Saturday 5 January 2008

Not welcome party

Iran's Press TV reports that the opposition plan a massive rally if Bush attempts to land in Beirut:

"The opposition is organizing a rally like the ongoing sit-in in central Beirut in order to lay a siege to the US embassy," security officials said.

"Senior opposition leaders are to meet and make important decisions in the coming days," the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar reported.

"The failure of reconciliation efforts and Arab countries' support for the March 14 camp will prompt the opposition to stage demonstrations to block the moves by government supporters," it added.

Bush to Beirut?

The world's leading neo-con rag, The Wall Street Journal, thinks Bush is heading for a The "freedom trip" to Lebanon.

According to the paper:

"President Bush takes off Tuesday on a much-anticipated trip to Israel, the Persian Gulf states and Egypt.

"Or is it Lebanon and Iraq?

"With some details of his mission still conspicuously under wraps, speculation is growing in Washington that Mr. Bush's itinerary might include one or more unscheduled stops along the way.

"The official nine-day itinerary begins in Israel on Wednesday and continues with the Palestinian stronghold of Ramallah in the West Bank; Kuwait; Bahrain; the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi; Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. It is Mr. Bush's first trip as president to Israel or Saudi ..."

Friday 4 January 2008

Peasant daughters and factory girls

The Shemali blog is running a historical piece on silk workers and the making of the Lebanese working class.

Thursday 3 January 2008

Trouble in Basta

The Daily Star reports on a punch-up in the Basta area of Beirut between oppositon and supporters of the Future Movement.

"The Lebanese Army opened fire into the air to disperse a clash which erupted in the Basta neighborhood of Beirut on Tuesday between supporters of the Sunni Future Movement and Shiite Hizbullah and Amal groups.

"Seven people were hurt in the clash which started on Monday when unidentified individuals tore down and burned a giant poster of Rafik Hariri.

"Tension increased on Tuesday night on Mamoun Street when Future Movement supporters attempted to re-erect a picture of Hariri and his son MP Saad Hariri. Clashes erupted between Future supporters and others, including Amal Movement and Hizbullah supporters, who refused to let the Hariri poster be erected 'in their area'."

Meanwhile Al-Nahar reports that the opposition will close down the airport in a wave of protests.

"The Hizbullah-led Opposition plans to close Beirut airport as well as major ports across Lebanon. It was also considering launching sit-in protests at Bkirki and the U.S. embassy in Aukar, it was reported on Thursday.

"The report was carried by the pro-opposition newspaper al-Akhbar and the daily al Mustaqbal, mouthpiece of MP Saad Hariri's Future movement.

"Al Akhbar, citing unnamed sources, said the opposition was studying the possibility of closing down Rafik Hariri international airport as well as most ports along the Lebanese coast.

"It said the opposition was also examining the prospects of 'organizing a large sit-in' near the U.S. embassy in Aukar and blocking vital roads.

"The daily said these 'ideas were still under serious debate among the various factions to avoid plunging the country into internal strife.'

"Al Moustaqbal, meanwhile, said the opposition's 'plan' covers a number of items.

"Among them was a sit-in outside Bkirki in 'protest' of the Maronite church's stance regarding the presidential election crisis.

"It said a similar sit-in at Aukar would be organized in 'protest' of the US supportive position vis-à-vis the majority March 14 alliance.

"Al Moustaqbal cited the 'intent to push the country into a siege, plunge it into more chaos and exhaust security forces, particularly the army' as motives behind the 'hostile stance' in closing the airport road."

Jumblat rant—number 386

Ya Libnan summerises Walid Jumblat's latest rant during a recent TV interview:

- We do not want a "gathering of tribes, we want a state" and asked Nasrallah whether he and his allies recognize Lebanon as an independent state.
- A political agreement is needed to avoid exhausting the army.
- "I thank God that my father died in 1977 and did not witness what we are going through.
- Lebanon "is not Aleppo or Houran, Lebanon is an independent country."
- March 14 Presidential candidate Nassib Lahoud supported the nomination of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman for president.
- Nasrallah "is not a free man and his decision-making is not free."
- It is not Israel that is killing Lebanese civilians these days.
- Lebanon was a democratic country "before Bashar and his father were born."
- The March 14 alliance is a pluralist group.
- Nasrallah would not be able to contradict a fatwa by Khamenei that the Siniora government is illegitimate.
- "I wouldn't go into negotiations if a gun is pointed to my head."
- "We don't want Beirut changed into another Baghdad."
- The campaign targeting Premier Fouad Siniora is of a factional nature.
- He would not allow Syria and Iran to control decision-making in Lebanon.
- There is only one negotiator facing March 14 and that is Hezbollah.
- The majority would not give the opposition veto powers in any government because that would allow Syria and Ahmadinejad to block Lebanon's political process.
- Palestinian bases outside refugee camps are "Syrian bases."
- The resistance should be absorbed in the Army and the decision of going into war should be in the hands of the Lebanese authorities, Jumblat said.
- The assassination of Brig. Gen. Francois el-Hajj was a message to the Lebanese that you are not entitled to choose your president.
- The opposition aims at eliminating the state of Lebanon.
- Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is not a principal negotiator.
- Jumblat said Hezbollah is morally responsible for attacks staged by Syrian intelligence in Lebanon.
- Syria will not recognize that Shebaa Farms are Lebanese territory because it wants Lebanon to remain under U.N. Security Council resolution 242.
- Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem has no authority to discuss the Lebanon situation.
- Normalization of relations with Syria should be based on Syrian recognition of Lebanon as an independent and sovereign state.
- Stressed that the borders are open for Hezbollah weapons from Iran to Lebanon via Syria.
- If Hezbollah changed Lebanon into an Iranian-like state it would justify the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
- Can Hezbollah survive as a political party without Iranian financing and Iranian Weapons?

err that's all folks...!

Veto... or no deal

Hizbollah have presented their list of demands to end the political deadlock in Lebanon.

Hassan Nasrallah is quoted as saying:

"A solution lies in a partnership through a constitutional guarantee (and) through a veto power for the opposition, which represents more than half of the Lebanese people."

"As long as there is a US decision not to give the opposition a veto power, this means there won't be a presidential election,"

Nasrallah said he supported Michel Suleiman for president, but the election "will not solve the problem without a national unity government in which the opposition gets a veto power."

Nasrallah said the US-backed M14 coalition, "wants to fully control authority and rejects partnership with the other party ... A veto power means that the opposition becomes a partner (in government)."

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Syria walks away

Syria's Sana news agency released this statement:

"Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'alem told a press conference today, January 2, that Syria had decided to stop cooperating with France on Lebanon.

"He said that the decision came in response to France's wish to blame Syria and the Lebanese opposition for the failure to find an agreed-upon solution to the Lebanon crisis.

"Al-Mu'alem was responding to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement that France was suspending contacts with Syria on the issue of Lebanon."

Source: SANA

Sulukule under threat

Sulukule, the historic Roma district of Istanbul, is to be destroyed in the name of "urban renewal" and the community living there are to be resettled outside the city.

The neighbourhood, situated in the peninsula of Istanbul, is being depopulated through a gentrification project implemented by the Metropolitan and Fatih municipalities. As it stands, the project is in its last phase and in February this year the remaining Roma houses will be bulldozed.

Despite the efforts form locals, the Sulukule Association for the Enrichment of Roma Culture and for Solidarity, leading academics and NGO’s, the project was developed without consulting the community and without considering their demands.

The urban renewal project is a plan which involves the complete demolition of the neighbourhood, home to more than 3,000 Roma, and its replacement with housing which is unaffordable for most of the original inhabitants.

One of the oldest Roma communities in the world, the Sulukule population is being drvien out of their historical neighbourhood.

The Roma first came to Istanbul from India in the 11th century when the city was still the capital of the Byzantine Empire. They spread around the world from here. Following the conquest of the city by the Ottomans in 1453 and with the permission of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, they were settled near the city walls in Sulukule as well as nearby Ayvansaray.

For hundreds of years, Sulukule acted as a place of pilgrimage for Roma from all over the world. It is one of the most important cultural centers of Roma music and dance as it continues to be a crucial worldwide resource for training musicians and dancers.

The Roma will be forcibly moved from their thousand-year-old neighborhood to an area 40km outside the city. Moreover, as the municipality wants them to pay for the public housing they will receive, this move is accompanied by a debt obligation that they will not be able to meet.

Because it will evict the Roma from their homes, and annihilate and assimilate the Roma culture in Istanbul, the project needs to be stopped. Your support is crucial to do this.

Your support is needed for the cessation of the "urban renewal project""

• The Sulukule urban renewal project is a non-transparent non-participatory project.

• It is against the clauses of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

• It is implemented in the buffer zone of the ancient land walls of Istanbul, which are on the World Heritage list. As such, it fails to abide by the principles of the Vienna Memorandum and the Convention regarding the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

To help prevent the forced exile of the Sulukule Roma, and protect the historical and cultural values of Istanbul, which are on the World Heritage List, and ti express your objection to this project by writing to the following officials,

Abdullah Gül
President of Turkey
T.C. Cumhurbaskanligi

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey

Ertu_rul Günay
Minister of Culture and Tourism
Mail Address:
T.C. Kultur ve Turizm Bakanligi
Ataturk Bulvari No. 29
06050 Opera

Kadir Topba
Mayor of Istanbul
Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediye Baskanligi

Mustafa Demir
Mayor of the Fatih district of Istanbul
Büyük Karaman Cad.
No. 53

For more information caontact Hacer Foggo:, Derya Nüket Özer: or Viki Ciprut Izrail:

Thanks to Ron Margulies for this report

Jumblat rant—number 253

This blog has noted the increasingly lunatic statements made by Walid Jumblat (once a "terrorist" now a "democrat").

In a report in the pro-govenrment news site Ya Libnan, Jumblat declared that Hizbollah was behind the recent assassinations of politicians and swore that he "would not shake hands with criminals."

His political office rushed to "correct" the mad ravings of their dear leader by accusing Iran's Press TV (that conducted the interview) of misrepresenting his words—a common cure for putting your foot in your mouth.

Jumblat's PSP— Progressive Socialist Party (that is neither progressive, socialist or a party)—statement reads:

“The news report circulated by Press TV after the Dec 31, 2007 interview with Walid Jumblatt is a gross misrepresentation (of the interview since words were taken out of context which ultimately changed the whole meaning and intent of the interview.”

“In view of the above, the PSP Information Office takes exception to this news report since once words are taken out of context the whole meaning of the report is lost. For this reason we call on Press TV to release the entire interview which lasted about 45 minutes and covered various of complex issues”

“The PSP information office urged Press TV to be accurate, factual and objective in reporting on the Lebanese political issues due to their sensitivity “.

Sucker punch

According to a report in Haaretz the Israeli army was out-thought and out-fought by the resistance in last summer's war.

Here are highlights of the report by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee:

The Israel Defense Forces method of fighting played into Hezbollah's hands.

The tactics used were afflicted with blindness and reinforced the enemy's logic.

The lack of an approved, up-to-date plan of attack was a serious failure.

The policy of restraint toward Hezbollah since the end of the occupation in 2000 reduced the army to paralysis and weakness.

The army wasted precious time in putting ground forces into the fight (and in the way it put them in). This attests to conceptual rigidity and a fundamental failure in reading the map of the ongoing battle.

The repeated delays in launching a major ground operation eroded and wore out troops, as well as the home front, and undermined the element of surprise.

Locating Katyusha rockets from the air was an almost impossible task, nor could they be neutralized solely from the air.

The army did not send soldiers into the so-called "nature reserves" —fortified areas where Hezbollah had concentrated its forces.

An earlier ground operation would probably have significantly reduced the amount of fire at the home front. Hezbollah would have had to choose between retreating northward and a ground battle. In either case, the threat to the home front would have been significantly reduced.

The army's tactics during the war were the same ones it uses in counterterrorism operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
which were unsuited to south Lebanon. The infantry's use of houses as shelters turned them into death traps when confronted with antitank missiles.

The report also found numerous intelligence lapses, such as a lack of intelligence about Hezbollah's positions. Some tactical intelligence was improperly processed, some was out of date, and some was never transferred to the fighting forces.

Sarkozy talks tough

According to Euro News:

"Nicolas Sarkozy has announced he plans to suspend contacts with Syria. Links will be restored only when Paris has proof that Damascus is not blocking efforts to appoint a consensus president in Lebanon."

The problem is that the dispute is no longer about who will be president, everyone is agreed on Suleiman. The block is now the make up of the future cabinet—the original cause of the crisis.

The opposition can no longer afford to have the M14 cabal in control of the government as this will lead to more instability. M14 cannot compromise because the US will see it as another defeat in the Middle East.

A Syrian spokesman old the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat:

"If people are asking us to put pressure on Syria's friends, we have made no agreement to do that. We have reached agreement with the French and with our friends on a package deal to arrive at an overall settlement.

"We are using our influence with those who like us in Lebanon to proceed to the election of a consensus candidate."

In response Sarkosy huffed and puffed.

"We are now waiting for acts on Syria's part and not speeches. France will have no more contact with Syria... until we have proof of Syrian willingness to let Lebanon appoint a president by consensus."

Now neither the French nor US are capable of shaping the crisis in their favour, hence the fleeting visits by Bernard Kouchner and Condoleezza Rice and empty threats by both countries.