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Posts Tagged ‘Nabih Berri

Catastrophic Constitutional Vacuum in Lebanon? Lebanese don’t care...

When Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s term ended on May 25, he left a vacuum that some fear could further erode the influence of Christians in a turbulent region consumed with sectarian infighting.

 of FoxNews.com published this June 2, 2014

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Sleiman’s  (tacit “constitutional”) post has traditionally been held by a Christian, in the delicate sectarian balance of a nation made up of (19 officially recognized religious sects).

Currently, the vast majority of the population of Shiite Muslims is supported by Iran. The Sunni Muslims are mainly backed by Saudi Arabia.

Five attempts by parliament to reach a deal to fill the presidency have failed, leaving an impasse that not only exacerbates political and social polarization in the country, but also weakens the Christian community in the Middle East, where Christian presence is rapidly disappearing.

“With Lebanon you can never tell when the combination of internal struggle and external regional struggle will fuse together in a combustible way,” says New York University Middle East expert Mohamad Bazzi.

“The more instability and insecurity in Lebanon, the more likely there will be violence in car bombs and potentially worse. The Lebanese Christians are also watching the fate of fellow Christians in Syria, the violence against them from Sunni jihadists.”

David Hale, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, urged Lebanon to seize the opportunity “to elect a new president without allowing any other country to dictate the results.” (And what was the purpose of Kerry’s visit to Lebanon, coinciding with election in Syria?)

The Lebanese people need leadership “made in Lebanon,” he said. “The price of a power is “simply too high. The United States supports this Lebanese process.”

As part of the Taif Agreement, a national reconciliation accord that ended Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990), Maronite Christians, who had historically held the presidency and appointed the government, maintained the position of head of state but were forced to hand over the leadership of the government to the Sunnis.

The Christian president retains powers such as making recommendations for top military posts and the signing of international treaties, but he needs the prime minister’s cabinet approval. A Shiite always hold the position of speaker of parliament. (Nabih Berri, a civil war warlord, has been holding that post for 3 decades now)

This power-sharing arrangement, based on demographics in 1989, forced the Christians, who had historically been in charge of appointing the country’s prime minister, to accept that they had lost their majority to the Muslims after 1 million Lebanese, mostly Christians, emigrated during Lebanon’s civil war.

“The Lebanese Christians are also watching the fate of fellow Christians in Syria, the violence against them from Sunni jihadists,” says Bazzi, explaining why many Christians in Lebanon and Syria have chosen to side with Hezbollah by fighting on the side of the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.

“Christian communities like historic Maaloula have been decimated by al-Nusra and other Sunni militants. For the Christians the Assad regime is the best worst option because at least Assad won’t want to eliminate the Christians.”

Hezbollah and its Christian political allies hold more than one-third (how about more than half?) of the cabinet seats of the Lebanese government. This consolidation of power potentially gives them the ability to overthrow the government. Lebanon has already lost core components of statehood to Hezbollah, which brazenly follows its own military and foreign policy.

Hezbollah’s political camp has boycotted parliamentary sessions to elect the president, claiming that they want a “consensus candidate” rather than the “provocative candidate” (another warlord Samir Geaja who served 11 years of a prison term) the Mustakbal Sunnis want.

Among a field of potential Christian leaders who seek the presidency are heavy-hitters from rival camps. Samir Geagea heads the Lebanese Forces, one of 12 parties that belong to March 14, an alliance of  Christian militia groups and the Saudi-backed Sunni Future Movement, based on the date of a massive rally that pressured Syria to end its occupation of Syria. (It was the Tayyar movement of Gen. Michel Aoun that brought this massive rally)

Of the candidates, he is the most outspoken critic of Hezbollah, running on a platform of independence from Iranian and Syrian interference (but not from independence of Israel and the USA)

Geagea’s main rival is Gen. Michel Aoun, who leads the Free Patriotic Movement that is part of the March 8 alliance (the date of a huge pro-Hezbollah demonstration), an Iran-Syrian-backed coalition of Hezbollah, Amal, another Shiite militia whose leader is Nabih Berri, the current speaker of parliament. March 14 accuses Aoun of being a stooge for Hezbollah.

“Difficulty at filling the post of head of state, which takes a two-thirds majority in parliament, is not new to Lebanon,” says popular Lebanese Christian politician Ziyad Baroud, who served as minister of interior and municipalities for two consecutive governments.

Despite sectarian problems facing Lebanon, Baroud believes that moderate Christians, Druze and Sunni and Shiite Muslims can work together to build a democratic country (if the political climate around Lebanon permit it?)

“Christians play a role of moderation in Lebanon,” according to Baroud, who hopes the current presidential vacuum leads to the selection of a leader who will work to unify the nation. “At a time when there are major problems in the region, it is good timing for Lebanon to offer an example of living together in peaceful coexistence. Christians, more than any other community, have historical responsibility to carry this into the future. 

Lebanon’s presidential crisis of today comes with tremendous internal and external pressures.

Over the past year, Lebanese Sunni jihadis and their rivals Hezbollah have been battling each other in Syria, and the violence has spilled over into Lebanon with at least 16 car bombs and a spate of assassinations. Compounding this unrest are the more than 1 million refugees, mostly Sunni, from the civil war in Syria.

The refugees have increased Lebanon’s population by close to 25% (how about 40%?), creating social pressures and altering the sectarian balance in the small nation. “Try to imagine the United States or France suddenly ending up with an additional 25 percent of their population to cope with, “ says Baroud. “When you add it to the Palestinian refugees, you can imagine what is the impact on this country.”

Staying out of the Syrian civil war is arguably the most critical challenge for Lebanon. “The proxy war that the Saudis (backed by the US and western European States) and Iranians are playing in Syria has unleashed forces that they cannot completely control, both in Syria and the broader region,” says Mohamad Bazzi, who points out that the rival Muslim powers are deeply involved in promoting their agendas in Lebanon.

“The Saudis and Iranians are crafty and can instigate things, but they cannot always control it. When the genie is out of the bottle, you might not be able to put it back in,” Bazzi warns. “That is the case of Syria and the potential danger for Lebanon.”

It may be weeks, even months, until a president takes office in one of the most challenging political environments on Earth and dangerous, too.

There is a long list of assassinated Lebanese political figures — from mayors to prime ministers to presidents. “I don’t have fear,” says Baroud. “The fact that we are still in Lebanon and feel something can be done is what matters. It is not about rational thinking, it is about feelings.”

(And what are these feeling? Of utter disgust of this pseudo State?)

Note: Those parties who refuse to elect Gen. Michel Aoun (leader of the far largest Christian block in the Parliament) have been hinting that Hezbollah (ally to Aoun movement) is blocking an election of a President in order to reform the Taef Agreement and have the Shiaa be represented politically as constituting the third of the population (this sect is actually 50% of the population).

Hassa Nasr Allah said in his recent speech that it was the French who suggested this reform a few years ago, but Hezbollah has no intention of demanding such kind of power sharing.

How Neoliberal expatriate Contractor Class is managing the contracted national debt in Lebanon?

How neoliberalism is applied in your country?

Neoliberalism is not a difficult concept to comprehand: Just observe its applications and consequences on your survival instinct.

The best way to understand neolibralism in the western developed nations is to witness how developing States are applying it.

Particularly, new small States recognized in the UN that were under direct mandated powers for many decades, and now are appeasing their former “masters” in order to enrich the oligarchy ruling class these under-developped “nations” are sustaining.

How neoliberalism is applied in Lebanon?

Together with the governor of the Central Bank and the Prime Minister, the minister of Finance is a crucial player in the management of government debt.

From 1992, late Rafik Hariri PM, and later the Hariri clan hoarded the control of these three institutions.

The policy adopted in 1993 pegged the Lebanese currency to the US dollar. What that means?

The State borrows on behalf of the government large sums of loans that are not needed to finance the deficit.

The borrowing mechanism is basically a political decision to get the State tightly linked to outside multinational financial institutions… Institutions that the ruling class has invested in and wants to generate quick profit in this globalization era… at the expense of the people they claim to work for their benefit…

This scheme drove up the demand for the Lebanese currency, raised the interest rates on government debt, and high interest returns for depositors (reaching 30% at determined periods as the Future Movement spread the words among its elite class to deposit) and the new expatriate Contractor wealthy class of billionnaires…

Leading the country into a dept trap.

A debt ever increasing ($60 bn) and absorbing a third of the government budget, every year since 1992.

Servicing the interest of the debt has one purpose: Keeping the new neoliberal Contractors class in control of the management of the financial and economic institutions.

The main benefiaciaries were commercial banks and their wealthy depositors: Lebanon financial and economic elite classes (new expatriate contractors, warlords, oligarchic politicians…) have the necessary savings to invest in government debt instruments.

The notion of neoliberalism is that, as long as the government maintains the confidence of the elite classes in the soundness of the financial policy, the situation can remain in control, precariously in control, and relying mainly on foreign support for the policy.

The IMF working paper from 2008 mentions that the continuous rollover of Lebanon debt depends on an “implicit guarantor” from donors and international financial institutions.

And who is the main donor guarantor? It is Saudi Arabia absolute wahhabi monarchy.

This Saudi Kingdom

1.  Bought up Lebanon government bonds when investors refused to buy the bonds

2. It provided the largest chunk of concessionary loans at Paris 2 donor conference in 2002, and Paris 3 in 2007

3. It transfered One $bn to the central bank during Israel preemptive war in June 2006.

Consequently, the governor of the central bank, PM and finance minister must satisfy Saudi Arabia confidence!

The Hariri clan main objective was to deepen neoliberal economic “reforms”.

Former Fouad Seniora PM reiterated the neoliberal program, including privatization of State-controlled entities, welfare “reforms“, politically aimed at curtailing patronage opportunities of political rivals to the Future Movement…

However, Seniora could not pull off his wishes of abolishing the Council of the South (a Box of money controlled by Parliament chairman and worlord Nabih Berri) or the Central Fund for the Displaced “sandouk al mouhajjareen” (controlled by the Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt)

For over two decades, the Hariri clan attached a dozen public institutions to the Prime Minister, controlled the municipality of Beirut, extendit building permits to its elites and the foreign investors and dropping any resistrictions when convenient, assigning public contracts to the “Future Elite contractors” and entrepreneurs at manyfold the proper cost, extending their hold on Solidere for 75 years, never accounting for the bids on Sukleen which collect waste in Beirut at $100 per ton while costing $30 in Zahle for example…

The current “national debt” has skyrocketed to reach $70 bn, even after 2 decades of paying high interest rates. In addition to funding the warlord “reconstruction chests”, part of the loans were used to paying the tribute to the Syrian oligarchy, since lebanon was under Syria mandated power till 2005.

Mind you that Syria, after 2001, began a neoliberal policy for its oligarchic elite class, and privatizing new public institutions such as the mobile telecommunication and oil extraction and grandiose Real Estates development in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus…

Note 1: The oil boom increased the number of Lebanese workers in the Arab Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia within a decade from just 50,000 in 1970 to well over 210,000 in 1980, or one third of Lebanon work force.

Note 2: Post inspired from two chapters written by Fabrice Balanche and Hannes Baumann in the book “Lebanon after the Cedar Revolution

Note 3: A wealthy international neoliberal club requires from its members to extract profit from their own country, as a proof of allegiance to global neoliberalism, in order to facilitate the infusion of unwarrented loans to their corresponding State.

Have you witnessed that almost all current prime ministers, finance ministers and governors of central banks in Europe, the USA and many other countries were “employees” at the IMF, the World Bank , World Commerce institutions and international financial corporations?

Note 4: Basically, the expatriate billionnaire contractors initially got the blessing of the former civil war warlords (Nabih Berri, Walid Jumblatt, Samir Jagea… supported by Syria, Saudi Arabia and the US neoliberal financial institutions) who were brought back to power, and then managed their financial porfolio and financed the election campaigns as political allies…

Is Lebanon ripe for another civil war round? Politically yes, militarily not yet…

You may first read https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/you-know-it-is-a-civil-war-when/

The strongest indicator for a coming civil war, in a confessional political structure, is when every religious sect is divided on its leading political representatives. A civil war is the preferred mechanism to unite the clergy and various warlords around a unique leader to represent the religious sect…

The previous civil war (1975-91) was mainly internal wars within each religious sect for political hegemony over the entire sect, representing its confessional rights and speaking in its name.

The internal war in Lebanon started as a mass civil disobedience against a political system that refused to reform…Before it transformed into a major and lengthy civil war…

The previous civil war ended when almost all religious sects resolving their internal political struggles and were ready to talk with the other religious sects as a unified front.

Only the Christian Maronite sect was still politically divided on its leadership and kept resuming the armed confrontation while the other sects were “reforming the Constitutions” in Taef (Saudi Arabia) and dividing up the political power, appointing the public servants in the administration, and budget…

After the Taef agreement, the Moslem Shia sect elected Nabih Berri (Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies) to be their political representative within this confessional structure, though Hezbollah had secured the military power behind the sect and the unifying force for the sect.

Berri was the main Syrian representative (agent and still is) in Lebanon, while Hezbollah the representative of Iran’s ideological reflection.

Rafic Hariri, was the Sunni leader and the representative of Saudi Arabia political ideological and interests in Lebanon.

During the Syrian mandate of Lebanon up to 2005, Rafic was forbidden to visit Tripoli and the norther part of Lebanon, predominantly Sunnis. After Rafic assassination and the withdrawal of the Syrian troops, the Mustakbal movement (the Hariri clan party) managed to gain an aura in the north, not commensurate to the promises it failed to deliver during election periods…

The Maronite had no exclusive powerful political leader, and was represented by the assigned and unknown President of the Republic Hrawi (put forward by Syria Hafez Assad). The General of the army and Prime Minister Michel Aoun was forced into exile to France for 15 years. Samir Geaja (head of the militia Lebanese Forces) was sent to jail for 11 years…

Samir Geaja was the only militia warlord to be incarcerated. All the other warlords enjoyed appointments as ministers and deputies after the war…and were allocated secret “money boxes” to be spent on their associates and fattening their stashed away finances…

Geaja can be considered the worst political and military warlord failure for the duration of the war: He never won a war and failed to reap any political advantage…

The emerging front triumvirate of Berri, Hariri, and the President of the Republic divided up the treasury of the State and allocated the budget into personal Financial Boxes to spend on their respective regions…and a sizable portion of the budget and commercial dealing diverted to the coffers of the Syrian regime and their oligarchs

The Druze leader Walid Jumblat was allocated the “Displaced Box” of the Christians who fled the Shouf district during the war and who never returned, not yet…

Nabih Berri was allocated the “South Box” in order to reconstruct the southern districts…

Rafic Hariri was allocated the “Calamity Box” to spend on the reconstruction of Beirut and Saida.  This Box circumvented half a dozen ministries and took over every project meant to upgrade Lebanon infrastructure.  For example:

The airport received the name of Rafic Hariri. The main public hospital got the name of Rafic Hariri, the center of Beirut was reconstructed under the Solidere company owned by Rafic Hariri, the trash collection and disposal was run by a company owned by Rafic Hariri “Suklene”, the two mobile phone companies were owned by Rafic Hariri and Nagib Mikati (current prime minister)….

The successive Presidents of the Republic, seemingly representing the interest of the Christians and the Maronite in particular, have been mostly impotent in turning the tide into “fairer” representation of the Christians in the public administration…and the two main Maronite parties “The Lebanese Forces” of Samir Geaja and the “Tayyar of reform and change” of Michel Aoun were unable to reaching a unifying consensus…

Lebanon is ripe politically for another civil war round:

1. Nabih Berri, the main Syria Man, is scrambling to keep a political presence after the Assad regime of Syria. All the activities of Berri is to prove that he is the master mediator among the factions to maintaining the archaic system of Lebanon. Berri knows that without Syria’s support he cannot hope for more than being elected a simple deputy in 2013…

Mikati PM is the front of the Syrian regime, and basically obeying to Berri decisions on critical issues…Consequently, Berri has reduced this government to total impotency and the ridicule of the people because he needs to please all the confessional powers…

2. Hezbollah is re-organizing in order to maintain its status as the main Iranian stronghold in the region and will inevitably be forced to taking the front scene as the political representative of the Shia sect…

3. The Sunni sect that is mainly represented by the Mustakbal movement (The Future) of the Hariri clan is losing credibility because:

First, this movement is still working to privatize the public institutions in order to own them for cheap,

Second, this movement sided with the US and Israel when Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006 against the resistance of Hezbollah,

Third, this movement proved not to care about its election promises to the poorer districts, and failed the expectations of the Sunni people again and again…Their investments were placed in Beirut, and mostly in Real Estates…and ruined the electricity and water infrastructures

Many other Sunni “leaders” are emerging to contest the hegemony of the Mustakbal, and partially succeeding in restricted localities…

The Maronites are still divided.

The main political power of the Tayyar of Michel Aoun has over 30 deputies out of 120, and 10 ministers out of 30. And the Tayyar has been the target of all the confessional parties in order to fail its programs and projects in the government and in the Parliament…

Even the Greek Orthodox Christian sect is divided and unable to reach any consensus on the political figures to representing its interest as a unified front…

Politically, Lebanon is ripe for another round of civil war, and the troubles in Syria in the last 16 months are the main catalysts for this dangerous divisions in the Lebanese confessional fabric.

Militarily, Lebanon is stable.

The army and Hezbollah are the main military powers and can foil any armed uprising.

For this reason, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the US have been fomenting “discourses” meant to weaken the credibility of the army as the unifying institution for all the Lebanese.

The Tayyar (movement of Michel Aoun) reacted vigorously and is taking to the street demanding firm actions by the government against any actions and speeches defaming the army and weakening the moral of the officers and soldiers…

Hezbollah is confident of his representation of the Shia in the districts and regions of Shia majority, but is being aware that engaging in a second civil war in order to catapult the Shia as the main power broker in Lebanon will sap its reduced resources, divert its focus on Israel threats, and encourage Israel (the US) to wage a 7th preemptive war on Lebanon…

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.

“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.

Hezbollah (God’s Party) and Nasr Allah (God’s Victory): Biographies (May 25, 2009)

Hassan Nasr Allah is currently the Secretary General of Hezbollah.  He was born in August 31, 1960 in the poorest section of East Beirut called Nab3a.

Hassan was the eldest among 9 offspring and his father supported this vast family selling vegetable.

Hassan refrained from playing soccer with the neighboring kids or joining them for a swim; he was deeply religious and admired greatly Imam Moussa Sadr who gave the Moslem Shiaa sect a sense of their pride and potentials in the Lebanese fabrics.

The regions of the Shiaa in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley were neglected by the central government since the independence in 1943.  The Imam of the Mosque where Hassan prayed in Nabaa was the late Muhammad Fadlallah who is presently the highest Imam of the Shiaa in Lebanon.

At the age of 14 Hassan moved with his family to their home village Bazourieh in south Lebanon. He aided Sheikh Ali Shams el Deen to open a small library of religious manuscripts and Hassan started teaching religion in the village and then finished his high school in Tyr.

By the age of 15 Hassan joined the “AMAL” movement of Imam Moussa Sadr and was quickly appointed officer of the Bekaa district and then a member of the politburo.  Sheikh Muhammad Ghrawy facilitated to Nasr Allah higher religious learning in Najaf (Iraq).

Nasr Allah met in Najaf with Abbass Moussawy (later the first Secretary General of Hezbollah).  By 1978, and after two years spent in Najaf, Nasr Allah returned to Lebanon.  A couple of months later, Imam Moussa Sadr disappeared after a visit to Libya in August 1978.

In 1979, Khomeini came to power in Iran and the Shah went to exile.  The geopolitical condition in the Middle East changed drastically. Iran was now against the USA interests in the region, supported the Palestinian cause, and was the first State to officially allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to open and embassy in Tehran.

Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982; the operation was baptized “Peace in Galilee“.  Israel put siege to Beirut for two months and Yasser Arafat and 11,000 Palestinian fighters left to Tunisia.

The Lebanese President of the Republic Elias Sarkis invited Nabih Berri (leader of AMAL) to join Walid Jumblat (Druze leader) and Basheer Gemayel (leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces) to forming a national rescue team. Many AMAL cadres quit Nabih Berry such as Abbass Moussawy, Sobhi Tuffaily, Hussein Moussawy, Ibraheem Amin Sayyed, Naeem Qassem, and Nasr Allah.  They created Hezbollah and blew up the US Marines and French barracks in Beirut in 1983. Nasr Allah had said that Hezbollah was the consequence of Israel entering Beirut in 1982.

Hezbollah postponed declaring its formation until 1985 after Israel assassinated one of Hezbollah’s leaders Sheikh Ragheb Harb. The Iranian leaders Ali Mohtashamy was then the spiritual father of the Party and Muhammad Akhtary the military father.

Hassan Nasr Allah learned from Ragheb Harb the famous dictum “The word is taking a stand and shaking hands is acknowledgement of assent” and thus Harb never shook hands with any Israeli army officers who were trying hard to win Ragheb over to supporting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.

In 1987, Nasr Allah was appointed member of the highest legislative order in Hezbollah and chairman of the executive branch.

In 1989, Nasr Allah resumed his religious studies in Qom (Iran) and returned in a hurry to Lebanon when military skirmishes with the AMAL movement spread.  The AMAL party was executing the orders of the Syrian regime to entering the Palestinian camps and disarming the Palestinians of any heavy arsenal.

Hezbollah followed the policies of Iran to leave the Palestinian out of harm.  After many months of fighting both parties settled out their differences as Syria and Iran reached a compromise.

Israel assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbass Moussawy in 1992.  Nasr Allah was the closest aid to Moussawy, had extensive contacts with the base, and studied in Qom.

Hassan Nasr Allah replaced Moussawy as Secretary General; he was only 32 of age.  Nasr Allah said: “A movement that witnesses its leader falling martyr can never be defeated“. Hezbollah evolved into a qualitative phase in organization and political acumen.

Israel invaded Lebanon in July 1993 for 7 days under the code name “Settling Accounts” and then re-invaded in 1996 under Shimon Peres (Nobel Peace prize winner!) and the operation of total destruction lasted for 17 days under the name “Grapes of Wrath” and shelled a UN compound in Qana where civilians had taken refuge and over 100 died and 300 were gravely injured.

Hadi, the eldest son of Nasr Allah, fell martyr during a resistance operation in September 1997; it was the night before Nasr Allah was to deliver a major speech and he insisted on speaking and said:

In Hezbollah we do not save our children for the future; we honor them when they fight in the front lines against our enemy Israel; we stand tall when they fall martyrs

Israel had to retreat from all of Lebanon, with the exception of Shebaa Farms and the hills of Kfarshouba in May 24, 2000 without pre-conditions or negotiations.  The Arab recognized Hezbollah as the main resistance movement that vanquished Israel and acclaimed Nasr Allah as the Hero of liberation.  In the large town of Bent Jbeil Nasr Allah delivered the Victory Speech and offered the liberation in the name of all the Lebanese.

Nasr Allah said: “Israel has nuclear arsenals and owns the most lethal air force in the region.  Israel is still much weaker than the spider web” (It was a reference of a spider web on a cave that saved the Prophet Muhammad from being caught by the Kuraich persecutors while fleeing to Yathreb)

Israel bombarded the villages in south Lebanon in 2003 and then raided Beirut in 2005.  Israel re-invaded Lebanon in July 2006 for 33 days and failed to achieve any of its proclaimed objectives.  Nasr Allah was recognized as the most charismatic and powerful resistance leader in the Arab and Moslem World.  Nasr Allah played the catalyst for the Shiaa in Lebanon to participate in projecting the living messages in the symbolism of the Koran verses and thus be capable of assimilating and accepting changing social and environmental conditions.

According to the famous journalist Seymour Hirsh, Cheney, Eliot Abrahams, and Bandar Ben Sultan conspired to finance and whisk the members of Fatah El Islam into the refugee camp of Nahr Al Bared with the purpose of destabilizing Lebanon and starting civil war between the Moslem Shiaas and Sunnis and thus immersing Hezbollah into a potential civil war. It didn’t work because the Lebanese army was hurt in its pride after many soldiers were executed by severing their heads in the summer of 2007.  The army lost over 160 soldiers and many hundreds were severely injured but the Moslem extremism objectives were defeated after 6 months of engagement in the camp.  Deputy Bahiya Hariri (sister of late Rafic Hariri) acknowledged that she contributed substantially in financing extremist Palestinian groups in the refugee camps.

The Israelis take very seriously Nasr Allah promises and threats.  The Lebanese Government of Seniora PM failed to understand that “A word is a commitment”.  Nasr Allah had said that Hezbollah will never turn its arms internally excepting when coerced to relinquish its arms; especially its secured communication lines, the most potent arm it had during the war in 2006.  In May 5, 2008 Seniora PM Government, with no Shiaa minister representatives in the cabinet, executed a plan to dismantle Hezbollah secure communication network.  Hassan Nasr Allah delivered a speech demanding the government to retract its decision.

By May 7 the AMAL militias confronted the security forces of the Moustakbal movement in Beirut and quickly closed down those arm caches intended to start civil disturbances. The AMAL forces were controlled by cadres of Hezbollah in order for the confrontation not to degenerate into sectarian infighting. For example, the rioters saved the huge pictures of late Rafic Hariri PM and removed the pictures of Saad Hariri and Seniora PM.  Israel admitted that its patient work of infiltrating Hezbollah for two years vanished within a couple of hours.

Hezbollah has joined the Parliament since 1992 and has increased the number of its Deputies; it has cabinet ministers since the year 2000.   Lebanon is getting ready for Parliamentary election in June 7, 2009 and all the indications point to victory of the opposition headed by Hezbollah, AMAL, and the movement (Tayyar) of Change and Reforms of General Michel Aoun.  Over 20 Lebanese agents spying for Israel have been apprehended.   Nasr Allah is demanding that the traitors be hanged.

Note:  The biographical sections were extracted from the recent Arabic/Lebanese book “Shock and Steadfastness” (Sadmah wa Sumoud) by Kareem Bakradouny.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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