Sunday, August 27, 2006

News Round UP (27 August 2006)

Hezbollah leader admits regret
27 Aug 2006: ITN

Shiekh Hassan Nasrallah has made a surprise admission about the capture of two Israeli soldiers. In a remarkable interview, he said if he had known the scale of the resulting war he would never have ordered the kidnappings.

Hezbollah is trying to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Israel for the safe return of the soldiers. Nasrallah's comments come ahead of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to Lebanon.
Jesse Jackson says Syria backs prisoners' release: Washington Post
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad said: "We look kindly toward Reverend Jackson's mission and encourage it. He is someone who is concerned about the human dimension of crisis."

Jackson is heading a group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders on a humanitarian mission to the Middle East aimed at shoring up a cease-fire in Lebanon. He will visit Lebanon and Israel next.

Jackson used his clout as a non-establishment politician to negotiate the release of several U.S. prisoners abroad in the 1980s and 1990s. He secured the freedom of an American Navy pilot held by Syria in 1983 after meeting with the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.
Tom Lantos, one of Israel's leading congressional supporters, said in Israel on Sunday he would block aid President George W. Bush promised Lebanon and free the funds only when Beirut agreed to the deployment of international troops on the border with Syria.
"The international community must use all our available means to stiffen Lebanon's spine and to convince the government of Lebanon to have the new UNIFIL troops on the Syrian border in adequate numbers," said Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives' International Relations Committee.

Lantos said he was putting a legislative hold on Bush's proposal to provide $230 million (121.8 million pounds) in aid for Lebanon in the aftermath of the 34-day war between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas.
Syria is ready to resume the peace process with Israel whenever the Jewish state is ready, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad said on Sunday.
"When Israel, supported by the US, is ready to resume the peace process on the basis (of international resolutions), Syria will be constantly ready to achieve results that restore the Arabs' legitimate rights, notably a just peace" in the region, Meqdad said.


At 8/28/2006 01:33:00 AM, Blogger True Facts said...

Well, Josh there is more to Nasrallah's speech than this little piece that you link to:
1) Lebanese army will confiscate any illegal weapons anywhere in Lebanon.
2) Tai'f accord is the ceiling for Lebanon. No one can touch it.
3) UN assured of no belligerent acts on his part.

Plus more and more.... You should watch the Arabic interview. Translations and written articles don't convey the full message.

Looks like Bashar and Syria are out of Lebanon for ever and ever and ever! It cost Nasrallah quite a bit to come to this realization.

Bye bye bashbash. See you in international court with shackles and all the works.

So, Joshua Landis do you still think bashar won?

At 8/28/2006 08:35:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Is there a transcript of this important interview?

Thanks in advance.

As'ad AbuKhalil gives a detailed account of the interview in English.

The following observation is particularly interesting, in my opinion:

"He categorically dismissed any reference to a Shi`ite republic in Lebanon (this was in response to Duri Sham`un—a right-wing sectarian leader in Lebanon, whose party sponsored Antoine Lahd in the past) and said that in the past enemies of Hizbullah spoke about an “Islamic republic” to scare Christians in Lebanon, and now they speak of “a Shi`ite” republic to scare Christians and Sunnis in Lebanon. But that is not fully accurate: Hizbullah itself used to speak about an Islamic republic in Lebanon. But he more than ever categorically rejected any religious state in Lebanon. It seems to me that in this regard Nasrallah played an important role in steering the party away from the idea of an Islamic republic, which was supported by some figures in the party (Ibrahim Al-Sayyid, Husayn Musawi, and Muhammad Yazbak) and by some factions in Iran."

(my emphasis)

So it turns out that the "gradualist-pragmatic mode" analyzed by Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh (In the Path of Hizbullah, Syracuse 2004) is neither "gradualist" nor is it a "mode", but rather the expression of real pragmatism (and pragmatic realism) on the part of the dominant faction in Hizbullah under the leadership of Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. This has some interesting consequences, e.g. for the idea that you "can't negotiate with Hizbullah".

At 8/28/2006 09:35:00 AM, Blogger True Facts said...

Your blog is becoming the laugh of the town Josh! You should visit other blogs to see how yours look like from their perspective.

At 8/28/2006 11:08:00 AM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Lantos and Ros-Lehtinen are a pair of lunatic fire breathers. Truf-ax can take a hike with his ad-hominems.

At 8/28/2006 11:45:00 AM, Blogger Idaf said...

There's more to the interview than what the Saudi regime backed media is spinning. I agree with As'ad AbuKhalil that it is in fact one of the most important interviews on the internal Lebanese politics.

I watched it in full and I think Nasrallah is winning the hearts and minds of Sunnis and Christians in Lebanon by the day (did a great job in that yesterday). The Sunni revolt to Saad/Siniora is apparent in the recent cleavage in the Hariri camp. There's now a Sa'ad Hariri camp and a "Rafiq/Bahia" Hariri camp. All of Rafiq's advisors and friends are now denouncing Siniora and Sa'ad. These veterans know that the majority of Sunnis in Lebanon are losing faith in Siniora/Saad/Jumblat coalition, increasingly supporting Hizbollah and that they are becoming more and more anti-Saudi. The new camps of "Rafiq Hariri friends" is a growing political movement now. They have just launched a brand new newspaper: "Al-Akhbar" which is Sunni-dominated with a motto of "An independent newspaper in Lebanon without Saudi influence". That actually would be the first Lebanese media outlet free of some kind of Saudi backing (even Christian dominated media outlets such as LBC and Al-Hayat are heavily backed and dominated by the Saudi regime). Nuhad Mashnooq, the very close advisor to Rafiq Hariri, has just gave a long interview on HA's Al-Manar TV denouncing Sa'ad Hariri's actions, politics and coalitions as well as the 14 March movement (which he announced as already dead as a political movement). Fadhel Shalaq, another one of Rafiq Hariri's right hand men has just resigned from the government (used to be the head of Lebanese Reconstruction Department - the pride of Rafiq Hariri reign in Lebanon) in protest to Saad and Siniora. A group of powerful close Rafiq Hariri men have signed an open letter to Siniora published in Al-Safir newspaper criticizing his government. Bahia Al-Hariri (Rafiq’s powerful sister) seams to be backing this movement: her media appearances (in Al-Jazeera and other anti-Saudi media outlets) give a very powerful indication that she is not fully behind Saad/Sinioro/Jumblat policies anymore.

Perhaps the most important highlight of Nasrallah’s speech was him insisting on the need for a national unity government several times. This in my opinion was a declaration that Hizballah is going to concentrate more on the internal political game. This means that Hizbollah’s military victory is going to be translated internally to Israal and the US dismay.. more Hizballah representation in the government, a powerful Aoun representation (representing the disfranchised 75% of the Lebanese Christians as per the last elections), inclusion of the independent pan-Arab Lebanese movements (lead by ex-PM Salim el-Hoss) and of course the pro-Syrian parties, such as ex-PM Karami (Sunni), ex-minister Franjieh (maronite), ex-minister Arslan (Druze)..etc.

I give the current “majority” government (can't be called the 14 March movement anymore) very few months.. maybe less. They have lost most of their constituency and I bet a more representing government is coming up soon.

An excellent analysis of Hizballah Lebanese vs. Regional new realities is published by the Arab Reform Initiative.

At 8/28/2006 12:51:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

Lebanon's Aoun to cabinet: resign in peace or else

BEIRUT, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Lebanon's opposition leader Michel Aoun, Hizbollah's main Christian ally, urged the cabinet on Monday to resign, citing what he said was its failure to handle the crisis during Israel's war with the guerrilla group.

The retired army general, who in the past had demanded that Hizbollah disarm but later strengthened his ties with the Shi'ite Muslim group, appeared to threaten unrest if the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora did not resign peacefully.

"We hope... a very peaceful change takes place, preserving stability in the country. If this change does not happen in such a way, there are other ways to escalate from now on," he told a news conference.


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