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Preview: The Beirut Spring

The Beirut Spring (Old Blogspot Site. Now moved to

Trying to understand post-Syrian Lebanese politics and society.

Updated: 2018-03-06T09:27:49.743+00:00


Bye Bye Blogspot


This blog address will now longer be updated. The Beirut Spring can now only be accessed via


Friends, readers and other bloggers, please adjust your bookmarks to For those who are subscribed to the old feed please move to this new one. I encourage all of you to do so.

Thank you all for reading my blog..

(PS: feel like watching some cool Lebanese videos? )

Free Alan


Why would anyone kidnap or kill Alan johnston?

Journalists protest in Beirut today (Photo New York Times)

Sign petition here.

Caught Wire-Handed


Cheating on your exams, Hezbollah style.

Who is the mastermind?

Notary Publics are important people. They are sworn in by the government to handle critical legal documents and are often sought by wrong-doers for bribery. This is why in Lebanon, prospects for this lucrative job have to pass a wrenching written exam (concours).

In one such exam a few days ago, the proctor suspected an applicant who was suspiciously touching his hear. According to Naharnet, "after he was sent out of the exam hall and examined, inspectors found hidden wires attached all over his body as well as a sophisticated button-like receiver."

A network was eventually uncovered. It used "its expertise in logistics and wireless communication by means of linking a number of candidates with receivers connected to the "mastermind" who was taking charge of answering test questions"

And where does the "mastermind" live? Naharnet was delighted to tell us in the very first sentence: "Haret Hreik". A suburb in Southern Beirut that supports Hezbollah.

The exams were immediately canceled and the cheaters with gizmos are being interrogated.

Playing By The Same Playbook


I saw this today:

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr pulls his ministers out of Iraq's cabinet to press for a timetable for US withdrawal.
Sounds familiar, I wonder where I've seen it before..

The Truth About Syria


Some minds just need to be refreshed. Check out this excellent article by Liz Cheney in the Washington Post:
Anyone familiar with the past two years of Lebanese politics would never claim, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did in Damascus last week, that "the road to Damascus is a road to peace." Her assertion must have seemed especially naive to the people of Lebanon, where the list of the slain reads like a "Who's Who" of Syria's most vocal and effective opponents.

Update: And guess who sees this article as "The Cheney team's [..] last ditch effort to get the Security Council to establishing an international tribunal to try the Hariri murder"

Destruction Exposed


Google dabbles into politics

Remember that famous before/after picture of Dahieh which used Google Earth to expose Israeli brutality in the Lebanon war? That picture was an example of how users of Google Earth can use the program for political purposes.

The news now is that Google itself wants to point its users to international trouble spots, starting with Darfur.

Now, after logging in, users of Google Earth will see fire icons scattered all around Darfur (see picture above). When they zoom into these icons, they will see clear views of villages burnt by government-allied forces, in addition to pictures and stories of survivors and witnesses.

The purpose of the praise-worthy enterprise is to raise awareness among the 200m Google Earth users of the genocide taking place in Darfur.

But questions remain about Google's policies.

Would it for instance feature satellite images of bombed areas in Lebanon if heaven-forbids, another war with Israel took place?

The Lone Ranger


Hassan Nassrallah may be loud, but he is increasingly isolated

Please hold me tightly and don't let go

You have to be seriously short on allies to attempt to resurrect the widely hated four generals implicated in Hariri's assassination. Also, when your own underlings start contradicting your highness, you know you're in trouble. This is why when our dear Sheikh starts shouting and threatening, you should know that his feet are beginning to catch fire in his cave.

The divine decider is insecure about his unkept divine promises, not to mention the 1701 ropes tying his hands in the south. So like a caged bleeding tiger, he tries to roar away the steel bars slowly closing in on him.

His own allies are shying away from defending him. Aoun keeps changing the subject to, euh, corrupt government baddies who are bent on breaking the constitution, while lamely insisting that he supports the international tribunal. Mr. Berri, meanwhile, watched silently as his boss shattered away the benign façade he was slowly trying to build and the promise he had made just a few days ago that the tribunal would be ratified in the parliament.

The Lebanese are queuing up to calmly and confidently denounce "the President of the Republic of Hezbollah" (sounds cool, we should use that more often). Unlike the sheep that keep cheering him, the Lebanese are starting to see Mr. Nassrallah for what he really is: an annoyance whose bluffs can easily be called.


(image) Rashed Fayed: Hezbollah supporters cheered when Hariri was killed (Arabic)
Fayed thinks it's 'boring' every time Nassrallah calls Hariri a martyr.

A Lebanese Perspective: Why Pelosi's Visit Was Wrong


Michael Young, a veteran Lebanese commentator, is not happy with the "dilettante" Pelosi's visit to Syria. He explain why her trip was a "fool's errand" and then he sighs:
Unfortunately, foreign bigwigs come to town, their domestic calculations in hand; then they leave, and we're left picking up the pieces.
More from Anton Efendi who also points out editorials with a similar point.


The Economist thinks that Assad got away with it:
Syria's leaders, long shunned by fellow Arabs as well as Westerners, seem suddenly back in fashion... President Bashar Assad's relations with the governments of neighbouring Turkey and Iraq have warmed. He has strengthened Syria's long-standing alliance with Iran, yet seems also to have reconciled with the region's rival heavyweight, Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah greeted him in person last week at the airport of Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on his arrival for an Arab summit whose next venue is to be Syria. Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign-affairs head, had soothing words for Mr Assad on a recent visit. This week, defying President Bush's ban on high-level contacts, two American congressional delegations, one led by Nancy Pelosi, the top-ranking Democrat, took the road to Damascus.

Mr Assad may even get back into the swim of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, from which he has been largely excluded, thanks in part to his backing of Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Meshal, whose haven is Damascus. The resuscitated Arab League peace plan of 2002 includes a demand that Syria be given back the Golan Heights in return for peace with Israel. And there is talk within the newly-formed Arab Quartet of moderate states (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that Syria should be included, partly to detach it from its ally, Iran.

The Bishops Rebuff Aoun


The Maronite bishops have decided to put an end to Aoun's habit of putting words in their mouth..

When the Patriarch warned against a chapter 7 resolution last month, M.P. Michel Aoun suddenly had a new, convenient soundbite: The Patriarch is on our side!

However, when the Patriarch made that infamous interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper in which he accused Aoun of Opportunism, the FPM's website immediately denied that the Patriarch had made such an interview, citing 'a chat between Mr. Sfeir and journalists' (The Patriarch didn't deny that interview but labeled it: "inaccurate").

Aoun kept taking the Patriarch for granted. A few days ago, Aoun "Predicted" that the presidential elections might not happen on time, and today, the Tayyar's website featured what they called "the Patriarch's strong opposition to the international tribunal under chapter 7"

So imagine Aoun's embarrassment after the Maronite bishops took the following stance after their monthly meeting today:(source Naharnet)
The Council of Maronite Bishops on Wednesday urged parliament to practice its constitutional and national role.
It also said that presidential elections should be held on time and considered any attempt to prevent quorum an anti-constitutional measure.
The statement issued after the Bishops’ monthly meeting stressed on the importance of implementing U.N. Security Council Resolutions concerning Lebanon, including the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination and related crimes.


Who killed Hariri? Ghosts, if you ask Joshua Landis.

Pelosi's Levant Trip


Perhaps the American Speaker knows what she's doing after all..

Frankly, when I heard that Nancy Pelosi is coming to Syria (to the objection of the White House), I felt my heart sink; Bashar was going to receive the highest-ranking American in two years, and his apologists are already celebrating the "collapse of Syria's isolation".

Are we going to be sold out? There are signs that perhaps not. Two things indicate that Pelosi's position will be more nuanced than paranoid Lebanese fear.

First, madame speaker is traveling with Tom Lantos, a democratic Representative well known for his Hardline stances on Syria. If anything, he will help her understand the nature of the Syrian regime and reduce her rose-tainted vision on Syria.

Second, the symbolism in her itinerary.

The first thing Pelosi did after landing in Beirut (which she visited before Damascus), is visit Hariri's grave. She then visited Majority Leader Saad Hariri, then P.M Seniora, in that order. If she weren't Pelosi herself, you'd be sure Assad would have cancelled the meeting with her by now.

Pelosi's message is clear: We are going to speak with Assad. But we're still committed to Lebanon.

Let's Pretend We're Enemies


The success of the Arab summit will depend on whether or not the Arab masses believe that Saudi Arabia is becoming less friendly with America.

The Arabs Are Coming

Let's say you're Saudi Arabia and you're stuck with a strategic regional rival, Iran, whose President keeps blaring anti-western rhetoric that the Arabs just love to hear. How do you confront such a rampant threat?

How about restoring Arabism from the freezer to frame this conflict as one between Arabs and non Arabs (read Persians), mixing in some make-believe anti-Americanism to bring back the hardliners from Iran's lap into the fold, while discretely reshaping the Arab project into a more moderate and progressive project to placate western countries?

Don't bother worrying about what seems like an American/Saudi rift. In fact, the louder the noise, the merrier.

Who's The Guest?


Emile Lahoud insists that Lebanese PM Seniora will attend the Arab summit as a 'guest'. The Saudis don't agree

Don't let those pesky Arabs bully you

The Baabda palace issued a statement that the Arab League summit was for "kings, heads of state and princes" and that anyone else is only considered as a "guest."

Perhaps Mr. Lahhoud, who will be traveling abroad the MEA, should pick up a copy of the free "Al-Hayat" newspapers available on board. The newspaper, which is a Saudi Government media outlet, published today the agenda of the coming Arab summit. Here's the wording on Lebanon:

كما تناقش القمة توفير الدعم السياسي والاقتصادي للحكومة اللبنانية بما يحفظ الوحدة الوطنية وأمن لبنان واستقراره وسيادته على كامل أراضيه

The summit will discuss providing political and economic support to the Lebanese Government to keep national unity and the security and stability of Lebanon and its sovereignty over all its territory.

It's obvious who the host thinks the unwelcome guest is.

Is War Nigh?


Something deep in my gut is not comfortable with the latest Iranian British row.

I was having a mental exercise the other day. I was trying to figure out how the U.S would ever pull off a war on Iran with all the troubles it's having at home with Iraq.

One of the 'creative' scenarios I thought of was this: The British would provoke the Iranians, the Iranians would over-react, Britain would then declare war and the US would have to "return the favor to our allies". A great excuse: "We can't leave our friends in this alone. They stood by us when we needed them most"

It's not as far-fetched as you might imagine. Just think of this: Britain has been the most hardline country when it comes to Iran in the last few weeks. From reports in its press about impending American air-Strikes on Iran to hardline comments made by the British ambassador to the Security Council about the futility of giving Iran second chances.

By seizing 15 UK royal marines for "suspicious acts", Iranians are effectively trying to get back at the Brits. Remember, we're talking about a country that went to war over a tiny Island at the other end of the world. The Brits are not happy. They are "Demanding" the release of the marines, you could actually smell the "or-else" in between the lines.

More worrying are the large scale Israeli-American missile defence exercises for what analysts said would be in the event of a war with Iran. America won't launch a war with Iran before warning the Israelis, and it seems they did.

The British media already seems very mobilized. Could this incident be the beginning of World War III? Let's hope not..

Crystal Ball Or Folly?


Thomas Friedman suggested that the King of Saudi Arabia should declare the next Arab peace initiative from the Israeli parliament.

A wild speculations from an out-of-touch western journalist? Perhaps. It would have been more so if the writer weren't Thomas Friedman, the journalist to whom King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, rather weirdly, first announced his Peace Plan back in 2002.

Tom Friedman's articles are regularly translated into Arabic in Al-Sharq Al Awsat and Al-Arabiya, (with few exceptions like this anti-Saudi article) both Saudi establishment media outlets. So Friedman, more than any other western journalist, is supposed to have the Saudi "ear".

Still, it is unclear whether today's article was a leak to prepare the public or simply unsolicited advice (more likely). What did he say?

Friedman starts by saying that Saudi Arabia has become "the new Egypt", the new leader in the Arab world, and praises the kingdom for its assertive diplomacy and its king's "integrity". Then he goes straight to the beef:
What the moribund Israeli-Palestinian talks need most today is an emotional breakthrough. Another Arab declaration, just reaffirming the Abdullah initiative, won’t cut it. If King Abdullah wants to lead — and he has the integrity and credibility to do so — he needs to fly from the Riyadh summit to Jerusalem and deliver the offer personally to the Israeli people
Then Friedman goes to the nuts and bolts of his "humble suggestion":
the Saudi king [should] make four stops. His first stop should be to Al Aksa Mosque in East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. There, he, the custodian of Mecca and Medina, could reaffirm the Muslim claim to Arab East Jerusalem by praying at Al Aksa.
From there, he could travel to Ramallah and address the Palestinian parliament, making clear that the Abdullah initiative aims to give Palestinians the leverage to offer Israel peace with the whole Arab world in return for full withdrawal
From there, King Abdullah could helicopter to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. A visit there would seal the deal with Israelis and affirm that the Muslim world rejects the Holocaust denialism of Iran. Then he could go to the Israeli parliament and formally deliver his peace initiative."
Alright, I guess he is just an out-of-touch Western journalist.

Targeting Education?


That they may have bombs and have it more abundantly

Almost a crime scene

It is hard to extract symbolism from today's "warning" acts. In one day, two education institutions, a venerable American university, and a school in a Beirut suburb were shaken by security warnings.

The American University of Beirut (AUB) woke up to the news of a bomb that was found in their 'secure' premises, while the students in the Gebran school in Bir Hassan came to school and found scores of soldiers and policemen searching their premises only to realize later that they were the subject of a phone hoax.

Every time Serges Brammertz, the head of commission investigating Hariri's murder, presents a progress report to the UN security council (which yesterday stopped short of naming Syria), you can expect security "warnings" in Beirut. But the fact that this time the target was two education institutes is a bit puzzling.

What are the perpetrators trying to say? If you go through with the tribunal, we will kill your youth and destroy your future?

If you have other suggestions please enlighten us.

Spin The Picture


How the same picture can mean different things.

Not Just a Picture

So what does the picture above mean to you? The answer is: It depends on where you stand.

The picture of Saad Hariri, leader of the Lebanese parliamentary majority receiving a medal of honor from the French President Jacques Chirac was featured in just about every mainstream newspaper published in Beirut this morning.

But while it was a source of pride to pro-government newspapers like Al-Mustaqbal (Hariri owned) and Annahar, the same picture was used for more malicious ends by opposition media like Al-Akhbar and Assafir. Here's how:

Both newspapers featured the picture in large format, but didn't forget to couple it with reports by Israeli newspapers that Jacques Chirac (yes, the man in the picture) had urged the Israelis to invade Syria and topple its regime while the Lebanon Israel war was still waging back in summer. According to Al-Akhbar, a staunchly pro-Syrian newspaper, Chirac's only reason was: He was angry with Assad.

This is meant to embarrass March14 and label them as pro-western stooges willing to collaborate with foreigners who want to kill innocent Arabs. Expect the row to grow as the majority is not comfortable with such a guilt-by-association position.

Axis Of Needles


A few months after the Iranians claimed that they found a cure for AIDS, a Lebanese doctor declared that he discovered a cure for Cancer.

You hear this stuff in the news all the time, but somehow it ends up fizzling.. Could these cases be any different? Could it be that all that is left is some testing time before an Iranian doctor and a Lebanese doctor share a podium for the Nobel prize for medicine?

I can Imagine Ahmadinajad telling the security council in New York next week:

"Look, our medical breaktrhough will save millions of people while our nuclear weapon can only kill tens of thousands. On the balance of it, we can have our nuclear cake, eat it, and still get both the Nobel prizes for medicine and for peace.."

Now that's a deal you can't refuse.


Michael Young responds to Joshua Landis (Remember him? the guy who won my award for the least insightful post on Lebanon?). Here's a highlight:
"Having been denied a timely chance to respond on his site, I do so here. Why should a row matter? It matters to me because in the polarized Lebanese atmosphere, fabricated accusations can be irresponsible, even dangerous. The theme of Landis' post is that Lebanon's Shiites, since they are under-represented in Parliament, are comparable to black slaves in America. For some reason Landis makes me the embodiment of those Lebanese denying Shiites their rights. This is troubling for being visibly personal in intent, given how inconsequential I am in the matter of Shiite power; but also because I've repeatedly argued that the Taif agreement needs overhauling so Shiites receive a greater stake in the system. I wrote last summer that "Taif was designed to build a post-war state. It should be re-tooled to bring the Shiite community back into the Lebanese fold."


Philosophical words from Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani:

Now that Aoun has joined the Islamic resistance, the Islamic resistance is no longer... Euh, Islamic.
[Read more+]



Warning: Hazardous material if you're hungry, Lebanese and living outside of Lebanon.

Other great pictures here

Party Poopers


How the opposition's media is spoiling the fun.

While the March 14 media was celebrating the capture of a "Syrian-based terrorist network" and the March 14 Minister of Interior was busy pointing his official finger at Syrian intelligence, the Syrian-apologists immediately began casting doubt.

According to Assafir for example, the Interior minister "rushed into" accusing Syrian intelligence while Lebanese security sources were telling Pan-Arab TV stations that Al-Qaeda was behind the terrorist network.

Assafir sees no coincidence in the fact that the accusations came on the eve of the resumption of high-level talks between the European commission and Syria. (Javier Solana is coming to Damascus today) especially that Europe's agenda includes asking Syria to stop leaking weapons and terrorists to the Lebanese territories. (Assafir never says die to conspiracies)

Also according to Assafir , "Damascus visitors" see the accusations as an attempt to sabotage the efforts to restore a good relationship between the Syrians and Saudis/Egyptians.

Meanwhile, Al-Akhbar, while busy as usual splitting Lebanese Christians, cheekily slipped the fact that four of the captured are Saudi-nationals.

Finally, Aoun's FPM is still not totally convinced. Ibrahim Kenaan wants to see the evidence declassified as soon as possible, implying that the movement doesn't trust the Lebanese government. It seems the FPM is convinced that the evidence in ongoing large-scale anti-terrorist operations should always be available to the public.



Why it matters that the perpetrators of recent terrorist activities are caught.

They did this

Beirut is rejoicing. The police caught a terrorist network that confessed to committing the double-bus explosions on February 13 and to planning the assassination of 36 prominent Lebanese personalities. So why are the Lebanese so happy?

This event is significant for three reasons:

1- It will add substance to charges of Syrian meddling. All the captured carry Syrian passports and are lead by a Syrian national. This puts an end to the claims of pro-Syrian Lebanese groups that the anti-Syrians always level empty accusations against Syria, and that the perpetrators could as well be American or Israeli.

2- It will be an enormous psychological boost to wary Lebanese. Imagine living in a country where Ministers were killed regularly with impunity. The Lebanese had lost trust of the government's security agencies, while watching with envy how other countries usually catch high-profile criminals, like say Hrant Dink's killer in Turkey, in a matter of days.

3- It will deprive the opposition of an argument that sought to create moral equivalence between the pro-Syrians and the anti-Syrians. Namely that the government is not protecting its citizens and not doing its job properly, an accusation used by the likes of Michel Aoun to discredit Seniora's government (and the Minister of Interior)

The March 14 people just got a great gift on the eve of their anniversary.