Tuesday, September 28, 2004

France, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria...

Michel Barnier, on France Inter 27 Sep, sounded quite conciliatory : elections in Iraq are vital. Half the 10-minute interview was devoted to Haiti. BBC WS later reported him as saying that the international conference on Iraq, proposed by the US State Department Saturday (for October, November), should include the question of the withdrawal of US troops.

King Abdullah of Jordan said that extremists could be the only winners in the elections, unless the security situation improves.

Eric Martin - (September 20, 2004) Lebanon 2.0: Selling Beirut to Baghdad

'a pre-1967 Lebanon in which an elite of notables presided over a pluralistic republic, open to foreign capital, and free enterprise. Beirut in those days was known as the Paris of the Orient
the one in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the collapse of the Lebanese political system in the 1975-76 civil war. '

Never mind Lebanon pre-1967 or in the late 70s and 80s, what about Lebanon now. Beirut is a thriving city again from what I've heard. Instead the hostage-taking of former years this many accused it of (but which it now denies), Hezbollah now engages in the political process.

Syria is pulling its troops back. Even France supported a UN resolution for them to withdraw from Lebanon. Now there's a surprise.

Just caught a bit of this on the BBC : a play that has been running in Damascus for a year satirises official TV for showing a 'cultural programme' while Saddam Hussein's statue fell in Baghdad...


Blogger Eric said...


I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to argue, or if you are arguing at all. It is very welcomed news that Lebanon is at long last returning to some modicrum of peace and stability, but that would seem to be in spite of, not because of, the Lebanese political model.

The fact that they have overcome the damage done by over twenty years of conflict is undoubtedly positive, but is that the road we should be charting for Iraqis? Over twenty years of conflict, followed by stability (assuming that is what Lebanon has and will have going forward)?

Perhaps there is a better way, and I am certainly not convinced that Lebanon's path is one worth following.

2:46 pm, September 28, 2004  
Blogger DavidP said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:52 pm, September 29, 2004  
Blogger DavidP said...

There were many factors in the conflict in Lebanon, not just the confessional system (imperfect as it is) : an influx of Palestinian refugees, then an Israeli invasion of the south...

How did they arrive at peace ? Did they reform the inequities in the confessional system ? I don't know. All I know is that Hezbollah. one of the parties representing the Shi'a, gets members elected to the parliament and negotiates with those from other communities - Sunni, Christian...

The hostages, like Terry Waite, were released by 1991. So perhaps it's more accurate to describe it as 15 years of conflict, followed by more than 10 years of relative peace, though under Syrian domination.

One thing, not noticed by most people (including me at the time), while everyone's eyes were focused on the efforts to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait, was this.  Saddam's protégé was Michel Aoun (he was the leader of a Christian militia): the US acquiesced in Syria's final (and brutal) drive against its opponents in Lebanon. In mid-October 1990 the bodies of several hundreds of Aoun's supporters were found in Beirut, with their hands tied behind their backs and bullet-holes in their heads. ( See The Gulf Conflict 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in The New World Order, Lawrence Freedman, Efraim Karsh, 2nd Ed., 1994. )

What am I arguing for ? Of course I don't want to see 15 or 20 years of civil war for Iraq. I don't support the idea of a confessional system for them. Neither do I support the idea which seems to be quite popular in France (remember who dreamt up the confessional system for Lebanon in the first place ?) of splitting the country into 3 virtually independent parts, all with their capital, somehow, in Baghdad. In the end, it's for the Iraqis to decide. That's why they're going to elect a constituent assembly.

I remember seeing something around the time of the start of the war, warning of the parallels with the Israeli invasion in 1982, especially the possible reaction of the Shi'a, which has partly been vindicated by events in Iraq. I think it was in the Financial Times. Must dig that out again.

All I would say is this : in a sense not meant by the 19th century French best-seller, enrichissez-vous, informez-vous, or in the immortal words of Grace Slick, feed your head. I know it's difficult, in a bitter,partisan election battle - everyone focused on that one thing (Iraq) again - with Kerry's campaign increasingly dominated by the 'Iraq is a disaster' argument. We've got an election coming up here in the UK : everyone thinks it will be on 05.05.05.

1:02 pm, September 29, 2004  
Blogger Eric said...

A few thoughts: I think that the political model itself was poorly designed because contingencies such as the influx of Palestinians was such a real possibility, as was the inviting scenario for foreign influence/intervention.

Similarly, Iraq could see surges in the Kurdish population or Shiia population should conditions arise to make such migrations attractive. Thus, if you cannot adapt the political machine (which is based on the composition of the overall population) to reflect changes in the various ethnic populations, then it is unworkable. Even if a mechanism were developed (an annual or quadrannual census), the door would be opened for much mischief and strife.

The door is also open for foreign elements to pursue their own interests - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Israel, to name but a few.

There are other problems too, which I addressed in my piece. As for who decides, of course it should be the Iraqis, but that doesn't mean that the US will not advocate for certain candidates and systems. This may be improper interference, but it will occur nevertheless.

I find your comments very helpful and informative, though, and they have caused me to consider some of my positions. Thank you.

3:06 pm, September 29, 2004  

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