Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Something ain't right!

Saying that we did not know that Israel's reaction will be this violent, and if we did we would have not kidnapped the two soldiers, is just too hard to believe. So excuse Mr. Nassrallah but something ain't right!

Let me elaborate, first the same crisis occured in Gaza just a few weeks before ours started, and we all witnessed the large amount of destruction, inflicted on that small strip of land, by Israel after one of its soldiers was abducted. So it was easy to infer what Israel's reaction would be in the case of another kidnapping.

Second, Olmert and Peretz having no military background or experience, their reaction to the kidnapping of another two soldiers was entirely predictable. They needed to act tough to compensate for the lack of experience and reassure Israel's population concerning their security.

Finally, yours truly a common citizen, like thousands others, predict that the Israel reaction after kidnapping of the two soldiers, would not be limited to the south and would be disastrous to Lebanon. A prediction shared by many Lebanese I met during that beautiful summer day, before the war started.

So after this "divine blunder" it looks like Hezbollah's leadership suffers from a severe short sight and is not capable of anticipating a very obvious Israeli reaction, or maybe something ain't right…

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hezbollah Didn't Win

Arab writers are beginning to lift the veil on what really happened in Lebanon.


The way much of the Western media tells the story, Hezbollah won a great victory against Israel and the U.S., healed the Sunni-Shiite rift, and boosted the Iranian mullahs' claim to leadership of the Muslim world. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the junior mullah who leads the Lebanese branch of this pan-Shiite movement, have adorned magazine covers in the West, hammering in the message that this child of the Khomeinist revolution is the new hero of the mythical "Arab Street."

Probably because he watches a lot of CNN, Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei, also believes in "a divine victory." Last week he asked 205 members of his Islamic Majlis to send Mr. Nasrallah a message, congratulating him for his "wise and far-sighted leadership of the Ummah that produced the great victory in Lebanon."
By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons, Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.

Let us start with Lebanon.
Immediately after the U.N.-ordained ceasefire started, Hezbollah organized a series of firework shows, accompanied by the distribution of fruits and sweets, to celebrate its victory. Most Lebanese, however, finding the exercise indecent, stayed away. The largest "victory march" in south Beirut, Hezbollah's stronghold, attracted just a few hundred people.

Initially Hezbollah had hesitated between declaring victory and going into mourning for its "martyrs." The latter course would have been more in harmony with Shiite traditions centered on the cult of Imam Hussain's martyrdom in 680 A.D. Some members of Hezbollah wished to play the martyrdom card so that they could accuse Israel, and through it the U.S., of war crimes. They knew that it was easier for Shiites, brought up in a culture of eternal victimhood, to cry over an imagined calamity than laugh in the joy of a claimed victory.

Politically, however, Hezbollah had to declare victory for a simple reason: It had to pretend that the death and desolation it had provoked had been worth it. A claim of victory was Hezbollah's shield against criticism of a strategy that had led Lebanon into war without the knowledge of its government and people. Mr. Nasrallah alluded to this in television appearances, calling on those who criticized him for having triggered the war to shut up because "a great strategic victory" had been won.

The tactic worked for a day or two. However, it did not silence the critics, who have become louder in recent days. The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.

Mr. Nasrallah followed his claim of victory with what is known as the "Green Flood"(Al-sayl al-akhdhar). This refers to the massive amounts of crisp U.S. dollar notes that Hezbollah is distributing among Shiites in Beirut and the south. The dollars from Iran are ferried to Beirut via Syria and distributed through networks of militants. Anyone who can prove that his home was damaged in the war receives $12,000, a tidy sum in wartorn Lebanon.

The Green Flood has been unleashed to silence criticism of Mr. Nasrallah and his masters in Tehran. But the trick does not seem to be working. "If Hezbollah won a victory, it was a Pyrrhic one," says Walid Abi-Mershed, a leading Lebanese columnist. "They made Lebanon pay too high a price--for which they must be held accountable."

Hezbollah is also criticized from within the Lebanese Shiite community, which accounts for some 40% of the population. Sayyed Ali al-Amin, the grand old man of Lebanese Shiism, has broken years of silence to criticize Hezbollah for provoking the war, and called for its disarmament. In an interview granted to the Beirut An-Nahar, he rejected the claim that Hezbollah represented the whole of the Shiite community. "I don't believe Hezbollah asked the Shiite community what they thought about [starting the] war," Mr. al-Amin said. "The fact that the masses [of Shiites] fled from the south is proof that they rejected the war. The Shiite community never gave anyone the right to wage war in its name."

There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence, and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone. Another academic, Zubair Abboud, writing in Elaph, a popular Arabic-language online newspaper, attacks Hezbollah as "one of the worst things to happen to Arabs in a long time." He accuses Mr. Nasrallah of risking Lebanon's existence in the service of Iran's regional ambitions.

Before he provoked the war, Mr. Nasrallah faced growing criticism not only from the Shiite community, but also from within Hezbollah. Some in the political wing expressed dissatisfaction with his overreliance on the movement's military and security apparatus. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described Mr. Nasrallah's style as "Stalinist" and pointed to the fact that the party's leadership council (shura) has not held a full session in five years. Mr. Nasrallah took all the major decisions after clearing them with his Iranian and Syrian contacts, and made sure that, on official visits to Tehran, he alone would meet Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Nasrallah justified his style by claiming that involving too many people in decision-making could allow "the Zionist enemy" to infiltrate the movement. Once he had received the Iranian green light to provoke the war, Mr. Nasrallah acted without informing even the two Hezbollah ministers in the Siniora cabinet or the 12 Hezbollah members of the Lebanese Parliament.

Mr. Nasrallah was also criticized for his acknowledgement of Ali Khamenei as Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation), the highest theological authority in Shiism. Highlighting his bay'aah (allegiance), Mr. Nasrallah kisses the man's hand each time they meet. Many Lebanese Shiites resent this because Mr. Khamenei, a powerful politician but a lightweight in theological terms, is not recognized as Marjaa al-Taqlid in Iran itself. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese Shiites regard Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq, or Ayatollah Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlallah, in Beirut, as their "Source of Emulation."

Some Lebanese Shiites also question Mr. Nasrallah's strategy of opposing Prime Minister Siniora's "Project for Peace," and instead advancing an Iranian-backed "Project of Defiance." The coalition led by Mr. Siniora wants to build Lebanon into a haven of peace in the heart of a turbulent region. His critics dismiss this as a plan "to create a larger Monaco." Mr. Nasrallah's "Project of Defiance," however, is aimed at turning Lebanon into the frontline of Iranian defenses in a war of civilizations between Islam (led by Tehran) and the "infidel," under American leadership. "The choice is between the beach and the bunker," says Lebanese scholar Nadim Shehadeh. There is evidence that a majority of Lebanese Shiites would prefer the beach.

There was a time when Shiites represented an underclass of dirt-poor peasants in the south and lumpen elements in Beirut. Over the past 30 years, however, that picture has changed. Money sent from Shiite immigrants in West Africa (where they dominate the diamond trade), and in the U.S. (especially Michigan), has helped create a prosperous middle class of Shiites more interested in the good life than martyrdom à la Imam Hussain. This new Shiite bourgeoisie dreams of a place in the mainstream of Lebanese politics and hopes to use the community's demographic advantage as a springboard for national leadership. Hezbollah, unless it ceases to be an instrument of Iranian policies, cannot realize that dream.

The list of names of those who never endorsed Hezbollah, or who broke with it after its Iranian connections became too apparent, reads like a Who's Who of Lebanese Shiism. It includes, apart from the al-Amins, families such as the al-As'ad, the Osseiran, the al-Khalil, the Hamadah, the Murtadha, the Sharafeddin, the Fadhlallah, the Mussawis, the Hussainis, the Shamsuddin and the Ata'allahs.

Far from representing the Lebanese national consensus, Hezbollah is a sectarian group backed by a militia that is trained, armed and controlled by Iran. In the words of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, "Hezbollah is 'Iran in Lebanon.' " In the 2004 municipal elections, Hezbollah won some 40% of the votes in the Shiite areas, the rest going to its rival Amal (Hope) movement and independent candidates. In last year's general election, Hezbollah won only 12 of the 27 seats allocated to Shiites in the 128-seat National Assembly--despite making alliances with Christian and Druze parties and spending vast sums of Iranian money to buy votes.

Hezbollah's position is no more secure in the broader Arab world, where it is seen as an Iranian tool rather than as the vanguard of a new Nahdha (Awakening), as the Western media claim. To be sure, it is still powerful because it has guns, money and support from Iran, Syria and Hate America International Inc. But the list of prominent Arab writers, both Shiite and Sunni, who have exposed Hezbollah for what it is--a Khomeinist Trojan horse--would be too long for a single article. They are beginning to lift the veil and reveal what really happened in Lebanon.

Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of victory. "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States," says Egyptian columnist Ali al-Ibrahim. "But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory."

Thanks for Raja from the Lebanese bloggers for pointing this out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A couple of questions…

I am very intrested in knowing how some of you stands in regards of these questions that i have been asking myself over the last week. However, let me first state very clearly that targeting civilians for any reasons, and I stress any reasons is morally wrong, and should be severely condemned. So regardless of who started this mess, Israel should not have targeted civilians, and no excuse can forgive this criminal act.

So with that out of the way, let’s move to my questions: Al Jazeera Network the program where Ghassan Bin Jeddo (a famous anchor of Al Jazeera with close ties to Hezbollah- he made the interview during the war with Nassrallah-) went with a couple of Hezbollah fighters to a southern village just on the border, that goes by the name Aita al Shaaeb.

There the Hezbollah fighters showed Ghassan some of Hezbollah's network of bunkers and tunnels that crisscrossed the ground of the village. To my utter amazement the fighters also showed the anchor that the tunnel entrances and exists were inside homes.

The fact that Hezbollah used civilians buildings in their activities (and through the program it was clear that they used them to attack the Israeli army and launch their missiles) has sever consequences, and raise many questions, such as:

a-How morally acceptable is this use of civilian building for military activities, and how responsible will Hezbollah be for the death of any civilians that are in or near the homes that they used in their military activities?

b-If Hezbollah used some civilian building for their military activities, then doesn't that blur the line between what is considered civilian buildings and what is military and may lead to the targeting of many more civilian building by the Israeli army.

c-How would you personally feel if your own home was used for military activities, and then was destroyed by Israel? Who will you blame Israel only or Hezbollah too, knowing that if it was not used then it would not have been targeted?

And finally allow me to indicate that this is not a effort to render Israel blameless of the atrocities of the past few weeks, on the contrary they caused them and should be held responsible. But what I am trying to find out whether Hezbollah share some of the blame in what happened, and to what extent.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A never ending war…

War times are here… People have reverted to their wartime routine, waiting for long hours to get a few liters of fuel for their cars, and buying the rest from the black market at double or triple the official price. Alternate roads and makeshift bridge crisscross the torn roads of my country, allowing access to even the most dangerous and cut off locations. My commuting time that ran for 30 or 45 minutes, takes almost two hours these days. While home rents in "safe" areas have at doubled and one must be very lucky indeed to find even an attic to rent in some of the "safest" areas.

Yet people are trying to bring a semblance of normality even to the most nightmarish of realities. The collective taxis, called "service", are still running, even in the most dangerous of places albeit at a higher price per trip, and most grocers are still working, although most imported goods are hard to get by. Even some pubs are open, and some "experts" are saying that alcohol and tranquilizers consumption have hit some new records. People have shifted their lifestyles to endure what seems to be a very long war.

Diplomatic efforts are abundant, and some initiatives look promising, especially the unanimous Lebanese government decision to send the army to the south. But I think that someone needs to win on the ground, for this war to end, and until now the military results are still fuggy, with all the propaganda wars going on (check my last post Propaganda wars). Meanwhile, civilians are the ones paying the butcher's bill…

How will this end? In civil war? In peace? Maybe it will never end! All I know that the previous status quo is no longer acceptable, and a new one needs to be brokered. Meanwhile I need to go a wait in line, for an hour or two to get some fuel for my car and then maybe hope for a few hours electricity so I can enjoy a cold beer in front of my TV.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Propaganda wars

What has been happening on the media scene these past days defies imagination. There are two completely different groups of media outlets, and each group's news is not only different in their packaging but in the news content itself. If you try to listen to the two sides, you get two totally different images of this war, completely unrelated, as if each side is living in their own universe…

For example, two days ago, on one side there was this news items announcing that eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two more abducted. For three or four hours, this was the main headline. Then suddenly this piece of news disappeared, without any retraction. There is also the strange incident of the warplane that was supposedly shot down in Jamhour, then it turned out to be a surveillance balloon, while other speculated that it was a large missile being transported and was hit by an Israeli air raid…

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Israeli estimate of Hezbollah's death toil was 200 or so fighters. Then the numbers went down to 25 and then up, again no retraction or admitting any mistakes. Also, the news items from a week ago announcing that the Israeli army has occupied Beint Jbili, while the other side denied it saying that IDF have not even reached it, and so on…

Another example, yesterday's Israeli warship that was supposedly hit, one side was adamant, the other vehemently denied. And each day we are greeted with a supposed number of Israeli tanks destroyed, meanwhile Israel announces the death of several high ranking Hezbollah commanders every couple of days… again one side announces the news the other totally denies it.

What is even more worrisome is that each side totally believes their own source of information, never doubting or even trying to substantiate their information. On the contrary, they take for granted all their sides information and brand the other side's as total lies. Meanwhile, anyone who is still interested in some objective news and trying to understand what is really happening is left totally bewildered and clueless.

But like in everything in this wretched life, there is always a good side even to the worst situations. And it is my understanding that someone needs to win in order for this war to end, so if both parties feel that they are winning, if one hears their propaganda machines, then all the better and this will end sooner. Yet somehow, this propaganda war seems to only affecting us, the public opinion, and not both parties commands, for it seems that they know perfectly well what is happening and prefer to keep us all in the dark…