Thursday, January 29, 2009

Under Pressure – Part II

Part I, Their Goodwill Our Blood, Part II, Part III

Despite its bloody tactics and relentless campaign, the regime in Syria has so far been denied in its efforts to stymie the establishment of the International Tribunal, while the survival of the [pre-Doha Accords] Cabinet and the Parliamentary majority throughout these campaigns of terror and intimidation meant that the Syrians were unable to spike the Lebanese state’s participation in the Tribunal’s investigations or organizational structure (for example, by forcing the Lebanese government to call for a majority Lebanese panel of judges and then forcing the selection of pro-Syrian Lebanese judges) .

And despite the imminence of the approaching storm, there is a sense that the majority of Lebanese will continue to insist on determining their own fate and extract their country from the clutch of regional entities intent on using Lebanese territory and lives in the pursuit of their interests.

In a development unprecedented since the end of the civil war (and the subsequent assassination of Rene Mouawad at Syria’s hands), there is a sense that we have a President interested in and capable of working to ensure that we can be a country at peace with our neighbour to the east while at the same time remaining sovereign and independent of that country’s regional ambitions.

This as the President continues to be subjected to intense pressure to “fall in line” with the Syrian stance, as accentuated by a recent leak citing a threat by some pro-Syrian groups to “pull their ministers out of government in case [the President] insisted on not going to Qatar.”

As the country’s parliamentary elections draw near the emergence of the President as a patient promoter of a pro-sovereignty agenda – divergent (in substance or style?) as it may be from that of the pro-sovereignty Cedar Revolution movement – will face the ultimate test. Already the prospect seems to have driven the rivals of the pro-sovereignty agenda into a veritable panic (cue rant by Michel Aoun or one of his lesser Aounites).

In the past that panic has translated into violence and disruption, as was the case in January 2007, after the Lebanese government officially requested the creation of the International Tribunal, as was the case in May 2008, after the Lebanese government instructed the military to transfer a General with close ties to Hizballah from his position overseeing the security and operations of the country’s international airport.

In January 2007 Hizballah was thwarted in its attempts to paralyse the country by its [FPM, SSNP, and Marada] allies’ inability to enforce roadblocks along the predominantly Christian coastal highway stretching from Tripoli to Beirut. Unsatisfied with the Army’s intervention (limited as it was) during that crisis along with Army Command’s complete rejection of the “Nasrallah Red Line” during the May 2007 Nahr el Bared offensive, the group moved in January 2008 to ensure that the Army’s hands would be tied in the next crisis, brought about in May 2008.

This time around, the situation may lend itself to a scenario in which the Army moves to take up its role as a defender of the nation and the state.

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