The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: Lebanon

Beirut rules?

by fpman

The Islamic State is a puzzling phenomenon in many respects. One thing we just can’t make sense of is how an organization that often goes beyond previously imaginable extremes in its political and military tactics, can get seemingly genuinely very upset about stuff being done to them in return.

Such a moment came yesterday when one IS commander by the name of Abu Ali Shishani (his name tells us he has some connection to Chechnya, though he is a.k.a. Anas Sharkas by his kunya or nom de guerre) filled a video message with complaints about Lebanese authorities that seem to have rounded up wives and children of several IS leaders in the last few days. One of those detained may or may not be a former wife of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s, a certain Saja al-Dulaimi, and if she is who she is thought to be, she is held there together with her daughter, plus some other wives, including a wife of Abu Ali Shishani’s. (It seems that Saja al-Dulaimi had been a subject of hostage exchange before, when she was held by Syrian government forces in the past along with two sons and a smaller brother.)

In this situation, Abu Ali Shishani called on Sunni Lebanese yesterday to blow up the house around them and let the roof fall on their head, basically. He said:

“I call on you, Sunnis, to rise up in unity. Our wives and men are in prisons. They took my wife and children and had no right to do so.”

Lebanon is a country where many people understand the basic rules of tit-for-tat kidnappings, and Sunni Islamists operating in and from Syrian territory have kidnapped many Lebanese soldiers up to now, not to mention they have even executed some of them. Lebanon is a country where a reluctance to be pragmatic may be punished fast. We would never discount the IS potential to break down the old order in places where they haven’t done it yet but Lebanon may be tough territory for them in this respect.


A mother-in-law and (in) journalism

by fpman

We have discussed Amal Alamuddin’s marriage with George Clooney before, and tracking the story suddenly put Ziad Takieddine, Amal’s uncle, on our radar, too. Now we turn our attention to Baria Alamuddin, Amal’s mother – “Clooney’s mother-in-law,” says the Guardian, rudely, given that Amal is, on the one hand, Mrs Clooney herself, and, on the other, that her mother may as well be simply “Amal’s mother.”

This is Baria Alamuddin’s personal webpage.

We just can’t stop thinking, and even saying – aloud – “Wowoweewow,” as we go through the intro. Listen to this:

“(she) has interviewed numerous heads of state including, King Hamad Bin Issa Alkhalifa, President Hosni Moubarak, King Hussain of Jordan, Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Fidel Castro, to name a few. She was the last journalist to interview Indira Ghandi.

At the part where the text says “to name a few” we were totally cooked.

For reference, this is a report on the interview with Indira Gandhi, together with some excerpts from the interview itself (prepared shortly before Indira Gandhi’s assassination).

And this is a somewhat random image from the above video, as portrait, of “an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the United Kingdom,” as well as a mother (and now mother-in-law).


Of synergies, negative and positive

by fpman

We have recently concluded our groundbreaking analysis of Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney’s wedding with the following assessment:

“Given that both are involved in some ambitious international, or rather global, humanitarian initiatives, our prognosis is that there is likely to be a fair amount of synergy in their efforts.”

We love to say “we were right.” It is a pleasant feeling for a poor analyst. So here it is. We were right.

Have you heard of the Elgin Marbles? It’s a collection of marble sculptures, em, “obtained,” with Ottoman approval, from the Parthenon in Athens’ Acropolis by a 19th century British gentleman who happened to be the Earl of Elgin. George Clooney is pretty convinced these days he has to weigh in on this issue, of all issues, and he already did, in fact, multiple times, as part of the promotion of his ‘Monuments Men‘ movie. Return what thou shalt return – is what he basically says. So the Greek government is happy to call on Mrs. Clooney’s, i.e. Amal Alamuddin’s, legal assistance now, and she is happy to respond to this call. Flying to Athens for a visit related to the issue, on October 13-16, “holding a series of meetings with government officials during their stay, including the Prime Minister, Mr Antonis Samaras, and the Minister of Culture, Mr Konstantinos Tasoulas,” as a recent statement by Doughty Street Chambers (where Amal is working) reveals.

A first time? No. As the same statement also points out: Mr Robertson (another lawyer at Doughty Street) and Mrs Clooney were first asked to provide legal advice to the Greek government on this matter in 2011.” Talkin’ about synergy… So do we think that the Elgin Marbles issue simply occurred to George Clooney one day, in a “by the way” manner…?

Now what’s the opposite of synergy? I have consulted this forum where some interesting suggestions are put forward, with the word “antergy” seemingly coming out on top. I consider that awkward. Etymologically it doesn’t make sense but it reminds me of ants and that is my problem. Ants are the best at making more of themselves than the sum of the parts. Leave ants alone! Hence I’ll be using the equally awkward term “negative synergy.”

Here is an example of dubious, or potentially negative, synergy. For all the humanitarian initiatives Amal and George are involved in, Amal’s uncle is apparently no other than Ziad Takieddine, a very international guy (What do we call him? A dealer? A go-between? A facilitator? Mr. Fix-It?) who was involved even in the far-reaching “Karachi case,” a textbook case of what can be wrong about adding up a bit of arms trade, corruption, and terrorism. Here’s the “deal” as it may have happened: France sold some submarines to Pakistan. To be able to sell them and make a profit, it had to pay commissions or kickbacks to Pakistani officials, for them to be willing buyers. In turn, the Pakistani officials paid kickbacks to French politicians, for them to be willing sellers (and payers of the commissions). This turned into a source of campaign financing for some people in France. Some of the money apparently went into financing Édouard Balladur’s 1995 presidential elections campaign which Balladur then lost. He was defeated by Jacques Chirac who then cancelled the deal with Pakistan on the commissions. And then in May 2002 eleven French engineers were blown up in the Pakistani port town of Karachi. Which may or may not be related to the commissions that went unpaid.

ZiadTakieddineZiad Takieddine (source: AFP/Getty)

Beyond being a part of the money flow, as an intermediary, to Balladur, Ziad Takieddine alleges that he was also part of the money flow to President Nicolas Sarkozy (who used to be a close associate of Balladur’s back in the latter’s days as Prime Minister), and that in part the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi financed Sarkozy’s own campaign struggle, from which he came out victorious, in 2007. A sum total of over 50 million Euros may have been put up by the Libyans for this purpose, and it is said to have been funnelled to the beneficiaries through Panama and Switzerland in the kind of sophisticated arrangement that seems to be Standard Operating Procedure in some circles.

Ziad Takieddine is currently banned from leaving France, by court order, related to the Karachi affair, and so, unless he’s granted special permission to leave the country, he cannot make it to the October 25 reception organized by Amal’s parents in London on the occasion of her recent wedding. Ziad is demanding the chance to do so.

Alright, that’s it for today, folks! May all this talk of synergy give you some energy.

Amal Alamuddin’s wedding

by fpman

Even though I can very much appreciate George Clooney’s work as an actor, I just can’t help but sympathize with the way The Business Woman’s Amanda Rose accounts of his getting married. Namely that the news for her, unlike for a major part of the world’s media, is not that he married someone but that British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin – the newly-wed wife in the story – married someone.

Here are some pictures of the event, from Venice.

And here you can watch Amal Alamuddin in action earlier this year, as the lawyer who had once represented Yulia Timoshenko of Ukraine in a trial (many would say it was a political trial) that saw Timoshenko jailed – to be freed once former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was swept out of power in Ukraine, in February. In the video, Amal is talking to the BBC discussing Timoshenko’s release.

AmalAlamuddinAmal Alamuddin in action somewhere (pic from Wikipedia)

Rose concludes her piece on Amal’s wedding by saying

“We only hope he doesn’t hold her back from conquering the world.”

Given that both are involved in some ambitious international, or rather global, humanitarian initiatives, our prognosis is that there is likely to be a fair amount of synergy in their efforts.