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Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

La Syrie en six scenarii et une bonne dose d’élucubrations géopolitiques

Posted by worriedlebanese on 18/07/2011

"And Assad vanquished"... Found of facebook

Peut-on imaginer un pire article sur la crise syrienne que celui paru dans Le Mondece mardi ? Si vous l’avez raté, retrouver l’article de Hosham Dawod, “Quand le régime syrien tombera”, ici. L’analyse politique y est réduite au plus bas degré d’une discussion de comptoir au café de commerce… mais cette fois estampillée « CNRS ».  Son auteur est anthropologue, mais il le cache bien. Loin de toute approche anthropologique, il s’adonne à la spéculation politique la plus débridée en montant d’abord des scénarii sans rapport avec la dynamique socio-politique qui a cours en Syrie, pour ensuite enchainer dans des digressions géopolitiques « comme on les aime ». Mais alors pourquoi s’attarder sur son texte et perdre quelques heures dans son analyse et sa discussion ? L’exercice peut paraître futile si l’on cherche à comprendre ce qui se passe en Syrie. Mais il se révèle extrêmement intéressant si l’on cherche à éviter de tomber dans les mêmes écueils en s’adonnant à une analyse aux mêmes ambitions prospectives.

J’imagine d’abord que l’auteur de l’analyse se veut de gauche puisqu’il ajoute une couche économique à son analyse qui se veut renseignée sur les dynamiques ethniques au sein des différents pays du Proche-Orient. Mais cette couche est bien mince, à l’image de l’analyse. En fait, peu importe les préférences idéologiques de l’auteur, puisqu’elles n’ont pas d’incidence sur sa soi-disant analyse. Celle-ci appartient à un genre qui dépasse tout cantonnement idéologique, celui qui domine les analyses du Proche-Orient, quelque soit l’appartenance nationale ou idéologique de leurs auteurs.

La spéculation scénaristique
Même s’il énumère 5 scenarii, l’auteur en vérité présente 6, mais qualifie la première de modèle. Le plus surprenant dans l’exercice est qu’il n’essaie que rarement de mesurer les chances de matérialisation du scénario. Bon, il est vrai que l’information disponible sur la Syrie est à la fois réduite et médiocre. Le régime et ses opposants se sont lancés dans un exercice de désinformation totale qui s’articule autour de deux idées :
–       le régime prétend que les protestataires sont islamistes et manipulés par l’étranger. Il a donc tendance à éliminer ou à mésestimer toute information qui va dans le sens d’une protestation authentiquement syrienne et économique, même si elle est à dominante arabo-sunnite.
–       les opposants prétendent que le régime est strictement aléouite (comme si une communauté pouvait gouverner…) et que la répression est soutenue par des forces chiites (Iran et Hezbollah). Tout élément qui n’entre pas dans cette lecture strictement communautaire est ignoré.

On comprend que l’auteur évite de peser les différents scenarii pour des raison quantitatives et qualitatives liées à l’information. Mais alors quel est l’intérêt de cette spéculation scénaristique ?
Il aurait dû commencer par énumérer les ingrédients de cette crise… tout au moins ceux que nous connaissons. Certes, il en mentionne un grand nombre en passant mais sans s’y attarder et sans les intégrer dans une analyse de la dynamique.

Passons en revue les différents scenarii qu’il énumère et essayons de les retraduire en terme plus significatifs

  1. Scénario de l’équilibre entre répression et de réforme « à l’Algérienne ». C’est en gros la voie choisie par le régime. Mais ce scénario a été accompagné par une guerre civile d’une violence extrême (1991–2002) et d’un accaparement du pouvoir (et des ressources rentières) par l’armée qui gère seul un processus de réforme extrêmement lent et hésitant (depuis 2002). La situation en Syrie est bien différent. On ne peut pas encore parler de guerre civile et il n’est pas certain que le régime puisse survivre longtemps avec un niveau de contestation qui risque d’accroitre.
  2. Scénario répressif réussi : comme en « Iran en 2009 ». Là aussi, la situation est différente et en annonçant très tôt des réformes, le régime a montré qu’il voulait combiner répression et réforme. Ceci est bien différent de la situation Iranienne où le régime ne voulait même pas entendre parler de réforme.
  3. Scénario de la réforme du régime. Avec une absence totale de crédibilité, cette option semble peu probable
  4. Scénario de la dissension au sein du régime « à l’égyptienne » ou « à la tunisienne ». Encore faut-il qu’il y ait des institutions autonomes qui puisse procéder à un “coup d’État” comme en Egypte et en Tunisie. Mais ces institutions n’existent pas en Syrie. Et ce scénario ne pourra faire surface que si le régime s’entredéchire, avec le risque que ce déchirement précipite sa chute.
  5. Scénario de la dissension au sein des élites au pouvoir. Là aussi, il faudrait qu’une partie de l’élite soit sûr qu’elle court peu de risque à ce dissocier du régime. Ce n’est manifestement pas le cas aujourd’hui.
  6. Scénario de l’intensification du cycle « protestation/répression » et de la polarisation ethnique de la société qui mène à la guerre civile. La Syrie est déjà dans ce scénario, tout au moins la première partie, celle de la polarisation ethnique de la société.

Les élucubrations géopolitiques
Hosham Dawod passe en revue : la Turquie, la Jordanie, l’Iraq, Israël… Après nous avoir confié d’un ton marqueur que « l’Orient arabo-musulman se fait et se défait dans l’imaginaire de certains politiques locaux en adoptant toujours la forme du croissant », c’est dans ces même termes qu’il prétend analyser les préférences des différents régimes au Proche-Orient ou en Occident.
Mais en fait, il n’avait pas besoin de tous ces développements pour arriver à une conclusion qui semble évidente. Tous les régimes craignent l’écroulement du régime syrien, et préfère qu’ils moyennant quelques réformes.

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Posted in Speculation, Syria, Version Francophone | 1 Comment »

Les effets de la transition syrienne: rébellion, réforme ou révolution?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/07/2011

Carte de la Contestation

Le niveau de la contestation politique en Syrie est tel que l’on peut indéniablement parler de rébellion. La grande question que tout le monde se pose est de savoir si cette rébellion va être écrasée ou si elle va réussir à renverser le régime en place. Il est indéniable que la Syrie s’est engagée dans une “transition” depuis plus de dix ans, suite au décède de Hafez al-Assad et à l’avènement de son fils, Bachar. Effectivement, on peut remarquer d’importants changements sur plusieurs plans: économique, politique, culturel et communautaire.

Une économie mixte ou à deux vitesses 
Depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir de Bashar Assad, l’économie syrienne s’est considérablement transformée. Elle est devenu en quelque sorte mixte : elle a conservé sa dimension socialiste et elle a intégré une dimension capitaliste. D’un côté, l’économie traditionnelle et “socialiste” s’est écroulée, et de l’autre de nouveaux secteurs se sont développés. Mais au lieu d’intégrer ces deux dimensions, elle les a complètement dissocié. Ceci a donné naissance à une économie à deux vitesses qui est en contradiction avec l’idéologie officielle et qui ne répond pas aux attentes de la majorité des Syriens. Le résultat est l’augmentation du chômage, la destruction ou l’appauvrissement de certains secteurs de l’économie (artisanat, agriculture traditionnelle), la production de nouvelles richesses et de nouvelles habitudes de consommation (nouveaux complexes industriels, expansion du secteur éducatif privé, intégration dans l’économie mondialisée avec entrée d’enseignes internationales…).

Une dissonance politique entre discours et pratique
Le régime tout en prônant l’ouverture s’est en fait considérablement refermé depuis son retrait du Liban. Une partie de la « vieille garde » a été écartée du pouvoir. Et plus de quarante ans de gestion politique informelle (qui ne respecte pas les institutions et les divisions fonctionnelles du pouvoir, mais qui fonctionne à travers de multiples réseaux transversaux) a évidemment vidé les institutions de toute substance et font apparaître ces institutions pour ce qu’elles sont, des coquilles vides, ou plutôt des cadres dépourvus de toute autonomie qui sont investis par des forces qui les traversent et qui les dépassent.
Tant que ce système satisfaisait la population sur le plan économique en assurant une répartition des richesses perçue comme équitable, les citoyens syriens étaient prêts à répéter le discours officiel et à y adhérer en dépit de son caractère formel (dogmatique et détaché de la réalité). Mais depuis que les différences de classe sont de plus en plus visibles, le discours économique sonne de plus en plus creux et la légitimité du régime se trouve ébranlée.
En fait, l’étendue de la gestion informelle par le régime est telle que l’on ne peut même plus le qualifier de « baasiste » puisqu’il a également vidé le parti baas de toute substance.  

L’accès à la production culturelle occidentale 
En dépit des bouleversements économiques des dernières années, la transition culturelle de la Syrie n’a pas encore atteint le même degré que l’Egypte et la Tunisie par exemple, en raison de l’isolement relatif de la Syrie sur ce plan et son entrée tardive dans le processus. Effectivement  les élites culturelles syriennes sont relativement peu mondialisées ou intégrées à des structures transnationales (à la différence de leur pendant Egyptien et Tunisien). Au niveau des classes moyennes, l’accès à la production culturelle occidentale (à travers l’internet et les satellites) progresse mais n’a pas encore atteint un degré suffisant pour influer sur la dynamique politique.
Toutefois, les mouvements de rue massifs et pacifiques de 2005 au Liban, et de 2011 en Egypte et en Tunisie ont certainement enrichi la culture politique syrienne en y intégrant une nouvelle forme de pratique politique.

La confessionalisation des discours
La Syrie n’a jamais expérimenté pleinement avec un système formel de répartition communautaire du pouvoir, à la différence du Liban. Je dis pleinement parce qu’en fait, on peut déceler en ces matières quelques expérimentations formelles et une pratique informelle.
Sur le plan formel, le régime syrien privilégie principalement les Arabes et quelque peu les Musulmans au sein de sa population puisqu’il se veut strictement Arabe et considère la Shari’a comme étant une source de la législation tout en réservant la présidence de la république à un musulman. La proclamation de l’arabité de la Syrie a effectivement eu des incidences pratiques sur les minorités : elle s’est accompagnée d’une politique d’arabisation à l’encontre de ses minorités non-arabes : kurdes, turques, arméniennes, assyriennes et gitanes. Et s’est mise en pratique à travers des instruments d’ingénieurie ethnique (« ethnic engineering ») à l’encontre de la communauté kurde : exclusion de la nationalité, négation de la langue et colonisation arabe dans ses régions.
Sur le plan informel, on trouve une pratique qui prend en compte des considérations communautaires. Ceci s’effectue à travers la constitution de relations de confiance à dominante confessionnelle qui manipulent des réseaux d’influences et d’intérêts. Il existe par ailleurs une autre pratique informelle de gestion du pluralisme communautaire. Celle si s’opère à travers la négociation et la manipulation des élites communautaires. Sur le plan religieux, le régime Syrien intervient dans la nomination de toutes les élites religieuses syriennes à un degré qui n’a pas de précédent dans l’histoire du pays. Et dans une société qui est fragmenté sur le plan confessionnel, le pouvoir intervient également dans les relations « intra-communautaires » pour s’assurer de la fidélité des élites communautaires.
Au niveau du discours et de la mobilisation, un changement important a eu lieu suite à la gestion par le régime de la révolte populaire. Les considérations confessionnelles étaient taboues en Syrie jusqu’à peu de mois. On ne parlait des enjeux confessionnels qu’en petit comité, de manière discrète. Depuis quelques années, les marqueurs identitaires ont commencé à devenir de plus en plus publique. Que ce soit le voile intégral (niqab) dans les quartiers sunnites ou les croix affichés par les chrétiens. Lors d’un voyage en Syrie après la guerre de juillet, j’avais même remarqué que les portraits de Hassan Nasrallah étaient devenus confessionnelles. Lorsqu’on les voyait affiché à côté de la photo du président Syrien, il y avait de forte chance que ce quartier soit Aléouite. Mais même à cette époque, la question confessionnelle restait religieuses, et les Syriens s’amusaient à se moquer du Liban et de son confesssionalisme. Aujourd’hui, le tabou est tombé, surtout après la violence extrême qui s’est déployée à Daraa. Les Syriens sont de plus en plus nombreux à parler de leur appartenance confessionnelle, et surtout à exprimer leur hostilité par rapport à un autre groupe. Et ceci est particulièrement vrai dans les milieux de l’opposition au régime.

Posted in Anticonfessionalism, Culture, Discourse, Economy, Reform, Secularism, Syria, Version Francophone | Leave a Comment »

The great awakening of Syrian sectarianism

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/06/2011

A syrian blogger's idealised vision of the Syrian revolt

As I listened to the news today from Syria, I had a strange feeling of having heard that story before. The people interviewed were giving their version of the events in Jisr al-Shughur… but the stories they told were exactly like the ones I heard about Dar’a a couple of weeks back:
– Massacres of Sunnis, especially sunni soldiers who were not willing to shoot at other sunnis.
– Alawite paramilitaries helped by Iranians and Hezbollah (“other Shiites”)
There were only two ways to explain the similarity between the two narratives: either the events they were describing were being repeated or a sectarian rhetoric had crystallized into a solid narrative that is circulating within some circles of Syrian society.

Flashback
Four weeks ago, I spend an evening with a Syrian family from Dar’a discussing the situation in their hometown. It wasn’t really a discussion. I sat for almost two hour listening to them, and only asked a couple of general questions to encourage them to talk about their personal experience. As expected, they were very emotional about what was going on: They had after all fled their town because of governmental violence, and they seemed to know some protesters who were killed. It was actually quite hard to get any “hard” information from them. Sure they described some events, gave a couple of names (of people and locations) and even threw in a couple of figures. But most of what they said was based on hearsay and they constantly shifted between a “victimisation narrative” and a “heroic narrative”. In both cases, the arguments were selected and adapted in a way to suit the narrative’s objective.
What struck me at the time was the sectarian lens through which they perceived all the events that they described. Sectarian discourse had long been taboo in Syria, and one could only hear it in closed circles and in veiled language. Syrians usually mocked Lebanese for their sectarian discourse and sectarian system, and prided themselves for being “non-sectarian”. Now things seemed to have radically shifted. Syrians were resorting openly and unashamedly sectarian analysis and were using an extremely violent sectarian discourse.
Here I was talking to a sunni family that proudly mentioned during our conversation its communal belonging, and even mine (on one occasion when they spoke of the rights of the majority – ie Sunnis – and felt that they had too reassure me by telling me that they bore no ill feelings toward non-alawite minority groups).

Fact or Fantasy?
The current dynamic within Syria is certainly sectarian. The bloody Dar’a repression quickly transformed a mostly cross-sectarian economical revolt into a sectarian political/economical revolt. And this was extremely clear in Lattakié where alawites withdrew from the protestations and sunnis joined them in greater numbers… and syrian troops left Alawite villages and neighbourhoods while they took control of sunni villages and neighbourhoods. Needless to days Bachar Assad broke the “social contract”, following Qaddafi’s footsteps. In the Libyan case this social contract was tribal in nature (and violations started a couple of years ago), in Syria it was communal in nature. The break in the Libyan case was complete, and the country is today completely divided on tribal lines. In the Syrian case, the situation seems more complicated. Symbolically, the tacit social contract is between two communities: the alawite minority and the sunni majority. But as communities are not organized political bodies but a complex blend of institutions, networks and mental representations, the real “covenant” is between the elites within both communities… and this covenant has up to now survived what can be interpreted as sectarian violence: the victims of the repression are mostly sunnis (especially among the killed), and the alawite community is today mobilized behind the Baasist regime that is now widely perceived as being “alawite” and as supporting alawite interests. One has to speak of “perception” here because the “objective” reality is quite possibly very different from what is subjectively perceived, and in any case, it doesn’t really matter. Perceptions and discourse can over-ride reality and symbolic elements can have a larger impact than deeper structural realities.

The sectarian lens goes regional
As we have seen, there is an obvious sectarian dimension to the revolt/repression. But what is even more obvious is the sectarian lens has become prevalent in the political discourse and in political analysis: both sides interpret the political situation in Syria in exclusive sectarian terms. The Syrian regime insists on the sectarian dimension of the revolt and dubs it “salafism” (i.e. a version of sunni religious extremism). While opposition groups and their supporters insist on the sectarian dimension of the repression/regime (and calls it Alawite or Shiite). And both parties claim to be non-sectarian and accuse the other of playing sectarian politics. Actually, one of the main traits of the sectarian lens is that it refuses to acknowledge that it is sectarian in its nature (much more than the communal reality it is supposed to be “neutrally” observing).
The situation in Syria is actually quite similar to what happened in Lebanon when the sectarian lens became prevalent in political analysis and political discourse.
What is new today in Syria is that the lens has taken an important “regional” scope. The sectarian geopolitical approach (that can be considered as a prevalent bias in today’s geopolitical analysis) has fed the national sectarian narrative. The alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah which actually benefits the interests of the three parties is seen as being a sectarian one. It’s true that Iran and Hezbollah share a strong shiite religious identity… But extending it to the Alawites is stretching it a bit too far and giving too much credit to the Alawite’s discourse.
The claim that Iran and Hezbollah are participating in the repression has not been supported by any fact. It resembles the claim that Hezbollah participated in the iranian crackdown against the Green revolution.
Such accusations are made quite lightly and no serious investigation is done to verify the claim. If they were proven to be true, this would have serious implications to Syrian politics, but also Lebanese politics.

  • For Syrian politics. The big difference between Syria and Lebanon is that the Syrian political class has always objected to foreign meddling in its affairs (while the Lebanese political class actively welcomed it before 1943 and after 1958). If Hezbollahi and Iranian direct intervention were proven to be true, that would mean that the Baasist/Assad regime has changed the nature of the syrian political game.
  • For Lebanese politics. Hezbollah has already a first hand experience in political repression (May 6, 2008). But that was a very short one. Any implication in the Syrian repression would mean that it would be furthering its experience in scale and scope. And it would be the first Lebanese actor to have meddled in another state’s affairs.

Posted in Civil Society, Conspiracy, Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Intercommunal affairs, Semantics, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Nadim Shehade’s interesting take on “Sectarianism”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/04/2011

Nadim Shehade, made an extremely interesting contribution last week to a discussion launched by Elias Muhanna on his blog Qifa Nabki. I was at first struck by the way he introduced the subject. It reminded me of the clumsy attempt I had made a couple of years back to respond to Nawaf Salam’s take on Lebanese sectarianism when I told him that it is of no surprise to “observe” sectarianism when one is looking through sectarian tainted glasses. By that I introduce my approach of distinguishing between different dynamics (regionalism, factionalism, ideology, economical interests, clientelism…), and not blurring the differences by putting them under the same heading.  
Please read carefully this text by the former director of Oxford’s Centre for Lebanese Studies and present researcher at Chatham House. He pinpoints all the methodological errors and assumptions most of us make when looking into countries with deep or significant communal divisions. 

Sectarianism, like beauty, is more often than not in the eye of the beholder. One can interpret a situation as ‘sectarian’ and there may be some elements in it that are related to tension between sects; but the underlying causes and drivers may be totally secular.

There are three ways of looking at it:

  1. As a perspective related to the observer who sees sectarianism everywhere.
  2. As a reality on the ground – where tensions are real and incidents have sectarian dimensions
  3. In relation to the political system and how it deals with divisions and whether it increases or decreases sectarian tensions.

There are so many myths that would fall just by distinguishing between these three points.

In Syria for example: Is the regime really Alawi? Is the system ‘secular’?
Similar questions for Lebanon and for Iraq.

Analysts on Iraq emphasised sectarian divisions, whereas intra-sectarian divisions were as important. In the end are these not legitimate political divisions in which sect plays a part?

In Lebanon, the system is ‘confessional’ or sectarian. But the reality on the ground is a division which is deeply political between two very legitimate world views which divide every ‘sect’, every community and even every family. It is the beholder who chooses to give it a label of sectarian, that March 8 are ‘Shiaa’ or Shiaa means Hizballah. The Christians are ‘divided’? who said they have to be united in the first place? because they are Christian they have to be united, so the sectarian glasses do not fit with reality and we conclude that they are divided.
When politicians play with the electoral law to gerrymander the result, is that sectarian?
Is power-sharing sectarian? maybe such a system has allowed for political divisions to become more significant.

Going back to Syria – There is a network that dominates which has an interest in perpetuating the system. It is too simple to say that this is a Alawite dominance, there is hegemony by a network of a family that happens to be Allawite and has coopted many people from all other sects – Sunnis, Christians, Ismailis, Druze, etc.. etc..

The tautology of the argument is the following: A society that is composed to many sects cannot have democracy because of the sectarian divisions – a ‘secular’dictatorship would put the lid on it. But the other side of that coin is that this same society would not contain all these sects in the fist place had they not been able to coexist all that time.

[In Turkey] The Turkish model of secularism is also that Attaturk, in order to have a secular and cohesive society, had to get rid of the Armenians, the Greeks, the Assyrians, the Arabs and the Kurds.

I want to suggest that the present ‘secular’ regime in Syria is likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions whereas a democratic power-sharing arrangement, similar to the ones in Lebanon and the one evolving in Iraq, would decrease such tensions.

Posted in Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Intercommunal affairs, Iraq, Lebanon, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Secularism, Semantics, Syria, Turkey | 2 Comments »

The Truth الحقيقة… l’évolution d’un slogan (2)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/12/2010

Je vais essayer d’examiner aujourd’hui l’équation quatorze-marsiste ânonnée sur toutes les antennes: ”The Truth” <=> Justice <=> TSL <=> Réconciliation <=> Paix. Je ne vais prendre aucun des arguments présentés à la défense de cette équation parce qu’en réalité, ils ne la démontrent pas, ils brodent autour, l’amplifient, la célèbrent, l’exultent. L’approche généralement est abstraite, dogmatique, normative, désincarnée… théorique. Je vais plutôt prendre chaque partie de l’équation, les mettre à l’épreuve de la réalité et, je l’espère, en tirer quelques conclusions.

”The Truth” <=> Justice: Idéalement, ou pour ainsi dire en principe, la Justice (c’est à dire un tribunal) dit la vérité. Mais en fait, la réalité est plus compliquée. La Justice, c’est à dire un tribunal, ou plus précisément un ou plusieurs juges, rend[ent] un jugement, et ce jugement a l’autorité du “vrai”. C’est à dire qu’il est “vrai” parce qu’il est dit par une autorité qui a le dernier mot, et cela indépendamment de son contenu. ֵCe jugement dépend de plusieurs facteurs qui sont entièrement indépendant du fait jugé: la loi, la procédure, la qualité du juge (ou des juges), la manière dont les faits sont rapportés au tribunal… On est bien loin de l’équation. “The Truth” <=> (la) Justice.

”The Truth” <=> Justice <=> Paix: Bon, la paix civile, c’est quand même le but de la “Justice” (c-à-d les tribunaux). Les tribunaux sont là pour arbitrer entre des intérêts, pour trancher des conflits… Ces tribunaux bénéficient de l’autorité publique et peuvent recourir à la force pour assurer de l’exécution de leurs jugements/décisions. Mais bon, plus les jugements des tribunaux paraissent justes à la population, moins l’Etat aura besoin de la force pour assurer la paix… il existe donc bien une équation, mais elle est beaucoup plus complexe. Et elle est devient encore plus compliqué lorsqu’il n’y a pas monopole de la violence, et donc lorsqu’il n’est pas sûr que la force derrière le tribunal puisse s’imposer en dernier ressort.

”The Truth” <=> Justice <=> TSL <=> Paix: Les considérations que nous avons vu plus haut sont valables pour des Etats. Ce même raisonnement est plus ou moins facile à transposer au niveau international lorsqu’il est question de conflit entre Etats… mais lorsque le conflit n’est pas entre Etats… la transposition devient impossible.

”The Truth” <=> Justice <=> TSL <=> Réconciliation <=> Paix: Alors là on est en plein science fiction. Une partie de la population (essentiellement Chiite) et du voisinage (la Syrie) montre une méfiance extrême par rapport au tribunal. Donc l’usage de la force pour imposer le jugement contre elle devient nécessaire au cas où ce jugement la concerne… on est bien loin de la paix, et encore plus loin de la réconciliation.

 

Posted in Hezbollah, Lebanon, Semantics, Speculation, Syria, Version Francophone | 3 Comments »

The Truth الحقيقة… l’évolution d’un slogan (1)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/12/2010

Je me souviens d’un ruban bleu qu’on distribuait à tous les coins de rue, attaché à une bande autocollante noire arborant une inscription bilingue: “الحقيقه”/”The Truth”. En ce temps, je ne m’étais pas posé beaucoup de questions sur son sens. Je n’avais pas pleinement réalisé l’impressionnante polysémie et versatilité politique à cette formule tout simple en apparence mais qui a pu déployer sa richesse en ces cinq années d’existence.

En 2005, le sens du slogan/revendication “الحقيقه”/”The Truth” nous semblait à tous évident. Il pointait un doigt accusateur vers la Syrie. Et d’ailleurs les politiciens qui l’arboraient l’explicitaient de manière à laisser aucune place au doute. L’équation était simple: “The Truth” <=> “la Syrie nous occupe, la Syrie est coupable”. Dans la foule qui convergeait vers la place des martyrs, certains venaient avec un esprit de revanche (pour toutes ces années d’occupation qui ne disait pas son nom, pour toutes ces vexation, cette violence, pour notre humiliation), et d’autres avec un esprit de vengeance (pour le meutre du Zaïm ou de l’homme politique), deux sentiments que “la vérité” recouvrait de manière euphémique et valorisante. “الحقيقه”/”The Truth” offrait des accents d’absolu (alors que son sens contextuel était extrêmement spécifique).

Vers la fin 2005, le slogan “الحقيقه”/”The Truth” commence à recouvrir une nouvelle réalité, le Tribunal Spécial pour le Liban (TSL). Une nouvelle équation voit le jours “The Truth” <=> Justice <=> TSL. L’équation est présentée comme axiomatique. Et certains s’activent pour l’étendre, et la voila transformé en: “The Truth” <=> Justice <=> TSL <=> Réconciliation <=> Paix. Pendant quatre longues années, des activistes quatorze-marsiste mobilisent juristes, politologues, sociologues, philosophes, psychologues et psychiatres pour nous asséner la nouvelle équation. Comme elle est axiomatique, par définition, elle n’a nul besoin d’être démontrée. En revanche, chaque spécialiste va puiser dans sa discipline pour nous expliquer les bienfaits de la formule. C’est évidemment une panacée.

A partir de 2008, un élément de l’équation a été modifié. Le doigt n’est plus pointé sur la Syrie mais sur le Hezbollah (et sans même qu’un acte d’accusation ne soit publié, ni même des indications allant dans ce sens dans un rapport officiel). Etonnamment, les promoteurs de la formule “The Truth” <=> Justice <=> TSL <=> Réconciliation <=> Paix” continuent à nous assurer de la validité de la formule, alors même qu’ils savent bien que le Hezbollah ne se laissera pas faire, et donc qu’une accusation de tout genre mettra en danger la Paix civile et donc tout espoir de (ré)conciliation entre les deux principales communautés musulmanes du pays.

 

Posted in Discourse Analysis, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria, Version Francophone | Leave a Comment »

A Syrian approach to Judaism… a clear case of incoherence?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 11/01/2010

I dug up quite an interesting book in Damascus, unexpectedly. I was looking for a specific book on Palestinians and discovered this unusual book on judaism! Two sides of the same coin? Maybe.

The book is relatively new, it was published in 2008. Its author, Shamseddine Al-Ajlani, follows quite an interesting approach. Instead of focusing on one subject or following one hypothesis (like books usually do), he juxtaposes many chapters, each tackling a different topic relating to Syrian Jews. This 450 page book has an encyclopedic scope and brings together a great variety of documents: pictures of Syrian Jews since the 1920s, pictures of synagogues, and even pictures of Syrian Jews living in Holon (Israel). It tackles the participation of Jews in Syrian national politics and even blood libels in the 19th century.

If you read the chapter on the two 19th century cases of blood libel, you would find the author conspirationalist and antisemitic. He seems to believe that the charges were true and that those who were arrested were actually guilty and that they owe their release to the power Jews had over Western Europe. The author’s view isn’t surprising, it is the most dominant view in Syria today. But it is rather bewildering to find in a book that contains a very positive chapter on Jewish participation in Syrian national politics, and another chapter on the ties that remain between Israeli Jews of Syrian origin and what the author considers to be their homeland (Syria).

So when your “anti-semitism” siren blows, don’t jump to conclusions. There’s nothing systematic in what is expressed. You will find other elements that will spark a totally different signal. The Middle East is not Europe. Intercommunal relations are viewed as being complex just as they are experiences. You will find acceptance and rejection coming from the same source. That’s probably why a synthesis becomes impossible. It will reduce all contradictions to one idea, one that would contradict the daily experience of each person, just as it would contradict the national experience.

Posted in Conspiracy, Culture, Discourse, Diversity, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Religion, Syria | 5 Comments »

Discovering the missing cultural link: the Umayyad Mosque

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/12/2009

View of the Umayyad Mosque

Damascus caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to be so easily seduced by a city with such a dull geomorphology and bland urban landscape.

The new neighbourhoods were completely uneventful… though I did find a couple of good books there. But it’s the old town that cast a spell on me. Its architecture surprised me. I didn’t expect to find this type of construction less than 130 km from my hometown.

Sure I was impressed  by the Souks, especially Souk al-Hamidiyeh which starts with a roman structure and ends with a 19th century ottoman one. But it’s the small streets behind it, with their wooden structures and fascinating windows that struck me the most.

What completely blew my mind  was the Umayyade Mosque. I  had seen a picture or two of this building before, and had always thought that the building had originally been a church, that of Saint John the Baptist. What I learned before getting to Damascus was that the church had been totally destroyed and the whole structure was actually islamic. So I expected to see a structure similar to that of Anjar, the summer residence of the Umayad situated in Lebanon, within a roman urban structure and a blend of arabic and roman architecture. What I saw was an extremely harmonious structure that blends roman and byzantine elements while reinterpreting them to suit the new prevailing culture and developing islamic components to them. This reminded me of some Churches in Rome where the roman elements are still visible and yet reinterpreted to suit a burgeoning christian civilisation. I think that the byzantine and roman roots of Islam are nowhere more visible than in this impressive building that wouldn’t have shocked the eye were it situated in Rome.

Posted in Culture, Identity, Islam, Personal, Religion, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Wi’am Wahab, ambassador?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/08/2009

Picture 2The person is vociferous, crude and politically powerless. Anywhere else, he would have been meaningless, invited once or twice a year to a talkshow for a cheap laugh based on slander. But not in Lebanon. Wi’am Wahab has continuously been in the headlines for the past two weeks. Why?
This guy (pictured on the left) has no power base to count on. His party is insignificant (it’s very little more than a name actually). He doesn’t hail from a political dynasty (local or national). A couple of months ago, he knew that had no chance of becoming an MP so he didn’t even bother take part in the parliamentary elections. Wi’am Wahab doesn’t hold a big fortune. He doesn’t operate a clientelist network (he doesn’t have “his men” in the public administration). He cannot assert himself through force (he has no militia to count own, just a couple of boisterous bodyguards). He isn’t backed by his community’s religious authorities. Saying that he isn’t prominent in any social field is an understatement.
So how come he is given any media attention? Why do his “visits” to political actors (politicians & clergy) seem significant? What makes them significant?
The answer is fairly simple, he is seen as an essential figure in the “reconciliation with Syria”, more precisely with the Syrian regime, or even more precisely with the Syrian President, Bachar el Assad. Interestingly enough, Wi’am Wahab isn’t even close to the Syrian President (unlike Suleiman Frangieh, for instance). He is not part of the regime’s inner circle. So it’s not on a personal level. His visits are not acts of “political socialisation”. He is perceived as an agent of the Syrian regime. He is seen as playing the same role as an ambassador. So I ask myself the following questions:
– Has he been invested as “ambassador”?
– Why are the Lebanese political actors giving his role?
– What does that mean?
I’ll skip the first two questions (expecting the reader to answer them) and go directly to the third one. The fact that the Lebanese political actors and media are recognising Wi’am Wahab’s political function shows not only that they have grown accustomed to informal politics, accepting it and seeing nothing wrong with it, but that they seem to prefer it to formal politics. Why? because it makes them regional actors, small ones for sure, but hell who cares when it inflates your ego! On the other hand, formal politics will surely make them feel left out (remember what happened when Bachar al-Assad and Emile Lahoud established exclusive relations, something that they are entitled to as Presidents of two countries). Moreover, if they established direct contacts with the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, this would be seen as encouraging Syrian interventionism in Lebanon (which is bad for Syria and bad for the former or persistent March XIV® politicians). So keeping it informal arranges everyone.
If you notice it, only one person is left out of the picture: the Lebanese President, Michel Suleiman. But he’s not complaining (but then, he never does).

Posted in Geopolitics, Idiosyncrasy 961, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics, Syria | 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 »

How can Lebanon contain Syria?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/06/2007

syria-w1.gifSometimes geography can be quite unforgiving and quite a hassle. Since Syria’s independence, its successive governments have shown that they could “contain” Lebanon by closing their borders. A couple of years later (by the late 1950s) the Syrian governments discovered that they could play an active role in Lebanon by arming some of its groups: first Rachid Karame and Kamal Jumblatt’s thugs; then some groups within the PLO, starting in the late 1960s; then Mussa Sadr’s militia in the 1970s, and finally Sunni and Shiite islamists in the mid 1980s… and most of the time without having to spend a dime.
What have the successive Lebanese governments done to prevent those actions up to now? Nothing other than protesting, most of the time discretly and now very loudly, accusing the Syrian President (which is more than likely) of being behind the past political assassinations, bombings and attacks.
“We fight with our words”, said a Lebanese politician a couple of months ago… “our voice is our only weapon”, said another. Sadly enough, for once, these politicians are speaking their minds. The very corrupt and murderous political class we have is now conviced that words are weapons, and that they can actually do everything with words.
It is true that words in politics can have important consequences, but they certainly do not replace deeds and political actions.
Will the deployment of UN troups prevent Syria from intervening in Lebanon? Certainly not. Not more than the UNIFIL has prevented the launching of rockets from Lebanon to Israel. So what can? Maybe the quintuple D.
Diplomacy: The Lebanese government has joined an international axis so as to “counter” Syria. This has left little room for diplomacy. What has the Lebanese government done to try to seperate the Iranians from the Syrians? What has it done to try to convince the Turks to stick with the Lebanese, or the Jordanians, or the Iraqis?
Democracy (concensual democracy): Lebanese democracy is based on intercommunal understanding, and equality between all groups, it’s by showing that element that it can discredit other regimes that do not follow these principles. How come there is no Alawite in government?
Deliberation (public deliberation): Lebanon should strengthen public liberties and free speech, and encourage the Lebanese media to adress the Syrian population and public. Up to now, the Lebanes politicians have been attacking the Syrian government in general terms and the Syrian population has been reading this as xénophobia towards them (with some help from the Syrian government). What steps has the government taken to prevent or even to reverse that?
Discretion: If the Lebanese sees the Syrian government as a threat, does it necessarily have to voice it. Wouldn’t it be better to try to use counter-intelligence or to develop a strategy to try to pressure the Syrian government without offending the Syrian people.

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Security, Syria, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Moderates vs Radicals

Posted by worriedlebanese on 18/06/2007

Seen from the outside, there seems to be a clash between the “moderates” and the “radicals” throughout the Middle East. And the major fronts seem to be Palestine and Lebanon. In Palestine, Fateh is presented as a moderate force, while Hamas is denounced as a radical force. In Lebanon things are always more complicated. The moderates are an aggregate of historically opposed and confessionally varied political forces. And the radicals are Hezbollah on one side, and the Qaeda/pro-syrian sunni islamist forces on the other.
Since the 2005/2006 parliamentary elections in Lebanon and Palestine, the US and Europe have been very openly supportive of the “Moderates”, and very vocally opposed to the “Radicals”. On the other hand, Syria and Iran have been very vocally supportive of the “Radicals” and sometimes violently hostile to the “Moderates”.
The whole international and regional mood has been to pit one against the other. In Palestine it has successfully led to an open war between the two factions. In Lebanon, violence has errupted between the “Moderates” and some “Radicals”, while a “cold” war has been opposing for almost a year the “Moderates” and the “Radicals”.
This disctinction and labelling of forces was created by the Americans. The “moderates” are their allies, and the “radicals” are those who are still combatting Israel. This labelling is justifiable if one is looking at the international dimensions of the conflict, but they are totally unsatisfactory if one is interested in the local and social dimension.
What is moderate about Mubarak’s regime? What is the trait shared by Siniora’s and Abbas’ regimes?

Posted in Discourse, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Politics, Prejudice, Reform, Semantics, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Resolution 1757 or International law perceived as “fact on the ground”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 03/06/2007

One of the most surprising outcomes of resolution 1757 was that it was immediately perceived and present by the Lebanese political class as a fact on the ground. The government’s supporters hailed it as a victory, while most of the opposition forces described it as an imposed fact with negative consequences.

The Future Movement’s leader and Sunni Zaïm, Saad Hariri, started a series of symbolic acts, a prayer at his father’s tomb (while the government ordered the opening of the seaside road where his father was assassinated), fire works and a political declaration in which he said that a page was turned and a new one could be started, inviting the opposition to join the government again.  

He made it seem as if the hardships were over, and now that the international community had decided for the Lebanese on a matter they did not agree on, the differing parties could come together and govern hand in hand again.

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

Pretty noose

Posted by worriedlebanese on 26/03/2007

I open the Orient-Le Jour today for the first time in 10 days. And unsurprisingly, nothing new. Same people saying the same things. Except I noticed two quotes mentioning nooses: Geagea on the opposition (they want to tie a noose around our neck), Jumblatt on Hariri’s assassins (the rope is tightening around their necks).
The effect is certainly dramatic and it does show that the “game” is a deadly one. It interwines two different issues: (1) the participation of Shiites and Christian leaders as equal partners on a common program with the Sunni and Druze leadership (2) the legal prosecution of Assad regime.
Putting it that way could seem quite biased, but how can one state the interwining otherwise?

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Syria | Leave a Comment »