Michel Aoun, a genuine reformer

By Ghaleb Kandil

The position of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader, General Michel Aoun, on the electoral law, has been the target of a smear campaign in order to distort it. While since he was in command of the army until he became a major political leader, he always displayed his opposition to sectarianism.

From the start of the debate on the electoral law, General Aoun was in favor of a single electoral district in Lebanon, coupled with proportional voting. Which gives equal opportunities to all political parties to be fairly represented, and puts an end to the monopoly exercised by certain political currents within religious communities.

The support to the Orthodox project (which provides that each community elects its own MPs) was dictated by the refusal of the proportional voting mode by the Future Movement (FM) and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), as well as individuals whose political existence depends exclusively on electoral laws adopted for nearly 20 years. The leader of the FPM has supported the Orthodox project that introduces the proportional voting mode and transforms Lebanon in a unique electoral district for just once, to elect a Parliament acting as a Constituent Assembly, that should be able to deeply reform the system, including a revision of the Constitution. The representative character of such a Parliament, composed of genuine representatives of all communities, cannot be questioned.

The Orthodox project allows opponents within each community -who were completely marginalized by majority voting-, to be represented. As well he frees Christians seats from the hegemony of other communities. This project gives each party its real weight in the communities, since the Lebanese system is anyway a confessional one.

To replace the Orthodox Project, which is rejected by the FM and PSP, General Aoun proposes the adoption of the proportional voting mode in a unique electoral district in Lebanon, which is a progressive formula helping to develop a true national partnership between the political parties of different communities.

Michel Aoun has always defended a reform project in the face of traditional politicians that are attached to power for personal interests, as shown by the revelations made in his book IMPOSSIBLE ACQUITTAL, which reveals how the country’s resources were plundered for 20 years by this political class.

Kelly Tour and American procrastination

By Ghaleb Kandil

While Secretary of State John Kerry begins an international tour focused on the situation in Syria, Russia increases its critics towards the ambiguous attitude and political double standards exerted by the United States. Yet Washington had initiated signals showing a change in policy, mainly illustrated by the decision of President Barack Obama to replace the hawkish trio composed of Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus.

On the diplomatic front, the Americans multiply statements about the need to find a solution to the Syrian crisis on the basis of the Geneva Agreement, and in the same time they try to render that agreement meaningless by arbitrarily interpreting some of its clauses. They multiply warnings about the danger posed by the qaïdiste al-Nosra Front, but at the same time they continue to lead the war against Syria by supporting terrorist groups, as if nothing had changed in this crisis.

All field data show that the United States continues its war against Syria along with their Western partners, Turkish and Arab auxiliaries. Turks and Qataris continue to provide material, logistics, finance, media and political support to the terrorists, with the active help of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The only realistic solution to the Syrian problem is the plan proposed on January 6 by President Bashar al-Assad. But this plan is conditioned by the implementation of mechanisms for stopping the violence that can only be achieved by draining financing sources of terrorist, stopping shipments of weapons and ammunition and the closure of training camps installed in Turkey. Also it is necessary to dismantle the networks of recruitment and transport of terrorists worldwide in Syria.

Despite their ambiguous actions, the Americans sent signals that constitute an admission of the failure of their initial objective which was to overthrow the regime of President Assad. They conceded that the dialogue with the Syrian head of state is the only way that could lead to a solution of the crisis. This does not prevent them from maneuvering in an attempt to improve their conditions in for negotiations.

The anger expressed by Russia to face all this procrastination shows once again that only the developments on the ground will be able to break the deadlock. It is therefore the Syrian Arab Army that will have the last word.


NAJIB MIKATI, Lebanese Prime minister

«Most Lebanese want to live together under one nation, and it is unfair to take away this right through electoral proposals such as the Orthodox law. Although its apparent objective is to give the different sects their rights, its true essence is to [weaken] Lebanese unity. The Orthodox law cannot pass because it contradicts the spirit of coexistence. Even the civil war failed to impose sectarian fragmentation and federal plans on the Lebanese.»

MICHEL AOUN, Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement

«Through the Orthodox project, Christians have regained their rights without affecting those of others. However, we remain open to another law that would achieve justice and equality for all communities.»

SAMIR GEAGEA, Leader of the Lebanese Forces

«The one who said in 2008 that Siniora represents him more than Michel Aoun cannot be accused of sectarianism. We want a new electoral law, not because Christians want revenge for years, but because the country needs a new electoral law, without waking the demons of the past. We want an election law that is approved by all. We are against the challenge against the attitude of those who claimed victory in recent days. We call upon our allies in March 14 to make every effort to reach a consensus. The electoral law is an urgent popular demand. It was therefore necessary to address this issue with the utmost seriousness. We are against bigotry, against the exacerbation of sectarian passions against the challenge, but we want a new electoral law.»

WALID JUMBLATT, Lebanese Druze leader

«To reopen continually the debate about Hezbollah weapons is not a solution. This case was perfectly summed up by the President of the Republic Michel Sleiman when he called for dialogue to discuss the defense strategy in the context of the dialogue table: how to get weapons of the Resistance to defend Lebanon and meet following questions: why these weapons are used, when, how, where? Most Lebanese will approach an agreement around a national defense strategy that would give the State the exclusive prerogative to defend the territory, as is the case everywhere in the world

AMINE GEMAYEL, Former president of the Republic

«I am very concerned for the Christians of Syria. Mainly due to the logic advocated by some fanatical factions. This logic is dangerous for Christians but also for Muslims who do not share their views. We promote respect for human rights and the acceptance of the other

AHMED FATFAT, Lebanese MP, member of the Future Movement

«The goal of the orthodox project is to impose a legislative May 7, to extend the hegemony of Hezbollah and its allies all over Lebanon and its state. The project propose by Speaker Nabih Berry does not ensure the required political balance. Ongoing contacts between the Future Movement and the Christian members of March 14 continue

ALI ABDEL KARIM ALI, Syrian Ambassador in Lebanon

«Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that there are Lebanese living on the other side of the border and they feel involved in the fight against armed groups when they attack them. Apart from this, everything is words. Those who launch such assumptions about the involvement of Hezbollah must have a minimum of credibility.»

MUSTAPHA NASSER, Former councilor of Rafic Hariri

«Hariri was a resistant and has a real concern in the Palestinian cause. He was with the resistance until the last minute and he told this to Hassan Nasrallah. The relationship between the two men was built on trust. Hariri has never intended to disarm Hezbollah. On the eve of his assassination, he was about to ally with Hezbollah for the parliamentary elections. After his assassination, his son Saad wanted to continue on the same path, and this is illustrated by Riad agreement. But when I submitted the text of this Agreement to the Prime Minister at the time, Fouad Siniora, he tore at me and said: ’Saad cannot implement this agreement, I do not accept it


➢ The home page of the official website of the Lebanese Parliament has been changed by hackers Saturday. Thus, instead of the official homepage, sat a portrait of the Salafi Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir and a anti-Hezbollah and anti-Syrian regime message. The site was no longer accessible by mid-morning. Several sites Lebanese officials were hacked in 2012.

➢ The CIA drones in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world caused the death of 4,700 people revealed U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham Tuesday at a public meeting in his state. While the government has never yielded results of these drone attacks, the spokesman of Lindsey Graham told AFP that he did quote a figure calculated by an NGO and frequently cited in the American media and disclosed that he had no official count.

➢ The daily As Safir reported that the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai will travel to Moscow from 26 February to March 1, at the invitation of Russian Patriarch Cyril first. The talks between the two patriarchs will focus on the situation of Christians in the East and the need to reconcile the Catholic and Orthodox Church.

Press review



Since the beginning of the war in Syria, the Syrian opposition has not ceased to accuse Hezbollah and Iran’s of involvement in the events. This is particularly the case of Burhan Ghalioun, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sadreddine Bayanouni, and former Prime Minister, Riyad Hijab, who said that Syria was occupied by Iran.

Hezbollah is trying to fight against the Sunni-Shiite discord while openly supporting Syria. He believes that the battle waged by the regime under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad is his own battle, that of Iran and the entire axis of the Resistance, including Palestine. The position of the party joined the position of the supreme guide of the Iranian revolution, Ali Khamenei, who has put an end to the early hesitation of the Iranian leaders on the Syrian crisis, considering that the fall of Assad is a "red line."

In this context, it was natural that the Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army to threatens to attack Hezbollah. These statements were preceded by the assassination in Syria of the president of the Iranian Committee for the reconstruction of Lebanon, Houssam Khosh Nevis, and coincided with information on direct assistance by Western intelligence services, including French and British, of the rebels, and an Israeli involvement in the killings of Syrian searchers and scholars.

The dissociation policy of the Lebanese government has not prevented elements of al-Nosra Front to infiltrate Lebanon. And if the Syrian army continues to progress on the field, the members of this qaidiste group will have no choice but to take refuge in Lebanon, particularly that the Jordanian border is sealed by order of King Abdullah II. A few days ago, the Hashemite monarch has promised his Russian counterparts in Moscow to contribute to the fight against Al Qaeda and the jihadists.



Lebanese visitors who met President Bashar al-Assad these days feel it more than ever convinced that the "World War" against Syria for 23 months "has failed."

Serenity displayed by President Assad is not only due to the achievements of his army in the field, which continues to have the initiative, nor the popular support it enjoys, and is best illustrated by the "National People’s Army." It comes mainly from the frustration felt by his enemies, who try to compensate for their defeat by increasing media campaigns to invent fictitious victories and set new dates for the fall of the regime, the last being in June. At the same time, the embarrassment of the Americans, Arabs and Turks is clear, while the field armed groups have lost the initiative.

The head of the Syrian state has paid tribute to Bechara Rai, "the courageous patriarch." He also argues that the current crisis has helped the Syrian State to distinguish his friends from his enemies. "We will never forget those who stayed with us during this difficult time," he said.


(FEBRUARY 22, 2013)

At their last meeting in Baabda, the President of the Republic, Michel Sleiman, exposed to Maronite Patriarch Bechara Raï the "danger" posed to Lebanon by electoral Orthodox project and informed the primate he had decided to go up at the end in his opposition. The Head of State noted that two essential components of the Lebanese tissue, Sunnis and Druzes, as well as independents personalities, are against this project that will cause a big break. Michel Sleiman said that the government had presented his own project and the parties may make amendments so that it becomes acceptable to all.

For its part, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, said he had no fixed time before convening a plenary vote on the Orthodox project, adding that he took his time to convince players to agree on a consensual law.

An Nahar has learned that President Berry continues his contacts with all parties to intensify consultations. "I did not set a deadline of a week or two or even 70 days to a plenary session," he said.



The oil and gas located in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Lebanon have the effect of a magnet on the great powers. The visit to Lebanon of the head of the British Foreign Office, William Hague, who will meet the Minister of Energy and Water Gebran Bassil illustrates that reality. Mr. Hague have met with the Prime minister Najib Mikati. Both men had discussed the need to preserve Lebanon’s stability in the context of the Syrian crisis, and the problematic question of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Diplomatic sources say that Mr Hague was informed through his country’s ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher in a report that was sent to him last week about the launch by Minister Bassil of the pre- qualification of companies invited to participate in the exploration of oil and gas offshore, from 15 February to 28 March.



The notorious right-wing Lebanese Forces (LF) is accepting new members to the party ahead of this summer’s parliamentary elections. But don’t expect any change when it comes time to electing a new party leader.

Two years ago, the former civil war militia known as the Lebanese Forces, decided it was time to organize itself into a proper party.

It held a founding conference in which the internal bylaws were agreed upon, thus fulfilling its eternal leader’s promise when he was released from prison in 2005 to turn the militia into “a party of organizations and institutions.

One of the internal rules stipulates that the party must open its doors for new members. Today that time has come, and the LF has declared that it will be accepting new members who can register at one of its regional centers or professional associations.

Party rules condition membership on the following: new members must be over the age of 20; they must agree with the main principles of the party; they cannot belong to any other political party; they must have the support of at least two existing members who will vouch for them; and finally, they must have a clean criminal record.

The LF has no intention of seeking Muslim members as it remains a Christian party with a deeply sectarian orientation.

The party has formed committees in many areas of the country to process new members’ applications. According to LF Secretary General Fadi Saad, the door for new membership will remain open “until the majority of our base of support become members.

Saad is confident that this step will bring a large number of young people into the party, noting that “we’ve sensed a positive response from the new generation through our work on university campuses.

While Saad insists that the decision has nothing to do with the coming parliamentary elections, regional coordinator Michel Awad acknowledges that admitting new members before the poll “allows us a greater measure of control, whereby members are bound by the electoral alliances the leadership strikes.

The internal rules provide that a conference is held every four years to elect new leadership. But given many of the old LF stalwarts’ loyalty to their leader Samir Geagea, such elections are unlikely to bring about any change at the top.

Awad insists that the coming changes will affect that party as whole with the exception of Geagea: “There are those who cannot imagine anyone else but Geagea as president, plus we cannot change the leadership every time we have elections – change at the top will require some time,” he says.



On Tuesday, 19 February 2013, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) issued a statement accusing Hezbollah of shelling Syrian territory and threatening to “shell and silence the sources of Hezbollah fire in Lebanese territory” if it did not stop within 48 hours.

No sooner had the ultimatum expired did various media outlets broadcast reports that Hezbollah bases in Syria and Lebanon had been targeted, including an artillery position in the border village of Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali.The news spread like wildfire.

Yet in the town of Hermel and the adjoining villages of Qasr and Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali – scenes of the supposed attacks – life continued as normal. The only thing disturbing the peace of local residents was the inundation of phone calls from concerned or curious outsiders. “There’s nothing happening here,” a local source told Al-Akhbar. “It’s just media propaganda to go with the statements made by the armed groups in Syria. It’s coming from the channels that support them.

To him, the false reports had a clear political objective. “It’s about covering up what happened in Ersal, and the general impression it left that some of the people there are harboring al-Nosra Front members. In return, they want to give the impression that the Assi Valley villages, whose people have faced killings and displacement, are harboring Hezbollah fighters.

Official security sources also denied media reports about attacks on Hermel, Qasr, or Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali, including claims that two people had been killed in shelling. They said speculation could have been fuelled by an explosion that occurred around Wednesday at midnight outside a semi-built store in Qasr.

An explosive device with an estimated 300 grams of TNT was detonated, injuring a man who happened to be driving by the location. The sources said the bombing was related to “family disputes.

The calm in Hermel extended, for the most part, to the Assi Valley villages inside Syria, which have long been inhabited by Lebanese. The area remains tense following recent clashes between villagers affiliated with the local Popular Committees and armed Syrian opposition groups that tried to infiltrate, and presumably take over, the villages of Hammam and Abu-Houri.

On Thursday, a group of FSA fighters attempted to seize control of another village, Saghmaniyeh. According to Abu-Jihad al-Daiqa, spokesperson for the Popular Committees in the Assi Valley villages, the attackers were surprised by the level of preparedness of the villagers, who clashed with them and forced them to retreat.

Daiqa, who is intimately familiar with the locality, told Al-Akhbar that the pattern of recent attacks in the area indicates that Syrian rebels are trying to open up a supply corridor to Lebanon.

By bringing men and equipment from Joubar and attacking the village of Hammam, the armed groups are only trying to get closer to the village of Zayta, with the aim of occupying it and opening a route to Wadi Khaled in North Lebanon to link it to Qusayr in Syria,” he explained. “They want a route for logistical and military supplies after the closure of the routes around Ersal, where it has become difficult to move.

Daiqa said the Popular Committees in these Lebanese-inhabited Syrian villages – who he insisted should not be labelled “Shia” as their populations are diverse – were ready to repel further attacks.

In Zayta, Huwait, Hammam, and other Assi Valley villages, the FSA claim to have shelled Hezbollah positions in Lebanon on the pretext that Hezbollah has been fighting them in Syrian villages.

Last Sunday’s clash was not the first of its kind, but it received by far the most media attention. A whole host of Syrian opposition groups and figures issued statements accusing Hezbollah of intervening in Syria, with the Syrian National Council even accusing it of attacking villages in Syria’s Homs governorate.

In Lebanon, Monday’s edition of an-Nahar newspaper carried the frontpage headline “Deeds in Syria Belie Nasrallah’s Words.” The March 14 coalition and other Hezbollah detractors were quick to adopt the Syrian opposition’s account, while the party kept silent. The media offensive intensified, peaking on Thursday with a statement by the so-called FSA Joint Command threatening Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

This was followed by a statement from Future Movement leader Saad al-Hariri, in which he proclaimed his “total rejection of the use of Lebanese territory for any kind of military intervention in the internal affairs of Syria, whether to support the regime or the opposition.

He went on to ask: “Where does the Lebanese government stand on this? Indeed, where is the policy of disassociation from the use of Lebanese territory in the conflict in Syria? Or does this policy exempt Hezbollah from [not] involving Lebanon in this conflict, and give it an exclusive right to use weapons on the Lebanese-Syrian front? What is Hezbollah doing on the Syrian front? Who gave it a mandate to defend the border, even if it were to stop attacks by Syrian gunmen?

The party continues to keep silent.



The parliamentary majority’s grand electoral maneuver could turn into a fait accompli for the Future Movement and its allies if they continue refusing to recognize the need for a real change in Lebanon’s election law.

It would be hard to impose a law that could provoke a boycott by a majority of a certain sect, thus jeopardizing the popular legitimacy of the elections. It is highly likely, therefore, that the actual effect of proposing the Orthodox Gathering law will be to kill the 1960 winner-takes-all law and clear the way for new legislation that introduces proportional representation.

Lebanon makes for a puzzling spectacle these days.

We see the political class that has continued to rule the country for decades being compelled to produce an alternative to the winner-takes-all voting system. This class is currently engaged in a tough battle, which will lead to the adoption of some form of proportional representation, even if only partially at first.

It is thereby responding to accumulated pressures for the mechanisms of political representation to be altered. In other words, the political class is implicitly conceding to the demands of those sectors of Lebanese society that have been marginalized by the winner-takes-all-law and the alliances that accompany it.

But things do not look good on the other side. The forces that presumably stand to gain from a fundamental change to the election law have been behaving as though they either don’t believe what they are seeing with their own eyes, or are in too poor a shape to seize on the opportunity to gain representation in the state’s institutions.

This state of affairs raises serious questions in light of the low rate of participation in all the activities organized by non-sectarian groups in support of proportional representation. Monday’s protest at the parliament building could have been mistaken for a small group of people queuing up outside a government office.

There could be two reasons for such a meager turnout. Either the supporters of non-sectarianism or the civil state lack confidence in their self-proclaimed spokespersons, or they do not favor using such methods to advance their cause.

Both explanations make sense. Many Lebanese took part in the demonstrations held more than a year ago calling for the downfall of the sectarian system, but they soon lost heart in the absence of a leadership that appreciated their numbers. Yet also, only a minority of the groups demanding the abolition of the sectarian system played an active part in the struggle for civil marriage, ostensibly because it is not currently a top priority of Lebanon’s reformists. Nevertheless, they made an extremely powerful media impact, imposing the issue on everyone’s agenda.

A visitor to Lebanon could be excused for imagining, from following the various media outlets, that the Lebanese are in the process of establishing fully civil institutions in their country, an impression that clearly does not correspond to reality.

This all calls for a reconsideration of some contentious questions.

Proportional representation would make real change possible in the political representation of the active forces in the country. The forces disadvantaged by the sectarian system would be able to exploit any law incorporating proportional representation to form a united front capable of gaining sufficient votes to elect a bloc in parliament. Even if small, it would be able to unsettle the sectarians entrenched in the state’s institutions, and to fight for the adoption of civil laws.

The battle for proportional representation is therefore more serious and far-reaching than the struggle for civil marriage. There would appear to be a very strong incentive to engage in it, especially after the breakthrough achieved by the tentative adopt of the Orthodox Gathering law, bad as it is.

But why do we see no preparations being made for such a battle?

The political forces that claim a monopoly on slogans about the civil state think the idea of civil society is the same as the one-person organizations that operate in its name. These organizations reflect the bankruptcy of party-political life but also reinforce it, and with time have become sources of direct financial gain.

Moreover, the forces of secularism as represented by the remnants of the Lebanese Left and other ideological non-sectarian parties – such as the Arab nationalists, Baathists, and Nasserists – have serious problems with their political discourse, their overall outlook, and their decrepit organizational structures. This in itself is sufficient reason for people to turn their backs to them.

But the worst mistake stems from the belief of some that they can turn the battle to bring down Lebanon’s sectarian system into a battle to add a new sect to Lebanon’s sectarian line-up, even if it is called the non-sectarian sect. That means adding to the country’s divisions, when what is needed is for everyone to be subject to the same civil laws, which allow individuals to express their beliefs freely and oblige them only to respect the freedom of others.



Israel expressed its deep disappointment toward the EU’s reluctance to place Hezbollah on its terrorism list after the Lebanese party was accused of being behind last July’s airport bombing in Bulgaria.

Israel’s Home Front Minister Avi Dichter described the discussion underway among the Europeans as a “farce, and far from reality,” adding that the placement of Hezbollah on the terrorism list will “dry up its sources of funding, and prevent it from carrying out terrorist operations in the future.

Dichter had arrived in France on Tuesday, 19 February 2013, in an attempt to convince the EU to categorize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but his trip seems to have hit a few snags, with Paris still reluctant to take such a step.

Hezbollah is Israel’s eternal foe, and is the ally of Syria and Iran, and there is no question that they are behind the attacks that have occurred over the past few decades,” Dichter said in media statements.

The European debate over whether Hezbollah is a terrorist organization or not,” he added sarcastically, “is like debating whether Paris is located in France on not.

What upsets me most,” he continued, “is the distinction being made between [Hezbollah’s] military and political wings. This is a farce in and of itself.

Dichter insisted that Europe is a key source of funding for Hezbollah, and if the party’s covert channels of collecting money on the continent are blocked, it will inevitably face a financial crisis.

He dismissed the notion that placing Hezbollah on the terrorism list could further destabilize Lebanon, noting that the country “is already beset by many problems,” so such a step will not add that much to its troubles.

On Wednesday, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot reported that, according to European diplomats, the EU decision will be based on the strength of evidence the Bulgarian government will present on Hezbollah’s involvement in the airport bombing.

France and Germany, in particular, have been reluctant to go along with the Israelis on this matter due to fears about the consequences for both countries in taking such a step, pointing out that there 1,200 French troops stationed in southern Lebanon serving as part of the UNIFIL forces.


A Christian belonging to the Apostolic Armenian community in Syria was shot dead point blank by terrorists in the grip of religious fanaticism. Yohannes A (whose surname Fides chooses not disclose for the safety of the family,) for the local Armenian community, "is a martyr of the Syrian conflict murdered in odium fidei, out of hatred for the faith". The man was part of a convoy on its way to Aleppo. A group of Islamist extremists halted the minibus in which the man was travelling, demanding passengers’ identity papers. Seeing that Yohannes’ surname ended with "ian", they identified him as Armenian. They searched him and found he was wearing a cross and chain. One of the terrorists shot point blank at the cross tearing open the man’s chest. Local Fides sources in the Armenian community, said "the terrorists were hot-headed, highly exited, as if under the effect of drugs".

This way of behaviour is common to all the various gangs operating roadblocks in Syria: buses halted, passengers robbed or selected for targeted kidnapping, like the 2 priests, Armenian Catholic Ab. Michel Kayyal and Greek Orthodox Ab. Maher Mahfouz taken hostage on 9 February and still in the hands of kidnappers.

Another episode reported to Fides, involved a group of Christians trying to go from Qamishli to Beirut, to escape the dramatic situation locally. The bus was hit by a rocket and two persons were killed: a man named Boutros and a 22 year old girl named Naraya who was soon to be married. The bandits stole everything. The travellers decided to return to Qamishli, rather than risk a journey in mortal danger.

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