A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lebanon: Syria and Satloff Agree (Sort of) on Biden's Role; Post Election Maneuvering

The Lebanese elections are over and the coalition-making (and recriminations) begin. As I've noted a couple of times previously, MEI will hold a discussion by Graeme Bannerman and Bilal Saab today at noon, to discuss the Lebanese elections. Graeme is one of the true Old Lebanon Hands, and Bilal is a former intern at MEI before joining Brookings, so I will definitely be there.

Meanwhile, the post-election comments and maneuvering are beginning. Let me start with my favorite juxaposition so far. Perhaps for the first time Syria's Al-Ba‘ath agrees with Rob Satloff of the (very pro-Israeli) Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Joe Biden turned the tide. Of course they do not agree on whether that is a Good Thing (Rob Satloff) or a Bad Thing (Al-Ba‘ath). For Satloff, it's an American victory, for the Syrians, an American plot. Joe Biden hasn't been this praised/blamed in years, so I hope he's aware of it. There's the old American joke that two brothers grew up: one went to sea and the other became Vice President, and neither was ever heard of again. Let's hope VP Biden appreciates the attention he's getting.

Meanwhile, the greatest enthusiasts about Lebanese democracy at the moment are the Saudis, since they see this as their victory (Sa‘d Hariri is arguably nearly as Saudi as he is Lebanese). And of course Hizbullah and its allies are saying the Saudis bought the election. Somewhere (and since I can't remember where I read it, I apologize to whichever blogger or news source I'm stealing from), I've seen an argument that Syria decided not to pour huge funding into its allies because the Saudis had assured them they wouldn't either, and then they did. Don't know if it's true and don't recall where I read it.

Everybody is, of course, summing up the aftermath. Qifa Nabki (Elias Muhanna) offers "Post Election Notes" (how I wish I'd thought of the "Let's Make a Deal" graphic).

From his blog you can follow links to the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) blog, where they address the question I raised earlier, "Did Obama Win Lebanon?".My answer was no, and so is theirs, but they give a great many links.

Qifa Nabki also points to a blog I haven't seen before, Beirut Notebook by Joshua Hirsh. I link to the main page as there are already several interesting posts up there.

I don't need to link to everything they do. Just go to the links to Qifa Nabki and POMED and you'll find the links.

I realize that the real political struggle is yet to come: can the opposition keep its "one-third plus one" veto? If it doesn't, can the March 14 folks govern? Watch this space.

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