Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The new Lebanese cabinet

So there is a new Lebanese cabinet. Nothing new. Lebanon was and will be always on the verge of civil war, even if it does not descend into civil war. The cabinet will not solve a thing. A few remarks. The former leftists in the cabinet: Hariri Minister, Hasan Mnaymnah (a professor at the Lebanese University, not to be confused with a former leftist in the US by that name, who works with Kenan Makiya), was appointed a minister of Education. He has been working in the Hariri apparatus for years. In his youth, he was active in the Communist Action Organization, but left in 1973, as a leader of the organization informs me. He is a secular and is not part of the Salafi-Wahhabi branch of the Hariri movement. His wife told NBN TV that he likes mulukhiyyah and grape leaves. His favorite sport is walking, to the store across the street and back. I am told that Birri's Minister of Foreign Affairs, `Ali Shami, was also previously a member of the Lebanese Communist Party. He is not distinguished and not much is known about him. Has not been active in years. Sharbil Nahhas (`Awn's Minister of Telecommunication) was also a member of the Lebanese Communist Party, and worked as an economist for the Huss cabinet from 1998 to 2000. I expect this brilliant economist (and I only heard positive things about him) to be the star of the new cabinet, and the most persistent critic of the Hariri apparatus. He is fiercely opposed to the Hariri disastrous policies, and is determined to combat the corruption of Hariri's plans. Nahhas as a choice is a punishment for the Hariri movement: they wanted to excluded Jubran Basil from the Ministry of Telecommunication because he was defiant and assertive, so `Awn brought in somebody who will prove to be more defiant and more persistent. `Awn picks Ministers much better than other groups in Lebanon (although his choice of MPs is not good at all). Nabih Birri and the Amal Movement always picks the worst ministers, EVER. They are either notoriously corrupt or so lame and invisible or both. The one exception to Birri's ministers, is the successful Minister of Health, Muhammad Jawad Khalifah. Hizbullah always chooses to leave the best ministries for his allies. They got Ministry of State for Administrative Development (Muhmmad Fnaysh), and Ministry of Agriculture (Husayn Al-Hajj Hasan). Fnayash was known as tough and serious but he has not distinguished himself in the cabinet at all, and when he served as Minister of Electricity he went along with the privatization plans of the Hariri Inc. (Did I not tell you that Hizbullah should not be treated as a leftist party? It is not, pure and simple). Fnayash like all Hizbullah ministers and MPs come from poor background. He grew up in the slums of East Beirut, and was an Arab nationalist Nasserist, and formed his own little Arab nationalist Nasserist group. He studied at the Lebanese University and when Israel invaded in 1982, he volunteered and fought as part of a small volunteer force. Husayn Hajj Hasan was a brilliant prodigy: won scholarship and awards as a student, and then received more state scholarships from Lebanon and France to complete his PhD in physics (I was told it is in Chemistry) in France. Unlike most Hizbullah leaders, he is relaxed, humorous and does not scare little children when he speaks. He is jovial and has good relations with various Lebanese groups. One blemish in his record: he invested with the Salah `Izz Ad-Din. He later sued `Izz Ad-Din, but people spoke on the matter. Fadi `Abbud, the `Awn minister of Tourism will also be a dynamic character: he was behind the creation of the giant Hummus dish in Lebanon, and also hates Hariri policies. I heard good things about the new Minister of Finance, Rayya Haffar. She worked in the finance department of the Hariri mini-government, and is not overtly political, like the former Minister, Muhammad Shatah. Expect Jumblat's three ministers to serve as irritants to Hariri, especially after Walid Jumblat makes his first pilgrimage to Damascus.