The Besieged Lebanon

The forces of the old Middle East, the pre-2003 Middle East, through the totalitarian-terrorist alliance, are fighting to survive. After the consecutive failures in Iraq to restore the totalitarianism there as an indispensable guarantee to the Middle East status quo, which based on the authoritarianism and the interdependent system of despotic regimes to ensure their sustainability, the pursuit now is to encompass the nascent democracy in Iraq regionally and to stop the international pro-democracy effort to spread out in the Middle East.

I have frequently said that liberating Lebanon belongs to the same sense of the course of action of liberating Iraq. This course of action represents the international "new deal" in the Middle East through the strategic effort to end the cold-war era in the region besides the Soviet legacy there. The success in Lebanon is important as much as the success in Iraq; it is a requisite for the long-term stability and for the thriving democratic project in the region.

The totalitarian and terrorist forces are flouting the international community and the international resolutions by murdering the Lebanese symbols and cadres of the Cedar Revolution and by hindering the political reform of Lebanon and stalling the Lebanese people's ability to rule themselves and their country freely and democratically.

Lebanon now is besieged from outside and inside too. The terrorist groups, which directly attached to foreign governments characterized with the destructive role in the Middle East, are still holding their military bases on the Lebanese territory. Furthermore, some parties of those are playing the role of hindering the elected government from discharging its responsibilities in protecting the Lebanese sovereignty and democracy and ensuring the Lebanese independence and integrity through their participation in the government or/and their possession of weapons and their state of affairs as state inside the state.

The international powers must clearly realize the disastrous effects and consequences to inflict the stability and the democratic movement in the region and the geopolitical achievements of the Operation Iraqi Freedom too if they did not move quickly and seriously to ensure the full implementation of the UNSCR 1559. Furthermore, the international community holds the responsibility to protect the Lebanese people through decisive international measures.

The indecisiveness of the international community about the comprehensive war against Lebanon and its freedom and independence may ultimately cause Lebanon to be held as a hostage on behalf of some regional totalitarian regimes. In addition, it would let the Middle East reformers down and would serve the Middle East authoritarian status quo alongside many security risks.

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Lebanon, When Will It End?

By Edward S. Walker, Jr.,

December 16, 2005
Middle East Institute Perspective

A week ago, Saad Hariri announced at the Arab Thought Conference in Dubai that he was going home — going home to re-energize his party and the cause of democracy and freedom in Lebanon. And so the forces of darkness had to send a message. And they had to send a message to anyone who would stand in the way of Syrian dominance in Lebanon or who would testify against the Syrian “Family.” That message was 200 pounds of C4 explosive that wiped Saad’s ally and outspoken critic of Syria, Gibran Tueni, out of the opposition to Syria and off the face of the earth. It was no accident that the technique used against Gibran was the same technique used against Saad Hariri’s father, Rafiq.

I don’t know who was responsible — whether it was the Syrian “Family” in Damascus or their cohorts in Beirut. As in the case of Rafiq Hariri, when challenging the security institutions of a state that is prepared to manufacture evidence and intimidate or eliminate witnesses, we are likely never to get the kind of certainty that would stand up in a court of law. Even the distinguished German investigator Detlev Mehlis, whom the UN Security Council tasked to investigate Rafiq Hariri’s assassination, cannot assemble a forensics case that is strong enough to stand up in court. But he has pinpointed where responsibility lies: with the Assad regime in Damascus and in Lebanon’s security apparatus. These are the forces that seek to neuter the Future Movement in Lebanon and to assassinate the soul of this nation. As Mehlis states in his initial report, Syria polluted the political environment in Lebanon. About this, there is no doubt.

Responsibility also must fall on the shoulders of those in the Arab world and in Paris and Washington, Moscow and Beijing who are willing to put stability before democracy. What was the message the Russians were sending to Damascus by threatening to stand in the way of Security Council action? What was this message other than “do what you like — we will pay any price, make any sacrifice of the Lebanese people for stability?”

First and foremost, America must answer the call. What do we gain by our sacrifice for democracy in Iraq if we are prepared to abandon the people of Lebanon? The example of long-term success in Iraq will pale when countries in the region see that the American President is feckless in the face of this immediate challenge to democracy in Beirut.

President Bush said Monday that “Thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom.” All of the President’s rhetoric will be just so much hot air if we are not prepared to stand up and be counted when confronted by the forces opposed to democracy in the Middle East. And those forces are not only al-Qaeda and the terrorists in Iraq; they also include the anti-democrats in Syria and Lebanon.

What about the countries of the region and the Islamic nations that just met in Saudi Arabia? Are the presidents and kings so afraid of instability in Syria that they are not prepared to stand for justice? What about the Israelis who prefer the devil they know in Damascus to the unknown future? Is this the same fear that grips our State Department and National Security Council in Washington?

Why do we all have so little confidence in the people of Syria? They have been led by a tiny minority clique that has the advantage of being utterly ruthless. So this minority profits by the assumption in civilized countries that no one could be so amoral or so ruthless as to assassinate Rafiq Hariri and Gibran Tueni and the other recent victims of violence in Lebanon. The minority profits by the Louis XV syndrome of “après moi, le deluge.” But the French nation did not fall when Louis XV fell. And neither will Syria if the “Family” in Damascus is dethroned. Is it not better to have the Syrian “Family” collapse than to be complicit in the failure of democracy in Lebanon?

Secretary Rice said a few months back that stability is not our goal. Well, let us prove it. Allowing people, Islamists, secularists, Muslims, and Christians to govern themselves may be messy and may lead to instability and chaos, but Mr. President, if Iraq is the right war as you have said, then standing up for democracy in Lebanon is equally right.

No man in Lebanon epitomized the freedom from fear and the commitment to democracy more than Gibran Tueni. From his days with General Aoun to his role as managing editor of the crusading An Nahar newspaper, Gibran was a standard bearer for democracy.

How many more Lebanese heroes must die before the world takes action. Who is next on the Syrian hit list that everyone in the Arab world is talking about? Must Saad Hariri be next?

Author: Edward S. Walker, Jr. is President of the Middle East Institute. He previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, US Ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations.

Breaking The Assassins

By David Ignatius

Washington Post
Wednesday, December 14, 2005; A29

This is the time of the assassins in the Arab world. On Monday they killed a brave Lebanese journalist who dared to tell the truth about Syria. This week in Iraq they will try to kill people who want to vote. They kill wives to intimidate their husbands. They kill children to frighten their parents into silence. Their power is the ability to create raw fear.

The shame for America isn't that we have tried to topple the rule of the assassins but that we have so far been unsuccessful. We thought we were cracking the old web of terror when America invaded Iraq in 2003, but it's still there, in the shadows of the shadows. George W. Bush gets a lot of things wrong, but he knows that he's fighting the assassins. On days like these, I'm glad that he is such a stubborn man.

What is this struggle about? Listen to some Arab voices. Yesterday the front page of the Beirut daily An Nahar carried an open letter from the Syrian-born Lebanese poet known as "Adonis," perhaps the most famous writer in the Arab world. It was written to the paper's celebrated editor, Ghassan Tueni, whose outspoken son Gebran had been murdered the previous day by a car bomb. "We are witnessing the destruction of the soul and the spirit," wrote the poet, whose real name is Ali Ahmed Said. The people who killed Gebran want to create "a temple of fear."

The headline atop the newspaper's front page said this: "Gebran didn't die and an-Nahar will continue." For a paper that had already lost its fearless columnist Samir Kassir to a car bomb in June, it was a defiant statement to the assassins: Kill us all. We aren't going to stop publishing the truth.

I spoke yesterday with Hisham Melhem, the paper's Washington bureau chief. His voice was cracking with emotion as he spoke of his colleagues: "I shudder when I think of the courage of Gebran and Samir. They knew they were dead men walking. But they were never intimidated."

Amid the Bush administration's mistakes and lies about Iraq over the past three years, it's easy to lose sight of what is at stake in this battle. But this week brings it back to square one: It's about breaking the power of the assassins.

The Baath Party in Iraq ruled by its sheer brutality. I gathered reports from Iraqi dissidents and human rights workers in the early 1990s, when I was researching my novel about Iraq, "The Bank of Fear." These stories are sickening to recount, even now: The children of Shiite rebels in southern Iraq, dropped from helicopters to terrify the parents; dissidents who had nails driven into their heads; and prisoners beaten with metal cables until they collapsed or died. At Saddam Hussein's trial last week, a woman was speaking about how she had been beaten with those cables. Watching his arrogant scorn for the testimony of his victims, I remembered what the war is about.

The Baath Party in Syria has governed much the same way, though it saved its worst brutality for neighboring Lebanon. The Syrians maintained their mandate by demonstrating that they were prepared to kill anyone who got in their way: a president, a prime minister, a religious leader, a journalist. The price of speaking out was death. That was the message: This is the land of death. Enter into this theater of violence and we will swallow you up.

I think of my friend and teacher, Ghassan Tueni, who is grieving for his son today. When he received an honorary doctorate at the American University of Beirut last June, Tueni recalled the time he spent in prison in the late 1940s for defying the censors and repressors of the day. He read a copy of Socrates that had been smuggled into his cell and decided he would pursue a kind of Socratic journalism that would engage in a dialogue with readers and incite them to discover the truth.

"I have to say, with much sorrow, that much of what the Arab world suffers from is largely due to the fact that neither our diplomacy nor our press has dared, or even been allowed, to tell the people the truth about our state of being and where we stand in the world," Tueni said at the end of that speech. But that wasn't true. He did dare.

People like the Tuenis who refuse to be intimidated should inspire the rest of us. So should the millions of Iraqis who will vote tomorrow. They are trying to break the culture of intimidation and death. Americans should feel proud to be on their side.

No Premature Evacuation
Otherwise it will be open season on Arab democrats

Michael Young

Reason Online
December 15, 2005

It might please Bush administration officials to know that twice during the funeral on Wednesday of slain Lebanese journalist Gebran Tueni, the United States was applauded: the first time when the ambassador in Beirut entered the church where the funeral service was to be held, the second while Tueni's coffin was accompanied by tens of thousands of chanting, angry mourners to the cemetery. With a bit of luck, this item might even find its way into Arabic newspapers courtesy of the Lincoln Group.

Writing in the Washington Post last Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued, "Supporting the growth of democratic institutions in all nations is not some moralistic flight of fancy; it is the only realistic response to our present challenges." In other words, global democracy is the ticket to greater American security. If any institution in the Middle East can be considered democratic, indeed Babel-like in its diversity, it is Tueni's newspaper, Al-Nahar. Though the publication has often been described as a staunch critic of Syria, it has also been a house of many mansions, publishing columnists friendly with the Syrians, others with much-too-comfortable access to Lebanese intelligence chiefs, luminous polemicists, liberal clerics, dispassionate analysts, dusty stenographers, gifted novelists, world-class poets, forgettable apparatchiks, and many more in a daily feast of broadsheeted contradiction.

In being open to everyone else's agenda, the newspaper paradoxically retained its own independence, ending up mostly serving the agenda of its owners, the Tuenis—Gebran, but also his father Ghassan, who turned Al-Nahar into a national institution starting half a century ago and who has just buried his third and last child. That's why Gebran's assassination on Monday was viewed as such a national calamity: Not only was an elegant, charismatic figure obliterated in an instant, the institution of Al-Nahar was seen to be existentially threatened.

There was never any doubt that Syria was behind his murder. .......................But Tueni knew who was after him, as did the foreign ambassadors who frequently warned about the dangers to his life. He had been threatened by the Syrians, several times even publicly, if deniably, in their official media. Much the same can be said of other Lebanese officials, politicians, and journalists who either have been killed, have left the country, or remain virtual prisoners in guarded residences to avoid liquidation.

Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader at the epicenter of Syria's crosshairs, put it bluntly on Tuesday, telling Reuters: "Gebran Tueni and Al-Nahar were being threatened for a long time by the Syrian regime. ... We got the message. We will persevere." In an interview with CNN that same evening, he went further, ..............and accusing Syria, for the first time openly, of having murdered several prominent national figures, including Jumblatt's own father Kamal, President Rene Mouawad, and the Sunni Mufti Sheikh Hassan Khaled.

The Syrian regime today also stands accused of having ordered the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. A United Nations investigation of the crime is moving forward, and on the day Tueni was killed, the German magistrate in charge of the inquiry, Detlev Mehlis, released his second report describing his team's progress. The Tueni killing was likely timed to coincide with the release.

Mehlis pointedly wrote that "the investigation has continued to develop multiple lines of enquiry which, if anything, reinforce [the] conclusions" of his first report. UN investigators had earlier found, among other things, "converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in [the Hariri murder]"; and affirmed that “given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.”

The relevance of all this may not be immediately obvious, though the fact that today Iraq is holding its second major election—and effectively its third countrywide referendum—in less than a year might help explain it. It's simply this: As Americans, no doubt legitimately, look forward to a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq, their impatience shouldn't mean adopting an "after me, the deluge" attitude, because that would lead to open season being declared on the region's democrats—people like the Tuenis. In places like Iraq and Lebanon, as columnist David Ignatius wrote earlier this week, now is a time for assassins; "The shame for America isn’t that we have tried to topple the rule of the assassins, but that we have so far been unsuccessful."

On the day after Tueni's death, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, one Faysal Mekdad, proved how even the tedious functionaries of despotisms end up sounding like the ........ they represent. In a closed door session at the UN, Mekdad is said to have told another Arab ambassador, "So now every time that a dog dies in Beirut there will be an international investigation?" He was referring to the fact that the Lebanese government had, just the day before, requested that the UN investigation of the Hariri murder be expanded to include the dozen or so bomb explosions that have occurred since February, and that have killed not only Tueni, but also Samir Kassir, George Hawi, and several others, including three South Asian workers and an old man, and severely injured Lebanon's defense minister and a prominent television anchorwoman.

The Security Council might endorse the Lebanese proposal as soon as today, in a resolution supported by the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom—though Russia and China, never eager to tighten the screws on autocrats, oppose it. This resistance is worrying; a watered down or vetoed resolution could again undermine Lebanese efforts to investigate the crimes. Syrian intimidation and Syria's remaining allies in the Lebanese security services have helped delay previous efforts to uncover leads. The internationalization of Lebanese security when it comes to Syria, in the same way as the internationalization of security in Iraq (regardless of America's many blunders in the country), is essential to avoid a slide into something far worse.

That's not to say the U.S. should become fireman to the world. However, in those places where democrats have made headway, there may be a heavy price to pay for unreserved abandonment. As Rice observed about the Middle East: "When the citizens of this region cannot advance their interests and redress their grievances through an open political process, they retreat hopelessly into the shadows to be preyed upon by evil men with violent designs." Should this matter to Americans? One would have thought that 9/11 answered that question.

Reason contributing editor Michael Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.

Full article


Gebran Tueni, R.I.P.


The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

At a rally of the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon this past March, among the chants of "Death to America" and the banners lauding Syria, some of the demonstrators brandished posters that threatened, in Arabic: "We are going to sweep Gebran Tueni from Lebanon."

That is what someone has now done, with the car-bombing Monday on the outskirts of Beirut that murdered the 48-year-old Tueni, who was Lebanon's leading newspaperman in the struggle for a free and democratic society. Tueni's assassination comes not only as a loss to the Lebanese, but a hideous affront to the free world. Coming within hours of the latest United Nations report from Detlev Mehlis's investigation into the February bomb assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, Tueni's death also underscores big questions about whether it is enough to wait upon the further findings of U.N. process--however admirably diligent that has been in digging into the affairs of the prime suspect, which is the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. In the matter of Lebanon's afflictions, Tueni himself spent years telling us what the problem was, and the direction he pointed was not only Syria, but Iran.

You had to meet Gebran Tueni. He was a cross between the hard-hitting journalists of legend and the courageous democratic politicians who do in fact stand up in today's Middle East only to end up jailed, exiled or killed for their beliefs. He played one of the leading roles in the democratic Cedar Revolution that swept Lebanon this spring, and was elected this year to the Lebanese Parliament.

I met Tueni twice. The first time was in 2002, when Syria's generation-long chokehold still imposed on many Lebanese a terrified silence. I had gone to Lebanon trying to judge the strength of the democratic movement beneath the Syrian gloom. Tueni had been speaking up for years, and I paid him a call at his newspaper. It was then headquartered in the bustling Hamra section of Beirut, not far from the seaside compound that housed Syria's secret police.

A brisk, trim man with a neat mustache, Tueni welcomed me to an office filled with figurines of roosters, small and large, dignified and whimsical. He collected them, he said--a rooster being the logo of his newspaper, An-Nahar, an Arabic name which he translated for me as "The Morning." Founded by Tueni's grandfather in the 1930s, and passed from father to son for three generations, An-Nahar was for Gebran Tueni not only a family business, but a vital trust. Seated behind his grandfather's desk, speaking in fluent English, he explained that his aim was to cover the full spectrum of Lebanese news and debate, to give voice to "Muslims, Christians, leftists, rightists." As a Lebanese patriot, he refused to be cowed by Syrian censorship. In 2000 he had broken his country's long silence by publishing an explicit call for Syria to get its troops out of Lebanon. He had no patience with the press self-censorship that tends to become the rule under jackboot regimes. "If you accept to enter the game of blackmailing, it's your fault," he said. "We try to have an independent paper."

Asked about the dangers of such a stance, he catalogued quickly that he had been shot twice, in 1976 and 1989; kidnapped briefly, in 1976; and exiled in 1990 for three years.

Tueni's defiance of despotic rule extended not only to Syrian occupation but to the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics. He described Hezbollah as "an imported product from Iran. It has nothing to do with Lebanese identity." He went on to explain that Hezbollah is "a direct threat, acting in Lebanon like a state within a state," with "weapons everywhere." Hezbollah, he said, has its enticing side, building hospitals and schools, and providing free education to children of poor families--"but what are they teaching?" Hezbollah's strategy, he said, "Is to transform us into an Islamic republic." Tueni described Iran as providing Hezbollah's weapons and the funding, and Syria as providing "the cover."

Tueni saw democracy as the only acceptable future for Lebanon. He had no illusions that it would be easy going: "Just to talk about democracy, it's not a cocktail party," he said, "You have to work at it."

When I returned to Lebanon in March of this year, on a reporting assignment for the New York Sun, Tueni was working around the clock. He had moved his newspaper to new headquarters in the center of Beirut. The offices now looked out appropriately enough onto Martyr's Square, which had become the gathering place for the Lebanese democratic protests catalyzed by Hariri's assassination the previous month. An-Nahar was chronicling not only the Lebanese democratic movement, but signs of political dissent within Syria itself--amplifying the message throughout the Arabic-speaking world by way of the An-Nahar Web site (where today, in terms anyone can read, the rooster logo weeps (see http://www.annaharonline.com/).

In March Tueni was meeting with other organizers of the Lebanese opposition, trying to translate the momentum in the streets into major steps toward real independence and democratic change. I asked him who was the leader of these democrats, and he replied that part of the strength of the movement was that there was no single leader; instead, many leaders of various groups and communities had come together. He stressed that this was just as well, given Syria's propensity for murdering Lebanese patriots, "A one-man show would make a beautiful target."

The common goal, he said, was to "restore democracy so we can have elections, and then we can compete with each other." On the broader front, concerning the wisdom of charting a similar course for Iraq, he had no doubts: "George Bush is doing the right job in the Middle East for us, believe me." Tueni's only reservation was his belief that Lebanon, endowed with a rich pre-Syrian legacy of democratic institutions, deserved a chance to lead the way: "We really think if the big issue is about the Middle East, about changing the world, Lebanon is the answer."

An-Nahar's new building had armed guards and bulletproof security shields and doors. But sitting in his corner office with its big picture windows, not far from the spot where Hariri was murdered, Tueni seemed both brave and terribly vulnerable. I asked him if his own life was in danger. He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement. "They can kill one, two, three of us" he said, but then they are "finished."

He paused and smiled, "Better," he said, if they stop at "one."

They didn't. Gebran Tueni has now become the latest casualty in a series of terrorist bombings that are an assault not only on Lebanese democracy, but on all those in the Middle East--or anywhere else, for that matter--who believe government should be a matter of civil compact, not of rule by blood and fear. The urgent question by now is not only who precisely gave the order or laid the bomb, but who will act to put an end to this terror, and how.

Ms. Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Her column appears here and in The Wall Street Journal Europe on alternate Wednesdays.

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