(My Middle East)

77 days with a journalist, Lebanon, and a list of non sequiturs

Posts Tagged ‘Aoun

Nonsense in the News

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I’d say about 60-70 percent of whats published in newspapers in Lebanon is politician or prominent figure quote stories. Things like Geagea said this or Aoun said that (speaking of which, Qifa Nabki sites two sources that say around 50 percent of Chrsitians are still down with Aoun ) Anyways of that 60-70 percent almost all of it is garbage that tells you absolutely nothing like this headline from An-Nahar :

Sources close to PM-designate Saad Hariri told An-Nahar yesterday evening that Hariri is “calmly completing the process of forming the government.”

Really An-Nahar? I’m so glad you told me that. And I’m really happy you used an anonymous source to tell me the PM is calmly completing government formation, I’m now so well informed. It’s a real shame. Stories like these don’t tell you anything, quotes make up over 70 percent of the story and it avoids the real journalism work that should be done.

Almost all the time the quotes are positive things like “the government formation is going well” “all guns are almost off the street” there should be no fighting”. People literally take quotes like that and turn them into front page huge headline stories. BUT, after sifting through dozens of these useless stories every day, there were two that did catch my eye.

Sfeir says ‘nothing going well’ in Lebanon

“Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir was pessimistic on Tuesday about the overall political situation in Lebanon. Sfeir told a delegation of residents from the Chouf town of Brih, that the Lebanese were “currently facing a difficult period.” “Nothing is going well,” he added”

and this one

General Michel Aoun: we don’t know who’s forming the cabinet anymore

“We no longer know who is forming the government amidst all of the diplomatic visits and the clear interventions (Syria-US-France)”

Positive quotes never tell you much, and those have been almost all of these quote stories since the election. But the fact that people are deviating from the reconciliation line in addition to the recent clashes, could be a sign this government formation is headed for rough waters.


Written by stephenddockery

July 1, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Contrary to popular belief, things are looking up

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Theres a lot of baseless information getting tossed around right not about the elections and its potential aftermath. The Western media really tries to simplify everything to its lowest common denominator. I’m sure there were section editors everywhere begging to write “Hezbollah loses election” headlines. These kind of things are understandable, theres only so much complexity an audience wants until it loses interest. But a lot is getting lost when things get boiled down that much. Dean Sharp and The Angry Arab do a great job of pointing out the misconceptions that are making rounds in the press right now.

Too add some of my own to the mix:

There is this conclusion that has been added on to numerous analysis pieces that says the next phase of politics of prime minister and cabinet making will plunge Lebanon into instability. Its the violence refrain, we heard it before the elections and now we hear it again Its the “hey this is Lebanon, people are bound to start shooting” line. Well frankly I don’t see it.

The players in Lebanon have made a conscious effort to keep violence out of the equation. Theres anything from the normal platitudes during press conferences, to Slieman Frangieh calling his supporters donkeys for thinking about arming themselves. It’s obviously a PR stunt, but thats the thing, its popular to be seen as non-violent right now. Adding to that, the people who are armed, Hezbollah, has expressed no interest in mixing their arms with their  local politics. Even the sorting out of the blocking third and Hezbollah’s weapons seem to be going forward without much friction.

That brings us to the next level of stability in Lebanon. The regional players. Even a basic analysis of your regional players shows you that by and large the cards aren’t there for destabilizing Lebanon. At least for the time being.

First you have Syria. By acceptance  of engaging with the U.S. via Mitchel’s visit to Damascus, and calling for Turkey to restart talks with Israel. Bashar is clearly showing that he wants to be on the Obama Middle East peace train and start  improving relations. Realizing that, and then recognizing that creating instability in Lebanon or not recognizing their sovereignty  would be a non-starter with the U.S. you can rule out Syria as a destabalizer.

Next you have Iran. Iran is in the middle of its elections, violence would be a wild card for either candidate, and at the moment it looks like the Grand Ayatollah wants eyes firmly on Tehran. Petty political squables between Michel Aoun and Michel Murr are no interest to Iran who has bigger issues on its hands.

Israel is the last one, and I think they most unpredictable for a lot of things right now in Middle East politics. Netanyahu seems very attached to his right-wing base, and that doesn’t seem like its going to change. He could be a stumbling block for the peace process and he could be a stumbling block for general stability. But seeing as Iran’s line right now is playing it cool, so is Hezbollah’s and so the trigger to set off the Israel right-wing doesn’t look like its there at the moment.

But I did leave one person out.  “The General” Of all the people on the local level ,  Aoun seems like the biggest wild card.  He seems the most upset with the way things are progressing. He didn’t get close to the 70% of the Christian vote in 2005, and with his registering of complaints and demands of proportional representation he seems the least satisfied with the election in general. Not to mention his 20 years of desire to become president. But honestly the likelyhood of the FPM taking to the streets still seems low to me.

Written by stephenddockery

June 12, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Election Maddness

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No time for a full post, because I’m still at work. But quickly:
I spent the day with Dana driving around Jbeil, Batroun and Koura.
1)Almost fell of the mountain in Jbeil (which means mountain) a few times, White knuckled the entire way up. But once we got to the top ridge it was incredible, beautiful towns nice people waving flags and wearing orange and red shirts (the opposing parties) camping out and celebrating right next to each other.
2) Batroun, went into more election areas (went into about 12 total) met with Antione Zahra at the Lebanese Forces stronghold, asked him a tough question which he dodged.
3) Went to Koura saw the Greek Orthodox who talked completely different and didn’t understand what I was saying. Saw SSNP and Lebanese Communist Flags and all sorts of different political parties. Very unusual place.

The jist: AOUN, everywhere. If I had to predict just by the amount of Orange Green and Yellow I saw on the street (FPM, Marada, Hezbollah) I would say March 8 wins by a landslide in the districts I was covering. I heard the same for Baabda and Aley and other districts around the office. So if I had to make an early prediction it would be March 8 and just a determination of by how much

Turn it Aoun

Turn it Aoun

Written by stephenddockery

June 7, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Election coverage : Jbeil, Batroun, Koura

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I’ve been very busy these past few days so I haven’t had much time to blog

Lebanons 26 districts

Lebanons 26 districts

. Mostly because the elections are coming up Sunday. We had a staff meeting Thursday evening to go over district assignments and what we are going to

be producing for the day. I covering 3 of the total 26 electoral districts. My districts are Jbeil, Batroun, and Koura (Check the map for locations)

So the seat breakdown goes like this.

Koura 3 Seats: Greek Orthodox

Batron: 2 Seats: Maronite

Jbeil: 3 Seats: 2 Maronite 1 Shia

I’m almost done with my research and I will post a more complete breakdown of the districts tomorrow. But for the coverage, myself and staff member Dana Halawi will be leaving early Sunday morning and driving up to Jbeil, we

will visit poling places all over each district, going to places where there are disturbances (if any) observing the environment/general mood, talking to people and politicians. Then by 6 that evening we will make our way back to Beirut and write a 800 word rap of the 3 districts.

As for predictions on how things will go, everything that I am seeing and reading points to the fact that no one actually knows. The poling that has been done is not reliable and there are many variables (fraud, vote buying, expat voting) that could have an effect. As for if things will remain peaceful, people are equally ambivalent… although the c

onversation/article usually ends with ‘it could happen this is Lebanon’

Also I did a lot of reading on the opposition today. Most notably how the Free Patriotic Movement, led by former civil war player (but hey who’s not?) General Aoun , is what the opposition really hinges on. Hezbollah may not even gain seats during the election, and if the opposition does win, the people carrying most of the weight will be the General and the Aounees.

Lebanons 26 districts

Written by stephenddockery

June 5, 2009 at 9:36 pm