Sunday, 23 December 2007

"No agreement"

The Observer newspaper notes:

"Despite mounting international pressure from France and the US for Lebanese parties to elect the army chief of staff, Michel Suleiman, as a consensus president, the speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, again postponed the planned election until 29 December, amid claims by Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun that negotiations had completely broken down.

'There is no agreement,' said Aoun, who has been representing the Hizbollah-led opposition in the negotiations. 'All lines of dialogue are broken.'"

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Rice boils

Naharnet reports on Condi's decision to cancel her visit to Lebanon.

"Rice's expected visit Wednesday was canceled only to be replaced by a series of meetings by her assistant for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams with March 14 leaders.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Hospitality

Its good to see that Lebanon lives up to its traditional image of hospitality. Here refugees fleeing Iraq are given special attention. The AP news agency reports:

Iraqi refugees in Lebanon live in fear of arrest, which could mean a long spell in prison until they agree to go back home to their country.

"I work for little money but at least it is near where I live," said Muhammad, who was an assistant accounting professor back home in Iraq.

"I am worried that if they detain me, then authorities will detain my wife and children," the 34-year-old said, refusing — like many Iraqis here — to give his full name for fear of reprisals from police.

Unlike other Arab countries, Lebanon has adopted a policy of arresting Iraqis who are in the country illegally. Often they are kept jailed beyond their original sentences until they agree to return home. About 77 percent of the roughly 50,000 Iraqis in Lebanon have entered the country illegally, the Danish Refugee Council estimated in a survey Friday.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Who's caved in?

As General Francois al-Hajj was laid to rest France and the US seem to have ordered the ruling M14 coalition to end the deadlock over a new president. It has emerged, however, that the opposition wanted assurances over the formation of a broad cabinet.

We will find out over the next week the extent of the compromise.

I spoke with both the Communist Party leader and a representative of the opposition at the recent world Against war conference in London. Neither seemed enthusiastic about the prospect a resolution soon.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bibliotheque Orientale

Beirut 1892

Black smoke over Beirut

It is a rude awakening for those who felt that the wave of assassinations that have plagued Lebanon since 2005 have eased following a general agreement (of sorts) on a new president.

A bomb on wednesday morning ripped apart the convoy carrying one of Lebanon's top military commanders, Francois El-Hajj, as he drove to work. Hajj was seen as "being close to Hizbollah" and a close friend of opposition leader Michel Aoun.

The AFP news agency reports:

"The army said Brigadier General Francois El-Hajj, 54, its chief of operations, was killed in the explosion along with a number of soldiers as his car drove past the Baabda municipality during the morning rush-hour.

"The security official said at least four people died and up to 10 were injured. The Lebanese Red Cross said five people were hospitalised, none of them with serious wounds.

"Several officials said Hajj was targeted as he was tipped to replace as army chief General Michel Suleiman, the front-runner to become Lebanon's next president but whose election has been blocked by a stand-off between pro- and anti-Syrian camps."

The killing follows a further delay in the election of a new president.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The secret word

Dar al-Hayat has the inside lane on the presidential elections.

In its English website the Arab news agency reports:
"Many developments have helped in reaching the issuing of the 'secret word'. Internal developments have shown that the parties have made the maximum efforts without being able to impose their policies. External developments have shown that everybody does not currently want matters in Lebanon to reach the point of no return."

British bomblets

According to Landmine Action a new report from Lebanon presents serious challenge to UK cluster bomb policy.

On 12 November, prime minister Gordon Brown committed the UK to ban cluster bombs that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. But a new report has found that one of the UK's remaining cluster bomb types produces post-conflict contamination at a level that is unacceptable.

This week in Vienna, 136 nations met to work towards a ban on cluster munitions. The UK had previously claimed that its M85 submunitions were a solution to the cluster bomb threat. But when these same weapons were used by Israel in Lebanon in 2006 they again left areas littered with lethal explosives and have killed and injured innocent civilians trying to rebuild their lives after the war.

The new report, based on detailed on-the-ground research by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, British bomb disposal expert Colin King (the editor of Jane's Mines and Mine Clearance), and Norwegian People's Aid found that:

"M85 bomblet reliability in combat is substantially worse than has been indicated by tests. It produces post-conflict contamination at a level that must be considered unacceptable."

NGOs believe the UK must now remove these weapons from service or lose credibility in their work on this issue. Simon Conway, Director of Landmine Action said:

"The UK has been claiming that these cluster munitions were a solution to the problem - it is now beyond doubt that this is not the case. Gordon Brown recently committed Britain to a ban on cluster bombs that harm civilians - it is time for the UK to give up the M85."

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that British troops using these weapons in Iraq (where the UK dropped 100,000 of these M85 submunitions in 2003) were told that only 0.74% of these submunitions could be expected to fail. The new report estimates an average failure rate around 10% - and even higher in some locations.

"According to the UK's own information the troops using these weapons in Iraq should have expected only 740 unexploded duds to be left behind - but the reality may have been more like 10,000 lethal remnants. This suggests a complete failure to understand the risk that was being created for the civilian population," said Simon Conway

* The report is: M85 - An analysis of reliability, by Colin King Associates Ltd, The Norwegian Defence Research Institute and Norwegian People's Aid. Link to the report: www.npaid.org/M85

* 0.74% reliability is from MoD Freedom of Information Request reference: FOI: M85 proportionality assessments in Iraq PS 05-10-2007-071341-002 - R.Moyes (23/11/2007)

* Cluster munitions are weapons that can disperse hundreds of smaller submunitions - sometimes referred to as "bomblets" - over wide areas. They have indiscriminate wide area effects that kill and injure civilians during attacks and they leave severe and lasting humanitarian and development consequences from large quantities of post-conflict unexploded ordnance.

* At least 75 countries stockpile cluster munitions and 34 are known to have produced more than 210 types of cluster munitions. 14 states have used cluster munitions in at least 30 countries and territories

* Landmine Action is a co-chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) an international network of over 200 civil society organisations in 60 countries committed to protecting civilians from the effects of cluster munitions. Members of the CMC network work together on an international campaign calling on governments to conclude a new international treaty banning cluster munitions by 2008.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Panic at the LA Times

A curious opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times gives a taste of the setback for US foreign policy in Lebanon.

They see the possible appointment of General Michel Suleiman as a betrayal of the "Cedar Revolution".

"The United States and France have supported the pro-democracy movement that drew more than a million people into the streets in the Cedar Revolution that succeeded in driving Syria from Lebanon in 2005. But the West has not done enough since then to keep Syria or Hezbollah from paralysing political progress.

"Hizbollah's punishing war with Israel, its rapid rearmament and its successful intimidation of parliament have proceeded apace, while the United Nations tribunal charged with investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has dragged. Now Beirut's beleaguered moderates fear that the West is once again willing to turn a blind eye to Syrian meddling in Lebanon if Damascus will participate in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations."

Of course they are exaggerating, Suleiman is not a "puppet of Syria", but he's not their man either. He represents that element of the Lebanese ruling class who are petrified by the prospect of civil war—and feel that the status quo (however uncomfortable for George Bush) is better than total meltdown.

The problem the US and its allies face is that there are no guarantees that the ruling M14 coalition will win the next elections. This latest debacle follows a similar miscalculation made by the US and Israel in last summer's war.

One indicator of the turning point for M14 is a change in language by Walid Jumblatt. The Druze leader had up till a few days ago been describing Hizbollah as "terrorists". Now he calls them the "resistance". Jumblatt is a great flip-flopper (he was once a dangerous "terrorist" himself), and it seems that his recent change in tone is an indication that M14 plans have come to naught.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Know your class enemy...


The November issue of al- Manshour, the magazine of the Leftist Assembly for Change, is now online.

The editorial calls for an end to wars and dictatorships in the region.

Bassem Chit's main article is on class struggle and change. He argues that both the Democratic Left (who are part of the governing coalition) and the Communist Party (who were part of the opposition) have abandoned any hope of change from below. This has led to a fatalism and a reliance on bourgeois parties.

He writes: "What seems clear is that the Left has lost hope in the Lebanese street and the working class, and have decided to achieve social justice and democracy within the system, or through direct and theoretical alliances with the ruling class.

"Both parties see change as an administrative process within the system. The Democratic Left sees the possibility of establishing an evolutionary path of democratic reform, while CP sees the Hizbollah-Aoun opposition implementing the 'democratic project and reform' once they topple the ruling M14 coalition."

The first principle, he argues, is that sectarianism and all its works cannot be reformed out of the system because it is an integral part of Lebanese capitalism—and thus any alliance with bourgeois parties will limit any movement for change.

The left should instead push for the transformation of the whole of society, and the only the working class acting in its own interest can achieve this.

He concludes, "Today we are living in the lull before the storm, but there is a rising level of struggle across the region. This gives the us time to build for the battles ahead."

In a piece on the US sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Mohammad Qariouti argues that the US is attempting to extinguish the flame of the Palestinian revolution by promising a two-state solution it cannot deliver.

He writes, "The Palestinian Authority has attempted, since Oslo, to work on the 'state-building' in the traditional format. It has become clear that this project has failed, and what is happening today is the greatest proof of that."

Farah Qoubaisi and Hiba Abbani examine the impact of rising food prices on families.

They write that a "simple comparison of the high prices of materials and goods during the past few months show clearly the suffering that has been sweeping the majority of Lebanese families." The found that the price of food has risen by over 30 percent.

In a second piece they report on the fate of transport workers who lost their bonuses after the government closed the company.

Al-Manshour closes with two confernce reports. The first outlines the discussions at a weekend political event. The second is an assessment of the group's work since March 2005.

Cyminology


Cyminology will perform a night of Persian mystic voice with jazz improvisation at the Goethe Institute on 5 December, 8:30pm

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Soft coup?


The M14 bloc has caved in and agreed that the Lebanese army commander General Michel Suleiman should be the consensus candidate for president. This kind of soft military take-over has a precedence in Lebanese history.

Suleiman is emerging as the third force following the deadlock between the M14 government and the opposition. He told his troops to ignore the politics "and listen to the call of duty. The nation is at stake and you are its defenders. Do not be lenient and do not be inactive."

If he were to take over he would be able to delay, but solve, the intractable problems facing the country.

Men, get sweeping


Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah latest religious edict (know as a fatwa) should please many women.

The former leader of Hizbollah (and the most revered cleric among the Shia Muslims in Lebanon) declared, "The husband should never think of his wife as one of his personal belongings; something that he owns and cannot be distinguished from a piece of furniture. On the contrary, he should regard her as a human being who has rights on him the same way he has rights on her.

"Consequently, men can never restrain the freedom of women under the pretext that she is being inattentive to the household tasks.

"Thus, a man should treat his wife, as he would like her to treat him once having the power and the right to prevent him from achieving his political, cultural or religious duties. Then, let him ask himself this question: how would he feel if she used that right against him? Would he be comfortable?

"When the husband subjects his wife to a cruel and an unfair treatment deterring her from carrying out the missions that enrich her humanity and redounds to the benefit of the society she lives in, he would be diverging from the love and compassion path."

Furthermore, he argues, men should pick up a broom.

"There is no juristic rule that binds women to any household chore, and we have said also that breast-feeding babies can be a recompensed job.

"The belief that it is disgraceful for the man to manage household tasks is derived from the social culture and not from Islam."

Fadlallah has condemned honour killings and ruled that women can use violence against men to defend themselves. He also encourages women to use sex to get their husbands' approval:

"If the marital relationship lacks this sort of understanding upon which harmony could be established, the woman must work then on discovering the weaknesses of her husband such as needs, emotions, and conditions; and try to behave tactfully to embrace them and to consider them as advantageous chances to convince him of approving her social work.

"When the woman fulfils the needs of her husband, shows sensitivity to his feelings, and so on… usually, that would prompt him to accept to give her more freedom in her private as well as in her public life, and to offer her the opportunity to take actions outside the framework of the marital relationship."

Truth and reconciliation

Black smoke over Tripoli

Tensions in the northern city of Tripoli have erupted into a gunfight between the Islamist Tawheed and partisans of the M14 movement.

According to Reuters news agency, "One security source said the son of the leader of Islamic Tawheed had been killed in the battle near the group's headquarters in the Abu Samra suburb. Security sources said the incident escalated from a dispute between two men. A military source said the army had surrounded the area,"

This is the region earmarked for a new US base.

Tensions are so bad that the Philippine embassy has advised domestic workers to remain indoors.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Negative trend

The political stand off in Lebanon is having an economic impact that threatens the economic prosperity of the country.

According to Forbes business magazine, "The establishment of parallel administrations would likely trigger a downgrade on Lebanon as would tensions that undermine depositors' confidence in the banking sector."

That the pro-western, neocon wing of the Lebanese ruling class would threaten to destroy themselves to suit US intentions shows the fragility of the ruling M14 alliance. They are playing the long-game (or the very long game that involves destroying everything).

Friday, 23 November 2007

So its come to this

Yes, now Lebanon is under military rule after the government refused to back down over a compromise candidate for president.

This military take over, although it seems the best of a worst option, fills me with dread. According to the Daily Telegraph the M14 coaltion immediately declared that the statement "has no value and is unconstitutional and consequently it is considered as if it was not issued".

This means that the country could have three rival governments: the M14 coalition, the opposition and now the army.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Hailstones kill cluster bombs


Iran's Press TV reports that, "A hailstorm in southern Lebanon has struck and detonated hundreds of unexploded Israeli cluster bombs scattered across the landscape. After a long dry spell across Lebanon, hailstones as big as walnuts hit villages on Tuesday and struck undiscovered Israeli bomblets."

Normally those little lumps of ice destroy the tomato crop... now they are a gift from the heavens.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Krouchner fumes

France's Bernard Krouchner (who made his name in Médecins Sans Frontières but now heads Guerres Sans Frontières) is spitting feathers after "something" blocked his compromise presidential candidate.

A visibly shaken Krouchner left a meeting with Hariri Jr of the M14 coalition with the words:

"Everybody was agreed (on the process). Everybody said they had agreed. Now I'm amazed, France is amazed, that something is stuck, something is blocked, something is derailed, and I would like everyone to assume their responsibilities.

"I would like to know who is not in agreement. I would like to know who has an interest in chaos, who has an interest in the elections not taking place, who has an interest in making it even more complicated for the life of all the Lebanese.

"I want to know who is blocking and who will take responsibility, but I say to you ... that the one who takes responsibility for having blocked this process agreed by everyone, will carry the responsibility for the destabilisation of Lebanon and its regional consequences."

Who could be interested in destabilising the region?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

White smoke from Bkirki

An analogy with Vatican choosing the next Pope might be too obvious here... but the head of the Maronite church, Nasrallah Botrous Sfeir, has made known the finalists for Lebanon's representative on earth.

The conclave will decide from among:

Nassib Lahoud
Lahoud is one of the two candidates endorsed by the M14. He served as ambassador to the US in 1990. He is among the trans national Arab bourgeoisie and owns a large engineering firm (wonder how he got the contracts?) He was elected to parliament in 1992 and served until he lost in 2005. Lahoud is the main war candidate who will do the US bidding in Lebanon.

Boutros Harb
The second choice for M14, Harb (who name means war in Arabic) is promoting himself as a compromise candidate. He has been an MP since 1972 and one of the authors of the Taif agreement (which ended the civil war). As above on question of war.

Michel Aoun
The former army commander and head of the Free Patriotic movement, Aoun is the popular choice among ordinary people, which means he won't get elected (voters can't choose the president). He supported Hizbollah during Israel's war last year and hates the far right Phalange with a passion. Aoun served as a prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and launched the doomed "war of liberation" against the presence of Syrian troops. He wants to integrates Hizbollah's fighting forces into the army (a move that terrifies the US and Israel).

Michel Suleiman
The army commander who destroyed the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp and fancies himself as the new General Chehab. He distinguished himself during last summer's war by doing nothing to defend the country.

Joseph Tarabay
The head of the board of the Union of Arab Banks and the Association of Lebanese Banks and president of the Christian Maronite League. A technocrat with little feel for politics, he would become a prisoner of M14.

Robert Ghanem
Ghanem has been an MP since 1992. An original friend of M14 movement but in recent months has distanced himself from the government and made opportunist moves towards Syria.

Chakib Kortbawi
Kortbawi is former head of the Beirut Bar Association who distinguished himself by his campaign against sectarianism. A one time ally of Aoun he is now considered one of the more viable compromise candidates.

Damianos Kattar
Kattar is the second technocrat in the race. At 47 he is establishing himself for a role in the future.

Missing from this list are candidates who are not Maronite Christians, and a popular vote.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

John Pilger on Iraq and journalism

Parallel universe

The M14 coalition has reacted with fury to the speech by Hassan Nasrallah where he called for "emergency measures" if parliament fails to elect a president next week.

The coalition, which has a majority of in the 127-seat house, has threatened to go ahead on its own vote if no consensus candidate is found. Nasrallah warned that the opposition would not recognise any president not elected by two-thirds of MPs.

The exchange has raised the ugly spectre of parallel governments a la civil war days.

The alternative, of course would be to call a general election, but that could overturn the M14 majority.

Meanwhile the meddling war monger Bernard Kouchner is back in town to hammer out some kind of compromise.

What this compromise is remains hard to fathom. Maybe the US will only be allowed a small base in the north to wage a limited war on Syria, and only some poor neighbourhoods will be pummelled by a few US supplied weapons?

Monday, 12 November 2007

Moment of truth—part 2

Yes its that time of year again when the Lebanese parliament fails to elect a president. This time the Moment of Truth 2 has been delayed until 21 November. Meanwhile Syria has now accused the US of "meddling" in Lebanon's internal affairs.

In the midst of all these moments of truth Hassan Nasrallah has had the temerity in calling for a general election.

I can just see the headlines now, "Bush warns Lebanese voters not to meddle in presidential poll."

Stop war, to start one

Elder statesman (read old sectarian war criminal) Walid Jumblatt wants Lebanon to make peace with Israel so that it can make war on itself. According to the Jerusalem Post, Jumblatt (who is arming his militia in prepartion for the next civil war and once massacred any Christian he could get his hands on) described Hizbollah as "a division of the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards."

An interesting aside, Jumblatt was once derided as a terrorist by the US and Israel when he was a pro-Syrian politician. Now he is the "worldwide Druse leader".

New old weapons


The US is planning to re-arm the Lebanese airforce with 50 year old A-3 Skywarrior bombers. The warplane will be useless agaisnt Israel (it flies at 610 miles an hour) but its two 20mm cannons and 12,000lb bomb payload will be very effective against poor neighbourhoods.

It has a flight range of 2,100 miles and will be able to fly around and around Lebanese airspace at 41,000 ft looking for "terrorists".

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Nahr el-Bared

Birds-eye view of Nahr el-Bared camp following the army siege. Is it a wonder that so many Palestinians want visas for the EU?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Iraqis in jail, their children in the workhouse

The UN reports on the terrible plight faced by Iraqi refugees in Lebanon.

"The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) puts the number of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon at 50,000 people, of whom only 8,476 are registered. Another 500 are being held in prison, it says, merely for violating immigration rules."

The UN notes that many will be held indefinitely as they cannot be deported.

Furthermore, "Iraqi children are unlikely to attend school as they are sent to work in menial jobs by their parents who believe children are less likely than adults to get caught without official papers.

"As with Palestinians, refugees in Lebanon find it almost impossible to gain fully legal employment. That would require a Lebanese sponsor who agrees to be legally responsible for them and to pay about US$2,000 a year in administration fees."

End of the line?

FPM leader Michel Aoun has issued a stark warning to the government if it elects a president without the consent of the opposition. He threatened to "raid the Serail" (the administrative heart of the government) if the vote goes ahead next week.

Aoun pointed out that the opposition have reached the limits of any compromise. He said: "We have given up a lot of our demands. What is left for us is to pack our bags and leave the country."

It seems that the George Bush will get his wish to drive the country towards civil war and possible invasion by US troops.

Let's be clear what this means.

Armed confrontations between west Beirut and south Beirut that would spread to the south of the country, the north, the Chouf mountains and the Metn. This will be matched by Christian on Christian fighting, Lebanese on Palestinian and so on.

All kinds of forces will be unleashed, Salafis, sectarians and those who never forgave nor forgot the 15 year civil war. The Syrians will get involved, as will the Israelis, Saudis etc.

The fascist leader Pierre Gemayel famously declared in 1975: "I would rather Lebanon be destroyed than changed." Does the March 14 coalition feel the same?

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Sanctions and meddling

A panic-stricken Bush has imposed sanctions on Lebanese and Syrians he accuses of "meddling" (there's that word again) in the presidential elections.

Why the panic. Well its seems there's talk of a compromise candidate in the air. Not good for Bush. He needs a "yes man" if he's to get his base in north Lebanon.

All the while the French, in the form of humanitarian war advocate Bernard Kouchner, have been shuttling around threatening the Syrians while trying to distance France from the US.

Krouncher said: "Despite the friendly relations that bind us together, we are not always in harmony with America, and whenever there is a difference we point it out."

Apprently France is dangling the carrot of "normal relations" to Syria. Krouncher, it seems, wants a compromise.

Meanwhile US secretary of state Condeleezza Rice said last weekend that any new president must move against the resistance and Palestinian groups and convene the UN tribunal into the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri.

The tribunal is widely seen as an attempt to isolate the Syrian government—who is blamed for Hariri’s killing.

The opposition has been locked in stalemate with the government over a new president since they abandoned a general strike in January of this year.

By calling off the strike the opposition hoped that the government would compromise in a power sharing agreement. But under intense US and European pressure the ruling coalition refused. There followed months of tension and assassinations of government supporters.

At the heart of the standoff are two strategies over the future of the country. The ruling coalition hope that be aligning Lebanon with the US it can continue to receive financial backing to revive the economy.

However the coalition now fears that it no longer enjoys support across the country and is desperate to find a compromise. The US fears that any deal would hamper its efforts.

March 14 want to block the appointment of the popular Christian leader, Michel Aoun, whose Free Patriotic Movement supported Hezbollah during Israel’s disastrous war last summer.

For many years Michel Aoun lead the struggle to drive Syria forces out of the country. But following the so-called Cedar Revolution in March 2005, he openly declared his opposition to US interference in the country and proposed that Hezbollah fighters be incorporated into the Lebanese army.

His proposals angered the US and its supporters who want the army to crush the resistance.

The opposition also hope that a compromise candidate would diffuse the tensions in the country and help revive the ailing economy.

They fear that by allowing the US to dominate Lebanon it will force the government to attack the resistance and spark a civil war.

The warning from Rice follows a meeting last month in which George Bush told Saad Hariri, the head of the March 14 coalition, that the US opposes any compromise deal with Hezbollah and their allies.

Bush said that if the government were to agree on a “neutral” presidential candidate the US would withdraw its’ backing.

The current president, Emile Lahoud, is due to step down at the end of this month. Under Lebanon’s confessional system the president, who mush be a Maronite Catholic, is elected by parliament.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Airwaves 1967

Hezbollah on Maneuvers

Thousands of Hezbollah resistance fighters staged military maneuvers (without weapons or uniforms) near Israel's border in southern Lebanon under the noses of Unifil international troops and the Lebanese army. The maneuvers come in response to similar military exercises by the Israeli army and growing fears of another attack on Lebanon.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Airlift 1958

US cargo plane unloads military supplies, Beirut airport July 1958

Friday, 2 November 2007

Why sell the golden goose?

The upcoming privatisation of the mobile phone network proves everything that is wrong with the Lebanese government. The network has been one of the state's main sources of revenue, generating between $750 to $900 million a year.

Why sell it off at a time when there is a crippling national debt?

The answer is of course that the business of profit will remain "private" while debt will remain "public".

The government argues that they can make a quick $7 billion. But since there is a deadline to reduce the "national debt" by 2012, surely hanging on to this key sector is a good bit of forward planning?

Not if it gets in the way of neo-liberal dogma, apparently.

So in come mega wealthy cell phone companies—like ZAIN, Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. (with current revenues of $1,470.54 million)—and out goes whatever is left of health provisions and pensions.

Monday, 29 October 2007

More on US bases

Former MP Nasser Kandil appeared on Lebanese television on Sunday to reveal a document, which he said was issued by an agency in the US Department of Defense, that confirms US intentions to set up a base, or several bases in Lebanon.

The US embassy denied it, again.

Still wondering what "a strategic alliance between Lebanon and the US" means? Hmmm

Acting like US soldiers

More evidence of the "Fallujah-style" looting and wanton destruction of Palestinian homes in the camp.

Nahr al Bared—a lament


Like all Palestinian songs, this one ends with a call for a homeland.
**Warning, this video contains some distressing images.

The camp is levelled

Army abuse of prisoners


A Lebanese soldier shouts at prisoners captured at Nahr al-Bared. The men are obviously traumatised or badly wounded.

Nahr al Bared—army torched homes

Irish peace activist Michael Birmingham has uncovered shocking evidence of the torching, looting and dustruction of Palestinian homes in Nahr al-Bared camp.

He writes:

"Something terrible has been done to the residents of Nahr al Bared, and the Lebanese people are being spared the details. Over the past two weeks, since the camp was partly reopened to a few of its residents, many of us who have been there have been stunned by a powerful reality. Beyond the massive destruction of the homes from three months of bombing, room after room, house after house have been burned. Burned from the inside.

"Amongst the ashes on the ground, are the insides of what appear to have been car tyres. The walls have soot dripping down from what seems clearly to have been something flammable sprayed on them. Rooms, houses, shops, garages— all blackened ruins, yet having had no damage from bombing or battle. They were burned deliberately by people entering and torching them."

Friday, 26 October 2007

Black Lebanese

The Financial Times profiles the century old community that crashed onto the shores of West Africa.

"Generations of Lebanese have married locally, adopted creole and staked their destinies on their adopted homeland—in spite of their lack of influence over the running of the country

Are they related?

Kamal Jumblat, secular left-wing leader


Walid Jumblat, sectarian right-wing leader

Thursday, 25 October 2007

4 October 2007

Bush's message to Saad Hariri before he threatened to dump him...

"I told this courageous leader [Saad Hariri] that the United States strongly supports the success of democracy in Lebanon; that we respect your country and that we understand the obstacles that you face."

George Bush
Office of the Press Secretary
4 October 2007

25 July 1958

Eisenhower's message to Chamoun before he dumped him....

Dear Mr. President

I wish to thank you for your message of July 21 in which you express personally and on behalf of Lebanon gratitude for the United States' affirmative response to Lebanon's call for assistance. The purpose of our action was to help your country preserve its independence, in accord with the inherent right of nations to cooperate for self-defense. Our countries have long enjoyed close and friendly relations, and I look forward to further cooperation between the American people and the people of Lebanon in furthering the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.

Sincerely,
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Exchange of Letters Between the President and
President Chamoun of Lebanon.
Dated 25 July 1958
[Released 27 July 1958]

Privateers 2008

The British government feels that Lebanon's services are ripe for picking. Among the opportunities for the privateers listed on the UK ministry of trade website are:

Water – water and wastewater collection, treatment and disposal;
Environment – solid waste, air pollution and biodiversity protection present key areas of opportunity;
Construction – one of Lebanon’s most active sectors;
Leisure and Tourism – after years of unrest Lebanon is regaining its former reputation as the tourism capital of the Middle East;
Health – major hospital refurbishment programme, plus health tourism

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

No tourists 2007


Janes Intelligence Report has a short piece on the decline of trafic through Rafic Hariri International Airport (RHIA).

"According to the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, the number of visitors dropped from 630,804 between January and June 2006 to 412,041 in the same period this year. RHIA has consequently seen a 20-25 per cent drop in passengers compared to 2006, with only half of the facility's six million annual capacity being used."

Downtown 2007

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Class struggle 2008


An IMF/Paris III proposal to reduce Lebanon's $40 billion debt (run up over the last decade) will hit hardest those who can least afford it.

In 2008 the Siniora government will attempt to dump the burden of the economic crisis on working class.

In brief this plan will involve:
• Implementation of fiscal measures equivalent to around 10 percent of GDP over five years.

• Reduction of government debt to under 130 percent of GDP by 2012— from the current 180 percent.

• Introduction of a “global income tax” as of 2008.

• Restraint on current spending— social projects, wages etc.

• Energy and social sector reforms with the reduction in fuel/gasoline subsidies.

• Privatisation of the telecoms industry (one of the few that makes money for the government)

• Tearing apart the pensions system

• A full scale assault on public sector workers, such as civil servants. Government workers, who are banned by law from strike action, will face cuts in “staffing and remuneration”.

Alongside this will be “reducing the costs of doing business”. In effect dumping "red tape"— such as employment protection, benefits, health and safety, travel subsidies.

This won't come easy.

The IMF warns of the “political implementation risks and shocks to the macroeconomic environment”. As these “reforms” will hit the poor, working class and lower middle class, the IMF proposes that a few poor relief schemes are put into place to deflect the coming anger.

They recommend “reallocating social spending toward better targeted redistribution schemes.” The "undeserving poor", no doubt, will go to the wall.

It notes that, “unless the reforms enhance social and economic conditions for the population at large, it may prove difficult to maintain the reform momentum.”

The question that is always put when neo-liberal policies are challenged is: where should the money come from? The majority of Lebanon’s debt is private (unlike with most countries in the Global South). The one sector that has been booming, and is awash with cash, is banking.

The second source is, of course, the billions of dollars salted away by the rich.

Lebanon has always had a complex interplay between class and sect. Today the "political crisis" plays itself out along sectarian lines. The economic struggle, in contrast, is firmly rooted in the exploitation of one class over the other.

The caption reads: "A crowd watches the roadblocks burn, Beirut, 23 January 2007. Thousands of Lebanese demonstrators blocked main roads in the capital and around the country, burning rubble and tyres, protesting against the government." Picture Dina Debbas/IRIN

Class 2004


Bassem Chit has published important information on the class structure of Lebanon.

The chart shows how the class divide has grown since 1970.

Friday, 19 October 2007

US bases for Lebanon?

A report in al-Safir newspaper on Thursday confirms all the worst fears about US intentions for Lebanon.

The US wants to set up a string of military bases in Lebanon.

Apprently a Pentagon delegation headed by undersecretary of defense Eric Edelman met with top-ranking Lebanese officials to dicuss gaining "a foot-hold in the strategic region of northern Lebanon".

The delegation held meetings with Lebanese PM Siniora, defense minister Elias Murr and army chief Michel Suleiman.

The Pentagon tabled a request to establish bases in order to counterballance "Russian presence in northern Syria", and according to one report, "the US policymakers are exploring new strategies to counter Russian show of military might."

So that's it, a return to the Cold War in which Lebanon becomes a battleground for Russian/US inperialism.

Apparently the US want a string of bases: one in the Christian region of Bsharri; one in the Bekaa (to cover Baalbek and the Hermel); and one in the plains of Damour south of Beirut.

Futhermore the US Air Force want to use the airstrip at Qoleiat, and two naval bases near Tripoli.

Al-Safir notes that the Americans also want radar stations in Qornet Sawda, Barouk and Dahr al-Baidar.

Apart from the fact that the area around Tripoli is "Salafi central"—and no doubt will become a protracted Iraq-like battleground between US troops and Lebanese/Palestinians— all the bases are less about the Russian Bear and more about encircling Hizbollah areas.

So we will have battles in the north, centre and south.

The report also reveals that the US wants the Lebanese army to abandon its neutrality towards the resistance and Syria— and no doubt a reassessment of Lebanese relations to Israel.

Along with this the US is a doubling military aid to the Lebanese army from $270 million to $500 million.

This shoddy deal shows that the March 14 movement (the ones that harp on about "independence") are setting the country on a path to a grim, bloody and violent future.

The Middle East is now on the verge of several wars. Israel round II on Lebanon; US attack on Iran; US-Israeli attack on Syria; a Turkish invasion on Northern Iraq; Israeli reoccupation of the Gaza Strip; a gloves off fight for control of Lebanon; and now a US occupation of Lebanon.

Will the troops be landing at the beach in Khalde?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Tram to el-Mina 1920s


The postcard shows a tram on the main line from Tripoli to the port of el-Mina. There was also a short local line in Tripoli.

Tram Car 1908


The tram system opened on 19 April 1908, and by 1931 there were 12 km of track and 75 cars. The postcard shows one of the early models. The last tram ran in September, 1965.

Train carriage 2000


Abandoned in Jounieh

Education 1938


The New Way

"A direct sound-method for learning to read the Arabic language for beginners." An Arabic language reader for elementary school second grade. Printed in Sidon in 1938.

Return to Nahr al-Bared


A vert good report from New TV/al-Jadid on the plight of Palestinians returning to Nahr al-Bared camp. The report, translated by Mosaic TV, is the sixth item.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Palestinian rights 2007


Amnesty International has published a damming report on the rights of Palestinian refugees (or lack of) in Lebanon.

The rights group note:

'Today, all 12 official refugee camps in [Lebanon] suffer from serious problems— no proper infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and unemployment. [Lebanon] has the highest percentage of Palestine refugees who are living in abject poverty and who are registered with the Agency's "special hardship" programme.

'Most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have had little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal "gatherings" —unofficial camps that lack basic infrastructure. The land allocated to official refugee camps has barely changed since 1948, despite a fourfold increase in the number of registered refugees.

'Residents have been banned from bringing building materials into some camps, preventing the repair, expansion or improvement of homes, although recently there has been some relaxation of the ban. Those who defy the law face fines and imprisonment as well as demolition of new structures.

'Restrictions in the labour market mean high levels of unemployment, low wages and poor working conditions for Palestinians. Until recently, more than 70 professions were barred to Palestinians— around 20 still are, including law, medicine and engineering. This and other discriminatory treatment compounds the poverty and isolation of Palestinians in Lebanon.

'Medical treatment is expensive in Lebanon and only partially covered by UNRWA for registered Palestinian refugees and not at all for others. Secondary health care is rarely subsidized at all. A shortage of health workers, health facilities and equipment in the camps and gatherings where Palestinians live compounds the poor health care available in practice to refugees.

'Many Palestinian refugees in Lebanon retain the hope that one day they will be able to return to their homes in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, until that time, Lebanon must respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Palestinian refugees within its jurisdiction.

To this end, the Lebanese authorities should:
Urgently repeal or revise all laws and policies that directly discriminate against Palestinian refugees;
• Take immediate steps to improve conditions in the camps and gatherings;
• Register all non-ID Palestinian refugees under Lebanese jurisdiction without delay;
• End the discrimination facing Palestinians in the labour market;
• Ensure that adequate health care is available to all;
• Ensure that all children have equal access to education.

Tram to Basta 1965


Tram Car number 50 on route 3 to Basta, 5 May 1965

Monday, 15 October 2007

Bomb attack 1958


The caption reads: "Firemen seen fighting the blaze at a large store in Beirut, which was burnt out recently following an explosion of an incendiary bomb which the rebels managed to plant inside a delivery van which was waiting outside the stores. Three people were killed and fifty hurt". 11.7.58 Keystone

1958 ‘We feared the Lebanese army would mutiny’


As part of a countdown to the 50th anniversary of the 1958 US invasion of Lebanon, Sursock will be posting some of the major accounts of the events. The picture is of a Lebanese army Sherman tank engaging rebels in central Beirut.

Below is a blow-by-blow description by US military historian Jack Shulimson of the landings by Marines and their entry into Beirut.

This is an edited version.

'A coup by Brigadier Abdel Karem Kassem overthrew the Iraq government. The young Iraqi King, Faisal, was murdered and the Premier, Nuri Said, was killed while attempting to flee. These violent happenings appeared to threaten the entire Western strategic position in the Middle East.

The Iraqi revolution destroyed the government of the only Arab member of the Baghdad Pact and put an end to the Iraq-Jordan Federation, which had been formed in March to counterbalance the union of Egypt and Syria.

King Hussein of Jordan had reason to fear for his own throne, and in Lebanon, president Chamoun appealed to the United States and Great Britain to intervene within 48 hours.

The Iraqi revolution caught official Washington by surprise. Trouble had been expected in Jordan or perhaps Lebanon, but not in Iraq. The oilfields in Iraq and the oil pipeline terminating in Tripoli were extremely important to the economy and military effectiveness of the Western nations.

The first news of the upheaval in Iraq reached Washington about 0300 (Washington time) 14 July. Early reports were fragmentary, but by early morning the situation had clarified, and president Eisenhower was informed at 0730.

Secretary of state John Foster Dulles arrived at his office at 0815 for an intelligence briefing and a look at the most urgent cables. The president met with the National Security Council at 0930, secretary of state dulles, vice president Richard M. Nixon, and General Nathan F. Twining, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the conference at 1030.

The Secretary outlined the situation in the Middle East and recommended that US military forces land in Lebanon in response to Chamoun's appeal. Eisenhower agreed that some action must be taken.

At about 1430 the same day, the president met with the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. The president is reputed to have said:

"I have discussed this with my people here and in the National Security Council but I must emphasize that no decision has been made. I want to give you the pros and cons. But must also emphasize that a decision must be made in the immediate future... within the next hour or two."

The president then returned to his meeting with his military and civilian advisers. They discussed the possibility of British participation, which Eisenhower rejected in that he felt "that United States forces would be adequate, and with the 3700 British troops intact on Cyprus, a reserve would be available.

General Twining informed him that the Joint Chiefs were unanimously of the opinion that action must be taken immediately. According to one source, at 1643 Eisenhower turned to Twining and said "all right we'll send `em in. Nate, put it into operation."

The assignment to carry out Eisenhower orders went to the amphibious units of the Sixth Fleet.



The Marines did not know up to the moment of the landing whether they would meet any opposition. Saeb Salem, the rebel leader in Beirut, was quoted as saying: "You tell those Marines that if one Marine sets foot on the soil of my country, I will regard it as an act of aggression and commit my forces against them."

The US command was not too concerned, however, about the effectiveness of possible rebel resistance. Although the rebels numbered some 10,000 irregulars throughout the country, they were dispersed in bands of 400 to 2,000 men and lightly armed. There was no central leadership of the anti-government forces and each group owed its loyalty only to its individual leader.

The Americans did not expect any reaction from the regular Lebanese Army though the danger existed that it might disintegrate into pro-government and rebel factions. Therefore, the only immediate effective threat was posed by the Syrian First Army, composed of 40,000 men— and equipped with over 200 T-34 Russian-built medium tanks. This was why it was so important that the airport and the approaches to the north of Beirut be secured.

Khalde (Red) Beach, the site chosen for the Marine assault was four miles from the city of Beirut and 700 yards from the Beirut International Airport. The small village of Khalde was located 1,500 yards south of the landing beach. On 15 July, the villagers were going quietly about their chores and a gang of workmen was constructing a beach road.

Further along the beach, some vacationers were enjoying the sun and others were swimming in the Mediterranean. It was a peaceful scene entirely divorced from revolutions, coup d'etas, and the troubles of the cold war.



In contrast to the mood of serenity on the beach, a sense of urgency was present in the offices of Chamoun, general Chehab, and Robert McClintock, the US ambassador in Beirut. McClintock knew the date and time, but not the place of the Marine landing.

He had been in communication with both Chamoun and Chehab. The State department had ordered the ambassador to inform Chamoun of the Marine landing no later than 1200 Beirut time on 15 July. When McClintock told the president of the proposed intervention, Chamoun asked the ambassador to relay this information to Chehab.

McClintock then visited Chehab at 1330, only an hour and a half before H-hour. Chehab was visibly upset by the news. The day before he had asked the leaders of the rebel forces to take no action in the wake of the Iraqi revolt.

The general felt confident that the rebels would not precipitate any new maneuvers against the government. Chehab had confided to the American military attache that some Lebanese army officers had proposed a coup to him that morning in order to prevent a landing but that he had refused.

The Lebanese general claimed he could not guarantee that all the army would remain loyal to him. He feared the US intervention would bring about the dissolution of the army and prevent any settlement of the revolt.

Chehab asked McClintock to request the Marines to remain on board their ships. The ships then could enter Beirut harbor and two or three tanks and some heavy equipment could be unloaded there. The ambassador agreed to transmit this message to the amphibious forces since he believed that if "General Chehab decided to throw in the sponge, the Lebanese army will fall apart."

McClintock then attempted to radio the American fleet, but the radio link between the Sixth Fleet and the embassy was broken and the ambassador was unable to transmit his message. He had received word, however, from friends who had apartments overlooking the sea that it was apparent that the TransPhibRon was approaching the beach area off the airport. McClintock then sent the aaval attache, commander Howard J. Baker, to intercept the advanced units of the assault force.

At 1430 (Beirut time), a half-hour before H-hour, the seven ships of Amphibious Squadron 6 were in position, approximately two miles off Red Beach. Shortly before 1500, the LVTPs (Landing Vehicles, Tracked, Personnel) were launched. Company F on board the LVTPs spearheaded the Marine landing. The amphibian tractors reached the shoreline at 1504 and rumbled onto the airfield. Companies G and H came ashore in landing craft and deployed on foot to their assigned objectives. Company E followed as the battalion reserve.

The scene on the beach was perhaps one of the most colorful in the long history of Marine Corps landings. Witnessing the assault were bikini-clad-sunbathers, Khalde villagers that had galloped on horseback to the site, and the beach workmen who had dropped their tools and had run to the shore.

As the fully armed Marines charged over the sand, these civilian observers waved and some even cheered. A few of the young boys even attempted to help the Marines in bringing ashore some of the heavier equipment. Soft drink vendors were out in full force. The Marines were prepared for any eventuality, but this reception was rather unexpected. As one Marine said, "It's better than Korea, but what the hell is it?"

Quickly taking control, all four rifle companies of 2/2 and the advance echelon of the command post landed within 20 minutes. As Company E cleared the civilians from the beach, Company G secured the airport terminal, and Companies F and H began to establish their positions about the airfield. The two destroyers and Navy planes from the aircraft carrier ESSEX stood by to support the Marine troops shore. No incidents took place and no shots were fired.

… …

As the supplies were being unloaded onto the beach, the Marines at the airport were consolidating their positions. By nightfall on the 15th, the defense perimeter had been adjusted to provide the most effective security. Liaison had been established with the Lebanese units at the airport and certain areas there were guarded jointly by Marines and Lebanese. A motorized platoon from Company E was placed in a standby position with orders to proceed, if necessary into Beirut to protect the American, French, or British Embassies.

At 2100, 15 July, a member of the UN observer team in Lebanon approached the command post. He asked the battalion commander which side the US forces were supporting. The Marine officer replied that his battalion was there to give assistance to the legal government of Lebanon. The UN official then implied that the US was backing the wrong side. Lieutenant colonel Hadd asked the observer very politely to leave the area.

Small patrols from the Marine companies were sent forward to probe for any irregular Lebanese armed groups that might be in the immediate area of the airport. These patrols returned at 0500, 16 July, and reported they had made no contact with any hostile forces.



At 0730, the first waves landed across Red Beach. Lieutenant colonel Robert M. Jenkins, the battalion commander, relayed to Hadd an order from general Wade for them to enter the city of Beirut. Wade left the at approximately 0800 to see McClintock in the city. Hadd told Wade that the battalion could be formed up in a column and ready to move. Wade then left with an official from the American Embassy to meet the ambassador.

When the general arrived at the embassy, McClintock was speaking on the telephone to Chehab. The Lebanese general was asking the ambassador to halt the proposed movement of the Marines into the city. Both the ambassador and Chehab were concerned that units of the Lebanese army might resist the Marine column.

The Ambassador told Chehab that he would speak to Chamoun about the situation and then asked General bade to hold up the advance. Wade replied that he had no authority to cancel the order but that he would postpone the troop movement.

Wade and McClintock, in the meantime, went to see Chamoun. The Marine told the president of the plan to enter the city and Chamoun agreed that the plan should be, executed immediately. McClintock and Wade returned to the embassy where the ambassador then called Chehab. Chehab requested that Wade hold up the Marine column for another 30 minutes. Wade agreed and ordered Hadd to prepare to get under way at 1030.

An aide informed Wade that a detachment of Lebanese tanks had set up a roadblock on the main road leading from the airport into Beirut. The general immediately informed the ambassador of the new turn of events. McClintock replied that he would speak to Chehab. Wade then procured an embassy car and proceeded towards the airport accompanied by two interpreters.

On the way, the general's car pulled up alongside one of the Lebanese tanks, a French-built medium armed with a 75mm gun, parked on the side of the road and Wade spoke to one of the Lebanese crewmen. In response to a question from the American general, the Lebanese soldier replied that he had orders to stop any movement into the city. He also volunteered the information that he had a cousin in New York.

General Wade then asked him if he would fire upon the American Marines. The soldier replied that he had no such orders but would have to check with his captain. Wade then drove on to the airport. He told Hadd that it was his opinion that the Lebanese would not fire at the Marines, but that the battalion should proceed with caution and be prepared for any eventuality.

At 1030, as the BLT was about to start out a Lebanese captain approached Hadd and Wade. The Lebanese officer stated that he had received a telephone call from General Chehab. The Lebanese general and the American ambassador were in conference and requested that the Marines wait another 30 minutes before starting towards Beirut. General Wade agreed to the request and postponed the movement until 1100.

At 1100, the Marines of BLT 2/2 boarded their tanks, LVTPs,and trucks, and moved out in column formation. Lieutenant Colonel Hadd halted his battalion in front of the Lebanese roadblock, one mile up from the airport. The guns of the Lebanese tanks were pointed directly at the lead vehicles in the Marine column.

While Admiral Holloway, General Wade, and Admiral Yeager were heading into Beirut, the ambassador's car, with ambassador McClintock and General Chehab inside, sped by going in the opposite direction, accompanied by a motorcycle escort. The American officers' car quickly swerved about and gave chase. Both automobiles arrived almost simultaneously at the roadblock where the Lebanese troops and American Marines faced one another.

Chehab suggested that the ambassador, the two admirals, and the Marine general accompany him to a small schoolhouse located a short distance from the road to discuss the confrontation between the Marine BLT and the Lebanese unit. Thus began the conference that was to settle the role the Marines were to play in Lebanon.

As this meeting took place on the main road, a second dangerous incident occurred in the sector of BLT 3/6. Companies I and K had secured their objectives, respectively to the east and south of the airport, without incident. In contrast, Company L was unable to reach its objective, located two miles due north of the airfield on a beach road, since the position was occupied by a Lebanese armored detachment.

The Marines had been instructed to consider all Lebanese army units friendly unless proven otherwise. With this in mind, captain Richard W. Coulter, commanding officer of Company L, halted his troops and advanced towards the Lebanese, accompanied only by his first sergeant.

The two Marines were immediately surrounded by excited Lebanese troops, who kept their weapons aimed at the two Americans. Although the captain and sergeant retained their arms, they were escorted under armed guard to a Lebanese Army barracks nearby.

There the captain discussed the impasse with an English-speaking Lebanese Army major. The Lebanese officer refused to allow the Marine Company to occupy the position. He did agree to release the sergeant, who was to bring back the battalion commander.

Lieutenant colonel Jenkins arrived at the barracks and also was unable to convince the Lebanese to retire. The Lebanese major finally offered to call Lebanese army headquarters in Beirut to obtain the advice of general Chehab.

The major was told that Chehab had just left with the ambassador to attempt to resolve the difficulties between the Marines and the Lebanese army on the main road to Beirut. Jenkins and the Lebanese major then made the decision that Company L and the Lebanese troops blocking its path would remain in their present positions while the major and lieutenant colonel Jenkins attempted to find Chehab. Captain Coulter returned to his company while the other two officers made their way to the Lebanese roadblock on the main road.

There the conference at the schoolhouse was still going on. Chehab asked that the Marines take a different route into the city. General Wade refused, however, and insisted that the Marines be allowed to complete its mission. He stated that time was an important factor and there had been enough delays. Admiral Holloway declared that the Marine column would move out without any further delay at 1200.

McClintock resolved the issue by suggesting that Chehab, Holloway, and himself ride together leading the Marines into Beirut but that they bypass the Muslim quarter, the Basta. This proposal proved agreeable to all parties and arrangements for the formation of the column were then ironed out. It was decided that BLT 2/2 should be broken down into small sections. Each section was to be led by a jeep carrying Lebanese army officers. At 1230, the column began to move with the Ambassador's car leading the Marines towards Beirut.

Once the BLT entered the city, Chehab got out of the lead car and Holloway ordered all intervals closed as the movement was bogging down. The admiral, assisted by admiral Yeager and general Wade, assumed personal tactical command... and even directed the units of the column to their billeting areas from the main gate of the dock area.

The Marines took control of the dock area, protected the bridges over the Beirut River on the Tripoli road, and furnished guards for the American embassy and the ambassador's residence. By 1900, the BLT had secured its objectives.

After the crisis between BLT 2/2 and the Lebanese troops was resolved, Jenkins was able to settle the differences between Company L and the Lebanese army detachment on the beach road. Liaison arrangements were made and Jenkins then returned to his command post at the Beirut airport.

Awaiting him there was a message from the Lebanese commander of the airport, who requested that the Marine officer meet with him at 1300 to discuss arrangements at the airfield. Jenkins arrived at approximately 1310 at the commander's office. There he was greeted by the commander's aide, who informed the American that the commander had tired of waiting and had departed for lunch.


Picture is of rebels on the march (Arab Image Foundation)

The aide then told Jenkins that he should return in 30 minutes and the airport commander would furnish orders for the disposition of the Marines. Upon hearing this, the BLT commander stated that he would return at 1600 with orders for the disposition of the Lebanese troops at the airfield. The Marine won his point, and an effective liaison with the Lebanese authorities at the airport was established.

This incident reflected the Marines' conception of their assignment. They were to be cooperative but firm. The Marines aided by the mediation of ambassador McClintock and general Chehab, were able to handle the very critical situation posed by the Lebanese roadblocks. The harassing maneuvers of a few Lebanese soldiers ceased, and the Marines were able to proceed with their mission.

… …

The Marines of BLT 2/2 in Beirut and BLT 3/6 at the airport spent a relatively peaceful night on 16-17 July. The only disturbances were small probing attacks by Lebanese rebels against forward Marine outposts. At 1800 and 2055, 16 July, groups of four to five Lebanese sniped at the Marine outpost south of the airfield but withdrew once the Marines returned the fire. The rebels came fain at 0600, 17 July and retreated once more in the face of Marine rifle fire. There were no casualties on either side as a result of these actions.

During the morning of 17 July, two Marines of BLT 2/2 were "captured" by rebel forces in the Basta area. The two men took a wrong turn in Beirut on their way to pick up some equipment at Red Beach and entered the Muslim section of the city. They were immediately surrounded by armed Lebanese insurgents and forced to surrender their arms.

The Lebanese escorted them to a rebel command post, where they were questioned. The interrogator asked the two Marines why they had come to Lebanon. The two Americans, not wishing to provoke their captors, replied they did not know. Thereupon the Lebanese rebel leader proceeded to lecture them about the "duplicity" of American foreign policy and the evil of American "imperialism". After an hour and half of this harangue, the two Marines were released. A Lebanese Army captain escorted them back to their battalion. Later in the day, the Lebanese Army returned the Marine jeep and the weapons of the two Americans.

These harassing maneuvers employed by the Lebanese rebels were to become commonplace. The Lebanese dissidents were attempting to provoke the Marines into rash retaliation, but were unsuccessful. The Marine forces were under strict orders to maintain fire discipline, and to shoot only in self-defense.

In order to further Lebanese Army and Marine cooperation, Wade visited Chehab on 17 July, at the latter's quarters in Junieh, 10 miles north of Beirut. In the course of their conversation, General Wade indicated that he did not wish to become involved in the Lebanese internal political situation.

Chehab replied that he understood General Wade's position and would discuss only military matters. It was not possible, however, to divorce entirely the military presence of the Marines in Lebanon from the political implications. Chehab stated that his army would fall apart if the Marines continued their movements into the city. The Lebanese general asked Wade to group the American force: in such a manner that the Marines would not give the appearance of being occupation troops.

The Marine general agreed to this request. Wade considered that the most important result of this conference with General Chehab was the agreement to attach Lebanese Army officers to the headquarters staff of the 2d Provisional Marine Force and to each of the Marine battalions.

Lebanese major Alexander Ghanem, attached to General Wade's headquarters, proved to be extremely useful to the Americans. According to colonel Hamilton Lawrence, chief of staff of the 2d provisional Marine Force:

“Was there a roadblock someplace manned by oddly dressed irregulars? Ghanem would consider the problem silently for a minute while seated by the phone, his fingertips pressed together. Course of action decided, he would pick up the phone and speak softly into it for only a few seconds. Fifteen minutes later our reporting unit would call and say the roadblock had melted away after a few words from some visiting Lebanese.”

The Lebanese officer who was attached to 2/2 requested lieutenant colonel Hadd to withdraw Companies E and F from their positions at the bridges over the Beirut river and at the eastern approaches to the city.

Units of the Lebanese Army also guarded these locations in the city, and Lebanese army officers believed the presence of the two Marine companies at these same sites would mean a loss of face to the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese feared, in addition, that the Marines might engage rebel elements that were firing sporadically at the Marine emplacements in these areas.

Hadd agreed to the withdrawal after consulting with American Embassy officials and moved both companies into the dock section of Beirut. He made it clear, however, that these new positions were not satisfactory as a permanent location.

… …

On 18 July, the Lebanese Army permitted the Marines to station Companies E and F of 2/2 at J'Daide, approximately a mile and a half to the east of Beirut. From there, both units would be able to move rapidly to the bridges and to the eastern approaches of the city if the occasion arose.

At 0900, 18 July, the third battalion of the 2d Provisional Marine Force, BLT 1/8 under Lieutenant Colonel John H. Brickley, landed at Yellow Beach, four miles north of Beirut. Companies A and B came ashore in landing craft and Company C, the battalion reserve, followed in LVTPs. The battalion fanned out and formed a crescent-shaped perimeter with Company B on the right flank, Company C on the left, and Company A in the center to protect the beachhead and the northern approaches to the city.

The only problems encountered were those posed by the usual congregation of Lebanese spectators and ice cream and watermelon vendors. One or two of the Navy landing craft had to swerve in order to avoid some children swimming in the water.

… …

The three Marine landings in Lebanon were only part of the American response to the crisis in the Middle East caused by the sudden eruption of the Iraqi Revolution. The United States could not be sure how other nations would react to the American intervention and had to be prepared for any eventuality.

On 14 and 15 July, plans were being made to provide for the assignment of the entire 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune and the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina to the Mediterranean area. In the Far East, BLT 3/3 on Okinawa was ordered to load on board an amphibious squadron and sail into the Persian Gulf and to be prepared to land in Iran or Saudi Arabia in the event the crisis spread. A regimental landing team, RLT-3 on Okinawa, was placed on a standby alert status.

The original plan, which called for the airlift of a British brigade into the Beirut airport, had to be revised in view of the agreement of 15 July between Eisenhower and prime minister Harold MacMillan that the British forces remain in reserve on Cyprus. Subsequently on 17 July, British paratroops landed in Jordan at the request of King Hussein of that country.

… …

The period of 19-26 July, from the arrival of the first Army troops to the assumption of command by General Adams, was one of consolidation of liaison arrangements with the Lebanese Army. The relationship between Chehab and the American military improved. General Wade reminisced:

“He (General Chehab) objected to our coming into the city I think because he thought we were going to get involved in the Basta area. When it was quite clear that we were going to avoid that, it eased the situation considerably, the tension was lifted and he was more or less cooperative.”

During this period there was no combat activity with the exception of the continued harassing of Marine forward positions. One of the most potentially dangerous of these incidents occurred on 19 July at the airfield. Rebel groups had periodically been firing at American aircraft when they came in for landings. The rebel shots came from an area just south of the field.

A patrol from BLT 3/6 was dispatched to disperse the snipers. The Marine patrol became involved in a three-cornered fire fight, not only with the rebels but also with Lebanese police dressed in civilian clothes. There were no American casualties, although one gendarme was wounded. A later investigation proved that the Lebanese gendarmes had initiated the firing, mistaking the Marines for rebels. A Lebanese army unit moved into the area and stopped the rebel harassment of the American planes.



The US president, realizing the political implications of American intervention, sent deputy under secretary of state Robert D. Murphy to coordinate the activities of the US military command and the American Embassy in Lebanon. Murphy recalled that the president gave no specific orders except to promote the best interest of the US incident to the arrival of our forces in Lebanon."

When Murphy arrived in Lebanon on 17 July, he discovered that many of the members of the Lebanese Parliament planned to protest to the U. S. against she American intervention. He was able to persuade the legislators to drop this action, however, and concentrate on the problem of electing a new president.

He met with Admiral Holloway on a daily basis. The two agreed that much of the Lebanese internal conflict concerned personalities and had very little relation to international issues. It was apparent to both of them that Communism "was playing no direct or substantial part in the insurrection."

The main outside support of the Lebanese rebels came from Egypt and Syria and direct intervention from the United Arab Republic as a result of the American landings was unlikely. Murphy believed that the only solution to end the anarchy was the election of a new president. He and Holloway felt that Chamoun had overreached himself in the brambles of Lebanese politics and that the Lebanese Army was the only thing holding the government together.

… …

Chehab assured Murphy that the Army was willing to cooperate with the American forces but was unwilling to take any energetic action against the rebels, except to restrict rebel activity and contain it in certain districts.

Murphy decided that the only way to create a viable government was to bring the leaders of the dissident elements of the country together. Colonel William A. Eddy, a retired Marine officer, who was employed as a consultant to the American Arabian Oil Company, arranged for a meeting between Murphy and two of Saeb Salem's associates on 24 July.

The American attempted to convince the two Lebanese that the US had not intervened in order to keep Chamoun in office. He warned them that the indiscriminate firing at American troops should end. Murphy reassured the rebel spokesmen that the Americans wished to avoid any serious clash, "however, we must maintain the security of our troops and we also value American prestige." Saeb Salem apparently took heed of the American warnings since the rebel provocations against the American troops dropped off after this date.

Murphy was also able to convince the Druze chieftan [Kamal] Jumblatt and the Tripoli rebel leader Karami that the US intervention was not for the purpose of maintaining any one man in office. The way was then cleared for the Parliament to decide on a new president. The election was held on 31 July and General Chehab was elected president although his term of office was not scheduled to begin until 23 September.

… …

The Lebanese army commander, by not taking sides in the insurrection and by maintaining the integrity of the national army, had the support of all the various Lebanese political factions. With the hope of a stabilized government for Lebanon, the Americans were able to concentrate on the problems of pulling their troops out of Lebanon.

Secretary of state Dulles announced on 31 July that the US forces would be withdrawn as soon as the Lebanese government requested their removal. On 5 August, Admiral Holloway was directed to begin planning for the departure of the American military forces.

The order was based on the assumption that General Chehab would request the Americans to to leave when he took office. The Americans wished to keep the selection of their departure date in their own hands. Chehab indicated, however, that he wished the Americans to make only a token withdrawal until the internal situation in Lebanon was completely secure.

… …

The United States announced on 8 October that it was withdrawing all its forces from Lebanon. Through the period of 18 October, however, the date of departure of the RLT, nearly 2,000 Marines remained in the Beirut dock area and captain Werts and colonel McKennan "conducted considerable reconnaissance work throughout the Lebanese coastal area at Admiral Holloway's personal direction."

On 23 October, the Lebanese formed a government which included representatives from each of the major political parties and the last US army troops departed the country two days later.

From the vantage of today there seems to have been little connection between the Iraqi Revolution and the unrest in Lebanon, but it must be emphasized that this was not known at the time.There was a precarious political situation in Lebanon and also a real fear on the part of the loyalist supporters of Chamoun for the safety of his life and for the independence of the country.

Even if the events of 14 July were not the result of an international conspiracy, the balance of power in the Middle East could have been destroyed, creating a situation susceptible to Soviet exploitation.'

The full version is available on the US military website.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

No reconciliation without accountability

No reconciliation without accountability, Fairness for the victims of war.

Please sign and circulate petition from the People's Tribunal in Lebanon.

This petition is part of a big campaign launched in Lebanon on the 14th of April, 2007, called “The people’s tribunal.”

The people’s tribunal has three main goals:

* We want to expose the truth and find those responsible for war crimes committed during the Lebanese civil war.
* We want the government to pay reparations for the victims and to declare the destiny of the missing so that their families can inherit property.
* We believe that only through finding the truth can we find true reconciliation so that sectarian war is not repeated.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Chouf 1984


Walid Jumblat, head of the Democratic Gathering, reacted with fury after Hassan Nasrallah suggested that the Lebanese people should directly elect their president.

Jumblatt said: "We want to protect the presidential elections from being hijacked by suggesting a popular referendum which is against Lebanon's consociational formula for democracy and the Taif Accord."

Fancy that “the people” should be so nasty that they would “hijack” the elections.

Whatever next?

Maybe the great unwashed would ask Jumblat what he did with all the reconstruction money from the 1983-84 mountain war—that was when Jumblat was a “Syrian stooge” and labelled a “terrorist” by the US”.

The picture is the USS New Jersey (BB-62) firing a salvo from her 16"/50 guns at the Chouf on 9 January 1984. Photographed by PH1 Ron Garrison.

Monday, 8 October 2007