Monday, February 23, 2009

Clinton's Australia snub

A US adviser wrote to explain Clinton's bypass of Australia in her Asia tour in the right-wing Murdoch paper, The Australian.

What I found interesting were the comments left by readers, which I have posted beneath the article. There appears to be some dismay at Australia's "puppy dog" status in its relationship with the US. Perhaps many Australians don't like playing the role of the boot licker, and indeed such distaste in our alliance with the US has become increasingly apparent since our controversial decision to follow Bush into Iraq (despite great public opposition at the time).

Many Australians do wonder if there's an alternative to obsequiousness? Is being subservient to the US truly crucial to Australia's security? Would winning the trust of our Asian neighbours not alleviate our paranoia of our 'alien' backyard, and subsequent need to hold onto the tail of US imperialism?

The comment that best sums up the US-Australian relationship has become my Quote of the Day:

To the US, we are little more than a loyal and obedient puppy dog that enjoys an occasional pat on the head.

Clinton's bypass is no snub

The Australian
Christian Whiton

SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton is making Asia her first destination as America's top diplomat. That she is skipping Canberra on a trip that includes stops in Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul and Beijing is not a slight. But it should provoke some strategic thinking in Australia and the US about the future of a long and unique relationship.

First, it is important to understand that Clinton's trip is more about diplomatic turf in Washington than it is about new diplomatic initiatives.

Canberra need not worry about being left out of a tour that is meant to define a portfolio for the new secretary, who must compete against a bevy of other foreign policy luminaries in the Obama administration.

An unspoken reason for the trip is one of Washington's endless bureaucratic struggles, in this case recovering the China account for the State Department, which had been forced to cede it to the Treasury in the previous administration. The need for this arose as other top-billed diplomatic missions in the Obama administration were assigned to high-profile special envoys. Clinton also must compete for turf against Vice-President Joe Biden, who previously chaired the Senate's foreign policy committee, and a White House national security adviser and UN ambassador who have plenty of their own ideas on foreign policy.

During the long run, Clinton's emerging interest in Asia may spell opportunity for those in Australia and the US who believe our relationship should play a larger role in shaping world events. For starters, Clinton may be a better strategic judge than her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, who throughout her career devised diplomatic theories that sounded smart in the salons of academe but did not work in the real world. These included believing Beijing would pressure its North Korean ally to disarm, believing Russia would act responsibly if consoled and offered proper deference, and believing a lame-duck administration could resolve the Israel-Palestine issue in its final year, to name just a few.

Clinton's experience on the US Senate Armed Services Committee suggests she is less enthralled with academic constructs and in some instances may be more hard-nosed than her Republican predecessor. Time will tell. A key test will be whether she chooses to be more of a realist on China and places a premium on actions over words. This would be a departure from recent US administrations, which often took at face value Beijing's word that it was helping on matters such as counter-proliferation and North Korea, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The Rudd Government and its loyal Opposition can play a role in shaping this. Australia has been the US's most reliable English-speaking ally on matters of hard power and soft power during the past decade. The interests of both countries would be served were this to be developed further. This could include deeper co-operation to undermine Islamist activity - the antecedent to open jihadism - throughout Southeast Asia and even globally. Such activity may be necessary to prevent the Middle East from figuratively drawing up to Australia's northern periphery and isolating it from Asia with a belt of radical enclaves. Co-operation between two governments with similar views on climate change could help prevent the Europeans from doing anything really crazy in this area when our economies can least afford it. Partnering more makes sense, as Australians and Americans understand how quickly the world's problems can travel great distances to involve us, whether we like it or not.

However, a proactive strategy for Canberra is needed. Diplomats in the US and elsewhere have an unfortunate tendency to take allies for granted and look more for headline-grabbing breakthroughs with adversaries than modest enhancements to existing alliances. Added to this is an error of judgment among many foreign policy analysts in Washington and Asia who overstate the importance of China's economy and understate the military threat posed by Beijing. Throughout the decade, this has meant not enough attention paid to traditional Pacific allies and those who share our values, and too much hand-wringing over a Chinese economy that, in fact, is still smaller than Japan's and will continue to trade with Australia and the US regardless of our diplomats' charm or lack thereof.

By reminding Washington of the similar way we both view the world's threats and opportunities, taking account of the new secretary of state's interest in Asia, and continuing to be a cool-headed ally, Canberra can advance the interests of both Australia and the US. An alliance born in the darkest days of World War II and that persisted and thrived in the years since ought to be at the forefront of shaping the world today.

Christian Whiton was deputy special envoy for North Korean human rights issues during the administration of George W. Bush. He is a senior adviser at DC Asia Advisory in Washington.

Reader comments

A Dose of Reality 12:10am today

Christian, I think you need to actually find out the nature and attitudes of both sides before you use the phrase "An alliance born in the darkest days of World War II". The US was simply interested in using us then as they are now. Australia had been deserted and betrayed by Britain (Churchill) and facing invasion with its' troops kept elsewhere (Churchill - ignoring Australias' demand that its' troops return to defend their home). A bad deal was struck to save the country. MacArthurs words to Curtin should not be forgotten, I wonder if in your ideology you care to know them.....

A Dose of Reality 11:58pm February 18, 2009

john lamb of Brisbane- An intelligent, independent and proudly Australian statement. As are the bulk of the other statements (so far). Pity we have had so many years of snivelling, scared little people in charge of our foreign and defence policies for so long. They have sold us off so cheaply...

KBaus of Perth 6:42pm February 18, 2009

Would not worry a tiny bit. The West in general is the US. Australia share many common traits with the Americans. II WW was a good show when Australia change its focus from British Imperium to USA. In the Battle of Coral Sea the US stopped the Japanese fleet inits advance on Australia. We are allies by birth. On the other hand China is emerging superpower and already is flexing its muscle. So it is perhaps better for us that Clinton did not come here in her first trip.

john lamb of Brisbane 12:13pm February 18, 2009

I think it would be absolutely perfect for Australia to be "snubbed" or by-passed by the US. Although it might mean weaning us off of the imperial teat which resulted from a transfer of admiration from our mother country to the US in WW2, I don't see it as a bad thing. Among other benefits could be an independent, non-aligned foreign policy and a defence force which is just that and not willing cannon fodder for superpower imperial ambitions.

Tony of Brisbane 12:06pm February 18, 2009

Australia suffers from an over-inflated view of its position in the world. To the US, we are little more than a loyal and obedient puppy dog that enjoys an occasional pat on the head.

MelbChappie of Mlbourne 11:09am February 18, 2009

You said 'An alliance born in the darkest days of World War II and that persisted and thrived in the years since ought to be at the forefront of shaping the world today.' Can I call that extreme hyperbole? As is much of the nonsense that spouts from the Australian side of our much 'loved' relationship with the yanks.

John-boy 11:04am February 18, 2009

Old Clive - seems your memory's fading. The rodent had an ego big enough to send us to war without even bothering to seek Parliamentary approval. That's unfettered hubris for you.

Prima Donna of Ultimo 8:54am February 18, 2009

"An alliance born in the darkest days of World War II..." Aren't you confusing the ANZAC Pact of 1944 across the Tasman ditch (Cordell Hull & Doc Evatt) that made FDR very cross, with the ANZUS Treaty of 1951 under Truman?

Old Clive of Maryborough 8:53am February 18, 2009

How short sighted can you get? Hilary should have invited KLEVER Kevin along and then she could have just listened in as he solved the problems of the world. The ego of some of these blokes is unbelieveable, that in it itself is bad enough but most of them are backed up by staff people who have even bigger ego's.

shep of Grafton 3:16am February 18, 2009

I think you skipped over the most important reason Hillary went to China. Chinese higher ups don't like her (not even a little bit), and never have. In addition, It may surprise you but not everyone around the world is in love with the Clintons. Asia is not fond of US Democrat policies in general preferring Republican stances on many social and economic issues. And as for the bond between the US and Australia, the US, unfortunately, thinks of Australia as the tail on the dog.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What kind of Palestinian state?

Published in The Palestine Chronicle

A culmination of events in recent years, and more importantly the past two months, has thrown the entire structure of the peace process upside down.

Ironically, the two main protagonists in the region (Israel and Iran) assisted each other at the only common goal they share ... destroying the peace process. Iran, adhering to its strict theocratic obsession to liberate Islam's holy Jerusalem, has used its might to thwart any attempt by the Israelis and Americans to impose a puppet state in the Palestinian territories.

Israel, for its part, has also worked tirelessly at ending the process because, as I've noted here, it still follows its own warped extreme ideology (Zionism) that calls for a greater Jewish state in historic Palestine.

Only what these two bitter enemies fail to realise is that they cannot destroy a peace settlement. Extremism in all of its forms, be it fascism, communism or religious zealotry, will never last as a governing system. The more controls you put in place, the more people will try to break free. Neither Israel nor Iran offers a logical, natural solution/conclusion to the never-ending Middle Eastern cycle. Consider the following:

Israel wants to cleanse all of historic Palestine of its native Arabs (whose numbers are heading towards a majority), and pray that its surrounding 200 million Arabs won't mind.

Iran's ambition to destroy Israel is driven by its theological dreams of liberating Al-Aqsa, Islam's third holiest mosque, from the Crusades and establish a Shi'ite Islamic empire. It would then, of course, turn its attention to the 'blasphemous' Saudi family that occupies Mecca.

Do either of these conclusions appear reasonable or logical? No.

Enters the US and Europe waving the banner of compromise and a peaceful solution. The concept of compromise does sound realistic and logical, and will eventually come to pass. However, Israeli attempts to thwart such a peaceful compromise has reached the halls of Washington where its legions in AIPAC et al do all it can to ensure the US steers far and wide from a compromising solution.

Clinton came up with a draft peaceful 'compromise' that the Israelis have largely avoided. Bush retitled it "road map", then threw it in the back filing cabinet.

Obama ascends to power and suddenly there's a resurgence of hope. Will he draw out the "road map"?

Indeed, many analysts and leading publications have swung behind the peace campaign, particularly in light of the Gaza War, virtually pleading with Obama to engage in "tough love" with Israel and force a compromise that will end this long bloody conflict.

One such article was in the Economist. Much discussion has centred on what kind of compromise to follow. The two-state solution has indeed been the popular call for the past two decades, although some analysts have recently called this plan dead. I, for example, believe in a one-state solution.

Whilst I applaud the Economist for joining the "tough love" bandwagon, there remains one problem that is persistent in the West's handling of this saga. The West often draws up solutions that stem from the primary interest of ensuring Israel's security. It rarely takes into consideration the strong Palestinian sentiment of injustice, the same sentiment that has driven its resistance for the past 60 years. Whilst the West has done the bidding on Israel's part, the Palestinians have been forced to take backseat as its destiny gets shuttled back and forth between world capitals in a diplomat's suitcase.

Failure to listen to the calls of injustice by the Palestinian people means no peace will ever succeed. Peace must be made on equal terms, with the sentiments of both sides equally listened to and represented. This is why the two-state solution cannot work under the current framework, because it simply doesn't include the Palestinians' demand for full equality.

The two-state solution during the Clinton era didn't survive for obvious reasons. On the one hand, Israeli hardliners adhering to Zionism didn't want to concede any bit of territory or sovereignty to the Palestinians. On the other hand, many Palestinians felt that their concerns hadn't been adequately met. Whilst Arafat shook hands with Rabin on the White House lawn, new radical groups such as Hamas were emerging in impoverished Palestinian streets. The West has often ignored and avoided recognising popular Palestinian sentiments by providing smokescreens, previously through Arafat and Oslo, and today with Abbas. Ignoring the reality has proven detrimental, as we continue to see today. Democratic countries should be the most aware that ignoring public sentiments will ultimately bring political failure.

Nevertheless, the two-state solution from the Clinton era continues to be revived today as the main peace policy directive for the Obama administration.

My example from the Economist demonstrates this failed vision of peace:

Mr Obama faces three early tests. The first, and perhaps the easiest, is to spell out his vision of a Palestinian state. Its outlines are well known and have been more or less agreed by sensible Palestinians and Israelis, including those in power, for the past decade. Israel would return to the armistice line that existed before the 1967 war, with minor adjustments and territorial swaps of equal size and quality, and would probably keep the three biggest Jewish settlement blocks that bulge out from the 1967 line. Jerusalem would be tortuously but fastidiously divided, allowing each side to have its capital there, with international oversight of the holy places. Palestinians would be granted a symbolic right for their refugees to return on the understanding that only a small and carefully calculated proportion of them would actually do so. Palestine would be sovereign but demilitarised, with an international force, perhaps led by NATO, securing its borders, both along the Jordan valley and maybe between Gaza and Egypt. A road-and-rail link, internationally monitored, might well connect the 50km (30 miles) or so between Gaza and the West Bank.

My two problems with this proposal are:

1/ A "symbolic" right for their refugees to return. In reality, only a handful out of the 2-3 million will ever cross into 1/4 of what remains of historic Palestine and will be forced to live in camps, villages and towns not of their own.

The right of return is crucial for Palestinians and Arabs. As Israel's "security" is considered nonnegotiable by Israelis, correcting this injustice against expelled Palestinian refugees who have been dwelling in inhumane camps for three generations remains the heart of the Palestinian cause. The failure of the West to understand and listen to such strong sentiments has automatically rendered any peace-making effort futile.

2/ Palestine would be demilitarised and a NATO force would secure its borders.

The key error that started this conflict was that the destiny of one people was chosen by another. The West imposed its own vision upon the natives, without ever consulting the Palestinian people. The mass migration of European Jews into British Palestine was done without the consultation of the native Palestinian people. The partition of Palestine that awarded the majority of arable and economically fruitful land to a minority of immigrants was done without the consultation of the Palestinian people, who have dwelt on this land for thousands of years. And there the conflict began.

The main quibble Arabs have with the West is that nothing in our region was determined by us. Our states, our borders, our dictators, our monarchs were all carved out and hand picked by Western leaders. This is the root cause of our problem, the grand divide between Islam and the West, and the drive for extremist ideologies. To turn around and dictate how a future Palestine is to function (demilitarised) is repeating the same mistakes of the past. And the same mistakes will reap the same consequences.

To solve this conflict, the West must listen to the Palestinian people. Listen to their sentiments, to their deep feeling of injustice, and their resentment of it. Hamas is not merely an Islamist movement, but representative of 60 years of Palestinian resistance to everything unjust that has been imposed on them. Yasser Arafat - secular and left-wing - was that symbol 30-40 years ago, Hamas is the symbol today. Whether there'll be a need for a resistance symbol tomorrow depends on the West's willingness to listen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Israel's "existential threat"

Can the electoral victory of Israel's fascist Lieberman, who has vowed to expel 20% of the country's population (Israeli-Palestinians), alter long-term trends as outlined by former CIA analyst, Ray Close?

The following are excerpts, for the full read, please click on the above hyperlink.

I think there is another latent existential threat. It is the deep anxiety, based on gradually evolving rational analysis, that Israel will eventually (not immediately, but within a generation) become much less important to the United States than it is (or appears to be) today; that the American people and the US Government will jointly come to a realization that Israel is not, after all, biologically attached to America by a permanent umbilical cord;

I think this deep dread, never articulated, contains a closely related anxiety: that increasing numbers of upper-class American-oriented Israelis, despairing finally of ever enjoying a peaceful and secure lifestyle for themselves and their descendants in a homogeneous Jewish society, will abandon their fading Zionist dreams and emigrate to the United States, where they don't have to worry about those goddamn A-rabs, and where the age-old bugaboo of anti-Semitism is no longer a factor in any American Jew's life. If I were an Israeli, THAT would be my nightmare

Arab reaction to Israeli elections

The above picture, taken from friend Marcy Newman at Body on the Line, sums up the Arab indifference to Israel's elections.

In the eyes of the Arab world, the Israeli contest pits the murderer against the fascist.

Although, pro-peace Jewish blogger Jerry Haber claims Bibi's formation of an extremist coalition with Lieberman's fascist party will make it easier for the Obama administration to exert pressure on Tel Aviv.

The West's mainstream media is foreseeing an upcoming confrontation between the hardliner Netanyahu and Obama. Even his immediate rival, the butch Tzipi Livni, has stated that the Likud leader would "not get along" with Obama.

However, the "ugly face", as Jerry claims, makes a great pushover.

I hope he's right, but like every Arab, I remain cynical. Nothing will change.

Israel's entire political establishment is made up of major parties who share the same racist, Zionist ideology that seeks to purge historical Palestine of its indigenous and Arab character. Their only difference is in "style", not "substance". Labor offered a carrot in front of cameras, but behind the spotlight it built more settlements than any other government.

Likud is more honest with its Zionist roots, and hides no shame in front of cameras. It kills and will say why it kills ... because it considers Palestinians an inferior breed that must be made extinct.

Welcome Israel's new leadership, and another guaranteed term of bloodshed and destruction.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Irish join boycott of Israel

The Sinn Fein-backed Irish Congress of Trade Unionists (ICTU) has launched a boycott of Israel to protest Tel Aviv's Apartheid policies against the Palestinians.

Israel's crimes are so transparent for the world to see that even the mightiest of pro-Israel lobbies cannot hide them.

The pro-Israel lobby may have a stranglehold on governments throughout the Western world, but the people aren't as naive as the lobby believes.

Belfast Telegraph

Trade unionists are to launch a boycott of Israeli goods as part of a major campaign to secure a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, Stormont heard today.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) launched a report on Israel and Palestine compiled by senior members who visited the troubled region.

As controversy continues to rage over the death toll in Gaza caused by the recent Israeli military attacks, trade union leaders announced they are to hold a major conference this year to act as a springboard for their campaign.

While the DUP dismissed the report as unbalanced and urged unions to concentrate on local economic issues, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams who hosted the report's launch in Stormont's Long Gallery commended the trade unionists.

ICTU President Patricia McKeown led the Middle East visit that involved 11 senior members of the umbrella group representing trade unions across Ireland, including 36 trade unions with 250,948 members in Northern Ireland.

The delegation met Israeli trade unionists and politicians, plus Hamas political leaders, but said they were shocked by the conditions they found in Palestinian areas.

"I was profoundly shocked by what we found," said Ms McKeown.

"I didn't expect the denial of human rights and the discrimination to be so evident and to be an obvious part of daily life.

"To see unemployment on the West Bank rising to 80%, to see people having to get up at three in the morning, and virtually sleep outside the the army controlled crossings in order to get into work - that's something we didn't expect to see."

The ICTU trip took place more than a year ago, but its campaign will move up a gear this year with a major conference to highlight the Palestinian/Israeli situation, while research on a boycott of Israeli goods to press for a settlement will also be finalised.

The ICTU delegates urged an end to rocket attacks on Israel during their a face-to-face meeting with Hamas politicians.

But Ms McKeown said her colleagues were deeply shocked by the conditions they saw in the Palestinian areas they visited and felt compelled to push for international action, with talks already under way with trade unions in Britain and the United States.

But she said she was angry the debate split along unionist/nationalist lines in Northern Ireland.

"Nelson Mandela described this as the most important problem on this planet," she said.

"To come back and find out that this is the way in which it is treated in certain quarters... I put that down to a couple of things, an absence of knowledge... but it is also, in some quarters, extreme fundamentalism responding to extreme fundamentalism."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams told today's event: "Since the visit by the ICTU delegation, Gaza has been the target of an all-out military assault by Israeli forces. Over 1,300 people were killed, many of them children.

"Unless the international community and that includes the Irish government, the British government, the EU and the US government exercises its considerable influence and authority, any relaxation of the current assault on Gaza will only bring a short respite for citizens there."

He said a sustained international effort was needed to secure a durable settlement and added: "If the conflict here taught us anything, that is that no conflict is intractable. There are solutions."

The ICTU praised Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain for providing the necessary cross-party support to host the event in Stormont and the trade unionists insisted an open debate on the Middle East was vital.

UK Diplomat arrested over anti-Israel remarks

Freedom of speech seems to be dwindling in the UK after a senior UK diplomat was arrested after cursing Israelis at a gym whilst watching coverage of Israel's massacre in Gaza.

The diplomat, Rowan Laxton, repeatedly said "f$%^ing Israelis" and "f$#@ing Jews".

He was arrested on charges of inciting religious hatred. Laxton faces a maximum sentence of 7 years, simply for expressing his revolt at Israel's slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.

The amount of times in my life I've been called a "f@#$ing Arab", whoever knew I could have had these people arrested and tossed in jail? Would it have reached the newspapers as well? I wonder.

This comes in addition to the continued uproar over the Catholic Church's decision to accept into its fold an apparent Holocaust denier, Bishop Richard Williamson. Why is this still a crime? To the dear Bishop, do know that Jesus was also persecuted for speaking against the "law". Discourse, free speech and truth have no limits.

I have never researched the Holocaust to know whether 6 million Jews were thrown into gas chambers or not. It never really interested me because I have never placed Jewish suffering on a pedestal. When I refer to World War II, I take into consideration that many Jews were killed in Europe, along with millions of gypsies, communists, Poles, Czechs, Slavs, 20 million Russians, and so forth. Tiny Belgian and French villages were razed to the ground during the Nazi withdrawal, and millions of Koreans and Chinese were subjected to the horror of Japanese rule.

Why do numbers count in death? What is the difference between the deaths of 20 million Russians and the massacre of a small French village? The only truth that stems from World War II is that it was a human catastrophe that had far-reaching impacts on countries and communities across the globe.

The Jewish community have done an excellent job at placing their suffering above the sufferings of all others in World War II, but that shouldn't prevent those who share a passion for history to investigate the truths behind 60 years of Jewish sensationalism.

All historic battles and events are openly debated, this is what historians and people who have an interest in history do. Why is this an exception when it concerns Jews?

In the Commonwealth there's only two kinds of people above the law ... the royal family and extremist Jews.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lebanon's corrupt cell

Special Note: For those who wish to donate or assist the bushfire victims in Victoria, please visit the Australian Red Cross website.

It's good to be back writing and blogging after a few weeks away. A few things have happened since my last post on January 19th. I've moved cities (from Melbourne to Canberra) to undergo post-graduate studies at the Australian National University, had to bear an unbearable heat wave (that has caused roughly 300 deaths in my home state of Victoria, Australia's worst ever natural disaster), and commenced writing for Global Voices Online.

I joined the Lebanon team, currently consisting of Moussa Bashir and Nash Sleiman, in preparation for this year's Lebanese parliamentary elections in June. We're hoping to offer an alternative coverage to the tainted reporting we're so often accustomed to in Lebanon.

My first post today entailed the story of one of Lebanon's most corrupt sectors, telecommunications.

New contracts have been forged, Telecommunications Minister Gibran Bassil has promised the lowering of mobile call rates, but Lebanese bloggers aren't impressed. You can read why here.

What I don't understand is the functionality of this sector. The networks and infrastructure, mainly developed under Rafik al-Hariri in the 1990s, are all entirely state-run. The Lebanese Government then awards contracts to two network operators to effectively operate Lebanon's state-run and substandard networks.

The companies bid to run Lebanon's telecommunications networks, pay roughly US$1billion, and then the companies implement their own pricing and make substantial profits.

This is my understanding anyway. An analogy would be a city's railway or metro system. For example, Melbourne has awarded French train operator Connex the contract to run its transportation system, but the infrastructure is completely in government hands.

The reality of this scenario in Lebanon is that mobile phone rates are among the highest in the world, and telecommunications technology is severely lagging. Broadband has scarcely made its way into the country, and mobile phones still operate on decade-old networks. Infrastructure is so far behind that many advanced options you receive with an iPhone or a Blackberry, for example, do not work in Lebanon because the networks aren't up to speed with the phone's technology.

According to this French-Lebanese blog, Lebanon in the 1990s was ahead of many countries in mobile phone technology because companies such as France Telecom (who had majority share of then-Lebanese provider Cellis) would test out new mobile technology, such as GSM, before implementing it in France.

Due to political corruption and the wrangling of which politician could benefit the most in the late-1990s/early 2000s, this arrangement collapsed and has been state-run ever since. Lebanon's telecommunications technology has remained stagnant since the state takeover in 2002.

However, contracts continue to be awarded, and massive profits continue to be earned.

Where has the billions of dollars of government and corporate profit gone?

It is the state's responsibility to provide the latest in telecommunications technology, but if the government isn't investing in this sector, where on earth has the money gone? No money has been thrown onto our horrendous debt of US$46billion. No money has been thrown on essential services. No money has been thrown on reparation work or development projects.

Surely any contract would stipulate that a certain margin of the profits would go back into re-investment, maintenance and development of our telecommunications networks. Not in corrupt Lebanon.

And this isn't partisan. In 2002 when the takeover occurred, the Harirists, Jumblattists and Hezbollah all enjoyed Syrian support. Post-2005, Hariri/Jumblatt retained power, only to have the ministry flip over to Hezbollah's ally in the FPM last year. Either way, the same hands have been in the pie, regardless of how they label their alliances today.

One idea that has been hotly contested in Lebanon's political arena is the privatisation of our two networks, with the addition of a third network. The revenue from the sale would go to our large debt. In Lebanese terms, this means the revenue will go to more villas, private jets, a new apartment in Paris, a new hospital or stadium named after a warlord/chieftain and so forth.

The privatisation has been stalled due to Hezbollah's concerns that Lebanon would lose majority share. Therefore, Bassil has included a stipulation that guarantees Lebanese majority share of the network. The Oxford Business Group says this will decrease foreign investment interest, but I disagree.

Australia retained majority share (51%) of its network until 2006, and there was still substantial interest in the country's telecommunications sector. However, it is worth adding that Australia didn't restrict the amount of operators in the country to two. It did, originally, when it first opened the market in the late 1980s (an indication of how far behind Lebanon is), but since then the industry has expanded, developed, whilst keeping solid competivity.

Two operators, or a duopoly, will not increase competition, but only maintain domination and high call rates.

I'm happy for Lebanese to retain majority share, but the market needs to be opened up and more providers need to be allowed to operate in Lebanon. I have no problem with the networks remaining in majority Lebanese hands, so long as the Lebanese invest in its infrastructure and root out corruption. Of course, I'm dreaming, but this is the most effective solution.

If the government or a Lebanese enterprise is unwilling to invest in our infrastructure, at least allow someone else who will. Telecommunications is one among many sectors where the Lebanese people are getting robbed on a daily basis.

But of course come the next elections, the sheep that is the Lebanese people will ignore the fact that their lives are being manipulated and raped at every corner, and will re-elect their selfish, sectarian warlords.

It all falls back on the corrupt political culture of our country ... everyone is in it for themselves. 'National interest' doesn't exist in Lebanon.