Across the Bay

Monday, February 28, 2005

A Mouthful

The Karami government got a mouthful in the parliamentary session from opposition MPs while thousands of demonstrators sat-in near parliament watching the stormy session on TV screens.

Opposition MPs said that regardless of whether the government gets the vote needed to survive, it is "already a decomposing corpse." Opposition legistlator Fares Boueiz added: "The presidency is gone, the prime ministry is gone, we don't want parliament to go, too."

Naharnet had some more:

Legislator Marwan Hamadeh stole the limelight when he openly accused Karami’s government of acting only when it receives orders from Syria’s military intelligence chief in Lebanon Brig. Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh. “I don’t see a prime minister or cabinet minister on the government benches today. They simply don’t exist,” he said demanding that commanders of the Surete Generale, the military intelligence bureau and the state security apparatus be fired at once and brought to trial for complicity in the assassination of Rafik Hariri. He also demanded the removal of President Lahoud’s regime. Hamadeh told cabinet ministers specially Justice Minister Adnan Addoum that the day will come “when we shall drag you to stand trial like Slobodan Milosevic."
Bahia Hariri won a standing ovation in parliament Monday as she held Karami’s government largely responsible for her brother’s assassination and demanded the immediate ouster of the government. As most of parliament members applauded, tens of thousands of opposition activists maintaining a vigil at Hariri’s nearby grave burst in thunderous applaud as they watched through a giant screen at Martyrs Square Bahia Hariri’s moving speech inside parliament.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese FM was playing semantics with David Satterfield, in a hilarious show of political bankruptcy. In response to a crystal clear message from Satterfield about "the strong interest of the US in seing the full application of the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, including the complete withdrawal of Syrian forces including military intelligence from Lebanon," Minister Mahmoud Hammoud pulled his own "it depends what the meaning of 'is' is" with this classic statement, sure to go down in the annals of Lebanese history:

There is only a semantic difference between redeployment and a withdrawal, because a pullback, if it goes in the direction of Syria, will be a withdrawal

So the next redeployment towards the Bekaa, in Hammoud's mind, equals full withdrawal, including the intelligence services, in accordance to 1559! Where do the Syrians find these people?

Of significance is Satterfield's statement about 1559 agreeing in letter and spirit with the Taef accord. That will be used to close the door on the Syrians and any wiggling room they might have banked on, as it now reinterprets Taef in light of 1559, which is the way the opposition sees it. Satterfield met with Jumblat and the Maronite Patriarch Sfeir, and they probably coordinated with him on the matter.

Jumblat also wants this alternative in order to woo in Hizbullah, which opposes the disarmament clause in UNR 1559. At the same time, he's calling for the closing of the southern Lebanese front in the disputed Shebaa Farms. His main focus right now is the full withdrawal of Syrian intelligence services and the removal of their cronies in Lebanon and the establishment of a sovereign national government. He and other opposition members are hoping they can handle Hizbullah through talks and pragmatism once the Syrian element is removed.

Update: This story in the WaPo is somewhat alarming:

Shortly before Satterfield met with a Sunni Muslim spiritual leader Monday, about a dozen plainclothes gunmen carrying assault rifles appeared on a Beirut street, Lebanese security officials and witnesses said.

An advance team of U.S. security guards detected the gunmen and alerted the Lebanese military, the officials said. Lebanese troops went quickly to the Aisha Bakkar neighborhood where the country's Sunni Muslim grand mufti, Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, has his offices.

By the time soldiers arrived, the gunmen had left, Lebanese security officials said on condition of anonymity.

Everyone is afraid of such planted instigators that would turn the peaceful and organized protests violent and bloody. So far nothing has happened, let's hope it stays that way.