30 August 2007

AlMansoori joint venture creates largest and most technologically advanced drill pipe facility in abu Dhabi

Innovative leading oilfield services provider AlMansoori Specialized Engineering (MSE), has signed a joint venture agreement with Hilong Group of Companies of China to establish a drill pipe manufacturing plant and an Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) Finishing Plant in Abu Dhabi.

The joint venture company will be named, AlMansoori Hilong Petroleum Pipe Company and will be located in ICAD-I in Abu Dhabi. The company will manufacture drill pipe with an annual capacity of 18,000 metric tonnes (MT) and an OCTG end finishing plant with a capacity of 50,000 MT, increasing to 100,000 MT within two years. This will be the largest technologically advanced drill pipe and OCTG end finishing plant in the region.

Mr. Abdulla Nasser, Chairman, Mr. Nabil Alalawi, Managing Director and Mr. Adel Baobaid, General Manager (Marketing & Joint Ventures) of AlMansoori Specialized Engineering and Mr. Zhang Jun, Director of Hilong along with his associates, Mr. Su Chen, Mr. Leonard Liu and Capt. Koh Chen Tien.

When complete, the company will specialize in drill pipe manufacturing, internal coating application for drill pipe and OCTG, hardbanding on drilling tools and OCTG finishing. The plant is well equipped with the most effective and high-tech oriented drill pipe assembly line, pipe coating line and OCTG finishing lines. The company will provide high quality products of all API standards and specially customized drilling tools with proprietary internal plastic coating, handbanding and OCTG pipes to customers in the region.

Hilong Group of Companies is a large Chinese conglomerate specializing in the manufacturing of petroleum pipe and petroleum equipment for both their local and international markets. The group is located in Hilong Industrial Park, Baoshan, Shanghai and is now well established as one of the foremost manufacturers and suppliers of drill pipes, OCTG and provider of coating services in China.

Adel Baobaid, director of the new joint venture company, said: "We have enjoyed a successful working relationship with Hilong and are looking forward to bringing together our technical expertise and engineering skills. The newly formed company will save our customers' time, resources and logistics as the drill pipes will be manufactured close to their operational base and need not be sent to the Far East for internal coating, for example.

"The blend of AlMansoori's infrastructure and long and established track record will bring substantial strength and value to the newly born company. We intend to be closer to the customer and the creation of an integrated drill pipe facility in the region will allow us to better serve and meet our customers' needs including a substantial improvement on a long delivery lead time to get their drill pipe supplied. We are looking forward to a very bright and prosperous future for both companies."


AlMansoori Specialized Engineering (MSE)AlMansoori Specialized Engineering (MSE) is the leading regional provider of oilfield services in the Middle East. Established in Abu Dhabi in 1977, the company now has more than 1,000 employees working in 20 countries providing a variety of oilfield services. AlMansoori Specialized Engineering provides the following oilfield services:

Slickline & Completions
Production Testing & Early Production Facilities
Drill Stem Testing
Tubular & Industrial Inspection
Underbalanced Drilling Technology
Cased Hole Logging & Perforating
Tubing - Conveyed Perforating
Mud Engineering & Fluid Filtration
Directional Drilling
Safety & Technical Training
Oilfield Supplies, Trading, & International Agencies
Manpower Supply
Oilfield Rentals

In addition, AlMansoori Specialized Engineering has entered into joint venture associations and licensing arrangements with several internationally recognised companies in order to provide a wider range of services to its clients. It has gained a reputation and the confidence of our valued customers by providing a complete range of products and services in co-operation with our Joint Venture partners and through our principals with whom we have established agency agreements in the different territories covered.

AlMansoori Specialized Engineering and its associated companies have modern, world-class facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technology and backed by well-qualified staff from more than 35 different nationalities to serve the needs of its clients.

AlMansoori Specialized Engineering is proud to be one of the few companies from the region to have an integrated Health, Safety, Environment and Quality management system. For further details visit our website www.almansoori.biz

Will Bush take military strikes at Iran?

By heightening the rhetoric over Iran's nuclear programme, President Bush has left open the possibility that the United States might in due course abandon diplomacy and turn to military might.

In his speech to the American Legion in Nevada, he said Iran's "active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust".

He also said: "We will confront this danger before it is too late."

Mark Fitzpatrick, nuclear analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London said: "There is a real possibility that President Bush will feel compelled not to allow this problem to pass to his successor.

"The effectiveness and consequences of air strikes would have to be calculated, of course, and they might in the end be felt to be a bad idea, but we should take this seriously.

"Iran is at the moment making a show of co-operating with the International Atomic Energy Agency but is still refusing full co-operation and hopes to spin this out to prevent further sanctions. It has not stopped its nuclear programme."-(BBC)

Plesch and Butcher examine "what the military option might involve if it were picked up off the table and put into action" and conclude that based on open source analysis and their own assessments, the US has prepared its military for a "massive" attack against Iran, requiring little contingency planning and without a ground invasion.

The study concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran’s WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.

  • Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion. Attacks focused on WMD facilities would leave Iran too many retaliatory options, leave President Bush open to the charge of using too little force and leave the regime intact.

  • US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.

  • US ground, air and marine forces already in the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan can devastate Iranian forces, the regime and the state at short notice.

  • Some form of low level US and possibly UK military action as well as armed popular resistance appear underway inside the Iranian provinces or ethnic areas of the Azeri, Balujistan, Kurdistan and Khuzestan. Iran was unable to prevent sabotage of its offshore-to-shore crude oil pipelines in 2005.

  • Nuclear weapons are ready, but most unlikely, to be used by the US, the UK and Israel. The human, political and environmental effects would be devastating, while their military value is limited.

  • Israel is determined to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons yet has the conventional military capability only to wound Iran’s WMD programmes.

  • The attitude of the UK is uncertain, with the Brown government and public opinion opposed psychologically to more war, yet, were Brown to support an attack he would probably carry a vote in Parliament. The UK is adamant that Iran must not acquire the bomb.

  • The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.

When asked why the paper seems to indicate a certainty of Iranian WMD, Plesch made clear that "our paper is not, repeat not, about what Iran actually has or not." Yet, he added that "Iran certainly has missiles and probably some chemical capability."

Most significantly, Plesch and Butcher dispute conventional wisdom that any US attack on Iran would be confined to its nuclear sites. Instead, they foresee a "full-spectrum approach," designed to either instigate an overthrow of the government or reduce Iran to the status of "a weak or failed state." Although they acknowledge potential risks and impediments that might deter the Bush administration from carrying out such a massive attack, they also emphasize that the administration's National Security Strategy includes as a major goal the elimination of Iran as a regional power. They suggest, therefore, that:

This wider form of air attack would be the most likely to delay the Iranian nuclear program for a sufficiently long period of time to meet the administration’s current counterproliferation goals. It would also be consistent with the possible goal of employing military action is to overthrow the current Iranian government, since it would severely degrade the capability of the Iranian military (in particular revolutionary guards units and other ultra-loyalists) to keep armed opposition and separatist movements under control. It would also achieve the US objective of neutralizing Iran as a power in the region for many years to come.

However, it is the option that contains the greatest risk of increased global tension and hatred of the United States. The US would have few, if any allies for such a mission beyond Israel (and possibly the UK). Once undertaken, the imperatives for success would be enormous.

Butcher says he does not believe the US would use nuclear weapons, with some exceptions.

"My opinion is that [nuclear weapons] wouldn't be used unless there was definite evidence that Iran has them too or is about to acquire them in a matter of days/weeks," notes Butcher. "However, the Natanz facility has been so hardened that to destroy it MAY require nuclear weapons, and once an attack had started it may simply be a matter of following military logic and doctrine to full extent, which would call for the use of nukes if all other means failed."

Military Strategy

The bulk of the paper is devoted to a detailed analysis of specific military strategies for such an attack, of ongoing attempts to destabilize Iran by inciting its ethnic minorities, and of the considerations surrounding the possible employment of nuclear weapons.

In particular, Plesch and Butcher examine what is known as Global Strike – the capability to project military power from the United States to anywhere in the world, which was announced by STRATCOM as having initial operational capability in December 2005. It is the that capacity that could provide strategic bombers and missiles to devastate Iran on just a few hours notice.

Iran has a weak air force and anti aircraft capability, almost all of it is 20-30 years old and it lacks modern integrated communications. Not only will these forces be rapidly destroyed by US air power, but Iranian ground and air forces will have to fight without protection from air attack.

British military sources stated on condition of anonymity, that "the US military switched its whole focus to Iran" from March 2003. It continued this focus even though it had infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.

Global Strike could be combined with already-existing "regional operational plans for limited war with Iran, such as Oplan 1002-04, for an attack on the western province of Kuzhestan, or Oplan 1019 which deals with preventing Iran from closing the Straits of Hormuz, and therefore keeping open oil lanes vital to the US economy."

The Marines are not all tied down fighting in Iraq. Several Marine forces are assembling in the Gulf, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979 as is indicated in this battle map of Hormuz illustrating an advert for combat training software.

Special Forces units – which are believed to already be operating within Iran – would be available to carry out search-and-destroy missions and incite internal uprisings, while US Army units in both Iraq and Afghanistan could mount air and missile attacks on Iranian forces, which are heavily concentrated along the Iran-Iraq border, as well as protecting their own supply lines within Iraq:

A key assessment in any war with Iran concerns Basra province and the Kuwait border. It is likely that Iran and its sympathizers could take control of population centres and interrupt oil supplies, if it was in their interest to do so. However it is unlikely that they could make any sustained effort against Kuwait or interrupt supply lines north from Kuwait to central Iraq. US firepower is simply too great for any Iranian conventional force.

Experts question the report's conclusions

Former CIA analyst and Deputy Director for Transportation Security, Antiterrorism Assistance Training, and Special Operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, Larry Johnson, does not agree with the report’s findings.

"The report seems to accept without question that US air force and navy bombers could effectively destroy Iran and they seem to ignore the fact that US use of air power in Iraq has failed to destroy all major military, political, economic and transport capabilities," said Johnson late Monday after the embargo on the study had been lifted.

"But at least in their conclusions they still acknowledge that Iran, if attacked, would be able to retaliate. Yet they are vague in terms of detailing the extent of the damage that the Iran is capable of inflicting on the US and fairly assessing what those risks are."

There is also the situation of US soldiers in Iraq and the supply routes that would have to be protected to ensure that US forces had what they needed. Plesch explains that “"firepower is an effective means of securing supply routes during conventional war and in conventional war a higher loss rate is expected."

"However as we say do not assume that the Iraqi Shiia will rally to Tehran – the quietist Shiia tradition favoured by Sistani may regard itself as justified if imploding Iranian power can be argued to reduce US problems in Iraq, not increase them."

John Pike, Director of Global Security, a Washington-based military, intelligence, and security clearinghouse, says that the question of Iraq is the one issue at the center of any questions regarding Iran.

"The situation in Iraq is a wild card, though it may be presumed that Iran would mount attacks on the US at some remove, rather than upsetting the apple-cart in its own front yard," wrote Pike in an email.

Political Considerations

Plesch and Butcher write with concern about the political context within the United States:

This debate is bleeding over into the 2008 Presidential election, with evidence mounting that despite the public unpopularity of the war in Iraq, Iran is emerging as an issue over which Presidential candidates in both major American parties can show their strong national security bona fides. ...

The debate on how to deal with Iran is thus occurring in a political context in the US that is hard for those in Europe or the Middle East to understand. A context that may seem to some to be divorced from reality, but with the US ability to project military power across the globe, the reality of Washington DC is one that matters perhaps above all else. ...

We should not underestimate the Bush administration's ability to convince itself that an "Iran of the regions" will emerge from a post-rubble Iran. So, do not be in the least surprised if the United States attacks Iran. Timing is an open question, but it is hard to find convincing arguments that war will be avoided, or at least ones that are convincing in Washington.

Plesch and Butcher are also interested in the attitudes of the current UK government, which has carefully avoided revealing what its position might be in the case of an attack. They point out, however, "One key caution is that regardless of the realities of Iran’s programme, the British public and elite may simply refuse to participate – almost out of bloody minded revenge for the Iraq deceit."

And they conclude that even "if the attack is 'successful' and the US reasserts its global military dominance and reduces Iran to the status of an oil-rich failed state, then the risks to humanity in general and to the states of the Middle East are grave indeed."-(rawstory)

Anti-Syrian Lebanese MP joins presidential race

BEIRUT -- Anti-Syrian MP Boutros Harb Thursday announced his candidacy for Lebanon's presidency, calling for renewed national dialogue and reconciliation with powerful neighbor Syria.

Harb said he would help end Lebanon's 10-month political paralysis between the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority of Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the opposition, led by the Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

"My candidacy is linked to the consensus between both parties," Harb told a news conference in parliament, where he also called for an "honorable solution" to demands for the disarmament of the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Harb, the first person to officially announce his candidacy, said: "If I am elected president of the republic, I shall open up dialogue at the presidential palace, and I will preside over it."

Lebanon has been politically paralyzed since November, when Hezbollah and its allies pulled their six ministers out of Siniora's cabinet. They are demanding the formation of a government of national unity under which they would have greater power.

Recent efforts by both the Arab League and France to broker a political compromise have come to naught.

Lebanon's president comes from the Maronite Christian community, in line with the sectarian distribution of political powers. The new head of state is due to be elected by parliament between September 25 and November 24, when the mandate of pro-Syrian incumbent Emile Lahoud ends.

A successful vote requires the 128-seat house to muster the necessary quorum of 86 MPs, but this will require a compromise, as Siniora's ruling coalition has just 69 MPs.

The anti-Syrian majority has enough votes in parliament to propose a candidate, but not enough to secure a quorum. In any case, it also has to resolve its own internal divisions.

The Christian community is bitterly divided between those who support the anti-Syrian majority, and followers of general Michel Aoun who has made a controversial alliance with Hezbollah.

This raises the specter of Lebanon ending the year without a head of state - a dangerous vacuum that many fear could further destabilize the country.

Concerning the disarmament of Hezbollah, which is backed by both Syria and Iran, Harb stressed the need to "find an honorable solution."

"We need to consecrate the principle of the state holding a monopoly on arms," he said, "while not disavowing the sacrifices of the Resistance [Hezbollah].

"The capabilities of the Resistance should be placed at the service of the legitimate power."

Harb also called for an "historic reconciliation with Syria," the former power broker that remains influential in Lebanon.

Relations with Damascus soured after the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. That killing and subsequent political murders have been widely blamed on Syria, which firmly denies any connection.

Harb insisted on the "principle of non-interference in domestic affairs, and the opening of embassies by the two countries." Syria has never formally recognized Lebanon.-(AFP)

Russia's Attempt to Redefine Regional Relationships

Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov said Aug. 27 that Russia might consider basing nuclear weapons in Belarus if the United States deployed its missile defense system in Poland. A day later, Surikov backed away from the statement and Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Surikov's comment was purely "theoretical." He went on to say that, from a legal standpoint, there is nothing to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons in any country that agrees to have them.

Russia is engaged in a systematic campaign to both reassert its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and take advantage of U.S. preoccupation in the Middle East in order to redefine regional relationships. The Russians have objected to the U.S. anti-missile shield and are demonstrating that they have options in response to the missiles. These statements were designed to rattle Washington's nerves without actually committing Russia to any course.

As a practical matter, the Russians don't really care about the anti-missile system the United States is building; Moscow retains more than enough nuclear-armed missiles to saturate the missile shield. Nor is the transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus a particularly frightening idea to Washington; whether these missiles are in Russia proper or in Belarus really makes very little difference. This conversation is not about missile defense or nuclear missiles.

It is, rather, about the status of Poland and the Baltic countries -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- which are all part of NATO. The Russians see the extension of NATO to within 80 miles of St. Petersburg as a direct threat to their national interest and security. They see the placement of an anti-missile system in Poland as important because it is a military commitment by Washington to Poland that goes beyond mere formal membership in NATO. If there is a missile defense system there, it must be defended. The more confident Poland is about Washington's commitment to its security against the Russians, the more confident the Baltic countries will be. Russia does not see a confident Poland as in its national interest.

The threat to place missiles in Belarus is of little consequence. However, if missiles are placed there, then other military force can be based there as well. Where missiles go, so do troops. It is the same principle as is at work in Poland. The return of Russian troops to Belarus and the integration of the Belarusian military with that of Russia in some alliance framework is of very great importance. Belarus is a buffer between Russian forces and NATO. If Belarus were prepared to accept Russian troops, then the balance of power in northern Europe would shift a bit. Poland doesn't have to worry about the Russian army right now, and Poland is fairly assertive about its interests. With Russian troops on the Belarusian-Polish border and all along the Baltic frontiers, the real and psychological dynamics would start to shift.

There is little doubt that Belarus would accept the troops. In spite of recent friction over trade and other issues, Belarus is the least reformed country in the former Soviet Union, and it is probably most in favor of recreating some sort of alliance system -- or even something closer. If Russia wanted to position troops there, Belarus would allow it.

In our view, Russia intends to do precisely that. Given President Vladimir Putin's unfolding strategy, the forward deployment of the Russian army in western Belarus makes a great deal of sense. But the Russians want to be very careful about how those forces are deployed. By warning the United States and Poland that there will be consequences for constructing a missile defense system, the Russians can portray their re-entry into Belarus as a response to Polish recklessness.

The Russians are not planning to invade anyone. But they want to make the region very nervous and aware that Russian power is near, while American power is far away and busy with other things. By configuring this move as a response to missile defense systems, they want to create movements in Poland and in the Baltic states that will constrain some of the more self-confident and assertive leaders in the region. In other words, they want to scare the dickens out of the Poles and the Balts, hoping they will become much less confident in the United States and less likely to give Washington a meaningful foothold -- and undermine the national leaders who got these countries into such a mess.

The strategy makes sense, and it might even work. In any event, all this talk about nuclear weapons and missile defenses has much more conventional geopolitical meanings.-(Strat.)

28 August 2007

Lebanese cabinet considers disabling phone network of Hezbollah

Lebanese government was mulling over severing private Hezbollah phone network connections that started in southern Lebanon and ended up in Beirut and its suburbs, local Naharnet news website reported on Tuesday.

"We agreed to draw a plan of action for a peaceful resolution of this issue, but we are serious about resolving it because it is a dangerous matter," Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi was quoted as saying.

Aridi said after a lengthy cabinet session on Monday that the government has formed a committee to draft a report on recent information that Hezbollah had installed its own communication infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

He said initial reports have shown that the Hezbollah communication networks "went beyond (the southern village of) Zawtar Sharqiyeh ... to reach Beirut and the suburbs of Beirut which are outside the security areas of the leadership of the resistance (Hezbollah)."

Aridi said the government was "determined to protect the resistance and the symbols of the resistance from the Israeli enemy but the information that we gathered do not follow this logic." But he did not give further details.

Meanwhile, the daily An Nahar, citing cabinet sources, said Tuesday that the cabinet had instructed Lebanese security forces to perform a "specific task" under which "appropriate measures" would be taken to deal with Hezbollah's move.

The cabinet was considering authorizing a "security and technical team" to sever the phone network connections, according to the report.

23 August 2007

Hizbullah sets up own phone network

Hizbullah has reportedly set up a phone network in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa and is currently extending it to Beirut and the southern suburb.

[Telcommunication minister Marwan] Hamadeh revealed that the installation of underground cables, which run parallel to the state's phone system, had been "discovered by chance and following ample rumors" in the southern town of Zawtar al-Sharqieh in the Nabatiyeh district.

"(The ministry) has discovered by chance that a new telephone network is being created along that of the state in Zawtar al-Sharqieh," Hamadeh said in a radio interview. He said that "technical reports" later showed that the work has expanded to reach Yohmor in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, with another wireless networking being set up between the port city of Tyre and Abbassieh as well as in other regions of the Tyre province.

Hamadeh also uncovered similar works are underway in Beirut and the southern suburbs (Dahiyeh). During a cabinet session on Monday, the ministers discussed what Hamadeh termed a "violation of the Lebanese sovereignty" and called for setting up a ministerial committee to investigate and settle the issue. (Naharnet)

Almost everybody in Lebanon knew that Hizbullah had developed its own communications infrastructure. We hope the timing of the minister's discovery means that there's a decision to start dismantling their mini-state.

The formation of a ministerial committee was condemned by the Zawtar municipality, which described the public announcement by the minister as irresponsible because it makes their village a target for an Israeli attack. The pro-Hizbullah "popular committees coalition" said the government is acting against national security.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has not commented on measures by Hibzullah requiring journalists visiting "Hizbullah areas" to obtain permits from Hizbullah's "media office". Here's a new account by Charles Levinson, who could not obtain a permit and was prevented from entering an allegedly abandoned "Christian village" in the South by a Hizbullah member posing as an "agriculture student".-(beirutbeltway)

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Berri tells Jumblatt: Honored to be Hezbollah's 'Mail Box'

Beirut- House Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday lashed out at rival
Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt for accusing him of
becoming a "mail box" for Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

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"The parliament speaker has the honor to be a mail box for the resistance that he was the first to establish," Berri said in a statement released by his office.The statement said Jumblatt's attack of the "parliament speaker is aimed at forcing him (Berri) to relinquish all positive initiatives and his incessant efforts to unify ranks which you constantly reject."Jumblatt on Wednesday accused Berri of becoming a "mail box for Hassan Nasrallah.""Unfortunately Berri has finished himself with his own hands," Jumblatt said in an interview with the youth supplement of the daily An Nahar.Excerpts of the interview were distributed by the state-run National News Agency (NNA).In 2005 Jumblatt was the leading supporter of Berri to be the speaker of the parliament and lobbied hard for him. Jumblatt lost faith in Berri after the resignation of the Shiite ministers from the cabinet. Jumblatt saw Berri transformed from being the leader of the Amal movement to becoming the rubber stamp of Hezbollah. Berri refused to convene the parliament ever since the Shiite Ministers resigned, despite pressure from several groups.Berri's credibility suffered greatly during his November 2006 trip to Iran. He was asked right after the resignation of the Shiite ministers from the cabinet " if the cabinet was still constitutional " He responded by saying " of course it is " . He later , reportedly after pressure from Syria and Iran , retracted the statement and said the cabinet was unconstitutional .picture: House Speaker Nabih Berri ( R) . Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt ( not shown) accused Berri of becoming a "mail box" for Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (L) .-(Ya libnan)

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من يصف الحريري سابقا بالقواد ويتزعم حملة المطالبة بدمه .. أكبر دجال في الشرق الأوسط

من يصف الحريري سابقا بالقواد ويتزعم حملة المطالبة بدمه .. أكبر دجال في الشرق الأوسط !

شن التلفزيزن الإسرائيلي ، القناة الثانية ، يوم أمس هجوما عنيفا على الزعيم اللبناني وليد جنبلاط وكشف جوانب " غير معروفة " من علاقته برئيس الوزراء اللبناني الراحل رفيق الحريري . وجاء الهجوم في سياق تقرير عام عن الوضع السياسي الراهن في لبنان والأزمة الناشبة منذ عدة أشهر بين الحكومة والمعارضة ، واستعرض خلاله تصريحات جنبلاط الأخيرة وشتائمه للرئيسين السوري واللبناني . وأبرز التقرير بالصوت والصورة تسجيلا توثيقيا لجنبلاط وهو يصف الأول بـ " المجرم الكبير والأهبل الكبير " والثاني بـ " المجرم الصغير والأهبل الصغير " . وقال التقرير إن اللغة التي يستخدمها جنبلاط " لا يمكن لأي رجل سياسة في العالم أن يستخدمها " ، فهي تنم عن شخصية رجل " سافل ومنحط " נלוז ו נבזה استطاع أن يتعلم لغة أبناء الشوارع وفشل في تعلم لغة أبناء الصالونات السياسية " . وأورد التقرير توثيقا يشير إلى أن جنبلاط كان أول من وصف رئيس الوزراء اللبناني رفيق الحريري بـ " القواد הסרסור الذي حول قصره العائلي في قريطم إلى وكر للدعارة בית זונות " . وأشار معلق التقرير إلى أن صراخ جنبلاط من أجل عقد جلسة للبرلمان اللبناني لانتخاب رئيس جديد للبنان " لن تجديه نفعا ، لأن مفتاح القضية موجود في يد حسن نصر الله " الأمين العام لحزب الله . وبث التقرير في السياق مقاطع من تعليق للمعارض الدرزي وئام وهاب ، المعتبر من حلفاء سوريا المقربين جدا ، والذي ذكر أن جنبلاط " بات يحتاج إلى حجر صحي ، فهو أول من تجرأ على شتم رفيق الحريري " . وقال معد التقرير إن مقارنة بين الكلام القذر الذي أطلقه جنبلاط على رفيق الحريري سابقا ، و تزعمه حملة المطالبة بدمه لاحقا ، تبرز أنه " المنافق والدجال الأكبر في الشرق الأوسط ، وربما في العالم " !

نقلاً عن موقع الحقيق

22 August 2007

Analysis : Hezbollah's 'Big Surprise' in the next war

Beirut - On August 14, the anniversary of the end of last summer's Lebanon war, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel of a "big surprise" if it initiated a new conflict in the South.

Analysts immediately began speculating over the nature of the promised surprise. But what is most important to note is that Hezbollah, a year after its last war, is making serious preparations for the next one.

The Litani Line

The most significant development in southern Lebanon since the end of the 2006 war is Hezbollah's construction of a defensive line north of the Litani River. Whereas all territory south of the Litani falls under the jurisdiction of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), territory north of the river is off-limits to UNIFIL.

As soon as the war with Israel ended, wealthy Hezbollah sympathizers began buying up land north of the Litani -- in historically Christian and Druze areas -- at prices well above the market rate. Much of the Christian village of Chbail, for example, has been bought by the Shiite businessman Ali Tajeddine and repopulated with poor Shiites from the south. Another village just south of the Litani has been built entirely from scratch. Such developments have alarmed other Lebanese communities for purely sectarian reasons. But the construction and repopulation of these villages is almost certainly intended to link the traditionally Shiite villages of the western Bekaa Valley with those of southern Lebanon.

Most of this construction is along a new, Iranian-funded road being built along the Litani's northern edge. Constructed by the "Iranian Organization for Sharing in the Building of Lebanon," the road is as large as any in southern Lebanon and features signs every few hundred meters with slogans such as "In the service of the people of Lebanon."

To be sure, there is nothing implicitly wrong with either the resettlement of impoverished Shiites or the development of large public works projects. But these moves mask a static defensive line that Hezbollah intends to use in what it sees as the inevitable sequel to last summer's fight against Israel. Using friendly Shiite-dominated villages as fighting bases was key to Hezbollah's successes last summer. The Litani River valley offers Hezbollah an opportunity to link these villages with other Shiite villages in the Bekaa Valley.

Why the Litani?

From the perspective of a Hezbollah military planner, it is difficult to surmise what strategic objectives Israel might seek to accomplish in the event of another war. Hezbollah is left in the awkward position of trying to answer the question of how Israel might fight without knowing why it would fight.

At the moment, the group seems to think that despite Israel's heavy reliance on airpower in the last war -- with ground forces deployed in only a limited fashion -- the next war would begin with a much larger Israeli ground assault. Any attempt to defend the area south of the Litani would therefore be suicidal. Moreover, the deployment of 12,000 UN peacekeepers and several thousand Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) personnel has made the construction of static defensive lines in southern Lebanon much more difficult than it was before summer 2006. Accordingly, even as Hezbollah continues to train village units south of the Litani in the hope that they could slow an Israeli ground invasion, the group has constructed its main defensive positions to the north, where the terrain favors the defender and where Hezbollah could deny Israeli armor columns easy access to the Bekaa Valley.

Although Hezbollah had ample time to prepare for the last war -- which the group initiated with its decision to kidnap two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006 -- the next clash could result from either a wider regional conflict or an Israeli decision to finish the job begun in 2006. Whether or not there is a real danger of a war initiated by either Israel or Syria matters little for the purpose of understanding Hezbollah's strategy -- at the moment, the group seems convinced that another war is likely.

Another good reason for Hezbollah to build positions north of the Litani is that this approach allows for entrenched positions that can house medium- and long-range missiles. Hezbollah successfully launched large numbers of short-range and largely ineffective katyusha rockets into Israel in 2006, but the Israeli air force had knocked out its longer-range and more potent arsenal just a few days into the fighting.

Israeli planners, for their part, have never understood why Hezbollah felt the need to launch rockets from such advanced positions in the first place. Launching them from the other side of the Litani -- over the heads of UNIFIL and the LAF -- has the advantage of leaving Hezbollah positions unharassed by the initial stages of an Israeli ground invasion. From positions north of the Litani, Hezbollah katyushas could comfortably reach major Israeli population centers vulnerable from firing positions along the border (e.g., the 16,000 people in the town of Kiryat Shimona), while its longer-range missiles could reach more distant potential targets such as Haifa and even Tel Aviv.

All along the Iranian-built route north of the Litani, new roads and trails are springing up where once there were only trees and rocks. Where do these roads go, and what is taking place there? It is difficult to tell because many of them have been designated closed "military areas," patrolled by Hezbollah gunmen. To longtime Lebanon observers, these areas evoke memories of border zones similarly off-limits between 2000 and 2006, used to great effect by Hezbollah as reinforced fighting positions during the summer war.

Nasrallah's Surprise?

Although Hezbollah positions north of the Litani might be the "big surprise" Hassan Nasrallah referred to in his August 14 speech, that hardly seems likely. Observers have been taken aback by how overt much of the construction has been -- very unlike Hezbollah, an organization famous for its secrecy. Perhaps these positions are being constructed as decoys in the same way that others were constructed for this purpose between 2000 and 2006. Or, as some have argued, maybe these construction projects are just a way to keep Hezbollah's gunmen busy while the real fight -- the political one -- takes place to the north, in Beirut. Most likely, though, Hezbollah -- which remains a disciplined fighting force -- is motivated by a genuine sense of urgency, unsure when the next round of fighting will begin and concerned that its pre-2006 defenses would be insufficient against a massed Israeli ground invasion (and too difficult to reconstruct with UNIFIL in the way).

There is speculation that Nasrallah's "surprise" would be the inclusion of antiaircraft capabilities in the next round of fighting, a move Hezbollah hopes would break Israel's air superiority and enable it to fight on a more fluid battlefield. For U.S. observers, however, the source of continued fascination remains Hezbollah's transformation from the world's finest guerrilla army into a force that, in 2006 and today, seems quite comfortable in conventional fighting as well.

Picture: Southern Beirut at the end of the summer war of 2006. Lebanon was left in ruins after that war. Over 1280 Lebanese were killed mainly civilians and over one million were displaced . 110,000 homes were destroyed and the country's infrastructure was ruined. Lebanon's Democratic gathering chief Walid Jumblatt accused Hezbollah chief of inviting Israel to attack Lebanon again.-(yalibnan)

21 August 2007

Lebanese pimp busted for high roller prostitution ring in Cannes

Dozens of young women, including former models and beauty contestants, and their wealthy middle eastern clients were briefly held after a series of police raids on flats and hotels on the Cannes waterfront.

Sixteen alleged ringleaders, including a 43 years old, Italian-based Lebanese model agency boss, have been placed in custody.

Amongst the hotels raided was the Carlton, one of the most select hotels in the world, used by movie stars and film executives during the Cannes film festival each May.

The raids were conducted by officers from the Paris-based Office Central pour la Repression de la Traite des Etres Humains - literally the office for the repression of slavery.

This is an arm of the Police Nationale which deals with elaborate and international prostitution rings.

Police sources said that they believed that the Lebanese model agency boss has been operating a high class prostitution business on the Cote d'Azur since the early summer.

Former beauty contestants and models from the United States, Latin America, Europe and Lebanon had been tempted, or tricked, into selling themselves to wealthy clients from the Middle East.

Meetings were arranged in luxury hotel rooms or aboard yachts moored offshore.

A night spent with one or more young women could cost up to 30,000 Euros ($40,000), a police source told the newspaper, Le Parisien.

Dozens of young women and their clients were arrested in a series of raids on Thursday. All were later released.

Prostitution is not illegal in France.

Pimping, or "proxenetisme", is.

Sixteen suspected organizers of the ring, mostly arrested in flats in Cannes, have been placed under arrest.

They face possible charges of conspiracy to organize a prostitution network.

Police said they had uncovered the ring through telephone taps.

They believe that the Lebanese model agency boss, named only as Elias N., had approached "retired" models and beauty contestants from as far afield as Venezuela and the United States.

They were flown to France and installed in four star hotels on the Cannes waterfront where rooms and suites cost up to 1,000 Euros a night.

The clients of the network were said by Le Parisien to include Middle eastern businessmen and aristocrats.-(yalibnan)

K-Lynn fashion lingerie

BEIRUT - Young Ukrainian models in flimsy lingerie spray champagne at a boisterous crowd of young Lebanese at a swanky beach resort south of Beirut -- barely a year after Israeli bombs were falling nearby.

Drinks in hand, shapely women in skimpy bikinis dance to the latest club song with men smoking Cuban cigars, underlining the image of a wealthy hedonist minority seizing any chance to escape their country's political crisis and uncertain future.

The scene at the Oceana beach resort near Damour seems a world away from Lebanon's sectarian tensions and political standoff symbolized by an opposition protest encampment that has paralyzed downtown Beirut for the past nine months.

The instability has crippled Lebanon's tourist season, but at least some Lebanese are determined to ignore worries about a new civil war or the army's three-month-old battle with Islamist militants at a Palestinian refugee camp in the north.

"We've lived through times with war and bombs. So it doesn't make a difference to us any more. Blood doesn't scare us," said beachgoer Dany Zougheib, a 32-year-old computer expert, recalling the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Trying to recover from that conflict, some upscale resorts are luring customers back with lingerie fashion shows, open-air concerts or international disc jockeys -- Dutch DJ Tiesto drew a rapturous crowd of 15,000 to Edde Sands resort near Byblos in July, with ticket prices ranging from $35 to $75.

Oceana's show on Sunday featured teenage Ukrainian models prancing on stage by the sparkling Mediterranean in everything from shimmery and diamante-encrusted bikinis to lacy underwear.

Their faux chain and faux fur lingerie along with kitsch French maid costumes attracted wolf whistles and furious camera clicking from Lebanese men -- many of them showing off body tattoos and designer boxers beneath their swimming shorts.

"Until three weeks ago, it seemed that people couldn't forget the scars of last year's war. But now Damour is back again," said Fady Saba, Oceana's general manager, referring to the coastal strip about 20 km (13 miles) from Beirut.

"I'm not worried about Lebanese people. They're forcing themselves to have fun because they want to forget. They don't want to know anything about the crisis," he told Reuters.


It certainly seemed so at the weekend in Oceana where Lebanese were dancing non-stop at the pool bar, ordering copious bottles of wine or tanning lazily on private wooden platforms.

Away from the beach resorts, Beirut's bar and club strips on Rue Gemayze and Rue Monot are once again heaving with people and pulsating with music into the early hours at weekends.

Lebanon has always been a favored tourist destination in the Middle East, especially for Gulf Arabs, because of its mild weather, beaches, nightlife and relatively liberal atmosphere.

While tensions between the Western-backed government and Hezbollah-led opposition have scared off most foreigners -- who usually account for up to 40 percent of Oceana's clientele -- some Arab tourists just cannot stay away.

"I've been coming to Lebanon since 1995. It was hellish last year when we had to escape the war via Syria, but here I am again. I wouldn't choose to spend summer anywhere else," said Khaled al-Omari from Kuwait as he basked in the sun.

Young Lebanese were also adamant about making the most of their summer despite a brewing crisis over presidential polls.

"We're worried about the presidential elections, but we're not going to stop living until politicians agree on something," said Mark Khoury, 26, lounging near the poolside bar.-(yahoo)

Psychological War Games With Iran

Geopolitical Diary: Psychological War Games With Iran

U.S. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of forces south of Baghdad, said on Sunday that about 50 members of an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were training Shiite militias in his area of responsibility, which includes the Iran-Iraq border. Lynch said his troops had not captured any Iranians or illegal weapons during two months of patrolling in the area, but was confident in his intelligence about the trainers, promising to go after them as well as their trainees.

It would be surprising to find that there were no Iranians inside Iraq training forces that were friendly to Iran. The Iranians ran covert operations inside Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and throughout the 1990s, when they worked with intensely organized Shia in the south. The Iranians have a deep interest in Iraq, and the probability that they would not be involved in training militias is low. Therefore there are two interesting things in Lynch's statement. The first is the assertion that this is the first unit of its type that has been found. The second, that Lynch has chosen to make a major statement about it now.

Both information and logic tell us that the Iranians have been in Iraq and, given the weapons that have flowed into Iraq from Iran, it is obvious that there is a covert system operating to get them there. It also is unlikely that the Iranians would be sending in weapons without also providing training. Therefore, Lynch's statement could be true only in the technical sense that the United States has intelligence on some special type of training group, perhaps larger than usual. To say that this is the first time U.S. intelligence has spotted Iranians training militias is a little hard to accept.

Which brings us to why he made the claim at this time. Major generals do not get to make statements that are not cleared by higher command. The United States has been playing psychological warfare games with the Iranians, as we pointed out last week, threatening to have the IRGC placed on the list of terrorist organizations. If it can be demonstrated that the IRGC, as opposed to Iranian intelligence, is doing the training, and it can be shown that the militias it is training have engaged in terrorist activities (not hard, given that this is Iraq), the United States now has proof that the IRGC is a terrorist organization. Lynch's statement comes across as justification for this very conclusion.

It is still not clear where the United States is going with this. One reader wrote in saying that the United States is a boa constrictor slowly strangling Iran with these measures. That is an interesting analogy, save that a boa constrictor is incredibly powerful and it crushes small creatures. The United States is not all that powerful right now, and Iran is not a small creature in this context.

Still, what we regarded as an interesting scheme out of Washington without much significance got more interesting. Lynch's statement, which we assume was cleared with Gen. David Petraeus, indicates that this particular maneuver had a broader buy-in than just the National Security Council. Now, what Washington intends to do once it designates the IRGC a terrorist group is not clear. We are still of the firm opinion that a nation losing a war in Iraq and barely holding on in Afghanistan really does not want to start a third war. But the shocking discovery that Iranians are training Shiite militia may well portend unexpected activity.-(stratfor)

The Looming Central Asian Battleground


After 16 years of relative quiescence, Central Asia is about to become a major field of competition between the Russians and the Chinese.


Over the weekend, the Chinese government sealed a series of energy deals with the governments of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Airy promises of cooperation on the windswept Asian steppe are about as common as cold winters, but these deals are different. China's offers are monumental in scope, strategic in nature and backed up by cold, hard cash.

The two most critical projects involve the final phase of an oil pipeline to link China to Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian Sea. Once the line is completed, China will be able to tap multiple oil-producing regions throughout Kazakhstan, and ultimately ship 1.0 million barrels per day into western China. The 2,000-mile project is already two-thirds complete -- and over the weekend, Beijing bellied up to finance the final leg.

The second project would link Turkmenistan to China via a natural gas line. This project has been under discussion for some time, but the Chinese have always been coy in public about the deal's prospects. Now their interest is public and firm. Beijing also has explicitly said it wants the line to transit Uzbekistan, which would link Tashkent's energy and political desires into China's policy.

Taken together, the two projects mark a sea change in the geopolitics of the region. For the past several years, Central Asia has witnessed incessant maneuvering between Russia -- the region's most recent colonial power -- and the United States, which seeks to harness the region's energy potential to Western purposes -- in addition to staking out strategic outposts between Russia, China and the Middle East.

This is a fight that the Russians have more or less won. The region's autocratic governments' one-time friendliness to Washington disintegrated after the United States backed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. (They feared they were next -- and one, Kyrgyzstan, actually was.) Add in that distance prevented the United States from coming to anyone's aid and that all meaningful pre-existing infrastructure from the Soviet period led north to Russia, and Central Asia quickly fell into lockdown.

That is, it would have if not for China. Moscow considers the presence of Central Asia in Russia's tight geopolitical orbit as the one bright spot on its list of ongoing geopolitical realities. As such, Moscow has focused the bulk of its military and economic efforts elsewhere. In contrast, China knows full well that it is working from an institutional, linguistic and infrastructure deficit -- and so has been spending billions to improve its chances.

The reason for the attention is simple. China is forced to import the majority of its energy from abroad. China fears many things, but few frighten it more than the possibility of having its maritime supply routes cut off by hostile powers. China lacks -- and will continue to lack for at least a generation -- the navy to protect its maritime interests and so its only option is to go inland. And that means Central Asia.

This means that, barring a bilateral divide-and-conquer plan in which the two share what they both exclusively need, a Chinese clash with the Russians has moved from the realm of the possible to the inevitable. Russian state natural gas firm Gazprom is currently the sole significant purchaser of Central Asian natural gas exports.

China's plans do not foresee exploiting many fresh sources of natural gas in the region, but simply diverting output from routes Russian to routes Chinese. This development, which could be in place as soon as 2009, would greatly interfere with Russia's strategic policies in a very real, sudden and broad sense.

Given Gazprom's technical limitations, without Central Asian natural gas, Gazprom can meet its export requirements for Europe or it can meet domestic demand -- not both. And considering that cheap energy acts as a panacea for social disruption at home and is a critical arm of strategic policy abroad, the Chinese decision to grab the ring will muck with Russian geostrategy in Europe, Central Asia and even at home.-(stratfor)

The game is on.

16 August 2007

(Wi-Fi) cookies are bad for you: Security of public Wi-Fi fails

Almost all Web-based e-mail and other collaborative services just aren’t safe to use over public Wi-Fi any more, due to a breach described today by a security firm CEO at the Black Hat security conference.

Web 2.0 services, even though the login’s made through SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), are crackable through a simple workaround, announced by Rob Graham, the aforementioned security guru, at the Las Vegas Black Hat conference today. Unlimited access to your accounts only requires an ordinary network sniffer program to read the cookies sent to users by Google Mail, Yahoo, and scores of other sites. That cookie confirms the browser asking for data belongs the person just logging in, but using a copied cookie by a completely different browser makes unrestricted access to your accounts easy.

“If I sniff your Gmail connection and get all your cookies and attach them to my Gmail, I now become you, I clone you,” Graham said during a presentation reported by The Register. “Web 2.0 is now fundamentally broken.”

Any session not totally SSL-secured from beginning to end is crackable. The indefinite duration of many session IDs allows silent access to your accounts years from now, even after passwords change. Therefore, instant messenger services offered by Web 2.0 firms (again, Yahoo comes to mind) which use the same password as e-mail service are also crackable.

The one exception was Google, and only if the customizegoogle firefox extension is set to lock Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs into requiring SSL encryption for their entire sessions.

14 August 2007

The Reluctant Leader

Amid the Mercedes-choked broil of West Beirut—where it’s not unusual to see a beautiful woman in Chanel and plastic-surgery bandages gliding past soldiers in armored trucks—sits a salmon-colored stone mansion. Called Koreitem, it is a monument to pride and paranoia that takes up an entire city block. In here, past bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors, and windows shuttered to foil snipers, lurks Saad Hariri. A 37-year-old former business executive with a fondness for Partagas cigars and vintage roadsters, he is one of Lebanon’s richest men (worth a reported $2.3 billion), head of the country’s ruling party, and a prisoner in his own vast home.

On a moist, sea-scented evening, at around dinnertime, angry crowds have blocked the downtown streets near the city’s Mediterranean port. Amid blazing trash fires, burbling hookahs, and trucks blaring martial music, 100,000 or so protesters have turned the night into an antagonistic carnival. With banners and slogans, they mock Saad Hariri and curse his name. They accuse his family of thievery. They want nothing less than to destroy him and the government his party controls. Already, riots have broken out; shots have been fired. One man has been left dead. There are reports of tires burning on the airport road.

As the crowd outside grows increasingly agitated, Hariri skulks into a greeting room in Koreitem’s fourth-floor offices. Here, his late father once received such dignitaries as former French president Jacques Chirac. There are no dignitaries tonight, only a lone army colonel with a prosthetic hand. The colonel announces that he lost the real one “in service to my country!” The Lebanese army is notoriously ill trained. When pressed for details, the colonel admits he lost it in an accident—while showing recruits how to safely handle a grenade. The sight of Saad shaking the proud colonel’s fake hand and pretending not to notice seems telling.

“If my father were still alive, we wouldn’t have this,” Saad says, collapsing onto a stiff chair in a nearby office, his own hand mysteriously bandaged in a splint. “What has happened here in these two years has been a disaster. Tsunami after tsunami, bombs, terrorism.”

With America’s Iraq policy in shambles, Iran defying ­Western powers by building a bomb, Saudi Arabia looking to erect its own nuclear plant to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the entire Middle East worse for wear thanks in part to American efforts in the region, the last thing the Bush administration wants, the last thing it needs, is to lose Lebanon.

But two years after its vaunted independence revolution drove Syrian troops out of the country—ending a 29-year military occupation—Lebanon is once again in flames and looking like an Afghanistan of foreign-policy bungling. It was supposed to be a model for Arab states; a beacon of democracy; a liberal, modern, and Western-loving government that America could count on. Now there’s this: a powder-keg standoff in the streets. On one side, the freely elected government of Saad Hariri; on the other, the Shiite militant organization Hezbollah and its hyperthyroid followers. With backing from Syria and Iran, Hezbollah­—which serves as Iran’s proxy army and ideological placeholder on the scene—is trying to topple Saad Hariri’s Sunni-dominated and Western-backed administration. If Iran and Syria can’t have Lebanon, they want to mire it in conflict and chaos.

To prevent this, the U.S. has pinned its hopes on Saad Hariri, a businessman’s son with little political know-how. Saad came to power as head of the Future Movement party in 2005, after assassins killed his father, Rafik Hariri, the nation’s former prime minister and a critic of Syria, in a Valentine’s Day bomb blast. The explosion cratered a city street and left 23 people dead. It so outraged the nation, which blamed Syria, that a populist uprising quickly forced Syrian troops to withdraw. Then, in one of the most stage-­managed revolutions ever to play out on TV screens (midwifed by local advertising execs and spin-doctored by U.S. diplomats, who coined the term Cedar Revolution to sell it to Americans who might find its real name, Independence Intifada, off-putting), Saad rode his father’s funeral procession into office. He now holds his father’s old parliamentary seat and effectively controls the sectarian government through his majority party. This fall, if all goes as planned, he could be chosen as Lebanon’s second-youngest prime minister ever.

It is not a job he wanted. Saad Hariri had been living a rewarding life in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, running the family’s $8 billion construction, banking, and telecom group, Saudi Oger. The Hariris are one of the wealthiest families in the Middle East, if not the wealthiest non-oil clan. They are part owners of the $37.5 billion Arab Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the region. Their construction arm, second only to the bin Ladens’, is taking part in a $1.5 billion rebuilding project in downtown Amman, Jordan. Their purchase of Türk Telekom last year for $6.55 billion, spearheaded by Saad, was the biggest private deal in Turkey’s history.

Along the way, the family has also laid claim to some strategic trophy properties, including the 75-story Texas Commerce Tower (now known as the J.P. Morgan Chase Tower) in Houston. Rafik’s name adorns the School of Management building at Boston University, where his eldest son, Bahaa, attended college and now sits on the dean’s advisory council. When Rafik died at the age of 60, he was among the richest politicians on the planet. The fortune he left behind made three of his children the world’s youngest billionaires.

Yet despite their vast wealth and investments across several continents, no real estate is more valuable—or more meaningful—to the Hariris than Lebanon itself. There is loyalty to the homeland, to be sure, as well as Rafik’s legacy. But there is also the $2.5 billion of the nation’s debt the Hariri bank holds (debt Rafik helped run up as prime minister). And there are billions more in development projects, including an $18 billion downtown Beirut rebuilding effort, which could be in jeopardy should Hez­bollah seize power. With its patriarch gone, the family empire is at risk. Without a strong hand to guide Lebanon, the country itself is at risk.

This past year has been the ­bloodiest and most destabilizing for Lebanon since the fratricidal civil war from 1975 to 1990. Yet despite the car bombs, the shootings, and the attacks on United Nations peacekeepers that have beset the country all summer, the coming weeks could pose the darkest challenge to Saad Hariri and his U.S. patrons. On September 25, Lebanon’s parliament is scheduled to elect a replacement for the current Syrian-backed president, Émile Lahoud, a man who openly despised Rafik Hariri and whom Saad considers an accomplice in his father’s death. Political experts expect the Future ­Movement-dominated parliament to elect one of its own to the presidency. With Lahoud out of the way, Western officials expect Saad’s party to choose him as the next prime minister, giving him political stewardship of the entire government. Lahoud, however, has other plans.

In a veiled political threat, Lahoud has suggested he may form a par­allel government. The result could be a constitutional meltdown, if not civil war. The potential fallout is made more perilous by a U.N. report that new weapons are flowing across the Syrian border into the hands of Hezbollah, as well as to Islamic militants living in the country’s Palestinian refugee camps, whom the army has been battling since May in the deadliest challenge to the country since the civil war.

This means that Saad is under great pressure to deliver. The pressure is coming not just from the White House but from his own family. Saad must succeed amid rumors that his stepmother, Nazek—who holds court in a gilded Paris mansion that once belonged to Gustave Eiffel and heads the family’s powerful charity foundation—is not happy with his handling of the crisis. “She herself has political ambitions,” says a Western official. Saad must succeed as his older brother, Bahaa, a 41-year-old financier, expresses his own political ambitions in the Lebanese press. But most crucially, Saad must succeed under constant threat to his own life.

Since his father died, bombs or bullets have claimed the lives of seven of Saad’s anti-Syrian political allies. The murders are part of a deadly chess game; with each parliamentarian killed, Saad comes closer to losing his majority control. (Five more dead and it’s over for his group.) The most attractive targets are members of the Hariri-controlled cabinet. Almost two weeks before we first meet, on the eve of last December’s demonstrations, Saad’s closest friend, Pierre Gemayel, a 34-year-old cabinet minister who was expected to become the next president, was gunned down on a Beirut street in broad daylight. In this macabre standoff, Saad’s death could lead to a dire endgame and turn Lebanon into a black hole of conflict.

“This was not a choice,” Saad tells me, gesturing to the darkened windows, the advisers who reek of cigarette smoke, and beyond to the guards brandishing assault rifles in the street, protecting the entrance to his refuge. He tears the Velcro off his splint, flexing his swollen fingers. Then, just as gingerly, he wraps it back in place. “One has no choice in such situations,” he goes on. “The call that we had, as a family, we just had to do it. It’s a burden, a responsibility.” When I ask what happened to his hand, he reveals a streak of dark humor. “When Pierre died,” he says, studying the hand for a moment, then looking up with a smirk, “I punched a door.”

It’s not easy to get into Koreitem or to gain an audience with Saad Hariri. He rarely grants interviews. Unlike his father, who built a media empire of radio and TV stations and newspapers, and cultivated journalists and enjoyed their gossip at local cafés, Saad prefers to issue statements. And when he does, it’s usually in front of a nest of cameras feeding to the family-owned Future TV network. And it’s usual to vent at Syria.

Saad is an awkward public speaker. He comes off as stiff, artless, flat. During a visit to the White House following his father’s death and at a round of meetings with important Lebanese Americans around Washington, he struck many as in over his head. “It was hard to see him and not feel sympathy for him,” says Julia Choucair, who met Saad on that trip while she was an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He doesn’t have much political presence. You either have it or you don’t.”

Saad’s friends, and even dispassionate local journalists, swear he’s better one-on-one, that he’s intelligent and warm, cultured, even funny. But when we first sit down together, the paunchy man slumped in a chair, absently stroking his goatee, sullenly windmilling a black Italian loafer, just seems out of it.

The months following his father’s death—while emotionally draining for his family—were politically promising. Saad, a married father of three young children, stood arm in arm with his brothers, addressing adoring crowds of supporters. Then came last summer’s war, instigated by Hezbollah but made worse by Israel. The U.S. ignored public pleas from Lebanon to stop the Israeli assault, which laid waste to large swaths of the country, crippling the Beirut airport and blockading the nation’s ports.

Emboldened by its moral victory over Israel, Hezbollah and its opposition allies—prodded by Iran—demanded more seats in the ruling party’s cabinet, which would have effectively given the group veto power. When Saad’s bloc refused, Hezbollah withdrew from the government. Then it marched on Beirut in an attempt to bring down the government. The Hezbollah demonstration, in its sixth day when Saad and I meet, will drag on for months, paralyzing the state.

“When I was a businessman, things were straightforward,” Saad begins. He stares across the room as he speaks, focusing on a sofa-size portrait of his father. The mansion, which Rafik had built around an old stone villa, is filled with similar images, propped atop wooden easels and surrounded by funereal sprays of carnations. Everything inside is quiet. In a nearby room, men silently watch Leonardo DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask with the sound turned down.

“In business, you have only yourself to rely on,” says Saad. “There’s much more freedom to make decisions on new strategies or new ventures. Nobody is guessing your agenda. But now you’re living in the world of politics. You’re dealing with affairs nobody can agree on.” He stops and laughs. “It’s a far more complicated process,” he says. “It’s a puzzle. And you have to fit all the pieces in the right place.”

Lebanese politics is a down and dirty business, dominated by religious and ethnic allegiances, petty concerns, blood feuds, and personal agendas. No one managed it better than Rafik Hariri, who marshaled a powerful will, personal charm, negotiating savvy, and suitcases stuffed with cash to get things done. He paid off adversaries and those seeking a handout to halt violence and get his legislation approved. He single-­handedly rebuilt Beirut following Lebanon’s civil war, restoring the nation’s pride and some of its lost luster. (He clearly relished his role as savior, telling Jamil Mroue, publisher of the English-language Daily Star, “This work is more satisfying than sex.”) But the rebirth came with a price.

Part of the anger and suspicion in the streets is aimed at the corruption of “Hariri Inc.” Saad has not only inherited this anger; he’s inherited a government rife with patronage and cronyism. To appreciate this legacy, you must understand how Rafik Hariri ruled Lebanon.

The son of a Lebanese orange farmer, Rafik went to Saudi Arabia in the late 1960s to make his fortune in the oil-soaked construction boom. He struck gold when he and a business partner landed a contract with the Saudi royal family. By 1982, he had done $10 billion worth of work as a favored vendor of the Saudi king, building bridges, palaces, compounds, and the nation’s Prince Sultan Air Base, becoming one of the richest men in the world. “Rafik was lucky, in the right place at the right time,” says Marwan Iskandar, a Lebanese economist and friend of Rafik’s. “He always said it could have been someone else.”

As Rafik amassed his fortune, his homeland burned. The civil war that erupted in 1975, between Christians and Muslims, was ravaging Beirut’s center, where Ottoman-era mansions, cafés, and souks had become a wasteland of snipers and wild dogs. Rafik used his wealth and political ties to stop the war and make plans to rebuild. First, as King Fahd’s envoy, he used Saudi backing and cash to broker cease-fires. He was rumored to have given money to opposing militias, prompting accusations that he helped destroy Lebanon to rebuild it.

Syria had sent 7,500 troops into Beirut in 1987 to halt the fighting and then decided to stay put. Lebanon had formerly been a Syrian territory until the French took it over after World War I and ruled until Lebanon’s independence in 1943. The Syrians, who have never accepted an independent Lebanon, wound up running its smaller neighbor like a mob syndicate, with a network of spies, army officers, and politicians all funneling graft back to their masters. If Rafik Hariri wanted to play, he had to play Syria’s game.

By 1989, Rafik—working with the Saudis—had helped arrange a lasting peace among the various militias. But the deal he cooked up also formalized Syria’s role in restoring stability to the shattered nation. Three years later, after much lobbying from Rafik, he became prime minister, with Syria’s blessing. Family members were worried. They did not want him involved in Lebanon’s fractious politics. “We were against it, as a family,” Saad says. “We all tried to talk him out of becoming prime minister. It was a danger. We see how things turned out.”

Rafik quickly began mixing his politics with his money. Prior to the civil war, Beirut—with its deep port and one of the longest commercial airstrips in the region at the time—had been a center of banking and trade, as well as a tourist destination for the entire region and much of the Francophone world. The 1970s jet set had dubbed it the Paris of the Middle East, both for its picturesque mix of colonial and Arab architecture and for its lax French-inspired mores. But the war wiped all that out and took Lebanon’s economy with it. Rafik’s dream was to tap into the growing global market created by free-flowing capital, financial service centers, and oil-rich sheiks looking to escape the burkas and the booze-free zones of their desert kingdoms. “My father believed in Lebanon,” Saad says. “He believed in the people. He believed they deserved to rebuild their country.”

Rafik Hariri created a reconstruction company called Solidere, seized all land in the bombed-out city center, and managed the rebuilding effort. The redevelopment would cover 472 acres and cost $18 billion. (Rafik would later be accused of bribing 40 parliament members with up to $100,000 each or interest-free loans from his bank of up to $1 million, in return for their passing the law that approved the new plan. Rafik always denied it, and no charges were ever filed.) Rafik then appointed men from his own companies to run the firm.

When Solidere went public in 1994, it raised $650 million from investors. Rafik bought in for $180 million, close to the 10 percent ownership cap, becoming its largest stockholder. To supporters, he was putting his money where his mouth was. But to critics, such involvement was a blatant conflict of interest; they felt that Rafik was treating the prime minister’s post as his own private real estate office. “Hariri was not a leader of Lebanon,” says Mroue, who as publisher of the Daily Star chronicled Rafik’s rise. “He was chairman of the board.”

But trouble was brewing between Rafik and the Syrians, who would come to feel their onetime vassal had become too powerful, with too many influential friends. In the immediate aftermath of post-Saddam Iraq, Rafik’s ties to the West seemed suspect. “If you want to understand what happened to Hariri, think The Godfather,” a Lebanese journalist says. “Two gangsters get into a fight over turf. One loses. Now his son is in the middle.”

No one expected Saad Hariri to succeed his father in politics. Before he arrived on the scene, few people in Lebanon even knew him. He had spent much of his adult life in Saudi Arabia. (The Saudi goatee he still wears is a reminder to many that he is an outsider.) Unlike his father, Saad grew up privileged and connected; he had bodyguards, flew on private jets, socialized with Saudi princes. But Rafik, a devout Muslim, had schooled his children on modesty.

“My father was against what you’d call the capriciousness of the rich,” says Saad’s half brother Fahed, a 26-year-old architect. Fahed, who inherited $2.3 billion, discusses the family with me one January afternoon in his Paris apartment. It is a big place, stuffed with Nan Goldin photos (still crated), guarded by a couch-jumping Italian greyhound, and overlooking the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette lost her head. “This is something the whole family learned in Saudi Arabia,” he says, “this nobility they have. We could have taken a car to a nightclub and done the whole flashy thing. My sister, Hind, could have been Paris Hilton. But our father was respected and admired by everyone. Why would we seek that?”

After Saad graduated from Georgetown University in 1992 with a bachelor’s in international business, Rafik put him to work learning the ins and outs of business at Oger. He supervised construction sites, and as a maintenance contractor for the Saudi royal palaces, he was on call night and day. But by the time he became general manager, he was eager to prove himself and diversify beyond rebar and poured concrete. He began spending billions of dollars of his father’s money buying up cell-phone licenses, partnering with big boys like Virgin Mobile and Qualcomm in such places as South Africa, Pakistan, and Romania.

“It took my father a bit of time, because my father was a very down-to-earth man,” Fahed says. “He liked buildings, things you could see. ‘Money is here; why would it be over there?’ Telecom seemed like a wild gamble. Saad convinced him. He pushed Oger.”

Saad was negotiating his crowning business achievement, the purchase of Türk Telekom, when assassins killed his father. In the days that followed, it was not Saad, but Bahaa, who took charge of the family’s affairs and became the face of its grief. Bahaa addressed the angry crowds looking for answers to the murder and political solutions to the Syrian occupation. But it was not Bahaa who became the chosen heir. “My brother wanted to go back to his private life,” Saad told me in Beirut, then jokingly added, “He is the older brother, so he pushed me: ‘Listen,  you go and take that job.’ ” But when I pressed him about rumors that he himself orchestrated his ascent, he turned serious: “I hear people say that I pushed myself on somebody’s shoulders to make myself the leader. You don’t take that seriously. Some people speak of a political dynasty, but it is not like that.”

The family says it collectively agreed that Saad should be the one to assume his father’s mantle. But according to Western officials and people in Saad’s party, the Saudis did the pushing. The royal family has long kept a strong hand in Lebanese affairs, and being Sunni Muslims, as are the Hariris, the Saudis have a strategic interest in keeping the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah allies at bay. They already knew Saad from his work in Riyadh and preferred his deferential style over Bahaa’s unpredictable temper. “Bahaa has a very strong personality,” Fahed says. “In Chinese astrology, he is horse and fire, which is very rare and strong. I love him for this because he is straight and direct. Saad is a different kind of intelligence. We can say he’s more diplomatic than Bahaa.”

Whatever diplomatic skills Saad Hariri may possess seem outmatched during that first week of last December. The Shiites from the hardscrabble south, an area that Rafik’s vision of rebirth largely overlooked, have surrounded the Grand Serail, the prime minister’s headquarters, where Fouad Siniora, whom Saad’s family had picked for the job, is holed up like a prisoner. Thousands of protesters are pressed close to rolls of concertina wire, watched over by nervous soldiers. There is a real danger they could surge and storm the building. Unable to cool things down, Saad, blockaded in Koreitem, instead finds himself ratcheting up the tension, engaging in televised mudslinging with Hezbollah’s eloquent and fiery media-savvy leader, Hassan Nasrallah. The nation, already tense, seems to teeter at the edge of the abyss.

“Were it his father, he would have done things differently,” Ghazi Youssef, an economics professor and former adviser to Rafik (and now a parliament member on Saad’s ticket) says over coffee at Koreitem, as the clash unfolds that winter day. “He would have calmed things down. The father would have picked up the phone and said, ‘What are you doing? This is crazy. We should not do this. We should do that.’ It would have all been done behind closed doors.”

But there is also a shrewd political calculation behind Saad’s outbursts. As the power broker for all Sunnis in Lebanon, Saad must make sure Shiites don’t infringe on his base’s interests.So when Hezbollah pinned Siniora behind barbed wire, it was understood as a threat to Sunni power, not just to the government. Saad made sure Sunnis rose up in their strongholds at Sidon and Tripoli, staging massive rallies that were broadcast on his Future TV.

Saad has been willing to play that sectarian card in a way his allies consider risky. He has been accused of funding Al Qaeda-inspired Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. A close adviser told me that doing so was a necessary evil. But less than 24 hours after the adviser’s admission, in early May, one such group attacked the army. Saad’s Western patrons say they’re worried about such ties. “We’re not particularly comfortable with some of his relationships,” a Western official tells me just days before the fighting breaks out. But the U.S. is also playing a similar game in the region, backing Sunni militants as a way to counter Iran. After all, the U.S. may very much like—and need—Saad’s combative friends.

It may be unfair to judge Saad against his statesmanlike father. But he has made some bad calls. Worried about his safety, he left Lebanon for six months after the 2005 elections. At times, he was holed up in a $4,000-a-night suite at the Plaza Athénée in Paris, a rococo affair done up in reds and golds, with views of the Eiffel Tower. “His security people have total control over him,” says a family intimate. “His security has become so important that it overshadows everything in his life.”

Then, during last summer’s war—as Nasrallah gave orders from a bunker and Siniora managed the crisis from the Grand Serail—Saad hit the road again. He said he was traveling to promote “diplomatic resistance,” using his family ties with such people as Chirac to pressure Israel. “It was a mistake,” says a Western observer who was in Lebanon during the war. “Given the displacement of people, the bombardment, he should have been here.” The absences hurt his street credibility, as does his inability to stop the ongoing standoff.

Saad has also had to fend off skirmishes within his own circle. Political observers in Lebanon, Western officials, and members of his party say that from the start, he easily fell prey to his father’s warring former advisers, each jockeying for influence. “Hariri ran the store, and everyone else was—I’m not going to say a puppet, but they were accessories,” says Mroue, the Daily Star publisher. “Rafik pulled the levers of state. Now the levers are trying to move themselves, and it’s a mess.”

One of the biggest internal threats has come from the man the Hariris themselves chose to succeed Rafik in the top office. While Saad is head of the parliamentary majority, Fouad Siniora—who had served as his father’s finance minister—heads the government as prime minister. Saad could have taken the job for himself, as many had expected him to do, but he wisely deferred to Siniora. “I wasn’t ready,” Saad tells me. Instead, the Hariris anointed Siniora as a caretaker prime minister who would lead until Saad could mature politically.

But after last summer’s war, Siniora’s rise in stature—from backroom technocrat to battle-tested leader who now has Condoleezza Rice’s ear—irked Saad. “Saad was very insecure about his relationship to ­Siniora,” says one Western analyst in Beirut. “And the family started feeling that ­Siniora had usurped the role that belonged to a Hariri and that he had forgotten who put him there. And for his part, Siniora felt that Saad was treating him as a paid hand.” But over the past year, Saad has come to appreciate Siniora and their separation of roles, and the value in having an internationally recognized prime minister who doesn’t have to give in to political wrangling the way Saad must.
“I really think that Saad has grown into the job very credibly,” says Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, who cautions against simplistic criticism of Saad. “I think he’s done better than most people thrust into that position could have done. There’s a lot of things to criticize. He has had to learn on the job. And I think he has.”

In January, Saad finally achieved a major political victory, the first real success of his short tenure. Thanks to Chirac and Saad’s lobbying of the White House, the U.S. agreed to give Lebanon $770 million as part of a $7.6 billion ­international-aid package. The money is meant to help the country rebuild following last summer’s war, bolster its military, and offset Lebanon’s $41 billion in public debt. (Per capita, that makes this tiny nation of 4 million the most debt-ridden on the planet.) The aid package requires the Lebanese government and parliament to weed out corruption, privatize the $6 billion telecom sector, and create an independent judiciary. “We need to make the government more clean,” Saad tells me. “We need to reform the laws to make companies feel at ease doing business here. We want to be a free market and a clean market.”

Saad and his party, however, had promised those things early on, even before the 2006 war and the deadlock with Hezbollah. As a result, say experts, they squandered their early political capital. The personal losses could also pile up. The Hariris’ stake in Solidere—the reconstruction entity Rafik established to rebuild the old city center—has already netted the family millions of dollars in profit. That stake could be worth hundreds of millions more if the entire revitalization zone is ever fully developed. If they lose control of the government, the project would almost surely stagnate.

“In terms of financial power, Saad has that,” the Daily Star’s Mroue says. “Is he going to use that in Lebanon? We know that Saad hasn’t exhibited the passion. The reason that Rafik was successful is that he had the passion for politics. Every kid dreams of Santa Claus. But every Lebanese kid dreams of being Rafik Hariri, of saying, ‘I want to strike gold; I want to come back; I want to own five airplanes; I want to have an entourage of 200 people. I want to create a movement that has offices across the nation, in every village, and be able to pay lavishly for it.’ ”

As winter turns to spring in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s followers tire of their tent city and go home to the south. They leave behind their tents and a few bored acolytes, who still manage to draw a couple hundred faithful on weekends, but nothing compared with the frenzied crowds of last December.

Overall, there seems to be a sense of relief in those early weeks of May. Saad is on the verge of a second political victory; the U.N. Security Council is just days away from approving the special court that will try his father’s killers. The upcoming presidential election, if scuttled, is the only thing that can halt the momentum now. “My belief is that the Syrians will try to stop this election,” Saad says. “They want a constitutional void. First of all, because they want to cripple the tribunal in the murder of my father.”

We are once again inside the fortified confines of Koreitem, but this time there are fewer guards and less tension, and Saad appears upbeat and confident. In fact, he appears just as friends describe him: warm, open, and slyly comical. He has asked our photographer if he should put on a tie for a photo shoot. His advisers all nod eagerly. (Saad has managed to jettison or marginalize those among his father’s former advisers whom he doesn’t like. In fact, one Western official says, “There’s a courtesan atmosphere in that house, where everyone tells Saad how wonderful he is and how terrible everyone else is.”) When he returns with a silk tie, he shoves it against his neck, mugging in a preening manner that makes everyone laugh.

Realizing his earlier missteps, Saad has been spending much of his time in Lebanon. But he still manages to jet between international capitals, conferring with the Saudis, courting the Russians, seeking Security Council support in Africa, visiting his old friend Chirac (who, after retiring, moved into a Hariri-family-owned Paris apartment), or spending long weekends with his wife and three children in Riyadh.

Feeling safer, Saad has even managed to slip out to impromptu public lunches, including a recent one in the Beirut neighborhood of Verdun, a mall-saturated zone of fashionistas and young supporters, where he received a standing ovation. “But my wife scolded me,” he says to me during my visit in May. It’s little wonder she did, since 48 hours after that meeting, the Palestinian camps explode and a bomb goes off in Verdun, plunging Lebanon into another bloody summer.

Though Saad is hardly in control of his country, his assertion when we first met last December that he is trying to learn on the job at least seems to bear out. With this newest bit of chaos and bloodshed, Saad shows himself to be, of necessity, politically agile and decisive. First, he publicly backs the army against the Sunni radicals. Then, he uses his own money—and plane—to fly in bulletproof vests for the Lebanese army. When President Bush called him from aboard Air Force One, Saad asked him to expedite the assistance program to the Lebanese army and add more weapons and ammo. Bush promised he would.

Saad uses his Future TV network to keep his Sunni constituency, many of whom sympathize with the extremists, on the army’s side. Hezbollah’s Nasrallah seems momentarily neutered; after he publicly warned the army not to go after the extremists inside the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, calling a potential invasion of the camp a “red line” that must not be crossed, the army disregarded his warning and went into the camp anyway. It’s remarkable: The Sunnis have always viewed the Christian-dominated military as suspect. But here is Saad—a Sunni—backing the Christian-led army against a Sunni foe.

For a moment, Saad almost looks like a national leader. But really, he is very much an old-school clannish chief. And he can’t be a national leader until he fixes the problem with Nasrallah.

When I ask about Hezbollah’s gridlock protest, Saad says he is looking for a compromise that will allow Hezbollah supporters to leave “with a face-­saving way out.” In truth, Saad’s coalition cannot govern without Hezbollah. Nor can Hez-bollah govern without Saad’s Sunnis. In this power-sharing society, they’re stuck with each other.

But in his approach to Hezbollah these days, Saad seems to have taken on a new persona. He no longer waffles over Hezbollah’s demands that it be allowed to keep its arms as a hedge against Israel. “Nobody can give this guarantee,” Saad tells me firmly when I ask about Hezbollah’s being allowed to keep its weapons. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has amassed an enormous stockpile of new rockets and says it has the ability to hit anywhere inside Israel. Each side has accused the other of being a tool of larger regional players, which both clearly are. Saad seems solidly focused on his primary enemies next door, Syria and Iran.

“Hezbollah takes an action like this, and yet there is a country”—Iran—“that is streaming all these weapons and all this money to Hezbollah and nothing happens to them,” Saad says. “We don’t want a war with Hezbollah and Syria. But we want everyone to be responsible for their own actions. Lebanon should not be a battlefield for Israel against Iran. Or Syria against Israel. Or Iran against Israel. Or anyone for that matter.”

As for his old life, Saad says he misses using the business part of his brain. He has now handed over the reins of Oger to his half brother Ayman, who had been living in Washington, D.C., and running a Maryland-based software firm when he was called back home after his father died. Saad is now playing the role Rafik once played with him, that of mentor. “Saad is the one who carried Oger for 12 years while my father was in office,” Fahed had told me in Paris. “He is still on the board, and he still makes major decisions. The final decision is in his hands. You can say he is like the Godfather.”

When I repeat the analogy to Saad, he laughs. “Maybe mentor is a better word,” he says, “although Godfather is not bad. It is my favorite movie.” He then turns wistful, philosophical. “One thing I keep saying to my brothers is that, beforehand, we had our father and we were living as a family,” he says. We are upstairs now, in his father’s old offices, a place Saad had not opened to outsiders in two years. A red rose and a photo of Rafik decorate every chair that Rafik used during meetings. It is disturbingly intimate. A dozen advisers and bodyguards hang back in the posture of penitents.

“Things are different today,” Saad continues. “Today we are still a family, but my brothers and I are also partners. So this is something new. So now we have to get used to us being partners in addition to being a family. And I believe we have done so very well.”

One decision Saad has not addressed is his next move. Family members very much want a Hariri in the role of prime minister. According to Western officials who know the family, it would be unwise to let ­Siniora keep that job beyond the September elections. “I think at that point, the family would start worrying that Siniora has become a juggernaut,” an official says. “I think Saad will end up taking the job.”

When I ask Saad if he’ll take the position, he considers for a moment and then offers a typically Arab answer: “If it’s something I have to do one day, I’ll do it. But if I don’t have to, I won’t.” He pauses and adds, “I will not turn it down if it is asked of me.”.-(portfolio)

INDICATORS - Lebanon - Updated Aug 14

 BEIRUT, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Below is a table of the latest Lebanese economic statistics. Figures are provided by the central bank, finance ministry and ratings agencies.

-----------------------LEBANESE POUND----------------------

EXCHANGE RATE BETWEEN BANKS - 1,507.5 pounds to the dollar

-----------------------KEY INTEREST RATES------------------

T-bill weekly rates
(Aug 9 auction)
Term Discount Yield
(percent) (percent)
12 months 7.19 7.75

Coupon interest rate
24 months 8.50
36 months 9.32

Central bank CD rates (percent)
45 days....04.40
60 days....04.89
182 days...-----
364 days...-----

-------------------ECONOMIC INDICATORS----------------------
(All figures US $ million unless otherwise stated)
Balance of payments
Monthly Nov 06 June 06 April 06 March 06 Feb 06
               +18.8     +758.8   +309.5      -38.1    +497.6
To Nov 2006 +2,963.7
Total 2005 +747.2
Total 2004 +168.5
Total 2003 +3,386
Total 2002 +1,564
Total 2001 -1,169
Total 2000 -289.1

Merchandise trade
                                   Nov 06      June 06      Apr 06      Mar 06      Feb 06
Monthly Imports     983.6        877.6           848.9        939.7          767.7
Monthly Exports     221.1         269.4         230.4         205.6         167.4
Trade Balance         -762.5       -608.2       -618.5       -734.1        -576.2

Gross foreign currency reserves (billions of U.S. dollars)
July 07     Jun 07     May 07     April 07     March 07     Feb 07     Jan 07
12.89        12.60       12.56        12.79           12.56            13.07        13.05

Dollarisation (proportion of dollar
deposits out of
total deposits at commercial banks)

June 06    May 06    April 06    March 06    Feb 06    Jan 06    June 05
72.8%          72.7%      72.62%      72.6%         72.3%      72.5%     74.51%

Net public debt
                                    June 06    May 06    April 06    March 06     June 05

Foreign debt ($bln) 19.879       19.93        20             19.28            18.30
Net domestic debt    23.67        23.23       23.02        24.14            22.59
(Lebanese pounds, trillions)

Money supply (Lebanese pounds billions)
          Jan 07    Dec 06    Nov 06    Oct 06 Dec 05
- M1 3,167       3,322      3,348        3,246    2,952
- M2 23,219    23,477    24,176      24,615   24,464
- M3 80,192   80,244    79,536     78,893    74,446
- M4 84,740   84,545    83,728     83,438    77,777

(M1 = currency in circulation plus demand deposits, M2 = M1 plus other deposits in Lebanese pounds, M3 = M2 plus foreign currency deposits, M4 = M3 plus treasury bills held by the non-banking system)

Coincident indicator

Nov 06     Oct 06    Sept 06    Aug 06     July 06     June 06     Nov 05

180.8        163.7       157.1        119.8         141.3        191.6          173.9

(100 = January 1993)

Budget deficit (in billions of Lebanese pounds)

                       Sept 06       Aug 06       June 06       May 06     Sept 05
Expenditure 1,040.404  1,168.228   853.729       767.854    813.932
Revenue       354.433      343.736      390.293      851.538    497.207
Deficit           -685.971     -824.492   -463.436     83.684      -316.725
Deficit %      -65.93         -70.58        -54.28         +10.9        -38.91

Year-to-date% Pvs full year%
                 -36              -27.42
T-bill weekly subscriptions (in billions of pounds)
(Aug 9 auction)

Term Yields (pct) Face Value Purchase Value
3 months 5.22           17.874            17.645
6 months 7.24             331.923        320.339
Subscriptions over maturities: -63.729

---------------LONG TERM CREDIT RATINGS----------------
Rating Outlook
Standard & Poor's B minus negative
Fitch B minus (foreign and local debt) stable
Moody's B3 (foreign) B3 (local) stable

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.