or Boston is made up of “inner city poor minorities”. There’s quite a few of us middle class professionals in these big cities. Just saying.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 19, 2013, 6:34 pm
  60. The point that I’m making is that rural America votes red not because of entitlement, or wealth or any of that. By and large the divide is a social one. The values of middle America are more conservative.

    Bad Vibel,

    Yes, as I said, the reason why we see Red in rural areas could be ideological, and I would agree with that.

    The big cities are more likely to have more liberal values.

    Uh, yes!

    …but to paint the entirety of urban America with that brush is wrong, IMHO.

    My theory/point is that, generally, people vote with their pocketbook. My theory is that as America becomes poorer (and that’s what it’s doing) more people will vote for increased government assistance: BLUE.

    Here is some data I picked up on some websites:

    My opinion is as more and more people collect government checks, more people will be voting democrat, and this is how I explain why Obama won the last election despite the totally shxt economy, and why I don’t think a Republican will win in the near future. It will take a big crisis to change the way America votes.

    Good points,

    AP
    _________________

    http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/publications/Appendix_Tables1-24.pdf

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

    Per Capita GDP $49.800

    Labor Force 154.9 million

    Population 316 million

    15.1% below poverty line

    GDP 15.7 Trillion

    Debt 73.6% GDP

    White 72%

    Black 13%

    Latino 15%

    2012 election

    BLUE 65.9M 51.1%

    RED 60.9M 47.2%

    Voter turnout 57.5%

    “Urbanization” 82% of population

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 19, 2013, 10:24 pm
  61. Akbar Palace,

    It is Lebanon. The political system is confessional where each sect is assigned a proportion of government based upon their percentage of population. The civil war was ended for a negotiated settlement where all sects agreed to disarm. Syria oversaw the Taef accord but only disarmed the christians and sunni. They armed the shia under the false pretense of resistance and in return Hezzbollah carried out political assasinations to maintain Syrian hegemony. After the cedar revolution and with an impending Harari investigation by the UN, Hezzbollah used the weapons to replace syrian security and directly threaten and control Lebanese politicians. This came to a head with selections of president and prime minister where Hezzbollah made use of threats and assasination to have their candidate placed in office. As Hezbollah became increasingly dependant upon Iranian provided weapons for their domestic survival they became an Iranian proxy.

    You do not need to know who is sunni, who is christian, and who is shia by language. They will identify themselves by political beliefs.

    Posted by Richard | June 20, 2013, 7:19 am
  62. Richard,

    Thanks. I don’t understand how Lebanon could have let this happen. FYI:

    Lebanese president urges Hezbollah to pull out of Syria

    They will identify themselves by political beliefs.

    So is a Shia a person who supports Hezbollah? Is it that simple? Sunnis support Hezbollah as well, no? At least they once did. I’m sure no one asks people personal questions like “Do you worship Ali?”. Do Lebanese identify sects (specifically Shia and Sunni) by physical traits or dress?

    http://news.yahoo.com/lebanese-president-urges-hezbollah-pull-syria-101441916.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 8:30 am
  63. Ever since i was a kid growing up in Beirut, i got in the habit of always checking my 6 O’clock trying to spot that tail i was told i have because i am a Shia.

    Posted by Vulcan | June 20, 2013, 8:53 am
  64. Photo of the Day from israellycool:

    http://www.israellycool.com/2013/06/18/photo-of-the-day-109/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 10:47 am
  65. ask a person how they feel about m14, Aoun, resistance, and refugees. Like it or not, there will be an overwhelming corelation between their sect and their political beliefs. I consider myself neutral. A nation should only have one militia and it should be under the control of a civillian government that is built with separation between religion and politics. Any nation with an indepenant militia is unstable. Any militia receiving weapons or cash from foreign countries will eventually become a puppet of that foreigh country. Additionally, the purpose of goverment is to enrich the lives of all citizens equally without regard to economic status, religious beliefs, or gender.

    what religion am I?

    bet you guess it right on the first try.

    Posted by Richard | June 20, 2013, 11:05 am
  66. ” Like it or not, there will be an overwhelming corelation between their sect and their political beliefs”

    I don’t trust bearded men with a Go-Kart tire on their head and I am all for the Jewish people’s right to a state in the Middle East, (my obnoxious tail safely tucked) can you guess what my religion is?

    Richardiculous indeed!

    Posted by Vulcan | June 20, 2013, 11:38 am
  67. what religion am I?

    jewish?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 11:49 am
  68. “Go-Kart tire”

    LOL!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 11:50 am
  69. yes, call everyone who has different political views a “jew traitor”. If that won’t work then car bomb them and blame it on Mossad or USA puppets. If the bombers get caught on cell phone records then just take over the ministry claiming to protect it from jewish and destroy the records.

    Personally, I think the maronites should be put in charge. They are the only ones who can run the country with a fair and even hand. All the rest of us are too busy stabbing each other in the backs and making up jewish lies to cover up our sectarian motives.

    Posted by Moron99 | June 20, 2013, 12:29 pm
  70. Moron99,

    Are you arab? You sure don’t sound like one! Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on Syria Comment!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 12:35 pm
  71. Moron99,

    While criticizing others for being sectarian, you come up with a sectarian solution by suggesting a certain sect of having superior ability to govern. Quite contradictory IMO.

    Posted by gbeaino | June 20, 2013, 12:40 pm
  72. “Are you an arab? You sure don’t sound like one!”

    AP, it’s amazing to me that after years of frequenting forums populated mainly by Arab individuals and discovering that they are just as diversely opinionated as anyone else, you are still capable of making a statement like this.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 20, 2013, 12:45 pm
  73. QN,

    Sorry bro. This is all attributed to a mixture of me not having a Phd, a little boredom and a slight immature personality that’s exacerbated by internet anonymity.

    But seriously, your participants have made some comments that are so different than those on Professor Josh’s website. Plus, I am just trying to understand Lebanon a little more by probing and pushing a few buttons. OK, I guess I should go to the library;)

    And Moron99 has stolen every jew and Israeli’s “thunder” I can think of.

    You should make him the back-up moderator!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 1:02 pm
  74. If you want to put me in a box, then it would be LF.

    Syria is a messed up place run by ruthless dictator who will kill as many as it takes to keep power. You know those little desk toys with the five steel marbles. The more marbles you pick up and swing in one direction then the more marbles swing bounce off and swing in the other direction. That is also how people are. The harder you push them in one direction then the further back they will swing in the other. In the end Assad will be overthrown and the sunna will react to their sufferring. The more they suffer then the more violently they will react. Having Hezzbollah become involved with Syria risks turning the entire Levant into one big sunni version of Iran.

    so what is the best thing for Lebanon? Stay clear of Syria, disarm Hezzbollah, resolve our differences on the floor of parliament. LF is the group that most closely fits my political ideas.

    Posted by Richard | June 20, 2013, 1:03 pm
  75. LF: conservative and christian. Sounds good to me…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_Forces_Party

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2013, 1:55 pm
  76. “… a sectarian solution by suggesting a certain sect of having superior ability to govern”

    spot-on

    Posted by Badr | June 20, 2013, 2:55 pm
  77. There is no way Assad can win and Nasrallah is dragging Lebanon into somebody else’s war. He wants to keep his guns. Without his guns, he can not threaten to cut off any hands and is left powerless. Everything else is just lies created to obscure his real motives.

    I am not maronite. However, if a parliamentary republic is not possible then maronite rule is the best thing left. Maronites are too weak to rule by intimidation or force. They would have to rule by compromise. It is their weakness that makes them suitable to govern.

    Posted by Moron99 | June 20, 2013, 6:59 pm
  78. I believe the Lebanese Buddhists should be in charge of defense ministry……

    Posted by Maverick | June 21, 2013, 2:01 am
  79. Moron99 and Richard both support Christian groups in Lebanon, and both are anti-Syria and anti-Hezbollah. I am sure there are anti-Syrian muslim groups in Lebanon as well. The point is, you can’t have a military group roaming around that isn’t controlled by the state.

    My hero, Charles Krauthammer has another great article I’m sure many here will not agree with:

    “America sidelined, barely relevant”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-america-sidelined-barely-relevant/2013/06/20/be08cdec-d9cf-11e2-a016-92547bf094cc_story.html

    Badr,

    Here’s a link to a recent Pat Buchanan’s article about the future of the Republican party. As much as I dislike Buchanan as a person (he’s a race hustler), his conclusions, I think are correct:

    “The Bell Tolls for the ‘New Majority'”

    http://www.humanevents.com/2013/06/14/the-bell-tolls-for-the-new-majority/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 21, 2013, 7:00 am
  80. Richard and Moron99 are same person. My browser auto-filled an old ID and I did not catch it.

    Although I appreciate that HA drove Israel out of Lebanon, that time has long passed. Israel will not invade Lebanon unless provoked. Lebanon is kept weak for the political benefit of Assad and Iran. There is a good constitution in place for a parliamentary republic but it has been blocked by Syria security and Hezzbollah. In 2006 Nasrallah provoked Israel into a war because M14 (cedar revolution) had majority power and was discussing the disarming of Hezzbollah by transferring their weapons and fighters into LAF.

    Once again Nasrallah is dragging Lebanon into a war on behalf of his weapons. A Syrian democracy would be opposed to Iranian hegemony within any arab state. To them Iran is persian. Iran has skillfully used sectarianism such that shia arabs are more loyal to shia than arab. However, Syria is 80% sunni and they will not see things that way. A Syrian democracy such as Libya or Egypt is unacceptable to Iran and Hezzbollah.

    Posted by Richard | June 21, 2013, 7:52 am
  81. 800 Pound Gorilla NewZ

    … I appreciate that HA drove Israel out of Lebanon …

    I’d appreciate it if Lebanon drove out Hezbollah.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 21, 2013, 8:14 am

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