Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

Is the international tribunal timely?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 07/01/2007

For some odd reason, there hasn’t been a debate in Lebanon over the timeliness of the international court that is to be set up to find the criminals behind Rafic Hariri’s assassination. No one questions the importance in principle of such a court. Justice is obviously of paramount importance. And such a trial might put an end to political assassinations by rogue regimes in the region, would  argue the overly optimistic.

But let’s be realistic, what exactly can be expected of this Court?
– It is an ad hoc structure that will disappear after it has judged those found responsible for the assassination of Rafic Hariri. This will certainly not prevent or have a dissuading effect over similar crimes, because the judicial reaction was slow and only came about after painstaking efforts that could have been avorted by many factors: internal political pressure in the country where the crime happened, diminushing interest in the international community, a political decision by one of the veto holding powers in the Security Coucil…
– If it does find the perpetrators of the assassination and those who ordered it, the court’s decision could very well be seen as a politial one regionaly. It is a foreign court, and everything foreign is usually seen with a lot of distrust by middle-easteners, population and analysts, who are staunch believers in conspiracy theories.
– It is quite likely that the assassination was ordered in Syria, by parties “close” to the regime. If this is the case, what will the political repercussion of such a judgement be? What is the international community likely do? What will be Syria’s reaction? What will Lebanon have to suffer because of that?
Why isn’t anyone discussing these eventualities publicly?

Posted in Justice, Lebanon, Middle East, Security, Syria, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Barbed wire across town

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/12/2006

barbedwire.jpgEverywhere in Beirut, you find barbed wire fences. They are springing up everywhere these days: on walls, over walls, across roads, bridges, sidewalks…

They look very threatening and give the impression that Beyrouth is a very dangerous place to live in. The police, the army, corporations and individuals are setting them up around “their” territories, defending them, telling the unwanted “keep out”.

That says a lot about the city and the general atmosphere here. I wonder why nothing is being done about; why there is no public discussion on it; why it is not regulated.

Posted in Lebanon, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Dealing with Hezbollah, an american recommendation

Posted by worriedlebanese on 26/12/2006

New York Times logoAn interesting opinion article written by a former head of the CIA counterintelligence  center. Oddly enough, the argument he advance is equally true for Hamas in Palestine: Americans might not like them, but they have to put emotions aside and deal with them… as facts on the grounds.

His central recommendation is as follows:

“A far more genuine American commitment to Lebanon would focus on helping the parties to come up with a reasonable formula to redress the under-representation of Shiites in the power structure while getting greater government control over Hezbollah’s war-making capacity”. 

In other words, he believes that Hezbollah cannot be ignored, and cornering it is a bad idea. It is better to get the party more involved in the Lebanese political game as the main Shiite player, than encourage it to side with foreign regimes in a battle for survival.
His point is interesting. But it leaves out a central problem: the difficulty Lebanon has in modifying its complicated power-sharing arrangement. It is a zero sum game. One community’s gain is another community’s loss. Who will be willing to sacrifice part of his “share” in power (and ressources) for the political integration and gradual decommissioning of Hezbollah?

If you love Lebanon, Set it free

Click on the left box to view article.

Posted in Hezbollah, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Pluralism, Politics, Reform, Security | Leave a Comment »

Demarcation lines

Posted by worriedlebanese on 21/12/2006

For security reasons, the army has set up demarcation lines in Beirut.

Upon my arrival to Lebanon I visited the opposition camping area in downtown Beirut to see what exactly is going on, to check if the rumours (information published in the local press) were true.
What I discovered is a very odd mix of small political parties and groups (some of which I had never heard) and a strong presence of two other groups: Hezbollah and (to a lesser degree) the Free Patriotic Movement.

After walking through the camping area (that encompasses Riad el-Solh square, the adjoining parking and the southern part of Martyr’s square), I discovered that the whole are was cut off from the city center by barbwire. There were only two areas where you could cross from, two check points where you were asked by a military men (if you are a young man) to show your identity card and where were questioned on where and why you were going from one area to another.

Posted in Democracy, Discourse, Hezbollah, Intercommunal affairs, Journalism, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Security | Leave a Comment »

Granny suicide bomber

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/11/2006

woman-suicide-bomber.jpgIn 2002, the world was surprised to hear that the suicide bomber that had just exploded himself in a shopping mall in Israel was actually a woman.
Up to then, all suicide bombers had been men. Accordingly, the Palestinian male population that was over 15 and under 70 became suspect. They were seen by Israelis as being potentially suicide bombers. When a young woman exploded herself, almost every Palestinian could be suspected by the Israelis of being a suicide bomber.

Two days ago, a 57 year old woman, Fatma Najar, became the first grandma kamikaze. She was the mother of 9 children and the grand-mother of over 20 kids. In a tape she had recorded before dying, she claimed to have been sent by Hamas on this suicide mission. “I offer myself as a sacrifice to God and to the homeland,” she said.
One of her sons, Fuad (31 y/o), told the press that he was very proud of what his mother did. “God is greatest” (Allahu Akbar), he added.

This attack is unquestionably criminal, even though it is meant as a form of resistance to Israeli occupation. But it is also very tragic because it shows how desperate the Palestinians are today and how worthless and meaningless life has become to many of them.
One cannot help but remember the Palestinian film ‘Paradise Now’ that portrayed the last days of two palestinian suicide bombers.

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Analysing an assassination – the victim

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/11/2006

Who is the victim?
Pierre Gemayel was Minister of Industry in the present government. At age 34, he was the youngest member of the Council of Ministers in which he represented the Kataeb party. He was the eldest son of the former President of the Republic, Amine Gemayel, and grandson of the founder of the Kataeb Party.

What does he represent?
During the last parliamentary election, he ran in the Metn, a constituency that had been dominated politically by the Kataeb for decades. It is in this region that his family, the Gemayels, have their hometown (Bikfaya). They are considered to be one of its important political families alongside twenty or thirty others. The political ascension of the Gemayel family started in the 1930s with the foundation of the Kataeb party (also known as the Phalange party) and its gradual rise to power. From the late sixties until the mid eighties, this party was considered to be Lebanon’s largest in number of MPs, adherents, and socio-political weight (strength in the public administration, local councils, the syndicates and the media). Pierre Gemayel’s grandfather and namesake was one of the party’s founders and became its undisputed and unrivalled leader for over 40 years. He was very often minister and two of his sons, Bachir and Amine made it consecutively to the Presidency in 1982. But after the assassination of Bechir Gemayel, the unpopular presidency of Amine Gemayel, and the natural death of their father, the Gemayel family and the Kataeb party lost ground and started decomposing.

In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Kataeb was unable to get any of its candidates elected without the support of its allies or opponents. In Baabda-Aley, it owes its success to Muslim and Druze votes, gathering a little more than a third of the expressed Christian votes. In the Metn, which was considered the bastion of the Phalange and where the Gemayels portray themselves and behave as a prominent family of feudal rank, Pierre Gemayel was the only member of the former opposition slate to make it through, with approximately a third of the expressed votes and only because the rival and triumphant slate had left an empty seat for him or his ally, Nassib Lahoud (another member of a political family), to fill.

Withstanding his meagre political score, the “March 14th Alliance” (Hariri’s Future Movement, Joumblatt’s PSP and a cluster of local Christian politicians) chose him as one of the Maronite ministers in Siniora’s government. And since then, this alliance has tried to portray him as a Christian leader (alongside Nayla Moawad, Samir Frangieh, Amine Gemayel and Samir Geagea), with the support of most of the Media and prominent Maronite clerics, to give him the “Christian” credentials and legitimacy that he lacks. Thus, calling him a ‘key politician’, a ‘prominent leader’ or ‘Christian political leader’, as the press has been dubbing him since his death seems to be somewhat of an exageration.

Nevertheless, his name resonates in the Christian community and carries a very strong symbolic weight because of what his grandfather and uncle represented. They came to represent the symbols of Christian political and military power starting in the sixties and culminating during the civil war when they controlled the Christian ‘heartland’.

As a politician, Pierre Gemayel (the younger) was very vocal in his criticism of Syria and Iran, and those that he accused of being their allies: Amal, Hezbollah, the FPM (Free patriotic movement). His political foes called him Pipo-pebble (Pipo being a common pet name given to Pierre, and pebble is a reference to his grandfather who was called the ‘Rock’ a pun derived from the meaning of his Christian name, which signifies ‘stone’ in French). With the help of a very supportive media, the backing of the governing political class and due to his personal human qualities, he seems to have benefited lately from a growing support. Moreover, one can say that he was one of the many Christian politicians used by the governing majority to obtain a cross-communal legitimacy. His greatest strength lay in his name and party affiliation, and what they could echo within the Christian community (though it wasn’t enough to get him elected in a Christian constituency).

Posted in Journalism, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Analysing an assassination – the setting

Posted by worriedlebanese on 21/11/2006

Pierre GemayelPierre Gemayel fell earlier today into a well-coordinated attack: One vehicle cut off his car from the front, another rammed him from behind, then gunmen burst out and sprayed a dozen bullets into his driver-side window, killing him and one of his bodygards, Samir Chartouni.

The young  Minister of Industry was driving back from a funeral he had attended in Jdeideh. He had been accomplishing his ‘social duties’ as a any traditionnal lebanese politician by visiting their constituency on socially important occasions (baptism, mariage, funeral, commemoration). Earlier that day, he had  attended a wreath-laying ceremony in his hometown, infront of a Mausoleum-like monument built for his Grandfather and namesake by the Kataeb Party, controled by his father, former president Amine Gemayel.

The slaying set off small outbursts of emotions and calls for revenge. Bands of young Christians broke car windows and burned tires and garbage cans in the eastern neighbourhoods of Beirut and its suburbs. The former president, and father of the assassinated politician joined other politicians in their calls for calm. The Lebanese army quickly stopped the unrest and set up checkpoints to prevent urther demonstrations.

On national TV, Lebanese journalists and politicians started analysing the assassination. And having no information yet on the identity of the killers started speculating on their identity and intentions.

Posted in Lebanon, Political behaviour, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

On both sides of Galilea – 1: Security threats

Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/11/2006

goodfence.jpg

Security is always seen from one’s own perspective. And it’s in the name of security that the Israeli air force is violating the Lebanese airspace and flying low over Beirut and its suburbs. The French have been trying to convince the Israelis to stop these flights, but to no avail. The IDF believes that these trips have a deterring affect on the Lebanese, and shows them who the stronger player is. This seems to be another one of its psychological miscalculations (we have seen many of them during the July war, especially the one pertaining to the popular backlash against Hezbollah and to its possible psychological collapse). And the Israeli air force’s almost daily excursions over the Lebanese capital is not seen as a warning sign but perceived as bullying and provocation. Everybody in the Middle East knows of the Israeli power of destruction (just as we know about
Syria’s nuisance strategy). This knowledge might dissuade government who take into account the economic risks involved in warfare with Israel, but it certainly doesn’t put off radical groups, quite the contrary it feeds them because it radicalises some fringes of the population that doesn’t see any alternative to violence; “You’ve got to fight fire with fire” they’d say, or “as long as Israel is around, we can’t hope for any peace, security or prosperity because of the violence Israel has been sowing since its very existence”. Hezbollah is seen by Israel as a security threat in itself because it can launch missiles across the border and threaten the security of the northern region (even after its military pullout from Southern Lebanon and redeployment in the Beqaa valley). But Hezbollah on the other hand says that its weapons would make the Israelis think twice before attacking Lebanon (assuming that Israel is a violent and irrational nation that enjoys attacking its neighbours).One can easily combat their racist or anti-Semitic stands and language whenever they spring up. One could also try to convince them that even though Israel is known to react very violently and disproportionately to violent acts coming from Lebanon, its acts are nevertheless reactions, furious ones, but reactions nonetheless. But how can one counter their other arguments? They are well founded in the national narratives of the Arabic peoples.
Israel is seen as a belligerent and military State from the Arab point of view. It’s seen as a settler society that owes its existence to Western support and military strength, that its existence and prosperity are at the expense of its neighbours, and that Lebanon has paid the highest price possible for it. These arguments need to be disentangled, and one should remind them that there’s another side to the story, that there is a shared responsibility in the consequences of events… but one cannot escape a couple of facts: Israel is a settler society, this settler society is heavily militarised one and has used its military strength in a very irresponsible matter in the name of survival, and that Lebanon has suffered greatly from it (not to say anything about the Palestinians).Security issues in Lebanon are not all related to Israel. We have problems with armed groups, mostly Islamic in character that gravitated in and around the Palestinian camps. We also have the Syrian intelligence (remember their nuisance strategy) and the remnants of the Lebanese security apparatus that it had established during its 15 years of unrivalled reign. Most Lebanese blame them for the bomb explosions and killings that marked the year 2005 and the smaller incidents that burst out up this year.  These security issues are similar to those encountered in Israel, a country that is marked by the suicide bombing of the second Intifada. One should also see the security issue from a Palestinian perspective. They are certainly those who suffer the most from it, in the camps, villages and towns they inhabit. No Palestinian is truly safe, and the likelihood of him being hurt or of his livelihood being shaken or destroyed is very high. The only contact he might have with Israel today is through its soldiers and military and they’re synonymous with harsh, disrespectful and arbitrary treatment, and daily humiliation (at checkpoints that are scattered around the West Bank, in the fields, from the airplanes when they are regularly bombed at, in their homes which can be raided anytime during a military operation that the IDF calls ‘targeted assassinations’…).Security issues on both sides of Galilea are obviously inextricably intertwined, wouldn’t it be best to address them globally.

Posted in Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Politics, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Hay al-Tamir & Sunni Islamist trends in Lebanon

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/10/2006

In today’s edition of l’Orient-Le Jour, Patricia Khoder wrote a very good article on Hay al-Ta3mir, a neighbourhood in Saïda adjacent to the Palestinian camp of Ain el Heloué. This neighbourhood has been making headlines lately because the Lebanese army will be taking position in it soon.

This announcement didn’t please some very vocal inhabitants of Hay al-Ta3mir who threatened to cut to shreds any soldier who ventured into their neighbourhood. In this lawless area, there’s more than distrust of the army, there is an open hostility towards it or any symbol of the Lebanese State.

To understand this reaction one has to look closer at the recent history of this neighbourhood and its social fabric.

(this posting will be completed on wednesday)

Posted in Journalism, Lebanon, Palestinians, Security, Violence | 1 Comment »