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".