Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Emile Lahoud

Biography of a period (1989-2009); (June 4, 2009)

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

Before 1989

The mother of 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 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.

General Lahoud 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 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 and 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 then I expect everyone else to emulate my subordination to the Law 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 Asad 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.  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 then 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 then how my path you have unfolded if I was cleverer in politics?”  In another moment Berri told the author “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.

President Lahoud decided to spend part of summer in the Presidential Palace in Beit El Dine and for that purpose had to relocate the bust of Kamal Jumblat off the entrance and waited for Walid to ship it somewhere else at his own responsibility. Walid said “I will never forget what Lahoud did for the duration of my life!”  Walid Jumblat tried scare tactics on Lahoud by assuring him that the Syria President is terminally ill and that his son Bashar will not succeed his father Hafez and that General Hekmat Shahaby and Abdel Haleem Khaddam will take over the regime.  Lahoud retorted “Bashar will be the next appointed President and I am trying my best to take on the responsibilities of the Presidency and to recapture the dignity of the State under one leader”  Jumbalt said “I don’t like the military”.  Lahoud replied “I don’t like the militias”.

Once, Lahoud saw on the TV Hoss PM meeting Jumblat who was in jeans.  Lahoud sent his assistant to inform Jumblat that he will not be welcomed in the Presidential Palace if he ever arrives not wearing a tie.   President Lahoud comprehended that Walid Jumblatt’s attitude, as his father Kamal, amounted to a historical trend of blaming the Christian Maronite sect for having robbed the Druze out of the leadership of Mount Lebanon.

In November 1999, the French Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine had a lengthy discussion with President Lahoud.  Vedrine had toured several capitals and his impression was that a resolution of the Middle East crisis was less ripe as he expected.  Ehud Barak of Israel was sending tactical contradictory messages hoping for starting any kinds of negotiations with either Lebanon or Syria so that he won’t have to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon and give Hezbollah the impression of defeating Israel by acts of resistance.  Barak would not pronounce on the complete withdrawal from the Golan as requested by Hafez Assad and President Lahoud would not negotiate without Syria’s approval. Consequently, Barak was forced to withdraw from Lebanon without any pre-conditions in May 24, 2000 because Israel was in fact paying a high price in Lebanon for insisting on keeping the Golan Heights.

Vedrine and Lahoud discussed the Palestinian problems.  Vedrine was offering the suggestion that Lebanon refrains from adamantly proclaiming that every Palestinian in the refugee camps should leave Lebanon; Verdrine wished that Lebanon should just be satisfied maintaining the Constitution requirement of the Palestinian rights to return.  Lahoud stated that the Palestinians are procreating three times faster than the Lebanese and constitute now 10% of the population or 400,000 and this fact is a highly “explosive bomb” that has the potential to destabilize the Lebanese social and political fabrics.

Lahoud confirmed that the Palestinians in the camps are suffering a harsh life but arms in the camps are no longer directed toward Israel since the Oslo Agreement in 1993.  It appeared that the financial compensation was already settled among the donating powers but the potential Palestinian State would be small and economically fragile to sustain the relocation of all the Palestinian refugees.

In October 2000, Hezbollah took prisoners three Israeli soldiers in the Shabaa Farms and then lured the retired Israeli Colonel El Hanane Tanenboum to Beirut.  Albright demanded the release of the Israeli prisoners and Ehub Barak gave an ultimatum within 4 hours. Lahoud answered the US Ambassador Satterfield “Consider the 4 hours have ended.  I will not negotiate the release of the Israeli prisoners” Lahoud was in strong position because the Lebanese army was not on the borders so that Israel could not exercise any pressures on the President.

In August, 2001, Patriarch Sfeir visited the Shouf for 3 days and was welcomed with mass rallies. On his last stop in the town of Kahaleh demonstrators jeered the names of Bashar Assad and Syria.  A few demonstrators were incarcerated. On August 7, confrontations in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut resulted in ugly visual brutality by security forces wearing civilian clothes.  Both Lahoud and Hariri realized that they were targeted and that any impression of loss of control over the security services is bad omen.

In the morning of September 11, 2001, Larsen and De Mistoura (UN representative in Lebanon) met with Lahoud.  De Mistoura told Lahoud that Ariel Sharon is preventing his Foreign Affairs minister Shimon Peres to meet with Arafat.  Larsen asked Lahoud how he foresees the coming events.  Lahoud replied “The reactions of the Palestinians to the brutality of the Israelis are the consequences of despair for any peaceful resolution. It is no longer acceptable that Israel control the world”  Lahoud went on “Reactions of despair might reach the USA as what happened to the Twin Towers previously” By the afternoon, the Al Qaeda was blowing the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and Bush Jr. was taken to hiding for the day.. Larsen called and asked “How did you know what will happen this afternoon?” Lahoud replied “If I knew then I would have been more powerful than the USA”.

The ex-President Emile Lahoud fought the good fight to keep the right of return of the UN resolution 194 alive during his tenure. For example, before the Summit of the Arab League in Beirut of April 2002, the Saudi Foreign Affairs Seoud Al Faissal visited President Lahoud on March 22 and handed him the project of the Saudi Monarch of “peace for land” without a specific clause of “the right of return” within the main paper.  President Lahoud refused the project.

Lahoud was then subjected to all kinds of pressures and diplomatic maneuvering to let the written project “as is” with no modifications but he didn’t relent. The Arab leaders suggested including the “right of return” as a separate clause to no avail. The Saudi Prince Abdallah was forced to include the clause as intrinsic part of the peace for land PROJECT.  Lahoud denied a direct TV message of Arafat from Rammalah until the the clause of “right of return” is included: Lahoud sensed that if Arafat des not mention the clause then the Arab States would go along; a fact that does not suit Lebanon’s interest. The USA vowed to make the tenure of Lahoud a period of hell for foiling their major political goal.

During the summet Hariri complained to the Syrian President “I cannot go on with president Lahoud: he treatd us as kids.”  Lahoud replied “This is an internal affair.  We don’t need to our spread our dirty clothes.”

Lahoud and Hariri reached a deal for the State to own wireless communication, the only sector still generating profit to the State.  Hariri told Lahoud “I decided to extend your tenure for another 6 years.  I will also build the longest bridge in the world between Kasleek and Tabarja and I’ll name it Emile Lahoud.”  Lahoud replied: “I am not asking for anything. You are an excellent contractor but you need to know me first.  If you are right then I will support your for nothing in return, otherwise you will have to convince me or kill me.”

In October 2002, Lahoud personally inaugurated the Wazani water project in south Lebanon simply because the US Ambassador warned him “not to go for fear on his life.”  On October 18, 2002, Lebanon welcomed the Francophone Summit of 43 States.

In 2005, a French boat was crisscrossing the coast for a while.  Lahoud had a talk with the captain who admitted that Hariri PM had asked him to explore the availably of gas offshore.  Hariri was “secretly readying to invite foreign company to exploit any gas fields.  Lahoud told him: “Gas is a strategic material and should not be in the hands of foreign investors”

In March 2006, The Arab States leaders met in Khartoum (Sudan). President Lahoud included the clause “We confirm that the Lebanese Resistance is a true expression of the Lebanese people rights for liberating his land and defending his honor against the successive Israeli incursions and expansions.”  Seniora PM insisted on erasing the term “Lebanese resistance” on account that it is under discussion.  Seniora failed lamentably and the Arab Summit sent him packing to Lebanon. Seniora tried to take the issue in the Parliament but Nabih Berri reminded him “The right of the Lebanese resistance is in the government declaration.  If you want to rescind it then you have to resign. What you did in Kharoum is not an error but a capital sin.  The issue of the Lebanese resistance is no longer under discussion because it is here to stay.”

The political parties allied to the government of Seniora PM and Saad Hariri lost their case of removing President Lahoud before the end of his tenure because they had no substitute.  George W. Bush tried to strengthen Seniora’s morale by welcoming him as an exceptional head of state.

“The Table of Dialogue” among the leaders of the political parties met in May 2006 and the General Secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasr Allah, explained in details for over 70 minutes the military status of the Lebanese Resistance. The meeting was adjourned to June 8 so that the government could prepare an alternative “Strategic Defense Plan”.  The Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a letter to the meeting saying: “Syria has no problem of opening an Embassy in Lebanon if you consider it necessary since the distance between Beirut and Damascus is shorter than Damascus to its closest main city Homs.  Syria is ready as long as this demand is not attached to any foreign pressures and conditions.  Syria is ready to resolve all border disputes that are not under Israeli occupation such as the Sheba3a Farms”

In mid June the army intelligence agencies uncovered an Israeli spy ring that confessed of aiding and executing assassinations.  Lahoud said “Nobody would believe me when I said that Israel’s Mossad is behind the assassination of Rafic Hariri in collaboration with Islamic extremists.”  Bashar Assad said of President Lahoud “He is a man that never let his morals slumber under no conditions or situations. Syria had the hardest of tasks dealing with Lahoud.  Lahoud’s steadfastness and recalcitrant attitudes worn us out because he does not change his convictions.”

Israel started her 33 days of destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure on July 12, 2006.Nasr Allah proclaimed: “We have the two soldiers’ prisoner and the entire world will never recover them without indirect negotiation.  We have no intention for any escalation of the war and our reactions are calm and balanced.  If Israel decides for an all out war then they should expect many surprises.”  President Lahoud declared that Hezbollah will win the war and Israel will fail in all its objectives; Israel had planned for this war for a long time but Tsahal wil never manage to corner the resistance.  The Defense minister Murr asked for $36 millions for 5 units of ammunitions for 5 days since the army had but only one unit and $7 millions for transport gas.

Seniora PM wanted the government to state that it was not aware of Hezbollal’s actions and would have not agreed and thus would take no responsibilities. Lahoud gave a long interview to CNN.  On July Seniora PM proposed a program to sending the army to the south. Lahoud replied: “Israel and the US want to get what they failed in peace time to sending the army to be a police force for Israel’s security. Israel had repeatedly humiliated the Lebanese army when it was stationed in south Lebanon. Now Israel is threatening but has refrained from invading Lebanon since the army withdrew and the resistance is in place.”

During the July 12, 2006 war with Israel President Lahoud said “Tomorrow war academies will teach how tiny Lebanon defeated mighty Israel.  Our citizens have the right on their side and they are willing to die for their rights and dignity under the sun”

Lahoud cowed under the UN pressures to preventing detention of the four highest ranking military and security officers without any concrete charges pretending that he could not violate the Constitution.  The fact is that Syria was in no mood to get deeper in Lebanon’s quagmire and Lahout had no potential leverage to effectively challenge the international schemes in Lebanon and Syria.

Lahoud said in the last week of his presidency “I adhered to four constants: protecting the resistance, coordinating with Syria, insisting on the “right of return” for the Palestinians, and straightness in governing. I was demanded to crush Hezbollah, to antagonize Syria, to facilitate the settlement of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and to dilapidate the financial grants for the benefit of multinational facilities.

Friday, November 23, 2008 was the last day of Lahoud in the presidential Palace in Baabda. There was no official scheduling for visitors. A few Deputies tried to convince him to form an interim government but he refused to repeat the ill fated decision of Amine Gemayel in 1988 that wrecked Lebanon with two de facto governments.  The evening supper was restricted to the close family and grandchildren.  Lahoud’s wife Andre said that she never felt any warmth or soul in the Palace.  At exactly midnight President Lahoud left the Palace; over 300 journalists and reporters were waiting outside. To a question on the future of Lebanon Lahoud answered “I am convinced that the Lebanese resistance will win, Lebanon will win, the illegitimate government will end even if supported by the US and Israel and a constitutional government will finally be installed and overcome the problems.”

The Army Chief Michel Suleiman was to institute an emergency state until the formation of a legitimate government but he apparently he was promised the Presidency if he disobeyed the order.  Michel Suleiman was indeed appointed president 6 months later on May 25, 2008.

(The conflict between President Lahoud and Rafic Hariri PM could be resumed in two concepts of what Lebanon represented.  Hariri viewed Lebanon as Prime Real Estate destination for those who could afford it; a center for the multinationals for banking, trade, and services as Dubai was transformed; a luxury State for the well to do: investment had to be focus in select urban areas along with the necessary infrastructures to attract foreign investment. Lahoud wanted a State governed to represent the majority of the Lebanese who were robbed of their savings and barely surviving in a State that refuses to invest in agriculture, small industries, and in rural areas.  The conflict was mainly between preserving a dignity within our means and an open market for exchange of people and goods.

Hariri was made to be convinced for a time that peace treaty in the Middle East is a matter of months and Lebanon should be prepared for the next phase; President Lahoud was more objective in his reading of the political climate: there were no peace treaties and Lebanon is going to be used as a field of armed conflicts for the divergent regional interests.  Lahoud wanted the closest ties with Syria as the main protector in this dangerous period for security and also relying on a well organized resistance movement (Hezbollah) to give the opportunity for the Lebanese army to re-organize and achieve the re-unification process.  Hariri was made to believe that the main obstacle for incoming foreign investment is the military strength of Hezbollah that vowed to resist any Israeli incursions in Lebanon.

By the time Hariri awoke from all the foolish lures of those he was in close contact with he was sent to the dogs and eliminated ruthlessly:  Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005.  Lebanon was plunged in a state of total confusion and unprepared for the uncertain future.

It was a hard process to regain dignity and recapture most of the occupied lands; it was done.  It was even harder to assume the Presidency; it was hardest to institute a functional government. It is a long process but Lebanon is lucky that a local resistance movement was steadfast in its purpose and won the challenge.

Uncontested Palestinian Leader: late Yasser Arafat (Abu 3Ammar)

Known as Yasser Arafat; code named “Abu Ammar”; full name Muhammad Abdel Raouf Arafat Al Koudwa Al Husseiny was born in Jerusalem in 1929.

Yasser studied civil engineering at Cairo University and worked in Kuwait. In the summer of 1965 he started guerilla activities inside Israel with 10 feddayins, among them the future leaders Khalil Wazeer (code named Abu Jihad; assassinated in Tunisia by an Israeli air raid), Salah Khalaf (code named Abu Ayad), and Abu Ali Ayad (died in battle fighting the onslaught of the Jordanian army in 1970).

After the defeat of the Arab armies in June 1967, Arafat decided to take matters into his own hand: the Arab States can no longer be counted on to reclaim the Palestinian rights to a homeland and the return of the refugees since 1948 (date of recognition of Israel as a State).

Arafat set out to organizing the Palestinians into a resistance force called “Hurricane” (Al 3asifat) and resumed incursions into Israel at higher rates. An acceptable resolution would be a secular State on the West Bank with East Jerusalem as Capital.  He would repeat:

“As I liberate a single square meter then I would raise the Palestinian flag.  One day, a boy or a girl will hoist the flag in Jerusalem. We may differ as Christians and Moslems on many issues but we are unified on liberating Jerusalem and consecrating it our spiritual and political Capital”

Jerusalem was the cornerstone in any negotiation of more importance to him than the “right of return” of the UN resolution 194.

In fact, during the Arab Summit in Beirut 2002 Arafat was ready to accept the Saudi proposal of “land for peace” that did not mention the right of return.  Luckily, the Lebanese President Emile Lahoud was adamant on including this cause since the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon question is “a time bomb ready to detonate anytime”.

The uncontested Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser recognized that the nascent Palestinian resistance activities are reactions to the failure of his leadership, and he met with Arafat.  Gamal Abdel Nasser gave Arafat’s organization political cover to preserve control of Arab politics and introduced Arafat to other Arab State leaders. Thus, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1968, which included many Palestinian factions such as the national and Marxist faction of George Habash and the splintered faction of Nayef Hawatmed.

Syria would later include another faction with a military wing called Al Sa3ikat (Thunderstorm).  Arafat was the leader of the largest faction called Fateh (Conquest) and thus was elected Chairman of the PLO; Arafat was to hold the purse or the treasury of this organization to keep all factions in line.

King Hussein of Jordan defeated militarily the PLO in 1970 and the resistance fighters had to flee to Lebanon and Syria.  The Egyptian leader forced the hand of the Lebanese government to allocate a strip of land in south Lebanon called “Al 3arkoub” from which the PLO could wage guerilla attacks on Israel.

This was a top secret deal; Deputy Raymond Eddeh would persist and insist in the parliament to divulge the details of the deal at no avail.

The mostly Shi3a Lebanese citizens in south Lebanon were caught in between the military retaliations of Israel, the exactions of the PLO and the non-existence of the weak Lebanese government in that region. South Lebanon was de facto controlled and governed by the PLO.  The Lebanese army controlled every resistance movement in the south before 1970 but relinquished its hold after that secret deal.

The PLO quickly established political and administrative headquarters in the Capital Beirut and was immersed deeply in Lebanon internal politics. The Palestinian resistance fighters occupied all the Palestinian camps and transformed them into bunkers.

Israel didn’t mind the transformation and the involvement of the PLO in Lebanon’s politics. Israel goal was to displace the Lebanese citizens from the south and then conquer it. In fact, thousands of citizens in the south moved to the southern outskirts of Beirut in Haret Hrik, Ghobeiry, and Dahieh.  These areas would become the “belt of misery” and shantytowns.

In April 1973, an Israeli commando (headed by Ehud Barak) assassinated 3 Palestinian leaders in Beirut Kamal Edwan, Kamal Youssef, and Abu Youssef Al Najjar; it failed to locate Arafat.

In May 1973, the Lebanese army was encircling the Palestinian camps and Arafat took refuge in Embassies.  Arafat had a sixth sense on personal dangers and he did sleep in Embassies when the tough got going.  His best strategy for avoiding detection and maintaining security is to be “unpredictable”; thus he frequently moved from one residence to another and never informed anyone of his displacements, even his driver or bodyguards.

Arafat highly valued Medias and used it to the hilt. He also lavished on and befriended the cheikhs of mosques so that their Friday preaches increase his positive exposure. Arafat was not that good in rhetoric, but his charisma and large smile compensated greatly on other verbal deficiencies.

Arafat was super patient, like fish hunters.  He didn’t mind waiting for years until his enemy is caught in his nets.  He fundamentally used persuasion and then extending financial bait and then blackmailing when everything failed.

Arafat could focus under extreme dangerous situations and keep his cool for the sake of his surrounding assistants. He slept a few hours on early morning and then had siesta after lunch.  He extended aid to the needy and took excellent care of the martyrs’ families.  He owned only two military suits.

Arafat read every piece of mail and replied in details.  He carried a small booklet and noted down information. He once said “if one of my small notebooks is published monarchies would disappear and Presidents fall.”  Arafat was feared by Arab leaders because of his wide connections and the vast intelligence pieces he had on each one of them; thus, the PLO coffer was replenished on demand.

Arafat visited India PM Indira Ghandi. A guru asked Arafat “How many Palestinians are there?”  Arafat replied 8 millions. The guru retorted “I have 9 million followers who worship me as their God.”  Arafat said with a large smile “The difference is that everyone of the 8 million Palestinians thinks that he is indeed God

On November 1974, Arafat delivered a speech to the UN assembly and offered two alternatives: the olive tree or the gun.  He also talked to the UN General assembly in Geneva on December 1988 and declared his willingness to end armed struggle and the recognition of Israel; the USA decided then to recognize the PLO.

Arafat played a central role during the Lebanese civil war that started in April 13, 1975.  He tried to maintain a balanced position in the tag of war between Hafez Assad of Syria and Sadat of Egypt at the expense of the Lebanese civilians.  The leftist Lebanese organizations relied on Arafat for logistics in arms and ammunition and he controlled them completely.

Arafat once declared in Ramallah around 1998 that he was the de facto governor of Lebanon for over 20 years, even before the civil war. Lebanon would have been saved 13 years of mindless civil war if Arafat had decided to relinquish Lebanon to Syria and dealt with Israel in 1977 instead of 1993 for part of Palestine as he was forced to do later.

After the signing of the Oslo agreement with Rabin, Arafat returned to Gaza on July 1994.  He signed an agreement for the return of the West bank in September 1995.  Rabin was assassinated by one of his body guard. Netanyahu refused to go along with the agreement but finally submitted to the USA pressures and retuned Hebron (Al Khalil) after the negotiation of Wy River in 1998.

On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon entered the Masjed Akssa during the tenure of Ehud Barak PM.  The second intifada started.  Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister in February 2001 and he invaded Rammallah (headquarter of the Palestinian Authority) and encircled Arafat in his quarter. George W. Bush said to Sharon “Leave Arafat to God” and Sharon relied “I will give God a nudge

Arafat had food delivered through Israeli check points. He suffered acute ailment and knew that he has been poisoned by small doses.  Before being hospitalized in France Arafat said to his personal physician Ashraf Kerdi “The Zionists got me…”  Mohammad Dahlan (Fateh officer) told Arafat “When you are back your authority and power will remain intact” Arafat replied “In that case you are coming with me to France

Mahmoud Abbass replaced Arafat and refused to have an autopsy performed on the body of Arafat.

Arafat managed to hold together an organization of many factions for 40 years by centralizing the disbursement of the financial import he secured from the Arab States and from investment.  Arafat struggled hard to keep the Palestinian decisions independent of the vagaries of the multiple Arab States leaders’ interests of abusing of the “Palestinian cause.”  Probably, most of Arafat’s “peace deals” with Israel emanate from the disunity of the Arab States toward a strategic plan for checking the Zionist plans.  Arafat had to juggle Arab States priorities concerning their people interests.

Arafat sculpted an image of Palestinian resistance by wearing the special “koufieh” headdress and the military attire. He forged a logo for the Palestinian cause.

Mr. President: Biography of a period (1989-2009); (June 4, 2009)

 

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

 

 

Before 1989

 

The mother of 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 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.

            General Lahoud 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 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 and 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 then I expect everyone else to emulate my subordination to the Law 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 Asad 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.  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 and instead Lahoud focused on encircling the camp to apprehend the assassins.

As this nasty trap failed to divide the government then 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 then how my path you have unfold if I was much more clever in politics?”.  In another moment Berri told the author “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.

President Lahoud decided to spend part of summer in the Presidential Palace in Beit El Dine and for that purpose had to relocate the bust of Kamal Jumblat off the entrance and waited for Walid to ship it somewhere else at his own responsibility. Walid said “I will never forget what Lahoud did for the duration of my life!”  Walid Jumblat tried scare tactics on Lahoud by assuring him that the Syria President is terminally ill and that his son Bashar will not succeed his father Hafez and that General Hekmat Shahaby and Abdel Haleem Khaddam will take over the regime.  Lahoud retorted “Bashar will be the next appointed President and I am trying my best to take on the responsibilities of the President and to recapture the dignity of the State under one leader”  Jumbalt said “I don’t like the military”.  Lahoud replied “I don’t like the militias”.  Once, Lahoud saw on the TV Hoss PM meeting Jumblat who was in jeans.  Lahoud sent his assistant to inform Jumblat that he will not be welcomed in the Presidential Palace if he ever arrives not wearing a tie.   President Lahoud comprehended that Walid Jumblatt’s attitude, as his father Kamal, amounted to a historical trend of blaming the Christian Maronite sect for having robbed the Druze out of the leadership of Mount Lebanon.

In November 1999, the French Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine had a lengthy discussion with President Lahoud.  Vedrine had toured several capitals and his impression was that a resolution of the Middle East crisis was less ripe as he expected.  Ehud Barak of Israel was sending tactical contradictory messages hoping for starting any kinds of negotiations with either Lebanon or Syria so that he won’t have to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon and give Hezbollah the impression of defeating Israel by acts of resistance.  Barak would not pronounce on the complete withdrawal from the Golan as requested by Hafez Assad and President Lahoud would not negotiate without Syria approval. Consequently, Barak was forced to withdraw from Lebanon without any pre-conditions in May 24, 2000 because Israel was in fact paying a high price in Lebanon for insisting on keeping the Golan Heights.

Vedrine and Lahoud discussed the Palestinian problems.  Vedrine was offering the suggestion that Lebanon refrains from adamantly proclaiming that every Palestinian in the refugee camps should leave Lebanon  and just be satisfied maintaining the Constitution requirement of the Palestinian rights to return.  Lahoud stated that the Palestinians are procreating three times faster than the Lebanese and constitute now 10% of the population or 400,000 and this fact is a highly “explosive bomb” that has the potential to destabilize the Lebanese social and political fabrics. Lahoud confirmed that the Palestinians in the camps are suffering a harsh life but arms in the camps are no longer directed toward Israel since the Oslo Agreement.  It appeared that the financial compensation was already settled among the donating powers but the potential Palestinian State would be small and economically fragile to sustain the relocation of all the Palestinian refugees.

In October 2000, Hezbollah took prisoners three Israeli soldiers in the Shabaa Farms and then lured the retired Israeli Colonel El Hanane Tanenboum to Beirut.  Albright demanded the release of the Israeli prisoners and Ehub Barak gave an ultimatum within 4 hours. Lahoud answered the US Ambassador Satterfield “Consider the 4 hours have ended.  I will not negotiate the release of the Israeli prisoners” Lahoud was in strong position because the Lebanese army was not on the borders so that Israel could not exercise any pressures on the President.

            In August, 2001, Patriarch Sfeir visited the Shouf for 3 days and was welcomed with mass rallies. On his last stop in the town of Kahaleh demonstrators jeered the names of Bashar Assad and Syria.  A few demonstrators were incarcerated. On August 7, confrontations in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut resulted in ugly visual brutality by security forces wearing civilian clothes.  Both Lahoud and Hariri realized that they were targeted and that any impressions of loss of control over the security services is bad omen.

 

            In the morning of September 11, 2001, Larsen and De Mistoura (UN representative in Lebanon) met with Lahoud.  De Mistoura told Lahoud that Ariel Sharon is preventing his Foreign Affairs minister Shimon Peres to meet with Arafat.  Larsen asked Lahoud how he foresees the coming events.  Lahoud replied “The reactions of the Palestinians to the brutality of the Israelis are the consequences of despair for any peaceful resolution. It is no longer acceptable that Israel control the world”  Lahoud went on “Reactions of despair might reach the USA as what happened to the Twin Towers previously” By the afternoon, the Al Qaeda was blowing the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and Bush Jr. was taken to hiding for the day.. Larsen called and asked “How did you know what will happen this afternoon?” Lahoud replied “If I knew then I would have been more powerful than the USA”. (To be continued)

The Third Republic of Lebanon: The Tayyar of Michel Aoun (June 1, 2009)

 

            The formal and extensive visits of Michel Aoun to Iran and then to Syria had three purposes.  First, it was symbolic of “breaking bread and sharing salt” which meant that confidence is established and hidden agendas will be stated clearly among friends. The second purpose was to focus attention on the ethnic and religious minorities so that Iran and Syria would exercise more leverage to preserving the persecuted minorities in Iraq. The third purpose was to exposing the draft program of the Third Republic that need to be instituted in Lebanon in order to relieve Iran and Syria from constant worries on the potential political and strategic orientation of Lebanon; thus, relying on Iran and Syria to exercise their influence toward stabilizing an environment of security and peace within Lebanon.

            General and Deputy Aoun had absorbed the various failures of other Christian Lebanese leaders for establishing a lasting stable political system that would save Lebanon of recurring civil wars.  A unified Christian front in Lebanon is not enough to bringing peace and security; this fact Michel Aoun experienced when he was appointed Prime Minister in 1988 and ended in his exile to France.  The most striking recent experiment was the tenure of ex-President Emile Lahoud.

            Lahoud intended to eradicate corruption in the State while maintaining strategic relations with Syria and supporting the Lebanese resistance in the south against Israel’s occupation.  Lahoud failed in his attempts for reforms of the social and political system because he had no civilian political movement and had no previous communication with the deputies in the Parliament.  Lahoud managed to press forward on the corruption front in the first 3 years until Syria realized that the reforms were going too far and driving its Lebanese political supporters to frantic seizures. The incarcerated officials indicted with corruption and stealing the treasury were released from prison and Rafic Hariri returned as Prime Minister to resume his service and real estate economy based on heavy borrowing.

As Syria was under pressure in 2005 to withdraw its troops then it decided to extend the tenure of Lahoud another 3 years.  The UN resolution 1559 for Syria withdrawal, the Lebanese army to expand to the southern borders, and Hezbollah to turn over its heavy artillery to the army pointed to a dramatic clash which culminated in the assassination of Rafic Hariri.  External interventions bolstered the internal confessional forces to side track reforms and forced the Presidency into a defensive corner; thus, not only clipping any remnant of official power but eliminating the role of the Presidency and the Christian necessity for a stable Lebanon among its religious affiliations.

 

What is the Third Republic and what is its strategy? First, the new Republic will bolster the rights, duties, and responsibilities of the President of the Republic and reduce the exclusive privileges of the Prime Minister to administering several “black boxes” such as emergency funds, development and construction council, repatriation of Lebanese refugees’ box, and disaster box that should be returned to the relevant ministries.  These reforms do not require any amendments to the Taef Constitution.

 

Second, the Third Republic wants to desist on reducing the economy of Lebanon to the service sector that it can no longer compete with newer and powerful centers in the region like Dubai, Cyprus, Jordan, and Egypt.  The economy has to revert to basics and develop on industrial and agricultural production, exploiting our water resources, managing better our electrical power generation, and expanding and modernizing our communication facilities. Health for all and education for all at affordable costs are priorities.

 

Third, the reduction of our heavy borrowing policy that reached over 60 billions dollars with the purpose of settling the Palestinians in Lebanon in return of canceling this mighty debt will be tackled in earnest.  I lean to the possibility that if negotiations with the lending parties are not successful then the new government will decree the cancellation of any lending that was politically motivated.  I doubt that reactions would extend beyond the rhetorical recriminations because the case is strong that Lebanon had no collateral economical generation potentials for these generous lending.  As a consequence, the Third Republic will put an end to any international policies attempts to reside the Palestinians in Lebanon.

 

Fourth, the Third Republic will relieve Hezbollah from the constant pressures of international plans targeted at coercing the disarmament of the resistance by coordinate activities with non-patriotic governments that are wiling to cohabitate with the enemy Israel.  This united front will force Israel to desist from any further incursions into Lebanon.

 

Fifth, the Third Republic will move ahead with an alternative election law based on proportionality and revisiting laws that deny equality between genders and secular national civil status laws.

 

Sixth, the Third Republic will demand joint negotiations with Syria relative peace agreements with Israel after recapturing the Shebaa Farms and the Hills of Kfarshouba.

 

The first step in the strategy was for the Christians to regain confidence and stand up to their responsibilities and acknowledging that Israel is the enemy.  This was done.  The second step was an alliance with Hezbollah which defeated many plans to resurrect the specter of the civil war.  The third step was direct contacts with States as representing the largest Christian Parliamentary bloc and opening channels of communications and entente.  The fourth step is wining the majority seats in the Parliament.

 

Lebanon Parliament was expanded in 1992 to include 128 deputies; 64 Christians and 64 Moslems.  The election in June 7 is calling on 3, 260,000 voters to participate and most probably more than 50% will effectively vote. Among the eligible voters of over 21 years of age 888,000 are Moslem Shiaas (27 deputies in total), 874,000 Moslem Sunnis (27 deputies), 698,000 Christian Maronites (34 deputies), 243,000 Christian Greek Orthodox (concentrated in the districts of Ashrafieh and Koura), 186, 000 Moslem Druze (8 deputies concentrated in the districts of Chouf, Aley, and Hasbaya), 163, 000 Greek Catholics, and dozen of other Christian minorities and Armenians (concentrated in Ashrafieh, Burj Hammoud, and Anjar).  The Moslem Alawis of about 27,000 are entitled to 2 deputies.

            In the previous election of 2005, the Tayyar of Michel Aoun without the support of any alliances managed to secure 20 Christian deputies representing 70% of the Christian voters but the Lebanese political system denied this large bloc any governmental representation for 4 years until the Dawha agreement.  The law of this election that correspond to the law of 1960 divides Lebanon into 26 districts called “Kada2” and most of the Christians candidates do not have to rely on Moslem voters for their election.  With the alliance of the “Marada Party” of Suleiman Frangieh in Zghorta, Betroun, and Koura the Tayyar can secure additional 8 deputies.  With the alliance of the Hezbollah the Tayyar can add 3 deputies in the district of B3abda and two more in Jezzine. Thus, if the Tayyar of Michel Aoun sustains the previous election victory then he should expect no less than 27 deputies and over 40 Christian deputies allied to the Tayyar or one third of the Parliament. If we add to this Christian bloc the deputies of Hezbollah and AMAL (over 24 deputies) and the Syrian National Social Party (about 4 deputies) and the Druze and Sunni deputies then the opposition will clearly win the majority of the Parliament.  Thus the Prime Minister will be selected from the opposition and most of the key ministerial posts would revert to the opposition along with a reshuffling of the main first order administrative officials.

 

            The Tayyar is taking the shape of a popular revolution intended to defeating the privileges of the feudal, caste, confessional, and monopolist system. It has no alternative but to follow the legitimate democratic route under this complex social diversity.

 

            As I mentioned in another post, if the Christians do not emerge in this election with a unified and powerful centralized bloc then the chances are that a system based on splitting power among Shiaa, Sunni, and Christians (muthalateh) would be inevitable, even at the expense of a short civil war.  Most probably the civil war would start between Shiaas and Sunnis but will quickly degenerate to fighting between Christians and Sunnis because the Shiaas have already their cantons. This alternative system would be legitimate demographically and the Christian would contend with third of the administration and political power offices.

 

Note 1: My spirit went to statesman General Aoun who said once the Syrian troops crossed the borders in April 2005 “Syria is now out of Lebanon.  I have no qualms with Syria anymore. This is the time to open a new page in our relations”.  The Tayyar has a TV channel and a blog; it has established a radio channe a couple of days ago; but I am under the impression that, excluding the members of the Tayyar, the supporters are on the one way communication receiving end. The brochure of the program of the Tayyar has no phone numbers, no email addresses and no central mailing address. I once sent a hand written letter to Deputy Ibrahim Kanaan and it had to go through two intermediaries of the Tayyar; obviously, I never received a reply. 

 

Note 2: I am suggesting to the Tayyar to install central mediating centers in each district so that deputies would handle the various complaints from their respective constituencies, sort of “wassit al kada2”.

“Shock and Steadfastness” by Kareem Bakradouny (May 30, 2009)

Note:  This is the second part of my book review.  The first part was excerpts of Lahoud as Army Chief

Lahoud was elected President of the Republic by the majority of 118 out of 128 deputy votes after revising an item in the city of Taif 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 then I expect everyone else to emulate my subordination to the Law 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 Hafiz 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 Taif 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.  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 “3osbat 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 and instead Lahoud focused on encircling the camp to apprehend the assassins.

As this nasty trap failed to divide the government then 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 then how my path you have unfold if I was much more clever in politics?”.  In another moment Berri told the author “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.

President Lahoud decided to spend part of summer in the Presidential Palace in Beit El Dine and for that purpose had to relocate the bust of Kamal Jumblat off the entrance and waited for Walid to ship it somewhere else at his own responsibility. Walid said “I will never forget what Lahoud did for the duration of my life!”  Walid Jumblat tried scare tactics on Lahoud by assuring him that the Syria President is terminally ill and that his son Bashar will not succeed his father Hafiz and that General Hekmat Shahaby and Abdel Haleem Khaddam will take over the regime.  Lahoud retorted “Bashar will be the next appointed President and I am trying my best to take on the responsibilities of the President and to recapture the dignity of the State under one leader”  Jumbalt said “I don’t like the military”.  Lahoud replied “I don’t like the militias”.  Once, Lahoud saw on the TV Hoss PM meeting Jumblat who was in jeans.  Lahoud sent his assistant to inform Jumblat that he will not be welcomed in the Presidential Palace if he ever arrives not wearing a tie.   President Lahoud comprehended that Walid Jumblatt’s attitude, as his father Kamal, amounted to a historical trend of blaming the Christian Maronite sect for having robbed the Druze out of the leadership of Mount Lebanon.

In November 1999, the French Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine had a lengthy discussion with President Lahoud.  Vedrine had toured several capitals and his impression was that a resolution of the Middle East crisis was less ripe as he expected.  Ehud Barak of Israel was sending tactical contradictory messages hoping for starting any kinds of negotiations with either Lebanon or Syria so that he won’t have to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon and give Hezbollah the impression of defeating Israel by acts of resistance.  Barak would not pronounce on the complete withdrawal from the Golan as requested by Hafiz Assad and President Lahoud would not negotiate without Syria approval. Consequently, Barak was forced to withdraw from Lebanon without any pre-conditions because Israel was in fact paying a high price in Lebanon for insisting on keeping the Golan Heights.

Vedrine and Lahoud discussed the Palestinian problems.  Vedrine was offering the suggestion that Lebanon refrains from adamantly proclaiming that every Palestinian in the refugee camps should leave Lebanon  and just be satisfied maintaining the Constitution requirement of the Palestinian rights to return.  Lahoud stated that the Palestinians procreation is three times faster than the Lebanese and constitute now 10% of the population or 400,000 and this fact is a highly “explosive bomb” that has the potential to destabilize the Lebanese social and political fabrics. Lahoud confirmed that the Palestinians in the camps are suffering a harsh life but arms in the camps are no longer directed toward Israel since the Oslo Agreement.  It appeared that the financial compensation was already settled among the donating powers but the potential Palestinian State would be small and economically fragile to sustain the relocation of all the Palestinian refugees.

Let us try an honorific Caliphate for the Presidency of the Republic. (written in Dec. 10, 2007)

I described in a previous article the responsibilities of the President to the Republic after the Taif Constitution to be mostly honorific and that the Christian Maronite sectarian caste has devalued to third in rank after the Moslem Sunny and Chi3a castes.

In my article “Who care for the office of President to the Republic” I foresaw that this office is no longer that practically essential, and if it was left vacant for a while then no immediate disaster will befall Lebanon.

Former President Emile Lahoud kept threatening that he will not permit the Seniora PM government to administer the Republic after he leaves the Palace.

Well, Lahoud vacated silently and surreptitiously on November 23rd with no decisions how the State should be managed.  And the office has been vacant since then, and the Palace closed to visitors, even to tourists whom forgot to visit Lebanon this year also. And the government resumed its course…

In Lebanon caste system, the Moslem political leaders were the real leaders of their respective castes, and their appointed clergies were basically the mouthpiece, and usually cover their current political leaders for unity.

The reverse is happening for the Maronite caste: historically and for centuries the Maronite clergy tried to control its political leaders and evinced them in crucial events, even fomenting the peasants to revolt against their feudal Christian lords.  Presently, the Maronite caste is split between two political leaders, Michel Aoun of the Tayyar party and Samir Geaja of the Lebanese Forces.

Although the current Maronite Patriarch, Nasr Allah Sfeir, had been burned more than once before, after nominating candidates to the Republic and being turned down, he slipped again: he could not help but to follow the suggestion of the European emissaries to form a list of eligible candidates, which he did to the outcry of all the potential Maronite candidates.

General Michel Aoun sent the Patriarch and the Council of the Bishops emissary after emissary warning them not to meddle in the political process for the election of a Maronite President to the Republic to no avail.  General Aoun was prompted to clarify who is the de-facto political Patriarch for the Maronite caste.

Within Lebanon caste system General Aoun is the political Patriarch of the Maronite; not only for the number of Maronite deputies in the Parliament that represent his party but also because of his clear and transparent views and because he has proved that he stands undaunted against all odds and pressures from the West and the media dominated by the government allies.

Just tonight, General and deputy Aount has announced to the Lebanese to enjoy the Adha and Christmas Holidays in peace and security because there will be no election for a President until after the vacation.  General Aoun is adamant that no election will take place before a political comprehensive understanding has been agreed upon by the government’s allies and the opposition forces.

Democracies in the developed States might view these preconditions as anathema, but Lebanon is not a democratic States: Lebanon is a caste political system, not constitutionally but according to an ancient National Pact of 1943, and governed by accord among the main castes.

If the ancient and old Maronite Patriarch is overwhelmed by events, and just administering the political situation through Sunday speeches at mass and forming lists of potential candidates, the political Patriarch Aoun is much more aware of the weak position of the Maronites at this phase of the game and wants to re-establish the real responsibilities and duties to the position of the President.

The successive troika or triumvirate rulers (late Rafik Hariri, Nabih Berri, and Elias Hrawi) of Lebanon from 1993 to 2003 are not to the advantage of the people: It is an oligarchic mechanism for splitting the spoils of the treasury among the political leaders of five basic castes.

Practically, in this Lebanon caste system, even a strong President with sufficient backing in the Parliament is bound to get immersed in troika ruling of the State for the economy to move forward and important laws to be passed.

The difference between a weak President with no substantial deputy backing and a strong President is a matter of quantitative advantages but no qualitative jump for long lasting security and stability.

The main qualitative advantage of a strong President is to using the Presidential pulpit to politically educating the citizens with frankness, facts and firm stands for what is right and honorable. General Aoun has proven to have the qualifications of a strong qualitative President.

People justify our recurring political instabilities to the complex trades among the leaders and castes for prime offices.  Our system is not that complicated at all: it is plainly pretty simple and lazy. If we try permutations to the prime offices among the castes then we may applaud our boldness to experiment with fairness and confidence as a people.

Maybe before Lebanon experiment with an alternative political system that is more in affinity with Western democracies let us try a few permutations on our current system. Let the Presidency be the honorific position of Caliphate in permutation among the Koraichi Sunny, the Abbasi Chiite and Wahhabi Khawariji and then let the Christian castes experiment with the functions of Prime Minister in permutation among their castes.

We might be lacking political rationality after recognizing that our caste system is not functional and still persist in our short-shortsightedness for lack of courage to change and experiment for a working alternative.

At least, if we were a vital people we would have applied the trial and error method; whatever errors might results from our endeavors it wouldn’t be as nefarious as the calamities befalling us since our Independence in 1943.

Note:  The army general for operation, Francois Hajj, was assassinated in B3abda.  General Hajj was the strongest candidate to replace Michel Suleiman as head of the army in case general Suleiman was selected for president to the Republic.  Deputy Michel Aoun warned that this assassination might be covered up by the government as the dozen other assassinations.

We have two major vacancies to fill for important offices now and it appears that our political and security situation is exacerbated and our holidays are shot.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2019
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,361,303 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 693 other followers

%d bloggers like this: