Across the Bay

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Assad's Version of the Munich Agreement

For a while, especially around the time of the Baker-Hamilton report, people were spreading a whole bunch of lies and/or stupidities about what the Syrian regime's goals were. We were being told by clueless analysts and regime flacks, like Patrick Seale or Joshua Landis, that really Assad's priority was restoring the Golan. Yeah, right.

Now that all that facade has fallen, and no one took the bait, the real stuff is coming out, and it's exactly like we said it was: Assad's first and foremost objective is the total re-domination of Lebanon with all that this entails.

Witness this Feb. 1 interview (pdf) by said flack, Landis, in the Kuwaiti al-Siyasah. Twice he was asked about the possibility of rapprochement between the US and Syria over Iraq, and twice he made it clear that the price Syria is seeking for its terrorist blackmail was control over Lebanon. The Golan was not mentioned once:

Q: Does a détente in US-Syria relations signal a new era of bilateral relations, or just an agreement over common issues?

A: I don't think we are witnessing a détente in the relations between the two countries. After the failure of the Israelis in Lebanon and the Democrats' victory in the congressional midterm elections, many European countries and many US members of congress concluded that the US must change its policy in the Middle East. Many came to Damascus to see if they could create an opening for this change and determine its direction.

However, Washington still insists on separating the Iraqi case from the Lebanese case. In the end, the US is still the only superpower which could direct the West's foreign policy as long as Bush insists on continuing with his policy. Europe and the US congress have to follow him in that case. (Emphasis mine.)

Asked again, he gave the same response, again without mentioning the Golan:

Q: Did Syria get American guarantees in return for its participation in Iraq, as in 1990?

A: Syria is as far as it could be from getting American guarantees or rewards for coordinating and cooperating on Iraq, since Bush is still repeating the idea that "Syria knows what to do in Iraq" and he will not abandon the Seniora government. (Emphasis mine.)

What happened to the Golan?! Wasn't that the declared "overriding priority" for Assad?! But of course, we always knew that wasn't the case. The Golan is a bonus at best.

Naturally, Landis never once actually explains what he's suggesting and its foul implications (toppling a democratically elected government, squashing the massive popular will of the Lebanese people, imposing a regime of Syrian agents, enshrining Hezbollah as the Praetorian Guard for Syria and Iran, overturning several UN resolutions including 1701, signing the death sentence against Syria's opponents, reinstating a rule of terror, intimidation and assassinations, ransacking and pillaging the economy, giving the Syrians a free pass for all the assassinations, past and future, undermining the very concept of rule of law as well as state institutions, and essentially signing the obituary of Lebanon).

Landis's fellow regime flack Sami Moubayed, who, after making a total fool of himself in a monstrously terrible article about Lebanon, was intent on asserting that foolishness, and came back, only five days after Landis's interview (talk about tag teaming! I'll tell you more about that later in an upcoming post), with an even worse article on Lebanon (I don't have time to demolish it like I did his last one).

Moubayed was even more vulgar than Landis, even if the message was the same:

Syria has always implied, without saying it directly, that it is willing to deliver on Iraq if it gets what it wants in Lebanon.

If the Syrians are able to deliver on Iraq and thereby show the world that the keys to stability in Baghdad are in Damascus, how will the situation in Lebanon change and in whose's favour? The US administration, after all, despite all talk by US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, care more for Iraq than Lebanon.

This thuggish, gangster-like statement brought back once more the terrific line nailed by Michael Young to describe the Assad regime's spokespeople, like Moubayed: "even the tedious functionaries of despotisms end up sounding like the thugs they represent."

Aside from its total absurdity, Moubayed's statement is the clearest admission that the Assads will kill whomever and bomb whatever it takes, in Iraq or Lebanon, until they get what they want: Lebanon. Talk about echoes of Czechoslovakia and the Munich Agreement.

This shows that the administration's analysis, and its ensuing policy (and that of the main European and Arab players, see further below), are spot on. Sean McCormack put it thusly in a recent press briefing:

Very interesting, the Foreign Minister in talking to a columnist [ed.'s note: David Ignatius] in a column that was printed -- I think it was in the past month or two, something like that, again suggesting this idea of engagement with Syria, talked about, "Well, of course, in any sort of engagement, the outside world needs to take into account Syria's strategic interests."

Well, what do you think those strategic interests might be? I would suggest to you that those strategic interests mean letting, in some form, Syria back into Lebanon, something the international community worked very hard and diligently to get them out of after 20 years through the passage of Resolutions 1559, 1595. I would posit to you that they have an interest in not seeing the tribunal that is investigating into -- investigating who was responsible for the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri go forward.

Those are prices that we, as well as the international system, are not willing to pay.

In fact, to be fair to Moubayed, Landis had expressed this in an even more gangsta style: "America, I think, is going to be forced to bend to that. If it continues to resist, we're going to see more violence."

And they get upset when we call them terrorists! Now you get the implications of Landis's declaration about ceding control over Lebanon to Syria.

Aside from the thuggery of the regime and its flacks, you can also note the tremendous silliness of these so-called "analysts."

For instance, Landis is at pains to convince us that this is Bush's ideological intransigence (I mean, why doesn't he just abandon Lebanon already!) and that the Europeans and the Democrats are just dying to serve up Lebanon to Assad's wolves (and the nonchalance with which he says it is repugnant)! I mean even this administration, according to Wunderkind Moubayed, doesn't really care about Lebanon (where is Chamberlain when you need him?)!

Apparently, neither genius heard what those "Europeans and Democratic members of congress" actually said. I've recently discussed these matters at length. Let me repeat once again.

The Democratic congressmen who went to Syria, like Bill Nelson, were very clear that the US will not abandon the Seniora government or Lebanon. That there will be no deal or concessions on "areas where we disagree with Syria." So, unfortunately for Landis and Moubayed, this is hardly Bush's ideological intransigence. This is a matter of consensus, one that includes the main Arab states and Europe.

I had quoted what a European diplomat told me, as well as what another European diplomat told al-Hayat:

It's true that Britain, Germany, and Italy consider that the goal of talking to Damascus is to stress the need for it to change its policy in Lebanon and to stop supporting its destabilization, and to encourage it to take constructive steps in this regard and to cooperate with international resolutions. However, the delegates of these states, when they undertake this mission, they end up reaching the same conclusion France reached, and some return with great disappointment with Damascus. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, Landis has it wrong on both counts: 1- no one is looking to cut deals over Lebanon (Democrats and Europeans), and 2- the Europeans end up reaching the same conclusion as that reached by the Bush administration, France, Saudi Arabia, and Democratic congressmen.

Germany's Angela Merkel summed it up rather well yesterday: "[Syria] should have no doubt about the determination of the international community to protect Israel and Lebanon."

But hey, don't worry, as Landis and Moubayed informed us, that won't stop Assad from murdering as many people as he needs in order to show how "serious" he is about "engagement."

Now you understand the crucial importance of establishing the international tribunal, and, simultaneously, why Assad is doing everything he can to kill it. If you take away terrorism and political assassinations, what else would Assad have?