A Process of Change – Nasrallah to Petraeus

It’s important to remember that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches consist of more than mere rhetoric. One of the reasons for Nasrallah’s enormous popularity in the Arab and Muslim worlds is that, unlike other Arab leaders, he says what he means and means what he says. Hizbullah is the only force to have defeated Israel – once in 2000, when the brutal occupation of south Lebanon was brought to an end, and once in 2006, when Israeli troops attempted to reinvade in order to dismantle the resistance, but bled on the border for five weeks instead. During the 2006 war Israel bombed every TV mast it could find, but failed to put Hizbullah’s al-Manar off the air. Nasrallah spoke on al-Manar of “the Israeli warship that attacked our infrastructure, people’s homes and civilians. Look at it burn!” As Nasrallah uttered these words, a Hizbullah missile did indeed disable an Israeli warship, forcing Israel to move its fleet away from the Lebanese coast.

In mid-February 2010, Shaikh Nasrallah made a speech which may well mark a fundamental change in the Middle Eastern balance of power. The speech, quoted below, should not be read as a string of empty threats, but a signal of new weaponry and fighting capabilities.

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Nasrallah’s Turn

Nicholas Noe tracks the evolution of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s rhetoric since 2006.

nasrallahOver the last decade and a half, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Lebanon’s militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, has steadily moved front and center in the often vitriolic (and regularly under-informed) Western debate over the threat that ‘radical Islam’ is said to pose to the world at large.

Now, as Nasrallah appears ready to lead what could be a new majority in the Lebanese Parliament, the steady stream of accusations and threats have, somewhat predictably, turned into a deluge – with Arab states, Arab media and prosecutorial offices far and wide at the forefront of efforts to paint him as public enemy Number One.

A central reason for all the attention in the past, of course, has been that Nasrallah and Hezbollah have managed – for better or worse, depending on your perspective – to inflict a series of increasingly significant setbacks for US and especially Israeli interests: the ignominious, unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in May 2000, the failure of the Bush administration to vanquish Hezbollah and Syria in one go following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, and, of course, the July 2006 war – vigorously encouraged by the Americans and lost by the Israelis.

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Coming Down to the Wire in Lebanon: Parliamentary Immunity, Israeli Spies and Fake IDs

Franklin Lamb writes from Beirut’s Abdel Kadas Kabbani High School Polling Station

95 hours and the Polls will open

lebanon electionsAs election volunteers in Lebanon work this morning to spruce up its hundreds of Polling Places for Sundays’ election, Minister of Education Bahia Hariri, sister of the murdered Rafiq, canceled school for Saturday and Monday as a precaution, and the US Embassy just an hour ago issued an advisory for Americans to avoid public places and “reminds American citizens in Lebanon that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly.” As for the voters, they are preparing to elect 128 Parliamentary Delegates from more than 550 candidates who theoretically will chart this country’s course over the next four years.

Beirut’s airport is jammed with thousands of Lebanese, often given free tickets, arriving to vote from all over the world, but most heavily from the US, Canada, and Europe.

Drop-outs can succeed

More than two dozen candidates have dropped out of the race (and may now be millionaires if they were not already). This electoral phenomenon regularly happens just before the voting in Lebanon. One drop-out candidate confided to a Carter Center STO (short term observer) that he put two kids through college in France with what he earned by abandoning his candidacy.

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Biden Does Beirut

From friend of PULSE and correspondent in Beirut, Franklin Lamb.

Biden IIIHeeeeeerrrre’s Joe!

It appears that the Biden visit is part of a US bid to supervise the electoral campaign of a Lebanese party, which feels threatened politically, in light of the expected outcome of the legislative vote. We call on all Lebanese, regardless of their political views, to rise up against such meddling that represents a flagrant violation of Lebanese sovereignty. Biden’s visit is part of U.S. efforts to impose its views on the government that will be set up after the elections. They are tracing red lines for the future government but we will rise up to this.
Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah, Friday morning 22 May 2009 as Joe Biden arrived in Beirut.

Let U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hear what Lebanon needs and not listen only to what the U.S. wants
Hezbollah deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem in a message to President Michel Suleiman (22 May 2009)

How not to win votes for the ‘US team’

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Beirut with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman aboard a U.S. military helicopter at 11:50 am this morning. At 12:14 pm Biden arrived at Baabda Palace and went straight to meet President Michel Suleiman ignoring media questions. Biden was greeted at Beirut’s airport by Hezbollah supporter Fawsi Salloukh, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister and one of the key back channels for US-Hezbollah communications. Biden’s Salloukh meeting is likely the extent of any dialogue between Biden and Hezbollah this trip. Biden’s first words, shouted to some journalists outside the Baabda Presidential Palace were, “I am happy to be in Libya…I mean Lebanon…this morning!”

If Biden was having a good morning, many Beirutis were not. Many woke up furious as they learned they will be on “lockdown” from 11 am to 6:30 pm for Vice President Joe Biden’s quick visit. It will be the 14th visit by a US official over the past six months to assure the people of Lebanon that the US will not interfere in the June 7 elections. In fact, US interference has now reached a near fever pitch just sixteen days before the voting.

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Palestinian Refugees and Lebanon’s Election: Part I

Franklin Lamb writes from Wavel Palestinian Refugee Camp, Bekaa Valley, on what Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees, over a tenth of the country’s population, require from Lebanon’s June 7th Election, as well as how Hezbollah, major Lebanese Party Platforms and US foreign policy weigh in.

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Sectarian Rabble-Rousing

Al-Ahram Weekly, the English language twin of the Arabic daily, is an Egyptian state organ. The Weekly has a broader range of opinion than the tame daily, and does often contain interesting articles. The great Palestinian thinker Azmi Bishara, for instance, can be found in the Weekly. Unfortunately, however, Egyptian regime nonsense concerning the Persian-Shia ‘threat’ is also fed into the mix. This article by Galal Nassar is a sad example. Below is my response to his piece:

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Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”

The Israeli regime’s bloodbath wasn’t just about upcoming elections and re-establishing deterrence, Norman G. Finkelstein writes [doc], though it did have much to do with this and was indeed calculated to pander to the worst elements of that society. Beyond this, the main goal of Israeli intransigence and its main goal in the Gaza slaughter was to fend off the latest threat posed by Palestinian moderation: that is, to sabotage credible peace efforts. This is an excellent summary of otherwise already well-established facts and a reminder of Israel’s stoush with Hezbollah:

Early speculation on the motive behind Israel’s slaughter in Gaza that began on 27 December 2008 and continued till 18 January 2009 centered on the upcoming elections in Israel. The jockeying for votes was no doubt a factor in this Sparta-like society consumed by “revenge and the thirst for blood,”[1] where killing Arabs is a sure crowd-pleaser. (Polls during the war showed that 80-90 percent of Israeli Jews supported it.)[2] But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out on Democracy Now!, “Israel went through a very similar war…two-and-a-half years ago [in Lebanon], when there were no elections.”[3] Continue reading “Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive””