Friday, January 11, 2008

Moussa: explaining what is crystal clear

Arab League secretary Amr Moussa is back in Lebanon to explain present the proposal that was reached during the League's meeting in Cairo. As described earlier, this guy is one beacon of optimism. His glass is never half full, it's always pouring over. In his world, there are no problems or issues, only agenda items and solutions.

His arrival back in Lebanon was indicative of his great belief in humanity. As Naharnet reported: When told that the feuding factions in Lebanon have conflicting interpretations of the initiative, Moussa replied: "let's not get into small issues through which Lebanon can be lost."

Ah yes, the "small issues" that keep the Lebanese politicians occupied these days. We have March14 saying that they will never ever give a blocking vote to the minority (Jumblatt to Iranian TV: "only over my dead body"). And we have March8 saying that the veto vote is an unalienable and even constitutional right of the Opposition...ayyup, small issues indeed.

Then there is the thing of Moussa's purpose: is he in Lebanon to explain the Cairo proposal or to discuss it? As far as Moussa is concerned, it can't be the former since the proposal is 'crystal clear'. So that leaves the room to discussion. But if the proposal is already crystal clear, then what is left to discuss?

To understand this, one has to consider the premium people put on face to face meetings in this part of the world. The first thing a foreigner learns is that nothing, I repeat nothing, can be done over the phone or by e-mail.

No matter how unimportant the issue is, you will always have to meet in person, have coffee (first, politely decline, then upon insisting of the host, reluctantly accept), have some more coffee (again, first polity decline…) in order to arrange for things.

The half an hour or so during which you enjoy your cups of coffee should not go unused by the way: now is a good opportunity to ask about his wife, his mother, his father, his eldest son, his younger two daughters and his youngest son, ask why he has only four kids (make sure to get that accusatory tone right!), his cousin, his other cousin…well, you get the drift.

It is no stretch of the imagination to say in the Arab world. In this light, Moussa’s trip to Lebanon makes perfect sense. Of course, the Cairo proposal is crystal clear, but that doesn’t mean anything without personal meetings. Hence, poor Amr is making the rounds, meeting again with all the parties concerned to explain what was already crystal clear to begin with.

The Lebanese parties seem to be using these consultations as another round of negotiations. The outcome is yet unclear, but the first signals are not very hopeful. Amr Moussa is already mentioning that there are still "a few number of obstacles". This is him saying things are in total deadlock here. Let’s see if the twelfth parliamentary session to elect the new president, scheduled for tomorrow, will take place or that it will be postponed once again.


Anonymous said...

"Things take time in the Arab world"...well said!