Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fun with Amr Mussa and the Arab League

More hilarity from the useless Arab League and its chief, Amr Mussa. The story is from Naharnet and it's very short. I'm posting the full Naharnet story with my own comments [bracketed].

Arab League Refuses Isolating Syria [Title]

[Very good Amr, stick with your specialty. The Arab League is good at one thing and one thing only: refusing, saying "NO" to everything.]

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa has warned the international community not to isolate Syria or threaten sanctions without proof that Damascus had a hand in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

[What if they isolate Syria Amr? Whaddyagonna do about it? Everybody is very worried because the Arab League has tremendous powers and could really hurt the planet.]

"We cannot accept the fact that a member country is isolated without evidence the government is involved," Mussa said Friday ahead of a Euro-Mediterranean summit which opens Sunday in Barcelona -- where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not on the guest list despite his country's membership.

[Amr as a true Arab League guy and Arabist you could not recognize "evidence" or "facts" even if they bit your nose off. I thought, however, that you and your old friend Boutros-Boutros-Boutros Ghali had great respect for fellow internationalists and bureaucrats at the UN.

What do you make of the 60-page plus Mehlis report? No evidence there? What about the 56 assassinations of prominent people in Lebanon, over 30 years, prior to the Hariri assassination?
Maybe priors don't count (in order to protect the rights of the accused), but only when the accused is an Arab president. Any news on who blew up Pan Am 103, Amr? Is the Arab League still investigating? I sure hope you guys are close to catching the damned Mossad agent who did this and made it look like it was Qaddafi.]

Mussa said Hariri's Feb. 14 murder was nonetheless "a crime that must not be left unpunished.

Be careful Amr, you're starting to make sense here.

"We are sure the Syrian government is cooperating with the investigation," Mussa insisted.

[How exactly do we know that Amr? You like "evidence". Do we have "evidence" of this?]

He [Mussa] also focused on the war in Iraq, saying that a distinction should be made between "terrorism" and "resistance to foreign occupation."

The UN Security Council (including the Algerian brothers??) voted to say that the Hariri murder was "terrorism". On the other hand, to determine whether blowing up kids in an Israeli pizzeria is "terrorism" or "resistance", the Arab League will sponsor a high-school essay competition . The League is inclined however to classify the recent Amman wedding-attack as terrorism (perhaps Sunni on Sunni crime is not good).

With terrorism a key topic on the Barcelona summit agenda Mussa described the issue as "a plague that must be beaten" and a "violent act against innocent civilians."

Amr will condemn some acts, and condone others. The Arabs are whimsical like that. But "terrorism", whatever it is, is a "plague that must be beaten", but only sometimes.

On the chances of peace in the Middle East Mussa admitted he foresaw problems ahead.

Very, very bold prediction Amr. Let me catch my breath here.

"I am not optimistic on the peace process. (There is) not enough sign from the Israeli government that things are moving on the right track."(AFP)

WOW! Beyond "bold" and into "genius" territory: Amr, very sadly, breaks the news that Middle East peace ain't for tomorrow.

Thanks Amr, you've earned your salary, if not as a competent bureaucrat, at least as a semi-entertaining clown.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Syria's Deadly "Stability"

You bet that the fall of the House of Assad would create a period of turmoil in Syria. But there are various kinds of instability — the murderous sort Syria exports to its neighbors, and the kind that gives people a chance at a better future.

Syria isn't an oasis of stability. It's an exporter of death and subversion.

These are two quotes from a recent piece by Ralph Peters, which is worth reading. Peters argues forcefully against the proponents of the status quo for Syria's regime. He thinks the regime should be pressured and squeezed to death.

Peters even boldly suggests redrawing the Sykes-Picot borders:

The present frontiers of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon aren't about local affinities, but about bygone French and British spheres of influence. Those borders kill.

I haven't thought enough about new borders, and some readers will howl (ironically those most critical of Sykes-Picot). However, given the catastrophe we have on our hands in the region, it might be something to think about. You can read the piece and make up your own mind.

The point I want to emphasize and that is often lost in the current debate(s) is about the options facing the region. The two options are NOT: "stability" versus "chaos" in some generic loose undefined sense, as the Baath and lazy thinkers would have you believe.

The options are:

With the current Assad regime: you get "stability" inside Syria and instability in Lebanon, Iraq, and for the Palestinians. Furthermore I think that "stability" is bound to be temporary for Syria. And the vast majority of Syrians get nothing out of it, other than more years of Baath failures.

Without the current regime: "stability" or at least more of it for Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinians. And Syria gets temporary instability, which is necessary to open the door for change over there.

I am simplifying. However, the choices are broadly along those lines. The vengeful could say: isn't it time the roles were reversed? The positive-realist would say: without the Baath in Syria, everybody gets a chance to do better and improve quickly, while the Baathist presence in Damascus means: no solution in sight for Syria and obstacles for Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinians (reduced support to the radicals).

A similar fallacy is/was seen in the Iraq debate. I do not wish to open up the Iraq war issue here. However the choice there was/is not between "perfection then" and "chaos now". It was/is and between the temporary ugliness and hope seen there today, versus another 10-20 years Saddam/Uday/Qusay horror show. "Chaos with hope" versus "certain certified horror".

Other than regime apparatchiks, those arguing to wait and postpone the demise of the Baath/Assad regime have nothing to offer. They are saying Syria may know some uncertain times. Big deal. Peters puts it better than I can:

The problem isn't what might happen to Syria tomorrow, but the damage Syria is doing to the region today. It's easy to imagine noisier regimes in Damascus, but not more vicious and subversive ones.

Turning a blind eye to Assad Junior's mix of malevolence and incompetence — as our deep thinkers recommend — would only prolong the current instability in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. If an interval of disorder in Syria is the price of increased stability in every neighboring state, that sounds like a bargain.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Lahoud Must Go, Period

President Lahoud is now and forever an ineffectual damaged official, with no moral authority whatsoever. His usefulness to the nation for the next two years is not zero, it's NEGATIVE.

Mustapha has a post on Beirut Spring disagreeing with the recent Maronite bishops' decision to not (quite) go after Lahoud. Mustapha is right. This move weakens the presidency and the country.

The (violated) constitution is meant to let a "normal" president finish his (legal) term without threat of court action for "lesser" crimes.

Now (Naharnet) Aoun says Lahoud would go, only if Aoun is the next president. That is a bad joke.

One: Lahoud knows Aoun won't easily become president. Two: who the hell is he to pick the next President? Because he made such great decisions before?

I humbly disagree with Bkirki too, and hope that politicians will be bolder (in a way that they can be, and Bkirki cannot). Yes no "force", i.e. no violence or coup. But IMHO the church, and every sane person, should dump Lahoud NOW.

The following are "no force" options possible:

--Moral pressure by all and political isolation.

--Have the "high" court (Shura) look at the "legality" of the last election.

--Threaten to try him for "treason" (taking orders from a foreign power, subordinating the nation interests to a foreign power,...).

--Change the constitution. It was changed TWICE for Mr., Lahoud. Once to put him in office and once to keep him in office. Why can't it be changed to make him go away?

The constitution is a tool to help the nation govern itself. The nation does not have to live through two years of waste, at a crucial time in our history, just because the constitution cannot be "touched".

Keeping Lahoud in office is terrible; a waste of time and it sends for the umpteenth time the DESTRUCTIVE message that there is still NO ACCOUNTABILITY in Lebanon.

What are we waiting for? Andree Lahoud is the only person Lahoud knows who is not in jail or under a cloud of suspicion, for crying out loud.