Across the Bay

Friday, July 01, 2005

Seniora's Appointment

For now, I have little to add to Jonathan's excellent post on the matter. Check it out (as well as the comment thread on Stacey's site that he links to).

I would just add a side note about deconfessionalization. We've been hearing Jumblatt repeating it like he used to repeat the Syrian formulae. That alone should tell you that it's fake. Common sense should take care of the rest. Now Seniora repeated it, and that too is to be taken with an iceberg of salt.

We may know why Jumblat is saying this, and it may be for the same reason that Seniora said it (and he's the first from the Hariri bloc to mention it, as far as I can tell). Or, it may be to signal that now the Taif accord will be implemented in full (and it stipulates that a committee be formed to discuss the possibility of eliminating the sectarian system). But if this is supposed to be taken as a wink in Nasrallah's direction (Berri would be presumably pleased with the reference to "new electoral law" and "decentralization"), I think it's quite useless. Are we to believe that a promise of thinking about deconfessionalization is supposed to make Nasrallah give up his weapons? Come on. Again, that's all variable and not guaranteed, as Jonathan also noted. Furthermore, like I wrote a couple of posts ago, I'm not even sure if a deconfessionalized system will be desirable for Hizbullah once their weapons are gone and their networks have been weakened by increased development in the South and the Bekaa, and with a new law for political parties, and the rise of alternatives and rivals on the Shiite scene, etc. In that type of arrangement, not forgetting their Islamist baggage, they might become, as Jonathan put it, a "permanent minority party."

This leads us to the second point: decentralization, which is what Berri has been trumpeting recently. I am starting to think that this word is quickly becoming the acceptable substitute for "federalism." Jonathan and Stacey briefly debated that on her site, and Jonathan believes that they might end up going for that if all else fails. I am leaning in that direction too. Sarkis Naoum of An-Nahar has been whistling that tune over a couple of op-eds lately (so has Jihad Zein). Naoum spoke to an anonymous "top-most Lebanese Shiite Islamist religious reference (marja')", which may or may not be Fadlallah. And that cleric told him that "we are not going to an institutionalized federalism, in the sense of partition, if federalism means partition [ed.'s note: this is why a subsstitute word is in order, because federalism has become another word for partition in Lebanon, because of the history in the 80's.]. However, we are going towards a de facto sectarian federalism. Perhaps what has opened this window on sectarianism is the Taif Accord, because we know that the 1943 pact considered sectarian allotments an non-written agreement ('urf), and not a law. But the Taif Accord made it into law. Which means that sectarianism is now part of Lebanese law. If there are those talking about deconfessionalization, we realize that the time has not yet arrived for the Lebanese to discuss abolishing political sectarianism."

Naoum's talk with the cleric continues today. So I think we might see more movement toward decentralization in the hopes of Amal and Hizbullah maintaining a grip on the South and the Bekaa. But if things work as they should, then even with decentralization, their grip will weaken on several fronts. But all that remains to be seen.

Another couple of things that An-Nahar highlighted are the issue of Christian representation in the cabinet, and the issue of holding together the alliance (which both Stacey and Jonathan believed will fall apart) and the 2/3rd majority. The first question revolves around whether the Christian allies in the Hariri bloc (QS and LF) will get screwed, and correlative to that, how much will Aoun get, and indeed, as Jonathan noted, how much will Lahoud get? Aoun has so far been flexible, but we'll see.

One of the most curious things is reading about Berri's appearence on a popular Lebanese talk show, and what he said. It's so funny to hear him talk about Syria now that they're out, admitting that they "made mistakes." He added, in what I thought was a surprising jab at Hizbullah, "Amal was fought in the past municipal elections by the security services, including the Syrians" and how he supposedly "was the first to ask for proper diplomatic relations with Syria," stressing that "while Lebanon may not be ruled from Syria, it cannot be used to wage war against Syria." And reacting to Seniora receiving 126 votes out of 128, he described it as "a restoration by the Lebanese of their own decision-making, which is not necessarily antagonistic to others, but we must not waste this opportunity."

Watching Berri maneuver, as disgusting as he is, is fascinating!! As he put it, "I play open politics, nothing covert." "We are one with Hasan Nasrallah," he said. "We are represented together." You could almost hear Nasrallah cringe. But he needs him now. Forget Nasrallah, Berri is still the Shiite top dog.