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