Across the Bay

Friday, June 29, 2007

'No Benign Interpretation'

Two editorials on Lebanon in the LAT and the NYT, both pointing the finger squarely at Syria for the terrorism, assassinations, attack on UNIFIL, and violation of UNSC resolutions.

Excerpts from the LAT editorial:

One by one, three anti-Syrian members of the Lebanese parliament have been murdered, reducing the majority of independent Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to a slim six seats. President Emile Lahoud, a puppet of Syria, and the pro-Syrian speaker, Nabih Berri, refuse to allow elections to be held to replace them. But that's perhaps a moot point, as Berri hasn't allowed the parliament to meet at all since last summer. The parliament should have elected a new president in 2004, but under Syrian threat, then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — in whose subsequent murder Damascus is also implicated — extended Lahoud's term three more years. Now the parliament must elect a new president by September, and Damascus and its allies rightly fear that the current body will not anoint another Syrian lapdog. There can be no benign interpretation of the latest assassinations.
The international community ought to have been jolted out of its passivity by the car-bombing last week that killed six U.N. peacekeepers — three Spaniards and three Colombians — in southern Lebanon. Syria condemned the bombing, but it was widely interpreted as yet another warning to the United Nations not to proceed with the tribunal looking into the Hariri assassination if it does not wish to see Lebanon further destabilized. Syrian President Bashar Assad has signaled that keeping the tribunal from indicting senior Syrians is a critical, perhaps even existential, priority. Although this page has endorsed engagement with Syria, there can be no compromise on the work of the tribunal, which is as vital as any war crimes tribunal. And there can be no retreat from Lebanon's right to sovereignty.

Perhaps in light of other people's experience with engagement (not to mention its own admission that Syria ordered an attack against a European nation's army), the LAT might want to review its endorsement of the failed policy of engagement with these terrorist murderers.

Addendum: A veteran Lebanon analyst wrote the following, commenting on the editorials. I couldn't agree more with the remark about the NYT.

What a damned cheek from these two insolent newspapers, which have campaigned relentlessly in favor of Bashar al-Asad up to this moment. "We support engagement but ..... The Security Council needs to summon the will..." The great NYT has done everything possible to thwart that will. Now they climb on the train.

However, I must say "I told you so." Everyone who tries engagement with Assad will end up looking like an embarrassed fool. It's a dead end. Theorizing about "engagement" is irresponsibly easy.