Monthly Archives: January 2007

What are contradictions for?

By Mezzo

There is a large amount of recent past and ongoing contradictions between “what is being said,” “what is being told,” “what is being done,” and “what is not being done.” The difference between “what is being said” and “what is being told” is what a politician says versus what he is being asked to say. Classifying the statements into these two categories will allow us to allocate a “true” or “false” annotation to every statement and to move towards a clearer understanding, which means to see what is behind the cloud of contradictions.

For example, why does Aoun not respond to Siniora’s telephone call? Kanaan is “told” to say that: the situation is difficult and what we need is a serious solution and not simple phone conversations. The disturbing March 8 upcoming course of action will therefore pit what is actually “what is not being done” (i.e. not listening to what Siniora has to say) against “what is being done” (i.e. discreding up front what Siniora wants to say).

Nasrallah “says” to the families that suffered deaths on the 25th of January to refuse the logic of vengeance. Whereby the day after on the 29th of January, Nawwaf Moussawi is “told” to invite the same families to carry out vengeance against Joumblatt. What Hezbollah is actually “doing” is implying that Joumblatt is behind the snipers although the two snipers in custody are Syrian nationals. Unless Nasrallah is ready to put this personal vendetta ahead of his big plan, then we can but wonder whether March-8 is really keen to preserve unity, street peace, and order.

For the first time ever, Sleiman Frangieh “says” that the Christian leaders have to sign the “protocol of honor” as patronized by Bkerke. The same day, Kanaan was “told” by Aoun to ask for the same. What Frangieh and Aoun “have not done” before the 23rd of January is to call the Christian leaders to sign the said “pact of honor.” What Frangieh and Aoun “want to do” is to contain and block Geagea’s intervention power before the March 8’s next course of action.

Many earlier events related to the tribunal, the resignation of the ministers, or the street events of early December, which, if analyzed at the time, would have showed that something was about to happen then. And, in fact, many things have happened since.

Contradictions are here to hide that something new is about to happen. What contradictions cannot hide, however, is the March 8th’s continuous discounting of people’s intelligence.

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Filed under Aoun, Fouad Seniora, Hassan Nasrallah, Lebanon

We are up for a tough ride

By Mezzo

We should no longer spend time arguing whether Lahoud has the right to refrain from opening an extraordinary session for the parliament or not. Lahoud, and people alike, never lose sight of their own big picture. He can easily link actions to consequences and can sense ahead of time the ones that can alter momentarily or irreversibly the course of politics.

What is a “big picture”? A “big picture” is either a final goal with a positive annotation, or a development with consequences to fear. In the first case, a movement is built around an ideology (Hezbollah) or around a political goal (Tayyar Aoun, Al Mustakbal, Lebanese Forces, etc…). In the second case, a coalition is built where the others (Aoun with the 8th of March, Lahoud with Hezbollah) would not have too much in common but surely the same adversary (the 14th of March coalition). This is what happened when political formations teamed up against the Syrian presence known as the 14th of March coalition. And luckily for us it managed to bond around the slogan of “Lebanon First” to gain world support.

So since every politician has his own “big picture”, we (the people) need to reconcile political talks and actions to check for consistency. In other terms we firstly need to figure out whether a speech (or an action) is linked to a goal or to a fear.

When Lahoud refuses to open an exceptional session for the parliament, does he want to preserve the constitution and protect the Lebanese people from a civil war? Or is he afraid that a parliamentary session would lift the sit-in and bring an end to the 8th of March street initiative?

A similar example of a different nature is when Nasrallah looked outraged by what was happening on Tuesday and Thursday and started blaming the Siniora(s) for igniting it while Siniora himself was at the Paris III donors conference. Does Nasrallah care for the economical survival of Lebanon or does he fear that the money and the worldwide support to Sinora’s government would make his “big picture” more difficult to achieve?

Here are a few possible “big picture” of some of these politicians (as I see it):

1) Lahoud: He is implicated in the assassination of Hariri so he fears the tribunal. Lahoud has no constructive motivating drive since he is not heading a political movement and has no political dimension outside the presidency.

2) Bachar Al Assad: He wants to bring back his control over Lebanon under a more subtle form, and he is implicated in the assassination of Hariri so he fears the tribunal.

3) Nasrallah: He can no longer have an Islamic Lebanon so he wants his own land to govern the Islamic way. Ta’ef is his obstacle as well as the ones who defend it. He seems to be implicated in some assassinations so he fears the tribunal too.

4) Aoun: He sees himself as the representative of the Christians in a Christian federal state that Nasrallah would have helped create. He also sees himself representing the interests of the Christians in the federal Lebanon as president, side by side with a Shi’a chief of parliament and a Sunni prime minister (one third each). Aoun has no fears and will do whatever he can to achieve his “big picture” at any price.

Let us assume for an instant that the 14th of March coalition does not exist, how would it be possible for all of these politicians to each get what they want (i.e. all of the above), given the contradictions and variety of their demands? Hence why we are up for a tough ride.


Filed under Aoun, Bashar Assad, Emile Lahoud, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, March 8

Is the 8th of March manipulating photos?

By Ana

Below are four photos that are in distribution over email and Facebook that I thought would be interesting to display here. They are also on display in the Lebanese Forces Official Student Website. I’m not sure how credible they are but I do know, given that I enjoy messing around with Photoshop, among other programs, that there is so much you can do with digital retouching…

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On Manar TV, Aoun showed this photo as proof that the Lebanese Forces were still armed and were “Za3ran.” He also said that the Lebanese Forces member was pointing at the Lebanese Army.

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Here is a close up of the photo.

Now here is the problem:

It seems that the photo Aoun was showing above might actually have been manipulated.

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This photo was actually taken on Tuesday at Nahr El Kaleb.

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Here is the photo of the man seen in the original photo.

Note that this photo does not have the Lebanese Forces cross on the shirt of his sleeve, which means that the cross was drawn onto his sleeve by some computer software. Actually, it is completely out of proportion with the shirt’s sleeve. The alleged manipulated photo shows the cross that covers almost 70% of the sleeve. If you were to redraw the cross on the alleged original photo where the guy is bigger, the cross would be enormous. Also, remember that when Geagea was released from prison, the cross was removed as an official symbol of the Lebanese Forces and today only the cedar in the red circle is used. The fact that someone would actually wear such a shirt on Tuesday is also questionable given that most Lebanese Forces members would probably wear the cross around their necks if they would be wearing it at all.

The Lebanese Forces Official Student Website also remarks that it seems quite odd that the uninterested army men didn’t notice the presence of an erect gunman.

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It’s About Time Lebanon

By Ana

Here’s a short video, whose message most Lebanese can almost agree upon.


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Time to Leave?

By Mezzo

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What I find interesting but difficult to do is to put myself in the mind frame of a politician so I can catch his logic. When Nasrallah says that he can topple the government any time he wants, I could agree with him on the basis that he has a militia, arms, lot of money, and has been terrorizing inner Lebanon since the July War. Actually any faction that is large enough can deliberately focus on disturbing civil peace and surprise Nasrallah with similar results. By extrapolating on the basis of that same logic, we can conclude that ultimately this faction would have created irreversible damage and is no longer able to coexist with the rest of the Lebanese. What remains to be argued is whether Nasrallah would have anticipated the outcome or would he be surprised (again) by the extent of others’ reaction?

We have seen several parallels to this type of logic among the 8th of March coalition. Indeed Aoun thinks that when you call for a strike you also have the right to close the roads. One day earlier Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Head of Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea explicitly classified this act as an abuse to the people’s freedom of movement and asked the security forces to ensure that all roads remained open. On the day of the strike, the 8th of March protesters closed the roads and the army stayed put (read: were neutralized). As a consequence, the 14th of March took the initiative to confront the protesters and pressured the army into opening the roads. To that effect, Aoun’s logic goes as follows: he exploded and bitterly criticizing the 14th of March “reaction” while totally forgetting to link it to the “action” and the warnings he received.

Another parallel is when Former Prime Minister Omar Karami, overwhelmed by the amount of shops that closed in Tripoli last Tuesday, convinced himself that his popularity is much larger than was proven on December 1, 2006. The same logic was adopted by Aoun and Hezbollah when Al Manar drew the convincing argument that 90% of the population followed the strike order.

Then comes the issue of who could be behind those who were killed and injured by gunfire. Aoun already knows the answer: it is the Lebanese Forces. He supports his arguments on the basis that 7 FPM supporters were injured by bullets, completely disregarding the fact that the 30 other people from the 14th of March coalition were also killed or injured by bullets. If we contemplate the scene for just a few seconds we realize that, with the exception of Jbeil, the firings were concentrated in the North of Lebanon and not only where the Aoun and Lebanese Forces supporters confronted each others. This area is known to host several armed groups such as the Al Marada, the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP), Baath Party, Pro-Syrian Palestinians gangs, and the 200 presumably “Al-Qaeda” members that Bashar Al Assad sent us 2 months ago and renamed as Fateh Al-Islam.

What we are therefore observing is a daily dose of that kind of logical communication that would always make sense to most supporters from the 8th of March coalition. I say most supporters because some are losing patience as a result of this one-sided argumentation that lacks convincing links and is poor in content. People are more intelligent than Aoun and Nasrallah would like to believe. For example, many cannot understand how Hezbollah managed to mobilize the Zeiatriah armed with sticks to support to the extreme the FPM protesters at Naher El Mott. The Zeiatriah were intercepted by supporters from Chamoun’s al-Wataniyeh Ahrar (PNL) and Lebanese Forces and clashes resulted.

We can now safely derive that Aoun’s dominance on the ground is important for Nasrallah’s next step and it seems that Aoun lost it. Aoun and Nasrallah’s press conferences on Wednesday angrily reacted to the ground “reaction” of the 14th of March and particularly the ones carried out by the Lebanese Forces. It seems time for Aoun to leave the political scene.


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Paris III Document

By Ana

Apologies for not having posted in the longest of times. The exam period just doesn’t seem to want to end. Promises to post after the study ordeal is over!

Until then, I wanted to share with you Paris III (albeit a little late) which you can find attached in .pdf in both Arabic and English.

Paris III in Arabic

Paris III in English

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Michel Hayek predictions (finally) translated

By Ana

I am so sorry this took so long. I got bogged down with work and had a friend translate it for me instead (thanks a bunch Rim Rim!) Again, thanks to all readers for being so patient!

This is what she has so far, apparently there is more to come:

The Palace of Justice will be shaken twice:
The first shaking will be due to a cheap attempt on the life of a justice maker
The second shaking will be due to a famous lawmaker being served (or being prosectuted?)

Obcenities and force between Lebanese officials to the point of fist-fighting. I see things flying around and the intervention of many members of society either to give support to these people or as mediators to break up the argument. This face will take place in an official location.

Two army officials will take part in somewhat of a precise operation. They will succeed in part of it, with one of them in danger. On the other hand, a third army official will fall in a separate operation.

Tony asks here: Is it like something of a coup?

Michel responds: This is the sign I got, this is all I’ll say.

The prosecution of an army figure involved in large and supspicious operations.

An army site in Lebanon will face gunned (or armed) assault.

I see the Minister Ahmad Fatfat looking different, I see a lot of noise surrounding his name in light of attempts at bargaining with the future of Lebanon.

In spite of the progress that FPM official Gebran Bassil attains, I see something of a vengeful attempt reaching him and people close to him, and the same will occur with March 14 MPs Mesbah el Ahdan and Wa’el Abou Faour.

A weird yet intentional fire will break out in an attempt to commit a crime.

Attack on two clergymen from different sects.

An artistical Winter canvas will be seen in Lebanon’s summer – we will witness fog, rainfall and unusual natural phenomenon

Bloodshed at a university in Lebanon.

Some criminals charged with attacking Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and his wife MP Strida Geagea and people close to them will be caught. What is interesting about them will be their distinctive facial features and accent.

I see a picture including Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Progressive Socialist Party leader Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt. No comment.

A painful letter will be written with the blood of a Lebanese Druze figure.

The agreement between Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) will remain intact despite a conflict that will occur between them.

A radical change among FPM officials, especially the Reform and Change parliamentary bloc.

A Chouf MP will be in danger.

A Lebanese woman will occupy a high position, which will catch attention locally and internationally.

A series of light earthquakes will hit more than one Lebanese region.

Worrying signs seen towards the musical Al Rahbani family.

I see MP Elias Atallah in a critical situation.


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Do they have what it takes to govern?

By Mezzo

Answering this question would tell us whether a person, a party, or a coalition has what it takes to govern or to contribute to the governance of a country. What we should be looking for is so basic that it is striking to see how much so many have lost or forgotten to put at work their critical thinking abilities.

The first worrying sign to look for is when the politician projects himself as always right and never mistaken. This belief is reinforced when we hear him blaming his opponents for being always wrong and never making the right decision. Always getting angry the minute he shifts into the mood of an argument, whether he expresses it in a false calmly manner or gesticulates using aggressive words, after which he overreacts with the same intensity to any topic as futile or important as it can be.

The second worrying symptom is when he continuously sees his opponents plotting to nail him, by which he then blames them for the decisions he took. He does not understand that in the real world, people with authority and responsibility are accountable for the decisions they take. If we focus on the implications of such behavior in daily interactions within his own group of people, we realize that he trusts very few people and almost nobody fully. His whole living world lacks genuine communication channels.

The third disturbing sign to look for is the way he analyzes a situation and derives his conclusions. A politician with a military background or an ideologist would poorly surround himself with people made of the same tissue and usually of weaker personalities. He would systematically categorize the recommendations and analysis he receives on the basis of who says it and not on content. He would overpower his team during a debate and insert on a need be basis some of his strongest arguments to bring the whole discussion back gravitating around his original idea. The indicator to look for, as a result of this behavior, is the continuous stubborn use of the same boring arguments and speeches, by him and his subordinates, with no evolution whatsoever.

Some basic profile of a politician would be a university degree, a balanced personality, and a previous exposure to the corporate world. With such a background, we, the people, can comfort ourselves that the politician would have a broader view of the complexity of any problem at hand, would analyze his own strengths and weaknesses and surround himself with specialists and experts, and, would feel pressured to establish constructive internal and external communication channels. With all this in place, this politician would have the means to gather the maximum amount of information, to better weight the various components that will influence his decision, to test his ideas, to fix them, and ultimately to make the best possible decision.

This is why Aoun and Nasrallah, respectively a military figure and an ideologist, would always view some aspects of the problem and never the whole picture. This is why Aoun and Nasrallah will occasionally surprise us with their extreme actions. Do Aoun and Nasrallah know what the social and economical implications of their war or the long-term occupation of Downtown Beirut have brought to the lives of the Lebanese? Or the irreversible damage both have created to the pillars of the country in terms of human resources and investment confidence, to say the least?

Now we understand how Aoun, on the basis of the futile argument that he was not involved in the government’s decision, convincingly chose not to support the action of the government to go to Paris-III. Tomorrow he will blame the March 14 coalition for the decision he took.

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Wishing you a happy 2009

By Ana

Once again, the fortune teller, Michel Hayek, speaks again. I was able to find an okay translation of his predictions on NaharNet, which I’ve pasted below for everyone’s convenience. I’m not at all a fan of this prophesizing, but he has everyone’s attention at every new year…

To add some sad humor to these predictions, a friend sms-ed me a joke: Given the predictions for Lebanon in 2007, I wish you a Happy 2009.

The predictions were divided into two parts. I’ve posted the two videos for each part. I’m working on a translation which should be up later on in the day so check back later if your Arabic isn’t too great.

Michel Hayek Predictions Part One

Michel Hayek Predictions Part Two

You can also check out the predictions of fortune teller Samir Zaayter here.


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We have another problem, General Aoun

By Ana

Once again, fails to amuse me in its highly selective coverage of news in Lebanon. An interview with General Aoun is worth mentioning (and a standing ovation is in order for writer Nadine Farra Zakhem who is the perfect example of why journalists should not be politicized).

In the interview, Aoun committed several logical fallacies. Of course, if I were to write a post analyzing each one, I would never finish. I therefore picked out the ones that I felt were most important.

Firstly, the general fails to define his terms and distinguish between actuality and relevance. Aoun believes that the Seniora government’s agenda is to “regionalize and internationlize the crisis as it points to non-existent dangers like the return of Syria, Iran, [and] civil war.” What is non-existent of these very existing scenarios? Is the return of Syria not something to be fearful of, or does the general not see any clash between Lebanese sovereignty and Syrian tutelage? What about Hezbollah’s bid for more power in the government and a desire to keep its arms, are these not Iranian prerogatives? Or are we to only call Iranian involvement actual involvement when it involves Ahmadinejad coming in person to Beirut? And general, were you not the first person to bring up the subject about a potential civil war in Lebanon? Perhaps we need to get our casuality chronology corrected: the international and regional problems of Iraq, Iran, Al-Qaeda, and Israel existed before this political crisis, not after it.

Secondly, the general either exaggerates certain issues or dismisses others as completely unjustified. Aoun calls the current crisis a “simple political problem.” I invite him to explain what he means by this statement. Is is simple that for the first time in Lebanese history, a Shi’a militant ideologue and a Christian hysterical general get together? Has this ever happened in the context of another regional war?

And of course, there is the fallacy of hypocrisy. When asked to discuss the current government, Aoun calls the government “insensitive to national problems.” Last time I checked, the reason why Aoun left the March 14 camp back in May 2005 was precisely because he failed to distinguish between national priorities and personal ambition. And what does he mean when he adds, “In the old days the Syrians didn’t let street demonstrations drag on.” If Syria was better at maintaining law and order, should they return? (Of course, I make this statement in a fully ironic context: you are against the Syrians and Syrian tutelage, yet you ally yourself with the only actor in this country who wills Syrian return and can bring Syria back if it was able to. Given your alliance to them, you’ve raised and not diminshed the stakes of such a return)

I also find your word choice, Mr. General, to be absolutely hilarious when you state: “I reject all foreign mediation, as I said the other day. We have great respect for the countries that intervene and we want to remain their friends.” So diplomacy bugs you but the smuggling of arms doesn’t?

Additionally, do you take us for fools when you claim you are both against the “Saudi-Sunni” and “Iranian-Shi’a” axis? If you were against the latter axis, you wouldn’t have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah back in February 2006. Let us of course ignore that the question Zakhem asked you was not well-thought and the idea that March 14 is within the Saudi-Sunni axis makes no sense. What about the Druze and Christians that are a major part of the camp?

Clearly, I could go on and on. However, I will let my readers draw their own conclusions and add to my list of fallacies. In case you missed the link to the interview above, here it is again. And, for those of you who read French, you can check out another article on the same subject here.


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