Across the Bay

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Not Welcome

The Syrian regime, which still has illusions that it rules Lebanon and that it is a "player," when it's little more than a client-proxy spoiler of the Iranians, is very clearly threatened by the UN draft resolution. So they're threatening left and right. This is on top of the repeated threats of unleashing al-Qaeda on Lebanon (just a reminder to all the "experts" who tell us that the "secular" Syrian regime cannot have ties to Islamists or al-Qaeda even as they are a client of Khomeinist Iran on top of it!).

So while their venomous foreign minister was in Lebanon, he gave a reminder to all those who think that the Syrians have any interest other than boosting Hezbollah and undermining the central government, and essentially staging a classic coup d'etat. He volunteered to join Nasrallah's army, and put himself at Hezbollah's disposal, and offered every possible support for Hezbollah. And in the end, he issued a veiled threat that unless they get their way, they will try to provoke civil war in the country.

People didn't take too kindly to Moallem's visit or his obvious and intentional attack on Lebanon's government. Walid Jumblat issued a statement saying: "we tell Moallem, who intentionally forgot Lebanon and the Lebanese state, that it is much easier to overbid when bargaining with the last drop of the Lebanese people's blood," adding, "you lion (= asad) in Lebanon and a rabbit in the Golan, if it weren't for proper manners and protocol, he should have been stoned and thrown out of the country."

Another member of the March 14 coalition (which holds the parliamentary and cabinet majority), former MP Fares Soueid, told AFP "Walid Moallem is not welcome in Lebanon." He added, "the Syrian position against the draft resolution sponsored by France and the US is totally unacceptable. The Lebanese must work on improving the text which will be discussed at the UN and we will not be given lectures especially from the Syrians who were at the heart of many problems from which Lebanon has suffered."

Dozens pro-Hariri demonstrators gathered in front of the hotel where Moallem was staying and called for him to leave Lebanon. They were carrying a large map of Lebanon and a large picture of Hariri, who was murdered by the Syrians last year. The picture read "we resist for the sake of Lebanon, and we demand the truth [of Hariri's murder]." Another rally was held in Jbeil also protesting Moallem's visit.

Furthermore, such is the Syrian delusion that Moallem was reportedly talking about the "unity of tracks" (between Lebanon and Syria), a now defunct cliche from the days of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. That's where the regime is stuck.

But another member of March 14, former President Amin Gemayel, reminded them of current reality: "Syria's diplomatic situation is not enviable. It was the former minister of Iran who came to Lebanon to negotiate, not the Syrian foreign minister. These are all indicative signs in the political lexicon. Syria is now trying to create a crack in the Western wall that's imposed on it, but its mission is not simple because of all the negativities it created during its presence in Lebanon."

Of course, the Syrians are also worried that the Arab states, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, will support Seniora and the Lebanese government, and further undermine the Syrian attempts. That's why even before the meeting, sources in Cairo (and Cairo has been leaking a lot of stuff against Assad these last couple of days) said the Syrians were already making threats and issuing ultimatums and warnings, trying to determine the outcome of the meeting (they don't want to see Hezbollah disarmed. A note to all the "experts" who think Syria has any interest in "reining in Hezbollah"). This is what you do when you're irrelevant, and of course, when you're a regime of thugs and thuggery is all you know. It is perhaps indicative that Moallem was quoted as saying that he didn't expect much from the Arab League's meeting.

Ali Hamade summarized well the prevailing political consensus in Lebanon on the authority of the central government:

1- it's difficult to have an Arab-backed international solution based on the principle of returning to July 11, i.e., the status quo before this war started. There is an explicit international, American-European-Arab consensus on this point.

2- there is a predominant Lebanese desire, which has heretofore not expressed itself in order to maintain a publicly united stand, and which converges with the international consensus on not returning to the status quo of before July 12. Its greatest fear, after all these exorbitant sacrifices, is that it does not emerge victorious by seeing the rise of the state above everything else, including Hezbollah and its weapons. And here it should be noted that this public display of solidarity would quickly erode if Hezbollah refuses the Lebanese project, which would demand its integration within the state's mantle.

In any case, it will be impossible to go back to before July 12 regardless of who wins this war.

But given all these threats, I remind you of Walid Jumblat's fear of a return to assassinations by the Syrians. Jumblat suggested Seniora might be a target. I'd also add Berri, depending on what role he ends up playing.

Update: This newsflash from Naharnet: "Moallem left isolated at emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, after wanting to pay tribute to Hizbullah in the final declaration."