Tag Archives: Lebanon

Lebanon Crisis Meanders On With Name Calling

The ongoing crisis in Lebanon which has left that nation without a president for months continues along the normal course of various groups charging their opponents are at fault. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prine Saud al-Faisal urged Syria to cease interfering in the internal affairs of Lebanon which secured a retort from Damascus that Saudi Arabia was the culprit which is creating problems in that nation. The Arab League has been attempting to come up with a compromise which might get all sides to work together. The Arab League plan entails electing Lebanon’s army head, General Michel Suleiman as president, creating a national unity government, and drafting a new electoral process which would govern parliamentary elections in 2009. An important issue is what does “national unity sharing power” actually mean. Hizbullah blames the United States for the impasse, President Bush blames Syria and Hizbullah, and accusations go round and round.

Lebanon over the past thirty years has become emeshed in power politics from outside sources ranging from Israel to Syria to Saudi Arabia and the United States. There is now so much mistrust it appears unlikely this nation can remain as a viable entity unless there is dramatic changes in leadership. Historically, Lebanon divided power between Christians and Muslims since it was assumed each faction represented half the population. Since there has been no official census in years, most probably at least 60% of the populationis Muslim. So, Christians prefer living in the past since they do not trust a government in which Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hizbullah would exert power. This problem is also accerbated by divisions within both Christian and Muslim factions resulting in several competing groups each of whom wants power but by themselves are incapable of attaining such power.

Arab World Concerned About Iran’s Influence

Salah Nasrawi, writing in the Turkish Daily News, emphasized the growing concern among Arab nations regarding the increased power of Iran in the Middle East. many share America’s anxieties, but regard a military option an an invitaton to disaster. Among there greatest fears is an American-Iran military confrontation could set the Middle East ablaze and give rise to violence and insurgency. Iraq and Lebanon are major concerns among Arab leaders since both nations are suseptible to Iranian influence, particularly, since Iran is funding insurgent groups. Even befoe America got into the picture, Arab leaders have been attempting to curtail Iran’s influence over what happens in Lebanon and trying to hedge in Hizbullah which is closely linked to Iran.

Many Middle East experts like Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations, are warning that Arab leaders are probably hedging their bets rather than lining up behind the United States. Bush has confused most Middle Eastern nations, and they still wonder if he is serious about an Israeli-Palestinian peace or whether he simply lacks a copherent approach to dealing with the problem. That underlines the importance to Bush of being decisive and working to ensure both sides in the conflict are ready to accept compromise and move on rather than remained paralyzed in rhetoric.

Confusion Reigns In Lebanon Amidst Contradictory Reports

The constitutional crisis which has stalemated the entire Lebanese government is either on its way to a resolution or it isn’t, depending on who is speaking. The basic issue is who shall become president of the nation and the two camps are Hizbullah which tends to support Syria and the current government which is led by fiercely anti-Syrian forces. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is attempting to mediate the situation and as been conferring with leaders in order to achieve a compromise solution. UN chief Bon ki-moon is also involved in negotiations. It appears that both sides are willing to accept General Michel Sulemein, current chief of the armed forces, as the compromise leader. He apparently has excellent relations with Hizbullah as well as with the anti-Syrian forces. However, the constitution bars a public servant– that fits Sulemein– from running for the presidency. This will necessitate a change in the constitution. Meanwhile, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has been quoted as saying he supports and also that he doesn’t support the compromise solution.

The game of politics as played in Lebanon is rather complex since the nation is divided between Christians and Muslims. Hopefully, they can finally agree on someone so the government can once again function as it should.

Prime Minister Olmert Offers Confusing Message About Syria

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a confusing explanation regarding prospects for peace between his nation and Syria. He told the Israeli newspaper, Yedio Ahronot, that is was his insistence which led to Syria being invited to Annapolis even though Bush opposed the invitation. Olmert said the Bush administration is very concerned about Syria’s action in Lebanon and it will never abandon Lebanon in their struggle against Syria. “We are a ware that Syrians will not get involved in peace talks unless the Americans changed their stance toward them…And, for establishing normal ties with Syria, the Americans will have to betray Lebanon, and the George Bush administration is not willing to do so.”

The nation of Israel should be focusing on establishing ties with Syria and finally resolving the Golan Heights dispute. It is unclear why George Bush should be interfering in a valid approach to dealing with Middle Eastern issues. The Israel government got sucked into the Iraq fiasco because they blindly followed the Bush lead, and now it is important for Israel to be concerned with their own self interests, not those of a man who simply lacks any understanding of the complexities of Middle Eastern life. Of course, all parties should defend Lebanon’s right to determine its own self interests, but America must cease interfering in legitimate opportunities to resolve problems.

Bush Steps Into Lebanon Mess For Some Strange Reason

The political situation in Lebanon remains unresolved and for some reason President Bush saw fit to make a statement about what is happening. President Emile Lahoud stepped down from his position since his term of office was over and asked the Lebanese army to handle things. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that was an illegal action since the “situation is secure as the army is maintaining security in the country.” He argued that Lahoud was, in effect, creating a sense there was need for a state of emergency and argued that decision rested with the Cabinet, not the President. The opposition parties suggested that a neutral person take over as president for a two year term and the Siniora majority continue in office, but this was rejected by the majority. Siniora said he would keep parliament in session until they came up with a president. The outgoing president, Lahoud, commented: “No matter what (US president George W.)Bush says, this (Siniora’s government) is unconstitutional and illegitimate. They know it.”

Obviously, the situation is complex and there are times when the United States should simply mind its own business and allow other nations to deal with their own problems.

Migrant Workers Abused In Middle East Claims Report

The Middle East is now temporary home to hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who mainly come from Asian nations like India, Pakistan,Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The Human Rights Watch has issued a report on the conditions faced by Sri Lankan immigrants in the Middle East that is entitled: “Exported and Exposed: Abuses Against Sri Lankan Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates.” The immigrants are mainly women and they encounter a variety of abusive behaviors such as not getting paid or being under paid, physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, long hours of work, confiscation of passports so they cannot readily return home, and restrictions that make it difficult for them to learn what are the norms in their new country of residence. It is estimated many of the Sri Lankan women work 18 hour days, seven days a week and receive about $100 a month for their labor.

The condition of the migrant workers is among the most ignored stories in any discussion of Middle Easter issues. Migrants constitute a rather large percent of several small nations like Kuwait or Omar. They lack leverage on the system to bring about changes and most Middle Eastern nations tend to believe that migrant workers are better off, with all the abuse, than being elsewhere.

Stop Whining Arab World, Says Lebanon Daily Star, Move Forward!

In a biting editorial that pulled no punches, editors of the Lebanon Daily Star, said it’s time for the Arab world to cease complaining and assume responsibility for change. As one reviews the Middle East, the situation is a disaster. Egypt is ruled by an autocrat who throws people into jail for questioning his health or plans to install his son as the next leader of the nation, Algeria is again entering a civil war situation that already engulfs Iraq, Turkey is preparing an invasion of Kurdistan, Syria doesn’t know whether to remain in its state of inertia or join the path of economic development, Palestinians are attempting to have a united front in a nation divided into factions, Jordan is overwhelmed by Iraqi refugees, Somalia is in utter chaos and the world is well aware of the Sudan/Darfur disaster. What can be done?

Two recent developments offer signs of moving ahead rather than remaining stuck in the quagmire of anger. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is creating a billion dollar university geared to preparing Saudi Arabians for the 21st century. Religious authorities are banned from the university and women will have equal rights with males on college grounds. The Mohammad bin Rashid al-Mkton Foundation(named after the ruler of Dubai) is creating a $10 project to foster economic development, expand women’s rights, fund research, stimulate scientific education, and move youth into the world in which they must live. As the Daily Star notes: “The idea is to ensure that the next generation can do more than complain about problems.”

Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah-Terrorist Or Politician?

Zaher Mahruqi, writing in the Jerusalem Post, raises the question as to whether or not there has been a fundamental misunderstanding among Israelis about Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. He notes Nasrallah’s comments after the Israel invasion of Lebanon which did not lead to recapture of Israeli soldiers and fierce fighting, “We did not think, even one percent, that the capture 9two soldiers) would lead to at this time and of this level. You ask us, if we had known that the operation would have led to such a war, would we have done it? I say no, absolutely not.” His comments shocked many Arab people who initially regarded him as a hero who had stood up to Israel. According to Mahruqi, Nasrallah was attempting to make the Lebanese people aware he did not wish further war or violence and wanted to play a role in creating a viable Lebanon. He understands the Lebanese people are sick and tired of war. Last week, Nasrallah agreed to an exchange of bodies with Israel. He is a politician who wants power and authority, and, if necessary, he is willing to forgo violence to achieve his ends.

Perhaps, it is time for Israel to discover the extent to which Nasrallah really wants peace by offering to negotiate with Hizbullah on a wide range of issues, including return of the Israeli soldiers. If Nasrallah is a pragmatist, he will engage in negotiation. So far, the continual resort to violence on the part of Israel has not been particularly successful.

Lebanon Enslavement Of Foreign Workers

The Middle East is now home to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers who have been brought in to handle the dirty jobs of modern life. Of the four million people in Lebanon, over 150,000 are foreign workers, many domestic servants brought in from places like the Philippines or Sri Lanka. Siriani, a Sri Lankan girl arrived nine years ago at the age of 20 and since that time has worked without pay or being able to leave the house while always under control of her employers. “I put up with it praying things to get better, but then I had enough. I had to run away or die.” Fortunately, the teenage son of her employers took pity and gave her some money so she could flee. The Catholic organization, Cavitas Lebanon offered her refuge. Cavitas estimates thousands of young girls like Siriani are physically and mentally abused by employers and many are sexually molested. This year four committed suicide. At present, there are no laws in Lebanon that protect the rights of foreign workers.

It is estimated over 200 million people are currently migrants living in another land and attempting to create a new life. In many cases, things work out, but there are also millions who endure brutality, abuse, and violence on the part of employers. Perhaps, it is time for the United Nations to address the need for a global approach to immigration as well as establishing basic human rights for these people.

Amnesty International Slams Lebanon For Anti-Palestinian Behavior

Amnesty International in a 31 page report, “Exiled Suffering Palestinian Refugees In Lebanon” severely criticized the Lebanese government for failing to accord Palestinian refugees opportunities to integrate within the community and afford them educational and economic opportunities available to the average Lebanese citizens. There are now 300,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps on the same amount of land the original refugees were given in 1948. This has resulted in massive crowding and miserable living conditions. Syria and Jordan have taken steps to integrate Palestinians within their societies, but Lebanon continues its policy of segregation and dehumanization of the refugees. Amnesty International has documented evidence that even attempting basic ways of improving one’s hovel by Palestinians usually results in fines.

The refugee question which hinders resolution of the Israel and Palestinian conflict can be more readily addressed if massive aid was provided refugees currently in areas such as Lebanon. It is unrealistic to assume 5,000,000 Palestinians can return to their original homes in Palestine or Israel. There is need for economic, political, and cultural actions to ensure the refugees can succeed in their present areas of habitation. It is the only realistic approach to a complex question.