Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Taif Constitution

Bi-Weekly Report (#21) on the Middle East and Lebanon (May 9, 2009)

The US Administration keeps flopping between the policy of a peace treaty (Israel/ Syria) first, or a Palestinian homeland in the Near East. 

So far, the US Administration has changed priority more than once in a single month and the US delegates are cruising the regions for a hint and a suggestion while carrying all kinds of tentative projects. 

The energumen Israeli foreign affairs minister, investigated for criminal activities by the Israeli police, is visiting a few European States to confirm his opposition for a Palestinian State. 

Thus, the US is pleasuring Israel by shifting its priority to (Israel/Syria) peace treaty first.

Anyone of these projects to take off there need to satisfy conditions of a few powerful regional powers.  This is no longer a State to State treaty but a regional status of dignity that no usurper is to enjoy advantages by military forces.

For Syria there are Iran and Turkey that should cooperate fully and sign their agreements. 

Iran would First pressure the US, to handle the nuclear arm policy equitably, since Israel owns one too many nuclear arms; since the sixties’, and Second, that the treaty preserves unconditionally the sovereignty of Syria in the Golan Heights.

Turkey would insists that France drops her veto to a potential attachment of Turkey to the European Union. Otherwise, why Turkey would go at such length and effort to get re-immersed in regional quagmires?  (It is Not probable that Turkey would desist from expanding its political strategy, even if promised integrated to EU)

The other condition of Turkey is that Muslim Syria is not pressured into “losing face” and thus, exacerbates the sense of humiliation and desperation that the Arab World has been subjugated to for centuries.

One policy that the US Administration has decided on and is executing with the support of the Pakistani army and government is to defeating the military power of the Taliban style ideology in northern Pakistan. 

Pakistan is the main source of instability in order to re-arrange the Greater Middle East stability

I hope that the Barack Administration has already extended its military policy in Pakistan into including the social and economic stability and viability of the Pakistani State.  Pakistan is worth heavy investment in money and time until the Taliban (Wahhabi sect) ideology prevalent in Saudi Kingdom is contained and controlled.

For the Palestinian homestate to take off there are Egypt and Saudi Kingdom to be satisfied, assuming that Syria has signed a peace treaty with Israel (Not a chance in the foreseeable future)

Egypt would First insist that its enjoys the status of the most preferred nation in Gaza, kind of practical mandate if not diplomatically; and

Second, that Israel relinquishes any kinds of controls in the Palestinian State that Egypt might be denied, and

Third, (during the Mubarak dictatorship) that Hamas is not to be the most powerful faction in the Palestinian government and Parliament: Mubarak understands that the “Muslim Brotherhood” party in Egypt has more legitimacy among the population than his regime.

Saudi Kingdom would insists that the clerics to the Mosques that it invested in building or maintaining in Palestine be hired by the Wahhabi sect and answering directly to the “fatwas” emanating from the Capital Riad.

The President of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman, has declared yesterday that after the Parliamentary election in June 7 the Dawha agreement will have been satisfied and the Taef Constitution will be applied: The winning coalition in the parliament will govern and the losers will oppose. 

The leader General Michel Aoun of the Tayyar al Horr (Change and Reform Party), and currently the dominant “Christian” representative in the parliament, has been promoting the advent of the Third Republic to replace the governing system imposed on Lebanon since 1993 during the Syrian mandate and after the withdrawal of the Syrian troops in 2005. 

The polls favor the opposition (Tayyar, Hezbollah, and Shia Amal of Nabih Berri) to gain 65 deputies out of 120. 

Michel Aoun has decided to run in the district of Jezzine (a Christian enclave) with his list of 3 candidates when all the attempts for an agreement with Berri failed. 

Berri is the Chairman of the Parliament and the leader of the Shia Amal Party that represented the Shia during the civil war but was supplanted by Hezbollah. 

Berri understands that his weight and standing in the political structure are solely based on heading the parliament and all his machinations are to securing this post that he chaired for over 20 years now.

Regardless of the winning coalition, the Taif Agreement will be re-applied in its entirety with various success and time span.

For example, a second confessional Parliament of the 19 official religious sects will be formed so that the popular Parliament will be elected devoid of sectarianism and hopefully according to a new law based on relative percentages (nisbia) and not on majority.

If the Tayyar returns with additional gains into the Parliament then the application of Taef Constitution will accelerate with modification after substantial lapse of time such as providing the President of Republic additional leverage and imposing time constraint on the government (mainly the Prime Minister) to ratifying decision as it is imposed on the President.

In case the Tayyar loses then a dangerous cycle await Lebanon with end results of sharing power not on the basis of 50/50 between the Muslim sects and the Christian sects, but on the basis of three major sects, the Shia (the most populous), the Sunni, and a combination of the Maronite and Christian Orthodox.

Lebanon is a precarious State depending on many foreign interests in the Middle East and not specifically for the sake of Lebanon.   

In any case, a stable Lebanon is connected with a stable Syria that is satisfied with Lebanon’s foreign administration of relations. The fundamental interests of Syria cannot be circumvented and supersede the USA if Lebanon is to enjoy security and stability.

Complicating the Class-Divide: New Contractor Bourgeoisie in Lebanon Politics: Rafik Hariri clan, Najib Mikati, Muhammad Safadi, and Issam Fares…

Before the civil war (1975-1989), Lebanon was ruled and controlled by the “comprador” bourgeoisie class (importing from developed nations and selling to the regional States) and their attached commercial/financial banks who manipulated the feudal/tribal/sectarian structure of Lebanon landscape.

During the civil war, Lebanese immigrated in trove to greener pastures and left the space to the sectarian warlords militias leaders. The warlord leaders split the country into sectarian cantons, displacing, transferring and remodeling the mixed communities into “cleansing” de facto closed societies.

The moslem Sunnis preferred to migrate to the new Arab Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia. A third of Lebanon work force migrated there within a decade: from 50,000 in 1970 to over 210,000 in 1980. Those struck wealth were in contracting civil work, basically working as subcontractors to Emirs and princes who had the proper connections.

Late Rafik Hariri PM, Najib Mikati PM, finance minister Muhammad Safadi, and vice PM Issam Fares were among these new contractor bourgeois…

The Moslem Shia migrated mostly to west Africa where they joined relatives and struck wealth through adventurous trade deals.

The Christians immigrated to the US and Europe for higher education, and most of them never contemplated to return home to settle. Why?

Most opportunities after the war were allocated to the Moslems, particularly the educated Sunnis who filled the vacant institutions, managed and administered foundations of the new breed of contractors, public civil work, and controlled side institutions attached to the Sunni prime minister

For example, the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR),  communication ministry, internal police force in Beirut, internal intelligence gathering section, Solidere, Sukleen, appointing the governor of the Central Bank and the minister of finance…

This new landscape was an immediate result of the Taif Constitution that expanded the political strength of the Prime Minister at the expense of the President of the Republic.

The business-politicians and neoliberal technocrats in the Future movement network of Rafik Hariri constituted a force for neoliberal “reforms” that appeased the US administration as to the financial policy direction of  the State of Lebanon.

The Hariri clan network had three main purposes:

1. Privatizing State-controlled entities by acquiring them for cheap since they had the liquidity and were backed by Saudi Arabia, and

2. Pegging the Lebanese currency to the US dollar in order to incur far more debt than necessary on the government and insuring total control of the financial condition, mainly to blackmail their rival political leaders into  difficult situation that only the Future movement of Hariri can untangle this volatile condition… (More details in a follow-up article “Applying neoliberal mechanism on Lebanon”)

3. Controlling the city center of Beirut through the chartered company Solidere

For over 2 decades, the Hariri clan were given the financial responsibilities through appointing the governor of the Central Bank, the minister of finance, and controlling the municipality of the Capital Beirut.

After the civil war, Rafik Hariri filled the vacuum of the Sunni leadership, thanks to the total backing of Saudi Arabia, which was the main loan guarantor for the infusion of international lending multinationals. The Hariri network of clientelists and media empires (TV and dailies) strengthened their electoral votes in the Sunni communities.

The Hariri clan was successful in 3 dimensions:

1. Reaching political offices like Prime minister, ministers, deputies, governors of public institutions…

2. Gaining control of public institutions to further their economic agenda, especially creating and controlling side institutions directly linked and attached to the PM

3. Gathering popular following, particularly among the Sunni community, the Druze and a few Christian parties

Saad Hariri, son of Rafik, monopolized the Sunni political leadership and contributed to the widening rift between Sunnis and Shiaas.

Najib Mikati PM and Muhammad Safadi had to climb a stiff road for claiming a political representation of the Sunni communities. Particularly, that the Future movement allied with the Sunni conservative and extremist Moslems like Lebanese Moslem Brotherhood, the extremist jihaddist wahhabi, the A7bash, the Jund al Sham, the Jamaa al Islamiyya

In fact, it was the Future party that financed and covered the many “terrorist” activities of these fringe Sunni organizations, such as in the Sirat Donnieh, the Palestinian camp of Ain Bared, the massacre committed in Halba, and lately what is happening in the large town of Ersal, confronting the army.

The new neoliberal Contractor class is a level added in class interpretation of Lebanon political structure.

How this new Contractor class acquired its wealth in the billion? (To be followed)

Note: From a chapter by Hannes Baumann in “Lebanon after the Cedar Revolution” by Are Knudsen and Michael Kerr.

Oligarchy on the way out in Lebanon

Lebanon has been governed by an oligarchy system since its independence in 1943.

About half a dozen tribal or feudal or religious sect leaders have been manipulating the political landscape and social structure of Lebanon ever since and going on, unabashed.

After the 13 years of civil war, the deputies were rounded up and dispatched to Taif in Saudi Arabia in order to sign up on a revised Constitution that was not a Constitution by any yardstick conforming to sovereign and independent State.  Not a single paragraph detailed or explained how the government would apply the Constitution in times of crisis.

For example, in designating a Prime Minister, the President who was appointed in Doha (Qatar), is to consult with the blocks of deputies and appoint the one who received the most votes.


1.  If the President refuses to appoint a Prime Minister according to the majority of the deputies then what happens?  Nothing in the Taif “Constitution” attached a procedure to getting out of that impasse.

2. If the Prime Minister is unable to form a government then what happens?  Nothing in the Taif Constitution mentioned a procedure to overcoming that problem. There is no deadline restricting the designated PM to forming a government!  If the PM forms a government, the President has two weeks to sign.

3. If the President refuses to sign on the proposed government then what happens?  Nothing in the new Constitution broached this difficulty.

4. If the chamber of deputy is unable to function properly then what happen?  Nothing in the Constitution that proposes any kinds of  alternatives.  The deputies get paid for four years over $20,000 per month, excluding all the hundreds of fringe benefits and thousands of privileges to them and the members of their extended family.  No one is legitimate enough to send the deputies home and call for another election.

5. If the government is unable to vote by two-third on critical matters then the entire political and administrative machinery is at standstil,l until a new President is voted in (sorry, agreed upon by foreign States) after a 6-year term.

Currently, the oligarchy has created 76 institutions, supposed to be attached to the different ministries,and directly run by the Prime Minister who is from the Hariri clan.  Consequently, many enterprises held by the Hariri clan have their public contracts renewed automatically with yearly outrageous increases; the unity government tried to get informed on the clauses of the contracts with no responses so far.

Since the signing on the Taif constitution in 1991, Lebanon had to be ruled and regulated by a political consensus among Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the US, the co-signers on the constitution.  Basically, Lebanon is under the de-facto mandated powers of three foreign States, if the Lebanese want to live in peace and security.

Since 1991, the successive government of Lebanon refused or were blocked to present a budget to the chamber of deputy for discussion and amendments.  Lebanon is functioning without a formal budget.  Over $20 billion in foreign aides were not recorded officially in the finance registers; all that money were diverted among the oligarchic leaders and their political and clan parties.

For a year, Lebanon has been “enjoying” a unity national government, including all the major political parties, excepting the Communist party.  For a year now, all political representatives in the government have confirmed that this government failed to agree on a single political or social program that may unify or ease the living conditions of the people; they all agreed that the government has failed in its mission but there is no constitutional recourse to getting this government resign, unless the Prime Minister takes the initiative.

The “opposition” parties, within this unity government, have began discussing the application of serious urgent political decisions before the pronouncement of the International Tribunal on the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

First, the “opposition” within the government is demanding that the false witnesses in the assassination case be brought to trial in Lebanese court system:  The International Tribunal claimed that it has no mandate judging false witnesses. The false witnesses were created and coached on the story to be told by higher-ups to politically incriminate Syria.

Now, Syria is no longer a suspect but many Lebanese officials were sent to jail without judgement, solely based on the false witnesses sayings.  More than 70% of the Lebanese are convinced that the International Tribunal is politicized by the USA in order to keeping the pressures on the oligarchy leaders to doing its bidding and organizing another civil war.

The opposition deputies have been investigating the financial administration, disbursement of funds, and official records that have never been investigated since 1991 and amazing facts are coming to lights.

1. 50% of the Lebanese are living under the poverty line ;

2.  20% are barely surviving as retailers, corner shop owners, and small agriculture.

3. 15% of the population are public servants and receiving salaries that has been stagnant for over 20 years, while inflation has been running 5% per year:  No wonder that bribing is considered normal by public servants in order to make ends meet.

Anyway, most of the public servants are not qualified in their jobs: They have been appointed by the oligarchy for political check and balance within the political landscape.  10% are making a living as “political consultants” to the oligarchy.  4% of the population are producing something of values, such as in industry and agriculture.

Barely 1% of the population own over 80% of the wealth of the “nation” and they are represented in banking,  insurance companies, monopoly wholesalers (mercantile class) importing everything from overseas.

As long as the Lebanese resistance of Hezbollah is strong, organized, and saving Lebanon from further Israeli incursions then, there is a new spirit of setting things on the right tracks and reaching a fairer reform to the political structure.

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.




February 2023

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