Across the Bay

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Counterattack

The pro-Syrian government and its cronies have made a move: a loyalist demonstration (that naturally features the pitbull Nasser Qandil, the most insufferable pro-Syrian figure that the Syrians save for precisely these kinds of provocative moves) to coincide with a planned opposition sit-in, and a security dragnet around the parliament to prevent the sit-in aimed at demanding the vote of no confidence for the current government.

Needless to say, I would watch for provocations and violent instigations. This is what a Nasser Qandil demonstration usually does. So far, the opposition has been completely peaceful. I wouldn't be surprised if something is staged. This tactic is quite common of course to give the government a pretext to forcefully do away with these demonstrations. This was Naharnet's take:

Fears have been voiced of attempts to create a climate of tension to defuse the immense moral pressure to bring down the government in the wake of Hariri's assassination. Similar fears are ripe of a Syrian intervention against the opposition.

Rich thinks that this may be an escalation the government shouldn't be seeking. Also, rumors have been flying around that the Syrians are arming cronies in preparation for confrontation, even as they talk about withdrawal (even though none of their troops, let alone the mukhabarat, have budged). Even if the notion is not inconcievable, I take this report with a grain of salt. Still, Karami has made further provocations and threats about who will maintain order if the Syrians leave, and was slammed for them. But there is an implicit threat in there, and that's why people are jittery about the possibility of Syrian or loyalist violence. (Although, the fact that al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, the Sunni Islamist organization in Tripoli has withdrawn from the loyalist Ain el-Tineh gathering shouldn't be taken lightly. This means less Sunnis to rely on.)

The parliamentary session is unlikely to topple Karami's government. But they are apparently trying to keep away the dramatic effect of the sit-in. Karami is certain that the loyalists will win in the upcoming elections as well, which is why sending international monitors will be a good idea, as I have said before.

The Syrians are trying to wiggle some more, claiming to be working within the Taif framework, and hence their withdrawal as stipulated by the accord. It's an obvious trick, and so far no one is impressed. But let's wait and see, and keep checking Rich's blog for more on this.

Update: The government apparently thought better than to organize a counter demonstration and decided to ban all demonstrations instead. The opposition doesn't seem to care and will go ahead as planned. In fact, demonstrations have already started since the early hours of the morning (see picture above).

Update 2: Jumblat has also made reference (Arabic) to "weapons being distributed" (by loyalists or Syria). He notably addressed the Palestnian factions in the camps urging them not to be "dragged in by the intelligence appartuses" He also believes that the vote of confidence will be forced, which will result in another extension, similar to the Syrian-forced unconstitutional extension of its crony president, Emile Lahoud.

Update 3: Blogger Publius Pundit has also been following the Lebanese scene. Make sure to take a look.