Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rulers and ghosts

Was it Shakespeare who wrote, "The world is but a stage, and we are all actors"? It certainly was not the Wizard who coined this phrase The Wizard is anything but a plagiarist. Having made this pithy remark, let us examine the characters who determine our lives on the stage of the Middle East. Lebanon concerns us most.

We have Emile Lahoud, the President of the Lebanese Republic, as consumate an actor as they come, especially when he starts delivering homilies on nationalism, resistance, solidarity and loyalty. Other than loyalty to Syria which had out hum on the Presidential chair, we doubt whether he understands the true meaning of the terms he uses. Where would he have learnt them; not as Admiral of the one patrol boat which Lebanon owns. To his credit, he seems to have a good tailor.

We have Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a battling cock and an expert helmsman, judging from the way he has navigated Lebanon through the worst crisis of its existence. One question comes up, again and again : why is it that over the past sixty years of independence, no one has seen fit to train and equip the Lebanese army with modern arms and equipment ?

On the Lebanese stage, we should not forget Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House, who has been able with machiavilian dexterity, to manouver himsel into a fourth term in office, a remarkable feat in the annals of democratic Government. He is referred to as "al Istaz" with emphasis on the first two letter letters "Is" of his name. This term means lawyer or teacher. One or the other, he has shown himself to be a master of the game. Before we get to the recent leading actor, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, we must stop at Mukhtara, the 19th century residence of Walid Jumblatt. With his beak of a nose, his white dome of a head, framed between two thatches of matty hair, he resembles a species of the avian world. As leader of the esoteric Druze community, he rules over a large area of Mount Lebanon, where his word is law. He has made no secret of his opposition and contempt for the Syrian Regime of Bashar el Assad and his Alawite cronies, all members of a hermitical sect of Islam who seized and have remained in power in Syria for the past thirty years. He has branded the Regime as assassins, and for cause, having assassinated his father Kamal Bey, not to mention other assassinations attributed to their agents.

And last, but not least, we come to Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shia formation, "Hizbullah" [Hezbollah] (Party of God), a formation with deep roots in south Lebanon. Its military wing, referred to as "Al Muqawama' surprised Israel and the world with its dogged and successful resistance to the Israeli war on Lebanon, such that apart from a few points along the frontier, Israel has made no headway into Lebanon, despite its awesome air power, which destroyed south Lebanon and the southern outskirts of Beirut, reducing both to rubble and perpetrating several massacres of women, babies and children; such that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declared that had he suspected Israel's response to the kidnapping of two soldiers, he would not have had them kidnapped; a bit late in the day perhaps to make such a statement. There is little point in crying over spilt milk, in this case, thousands of dead and wounded and the destruction of the entire infrastructure of a whole country. Equally his words prompted Israel' Olmert to claim victory on his recent tour of south Israel.

The Lebanese drama, of which the above mentioned persons have been the principal actors, is unfortunately repetitive, in that is has been played six or seven times over the last fory years. We have grown weary of it the time has come to move to a second stage, Syria, for example.

The principal actor who occupies the center stage is Bashar el Assad, who has mastered his role of vilification and venomous hatred to perfection. He strangely resembles an Okapi, with his tall neck and small head, in every sense of the term. He would get a better hearing if he were to vary his role from time to time, and instead of making war by proxy, if he were to take some measures to liberate his Golan, occupied and colonised by Israel sine 1967, other than fighting till the last Palestinian and the last Lebanese. What is highly entertaining is Bashar's Foreign Minister, Al Muallem (also means teacher), who resembles a midget Oliver Hardy and acts like one. To tell the truth the actors on the Syrian stage are highly boring and a change of cast and scene are in order.

Moving across the Jordanian frontier, we meet the young King Abdallah II, a Hashemite descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, with a touch of English blood in his veins, more than a touch, since his mother was English, which might explain his calm and youthful dignity, two qualities generally lacking in the bombastic Arab world. He seems unpurturbed that his throne sits on he moving sand of a Palestinian majority.

Across the frontier into Israel, we have the Olmerts, the Netanyahus, the Baraks and the Perez, moving on the stage with dazed steps and debating whether to nominate or not to nominate a committee of inquiry to determine what went wrong in the war on Lebanon, and why in Milton's words, "Lucifer fell in all his glory."

A long way from Israel lies Iraq, embroiled in civil war, an example of the Bush American new vision for the Middle East. We pray God hat we are spared the vision of that demented character, George W. Bush.

Egypt, on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. A jovial Husni Mubarak has ruled over a docile population for more time than we can remember and he is currently busy preparing his son to take over when his time has come; a monarchy in different clothes, but more absolute than King Farouk ever was. A pariah in the Arab world, since his assassinated predecessor Sadat paid his famous visit to Israel, Mubarak's Egypt plays a leading role in the politics of the Middle East.

Equally important is of course the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Descendents of zealot warriors who threw the Hashemites out of Mecca and Medina, King Ibn Saud, the founder of the dynasty cemented the country through hundreds of marriages followed by divorces and remarriages for his ex-wives. What a sexual athlete he must have been.

The Sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates, the Emir ot Qatar, and the King of Bahrein have succeeded in transforming their desert realms, thanks to oil and services, into havens of peace and prosperity. Dubai is a prime example of what an enterprising Sheikh Mohammed can achieve to transform the city of Dubai into a world center, with impeccable town planning and architecture

Here we come to the end of our scenario. It is time to draw the curtain.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A journey into history

It is a little known fact that the Jewish community as a whole was pro-German during World War I, in the hope that a German victory would liberate the pale settlements (ghettos) in Poland and Russia. On the battlefields, the Allied forces were faring badly and The United States had not entered the war.

At that crucial moment, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a noted British scientist who had rendered valuable services to Britain in the chemical field was able to prevail upon Lord Balfour, then Foreign Secretary, that a Declaration promising a Jewish national home in Palestine would serve to sway the sympathies of the Jewish community in the United States in favour of the Allies and hasten the entry of the United States into the war. Lord Balfour accepted the validity of that argument and in November, 1917, he made his famous Declaration, on the basis of which the world Zionist Organisation was able to create the State of Israel. Soon after the Declaration was made, United States troops were fighting on the battlefields of Europe which eventually led to the victory of the Allies over Germany.

Prior to the Declaration which also served to introduce venomous poison into the political body of the Near East, British and French Ambassadors Sykes and Picot, were huddled together at Masabni Hotel at Chtaura in Lebanon's Beka'a valley, negotiating the distribution of the Turkish spoils in the Arab World. Ambassador Picot related the following amusing anecdote, that following heated arguments over the chunks of territory to be taken over by Britain and France, the two ambassadors decided to take a break, which they spent shooting in the Beka'a valley. They returned to their task, mush refreshed, and both agreed that all disputed items would be settled by a toss of the coin, and in that way, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan came into being, on a toss of the coin.

The Sykes Picot Agreement of 1916 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, virtually annulled all the promises of independence which Britain's Representative in Cairo, The Count of Mac-Mahon, had made to Shariff Hussein of Saudi Arabia to revolt against the Turks and to join forces with Britain.

Under the Sykes Picot Agreement, Syria and Lebanon. were to go to France, while Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan were to go to Britain, under Mandates from the League of Nations. Needless to say, the wishes of the local populations were not to be taken into consideration.

The first British High Commissioner over Palestine was Sir Herbert Samuel, a British Zionist Jew whose principal priority was to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine. For the record, the total Jewish population in Palestine at that time did not exceed eighty thousand, spread in small communities in Acre, Safad, Tiberius and Jerusalem, and in two British financed settlements. As was to be expected, the Palestinian population rose, again and again, against an immigration and settlement policy which threatened their future, culminating finally in the 1926-1939 revolt, in the course of which ten thousand Palestinians were killed by the British army. As a result of this revolt, Britain convened the Arab countries to a Conference in London, and in due course Britain issued the White Paper of 1939, which put a ceiling on Jewish immigration and prohibited land sales in rural areas.

Britain thus became the enemy, and no sooner had World War II ended that the Jewish terrorist organisations, namely the Stern Gang and the Irgun Zvai Leumi, aided and abetted by the Haganah launched their campaign of terror against the British administration in Palestine, to force Britain to withdraw from that country, in the knowledge that the Palestinians could be dealt with at a later stage. They were successful in their campaign of terror, and in due course Britain, exhausted and penniless following World War II decided to end its Mandate and to refer the whole problem back to the United Nations. Following the Anglo-American commission and the United Nations Special commission on Palestine, the United Nations adopted a Resolution to partition Palestine into a Jewish and a Palestinian State with Jerusalem and environs and a corridor down to Jaffa, as an international zone to be administered by the United Nations.

Following this Resolution, Britain announced that it would abandon Palestine to its destiny on May 15th, 1948. Needless to say, the Palestinians and the so called Arab World, an anachronism still living in the 15th Century, rejected that U.N. Partition Resolution, and prepared to invade Palestine. In the meantime, and by April of 1948, Jewish forces had occupied the whole of Galilee, up to the Syrian frontiers, whose forces had been thrown back to Syria, with hardly any resistance. The so called Army of Liberation, a collection of riffraff and army deserters under the command of a swash buckling adventurer, Fawzi Kauwkji, spent more time pillaging than resisting the enemy. Egypt, against the will of its Prime Minister Nokrashi Pasha, but in deference to the wishes of King Farouk, sent a regiment into Palestine. It followed the coastal road, which was still in Arab hands, and made no attempt to occupy any of the settlements in the Beersheba desert. Those settlements were, at a later stage, to play a crucial role in cutting Egyptian lines and in permitting an Israeli victory which sent the Egyptian army reeling back to Egypt. The Syrian army was back in Syria licking its wounds. Husni Zaim, an army officer, engineered the first of successive coups d'├ętat ending with Hafez el Assad, and the Alawite dictatorial rule of Syria, to this very day. The Syrian Coup d'├ętat set the scene for other changes of Regimes. In Egypt, King Farouk was eased out to be replaced by Jamal Abdul Nasser. The Hashemite monarchy of Iraq was in due course to be overthrown. Abdul Nasser, the hero of the Arab World came from a modest background, and his education must have been minimal. What else can explain the fact that he tried to invade and conquer Yemen when the Ottoman Empire had failed to do so. Abdul Nasser imagined that by invading Yemen, he would control the Sraits of Ormuz, and the flow of oil to the western world. In his ignorance, he imagined that the western world would tolerate to have its essential blood line of oil controlled by Abdul Nasser. Worse still, he allowed himself to be pushed by Syria and other Arab nationalists into the 1967 war with Israel, the end result of which were catastrophic for the Arab world. And this is where we are today.

So what next? U.N. Resolution 1701 has provided breathing space for the belligerents. The problems which gave rise a very destructive and inhumane war have remained. The exchange of prisoners has not taken place. Sheba'a farms is the object of disputes between Israel, Lebanon and Syria, and Hizbullah, following its heroic resistance to the Israeli invasion, has emerged stronger than ever, a state within a state.

The Lebanese army, ill equipped and ill trained as it is, has been deployed in south Lebanon, but has been refused access to the frontier by the Israeli army, until such time as the multinational forces have been deployed along the frontier between Lebanon and Israel. In the meantime Israel continues to violate the terms of U.N. Resolution 1701, by imposing a total air, land and sea blockade of Lebanon, such that it is difficult to conceive of reconstruction, when five ships, for example, loaded with fuel are refused access to the Lebanese coast by Israel. Bush, of course has not uttered a word of condemnation. In the simian eyes of Bush, Israel can do no wrong.

And so, where do we go from here?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Walid Jumblatt and Hassan Nasrallah

In his televised address on Thursday 17th August, Walid Jumblat put his finger on the core of the problem facing Lebanon and its people, namely, that any decision affecting the destiny of the nation, be it war or peace, should be and remain the exclusive prerogative of the State, represented by its democratically elected institutions, i.e. the Council of Ministers and the House of Deputies, and that no such decision should be taken by any one group, specifically Hizbullah. He stressed the fact that Lebanon should not be a pawn in the geopolitical interests of Iran and Syria, in their confrontation with the United States. Both Jumblatt and Saad Hariri, the leader of the Parliamentary majority, also in a televised address, strongly criticised Syia and its President Bashar el Assad, whose speech a few days ago was designed, primarily, to sow the seeds of discord in Lebanon and to foment confessional differences, leading possibly to civil war.

Nothing would please Syria more than to see civil war in Lebanon. The hate and venom that the leader of that heretical sect, the Alawites, bears towards Lebanon and its leaders because Syria was kicked out of Lebanon, is unique in the annals of history.

Be that as it may, the fact remains, as stressed by Walid Jumblatt, that the democratically elected Government of Lebanon and its constitutional institutions should have and exercise exclusive responsibility and authority over the destinies of that battered country.

We may ask ourselves whether Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and his Party whose victory over Israel have enhanced their prestige, will agree to fuse his Party within the institutions of the State. If so, Lebanon will be rebuilt and prosper. If not, we fear the worst.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

U.N. Resolution 1701 : false hopes

At a press conference on 15th August 2006, President Bush congratulated himself on U.N. Resolution 1701 and proceeded to deliver his usual litany of lies:

1.That Israel's war on Lebanon was part of the global American war on terrorism. To President Bush, pregnant women, babies and children are terrorists.

2. That Israel emerged victorious, notwithstanding the fact that Israel failed to occupy more than a few meters of Lebanon, despite the hundreds of tons of the most lethal bombs of American manufacture which had been dropped, destroying the whole of south Lebanon, the southern outskirts of Beirut and other areas in he Beka'a and north Lebanon. There is no need to labour the repeated massacres of innocent civilians. They have been reported in the press, even though Bush acts as if they never happened. Bush who had urged, abetted and gambled on an Israeli walkover in Lebanon, must feel ridiculous and stupid that his privileged Israeli allies failed to score any significant victory.

It may have escaped the citizens of the United States that their President is ignorant, stupid beyond belief and a liar. He went to Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, which never existed. In the meantime, he has succeeded in destroying Iraq as a country. He never told his citizens that his reason for going to Iraq was to pre-empt any possible union between Iraq and Syria which might have posed a threat to the security of Israel, nor did he tell them that his Zionist cronies at the White House, including his Vice President Cheyney had made plans as early as 1998 for the invasion of Iraq.

He never told his citizens that his war on Lebanon was intended to destroy Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, as part of his undeclared war on that country. He has claimed victory when Hezbollah has emerged from the war, stronger than ever, and in no way disposed to lay down its arms. In a televised address on Tuesday 13th August, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah insisted that the Lebanese Government and its army were not, as yet, strong enough to defend Lebanon against its enemies; specifically for the moment Israel, which brings us to U.N. Resolution 1701, which stipulated the cessation of military operations, which as of 8 a.m. on Monday 14th August, has been respected by both sides. The principle positive aspect of that Resolution is that it has enabled one million displaced persons to take the road back to their shattered homes and villages. It has been most extraordinary how quickly the inhabitants of south Lebanon started to return as of 8 a.m. on Monday 14th August, despite the fact that all bridges and main roads have been destroyed, and that temporary bridges had to be improvised to allow the inhabitants to reach their shattered villages. They showed great courage throughout a whole month of the most destructive war that the world has seen since World War II.

While the exchange of bombs and missiles has for the moment stopped, the main issues remain unresolved. These issues include the exchange of prisoners and the problem of the Sheba'a farms. The principal snag is the behaviour of Syria, which has declared verbally that the Sheba'a farms belong to Lebanon, at the same time refusing to sign any document or map to that effect. On the contrary Syria does not miss any opportunity to insult Lebanon and its Government. In a televised speech yesterday, Bashar El Assad, Sryia's President, went beyond the pale in heaping insult upon Lebanon, treating its Government as being subservient to Israel. The audacity of that man is mind boggling. He makes all those declarations, when Syria has not fired a shot to liberate the Golan, which for nearly fourty years has been occupied and colonised by Israel. He never opened his mouth when Israeli phantoms buzzed his residence at Lattakieh. In point of fact, we are entitled to ask ourselves whether he has not been a silent ally of Israel in destroying Lebanon over the heads of its inhabitants, as he had vowed when his army was kicked out a year ago.

A Palestinian commentator, in a televised broadcast on Thursday 13th August stated that the Syrian Regime will fight to the last Palestinian and the last Lebanese to liberate the Golan. What more can we say?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Golf Club of Lebanon

To the foreign members of the Golf Club of Lebanon, who have been evacuated back to their respective countries, the Wizard of Beirut is pleased to report that the golf course at Ouzai, in the southern suburb of Beirut, is in prime condition. It has not been targeted, so far, by the Israeli aviation. The greens and tees are regularly mowed, and the course is watered in sufficient quantities to maintain the green colour of the course. It is a pity that the current American and French Ambassadors do not play golf. We could have arranged an interesting and exciting match between them. In any event, Mustafa the pro and Ali Hammoud the champion, are both there and they would be delighted to introduce both Ambassadors into the intricacies of that obsessive sport.

An amusing anecdote, which bears recounting, took place on 6th June 1982, the date of the previous Israeli invasion of Lebanon. I was playing a round with the newly arrived Italian Ambassador. Arriving on the ninth green, the Ambassador was furthest from the hole and as he was about to putt, a flight of five Israeli phantoms flew overhead, at such a low altitude that we could see the heads of the pilots. The Ambassador turned green and froze over his putt. I told him that under the rules, he was not allowed to leave the green before finishing his putt. For our part we were used to flights of phantoms over the course to bomb the Palestinian refugee camps in the vicinity of the Club. Visibly shaken, but noblesse oblige, the Ambassador returned to his putt, when a second and a third flight of phantoms passed overhead. That was the beginning of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Nothing has changed since then. Flights of phantoms and bombers, by courtesy of the American Government, have been, for the past month, razing south and north Lebanon and the outskirts of Beirut to the ground. So what is new? We know that Bush plays golf, but we do not know whether Blair does. In any event, they are both cordially invited to play a round at the Beirut Golf Club. Bush can ensure that no flights of phantoms will disturb their play. For our part we can promise that Hezbollah combatants will not shoot them down nor take them as distinguished hostages, to be displayed at the Beirut National Museum as examples of homo sapiens of the stone age.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Nothing new ...

The Israeli Cabinet has adopted a decision to expand and intensify its war on Lebanon, if only to score a tangible land victory for the benefit of Israeli public opinion on the one hand and to satisfy President Bush who believes that an Israeli land victory will advance his distorted plan for a new Middle East, of which Iraq is but one example.

We admit that an advance into Lebanon by the Israeli army is not beyond the capacity of the Israeli military establishment. It will undoubtedly be costly for both sides, and particularly for Israel, if yesterday's fierce combats and the losses, in men and armour , that Israel suffered are any indication. On the assumption that Israel does reach the Litani, what then? With Lebanese combatants snapping at their heels, day and night, can Israel sustain a lengthy occupation? Will public opinion in Israel accept the daily blood letting of the army? It would seem doubtful. Unfortunately we have a moronic President in the United States who continues to urge and support Israel's savage and brutal war on Lebanon.

Two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, a gratuitous act, but nothing unusual within the contest of the daily kidnapping by Israel of Palestinian leaders. Neither Bush nor his lackey Blair ever expressed indignation or any reaction against any such action taken by Israel. Bush and Blair have branded Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organisations; Blair forgets that Jewish terrorism against Britain created Israel, and sent any army of one hundred thousand men packing out of Palestine. If Bush and Blair were to pay a visit to the Citadel in the city of Acre, they would find that that citadel has been dedicated to "freedom fighters", former terrorists who had committed heinous crimes against humanity such as the massacre of Deir Yassin and other similar massacres intended, according to Begin in his memoirs, to sow panic in the Palestinian hinterland and give rise to the exodus and to he Palestinian refugee problem which continues to bedevil the Middle East.

We must be grateful to Messrs Bush and Blair for their kind thoughts and actions …

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sheba’a farms

The third Caliph after the Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century A.D. was assassinated. His shirt, sodden with blood, became a symbol for martyrism.

Today the Sheba'a farms, a small Lebanese hamlet, still under Israeli occupation has become the Lebanese symbol for martyrism. The hamlet, although Lebanese, had been administered by Syria, and continues to be regarded by the United Nations as part of Syria, and as such it is not covered by United Nations Resolution 425 which called for the total withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon. So far Syria has refused to establish formal documentation with Lebanon to the satisfaction of the United Nations that the hamlet is in fact Lebanese, and as such, that it is covered by the Resolution referred to above; not that Israel has paid much attention to U.N. Resolutions in the past. The American veto was always there to protect it from sanctions.

On an official visit to Lebanon, the first of its kind since the evacuation of the Syrian army, Walid el Muallem, Syria's Foreign Minister, declared officially that the Sheba's farms belonged to Lebanon. Whether his declaration will be formalised in a manner to satisfy the United Nations is one crucial question, and the other, will Israel withdraw from that disputed hamlet is the second question. If not, Hezbollah combatants will continue to have a valid reason to fight Israel, and Israel will continue to have an alibi to destroy what is left of Lebanon, in the knowledge that Lebanon has no defence against Israel's air strikes.

On the ground, however, Israel has made little progress, at best a few meters, here and there, not withstanding yesterday's fierce combats, which resulted in a record of dead and wounded on both sides. And again we were awakened in the early hours of this morning by the Israeli bombing of the southern outskirts of Beirut.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Walid Jumblatt

The Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, in a televised broadcast, accused Iran and Syria to be behind the initiative of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in kidnapping the two Israeli soldiers, thereby providing Israel with an alibi to destroy Lebanon, once again, if only to avenge its earlier defeat and evacuation of Lebanon, at the hands of Hezbollah combatants. We know that Walid Jumblatt has no love for the Syrians, who had assassinated his father, Kamal, because of his adamant refusal to submit to a Syrian dictate. As for Iran, the meeting which took place between the French and Iranian Foreign Ministers at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut is but one indication of the complicity of Iran in the war on Lebanon. The objective of Iran is to divert the attention of the world away from its uranium enrichment programme. Syria, on the other hand would like nothing better than to see Lebanon destroyed over the heads of its inhabitants, as the head of the Regime, Bashar el Assad had vowed to do.

Undoubtedly, Walid Jumblatt is courting assassination; and thus all the greater merit for his statements.

Having said all this, we may be permitted to ask, what does Israel hope to achieve in its war on Lebanon, other than to please that asshole in the White House? Does Israel expect to destroy Hezbollah? Or does it expect to occupy with impunity the territory between its frontiers and the Litani river? It tried it before and failed. In military terms it can be able to reach the Litani, and then what? This is the question that every Israeli should ask himself.

What is lamentable is that Syria which has not fired a shot on the territory occupied by Israel in the Golan, aids and abets Hezbollah to fight Syria's war in Lebanon, and of course Lebanon pays the price. Will Syria fight to the last Lebanese and to the last Palestinian to retrieve its Golan?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Qana Massacre

This is the second massacre perpetrated by Israel in Qana village, with sixty villagers, mainly women, babies and children crushed by tons of Israeli bombs. There were few men among the casualties, which fully contradicts Israeli claims that Hezbollah combatants hide behind civilians. The first massacre in 1996 resulted in the death of one hundred innocent civilians, mainly women and children who had taken refuge in a U.N. centre established in that village. The casualties had wrongly imagined that the United Nations flag would protect them from Israeli shelling.

What does Israel hope to achieve in slaughtering babies, other than the repugnance of all civilised human beings?

Equally repugnant are those Arab regimes like Saudi Arabia, who watch with exultant eyes the massacre of Shia Moslems in Lebanon and Iraq, in the hope that this will weaken the resolve of Iran to have a word in the affairs of the region, and further to discourage Shia minorities (one million in Saudi Arabia), Bahrain, Qatar etc. from rising against their Sunni rulers.

Iran, pragmatic as it has shown itself to be, has not shown territorial ambitions, not even in Iraq, where the majority of the population is Shia and not Sunni Moslems. On the other hand we are entitled to ask what are the Americans and their British lackeys doing in Iraq, and why did they invade that country? To dispose of one man, Saddam Hussein, and in so doing to create civil war and anarchy, as part of Bush's distorted vision of a new Middle East?

Syria, one of the so called targets of the American initiative has remained quiescent throughout the destructive wars in Iraq and Lebanon. It has everything to gain and nothing to lose in remaining aside. When the Syrian army was forced to evacuate Lebanon, Bashar El-Assad of Syria vowed to destroy Lebanon over the heads of its inhabitants. Israel is doing it for him, and consequently he and his Ba'ath party cannot feel sorry for what is happening in Lebanon..

We talk of an Arab World, and we have an Arab League. The truth, however, lies in the fact that the majority of that world are illiterate vestiges of the Middle Ages.

Lebanon enjoys the highest rate of literacy in the Arab world, but this has not prevented its politicians from squabbling for petty reasons or from milking the fat cow for their own personal benefit.

Today, the war has united Lebanon as never before, and the whole nation including Hezbollah stands firmly behind Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Speaker of the House of Deputies, Nabih Berri.

To allay the fears of a large section of the Lebanese population of the outcome of a Hezbollah victory against the Israeli invasion, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised broadcast two days ago stated that a Hezbollah victory would represent the victory of the entire Lebanese nation, Christians and Moslems, and that Lebanon has nothing to fear from Hezbollah.

Consequently Prime Minister Siniora, who has shown considerable courage and wisdom in dealing with the situation, stands today stronger than ever with the entire nation behind him.

The United States and Israel have miscalculated badly, in that they wrongly assumed that the destruction of Lebanon would split the nation on a confessional basis. This has not happened.

If the United States, as expressed by Condoleezza Rice, wants a global and permanent solution to the problem between Lebanon, Syria and Israel, then the United States should exert pressure on Israel to enter into meaningful negotiations and not simply to impose impossible conditions.