Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for December, 2008

A Maverick’s trip to the hinterland -3

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/12/2008

The Church of Maaloula

The Church of Maaloula

In the two previous posts sharing the same title, I first discussed the press’s reaction to Aoun’s visit and then the predictions surrounding his visit (and its announcement). Now I’d like to share with you my reaction to his visit.

At first I was taken aback. I was very uncomfortable when I saw the pictures of Michel Aoun entering the People’s Palace. Although I think the Lebanese government should have a smarter policy concerning Syria, one that would at least seem to be friendly towards the Syrian Government (Instead of having no policy at all and two different voices within the government, one overly hostile, the other overly friendly), visits by Lebanese politicians to Syria still send shivers down my spine.

But when I saw (and read about) the way Michel Aoun was received by some Christians in Syria, I felt that this visit surely has an important communal significance, at least within two communities, the Christian one and the Sunni one.

Aoun’s visit to Syria presented Syrian Christians with a Lebanese Christian Leader that isn’t hostile to their country, one that had shown his independence by fighting for the independence of his country, but that express no hostility towards Syria after the end of its occupation of Lebanon. What some Syrian Christians said to Aoun during his visit will certainly find an echo within Lebanon’s Christian community.

For Lebanon’s Sunni community, this visit certainly represents the final proof of Aoun’s treachery and traitorousness (after his frontal attacks against the Future Movement and his alliance with Hezbollah). By dealing with the assassins of their communal leader he has become one of his allies, and in becoming one of his allies, he becomes an accomplice in Rafik Hariri’s assassination.


Posted in Identity, Journalism, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Political behaviour, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Political Fiction: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef flies to Iraq with message of Peace

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/12/2008


"Before becoming Israeli, I was an Iraqi like you"

"Before becoming Israeli, I was an Iraqi like you", Hacham Yosef from the Najaf.

Former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, flew to Iraq early morning yesterday to meet with Grand Ayatollah Sistani. From the Najaf, he extended a message of Peace to all Iraqis. After meeting with the highest shiite authority in Iraq, Rabbi Yosef made a discrete visit to Basra, where he was shown the neighbourhood in which he was born.


“When M. Akram al-Hakim suggested we visit Basra to see where my family hails from, I didn’t show much excitement about it. It’s true that I was born in this city, but I left it when I was 4. I didn’t expect to remember anything about it. And yet, when we crossed the [Ashar] river, something in the smell or possibly the lighting felt familiar and brought teers to my ears. I felt I was resuming with 28 centuries of history”. 

This reporting purely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or deceased, has nothing coincidental. 

Posted in Fiction, Iraq, Israel, Journalism | 1 Comment »

Resorting to fiction: a new kind of posting

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/12/2008


I haven't read the study. I'm just using the cover for illustration

I haven't read the study. I'm just using the cover for illustration

Politics have become so tedious in the Middle East that I decided I should sometimes resort to political fiction to keep my spirit up and this blog going. 

Every now and then, I will be “reporting” a political event involving real political agents… but this event will be completely fictitious.

I hope that these political fiction posts will give a new perspective on things and show how much we lack the imagination to solve our many Middle-Eastern problems, withstanding the countless possibilities that are waiting for us to make them real.

Posted in Fiction, Journalism | Leave a Comment »

A Maverick’s trip to the hinterland -2

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/12/2008

media71Samir Geagea said he was “worried about MP Michel Aoun’s political situation in the wake of his visit to Syria”. By visiting his former foe, did Michel Aoun play his last political card? Is it a political suicide? Will his supporters accept it, would they vote for him during the next elections? 

These are the questions that many Lebanese and foreign analysts have been asking themselves since the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement announced his visit to Syria.

It’s too early to the judge, and the coming parliamentary elections will certainly give us a clearer indication on the consequences of the visit. One thing is for sure, it’s a very surprising move and one with a strong symbolic effect for Lebanese and Syrians alike. For many years, Aoun was the symbol of anti-syrian sentiment in both countries. And now he comes to Syria, as a friend… and a Christian.

Aoun’s visit to Syria is certainly a very daring political move. It certainly shows how independent-minded the leader of the FPM is, and how he refuses to conform even to the particular party and group that he has constituted, and moves in a way that seems to disavow two of the FPM’s trademarks: its anti-syrian sentiment and its commitment to secularism.  

Having voted for that party during the last two elections, I was a bit flustered when I heard about the trip. I didn’t feel “betrayed” because of it. I too consider that relations with Syria should be normalised, and I have been visiting that country regularly since its government withdrew its troops from my country (and refrained from doing it before that date). I had witnessed the negative impact the discourse of the “March 14th” coalition had on the relations between the two people. And I thought that something should be done about it. But when Aoun announced he was visiting Syria, I felt that he was playing into regional politics, that he was sacrificing internal politics to geopolitics (like all the rest of the Lebanese political actors); something that is quite apparent in his discourse, but that he seemed to be putting into action. 

Posted in Journalism, Lebanon, Politics, Syria | 2 Comments »

A Maverick’s trip to the hinterland -1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 18/12/2008

128729314872631235 Aoun’s visit to Syria has sparked a bush fire in the Lebanese media. It seems like every single editorialist and politician in the country felt the urge to comment on it. 

Much of the analysis coming from the aounophobic press was twofold, one one hand geopolitical and on the other electoral. Aoun’s visit was seen as an electoral trick to insure Syrian support during the coming parliamentary elections. It was also presented as a proof of Aoun’s political positioning within the “Syrian-Iranian Axis”. 

On the other side of the policial spectrum, journalists and politicians were praising the visit or saying that it was perfectly natural. Aoun’s internet media Tayyar.org emphasised the religious aspect of the visit, and so did his Orange TV.

I personally believe that in practical terms, the visit doesn’t have much sens. By that, I mean that it will not have any immediate result. Syria has very limited influence on the Lebanese elections. It can no longer choose who is allowed to run, and it is no longer a broker in the formation of alliances or the constitution of slates. It can assert its influence through the votes of its nationals that were accorded a Lebanese citizenship in the 1990s, it can try to pressure its allies into making or unmaking alliances, but this is relatively insignificant compared to its influence during its “mandate” over Lebanon. In fact, its influence depends on the will and compliance of its local allies; on their acceptance of its interference, like it was the case in the late 1950s and 1960s with Nasser’s Egypt. 

So what’s the fuss about?

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Journalism, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics, Reconciliation, Religion, Syria | Leave a Comment »