Across the Bay

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of Political Fools and Amateurs

I forced myself to listen to Michel Aoun's talk in Berlin in order to see whether he made the dangerous statements that Syrian propaganda claimed he did (judging from the audio file, he did not). The talk was more of an idiotic defense of his alliance with Hezbollah, a weakness ahead of the by-elections in the Metn.

As for why the Syrians made these false claims, suffice it to say for now (and I'll come back to it later), that in the Michel Aoun-Michel Suleiman feud over the presidency, the Syrians may have just put out an item to "burn" Aoun (or, more subtly, to create the impression thereof).

Listening to Aoun is an infuriating experience, since the man lacks any sense of logic, let alone politics.

But the laughable amateurishness of the FPM (and when your politburo is headed by an absolute fool and neophyte know-nothing like Gebran Bassil, it's small wonder) was on full display when he began talking about his "memorandum of understanding" with Hezbollah.

The way Aoun interpreted his "understanding" with Hezbollah doesn't even resemble what the text of this "understanding" actually says. In the speech he said that he still doesn't understand why the memorandum was criticized by everyone when all it said was that 1) Hezbollah's arms will remain until the Shebaa Farms and the prisoners are liberated, when 2) they would be integrated in the defensive strategy of the state, implying that they would no longer be independent, and would be integrated into the Army.

The problem, and this is hardly the first such incident (it happens every time an Aounist is faced with critical questions about it), is that Aoun and Hezbollah have entirely and wildly different interpretations of the incredibly and uselessly vague text of the memorandum -- which was precisely Hezbollah's intention to begin with (and again, when the person negotiating this is a geniuszz like Gebran Bassil, it's small wonder).

Here's what the text actually says:

X. Protecting Lebanon and Preserving its Independence and Sovereignty

The protection of Lebanon and preservation of its independence and sovereignty are a national responsibility, guaranteed by international charters and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly in confronting any threats or dangers that could harm them, irrespective of where these dangers might come from. Therefore, carrying arms is not an objective in itself, but a noble and sacred means that is exercised by any group whose land is occupied, in a manner identical to the methods of political resistance.

In this context, Hezbollah's arms must be addressed as part of a comprehensive approach that falls within two parameters. The first parameter is reliance on justifications that reflect national consensus and constitute the sources of strength for Lebanon and the Lebanese in terms of preserving these arms. The second parameter is to objectively define conditions that would eliminate the reasons and justifications for keeping these weapons. Since Israel occupies the Shebaa Farms, imprisons Lebanese resistance fighters, and threatens Lebanon, the Lebanese people must assume their responsibilities and share the burden of protecting Lebanon, safeguarding its existence and security, and preserving its independence and sovereignty by:

A. Liberating the Shebaa Farms from the Israeli occupation.

B. Liberating Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails.

C. Protecting Lebanon from Israeli dangers through a national dialogue leading to the formulation of a national defense strategy, which the Lebanese agree to and are involved in by assuming its burdens and benefiting from its outcomes.

What this stupid formulation says, aside from ascribing a "sacred" (and thus timeless) nature to the weapons, is that the weapons will be there, after the liberation of the Shebaa Farms and the prisoners, to "protect Lebanon from Israeli dangers" -- an incredibly opaque statement without any bounds whatsoever -- in a strategy that the "Lebanese agree to" -- i.e., it's not even defined in any way and it's conditional on Hezbollah's agreement! In fact, the rest of the statement -- "by assuming its burdens" -- suggests a partnership of sorts, a parallel institution, which is precisely how Hezbollah says it should remain!

And Aoun, incredibly, describes this idiotic, useless piece of nonsense as a "mechanism"! This is what happens when you have fools and amateurs trying to act smart. And he still wonders why people opposed it. Needless to say, Hezbollah itself treated this piece of paper as mere toilet paper last July.

In contrast, the Seniora seven-point plan actually has defined parameters, recently reiterated by Seniora in his detailed and devastating response to Nasrallah's latest venomous (and repetitive) interview on al-Jazeera. One such key is that the decision of war and peace is exclusively in the hands of the state, not Hezbollah.

In fact, this is precisely why Hezbollah (and Syria and Iran) is furiously trying to kill the seven-point plan and 1701 (which enshrined it in international law), as well as 1559. That was the purpose of the second part of Nasrallah's interview -- which specifically rejected the Armistice Agreement with Israel and the placing of Shebaa under UN control -- and this is a central purpose of Hezbollah seizing veto power in the cabinet. I'll also remind you that this is also Syria's desire, and it was indeed Syria who first tried to destroy the seven-point plan at the Arab summit in Riyadh. Hezbollah then started making noise that it "didn't really agree" to the seven-point plan last August.

The Seniora plan explicitly talks about state monopoly over arms and the decision to declare war and peace, as well as an affirmation of the need to revive the 1949 Armistice Agreement with Israel, as stated in the Taef Accord, and the placing of Shebaa, once its status has been defined, under UN control paving the way to its restoration.

Incidentally, it's no coincidence that the "memorandum of understanding" makes no explicit mention of the Taef Accord (never mind UNSCR 1559). It's also no coincidence that in his rebuttal, Seniora made sure to highlight that Nasrallah's position is in violation of the Taef Accord -- the basis of civil peace in Lebanon -- and that Nasrallah's attack against the seven-point plan is actually an attack against the Taef Accord.

And the Generalissimo doesn't understand. Of course he doesn't. That's the whole point. Now he's trying to deceive his voters just as perhaps he has deluded himself.

Addendum: A propos, from Hassan Haydar's piece in al-Hayat (English):

So it seems that twisting the truth and switching positions are part of the 'politics of ambush' embraced by Hizbullah both publicly and in secret. And anyone who buys into the idea that the national unity government demanded by Hizbullah and its allies will remove Lebanon from destructive regional axes and restore peace and stability in the country has fallen victim to the politics of perpetual ambush.

Addendum 2: Also a propos, from a piece by Bahaa Abu Karroum, editor of the PSP (Jumblat's party) website:

The memorandum of understanding between the FPM and Hezbollah does not define a specific time frame for this party to abandon its weapons or to hand them over to the Lebanese state, nor does it tie it to a specific achievement or even the end of the occupation and the liberation of prisoners. The memorandum leaves things hanging until the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, what has become clear from experience, combining the presence of Hezbollah's weapons and the arsenal of rockets with regional goals on the one hand and the launching of the project to build a state on the other, is one of the greatest impossibilities. ...

Moreover, there is no common ground between the memorandum and UNSCR 1701 ... and the memorandum never mentions the Taef Accord...

Addendum 3: Here's how former Ambassador Johnny Abdo interpreted what the Syrians did, by claiming Aoun made statements he didn't make:

God help General Aoun as a result of the denial that he issued. It reminds me of a statement that came out of Syria and was attributed to the late President René Moawad. In other words, the statement was issued for him, and he denied what was attributed to him, and it cost him what it cost him [he was assassinated with a car bomb in 1989]. The Syrian regime is now testing Aoun before they go with him for the presidency. First they test him. They tell him, if you want to become president we will make statements on your behalf. Even if you deny them, we will confirm them and you will have to accept it.

Update: After Seniora's devastating response, Jumblat issued his own brutal demolition of Nasrallah's interview. I will come back to translate parts of it for you.