Friday, May 23, 2008

What's Next After this Mockery?

Ever since the July War was over, escalations rose between the Government and the Opposition loyalists. The Shiites (AMAL and Hezbollah members) and One Greek Orthodox Minister (ex-President Lahoud Loyalists) withdrew, things took a bigger U-Turn. People called Lebanon a proxy war between Iran and the United States; however, I tend to support the perspective on Lebanon's problems as not "foreign intervention", rather the system itself which paved way for foreign sponsors to enter the Arena. This perspective was advocated by President Reagan's top diplomat, Philip Habib, who considered Lebanon as a "last minute mosaic patch-work" and a cyclone which sucked all regional and international players in its never-ending mazes.

With the Opposition demonstrating since end of November 2006, after the one week of the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, Pandora's box was opened to a point of no-return. Both, the Government and the Opposition threatened with escalations and took stands that didn’t open a back route, which ended up with the military offensive led by Hezbollah, and assisted by AMAL Movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. By January, 2 collisions occurred alerting the Lebanese Society that the worse is yet to come. In March, Nasrallah announced that the Government would have collapsed sooner; however, the government was well supported by the International Community. The United States hoped that the Government can contain Hezbollah and gradually disarm them.

After the last offensive, the government and the opposition finally agreed on the nature of the Government (16: Government Loyalists, 11 Opposition Loyalists, and three selected ministers by the President – The Opposition has its veto right, and the Government loyalists only choose the Prime Minister). As for the Electoral Law, sadly the Proportional Ratio was abandoned, and instead of progressing forward, the 1960 electoral law (with several amendments) was adopted; it has to be noted that the first to propose this law was Speaker of the Parliament (and AMAL leader) Nabih Berri. I find it a bit ironical that Hezbollah bombed Junblatt's zone like the Israelis bombed Lebanon and Hezbollah. If Junblatt didnt go for the peace option, would Hezbollah have bombed his areas till he surrendered? (sounds familiar between USA and Iraq at the early stages of the second war).

Greedy Players

The anti-Syrian 14th of March Coalition, also known as the Government Loyalist or as dubbed by George Bush according to Blanford "the Cedars Revolutionaries", depended on the international political support, the Opposition depended on the military balance of power and their grass-roots that we saw in the early stages of the Open Demonstration. When the opposition almost agreed to elect the President (who both agree on and compete who want him more), one man was disappointed because he shoved himself as the "reconciliatory president of both coalitions", although he is the head of block in the Opposition himself: ex-general Michel Aoun. Now his dream won't come true, unless the next round he plans to nominate himself on a wheelchair.
Now, since late November 2006 till 2008, the Opposition set up their tents under different logos "protecting the resistance", "fighting USA", "Overthrowing the 14th of March Government", "National Unity Government", "We Want to Live... with Dignity", "fighting Israeli Government", "Wanting Dialogue", and several others. Ironically, the one that got the people's sympathy most was "Down with the thieves" and "We want bread" whereby plenty of anti-US imperialists journalists thought that this was a battle of the Poor Versus the Rich. After the latest "civil disobedience" which included the resistance directing its arms Beirut and Lower Matn (with the heavier weaponry reserved to the Jabal area, aka Durzistan). The opposition eventually proved that they launched their offensive for political scores, sending a deeper impulse of hatred among two other Lebanese sects. Why didn't the Opposition accept to do such a negotiation sooner in Beirut rather than do all that fiasco and murders. I would like to add, the ones that died are not just 65, they are spread among victims that died in the cross fire whenever the Opposition launched its open demonstrations in 2006; however, this doesn’t mean the Opposition alone was doing all the killings. Worse, Hezbollah never mentioned anything about their offensive, they called it "Peaceful Demonstration"

Now our esteemed self-proclaimed "freedom fighters", the Government, they said that nothing in the world will get them to budge from their decisions. Their liberal policies already led to this class difference (and not just for the Opposition, but also among their supporters), never also decided to step down on any of their decisions, never analyzed what they were up against, totally depended on Western and Gulf Support, and played a massive role in halting the country. Worse, turns out they were accusing the others of carrying arms while they were arming themselves as well. The weaponry seized from Future Movement (which NBN called the targeting of all Sunni pro-government locations that represent the majority of the Lebanese as "Freeing the Sunnis") and the heavier weaponry from Junblatt's PSP tells us that this is a long road for a solution.

Now, we see the Opposition sharing the government in a National Unity Matter. The logical question goes to al-Manar TV, if the Opposition is fighting Zionism; on what basis they are seeking "National Unity" with them? The Government on the other hand are fighting the executioners of their figureheads, well fine, on what basis you want a dialogue with your cadres' supposed assassins.

The last step is the head of the Syndicates Union: Mr. Ghosn. If anyone to be accused of ultimate treason to the Proletariat, it will be him. We all know what lies the Government and the Opposition are made of. Some of the comrades never expected that Hezbollah will turn their missiles on Mt. Lebanon, rather we thought it will be under his expected successor , Naem Qassem , because he known for his hardliner position. Yet Nasrallah proved to be a liar, and the worse of him is Mr. Ghosn. Ghosn's demonstration was hijacked by the Opposition to pull their military offensive and trigger these six days of civil wars throughout almost Lebanon. He blamed everything on the Government without shedding light about the Opposition even though the Opposition are to be blamed for the crisis, like the Government. All he still needs to do is to thank the Opposition for "protecting the demonstrators from the US agents, Future Movement." To hell with those General Syndicates. The irony is that the Opposition didn’t bring back any economical change. Rather, they spent it arguing on what street this or that town should be a political constituency. Do those who demanded for bread feel suckered? The sect-driven , or party- affiliate ones I am sure they would feel victorious.

One thing for Sure

Just as 14th of March blamed the economic situation on the Syrians Mandate, and everything rotten, the Opposition did the same on the Government. Now they both lost momentum. Those who will go down to demonstrations are the Sect-Driven ones (excluding the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Lebanese Communist Party, and the Democratic Left; if they are still existent)

A Massacre, Breaching already the Doha Agreement, and Flushing the Civil Society

Both factions started already breaching the Doha Conference. This conference required strictly that both coalitions should study the Boutros Electoral Law Reform in details. Rather, now they are going to go and elect the President, get him inaugurated, and vote on the amended 1960 law. Now a question to the Opposition supporters, how do they feel that the ending of their tents in Down Town and all this time ended as a gift from Berri to Qatar, his token of appreciation to them. What Berri didn’t notice the opening a Pandora's Box, whereby we saw certain Salafi extremists attacking the SSNP and beating to death (or following the wounded and killing them in the hospital and mutilating their bodies.) The horrific videos were out, and the bodies of those 11 SSNP were used as a political point against Harriri. The Future Movement tried to blame it on certain extreme Salafis and condemned the Massacre. However, as well all now the SSNP, they seek revenge... and such a gigantic scale of a massacre will beget a retaliation (my expectation that the murderers are currently dubbed as 'the living dead') because they appeared on TV. The most logical part is the army (if it still has any pride after what happened) to arrest the killers who appear clear on the video. One man described the situation in a realist manner, to my surprise Samir Jaajaa, whereby he admitted they are supporters of the Future Movement who are the moer fanatic factions of the Sunnis, and admitted how difficult it is to control them once Future Movement are weakened. As a matter of fact, I think Hezbollah wouldn’t think of it, they need Harriri's business elites' friends to block Lebanon from falling to a worse economical situation.

As for the Civil Society, well they were knocked in a shock and didn’t know what to do. A lot thought that their years of "long-term projects", "democratization Lebanon", and "lobbying" went down the drain. Well guess what, it taught them two lessons:

One, no person can assume carrying his/her principles from abroad and just apply them in Lebanon without understanding its history, problems, and ignore the situation of the region.

Two, they spent quiet a while on law reform and hit the wall. The ones with the real bargaining chips are the key-players.

Three, if they want to spend so much time on lobbying, at least lobby for something correct, such as Civil Marriage, making the Personal Law (whereby each sect is governed in personal affairs to Sect laws), progressive tax on an individual level rather corporate because the corporate means the rich get richer, and the ultimate law to insure real democracy = transparency, and hence the law advocated by Junblatt Sr. in the 1950s "From Where You Have This". Of course this to be followed by the "Six by Six" norm in the public sector recruitment (ie for 2 Catholics, you get 2 Orthodox employees, two Druze, two Muslims...etc). Structural changes and emancipation from above can never happen. The only real solution is the workers emancipated to their causes despite class, gender, race, religion, and gender, and even Nationality (in reference to protecting non-Lebanese proletariat). Again, how can you have an effective Civil Society if the majority are politically affiliated, or without a clue on Lebanon's contingency history?

The only ones who proved to have guts were the Disabled organization "Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union" (LPHU) whereby they simply proceeded to face the politicians as they went to the airport with banners "Don't Come Back till You Agree" and "Shame on You!". Those organizations such as "Our Unity, Our Salvation", National Democratic Institute (NDI), and a lot uncountable others proved weak. They just followed LPHU to the demonstrations or attempted to support them. After all, what better message is seeing all those courageous handicapped on wheelchairs demonstrating against the Politicians' Greed?

Who Lost Most?

Well, Aoun! For starters, his ally got back into the sphere as Zgharta now became alone as a constituency hence forth we will see Suleiman Frangieh making it to the Parliament. He didn’t secure anything in Beirut, as a great battle awaits him down there. And on the top of it all, his "legendary sweep" of Matn is not secure at all, now that 14th of March in last year's individual elections balanced against him, and now he doesn’t have Michel el Murr as an ally. This doesn’t account for how the Christian street will vote after all those incidents. Aoun made it to elections as the man who promised the Christians a strong leader, mainly himself! With all those fluctuations, I even expect breaches elsewhere for Aoun, such as even as far as Zahli. In 2005 elections, Future Movement was successful to breach to the parliament with an MP.

Text of the Deal (as taken from Daily Star) as follows:

DOHA: Under the auspices of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and in continuation of the efforts of the Arab Ministerial Committee, headed by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, and the efforts of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and the foreign ministers of Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Algeria, Djibouti, Oman, Morocco, and Yemen,
And based on the Arab initiative to contain the Lebanese crisis and in implementation of the Arab-brokered Beirut agreement which took place on May 15, 2008,

The Lebanese National Dialogue Conference was held in Doha from May 16, 2008 to May 21, 2008 in the presence of the different Lebanese political leaders, who asserted their will to save Lebanon by ending the current political impasse and avoiding its dangerous consequences on national coexistence and civil peace between the Lebanese, and voiced their commitment to the principles of the Lebanese Constitution and the Taif Accord.

As a result of the different meetings, discussions, and consultations that the Arab committee had with all the parties participating in the conference, the following agreement has been reached:

1 - The Parliament speaker will summon the Lebanese Parliament to convene, according to rules in force, within 24 hours to elect consensus candidate General Michel Suleiman as president.

2 - A national unity government of 30 ministers to be formed. It will comprise 16 ministers from the majority, 11 ministers from the opposition and three ministers to be named by the new president. All parties pledge not to resign from the government or hinder its work.

3 - Adopting the qada as the electoral constituency based on the 1960 electoral law, but the qadas of Marjayoun and Hasbaya will continue to be one constituency and so will the qadas of Westrern Bekaa and Rashaya and the qadas of Baalbek and Hermel.

As for Beirut, it will be divided in the following manner:

First constituency: Achrafieh, Rmeil, Saifi
Second constituency: Bashoura, Medawar, Marfaa
Third constituency: Mina al-Hosn, Ain al-Mreisseh, Mazraa, Mosseitbeh, Ras Beirut, Zokak al-Balat.

The parties also agree on forwarding to the Lebanese Parliament the electoral reforms that were proposed by the National Committee for Drafting the Electoral Law, headed by former Minister Fouad Boutros.

4 - All parties will commit not to resort to arms or violence in order to resolve political conflicts.

Resuming dialogue over strength ening state authority over all parts of Lebanon and defining the relations between the state and the different political groups in the country.

This dialogue has already started in Doha and resulted in:

- Agreeing that security and military powers to be solely in the hands of the state and spreading state authority over all parts of the country so that outlaws will have no safe havens.

5 - Reiteration of a pledge by Lebanese political leaders to immediately refrain from using language that incites political rifts or sectarianism and from accusing each other of treason.

This agreement was signed in Doha on May 21, 2008, by the Lebanese leaders participating in the conference and in the presence of the head of the Arab Ministerial Committee and its members.

As for the rest of the Constituencies:

I didn’t have time to translate them yet to English, but they are taken from Assafir, and they are in Arabic over here.

One Last Irony

Isn't it ironical that once the Lebanese ended their dialogue, Syria began its Dialogue through Turkey? How come the Opposition didn’t react to that?

Last Speculation?

Will the assassinations of 14th of March cadres continue or not?

13 comments:

omar said...

Hi MFL,

I agree with your sentiments, it's a tragedy that the only real outcome of this whole crisis was that the electoral system became MORE sectarian and LESS democratic. Kiss ikhton killon.

Can I ask you a favour? Could you please a) give a brief description of the 'leftist' parties of lebanon (esp any trotskyist ones?) or b) recommend an article (in english please!) that has such a description/analysis?

YFTR

ms. tee said...

MFL,

Thanks for the recap and the leftist lemon squeeze that gives it a round taste.

One thing though, Jeajea's admission about Halba sounds more like a threat. Jumayyil was the first to conjure the Salafi boogeyman in the early days of the fighting. It seems to me the Christian allies of Hariri are overplaying the Salafi threat to justify their coalition with Mustaqbal. All the more so now that Christians have been treated as less than second rate partners in the last few weeks.

MarxistFromLebanon said...

Actually my dearest Ms. Tee , I felt he was expressing the reality of the situation. Ayman Zawahari did announce those al-Qa'eda freaks would be building in Lebanon, and just as the ultra-Christian Guardians of Cedars are banned in Lebanon, these people should be delt with equally, if not even more severely with due to their suicide bombing logic against "crusaders" .

Omar,

I wrote a three part article , serving as a general headline on the problems of the Lebanese Left:

http://marxistfromlebanon.blogspot.com/2007/04/investigating-lebanese-leftpart-i-its.html

This is part one and should lead you to part II and III from the link I posted.

MFL

ayla said...

I like your three lessons (the need to understand the context; to go beyond positive law reform; to target personal/family laws and corporation laws etc. which would go some way in empowering the people.)

And I fully agree with your statement:

'Structural changes and emancipation from above can never happen. The only real solution is the workers emancipated to their causes despite class, gender, race, religion, and gender, and even Nationality (in reference to protecting non-Lebanese proletariat). Again, how can you have an effective Civil Society if the majority are politically affiliated, or without a clue on Lebanon's contingency history?'

My question then is, who or what can drive such a movement (which is applicable really in most contexts) and how?

It always becomes like a chicken or egg situation... some will say, the government needs to make reforms and efforts which will encourage such change but in this case, the government is the result of what needs to be changed so the 'sparks' must come from elsewhere. (I am just thinking to myself here.)

Are there trade unions in Lebanon (or at least Beirut) that are not based on sectarian (political; religious; ethnic) lines? If so, how can they be empowered?

I remember in Beirut at least (admittedly around Hamra and the universities) I encountered many educated and non-sectarian individuals and then looking at the charity of people towards each other during the war... - I am surprised a strong movement doesnt already exist. Or perhaps I was just lucky to meet what is a minority.

Sorry for my rambling on... I just feel the ingredients are there in Lebanon for the creation of a strong and effective Civil Society.

Do you agree or am I just being unrealistically optimistic?

Lalebanessa said...

MFL,
I wonder if the army even could arrest the killers at Halba. Wouldn't that prompt for a call for arrests of killers in Beirut?
What would happen then?

This country is going down the drain, dragged there by people who revel in the culture of blood.

ms. tee said...

Dear MFL, I have no doubt that the pro-Qaeda groups actually exist in Lebanon and that they harbor dangerous ideologies. But the way it is being framed by Hariri's Christian allies ("Mustaqbal or bust") reeks of "tahwil", for lack of an expressive English word. The notion that it is either al-Mustaqbal or al-Qaeda sounds fantastical, not least because of the role al-Mustaqbal has played in strengthening pro-Qaeda groups through middlemen such as Shahhal and Dahir.

omar said...

I think the fact that the Bourgeoisie Hezballah party joined the ruling coalition can only be a good development for the far left in and around Lebanon.

Workers, (and also the peasants and lumpen proletariat) currently looking to Hezballah for deliverance will necessarily be disappointed by their performance in the government, and so space for a truly socialist (ie. Trotskyist) alternative to build will be created.

If only there were people seeking to capitalise on this political space...

Riemer Brouwer said...

Interesting post. I wonder, though, why Ghosn called off the demonstration. It certainly wasn't for security reasons.

But was it to stab Hezbollah in the back, to flex his muscles in defense of accusations he belongs to the March 8 camp? Who knows...

A first step towards a civil society would be to remove all mentioning of sects in any and all public records. Let's see when that will happen, if ever.

Renegade Eye said...

You should write a transitional program for Lebanon.

Angry Anarchist said...

Ahem...

Well, I am back... on the blogging scene, that is... :P

http://politburo.elementfx.com/blog/

Angry Anarchist said...

"the way it is being framed by Hariri's Christian allies ("Mustaqbal or bust")"

It's not just Hariri's Christian allies framing it that way. It's Hariri himself doing it, too. I do agree with you, by the way. It's blackmail pure and simple. We all know that the Salafis already have strong roots in the North, but to say that they are there in spite of Hariri is to be dishonest. They got there and thrived either directly through Hariri, or indirectly because of the Hariri capitalistic economic policies, which Hezbollah was in agreement with, by the way (you needn't go far, just look at Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's latest speech about "reconstruction").

Angry Anarchist said...

Hm, unless of course Haifa Wehbe & Nancy Ajram fans turn into al-Qa'ida's foot soldiers or supporters... I wouldn't rule it out, of course, Lebanon being what it is...

Darko said...

Welcome back, hope you dont loose hope again