Across the Bay

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Syria Will Have to Withdraw from Lebanon

So says Josh Landis, quoting his father-in-law, a retired Syrian navy general:

    As Lebanon prepares for Hariri's funeral today, which will be marked by large demonstrations and an emotional outpouring, Syria has gone into a state of shock and is doing what little it can to defend its position.
    ...
    My father-in-law, who served as a (liwa') or general for ten years and was the number 2 man in the Syrian Navy was very direct when I asked him what Syria should do now.

    He said,

    Syria will have no choice but to withdraw from Lebanon. Everyone will turn against it. All the old cards – Lebanon, the Palestinians, and Hizballah – have turned into thorns in its side.

    Mubarak will call a meeting of the Arab League and they will find a face-saving deal that will allow Asad to withdraw.

    The Lebanese have had enough of Syria. The world will use the Hariri assassination against Syria even if it is innocent. Lebanon is finished for Syria.

    The Syrian people won’t complain. Lebanon is not an emotional issue. It is an issue of high politics and geo-strategy. Syria will be weakened because now Israel will be able to poke at Syria through Lebanon.

    The reality is that Syria is weak. The old strategy can no longer work. Russia is playing with Syria and cannot support it. There is only one path forward for Syria and that is to withdraw.

Josh adds in his comments section:

    The sympathy for Hariri is rather astonishing here and it is building in a strange way. As the enormity of the act and the importance of its meaning builds, everyone is begining to realize what a turning-point this is in Lebanese national life, and, of course, in Lebano-Syrian relations.

    Everything will be different after this. There is genuine saddness for Lebanon here and even a bit of envy. Watching the demonstrations and real national fervor reminds Syrians how little they have of their own.

    Every Syrian I have spoken with in the past several days has remarked how little idealism or even political consciousness there is among Syrians. Maybe the Lebanese will be an example to Syrians that it is possible to rise above sectarianism and division and to aspire to better things.

Does this mean the Syrian move backfired, on the domestic scene? Probably, but we'll wait and see.

Josh also said that "there is a widespread anticipation of the worst and a sense of impending attack and encirclement" in Syria. I speculated that the missiles deal with Russia is related to that, and BBC News reported Iranian solidarity with Syria. Both are afraid of a potential attack. Like Josh's father-in-law said, and as we said here before, the Russians won't do anything for the Syrians. That Iran is the only one willing to lend support isn't a great sign either!

Also, I think Josh's father-in-law might have echoed Jumblat's call for Arab troops to replace the Syrians in Lebanon. That will be the face saving move. Ironically, Jumblat and Nassib Lahoud had offered the Syrians a far better deal a few days earlier, keeping the whole thing within the Taef framework, but the Syrians turned it down and blew up Hariri. Well, now they suffer the consequences.