Across the Bay

Monday, July 17, 2006

1967 Revisited

To follow up on the theme of my previous post about how the Assad regime is the center of terrorism and instability in the Levant, here's an article by Michael Oren that really nails it.

One might add that Syria's destructive role is not confined to 1967. In fact, they were at the heart of the calls for war in 1948. The reason all along was a power struggle between Syria and other Arab states. It was a bid for domination of the Levant and the Arab system.

This is what it is about today as well. Syria, a rogue, terrorist, pariah dictatorship, is bidding for regional dominance in the Levant as a client of Iran, itself bidding to become the regional hegemon. That's the reason behind the Mashaal and Nasrallah fiasco: to center the decision of war and peace in the hands of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis. This is why Mubarak was snubbed by Mashaal and the Saudis insulted by Nasrallah. This is why Jordan was threatened. Assad is trying to substitute the Soviet Union's patronage with Iran's, and he's threatening the regional Arab states with that and with terrorism, as well as with playing the tune of destabilizing demagoguery to elements within Egypt and Jordan (the Muslim Brotherhood) as well as Saudi Arabia (a Saudi Shiite group called Hezbollah of the Hijaz came out with a statement condemning Saudi "treachery," in reference to its criticism of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. This latter phenomenon reminds you of the thinly veiled threat thrown at KSA by Hezbollah's Naim Qasem on al-Jazeera in November.)

These Arab states realize what's at stake and realize that this is nothing short of a coup. It's a coup in Lebanon, a coup in the Palestinian territories, and it's a coup in the region as well, and Syria is at the center of it. So Oren is absolutely right. Either way there is no return to the status quo ante. Hezbollah has been exposed and the decision has been taken to eliminate its military threat. In other words, the concept of war by proxy, the idea of a trump card, that itself is the target of the Israeli offensive and it has the backing of France, Britain, and the US. The next step will be a renewed focus to disarm Hezbollah. But a crucial element in this is the neutralization of Assad. As Oren put it : "as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north."

Alternately, an international effort, backed by strong Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi support (at least for now, albeit one year late, they all seem to be willing to do this, at least rhetorically), to effectively empower the Lebanese government and disarm Hezbollah, and enforce the 1949 armistice and resolve the border issue with Syria, will essentially strip Assad of his last remaining "card."