Call for unofficial, citizen diplomacy

Here is an essay by two former diplomats about the possibility of stronger relations between the Iranian and American people. If governments can't work together effectively, at least the citizens can have a go at it, and often with great long-term benefits, as they argue.

Thanks as always to "USC's Public Diplomacy in the News." 

On the edge of nationwide strife?

This article -- -- suggests that war is eminent in Lebanon, although one or two mentions of interviews with Lebanese indicate that the PM resigning is fairly expected and normal. I have been comparing the English-language Lebanese press (Daily Star and An-Nahar) and their coverage leans more toward the latter. Let's hope for that. Al-Monitor, though, recently published a piece by Jean Aziz (who also writes for the liberal-leaning Al Akhbar of Lebanon) -- comparing Miqati's resignation -- which is widely reported as because he couldn't get the Cabinet to agree to extend the ISF chief's tenure past March -- and the lack of parliament's passage of an election law for the upcoming general elections, to the months before the Taif agreement, then the Doha agreement. Failing outside intervention in passing an election law and without a strong, credible ISF chief, Lebanon could tumble internally, the article suggests. It concludes with a question about whether the Lebanese people themselves come up with an agreement. It's hard to know how to assess the situation from over here, and not reading the Arabic media. I hope for Lebanese civil society activists across the diverse political and confessional landscape to be at the table. I wish I had time to monitor their activism. 'Rooting for you, Lubnan!

Please, please, please, not again

The situation in Lebanon, with the number of Syrian refugees estimated to be in the range of  220,000-350,000 ( has continued to fester. Reports of Syrian child soldiers, rape, early marriages to protect daughters, severe malnutrition and depression, are increasing. Lebanese, people around the Middle East, and across the diaspora continue to fear another war. An example of the growing concern, with some Sunni Muslim leaders in Lebanon feeling ready to battle Hizbullah forces (that support the Syrian presidency and army) within Lebanon, is reported in  today's New York Times: .

Governments need to engage their public diplomacy networks to listen, understand, and take concrete policy steps to quell the Syrian war and the increasing stirrings of war in Lebanon. The world is waiting for diplomatic negotiation to work. I hope that the USG and other UN Security Council and Arab League member states pause, convene, and reflect on what another civil war in Lebanon would look like -- how disastrous it would be. Public diplomacy -- abroad and at home -- is what's needed to inform USG and other stakeholder states' policies so that they are credible. If they are credible to all in the global networks of key stakeholders, then the explaining part of public diplomacy will directly support nonviolent peacebuilding. The global stakeholders include Hizbullah, Salafi Muslims, Maronite and Orthodox Christians, Druze, Israelis -- their political leaders must be at the table with UNSCR. Today. We have reached a crisis in Lebanon that will only make the war in Syria last longer. Please, let's not wait. From experience, we have a good idea of what will happen without emergency, all-inclusive intervention.

Today is a political anniversary day in Lebanon, a reminder of what Lebanon has been through and how the US and Lebanon have a shared interest in peace there:

Anniversary of Lebanon's Cedar Revolution

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 14, 2013

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, when the Lebanese people took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate and demand a sovereign and democratic country free from foreign interference and to call for the truth behind the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others.
The Lebanese people continue to face challenges as they work to ensure a stable, sovereign, and independent state that unifies all Lebanese. As Lebanon prepares for its parliamentary elections, we call on all parties to reject the use of violence and to resolve their differences peacefully and at the ballot box, consistent with the Lebanese constitution. Lebanon’s democratic process is a valuable achievement, and we urge Lebanon and its leaders to uphold their commitment to this process and hold elections on time.
The United States steadfastly supports the people of Lebanon and their advance toward a sovereign, stable, independent, and prosperous Lebanon.

PRN: 2013/0288

Interested in "diaspora diplomacy" ?

Recently, Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, published a Discussion Paper that resulted from some of my dissertation fieldwork. It's called: "American Diaspora

Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Policy and Lebanese Americans" and is downloadable for free at

Feedback will be much appreciated, and I am always looking to connect with folks with similar research interests :-) .

From one of the most respected international statesmen alive...

Ambassador Clovis Maksoud's writing, teaching, and diplomatic practice are a deep wellspring of knowledge. I believe he is around 90, still busy at American University and as a journalist for several media outlets. From him I have learned a lot about the meaning of diversity in the Middle East. He has witnessed so much of the last century's suffering, only occasionally seasoned with diplomatic success by Middle Eastern, U.S. and other governments. Maksoud always keeps the local citizen at the center of his analysis. See this current example: .

More on "Argo"

This essay on "Argo" is in a recent issue of "The Foundry." It opposes my perspective in my previous posting that Mrs. Obama's involvement in the presentation of the film's Oscar award, citing the film's popularity among Iranians. It also suggests that "Argo" is effective public diplomacy. Hmmm. Soft power, yes, but I think this suggestion is an example of conflating cross-cultural internationalism and PD.

Unusually, the first lady makes a mistake

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama did a disservice to U.S. credibility among Iranians and other global publics who may have disliked the Hollywood film, "Argo." For example, see .

Celebvocacy is one thing, but putting Mrs. Obama, already dressed in an evening gown to attend the WH dinner for the nation's governors occurring at the same time the Oscars award ceremony on the 24th, up to the task of awarding the best picture award to "Argo" only jammed another wedge between the U.S. and the Iranian people. The White House's endorsement of the film's message of American triumphalism was not a gesture that will endear  more Iranians to the U.S. Was one of the decision factors at the WH that big Hollywood donors will be more endeared to the Democratic party?

As the Al-Monitor news story observes, the Iranian government -- and people -- now have more evidence that the American media holds great sway in the WH and probably not such good taste, either. From my living room couch, watching "Argo" instead of the Oscars, the film seemed merely okay. Good piece of filmmaking, but lacking in character development (except for that of Tony Menendez). It also oversimplifies American culture and insulted the CIA and other personnel portrayed in the film as drinking, smoking, swearing, and subservient.  

"Within the Eye of the Storm"

Dear People,

Perhaps you have heard about the film, "Within the Eye of the Storm" -- about an Israeli and a Palestinian, two fathers who each lost a daughter to occupation-related gun violence. They became connected through an organization in Jerusalem called "Combatants for Peace," which privileges dialogue in bringing peace to the region. The film shows how in the space of two hours, in a discussion between the Israeli and members of al-Aqsa Brigade in Jenin, telling stories of their loved ones being killed transformed their fear of each other into shared purpose and identity. I believe this film is an example of the kind of dialogue that's needed, among civil society leaders, who are doing what they can because political leaders won't. 

Anyway, the Israeli and Palestinian fathers, along with the filmmaker, are in DC for a few more days. The showing of the film, and Q & A, are free and the schedule is at 

This is news to keep you inspired and informed. Relational, inclusive dialogue is the best way to make social change, as you know :-) .


Cross-cultural Advice

From "PD in the News" on 20 February 2013:

Why the Brits are better than us at business in India


Stephen Manallack

Australians should look at how the UK manages the subcontinent's culture and values.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is not only leading his country's biggest ever trade mission to India, including Rolls-Royce and BP, he is also showing how to mix business and politics by announcing faster business visas, lifting of limits on Indian students and promoting cultural links.
In the federation that is Australia, our biggest missions are now led by state premiers and while the numbers are great, the political level lacks real clout. Cameron's mission is diverse - businesses large and small, soccer's Premier League, universities and the British Museum are all there, along with four senior government ministers. It will be noticed, even in busy India.
In recent years, record numbers of Australian business leaders have headed to India with high hopes. The Victorian government, for example, has its second ''super trade mission'' going in March with substantial financial support for attendees. But even though their numbers match the UK team, will they be noticed?
The answer is yes, but not at the same level. One reason is the shifting view in India as Indian companies expand globally, with icons such as Jaguar and Land Rover now in Indian hands. A growth in confidence and the fact that ''the world is knocking on their door'' mean they do not take notice of every new visitor.

British success in India has been based on high levels of cultural sensitivity and most trade missions only follow substantial cross-cultural awareness programs and preparation. For example, delegates are fully aware that the Indians they meet have acceptance of change hard-wired into their psyche - they thrive on it. These delegates also know Indians are less specific in plans and contracts, which can be disturbing for newcomers.
Trade mission leaders need to go with something concrete to offer and while our premiers make a good go of this, the best offerings come from Canberra.
Through close levels of contact, the British are prepared for the speed of modern India - yes, it is still true that lots of things take twice as long over there, but in the new India some business activities happen at the speed of light. Businesses need to go prepared to deliver on a product or service right now, not just having some idea for a future opportunity.
British missions often include some element of philanthropy, while our own record has been patchy - some philanthropy but not every time. The Indian business leaders these missions meet have built generosity into their personal and business life - typically they rate people issues and community above share price as priorities - and choose to do business with others who share their view.
Ratan Tata, who recently stepped down as chairman of Tata Group, India's biggest conglomerate, summed up this generosity: ''Some foreign investors accuse us of being unfair to shareholders by using our resources for community development. Yes, this is money that could have made for dividend payouts, but it also is money that's uplifting and improving the quality of life of people in the rural areas where we operate and work. We owe them that.''
Although we see the British as formal and stuffy, in India they show the capacity to go with the flow and quickly tune in to ''Indian time'' and the flexibility that requires - while it is true that too many Australian missions fill their days with appointments and reduce flexibility.
Another adaptation that works well for the British missions is their culturally acquired sense of diplomacy and politeness, which they take to higher levels in India. The Indian culture is one that is often offended or at least misunderstands blunt communication - a challenge for our cultural background.
Indian culture provides masses of room for nonconformists, and so too does Britain. Diversity of dress, styles of doing business and personal contact are to be expected over there. Your host might want to talk about diet or spirituality instead of your product and it is wise (and fun) to go with the flow. Our Aussie ''tall poppy syndrome'' makes nonconformity increasingly rare and we are just not used to it.
For all that, Australian missions whether state or national do generate substantial business and contribute to closer relationships with this powerful neighbour.
India's nonconformity is supported by a ''can do'' belief and many find success there - as more Australians head over there with optimism, India's great thinker Tagore can be your inspiration: ''You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.''
Stephen Manallack is a cross-cultural adviser and author of Soft Skills for a Flat World.

Read more:

An Example of Intercultural Relations Trumping War?

...probably not quite, but see what you think, anyway [with thanks to the Univ. of SoCal Center on  Public Diplomacy's link to ]:

Israel: Arab belly dancers flock to Israeli festival

Running in Eliat Jan. 16-19

14 JANUARY, 17:27
(ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV, JANUARY 14 - Proving that art transcends conflicts and boundaries, dancers from Turkey, Egypt and Jordan will participate in the annual International Belly Dance Festival taking place January 16-19 in the Israeli city of Eilat, on the Red Sea.

The festival will feature some 950 dancers from Israel and 30 other countries across the world, reported.

Festival organizer and world-renowned belly dancer Orit Maftsir said there had been no cancellations on the part of foreign participants in spite of the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza. The highlight will be the arrival of dancers and teachers from Arab countries ''who are not afraid to come to Israel and vibrate their hips for peace,'' Ynet wrote.

''Beyond the cultural relations the festival creates between the region's countries, it also helps strengthen relations between the people,'' the manager of the Club Hotel chain, which is hosting the festival, told Ynet. (ANSAmed).


Last night my husband and I watched the latest "Portlandia" episode. Weird, anything goes, as usual, but seeing the streets and hearing the sounds of the Oregon coastal destination took us happily back to a wonderful Labor Day vacation. Not quite satisfied with a half hour of weirdness, we surfed to our local PBS station, which was re-airing Episode Five: Tradition (1957-1979) of "Broadway: The American Musical" [ descriptions/ ]. Watching the snipets of "West Side Story," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Funny Girl," "Annie," and other shows got me thinking about the beauty and grace of American Jewish culture, about all the gifts with which it has enriched this country and the world. I cried especially hard when Barbara Streisand (Fanny Brice, FG) sang "People" in the foreground, with Omar Sharif (Nick Arnstein, FG) watching her from a distance. By the time Joel Grey was shown singing "Through My Eyes" to his gorilla/true love, mocking Jews in "Cabaret," I was in why-do-we-still-not-have-Middle-East-peace land. Soon thereafter, when Mel Brooks noted that his career has been in large part about making America and the world laugh at Hitler (e.g., "Springtime for Hitler" in "The Producers"), I realized that we won't have the political will to make peace, not war, in the region until we can make sense of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a conundrum that European and American powers enabled as much as Arabs and Israelis. We need to accept these mistakes, laugh at them with sorrow leavened by anger and hope. We need to do this through shared cultural traditions -- poetry, religious rites, singing, dancing, art, fashion -- we need to create joy so powerful that miraculous moments of peaceful coexistence over-power the long years of conflict. Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim figured this out together ]. Individually, Arabs and Jews who live in the same communities figure this out every day. When we celebrate the shared culture we will show us that Arab-Israeli peace is possible. We need Jews and Arabs to share cultural traditions globally to show our mutual respect and love. We need to create more love to understand and absorb the pain of the Palestinians and the Jews and the Syrians and all the rest. Through our tears, we can learn to laugh, together. I hope. Maybe not in my lifetime, but someday. The hurt, the waste, are just too great. 

A Useful Cross-national Exchange on Public Diplomacy

Thanks to John H. Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review for posting this story, copied below, from

Cultural diplomacy plays role in building societies

p3a Cultural diplomacy plays role in building societies
KUWAIT: Sheikha Hussa Al-Salem Al-Sabah welcoming the participants on Monday.
KUWAIT: The role of cultural diplomacy in building bridges among different people came under focus at a symposium organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Monday at the UN House in Mishref. The symposium, a first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, saw experts from various walks of life bringing their experience to the table.
These included Sheikha Hussa Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Director of Dar Al-Athar Al- Islamiya. Iman Y. Ereiqat, Chief of Mission of IOM Kuwait, noted that ‘diplomacy’ is a science, a way of management, and the art of handling contradictions and negotiating for achieving results that could satisfy all concerned parties. “In view of the importance of diplomacy, we find it necessary to hold this forum, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East and Northern African Region, to highlight the role of diplomacy in understanding cultures of different people, and building bridges among them, to enable discussion based on mutual respect and sharing with others,” she pointed out.
The main theme of this conference was “The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Building Bridges between Cultures”. “We, at IOM Kuwait, are proud that, in cooperation with “Aware Centre”,we managed to take this leading step of introducing such an important, distinguished and modern subject in the Arab World,” she added. “We look at you, young people, as our future, and thus decided that the invitees to this forum should be university and highschool students who have a genuine desire for learning and benefiting from the experiences of the speakers.
We all work together for participating in building real societies capable of accommodating different strata ; societies that understand others, respect them, and defend their privacy; where everyone can live without discrimination or exclusion,” Ereiqat further said . Terming the forum as a first step along the path, she said, it would be held annually and would focus on one area that can “help bridge gaps between cultures.” “We are working (so that) that the next versions will be on a regional level,” she concluded.
On his part, Dr. Ebraheen Al- Adasani from the Aware Center said that although cultural diplomacy existed since long, still many regard it as a means of exporting cultural values of one country to another, rather than engaging in a cultural interaction. “For the purposes of this symposium, I define cultural diplomacy as the pursuit of better mutual understanding with the aim of eliminating differences of perceptions between nations. Knowing one another is the essence of cultural diplomacy. And in order for it to be effective, it should be an exercise of give and take rather than a one way street. The goal is not to prove that one culture is superior to the other, but rather to understand that certain concepts are perceived in a different manner in other cultures.
This awareness will help us avoid misunderstandings,” explained Al-Adasani. Nowadays, the internet and different social media platforms have made interaction between countries and individuals of different cultures much easier and more intense. “This means that cultural diplomacy has become essential in contemporary relations. While classical diplomacy is handled almost exclusively by the State, cultural diplomacy requires the involvement of multiple actors from various sections of society.
This includes higher education institutions, NGOs, sportsmen, artists and professional associations,” he pointed out. “The Aware Center, one of the NGOs in Kuwait, works towards combating the risks of misperception and misunderstanding through cultural exchange and constructive dialogue,” he concluded. The Ambassador of the United States of America to Kuwait, Matthew Tueller, said, “We as Americans see great value in cultural exchanges and cultural diplomacy.
While we do not have a Ministry of Culture as many other countries around world do, there is an entire branch of our Department of State which promotes U.S. culture abroad, brings international visitors to the United States for cultural exchanges, and promotes U.S. Education.” On the cultural diplomacy in the Middle East, he said, “Many of you may recall President Obama’s “New Beginning Speech” that he delivered on June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.
I was fortunate to be among the audience that day and I can tell you that the atmosphere was electric. Never before had an American President embarked on such an ambitious plan to bridge the gap between America and the countries in the Middle East,” and proceeded to quote the President. “What the President articulated in Cairo is something that our Embassies around the region endeavor to put into practice every day.
At times this work can be quite challenging as many peoples’ views of America are influenced heavily by movies and TV shows or by media that distorts the image of the U.S. So, working overseas, our Embassies, and particularly our Public Affairs Sections, seek to offer a more realistic picture of the American people,” stressed Tueller. “Facilitating exchanges and face-to-face interactions between individuals is the bread and butter of our public diplomacy work.
Our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs works around the clock to maintain a wide range of high-quality exchanges between youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and emerging leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries,” he noted. Finally he spoke about the future of cultural diplomacy and the role of technology in helping reach even more people. “The importance of social media and connective technology is to help us reach local communities that we previously did not engage with directly.
Listening to local communities is a key element of successful cultural diplomacy. Kuwait has the highest levels of social media usage compared with other countries in the region, in spite of its small population. Kuwaitis are more active than ever on social media like Twitter and Instagram,” concluded Tueller
By Nawara Fattahova, Kuwait Times Staff

A great dream continues...

To me, President Obama's speech [] was a message about the importance of shared -- national -- identity. It was about living together through the good times and increasingly tough times. You could forgive him the moments of triumphalism as efforts to encourage and praise the citizens. I am a little less worried this morning, even though our process of "self"-government is harder and harder because of all the problems we face. Change can be good, but with all of these problems and all the uncertainty, good change needs to be sustainable. Sustainability means we work through the problems together, and it's going to take more than four more years. That's why we need to stick together and show each other our shared commitment. I can't imagine another way.

This 'Jersey Girl is inspired...

I'm so relieved that my parents have arrived home safely, to a re-electrified house and neighborhood, and I am so inspired by our local poet, who has spent days singing on the campaign trail for love of country...

Let me begin with a shout out to all of our neighbors in the Northeast who are reeling from Hurricane Sandy and its immense impact. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
So, it’s good to be here with you today–and it will be great to feel the power of your votes and voices tomorrow.
I’m here today for Wisconsin, America, and for President Obama. For the last 30 years I’ve been writing in my music about the distance between the American dream and American reality. I’ve seen it from inside and outside: as a blue collar kid from a working class home in New Jersey–where my parents struggled, often unsuccessfully–to make ends meet–to my adult life, visiting the 9th Ward in New Orleans after Katrina, or meeting folks from food pantries from all around the United States, who work daily to help our struggling citizens through the hard times we’ve been suffering
The American Dream and an American Reality: Our vote tomorrow is the one undeniable way we get to determine the distance in that equation. Tomorrow, we get a personal hand in shaping the kind of America we want our kids to grow up in.
I’m a husband and a dad, my lovely wife Patti is here with me. We’ve got three kids growing up and on their way out into the world, I’m 63 (Patti is much younger)… but we have both lived through some galvanizing moments in American history: the Civil Rights struggle, the Peace Movement, the Woman’s Movement, we played in East Berlin one year before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and we were with Amnesty International a year before the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid. These were days when you could feel the winds of change moving and the world shifting beneath your feet.
And… we both remember another galvanizing moment, the night that President Obama was elected.
It was an unbelievable evening, when the hope of your heart felt fulfilled, when you could feel the locked doors of the past being blown open to new and previously unimaginable possibilities– to fresh Hope and Change.
Today we have another battle. Now we are charged with the hard daily struggle to make those possibilities, those changes real and enduring in a world that challenges your hopefulness, a world that is often brutally resistant to change. We’ve lived through that struggle over these past four years when the forces of opposition have been tireless.
I stood with President Obama four years ago and I’m proud to be standing with him today. Because…
I’m thankful for the historic advances in healthcare.
I’m thankful for a more regulated Wall Street that will begin to protect our citizens from the blind greed of those who over reach.
My father worked on a Ford assembly line when I was a child and I’m thankful that we have a President that had faith in the American automobile industry and that General Motors is today making cars. What else would I write about.
I’m thankful that we have a decisive President working hard to keep America safe… and I’m appreciative of the fact that, as promised, he has ended the war in Iraq and is bringing the war in Afghanistan to a close.
I’m here today because I’m concerned about Women’s Rights and health issues both at home and around the World. I don’t have to tell you about the dangers to Roe versus Wade under our opponents policies.
I’m also troubled by thirty years of an increasing disparity in wealth between our best off citizens and everyday Americans. That is a disparity that threatens to divide us into two distinct and separate nations. We have to be better than that.
Finally I’m here today because I’ve lived long enough to know that the future is rarely a tide rushing in. Its often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. We are in the midst of one of those long days right now. I believe that President Obama feels those long days in his bones for all 100 per cent of us. He will live those days with us.
President Obama ran last time as a man of hope and change. You hear a lot of talk about how things are different now. Things aren’t any different–they’re just realer. Its crunch time. The President’s job, our job–yours and mine– whether your Republican, Democrat, Independent, rich, poor, black, brown, white, gay, straight, soldier, civilian–is to keep that hope alive, to combat cynicism and apathy, and to believe in our power, to change our lives and the world we live in. So, lets go to work tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.. Lets re-elect President Barack Obama to carry our standard forward towards the America that awaits us.
accessed 11/6/12 from

Considering the source, but staying abreast, and still dreaming about peace...

Given yesterday's horrific news about the bombing in Beirut, many who are tied to Lebanon are glued especially hard to online and satellite reporting. Here is the first story I read this morning.

Protesters block roads in Lebanon after car bomb

5:57AM EDT October 20. 2012 -
BEIRUT (AP) — Protesters burned tires and set up roadblocks around Lebanon on Saturday in a sign of boiling anger over a massive car bomb that killed a top security official and seven other people a day earlier — a devastating attack that threatened to bring Syria's civil war to Lebanon.

The Lebanese Cabinet held an emergency meeting Saturday as the country's opposition called for Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign. The state-run National News Agency said security commanders would attend the meeting to discuss how to keep the peace.

The government declared a national day of mourning for the victims, who included Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence division of Lebanon's domestic security forces. Dozens were wounded in Friday's blast in Beirut's mainly Christian Achrafieh neighborhood.

Many observers said the attack appeared to have links to the Syrian civil war, which has been raging for 19 months. Al-Hassan, 47, headed an investigation over the summer that led to the arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha, one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's most loyal allies in Lebanon.

Samaha, who is in custody, is accused of plotting a campaign of bombings and assassinations to spread sectarian violence in Lebanon at Syria's behest. Also indicted in the August sweep was Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, one of Assad's highest aides.

Al-Hassan also played a role in the investigation of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with a massive truck bomb. A U.N.-backed tribunal has indicted four members of militant group Hezbollah, which along with its allies, now holds a majority in Lebanon's Cabinet. Hezbollah denies involvement in Hariri's killing and has refused to extradite the suspects.

Al-Hassan's department also had a role in breaking up several Israeli spy rings inside Lebanon over the past few years, Lebanese officials said.

Lebanon's fractious politics are closely entwined with Syria's. The countries share a web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, often causing events on one side of the border to echo on the other. Lebanon's opposition is an anti-Syrian bloc, while the prime minister and much of the government are pro-Syrian.

The civil war in Syria has laid bare Lebanon's sectarian tensions as well.

Many of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims have backed Syria's mainly Sunni rebels, while Shiite Muslims have tended to back Assad. Al-Hassan was a Sunni whose stances were widely seen to oppose Syria and Shiite Hezbollah, the country's most powerful ally in Lebanon.

Lebanon's top Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, condemned the assassination, calling it a "criminal explosion that targets Lebanon and its people." He called for self-restraint saying that "the criminal will get his punishment sooner or later."

Police and army troops sealed off the site of Friday's blast as military intelligence agents investigated what was the deadliest bombing in Beirut in four years.

Sharbal Abdo, a Beirut resident who lives down the block from where the car bomb detonated, on Saturday brought his six-year-old son Chris and 12-year-old daughter Jane to see what happened the day before. They were both at school when the blast ripped through the area.

"They were very afraid yesterday, and cried a lot late into the night," Abdo said. "Today I decided to bring them here and show what happened. They need to face this situation. It may be their future."

On Friday, protesters in mostly Sunni areas closed roads with burning tires and rocks in Beirut, the southern city of Sidon, the northern city of Tripoli and several towns in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The highway linking central Beirut with the city's international airport was closed, as well as the highway that links the capital with Syria, the officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Rafik Khoury, editor of the independent Al-Anwar daily, said the assassination was an attempt to draw Lebanon into the conflict in Syria, which has been the most serious threat to the Assad family's 40-year dynasty.

"The side that carried the assassination knows the reactions and dangerous repercussions and is betting that it will happen. Strife is wanted in Lebanon," Khoury wrote.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Considering the source -- a mainstream U.S. service that tends to over-simplify complex situations -- it sums up the history fairly well. I'll post more stories as the hours and days pass. It's really concerning, but a good idea, that the roads from Beirut to the airport and to Damascus are shut down. I keep remembering that the majority of Lebanese do not want another war in their country, but I also know how many probably feel it's the only way to make peaceful progress. Maybe Robert Frost's sentiment that the best way out is often through (for example, search on "through" at sums up how they feel. But I feel that enough peace-oriented change has occurred since the "end" of the civil war in 1990/1991 that the Lebanese and international communities can spare the country from another war. Maybe all the civil society-government efforts in conflict mediation (peace in Ireland, the Balkans) and practitioner work in collaborative dialogue and peace-building projects will embolden political leaders to have the will to prevent another war in Lebanon. Maybe this situation will embolden the U.S. government to push for a Palestinian state, the absence of which is one of the main reasons Hizbullah is so strong in Lebanon.


© Deborah L. Trent 2019