INR of the Middle East

 

Summer A Paper Instructions

 

 

Overview: This assignment asks you to read four articles covering the agreement reached among Lebanese political leaders in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, May 21. One is from the Lebanon Daily Star and reflects an independent mainstream Lebanese perspective of the agreement. Three other articles published that day about the agreement are from the Iranian News Agency (IRNA), the Jerusalem Post (Israel) and the Saudi paper Al-Sharq al Awsat.

 

Objectives: Critical thinking; in-depth comparative news analysis.

 

Length: 5-6 pages.

 

Date due: Monday, June 9

 

Instructions:

 

1. Read and study the four articles below.

 

2. Compare and contrast the perspectives of each about the agreement reached in Doha and its implications.

 

Some possible points of comparison and contrast to look for and think about: What does each article most significant about the agreement? What do they claim had kept the parties from reaching an agreement sooner? Is there sympathy or antipathy for specific Lebanese factions? Why were they able to reach an agreement now? Who should get the credit for the agreement being reached? Who does each article see as the winners and/or losers, and why? What opportunities and dangers do each of the articles see as possible consequences of the agreement? These questions are offered as only guidelines. It is not necessary for you to answer all of them or to limit your discussion to answering these specific questions.

 

3. Do not limit yourself to summarizing the articles. The objectives of the assignment are to analyze them and to engage them with one another, comparing and contrasting their diverse perspectives.

 

4. You are encouraged to learn more about the situation, the personalities involved and the viewpoints of the publications that you are analyzing. If you directly or indirectly quote material you learned in reading anything besides the actual articles, please cite your sources in an acceptable academic format.

 

5. In your concluding comments, discuss the value of having read each of the various perspectives. Which did you find most and least informative, and why? What did you learn from reading all four and analyzing them that you would not have know otherwise?

 

 

Note: The authors (except for the third), and/or the publications these articles appear in, have names, and the articles have titles. Use them! Please do not refer to these commentaries as “the first article,” “the second article” and “the third article” in your analysis!


 

1. Lebanon Daily Star

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lebanese rivals set to elect president after historic accord

By Hussein Abdallah
Daily Star staff

 BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers are set to elect the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman, as president on Sunday after rival political leaders clinched a deal in Doha on Wednesday to end an 18-month feud that exploded into deadly sectarian fighting and threatened to plunge the nation into all-out civil war.

The deal that was reached at Doha after four days of intensive talks will lead to electing Suleiman, forming a national unity cabinet, and drafting a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The agreement was announced by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani at noon Wednesday as the rival leaders gathered at a roundtable.

"Some of you took to the streets asking your leaders not to return to Lebanon without reaching an agreement ... I would like to tell you that your leaders have finally agreed and they will shortly be on their way back," Sheikh Hamad said, addressing the Lebanese people.

The rival leaders officially signed the agreement shortly after it was announced.  They arrived in Beirut later in the day.

As the good news reached Beirut, people in the capital and in different areas of the country could not help but show their content and relief.

The feeling of relief was followed by instant action as opposition supporters began to remove tents at the site of their 18-month sit-in in Downtown Beirut after Speaker Nabih Berri declared an end to the protest.

Berri said that ending the sit-in was a gift from the opposition to the Doha agreement.  

The speaker also thanked Qatari and Arab mediators for their role in helping Lebanese parties reach an agreement.

The long-awaited deal addressed two key issues of contention between the opposition and ruling majority.

As far as forming a national unity government is concerned, the opposition has managed to get its long-demanded veto power.

The new cabinet will be made up of 16 ministers for the parliamentary majority, 11 for the opposition, and three for the elected president. The 11 ministers (one third plus one of the 30-member cabinet) are all that it takes for the opposition to block any government decision to which its is opposed.

However, the next cabinet is not due to last long as it will resign by default when the parliamentary elections are due next spring.

Meanwhile, the most important deal of all was the agreement reached on drafting a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The issue of the electoral law was the major hurdle to the success of the Doha talks after the rival sides, which approved adopting the qada (smaller district) as an electoral constituency, appeared at odds over how to divide seats in Beirut.

As the Doha talks were moving close to failure, a late night meeting on Tuesday of a six-member committee to discuss the electoral law finally achieved a breakthrough. Following a short session, opposition MP Ali Hassan Khalil told NBN television that a settlement was in the offing.

The feuding parties have finally managed to agree on dividing Beirut into three balanced constituencies. The first constituency is a Christian one with five seats, the second is a mixed one with four seats, and the third is a Sunni-dominated one with 10 seats.

The formula is likely to secure for parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri at least 10 out of Beirut's 19 seats.

On the other hand, Reform and Change bloc leader Michel Aoun will have to fight to win the five seats in the Christian district as the Armenian vote will be a deciding factor in the mixed constituency. Up until the last minute, Aoun was reportedly fighting to put six seats in the Christian district, but ended up accepting the 10-5-4 formula.

As for other parts of the country, the two sides agreed on adopting the divisions of the 1960 electoral law.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the agreement as a "great achievement in ... the history of Lebanon."

Speaking shortly after the Qatari emir announced the agreement, Siniora called on all Lebanese parties to condemn violence and pledge not to use arms to settle political disputes.

The Doha agreement has committed all parties not to use violence and stated that security was the exclusive responsibility of the Lebanese state. 

Under the agreement, a dialogue is set to begin in Beirut to address the issue of the state's relations with political groups in the country. Such dialogue is to be held under the auspices of the new president.

The issue of Hizbullah's possession of arms was not discussed at the Doha talks or mentioned in the agreement as the Arab committee decided to make do with banning the use of violence, a clear reference to the recent clashes in Lebanon between opposition and pro-government militants.

The clashes left up to 65 dead and 250 wounded.

Hariri also praised the deal.

"Today, we are opening a new page in Lebanon's history," he said.

"I know the wounds are deep, but we have no one except each other," he added.

Hariri thanked both his allies and opponents for facilitating mutual concessions and facilitating an agreement.

Hariri reportedly left Doha for Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, while other leaders returned to Beirut.

Two other March 14 stalwarts, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and former President Amin Gemayel, sounded more cautious as they welcomed the agreement on Wednesday.

Both Geagea and Gemayel agreed that what was achieved in Doha was the best of all possible options, but stressed that the most important part was implementing the agreement.

"After ending the sit-in in Downtown Beirut, we will now move to electing a president ... The Parliament, which was closed for more than a year, will now open its doors," Geagea said. "We will finally leave the streets and return to state institutions," he added.

Geagea also said that Suleiman would be Lebanon's first "real" president after 18 years of waiting, a reference to the influence Syria exerted on Lebanese politics after 1990 .

"Suleiman will be the first real president after the late Rene Mouawad," he said.

Mouawad was assassinated in November 1990 shortly after he was elected as president.

Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad said that the agreement reached at Doha was not an ideal one, but nevertheless "is enough to take Lebanon from one stage to another."

Text of the agreement

DOHA: Under the auspices of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and in continuation of the efforts of the Arab Ministerial Committee, headed by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, and the efforts of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and the foreign ministers of Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Algeria, Djibouti, Oman, Morocco, and Yemen,

And based on the Arab initiative to contain the Lebanese crisis and in implementation of the Arab-brokered Beirut agreement which took place on May 15, 2008,

The Lebanese National Dialogue Conference was held in Doha from May 16, 2008 to May 21, 2008 in the presence of the different Lebanese political leaders, who asserted their will to save Lebanon by ending the current political impasse and avoiding its dangerous consequences on national coexistence and civil peace between the Lebanese, and voiced their commitment to the principles of the Lebanese Constitution and the Taif Accord.

As a result of the different meetings, discussions, and consultations that the Arab committee had with all the parties participating in the conference, the following agreement has been reached:

1 - The Parliament speaker will summon the Lebanese Parliament to convene, according to rules in force, within 24 hours to elect consensus candidate General Michel Suleiman as president.

2 - A national unity government of 30 ministers to be formed. It will comprise 16 ministers from the majority, 11 ministers from the opposition and three ministers to be named by the new president. All parties pledge not to resign from the government or hinder its work.

3 - Adopting the qada as the electoral constituency based on the 1960 electoral law, but the qadas of Marjayoun and Hasbaya will continue to be one constituency and so will the qadas of Westrern Bekaa and Rashaya and the qadas of Baalbek and Hermel.

As for Beirut, it will be divided in the following manner:

First constituency: Achrafieh, Rmeil, Saifi

Second constituency: Bashoura, Medawar, Marfaa

Third constituency: Mina al-Hosn, Ain al-Mreisseh, Mazraa, Mosseitbeh, Ras Beirut, Zokak al-Balat.

The parties also agree on forwarding to the Lebanese Parliament the electoral reforms that were proposed by the National Committee for Drafting the Electoral Law, headed by former Minister Fouad Boutros.

4 - All parties will commit not to resort to arms or violence in order to resolve political conflicts.

Resuming dialogue over strength ening state authority over all parts of Lebanon and defining the relations between the state and the different political groups in the country.

This dialogue has already started in Doha and resulted in:

- Agreeing that security and military powers to be solely in the hands of the state and spreading state authority over all parts of the country so that outlaws will have no safe havens.

5 - Reiteration of a pledge by Lebanese political leaders to immediately refrain from using language that incites political rifts or sectarianism and from accusing each other of treason.

This agreement was signed in Doha on May 21, 2008, by the Lebanese leaders participating in the conference and in the presence of the head of the Arab Ministerial Committee and its members.

 

Powered by Dialog



2. Iran, Qatar Agreed On Need To Support Reached Agreements Among Lebanese Groups

IRNA (Internet Version-WWW)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008 T20:47:29Z


Tehran, May 22, IRNA

IRI President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin-Khalifa ale-Thani in a phone talk Wednesday night were agreed on need for efforts by entire Islamic countries and Lebanese groups aimed at safeguarding agreements reached in Doha.
According to the Presidential Office Media Department, the Iranian and Qatari leaders were also agreed on the point that care needed to be taken not to let Lebanon fall prey to the notorious policies pursued by certain Western powers.
They reiterated that relying on cooperation and harmony among the Islamic countries and the Lebanese groups the enemies of Lebanon, including the Zionist regime of Israel and the United States will not succeed in achieving their illegitimate objectives in Lebanon, or the other countries in the region.
The Iranian President and Emir of Qatar referred to the dissatisfaction expressed by Lebanon's enemies over the reached agreements among Lebanese groups, reiterating that the enemies would remain alertly on watch to inflict further losses against Lebanon.
Ahmadinejad and Hamad bin-Khalifa also emphasized that ground needs to be paved for reconstruction and advancement of Lebanon based on putting to effect the reached agreements, establishment of the national reconciliation government, and assistance of the entire Arab and Islamic countries.
The two leaders meanwhile referred to the growing trend of Tehran-Doha relations, reiterating that excellent relations between Iran and Qatar can serve as a model for cooperation among regional and Islamic countries.
They were agreed on need for further expansion of comprehensive ties and cooperation in various fields, including making joint investments, and continuous consultation between the two countries' top officials.
President Ahmadinejad appreciated the arrangements made by Qatar to mediate for reaching agreements among the Lebanese groups.
Sheikh Hamad bin-Khalifa ale-Thani, too, appreciated Iran's tireless efforts aimed at safeguarding peace and stability in the region, including in Lebanon.
Following a couple of days of intensive lobbying and dialogue among Lebanese groups in Qatar's capital city, Doha, the Lebanese groups finally signed an agreement to end that country's year-long lingering crisis whose climax last month claimed dozens of lives and took the country to the verge of another civil war.
In accordance with the articles of the reached agreement, the Commander of Lebanon's National Army, General Michel Soleiman is to be elected as the country's president within 24 hours, a national reconciliation government in which a guaranteed one third share would be allocated to ministers from Fouad Siniora's opposition groups need to be established, and the 1960 Election Law in which Beirut is divided into three different constituencies needed to be abided by.
A source that is close to the Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry told IRNA that the Parliament would meet next Sunday to elect the country's next president.
Meanwhile, Michel Aoun, too, has confirmed the Sunday meeting of Parliament members to elect the Lebanese President.
(Description of Source: Tehran IRNA (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- official Iranian state-run news agency)

Hizbullah gains likely weaken UNIFIL

Defense officials said Wednesday they are concerned that Hizbullah will use its newly-gained veto power in the Lebanese cabinet to prevent the renewal of UNIFIL's mandate this summer. [UNIFIL = United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon]

According to a deal reached early Wednesday in Doha, Qatar, the Syrian-backed opposition - led by Hizbullah - will receive 11 seats in a new national unity government, while 16 seats will go to the US- and Western-backed parliament majority. The remaining three seats will be distributed by the elected president.

Previously, the opposition held six seats in the cabinet.

According to some assessments in Jerusalem, Hizbullah will be unlikely to use its new veto to kick UN peacekeepers out of the country, since the guerrilla organization has reached a comfortable modus operandi with UNIFIL.

A the same time, assessments predict it is highly unlikely that Israel will have any success now getting UNIFIL to make its rules of engagement more robust.

UNIFIL operates according to a UN Charter Chapter 6 mandate that only allows it to open fire in self-defense and prevents it from entering Lebanese villages without an escort from the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Ideally, Israel would like the UN force to receive a Chapter 7 mandate that would give UNIFIL robust enforcement capabilities to counteract the buildup of Hizbullah forces in Lebanese villages, but concedes that the UN and Lebanon will not agree.

"Hizbullah is very comfortable with the way UNIFIL operates today," one official said. "They will not agree to give UNIFIL a stronger mandate."

In Jerusalem, there is dissatisfaction that UNIFIL has not kept Hizbullah from conducting an intensive military buildup, both north and south of the Litani River.

There is a generally feeling in Jerusalem that UNIFIL acts only as a barrier between Israel and Hizbullah, but does not take any serious actions to stop Hizbullah's military buildup.

There is also concern that with Hizbullah's new found strength, it will be more difficult for Israel to develop a constructive relationship with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government.

In November 2006, Hizbullah ministers pulled out of the cabinet after Saniora refused to give the Shi'ite terrorist group veto power, which could be used to shoot down government initiatives, including the renewal of the United Nations' mandate to operate in southern Lebanon.

(Description of Source: Jerusalem The Jerusalem Post (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Right-of-center, independent daily; URL: www.jpost.co.il)


4. Al-Hariri Say Lebanon's 'Deep Wound' Needs Time To Heal, Praises Saudi Role
Report by Raghidah Bahnam in London: "Al-Hariri to 'Al-Sharq al-Awsat': We Gave Them Blocking Third Because We Stopped Fearing They Would Impede International Tribunal. Stressed Saudi Arabia Played Principal Role in Reaching Agreement"

Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Internet Version-WWW)
Thursday, May 22, 2008 T09:42:32Z

Deputy Sa'd al-Hariri has asserted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia played a principal role in reaching the Doha agreement and recalled that some Arab countries opposed intervention in Lebanon on the basis that what was happening there "was an internal affair." Speaking by telephone to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in London, he added that the awareness of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt of the consequences of what had happened in Beirut led to reaching this solution. He said: "When invitations were sent to the Arab foreign ministers' conference, there were countries which opposed holding it on the basis that what was happening as an internal affair. But the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia called for the conference because it perceived the danger which could result from Lebanon's events. Thank God that we reached the results we have reached."

Al-Hariri pointed out that "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was always the sponsor of every Lebanese accord. It pledged, especially the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, that the kingdom would be by the side of the Lebanese in any agreement they might reach and would back this agreement."

Asked the reason for the majority's agreement to give the opposition the blocking third in the government (that is, enough seats which enable them to stop any draft bill) after having refused to do so in the past, Al-Hariri said: "There was at the beginning a refusal on our part to give them the blocking third because of the international tribunal, which was the reason why they left the government. Had we given them the blocking third at the time, then there would not have been an international tribunal or judges or an extension of another year to the international investigation commission." Al- Hariri, who seemed satisfied with the agreement that was reached, warned that the deep wound in Beirut needs time to heal, saying this agreement is the beginning and there are many other things that need to be dealt with. He said: "There is a deep wound in Lebanon and no one should think that this wound was healed today. There is a deep wound which needs treatment and several things should happen so that it can be treated because what happened was unacceptable."

He went on to say: "We warned of sedition in Lebanon. This agreement is the start of an attempt to heal the wound. I hope that the parties are sincere and I am confident that with the presence of witnesses, the Arab League, and ministers the agreement reached will be translated." He stressed that the agreement reconsolidated the Lebanese Republic since there were "fears of an attack on Al-Ta'if agreement" and said: "Today, the Lebanese Republic was reconsolidated. There was one stage when we were apprehensive and asking where was the country heading: No president of the republic and a government that the opposition was suspicious of. There was an attack on Al-Ta'if and today that agreement was reconsolidated." He stressed that "many things will change after electing the president next Sunday", adding that a lengthy dialogue would be launched about Hizballah's weapons before drafting the government statement and deciding how this weapon would be dealt with (the last government statement legitimatized the "resistance" work and Hizballah's weapon) and pointed out that the dialogue about the weapon started in Doha. (Passage omitted citing his speech after Doha agreement was reached)

(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Internet Version-WWW) in Arabic -- Influential Saudi-owned London daily providing independent coverage of Arab and international issues; editorials reflect official Saudi views on foreign policy. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/)