Across the Bay

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Syrian Propaganda about Cousseran

Like I said, I love Syria's flacks. They're quite amusing.

Take for instance these two mouthpieces of the Syrian regime: one in Arabic and one in English, writing the same bull story, back to back.

The propaganda first came yesterday in Arabic. Ibrahim Hamidi, the Syrian water carrier in al-Hayat (a spot previously held by Syria's deputy prime minister Abdallah Dardari, just so you get an idea of what this operation is) wrote the only report anywhere making the claim, based on Syrian official sources (who fed it to him to disseminate), that Syria and the French delegate Cousseran agreed on first establishing a national unity government in Lebanon, and not the presidency.

Today, the regime's English-language mouthpiece, picked up and elaborated on this propaganda (without providing a link to the original Hamidi spin, providing only a second hand report that doesn't name the author of the al-Hayat report).

The problem with Syrian propaganda is that it's quite transparently ridiculous and easily belied by what European and Arab sources have intentionally been leaking to the press.

Anyone with any idea about the French initiative and priority knows that what they are seeking is to ensure that there is no vacuum in the presidency, which is obviously what Syria and Hezbollah are looking for, as evident from recent statement by Hezbollah's Mohammad Raad.

It's very clear that Cousseran encountered this intransigence in Damascus, leading the French to leak this to the press. You can read about it in my previous post. Soon, Arab sources started leaking what Cousseran told them about his visit.

Arab diplomatic sources told Asharq al-Awsat that Cousseran "returned from his visit with discouraging impressions. He told Arab officials whom he had visited after returning from Damascus, that he carried a very firm message to the Syrians, that his visit would be the last visit by a French official if Syria does not alter its behavior in Lebanon. And he assured those whom he met in the Syrian capital the rejection of his country of 'separating' the relationship with [Syria] from the relationship with Lebanon, telling them categorically that 'Lebanon is the mandatory pathway for this relationship'."

In other words, to deconstruct the Syrian propaganda, Syria did not agree with Cousseran on the national unity government, it actually presented it as a brick wall about which there can be no compromise (as evident from Hezbollah's statements). In fact, the Hamidi report did say that Syria will not go with any proposal that is "not in its allies' interests."

This report in al-Balad today pretty much confirms this reading (p. 2):

Opposition sources told al-Balad that the opposition will not agree to the package deal [which would include the presidency and the government] and that there is no backing off the national unity government.

Political sources noted that the French delegate got from the Syrian leadership that it would back dialog but won't pressure its allies. Cousseran understood that Syria won't support reaching a Lebanese agreement that includes the government and the presidency, and he got [from Syria] an affirmation on the need to change the current government.

Meanwhile, the absolute intransigence by the opposition on Cousseran's proposal for a package deal has placed the French delegate before a complex mission which makes Kouchner's visit at this time and in this circumstance without any usefulness. It is perhaps a test for the Syrian position regarding a compromise and a solution in Lebanon.

And so, the real story is this: Cousseran saw that this is a dead end, and proceeded to report that this is the case, and how the Syrians remain negative and obstructionist, and this in turn was leaked to the press by the French and the Arabs whom Cousseran briefed about his visit.

Hamidi then came out, a couple of days after the leaks appeared in the media, to put the transparent Syrian spin on this whole story. The purpose of Hamidi's report is to make sure that Cousseran's (and subsequently Kouchner's) mission in Beirut is torpedoed (as evident from Hezbollah's intransigence). Moreover, Hamidi's report was basically a confirmation (of the other leaks) that basically the Cousseran mission and French attempt with Syria is finished.

This not only vindicates the US and Saudi position, but now, as Michael Young put it last week, "Kouchner and the EU should not fear blaming the guilty for this and going back to the Security Council, evidence in hand."

Update: Walid Moallem declares that Syria supports the Swiss initiative to resolve the Lebanese crisis. This is what this means: France, kiss our backside.

Moreover, this is because the Swiss have come up with a particularly idiotic initiative that would have Iranian and Syrian representatives hovering behind the table to keep an eye on things. This is something the French went out of their way to reject.