Thursday, July 07, 2005

The new face of Lebanon by Moubayed

Once again Sami Moubayed gives us an insightful view of Lebanese Politics as seen by a Damascene Liberal. He doesn't explore how Lebanon's new Prime Minister will regularize Syrian-Lebanese relations, particularly since Syria has been squeezing Lebanon of late by delaying Lebanese trucks for up to five days as they bring perishable exports into Lebanon. Perhaps he will in a future article.

The new face of Lebanon
Sami Moubayed
Asia Times (July 7, 2005)

A lot of political maturity and good faith is coming out of Beirut following the appointment of Fouad al-Siniora (62) as premier of Lebanon. He was voted into office by 126 of the 128 deputies in the Lebanese parliament.

Tested in economics and politics, Siniora is believed to be the perfect man to end Lebanon's numerous woes, especially after the assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri and the exodus of the Syrian army from Lebanon.

The new parliament is unlike any since the end of the civil war in 1990 as it includes many ground-breaking newcomers, such as General Michel Aoun, who returned to the country after 15 years in exile; Saad Hariri, the son of the slain prime minister; Solang Gemayel, the widow of slain president Bashir Gemayel; and Strida Gagegea, the wife of arrested warlord Samir Gagegea.

Many traditional faces were defeated in the recent multi-phased elections, including ex-interior minister Sulayman Franjiyyieh, Druze leader Talal Arslan, Maronite leader Nassib Lahhoud and Beirut politician Najah Wakim. Other previously influential leaders did not run for office, such as Beirut chief Tammam Salam, ex-deputy prime minister Issam Fares, and former prime minister Omar Karameh, leaving parliament, for the first time in 50 years, without a member of the Karameh family, the scions of Sunni power in Tripoli.

New man in the job
Siniora was born in 1943, grew up in the coastal city of Sidon, and studied at the American University of Beirut (AUB), the institution that molded many of Lebanon's greatest leaders throughout the 20th century. Siniora lectured at AUB in the 1970s, and served in the auditing committee at the Central Bank of Lebanon from 1977 to 1982.

He then joined the vast business empire of Rafik Hariri, and is currently chairman and managing director of Groupe Mediterranee, encompassing four Hariri-owned banks (Banque de la Mediterranee, Saudi Lebanese Bank, Allied Bank and Banque de la Mediterranee Suisse). He is also a board member of the Arab Bank, one of the largest in the Arab world.

When Hariri came to power in 1992, he brought Siniora with him, first as minister of state and then as minister of finance, a post he held in all the Hariri cabinets from 1992 to 2004. The Western media have depicted him as an anti-Syrian statesman who has been opposed to Syria since 1990. That is not true. Like Hariri, who was his childhood friend, mentor and employer, Siniora was one of the most prominent figures to rule Lebanon during the heyday of Syrian hegemony in the 1990s.

A pragmatic politician, he was pro-Syrian when it was correct to be working with Damascus, and softened his allegiance when it became politically incorrect to be an ally of Damascus. He was never anti-Syrian.

He was never Aoun, Amin Gemayel or Raymond Edde, three politicians who opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon from day one and continued to speak out against Syria until the Syrian army evacuated in April. These men refused to join the political system when Syria was around, whereas Siniora and Hariri joined, created and legitimized the last 15 years of Syria's control in Lebanon by working closely with the Syrians and taking part in consecutive governments created by Damascus since 1990.

Siniora and Hariri would have continued to work with the Syrians had Damascus not mistakenly abandoned them and empowered their yes-man, President Emile Lahhoud, at their expense in 1998. They grew disenchanted with the Syrians from then, and the frustration increased tremendously when Syria renewed the mandate of Lahhoud in 2004, forcing both men into the opposition.

Pro-Syrian or not, Siniora was elected prime minister with a majority vote from Syria's enemies and allies. He was backed primarily by Saad al-Hariri, who came out with a majority vote in parliament and could have, had he wished, assumed the premiership because he commands a parliamentary majority. Hariri declined, however, preferring instead to test the waters through Siniora due to his age and experience, and to avoid a head-on-clash with Lahhoud, who had obstructed his father's economic and political reforms in 2000-2004.

Instead, he designated Siniora to lead the battle for him. Currently, consultations are under way to create Siniora's cabinet. Not many deputies boycotted consultations with Lahhoud, sending a positive signal that the opposition wants to cooperate with the president, whom they had earlier promised to eject, in creating a new Lebanon. The president is eager to cooperate, fearing that a parliament packed with his opponents would veto the constitutional amendment created by Syria for renewing his term in 2004 and vote him out of office.

Deputy Strida Gagegea, who has been waiting for an audience for six years with Lahhoud to request a presidential pardon for her arrested husband Samir, triumphantly entered Baabda Palace and voted for Siniora. She had allied herself during the elections with Walid Jumblatt, the traditional ally of Hariri and Siniora, who repeatedly had vowed to topple Lahhoud.

Another triumphant entry into Baabda Palace was that of Aoun, who had also called for Lahhoud's removal, and now met the president face-to-face for the first time in 15 years. It was Lahhoud, when serving as army commander, who ejected Aoun from Baabda Palace in 1990. He, too, voted for Siniora and the prime minister was grateful, calling on Aoun during his protocol meetings with former prime ministers for consultations.

For 15 years, the Muslims of Lebanon had refused to recognize Aoun's legality as prime minister in 1988-1990, claiming that it was illegal for a Maronite to assume a job traditionally reserved for a Muslim. By meeting him, along with former prime ministers Salim al-Hoss, Amin al-Hafez, Rashid al-Sulh, Omar Karameh and Najib Mikati, Siniora was saying: "Yes, we recognize that you, too, were prime minister of Lebanon once."

Aoun has declared that he will not join Siniora's cabinet because the prime minister refused to give Aoun's allies the Ministry of Justice. By stepping down, he also abandons the portfolios of education and administrative reforms, which had been allocated to his Free Patriotic Movement. Aoun had demanded the justice portfolio for his ally, the judge Yusuf Khury, wanting to use it to wage his anti-corruption campaign and strike back at the traditional leaders of Lebanon who have used the judiciary against him since 1990, preventing his return to Lebanon on charges of corruption, from which he was declared innocent in May.

Siniora knows only too well how strong a political machine the judiciary can be since it was used against him from 1998 to 2000 by Lahhoud and his prime minister Salim al-Hoss, who accused him of corruption while serving as minister of finance under Hariri in 1992-1998. He, too, was declared innocent of the charges in 2003.

Saad Hariri has demanded that the portfolio of justice remains in the hands of his allies, most probably current minister Khalid Qabbani, to keep it under his strict control during the investigations into the murder of his father earlier this year.

Hezbollah, which has decided to enter the political arena, swept into parliament with 14 seats out of 128 seats and has demanded that it be given two ministries in the Siniora cabinet, which are yet to be decided. Siniora has promised to work with them, not against them, and is unlikely to use pressure do disarm Hezbollah, something that not even Hariri, with his immense power and influence, dared to try.

Siniora has stated that as far as he is concerned, UN Resolution 1559 calling for Hezbollah to disarm is redundant as the disarming of Hezbollah is a domestic Lebanese matter to be decided by the Lebanese themselves, and not by the international community.

The way ahead
The tasks awaiting Siniora are colossal. Prime among them is security. Over the past five months, four political figures have been assassinated; Hariri, ex-economy minister Basil Fulayhan, journalist Samir al-Kassir and Communist Party leader George Hawi. Siniora is expected to consolidate security, reform the security establishments widely blamed for the chaos, and prevent the re-occurrence of such crimes.

Another challenge is the economy. Siniora is accredited for having combated waste and encouraged privatization to reduce government spending in the 1990s, having, for example, closed down the Ministry of the Displaced and other government agencies accused of draining the treasury.

He introduced value-added tax (VAT), which became the primary money generator in Hariri's Lebanon. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have welcomed the election of Siniora, knowing that he will continue what Hariri began and reduce public debt, which amounts to more than $35 billion (a staggering 185% of Lebanon's gross domestic product.

Siniora is expected to use his skills to encourage the US, France, Saudi Arabia and the World Bank to grant more donations to Lebanon to help end its snowballing economic crisis. Saad Hariri has already left for Saudi Arabia, where he will drum up support for the new prime minister.

On the other hand, Siniora has to prove himself by combating corruption and expanding tax collection. His critics blame him for much of the public debt, which he and Hariri created in the 1990s, and for over-taxing the middle class through VAT.

Hariri and Siniora were the architects of Paris I, an international donors conference held at the Elyse Palace on February 27, 2001, where $500 million was drummed up from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank.

On November 23, 2002, they held Paris II, getting $10.1 million in grants, along with $2.4 billion from lending countries, $3.6 billion from commercial banks operating in Lebanon and $4.1 billion from the Central Bank of Lebanon.

These amounts now challenge the new prime minister. He needed them to rebuild Lebanon in the 1990s, yet if not dealt with in an effective manner, they could blow up in his face and ruin his premiership.

It is unlikely that Siniora will be able to tackle these sensitive issues or create miracles before the end of 2005. His appointment, however, has sent positive vibes throughout Lebanon, reassuring investors and tourists that a strong man with talent, will and character is now in power in Beirut.

He is the man people hope will right the many wrongs done in Lebanon since the election of Lahhoud in 1998 and the assassination of Hariri. He is not Hariri, but from all the Muslim politicians in Lebanon, Siniora becoming prime minister is the closest thing to having re-elected Hariri. He raises people's confidence in the government, something that Lebanon sorely needs.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst

Asia Times (July 7, 2005).


At 7/07/2005 12:41:00 PM, Anonymous Syrian Republican Party said...

Josh back to Lebanon issues. The Syria topics were too heated.

At 7/07/2005 01:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice articel. I agree that Sanioura is not anti-Syrian and never was. This is just bad media. Him becoming prime minister and Berri staying in parliement is good for Syria. it means that Syria's friends are still strong in Lebanon.

At 7/07/2005 01:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this article Sam. But you are being too nice to the Syrian government. It figures since you are now living in Syria. There are only certain things you can say and many things you cannot. Good job my friend. Firas

At 7/07/2005 03:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to make a few comments on this article.
>>The new parliament is unlike any since the end of the civil war in 1990 as it includes many ground-breaking newcomers, such as General Michel Aoun, who returned to the country after 15 years in exile; Saad Hariri, the son of the slain prime minister; Solang Gemayel, the widow of slain president Bashir Gemayel; and Strida Gagegea, the wife of arrested warlord Samir Gagegea.<<

Aside from Aoun who is turely a newcomer, all the others mentioned are within the same Lebanese tradition of the Zaim system. Solang gets the Gemayel family seat, Strida gets to warm the seat for her husband until he comes out of jail. This is all normal Zaim politics in Lebanon. The more it changes...the more it stays the same. It is really a shame that after so many years of civil war and occupation that this is all that the parliament is; a reflection of the archaic/confessional Zaim system of power in Lebanon.

>>He was never Aoun, Amin Gemayel or Raymond Edde, three politicians who opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon from day one and continued to speak out against Syria until the Syrian army evacuated in April.<<

This is factually incorrect. Amin Gemayel was NOT "opposed to Syrian presence from day one." It was the Maronites who wanted Syria in Lebanon when the Civil war first started. Syria entered the civil war to help the Maronite withstand the Palestinian/Muslim onsluaght on their enclave. Syria believe that it is not in its interest to allow the PLO/Jumblatt alliance a victory in Lebanon. The Kataeb party heded by Pierre Gemayel and his two sons Amin and Bashir were very supportive of Syrian presence in Lebanon at first.

Amin Gemayel even cooperated with Syria when the Israelis and the Americans withdrew from Lebanon after the failed May 15 1983 accord. Hafez assad even hosted Gemayel multiple times as head of state of Lebanon in Syria.

>>The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have welcomed the election of Siniora, knowing that he will continue what Hariri began and reduce public debt, which amounts to more than $35 billion (a staggering 185% of Lebanon's gross domestic product.<<

This public debt was the creation of non other than Hariri. To say that a protege of Harir is going to reduce the debt that he had helped create is really something. Siniora and Hariri are complicit in creating that massive debt. They went to the IMF and World Bank and took out short term loans with high interest rates. While part of the money was used to reconstruct Lebanon, another part was used to line the pockets of Lebanese Zaims and the Syrian occupier. I hope Siniora suceeds, but I really doubt it.

>>The president is eager to cooperate, fearing that a parliament packed with his opponents would veto the constitutional amendment created by Syria for renewing his term in 2004 and vote him out of office.<<

That is NOT going to happen. S imple look at the current allocation of seats in parliament would tell the author that evicting Lahoud from power in not likely. The "oppsition" has 72 seats in parliament. It includes Hariri/Jumblatt block. They need a 2/3 majority in parliament to vote out Lahoud, that comes out to 85 seats. Aoun has already indicated that he is opposed to removing Lahoud. His block has 21 seats. And the Amal/Hizballah alliance has about 34 seats. They are Syria's ally and are not liekly to support the removal of Lahoud.

At 7/07/2005 03:57:00 PM, Anonymous Metaz K. M. Aldendeshe said...

Another worthless article by Syrian paid journalist. Full of misconception that re most likely delibrate. Strange, this Professor likes Mubaiad so much, the professor writing in most of the time resemble his, and full of sterotypes and factual errors that were delibretely fed to both writers and written unsespectedly because of lack of experience.

To the Zaim hater. Zaim system is the normal behavior all creatures on earth and even NIBIRU is governed with. Even objects in universe and the evolution systems are run on the Zaim system.

I understand that this system make it impossible for someone that is weak or not from distinguished background to make it into leadership position. That is not just in the Middle East or Lebanon, that is even in USA.

What you need to do, rather than feel resentful and frustrated is to join a group, an organization or a party that is tructured in a way that provides you with the ability based on your talent, motivation, knowledge and experience to advance into leadership position. Even Christian clergy is run on the Zaim (pope) basis. No one is going to make you Zaim if you all you do is wine and wine about zaims and zaim systems.

At 7/07/2005 05:30:00 PM, Anonymous Agha said...

The new face of Lebanon, my ass, this looks like the same old ugly face of Lebanon. One day the western taxpayers will be stuck with a 36 Billion Dollar bad loan, money stolen by Harriri and Baathist friends.

At 7/08/2005 03:44:00 AM, Anonymous Tarek said...

I do not feel the new government is groundbreaking in any sense of the word. This is repetition of Lebanon's short turbulent political history. The same games with the same names, only this time around its son's and wives of previous leaders.

I agree (for a change) with Metaz that there needs to be some sort of leadership. But I also understand Anonymous’s hatred for this feudal warlord system in Lebanon. For the country to be truly unified and recuperate from its violent past, real institutional changes must be brought to the way the country is governed. The “Taif accord” and all sect related laws must be abolished. But I do not see that happening any time soon because disagreements still run deep in the Lebanese psyche.

I had the pleasure of going to university in Beirut in the years Harriri was rebuilding downtown. His critics said he was killing the soul of old Beirut buy building this superficial façade for sole purpose of making money and providing shallow entertainment. I say the soul of Beirut was killed long time ago in 1976 and what Harriri was doing is a lot better than what anyone else suggested or managed to do. The enormous debt was an unfortunate necessity, while I am sure arguments can go on forever on how it could have been handled differently I say just face reality and deal with the situation.

I have a gut feeling that Sanioora is not going to last in the office too long. He might be an expert in economy but the PM job of today’s Lebanon requires skills I feel he lacks. First and foremost leadership, the man is not a born leader. Sanioora has always been overshadowed by his old master and will be behind the scenes by his new one. So lets hope for the sake of Lebanon and Syria that this is just a transitional phase to a better future, with a truly new political face and not just a makeover.

Back to the debt issue, I wonder to Agha’s concern for the Western taxpayers well being. Could that be where his interest lies? And for your info, the Lebanese taxpayers are the ones who will get stuck with paying the debt. This is not Tanzania and the World Bank is far from being a charitable organization.

At 7/08/2005 05:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally we started talking out loud, let's stop being nice to the Lebaneses, they don't deserve it!

الحدود بين البلدين شبه مقفلة والأزمات الى تصاعد... رعاية سعودية - مصرية للعلاقات اللبنانية ـ السورية

تمر العلاقات اللبنانية – السورية في حال من التأزم الشديد، بدأت اخيراً تنعكس على حركة العبور بين البلدين اذ باتت الحدود المشتركة شبه مقفلة بسبب الاجراءات المشددة التي تتخذها السلطات السورية عند الحدود لجهة التدقيق في السيارات اللبنانية واخضاعها الى تفتيش أمني بحجة ضبط سيارة محملة بنحو مئتي كلغ من مادة الـ «ت ن ت» الشديدة الانفجار.

ونقل نواب ووزراء سابقون عن لسان كبار المسؤولين السوريين قولهم ان الاجراءات الامنية السورية مبررة بعد ضبط سيارة تحمل لوحة لبنانية محملة بكمية من المتفجرات منذ ايام ولم يعلن عنها بصورة رسمية نظراً الى ان التحقيقات ما زالت جارية لتحديد الجهة التي تقف وراءها.

وأكد هؤلاء ان العنوان الاساس لتبرير الاجراءات الامنية المشددة وان كان يكمن في مكافحة تهريب المتفجرات من لبنان الى سورية، لكنه ينم في الدرجة الاولى عن التوتر في العلاقات بين البلدين منذ جريمة اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري، مشيرين الى ان سورية اخذت تضغط في كل الاتجاهات لمعرفة رد فعل السلطات اللبنانية مع الاستعداد لتشكيل حكومة جديدة.

ولفت هؤلاء نقلاً عن المسؤولين السوريين الى ان الاخيرين اخذوا يتضايقون من محاولة جهات لبنانية محلية تصوير الاتفاقات المعقودة بين البلدين وكأنها تصب اقتصادياً ومالياً في مصلحة سورية على حساب المصلحة اللبنانية، اضافة الى دعوتهم الى اعادة النظر فيها، او ابطال مفعولها. وكشفوا ان المضايقات التي بدأت تتعرض لها الشاحنات المحملة بالبضائع والمنتوجات المحلية والتي تعبر الاراضي السورية الى دول الخليج تأتي في اطار الضغط على لبنان لا سيما ان مئات الشاحنات متوقفة امام الحدود المشتركة في منطقتي الشمال والبقاع خلافاً لاتفاقات الترانزيت التي تنظم حركة العبور، مؤكدين ان هذه الاجراءات تشمل ايضاً السيارات الخاصة للبنانيين والرعايا العرب القادمين من الخليج الى بيروت لتمضية العطلة الصيفية، وهذا ما يفسر تراجع موسم السياحة في لبنان.

وأوضح الوزراء والنواب السابقون ان المسؤولين السوريين يبدون انزعاجاً من استمرار الحملات الاعلامية والسياسية المناوئة لسورية اضافة الى المضايقات الامنية التي يتعرض لها السوريون الوافدون الى لبنان او المقيمون فيه.

ورأوا ان دمشق رفضت الانجرار الى الحملات الاعلامية وقررت اتباع اسلوب آخر يتعلق بتكثيف الضغوط الاقتصادية ضد لبنان لجر الحكومة اللبنانية الى قول كلمتها حيال تصورها لمستقبل العلاقات خصوصاً ان الاولى قد تبادر قريباً الى وقف تزويد لبنان بالتيار الكهربائي بأسعار «سياسية» مخفوضة والامتناع عن السماح بتزويد معمل دير عمار لانتاج الطاقة بمادة الغاز التي توفرها الاتفاقات المعقودة بين البلدين ودول عربية اخرى، على رغم ان عدم تشغيل المعمل سيرتب على الحكومة اعباء مالية اضافية بدلاً من ان يوفر على الخزينة ما يزيد على 150 مليون دولار سنوياً.

واكدوا ايضاً ان المسؤولين السوريين اعدوا دراسة نشرت اخيراً وتتعلق باجراء مقارنة بين الموارد المالية للعمال السوريون في لبنان، وموارد للعمال ورجال الاعمال اللبنانيين في سورية. واظهرت ان المعدل المتوسط لدخل العامل السوري في لبنان لا يتجاوز الـ 250 دولاراً شهرياً مقابل 2000 دولار لنظيره اللبناني في سورية، مشيرين الى ان عدد العمال السوريين في لبنان 400 الف عامل يعملون شهرياً في دورة العمل في مختلف القطاعات بينما عدد اللبنانيين المتواجدين فوق الاراضي السورية يقترب من 80 الفاً. واعتبروا، بحسب الاحصاءات التي زوّدوا بها في دمشق، ان اللبنانيين ينفقون في سورية يومياً 600 الف دولار بينما ينفق العمال السوريون اضافة الى الزوار السوريين الدائمين لبيروت اكثر من ستة ملايين دولار.

وأكد زوار دمشق، ان المشكلات العالقة بين البلدين لن تحل بالمفرق من خلال ايفاد وزيري الطاقة والاشغال العامة الىها للبحث مع نظيريهما السوريين في توفير الحلول لها، بل ان حلها يتطلب مبادرة الحكومة الى وضع تصور أولي للعلاقات الثنائية يتولى الرئيس المكلف فؤاد السنيورة فور تشكيل الحكومة ونيلها ثقة المجلس النيابي، بحثها مع نظيره السوري.

واذ اكد هؤلاء وجود اختلاف بين البلدين حول عدد من القضايا رأوا في المقابل ان لا شيء يمنع من الدخول تدريجاً في تطبيع العلاقات التي لن تظهر في صورتها النهائية الا بعد صدور نتائج التحقيق الدولي في جريمة اغتيال الحريري. واشاروا الى ان دمشق لم تكن مرتاحة لاغفال السنيورة بعد تكليفه برئاسة الحكومة أي حديث عن العلاقات الثنائية على رغم انه يتحدث في مشاوراته الخاصة بالتكليف بنفس ايجابي لا يكفي ما لم يتطور في مشروع متكامل.

وكشفوا ان الرياض والقاهرة بدأتا منذ فترة التحرك بعيداً من الاضواء لدى دمشق، على امل ان تباشر قريباً اتصالاتها مع بيروت، في محاولة جادة لرعاية الاتصالات اللبنانية – السورية التي لا بد من ان تنطلق فور تشكيل الحكومة الجديدة، لاقناع البلدين بضرورة التوصل الى فك الاشتباك السياسي بينهما والمستمر منذ اشهر عدة لمصلحة ارساء اسس جديدة للعلاقات الثنائية.

السنيورة يتصل بالعطري ويبحثان في مصاعب حركة النقل

عرض الرئيس المكلف تشكيل الحكومة اللبنانية فؤاد السنيورة مع الأمين العام للمجلس الأعلى اللبناني – السوري نصري خوري تطور العلاقات الاقتصادية بين لبنان وسورية والمصاعب التي تعترض حركة الشاحنات عبر الحدود المشتركة.

وكان السنيورة اتصل بالعطري اثناء لقائه مع الأمين العام للمجلس الأعلى اللبناني – السوري نصري خوري وتبادلا الرأي في خصوص ضرورة ازالة العوائق البيروقراطية التي تحد من دفق البضائع وحركة النقل بين البلدين، مع تفهم الهواجس الأمنية التي تتحكم بعمليات التفتيش من ضمن مصلحة كل من لبنان وسورية في افضل العلاقات السليمة والندية بينهما.

واتفقا على ان يتوجه خوري الى دمشق ليبحث مع العطري في الإجراءات العملية لتذليل الصعوبات وتفعيل التعاون الاقتصادي والتجاري بين البلدين الشقيقين


At 7/08/2005 09:15:00 AM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Thanks for linking this article, Josh. It's tough wading through all this in French over at L'Orient-Le Jour.

At 7/08/2005 02:18:00 PM, Anonymous Ausama said...

By God! It looks like Lebanon was benifiting from Syria!!!! I thought Syria was stealing Lebanon blind ! AND, now we discover that Lebanon is suffering because the Syrian government is not extending its past cooperation to Lebanon as it used to be, And Syria is supplying cheap electricity too? My God, My God..... WOW....And.. Syria controlls Lebanon's only boarder crossings into the rest of the Arab world??? We never stop learning it seems. Every day brings us a new discovery. GOOOOOOD MOOOORNING everyone!!!! Punning apart,I really do not like to see things like this hapening between the Syrians and the Lebanese, but did those things/retrebutions/measures/ not cross the minds of those who waving signs "Bashar Get Out of Lebanon" and "Free at Last" or "Faja'nakum Moo?".
Seriously, I do not like to see such things hapening because they will suffocate an already dazed Lebanon. I do not like to see those things hapening for a long time, but in full honesty, I am enjoying it for the time being as it is becoming a small compensation for the poor Syrians laborors who were needlesly killed at the hand of thier Lebanese NIEHBOURS and BROTHERS, not to mention the insults directed at Syria by the same "Brave, Independence Loving Coalition".
I wish I can repeat to those Lebanese what "General" Aoun said to Al Hariri, Jumblat and partners upon his refusal to join the government: Allah yes3edkum wi yeb3edkun( i.e. May God Keep You Away and Keep You Happy". But as Arab, I can not really dissasociate Syrians from Lebanese; the Lebanese, whoever sect they belong to, are our brothers -even if some of them do not know it- and we have to come to terms. What hurts the Lebanese, hurts the Syrians. But as they say: وعلى نفسها جنت براقش . Let us hope all will come to their senses soon. Enough damage has been done.But a final word to our brothers, what is hapening now is normal in "international" relations, and I guess such things fall under the catagory or "realpolitic". That relationships are something like "two-way street". President Bashar has admitted that "mistakes were comitted" in his speach before he Syria -smartly, and unexpectedly quickly- pulled its forces out of Lebanon very fast (and incidently in my analysis Syria did so only to escape trap #2 and to see who the hell would dare to disarm Hizbullah, hence messing up the whole scenario of it's opponots), I wounder when the same Lebanese who tried their best to humilate the Syrians for the benefit of Syria's enemies, will realise what they have done, and then do something about it..

At 7/08/2005 04:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ausama,

If the Lebanese asked for this divorce then they should get it! Why should we still go on with this naive rhetoric about our "borthers" and "what hurts them hurts us" and all this? Lebanon wants normal relations with Syria, great, let's have normal relations with them! Let's set up an embassy there, let's have normal trade relations with them, let's sell the electricity and gas at normal market rates! Syria has its own needs for its own development and oil is waning, so we need revenues from other sources! Why should we car about Lebenon and its debt and economic status more than our own development, let the saudis give them cheap oil and gas! We already sacrificed our people for them and look what we got in the end! It not our problem that this "will suffocate an already dazed Lebanon"; so what?

Bashar Assad told the Americans that Syria is not a charity and we have intterests to follow, this same rule should apply to Lebanon! I am a Syrian and an Arab, but all this arab brothers speech led me nowhere throughout our momorable history! No, Lebanes are not my brothers, they never were! They are my neighbors and we have interests to exchange and defend intersts with our neighbors! But the final line is that Syria should be first and final! Enough being naive!

At 7/09/2005 12:38:00 AM, Anonymous Lebanon is Not Your Business said...

I absolutely and categorically agree with everything my Syrian brothers have to say.

Let's have an end to the whining, let's have an end to the recriminations and let's get on with our lives.

My suggestion? Total divorce, full diplomatic relations, genuine realpolitics. This means first: the return of all the Lebanese nationals you keep locked up in your jails - unless of course, they actually committed crimes in Syria, second, that illegal Syrian labourers should return to Syria (if you can find them jobs in your own country) and third, a return of the millions your nomenklatura have stolen from Lebanon.

Once this is over and done with, Syria can either continue to be petulant and pouty, shutting the border and playing the class bully or it can realise that one miserable and insincere apology in the Syrian parliament before a bunch of Baathists is not going to make the mistakes (and I'm being charitable when I use that word to describe the last 29 years of Syrian policy) committed in Lebanon disappear.

Oh and by the way, we may have a shitty political system - a fact which is lost on no one here - but why is that any of your business? And by the way, given the way you pass the presidency down from father to son and the way control of your country has been very much the affair of a single sect for so long, comments about the iniquity of Lebanon's za'im system are a little rich, no?

At 7/09/2005 02:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dear Lebanese Neighbor (not and never brother),

I am totally again with you on your suggestion! Full diplomatic relations are needed! Yes, the Lebanese “political prisoners” need to be returned to Lebanon! Our workers can come back home and leave your work sites empty!

At the same time, Lebanese workers/businessmen should also wrap up and leave, or regularize their situation and get taxed! At the same time, we should pull out our USD 10 billion (plus interest) out of lebenses banks (I’m sure “Sheik Saad” would pump in his own money in its place). Plus we should ask for compensation for all the energy sales at “political prices” that we had sold you. Not to forget compensation for the army that we lost trying to stop you exterminating each other (maybe that would have been a much better outcome)! We should impose visas on your entry to our territory, and also on the transit of whatever products you make (not much anyway) that are to go be exported via our land!!

As for our political system, yes it is light years from being close to perfect, and needs radical changes to say the least! But at least this system spared us killing each other in a civil war! We did not need to invite our neighbors to stop the killing because we had an army split on sectorial lines and made up “Wael Kfouris and company. As for the way the presidency is passed from father to son over here, well to use your own words: “but why is that any of your business?”


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