Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Lebanese Bargaining Chip

OK, so I hope everyone will be a little patient with me (readers and other contributors alike) as I figure out how I'm going to balance the material being presented on this blog and on my personal political blog. I've decided not to promote Cedar Mountain in the way I do Blacksmiths but that inevitably means that less people read and give feed back on the posts there. Anyway here's the latest...
(Originally published 09/15/2006 on Cedar Mountain.)
The small town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, became the secret centerstage of the Middle East peace negotiations on January 3rd, 2000 as top Syrian and Israeli diplomats and government officials met there, under the auspices of then American president Bill Clinton, to hammer out a peace treaty between the two nations. Lebanon featured heavily in those negotiations, quotes and complete recount of which (in the words of Bill Clinton) can be found here: Clinton on Syrian-Israeli Negotiations (I recommend you read that post before continuing with this one); in this present post I analyze the importance of the Lebanese Bargaining Chip.

In the context of Shepherdstown, the Lebanon question was an important one for both players. If Israel had secured a deal over the Golan without securing a wider peace with Lebanon, then the Syrians, through their control of Hizballah would have benefited in maintaining one of their negotiating ‘cards’ even after the conclusion of the talks. After the Syrian peace, the Syrians would have intensified, and not quenched, Hizballah’s activity to the point where the only thing Israel and the US could offer Syria in return for snuffing out the fire in south Lebanon would have been Lebanon itself.

This is the major reason, I believe, for Syria’s reticence and Israel’s insistence when it came to including Lebanon in the peace talks. This also goes a long way to explain much of the Syrians’ maneuvering and interference in Lebanon today. For the past 3 years, the Syrians have been actively pursuing the United States to re-open negotiations with Israel but the Israelis have resisted. The ultimate position from which the Syrians have launched their negotiations has basically been: we’ll sign peace over the Golan with Israel under their terms, i.e. Israel would retain control of the shores of Lake Galilee, and in return let us retain Lebanon as our own.

The complete addition of Lebanon to Syria’s ranks is an outcome the Israelis have successfully avoided, through their own destructive actions and policies in Lebanon, for a number of years. In the context of the most recent events, the Israelis, along with the Americans and French, have successfully pushed a policy that has resulted with Syria continuously losing larger and larger segments of its influence in Lebanon. Through the latest conflict the war this summer has resulted in an elevated degree of pressure – both internally and internationally – on Hizballah to disarm, and has resulted in a significant deployment of international troops on Lebanese soil. Taken with the expulsion of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005 and the refusal of Israel and the US to engage Syria in any negotiations, these moves are proving to be devastating to the Syrian regime’s foreign policy platforms.

As always these massive fluctuations in regional power and positioning have taken an excruciatingly high toll on the Lebanese, and the road doesn’t look any easier. On top of having to weather the internal political upheaval from these regional changes, it is becoming more and more clear that the only way for Syria to counter these regional shifts is to instigate a level of instability and chaos in Lebanon so that they are once again left as the only ones capable of securing peace in the region. In short, Lebanon would first be devastated by instability and violence, only to then be locked into a slow death under an equally violent and repressive autocratic Syrian regime.

God help Lebanon.

1 comment:

  1. AbouSteif5:48 PM

    This goes to show ONE THING. Lebanon is just a card that is used by Syria. Syria alone. As long as Syria continues to consider Lebanon as a Syrian Province, our problems will remain as they are.


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