Across the Bay

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Free Iraqi's Take

Ali, previously of Iraq the Model, shares his thoughts on Hariri's assassination on his new blog, "Free Iraqi." Ali doesn't seem to have a problem concluding who's responsible, and smacks around Arab media types who peddle absurd theories (his brothers at ITM do the same here).

Here's how he ends his post:

    However, and like all dictatorial regimes, the Syrian government has only speeded its end by committing or supporting such a crime, as now the Lebanese people are enraged and nothing can silence their demand, and to their good luck they seem to have the support of the International community and most importantly that of the USA.

    I had previously expected something to happen in Lebanon, but I didn't expect it to happen this way. It was not easy to find a strong motive but now I believe the Syrian regime by committing such a crime has almost sealed its fate.

    It'll be interesting to watch how the Syrian dictator and his gang that had put him in power are going to respond to the mounting pressure and if they would resort to any logic and withdraw from Lebanon, but my experience with their twin party here in Iraq makes me believe that they learned nothing from Saddam's lesson and that they will do exactly the opposite and further tighten the rope on their neck with every single move.

I believe that this is all true, but how does it respond to Lee's challenge, which Friedman also failed to elaborate on? What will Washington do exactly to show that it will support the broad national opposition that's expressing its will on the streets of Lebanon, demanding the full withdrawal of the Syrian edifice? In that other post of his that he links, Ali seems to advocate a strike (a "limited" war) against the Syrians, although he doesn't clarify his position completely. His feeling is that "[a]ny half solutions would be as disastrous as a total withdrawal."

Ali seems to be thinking more in terms of Iraq than anything else, which is totally understandable ("[T]he best answer to the challenges in Iraq is another strike somewhere else, somewhere near and I can't think of a better option than the south of Lebanon. [Emphasis mine]). However, it is interesting to me to see how in a sense he does see an intertwined relationship between Lebanon and Iraq on some level. I see it in terms of the consociational model as I've made clear elsewhere. I don't agree however that a strike on Lebanon is the way to go, especially as the national opposition is building. Lee also thought that a missile strike on Damascus would backfire. Lee basically said that anything short of troop deployment (or an invasion) might not work. In that sense, it seems that Ali does essentially agree with Lee that any "half solution" would not cut it. I agree that half solutions will be seen as a victory by Assad, but it's still not clear what the US, and the international community, is willing to do. I think that sending international troops to Lebanon to enforce the Syrian withdrawal and monitor the elections is a good start.

As for Syria, my gut instinct is similar to Ali's, that they will continue to tighten the noose around their neck. Perhaps their behavior with the Russians (the missiles sale) and Iranians confirms that. Yet, as I mentioned previously, Josh seems to think that they might be forced to withdraw, albeit within some face saving Arab framework. In that sense, he agrees with Ali that the Syrian regime has "sealed its fate." If the Sunnis (or at least the Hariri bloc, and now all those Sunnis angered by Syria's move) do join the Druze-Christian coalition, despite Hariri's murder, then the Syrian move would have been for naught. As Michael Young put it:

    There were numerous reasons for killing Hariri, most prominently the fact that he was probably going to formally join the Lebanese opposition. This would have almost certainly tipped the balance in Lebanon decisively against the Syrian presence, and likely brought down the pro-Syrian Lebanese government--and with it, I suspect, Assad's stumbling regime.

So even with Hariri dead, if the opposition manages to unite and get their seats in the upcoming elections, then the scenario outlined by Michael still stands. This is why the US, France, and the opposition are stressing that the elections must go ahead and not be postponed. Nor should they be tampered with by Syria, which is why international monitoring is necessary, and likely.

Once again, let's wait and see what transpires.