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Hezbollah’s tourist complex 26, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon.
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Hezbollah have announced that they are opening a tourist complex commemorating the 10th anniversary of Israel’s retreat/pull-back from southern Lebanon. They will display their own weaponry along side Israelis heavy weaponry along with the usual Middle Eastern unbiased commentary. Fun for all the family.

Hat tip: MEI Editor

US to give Lebanese ‘light attack’ planes 20, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Lebanon.
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As’ad AbuKhalil, aka the Angry Arab, translates the news that America will sell Lebanon light attack aircraft into the language of real politick. Over the top, as always, but there is a clearly a kernel of truth there.

The US will not give Lebanon any weapons that can be effective against Israeli aggression, but is willing to give Lebanon weapons that can be effective against demonstrators, rebels and the Palestinian refugee camps.

Hezbollah on the famous Hummus victory of 2009 27, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon.
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Say what you will about Hezbollah but when it comes to eeking victory out of the mildest and most inconsequential success possible, they are second to none. They, quite seriously, (for I don’t know quite how well their sense of irony is developed (not too well, I’d wager)) wrote an op-ed in their mouthpiece eulogising Lebanon’s recent ‘success’ at wresting the mantle of largest ever pot of hummus away from the ‘Jewish entity’.

Lebanon was set on Saturday to set a new world record and mark a new victory on Israel by preparing a two-ton plate of Humus (Chick-pea), thus beating an Israeli record two years ago when the Zionist entity prepared an 800kg plate of this pure Lebanese appetizer.

Under the watchful eyes of the adjudicator, they poured 1,350 kilograms (2,976 pounds) of mashed chickpeas and 400 liters (13,525 ounces) of lemon juice into the mega-sized pottery dish, cheered on by hundreds of onlookers.

The chefs gathered around their dish upon receiving the Guinness certificate and sang an a capella version of the national anthem before joining hands to dance the traditional dabke in celebration.

Organizers have hailed the event as “a patriotic event of national scale. “El Hommos Lebnaneh (Hummus is Lebanese) is an attempt to break the current Guinness world records of hummus and tabbouleh, reaffirming the Lebanese proprietorship of these two dishes,” said a statement issued by the industrialist association and food syndicate, which planned the event.

Nassrawi added that Lebanon was working on registering Humus at the European Union by presenting a full dossier with information that document when the first ever Humus plate was made in Lebanon, when it was first canned and how it was named Humus Bithini (thick sauce made of sesame oil). He added that the goal was to regain the real identity of Humus and stop Israel from exploiting it for its benefit.

The Hummus Wars 26, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon.
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As if the Middle East was not replete with Iranian nuclear tensions, an at times simmering Sunni-Shia cleft, potentially catastrophic fallout from the bungled Iraq invasion and occupation, seismic demographic pressures, entrenched and visceral conflicts between moderates and hard-line Islamists not to mention the open sore at the heart of the region’s issues, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, now, to this panoply of ancient, modern but always passionate clashes can be added the Hummus Wars.

Israel and Lebanon both claim to be the founding, symbolic and real home of Hummus and Tabouleh. In recent months, there has been a steady escalation of articles and angry cooks from each claiming that  Hummus is, clearly and obviously, an Israeli/Lebanese dish.

Only yesterday (25/10/09) the BBC ran a video clip of Lebanese chefs making that largest ever pot of Hummus. One of the proud organizers, against the backdrop of a “Hommos and Tabouleh are 100% Lebanese” sign affirmed that these tasty products are manifestly Lebanese. What makes this clip extra sweet (or tasty, one might be tempted to say) is that this largest pot of Hummus ever wrested the title away from the Israelis.

Well, clearly enraged by that, today I learned that Israel are not going to take such a slight lying down. Thankfully, rather than resorting to military means as is their usual wont(…), the Qnion announced that this time Israel has instead decided to launch a Hummus themed resort, proving once and for all that Hummus is in fact Israeli.

Your as ever intrepid war correspondent will keep you apprised of the latest fronts and battles. Watch this space…

The Der Spiegel affarir (cont.) 29, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon.
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Michael Young of the Daily Star in Lebanon as usual offers the best insight and analysis on Lebanese events. Read his article on the Der Spiegel affair for what is probably the most authoritative account yet.

Der Spiegel 25, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon.
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More on Der Spiegel’s relevlations about Hariri’s assassination from CUMINet.

Article catch up 25, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait, Lebanon, LNG, Middle East, Qatar.
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Here’s a selection of the weekend’s best articles that caught my attention:

  • Brian Ulrich has an excellent article, summarised on this blog and in full on the Arab Media and Society journal, discussing blogs as but the latest communicative media in the Middle East. It is wide-ranging, interesting and well worth a read.
  • The Arabist quotes Guy Gabriel at the Palestine Chronicle and his trawl of all available media stories concerning the supposed Israeli attack on the arms convoy in Sudan.
  • Der Spiegel highlights new evidence that the assassins of Hariri in Lebanon was actually Hezbollah’s special forces and not directly Syrian backed…But many in the media, including Joshua Landis are less than convinced about this story’s veracity. He eloquently sketches out the (many) reasons for his scepticism here.
  • Foreign Affairs has an article discussing the various lobby groups operating in Washington DC.
  • The FT on the great scramble for African land:  “they’re almost giving it away.”
  • Qatar’s ever closer investing, importing and exporting relationship with Indonesia.
  • The Economist on Kuwait’s elections and future difficulties.

Lebanon’s terrorist chic 27, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon.
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There is an excellent post at semi-expert about the fetishisation of aspects of the Lebanese-Hezbullah discourse in the Western media. The well-written article roams from the ‘terror-tourism” of less than adventurous non-experts of the Middle East who get whisked around Beirut which results in “the usual enormously shallow analysis” to other themes of this pornographic writing genre such as a bizarre fascination with clothing, bars and (the more understandable fascination with) elections. The author persuasively identifies several sources for these penchants.

There are guns and strange bearded men, and both will grab an editor back home and a writer eager to show off his access to a closed world that is vaguely menacing. There is the legitimate fact that Hizbullah plays a definable role in Lebanon, so that it makes no sense not to cover the party. However, when was the last time a journalist sold a story on the inherent pluralism in Lebanese sectarianism? Once you’ve woken the editor up and told him that this defines Lebanon more accurately than Hizbullah does, he’ll still choose the riveting clarity of a Hizbullah peg.

Leave aside that Hizbullah is not so terribly closed an institution. It is in fact very easy to gain access to Hizbullah, it’s leadership, functions, and neighborhoods of influence. Hence some of the journalistic stuff struttin’. Beirut still holds the reputation as being the space of civil war and kidnappings by those strange and bearded men. And to have been there marks one as having gained some kind of arcane insight into the netherworld.

Regarding women’s clothing:

Another thing that grabs editors is prattle about women’s attire – of all types. This one fom a recent edition of Der Spiegle is an especially egregious and voyeuristic example of the genre. For God’s sake “Damascene perversion”? and “Palestinian women have the wildest taste”?

Juan Cole: Many Shiite young women are every bit as chic and oriented toward Paris fashion as their Maronite Catholic peers

Hitchens: Women with head covering were few; women with face covering were nowhere to be seen. Designer jeans were the predominant fashion theme.

Miller: Beirut is at least two cities—the modern capital with its chic designer shops, expensive bars, raucous nightclubs, and billboards advertizing [sic] breast augmentations and tattoo removals, and…Hezbollah’s southern suburbs…patrolled by the Party of God’s own traffic police and security forces. No breasts or even hairdos are on display here.

On bars and elections:

In all of this, the talk of those bearded men, and those scantily clad women, as well as the preoccupation with the amount of alcohol consumed in the Arab world (a new addition to the genre here about a return to the drinking and whoring ways of the days of Saddam), seems framed in such a way as to offer the hope to consumers of the major Western news outlets that those people over there are not so bad, even if they are somewhat quaintly odd, so long as they seem willing to adopt some of our ways. Never mind that those ways when placed into a Western context are condemned. The piece about drinking and other vices practiced in Baghdad discusses men gathering round a cockfighting pit and speaks with apparent approval of a relative renaissance of the oldest trade. And of course your reporter cannot pass up the opportunity to describe the clothing:

“She dresses in a head-to-toe, skin-tight black chador, and she is adorned with several pounds of solid gold bracelets, pendants, necklaces, earrings and rings, her response to the financial crisis.The female workers in the nightclub wore rather less clothing, but nothing that would be considered risqué on a street in Europe”

Here are a few links to the types of articles that the author has in his sights.

x x x x

I highly recommend you read the article in its entirety. Excellent stuff.

Hat Tip: the ever-excellent Arabic Media Shack

Lebanese Embassy Opens in Damascus 17, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon, Syria.
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Twenty years after agreeing to do so, Lebanon has got around to opening/been allowed to open its Embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The initial agreement was reached at the Ta’if Accords back in 1989 which nominally ended the Lebanese Civil War.

Despite protestations to the contrary, this is clearly (another) a nail in the coffin of Syria’s wider ambitions to incorporate Lebanon back into its borders, stemming from teary-eyed notions of a greater Syria. True to form, however, Syrian officials did not attend the flag raising ceremony. Apparently they ‘forgot’ that it was happening on Sunday. Very believable…


Here is a link to a – frankly – far better article than mine discussing this embassy issue.

Russia’s MIG diplomacy 11, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon, Russia.
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I have written before about Russia’s use of its MIG fighter planes as part of its diplomatic strategy. It seems that this instance was by no means unique. The Times of London reported back in December 2008 that it was donating 10 MiG 29 Fulcrum fighters to the Lebanese government. The article further commented that this was seen potentially as the first of many such heavy ordinance arms deals. Yet is this quite the benevolent gift that it seems? I don’t mean this in terms of what the Russians are getting in return, but simply is this a good thing for the Lebanese?


First, considering that the Lebanese air force consists solely of a few massively outdated Hawker Hunter aircraft, they certainly do not have the pilots for such relatively new and complex machines. Training them will be costly and time consuming.


Second, whilst the planes are covered by some kind of warranty, this will eventually run out, leaving the Lebanese with a massively expensive bill for upkeep and parts. (Discounting the fact that they probably don’t have mechanics skilled enough to maintain the planes).


Third, this puts the Lebanese in a very awkward place with their American allies. Accepting this gift will not go down well in Washington in any, way shape or form and rejecting it will offend Russia.


Fourth, as angry as the US Administration might be, Bashar Assad in Syria is guaranteed to be practically apoplectic. Whilst Syria’s forces remain vastly superior (in number if nothing else) the fact that Lebanon has such potentially devastating weapons will not sit well with Assad’s military.


All this may be a moot point if Al Nahar recent reports are to be believed. They quote Russian sources maintaining that the MiGs are unsafe and probably ought to be scrapped. Russian’s entire MiG fleet was grounded recently after a second MiG crashed in Siberia killing its pilot. Adding to the calls insisting that Russia’s jets are of poor quality is Algeria, which is returning 15 of the MiGs that it purchased.


In short, it seems that the MiG is most certainly a plank of Russia’s foreign policy strategy. Just how useful a tool it is, however, is up for debate. The Lebanese example seems to have backfired on Russia. Not only was it intrinsically not a good proposition for the Lebanese, but now that they are little more than expensive scrap metal. This, along with the Algerian example, could seriously damage Russia’s arms exporting reputation, a crucial earner of hard currency for its struggling economy.


(Many thanks to Arab Media Shack for the hat tip)