Friday, February 22, 2008

Political Negotiation – Syrian Style

As we come up on yet another "Presidential Deadline" highlighted by a "new offer" (which is in fact very old) by Syria's lapdogs in Lebanon , I thought it would be interesting [or not?] to take a look at what the past three months of "negotiation" with Syria and its allies in Lebanon has brought us.

After all, since the opening France’s fumblings in November [2007] provided the regime in Damascus, it has wasted no time in falling into a rhythm not unfamiliar to it in its dealings with those uninitiated with the autocratic regime’s ways. For every concession granted to it, the regime asked for more in return.

For brevity [and sanity's] sake, I'll skip the parts about the closures of democratic institutions and the resort to extra-institutional talks in which agreements are simply ignored - or better yet, hijacked with a war.

I'll also skip the continued assassinations and attacks, targetting both national and international security forces in the country, and aimed at derailing the candidacy of the Army Commander [since he became "too Lebanese" for the Syrians' taste], the International Tribunal [most importantly], and the international community's will to stand up to the terrorists next door.

Instead I'll start by taking the acceptance of the ascension of Army Commander Michel Suleiman [on a silver March 14th platter, no less] to the Presidency - in return for the lifting of the blockade Syria’s allies in Lebanon had imposed on the presidential electoral process - as the first concession granted in this negotiating process [remember, that was back in late November].

In return for this reversal of the M14 mantra ["no to an amendment"], the regime’s answer was to instruct its servile allies to object to the election unless the Parliamentary majority was [also] stripped of its executive powers in Cabinet – a goal the Syrian assassination machine was unable to secure despite their repeated attempts.

This demand was in turn met with a concession on the number of ministers allotted to the Parliamentary Majority: in a thirty-member Cabinet the majority would retain 14 seats while 6 seats would be appointed by the President and 10 by Syria’s allies in the [so-called] Opposition. With less than half of all Cabinet seats, the parliamentary majority would therefore be unable to exercise any executive authority without first obtaining the approval of the Syrian-backed Opposition or a President whose appointment was itself a concession to the regime.

Predictably, that offer – which had managed to formulate itself in the form of an Arab League initiative and which enjoys the support of a wide Christian base [due to that community’s view of Suleiman as a potentially “strong” President] – was met with a further demand that the Parliamentary majority be stripped even of its symbolic majority status in Cabinet and that an allocation of cabinet seats be apportioned according to a 10-10-10 scheme. Who needs democracy and elections anyway?

In addition, Syria [through its allies in Lebanon] would also require prior approval of any and all major security appointments to be made under the new President and Cabinet.

This last bit reminded me of our own Benedict Aounald's last utterances [at the behest of his sugar-daddy Nasrallah and the assassins they answer to in Damascus and Tehran] before he got slapped with the nomination of another Maronite Christian General with something more to offer his constituency than the erosion of their political presence - although that (really) remains to be seen.

Of course, if Syria doesn't like the security appointees, the new ministers, or the new President it can always kill them - what? its not like they haven't done it before! But that is beside the point...or is it the main point?

Addendum: A few hours after this post was put up Syria's spokesmen in Beirut came out with their latest obstructionist demand: the ministers appointed by the President, along the 10-10-10 scheme, should not be able to vote in the cabinet. Brilliant!


  1. Courtesy of NOW Lebanon:

    Trusted sources revealed the plan Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa proposed during the four-party meetings which joined pro-government and opposition leaders in Beirut to

    The terms included the uncontested election of Army Commander General Michel Sleiman as the new Lebanese president.

    Other terms included the preservation of the current government until 2009, when parliamentary elections are scheduled, and the role of the new president as a facilitator of national compromise, which was understood to imply that the ministers appointed by the president would not have voting rights. The new government would also prioritize the issue of displaced Lebanese citizens.

    Moussa’s proposal also called for a caza-based electoral law and the implementation of the decisions reached in the Lebanese national dialogues of 2006.

    The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that the Lebanese border control was another item, as was the demand that no arms enter Lebanon. The proposal called for the immediate formation of a constitutional council. The Paris-3 agreement was also strongly supported by Moussa’s plan.

    Were the proposal accepted by the pro- and anti-government representatives at the meeting, Moussa was to announce its success in the presence of both representatives. The proposal would have regulated crucial Lebanese affairs until 2009.

    That offer was rejected by Syria and Iran's allies in Lebanon.

  2. Other news services in Lebanon reported that the opposition had (re)added the demand for a blocking 1/3+1 (i.e. minimum of 11) number of seats in cabinet, thereby rejecting Moussa's proposal.

  3. Anonymous10:08 PM

    Until Syria's main goal is attained which is the complete capitulation of M14 and the acceptance of a dominated syrian government, you might as well forget any consensus on anything! Syria's view is that Lebanon must always be aligned on its own policies or it deserves to rot in hell...and that is where we are today. Too bad that the arab and international comunity continue to try and appease the syrian leadership who have much disdain for anything that does not suit them and they are not shy about showing it one way or another.


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