Sunday, October 31, 2010

AbuKhalil The sense from Lebanon.
I just returned from Lebanon last night. There is much nervousness about what is happening and what will happen. It is all about the Hariri tribunal and its much anticipated--not by me--decision. The US Middle East Zionist policy making apparatus is up in arms: because the March 14 movement is in such disarray. Jeffrey Feltman foolishly assumed that his visit to Lebanon (in the wake of his visit to Saudi Arabia) will be sufficient to revive a corpse. Feltman even thought he was being witty when he called on the Iranian president to learn from Lebanon's "pluralism". I wonder if he dared to ask the Saudi Wahhabi king to learn from the pluralism of Lebanon too. Feltman is furious at the transformation of Walid Jumblat: one of the most skillful--and most unprincipled--politicians in Lebanon. His value is not so much in the size of his constituency which is very small, but in his abilities in political rhetoric and sloganeering. The best gift that Hizbullah has ever attained--outside of Iranian support--is the stupidity of Sa`d Hariri. This is the talk of the town. You hear Sunnnis and Shi`ites, pro-March 8 and pro-March 14 all talk about the stupidity of this lucky or unlucky man--depending on the outcome. It is not that he has not shown any signs of progress or learning or even accumulated experience but he has squandered one political opportunity after another. He is mocked widely for spending so much time outside of Lebanon. He leaves for Al-Riyadh to receive orders form the Saudi King or his lieutenants at the drop of a hat. He has even squandered his fortune in stupid business moves: he bought the share of his brother Baha' only to lose much of it later. But make no mistake about it: I learned that much of the Hariri expenditure in Lebanon is in fact Saudi money--and mostly from the budget of Prince Muqrin who may be replaced soon, probably by a son of Prince Salman. There is so much going on in Lebanon: just like Lebanon in the 1950s, so many foreign and domestic intelligence services are in conflict in Lebanon. This is a place infested with spies--not only Israelis. I am told one of the spies for Israel (who has not been arrested for lack of evidence) is a high ranking Lebanese Army officers who was slated to succeed Jean Qahwaji as commander-in-chief (Qahwaji is bitterly anti-Israel and fiercely anti-Lebanese Forces. He has sent a private message to Lebanese Forces that any attempt to "descend on the ground" will be met by force by the Army). That Lebanese officer has not been expelled: he has been removes from all his powers and allowed to sit home and watch the sunset. There is much alertness vis-a-vis Israeli spies. I would dare say that the Lebanese Army intelligence in cooperation with Hizbullah and even the Intelligence Apparatus (a Hariri arm inside the Lebanese Internal Security Forces) have dealt the most sever blow to Israeli intelligence work since the creation of the Zionist entity. I can't think of any bigger blow to Israel's intelligence by any Arab government or the PLO since 1948. If the Western media are not part of the conspiracy to protect Israel and its interests and if the Western journalists are not by and large cowards in terms of their unwillingness to defy the Israeli military censor, they would be in the front of this story. Image if the tables are in reverse: if these are Israeli successes against say Hizbullah or Syria's intelligence. Don't forget that a high ranking Israeli military officer in Israeli military intelligence with responsibilities that cover Lebanon had killed himself at his desk last year. Where is the Western media. Not all Israeli spies are handled by Lebanese state: some are handled quietly and privately by Hizbullah. And some spies are turned over by Hizbullah to Lebanese Army intelligence. I am told that even the lousy Syrian regime has been able to capture Israeli spies although none of the cases have been announced for fear the regime let it known that it makes mistakes. Egyptian intelligence is very active in Lebanon: they are now controlling the Salafite groups and criminal gangs in and around Tripoli. To be sure, former general Jamil Sayyid (who is obsessed with his unfair imprisonment by Hariri tribunal for four years while forgetting about injustices under his rule during the era of Syrian control) named the Egyptian diplomat handling Lebanon on behalf of `Umar Sulayman (chief of Egyptian Intelligence. Bizarrely, chief of Arab Relations in Hizbullah, Hasan `Izziddin, met with the guy a day afterwards but I am told that he improvised. Hizbullah is now handling Lebanon with far more effectiveness but the stories of corruption of high officials (the political wing) are spreading. I feel that since 2006, Hizbullah suffered from the absence of Hasan Nasrallah who used to manage and micro-manage affairs of the party. But some political figures of Hizbullah are now disliked and mocked by constituents. This does not affect the "resistance branch" of the party which is kept apart and separate from the political wing. I have not met with Hasan Nasrallah in the last three recent visits to Lebanon. I did not even ask for an interview this last time Some said that "they" are displeased with me because I have been critical of the party in my weekly articles in Al-Akhbar and in this blog, especially my long articles detailing "the manifestations of Hizbullah's sectarianism" which had appeared in Al-Akhbar but have not been translated into English. Some have even complained to me that I refer to Hasan Nasrallah as Hasan Nasrallah in my articles in Al-Akhbar while I was told that even his rivals in Lebanon refer to hims as Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah. I explained, not that I have to explain, that I abhor and avoid titles of any kind in my Al-Akhbar articles. I am told that the skill in which Hizbullah has politically handled Lebanon in recent times is due to the re-entry of Syria as the key decision maker on behalf of March 8, and the realization that Hizbullah and its allies have really screwed up since the assassination of lousy Rafiq Hariri--one of the worst men in Lebanese history and probably second only to Bashir Gemayyel--the worst Lebanese EVER. I have heard stories about the corruption of Michel Sulayman: so add that to corruption of Nabih Birri (speaker of parliament) and the wide corruption of Harri Inc and you understand the place better. Sulayman--who has no political power to speak of--tries to appear sympathetic to every person he meets, and even from rival camps. After all, he was first anointed by Husni Mubarak. People are very afraid and nervous in Lebanon: strangers and politicians ask me what will happen next. I don't do fortune telling but I dont see a civil war. The place will continue to be on the verge of civil war but a wide escalation into a civil war is very unlikely because the balance of power is so heavily tipped in favor of Hizbullah. Hizbullah has no plans to take over Lebanon all at once. They know that their sectarian identity and structure limit its ambition. That is a major handicap politically speaking in the wake of successful Saudi sectarian warfare in Lebanon. I see that Israel will resort soon to covert operations/terrorism to strike at Hizbullah. I am told that the Hizbullah official who was killed in Burj Abi Haydar during the clash there was in fact the work of a lone sniper--probably on behalf of Israel. I learned that reportedly goons of Salim Diyab (militia leader for Hariri family) was behind the burning of the mosque in Burj Abi Haydar during that few hours of clash between Hizb men and men loyal to Ahbash (a pro-Syrian militia). One scenario has it that the clash was instigated by Syrian intelligence. People ask me if they should store food: and I invariably ask them to store Hummus. I don't like Beirut: it is too noisy and too dirty and too pretentious and too sleazy and too ugly and too lost and too dazed and too polluted and too stressful and too corrupt and too fake. I find I am more comfortable in places outside of Beirut. I really liked Tripoli last summer but if only I can strip it of religious and conservative and sectarian influences. I bet I would ve liked that city in the 1960s and 1970s. I can't live or retire in Lebanon. It stresses me too much. Of course, there are good and great people there: people who fight against racism and sexism and for boycott of Israel and against any normalization with that entity. I often generalize but I know that my generalizations are more about the political and popular cultures of Lebanon. I have more to say but I feel I should stop. I need to plant a potato.
Friday Lunch Club adds editorial highlights to Rami Khouri

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