Lebanon in Syria

The fates of the modern states of Lebanon and Syria are inextricably linked. It is important to read their history not just as was done conventionally that is Syria never fully recognizing Lebanon as an independent state but also the reverse, as Lebanon, or particular segments of the Lebanese political establishment involving and using Syria for its own survival as a small state. During the first half of the twentieth century and until the 1970s, Muslims and pan-Arabists of all creed had difficulty recognizing that Lebanon should be a separate state as such. The civil war forced the Christians to realize that they needed help from the Syrians first when the Phalangists risked defeat against pro Palestinian forces around the second half of the 1970s, second when a section of the Christian establishment had allied with the Syrian help after 1982 Israeli invasion, and third after the Taif agreement of 1982. Even Michel Aoun the staunchest opponent to Taif and the Syrian regime realized that such categorical attitude was detrimental to Lebanon’s strategic advantage.

In the beginning of the 1990s, and after bitter clashes with the Syrian regime, it was Hizbullah’s turn to realize that they could not survive and strive as a resistance force without Syrian geographical strategic positioning, as well as security and logistical support. This brought them closer to other political groups in the country during the 1990s. Then events unfolding after 2005 when the former prime minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated should be understood as a struggle to fill the security vaccum left by the withdrawal of the Syrian army and more importantly the removal of the Lebanese-Syrian security nexus that was built during the post-war period. Hizbullah’s recent intervention in Syria and in Qalamoun in particular should be read in this light, as an effort to create a protective boundary around the small state of Lebanon that the Syrian regime once provided.

Likewise Sunni politics in the post-war period should be read in this way. Hariri needed pax-Syriana to implement his reconstruction program and the various economic (and oh so social) changes that ensued. It is only when he was constantly paralyzed by his political counterpart the President Emile Lahoud, that he urged the Syrians to intervene on his behalf. The Syrians refused given that Lahoud represented the security complex which helped build the pax-Syriana. And yet, it is not even clear if Hariri was fully convinced that Lebanon did not need the Syrian regime. The Hariri-Hizbullah negotiations that took place before he was killed attest to this ambivalence. After 2005, Sunni politics was slowly driven to increased intervention in Syria in trying to work for regime change. This process involved many groups from “moderate” to radical all the way to al-Qaeda and ISIS type. The Arsal episode is a perfect example of the blurred political boundaries between Lebanon and Syria.

The whole point here is to recognize that overall, various Lebanese actors strived to change things to their advantage in Syria just as it was done by Syria in Lebanon. Some day the history of this “intervention” should be written through that lens.

Israel sighs with relief: No clear right of return for Palestinians

See how this Israeli journalist is so afraid Palestinians may have the right to return that he scrutinizes the UN resolutions pertaining to the issue and find that the texts are quite vague and that Israel will not have to comply with a clear ‘legally binding’ right of return. Well, first it shows us how utterly petty and miserable some Israelis are, and second, it shows the possibility that actually the drafting of those resolutions were not the product of purely neutral international instances (those ideals you would see materializing in the minds of some Lebanese for example).

Don’t confuse the prey

That is an important article. Whatever you think about Hariri’s assassination, the insistence on pushing for an international tribunal is more about cornering Hizbullah through a more solid institutionally international pressure to comply with fixed rules, then to accuse Syria (in any case, everyone knows from the first to the last 14th of Marcher Lebanese politician that there is an American red line you can’t cross when accusing Syrian officials which is Bashar and his family, and other key officials in the regime so why the fuss about the tribunal?).

Your FBI …

I remember listening to the director of the FBI’s international office. He was bragging about bureau’s worldwide effort to “fight terror.”

“In the United States, the founding fathers and their sucessors,” he said, “were very concerned about tyranny so they creating mulitple law enforcement agencies to prevent the accumulation of too much executive authority in too few hands. And today, we have over 50 federal law enforcement agencies.”

“I find your comment interesting,” I said, “because dictatorships also create multiple security agencies to prevent coups.”


Tis All a Checker-board of Nights and Days …

where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: Hither and thither moves, and mates and slays, and one by one back in the Closet lays.
— Omar Khayyam.
PS: Link corrected.

More an Antique Roman than a Dane …

Denmark announced that it would withdraw its ground troops serving under British command in Basra, as other countries review their participation in the coalition force.
Lithuania, which has 53 soldiers in Iraq serving alongside the Danish battalion, also said it was considering a pull-out.
The Romanian Defence Minister said that Bucharest would take a decision on the presence of its 600 soldiers in Iraq, mostly serving under British command, in the next few days. But President Traian Basescu, who is also under pressure to announce a withdrawal timetable, warned that a hasty pull-out of the international coalition forces “would cause chaos and the division of Iraq”.
Poland has already announced that it will bring home its 900 troops by the end of the year, and Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Japan and New Zealand have already withdrawn their troops.
South Korea, which has a contingent of 2,300 troops in the northern city of Arbil, intends to withdraw half by April, and its parliament is calling for a complete pull-out by the end of the year.

Wither the coalition of the willing? Mark your calendars: 100 days until solitude …

Has the Poodle Been Unleashed …?

Watchers might want to keep an eye on Tony Blair’s trajectory as he winds down his tenure. First, the troop reduction, and now talking with Hamas?

I have also noticed that British military and intelligence have started a rather consistent whispering campaign over US intentions in Iran. Of course, such things cut both ways (doing the bidding of US warmongers or genuine backlash, you be the judge). But the chattiness is interesting, nonetheless, and may reflect a more carefree attitude on Downing Street.

Of course, what Blair does or does not do, says or does not say, is of little consequence to Anglo-America relations writ-large, but we can expect an endless amount of blather about his “legacy” over the next seven months. I recall that Bill Clinton blamed Arafat for the collapse of Camp David in 2000 in an effort to bolster Barak’s electoral fortunes, so I wonder if Blair has any regrets about not doing more for Gore and then Kerry, as surely he paid a cost in their losses.

Perhaps, though, Blair is not looking toward the past, but rather the future — his squelching of the BAE investigation might be what we of more modest means might call retirement planning. He might very well want to join Aznar on Georgetown’s faculty, which soon might be able to re-enact Iraq war-planning on the university’s front lawn, with all the original players (Tenet, Feith, et al.).

As a side note, or two, I could not but giggle over the Chavez oil deal with London’s mayor (I happen to agree that what we need is a war on traffic, not terror). Also, this web site, presumably sponsored and designed by amateurish Tory hands, might be good for some laughs, as the video “A World Without America” had me in stitches. Whatever Labor’s pathologies, I can only be thankful that the party of Margaret Thatcher is in such utter disarray.

The Beautiful Game …

Slowly unfolding of late is a different sort of World Cup: shaming the Americans.

The latest results:

Italy: Indicted 31 Americans for the grab and snatch grab of a Muslim cleric.

Germany: Issued arrest warrants for 13 Americans in connection with the rendition program.

Russia: Attacked American unilateralism at a meeting of the heavies.

England: Refused to match the US troop surge in Iraq.

France: Admitted that a nuclear Iran poses no threat to Israel or its neighbors.

Of course, the list goes on and on, but as the NATO talks over Afghanistan make clear, few expect to match the US in own-goals