November 23, 2006

March 14 Wins the Day

Blacksmiths of Lebanon reported, and Naharnet confirmed, that Minsiter Hasan Al Sabaa has returned to the Lebanese cabinet after resigning last year in the wake of the Danish cartoon riot fiasco. The axis's strategy to murder the cabinet just got a bit harder.

Meanwhile, my friend Carine (who sometimes appears in the comments) went to Pierre Gemayel's funeral and posted photos.

War No More.jpg

Happy (belated) Independence Day to Lebanon.

UPDATE: Just a thought here...How different a country would Lebanon be if people at a "March 8" rally (Hezbollah+Amal+Aoun) held up banners that said WAR NO MORE?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:01 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Shove Your Civil War

Gemayel Funeral.jpg

Hezbollah called off today’s scheduled “festivities” in downtown Beirut as Lebanon mourns the latest victim of assassination, Pierre Gemayel.

Shove Your Civil War.jpg

Lebanon’s hostility to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis has been re-energized. March 14 is still a force to be reckoned with.

Photos courtesy of the BBC.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

Hugh Hewitt Interview

Hugh Hewitt interviewed me on his national radio show yesterday about what's happening in Lebanon now. Go here to listen. At the time of this posting, my interview is the third item on the list.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

November 22, 2006

Burning Aoun


Lebanese Christians tore down and burned portraits of Hezbollah’s tactical Christian ally Michel Aoun in Sassine Square (Achrafieh, Beirut) and elsewhere in the city.

When I first moved to Beirut, Bashir Gemayel's portrait hovered over that square like a deity, around the corner from a shopping mall and across the street from a Starbucks. Bashir was assassinated shortly after being elected president of Lebanon in 1982, most likely for his anti-Syrian, anti-Palestinian, and pro-Israeli position. Pierre Gemayel, murdered just yesterday, was his nephew.

I'm not sure when, exactly, but at some point Michel Aoun's portrait went up in Sassine. It looks like the ghost of Bashir owns the square again now.

(Note: the particular incident shown in the video is not the torching of the Sassine Square portrait. That portrait was bigger, and its burning seems to have taken place off-camera.)

UPDATE: Mustapha at Beirut Spring says "today will herald a new age of Hezbollah Isolation," since Aoun's group is attending Gemayel's funeral. He may well be right. Hezbollah, properly cowed by the Lebanese majority, cancelled their scheduled riot today.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:04 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Blowback

Hezbollah's tactical Christian ally Michel Aoun has asked members of his party to attend Pierre Gemayel's funeral in Beirut tomorrow, the same day that Hezbollah is threatening to take to the streets.

The "alliance" between Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah is not a sincere one. It may or may not be able to withstand coming events. I seriously doubt it has any long-term viability. I met two members of Aoun's movement who wanted to kill Hezbollah members even before Nasrallah strapped a suicide-bomb belt on Lebanon this summer.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:25 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Keystone Terrorists

Tony Badran has the latest on Syria's transparent and laughably clumsy attempts to find a plausible "fall guy" for the murder of Pierre Gemayel. At least Damascus has enough sense to avoid blaming the Israelis for murdering a leader of the most historically pro-Israel political party in Lebanon.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:13 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

The Stage is Set – Updated

From Stratfor:

The Lebanese army already has deployed four brigades to greater Beirut to assume combat readiness in case Hezbollah forces attack Sunnis in West Beirut. Lebanon's Sunni bloc, led by the al-Hariri clan and their regional Arab allies, also has sent a number of fighters to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to receive military training in order to counter Hezbollah's well-equipped and well-trained military forces. In the meantime, Syria continues to send reinforcements to its allies in Lebanon. Syrian army officers who previously served in Lebanon have infiltrated the country and are leading combat units of their allies in Hezbollah, pro-Syrian groups and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Furthermore, about 2,500 Syrian troops masquerading as laborers have joined the ranks of the anti-government forces in Lebanon.
UPDATE: Lebanese readers in the comments (and not just the crazy "anonymous" one) think this excerpt from Stratfor is b.s. Maybe it is. I pulled it off a Lebanese blog, and the commenters don't have much of an argument against it. But you can't prove a negative and it isn't passing the smell test.

Stratfor has sources that I don't have, and that the Lebanese commenters don't have. And Stratfor is more reliable than DEBKAfile, which I refuse to quote, ever. So let me just tag this one as controversial. I can't stand by it because I didn't write it, but I also don't have any evidence that it's false.

Faysal, the Sunni Lebanese who posted this on his blog, said in his comments section: "STRATFOR is a private intelligence firm with very close ties to the CIA. They have credibility. And I can confirm the arming and training of Sunni and Christian factions from sources in Lebanon." But I don't know Faysal, and I don't know his sources.

There was a great deal of talk in Lebanon even before the July war about other groups and parties re-arming themselves in response to Hezbollah. And some of my trusted and reliable Lebanese sources and friends agree that West Beirut is a lot more dangerous now than it was and that there could be clashes there. We'll see what happens.

UPDATE: Ok, more Lebanese whom I do know and trust also say this is bogus. I will take their word for it. Bogus it is.

UPDATE: Lebanese blogger Bad Vilbel adds in the comments -- and I know he's right about this:

Just because i don't buy the "Sunnis and Christians training in Jordan" doesn't mean I don't think they are arming themselves. In fact, I am pretty sure they are. These folks were never "disarmed" in the first place. Everyone in Lebanon has weapons (and I don't mean little handguns here). If violence were to break out today, Hezbollah might be the best organized and financed, but I can guarantee that both the Christians and the Sunnis, and most certainly the druze are armed and ready to go (as sad as that may sound).

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:38 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

Oops

I don't know if this is true, so take it for what it's worth. From Blacksmiths of Lebanon:

Al Seyassah daily learned from authoritative sources in Beirut, that one of the editors of the Syrian National News Agency (SANA) placed a phone call to a pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper at 3:05 pm on Tuesday. The caller inquired about the details of the assassination of Lebanese Minister for Industry Pierre Gemayel, raising eyebrows at the Lebanese newpaper. The timing of phone call was 55 minutes before the assassination was carried out.

Ten minutes after the call was place, the Syrian editor placed another phone call in order to apologize for a misunderstanding.

Link to original in Arabic.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:25 AM | Permalink | Comments Off
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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