Across the Bay

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

When Will this Stop?

Another car bomb assassination in Beirut. This time, it was the former leader of the Communist Party, George Hawi.

This was I think both a vendetta as well as a warning by the Syrians: anyone could be next. It was also particularly audacious as it happened on the same day when a major pro-Syrian security official, Lahoud's top aide, Mustapha Hamdan was being interrogated by the UN investigator.

My question is, how long will this kind of behavior by Bashar be tolerated without serious action? The US is waiting for Bashar to change his behavior in exchange for his survival. Clearly, it's not a deal he's getting or interested in. He still thinks he can get the French back, cut a deal on the Golan and Lebanon, and revive talks with Israel, ignore the Hariri investigation, and make economic deals with Europe, as if nothing happened.

So now what's the next step? How long will this be tolerated?

N.B.: I wanted to write something about the Hariri victory in the North, but I didn't have the time, and after Hawi's assassination, I am not in the mood, even when I disagreed with most everything Hawi stood for, especially during the war. However, you can see my comments to Jonathan Edelstein's post as well as his excellent remarks. Also see Robert Mayer's post-election post, as well as the one at the Lebanese Political Journal. The latter got a lot of heat from readers, but it shouldn't be totally dismissed (see the Al-Balad pieces below). Jumblat is right now a very negative and dangerous player in Lebanon. He's the one playing with sectarian fire, and the only one making incendiary sectarian statements (ignoring of course how Hizbullah used religious obligation -- taklif shar'i -- on Shiite voters). He's trying to blame it on Aoun, but this whole mess is all his doing, and for what? What did he get out of it? Lahoud isn't going anywhere neither is Berri, neither is Aoun for that matter. He made stupid moves.

Anyway, the kind of sectarian games played in the north were really unfortunate and problematic. Somone has to make sure Jumblat quiets down. I'm not sure Saad will be the one to do it, but he certainly needs to. Also, it seems that Mikati will be back as PM. Also, as I told Jonathan, Aoun wants to try to amend the powers of the Speaker when it comes to deadlines of putting laws on the floor of the Parliament (like how he delayed the discussions of the new election law), and even try to shorten the term of both Lahoud and the current Parliament (see the Al-Balad pieces below).

Also, I may have overestimated the power of the LF, even in the north.

For good Arabic-language coverage, see the following articles from Al-Balad (here, here, here, and here).

In the end, I think there's still good balance in this parliament, and good diversity in the Christian camp. Let's just hope someone talks some sense to Jumblat and remind him that he doesn't rule Lebanon, and he's no kingmaker.

Addendum: Raja's post is also worth reading. These two quotes in particular stood out:

3. Electorally, Amal and Hizballah are in the same situation they were before the elections. It doesn't seem like they've improved or gotten worse off. In fact, it seemed like the South was (electorally) a whole different country that was isolated from all the turbulence and excitement that took place in the rest of Lebanon. One of things I'd like to see soon is increased fluidity in the South. Amal and Hizballah have completely suffocated the region politically.

7. And finally, I've realized that the one political persona who represents Lebanon's complexity and even its political impotence is Walid Jumblatt - Michael Young articulated that point best in one of his better Op Ed pieces which was published prior to the elections. For all his outspokenness, and gusto, I've also realized that Jumblatt has very little power on the ground. He wanted to get rid of Lahoud, but he was vetoed. He didn't want to deal with Berri in the beginning of the whole "intifada," but it seems like political realities drove him to do otherwise. He wanted desperately for his buddies in Qornet Shehwan to make it, but that didn't fall through. He didn't want Aoun to become a political player, but it happened nonetheless.