Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 26th, 2011

What’s going on in Syria? Any insider pieces of intelligence? Part two

That may have been the longest and most terrifying week for the Syrian president Bashar Assad.  External interventions could not scare the Syrian regime, but vast internal unrest is another different story to consider very seriously.

For example, since 2005, the French president Jacques Chirac had a priority and a fixation to dismantle the one-party rule in Syria, especially the Assad oligarchy that ruled Syria since 1971.

Chirac blamed Syria for the assassination of ex-prime Minister Rafic Hariri and did his best to condemn Syria via the International Court on Lebanon.

US President Bush Jr. also wanted this occurrence as Syria initially refused to support the unilateral US invasion of Iraq in 2003, until Bush discovered that he badly needs the cooperation of Syria with the open vast borders with Iraq.

France Sarkozy and Obama  are no longer interested in exercising any seriuos pressures on Syria: Syria is entirely off the hook from the International Court on Lebanon.

Obviously, Israel relied on the Assad family and did its best convincing rhetorics for that clan to remain in power:  The Israeli occupied Golan Heights were the most secure and safest place on earth since 1973.

Information on the two-week long uprising and demonstrations in several Syrian cities and the Capital Damascus are controversial and not covered in details.  There are intended blackout by most media channels, western, and Arab States for disseminating useful intelligent pieces.

A few cable news mention over 100 killed, particularly in the southern city of Daraa, on the borders with Jordan.  The Syrian media displayed arms stocked in the Daraa mosque and denunciation of violent infiltrated elements.

The Syrian dictatorial regime responded with promises of vast reforms from instant increase in wages, the release of  political prisoners, laws on forming political parties to be reviewed, and more freedom of expressions… The Syrian Baath party faction is to meet today for critical analysis of the situations and considering alternative reforms.

Bashar Assad is a young dictator and serious about development reforms, as all young dictators think.  For example, Qadhafi, Abdel Nasser, Abdallah Saleh of Yemen…were very promising figures of their period.

It would be tough for Bashar to reconsider giving away the oligarchic interests of the Assad extended family.

Most probably, the Syrian people want a moratorium on dictators, oligarchy, and absolute monarchies.  Sort of it is okay, a decade later, for these forms of governance to return to the front scene?

For the time being, most people are exhausted with decades of dictatorial regimes and want some fresh air to blowing away layers of technocrats that were trained to be amoral and unethical by serving the enduring power-to-be.

The steadfast and determined mass protests are the result of the population knowing full well the vengeful tribal mentality of their rulers:  The masses know that if they relent before the entire structure is gone and that any reprieve to the oligarchic system means the reorganization and launching of mass arrests, summarily executions, humiliation tactics, and an open climate of terror.

The Determination of the masses is the result of innate survival process:  Either they win or they are massacred.

Do you think that the Ben Ali and Mubarak would have learned the lesson of respecting their people desires and wants? In Yemen, the people are not relinquishing their marches since the uprising started a month ago:  They know the reactions of the kinds of Abdullah Salef if he is given a breathing space.  Anyone doubt that Qadhafi would not have wiped out a third of the Libyan population if the UN postponed indefinitely any resolution for imposing a “No fly zone”?

You have an excellent demonstration of what’s happening in Bahrain:  The King has arrested all the leaders of the uprising, is readying to hire one thousand Pakistani soldiers, cut diplomatic relations with Iran and Lebanon on the basis that Hezbollah denounced the strong arm tactics of this monarchy, and prohibited the Lebanese immigrants, legally working in Bahrain, from returning home and considering every Lebanese as enemy to their stupid monarchy, and on… Do not be surprised when you hear news of blatant atrocities and crimes against humanity are perpetrated openly in Bahrain.

In 1980, Hafez Assad encircled the city of Hama with his special troops, entered the city, and never ever left the city.

There were no serious coverage of what happened.  Every now and then, when the US is unhappy with the regime of Hafez, innuendos would circulate that Assad slaughtered 20,000 Syrians living in Hama.  It is an unbelievable number to take seriously:  Just disposing of the bodies of a number of that magnitude in a short time would overthrow any regime, even Hitler and Stalin.

In any case, many Sunni Moslems in Hama, expressing dislike for the Alawi regime, disappeared.  No international court or any indictment by the UN ever materialized.  Nobody know, even today, the number of casualties:  Not the exact number but the scale; is it in the dozen, hundreds, or thousands…?

On Friday of last week, mass upheavals were spreading in Syria; from the city of Daraa by the borders with Jordan, to Banyas, Tartous, Homs, and way to the north in the Kurdish region.  Last week, there were a couple of shy demonstrations localized in Damascus demanding the liberation of political prisoners.  Four demonstrators were killed in Daraa.

President Bashar Assad sent two official delegates to pay condolence to the bereaved families of the dead citizens.  As they finished their visit, the two delegates had three more casualties on hand.

The Syrian government blamed “infiltrators” disguised in internal security outfit to ordering live ammunition shooting on peaceful marchers.  The infiltrators also burned the headquarter of the one-party Baath regime and the court of justice in the city.  You have to admit that the “infiltrators” are awfully skilled:  The government security specialists have proven to be no match to infiltrators.

The President Bashar Assad had decreed last week the liberation of most prisoners, political and non political, those over 70 years and the terminally sick…Maybe it was just a promise?  As all promises that the people have been hearing for decades?

I guess Bashar forgot to mention that the political system needed to be reformed and that the Assad regime, father to son, since 1971, has to make rooms for democratic succession and away from a “one-party” rule.

Syria has grown to 20 million in population.  Amid the turmoil in the Middle-East, Syria of the Assad socialist regime managed to bring sort of stability and security; it maintained a steady currency and invested in decent infrastructure and schooling for all.  Invariably, oligarchic regimes ends up getting involved in widespread corruptions and considering the State Treasury as family holdings.

Bashar succeeded to his father in 2000.  Israel unilaterally retreated from south Lebanon in 2000, quickly and never turning back to facing the deadly blows of the Lebanese resistance forces.  Instead of announcing a timetable for the retreat of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the new Syrian President got immersed resolving side problems and affirming his power, until Hariri was assassinated in 2005 and the Syrian troops felt it wise to retreat from all Lebanon.

The Assad regime is based on the minority Alawi sect, a kind of Shia sect, and most of the sensitive positions in the army and internal security system are in the hands of the extended family members.  The Syria Baath party made alliance with a few political parties for the Parliament, but there is a deep sense that the structure of this regime is fundamentally an oligarchic system.

The Syrian regime masterfully kept diplomatic dialogue with the US  Administrations and reached many tacit agreements in cooperating with the US in Iraq, even though Syria is included in the “black list” as a “rogue State” not entirely supporting the US policies.

Syria maintained a strong alliance with Iran for three decades and currently extended firm alliance with Turkey.  The regimes of Mubarak of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan kept the squeeze on Syria by orders from the USA for two decades.  Syria had close ties with Libya of Qadhafi and is still supporting Qadhafi with jet pilots, until the “No Fly Zone” was established.

Two days ago, Syria announced its support to the expeditionary Saudi forces in Bahrain on the premises that these forces were legitimate since they were demanded by the King of Bahrain!  In the meanwhile, Iran vehemently denounced these incursions into Bahrain and is against Qadhafi.  Thus, Syria flaunted Iran’s policies in the region twice in less than two days.  Syria is wooing the alliance of Egypt and Saudi Arabia in order to ward off the current mass Arab uprising everywhere.  Maybe Syria made a hasty move away from Iran before securing its internal stability with new political reforms.

It is obvious that no foreign alliances can withstand the new wrath of the people for everlasting regimes of dictators, one-party regimes, and absolute monarchies.

Lebanon youth have been demonstrating for a secular political structure.

The monarchy in Morocco is witnessing mass upheavals in 40 cities.

Time for outraged is not going to subside any time soon.

Part 1.  Biography of a period (Lebanon, 1989-2009): President Emile Lahoud

Before 1989

The mother of President Emile Lahoud is from Armenia and his wife is Armenian and he speaks Armenian. In 1954, Emile miraculously recovered from meningitis while studying in London and thus decided to enjoy life to the hilt.  He spent his adolescent years riding a convertible white jaguar; he had a chalet on the beach and partied all night long. Lahoud married Andree Amadony in 1967.

Emile Lahoud would repeat this anecdote, countless times, for whoever cares to listen:  When a schoolboy, he got into a fight and had his regulation school overcoat ripped. His father, General Jamil Lahoud, asked him “Is your conscious at peace?” The reply was affirmative and the father said “Don’t you worry then; you will have another coat made”

Emile Lahoud used to never wear any coat or jacket during the coldest seasons until a friend was once shocked to see him swimming and asked him “Have you got hit on your head as a kid?”  Since then, Lahoud wears a simple black leather jacket in winter time, just to save appearances of normalcy.

Lahoud’s breakfast is a piece of banana and a cone of ice cream for lunch.  The main eating session is dinner.  Lahoud records on a tape the topics that he wants to approach in a discussion or matters to follow up on.

General Emile Lahoud, Army Chief

Emile Lahoud ascended the military ranks normally and was the first Chief of the army who came from the ridiculously tiny navy. He was appointed Chief in November 1989 after General Michel Aoun was forced into exile to France.

General Lahoud had the task to re-unite the dismantled army after over 15 years of civil war; he combined the regiments so that they represent all the Lebanese sects and ordered the regiments to relocate every 9 months to different parts of Lebanon so that every soldier knows his country.  He negotiated the best deals for arms, medicine, and insurance.

The General refused political deals with President Hrawy and Rafic Hariri PM for transferring officers and followed the strict military procedures.  Any high officer who refused to obey orders for the re-organization of the army was dismissed and Syria never tried to pressure Lahoud to rescinding his orders.  The billionaire Rafic Hariri used to offer the army cash money every month but General Lahoud refused saying “The State is responsible for the budget of the army” so that he can exercise his functions without undue political pressures.

There was an international decision to contain the Islamic resistance in south Lebanon and General Lahoud refused to confront the army with the Lebanese resistance fighting the Israeli occupiers.  President Hafez Assad of Syria decided to meet Lahoud for the first time.  General Lahoud told Hafez Assad “I am re-building the army to resist Israel and my conscience refuses to fight those who are fighting Israeli occupation”

Since that meeting the political pressures on Lahoud faded away and he could focus on the re-organization of the army and freeing the resistance from political pressures and its freedom of movement in areas not in the army control.  When Israel bombed Lebanon for 7 days in 1993, General Lahoud ordered to return fire and Israel stopped its shelling.

Walid Jumblat, leader of the Druze sect in the district of Shouf, offered General Lahoud a bullet proof car on account that their fathers were close friends.  Lahoud returned the car a few months later when he realized that Jumblat is in the habit of blackmailing for political gains.

The government had ordered the army to recuperate all public facilities and Lahoud recaptured the palaces of Al Amine in Beit El Dine to the growing angst of Jumblat.  Another time General Lahoud sent an army support to accompany the Druze Sheikh Akl Bahjat Ghaith to his home because Jumblatt forbade the Sheikh from entering his hometown.

Mr. President of the Republic

Lahoud was elected President of the Republic by the majority of 118 out of 128 deputy votes after revising an item in the Taef Constitution.  Item 49 in the Constitution denied candidacy to any a high ranked employee before resigning his post for a period. General Lahoud was elected President on October 15, 1998 and his first public oath in the Parliament said: “The President of the Republic is the only official to swear allegiance to the nation and to obey the law.  Thus, since I will be under the Law I expect everyone else to emulate my subordination to the Laws of the Land”

President Lahoud had a program of fighting corruption and made it clear and loud in his speech that didn’t mention the ex-President Hrawi or the ex Hariri PM in any sections of the speech.

When ex-President Hrawi urged Hafez Assad to change his choice Assad said: “The Lebanese public polls selected Emile Lahoud for President and I want him there” The Syrian President had complete confidence in the former Army Chief that he will first, resume his policy of strengthening and unifying the Lebanese army and will refrain from drawing the Lebanese army in internal infighting such as with Hezbollah and thus save the Syrian army any uncalled for problems, and second, that Lahoud will never contemplate unilateral negotiation with Israel.

Hafez Assad was not concerned with the Lahoud’s program for drastic reforms and fighting corruption.  Thus, Lahoud had to deal with a rotten political system in Lebanon that constituted an insurmountable barrier to change: the Taef Constitution robbed the President of valuable powers that were transferred basically to the Prime Minister and the cabinet combined.

Hariri had proclaimed three months ago that “I will return Prime Minister whoever is elected President to the Republic”  Hariri had returned from a long trip visiting important capitals and secured assent to be accepted as Prime Minister but only 83 out of 128 deputies selected him directly and the remaining deputies allowed the President to vote for them.

Cocky Hariri went publicly asking that another round of consultation takes place because he wanted as many representative votes as the President of 118 deputies.  Lahoud reacted by publicly accepting Hariri refusal and appointed Salim Hoss as Prime Minister with 95 deputy votes.

This tactic of Hariri backfired as he realized that Syria could easily deal with another Prime Minister.  Hariri was positioning himself for a vaster role as co-partner in the coming Middle East peace accord that he sincerely believed was almost agreed on.

It was a tradition since independence for the newly elected President of Lebanon to pay an official visit to France first of all.  Jacques Chirac was highly displeased that Lahoud did not mention France contribution to the April 1996 agreement to localize the confrontations in south Lebanon and for not consulting him on the government that excluded Rafic Hariri.  Consequently, Chirac took it personally and canceled the appointment for a formal visit to France.  Later Chirac was pressured to dissociate France interest in Lebanon from his personal animosity with Lahoud and the Francophone convention took place in Beirut in 2000.

In June 1999, assassins of the extremist Sunni movement “Osbat al Ansaar” killed four judges within Saida Court House and fled to the nearby Palestinian camp of Ain Helwi.  Lahoud understood that it was a trap to inciting the Lebanese army to start a war on the Palestinian camps; instead Lahoud focused on encircling the camp to apprehend the assassins.

As this nasty trap failed to divide the government, Israel launched destructive raids on Lebanon’s infrastructure targeting the electrical power plants and water pumps. Lahoud asked the Lebanese to contribute to a bank account in order to support the State treasury to rebuild what was demolished; (I remember that I contributed $100 while in the USA).  The Lebanese overseas contributed 50 millions dollars to that fund.

The president of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, told Lahoud “You are an excellent soldier but lack political acumen”.  Lahoud replied “If I managed to become Chief of the army and President of the Republic with lack of political acumen how do you think my path would have unfolded if I was cleverer in politics?”

In another moment Berri told the biographer:  “Lahoud plays it dumb but he is aware of all the political details and smarter in politics than most Lebanese politicians.  For example, Lahoud retains General Jamil Al Sayyed, Director of the General Security in Lebanon, in all his discussions with foreign personalities so that Al Sayyed would testify to the Syrian officials.”  Berri had no liking for the strong Shiaa man Al Sayyed.

Lahoud finally met with Rafic Hariri in the summer Palace of Beit El Dine after months of avoiding face to face encounter. Lahoud told Hariri “From the first moment, I knew that you wanted as much weight among the deputies as I obtained in my election for the presidency so that you may force on me your conditions. I kept the honest and performing high officials that you appointed and will dismiss anyone that is not up to his responsibilities.  I intended you to be my first Prime Minister but I was in no mood to be subjected to any conditions.  I know that you are spending lots of money on the media to ruin the image of this government but this not the way to behave with me.”  Two days later president Basher Assad paid Lahoud a quick visit to Lebanon and publicly supported the president and Hoss PM. To be continued

Note:  This is a biography of ex-President of the Republic of Lebanon Emile Lahoud from 1989 to 2009, written by Karim Bakradouni.  I had already reviewed “Shock and Steadfastness” (Sadmat wa Soumoud) in two posts.   I decided to re-edit the two posts in two tighter articles based on historical chronology, and further expansion.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

March 2011
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