Monday, November 13, 2006
Things Are Moving Fast
Saniora, whose anti-Syrian majority dominates the Cabinet, convened the session over President Emile Lahoud's objections and despite the resignations of six pro-Syrian ministers. Five of them, Shiite Muslims, quit in a dispute with the prime minister over their demand for more influence in decision-making.It seems that Hezbollah does not do the power-sharing thing well. The Hezbollah faction wanted veto power in the cabinet, and the rest of the cabinet refused. Now Hezbollah say they will hold "mass demonstrations", but the bombings are picking up.... On the heels of this action:
Saturday's withdrawal by the five ministers left Shiites, the largest single sect in Lebanon, out of the government, contravening a provision in Lebanon's constitution to ensure the distribution of political power among Christian and Muslim sects.
Still, all 18 remaining ministers attending the meeting approved the U.N. document, and they defended the Cabinet's decision.
Al-Qaida has purportedly issued a statement threatening to topple Lebanon's "corrupt" Western-backed government, according to a London-based Arabic newspaper Monday.Whether the statement actually came from Al-Qaeda or not is disputed.
The Al-Hayat newspaper reported that al-Qaida issued the statement from the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr. "The organization has arrived in Lebanon and we will work on destroying this corrupt government that receives orders from the American administration," Al-Hayat said, quoting the statement.
In Iraq over the weekend, Prime Minister al-Maliki is reported to have stated that there will be a reshuffling of the cabinet and that loyalty to the government will be the criteria rather than power-sharing:
Shiite legislator Bassem al-Sharif quoted al-Maliki as telling them: " We need a major government reshuffle, and we will not allow any candidate to be loyal to his party. I will choose according to qualifications. I will reject any incompetent candidate," al-Maliki said, according to al-Sharif.He also spoke to a newspaper, saying that some sort of Syrian initiative had been advanced wanting to "start fresh with Iraq", and seemed to imply that his government was willing to talk:
Al-Maliki also told the politicians to stop squabbling and "solve your problems among yourselves," al-Sharif said. "Let your loyalty be to Iraq. Help the government."
"You all have militias. I will not accept a government made up of militiamen. We cannot be a state in the presence of militias," he was quoted as saying.
Foreign Ministry Under Secretary Labib Abbawi said today that an official invitation has been sent to Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and he accepted. No date for a visit has been set.Things are genuinely awful in Iraq, as the top Iraqi judge pointed out (he's visiting the US). He insisted that they were making progress, but:
He said the roughly 4,000 security officers hired to protect judges are not enough, and that 22 judges and many of their relatives have been murdered. Al-Mahmood's son was slain.One of the worst aspects of the Iraqi "insurgency" is that the various coalitions are targeting the families of government and military officials. This is why abandoning the country now would be such a betrayal; no matter what you think about the situation, many of the Iraqis have shown epic bravery in trying to improve matters.
"We need much higher numbers to protect the judge and his family," he said.
Meanwhile, the Arab nations have been putting pressure on the Palestinians to stop shooting each other and start working with each other. There had been a virtual Arab boycott of Hamas in Palestine, but as a result of the Gaza missile attack, all that has suddenly changed:
The Hamas-led Palestinian government agreed Sunday to an international peace conference with Israel after the Arab League -- angered by Israel's military offensive in Gaza -- voted to end a financial blockade on the Palestinians.Olmert is in the US. It's hard to know how this is going to work out, but supposedly the Arab nations (including Kuwait) will be making some quick transfers of money to the Hamas government.
Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas endorsed a statement by Arab foreign ministers calling for the peace conference during a meeting in Cairo to respond to a U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Gaza offensive.
The Arab League statement said ministers sought a conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "according to international resolutions and the principle of 'land for peace'." Arabs want Hamas to endorse a 2002 Arab initiative that calls for peace in exchange for land seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war -- the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
Sunday was the first time Zahar had attended an Arab foreign ministers' meeting since Hamas became the ruling party. The Arab League had previously refused to let him join unless Hamas accepted the peace initiative.
Arab ministers also decided Sunday to end a financial blockade on the Palestinians to show their anger over U.S. veto in the Security Council on Saturday.