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Welcome Abu Kais

I’m going to be out of town for a little while and will probably not be able to blog at my usual pace. Last time I was out of town, when I drove from the East Coast to the West Coast, I convinced myself that I could still keep up this Web site, but I couldn’t. So I won’t make the same mistake now.

Abu Kais, who writes the terrific blog From Beirut to the Beltway, will help me out. Good timing, too, since Lebanon is (tragically) a “story” again. Abu Kais is a Shia from South Lebanon, from Hezbollah country. He is not, however, even remotely a Hezbollah partisan.

Please welcome him and enjoy his reports. And be nice in the comments.

Thanks, Abu Kais, for lending a hand.

Childish Foreign Policy

Lebanese blogger Tony Badran is not too impressed with the New York Times lately.

The NYT editorial board amassed the entirety of its impressive foreign policy genius, and came out with this terrifyingly awesome statement:

Damascus must also be told that it will pay a high price — in scorn, isolation and sanctions — if it is found to have ordered Mr. Gemayel’s death, or the deaths or maiming of a half-dozen other anti-Syrian politicians and journalists. Hezbollah must be told that it will be shunned if it tries to grab power through further violence or intimidation.

Did they just say “scorn”? Oh snap! Wait, and they got away with “shunning” Hezbollah?! They could do that?! Damn… that is cold! Take that Nasrallah and Khamenei! How you feel about that?!

This is what a friend of mine calls “the kindergarten school of politics.” Bad boys to the corner! No friends for bullies! This editorial might as well have been written by a grade-schooler.

Tony is on a roll lately, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

UPDATE: Mustapha at Beirut Spring concurs that the New York Times is “infantile” and suggests Jim Hoagland as a man who “gets it.” (And he’s right, Hoagland does get it.)

To Hell in a Handbasket?

A chilling essay by Raja at the Lebanese Bloggers:

The Syrians feel pretty secure about Hizballah’s ability to hold its own against these waves of protest and fury. So they do what they need to, to gain any sort of advantage on the international playing field. Their message to the powers that seek to remove Lebanon from the Syrian orbit is obvious:

You see your precious little Lebanon… your example of democracy in the middle east… your prized example of religious co-existence (both christian-muslim and sunni-shi’a); I can light it up with the push of a button. And if you don’t talk to me… if you don’t deal with the Syrian state as the guarantor of peace in Lebanon, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

[...]

In such a tense and gridlocked situation, where all the major local parties are so intransigent towards each other, something is gonna have to give. An appropriate analogy would be two major tectonic plates pushing against each other incessantly until, at some point in time, all hell breaks loose – think of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Read the whole thing.

Troll Alert

Someone has been impersonating me in the comments. That person’s comments have been deleted.

Hugh Hewitt Interview

Hugh Hewitt interviewed me on his national radio show yesterday about what’s happening in Lebanon now. Go here to listen. At the time of this posting, my interview is the third item on the list.

March 14 Wins the Day

Blacksmiths of Lebanon reported, and Naharnet confirmed, that Minsiter Hasan Al Sabaa has returned to the Lebanese cabinet after resigning last year in the wake of the Danish cartoon riot fiasco. The axis’s strategy to murder the cabinet just got a bit harder.

Meanwhile, my friend Carine (who sometimes appears in the comments) went to Pierre Gemayel’s funeral and posted photos.

War No More.jpg

Happy (belated) Independence Day to Lebanon.

UPDATE: Just a thought here…How different a country would Lebanon be if people at a “March 8″ rally (Hezbollah+Amal+Aoun) held up banners that said WAR NO MORE?

Shove Your Civil War

Gemayel Funeral.jpg

Hezbollah called off today’s scheduled “festivities” in downtown Beirut as Lebanon mourns the latest victim of assassination, Pierre Gemayel.

Shove Your Civil War.jpg

Lebanon’s hostility to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis has been re-energized. March 14 is still a force to be reckoned with.

Photos courtesy of the BBC.

The Stage is Set – Updated

From Stratfor:

The Lebanese army already has deployed four brigades to greater Beirut to assume combat readiness in case Hezbollah forces attack Sunnis in West Beirut. Lebanon’s Sunni bloc, led by the al-Hariri clan and their regional Arab allies, also has sent a number of fighters to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to receive military training in order to counter Hezbollah’s well-equipped and well-trained military forces. In the meantime, Syria continues to send reinforcements to its allies in Lebanon. Syrian army officers who previously served in Lebanon have infiltrated the country and are leading combat units of their allies in Hezbollah, pro-Syrian groups and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Furthermore, about 2,500 Syrian troops masquerading as laborers have joined the ranks of the anti-government forces in Lebanon.

UPDATE: Lebanese readers in the comments (and not just the crazy “anonymous” one) think this excerpt from Stratfor is b.s. Maybe it is. I pulled it off a Lebanese blog, and the commenters don’t have much of an argument against it. But you can’t prove a negative and it isn’t passing the smell test.

Stratfor has sources that I don’t have, and that the Lebanese commenters don’t have. And Stratfor is more reliable than DEBKAfile, which I refuse to quote, ever. So let me just tag this one as controversial. I can’t stand by it because I didn’t write it, but I also don’t have any evidence that it’s false.

Faysal, the Sunni Lebanese who posted this on his blog, said in his comments section: “STRATFOR is a private intelligence firm with very close ties to the CIA. They have credibility. And I can confirm the arming and training of Sunni and Christian factions from sources in Lebanon.” But I don’t know Faysal, and I don’t know his sources.

There was a great deal of talk in Lebanon even before the July war about other groups and parties re-arming themselves in response to Hezbollah. And some of my trusted and reliable Lebanese sources and friends agree that West Beirut is a lot more dangerous now than it was and that there could be clashes there. We’ll see what happens.

UPDATE: Ok, more Lebanese whom I do know and trust also say this is bogus. I will take their word for it. Bogus it is.

UPDATE: Lebanese blogger Bad Vilbel adds in the comments — and I know he’s right about this:

Just because i don’t buy the “Sunnis and Christians training in Jordan” doesn’t mean I don’t think they are arming themselves. In fact, I am pretty sure they are. These folks were never “disarmed” in the first place. Everyone in Lebanon has weapons (and I don’t mean little handguns here). If violence were to break out today, Hezbollah might be the best organized and financed, but I can guarantee that both the Christians and the Sunnis, and most certainly the druze are armed and ready to go (as sad as that may sound).

Oops

I don’t know if this is true, so take it for what it’s worth. From Blacksmiths of Lebanon:

Al Seyassah daily learned from authoritative sources in Beirut, that one of the editors of the Syrian National News Agency (SANA) placed a phone call to a pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper at 3:05 pm on Tuesday. The caller inquired about the details of the assassination of Lebanese Minister for Industry Pierre Gemayel, raising eyebrows at the Lebanese newpaper. The timing of phone call was 55 minutes before the assassination was carried out.

Ten minutes after the call was place, the Syrian editor placed another phone call in order to apologize for a misunderstanding.

Link to original in Arabic.

Keystone Terrorists

Tony Badran has the latest on Syria’s transparent and laughably clumsy attempts to find a plausible “fall guy” for the murder of Pierre Gemayel. At least Damascus has enough sense to avoid blaming the Israelis for murdering a leader of the most historically pro-Israel political party in Lebanon.

Burning Aoun

Lebanese Christians tore down and burned portraits of Hezbollah’s tactical Christian ally Michel Aoun in Sassine Square (Achrafieh, Beirut) and elsewhere in the city.

When I first moved to Beirut, Bashir Gemayel’s portrait hovered over that square like a deity, around the corner from a shopping mall and across the street from a Starbucks. Bashir was assassinated shortly after being elected president of Lebanon in 1982, most likely for his anti-Syrian, anti-Palestinian, and pro-Israeli position. Pierre Gemayel, murdered just yesterday, was his nephew.

I’m not sure when, exactly, but at some point Michel Aoun’s portrait went up in Sassine. It looks like the ghost of Bashir owns the square again now.

(Note: the particular incident shown in the video is not the torching of the Sassine Square portrait. That portrait was bigger, and its burning seems to have taken place off-camera.)

UPDATE: Mustapha at Beirut Spring says “today will herald a new age of Hezbollah Isolation,” since Aoun’s group is attending Gemayel’s funeral. He may well be right. Hezbollah, properly cowed by the Lebanese majority, cancelled their scheduled riot today.

Blowback

Hezbollah’s tactical Christian ally Michel Aoun has asked members of his party to attend Pierre Gemayel’s funeral in Beirut tomorrow, the same day that Hezbollah is threatening to take to the streets.

The “alliance” between Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah is not a sincere one. It may or may not be able to withstand coming events. I seriously doubt it has any long-term viability. I met two members of Aoun’s movement who wanted to kill Hezbollah members even before Nasrallah strapped a suicide-bomb belt on Lebanon this summer.

Echoes of Zarqawi

If you think radical Shias are the only dangerous people in Lebanon, think again.

From the SITE Institute:

The Mujahideen in Lebanon threaten that the Shi’ites will not have an “entity” in Lebanon, and increasingly warn the Sunni Muslim people that the “zero-hour” is approaching, in a statement issued today, Monday, November 20, 2006. Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, is stated to be bearing his evil and gathering killers, and will not greet the Sunni with “flowers,” but with curses. The Mujahideen believe that the Nusayri [aka Alawite - MJT] regime in Syria and Iran is gathering parties around Nasrallah and Hezbollah, and to counter, the Sunnis must be prepared to fight. They warn: “The blood will flow like rivers,” and to the Shi’ites: “Prepare your coffins and dig your graves. The hurricanes of the Mujahideen are coming in Lebanon”.

This sentiment, if I could call it that, does not represent mainstream Sunni opinion in Lebanon. (Mainstream Sunni opinion is more fairly represented by Fouad Seniora and Saad Hariri.) But as recent events in both Lebanon and Iraq show, minority extremist factions can be big enough to start wars by themselves.

Incidentally, those Americans who say they want a civil war against Hezbollah in Lebanon need to realize that these are the kinds of people they’re egging on. The famous “protest babes” are not going to pick up the rifles.

Another Assassination in Beirut – Continuously Updated

The only thing that surprises me even slightly about today’s political assassination in Beirut is that the victim was Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, rather than Fouad Seniora, a Sunni.

All the assassination victims after Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, have been Christians. But the most heated sectarian tension right now is between Sunnis and Shias. The Christians aren’t in a fighting mood, but many say the Sunnis are. The Syrian regime cannot restrain itself from butchering its Lebanese enemies, but it looks to me like someone in Damascus just flinched.

Gemayel’s father Amin was President of Lebanon from 1982 to 1988, during the civil war. His uncle Bashir was elected president for that term, but he was assassinated shortly before taking office.

Gemayel’s party, the Kataeb, was an ally of Israel during the war.

UPDATE: Just spoke to a friend of mine in Lebanon. I did not realize until now that Gemayel was a member of the Lebanese cabinet. The Hezbollah/Syrian axis has been trying to bring down the government by pressuring three more members to resign. One down, two to go. Looks like the coup d’etat is in progress.

UPDATE: Abu Takla in the comments says “one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional.”

UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon’s political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.

UPDATE: Hezbollah is planning massive street “protests” on Thursday. Tony Badran notes: “This assassination will likely ensure that if such street rallies do take place, clashes would erupt, as it’s clear that the Syrians are set on that. (Just another reminder for the idiots who believe Syria is a force of “stability.”) Syria has a primary objective that outweighs everything else: kill the Hariri tribunal, and redominate Lebanon at any cost. This is nothing short than a fight to the death for the Syrians. And, as these thugs have done throughout their bloody history, they will kill anyone.”

UPDATE: “Anonymous Leb” in the comments says Abu Takla is wrong. The Syrian/Iranian/Hezbollah/Whatever axis needs to kill two more members of the cabinet to pull off their coup.

UPDATE: Mary Madigan is frustrated with fools who want to sit down and “talk” (in other words, cut deals) with Syria and Iran:

Discussions about Middle East politics remind me of a bit from a comic, Pearls Before Swine. One of the characters is a Zebra, who can’t understand why the lions keep eating his fellow Zebras. So, he writes a letter to the lions filled with philosophical questions about peace, understanding and the nature of being, asking why can’t they all get along, why can’t they be friends..

The answer comes back from the lions “we eat Zebras becuz you taste gud.”

UPDATE: The UN Security Council approved the tribunal that will put the Assad regime and its Lebanese tools on trial. Also, Abu Kais notes that March 14 is asking for massive turnout at Gemayel’s funeral in downtown Beirut on Thursday, the same day that Hezbollah says it will take to the streets to topple the government. Lebanese live in interesting times.

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