Hicham Safieddine

Meet the Lebanese Press: Free at last!

The petty politics of forming a national “unity” government in Lebanon will be overshadowed this week by a development with local and regional implications. All Lebanese political prisoners still held in Israeli jails will return home. Five in total, including Samir Kuntar, the dean of Arab detainees, who has spent close to three decades of his life in captivity. With the return of prisoners, another chapter of Hizballah’s struggle against Israel has closed. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: All the prime minister's men

Efforts to form a Lebanese government come against the backdrop of a surprise visit by US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and intermittent armed clashes between loyal and opposition groups in various parts of the country, mainly the central Bekaa region. Rice’s visit, stalling the implementation of the Doha Accords, as well as regional developments including announcement of a truce between Israel and Hamas and Turkish-mediated Syrian-Israeli “peace” talks could be seen as efforts to sideline Iran’s allies in the Arab world in preparation for a possible showdown between Washington and Tehran. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: Deal struck in Doha

The Lebanese are deal-struck: in one day, their parliamentarians were to ratify decisions agreed upon in Doha, Qatar that will lead to the installment of a new president, the formation of a national partnership government, and the holding of parliamentary elections in one year’s time under a resurrected electoral law of the 1960s with some amendments. The speed and suddenness of the deal were a direct consequence of the change in the balance of power on the ground in the wake of the Hizballah military operation that exposed the weakness of the loyalist camp. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: From dialogue to declarations

The merry-go-round of dialogue sessions between the government loyalist and the opposition camps just got a fresh push when persistent parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri called for yet another set of roundtable negotiations after several months’ hiatus. The press is abuzz with weighing the pros and cons, as well as gauging the chances of success or failure, of such talks. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: Post-summit syndrome

What’s next for Lebanon after the Arab Summit that concluded last weekend in Damascus? Marx said history repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce. Arab summits tend to repeat themselves as tragedies and farces at one and the same time, and the latest summit in Damascus was no exception. Summit soap opera moves by top and low-level delegates over closing statements, the tone of speeches, and other trivialities were the norm. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: A cold civil war

Commentary in the Lebanese press affirms that the regional dimension has become more important following the assassination of Hizballah figure Imad Mughniyeh, which could translate into a change in the rules of engagement of all parties to Lebanon’s brewing internal conflict. And in this new framework, the international tribunal’s inquiry into the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri will become more significant as a tool of international pressure and as a stage on which Syria is battling its rivals. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: The end of the tether?

There will be blood. That was the message this week in the neglected southern suburbs of Beirut. At least eight persons were killed and more than twenty injured when shots were fired at crowds of demonstrators protesting the power outages that have been plaguing their areas.* Details of the incident that took place near the Mar Mikhael square remain clouded in controversy. This much is known: that some of the shots were fired by the Lebanese army who clashed with protesters and that several of the victims, if not most, were unarmed. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: The Arabs to the rescue?

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has been spending more time in Lebanon recently than any other Arab country outside his home base of Egypt. But the time he spends seems to be inversely proportional to number of issues he resolves. His latest trip this week was expected to bring the Lebanese factions to implement the latest Arab initiative launched in Cairo. Lip-service endorsements were all he got. 

Meet the Lebanese Press: In the shadow of Annapolis

It seemingly took a stillborn conference like Annapolis to break the deadlock in the Lebanese presidential crisis. In a surprise move this past week, the March 14 camp nominated Lebanese army chief Michel Suleiman for the presidency. Suleiman had been considered a preferred candidate for the opposition camp. His long-standing support of the resistance against Israel and his amicable relations with Damascus made him agreeable to the opposition camp. But the army’s recent assault on Nahr al-Bared refugee camp endeared him to the Americans as well. Now, he is emerging as the man of consensus.