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Lebanon: The Doha Agreement

Lebanese political leaders who met in Doha under the patronage of the Emir of Qatar Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani reached an agreement last week. The full text of the agreement was posted by Blogging Beirut among others. As a result of the Doha Agreement the Lebanese parliament convened and elected a new president. The new president, Lebanese Army Chief, General Michel Suleiman , got 118 votes of the 127 members of parliament present. The total number of parliamentarians in Lebanon is 128. Mr. Fouad Saniora was re–named as prime minister and is now in the process of forming his cabinet. The Doha Agreement also led to the lifting of the sit–in that was staged by opposition parties in downtown Beirut. This sit–in began on December 2006. Most Lebanese bloggers’ reacted critically and with disappointment to this agreement. Following are some reactions from the Lebanese blogosphere:

Tears for Lebanon begins his post by cheering the deal and then posts updates of the process that lead to the agreement:

Beirut – Lebanon is where the action will be after a deal was reached yesterday to end the political crises in Lebanon. Finally Lebanon this week will have a president and the tent city will disappear … hurray …what a break …The Lebanese will never forget Qatar.

The agreement was considered by many as another “no victor and no vanquished” deal struck by Lebanese parties. Ms Levantine disagreed and listed the victors, the vanquished and the “fooled people”:

All hail the historic Doha Agreement, a major triumph for our ruling kakistocracy. The common wisdom is that the result was another “no victor and no vanquished” Lebanese achievement. Nothing can be farther from the truth as there are obvious winners and losers. […stating who the victors, vanquished, the writer also states that the destroyed are the people:]
The result of Doha is that we the People got fooled again, no surprises here. The only consolation is that we were offered a truce of a couple of months before the next round of fighting. We should use this opportunity to start a debate or a political movement to articulate a new vision for our country and come up with ideas that can work on a national level, a program that will act as the tide raising all the boats at once instead of just concentrating on isolated sectarian ones.
Time is running out.

Jeha's Nail saw the problem in “the Arms” that are not monopolized by the State. This issue that was not discussed in the agreement in Doha says Jeha, who continues:

This is no mere Second Amendment issue; in Lebanon, the weapons are THE only issue, and should be monopolized by the State in a law-abiding country. As such, the agreement signed was nothing but an act of surrender to Hezb&Co, thereby confirming their takeover of Lebanon. The valiant leaders went after the crumbs Nasrallah left them, discussing electoral arrangements, ignoring the work their commission did.

Nihil Declaro saw the agreement as futile as trying to “plug a bullet–ridden water tank, one hole at a time’:

I know I know I vowed not to get mixed in all this, but certain liquid spirits have a power of change. To use common internet parlance, I'm LMAO at how happy some friends are with the current solution. These solutions are as effective as trying to plug a bullet-ridden water tank, one hole at a time, instead of replacing the tank. Ok, bad simile, but it's hard to wax poetic prose knowing that every time a solution breaks, tens if not hundreds of people get killed.

I'm willing to open a pool on how long it will be before it does break. Any takers?

Jamal’s sarcasm was pointed at the fast flip–flopping of hate then love among bickering Lebanese parties:

I think it's time I lift my self imposed gag order. I'm a person who lives in a state of denial. I could not handle the Lebanese week of honesty. People expressing their feelings freely was long overdue in Lebanon, and what do you know; all it took was a few days of open hatred and then a la Emeril Lagasse … Baam a group hug to heal all.

In the Middle of the East reports about the agreement and how it coincided with the Turkish mediated Israeli peace talks with Syria:

And so… 17 months after the opposition first demanded it, and through escalating their struggle consecutively from political pressure (pulling their ministers out of the government in december 2006) via civil disobedience and economic pressure (tent city in downtown Beirut since January 2007 and blocking the airport and airport road last week) to violent street action (also last week), they have finally succeeded in getting a blocking third in the government. It has been decided in Doha, Qatar, that a national unity government will be formed containing 16 M-14 members, 11 M-8 members and 3 further ministers to be appointed by the new president, current army chief of staff general Suleiman, who will be formally elected this coming Sunday. Coincidentally, the Israeli government has announced virtually simultaneously that they are now officially engaged in Turkish-mediated peace talks with Syria.

MFL wrote about the lessons that the shocked and disappointed “civil society” should learn:

As for the Civil Society, well they were knocked in a shock and didn’t know what to do. A lot thought that their years of "long-term projects", "democratization Lebanon", and "lobbying" went down the drain. Well guess what, it taught them two lessons:

One, no person can assume carrying his/her principles from abroad and just apply them in Lebanon without understanding its history, problems, and ignore the situation of the region.
Two, they spent quiet a while on law reform and hit the wall. The ones with the real bargaining chips are the key-players.

Voices on the Wind criticized the need for foreign mediators and saw it as a “testament to the failure of the current Lebanese political and social culture.”:

For one, nothing could hide the fact that this is just another piece of strong evidence that our consensual sectarian democracy is a disaster. In fact, even if (especially if?) we disregard the shameful coup, raids and counter raids that plagued the prelude to Doha, we have to realize that it took the Arab league, the Qatari Emir, all his relationships with regional and international powers, and no small amount of cajoling and hard diplomacy to forge a deal that can only be objectively viewed as a defeat to Democracy first and perhaps to March 14 – but only as a distant second.

That our country needs foreign mediators to resolve a national crisis is a testament to the failure of the current Lebanese political and social culture. That even then, no serious issues were solved in Doha, but only a power sharing agreement was reached is a testament to the lack of a will for progress and a consecration of the patronage mentality that has plagued us for centuries. That most of the terms of the agreement are easily in favor of the opposition is a testament to the usefulness of possessing arms and using them to forge a political agreement that is favorable.

Besides Beirut saw the agreement as a “placebo” that has resulted in an election law that will reproduce the same political class that was responsible for the crisis:

The Doha meetings were less of a “shock treatment,” as they have been called, and more of a placebo – no doubt brought about by regional occurrences whose contours are yet to emerge. If I have been harping on obsessively about the electoral law, it is because if the other aspects of the agreement have momentarily brought us back from the brink, it is the electoral law that will serve to reproduce the political class that will take us back to the brink.[…]
If I were into conspiracy theories, I would say the political elite engineered the whole crisis to reproduce themselves the way they did in Doha. But this is not a conspiracy. It is a farce. If it is making many Lebanese happy, it is because the only alternative they are being offered by their leadership is even worse.

1 comment

  • Fog of Assassination

    by Seda Punkt

    http://tea-chat.blogspot.com/2008/05/fog-of-assassination.html

    Assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, just before the election is one of the best examples for Fog of Assassination. As soon as his assassination, Secretary Condoleezza Rice, on the same day, asked the immediate implementation of the UN Resolution 1559, including the withdrawal of all Syrian forces, the disbanding and disarmament of all militias, and an end to foreign interference in the political independence of Lebanon (courtesy: The US State Department). On March 30, 2005, Syria confirmed a full troop withdrawal from Lebanon after a massive public outcry. Second Lebanon War (12 July 2006 – 14 August 2006) between Israel and Hezbollah, was fought in Lebanon. This war is widely seen as a failed Israeli attempt to wipeout Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon. Anyway, the UN concluded that the underworld gang was to blame for the assassination – meaning nobody knows who killed Mr. Rafik Hariri.

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