February 13, 2007

The Fiercest Liberal in Lebanon

BEIRUT – I met the wizened Druze warlord and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt during Hezbollah’s ongoing slow-motion putsch to topple Lebanon’s government. No other high-profile “March 14” leader matches Jumblatt’s fierce opposition to Syria’s Assad regime, its Iranian patron, and its Hezbollah proxy militia. He spends most of his time in his castle at Mukhtara high above Beirut in the Chouf mountains, but he took time out between meeting members of the Socialist International at his house in the capital to meet me for coffee in his salon.

Jumblatt’s history with the imperial Baath government is a long and twisting one. His father Kamal was assassinated by Syrian agents during the civil war in 1977. The details of the assassination are shrouded in mystery even today. In the most common version Baath-aligned terrorists in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party pulled the trigger. Another (unreliable) version of the story goes like this, as told to me by a young Druze friend while we stood on the murder site in the Chouf: Kamal Jumblatt was ambushed on the forested road by two Palestinian gunmen. The Palestinian hit men reported to Damascus after the deed was finished. Two Syrian exterminators then shot Assad’s Palestinian agents and buried them in the desert. The two Syrian hit men were then murdered by yet two more Syrian hit men, all the better to cover the tracks of original and cover-up crimes.

I don’t know what actually happened. Syria’s decades-long assassination and terrorist war in and against Lebanon has always been fought, serial killer style, from the shadows. Diabolical theories about the precise methods of Syrian terrorism serve Syrian interests just as much as the murders themselves serve Syrian interests.

Shortly after inheriting his father’s leadership position, Walid Jumblatt was summoned to Damascus by its ruthless ruler Hafez Assad. When he meekly objected to what the Syrian regime expected of him, Assad smiled and lovingly said “You know, Walid, I look at you sitting there and you remind me exactly of your dear father.”

Hafez Assad Black and White.jpg
Former Syrian dictator Hafez Assad

A Lebanese friend drove me to his house and warned me that security would be tight at the gate. “The Syrians, Michael, if they catch him they will cut off his head.”

Sure enough Jumblatt’s security agents leapt from their plastic chairs and aggressively approached me at the entrance. They weren’t hostile, as Hezbollah’s security agents often are, but they moved fast as though they expected I might draw a weapon and open fire at any moment.

My bulky Nikon D-200 hung around my neck from its strap.

“Turn on the flash,” said the lead security agent. “Then point your camera at the ground and take a picture.”

I did.

Security Photo Outside Jumblatt House.jpg

Then I flashed him my passport. The security guys seemed satisfied. My nationality probably made things a bit easier. The Syrians would have a hard time finding an American willing to assassinate a popular pro-American member of Lebanon’s parliament.

European members of the Socialist International were leaving Jumblatt’s house as I arrived. He wore a dark suit and waited for me in the shadows of late Winter evening on the side of the path leading up to the house. He greeted me coolly, professionally, and a little bit tiredly, as though he had spent most of the day meeting someone or other and would rather put his feet up and knock back a drink after an exhausting day. Lebanese politics are dangerous and stressful enough when things are calm. The Hezbollah crisis had barely let up since July when Jumblatt told the Wall Street Journal that he saw “darkness everywhere.”

He led me into the house. I asked if I could take a quick picture.

“Of course,” he said and stood next to a portrait of himself in his younger days when he was still on the radical left, before he became a Lebanese version of a neoconservative.

Walid Jumblatt Beirut House.jpg

None of the labels I affix to Jumblatt completely apply. He belongs to the Socialist International, but his economic policies are no longer related in any meaningful way to the ideas of Karl Marx. He is sort of a neoconservative insofar as he hails from the left yet credits regime-change in Iraq with Lebanon’s national interest. He goes even further than American neoconservatives, though, and calls for regime-change in Syria. He’s a liberal in the general sense of the word, especially by Middle Eastern standards, yet he’s also a feudal warlord and former militia leader who lives in an ancestral castle.

Progressive Socialist Party Flag.jpg
Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party Flag

“What do you think Hassan Nasrallah wants most right now?” I said. “Does he want power in Lebanon, war with Israel, or is he working on behalf of the Syrians?”

“Hassan Nasrallah is the representative officially of [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei,” he said. “Khamenei has declared that he wants to overthrow the actual government and to replace it. Syria is becoming a satellite of Iran. They want to use Lebanon as a battleground or as a bargaining card. This is what they have done in the summer time, when they declared the war, when Nasrallah declared the war against Israelis. They want to make Lebanon a satellite of Iran and Syria.”

“Do you think Hezbollah will ever disarm peacefully,” I said, “or will it require force?”

“Nobody in Lebanon said or believed it was possible to disarm Hezbollah by force,” he said. “But nobody else also…as a Lebanese I don’t accept a state within a state. We have a state within a state. And a separate army, the Hezbollah army, next to the official army. Their intelligence is stronger than our intelligence. They control part of Lebanon without the possibility of the Lebanese state to enter it and enforce law and order. That’s the situation.”

“So what do you think the solution is?” I said.

“The solution is not in Lebanon,” he said. “The solution is in Tehran.”

As far as I know Walid Jumblatt has never called for regime-change in Iran, nor do I think that’s what he’s saying today. He is right either way, though, that the solution to Hezbollah is not inside Lebanon. Hezbollah is the Lebanese franchise and creation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Israel damaged and partly disarmed Hezbollah last summer, but Hezbollah has reacquired all their lost missiles and arms from Iran via Syria. As long as some Lebanese allow themselves to be used as Iranian proxies, Hezbollah will continue to exist until the Iranian regime ceases to exist or is contained. The Lebanese army can’t be expected to take on the Iranians and the Syrians any more than tiny Kuwait could liberate itself from Iraq in 1990.

“The solution is in Tehran,” he said again. “In the summer time they launched a kind of pre-emptive war against the Americans and the Israelis and we had to suffer as Lebanese a struggle which we don’t have anything to do with. In summer time we were expecting two million tourists. Nobody came. Now downtown is closed, hotels are closed, nobody’s coming from the Arab world, no tourists, that’s it. It’s not only the political implication, the economic implication of Iranian policy through the Syrian regime in Lebanon.”

“Do you think UNIFIL is effective?” UNIFL is the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon which lacks the authorization to disarm Hezbollah by force.

“I think if they can,” he said, “if they are able – Nasrallah and company – if they are able to overthrow the actual government by any means, I think it means reducing the impact of UNIFIL. Because they want the South as a free zone for them. They don’t want to reinforce UNIFIL with the Lebanese army. They want the South as it used to be, under their total control at any time to be used for their own purpose, and their own purpose depends on the will of the Iranians. The Iranians, to prevent pressures on their nuclear facility, are using Lebanon.”

“Do you know about the Iraq Study Group in the United States headed by James Baker?”

“Yes,” he said.

Former Secretary of State James Baker is widely detested in Lebanon because he green-lighted the Syrian occupation in exchange for Syria’s “help” in ousting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Baker hails from the school of amoral right-wing “realism,” but even he today recognizes Syria cannot be allowed to return to Lebanon.

“What do you think about their proposals right now?” I said.

“It’s excellent because it calls for the cooperation of the Syrians in the international tribunal for the assassination of Hariri and the others,” he said. “And to stop the flow of weapons and ammunition and terrorists coming in from Syria to Lebanon, for Hezbollah mainly – which is excellent – and to respect Lebanon’s international resolutions starting with 1559 and then 1701. I’m speaking about the Lebanese aspect, it is good. The Iraqi aspect I haven’t elaborated on.”

“Why do you suppose Bashar al-Assad is so afraid of the Hariri tribunal?” I said. “Everybody already knows he’s guilty.”

Bashar Assad in Sunglasses.jpg
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad

The main reason Syria wants a new Lebanese government is so Beirut will not authorize a United Nations trial for the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah has fought the creation of the anti-terrorist tribunal since the idea was floated.

“Because they killed Hariri,” he said. “If [Assad] wasn’t that nervous and if he wasn’t enhancing his people – Nasrallah and others – to block the process of the tribunal…it means that he’s guilty.”

“Right,” I said. “But we all know he’s guilty anyway.”

“Yes, okay,” he said. “But I mean blocking the tribunal will delay his indictments.”

What most frightens Assad is that an international conviction against him and his government might authorize an American-led regime-change campaign in Damascus. Few Americans actually want that, though, mostly because of what is happening right now in Iraq. Assad’s role in Iraq’s destabilization is an effective life-insurance policy.

“Do you think if the Assad regime is removed by force,” I said, “that Syria would have the same kind of problems Iraq has?”

“I don’t think so,” he said. “They don’t have the same problem like Iraq. They don’t have an ethnic problem in Syria. Not all the Syrians are Muslim Brotherhood. You have the Muslim Brotherhood, you have the Arabs, you have the Turks, you have Turkmens, you have the Kurds. I think Syria is a different phenomenon than Iraq. And you have also the army. Syria of course is now robbed, is captured, is kidnapped by Bashar and his clique.”

I suspect Jumblatt is wrong about Syria. There is a Sunni majority in Syria, but somewhere around ten percent are Christians, ten percent are Alawites, and another ten percent are Kurds. Syria is relatively homogenous compared with Lebanon and Iraq, but it’s still a tangled ethnic and sectarian mess ruled by the (heretical according to Muslims) Alawite religious minority.

My guess is Jumblatt is trying to downplay fears of a post-Assad Syria in order to increase support for regime-change in Syria which without a doubt would benefit Lebanon. But it’s hard to say. Everything Walid Jumblatt says is carefully calibrated for public consumption in several countries at once, including Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, France, and the United States. He is not always easy to read, and I don’t recommend taking everything he says at face value.

“Does the Shebba Farms really belong to Lebanon,” I said, “or is this a Syrian ploy?”

The Shebba Farms is a tiny area occupied by Israel that is recognized by the United Nations as Syrian land, as a part of the Golan Heights. But Hezbollah claims the Shebba Farms are Lebanese as a justification for their violent “resistance.”

It is a Hezbollah ploy. When Israel withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah didn’t raise the issue of the Shebba Farms until after the United Nations approved Israel’s full withdrawal. Hezbollah requires some outstanding issue between Israel and Lebanon, legitimate or manufactured, as an excuse to exist as a state-within-a-state and an illegal warmongering militia.

The same goes with the Syrians. Totalitarian rule based on the “Emergency Law” is supposedly necessary because of the unending war with Israel to retrieve the Golan. Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory knocks out the supports from underneath terrorist and Arab dictatorship propaganda. Assad can’t have it, and neither can Hezbollah. There always has to be more to demand.

“Officially speaking [Shebba Farms] doesn’t belong to Lebanon,” Jumblatt said. “It’s up to the Syrian government to acknowledge officially that Shebba Farms is Lebanese, to sign with the Lebanese government a document. This document should be sent later on to the United Nations. In such a case Shebba Farms would be Lebanese. But Shebba Farms is not Lebanese.”

Jumblatt is something of a radical, but he is not on the fringe of Lebanon’s politics. He occupies Lebanon’s radical center, which is why his answers to questions like these are important. He is a one-man public opinion barometer.

The Druze are always centrists of sorts. They are a minority in every country in which they reside. There is no Druzistan anywhere and probably never will be. They have learned over time that it’s safest to be weathervanes and join the mainstream wherever they live to avoid persecution. When the fervor of Arab Nationalism swept Lebanon, the Druze became Arab Nationalists. When Lebanon was forced to be pro-Syrian, the Druze were pro-Syrian. Since March 14, 2005, the Druze have been the most solidly pro-American and staunchly anti-Syrian group in the country. If Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah were the strong horse he’s portrayed to be, you could bet your bottom dollar Walid Jumblatt would be his friend. Instead he accuses Nasrallah of having a hand in the car-bombing assassinations of Lebanese politicians and journalists.

“Do you think Bashar al-Assad wants the Golan Heights back,” I said,
"or is it more convenient for him…”

“It’s more convenient for him if it stay like this,” he said.

Of course because, like I said, the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights is the foundation of totalitarian rule in Damascus.

“From 1974 the Golan Heights were under the process of disengagement treaty,” Jumblatt continued. “Part of it with Syria and the other part of it with Israel. But not a single bullet. And he just wanted…they kept it like this. And they used Lebanon as a pretext for the so-called propaganda, saying we want to fight the Israelis, but they were always fighting in Lebanon. Removing the pretext of Shebba Farms and removing the Golan as proposed by the Baker approach, I mean having the Golan demilitarized or even having US forces there, will remove all the pretext of the Syrian regime for their propaganda.”

“Who do you think won the war in July?” I said.

“We paid as Lebanese a heavy toll,” he said, “an economic toll and a civilian toll, okay? Of course we have to say, acknowledge, that the fighters of Hezbollah did well. Okay? It’s a brigade, an Iranian brigade fighting in the South of Lebanon. But it’s not Lebanon that won the war. Israelis did not win the war, but they destroyed our country.”

“Which country is more dangerous to Lebanon?” I said. “Israel or Syria?”

“Both together,” he said and laughed. “Israel and the Syrian regime, okay?”

Most Lebanese I know insist Syria is the greater enemy, but saying they are both equally dangerous is, I suppose, the “centrist” position in Lebanon.

“What do you think Israel should have done differently in July after Hezbollah kidnapped their soldiers?” I said.

“I think they, Hezbollah, started the war to avoid the basic issue, which is the tribunal,” he said. “I think so. Although the Seniora government supported Hezbollah, politically speaking, and refused a Chapter 7 version of 1701…a week later Nasrallah declared in his interview with Al Jazeera that he started the process of stopping the government. He said it’s time for a government of national unity. And from that time on Seniora and myself and Saad Hariri and others [have been] considered traitors and were….this whole propaganda about how we were helping or giving information to the Israelis. All this came from Tehran.”

Always the cautious politician with a multinational audience in mind, he did not answer my question. What should the Israelis have done? Huge numbers of Lebanese say the Israelis should have bombed Syria. But Jumblatt is a Member of Parliament and has to be careful. It’s one thing to say the Americans should bomb Syria, but another thing to say the dreaded “Zionist Entity” should have done it.

“Can you explain to an American audience,” I said, “what Lebanese mean when they say Lebanon will be the last country to make peace with Israel?”

“Because Lebanon is a composition of various confessions and communities,” he said. “We are suffering from a huge and quite important Palestinian Diaspora, maybe 200,000 or 300,000 Palestinians here. And we have an aggressive neighbor called Syria. It’s safer for us when the Syrians sign a peace with Israel for us to sign a peace with Israel. That’s it. We cannot ask to sign a peace unilaterally without having the Syrians first signing the peace.”

“What can the United States do to improve its image in Lebanon?” I said.

“The United States did a lot helping Lebanon,” he said. “The West, with France, with Chirac, the United States in 2005 thanks to the administration got the Syrians officially out of Lebanon. Thanks to this administration and the West we got so many important resolutions from, of course, from 1559 until the latest one 1701. Of course United Nations resolutions are good, but faced with rogue states like Syria, something else. Faced with pirates like the Syrian regime, something else. The image of the United States is bad in the Arab world because of the question of Palestine. In Lebanon the image of the United States is good among part of the population.”

“During the July War you said the Lebanese government was in danger of becoming weak like the government of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq,” I said.

“What I predicted is now a fact,” he said. “The Lebanese government included the ministers of Hezbollah who have resigned. The Lebanese government, after all, is a coalition between us and the others. But we have to specify, who are the others? It’s not like a coalition in a normal state where you have a coalition with other partners. Here we have a coalition between the official state and the other state. We have a parallel state. So we are not speaking with somebody else who is at the same table with equal terms. This somebody is else is aiming a rocket at our heads. Not only guns, rockets.” He laughed darkly. Lebanese do that a lot.

“Do you think the international community, including the US and France, is doing enough to help the Lebanese government?” I said.

“They have done a lot,” he said. “But of course now Lebanon is part of this regional struggle from one side – Russia, Iran, and Syria – and from the other side – America, the West, and us. We are unlucky. It’s like Poland in 1940 or 1939, divided between the Russians and the Germans.”

“How likely is another civil war in Lebanon?” I said.

“The only army or militia which has terrific weapons and is well organized is Hezbollah,” he said. “But if they want establish their rule over the entire country it would lead to sectarian strife. This is why we say always it is better to engage in a dialogue. Again, though, a dialogue with whom? I mean, it’s not a local dialogue. We are speaking to a foreign power.”

The Druze are mainstream as much as anyone can be in a polarized country like Lebanon that is torn in two and dominated, in part, by foreign dictatorships. At the same time, though, they have a radical streak that scares the hell out of their enemies and even sometimes their friends. And old saw in Lebanon says you should “eat with the Druze, but sleep with the Christians.”

Chouf Mountains Valley.jpg
The Chouf mountains, homeland of the Druze

If Lebanon does descend into sectarian strife, as Jumblatt warned in might, Hezbollah will seriously have to reckon with the Druze despite their small numbers (around 200,000 out of four million.) Ask anyone who fought in Lebanon’s civil war who scared them the most. The majority will probably answer “the Druze.” The Druze believe in reincarnation. The Druze feel they have nothing to lose. The Druze don’t want to fight, but when they do they never surrender. These cultural traits cross international boundaries.

Israeli Druze are intensely loyal to the state of Israel despite the fact that they’re “Arabs.” They serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and do rough work in the occupied territories. The Palestinians hate them and say they are traitors.

If Walid Jumblatt orders his community to come down out of the mountains and launch an armed human wave assault on Hezbollah’s dahiyeh, they will do it. They are outgunned and outnumbered by Hezbollah’s base of support, but they’re fierce when they fight and they fight more competently than most Arab fighters. Some Israeli Druze units in Lebanon suffered fewer casualties per capita than their Jewish counterparts, and they may be refashioned as an elite.

“The Bush Administration credits regime-change in Iraq with forcing the Syrians out of Lebanon,” I said. “Do you agree with that analysis?”

I already knew he agreed with that analysis at least in the past, when the Iraq war was going still going “well” – assuming that ever really was true. What I wanted to know is if he still thought so. Jumblatt jumps around a lot ideologically. He rarely stays in one place for too long unless it is safe.

"It's strange for me to say it,” he said when the war in Iraq looked like less of a quagmire than it does now. “But this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world…The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Here is what he thinks now: “The Bush Administration did well in Iraq. There was no way to topple Saddam Hussein without invading Iraq. Yes. But there were major mistakes committed when they decided to dismantle the Iraqi army. This was a major mistake which led later on to the actual civil war. It would have been better to keep the Iraqi army, to clean it of criminal elements, and to have a formula for a federated Iraq. Now it’s too late.”

“Do you think the Iraq war is related to Syria leaving Lebanon?” I said. “That if the US did not invade Iraq, would Bashar al-Assad have left Lebanon as quickly…”

“No, no,” he said “Bashar al-Assad wouldn’t have left Lebanon, ever. Bashar al-Assad by imposing [Lebanese President Emile] Lahoud, and when he started the series of Syrian crimes, and mainly when he killed Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese people said no. And we are still saying no. Because, I mean, the murders haven’t stopped. We buried another comrade, Minister and Member of Parliament Pierre Gemayel. Lebanon was very important for the Syrians, mainly for the family, the Assad family. They plundered Lebanon.”

Walid Jumblatt, like most members of Lebanon’s government, acquiesced to Syria’s domination of Lebanon and became “pro-Syrian.” Some Lebanese politicians, Suleiman Franjieh for instance, have been bought by Syrian carrots. Others, like Jumblatt and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, were corralled there by Syrian sticks. Hariri and Jumblatt were always the least convincing “pro-Syrians” of the lot during the occupation.

Bashar Assad knew it, too, and not only because his father thought he had to murder Walid Jumblatt’s father. Shortly before Hariri was assassinated by Syrian death squads, Assad threatened him in Damascus over the illegal extension of Lebanon’s puppet President Emile Lahoud. “Lahoud is me,” Assad said. “If you and Chirac want me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon on your head and Jumblatt’s.”

“If the US loses the war in Iraq,” I said, “do you think it will be bad for Lebanon?”

Walid Jumblatt thought for a very long time before he answered that question. I could see his mind working cautiously, calibrating his response as he always does. The fiercest liberal in Lebanon said the following very carefully:

“It would be bad for Lebanon and for the Middle East if the US withdraws from the Middle East. Because we will face a different Arab and Muslim world. It is very strange and ironic that even the pro-Iranians in Iraq are asking the Americans to stay. You could write a theater about it. Making the Americans totally withdraw from the Arab world would be a mistake, would be a disaster for the moderates in the Arab world. The radicals and the Iranians would win.”

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 13, 2007 12:40 AM
Comments

if only lebanon (gov't) would negotiate with israel over the shebaa farms, other fringe spots of turf for some sort of a peace deal and remove much of hizbullah's raison d'etre.

oh well, let's just gird for war.

Posted by: abu yussif at February 13, 2007 02:19 AM

abu yussif.

Issue is not Shebaa Farms, issue is existance of Israel.

If Israel were to return Shebaa Farms it will have to return it to Syria and not to Lebanon. I doubt very much, should it happen, HA will go to war with Syria.

Posted by: leo at February 13, 2007 06:17 AM

Abu Yussif

I, unfortunately, agree with Leo. The presence if Jews, Zionists, 'the entity', etc, is the pretext Hizbullah needs for war, regardless of the true Lebanese position.

It's a fact that Lebanon should be the FIRST country to make peace with Israel, not the last.

We have so much in common (Pro-west, liberal democratic values, beer and wine flowing the salmon of "capostrano"), it makes me sick to think what Lebanon and Israel could build on the gorgeous Med coast.

Beirut to Tel Aviv by boat at night.

I can dream.

Posted by: AG in Houston at February 13, 2007 06:46 AM

leo & ag,
syria has informally ceded the farms to lebanon. anyway, as long as hizbullah says they are lebanese, they are de facto lebanese. and hizbullah claims other border land that has nothing to do with syria.

what i'm talking about is a peace deal along the lines of what israel has with jordan and egypt. both countries would like to see jews cleared from the region, but there is a peace accord that makes a difference. that would be a dream come true as far as i'm concerned. (ag - i got the lloyd christmas quote, gripes!)

Posted by: abu yussif at February 13, 2007 07:02 AM

Abu Yussif

It can be better than the cold peace with Jordan and Egypt. We actually want peace.

Think about it, Tel Aviv to Beirut and back. Bar hopping, beach hopping and a ton of sights.

I think Jordan wanted peace. I wonder about Egypt.

I am glad you got the Lloyd Christmas reference.

Posted by: AG in Houston at February 13, 2007 07:09 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 02/13/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by: David M at February 13, 2007 08:17 AM

Do you think Mr. Jumblatt meant that the combination of Israel and Syria is dangerous, or actually both of them?

Posted by: seguin at February 13, 2007 08:18 AM

MJT,

Jumblatt's interview was interesting, but didn't reveal more of the man than most people already knew (except maybe the portion of your audience who are novices to Lebanese politics). The guy's one of the most calculating and inconsistent politicians in Lebanon and it's served him very well. While I agree with his current nationalistic position, I remember his past marriage-of-convenience with Syria too well and all the benefits he reaped from that relationship (I guess the same goes for all of Lebanon's current politicos who were/are heads of militias - which is to say, all of them!).

Cynically (hey, I'm Lebanese), I often wonder if the tides change and Syria, by some malevolent twist, returns to Lebanon and the West abandons it (again), how many of these anti-Syrian politicians will remain wedded to their current nationalism...?

I'm grateful for your keen grasp of Lebanon and it's politics - something even most of us Lebanese can't claim to have... Keep up the great work.

Posted by: Boomaxer at February 13, 2007 08:25 AM

Jumblatt is notorious for making wry jokes. Did he say anything funny while you were with him?

Knowing him, his rhetoric sounds tired in the interview. As you note, it seems like he just spent a long day making the same point over and over and wants a hard drink to relieve the stress.

Posted by: Charles Malik at February 13, 2007 09:05 AM

Abu Yussif, I am dealing with this sort of personality right now on a personal level. In this US, this person is called a "batterer", a domestic violence abuser. Even though the circumstances are very different, the ideology is the same.

Shebba Farms is not the issue. It is a false prop to justify the aggression. If Shebba Farms were given to Lebanon free and clear, Hezbollah would just find a different cause to be fight over. Give them that and they will find another. It's not the item/cause that's important, it's having something unresolved to fight over that they want.

Posted by: MichaelV at February 13, 2007 09:38 AM

michaelv,
is there a solution or a better suggestion in this day? should we all wait unti these people reform themselves?

hizbullah is fiercely opposed to israel but it faces the pressure of being and appearing authentically "lebanese". if the majority of lebanese support the notion of peace with israel, hizbullah would not change. it talks about the "will of the lebanese people" and can't break away from that without harming it's own minority position.

a cold peace is not healthy, but it is better than what there is now. and who would have thought that peace with egypt and jordan would have lasted this long? heck, we can travel to both of those places and that's something.

Posted by: abu yussif at February 13, 2007 09:49 AM

It's kind of odd that Mr. Totten interviews those figures who reaffirm his beliefs. Journalism decries cheerleaders.

A quick question then; have you ever interviewed a Syrian official? If not, how could your position be anything but myopic. If so, what did you learn. Now, please don't reference Hizballah or Pro-Syrian Lebanese. Syrians sir, those you so unabashedly demonize.

I am sorry if I'm violating your terms of service, as I disagree with you. But most truly, for one to listen to many, that is freedom of thought.

Posted by: Harbook at February 13, 2007 10:37 AM

MJT,

The Druze do not need to launch a "human wave" against dahyeh. All they have to do is cut the Jyeh road and, with their Christian allies, the moutain passes and the Beqaa.

And then wait some time; the South and the Daheyh will be completely encircled. Only the Beqaa could somewhat survive. Hezb's rockets will do little in such a war; Lebanon has endured more than 4,000 a day, and Nasrallah little arsenal will be spent in less than a week.

However, the result would be gruesomely genocidal; this is maybe what forced Nasrallah to reconsider, after he met fierce resistance in Tariq Jdideh.

Posted by: Jeha at February 13, 2007 11:56 AM

Syria can 'ceed' whatever they like to Lebanon for whatever pretexts- because as far as Assad is concerned Lebanon is simply a breakaway province of Syria. Check a Syrian map sometime.

Posted by: mark Buehner at February 13, 2007 12:05 PM

Cannot help but observe the illusions/delusions here:

1. The problem is not lebanon/israel, it is islamism vs the west. it is at least regional. and in that battle the west is losing

2. We have seen what interviews with Syria are e.g. Diane Sawyer's. Waste of time.

3. Political talk is cheap and they all have several faces, particularly in the ME.

The rest is commentary

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 01:58 PM

http://abcnews.go.com/International/CSM/story?id=2870107

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 02:19 PM

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/brian_whitaker/2007/02/events_in_lebanon_have_taken.html

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 03:21 PM

fp is correct.

The real context to understand when dealing with the arab, is that of jihadism. MJT does his readers a great disservice by downplaying this most viral of memes in his political reports. Jihadism infects everything in the ME. There will be no peace in the ME (or anywhere where muslims are) until those of muslim background renounce Jihadism. Personally, I don't think that will happen. What I think will happen, and probably in my lifetime, is a nuclear mass extermination of muslims.

Posted by: redactor at February 13, 2007 03:47 PM

It is more likely that a situation just like the one before WW2 will develop: the west will continue to appease the jihadists until they practically live under dhimmitude. The awakening will be marginally gradual as it was with the nazis, and at some point the west may or may not realize it has to fight. Whether by that time they it will be able to defeat the jihadists is unclear. The demographics are nothing like those before WW2, the US is on its last legs (the fact that the collapse will take a long time does not negate the process, helped by the idiocy of Russia and Europe), parts of Europe are already under sharia law and it does not replicate itself). This situation does not lend itself to a nuclear solution.

The big question is what China and India will do, IF they can overcome the end of fossile energy.

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 04:15 PM

Jumblatt looks incredibly tired in your photo.

On my way home from work I heard on radio about some bus bombings in a mountainous Christian village not far from Beirut -- any insight into what's up? The news reader said it might be a warning to Christians not to go in to the Hariri memorial in Beirut tomorrow, or it could be because the Lebanese gov't crept a hair closer to approving the Tribunal yesterday.

A Lebanese low-level gov't guy said they've been bracing for another big political or journalist assassination for about the last week, but attacking civilians is below the belt, and looks like a clear attempt to foment sectarian war.

Posted by: Pam at February 13, 2007 05:32 PM

But not too tired to put Israel and Syria in the same category.

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 05:49 PM

So, who do we think was behind the Bifkaya bus bombings? In Lebanon sometimes it's impossible to know. It could be Syrian agents (using Palestinians or pro-Syrian Lebanese), Hezbollah, the Mossad (KIDDING) ... seriously, is anybody willing to go out on a limb and make a guess?

Posted by: Zak at February 13, 2007 05:59 PM

fp, if Israel doesn't want to be in that category maybe Israel should work with Lebanon against their common enemies instead of bombing Lebanon and working to keep the Baath Party in power.

You can't expect Lebanese to think of Israelis as friends after all that has happened. Jihad has nothing to do with it. Druze aren't jihadists. They aren't Muslims, and they won't let you convert even if you wanted to. And anyway Israeli Druze are pro-Zionist.

If Israel went to war against Syria, Jumblatt would say something else and Lebanese would feel safer making a separate peace without Syrian permission. But if Israel bombs Lebanon and insists on preserving the Assad regime forever, Lebanese will continue thinking of Israel as the enemy.

Lebanese could handle the situation much better and more maturely, but they are in a crappy position and Israel isn't helping.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 13, 2007 06:01 PM

Zak,

It was the Syrians or their Lebanese hit men. More likely SSNP than Hezbollah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 13, 2007 06:03 PM

Michael,

Don't teach me about the ME. With all due respect, your knowledge about it notwithstanding, I lived there for 18 years and participated in two wars. So please.

1st, I did not associate druzes with jihad.

2nd, Your desire to see Lebanon's problems solved by Israel and the west bombing Syria is quite naive for somebody who agrees the problems are regional.

3rd, I do not expect the Lebanese to be friends with Israel, even though the butts of some of them were saved by Israel. But given what they get from Syria, putting the 2 in the sam category is just evidence that not many leaders in lebanon have the guts to admit the difference between the two.

4th, I stated several times that the management of the war in lebanon was incompetent, and that the Israelis have forgot how to fight creatively and effectively. But incompetence under fire is not the same as what Syria does to Lebanon.

5th, as to cooperation with the lebanese, even in the absence of the war, nobody in Lebanon would have the guts to cooperate with Israel, which Jumblatt very explicitly stated, and which was the point of my comment to which you responded.

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 06:19 PM

Zak,

One does not have to go on a limb to make a guess. I am not even sure one must guess.

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 06:23 PM

fp: Don't teach me about the ME. With all due respect, your knowledge about it notwithstanding, I lived there for 18 years and participated in two wars. So please.

You have more experience than I do, but I have experience in different places. I'm not trying to "teach" you anything, just having a discussion. If I had nothing to offer I guess you wouldn't bother reading my blog.

But incompetence under fire is not the same as what Syria does to Lebanon.

I agree, which is why my criticisms of Israel and Syria are vastly different in kind and in tone, and why I sympathize with Israel and not with Syria.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 13, 2007 06:25 PM

[...]

Cynically (hey, I'm Lebanese), I often wonder if the tides change and Syria, by some malevolent twist, returns to Lebanon and the West abandons it (again), how many of these anti-Syrian politicians will remain wedded to their current nationalism...?

That's easy to answer... all of the ones who want to keep breathing.

There are many in the middle east who accept a boot on their neck as the price of survival. It's the reason people like Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, and so many others held power for so long.

Americans have a difficult time understanding this.

Posted by: rosignol at February 13, 2007 07:58 PM

Just goes to show that even a guy photographed wearing Jordache Jeans during the days of Saturday Night Fever can have a road to Damascus epiphany.

Posted by: Pat Patterson at February 13, 2007 08:52 PM

Two possible explanations for the security guards' order:

1. My late father in law, as a tourist in pre-WWII Germany, once used binoculars to look at a high Nazi official, and was almost tackled by the Gestapo. They explained they were worried that you could construct binocs where one side was a small firearm and the other a scope sight. I'd expect that any assassin using those would lose an eye due to recoil, but that was their worry, and they told him no one was allowed to look at a person they were guarding thru binocs.

2. There was some theorizing that it would be possible to construct a portable blinding laser that would kill. There is a certain interaction between the eye/optic nerve and the heart that exists although it makes little physical sense (physicians doing optical surgery on the young are cautioned about it). I cannot say whether such a weapon is feasible or not, but perhaps the security people had heard about the idea and thought it better to be safe than sorry.

Posted by: Dave Hardy at February 13, 2007 10:05 PM

Dave Hardy,

The camera could also have been a disguised bomb.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 13, 2007 10:11 PM

"There are many in the middle east who accept a boot on their neck as the price of survival. It's the reason people like Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, and so many others held power for so long."

That is not a very realistic or empathetic statement and it is very easy to say whilst within the confines of a political system that doesn't condone the torture and mass murder of anyone and their relatives.

It's comparable to statements from the ignorant and anti-semites that have said that they can't understand how the Jews 'just passively went to the slaughter' in WW 2.

This mentality is so detached that it grossly oversimplifies the experience and fails to account for the state of mind of anyone undergoing that kind of nightmare.

It is not so easy to take on the fascists, nor can it be done without so many factors in place or else it is a very slow and uncomfortable death.

Do yourself a favor. Go see a neat little Spanish film entitled "Pan's Labyrinth". You may find that you have a bit more empathy for ordinary people who live under the rule of fascists.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at February 13, 2007 10:38 PM

Will Al Sadr's escape to Iran - which apparently just happened - have any impact on shiites in Lebanon? If Al Sadr can be chased away, why would Nasrallah feel perfectly safe? For that matter, why hasn't Israel toasted him like they did Ahmed Yassin? Nassrallah has to drive around. What's going on there?

Posted by: Yavud at February 13, 2007 10:43 PM

Michael,

Well, there is a bit of a difference between living there for 18 years and being a journalist there. But yes, you do have something to contribute, but please make sure you understand my comments.

My initial comment was not about how YOU categorized Israel and Syria, but how Jumblatt did. You did not address the point of that comment in your reply.

And in fact, the jihadist do have relevance to that issue: they are one of the reasons why Jumblatt and Siniora are reluctant to distinguish publicly between the two, even if they think otherwise.

Posted by: fp at February 13, 2007 11:04 PM

Haha...this is the most ridiculous thing I've seen...An American, independent, haphazardly writing stuff about Lebanon. Seriously dude...try pottery or something. hehe

Posted by: Fadi at February 13, 2007 11:41 PM

By the way, the fiercest fighters in the war were the Palestinians....not the Druze. Although the Druze were pretty fierce as well.

Thats why they made great allies and massacered us Christians left and right in the Chouf mountains. My ex-homeland by the way. Now I live in Jounieh...ah...so you just go to Beirut and randomly interview people..and write stuff and your American audience buys it?

Pretty neat...although I still recommend you take that pottery lesson

Posted by: Fadi at February 13, 2007 11:46 PM

Fadi you are banned for trolling on this thread and the other one.

I'm not a hippie, Hitler isn't my friend, Walid Jumblatt isn't a random person, I'm a professional writer, and I suck at pottery.

Good bye.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 14, 2007 12:45 AM

fp: the jihadist do have relevance to that issue: they are one of the reasons why Jumblatt and Siniora are reluctant to distinguish publicly between the two, even if they think otherwise.

Of course. We don't disagree about that at all.

If all the Hezbollah supporters suddenly joined Hariri's Future Movement or a similar party, peace or at least armistice between Israel and Lebanon would likely follow in short order.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 14, 2007 12:53 AM

If the US abandons Iraq, you will see an unholy alliance of Iran/Arab Shiites on the one hand, and the Wahhabis (essentially al Qaeda) on the other.

Iraq will be divided amicably between the two camps and the Wahhabis (with stakeholding by the Turks) will be given franchise over Kurdistan and its Kirkuk oil.

Saudi Arabia will also be subject to the onslaught of these two parties and divided up so that Iran inherits the northern Arabian oil fields and Bahrain. The Wahhabis will receive Arabia proper (Hijaz), Kuwait and the sheikhdoms of the Gulf.

Iran will be in charge of Syria and Lebanon while the Wahhabis will take over Jordan and then Egypt - while Iran will look eastward to Afghanistan, with the help of the Talibans.

Its a marriage made in heaven. Islamic alliances are made and broken as a matter of convenience and expediency. We should not put too much credence in the theory that the Sunnis and Shiites are forever sworn sectarian enemies of one another. They can make up with a kiss, if their interests lies in that direction. History is witness to this.

Posted by: manda at February 14, 2007 01:32 AM

Jumblatt just gave his speech to the crowd at Martyr's Square today (14 February 2007).

As I watched I thought, "I've seen that suit and tie before." Sure enough, he was wearing the same suit and tie today as he was the day you took his photo.

Posted by: Charles Malik at February 14, 2007 03:34 AM

I saw Walid Jhumblatt being interviewed in a palatial looking room (his ancestral home?) on MEMRI video, and then I saw your article. He is a remarkable character and your writing is terrific.

Amir Taheri's piece on Frontpage seems timely in this connection. http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=26936 Among other things he says:

… “Tehran overplayed its hand by ordering Hezbollah to try to seize power in Beirut. The specter of a "Shiite Crescent," first evoked by Jordan's King Abdullah II and dismissed as hyperbole, suddenly appeared real.

After some initial hesitation, the 6+2 nations decided to draw a line in the sand on Lebanon: Tehran would not be allowed to seize power in Beirut. The group's determination made it possible for the broader international community to also rally behind the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. By the end of January, it had become clear that Tehran's bid in Beirut, although damaging Lebanon, had no chance of sweeping Hezbollah into power.”

He goes on to point out a few more mistakes Tehran has made.

God bless the Lebanese.

Rishika

Posted by: Rishika at February 14, 2007 05:31 AM

MJT,

Hariri is a Sunni proxy of the Saudis. Once the Shiia are out of the way, the Sunnis will get to work on the Christians. They will probably use Palestinian hands at first. Once the Sunni monopoly on power is realized, the Sunnis will use more persuasive economic tacticts. There will be little reason for Christians to stay in Lebenone.

Posted by: redaktor at February 14, 2007 05:47 AM

Well done, There is a need for an in depth study of the relationships between the Syrian, Lebannese and Israeli Druze communities. Hopefully someone in Langley is doing this. Way back when the Israelis naively expected an instant alliance with Jumblatt's father when they invaded. That lead to a rude awakening. Now I fear that the loyalty of Israeli Druze is being pressured.

Posted by: lifeofthemind at February 14, 2007 05:57 AM

Mr. Totten,

Rather than rely on "most people I know", why not reference some recent opinion polls, which show that a vast majority of Lebanese (including those who fall under March 14) see Israel as an enemy. US popularity is also in the dirt, EVEN among anti-Syrians.

Posted by: K at February 14, 2007 06:10 AM

I wonder if 6+2 could become 6+2+1 (Israel) or even 6+2+1+1 (Lebanon).

Am I being stupid?

Posted by: leo at February 14, 2007 06:36 AM

MJT,

Because of Lebanon's peculiar nature, the issue always one of power struggle because the system does not allow for power sharing. In this respect, if "Hezbollah supporters suddenly joined Hariri's Future Movement or a similar party", it will be viewed as a Sunni Merchant and Shiite alliance, and will sideline Druze and Christians. The Salafis who now support Hariri will suddenly bolt out.

This is because Lebanon's sectarian system is fundamentally broken. While it is possible, and to many even desirable for "Peace [...] between Israel and Lebanon would likely follow in short order", but this will only store trouble for later, as long as this sectarian system is maintained.

Not all people will benefit from the peace, and inequality will further increase. Because of the nature of the sectarian system, the inequality will be largely confined to specific communinties...

Posted by: Jeha at February 14, 2007 07:31 AM

Michael,

I am not so sure about peace even in that eventuality, but since nobody's gonna convert, the issue is moot.

Thats because another reason is the ideology of hatred with which kids are indoctrinated with jew "peace" (and christian) hatred in the ME. After years of that -- which is the main means by which regimes legitimize themselves, or at least divert pressure from themslves -- it's very hard to come out and say Israel and peace are OK. Look at Egypt and Jordan: they signed "peace", but nothing has changed internally. Even if they stopped the incitement tomorrow, it may take generations to eliminate the hatred.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 11:46 AM

The problem of Saudia is that without US support they are extremely vulnerable. And they are becoming less so at peak oil.

OTOH, the iranian regime has its own problems, but will probably end up nuclear.

So while they may live with one another for a while, in the long run the question is which will weaken sufficiently first to stop it and chances are the saudis will.

But there is, of course, al qaeda to contend with too, and whether it will be as willing to forgive the saudi regime and live with the iranians.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 11:54 AM

Heh, heh, Langley? Give me a break.

Look at how much they knew about Iraq and how well the occupation forces were prepared to handle it after they occupaied. Look at how much they know about Iran.

After 9/11 I recall they interviewed several of the former CIA ME desk people on TV. The interviewer went around the table and asked them if they spoke arabic; NONE did.

They also eliminated the bin Laden unit.

The CIA devours tons of money for which they have very little to show. And it has been politicized and demoralized to boot. It's just your usual federal bureaucracy, now further messed up in DHS.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 12:03 PM

Jeha,

Exactly right. The problem of lack of national cohesion is a fundamental problem in the ME. It is actually true of all countries except Israel.
Weak national loyalty is what prevents real power sharing. It is also a reason why autocracy and dictatorship is a way to hold countries together.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 12:11 PM

Redaktor: Hariri is a Sunni proxy of the Saudis. Once the Shiia are out of the way, the Sunnis will get to work on the Christians.

That's ridiculous Aounist propaganda. Sorry, no sale.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 14, 2007 12:37 PM

The reason that's a silly theory, Redaktor, is because the Saudi elite want to keep Lebanon exactly as it is. It's their favorite vacation spot, where they can act like drunken playboys without leaving the Arab world. They do not want to Wahhabize it.

Lebanon is the one place in the world where Saudi foreign policy matches mine.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 14, 2007 12:44 PM

Michael,

That may be somewhat true, however, as far as I can see they don't have complete control over their Wahabbi clerics, except when it comes to internal saudi matters.

There is a lot of wahabbism exported throughout the world that is not necessarily promoted by the regime, but which they don't control either.

Whether this is true in Lebanon too I DK, but I would not be surprised.

Neither do I know the relationship between Hariri and the saudis, but rich people in the ME tend to stick together, as everywhere else.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 01:05 PM

You easily forget. The Saudis have had no trouble financing Arafat and his Palestine gangs, even when Arafat was on a slaughter binge and their favorite Lebenone whores were the meal. Why do you think the Saudis will act any different in the future?

Posted by: redaktor at February 14, 2007 01:05 PM

I did not say that's what I think.

I was referring to wahabbism, not other causes saudis fund. They support the likes of Arafat, Abbas and Hamas as protection money (in the sense that violence does not spread towards their regime). That's different.

However, with the weakening of the US in gemeral and in the ME in particular, they may have to change their behavior to survive.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 01:25 PM

MJT,

You lie with Jihadi snakes; expect to be bitten. And then what? Lebenone whores servicing jihadis in burnt out Citroens, in some dark alley of gay Pari?

Posted by: redaktor at February 14, 2007 01:49 PM

Michael, don't forget that the Saudi's have quite a lot of economic interests, and Lebanese (especially the Sunni elites) have many economic interests in Saudi Arabia. It isn't all, or even mostly, about having a playground in Lebanon. It's just as much about having another place to make money. Not to mention that the Saudis have always, and I repeat always, been the "moderate' Arab state. They didn't embrace radical Arabism when Nasser was around (they supported Lebanon during the 50's because they didn't want radical nationalists to be able to claim another victory), and while they may have supported Arafat, they didn't support the real Palestinian radicals (within the Palestinian camp it gets far, far worse than Arafat when you look at their backers; the more violent and extreme groups got their support from KSA's enemies like Iraq and Syria). The Saudis support Lebanon like any other geopolitical tool. They don't want Shias in control there anymore than they wanted radical pan-Arabists in control there during the 50's and 60's. Either one poses a threat to their regime and the Saudis are almost always very explicit about this.

Nouri

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 14, 2007 01:58 PM

redaktor,

Your view is far too simplistic. There is large difference between Hariri and his sunni support on one hand, and Hezb and his Iranian funds on the other. Whatever the real motivations of Hariri, he did offer more than 32,000 scholarships. And while most were Sunnis, a very large number of them was from other communities. Those are not the actions of Jihadis.

I also recall that at some point of great hardship in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia offered EVERY SINGLE home in Lebanon 1 week's worth rations whether they needed it or not. We asked them that they give our share to some poor families, but they insisted that we take our allocation, and we did the deed ourselves. Those too, are not the actions of Jihadis.

I have no illusions about Saudi interests, but one has to admit that they do some good, far more than the present-day Mullah regime of Iran. A case in point; when Hezb destroyed Lebanon, admitelly with a large helping of Israeli help, he only paid off people from his own community...

Posted by: Jeha at February 14, 2007 02:18 PM

Hariri's Future Movement is a liberal Arab corporatist party. It's a weird mix of pan-Sunni nationalism and paternalistic libertarianism. There isn't really anything else like it in the world that I know of, expect perhaps (sort of) in Iraqi Kurdistan. There certainly aren't any other Arab parties like it. It's one of a kind, and doesn't remotely fit into the "jihad" box.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 14, 2007 02:48 PM

Jeha

Our Lebenone Christians better count how many jihadi mosques the Saudis are building, cause that's where the real Wahhabi "good doers" will be educated with Saudi scholarship money.

Posted by: redaktor at February 14, 2007 02:50 PM

Economic issues aside, as a non-Muslim (or a woman regardless of religion) I'd rather live in Iran than Saudi Arabia. Wahhabi, Taliban -- those suckers are medieval. 'Moderate' in SA refers mainly to geopolitical relations, not to cultural moderation, thus far. Iran at least seems to have a strong interest in supporting modern science and education. ;-)

It's not really accurate to talk as if there is only one monolithic Saudi pocketbook -- the royals have their rivalries, their fanatics, their moderates, always in a delicate internal power dance. And on all sides, there are multi-billionaires. It's widely reported that a few religiously fanatical sub-branches of the sprawling family have done the majority of SA funding terrorists.

It appears the prevailing leadership group has become more aware that past support of Muslim Brotherhood, AQ, Pals, and fundamentalist jihad generally is coming back to bite the al-Saud family on the butt. They don't seem willing or able to curb their wild-eyed billionaire relatives from supporting it, however.

Posted by: Pam at February 14, 2007 03:07 PM

MJT: Hariri's Future Movement is a liberal Arab corporatist party. It's a [weird] mix of pan-Sunni nationalism and paternalistic libertarianism. ... It's one of a kind, and doesn't remotely fit into the "jihad" box.

I agree with the comment above. But I would like to add few comments. Hariri was never a militia man and never supported one. When at one time some Sunnis came to him asking for weapons to defend him and themselves, Hariri replied: Weapons? To destroy Lebanon? No! I give you education to build Lebanon!!!

The issue in Lebanon now is only Hizballah (and its coalition) have weapons. That's why a lot of the March 14 group started to get weapons and are going through 4-week sessions training in several countries just to defend themselves. If you recall what happenned in 2es2es at the first few days of the sit-in at Riad Suleh Square by Hizballah and how they roamed through the Sunni neighborhoods destroying property and cars because no one stopped them! The situation changed at the Arab University incident. Hizballah and its cronies now know that they will pay if they will cause destruction!

Posted by: Ghassan at February 14, 2007 03:31 PM

"“Turn on the flash,” said the lead security agent. “Then point your camera at the ground and take a picture.”

I did. "

I hit the tip jar. That picture alone was worth a few bucks.

Posted by: guy at February 14, 2007 05:20 PM

Nouri,

The saudis are quite shrewd. While they present a "moderate" face towards the west (which the west accepts), their schools, media and funds export wahabbism and hatred of the west. They either permit or drive all this. And it's been quite effective.

Just watch how the west will succumb to the illusion of the mecca accord and renew funding to the palestinians, which will be used, as usual, to arm their military factions.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 05:24 PM

Pam,

The difference is that in Iran the majority of the population is quite different than their religious leaders and if the regime fell, chances are that they will revert to the pre-revolution conditions.

In saudia, however, the population is quite uneducated and indoctrinated from childhood with wahabbism and hatred.

I recall a few years ago barbara walters interviewed some young saudi professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers) educated in the west and they were talking about jews using non-jewish human blood for passover. I doubt that educated iranians believe that (except when they must pretend so publicly in order to survive or advance in the system). But if the current regime continues, indoctrina

Be that as it may, if I were a woman I would not want to live in ANY muslim country.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 05:38 PM

FP,
I am well aware of Saudi schools. I am also aware of why they are allowed to operate in the way(s) that they do.

But all relating to Saudi Arabia does not boil down to jihad.

Looking at Saudi policy towards the other Arabs states, especially Lebanon, Syria and Iraq the main focus is Saudi stability, economically and politically. They are more interested in preserving their regime than they are spreading jihad to Lebanon. The Saudis have actual national interests and are not driven by ideology. That is why they are shrewd. They are trying to prevent radical change in Lebanon that would threaten their interests there, and their interests there have nothing to do with jihad. Wahabbism is if anything the presentation of a religious face; if you've ever met a Saudi from the family you would well know there is little in them that would be considered pious by most Muslims in Saudi Arabia or otherwise. My dad went to prepschool with several of them, the one thing I remember him saying about them most was that they were "poster boys for revolution. They were dope fiends and blondie chasers. And now they're Ministers and ambasadors." Their geopolitical interests are in the interest of the family, not the faith. Religion is used to establish legitimacy, but not to drive policy. Hezb Allah threatens Saudi business and cultural interests; if Shias control Iraq and Lebanon, the Saudis will quickly be marginalized. They saw this in the 50's during the Lebanon crisis then along with Nasser. "Jihad" may be a simple way of classifying Saudi Arabia, but it is just too simplistic and makes little sense when you examine the breath of their actions and statements.

As for the Mecca accords, I think it would be best that Fatah have arms to fight HAMAS. There is no reason to let them lose that war.

Nouri

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 14, 2007 05:45 PM

I did NOT ever say that saudis are about jihad. In fact, I was explicit about their only interest being preserving their regime. Believe me I know very well what they're all about.

However, wahabbism produces jihadism and the saudis either permit or fund wahabbism abroad and internally. In a sense they sort of fool themselves the same way americans did when they funded bin-laden. They have managed until now, but jihadis are not controllable in the long run.

I suggest you read the following about the mecca accords to disabuse yourself from the notion that anything will come out of Abbas. It's another dellusion in the west:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=2564

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=2565

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 06:03 PM

Hey, Mike,

Looks like I knew what I was talking about. Jumblatt is trying to make points on Syria by exploiting Israel:

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=24446_Huge_Crowds_in_Beiruts_Streets&only

Hard to be taken seriously.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 06:06 PM

Apropos jihadism and child indoctrination:

http://haganah.org.il/harchives/005910.html

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 06:08 PM

From an article published in the Saudi Arab News:

Why Is There So Much Hate Inside Us?

In the shop next to my house, there is a home delivery service which is run by an Indian. He is a good man, hardworking and devoted to his job. I talk to him whenever he delivers something to my house and he talks to me about the time he spent working in Abu Dhabi and of his dream to live in London.

Last week I asked him to deliver a newspaper to my house. When he delivered it to me, he asked me whether I wrote in it. I told him that I did and he asked me to write about why young Saudis hate foreign workers, particularly Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. He asked, “Why do they throw rocks at us when they see us in the street?” He said that in India they were taught to love others because that is the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I was moved by his words and promised him that I would write on the subject.

I took his question to my students and started a discussion in class. The students agreed that they had harassed foreigners, particularly South Asians, in the street. One said that seeing a worker in the street was a perfect chance for them to beat him up and then run away. Some admitted searching for foreign workers to beat up, throw eggs at and generally abuse. I asked my students why they behaved in this way, what was the reason. Some said it was just fun, nothing more or less. Some said it was because those people were weak and unable to fight back. Some said that their favorite pastime was to catch cats, kill them and skin them. I was shocked and disturbed by all this violence and wondered what was causing it...

As we saw in Rwanda, where most of the killing was done by ordinary people, using ordinary, easy to grab weapons, hate is the ultimate WMD. Hate is the engine that drives, and has always driven, Saudi society. They spend billions to export their hate around the world.

When compared with the American legal system, the Saudi system is brutal and cruel. When compared with the Lebanese, Chinese, French, Thai, Israeli, and even the Iranian system, the Saudis are brutal and cruel. When compared to the average pack of hyenas, the Saudis are brutal and cruel.

At some times, it makes make sense to some to deal with genuine evil, but they should always remember who they're dealing and what kind of baggage they bring with them.

Posted by: mary at February 14, 2007 06:11 PM

I did NOT ever say that saudis are about jihad. In fact, I was explicit about their only interest being preserving their regime. Believe me I know very well what they're all about.

Where did you say that? Your response to my comment ran thus:
Nouri,

The saudis are quite shrewd. While they present a "moderate" face towards the west (which the west accepts), their schools, media and funds export wahabbism and hatred of the west. They either permit or drive all this. And it's been quite effective.

Just watch how the west will succumb to the illusion of the mecca accord and renew funding to the palestinians, which will be used, as usual, to arm their military factions.

There is nothing there about their national interest, nor is there anything about them trying preserve their regime.

As for the articles you linked to, I've read both of them. And I do believe their conclusion to be rubbish. The notion that the Mecca accord somehow erases the distinction between the factions makes no sense and is not supported by the reality of what is happening between them. As is often the problem with Washington Institute reports, there is no real solution to anything offered in them, just a reenforcement of the existing assumptions its audience already woudl have held. I would agree with them that the accords are minor, but I would strongly disagree that they in anyway make Abbas equivailent to the Hamas leadership.

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 14, 2007 06:24 PM

Nouri,

There is another message that I explicitly said they are only interested in preserving their regime (which I would not necessarily call national, but royal). My comments in the message you quote are entirely consistent with that.

The mecca accord has essentially revealed Abbas' weakness: there is practically NO compromise that Hamas has made, Abbas gave in. Pumping money into him was always a mistake even that Israel and the west will live to regret. In fact, it's the pumping of tons of money into the PLO and Arafat/Abbas that inhibited any progress in the conflict.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 06:49 PM

"There is another message that I explicitly said they are only interested in preserving their regime (which I would not necessarily call national, but royal). My comments in the message you quote are entirely consistent with that."

NO it is not, it entirely inconsistent with that. One assumes that they are out for the sake of instability in the region and the other the opposite. They contradict one another. Further, the comment I quoted was the relevant one. The other is irrelevant. Either you were responding to the wrong posting or you have split personalities.

With respect to Wahabbism, I believe it is a backward ideology, but the real problem is not it. The real problem is the Egyptian originated and inspired ideologies per Said Qutb, and the like. That is where the jihadists are getting their ideas from overwhelmingly. Bin Laden tends to use the same reasoning and references as Qutb, but one does not find him talking about the Saudi ideology except with derison. The Muslim Broherhood is not Wahabbist either. Nor is Hezb Allah. The nature of the Saudi monarchy produces jihadism just like any of the other states in the region (ALL of them have produced their own jihadists from the same generation as the 9/11 attackers, Hezb Allah and Bin Laden with different ideologies and educational systems, with the common denominater being that Egyptian ideologies and their derrivatives have been mixed with the radicalism of pan-Arabist militancy). The Saudi government has issues to resolve, religion being one among many. Wahabbism is not the root or only cause of jihadism in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else however.

"The mecca accord has essentially revealed Abbas' weakness: there is practically NO compromise that Hamas has made, Abbas gave in. Pumping money into him was always a mistake even that Israel and the west will live to regret. In fact, it's the pumping of tons of money into the PLO and Arafat/Abbas that inhibited any progress in the conflict."

AS far as internal Palesitnian politics are concerned, Abbas's weakness is that of Israel's and the US's. What exactly do you propose that the Westnern nations do with this situation? Pull the carpet out from under Abbas? So that Hamas can be the only party of consequence? That makes absolutely no sesne. You'll get farther with Fatah than anyother Palestinian actor. You will not even get to the table with Hamas. Abbas is not Arafat and this is something you will have to deal with if you are hoping for some kind of settlement.

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 14, 2007 07:01 PM

fp: Looks like I knew what I was talking about. Jumblatt is trying to make points on Syria by exploiting Israel:

You have to remember who he is talking to, and that he splits every difference possible in the context of Lebanese politics in order to maximize his safely and influence.

Never take everything he says at face value, including the times you like what he says.

This also goes back to what Eli Khoury and I talked about, how there appears to be a de-facto Syrian-Israeli axis. Israel can change this dynamic at any time, and I recommend they do so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 14, 2007 07:02 PM

Michael,

1. It's very unlikely that I ever like what they say.

2. You don't believe that as somebody who lived in the ME, I would take at face value anything they say, do you?

3. My point in all of this is that the notion of peace in any circumstances with Israel is nonsense. Israel has been used as a unifier of all ME factions and countries for such a long time, that, as I said, nobody can talk about REAL peace, even those who signed it already.

The fact that they say different things to different audiences is exactly why they cannot share power and why they cannot be trusted.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 07:13 PM

As to the Israeli-Syrian axis, that's utter nonsense. This kind of crap is why Lebanese leadership cannot be taken seriously.

I understand how they OTOH badmouth Israel and OTO they would like nothing better than Israel to hit Syria and solve their Hezbollah problem. The Israelis had a chance to do the latter and fucked up. The circumstances are not there to hit Syria for now, it may strengthen the regime and may cause regional problems. But to call this an axis is utter stupidity.

And the west is unreliable. So Eli and Jumblatt will have to either solve their own problems, or accept anarchy or Nasrallah blackmail.

Israel became a country, survived and prospered against odds much harder than theirs.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 07:24 PM

Nouri,

Again, you misinterpreted what I said. I did not say they are for instability, only that they are for stability in saudia as a first priority.

I don't recall the chronology, but didn't Wahab precede Qutb? Anyway, I do not absolve the Egyptians of a similar policy, however they do not fund the export of religion the way the saudis do, in part because they don't have the resources--they get hugely subsidized by the west.

I have been stating here over and over that the US is weak, but the weakness is not in NOT supporting Abbas, but in supporting him. Abbas's weakness is all its own. If Abbas were to defeat Hamas based entirely on the US and Israel, he would be representing nobody.

He is like Arafat in the following sense: while Hamas wants to destroy Israel by force, Abbas wants to destroy it via the right of return.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 07:33 PM

"There are many in the middle east who accept a boot on their neck as the price of survival. It's the reason people like Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, and so many others held power for so long."

That is not a very realistic or empathetic statement and it is very easy to say whilst within the confines of a political system that doesn't condone the torture and mass murder of anyone and their relatives.

You contradict yourself. First you say 'That is not a very realistic...', etc, then you criticize me for not being subject to "a political system that doesn't condone the torture and mass murder of anyone and their relatives."

So it was a realistic assessment?

It's comparable to statements from the ignorant and anti-semites that have said that they can't understand how the Jews 'just passively went to the slaughter' in WW 2.

Many jews did. In the beginning, the were told that they were being shipped to labor camps. I can see why such people would not rise up- they thought they would survive- but the truth got out eventually.

I understand the jews who revolted in the Warsaw ghetto far better than I understand the ones who didn't fight once the truth was known.

This mentality is so detached that it grossly oversimplifies the experience and fails to account for the state of mind of anyone undergoing that kind of nightmare.

Apparently you think empathizing is going to solve the problems in the middle east.

I disagree.

It is not so easy to take on the fascists, nor can it be done without so many factors in place or else it is a very slow and uncomfortable death.

When did I say it would be easy? If it was easy, there wouldn't be any despots left on this planet, fascist or otherwise.

I am aware that my own nation's rebellion would have failed without foreign aid, and I do not begrudge anyone in the middle east similar assistance in setting up a representative government that treats all of it's citizens as equals- so long as the people who need the assistance are willing to fight for their own liberation.

The Iraqis are. I saw that in 1991, when President Bush- the first one- urged the Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, and they did.

Not supporting them was the biggest mistake Bush Sr. made in his term in office.

Do yourself a favor. Go see a neat little Spanish film entitled "Pan's Labyrinth". You may find that you have a bit more empathy for ordinary people who live under the rule of fascists.
-ankhfkhonsu

How does watching spanish movies and empathizing with the downtrodden solve the problem?

I'm not interested in commiserating about how awful and unfair life is over coffee and cigarettes. Doing such things may make you feel better, but it doesn't accomplish anything else.

I want to see despots hanging from streetlights.

Posted by: rosignol at February 14, 2007 08:06 PM

Well the Mecca Accords are looking rather flimsy at the moment, so I wouldn't worry about their impact too much yet... Haniyeh won't accept the top two Fatah candidates for second in command, says an Independent pro-Hamas minister has to count as one of Fatah's two cabinet slots, Abbas has to approve a bunch of policies Hamas tried to pass, and Oh, when we said we'd abide by all previously signed peace accords with Israel -- that doesn't include recognizing Israel's right to exist.

Abbas is saying 'you can't veto anyone we choose to put in the slot, and we don't accept your candidates for Interior Minister, and there's an Independent who used to be our guy and he has to count as one of Hamas' three cabinet slots.'

Other than those nagging little details... Hunh! looks like everyone cancelled the planned celebratory announcements.

'Palestinians just can't take yes for an answer.'

Posted by: Pam at February 14, 2007 08:25 PM

Pam,

I did not say that the accords were solid. What I said is that they are a pretext for the west to pretent its solid.

As so many times in the past, they wilfully have ignored facts and reality and pumped money into palestinians and allowed them to violate each and every agreement they signed.

My best guess is that this is what'll happen again, no matter how flimsy the agreement is.

But I will be glas to be proven wrong.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 08:34 PM

Rosignol,

I do too, but look at what you get when you get when you hang them: Iraq.

Posted by: fp at February 14, 2007 09:14 PM

"I don't recall the chronology, but didn't Wahab precede Qutb? Anyway, I do not absolve the Egyptians of a similar policy, however they do not fund the export of religion the way the saudis do, in part because they don't have the resources--they get hugely subsidized by the west."

It doesn't matter who came first; it's who get's more circulation, and that would Qutb and his off shoots. Wahab came long before Qutb and caused very few problems until it's ideology was mixed with Egyptian and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood style radicalism. Wahabbism came almost 300 years before Qutb was even born. Salafism is also one of these ideologies that in and of it self was not a problem historically, but when it met the Westernized and radicalized variations of nationalistic and militant Arabism and religious nationalism, because a major threat.

"I have been stating here over and over that the US is weak, but the weakness is not in NOT supporting Abbas, but in supporting him. Abbas's weakness is all its own. If Abbas were to defeat Hamas based entirely on the US and Israel, he would be representing nobody."

What is your alternative? i am well aware that you see Abbas as part of the problem, but you have offered no alternative as far as I can tell. What is achieved by withdrawing support from Abbas? The only way you will avoid the right of return from the Palesitinian side is to get rid of it from the Israeli side. That's exactly why they demand it so vehemently.

Now as far as "destroying Israel'' goes, you and I obviously differ, because I really could care less if Israel were in existence or not (the same goes for the Palestinian state). I don't take a desire to take over a country via the womb as such a bad thing (how do you think America got this way?), especially if it is a weapon used by both sides. I'd take that than forced depopulation through war (you can at least fight back fairly with the right of return). I don't see it as my duty as an American to ensure Israeli national interests though. It's not American's duty. Mahmoud Abbas is in America's interest, Hamas is not. Isolating him does not serve our interests. Tell me how isolating him would do America any good, whatsoever.

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 15, 2007 06:31 AM

Michael,

According to William Dalrymple's 1997 book "From the Holy Mountain" (pg. 224-227, 231-233) Jumblatt is the owner/caretaker of one of the better collections of Byzantine-era mosaics and artwork in the world, located in his castle in the Chouf. If you have any interest in that and the opportunity to contact him again comes up, may be worthwhile to inquire as to whether he'd permit you to visit there to see it.

Posted by: tagryn at February 15, 2007 06:46 AM

It doesn't matter who came first; it's who get's more circulation, and that would Qutb and his off shoots.

Wahhabism was 'circulated' to the Muslim Brotherhood and around the world through Saudi control of Mecca and Medina (and their petrodollars)

In 1921, Winston Churchill said:

"The Wahabis profess a life of exceeding austerity, and what they practise themselves they rigorously enforce on others. They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions and to make slaves of their wives and children. Women have been put to death in Wahabi villages for simply appearing in the streets. It is a penal offence to wear a silk garment. Men have been killed for smoking a cigarette, and as for the crime of alcohol, the most energetic supporter of the temperance cause in this country falls far behind them. Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and bloodthirsty, in their own regions the Wahabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account, and they have been, and still are, very dangerous to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and to the whole institution of the pilgrimage, in which our Indian fellow-subjects are so deeply concerned."

In 1924 Wahhabis:

entered Hijaz for a second time and carried out another merciless plunder and massacre. People in streets were killed. Houses were razed to the ground. Women and children too were not spared.

Awn bin Hashim (Shairf of Makkah) writes: "Before me, a valley appeared to have been paved with corpses, dried blood staining everywhere all around. There was hardly a tree which didn't have one or two dead bodies near its roots."...

...Tombs of Hamza and other martyrs were demolished at Uhud. The Prophet's mosque was bombarded. On protest by Muslims, assurances were given by Ibn Saud that it will be restored but the promise was never fulfilled. A promise was given that Hijaz will have an Islamic multinational government. This was also abandoned.

1925 AD Jannat al-Mu'alla, the sacred cemetery at Makkah was destroyed alongwith the house where the Holy Prophet (s) was born. Since then, this day is a day of mourning for all Muslims.

in 1926, protest gatherings were held by shocked Muslims all over the world. Resolutions were passed and a statement outlining the crimes perpetrated by Wahhabis was issued...

And the British rewarded the Wahhabis by giving them control of Mecca and Medina, an act of unparalleled diplomatic idiocy that would be the equivalent of giving the papacy and the Vatican to the Nazis. The Muslim Brotherhood found refuge with their brothers in Saudi Arabia. Their goal of establishing a Caliphate is still being fueled by billions of Saudi petrodollars, held in Brotherhood-controlled offshore accounts.

It's always been Wahhabism...

Posted by: mary at February 15, 2007 07:56 AM

It makes me sad and happy to read all of the well meaning posts here. But it does give me some hope that non-jews out there exist that want good things in for Lebabnon and Israel hope as an American Jew who served in the Israeli Army and who's ancestors back in Eastern Europe that didn't move to the U.S., were burned up in ovens in the Holocaust. It's easy to judge until you have to live in the neighborhood and people hate you because you are alive. Just as half of Christian Lebanon is now living in a diaspora. However, if one looks at what has been built in Israel in the last 60-70 years and what Lebanon was up until the 70's, one can see, if there are enough loud positive voices there is no doubt that what could be created is nothing short of increidible. Why is it that the negative and destructive voices are always the loudest :-( There will be another war but what press it gets and we do afterwards will shape the future. Best wishes to all posters here with the desire for positive change. Hate ain't gonna get us anywhere. Yallah

Posted by: Ginsburg at February 15, 2007 10:01 AM

I repeat: I don't see much difference between the arab states insofar as islamism is concerned. I do think wahabbism is more of a problem currently because saudis have exported it more, but I don't absolve any of the arab countries.

Given the circumstances of the west I don't see any satisfactory solution. Israel is paying the price of western appeasement of the islamists, as well for its own lack of leadership. Not to mention anti-semitism which is coming out of the woodwork. It never went away, just went dormant.

Yes, we do disagree. It is obvious that the US is in decline due to both internal and external policies. So is Europe. WW2 was the last war it won. There is economic collapse, in part due to peak oil. That's the fate of dominant empires. So Israel is the least of your worries. There are signs of Amerarabia, similar to Eurabia. Descent into dhimmitude.

What is also exacerbating the collapse is the destruction of the educational system. The west is producing ignorance and inability to reason. Those would have been the most important assets to get the west together to combat a 7th century god delusion, but in the absence othat the cult of death is likely to win over the cult of life.
It's a long process, but the direction is clear.

The need for a solution does not mean that there is one.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 11:58 AM

Ginsburg,

I am afraid there are not enough of those, and those who exist are not the ones with power, particularly in the arab world.

There is considerable evidence that they actually leave places like Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, leaving only the uneducated poor and the jihadis.

More than hope is required at this stage to reverse the trend.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 12:03 PM

Nouri,

I just came across this:

http://pmw.org.il/bulletins_feb2007.htm#b150207

And these are the educated palestinians. Can you tell if they are Hamas or Fatah?

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 12:17 PM

"Wahhabism was 'circulated' to the Muslim Brotherhood and around the world through Saudi control of Mecca and Medina (and their petrodollars)"

Again, who buys it? Very few people buy into Wahabbist ideology. The real source of inspiration for most Islamists that of consequence is the Muslim Brotherhood, and to a lesser extent the Islamist revolutionary ideas of Khomeni. The ideas mix together but are by no means synonomus. The Muslim Brotherhood has a pretty specific party platform that is cherry picked from by many Islamists. The Algerian Brotherhood, for instance, is a part of the governing coalition. The only real influence they have had is banning missionaries (mostly evangelicals). They don't look at all like the Egyptian or Syrian or Jordanian Brotherhoods. Many Islamists have ledt the Brotherhood for Wahabbist influenced groups because it wasn't extreme enough for them. There is no Islamist or Arab monolith politically or religiously, and the failure to realize this is exactly why the "West" (eg America, because nobody else is really fighting it) is losing its little War on Terror.

"What is also exacerbating the collapse is the destruction of the educational system. The west is producing ignorance and inability to reason. Those would have been the most important assets to get the west together to combat a 7th century god delusion, but in the absence othat the cult of death is likely to win over the cult of life."

Clearly we can see this in your comments.

"The need for a solution does not mean that there is one."

The inability to formulate a solution yourself does not mean that there is not one either.

"I repeat: I don't see much difference between the arab states insofar as islamism is concerned. I do think wahabbism is more of a problem currently because saudis have exported it more, but I don't absolve any of the arab countries."

Which Arab states? There are 22 of them. Their relationship to Islamism (if they have one at all) differ vastly from state to state. There is no Arab monolth with respect to any matter, just as there is no singular Israeli monolith.

"Yes, we do disagree. It is obvious that the US is in decline due to both internal and external policies. So is Europe. WW2 was the last war it won. There is economic collapse, in part due to peak oil. That's the fate of dominant empires. So Israel is the least of your worries. There are signs of Amerarabia, similar to Eurabia. Descent into dhimmitude."

I am no longer going to adress you because of the foolish nature of your statements and the vast oversimplicity of your world view. Conspiracy theories such as "Eurabia" or "Amerabia" are not even worth engaging.

Sorry.

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 15, 2007 12:29 PM

There is no Islamist or Arab monolith politically or religiously, and the failure to realize this is exactly why the "West" (eg America, because nobody else is really fighting it) is losing its little War on Terror.

There is an Arab/Islamist monolith, and approximately $10 billion dollars of it is located in the Brotherhood's offshore accounts in Nassau, the Bahamas...

Just as an experiment, it would be interesting to see what would happen if the Saudi/Brotherhood financial empire were just flat out and instantly eliminated. Not that America or anyone else would ever do such a thing. How would we fund our libraries and our peace centers?

Posted by: mary at February 15, 2007 12:58 PM

Nouri,

It is obvious that you either don't understand what we are saying, or you don't like the reality and therefore prefer to deny it.

Example 1: Eurabia and Amerabia are not necessarily conspiracies (although the former was started as such by European elites). If you educated yourself on it, maybe you would realize it.

Example 2: The fact that you formulated a solution -- Abbas -- does not mean it is one. It's been clear for years that Abbas is not the solution, there is plenty of evidence for it, but like so many you're obviously in denial just because you don't want to accept the sad reality that there isn't one.

Engagement is indeed, a waste of time, because there must be two sides to it and I am playing with a dead hand.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 01:08 PM

Which Arab states? There are 22 of them. Their relationship to Islamism (if they have one at all) differ vastly from state to state.

Sorry, No Sale, Habbibi.

Jihadism is turned on when the Islamists feel they are under pressure. It's like DNA genes being turned on when a necessary protein needs to be manufactured.

fp is essentially correct in his statements. And that would include his "conspiracy theory" ralating to "Eurabia" and "Amerabia". Albanian "Bosnian" Muslim goes on shooting rampage in a Utah mall, but you will never hear of the particulars on CNN, BBC, and the rest of the dhimmi media. Instead, all you hear is jihadi propaganda: The Temple Mount, holliest site for Muslims, is under attack by Jews.

Posted by: redaktor at February 15, 2007 01:10 PM

Redaktor,

Positions such as Nouri's are how dhimmitude is advancing in the west without it realizing it.
The islamists have learned quite well how to use the "multiculturalists" and the lefties to advance their objective.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 01:15 PM

AG, keep dreaming :)

Posted by: MA at February 15, 2007 01:48 PM

"Example 2: The fact that you formulated a solution -- Abbas -- does not mean it is one. It's been clear for years that Abbas is not the solution, there is plenty of evidence for it, but like so many you're obviously in denial just because you don't want to accept the sad reality that there isn't one."

I have not formulated Abbas as a solution in and of himself. He is a tool towards one. Where is your solution. You do an awful lot of bad mouthing of all things Arab, but offer no solutions of your own. Take the next step.

"Example 1: Eurabia and Amerabia are not necessarily conspiracies (although the former was started as such by European elites). If you educated yourself on it, maybe you would realize it."

I have read the sources from which this nonsense comes from. I am well aware of the problems with multiculturalism in Western nations, but America is far from being anything like Europe or facing Arabization or Islamization.

"Jihadism is turned on when the Islamists feel they are under pressure. It's like DNA genes being turned on when a necessary protein needs to be manufactured."

Sometimes, yes. "Jihadism" is the Islamist form of combat. Its no different than the kind of tactics used by communists or other barbarians, save for that it has legitimate religious components outside of violence.

"fp is essentially correct in his statements. And that would include his "conspiracy theory" ralating to "Eurabia" and "Amerabia". Albanian "Bosnian" Muslim goes on shooting rampage in a Utah mall, but you will never hear of the particulars on CNN, BBC, and the rest of the dhimmi media. Instead, all you hear is jihadi propaganda: The Temple Mount, holliest site for Muslims, is under attack by Jews."

I've never heard anyone say that the Temple Mount was under attack by Jews, and I've never gotten that impression from Western media. You may not hear about a Bosinian individual on a shooting rampage, but you sure hear about every other Arab that gets arrested, and the Pakistani who goes on a rampage. Get real.

"Positions such as Nouri's are how dhimmitude is advancing in the west without it realizing it."

You mean positions that are not the result of mental illness?

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at February 15, 2007 01:53 PM

I thought you were not going to engage me anymore. It would save me the pain of responding when you don't seem to understand what I am saying.

I do not badmouth all things arab, they do a good job by themselves. I am simply stating facts, which wishful thinking ignores in denial.

Since I said there is no solution, how would I state one? The problem is that you want a solution so badly that you are willing to believe anything, even in contradiction with reality.

Of course the US is YET not as bad as Europe. But the latter had an early start. Given US time and watch. If you take a look at the links in my blog there is plenty of evidence of where it's going.
It's not enough to just read sources, though; you gotta understand what you read, and you gotta be able to interpret it using reason. That is what is missing in the west, because it no longer teaches history, classics, logic, science. The educational system has turned itself into a job-training, vocational system that produces people who don't have any sense of history and culture, and cannot assess evidence and reason from it.

Just take a look at US iniversities. They've been almost taken over by islamists and the left, and instead of academic research, they are producing islamist activism and propaganda, stiffling anybody who counters them.

Your comments on the Temple Mount are a good example. You don't see the obvious because you don't want to see -- it would produce cognitive dissonance with your position.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 02:36 PM

fp: There are signs of Amerarabia, similar to Eurabia. Descent into dhimmitude.

You are hysterical.

I doubt (native) Europeans will subject themselves to second-class citizenship in their own countries. They are far more likely to go for someone like Pim Fortyn or (ugh) Jean Marie Le Pen if things get ugly enough. There is no way in hell Americans will ever put up with anything of the sort.

Try imposing an Islamic theocracy on Texas and watch what happens. This or that Politically Correct silliness at Berkeley doesn't mean Houston or even Boston will surrender to Osama bin Laden.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 02:43 PM

fp, Nouri has a far better grasp of the Arab world and its politics than you do. Yours is very cartoonish and shallow. Yeah, I know, you lived in Israel for a long time. But Israel isn't Arab and Nouri is from Algeria which is a bit, um, closer. You can try pulling rank with me, but you can't do it with him. You could learn something from reading his blog. I do, which is why I permanently link to him on my sidebar.

You'll have a hard time finding a person more opposed to Islamism and all that garbage than Nouri. Algerians suffered far more Islamist violence than Israelis ever will. He's not a lefty, he's not a multiculturalist, he admires Henry Kissinger (I don't) and you should listen to him a bit more instead of just reacting with knee-jerk boilerplate about Amerabia.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 02:57 PM

Michael,

I am not hysterical at all. I provide evidence of it daily. The fact that the trend is at its beginning does not mean that it should be ignored like you do.

That's what they said in the early 30s when the nazis started. Turned out that the "hysterical" were the realists.

You are too much into lebanon and not enough into what is happening in the US and EU.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 03:18 PM

Things won't be as simplistic and sudden as imposing an islamic theocracy in texas. It is foolish to think that this is what I am claiming.

Going to absurd extremes to discount the serious evidence that I am providing is not something that I can take seriously.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 03:22 PM

Being opposed is not evidence of knowledge, understanding and appreciation. One can be opposed and yet have no proper assessment of reality.

I don't want to throw this around, but I am a political scientist by training and I studied the ME and more. Let's say that Nouri has an arabist view of the ME and I don't.

Ultimtaely, the facts will determine who is correct. But as far as I can tell, based on evidence, I stand behind my position and I don't buy Nouri's.

And I think you're a bit young and naive. I suspect Nouri is the same.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 03:27 PM

fp,

I am younger than you, and Nouri is younger than me, but neither you nor I have lived in a country where 150,000 people were murdered in a civil war with Islamist. "Naive" is not what comes to mind when I read Nouri's writing.

I am well aware of what is happening in the US and the EU, but you're wallowing in the fallacy of the slippery slope.

The US may move three milimeters closer to Islamism and dhimmitude, but Islamism and dhimmitude are still a million miles away.

You do your cause no service with these exagerrations. I suggest pointing out the real things you are opposed to and leave the wild-eyed "Amerabia" claims to the commenters at Little Green Footballs.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 04:11 PM

Michael J. Totten, I don't know what is more nauseating, your fawning questions or his pathetic answers.
"Everyone knows he's guilty," eh? I didn't know that. In fact I think it's infantile in the extreme to swallow this bait. You're right though, what's the point of trials? In the age of Guantanamo, Israel's snubbing of the Int'l Court, and Hussein's lynching we can dispense with such formalities. Then again, you were probably snapping photos of Solidaire with your backpack on not so long ago and thinking you were really in the Arab World.

Posted by: shaadi at February 15, 2007 04:34 PM

Shaadi, I lived in Lebanon, didn't just backpack through the place.

What's the point of trials? Bashar al-Assad and Hassan Nasrallah are the ones obstructing the trial, not me. Take your insults and knee-jerk attitude somewhere else. You have nothing useful or interesting to add. The "Angry Arab" blog, which I'm sure is how you found your way here, is where you belong. This is a forum for adults.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 04:43 PM

I suggest we do the following: you do your writings and I will do my comments and we will agree where we agree and disagree where we disagree, and let others decide who and when is right. OK?

By naive I mean those who do not have a long and diversified enough life experience. The fact that I guessed Nouri was also young just from his comments indicates that there was a basis to my naivity claim.

I not only lived in eastern europe under communism, in the ME, and now in the US, but I am also educated in the subject and trained to look at social phenomena in a way that you and nouri are not. Going around a country and taking photos and interviewing people is an important contribution, but is no substitute for careful study and maturity of experience.

To repeat: dismissal as exaggeration is exactly what they said about warners about nazism. Its young people like you and Nouri who lack that knowledge that claims of exaggerations derive from.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 05:14 PM

It's interesting how Guantanamo and Israel are thrown together with Saddam, but none of the horrible oppression and murder in the arab/muslim world.

It's always the US and Israel that are the root of the evil.

Now who's infantile again?

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 05:18 PM

Apropos the US:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/015273.php#more

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 05:35 PM

fp: To repeat: dismissal as exaggeration is exactly what they said about warners about nazism.

You need to demonstrate that I'm wrong rather than assert I'm wrong. The fact that different people were wrong about something else doesn't mean I'm wrong about this.

I've had Islamist terrorists whom I know in the real world threaten to kill me personally. Baath terrorists murdered a friend of mine with a car bomb. I'm far less naive and inexperienced with these thugs than most.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 06:28 PM

As far as I recall it was you who first stated I was wrong, I just responded in kind.

Anyway, my sympathy to you on both counts, but that is not a substitute for what I was talking about.

One of the reasons I started my blog of links is to give a sense of what I am relying one when I take positions here. I won't post all of that here -- you wouldn't want that -- but otoh don't expect me to turn this exchange into a rigorous and comprehensive polemic, as it would be mostly wasted. I am using a level of comments that is appropriate in this particular context.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 06:37 PM

"The need for a solution does not mean that there is one."

The inability to formulate a solution yourself does not mean that there is not one either

Great stuff. And to add a good friend's comment, "Just because you can't think of anything effective to do, doesn't mean you should do something ineffective."

fp -- It seems odd that you are trying to tell MJT to stick to his blogging and let you run the comments section. Don't you have your own blog and comments section?

If you are so certain that all is lost, that it is hopeless, etc etc., well, of course you won't have to offer any productive ideas or paths towards potential solutions. But why bother telling everyone over and over that they are ignorant and naive and that it is too late to make a difference?

The Roman rule: The one who says it cannot be done should not get in the way of the ones trying to do it.

Posted by: Pam at February 15, 2007 07:05 PM

I've never heard anyone say that the Temple Mount was under attack by Jews, and I've never gotten that impression from Western media.

Nouri Lumendifi,

Kudos to you for not watching that crap. You'll have to excuse my language, but that's what it is, crap. Of course, the dhimmi media doesn't call it the Temple Mount. Neither do they mention that it is THE holiest place in Judaism. Instead, the story is coached in the terms: al-Aqsa mosque, the most revered site for Muslims. The Jewish dimension is completely ignored. Anyway, in case you're unfamiliar with the story, jihadists in Israel are making a ruckus over a walkway leading to al-Aqsa. The walkway lies right next to Western Wall and is being renovated. The jihadis with their helpers at the CNN, BBC, etc., have raised such a stink about the renovation, that during his recent State visit to Turkey, Israeli PM Olmert was forced to agree to allow the Turkish Prime Minister come and inspect the work. This is the absurdity Israelis have to tolerate. An absurdity brought about by the MSM, a dhimmi MSM which is completely and purposefully uncritical of jihadi propaganda, subterfuge and lies.

Posted by: redaktor at February 15, 2007 07:17 PM

redaktor: dhimmi MSM

Please, enough with this overwrought vocabulary. Lots of us tune out when we see this sort of thing. Your point can be made much better without it, and you do make good points about this ridiculous situation.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 07:22 PM

Michael,

What else can one call them?

Posted by: redaktor at February 15, 2007 07:32 PM

Michael,

What else can one call them?

Posted by: redaktor at February 15, 2007 07:32 PM

Pam,

To RUN this comments section? Pls point out where I said THAT.

What I said was that IN THIS SECTION Michael should comment as he pleases (after all it is his section), just as everybody else and I will comment as I please and let everybody judge. So pls don't misinterpret.

How exactly am I getting in the way? And what exactly am I interrupting? I don't see anything being done, nor do I see a convincing solution. If there were one, I wouldn't argue there isn't, would I? If I recall correctly, I said implement whatever your solution is and if it works, I'll be glad to acknowledge it and tahnk you.

My take is that much more damage must be done to the west for it to wake up. There is no guarantee that that it will before it is too late. But nothing will be done until sufficient damage is incurred.

That's how things go.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 07:40 PM

Michael,

Take the definition of dhimmi and compare it with the reality of the MSM and explain to me why the term does not fit. The fact that they self-impose it on themselves rather than are forced into it is even sweeter for islamists.

As to you tuning out, that's your prerogative, but that does not negate its suitability.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 07:44 PM

redaktor: What else can one call them?

I'm sure you can think of something.

The fact that they self-impose it on themselves rather than are forced into it is even sweeter for islamists.

They don't impose second-class citizenship on themselves. They have many problems, but being oppressed by Islamists isn't one of them.

I write whatever the hell I want and the only problem I've encountered is an empty threat. The super-right-wing World Net Daily guy (I forget his name) has unfettered access to even Hamas no matter what he writes about them. The AP certainly has nothing to fear.

Half the problem with journalists are the rules imposed on them that have nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the Middle East. Most journalists Michael Yon knows say they hope the US wins in Iraq but can't say so, for example, because it isn't "objective." The other half is a combination of laziness, group think, and bias.

Islamist oppression and second-class citizenship isn't the problem.

Use phrases like "dhimmi MSM" if you makes you feel better, but understand that there is a price for doing so, and that price is that you will convince fewer people. It all depends on whether you want to change minds or feel good. Your call. I'm just saying.

You certainly won't convince liberals with that kind of talk. I'm telling you this and I'm a right-wing neoconservative warmongering imperialist asshole, apparently.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2007 09:32 PM

Michael,

I don't think you understand our argument.

1st, we did not claim YOU are dhimmi press; hell, you are hardly MSM. Don't take it personally, unless it is explicitly personal.

2nd, it does not matter whether they are oppressed or not, they think they will be. Given that they have little clue about the subject they cover, and watching the hatred/grievance ideology and violence exhibited, they prefer not to test their luck (the kidnapping/killing of journalists once in a while helps; the average MSM journalist is not very courageous. There are exceptions, but they are not the rule. In a lot of cases they internalize one side over the other, because they know they are not likely to have problems with the other. They also hope to protect/improve access.

But whatever the reason, the undeniable fact is that they simply take the islamist/arab side at face value without questioning it, and they ignore the other side. This is so systematic and obvious and so inconsistent with reality, if it walks and quacks like dhimmitude, I might as well call it that.

3rd, I am well aware of the rules, but those rules themselves have a lot to do with PC, which in turn has something to do with what we call dhimmitude.

4th, to be honest with you, those whom I lose don't do me any favor by disregarding me. They will pay their price, much heavier than the one I pay for losing them. I give them evidence and reason, it's up to them to judge. Often a bit of a "shock" of using a certain term may help.

But as I said before, it will take a lot of real damage and not just my comments or even yours to make the west defend itself. The only hope is that it won't be too late.

I am not sure you are what you say, but I was a liberal (and I am still one when it comes to domestic issues) but I figured out what's going on, primarily because I had more knowledge and I was trained to reason. In general western liberals tend to have less of that (due to educational collapse) which is why they must incur a lot of damage to wake up. Not using dhimmi MSM won't make a difference.

I was asked what is my alternative. I came very close to the following conclusion. But I won't hold my breath.

http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/110/Pip21407.htm

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 10:42 PM

But... but we dhimmi-witted liberals are a lost cause anyhoo, Michael.

Maybe some folks should read the book 'Words That Work.' Oh, wait, the guy who wrote it got drummed out of the GOP for saying a year ago that fear-based partisan stridency was driving away the citizenry, and the method of communicating needed to change if the 'Pubs were going to hold on in 2006. Ha! What the heck did HE know!

Posted by: Pam at February 15, 2007 10:47 PM

Pam,

Don't get too worked out about words. If only it were so simple.

I actually see some value in the liberals getting a full taste of the islamist damage. It'll be a good lesson and much more effective than any words anybody uses.

Posted by: fp at February 15, 2007 10:50 PM

fp:

The United States is unified but not uniform. Much of Middle America spends far more time working and watching local news channels and entertainment or participating in sports activities than reading or following international politics, and they are not likely to get all worked up about most international issues either. Based on most U.S. election turnouts the uninformed don’t bother to vote either—which is probably just as well based on your assessments of the ‘politically challenged’ American population.

Still, the idea that Islamists will someday dominate here is laughable. Readers at his blog understand that you are very familiar with Middle Eastern politics but you have very little understanding of the farmers in our fields and plains or the industries and daily habits of most Middle Class Americans. Go ahead, take your messages to the street corners, see for yourself whether It Plays in Peoria or hardly any of the 19,000+ cities and small villages of this land. Those living adjacent to Detroitistan or a few other neighborhoods might think you have a few good points, but that leaves the bulk of 19,000 cities and villages and 99% of some 300,000,000 who are among the least likely of all populations on Earth to consider any part of Islam relevant to their daily lives.

This is not France where Muslim youths burn 300 cars every month and the French press refers to the recent burning of 3000 cars as “civil unrest.” Here those youths would likely be looking through the bars of prison cells, and for longer and many repeated terms of imprisonment than is usually the case in Europe. Still, you can be sure that native Europeans will never stand aside to be governed by Islamists no matter what their PC dim-witted press may sometimes suggest.

Posted by: JAS at February 17, 2007 01:10 AM

Well, I am glad that you have so much understanding of the US social system. Most americans think they do, but unfortuntaely they don't. If they did, the 2000 selection would have never stood.

Please point out where have I ever said that US is France, or that it'll be islamized. The dangers are different, but you're so busy believing that nothing bad can happen here, that I don't find it very productive to bother making it clearer to you.

So relax and watch how the US decline. And let's talk again in 15-20 years, shall we?

Posted by: fp at February 17, 2007 10:23 AM

fp:

One man's ceiling is another man's floor.
Interesting discussion at:

http://www.beirutbeltway.com/beirutbeltway/2007/02/thus_spoke_agai.html#comments

Posted by: JAS at February 18, 2007 02:21 AM
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