Lebanon Might Collapse, Again.


Hezbollah has forced the collapse of the Lebanese government. Eleven out of the cabinet’s 30 ministers resigned, dissolving the government after the cabinet refused to convene an emergency session to oppose a U.N.-backed tribunal to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, of which members of Hezbollah have been speculated to be indicted.

Read more about it on the New York Times and the Huffington Post

This is not good.

For centuries, Lebanonhas been the centre of numerous significant Middle Eastern conflicts. The country was doomed from the beginning, with the region under the rule of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries. This period marked a time when European influences first emerged, with land reforms known as capitulations and certificates of protection (berats) being introduced to the local community. This caused a competition between the Ottoman Sultan and the European merchants to gain the the loyalties of the Christian subjects, mostly consisted of Maronites, living in the region.

Fast foward to the 20th Century, Lebanon once again took center stage in Middle Eastern politics when in 1982 it declared war against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), led at the time by Yasser Arafat. The militant wing of the Maronites moved to expel the PLO and conducted massacres. Many scholars believe that the war was not one of necessity, but one of opportunity, especially when seen from the point of view of the Israelis.

In addition, Lebanon in the 20th century played prominent roles for several important political ideologies and other military conflicts, including Arab Nationalism, the Arab-Israeli War (in 1967), and the Jordanian Civil War.

Ethnically, Lebanon is inhabited by a nearly equal three-way split between Christians (over half of which are Maronite), Shia Muslims, and Sunni Muslims. As a means to seek a balance of power, the President is required to be a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni, and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a. But even with a political infrastructure like this in place, one can see the potential for perpetual conflicts within government.

The point that I want to make in light of this grossly-simplified historical overview is that Lebanon has been plagued by conflict for a very long time. The problems facing the country are entrenched and incredibly difficult to remedy, but this also means that achieving (substantially) lasting peace in the region would be that much more significant for peace in the Middle East region as a whole.

In the past decade or so, with the emergence of Iran as a potential nuclear threat and Saudi Arabia and Iraq continuing to assert their influences because of their oil reserves, countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt have taken somewhat of a backseat with regards to seeking peace within the context of a grand scheme of international politics. But perhaps more importantly, these three countries have assumed vital roles within a regional (even local) context of seeking peace in the Middle East. None of the regions’ leaders would want to see Lebanon descend into another civil war:

Prime Minister Netanyahu has his hands full in dealing with the Palestinian issue; President Ahmedinejad is always busy spewing nonsensical and often hateful rhetoric while maybe secretly seeking to make a nuclear bomb; President Mubarak worries about his throne (as he has been for the last 29 years) while also looking after a struggling Egypt. Surely President Al-Assad and King Abudullah have their own issues to deal with.

The last thing they want is war breaking out in Lebanon, to which they’ll sigh and think “again?”

This presents a difficult situation for the Netherlands-based tribunal as to whether or not to go ahead and indict (as speculated) members of Hezbollah, and risk plunging Lebanon into a national crisis. If the tribunal is impartial in its findings and indicts members of Hezbollah, then the group has to face the consequences assassinating the President.

This government collapse might also act as a ‘pause’ button for other pressing Middle East issues, because peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved if Lebanon isn’t fixed.

[To read more about the modern history of Lebanon, I highly recommend the works of Albert Hourani and George Antonius, both very well-regarded scholars with highly insightful literature.]

Michael Ware, Former CNN War Correspondent, Speaks Out On Alleged War Crime CNN Refused To Air

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Nobody cares about the horrors of war, Mr. Ware. It’s why the American war machine has been able to rumble on year after year. Politicians, pundits, or the average citizen don’t want to hear how terrifying it is to be in war. All they want to hear are that we are winning and that some casualties are inevitable.

By the way, this kind of stuff is ten times more newsworthy than the whole debacle concerning General Stanley McChrystal a few months ago. That was basically one general saying stuff he shouldn’t have. What Ware will be exposing Americans to here are things Americans ought to know, because parents are sending their children to war without fully knowing what it is they do there.

The roots of this problem goes back to the ignorance of the masses. It is absolutely appalling how much some people in America (militaristic ideologues, religious fanatics, big business, etc) have gotten away with. People need to wake up.

Iraq’s Rising Journalist Death Toll

Read the article here:

Sadly, it’s not the featured figure of 172 journalist deaths so far in the Iraq War that’s most shocking, even in comparison to the death toll of 63 during the Vietnam War. What’s most depressing is the number of Al Iraqiya journalists killed in a span of seven years, 15.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to work there. For someone who has worked there during those seven years and is lucky enough to have lived, he would have had to endure the mourning of the deaths of 15 colleagues. You would think someone would begin to do something about this, anything.

“What can be done?” You might ask. Well, assuming that laws are at least somewhat enforced, passing that journalist protection law is a good start. Also, the modern media functions as one of the most powerful weapons mankind has ever created, and victims of terror should use it against those who terrorist them.
Iraq Reporter Killed

Tony Blair is Wrong

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/05/tony-blair-attack-iran-cheney-iraq_n_706116.html

Why is Tony Blair saying nice things of any kind about Dick Cheney? Even if you stand by your claim that the Iraqi invasion was absolutely necessary, you don’t have to agree with Cheney about his ideological worldview.

Dick Cheney believes in a hard-line approach because he is out of touch with the reality that hard-line approaches always results in lots of casualties, military and civilian alike. Look no further than what the hard-line Israelis have done over the past few years.

With regards to Iran, perhaps I am in no position to harshly criticize Blair’s views, because I am unfamiliar with the circumstances that he was under that has prompted him to possess those views. But speaking from my education and what I’ve learned (my History BA Degree is a concentration in Middle Eastern history), the Middle East is an immensely complex region that cannot, and must not, be simplified into ‘who’s good’, ‘who’s evil’, ‘who ought to be contained’, etc. Countries such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey, while somewhat volatile in their own right, act as a natural barrier in containing the more ‘dangerous’ countries such as Iran, and to lesser degrees, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Why is Iran a threat? Not because of its people, but because the government is currently headed up a selected group of unique nut jobs (radicals with extreme views, being the better term). President Ahmedinejad has the backing of Ayatollah Khamenei. The country itself, in terms of political / social progress and human rights, is miles ahead of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, infamous for its suppression of human rights.

So why has Tony Blair, and the rest of the Western World, been doing next to nothing to help rid the dictatorships of these countries? The obvious reason is of course business interests. The oil-addicted Western World dare not mess with its main source of supply.

I, along with a lot of political commentators in Canada and the US, have been under the impression that Tony Blair is a very smart and savvy politician. And I’m trying to make sense of Blair’s believe to leave military action against Iran on the table. I can’t, because it doesn’t make sense.

Maybe David Cameron will bring something new for Britain’s foreign policy agenda. Then again, maybe not.