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Blow by blow

Member of Parliament Michel Murr’s break with the Change and Reform bloc some weeks ago certainly ruffled Christian feathers in the opposition.  As for the Shia in the opposition, there seem to be very tangible divisions emerging, too, between Amal Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who recently returned from a regional tour to renew calls for national dialogue, and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who has recently been altogether more concerned with the Israel-Lebanese border. 

With the glue holding these disparate groups together clearly weakening, the March 14 coalition has rather effectively been able to employ a divide and conquer strategy, targeting one constituent element of this Change and Reform, Amal, Hezbollah alliance after another.

Aoun’s blow

Murr’s split with the Change and Reform bloc was a major turning point.  The MP carries some significant political clout in his Metn home, and his influence is sure to be sought by both sides of the political spectrum in future elections or Christian power plays.  Upon his departure from the bloc, he called for the immediate election of Amy Commander General Michel Suleiman as president without any preconditions.  Doing so clearly distanced him from the rest of the opposition, which has been adamant about electing Sleiman only after a cabinet has been decided upon and an electoral law for 2009 chosen.

And while it might be too early to fully evaluate the consequences of Murr’s movement, it is undeniable that this is one indication of a wider Christian split.  Opposition Christian leader General Michel Aoun has every reason to worry that his power base is crumbling.  The Metn by-elections of last year were just a hint of splits – like this one – to come.  Had Murr left Aoun at that point, as many then-hoped, the victory surely would have gone to March 14, Kataeb candidate Amin Gemayel rather than Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) candidate Camille Khoury.

“I have failed to convince the bloc’s MPs of the need to elect a president. This is why I have decided to create public pressure in this regard,” Murr told NBN Television on Thursday. He also expressed his regret for former President Amin Gemayel’s defeat in the 2007 Metn by-elections. “I voted for Camille Khoury, but my conscience was telling me, ‘You don’t have the right to elect anyone in Pierre Amin Gemayel’s place.’”

Aoun today is bogged down on a number of fronts. Another is the recent postponement of FPM internal elections. Although official FPM statements cited logistical and administrative reasons for the delay, many insiders have privately confirmed to NOW Lebanon that the postponement is directly related to the growing conflict between two increasingly divergent groups within the movement: Aoun’s inner circle and the so-called “FPM opposition.”

Murr must have read that the tide is turning in the favor of March 14, or at least against the opposition. Today, he is actively opening new communication channels with the Kataeb. Party official Selim Sayegh confirmed on Thursday that Gemayel and Murr discussed the latest developments in the presidential elections by phone.

On the 8th level

Likewise, the other two key parties of the opposition – Hezbollah and Amal – are suffering from their own setbacks. In the aftermath of Hezbollah operative Imad Mughnieh’s February assassination, the armed party has promised the Lebanese and the world that they plan to retaliate against Israel, the surmised perpetrator of the hit. Despite the ongoing, internal presidential crisis, Hezbollah has put resolving domestic affairs on hold once more.

Speaking to NOW Lebanon, March 14 General Secretary Fares Soueid said that Mughnieh was Hezbollah’s spine, just as Hezbollah remains the opposition’s spine. “In this sense, Hezbollah and eventually the opposition has taken a very strong blow with his assassination,” he argued.

According to Soueid, Hezbollah has now taken upon itself the impossible task of eliminating Israel through open war. “They are trying to compensate for this impossibility with internal issues. Berri, meanwhile, is trying hard to distance himself from Hezbollah’s hegemony, but he is incapable of changing anything,” he added.

The Syrian effect

There have been reports on new political moves in Syria, too. In an interview with As-Safir, former Prime Minister Salim Hoss said he had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday. Hoss conveyed Assad’s willingness to delineate official borders between Syria and Lebanon and to begin diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Two days later, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported a possible visit by the Syrian president to Riyadh, a move seen as an attempt to restore bruised Saudi-Syrian relations. The paper also revealed that there have been a number of visits by high ranking Saudi officials to Syria.
 
And, despite Assad’s statements denying any communication between Damascus and Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that Damascus and Tel Aviv have been secretly exchanging letters in an attempt to reach a clarification on a peace agreement between the two countries.

Are things finally moving in the right direction for Lebanon?  That remains unclear.  What is quite apparent, though, is that the opposition realizes that it’s in a serious bind.  To obscure their failure to make any positive contributions to resolving the Lebanese crisis, the big three of the opposition have therefore set their sights on distraction.  And so, Aoun goes looking unsuccessfully for mass graves and also revives the specter of Palestinian settlement, and Nasrallah warns the Israelis that he is bringing war to their own backyard. It’s time for these men’s followers to ask themselves if this is really where their parties’ priorities should lie.

  • Rabieh

    "Cedar Revolution Part II & Gebran Sons" excellent my friend excellent.

    May 1, 2008

  • Sami

    Moshe Dayan was one eyed man.But he was able to see better than Jebrans sons.True Iran is providing weapons and funds to Hizballah in order to liberate Lebanese land and people from Israeli occupation and rebuild what it destroys.March 14 friends(west) is providing weapons and funds to Israel to destroy Lebanon.Who is the enemy of Lebanon, again?Does Iran occupy Lebanese land?does Israel?Does the US prolong war against Lebanon or does it stop Israeli aggresion against it?

    May 1, 2008

  • Cedar Revolution Part II & Gebran Sons

    Sadly, many are still confused about Hizbollah's War despite the obvious. Gebran’s sons wrote in an article “Lebanon’s New Jailer” posted Jan 2005, 18 months before the war (request full article at gebran.sons@yahoo.com): "It took thirty years to liberate Lebanon from Syrian occupation, and now Hizbollah is making Lebanon the attack dog for Iran's reckless nuclear pursuit, a dangerous game that may trap Lebanon for decades. While Iranian revolutionaries are enjoying massive oil profit from destabilizing the world, Lebanon once again will pay in blood and misery for Iran's nuclear nirvana and regional ambitions. Iran will no doubt give Hizbollah more poison-gifts in the form of advanced weapons, thus insuring Lebanon remains unstable and ungovernable. To justify the weapons, Hizbollah will have to provoke Israel in the hope of creating attacks and counterattacks so it can maintain its cult of martyrdom and hatred towards Israel and the West.” Any questions?

    May 1, 2008

  • Sami

    Hizbellah is legitimate by the votes it recieved from its people in its areas, no need for Aoun or anyone else to give it legitimacy.This Cedar half man is talking to his emminance Sayyed Hassan as if he is tall enough to reach his belt.No one in Lebanon or the Arabic world is as popular as Sayyed Hassan.Visit ynet.com, Mr. Cedar, may be they will give you new ideas as how to attack Sayyed.

    April 30, 2008

  • Rabieh

    aoun / Berry need to grow beards to match I believe...

    April 30, 2008

  • Sami

    Cedar, i am not aware of any wars in 2005.Someone misinformed you.

    April 30, 2008

  • Sami

    Mr. Cedar, tell us about this form of Democracy that you are advocating in Lebanon, is it a majority rules democracy or is tawafikiyeh?If majority rule then you are aware that the Shiaa are the most numbered in Lebanon, if Tawafiki then lets form a tawafiki cabinet.Either way your side will lose.I am not sure that his emminance Sayyed Hassan is aware if your ecxistance at all and will not answer your opinion.But i am sure you share the same sympathies as the Israelis.

    April 29, 2008

  • Cedar Revolution Part II & Gebran Sons

    Woe to Mr. Aoun and his dark angels for people have come down to his crumbling empire with great anger realizing he was a hired assassin of the Cedar Revolution, the best hope Lebanon had for democracy & sovereignty, and Christians for peace & dignity. Like Hizbollah, Aoun is nothing more than an instrument of destruction, disfiguring every Christian institution, bankrupting public and private establishments, ruining historical relations with the West, transforming hope into fear and desperation, and shouting to the world a dysfunctional Christian community in need of Syrian tutelage. He has legitimized Hizbollah militia, the attack dog for Iran nuclear nirvana & regional ambitions, and cleared the ground for Hizbollah’s takeover of Lebanon by indoctrination and demographic policies similar to Hamas in Gaza. But Lebanese rejoice for Cedar Revolution II is in the making. It will rid Lebanon of all political garbage, as well as feudal and civil war leaders who misappropriated the Cedar

    April 29, 2008

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Mr. Nasrallah, are you a war hero? There are many unanswered questions about the 2005 War and until they are answered you may be as well a war criminal. Why did you build sophisticated bunkers for your rockets while leaving the surrounding communities without fortified shelters? Why did you indiscriminately fire rockets on civilian areas in Israel knowing its assured barbaric responses on defendless Shia communities? Why you joined the government and signed a covenant with an equally obsessed idiot to legitimize your war while blocking the government, destroying the economy and devastating our Capital as soon as the war was over? Worst of all, you dedicated the victory of your brave and courageous fighters to Syria and Iran and that may be your biggest crime. Sadly, the whole purpose of your war may have been to legitimate your armed presence in Lebanon as the service of Iranian & Syria. Be sure that proud and free Lebanese will never return to Syrian weissaya regardless of how

    April 29, 2008

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Mr. Berri, you may be the inventor of frozen democracy, but don’t take any pride in it as Hizbollah can’t take any pride in inventing car bombs or inhuman chaining of kidnapped Journalists. These are shameful inventions all communities and especially the Shia are paying dearly for. For the millions of Lebanese that have escaped Hizbollah’s systematic brainwashing and Syria’s political prostitutes, we regard your act of blocking the parliament and preventing presidential elections as an unspeakable crime against Lebanon as despicable as a young girl being violated by a bully. The revered Imam Moussa Sadr left a legacy of a caring heart, constructive efforts and positive energy to lift the Shia into a brighter future. Your legacy of Syrian tutelage and frozen democracy will be an international joke, eternally rebuked in all history books. You are sliding into Hizbollah’s hateful, destructive and oppressive modus of operation. You are not the heir of Imam Sadr, just a phony imposter.

    April 29, 2008

  • Sami

    Concerned, did you not notice that the Shiaa fired thier Za3amat?Just look who used to lead the Shiaa for the past 60 years:The Hamadeh family in Balabak/Hermil area.The Asaad family in the Bint Jbail area.The Zein family in Nabateyeh area.The 3seiran family in Tyre, along with the Khaleel and others like Mahmood Ammar in Da7yeh, Beydoon, in Beirut second district.Need i numerate more?All of the Shiaa Za3amat are gone forever, we are the most progressive in Lebanon.

    April 24, 2008

  • foxmann

    A small memory refreshment: 17 years ago General Aoun said: Syria in Lebanon is an enemy, Syria in Syria is a neigbour. He refused presidency & 40 parliamentary seats (in Hrawi’s autobiography) in exchange to deliver Lebanon. Price? banishment and exile for 15 long years + persecution to all Aounists. On the other side, since 17 years till 2 years ago, Bristol gang settled for much less. Price? They looted & stole 45$BN. Now: General Aoun succeeded in pulling Hizbollah and MANY others to think Lebanese. He still speaks the same language. He has the vision of building a new strong Lebanon. He cannot be blackmailed. He has nothing in his past to be ashamed of or blamed (except for fighting militias and Syrian occupation forces of course). As for the Bristol gang, they SUDDENLY woke up (after draining our pockets), Saad, the 1 year old baby (in politics), Jumblat, the #1 Christian killer, and geagea, the #1 assassin (reminded me of The Jackal) and many “heroes” as well (not worth me

    April 23, 2008

  • Concerned lebanese in America

    ELias, i agree with you, god does not need an army, it is because he would not use it if he had one. God of the christians and the muslims is the same and he is all forgiving. That is if he existed. To my buddy SF, let us get rid of the tutelage for our children to live in peace. They will be samrter than us for sure and get rid of the Za3amat. It won't be in one generation, it might take two or three. But first be have to ensure freedom for them. Za3amat is not necessarily bad, Sour Za3amet are bad . I like the idea that all of our Zou3ama refer back to the patriarchs of the christians and muftis of the muslims, and by no means consider themselves all powerful. Aoun for example tries to claim that he is the leader of the christians, he must think that we are all fools. The patriarchs and the muftis will be our Senate or Majlis al shouyouskh. We will not give them the right to dictate law because we want to stay a sectarian country and we certainly do not want ayatolla

    April 22, 2008

  • Rabieh

    Oh sami, please do not get bored! LOL, maybe you will quit your ignorant comments and we will be relieved from your ignorant comments. Good Bye my friend. I don’t know about anyone else, I will certainly miss you. ….

    April 22, 2008

  • elias

    A good article but i tend to disagree about some points especially concerning hizbullah and amal there are no real desputes between them its just a struggle of power that berri is loosing due to the money and arms pumpmped in by iran to hizbullah and the brainwashing of shia masses as if hizbullah is really an army from god Strange the almighty god needs an army he must be getting weak if god wants something destroyed he can cause earthquakes and finish any country from the biggest to the smallest stop using gods name in vain

    April 22, 2008

  • SF

    Just a reflection... in an utopic situation where the opposition falls apart, hisbullah desintegrate, and practically nothing stands in the way of the government, is anyone seeing the current governmental panel as the one to lead us into non-corruption, non- hierachical political system? I hardly see how hariri will move away from power after his term is over, or how the gemayels will make way for other candidates in metn or how frangieh will dismantle his high quality school of thought... Is there any hope Lebanon escapes his legacy of political tribal-sectarian za3emeh structure? any thoughts?

    April 22, 2008

  • tunfesh

    What a threesome!!!!!!!!! The picture is very clear as to whose boss Too bad General Aoun, you were doing really well Its a shame you have had to sink to this

    April 22, 2008

  • Concerned lebanese in America

    People say berri is weak. I say, he is finished. The question is, who can partner with Hezbollah. What do they have that they would be willing to offer a partner. They are not the giving kind. They only take. Even Aoun has no hope to get anything from them. He is working off of an IOU. Hisbollah cannot share power with anyone. They took berri's power without asking, and the are buying Aoun's soul from under him a little at a time.

    April 22, 2008

  • Sami

    NowLebanon and William and Arzeh are all one and the same, but ignore them Mohammad i am getting bored with this site.

    April 21, 2008

  • Moughtareb

    very superficial analysis for such complex crisis... particularly on the role of each party and their contribution to this stalemate and possible breakthrough.

    April 21, 2008

  • Rabieh

    Sorry, I am just commenting about the picture (I do not have time to waste on the article). WHAT A CHARACTERS! The one is Romeo, the other one is Juliet, not sure about Berry, Con artist. Any proposals?

    April 21, 2008

  • JoseyWales

    Thanks for thoughtful and informative articles. The Lebanese press has long ago become unreadable, devoid of news and of analysis. I'm inclined to believe that Berri is not happy. However I wish there was, or that you could point to, tangible evidence of Berri distancing himself from M8. Soueid (along with Koushner) is probably right though, that Berri is too weak politically and/or personally to do anything. Makhoul and the idiots at the Daily Star are probably the last people still hoping Berri will one day redeem himself. Keep up the good work.

    April 21, 2008

  • L- B

    Hitting the nail on the head again.You guys at NOWLebanon are just great. And that picture, wow.!! With this poster and three hizb guys standing below it. A picture worth a million words about what is called the "opposition".

    April 21, 2008

  • Mohamad

    Oh yeah william what zip code is that tel aviv? As for you NOW why dont you prevent william from offending the majority of lebanese? "NOW Lebanon reserves the right to exclude postings that contain insults, bigotry, sexism, racism and other expressions deemed to fall outside the bounds of decency" what a joke....

    April 21, 2008

  • william

    You got to be the only news publication that makes sense in this zip code... I don't even bother with the rest of them anymore. Thank you... You made my day... The pictures of the three stooges made me throw up though...

    April 21, 2008

  • bla

    Great article, hopefully we are seeing the beginning of the end of the opposition!

    April 21, 2008