A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).
Friday, August 25, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
History of Hezbollah, Part 3
This is the last of the three-part historical overview of Hezbollah by Georgiou and Touma of the University of Saint Joseph (Beirut), published online by L'Orient-Le Jour [Original available in the archives of the paper]. Orginally published in Travaux et Jours
Georgiou and Touma ask whether Hezbollah, as pan-Shi'a movement, is about to engage in a power struggle with Sunni Islam or whether it simply falls into the historial category of a local communitarian mobilization against injustice as described by Ibn Khaldūn. Could it plan to partner with Islamic Jihad and Hamas to preserve Jerusalem from being swallowed up by Israel? Read and judge.
"The recognition of the absolute and supranational political and religious authority of the Supreme Guide, the wali el-fakih (now Khamenei, and before him, Khomeini), constitutes one of the main characteristics (if not the central characteristic) of Hezbollah. A deep understanding of the wilayat el-fakih system is indispensable in understanding Hezbollah’s behavior in matters pertaining to issues of strategic importance.
In Shi’a Muslim belief, the successor to the Prophet in managing of the affairs of the Islamic nation must be a direct descendant of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet. Jaˤfarī Shi’a –those living in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan (and thus the vast majority of Shi’a Muslims)– believe that the Twelve Imams existed in history. But the Twelfth Imam is hidden and is awaited to save all Shi'a Muslims from oppression and misery. Shi’a Muslims in Yemen believe that there were but seven imams in history [The Seveners]. [BTW, the highest Shi’a population concentrated in one country is in Azerbaijan: 95% -Nur]
Jaˤfarī Shi’a believe that while awaiting the return of the Twelfth Vanished Imam (al-Mahdī), authority for the management of the affairs of the Muslim nation and the defense of its political and economic interests rests upon the Supreme Guide, the wali el-fakih.
Before the arrival of Khomeini, the notion of wali el-fakih never acquired the extent and importance that it has taken on after the Islamic revolution in Iran because, historically, regional Shi’a religious authorities never held power as a religious community. Since the suppression in the times of the Umayyads in the 8th century, most religious leaders, established in Najaf (Iraq), have preached non-involvement of the Ulema in politics. But at the start of the 20th century, certain religious leaders in Najaf declared themselves in favor of the active participation of the Ulema in political life. The former school is represented today by authorities such as Ayatollahs Sistani and Khoï, while the latter is represented by the Ulema of the Sadr and Hakim families.
Before the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini, no religious leader was recognized by the majority of Shi’a Muslims as Supreme Guide, the wali el-fakih. The Islamic Revolution in Iran was a turning point in the full sense of the word. In laying down the Constitutional basis of the Islamic Republic in his work, The Orientations of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini established the assimilation of religion into politics as a cornerstone of power:
In understanding the concept of religion in our Islamic culture, it is clear that no contradiction exists between religious and political authority. Political struggle is an integral part of the mission and duties of a cleric. The command and orientation of political struggle are part of the responsibilities of the mission conferred upon religious authority.1The Constitution of the Islamic Republic is based on allegiance to the wali el-fakih. This confluence of clerics and politics is a cornerstone of power. The installation of the Islamic Republic of Iran has had the effect of completing, for the first time in history and under the impulse of Khomeini, the full extent of meaning of wali el-fakih.
Because of this, a number of ulema and religious dignitaries in the region began preaching the recognition of the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Revolution as the wali el-fakih after the victory of Islamic revolution in Iran and its espousal of the export of revolution. Rare were the ulema who contested this allegiance. It was only upon the death of Khomeini that this contestation surfaced as certain high-ranking dignitaries refused to recognize the successor to Khomeini, Khamenei, as wali el-fakih. Dissent was spearheaded by Ayatollahs Mountaziri in Iran, Sistani in Iraq and Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon. Lebanese Hezbollah, on the other hand, recognized Khamenei as Supreme Guide. The choice of Hezbollah was influenced by ancestral religious relations that have always existed among Lebanese, Iraqi and Iranian Shi’s Muslims, as well as family ties woven over time between the Sadr and Hakim families.2
The wali el-fakih is elected by 72-member Iranian college whose members are elected by the Iranian people. In principle, the wali el-fakih is not required to be Iranian but in practice, the majority of Iranians recognize the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic as wali since the February 1979 revolution.
The decisions of the wali el-fakih are binding. His arbitration and consent are required, not only in religious and doctrinal matters, but also in political matters with a strategic implication. In his book on Hezbollah, Sheikh Naïm Kassem underscores that
the "wali el-fakih" has the prerogative to monitor the proper construal of Islamic law, to make important political decisions affecting the nation (umma), to decide on war or peace, to safeguard the security of the nation and its financial interests, to ensure the redistribution of money collected by the religious authorities and to define the contours of the Islamic State.3In his book on Islamic government, Ayatollah Khomeini underscores that it is mistaken to think that the prerogatives of the Prophet supercede those of the wali el-fakih:
The powers which the Almighty has upon the Prophet and imams with the authority to raise his armies are the appointment of governors, the collection of taxes and the redistribution of this revenue in the service of Muslims. The Almighty has also granted such powers to [Islamic] Government.4.This implies that the wali el-fakih enjoys practically the same powers as the Prophet in terms of the management and direction of the affairs of the nation. In this regard, his authority extends beyond frontiers to all Shi’a Muslims. Sheikh Naïm Kassem also affirms that within the scope of exercising his power, the wali el-fakih must constantly bear in mind the realities and the specific situation of each country or community dependent on his decisions.
As to the specific case of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naïm Kassem underscores in his book that Hezbollah is a “Lebanese political party in which all leaders, officers and members are Lebanese.” Hezbollah recognizes the authority of the wali for its major political and doctrinal matters but the “detailed follow-up, resolution of disputes, and the daily disposition of political, societal and cultural matters, including resistance to the Israeli occupation, defaults to the party’s command structure, which is elected by the party base in accordance with internal statues, which are based on the Shura Council presided by the Secretary-General, who draws his legitimacy from the fakih.5.
As a concrete example, in the decision by Hezbollah to participate in the 1992 national elections, a 12-member committee was formed which deliberated for quite some time. The question was to determine if the participation of Hezbollah in government was in compliance with Shi’ite religious doctrine. The current Hezbollah Foreign Affairs Minister, Nawwaf Mussawi, developed a line of argument in reasoning that if Hezbollah were to present candidates to the elections, it would not mean participating in a well-defined “government” exercising authority to which all Shi’a were to submit but rather, in an association with a consensual structure in which it would contribute together with the other national factions and entities.6.
By a majority of 10 to 2, the committee finally adopted a “resolution” recommending participation in the vote. But this resolution had to be submitted for approval by the wali el-fakih, Imam Kahmenei, who gave his consent. In this regard, Nawwaf Mussawi declared that this démarche vis-à-vis the wali was not of a political character but was rather to ensure that the political decision was compliant with the doctrine of the faith. It remains that the boundary between the essentially political character of the decision taken by the wali el fakih relating to the Lebanese problem and his imprimatur on the conformity of the doctrine of the faith adopted in Beirut by Hezbollah is rather fluid. In any case, writings on Hezbollah and, in particular, that of Sheikh Kassem, unmistakably declare that major political decisions, especially on war and peace, defaut to the sole authority of the wali el-fakih.
Space or Territory?
If there is one problem that stands out on own merits in the political direction adopted by Hezbollah, at least as we have attempted to trace it, is its attachment to a determined entity and whether this entity is national and territorial or is vaster and relies on relationships extending beyond mere territory and therefore spatial in essence. This is commonplace in the Islamic world inasmuch as the absolute reference of the faithful, the “umma”, extends far beyond national borders. It is therefore legitimate to ask this eminently political question, bearing in mind the impact that it currently has on the national political debate pertaining to the opportuneness on the part of Hezbollah to surrender its weapons to the State (in yielding to the principle of monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force) and to renounce the continuation of the Resistance as a “extrapolitical” or “anti-state” movement outside the Army.
Hebollah is, at its origin, and, as we have seen, an Islamist party. Iranian support –that of the Pasdaran– was integral to its existence. Its appearance upon the Lebanese political stage is directly linked to a factor that extends beyond the context of Lebanese territoriality –that of the Iranian Revolution. At its founding, the party recruited –and continues to recruit– exclusively from Shi’a milieus, preferably Islamist, which in itself is nothing out of the ordinary because all party militias during the Lebanese Civil War were founded on communitarian açabiyya("esprit de corps", as defined by the 14th century Maghrebi sociologist, Ibn Khaldūn), and were mobilized by da’wa (preaching) of a more or less religious nature.
All this tends to demonstrate, at least at first glance, that Hezbollah has evolved from a political community that developed within a "culture of space" and was therefore insensitive to the "culture of territory". The basis of this non-territorial culture is owing to the historical marginalization of the Shi’a compared to other communities in the building of the State. The Bekka Valley and South Lebanon as well were developmentally excluded from the construction of the State compared to the center of the country. It ensues that there as a natural tendency on the part of Shi’a Muslims to organize as a açabiyya (community) such as Hezbollah, in revolt against the politial and economic center of the country (as well as against its own feudal leaders) and to reject any and all assimilation into a territorial and national culture that has, until now, ignored it.
Because of its creation in a space politically abandoned by the State, Hezbollah may be viewed as a parallel State, if not anti-State. One can therefore immediately attribute to it an ingrained desire for emancipation from territoriality imposed by others. This is hardly surprising in an era in which the State has ceased to exist owing to the Lebanese Civil War.
It is within the guerrilla movement that the party established an infrastructure of confrontation in South Lebanon modeled after the Guevarist principle of foco guerillero: revolutionary hotbed. Its aim is to favor the conditions for confrontation by transforming the countryside in which the guerrilla movement will gradually take root and take on substance. This theory was elaborated by Ernesto Guevara in his book, Guerrilla Warfare.7
Hezbollah recognizes that it is inspired by Guervarist thinking and by the Cuban experience in particular (but also by the Vietnamese experience) in constructing its own revolutionary experience. In this context, Hezbollah’s foco guerillero, extending from the southern suburbs of Beirut (its ideological headquarters) to the frontiers of occupied zones, is an organizational model that includes charitable and social endeavors oriented toward revolutionary aims –to maintain a climate favorable to permanent mobilization with perpetual interplay between the Shi’a Muslim community and the Resistance. And it is also in this framework of social organization that the notion of martyrdom plays an essential role. Owing to this fact, the environment is endoctrinated and “ideologicalized” on a socio-religious basis to create the most ideal conditions for the rout of the enemy.
The pullout of the Israeli Army and the liberation of the territories that it had occupied in South Lebanon in May 2000 was the crowning success of Hezbollah's war of attrition against Israel. It was at this moment that the party realized its goal of liberating a parcel of national territory and thus found itself integrally linked to the territorial sovereignty of the country. If the “culture of territory”, that is, the nationalist culture of the state, in Lebanon is indeed based on the cumulative contribution of each community, then at that moment Hezbollah supplied its stone for the ediface. This is when Hezbollah should have become permanently territorial, putting a end to the tensions between “culture of space” (which had linked it to to Iran and Syria for communitarian, religious and political reasons) and the “culture of territory”.8.
However, the “territorial” trajectory of Hezbollah in the aftermath of the liberation of South Lebanon is not sufficiently transparent to definitively answer the question. One has, on the contrary, as events continue to unfold, the impression that there is a certain duplicity, which has allowed Hezbollah to play, as the occasion allows, upon the nation-state "territory of culture" and the communitarian and religious "territory of space". Sometimes the two cultures are woven into political discourse and logic to the extent that it is difficult to avoid confusion. This confusion opens the door to political attacks, especially from Walid Jumblatt, Chairman of the Progressive Socialist Party, concerning the “true allegiances” of Hezbollah.
Can "culture of territory" and political support for Syrian policies for Lebanon cohabitate in harmony? How can Lebanese realities be reconciled with allegiance (especially in internal political matters, which directly depend on sovereignty) to a foreign religious authority, namely the fakih, the Iranian Supreme Guide? What are the limits of the Resistance? Is it confined to the hamlets of the Shebaa Farms, the hillsides of Kfarshuba and the village of Nkhaïlé or does it rely on a different criteria that will lead to the liberation of “The Seven Villages”, the Golan Heights or even Jerusalem itself with the eminently “spatial” support (political and logistical) of other Islamist resistance movements that are, in the Occupied Territories, Hamas and Islamic Jihad?
What should one make of Hezbollah’s insistence of keeping its arsenal intact beyond all internal Lebanese consensus and at all costs and its refusal to submit to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force of the State? Isn't it impossible to reconcile a guerrilla movement with a regular army? How should one interpret Hezbollah’s desire to avoid complete integration within the State while it maintains a military wing –or going so far as to remove the sovereignty of the State over South Lebanon or what was once the mourabbaa el-amni –the Security Quadrilateral– of the southern suburbs of Beirut? Is somewhat demonstrative of a notion of space that remains fundamentally communitarian and rebels against the enterprise of building a political entity capable of transcending sectarian identity? Is this a communitarian açabiyya that, having integrated itself into institutions of the State, still refuses to sever itself from its means of defense? In this context, could the da’wa of Hezbollah, the Resistance, be considered today, using the lens of Ibn Khaldūn, nothing more than a means for the community to preserve its açabiyya, enabling it to maintain its dominant position and to prevent its decline to the benefit of the the State?
What if the lens of interpretation of Ibn Khaldūn is maladapted and the problem, if it does not exclusively concern a communitarian açabiyya, is then that of a potential power struggle between opposing communitarian açabiyyas to be fought on Lebanese territory? A Sunni-Shi’ite contest that, despite its existence throughout the entire region, luckily, owing the awareness and concern of everyone, dares not speak its name in Lebanon.
Michel HAJJI GEORGIOU
1. Ayatollah Khomeini, The orientation of Islamic Revolution, in Naïm KASSEM, Hezbollah, Orientation, Experience and Future, op.cit. page 70.
2. Nawwaf MOUSSAOUI, interview with the authors.
3. Naïm KASSEM, Hezbollah, Orientation, Experience and Future, op.cit. page 72.
4. Ayatollah Khomeini, Islamic Government, page 86, in Naïm KASSEM, Hezbollah, Orientation, Experience and Future, op.cit. page 72.
5. Naïm Kassem, Hezbollah, Orientation, Experience and Future, op.cit. page 77.
6. Interview with the authors
7. See Ernesto Guevara, Guerilla Warfare, published by Maspero, Paris.
8. See Bertrand Badie, The End of Territory, Fayard, Paris, 1995.
History of Hezbollah, Part 2
The arrival of Hezbollah on the Lebanese stage at the beginning of the 1980s is undeniably the result of the installation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The 1982 Israeli offensive, Peace in Galilee, was a catalyst for the creation of the radical Islamist party. In this second article, Michel Hajji Georgiou and Michel Touma examine the context and the spread of Hezbollah in Lebanon. This series of three articles is drawn from a study published in issue 77 of the journal, Travaux et jours (University of St. Joseph).
The creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran in February 1979 and its policy of exporting revolution adopted shortly thereafter by the new power have been, from all available evidence, the main catalyst in the development of the radical Islam in Lebanon. When Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Tehran, small radical Shi’ite groups were already active in Lebanon, but on a small scale. The was the Committee of Bekaa Ulema, “Islamic Committees” and the Lebanese branch of the Iraqi Shi’ite al-Dawa (for which sayyed Muhammad Hessein Fadlallah was the standard-bearer in Lebanon).
This amorphous situation was maintained until the June 1982 Israeli operation, “Peace in Galilee”. The rapid penetration of the Israel Army (Tsahal), which reached the gates of Beirut, incited these small groups to conduct prompt resistance operations. The ranks of the radical movement were reinforced during that June when discord broke out within the Amal movement, led by Nabih Berry, following the death of Moussa Sadr in Libya in August 1978. After Nabih Berry's decision to join the National Salvation Committee crated by Elias Sarkis in June 1982 (which included the head of government, Shafik Wazzan, as well as Bashar Jamayel and Walid Jumblatt), several leaders and officers created the dissident movement, Islamic Amal.
Given the scale of the Israeli offensive, the leaders of the different groups became aware of the necessity of putting together a well-organized partisan structure, with the following guiding principles and strategy:
- Islam constitutes an overall plan of action striving for a better life. It represents a foundation that is ideological, practical, thoughtful and religious upon which a new political party would be built.
- The resistance against the Israeli occupation would be a priority. It was consequently necessary to create an adequate structure for Jihad and to coopt every available option in this sense.
- Command would default to the Supreme Guide (who was at that time Ayatollah Khomeini) as the inheritor of the Prophet and his imams. It is his duty to set out the plan of action within the (Islamic) nation and his decisions are binding.1.
The new movement will very quickly acquire political, logistical and military support from Iran through the dispatch via Syria of organizers and experts from the Guardians of the Revolution, who will set up training military camps in the Bekaa Valley in order to prepare Hezbollah militants.
The cult of martyrdom
At first, between 1982 and 1985, the radical movement gave top priority to resistance operations against Tsahal. Despite the significant asymmetry in forces, Shi’a fighters rapidly succeeded in striking a few blows against the Israeli Army. This punctual success against the Israeli Goliath can be explained by the importance of martyrdom in the Shi’ite cosmos. The martyrdom of Imam Hussein in the Battle of Karbala (680) constitutes for believing Shi’a Muslims a heroic narrative and an example for emulation by every individual. Hezbollah’s Number 2, Sheikh Naim Kassem, underscores this in his book on the Party of God:
If people receive an education based solely on the pursuit of victory, which then becomes the grounds for their actions, then their struggle with the enemy will stumble when they realize that victory is remote or uncertain. But, if people receive an education founded on martyrdom, the gift of self results in maximum effectiveness of their action. If they fall as martyrs, they will have realized their desires. Education based on the notion of victory does not guarantee victory and restrains the potential of the nation. However, inculcating the notion of martyrdom allows all potential to be released either through martyrdom or victory and perhaps both at the same time. This opens the way to all possibilities. Inculcating the notion of victory implies reliance on material means. But inculcating the notion of martyrdom has a mobilizing effect on the level of morale (of the population) with the implication that only limited means are necessary to pursue the struggle.3Dying as a martyr in the service of the God’s teachings is a supreme honor for all young Shi’a. And the objective on this plane is not so much to score a direct and immediate military victory, but rather, to have had the privilege of martyrdom, to have sacrificed oneself to God Almighty and a reward of happiness in eternal life in heaven. To remain attached to life on earth, motivated by material contingencies, is therefore insignificant before the honor represented by martyrdom in the service of God. It is this profound divergence in the significance of earthly life which distinguishes us from the West, both at the level of the understanding of the meaning of life and of that of the management of public life. The West has adopted reason as its fundament and has sanctified a material way of life to which it adhere at all costs, underscores Sheikh Kassem. It is therefore unable to assimilate the notion of martyrdom. It is normal that Westerners do not understand the spiritual direction in which Islam is oriented because such understanding cannot be limited to solely rational perceptions. The West would do well to approach and observe the stages of life of a Muhajedeen, as well as the realities of Islamic society in general.4
The resistance carried out by young members of the Shiite radical movement has for its driving force a socio-cultural engine that corresponds to popular Shiite consciousness and which explains the success as well as the Resistance pursued by Hezbollah. The precedent of Vietnam as a popular uprising against the occupier constitutes an exemplar on this plane.5
It is therefore on the basis of the sanctification of martyrdom that radical Islamic fighters have centered their operations beginning in 1982 against Israeli forces. Priority having being given to the Resistance, the drafting of a political program in the context of Lebanon would be relegated to the background; moreover, against the threat of Israeli occupation over a large part of Lebanese territory, Hezbollah would adopta low profile until the middle 1980’s. It will not emerge from the underground until the uprising of 6 February 1984 in West Beirut led by Amal and Walid Jumblatt’s Socialist Progressive Party against the regime of President Amin Jemayel. This uprising will allow Hezbollah to install all its institutions and headquarters in the southern suburbs of Beirut 6.
It is in February 1985 that Hezbollah makes public its political agenda in the form of an Appeal to the Disinherited. This document defines the party’s major policy orientations both at an ideological and doctrinal level concerning the Lebanese political situation and its position vis-à-vis Israel and the United States. The current leaders of Hezbollah emphasize that this text is out-of-date and obsolete due to the fact that it was drafted to correspond to different times. It is doubtlessly certain that both the doctrinal and ideological nature of the 1985 document includes discussion of the question of the establishment of an Islamic state. But the text clearly distinguishes between doctrinal position and practical aims. In principle, Hezbollah is in favor of the establishment of an Islamic state but is swift to underscores that in practice such a project can be implemented solely on the basis of freedom of choice by the people and cannot be imposed as the political agenda of any party.
This option is taken up again in a far more determined manner by the current party leadership, which affirms that it is in no way the intention of Hezbollah to establish an Islamic Republic in Lebanon, even if remains attached to Islam as a fundament of its inspiration and action. The document maintains that, taking into account Lebanese reality, its goal is to arrive at a multi-confessional leadership that would guarantee equal participation of all communities in managing the state.
Concretely, party leaders wish to keep the political system such as it is with all communities having a share of power.7 This is why Hezbollah agreed to take part in legislative elections and to accept to be a permanent fixture as part of the Lebanese multi-confessional landscape despite the fact that on a dogmatic plane, their participation causes some officials to have serious reservations. Hezbollah officials specify that their support in principle for a pluralistic power structure, to the detriment of an Islamic Republic, is due to their desire to present the Lebanese model as an example of successful cohabitation of disparate communities which is the antithesis of the Zionist formula to build a state in the service of a single community. Hezbollah therefore offers a Lebanese model, founded on community pluralism, respect for diversity and the protection of freedoms, in opposition to the Zionist formula. The party’s leadership, having shown itself to be pragmatic, insists on the strict application of the Taëf Accords to follow the drafting of a new electoral law maintaining the current communitarian balance.8
The understood hostility concerning Israel marks the political discourse of Hezbollah. The party leadership has ridiculed calls for pragmatism in order to find a solution likely to end the conflict with Israel. In this context, the party leadership does not hide its total solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people without going as far as overt aid or concrete support for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. While it affirms the rejection of blind terrorism, they refuse to condemn the suicide operations led by the Palestinians.
As to their position concerning the West, Hezbollah leaders avoid an any attitude that might be viewed as hostile to Western Civilization and affirms that they are not opposed to the West as such but to the “colonialist behavior” of certain Western states.
Michel HAJJI GEORGIOU
Next article: Wilayat el-fakih: Culture of space or culture of territory?
1. Naïm KASSEM, Hezbollah: Orientation, Experience and the Future, op.cit.
3. Naïm KASSEM, Hezbollah: Orientation, Experience and the Future, op.cit., pages 58-59.
4. Ibid. Page 58.
5. Nawaf MOUSSAOUI, interview with the authors, May 2006.
6. Walid CHERARA and Frédéric Domont, Hezbollah, an Islamo-nationalist movement, op.cit.
7. Nawaf MOUSSAOUI, interview with the authors.
8. Nawaf MOUSSAOUI, interview with the authors.
9. Nawaf MOUSSAOUI, interview with the authors.
History of Hezbollah, Part 1
[From the July 29 archives of L'Orient-Le Jour].
Whatever the outcome of the current conflict impacting the nation, a grand debate will doubtlessly ensue on the political future of Hezbollah and on the nature of its future relationship with the other elements inthe Lebanese social fabric. Certain questions are on everyone’s mind. Are Hezbollah’s political decisions, yes or no, in some respect owing to orders from Iran? Is Hezbollah motivated strictly by community interests, which go beyond Lebanon and are defined in a larger context? How is the rapid rise in power of the Shi’ite movement explained? In a series of three articles, Michel Hajji Georgiou and Michel Touma analyze the different historical, sociological, doctrinal and political factors that comprise the structure and foundations of Hezbollah. The first article discusses the long historical and sociological processes which paved the way to the birth of the party at the beginning of the 1980’s.
All three ariticle are drawn from a study published in Issue 77 of Travaux et jours printed by the University of Saint-Joseph (Beirut).
The arrival of Hezbollah upon the Lebanese political scene at the beginning of the 80s is somewhat of a coronation of the long evolution affirming the presence and the identity of the Shi’ites as a sociopolitical community on the regional chessboard. In order to understand the objective conditions that paved the way for the rapid establishment of Hezbollah in the Lebanon, a quick overview of the unenviable status of this community in contemporary Lebanese history is in order.
Under the Ottoman Empire, the rights of Shi’ites were not recognized as demonstrated by the formation in the 1800’s, in compliance with an edict of Shekib Effendi, of an advisory council of each of the caïmacamat (districts) created in Mount Lebanon at the middle of the century. With the outbreak of the 1845 confessional troubles in the mountains, the great powers of the period initiated talks with the Ottoman authorities to end the conflict. Because of these international démarches, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shekib Effendi, decided to create within the two mountain caïmacamats a mixed council bringing together -one representative per community– magistrates representing the Maronites, the Greek Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, the Sunnis and the Druze. The Sunni magistrate was to represent the Shi’ites as well.1
This discrimination persisted until the fall of the Ottoman Empire and one would have to wait until 1926 before the existence of the Shi’ite community as a social entity, was officially recognized2. This recognition was, to a certain extent, one of the consequences of the proclamation of Greater Lebanon in 1920. But parallel to this political outcome, the annexation of peripheral regions of Lesser Lebanon would have considerable effects upon the socioeconomic fabric of the new entity of Greater Lebanon.
Because of the considerable autonomy it enjoyed under the Ottoman Empire, Lesser Lebanon experienced substantial development in both its basic infrastructure and in culture and education. The proliferation of private schools founded by foreign missions as well as by Western universities (The University of St. Joseph and the American University) functioned as a general outlet of Western culture and made Lesser Lebanon into a distinguished regional educational and cultural beacon.
At the same time, basic infrastructures were appreciably developed not only in Mount Lebanon but in Beirut, which slowly imposed itself as the capital of the restricted Lebanese entity. Lesser Lebanon, together with Beirut, received a system of roads, a port, a railroad connecting the coast to Damascus through the mountains, not to mention an expanding hospital and healthcare system, a thriving transport system, and, above all, the creation of a large number of commercial and industrial enterprises, especially in Beirut3. The annexation in 1920 of the cities of Tripoli and Saïda, the south, the Bekaa Valley and the north to Lesser Lebanon gave birth to an entity characterized by profound cleavage – on the levels of cultural life, education, and socioeconomics – between the “center” (Beirut and the mountains, as Lesser Lebanon) and the periphery (the newly annexed regions, which had depended directly on the Ottoman hinterland and which had not benefited from the growth registered in Mount-Lebanon4.
This socioeconomic disparity persisted long after Lebanon’s independence in 1943. It constituted the seeds of a less than desirable social situation which the Shi’ite community, representing the majority of the population, faced in the disadvantaged peripheral areas annexed by Lesser Lebanon. The essential Maronite-Sunni character of the National Pact of 1943 and the power-sharing arrangement following independence contributed a political aspect to the socioeconomic marginalization of the Shi’ites. Moreover, their elite remained the traditional feudal leaders who had existed during the post-Independence period. They were in fact shown to be largely disconnected from the popular realities of their community. So much so that the central government had no scruples in leaving the majority-Shi’ite peripheral areas out of overall development policy in various domains.
The status of the Shi’ite population was further degraded at the end of the 1960s and at the beginning of the 70s with the establishment of armed Palestinian factions in southern Lebanon, the escalation in Fedayeen operations against Israel from their base in Arkoub and Israeli reprisals targeting the heavily Shi’ite southern region.
A progressive but sustained exodus of the these populations toward the suburbs of the capital resulted. The exiled southerners swelled the ranks of the Shi’ite sub-proletariat that formed a “misery belt” around the capital. It is within this potentially explosive context that a number of Shi’ite ulemas debarked in Beirut from Qom and Najaf during the 1960s. Three of them, Imam Mussa Sadr, Sheikh Mohammad Mehdi Shamseddeen, and Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, rapidly distinguished themselves by their religious jurisprudence, their vast religious learning and the clear vision of the path that would lead the Shi’ites out of their status as a disinherited population. At first, adopting a low profile, they multiplied their lectures, conferences and debates at clubs, places of worship and community associations, all located in a densely populated Shi’ite area.
Within a very brief span of time, Imam Mussa Sadr distinguished himself as the most political of the ulemas. With his learned manipulation of singular religious jurisprudence, he toured the country from top to bottom and multiplied his conferences. Toward the end of the 1960s, he had already imposed himself as a political-communitarian pole of influence whose star was ascending uninterrupted. In 1967, he extracted from the central government the Senior Shi’ite Council, granting the community an institution that was meant to state the identity and the socioeconomic situation of Shi’ites. Poorly regarded by traditional politicians, who saw in him a serious threat, the SSC saw its role reduced to a simple assembly of notables and leaders who strived to attune their violins with political and national debates of the day. Mussa Sadr then created a popular movement, the Movement of the Disinherited, of which the mission was to respond to the political and social needs of the community, especially on the plane of struggle against socioeconomic underdevelopment in Shi’ite Southern Lebanon, in the Bekaa Valley and in the suburbs of Beirut.5
The underlying objectives of this movement were to remove popular Shi’ite quarters from the increasing influence of Leftist and Arab nationalist parties and armed Palestinian factions as well as to substitute the feudal Shi’ite leaders who held the community in a state of chronic lethargy. Defining the guiding principles behind his activism, Mussa Sadr gave a speech on 18 February 1974 which is considered the act that gave birth to Lebanese Shi’ism and its first political expression: Our name is not metwali [submission]. Our name is rafezun (refusal), vengeance, and revolt against tyranny. Though we may have to pay in blood and with our lives…we do not want rhetoric, but action. We are fed up with words, sentiments and talk. I have given more speeches than anyone. And I am the one who has called for calm, more than anyone else. I have called for calm long enough. From today forward, I will not be silent. You may wish to do nothing, but I do not…6
The Movement of the Disinherited thus constituted the first sociopolitical structure made available to the Shi’ites since the Ottoman Empire. Witnessing the implantation of armed Palestinian organization in the Arkoub and under the effect of the military escalation that followed, Imam Sadr secretly created, at the beginning of the 1970s, the armed Amal militia, that was then supervised and trained by Fatah. The existence of this militia – the new façade of the Movement of the Disinherited – was spectacularly revealed in 1974 following a murderous explosion during a military training exercise in the Bekaa Valley. The appearance of Amal fostered by Mussa Sadr created a current within the subproletarian Shi’ite community that, in the absence of such a structure, would have attracted them to secular movements or the Left, such as the Communist Party, the Lebanese Communist Action Organization (OACL) or the Ba’ath Party and absorbed them.
The political and military actions of Imam Sadr, as well as the disastrous overall politico-socio-economic situation in which Lebanon’s Shi’ites had been thrust for years --of which the roots go back to the 1920s-- created fertile soil for the emergence and the rapid strenghening of Hezbollah in the Eighties. For some analysts, the political culture of Mussa Sadr contributed to the rooting of the Shi’ite values upon which he drew and well as the communitarian awakening that would open the way to the creation of Hezbollah7
Michel HAJJI GEORGIOU and Michel TOUMA
1. Edmond RABBATH, The Historical Formation of Political and Constitutional Lebanon, Publications de l’Université libanaise, Beirut 1973.
2. Theodor HANF, Lebanon, Coexistence in the Time of War, From the Collapse of the State to the Blossoming of the Nation, European-Arab Center for Studies, Paris, 1993, translated from German.
3. Theodor HANF, Lebanon, Coexistence in the Time of War, From the Collapse of the State to the Blossoming of the Nation, op.cit.
5. Naïm KASSEM, Hezbollah, Orientation, Experience and Future, éditions Dar al-Hadi, Beirut.
6. Walid CHARARA and Frédéric DOMONT, Hezbollah, an Islamo-Nationalist Movement, Fayard, Paris, 2004.
Israelis blow up own tank
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Olmert thinks he's the UN Secretary-General
The tme has come for Israel to revise its strategy
"This is the second strategic surprise for Israel since its creation. The first was in October 1973. 12 hours into the war, Israel’s military and political leadership were convinced that the Syrians and the Egyptians would never dare to go on the offensive and if, despite everything they took the risk, the Israeli Army would inflict a stinging defeat. We know the rest of the story. 22 days of bloody fighting, 2,552 dead Israelis, 3,000 wounded. At the last stage of the conflict, Israel was 100 km from Cairo and 40 km from Damascus. Strategic gains led to a peace process with Egypt.
On July 12th, 2006, Hezbollah bombarded frontier communities in northern Israel, attacked a patrol, killed 8 soldiers and kidnapped two others. But the sector had been on alert, precisely for an ambush of this kind. The Israeli government decides to “teach a lesson” to the Shi’ite militia. A few days of bombing and small ground operations would do the trick, thought military chiefs. Hezbollah respond with massive rocket attacks and missiles. The passive Israeli defense was caught by surprise. There is no alert system for Haifa and other communities after a week of fighting. The same disorganization was seen in supply depots for the reserves. The parents of soldiers had to contribute to buy helmets and Kevlar vests. Gaps in tactical intelligence. Hezbollah had built a veritable system of fortifications and Israeli intelligence knew nothing about it. Some Hezbollah bunkers were 30 meters underground, equipped with computers and video systems able to reconnoiter the terrain. The Israeli Air Force was unable to destroy them.
Other surprises. The ultramodern weaponry used by the Shi’ite militia. Anti-tank missiles able to pierce the armor of the Israeli Merkava tanks, considered the most modern in the world. Iranian-made Saggers, Russian Metis and Kornets and American TOWs. Most of the Israeli losses were owing to these missiles.
But there’s even worse. The civilian administration was unable to manange the crisis. Fleeing rocket salvos in northern Israel, hundreds of thousands of Israelis sought refuge in the center of the country with only charity organizations to care for them. Unpreparedness was evident in the military, the government and in all the ministries. This is the result of the Israeli vision of their neighbors and of their own strength. Since 2000, Israel has been implementing a policy founded on the principle that there is no partner for peace and that its military can impose Israeli will on its weak adversaries. The pullout from Lebanon on May 25, 2000, was the first example of this policy of unilateralism. After the collapse of negotiations with Hafez Al-Assad two months earlier, Prime Minister Ehud Barak decided to keep his election promise: he evacuates the security zone that Israel had maintained in Lebanon for eighteen years.
They pulled out without the consent of the Beirut government or Syria, the mentor of Hezbollah. For General Yuri Saguy, who had conducted secret talks with Syria, a peace treaty with Damascus was possible and the unilateral evacuation of Lebanon a mistake. A few months later, after the collapse of the Oslo Accords, Ehud Barak proclaimed that Arafat was not a partner for peace. He successor as Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, convinced that the Palestinian leader was responsible for the Intifada, laid siege to his headquarters in Ramallah and cut him off from the world. The accusation was false. Today, Avi Dicheter, the former head of Shin Beirt admits in a documentary by Dan Setton (May 4th, 2006) that “contrary to what was said, Afafat neither started the Intifada nor controlled its spread.”
This policy led to the unilateral pullout from Gaza in 2005, without direct talks with the Palestinian leadership and coordinated with the construction of the wall cutting off the West Bank, seen by the Palestinians and the Arab world as the outline of Israeli’s future borders.
These new policies were backed by a new military doctrine on low-intensity conflict. A think tank of Reserve generals lodged in an officer training school developed strategic concepts that resulted in transforming the conflict. The most important was to “bore into the minds” of the Palestinians that they would attain nothing through violence. For this, the pressure on the population had to be kept at a maximum, with curfews, lockdowns and an economic blockade.
The other element of this doctrine rests on the notion of a “lever”. According to General Gal Hirsh, one of the theory’s creators, it was necessary to “apply relentless and permanent pressure on the Palestinian Authority to force it to fight terrorism." (…) ("Ha Imout Ha Mugbla" (Limited Conflict), Ministry of Defense, 2004, Tel-Aviv, p. 242.)
Military chiefs and intelligence analysts later came to the concluson that this strategy had no guaranteed results. After more than five years of repression of the Intifada, Palestinian moderates were marginalized and Hamas took over the government.
In Lebanon, Israel attempted to apply the same principles: pressure on the population by striking at its centers of circulation, calls to evacuate Shi’ite neighborhoods and bombardment of infrastructures in order to apply the lever to the Lebanese government. There again, the outcome is negative. Israel had to accept a cessation of hostilities very far removed from its objectives at the outset of operations. No immediate release of the soldiers captured by Hezbollah, no control of the Syrio-Lebanese frontier to prevent rearming of the Shi’ite militia, which has maintained its offensive capacity. The missile ramps are for the most part intact and still menacing. The alternative to this military and political strategy may be found in the proposals of General Yuri Saguy and the sponsors of the Geneva Accords with the Palestinians: direct negotiations with Syria and the Lebanese Government for a peace in good and due form, even at the price of a pullout from Golan. An agreement with Mahmoud Abbas based on exchange of territory for peace. Without this, radical Islam will continue to grow in the region."
[Article available in the Le Monde's archives; published on 17 August]
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Israelofascists arrest Speaker of Palestinian Assembly
Mass Funerals in Lebanon
From L'Orient-Le Jour
Friday, August 18, 2006
Drones of honesty
The Second Marine Battalion, which, in typical military fashion, destroyed or withheld evidence on the events in Haditha on 24 November has been nailed by a drone with a camera that overflew the scene. Marines claimed they shot Iraqis fleeing the scene of bombing for which they were responsible. Instead, it is likely that passers-by were pulled out of a car and summarily shot. The Marines then went on to break down doors of nearby residences and slaughter the occupants. In their debriefing to brass, they lied their asses off, claiming a military engagement with a foe.
The story of the drone found via the New York Times.
Fighter jets, bombers, helicopters and drones prowl the Bekaa Valley in punk pirouettes of air power.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Godzilla in a Headscarf
"As long as the IDF was beating up on Hamas down in Gaza, it could hide its weakness most of the time. Not all of the time -- pretty sloppy, letting Hamas commandos tunnel right into that base, blast a tank and kidnap poor baby Shalit right while he was thinking up his next capsule review. Still, except for the occasional slip, the IDF was safe in its F-16s and Merkavas, facing Pals with nothing but rifles and old RPGs. It's easy to look tough rolling through refugee camps in the world's most heavily armored tank...one minute the IDF is stomping around Gaza blasting amateurs, when something taps it on the shoulder, and there's Hezbollah, looking like Godzilla in a headscarf."
As Doghouse says, the Kevin Smith approach to war narration.
16 Aug 09:00 Iraq: Bush is frustrated by the lack of Iraqi support for US forces
NEW YORK - George Bush is concerned by the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated by the lack of support for the US military commitment shown by the new Iraqi government in Baghdad and by the Iraqi people. This information was obtained by the New York Times following a Monday working luncheon at the Pentagon. The US President was perplexed by the lack of appreciation by Iraqis for the sacrifices of US troops and incredulous at the massive anti-US, pro-Hezbollah march in Baghdad.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Lebanese Tour of Homes
Via La Repubblica
"Iraqis do not consider themselves as Kurds, Sunnis, or Shi'ites but as the descendents of Mesopotamian Civilization. They want to be a nation rather than a collection of distinct ethic groups".
Consequences of Israeli Offensive in Lebanon
By stubbornly standing up to the powerful Israeli military machine unleashed to destroy it, Hezbollah has consolidated its regional standing and has given its Syrian and Iranian patrons the burst of oxygen that the Jewish state attempted to deny them. As the ceasefire enters into force in Lebanon, Iran and Syria cheer the outcome which for Israel has secured none of the objectives it sought by unleashing the offensive: the release of the two soldiers captured by Shi’ite fighters at the beginning of the war and the cessation of rocket attacks against it.
One of Iran’s highest-ranking dignitaries, Ahmad Khatami, suggested a humiliating defeat for America and the Zionist regime and promised that Iran would fire its long-range missiles at Tel Aviv if one or the other were to attack the Islamic Republic. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared that the ferocious resistance put up by Hezbollah will force Israel to think twice before launching a new “terrorist” campaign in the region. Accused by the United State of supporting terrorism, Syria has thumbed its nose at the President George Bush, who had declared that the Israeli offensive against Lebanon was part of the larger war between freedom and terror. The outcome of the war can only with difficulty be portrayed as a success for Israel. Not only did it fail to recover its two soldiers but it failed to end Hezbollah’s rocket attacks, or push it north of the Litani but it lost 117 troops in 33 days and exposed the weakness of its army.
This reversal is also a severe political setback for the Bush administration, because it has shown that indirect actions by Iran in Lebanon, as in Iraq, produce results, says analyst Mustafa Alani, of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. The message is that putting pressure on the Iranians will not be easy.” explains Alani with reference to the refusal of the Islamic Republic to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities. If Iran is attacked or sanctions imposed by the United Nations, others will pay the price. For Lebanese Political Scientist Osama Safa, the value of Israel as a strategic ally of the United State has been severly shaken by this episode.
The UN Force in Lebanon
Italy is to send the Friuli Ariete brigade and the Tuscan Folgore (Lighting) Brigade, which have armor (tanks and troop carriers) and helicopter gunships. The Italian Air Force will deploy several AMX fighter jets; the Navy will deploy a few vessels off the Levantine coast, hopefully to monitor and to challenge the Israeli blocade.
The French Command under General Alain Pelegrini will report the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York. It has already warned that logistics will be a nightmare. The largest part of the French contingent will be engineering corps. And clearly, the announced $98 million budget will be insufficient.
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr has declared the following: 15,000 Lebanese troops will be deployed to the north bank of the Litani by the end of the week in preparation to move across the river. They will not disarm Hezbollah. Our Army is not going to the south of the country to disarm Hezbollah and to perform the work of Israel. The Resistance is cooperating well and as soon as the Army enters the South, there will be no weapons except those in the possession of the Army.
This can in no way be considered a positive development for Israel. The peacekeeping force is a Sovereignty Guarantee force. Israel is and will continue to be chastized by the international community. It is unlikely that Olmert will survive for long in office.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Islamo-fascism: George Bush's Fallacy
Islamic Fascists by Sergio Romano (Corriere della Sera, 12 August 2006)
Today, the word, fascist, has lost its original meaning and simply signifies a violence and intoleranance and perhaps even a scoundrel. Many of those who use the term only have a vague notion of its meaning but have understood that it is an insult and therefore good for a verbal attacks by political figures. But when the President of the United States says that his country is at war against “Islamic Fascists” we must assume that he knows what he is talking about even if his declarations are often ambiguous. George W. Bush is not the first to use the expression. An American leftist intellectual recently used the term, “Muslim Totalitarianism” and the British Minister of the Interior, John Reid, warned his audience of threats from those who could be termed, fascist, just before the thwarted London bombings . Does Islamo-fascism exist? And if it does, who are its ideologues, its prominent leaders, and what are its political formations?
Suspicions began to be raised when European diplomats and intelligence agents reported to their governments in the Thirties that intellectuals and military men of some Muslim countries expressed a certain interest in and admiration of fascist regimes. One of the first to realize that such sympathies could be turned to a useful political trump card was Benito Mussolini. From that moment, Fascist Italy began sending out feelers to anti-British and anti-French nationalists in North Africa and in the Levant, with particular attention to Palestine. An Arab language radio station, Radio Bari, was created. Contacts were made with Habib Bourguiba, founder of the Tunisian nationalist movement, Neo Destur, the derivative of a former Destur (the word means liberty or Constitution) that was more moderate and conciliating.
When Mussolini went to Libya in 1937, the Colonial Governor, Italo Balbo, arranged an extraordinary welcoming pageant in Bugara, outside Tripoli, where 2000 horsemen saluted him with war hymns and drumrolls. One horseman, Iussuf Kerbisc, rode out of formation and presented Mussolini with sword of solid gold. At this moment, reverberating next to our own hearts, he told Mussolini, are the hearts of all Muslims of the Mediterranean who, full of admiration and hope, see in you a great Man of State guidiing our destiny with a steady hand. Contacts with Arab nationalists increased during the war, when Italy and Germany hoped to foment an Arab revolt in the backyard of the British Empire similar to that led by T. E. Lawrence and Faisal, son of the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca, against the Ottoman Empire in 1916. The principal pawns of this policy were an Iraqi man of state, Rashid Alì al-Gaylani, and the Grand Muftì di Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini.
As Manfredi Martelli recounts in his book, Arab Nationalism and the Policies of Mussolini, (Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, 2003), the former came to power in Baghdad with a coup d’état at the beginning of 1941, and declared war on Great Britain with modest assistance from Axis aviation. It lasted until the end of May, when British troops entered Baghdad and forced him into exile in Iran. He fled to Iran together with the Mufti of Jerusalem, who avoided arrest by the Iranian police and crossed into Turkey (says Martelli) in possession an Italian passport and with dyed hair and a shaved beard. When he finally arrived in Rome on 10 October 1941, he was received by Mussolini in the presence of Galeazzo Ciano. The conversation took place in French and Mussolini told him that he would spare no effort to assist the Arabs “politically and spiritually”. They also spoke of Jewish aspirations for Palestine. The Fascist leader (who, during the Thirties, had supported the Zionist Movement against Britain) reassured him. If the Jews want their own state they’ll have to build Tel Aviv in America. They are our enemies and there will be no room in Europe for them. From Rome the Mufti went to Berlin, where he remained until the end of the year. He also made a trip to Bosnia to urge Muslims in the region to collaborate with the Axis; thus, the Handzar Division, comprised of SS who wore distinctive headgear —a red fez—, was conceived.
Al-Gaylani and al-Husseini were not the sole friends of the Axis in the Middle East. At the end of 1941, as the Africa Korps advanced toward Alexandria, a group of Egyptian officers gathered intelligence for Rommel’s General Staff on the movement of British troops. One of their leaders was Anwar al-Sadat, who became President of Egypt following the death of Nasser. Several crossed through the lines to join Axis troops only to reappear next to Nasser during the 1952 revolution. Jean Lacouture, in his 1971 biography of Nasser, recounted that during those days, while the Germans and the British were fighting in al-Alamein, there were demonstrations in Cairo and in Alexandria. The crowd chanted the praises of Rommel and mangled Mussolini’s name calling him Mussa Nili, the Moses of the Nile.
But none of these personalities could be considered truly fascist. They were nationalists seeking assistance from the enemies of Great Britain because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. It is certainly true that the nationalist and socialist regimes created in several European countries in the Twenties and Thirties appeared to many Arab and Muslim leaders as appropriate for their needs. The unquestioned authority of the leader, a single party, the role of the armed forces and the bureaucracy, the unbridled use of the police and secret agents and the control of society and of the press appeared to be the right ingredients for a nascent state in which the masses were illiterate and the tree of democracy struggled to enroot itself. But not all authoritarian regimes can be considered fascist or communist.
The movement most resembling fascism among those groups which appeared in the Middle East during the 1900s was a movement founded in Syria in 1940. Its founder, Michel Aflaq, was a Syrian Christian. He had studied at the Sorbonne in the Thirties and had participated in the battles between Left and Right in the streets of Paris, and had absorbed an intoxicating cocktail of political literature, from Mazzini to Lenin. He was anti-colonial, pan-Arab, proud of the Arab past but resolutely secular and socialist. When he returned home, he founded the Ba’ath Party (Resurgence or renaissance, in Arabic) and one of his first actions was to join the al-Gaylani revolt against Great Britain in 1941. Aflaq died in 1989, probably in Baghdad, as the guest of a man who had much admired him and who drew on this teachings to organize the Iraqi state. That man was Saddam Hussein.
It was he who created the Party, Saddam Hussein told an interviewer in 1980. How could I possibly forget what Michel Aflaq did for me? If it were not for him, I would never have come to this position. Iraq was therefore the most fascist regime of the Middle East in the last few decades. Saddam used the Ba’ath Party to militarize the society, to set up a cult of personality modeled from that of Il Duce and Der Führer, to put the bureaucracy in uniform and to emphasize public works. At the same time, he was a nationalist and, in his own way, a socialist. This was the extent of fascism in the Arab world.
But it would be very difficult for me to identify fascism in religiously inspired movements from the Muslim Brotherhood to those that following the Iranian Revolution, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the First Gulf War in 1991. Between the Ba’ath and religious fanaticism, even against a common enemy, there is an unfathomable divide. Standing apart from his predecessors, George Bush seems to have forgotten that the greatest enemy of Khomeini’s Iran was Saddam Hussein and during the long war between the two countries, from 1980 to 1988, the United States was on the side of the fascists against the Islamists.
Sergio Romano was born in 1929 in Vicenza and earned a law degree from the State University of Milan. Joining the Italian diplomatic service in 1954, Romano served as representative to NATO and ambassador to Moscow during the crucial "perestroika" years. He retired in 1989. He has taught history at the Universities of Florence, Paria, Sassari, Berkeley and Harvard. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Etudes Politiques of Paris, the University of Macerata and the Institute of Universal History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. His most famous published works are Giolitti, the style of power; Gentile, the philosopy of power, Russia in the Balance (il Mulino 1989), and The Decline of the USSR as a World Power and Its Consequences.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Slow death in Tyre
In Tyre, Israeli aviation bombed a shopping center and a gasoline station adjacent to a hospital, which is now menaced by the flames. "The sick and wounded risk asphyxiation. We have no rescuers, neither neighbors nor firefighters", says hospital director Jawad Najm.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Strange Fruit of Resolution 1701
Israeli warplanes bomb the a coastal highway leading to Abdé, north of Tripoli.
Israeli missiles destroy a secondary highway linking the town of Qoueissat with Syria.
Israeli missiles destroy the Hissa Bridge on the border with Syria, killing 11 fleeing civilians and wounding nine others.
Israeli bombers destroy Bourj Shamali, adjacent to the port of Tyre.
Israeli warplanes bomb the towns of Khiam and Dibbine.
Israeli warplanes strike the eastern Bekaa Valley.
Olmert accepts UN peace deal
15 thousand UN troops in Southern Lebanon in next few days under French command
Hezbollah to agree to end katyushka lobs
Israel to end all offensives
Israel to withdraw troops immediately
Condi pressures Olmert to stop the conflict
CONDI: Pl3as3 st0p?
CONDI: Kthx bye
Borrowed from poster Dave J. on today's Atrios' thread, "More like This".
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Gatorade of mass destruction
Update 1: The latest on the recipe, which strikes me as phooey.
The suspects were going to dissimulate a liquid explosive gel stabilized by mineral salts in beverage containers (the drink was red--see below) with a false bottom. The payload was then to be detonated by a disposable camera flash.
The bombers supposedly were using Gatorade as the base and X as the active ingredient to produce an IED? Let's see what's in Gatorade:
Natural orange flavor
Yellow No. 6
Bromated vegetable oil
100,000 plastic bags
"When I arrived at my tube station this morning at 9 o'clock, the station already had a detailed printed poster with advice about the security alert at Heathrow and other transport. I cannot believe that TFL knocked this up in a couple of hours. Pre-prepared or what? How long had the authorities known this was going to happen? Would the police really tell the tube if this was a real terrorist alert? I will be interested to see how many of the arrested will be convicted. Another Blair PR stunt?"
As Postman Patel points out, quite a coincidence that Heathrow Airport just happened to have on hand tens of thousands of clear plastic bags for passenger carry-on.
Pads and Pods
Worse, no ipods.
John Reid's Laundry List
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Another stand for democracy and decency on the Thames
The 52-year-old has been an MP in the area since 2001.
Totalitarian Joe goes down in flames
Appointment with Death in Tyre
The Israeli miscreants threaten to obliterate Tyre as noble hearts stay behind.
From L'Orient-Le Jour
Outside Tyre Public Hospital, Dr. Adib Wazzani, 51, is at work…building coffins.
This war has taught us another skill, says Wazzani. Like everyone else who has refused to abandon the city, Dr. Wazzani must adapt to the Israeli siege. The roads to the south are unusable and those to the north cut by the bombing of the bridges over the Litani River. Evacuation by sea is impossible, even for fishermen.
The flow of victims from the Israeli bombing of local villages and the impossibility of holding traditional funerals has forced doctors to take up the trade of coffin-building.
Last week we made 110, include 34 small coffins for children, said Wazzani, dressed in his green scrubs. Today we have 82 bodies, he says, pointing to a refrigerated truck idling nearby that contains the bodies of 28 civilians, including 16 children, killed in the Israeli bombing of an air raid shelter in Qana on July 30. Together with Dr. Ibrahim Jrady and five Lebanese Army reservists, he is serving as undertaker and government coroner.
We have prepared lists and we number every coffin so that at the end of the war, the remains can be recognized and taken away for reburial in their villages, says Wazzim.
Dr. Ghassan Farran, whose home in Tyre was destroyed, has transformed a room in City Hall into a clinic. We are seeing more and more cases of skin disease and respiratory problems, he says while writing a prescripton for a little girl. It’s due to a bad diet and and the continuing decline in sanitary conditions.
Dr. Farran hasn’t enough drugs for chronic illnesses and heart disease but he been prescribing sedatives for frightened adults, their nerves frayed by the bombings.
Australian Elias Francis, 70, says he stayed behind to remain with his wife and son, who do not have Australian passports. How could I leave, abandoning them here? says Francis. We await the end.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
How dumb do the Israelis think we are?
14:06 Israel: Our enemies are using Russian arms
Miniater Avi Dichter accuses Russia of supplying the terrorists with Kalashnikovs and Katyusha rockets.
Turks abandon agreement with Israel
First economic-strategic setback for Israel. Turkey cancels a $500 million deal with Israel to modernize their Phantom jets.
Judge Flynt Leverett writes in the Washington Post that the United States "does not have sufficient diplomatic channels to manage the situation in Lebanon, let alone resolve it."
Richard L. Armitage accuses the State Department of "laziness" [Darling, it's deliberate foot-dragging]: "I believe that this administration is mistaken in attempting to isolate Syria."
Monday, August 07, 2006
Poison Pen Letters
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Citizen Weapon Inspectors at Prestwick
"A spokesman for campaign group Trident Ploughshares told BBC Scotland three people had managed to get onto a US cargo flight. He said they were searching for evidence to suggest the plane was carrying bombs to Israel.
On Sunday, four people were arrested after demonstrators broke through security fencing onto the main runway.
It was reported last week that US military flights carrying bombs to Israel would no longer use any civilian airports in the UK for refuelling.
The protesters describe themselves as "citizen weapons inspectors" and said they were searching for evidence to suggest the plane was en route to Israel carrying bunker busting bombs.
Strathclyde Police said a number of people had been arrested at the airport on Monday morning. "
Israel destroys Lebanon's fishing fleet
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The Government of Lebanon deplores
-Cessation of hostilities isn't quite the same thing as a ceasefire. Combat may continue
-Text does not call for an Israeli pullout
-France requested a provision including resolution of the question of Lebanese imprisoned in Israel and the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Instead, this key requirement is mentioned en passant in the Preamble.
On the positive side, France has agreed to lead in imposition force between Israel and Lebanon. But Isnogood gets at least another 72 hours of blood and destruction.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Slaughter of innocents
Shi'ites at War
Shi'ites at War
by Sabrina Mervin, researcher, French Institute for the Middle East, Beirut
Dahiyeh, Beirut’s southern suburb, is deserted. The home of Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah is destroyed. For ten years, this major Shi’ite cleric had distanced himself from Hezbollah and Iran, and stood as an independent marja. He does share certain opinions with them, but others he des not. He is a member of what is called the hala islamiyya, the Islamic milieu that issues from the Shi’ite political movements that emerged during the 1960’s, first in Iraq and then in Iran. It is a monolithic milieu when seen from the outside but inside it is vibrant with debate and argument. It is this milieu that, under Israeli bombs, has joined ranks with Hezbollah. The hour is no longer critical of the Party of God, even if cloaked in fear.
For at this hour there are Hezbollah men who guard the suburbs, traveling up and down the streets on scooters and flagging down any suspicious vehicle. Most of them have sent their families to safety. “We are ready”, say the four fighters who invited us to tea. One of then has a photo of Hassan Nasrallah as wallpaper on his cellphone and his voice as a ringtone. They are infuriated by “foreigners” who support Israel and who want Arab regimes to betray the resistance. One can already predict that among the effects of the war will be the rise in popularity of Nasrallah in the “Arab street”. Nasrallah knows how to use his charisma and he uses a new manner of expression in his relentless speeches given before the start of the conflict. Calm, collected, and almost serene, he no longer uses invective or humor, but explains the situation and his actions point by point with an obvious desire for clarity and transparency. How long has it been since Arabs have heard talk like this?
We are prepared, repeat the young militants, ready to fight an asymmetric battle, inspired by their Iman, Hussein, who in 680 met martyrdom in Karbala while fighting to reclaim his rightful place against the Umayyad army. For Shi’ites, Karbala is here and now. A legend that repeats itself, now and forever, and that will not stop until the return of the Mahdi, The Awaited Imam, who will return to restore justice on earth.
Damascus. The suburb of Sayyida Zaynab, a center for pilgrimage to the mausoleum of the saint by the same name, the sister of Hussein and granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Shi’ites traditionally flock here to make a pious visit. But today it is mostly Lebanese refugees whom one meets; they have moved into the sanctuary. I recognize a black-turbaned cleric who hails from a village along the Israeli frontier. He is a sayyid of the village, very learned but without excessive ambition, a approachable man who does not dabble in politics. We exchange news, he recounts his surprise at the warm welcome received from Syrians. He invites me to follow him, rather than to remain in the middle of the street, standing out like a foreigner with her head uncovered.
He goes to call on other clerics in a hotel catering to pilgrims. One is Lebanese, who lives in Qom where he teaches in a religious school. The other is Iraqi. There is nothing more commonplace than this type of meeting for those who are familiar with Shi’ite clerical milieus. Iraqis and Iranians have historical links going back to the Safavid dynasty. There are matrimonial alliances between clerical families that knit together the highest echelons of political and religious elite. There are also links between teacher and student, students enrolled in the same arduous curriculum for years, and among instructors. Within this tapestry, movement between large Shi’ite centers is interposed with affiliations and political persuasions. The landscape is even more complex when one considers the ideas being debated between neoconservatives and reformers, between supporters of Islamic regimes and liberal governments.
What is tangible, seen from here, is that the Lebanon/Hezbollah-Syria-Iran axis, even if it has a religious foundation, is completely political and represents a new front of refusal of US policies. In Sayyida Zaynab, as in Damascus, portraits of Bashar al-Assad and Hassan Nasrallah, and even Iranian President Ahmadinejad, the third partner, are springing up everywhere.
In the old Shi’ite quarter, the Muhsiniyyeh School is full of refugees. Arriving families are registered, fed, clothed and lodged with local families. There are at least 6000 refugees here. Hezbollah activists are in charge of coordination with local notables and the administration of the school. There is no doubt that the enthusiasm driving the Syrians to assist the refugees is going to knit relations between these two populations, who before had no particular affinity for one another.
The Muhsiniyyeh School was founded in 1901 for children without resources by a reforming Shi’ite cleric from what today is southern Lebanon. One of his descendents is a refugee here in this quarter. He’s a cleric who does not support Hezbollah’s positions. He shares with me the news of his family, of whom I am writing an account. His youngest son is in the United States, where he studies medicine. Has he renounced the turban?, I ask. "No, explains the sayyid, he will pursue his religious studies later."
Israeli war on vacation villas
Israeli bastards --and ingrates for having saved their collective asses in 1972. This is their thank-you note.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Five more years!
Leaked cable from the British Ambassador to Baghdad:
A “low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy” writes the UK Ambassador to Iraq in his last telegram, leaked to the BBC.
In an telegram intended for Tony Blair, Ambassador William Patey adds, "One can doubt the hopes of President Bush to see a government capable of functioning and defending itself while serving as a reliable ally in the war on terror.”
The situation is not desperate, says Patey, although Iraq will remain "difficult and disorderly for the next FIVE TO TEN YEARS." [Wha-ha-ha-ha-ha! The US Army should last that long.]
If we wish to avoid the collapse into civil war and anarchy, it is a priority to prevent Shi’ite militias from becoming a State within a State, as Hezbollah in Lebanon, says Patey. [SIR, WHAT IS IT ABOUT ISLAMIC REVOLUTION THAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND? Oh, the sorrow. Even the skeptics are hopelessly ignorant. --Nur]
According to the BBC, citing high-placed military sources, the British contingent in Basrah is preparing to gear up operations against armed Shi’ite fighters. Ambassador Patey urges his government to included Iraqi army units in such operations because British forces “cannot, alone, deal with the militias”. [And what is the Iraqi Army? ONE BIG SHI’ITE MILITIA! ROTFLOL!]
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Jack Lang et al call it like it is
Another credentialed European politician steps up the the plate: Former French Culture Minister Jack Lang (Via L'Orient-Le Jour)
Former Socialist Minister Jack Lang termed George W. Bush a “cretin” and a “war monger”, who has brought more “chaos” to the Middle East. Lang calls on France and the European Union to offer a “human and constructive” vision to counter that of the US President.
"One of the major parties responsible for all this is Mr. Bush. It’s too much…it’s fanatical and imbecilic at the same time; he’s a fanatic and a cretin. For the past four years, this guy has been the leading the world and the Middle East into a fiasco.
Bush has destroyed Iraq and is indirectly promoting the destruction of Lebanon. He is a war monger. He has done more than another other actor to strengthen the extremists and the terrorists.
It is important that the Europeans and France in particular offer a different vision --a human, humanist, intelligent and constructive vision. I support the French plan before the UN for a ceasefire and the creation of an international force(…)"
Moreover, three Socialists MPs, Gérard Bapt, François Loncle and Jérôme Lambert announced their approval yesterday “of the refusal of France to support the sham delays on the part of the Bush administration in the Lebanese-Israeli conflict."
"We approve the refusal by France to support the sham delays on the part of the Bush Administration; we reject the engagement of French troops in Lebanon until armed confrontation has ended and we support the peace plan drafted by the Lebanese government. We salute the position adopted in Brussels by Europe’s 25 Foreign Ministers calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities."
They also denounced the “US maneuvering aiming soley at delaying the end to hostilities to the benefit of the Israeli Army and an illusory victory against Hezbollah at the price of the destruction of Lebanon and a horrible human tragedy."
Blair Sleaze Factor
Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said it was "either naive or over-simplistic" of the prime minister to say conflicts such as those in Chechnya or Kashmir were part of a "world battle against terror".
"In Chechnya it's not a battle between freedom and terrorism, it's between Russian nationalism and Chechnya nationalism.
"In Kashmir, it's between India and Pakistan and to try and just draw all these threads in and simplify it in a rather foolish way indicates that the prime minister has become totally bereft of original thinking."
He added: "The single greatest triumph of what he (Mr Blair) calls Islamic terrorism has been in Iraq, which is a direct consequence of his own policy and that of George Bush."
I say, old chap, well done!
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
One decent man on the Thames
Martin Bell, the former war reporter and independent MP, handed in a petition to Downing Street demanding Tony Blair call for an immediate ceasefire in the region.
Meanwhile, in addition to the defection of Jack Straw, John Williams, the former chief spokesman for the Foreign Office, has called on Blair to abandon his current policy on Lebanon and head an EU-led peace conference on the crisis.
Ken Livingston has called on all London to protest the Blair government and the Israeli agression in Lebanon on Sunday.