Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Past lessons

I would like to ask all my readers to take this opportunity of a few calm days, to read some vivid account of our last civil war. In an effort to remind all those who forgot what these two words really means. However I recommend reading a personal account of the war, not a politician pseudo memoir.

I am currently reading Beirut Fragments , a very interesting book, that recounts the story of a mother and her family amidst all the tragic events that befell our country from 1975 to 1990. When I finish it I will try to post a small review.

I have posted a few links to several interesting personal accounts of the Lebanese civil war on the left side of my blog. Among them, Robert Fisk' "Pity the nation" is worthwhile. The rest are more historical in nature.

Let us hope that today hot heads will learn some of the lessons of last war…

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Is your blood redder than mine?

Can we just agree that there are casualties on both sides, that people from 14 March died by gunfire as well as people from the opposition? And that People were injured, also by gunfire from both sides!! Is these people’s blood redder than those?

It is becoming ridiculous, as if we live in two separate universes. Al Manar Tv shows only the dead and injured of the opposition and Future TV shows only the casualties of 14 March!!
Both camps express their peacefulness and blaming the other for all the attacks, accusing them of trying to lead the country back into civil war.

Meanwhile, more blood is flowing in the streets and hate fills the hearts of ordinary people from both camps.

Even sensible people are being drawn in this blind violence and hatred. From here to a full fledge civil war there is only a step, half a step, no step at all...

My daily commute is becoming a Russian roulette. Will I be able to come back, will I see my parents again, will I die by a stray bullet. And you know bullets are blind, a March 14 bullet will kill me as fast as a Hezbollah bullet will do!

Tomorrow we were supposed to celebrate my upcoming birthday in Music Hall, one of Beirut’s most prominent night club. The booking secretary did not even complain or ask why, when we canceled the 12 person reservation.

Our country life is being sucked dry, meanwhile television stations and leaders from both camps have nothing better to do that run picture of injured people from their sides and blame the opposing faction.

Is your blood redder than mine?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A country boiling!

I fear the day when Nassrallah will go on TV and say that “if I knew that this will happen, I would not have acted this way!” just like what he said after the summer Israeli war.

A small scuffle in the Arab University of Beirut has exploded into a full fledged riot, which is spreading to several neighboring roads. Black smoke is once again filling Beirut sky. Phones are down, roads are closed and people are panicking…

Wish us luck and let’s hope that this is not the start of our worst nightmare.

I will keep you posted!

Update 1:

Silly blame game! You started it no it is you … It is not the fourth grade anymore… there are two killed already… STOP IT… go home… solve political issues in the proper institutions, the parliament, the government, through dialogue… They are shooting at each others… It is a war zone… JUST LEAVE THE STREETS…

Update 2:

The army ordered a Curefew from 8:30 to 6:00 in the morning in Beirut. I slipped from Beirut just before its start. What a sad day, If I am not wrong, this is the first curfew in Lebanon from many many years…

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Beirut burning

Dark clouds above Beirut

No, this is not smok from Isreal's bombing...

War zone!

A day from Hell

Update 1:

A dark cloud hangs over most cities, fights are breaking sporadically and most roads are closed. On the TV I hear the army is firing in the air to break up opposing factions, while NOT opening roads.

Anyways, I’m off to work, from Saida to Beirut. I am not going to let some burning tires stop from going to work, for it has become, as everything else in this country, a political statement!

Wish me luck!

Update 2:

Finally I arrived at Beirut!

two quick notes:

Nassrallah should learn the same lesson that Olmert did in the war. No bombs, no destruction, no protestors, no burning tires, no concrete blocks and sand mounds will close ALL the roads. We will always, always find a way out to go out, to go to work, to study, TO LIVE!!!

And today I realized that Nassrallah is just like Olmert, filling Beirut sky line with black smoke, destroying properties, terrorizing people, cutting roads…

I am so sad! What have they done to our country...
What a shame.

Update 3:

I am back in Saida. It was a very draining, both physically and emotionally, journey…

I have some picture from my phone; I will try to post them too, with a report of my daily commute that was not as routine as it used to be.

The news are bad at least two dead both from March 14, and countless injured, wiht no end in sight...


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Showdown in the streets

According to Nassrallah Tuesday shall be THE DAY! The start of the second phase, in which the opposition will continue its campaign to topple the government. He called for a general strike and several opposition leaders’ explicitly spoke of roads closing and civil disobedience, while Frangieh in another verbal attack, similar to when he insulted the Christian Patriarch, threatened anyone even thinking of going to work!

However, 14 March are standing firm, they ordered the army to keep roads open and asked its supporters to consider Tuesday as a normal working day.

In other words, it will be a showdown in the streets, between those who want to work, study and live normally against those who want to close roads and business by force and paralyze the country. In a futile effort to up the pressure on the government and pushed to offer its resignation.

The consequences of these escalations are, of course, trivial to the opposition. They will even blame 14 March for them. In the end everything pale in front of their “divine” goals and plans.

Finally, I will try to keep you abreast of tomorrow’s main events!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Crying wolf

Since HA started its protest movement they have been using a “surprise surprise” method. In other words, they have been keeping the nature, date and target of their demonstration secret until the very last moment. And even sometimes announcing a demonstration, then cancelling or postponing it…

In the first weeks, this strategy proved very effective in scaring people and suffocating an already dying economy. However, since the beginning of the New Year, people have slowly gotten over their fear and dread of these ambulant demonstrations and life (outside down Town) have slowly returned to a semblance of normality, while the economic situation did not improve much…

Faced with an enormous deadlock and a steadfast 14 March, Hezbollah found no other way but to increase the intensity of their demonstrations, and announced that they will support and participate in a series of sit-ins and demonstrations that will target several Ministries, decided earlier by the General Worker Union of Lebanon (an trade union totally controlled by Syria in the past and now by Hezbollah)

What happened next raised a few eyebrows in surprise. The demonstration failed to attract more than a couple of hundred people, most of them Hezbollah security forces (indibat). This blatant failure signed the death sentence of the Union and questioned the long term mobilization capabilities of Hezbollah’s allies, especially Aoun and Frangieh. While Hezbollah mobilization, being based on religion doctrine and believes, can be easily reinvigorated.

I totally do not understand how Hezbollah could commit such a blunder, and later on aggravate it by claiming that the opposition did not participate in these sit-ins on purpose, to let the Union Association prove itself. While some Hezbollah officials trying to find a positive spin to this failure claimed that the space in front of ministries could not handle many demonstrators (sic). I was under the impression that the smaller the space the better the demonstration will look! (As the numbers will significantly look bigger!)

Anyways, they failed in round two as they failed in round one (the big demonstration and permanent sit in) and they are promising, again, further escalation and civil disobedience. Frankly they have cried wolf so many times that I no longer believe them, or care about their next move.

At the end, they must understand that the only way to solve this crisis is to pass the international tribunal in the parliament and change the president, and early parliamentary election will be organized and we will let the people decide for themselves. Meanwhile, all what they are doing is hurting the economy and wasting much needed time to enact reforms and reconstruct the war damage…

Friday, January 12, 2007

Copy cat with a twist!

In the wake of the latest war, 14 march came out with a new slogan that evolved into a full fledge campaign. It is simply "I love life”. It was a sort of response to Hezbollah’s violent and death adulating creed. In other words, we want to live in peace, no more wars, no more death…

The “I Love life” campaign grew (you can check the website here), and frankly it was very successful. It consisted of several radio and TV commercials and open air events (like the big new years eve party) and most of all billboards, in three languages, all over Lebanon.

Below you can see two example of March 14 campaigne:

"We want to live"

However A few days ago the opposition came up with their own response to the “I Love Life” campaign. They opted to add, under the same slogan used by March 14, a word that expressed the opposition’s inclinations.

For example:

The billboards to the right says: "We want to live, IN PEACE"

"We want to live, IN DIGNITY"

"...,IN SAFETY" and the second one "I love life, IN All ITS COLORS"

Finally, I will leave it to you to judge the efficiency and creativity of the opposition response to March 14 campaign.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Futile charge!

In WW1 large armies used to dig up trenches confronting each others, and spend countless days waiting and hiding in their holes, firing a few shots now and then. Meanwhile the tension rose and rose, until it became unbearable. Then the “great” generals would order a charge and thousands upon thousands will surge as one from their trenches… and get mowed down by countless machine guns.

I always wondered why these general ordered such useless and futile charges, and why didn’t they even try to find an alternate tactic, to achieve their objective.

Yesterday, Nassrallah and his allies, decided to launch a new series of demonstrations that will target several Ministries and could reach public facilities. And I think that today’s “generals” –referring to all the heads of the opposition, not only Aoun- should be asked the same questions: why continue this futile escalation, why order a new “charge”, knowing that it will not achieve anything, except maybe an economic meltdown, or in a worst case scenario, civil war.

As the evidence mount I am starting to believe that Hezbollah is set on destroying the economy, or at least it is using the economic issue to blackmail March 14, into submission.

However, today’s demonstration has been a startling failure, only a couple of hundred showed up. I think the opposition is losing steam. People no longer believe that demonstrations and protests can achieve anything positive. On the contrary, they are starting to feel their negative effects.

In all cases, we will have a clearer picture in the upcoming days, as the oppositions will further intensify its actions. But I believe that the last holidays lull and the failure of this demonstration is providing us with the perfect opportunity for a breakthrough in political negotiations. And I will go even further in saying that this could be our last chance to find a political compromise before the situation gets totally out of hand…

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dangerous overconfidence

The situation is alarming; there is little doubt about that. But every time I have a conversation with supporter of Hezbollah or its allies they have the same confident reaction: There will be no civil war.

I usual ask why, and I receive different replies, most of them unconvincing, like “the situation is not that dire, no one wants a civil war”, or the usual who against whom. If I insist on finding out the true reason, my interlocutor usually explains that there will be no civil war because no can stand against Hezbollah, and if the party of God really wanted to start a war it will be over in 5 minutes…

Overconfidence is very dangerous, especially in these situations. In this case it is overconfidence, because Nassrallah or at least his supporters are (once again) making the same mistakes Israel made in the last war: being overconfident of their own strengthen and underestimating their enemy.

Let me elaborate, this overconfidence of Hezbollah’s power compared to the rest of the Lebanese faction (potential military) strength stems from several factors: Hezbollah’s tactics, arms and experience.

Concerning the tactics aspect, Hezbollah (using guerilla warfare tactics and organization with modern arms) excels in a war against a regular army. However, against another guerilla these advantages will disappear, and civil wars are by definition fought between guerillas…

The same caveat also applies to the arm advantage. And anyways there are many “good doers” in the world, who would be more than happy to provide all Lebanese factions with any weapons they want overnight.

Regarding the experience aspect, I agree this is an advantage, but that factor does not significantly change the balance of power; at least not to the point that Hezbollah will be able to wrap up the battle in a few days of weeks. Throughout history many factions embarked on a civil war claiming their ability to rapidly reach conclusion, finding themselves years later still stuck in the same swap of death. (the example of the Palestinian-Kamla Joumblatt-leftist Lebanese coalition who made this mistake in 1975)

Hezbollah overconfidence is dangerous because it is based on false assumption, and because it will render the opposition blind to many pitfalls and potential clashes that might arise from their constant protests and possible future escalations.

Finally, this whole deadlock will not end until both parties are convinced that their actions will definitely lead to a civil war. Until then both parties will keep on raising the stakes, hoping to ensure the highest political gain.