Across the Bay

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Got it Backwards

I just got around reading this piece by Hala Jaber in the Sunday Times. It relates that Syria will leave Lebanon if it gets the Golan back first. I've talked about this before, and Michael Young has also thought about it with more nuance.

Syria is risking going from a crucial regional player to a nobody. In both cases, Lebanon is key. The problem however, is that it's not our fault, nor is it the US' fault! As Walid Jumblat said to Bashar (in the papers and on TV): "you extended Lahoud's term, what do we have to do with that?!" I.e., it was Bashar's shortsightedness and political blunders that internationalized the situation. He has had missteps all the way through since before the Iraq war. As the war began, and the US pressure became that much closer, it caused more and more blunders as the Syrians were on the defensive (hence my quote from Virgil -- see below -- "hard pressure and the novelty of the reign"). Bashar continued his miscalculations with the assassination of Hariri. So when I hear Ayman Abdel Nour quoted in the Jaber piece saying: "Syria was concerned that if its forces were driven out of Lebanon in a humiliating manner, it could lead to a rift between the peoples of the two countries which would “last for generations”," I have a similar reaction to Jumblat's. You think that the humiliating withdrawal will create a rift!? How about assassinations via planted bombs!? I'd say that would create a rift! Perhaps a history of those might create something more, like the Sunni calls "there is no God but God and Asad is the enemy of God!" I'd say that's the sign of a rift! But who's responsible for this? As Jumblat said, you have no one but yourselves to blame. "Why did you make us hate Syria?"

That Bashar thinks that people will be willing to cut a deal with him if he displays such behavior signals his political immaturity and his lack of touch with the changing times and the shifting policies. Not only did he miscalculate on all levels (in Lebanon and externally), but he managed to drive rivals (France and the US) into a rare area of agreement on ME policy, which coincidentally happens to be Lebanon! That's why Chirac is refusing to even consider Bashar's offer for a gradual withdrawal! It's too late! This is like Arafat trying to cut a deal after the train had long left! Besides, this behavior doesn't give anyone any confidence that Syria is interested in leaving Lebanon. Why should anyone then cut a deal with it on the Golan!?

Here's how I think it is now: Everyone including the leading Arab states will continue to pressure Syria to leave unconditionally. You don't get a carrot for that. You ruined your own dinner. As for the Golan, they'll move on to another set of bargaining chips beside Lebanon. Let's talk about real opening up of the society, free press, freedom of expression and political opposition. Let's talk about minority rights and participatory politics, etc. Let's talk about cessation of support for the insurgents in Iraq. We'll talk about the Golan then. That is, after you've already pulled out the troops and all the secret services, and you've not interfered in the elections, leaving the Lebanese to choose their own representatives, which means the opposition will get to grab enough seats to get rid of the pro-Syrian government and start a new page of independent, free, and sovereign self-governance. Oh, and don't even think of carrying out more attempts in Lebanon or threatening of blowing up the Lebanese interior in order to instigate a "civil war" to prove your indispensibility. Because trust me, the Lebanese are well capable of running their affairs without your "security" which somehow always manages to get their leaders who oppose you dead or evoke threats of an "imposed" civil war! Don't worry, they won't kill each other, so your public opinion can relax. You can stop feeding them that propaganda now. You duped them long enough.

Lebanon is done, finished. You're out. No amount of intelligence about Jihadists is going to keep you in Lebanon. It's over. You want the Golan, we'll talk about something else, not Lebanon. The sooner you realize that, the better, instead of wasting time with Russia and Iran.