Saturday, May 10, 2008

Street Notes from the Hamra District

Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters

By Franklin Lamb

"......As of this afternoon the losers and winners appear as follows:

The main losers obviously are the Bush administration, Israel and their Welch Club allies. Personal losers are Amin Gemayel, barely still the "leader" of the Phalange Party, as he talks tough and tries to rally his 'forces'…from Paris. Samir Geagea has pretty much nudged him aside and is reportedly casting his dark gaze toward Saad Hariri who may be planning to retire from politics and help with the very big family business. After the parties meet with President Bush next week, a 'shaking out' process may begin.

Walid Jumblatt is another loser since his provocations, taunts, and Welch Club cheerleader role to take on Hezbollah left him at its mercy both in the Mountains and in his Beirut home. Whatever credibility he had has evaporated.......

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora loses more of his waning influence and status. One of his main problems is that he is increasingly seen as a Bush administration puppet. Not least of his worries this morning, as he prepares to avoid being dumped by Bush next week, is the ringing endorsement he received yesterday from Secretary of State Rice, without bringing herself to mention Siniora by name.......

One frustrated US Senate Intelligence Committee staffer emailed this morning with a tinge of irony and cynicism:

Referring to President Bush: "Now this loser has really done it. Having effectively delivered Iraq and Afghanistan to Iran, he has now handed them Lebanon. Mark my words, Saudi Arabia is next and the Saudis know it and will make a deal with Iran."

The major winners are obvious: Lebanon's Christian population allied with General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, Amal and their Sunni, Druze and international supporters.

Hassan Nasrallah's position is probably the strongest it has ever been, not just in Lebanon but throughout the region. If he wanted to be a dictator of all of Lebanon, which he eschews, he could have the position today.

Rami Khoury, writing in Beirut's Daily Star this morning got it right in this observer's view when he wrote:

Nasrallah's task now is to create an inclusive environment conducive to the answering of these and other challenges. He and his party cannot be expected to come up with all of the solutions, and nor should they want to: If they cannot draw other players - and not just their closest allies - into the process, Nasrallah runs the risk of being cast as a dictator by default.

Hizbullah and its partners have frequently argued that their counterparts in the March 14 Forces coalition were not interested in true partnership, only in dictating terms. Now Nasrallah has to prove that his side is ready, willing and able to live up to its own expectations, and speed is of the essence: After 15 years of civil war, 15 of diluted sovereignty, and three of limbo, the Lebanese deserve at last to have a level of politics commensurate with their talents and energies. If Nasrallah is the man who makes this happen, history will judge his actions to have been a revolution, not a coup, and a long-overdue one at that.

Late news is that the airport may open by Monday but this is not certain. "

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