Across the Bay

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Three Regime Flacks Play Washington

Check out this editorial in NOW Lebanon today about the "independent" Syrian regime hands in DC.

I will come back later to comment on it in full, especially regarding that sleazebag Moubayed, whose thuggish statements and laughable lies the editorial correctly identifies as "the pitch of a liar and a scoundrel."

Meanwhile, make sure to also read Michael Young's column today. It offers an excellent dissection of the Syrian regime's viciously sick psychology and worldview:

During his visit, Moallem was asked about the fate of Lebanese still detained in Syrian prisons, and what he had to say about the matter. The foreign minister replied: "He who has waited for 30 years during [Lebanon's] Civil War is capable of being patient for a few weeks [more]."

Moallem could have said any of a dozen other things. He could have done what bureaucrats usually do and said nothing at all. He could have found a hypocritical formulation to suggest that he felt sympathy for the families of the prisoners, scoring easy points on behalf of Syria's dictator. Instead he made a callous statement, more insulting for being wrapped in a falsehood since Lebanon's Civil War ended in 1990 and many of those sent to Syria were arrested during the postwar years of absolute Syrian rule.

Moallem's reaction invites a question more appropriate to psychology than politics. What is it about Syrian civilian officials that frequently makes them so vicious in what they say about Lebanon? Theirs is the viciousness not of the intelligence officer but of the coward, the sissy, who talks tough because he is petrified of the intelligence officer; who fears that if he doesn't talk tough, then those with real power in the system might see through that ersatz toughness all the way to the grinding fear that lies underneath, a fatal fear in so pitiless a system as the Baathist one.

Recall what another Syrian official, Faysal Mekdad, said about Gebran Tueni soon after his assassination in December 2005. At the time Mekdad, who is now deputy foreign minister, was Assad's representative at the United Nations. In a conversation with a fellow Arab diplomat Mekdad was overheard saying, "So now every time that a dog dies in Beirut there will be an international investigation?" He was referring to the fact that the Lebanese government had, the day before, requested that the UN investigation of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's murder be expanded to include the dozen or so bomb explosions and assassinations that had taken place afterward - Tueni's being the latest. In response to the comment, Gebran's father Ghassan took legal action against Mekdad.

However, is anything surprising here? When Moallem and Mekdad speak, they only ape the man that they serve. And on Lebanon Bashar Assad has been more contemptuous than most.

Young then offers the following proposal on the pressing issue of Lebanese detainees and missing in Syria -- which has now becoming a major public demand in Lebanon:

Passage of the Hariri tribunal under Chapter VII of the UN Charter did not bring on the apocalypse that Assad had promised, which tells us something else about Syria's regime: When faced with a resolute adversary, it tends to back down. That is why the Lebanese government should try to apply that lesson with regard to those Lebanese still imprisoned in Syria. They number 91 according to the former minister Fouad al-Saad, who years ago headed a committee charged with shedding light on their fate; although yesterday the daily Al-Mustaqbal published the names of 177 Lebanese prisoners still believed to be in Syria.

The first thing the Lebanese government should do is appoint an independent investigator to prepare as accurate a list as possible of the detainees. That list should then be placed on the table whenever Lebanon and Syria discuss anything - bearing in mind that both Christians and Muslims are languishing in Syrian jails, meaning a cross-sectarian consensus on resolving the problem is achievable. That list should also make its way to Paris, Washington, Berlin and Brussels, so that every time a foreign official lands in Damascus, the names should be in his or her briefcase, hopefully alongside the names of the many Syrian political prisoners whose misfortunes have been generally ignored in the West.

Maybe then we will be able to tell Moallem that if fear has provoked his scorn for those who have suffered under the leadership he represents, we at least have nothing to fear anymore.

Also Hassan Haidar in al-Hayat today goes through the obvious Syrian charade over the embassies and relations with Lebanon, showing how the Syrian regime's mindset and its views towards Lebanon have not changed one iota -- exactly as the NOW Lebanon editorial notes: "Sham offers like those only affirm to us that Syria remains focused on re-imposing its hegemony in Lebanon and remains very much in the same mindset as the one that preceded the assassination of Hariri."