November 30, 2006

Hugging the flag

By Abu Kais

Tomorrow, Hizbullah’s orcs and friends will invade downtown Beirut in an attempt to topple the government.

March 14 is asking its supporters to hug their flags and wait for the storm to pass.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora delivered another pretty speech which I won’t quote, because I think it’s useless, given that the man will keep turning the other cheek until he ends up on Hizbullah and Assad’s cross.

My emotions are clearly running high. All I see in front me, as a Lebanese Shia, is Nasrallah's face as he kidnaps my child into the servitude of his dark lords.

Earlier today, I published this post on my blog:

When Israel launched its retaliatory war in Lebanon this summer, some in Lebanon shouted: "We are all Hizbullah."

On Friday, Syria and Iran will launch an attack on Lebanon. They have recruited an Islamist militia armed and funded by an anti-democracy clerical regime. They have also recruited a mentally disturbed former army general with Napoleonic tendencies. They have recruited Palestinian refugees and Syrians languishing under a despotic regime.

They have recruited a “president” who thinks his duty is to call for civil disobedience against the very government he heads.

They have recruited Lebanese “citizens” brainwashed by theology and false messiahs.

On Friday, Lebanon will be attacked. Downtown Beirut will be sullied by the boots of Iranian, Syrian and Aounist orcs.

March 14 should not let this happen unopposed. If Hizbullah thinks it has the right to “defend” Lebanon any way it sees fit, then we have the right to fight for its future.

Downtown Beirut belongs to all. Do not let it be sullied by the defenders of darkness.

Beat them to freedom square. Form a human shield around Rafik Hariri’s site; Another Human shield around the government building; A Human shield around Samir Kassir’s statue; Human shield around Gebran Tueni’s An-Nahar; Human shield around the Martyrs’ statue.

March 14, mobilize the masses to Baabda. Resume the Cedar Revolution.

If they are all Hizbullah yesterday, today and tomorrow— we are all Lebanon, forever.

Very few agreed with my call. I don’t understand what we, Lebanese, are waiting for. More assassinations? Nasrallah thanking Syria again? My argument is this:

There are no available means in Lebanon to ward off Hizbullah and Aoun. They will not be stopped until an offensive is launched, and it won't be through his cabinet or parliament. My family is there and I don't want war to break out. It probably won't. But giving them flowers and turning the other cheek won't cut it. The army, security forces and the presidency cannot touch them because they are practically in control of all that. Let's admit this for once. Siniora is completely helpless. There is nothing he can do, even if he wanted to. Take it from Berri. He goes with the flow, and the flow right now is towards Iran. With the US's hands tied up in Iraq, I don't see any other solution but to duke it out. I don't mean war, but tit for tat, street for street, and [the presidential palace in] Baabda is the target. Enough with wasting time. They have made up their mind.

I am willing to be convinced that there is another solution. I just don't see what it is.

Update. Lebanese blogger R from Voices On The Wind agrees: march to Baabda.

The lines are drawn, and its obvious who is about to cross them. I suggest that March 14 pre-empt any "opposition" moves and mobilize its own public to camp in downtown, in defence of the Siniora government. The Siniora government should prove that it is worth defending, by appointing new ministers to replace the resigned 6 and murdered 1 and then wait for the general in baabda to sign, which he won't. At that point, it would be time to march to baabda… Take the initiative goddamnit…

Posted by Abu Kais at 5:36 PM

November 29, 2006

Lebanese paper: Syria to kill 36 Lebanese politicians

By Abu Kais

The story of a Syrian suicide bomber blowing himself up at a border crossing was not the only bizarre story reported by the media yesterday. Another story was that of a new Palestinian faction breaking away from Fatah Intifada (Fatah uprising), a Damascus-based faction that split from Yasser Arafat's main Fatah group in 1983.

More details emerged today, linking the new group, Fatah Islam, to a plot to assassinate Lebanese politicians.

According to the pro-Hariri newspaper al-Mustaqbal, the members of the new group were sent to Lebanon by the Assad regime to assassinate 36 Lebanese political figures. They were reportedly deployed in refugee camps in the north and in Beirut's southern suburb (Bourj al Barajnah). Once in Lebanon, they were told to coordinate their actions with Fatah Intifada's number two, Khaled al-Emleh.

Investigations with two arrested members of Fatah Islam apparently unveiled the plot, prompting Fatah Intifada to quickly disassociate itself from the new movement, which also quickly declared its independence from Fatah Intifada after using their offices for more than 56 days. Interestingly, the arrested members, a Syrian and a Saudi, identified themselves as Fatah Intifada members.

Fatah Intifada is practically run by Syrian intelligence, and has "bases" along the Syrian border, from which they occasionally shoot at Lebanese army soldiers if they dare approach their "territory".

Al-Mustaqbal said Lebanese army intelligence arrested the two members following their involvement in the killing of other Palestinian militants in the Baddawi camp in the north four days ago. They both carried Syrian passports issued in Damascus. They reportedly confessed to being members of a 200-strong group led by Syrian intelligence agent Mahmoud Kolaghasi.

Al-Mustaqbal also quoted journalists in the north as saying that the new group's leaders are claiming independence from Syrian intelligence, although they admit to coordinating with them in the past over the sending of fighters to Iraq until Syrian intelligence, according to Fatah Islam leaders, "tightened the noose".

A Fatah official, Sultan Abu al-Aynayan yesterday told the Lebanese official news agency that this group was a "strange phenomenon" and tried to disassociate it from any working Palestinian faction. He said they are a branch of al-Qaeda who used Fatah Intifada as a cover until they broke away forming their own faction. He said they have enormous amounts of money and were supplied with weapons when they were part of Fatah Intifada.

"We assert that this group has no role in Lebanon but maybe they should be in Iraq or Palestine," he said.

Fatah Intifada also disassociated itself from the new group and said they belonged to al-Qaeda.

Walid Jumblatt today accused the Assad regime of creating a new cover to assassinate political figures in Lebanon. You will remember how many times Assad and his foreign minister warned the world that al-Qaeda was infiltrating Lebanon. I guess they know because they send them there.

Posted by Abu Kais at 7:49 AM

November 28, 2006

Terrorist killed on Syrian border

By Abu Kais

Syrian-born Omar Hamra, a "tawhid and Jihad terrorist and military official", was casually crossing the border with Lebanon today with a suicide belt strapped to his waist, and nine different fake IDs. He ended up "exploding himself", according to the Syrian News Agency SANA.

An official source at the interior ministry said that on Tuesday  at about 13,45 AM. and while the military official at al-Tawheid and Jihad al-Takfiri ( those who reject others faith ) whose name is Omar Abdullah and his alias is Omar Hamra, Syrian origin, 28 years old, was trying to cross the border at Jdaydeit Yabous point with forged papers; started to fire at members of the Syrian security forces from a war gun and tried to escape.

The source added that due to the process of pursuing Hamra ; he exploded himself with an explosive belt, the matter that killed and injured two members of the Syrian security forces.

Normally, Syrian law enforcement would think the bulge under his sweater was an oversized belly, typical of many bearded Islamists.  On a normal day, they wouldn't be able to tell which one of the nine IDs he produced is really him, and they would let him decide.

But today Omar was unlucky. Not only did he foolishly choose an official border crossing to smuggle himself, his belt and IDs— he just did not think they would stop him. What with all the help he received from the dark lord's (a.k.a. Bashar Assad) agents? How could they?

So Omar ran. And the agents went after him, dodging his bullets. Kaboom.

It's good he had that belt. Islamist heaven is better than that Syrian hell anyway, at least it's a straight road.

Too bad, his final thought to himself must have been, the belt was only designed to kill one person.

Clap clap.

Posted by Abu Kais at 8:36 AM

NY Times: Hizbullah Training Mahdi Army

By Abu Kais

After Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and Somalian militias (though some doubt the report), Hizbullah is now said to be training the Mahdi Army militia in Iraq.

A New York Times report today quoted an "intelligence official" as saying Hizbullah, with Iranian guidance, has trained between 1,000 to 2000 Shia fighters who traveled to Lebanon via Syria. These fighters reportedly came to Lebanon learn about "Weapons, bomb-making, intelligence, assassinations, the gambit of skill sets".

In April, Hassan Nasrallah admitted to giving Palestinian militants "financial, political and media support."

The intelligence official said the training was part of a "strategic decision taken sometime over late winter or early spring by Damascus, Tehran, along with their partners in Lebanese Hezbollah, to provide more support to Sadr to increase pressure on the U.S."

The problem with Hizbullah has always been its incompatibility with the Lebanese system. The above report may need stronger evidence, but the fact that this party is working hard against the disengagement of Lebanon from regional struggles is evidence enough. Also, Hizbullah would not be able to refuse an order by their supreme leader in Iran to get involved in Iraq, Somalia or any other part of the world. They can't because they would be violating a religious duty.

I have quoted the following statement a couple of times on my blog. I think it sums up Hizbullah's attitude and mission pretty well.

“Today, the resistance became greater than the Lebanese scene, its influence on the moral and mobilization levels reaching beyond the country,” said Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad during a Hizbullah "celebration" in Nabatiyeh on Monday.

Ironically, Raad, in the same speech, said his organization was “defending” Lebanon's "sovereign decision".

Posted by Abu Kais at 7:09 AM

November 27, 2006

Hizbullah and Communal Coexistence

By Abu Kais

With Hizbullah reportedly planning “surprise” protests this week to topple the Siniora government, many, including Shias, are not surprised by how far the foreign-funded militia is prepared to take the country, and the Shia community, in what seems to be a political jihad against the state.

Masking Hizbullah’s “surprise” measures is a concern over the Lebanese constitution, which God’s self-appointed warriors claim to defend.

Following the Syrian-motivated resignation of two Hizbullah ministers and 4 of their allies, the argument du jour of the so called “opposition” is that the cabinet, a.k.a. council of ministers, has become unconstitutional because it violates a sentence in the preamble of the constitution. The sentence is:

There is no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the 'pact of communal coexistence

The argument is, of course, rubbish. The cabinet has the confidence of parliament (which includes Hizbullah members), and only parliament, not a militia, decides on the constitutionality of the country’s legitimate authority.

What Hizbullah is doing sets a dangerous precedent in the country: a pseudo-political sectarian entity allied with a foreign wannabe-power is manipulating the system and refusing to recognize the authority of the state if the latter does not succumb to extraterritorial demands.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the constitution that says a cabinet cannot continue to govern after the resignation of less than a third of its cabinet members. In fact, and upon becoming a deputy or minister, cabinet members are considered representatives of the entire nation and “no restriction or stipulation may be imposed upon [their] mandate by [their] electors,” let alone the party to which they belong. 

In any case, the constitution was clear on when a cabinet is considered without power, i.e. “resigned”:

(1) The Government is considered resigned in the following circumstances:
a. if the Prime Minister resigns;
b. if it loses more than a third of the members specified in the Decree forming it;
c. if the Prime Minister dies;
d. at the beginning of the term of the President of the Republic;
e. at the beginning of the term of the Chamber of Deputies;
f. when it loses the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies based on the Chamber's initiative or based on the Council's initiative to gain the Chamber's confidence.
(2) Ministers are to be dismissed by a Decree signed by the President and the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 65 of the constitution.
(3) When the Council resigns or is considered resigned, the Chamber of Deputies is automatically considered in extraordinary session until a new Council has been formed and has gained the Chamber's confidence.

Hizbullah’s insistence that the cabinet has no authority is by itself an act of rebellion against the state. They have the right to argue for unconstitutionality— but as long as this cabinet is around, they are forced to recognize its authority because it has not resigned. Promised acts of “civil disobedience” amount to treason, especially when the country is on the verge of economic collapse because of a devastating war started by none other than Hizbullah.

Ironically, Hizbullah continues to support the Syrian-imposed president, Emile Lahoud, whose term was extended under Syrian pressure by a reluctant pro-Syrian parliament. Lahoud could be an accomplice to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, and was the head of the Lebanese-Syrian security regime, remnants of which continue to terrorize the country.

One should keep in mind that Hizbullah has never recognized the authority of the Lebanese government. Its ideology is such that even Hizbullah MPs and ministers do not feel obliged to answer to the prime minister, the president or any official body in the country. After all, they have their own civilian infrastructure, which although fills a gap in some areas, indoctrinates Lebanese citizens with foreign ideologies and uses them as shields in political and military “struggles”, a.k.a. jihad.

Finally, here are other excerpts from the preamble of the constitution that Hizbullah likes so much today, but doesn’t bother to read in its entirety.

a. Lebanon is a sovereign, free, and independent country. (Hizbullah enjoys Syrian and Iranian hegemony, as well as financial and military support)
b. Lebanon is … a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government shall embody these principles in all fields and areas without exception. (UNSC resolution 1701 requires Hizbullah to disarm)
d. The people are the source of authority and sovereignty; they shall exercise these powers through the constitutional institutions. (Not militias)
e. The political system is established on the principle of separation, balance, and cooperation amongst the various branches of Government. (Hizbullah should learn to “oppose” through the institutions and not using and abusing the institutions.)

And yes, this one:

j. There is no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the 'pact of communal coexistence'.

It is not clear how Hizbullah, by hijacking an entire community and pitting it against the state's legitimate authority, is really working to safeguard communal coexistence. 

Posted by Abu Kais at 11:33 AM

Welcome Abu Kais

I’m going to be out of town for a little while and will probably not be able to blog at my usual pace. Last time I was out of town, when I drove from the East Coast to the West Coast, I convinced myself that I could still keep up this Web site, but I couldn’t. So I won’t make the same mistake now.

Abu Kais, who writes the terrific blog From Beirut to the Beltway, will help me out. Good timing, too, since Lebanon is (tragically) a “story” again. Abu Kais is a Shia from South Lebanon, from Hezbollah country. He is not, however, even remotely a Hezbollah partisan.

Please welcome him and enjoy his reports. And be nice in the comments.

Thanks, Abu Kais, for lending a hand.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:30 AM

November 25, 2006

Childish Foreign Policy

Lebanese blogger Tony Badran is not too impressed with the New York Times lately.

The NYT editorial board amassed the entirety of its impressive foreign policy genius, and came out with this terrifyingly awesome statement:

Damascus must also be told that it will pay a high price — in scorn, isolation and sanctions — if it is found to have ordered Mr. Gemayel’s death, or the deaths or maiming of a half-dozen other anti-Syrian politicians and journalists. Hezbollah must be told that it will be shunned if it tries to grab power through further violence or intimidation.

Did they just say “scorn”? Oh snap! Wait, and they got away with “shunning” Hezbollah?! They could do that?! Damn… that is cold! Take that Nasrallah and Khamenei! How you feel about that?!

This is what a friend of mine calls “the kindergarten school of politics.” Bad boys to the corner! No friends for bullies! This editorial might as well have been written by a grade-schooler.
Tony is on a roll lately, and there's plenty more where that came from.

UPDATE: Mustapha at Beirut Spring concurs that the New York Times is “infantile” and suggests Jim Hoagland as a man who “gets it.” (And he's right, Hoagland does get it.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:37 AM

November 24, 2006

Troll Alert

Someone has been impersonating me in the comments. That person's comments have been deleted.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:47 AM

To Hell in a Handbasket?

A chilling essay by Raja at the Lebanese Bloggers:

The Syrians feel pretty secure about Hizballah's ability to hold its own against these waves of protest and fury. So they do what they need to, to gain any sort of advantage on the international playing field. Their message to the powers that seek to remove Lebanon from the Syrian orbit is obvious:

You see your precious little Lebanon… your example of democracy in the middle east… your prized example of religious co-existence (both christian-muslim and sunni-shi'a); I can light it up with the push of a button. And if you don't talk to me… if you don't deal with the Syrian state as the guarantor of peace in Lebanon, that's exactly what I'll do.

[…]

In such a tense and gridlocked situation, where all the major local parties are so intransigent towards each other, something is gonna have to give. An appropriate analogy would be two major tectonic plates pushing against each other incessantly until, at some point in time, all hell breaks loose - think of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:44 AM

November 23, 2006

March 14 Wins the Day

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

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

War No More.jpg

Happy (belated) Independence Day to Lebanon.

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:01 PM

Shove Your Civil War

Gemayel Funeral.jpg

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

Shove Your Civil War.jpg

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

Photos courtesy of the BBC.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:58 AM

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:55 AM

Hugh Hewitt Interview

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:54 AM

November 22, 2006

Burning Aoun


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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:04 PM

Blowback

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

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:25 PM

Keystone Terrorists

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:13 PM

The Stage is Set - Updated

From Stratfor:

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Lebanese blogger Bad Vilbel adds in the comments — and I know he's right about this:
Just because i don't buy the “Sunnis and Christians training in Jordan” doesn't mean I don't think they are arming themselves. In fact, I am pretty sure they are. These folks were never “disarmed” in the first place. Everyone in Lebanon has weapons (and I don't mean little handguns here). If violence were to break out today, Hezbollah might be the best organized and financed, but I can guarantee that both the Christians and the Sunnis, and most certainly the druze are armed and ready to go (as sad as that may sound).
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:38 AM

Oops

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

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

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

Link to original in Arabic.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:25 AM

November 21, 2006

Echoes of Zarqawi

If you think radical Shias are the only dangerous people in Lebanon, think again. From the SITE Institute:

The Mujahideen in Lebanon threaten that the Shi’ites will not have an “entity” in Lebanon, and increasingly warn the Sunni Muslim people that the “zero-hour” is approaching, in a statement issued today, Monday, November 20, 2006. Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, is stated to be bearing his evil and gathering killers, and will not greet the Sunni with “flowers,” but with curses. The Mujahideen believe that the Nusayri [aka Alawite - MJT] regime in Syria and Iran is gathering parties around Nasrallah and Hezbollah, and to counter, the Sunnis must be prepared to fight. They warn: “The blood will flow like rivers,” and to the Shi’ites: “Prepare your coffins and dig your graves. The hurricanes of the Mujahideen are coming in Lebanon”.
This sentiment, if I could call it that, does not represent mainstream Sunni opinion in Lebanon. (Mainstream Sunni opinion is more fairly represented by Fouad Seniora and Saad Hariri.) But as recent events in both Lebanon and Iraq show, minority extremist factions can be big enough to start wars by themselves.

Incidentally, those Americans who say they want a civil war against Hezbollah in Lebanon need to realize that these are the kinds of people they're egging on. The famous “protest babes” are not going to pick up the rifles.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:45 PM

Another Assassination in Beirut - Continuously Updated

The only thing that surprises me even slightly about today's political assassination in Beirut is that the victim was Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, rather than Fouad Seniora, a Sunni.

All the assassination victims after Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, have been Christians. But the most heated sectarian tension right now is between Sunnis and Shias. The Christians aren't in a fighting mood, but many say the Sunnis are. The Syrian regime cannot restrain itself from butchering its Lebanese enemies, but it looks to me like someone in Damascus just flinched.

Gemayel's father Amin was President of Lebanon from 1982 to 1988, during the civil war. His uncle Bashir was elected president for that term, but he was assassinated shortly before taking office.

Gemayel's party, the Kataeb, was an ally of Israel during the war.


UPDATE: Just spoke to a friend of mine in Lebanon. I did not realize until now that Gemayel was a member of the Lebanese cabinet. The Hezbollah/Syrian axis has been trying to bring down the government by pressuring three more members to resign. One down, two to go. Looks like the coup d'etat is in progress.


UPDATE: Abu Takla in the comments says “one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional.”


UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon's political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.


UPDATE: Hezbollah is planning massive street “protests” on Thursday. Tony Badran notes: “This assassination will likely ensure that if such street rallies do take place, clashes would erupt, as it's clear that the Syrians are set on that. (Just another reminder for the idiots who believe Syria is a force of “stability.”) Syria has a primary objective that outweighs everything else: kill the Hariri tribunal, and redominate Lebanon at any cost. This is nothing short than a fight to the death for the Syrians. And, as these thugs have done throughout their bloody history, they will kill anyone.”


UPDATE: “Anonymous Leb” in the comments says Abu Takla is wrong. The Syrian/Iranian/Hezbollah/Whatever axis needs to kill two more members of the cabinet to pull off their coup.


UPDATE: Mary Madigan is frustrated with fools who want to sit down and “talk” (in other words, cut deals) with Syria and Iran:

Discussions about Middle East politics remind me of a bit from a comic, Pearls Before Swine. One of the characters is a Zebra, who can't understand why the lions keep eating his fellow Zebras. So, he writes a letter to the lions filled with philosophical questions about peace, understanding and the nature of being, asking why can't they all get along, why can't they be friends..

The answer comes back from the lions “we eat Zebras becuz you taste gud.”


UPDATE: The UN Security Council approved the tribunal that will put the Assad regime and its Lebanese tools on trial. Also, Abu Kais notes that March 14 is asking for massive turnout at Gemayel's funeral in downtown Beirut on Thursday, the same day that Hezbollah says it will take to the streets to topple the government. Lebanese live in interesting times.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:21 AM

One Word

Inspired by Noorster.

1. Yourself: wanderer
2. Your spouse: anchored
3. Your hair: annoying
4. Your mother: sweet
5. Your father: practical
6. Your favorite item: ipod
7. Your dream last night: vanished
8. Your favorite drink: wine
9. Your dream car: ferrari
10. The room you are in: warm
11. Your ex: friends
12. Your fear: boredom
13. What you want to be in 10 years: self-actualized
14. Who you hung out with last night: wife
15. What you're not: complacent
16. Muffins: chocolate
17: One of your wish list items: visa
18: Time: fast
19. The last thing you did: painted
20. What you are wearing: jeans
21. Your favorite weather: sunny
22. Your favorite book: loaned
23. The last thing you ate: mexican
24. Your life: adventurous
25. Your mood: content
26. Your best friend: talkative
27. What you're thinking about right now: sleep
28. Your car: fast
29. What you are doing at the moment: typing
30. Your summer: war
31. Your relationship status: married
32. What is on your TV: Battlestar
33. What is the weather like: rainy
34. When was the last time you laughed: today

Tagged: Nancy Rommelmann

Fill in your own in the comments.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:15 AM

November 20, 2006

Just a Thought

The Netherlands is considering a ban on burkas. Naturally this is controversial. Some Arab and Muslim countries – Tunisia, for instance – won’t let women wear even a headscarf, let alone a veil or a burka, on schools or government property. But Western countries are and should remain freer. Tunisia’s law shouldn’t be a license for a similar Dutch law for obvious reasons: Tunisia also bans political parties.

The Dutch mean well, though. Burkas and veils are tools used by men to oppress women. (Spare me the excuses. I have heard them all and I'm not buying.) The oppression of women is clearly not something Dutch culture values too highly. Neither, though, is a state-enforced dress code. So there is tension.

Here’s an idea, even though the implementation might be a bit tricky: How about forbidding men from forcing “their” women to wear a veil or a burka? Women can wear them if they want (sometimes they do), but it would be illegal for medieval-minded men to use clothes to bully their wives, sisters, and daughters.

UPDATE: Okay, okay, the commenters win. I'm just thinking “out loud” on the page here, and I am convinced this isn't workable. Does anyone else have any idea how Western societies can resist the importation of burkas, veils, and other tools of male dominance without being overly authoritarian?

It is, most likely, unconstitutional for the U.S. to ban burkas, and I shudder at the thought of a government dress code. 21st Century American men shouldn't be slapping burkas on “their” women, though.

I saw a woman with her husband last year at the Fry's Electronics store wearing a full burka. I'm not talking about a headscarf, a veil, or even an abaya. I mean the whole body sheet with a screen over her face. Her husband looked like he was from Pakistan. (Arabs don't wear burkas.) I wanted to tell him to go eff himself, but I'm polite and didn't say anything. My friend Ed said he would have told that guy to go eff himself, and I believe him.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:37 PM

November 19, 2006

Egyptian "Morals"

Somehow Egypt has startlingly prudish sex laws on the books and at the same time tolerates despicable sexual aggression against women in public.

Egyptian blogger Big Pharoah explains how some of his country's laws work:
If I went out and arranged with an Egyptian girl, the hotel will report us both to the police and we'll get arrested for “indecent acts”. In Egypt, the reception has to see the marriage certificate of the Egyptian couple before they can get a double room.

If I hooked up with a foreigner, I will get arrested and she'll walk as freely as she entered the hotel gate.

If I was a holder of a foreign passport and I walked up to the reception desk with 10 Ukrainian prostitutes all wearing G strings, the reception guy will roll out the red carpet for me. Why? Because we're all foreigners and in Egypt foreigners or holders of foreign passports have the freedom to sin while we Egyptians don't.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Sandmonkey reports the following news in the wake of the horrific sexual assault rampages in downtown Cairo:
Yesterday was the second sexual harrassment protest in downtown cairo against what went down in the eid incident. And while the first one passed without incident, the police has cracked down on the second one. On my way there I bumped into Sharkawy, who told me that its nearly impossible to get to the protest: State security cars were everywhere, and police agents were blocking anyone from reaching the protest area, so they had to cancel it. The few activists who were there, however, were harassed, beaten up and arrested.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:52 PM

Thought for the Day

“One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter and VICE VERSA.” — Lebanese blogger Josey Wales in the comments.

Updated to add: It's those last three words that are so often forgotten by those who enjoy the first (cliched) part of that statement.

Unlike most of us, Josey Wales grew up in a country that was blown up and dismembered by freedom fighters, er terrorists.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:06 PM

November 18, 2006

The New Middle East

Michael Young, Opinion page editor at Beirut's Daily Star, writes a Kiss Goodbye to a Liberal Middle East.

Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid, whom Michael sometimes publishes in the Daily Star, has more on this theme on his blog:
During my recent talk at Brookings, one of the attendees, a well-known and respected former diplomat, asked me whether I did not think that US diplomat are smart and clever enough to be able to convince the Assads, once they engage them, of them of the usefulness of breaking away from Iran.

That’s the real problem here. US officials, their ideological predilections notwithstanding, think always that they can outsmart their way out of any mess that they outsmarted themselves into. They come to this “game” with their smug confident attitude and want us to have faith in their wisdom, because, hey, they know things about our own realities that we somehow don’t. They invest their egos in this “game,” while we invest our lives. They gamble with the lives of 300,000 or so Americans, while we are forced to see their three or so hundreds and raise them a few hundred millions more.

Now the neo-cons, because they had a place for us, Arab democrats, in their plans, that is, when victory was eventually achieved, asked us for our advice then ignore it and proceeded to do what they were inspired to do, expecting us to adjust all the while, or, from their point of view, catch up, because of course they knew better. The realists, however, won’t have to play this game with us, because the place they have reserved for us in their particular schemes is right there on the margins of things, in exile or in the dungeons of the ruling regimes.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:09 PM

November 17, 2006

Good Neighbors

My Israeli friend Yael has created a group blog unlike any other I know of. It's a Middle Eastern blog called Good Neighbors where both Arabs and Israelis contribute.

So far she has signed up herself (obviously) and Tif from Israel, Big Pharoah from Egypt, Free Cedar from Lebanon, Drima from Sudan, Shiffa from Jordan, Ramzi S from Palestine, and Yaser from Syria.

This is a place for people who want to opt out of the destructive “narrative” that convulses the region and do something more civilized and productive instead.

The Middle East desperately needs a satellite TV station with a similar mission that can compete with Al Jazeera, etc. Cyprus might be a good neutral nearby location where something like that could be launched. In the meantime, Good Neighbors is one of the first and few options available.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:07 PM

November 16, 2006

Our Bastards

I need a one-day break from the doom and gloom of the ongoing Middle Eastern catastrophe. Since I have no affection whatsoever for either American political party, and since bitching about the government is one of our ever-popular past-times, I'm going to indulge in some slightly juvenile behavior today — photo gallery style. Hopefully you will laugh at least once. If not, lighten up!

Here are some pictures of American politicians.

Bill Clinton.jpg

Bill Clinton, Democrat


Alan Keyes.jpg

Alan Keyes, Republican


John Kerry.jpg

John Kerry, Democrat


John McCain.jpg

John McCain, Republican


Nancy Pelosi.jpg

Nancy Pelosi, Democrat


Dennis Hastert.jpg

Dennis Hastert, Republican


Hillary Clinton.jpg

Hillary Clinton, Democrat


Dick Cheney.jpg

Dick Cheney, Republican


Howard Dean.jpg

Howard Dean, Democrat


Donald Rumsfeld.jpg

Donald Rumsfeld, Republican


John Murtha.jpg

John Murtha, Democrat


George W Bush.jpg

George W. Bush, Republican


Teresa Heinz Kerry.jpg

Teresa Heinz Kerry, Democrat


Jeb Bush.JPG

Jeb Bush, Republican


Dennis Kucinich.jpg

Dennis Kucinich, Democrat


Lincoln Chafee.jpg

Lincoln Chafee, Republican


Jimmy Carter.jpg

Jimmy Carter, Democrat


Rudy Giuliani.jpg

Rudy Giuliani, (male) Republican

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:31 AM

November 15, 2006

Iran Wants Lebanon Now

If you have any doubt that Iran and Syria are bound and determined to seize Lebanon and yank it into their axis, take a look at what Ayatollah Khamenei has to say about it. From Lebanon's Naharnet:

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said the United States and Israel would be defeated in Lebanon, in talks with speaker Nabih Berri, Iranian media reported Wednesday.

Khamenei praised Berri for his “excellent role” in the July-August war between Hizbullah and Israel, and for the “victory” against the Jewish state, in their meeting on Tuesday.

“What led to this great victory was the unity and harmony between Hizbullah and Amal brothers which must go on in future more strongly than before,” said Khamenei.

Berri is the head of the Amal movement that is allied with Hizbullah.

Lebanon “will be the defeat point for Israel and America,” the two-arch enemies of the Islamic republic, Khamenei said.

Iran, along with Syria, is accused of arming and financing Hizbullah. Tehran denies the allegation, insisting it only gives “moral” support to the Shiite group.

“Today it is (America's) policies in the world and the region that are bound to fail. These opportunities must be exploited with determination and action,” said Khamenei.
Lebanon, tragically, is resuming its historic role as a proxy war battleground for countries more powerful than itself. Just about every group in the country allows itself to be used as a proxy by some nation or other, and so it continues.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:18 PM

November 14, 2006

At Last

I've been waiting for someone from Lebanon to finally say it: Abu Kais, a Shia from the South, accuses Hezbollah of treason.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:49 PM

Pajamas Media Podcast with Tony Badran

I have been thinking about getting into podcasting for a while now, and I've finally done it. My first interview subject is Tony Badran. He works for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and writes the must-read Lebanese blog Across the Bay. Tony and I discuss — what else? — Lebanese and Syrian politics. We taped the interview just before the latest Beirut meltdown began, so it couldn't be a more timely subject.

The interview is available at Pajamas Media. I'm new at this, so please let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Don't miss Tony's fisking of a recent New York Times article by Michael Slackman. “Lebanon is probably the most misrepresented and misunderstood of all the Arab states, but some people aren't even trying.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:51 PM

November 13, 2006

A Perfect Storm?

A perfect storm may be brewing in Lebanon.

I’ve been under Tornado Watch probably ten times or so in the American Midwest. Not once did a tornado touch down anywhere near me while I was on alert. Several tornadoes, though, blew through the area out of the blue with no warning on different days. So consider this a storm watch weather forecast for Lebanon with that level of built-in unpredictability.

The Lebanese government says Syria and Iran aim to overthrow the elected government in Beirut and reconquer the country. Whether they are actually trying to do this right now or not is unknown. There should be no doubt, though, that if they don’t have a plan to execute now it’s because they want to do it later instead.

Meanwhile, a group that calls itself “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” appeared from Lord-only-knows-where and directly threatened to destroy the March 14 government. “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” may or may not exist as a wing of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. If they do, they’re serious. If they don’t, they’re a Syrian proxy. Either way, it doesn’t look good. This is not a prank phone call.

These threats to Beirut’s elected government are concurrent with Hezbollah’s and Amal’s resignation from the Lebanese cabinet. Hezbollah and Amal quit for two reasons. The first is that the March 14 bloc refused to give Nasrallah and friends who lost last year’s election more power in a “national unity” government. The second is because it was time for the cabinet to move ahead on the Hariri tribunal. Hezbollah will not tolerate the prosecution of their patron in Damascus.

Once again, the country is bracing itself for sectarian war in the streets. Charles Malik says Christians may sit this one out for the first time in Lebanon’s history. Whatever fighting there may or may not be will likely involve Sunni and Shia.

If this isn’t gruesome enough, Syria and Iran have reportedly replenished all Hezbollah’s destroyed arsenal stocks. Hezbollah, according to the Times of London, now has more rockets than they had before the most recent Israeli invasion. If this is, in fact, true, UNIFIL ought to just go home right now. These foreign soldiers are useless except as human shields.

Israelis need a new Lebanon strategy. Now. But they are not likely to get one, at least not until Ehud Olmert takes his rightful place among the losers of Israeli prime ministers. He’s threatening to invade Lebanon again as early as this coming Spring. So far there is no talk whatsoever of doing anything to Hezbollah’s logistics hub in Syria. Hebollah is nothing but a protest and charity movement without its supply train from Tehran through Damascus.

Instead, Israel pinky swears to leave Bashar Assad alone even though he, more than anyone else, is responsible for turning Lebanon into an engine of chaos. The Israelis even phoned Bashar while bombing Beirut and the Bekka. They told him to sleep tight because he is not on their list. So of course he went and rigged up Round Two.

In the meantime, though, Round 1.5 may (or may not) break out at any time.

UPDATE: A friend and trusted source emails from Lebanon with an update on what's going on in the Dahiyeh south of Beirut, the capital of Hezbollah's state-within-a-state.
My friend __________, an American who used to live down there, just visited his old apartment, which was right next to the al Manar Building. It really spooked him. There are massive buildings missing all over the place. There are still heaps of trash and rubble all over, but the streets are all navigable. Of course, the Shia down there don't seem to mind. They're all outside smoking argile in front of the buildings like they used to. Most of his old neighbors are still there. However, Hezbollah is all over the place. The area is completely monitored.

During the war, Hezbollah's full control of Dahieh became 100% apparent to even the most pro-Hezbollah, Lebanese-American-French-Saudi hating idiot. To even get into the area, foreigners had to present their passports, which Hezbollah photocopied. After the war, they first approved who could and could not enter the area, even amongst Lebanese.

Now, their surveillance is everywhere, even though they have allegedly moved their bases of operation. They still have deep tunnels under their, but Dahieh has also become a bit of a trap. Anyone looking for Hezbollah will go there - even though it's no longer the heart of their operation, thus they've set up their surveillance systems to see who's looking for them and what they are doing. If they see those same people at any of their other locations, those people will be ever more closely monitored.

A paranoid organization is now paranoid beyond belief. Allegedly, Hezbollah surveillance is extending further and further than it was before. They are watching everyone, to an even greater extent than in the past. And this has become easier because many moderate Shia who are integrated into the non-Shia communities have now become complete Hezbollah supporters.

Even supporters of Michel Aoun are suspicious of the Shia who joined the FPM, now. The FPM members know the Shia only support Aoun because he's allied with Hezbollah. If there isn't Hezbollah support, those people will be gone. So, it's assumed they are working for Hezbollah and reporting everything back.

According to a graduate computer science student at AUB, the English speaking and moderate Shia are now monitoring websites. He told me to be careful about what I write. I don't take that too seriously, but I wouldn't doubt that they are watching to an ever greater degree.

UPDATE: Don't miss my Pajamas Media podcast interview with Lebanese blogger and political expert Tony Badran.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:25 PM

November 11, 2006

Hezbollah Quits the Government

Hezbollah and Amal resigned from the Lebanese cabinet after the majority March 14 bloc refused to surrender to their undemocratic demands for more power. I will not even guess what might happen next.

UPDATE: Charles Malik has some thoughts on this at the Lebanese Political Journal.

He phoned the (Sunni/Hariri) Future Movement Youth Organization office and got the following (paraphrased) response: “Too hell with Hezbollah. They dragged us through a mess this summer. They're trying to do it again, but this time we are determined to stop them. We've got plenty of Shia we can appoint to fill their positions, and we'll give Aoun positions in the government if he wants them. That way, it will be the entire nation against Hezbollah and Amal.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:20 PM

A Few Final Words

Yesterday I published an argument between myself and a member of Hezbollah that was generated in the comments.

I regret being less polite than he when we first encountered each other. By way of explanation, I will say this. During my time in Lebanon I was treated viciously by Hezbollah officials because I cracked a joke on my blog and because they suspected a colleague of mine was a Jew. This, of course, is a trifle compared with what Hezbollah has done to others less fortunate than myself. But my history with them is what it is, and they made it personal.

I also am furious at Hezbollah for starting a war that brought air strikes and bombs to my old neighborhood, that killed innocent people — many of them children — in two countries. I lashed out at the first Hizbullahi I encountered after that war.

It may seem ridiculous to some of you that I would concern myself about something as trivial as online etiquette with a man who self-identifies as an enemy and who says the phrase Death to America comes from his heart. But I did meet supporters of Hezbollah who were nice to me despite our vast political differences (to put it lightly). I have spoken to members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who lied and dissembled, but who at the same time treated me decently and with at least formal respect. Arabs, for the most part, are courteous people. I admire that trait in their culture. Americans and Europeans can and at times do learn courtesy from the Arabs. Mr. Al Ghaliboon has conducted himself politely in the comments here, and it was fascinating to watch how almost every Westerner who interacted with him, myself included, became more polite over time.

None of this means those of us who participated are going to become Hezbollah supporters any time soon. Al Ghaliboon will not join Lebanon's March 14 Movement (ie, the Cedar Revolution) because of anything he might have learned here. Nor is there any middle ground we can work toward. I strive for moderation in my American political views. That's because Americans have common ground and common values to build on. Most of us agree on the basic political questions.

It is possible for mainstream Americans and mainstream Lebanese to find some common ground even though there are also vast political and cultural differences. Lebanon is an ally of sorts of the United States, and not in the corrupt and degrading way that Egypt and Saudi Arabia supposedly are. It's a tense alliance, and it is severely strained — more so than you probably think — because of the war in July and August. The alliance is not supported by every group in the country, and perhaps never will be. But it's something.

Hezbollah, though, remains on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Al Ghaliboon is an enemy. I do not mean to insult him by calling him this. It is simply the way things are. He self-identifies as an enemy, and it only takes one side to define that kind of relationship. As far as I am concerned, he is welcome to transform that relationship into something more productive at any time. Americans forgive more quickly and easily than he thinks, I suspect.

Anyway, I've given a lot more time and space to a member of Hezbollah than I ever expected I would or even probably should have. I'd like, then, to promote what I think is one of the strongest responses from this fascinating discussion to the main page. I don't agree with everything written below, but it's engaging and powerful and I do agree with a lot of it. It is an unabashedly hostile reponse. It is also, at the same time, a calm one.

I image Al Ghaliboon is at least partly interested in this discussion in the spirit of knowing one's enemy. He is free to correct me if I am wrong. Either way, Al Ghaliboon, here is your enemy:
Let us speak for a moment of practicalities. Of realpolitik, if you will.

alGhali, my name is Ric. I understand that means something amusing to you. I urge you to suppress that reaction.

I am, more or less in order of importance, an American, a Christian, a Texan, a military veteran, a Republican, and a descendant of American Indians. Whatever your goals are, you must convince me, and others like me, not to oppose them, or you don't have a hope in Hell.

The reason that is so is that you produce nothing for yourself. You and your people do not even make the explosives you kill people with; you must buy them from the West, or from the Persians. You and your people don't make the televisions you watch Nasrallah speak on; you must buy them from the Japanese and the Koreans. You don't make the studios or their equipment; you must buy them from us, or from the British or French. You don't make the cell phones you use as triggers for booby traps; you must buy them from the West, or again Japan and Korea. You don't make the pickup trucks that transport your “soldiers” to battle. You don't even make the guns you brandish so forcefully, or the ammunition you waste spraying at the sky. The rockets? Russia or Eastern Europe.

You don't even earn the money you buy those things with. You must depend upon the largesse, the generosity, of others, and if you believe that generosity is genuinely in your interest you are too stupid to take seriously, or else you depend upon Western desire for the oil, which was put there by Allah with no effort on your part; you did nothing to earn it.

We, on the other hand (and by “we” I mean the West and those who have copied us) make all those things. It is for this reason that we are strong. We learned, with the most painful lessons coming in the century just past, that both Mao and Machiavelli were wrong. Good soldiers may well get you gold, but for us gold is useful stuff for electronics and not much more; our wealth is elsewhere. The sort of power that flows from the barrel of a gun is transitory and not a little illusory. If you have the power of wealth, guns are so cheap they can be handed out to the likes of you for our entertainment. What we have learned is the deep truth of another aphorism: When you are strong you can forgive your enemies. When you are weak you can only kill them.

You, sir, are a weakling and a coward, and as such we will never support you. You prove yourself a weakling by announcing your intention to kill, thereby establishing that you are too weak to forgive. You confirm that by never producing anything of your own, only demanding that others provide your support. You have no strength, no power. You are not a slave, and we have no desire to have you as a slave — a slave must at least be able to hew wood and carry water, and you have established that you have not the strength for that even on your own behalf, by demanding that others do it for you while you arm yourself to kill.

Therefore you have failed in your aim. You have not come close, with your glib recital of past vilenesses, to convincing me to support you. I mentioned that I am a descendant of American Indians. A century and a half ago, the invading whites ripped some of my ancestors from their lands, forcing them to walk almost three thousand kilometers to a a desolate untamed land where they were “resettled”, and took the ancestral lands for their own. But I am a Westerner. That is in the past, and the reality for today is that if I wish a redress of those grievances, first I must amass the power — and I understand that wealth is power, and all else is weakness. If I will not build real power I am simply a murderer if I seek to drive the descendants of the robbers from my ancestors' homeland. And, strangely enough, I find that as I amass real power the issue recedes. One bit of land will do as well as another. Speaking of “homelands” is simply an excuse for tyrants to gather political power from lazy people who are wistful for past glory but unwilling to make new glory.

The guns, the rockets, the bombs, all the warstuff you amass is worthless so long as you must get it by trusting the largesse of others. It will never gain you the strength you want. The ability to kill is not power. The ability to build is power, power we can respect. If you have real power, the warstuff is toys and bagattelles.

And if you are seeking “honor” from us, you have failed again. “Honor” as you understand it means that we recognize your ability to kill or damage who or what you like, when you like, without effective reprisal. We call that “bullying” and consider it the behavior of jackals. By insisting upon it you class yourself with those.

Save your rhetoric. You have failed, and will continue to fail. Your every presentation that you consider as influencing the West to favor you instead reminds us of what we consider our dishonorable past; you disgust us because you remind us of our primitive origins, which we have done our best to suppress. Even the word “jihad”, which you use among yourselves and in your propaganda as a term of approbation, for us is quite different. An attempt, by military or other violent force, to extend the reach of one's beliefs or religion is a crusade. That's what the English word means. The fact that today's Crusaders wear a crescent-and-star instead of a cross makes no difference. Hassan Nasrallah, and you, are Crusaders. You should change your name to Geoffrey.

It's fun to read your apologias and what you consider to be your arguments, but I am one of the ones you must convince, and you have not only failed to advance that cause, you are farther from it than you were when I had never heard of you. If you want my support — and you cannot come close to your goals without it, and you know it, or you would not make the attempt — you must change your tactics. I don't care to advise you on what tactics to use, except to let you know that several others upthread have offered useful hints, because frankly you disgust me. Your presentation has made it more likely that I will shoot you or your followers when I encounter you, not less. You are a failure. Accept that and learn.

Regards,
Ric Locke
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:14 AM

November 9, 2006

An Argument with Hezbollah

Hezbollah Flag.gif

A member or supporter of Hezbollah who calls himself Al Ghaliboon appeared in my comments and completely dominated the thread. Normally I don't let somebody show up and do that, but it's not every day that a group of Americans gets to argue with someone like him.

I've argued with several members and supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and my personal experience with them runs the gamut. Many are perfectly friendly and pleasant. Some of the higher-ranking party officials are unbelievably vicious and nasty. (If you want to read the uncut version of my experience with nasty Hizbullahi, you can read an account in the pamphlet Adam Bellow and I published last month.)

Al Ghaliboon is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. As I figured out that he is interested in talking rather than in fighting or screaming, I toned down the temperature of my own responses. Here is my dialogue with him as it originally appeared in real time.

You can read the entire thread here if you want the whole thing.

AG: Mr. Totten,

Regarding your cheap shots at Mr. Fisk, I presume your hero is Mr. Friedman? In which case may I encourage you to actually go beyond the Orientalist perspective, to gain at least an ounce of credibility amongst your wider (non-Orientalist/non-fascist) readership?

Regards,

A Hizbullahi from the South.

MJT: It takes a lot of nerve for a Hizbullahi to call me a fascist.

Get a life, buddy. Or do you enjoy getting bombed halfway to the moon by the Israelis?

Yes, I prefer Tom Friedman to Robert Fisk. He's not a fascist, he's a liberal. Unlike yourself.

AG: Unlike you, I have not painted anyone with blanket statements.

I would say that it is a bit childish of you to make such statements about being bombed to the moon by the Israelis, given that the primary victims of the Israelis have not been the Hizbullah fighters, but rather the babies, women, the elderly, and in general civilians. It is a shame that your so-called liberal hatred has blinded you to the facts, that while we have fought with honour on the battlefield (and the ratio of Israeli civilians to soldiers killed is testimony to that), the Israelis have attempted to take out their anger at their inability by bombing our people, our bridges, our homes, basically everything BUT us. However, if you choose to present the 500 dead figure that Israel claims it achieved (notice how Israel phrases its achievements - in terms of kills and amount of territory occupied; which indicates what they really are after), at least give us some proof of this; I remember during the war they were constantly repeating this figure, and the other 50% figure of rocket launchers destroyed. Tell me, Mr. Totten, since you insist the Israelis bombed us halfway to the moon, what did this bombing-to-the-moon campaign achieve? What achievements can one speak of, at least without sounding as laughable as a clown (or Tzipi Livni apologizing for the Beit Hanun massacre and claiming it was unintentional - I wonder, how many mistakes can one make in the span of uhh, let's say 2 months?) would sound. But since your liberal self chooses to brag about the bombing-halfway-to-the-moon, I presume you are also bragging about the similar bombing to the moon of the 4 UN officers? Or is human life valuable depending on where they hail from, and what colour their skin is, or which God they pray to?

MJT: Yo, Mr. Hezbollah. You don't know who you're arguing with, so I suggest if you want to have that fight you go somewhere else.

How dare you complain about the Israelis bombing civilians? I get to complain about that. You don't. You bombed Haifa and bragged about it. You are an apologist, and perhaps even a perpetrator, of war crimes.

AG: I am really amazed at your usage of fallacies to divert from the point I raised; Regardless of who I am and how hypocritical I might be, your response still constitutes a fallacious diversion.

As for accusing me of bombing Haifa - that got you a bit distressed, didn't it? - that's a bit of an assumption, isn't it?

An apologist - how am I justifying anything? I did not even raise that point. If you choose to forge your arguments based entirely on fallacies of attack on the person, that's an entirely different matter. However, again, it shows more about your standards, than mine.

I am here to discuss respectfully; if you cannot place your biases behind you for a moment, then that says quite a lot about your tolerance and alleged liberal values.

MJT: Al Ghaliboon, if you're here to discuss this respectfully then you can start by not throwing “Orientalist” and “Fascist” around. That is not a way to get on my good side.

Also, if you are looking to argue with someone who thinks Israel did a good job in Lebanon, you're on the wrong blog.

AG: Let me be incredibly honest; I have read your blog for some time, but have refrained from commenting. I can say that I find your views abhorrable, in so far as they (more often than not) justify murder based on Israel's right to self-defense. Mr. Totten, if Israel wanted to defend itself, if Israel believed we were on an equal footing as human beings, if Israel believed in human rights, if Israel believed in the real rules of war, let it fight on the battlefield, let it invade and snatch our rocket launchers from us. To hide behind F-16s and then make unsubstantiated accusations that we hide amongst civilians to justify the kill-of-the-day, is not my idea of fighting like real men. Thus, I consider your views as justifying Israel's attitudes, which do not abode well for human rights (disregard the fact that I might be a hypocrite; this does not make the argument invalid). Moreover, you imply that Israel did not do a good job in Lebanon. What do you mean by that, and would you have said the same if Israel had gone in and practically eliminated us (and killed just as many civilians, let us not say more, to make the comparison on an equal footing)? Kindly elaborate.

MJT: Al Ghaliboon, if you have been reading my blog for a long time then you know that I think Israel's invasion of Lebanon was stupid. More stupid, though, is Hezbollah's war against Israel and Hezbollah's claim of “victory.”

If you are tired of war with Israel (maybe you aren't, maybe you like war, but I know some moderate Hezbollah supporters who are tired of the whole thing) you need to realize that it is possible for you to resolve the outstanding issues without getting thousands more Lebanese (and Israeli) people killed.

I know you don't believe me, and I won't be able to convince you, but let me give you some honest advice: Read Ha'arertz every day for a year. It's an Israeli newspaper with an English edition. You won't like everything you read there (obviously), but at the end of the year you will know and understand your enemy far better than you do now.

Here's some more advice. If Hezbollah wants to be respected by Americans, stop saying Death to America. When you declare yourselves our enemies, we will treat you accordingly. Americans have short attention spans and do not hold grudges. We can change the terms of the relationship any time you're ready.

Final advice, Al Ghaliboon. If you don't like getting bombed by Israelis, stop shooting and kidnapping Israelis. They will bomb you again if you keep that up.

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live in a normal country that doesn't explode?

AG: You and I both know that what Israel did was more than just invasion; in fact, it was not the invasion itself that we have an issue with (we welcome anyone who wishes to fight us face to face on the battlefield), but the aerial attacks that Israel was waging, which did not harm us at all, but killed a significant number of our civilians - reminding you, our families (yes we do have loved ones too, Mr. Totten, so I say as a friendly comment, please think twice before you paint us as monsters and brag about bombing our families to the moon).

What we did was merely what we had promised to do; we had warned of it time and time again, because the understanding that we had arrived to in the previous negotiation was not respected, and our prisoners remained in Israeli jails, and our people continued to be maimed and killed by mines.

Mr. Totten, you underestimate our intelligence. We read Ha'aretz, and we read much more than Ha'aretz, and much more than the English versions of the Israeli press. We read much, much more than that, I can assure you.

Our enmity towards America stems from our hatred of its policies, which have left our people everywhere, in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere among ruins. We hold no grudges towards the average American citizen, but towards the general American policy, which treats us as unimportant, as merely puppets and machines to be manipulated for their interests. We reject and fight any attempt to subjugate us and take our dignity and honour away. You will find that we are not much different in that respect from nations that take pride in their history and civilization, and aspire to practice and maintain their sovereignty. We want and demand treatment on equal terms, not as inferiors. That is the root of our struggle against America.

I have lived in many countries - countries that would fall under the categorization of “the west” and “the first world”, countries that don't explode. Countries that don't explode because they export their explosions to my country and bring death and destruction to my people.

However, in my dealings with these people - Americans, and yes, even Israelis - I have felt the arrogance and their feelings of superiority, and their condescending attitudes towards my peoplel - Arabs and Muslims. I chose to leave exactly because I found it unbearable to live in a country that looks down upon us in this manner, although again I tell you, I have nothing against the average American or westerner. You will find that many, many of us, have lived and experienced the west in 1st person, not through the accounts of others. And we have chosen this path exactly because of it. We have come to be convinced that our people's dignity must be raised from the ground, our culture, traditions, religious beliefs revived, if we are to have a chance of demanding our rights as human beings. We stand for justice. Our past notwithstanding, we have shown that we are willing to take a logical path based on free will rather than imposing anything on others, including our fellow Lebanese.

MJT: We want and demand treatment on equal terms, not as inferiors.

You'll get it, at least from me, when you no longer start wars and kill people because you have emotional problems.

My West Beirut landlord lost tens of thousands of dollars in his restaurant business because of that war you and Nasrallah started. Are you going to tell him that this is the price he must pay for your pride? What about his pride? What about his need to take care of his children and provide for them? Doesn't he count, too? He's not a Zionist or an imperialist. He's a middle class Lebanese guy who owns a restaurant and wants to live in a country that doesn't explode.

Look. I've spent a lot of time in Lebanon. I love that country as much as anyone who is from somewhere else and spent only seven months there possibly could. If you want my respect, that's easy. Join the Lebanese project. Choose to build instead of destroy. Don't start wars that get little girls in two countries — one of which is your own — killed.

The reason pretty much nobody in this discussion thread respects you is because you choose war over friendship and peaceful coexistence. We can change the terms of our relationship whenever you're ready, but it is you who must change. Americans are not going to side with or respect people who scream Death to America and fire missiles at cities because they lack pride.

AG: First of all, we do not have “emotional problems”. Second, we did not start a war; in fact, our very raison d'etre was the Israeli occupation. Nor have we ever started wars; we have conducted operations and these operations have been with the purpose of getting our rights from a country that otherwise refuses to even recognize our legitimate existence.

It is not so much about pride as it is about sovereignty, freedom, and honour - in my opinion honour and vain pride are two different things. When America was hit by terrorist attacks, did it fold its arms and wait for them to hit again? Notwithstanding that the whole Iraq war is a sham. Why did USA react? Why don't we have the same right to react to an equally tragic sequence of events? When we were fighting and dying for liberating the south, they all called us terrorists. But liberation only came through our struggle and martyrdom, not through a set of statements that leaders in Damascus and Ramallah make without even wanting to see the plight of their people. As for your middle-class landlord, what makes him and his plight any more important/valid than the more than 1 million lower-class, unemployed Lebanese?

We do not wish to have anything to do with Israel. At the same time, we do not accept that anyone dictate to us that we should make peace with it. We will make peace with it when the time is right for our people to come to terms with the crimes committed against them, and when we get an apology and reparation from Israel for its crimes against our people (we have all lost people in our conflict against Israel; myself/my family included). Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the war drummers in Tel Aviv who come up with massacre after massacre out of the blue.

MJT: Okay, Al Ghaliboon, I appreciate that you’re willing to put up with an online forum where you have no friends and where you face dozens of people who hate your guts and wouldn’t weep if a bomb dropped on your head.

I hope you notice something else, too, though, while you’re here. All of us think the Arab-Israeli conflict is stupid. No one here wants to see it continue. We all want Peace Now. Even the most flaming right-wing nutjobs in America would rather see a peaceful Middle East than a Middle East that explodes. Have you noticed that a lot of people in this discussion have tried to persuade you to give up the fight for your sake and for the sake of your children rather than for our sakes or for the sakes of the Israelis?

I'm sorry you had a bad experience in the West. And I mean that sincerely. If you were treated badly because you're an Arab, a Muslim, or both, that was wrong. It was wrong. Period. Full stop. That does not, however, mean it is okay for you to join a “resistance” movement that fires missiles at random strangers in other countries who have never met you.

Most Lebanese are lovely people. Some members of your party, though, treated me monstrously. But you will not find me joining a Death to Lebanon movement as a way to get over it.

No one wants to enslave you. Americans fought a civil war with each other 150 years ago and we settled the issue of slavery forever. All we want you to do is stop fighting your neighbors. That’s it. And the reason we want you to stop fighting your neighbors is because we’re tired of getting dragged into your wars.

You do have emotional problems. You, personally, have emotional problems. You said so yourself. Resistance heals your wounded pride.

Obviously resistance pays off for you in some way or you wouldn’t do it. If all you got out of it was bombs for breakfast, you would find something a little less destructive to do.

You aren’t winning the war against Israel in any militarily objective sense. You can’t conquer their territory, and you can’t repel an invasion. You couldn’t even hold your own ground on the fence. Israel could flatten every last house in Lebanon and you couldn’t stop them. The reason they don’t do it is because they don’t want to. On some level, I think you know this. It took the Israelis a month to kill 1,000 Lebanese. If their objective was simply to kill people they would kill 1,000 an hour and no one would be able to stop them.

Anyway, the Israelis and the Americans are not who you need to worry about. If you keep dragging your country into destructive wars against the will of the majority, you may find yourself lynched in the streets. I try not to predict Middle Eastern politics and events, but I have met quite a number of Lebanese Christians and Druze who would love to strip you of your shirt and strap electrified jumper cables to your chest before dragging you through the streets by your nose. And this was before you blew up the country again. One of the reasons I opposed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon is because I knew it would make this horror show all the more likely to play itself out.

I don't think you have any idea just how nasty the animosity toward you is in your country. If you think we Americans are giving you a hard time on this blog, try pretending you're a Maronite who hates “dirty Shia” and hanging out in Jounieh and Achrafieh. I'll tell you what you can expect. One Lebanese guy I know (he reads this blog and he might even show up to say hi) told me he thought the American invasion of Iraq was stupid as hell but is glad it happened anyway. The reason he's glad? Because Zarqawi (he said this last year) is now free to run around Baghdad and massacre Shia. It can get that bad in Lebanon. It was that bad in Lebanon when I was two-thirds finished at my university. I'm only 36 years old. It is not ancient history.

If Geagea and Jumblatt give the orders to fight, you’re really screwed. All of Lebanon will be screwed. They, personally, have given orders to fight before. And their orders were carried out. If I were you, I would quit while I was “ahead” and not mess with them anymore.

You don't have to live with Israelis. But you do have to live with Lebanese. What you do affects them, and your “resistance” means they get killed, too. They don't want to be “martyred.” They're trying to get something productive done in Lebanon, and you guys are running around the south like a street gang with a foreign policy.

Some Americans like to egg these people on. They want to see the rest of Lebanon rise up and resolve the Hezbollah problem once and for all. That is my Lebanese nightmare. You know as well as I do how bottomlessly dark a place Lebanon is when it breaks.

If Lebanon explodes again, as it did in 1975, don't expect the international community to come in and save you. Hardly anyone will want to go there after what happened last time and after what's happening now in Iraq. Lebanon will be dismissed as a terminally deranged country, another Gaza, another Somalia, another nation murdered by hate.

I’m impressed with the political progress made since 1991. Most Lebanese really do want to put that behind them. For various reasons, though, your group is the last to progress and figure out that violence will not solve your problems. Whether you realize it or not, and whether you want to or not, you are teaching your countrymen that they may have taken the gun out of politics too quickly.

Believe it or not, I wish you well and hope you find a way to make peace with your country and with your neighbors.

UPDATE: The discussion continues in the comments (of course), and it is more civil today than it was yesterday.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:42 PM

November 8, 2006

For the Record

From Lebanon's Naharnet.

U.N. experts have found no evidence to support a press report that Israel used depleted uranium (DU) munitions during its July-August offensive on Lebanon, the U.N. Environment Programme has said.

“The samples taken by the UNEP scientists show no evidence of penetrators or metal made of DU or other radioactive material,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement in Nairobi Monday.

“In addition, no DU shrapnel, or other radioactive residue was found. The analysis of all smear samples taken shows no DU, nor enriched uranium nor higher than natural uranium content in the samples.”

In October, the British daily The Independent said samples of soil taken from two bomb craters in Lebanon showed high radiation levels, suggesting that uranium-based munitions had been used.
UPDATE: As it turns out, Robert Fisk made the original hysterical bullshit claim. Big shocker, that. It could have been an innocent mistake, in theory. Fog of war, and all that. But Fisk makes his living off hysterical bullshit claims. So he gets no pass. If I believed half of what that man writes about Israel and America, I'd hate us too. (Thanks to Charles Malik in the comments.)

UPDATE: Hezbollah showed up in the comments. O joy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:38 PM

"I Need Some Mental Help is What I Need"

Evan Coyne Maloney crashes Joe Lieberman's campaign headquarters with video camera in hand, demanding that they help him get Joe's too-catchy theme song out of this head. Hilarity ensues.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:08 PM

November 7, 2006

The Case Against Killing Saddam Hussein

Christopher Hitchens says don't kill Saddam. I argued with him about this in Washington last year, and he very nearly convinced me. He very nearly convinces me now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:41 AM

November 5, 2006

Darkness Everywhere

“This is the new Middle East. Not the new Middle East of Ms [Condoleezza] Rice. Darkness everywhere.” – Lebanese Druze chief Walid Jumblatt, August 2006

Syrian soldiers occupied Lebanon the first time I went to Beirut. They left before I did, as I figured they would. The Lebanese project was the best thing going in the Middle East at the time. Baghdad was burning. But look at Beirut! Modern. Prosperous. Liberal. Arab. And free.

Bashar Assad threatened to “break Lebanon” if his troops were forced out the country. A wave of car bombs, assassinations, terrorism, and sectarian incitement began immediately.

But there was a lull there for a while. Only one person, An Nahar newspaper editor Gebran Tueni, was assassinated during my six month stay. Assad’s terror campaign didn’t work. Little did most of us know that a terrible war hatched in Tehran and Damascus was gearing up at that time. It looked like Israel was the target, but make no mistake: Lebanon was targeted, too. The Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah war against Israel isn’t over. And the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah war against Lebanon is not over either.
BEIRUT: Washington warned of “mounting evidence” Wednesday that Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are “preparing plans to topple” the Lebanese government. White House spokesman Tony Snow said in a statement that “support for a sovereign, democratic and prosperous Lebanon is a key element of US policy in the Middle East.”

“We are therefore increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hizbullah and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon's democratically elected government, led by Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora,” Snow added.

“Any attempt to destabilize Lebanon's democratically elected government through such tactics as manufactured demonstrations and violence, or by physically threatening its leaders, would, at the very least, be a clear violation of Lebanon's sovereignty” and UN resolutions, he said.

Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned late Tuesday that Hizbullah and its allies will take to the streets “for as long as it takes … to either topple the government or hold early and new parliamentary elections,” if consultations to form a national unity government should fail.
The Syrian ambassador to the US said this is “ridiculous.” Pay him no mind. He also said “We, in Syria, respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.” Syria won’t open an embassy in Lebanon. That would force the Baathists to admit that Lebanon does not belong to them.

Street demonstrations by Hezbollah may not sound like that big a deal. Street demonstrations are a part of the democratic process, after all. They certainly are preferable to a coup or a violent insurgency.

Hezbollah, though, is a terrorist army as well as a political party. We’re not talking about a Free Mumia rally or a Million Mom March here.

Nasrallah is threatening “street demonstrations” because the state won’t reward his minority Hezbollah bloc with more power in a “national unity” government. They lost the election, but Nasrallah thinks that shouldn’t count. They “won” against Israel. That’s what he thinks should count.

Most Lebanese fear and loathe Hezbollah precisely because they fear Nasrallah points his guns at Beirut and Tel Aviv at the same time. Nasrallah’s current belligerence proves they’re correct.

Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr – who luckily survived an assassination attempt last year – takes seriously Nasrallah’s threat to flood downtown with angry Hezbollah supporters from the dahiyeh and the south. He deployed 20,000 troops of his own into the streets of Beirut. Beirut is less than three miles wide. You can walk across downtown in five minutes. Imagine 20,000 troops in that small an area.

Lebanese Forces political party leader Samir Geagea says if protests degenerate into riots “we will be there to back up the security forces anywhere and we put ourselves under their command.”

They are right to be worried. Recent “street demonstrators” in Beirut burned the Danish embassy and violently tore apart the U.N. building downtown. Shortly afterward someone fired rockets at a nightclub across the street from the U.N., most likely to demonstrate that even the most “secure” part of the city built and all but owned by the Hariri clan can be assaulted with impunity by shadowy forces. During the war against Israel Nasrallah threatened his political opponents with violence. Defense Minister Murr would be derelict in his duty if he did not send in the army. Even Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Nasrallah’s closest Lebanese ally, is worried now about what Hezbollah will do.

The Israelis may have temporarily depleted Hezbollah’s arsenal stock, but it makes little difference. Syria and Iran are arming them all over again. (For God’s sake, didn’t the Israelis know that would happen?)

Someone most likely from the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis attacked an army barracks with hand grenades twice in the last three weeks. Charles Malik says sectarian clashes are a routine occurrence and are rarely mentioned in local or international media. I’ve received anecdotal messages by email that suggest this may be the case.

If Israel is almost back to Square One – they’re at Square Two at best — Lebanon is at Square Negative Three.

British military historian John Keegan says another war in Lebanon is inevitable. I fear he must be right. The last one, in hindsight, was inevitable. I should have known that at the time when I went to the Hezbollah dahiyeh south of Beirut. Their state-within-a-state reeks of fascism, terrorism, and war. The next round is just as inevitable as the last one. Hezbollah was finally thrown off the fence, but none of the war’s principle causes have been resolved.

There’s a case to be made that Lebanon is at war even now, not only with Israel and Syria but with itself. As Bart Hall put it at Winds of Change: “Peace is the absence of threat not the absence of conflict.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:24 PM

Saddam Sentenced to Hang

Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. He is also on trial, separately, for genocide against Kurds.

I'm against the death penalty, almost categorically. But not in this case. Anyone who has murderous fans running loose in the streets is dangerous even in a cage.

I hope they put his execution on TV. I might even watch.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:24 AM

November 3, 2006

My Last Domestic Politics Post of the Election Season

Yesterday my conventionally liberal wife spoke to the leftist minister who married us a few years ago.

“Shelly?” Joe said and sighed.

“Joe?” Shelly said.

“What are we going to do about John Kerry?” he said.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:18 AM

November 1, 2006

Iran's "Nuclear Facilities" Open to Tourists

The Iranian regime is just brilliant. Taking their cue from the Soviet Union's “potemkin village” tours, they have just opened their nuclear facilities to tourist groups.

Under a scheme to encourage more tourists to visit the country, a tourism official in this western province on Tuesday announced that visas may now be issued through the Internet starting Tuesday (today).

Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Deputy Mohammad-Sharif Malekzadeh told IRNA on the sidelines of a local gathering here that tourists from any country of the world may now apply for and receive visas to enter Iran via the Internet.

He said that the process of visa issuance will be carry out through an Internet site recently opened.

Malekzadeh said the scheme has been made possible through a clear order of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who last month invited foreigners to come and see Iran's nuclear sites.

Nuclear tours are now part of the country's tourist attraction program and foreign scientists, elites and intellectuals can visit these sites anywhere in the country anytime, said the official.

He added that various foreign groups, including a group of British tourists, have so far announced their desire to joint tours to Iran's nuclear facilities.
Absolutely brilliant. Some people might actually be convinced by this scheme. Plenty have been fooled into believing Iran is a “democracy.”

What do you think? Should I pretend to be a “useful idiot” and tour Iran's nuclear facilities? (The ones they let tourists, see, that is.) It should be fun interviewing people who choose this for their next holiday.


Should I go on Iran's Propaganda Tour?
Yes
No, go somewhere else in Iran
No, go back to Beirut and South Lebanon instead
No, go to Baghdad instead
No, go to Afghanistan instead
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:48 PM

Why We Should Stay

“[T]he coalition forces in Iraq act as the defensive militia for those who have no militia.” - Christopher Hitchens

UPDATE: A distrurbing counterpoint. (Hat tip: Double-plus-Ungood in the comments.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:26 AM