Monday, October 01, 2007

Peace in Lebanon and Trouble in Syria?

An attack on Syria may come sooner – rather than later.

That at least is the general trend being set by the multitude of stories about that country's illicit activities that have emerged over the past month. Stories long known to those now releasing them.

Two events point in that directions:

Rumblings in Syria

The first is the mobilization of the Syrian Opposition which, according to a Washington Times editorial:
“In a rare and daring sign of defiance … posted hundreds of large placards of exiled Syrian leader Farid Ghadry and the executive committee of his party on streets of major cities in, including Damascus, Aleppo and Idlib”
The move came days after the establishment of a ‘secretariat general’ for members of the Syrian Opposition in Beirut. Meanwhile, the Alawite regime in Damascus has started to move against radical Sunni elements it has previously exploited but which could pose a danger to it if any instability were to unfold.

In a region where communal and sectarian allegiances have proven to be remarkably steadfast in the face of alternative political ideologies, the dictatorial rule of Syria’s Alawite minority (making up less than 10% of the total population) over a Sunni majority (of about 80%) stands out as a glaring example of inequity and potential instability.

Relief in Lebanon

The second, perhaps more subtle indicator are the Lebanese Presidential elections.

While Jumblatt and Geagea continue to worry about the establishment of balance-tipping precedents through various compromises, Saad Hariri's stance vis-a-vis the election of a President - who despite all of the Patriarch's wishes and desires will only have the post-Taef powers to sign or not sign onto decisions undertaken by the legislative branch in parliament and executive powerhouse of the cabinet - comes after a rumored meeting between the Saudi and Iranian Foreign Ministers New York last week.

While Ahmadinejad was fumbling over existential questions pertaining to his country's gay and transgender community, other - more powerful - members of the theocratic regime's guard were busy calming Saudi nerves.

In the tradeoff borne of those talks, Lebanon would receive a presidential election uninhibited by Hizballah's threat of a January 23rd repeat - with the added bonus of a raiding of ministerial offices - and the issue of Hizballah's weapons would be contained in the cabinet - to be newly formed after the election of a new president would have significant representation for the group.

For Syria, any talks between Iran and Saudi on Lebanon have the net effect of sidelining its interests in the country. Those interests had relied on the disruption of the Presidential elections and the use of the resulting chaos to spread civil strife.

On January 23rd 2007 it was Hizballah - on orders from Iran and in light of that countries "consultations" with the Saudis - who called of the rioters and thugs unleashed onto the streets, even while Suleiman Franjieh and Aoun were on the air declaring the "strike" a success and vowing that it would last a week – as was originally envisioned by the Syrians and their local allies. If disruptions are to be unleashed once again, Syrian arms shipments to their quislings in the country will have ensured a speedy degeneration so that no amount of Saudi-Iranian intervention could hit the brakes this time.

Sweating Bullets

Subtle as these two events might have been however, there was one event in which subtlety was not the focus. With the airwaves of the autumn of 2007 now sounding a lot like the build up to the war with Iraq - the Israeli strike on Syria is sending heart beats racing and blood pressures rising in Damascus. While the issue of Syria's "nuclear" activities may have been an added bonus of the Israeli strike, the main focus was a test of a recently installed Iranian-funded air-defense system. All indications pointed that that system proved a remarkable failure.

And while the Syrians might have previously relied on Hizballah's ignition of the Lebanese border with Israel as a method of response to an Israeli assault, the Saudi-Iran talks have given the regime pause to reconsider.

One thing is for certain, however, if the current mood holds out, more high-level assassinations in Lebanon will only serve to turn up the heat on the regime - leaving the "option" of civil strife as its only weapon in Lebanon. Something that the maneuvering on the Presidency will hopefully have avoided.


  1. Hey there,

    This post still needs some editing (adding links etc) but the major points are there (minus Hizballah's threat to strike Israel if Syria is attacked).

    Feel free to comment on it while I fix it up throughout the next couple of days.

  2. Alright I'm done.

    I don't like the title much so any suggestions are welcome!


  3. Anonymous7:56 PM

    The blackhole....

  4. Well, the Washington Times editorial board occasionally leans towards the neocon, so I'd say those Syrian opposition movements are being mobilized by the same CIA funded pro-democracy dissident groups like the United States has in Iran, and had in Iraq. Much like Iran, these Syrian groups will most likely just be put down by the security services. Assad tends to the disquiet Sunni majority by allowing some degree of aid or freedom for various extremist groups operating around Lebanon and Occupied Palestine, as well as mujahideen on the road to Baghdad. As for a US attack on Syria, I wouldn't bet on it. The Israeli airstrike was a good indication that Washington considers Syria an "Israeli problem." What do you think?


  5. I don't think theres any doubt that any action against Syria would primarily involve Israeli assets.

    And yes, the Washington Times, among others, is a "leak pipe" for the Bush administration. They use it to push the leaks and stories they want.

  6. What's also interesting and no one has really picked up on this, are the Israeli overflights across Lebanon, above the Bekaa and possibly into Syria. Every day, you can hear Israeli jets soaring through the sky in the region of Lalouq (between Jbeil en Baalbak). What are they doing so frequently? Reconnaissance, or like you said, trying out this new defense system?

  7. That is correct. A War on Syria is closer than we might think. I just pray Lebanon wouldn't be involved in the slightest way. I hope the Lebanese media wouldn't even give plenty of coverage time, locally.

    We've had our share of this middle eastern war. Out time is up - Time to look ahead.

  8. Although certain circumstances may manifest as signs for an impending war, I do not think it is going to happen. At least not any time soon. This is all part of an ongoing psychological war, which, for the time being, is only what Israel can afford to get involved in. Likewise, Syria is most definitely not ready for it. However, if a war with Syria is ever to happen, Lebanon will be involved whether directly or indirectly - and terribly. Many factors come together: Hezbollah, the Lebanese/Syrian unprotected and unguarded borders, the avid Syrian fans amongst the Lebanese public, the sense of national belonging, a worsened political atmosphere, complete Israeli/American hegemony, worsening economies (add to that our already bad economy, the downtown disaster), and so on, so on...

  9. Jeha posts about further developments in Syria that seem to indicate that the 'Kingdom' is effectively moving to have Bashar replaced.

    Oh, and be sure to note that the topic of removing Bashar was not ignored in Saad Hariri's recent visit to Washington, and the follow up visit by Jumblatt.

  10. Here is an excerpt from a comments section I was active on on another blog talking about the buildup to War with Syria:

    My positive attitude towards such a hit stems from my being in Lebanon and having witnessed first hand the Syrian dictatorship’s historical (and continuing) use of instruments of terror on my countrymen and women. The argument, which I’m neither wholly convinced of nor willing to completely disregard, is that a hit on Syria would dislodge the assassin-regime there and provide the Lebanese with a respite from the ongoing assault on the state and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority we’ve been subject to. Any negative fallout from the hit could be limited to Syria - and not Lebanon - by the fact that the dislodging of the regime would free those pro-Syrian elements active in the country from the obligation to go down with the sinking regime’s ship and realign with the more US-friendly political movements. This argument, holds most true for the Christians among the pro-Syrian ranks. For the Shiites, there will continue to be Hizballah - fully armed, trained, and funded from Iran - but they would surely find an untrusting partner in Amal and its leader Nabih Berri, who is a political chamellion well-acquainted with the business of realignment.

    As for extremist Sunni groups present in Lebanon, there is a danger that turmoil in Syria would provide a magnet for global jihadists. In Lebanon, however, the presence of such groups has, for the most part, been an integral strategy of the Syrian regime’s strategy for interfering in our internal affairs. Generally, the strategy is made up of creating instability in Lebanon and then “coming to our aide”. A dislodgement of the Syrian regime would provide a break in the central nervous system coordinating these groups across the country, allowing the Lebanese Army to (hopefully) finish them off one at a time.

    Anyway, its a risky move, thats for sure, and yes it is absolutely part of the build up towards eventually knocking off Iran. But from the standpoint of a Lebanese who is tired of seeing his country being used as a limb of Iran’s regional policy (through Hizballah) and as a playground for Syria’s looting and assissinating intelligence agencies and regime, it might just be worth the risk.


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