Not speaking often publicly on general issues is a main attribute of the top leadership in the Syrian Baathist regime. They rarely allow themselves to be faced and challenged by the media. The regime tends to convey its messages via different proxies and mouthpieces who are regime-linked. These unofficial spokespeople meet foreign officials or media to express the official line.
Take for example the Syrian uprising which is seven months old now. Rarely has a Syrian official has showed up in any TV show since the 'troubles' started in Syria; nothing like an interior minister, sub-minister or even a spokesman. The task is usually done by 'analysts', 'academics' or 'strategists' who are actually fiercer than the regime itself in expressing the official line. A lot of these names have become infamous now as they have been hosted almost full-time on satellite channels like AlArabiya and AlJazeera. Dr. Taleb Ibrahim is one of these. Of the few times the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem spoke to the media for example, they were in press conference type meetings rather than debate talk show types. Still, he managed to wipe out new countries when he spoke.
Lebanon's civil war ended in 1989 with a collective agreement between the different fighting factions, aided by an international patronage from Saudi Arabia, United States and Syria. The agreement, which was annexed to the country's constitution, was called the Taef Accord, referring to the area where the meeting was held in Saudi Arabia. Syria kept a strong influence afterwards until 2005, when its army withdrew from Lebanon.
At the time, the fighting factions compromised, accepted removing military presence and dismantling their militias structures, but they did that on one condition in return: sharing power. It was the easiest method (in theory) to stop the war, to hand power to the warlords. The civil war was actually a mini-global war fought by local pawns. It was fueled by the Lebanese internal divisions, but the United States, Soviet Union, Israel, Palestinians, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya had direct interests (or presence) in Lebanon's war.
In 1991, the Lebanese government and parliament drafted and approved an Amnesty Law against all crimes committed during the war. Again, it was an easy fix of brushing all the problems under the carpet, forgetting all suffering and destruction cause by the war. The law was marketed at the time as a way of 'reconciliation', to be expected from a system run by the warlords themselves, the same people who ran the war. From 1990 onwards, they filled all cabinet and parliament posts, and they kept a strong grip on power until this moment of time. Many of them are preparing their sons to take over too.
The Lebanese daily newspaper Almustaqbal reported today that the head of Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in Lebanon General Michel Aoun referred to Hezbollah as a ‘terrorist organisation’ in one of the Wikileaks cables (06Beirut413). Other media outlets reported the story referring to Almustaqbal, and one of them was Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), where the author read this piece news (on their website).
Almustaqbal newspaper is owned by the business tycoon, Hezbollah’s political opponent and Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. If this is true, it will be a blow to the current alliance that exists between Michel Aoun and Hezbollah. This alliance has been the corner stone of what’s known as ‘March 8’ camp in the Lebanese politics, which is basically a pro-Hezbollah alliance. Hariri is the leader of ‘March 14’ camp, which is an anti-Hezbollah alliance.
Hezbollah is a main player in Lebanese politics, and has a main regional dimension too. It represents a fore front extension of the alliance between Syria, Iran on the Lebanese borders which stands up to Israel. Going back to the subject cable 06Beirut413 and the story in Almustaqbal. The author actually read this cable before Almustaqbal, and soon after its release. The author decided then NOT to write about it, as he didn’t find anything unusual or already not available in the public domain.
Photo credit AFP.
We all know the reasons why Hezbollah is keeping its arms in Lebanon, despite the liberation of the South from Israeli occupation (except Sheba’s farms). This is directly related to an Iranian decision facilitated by Syria, so it’s much more than a matter of pure ‘national interest’. We, in Lebanon are too nice that we serve the ‘whole region’s interests’, and we have been doing so for almost centuries.
But it’s different when you hear it from the Speaker Nabih Berri straight to the American Ambassador. Anyway, this is what the US cable 01BEIRUT3057 released by Wikileaks told us. By the way, our politicians don’t tell us this in public, or when they stand for elections, although we know it, but they are proud to admit to the big powers that they are not masters of their own destiny, and they are just pawns for other ‘big powers’. Ironically, Nabih Berri accuse his Lebanese political opponents of being pawns to their American masters (which is true in some examples). Is this some type of schizophrenia?
The cable goes back to 2001, 18 months after the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon. In it, Berri said that the path Hizballah chooses (supposedly provocative or passive, or to disarm or not) would depend on the course of US-Iranian relations…then Bla bla bla on Sheba’ farms…then Berri predicated that there would be no end to cross-border attacks until there was a comprehensive peace agreement. Ok, I don’t know, they keep tell us that Hizballah’s arms are there to defend Lebanon (yes, but may be on the way).
Photo credit GlobalVoicesOnline.
Who said that CIA didn’t know where Imad Mughniyeh was, or what was his job, or didn’t have any hints!?
This is from Wikileaks 95BEIRUT2749 cable released 3 days ago, in its para 8:
"for what it is worth, papers also report trends which suggest business as usual for Hizballah. The often inaccurate daily ‘Nida Al-Watan’ reported the re-election of Imad Mughniyah as the central security chief, with four assitants named Mustafa Badr Ad-Dine …"
Have you noticed who was mentioned too? Yep, the suspect in Rafiq Hariri’s murder as per the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (as of 2011), Mustafa BadrEddine. What a coincidence!
Ironically, the partisan newspaper Nida Al-Watan was right in this reporting. The cable is written in a tone suspecting this report, with no further comment on Mughniyeh who was one of the most wanted men by the CIA at the time. For me, it seemed business as usual to the cable author.
It’s not clear why the US didn’t make a big fuss out of it in Lebanon or with its government. It may be because they knew they couldn’t reach him in diplomatic means as they would have had to go via Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. And they may have simply waited for 9 years before they got him in their democratic way.
In my ‘Lebanon, the medieval Ottoman country’ post, I described 14March leaders as a bunch of sectarian warlords. I was not indicating only to their history during the Lebanese civil war, but rather to their current and recent history in peace time.
These leaders are currently advocating building a civil unarmed society in Lebanon (which is their main argument against Hezbollah), but in reality they do not mind getting armed to fight Hezbollah. I think they surely serve foreign interests in a way or another too, or at least they accept to be used. Let’s be practical here, we know how international politics is conducted, and politicians have to exploit international balances and political opportunities, and this is fine. But to ‘exploit’ opportunities to go back to civil war? I am not sure about that.
So the biggest scandal of all, which was revealed by the recently released American diplomacy cables by Wikileaks (and Al-Akhbar newspaper in Lebanon), was their readiness, intention and initiative to seek arms. I don’t deny that Hezbollah was acting like a militia then and still, but this problem surely can’t be solved by having other ‘too many militias’. After 25 years of civil war (1975-1990), 200,000 estimated fatalities, 1 million wounded, and 350,000 displaced person, I am completely baffled that some Lebanese leaders and their supporters still believe that military fights can sort out political and social problems on the ground.
I list below the released cables with links to the original source, which show the Lebanese leaders hypocritical and stupid mentality:
Bombardment of Lebanon by Israel, according to UPI, began on July 12, 2006, just after “Shiite Hezbollah militiamen captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in cross-border attacks.” The country’s infrastructure had been a prime target with the country’s sole international airport in Beirut, ports, power stations, telecommunications, roads and bridges and buildings being devastated. Over three hundred Lebanese civilians had been killed and, simultaneously, the Gaza strip was under assault from Israel as well.
Israel launched the attacks in an effort to neutralize Hezbollah. Arab leaders unified behind a call for an immediate cease-fire in the war. They came out strongly in defense of the Lebanese government and stated a top priority was to silence weapons and help bring an end to the attacks on Lebanese civilians and the destruction of infrastructure.
This is the climate that led columnist Saad Al Bawardi to publish a poem titled, “Letter to Bush,” in an Al Jazeera newspaper on August 13, 2006. The poem condemned then-U.S. President George W. Bush and “U.S. foreign policy regarding Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq.” And, it was the subject of a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks that was sent out by US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James C. Oberwetter from the Riyadh embassy in Saudi Arabia on August 16, 2006.
A recent cable, from 2010, announces: “Jordan continues to face some of the most troubling challenges of King Abdullah's 10-year reign.¨ These problems are a deficit of USD 1.43 billion, unstable regional politics, originated from the continuous privilege of rural communities in the East Bank over urban communities with larger Palestinian populations, rigged elections and unequal political rights (09AMMAN813). The cables also reveal that this inequality is created by the government and pushed through by force: “The King's economic and political changes face domestic opposition from tribal leaders and an array of entrenched East Bank interests. The latter include many in the military, security services, and bureaucracy, who enjoy a disproportionate share of the current system”. (10AMMAN329).
According Amman News, Secretary General of the Popular Unity Party Saeed Dhiyab stated that “the clashes were instigated by a group of hooligans, and charged that security forces condoned the violence by not intervening to break out the fights”. The current unrest in Jordan seems to be -once again-, the response of the population towards a whole history of repression and injustice practiced by its government. The clashes started on the 18th of February in the capital, Amman, between protestors calling for political and economic reform, and a group for "Loyalty and Belonging" to King Abdullah II. The clash produced an unconfirmed number of victims. Foreign journalists reported violent threats to confiscate their cameras and the media is still gagged by the government.
Information technology as development has been central to Egyptian economic policy since 1999, when Mubarak appointed Ahmed Nazif, the recently resigned Prime Minister, to a newly created post, Minister for Communications and Information Technology.
As the former Minister of CIT, Nazif established Egypt's free internet connectivity plan and improved public access to computers (Source: Wikipedia). But, as Prime Minister, Nazif extended the application of Egypt's thirty-year old state of emergency law. The Overseas Press Club of America observes that notwithstanding remarks made by the regime that the law is "only to be invoked during proclamations of emergency," the fact is "authorities continue to use the emergency law to detain dissidents, including journalists and respected bloggers.”
Dr. Tarek Kamel was elevated to his current post as Egypt's Minister of CIT when Nazif, his former boss was appointed PM. Nazif in turn picked Kamel to replace him. (Source:Khaled Fatta)
Kamel, like Nazif believes that social and economic channels exists primarily to reinforce regime power. As a techno-bureaucrat, Kamel lobbies the Internet as the "backbone of social-economic development," but only when it pacifies public dissent and 'backbones' the regime. When public dissent threatens the status quo, the Internet gets turned off.
Anger has flooded the streets of Beirut, Tripoli, and other cities in Lebanon, where supporters of caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri have been protesting the nomination of Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati.
Lawmakers in Beirut voted on Tuesday to back Najib Mikati, the candidate Hezbollah had proposed, as a prime minister. He gained 68 votes to Hariri's 60, putting the Hezbollah-led opposition in a position to form a government. (Source)