Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pillars of the Regime

Monseigneur le Duc de Berri is promising us a “deal soon”. I am sure he will still respect them in the morning, too… My scepticism is caused by neither trust nor distrust, but rather a simple fact; any deal is not his to make.

It is Europe’s and the US’s, via Solana. Berri’s optimism may only reflect the optimism of his masters regarding a deal on the Hariri tribunal. A tall order


All deals with Syria are focused on the following two Western bottom lines:

1- They are intended to shield the top Syrian leadership from the Tribunal, while dumping it on “second ranks”.

2- They are focused on keeping Lebanon out of Syria’s clutch; in the eyes of the US Lebanon’s value has been rising. Syria’s backers in the US have been making increasingly desperate noises

No Deal!

To the Syrians, the deal on offer far exceeds their bottom line (H/T K, via Abu Kais). My previous rambling discussion on “Syrian Succession” was intended to describe the background, which can better help us understand the Syrian Bottom line;

1- There is no “second rank” that can be sacrificed. Bashar Assad depends far too much on Asif Shawkat, and his brother Maher Assad. They also need people like Rustum Ghazaleh to stay in power and ward off challenges from the likes of Ghazi Kanaan.

Bashar cannot give up the pillars of his regime.

2- Lebanon is a “must have” for the Syrian regime. At best, it is far more important financially to the regime. At worst, any democracy close to its border is a threat, especially in the context of its sectarian regime where an increasingly defensive Alawite minority lords it over an increasingly resentful Sunni majority.

Even the current Lebanon, a dismal example of a consociational Republic, remains dangerous, with a relatively free media, and the potential to do much more...

Waiting Game

Any other discussion ignores the sectarian nature of the regimes in the region. Any progress will extend them beyond their limits. Any “deal” will no work, unless the EU, US, Saudis are willing to save face and decide that either Hariri committed suicide, or he was assassinated by “opponents to the Syrian regime”...

... Better yet, even by his own family.

Based on the previous dismal record of the West in the region, the Syrians would not be faulted for expecting them to do just that. With this in mind, the past talk about the “non-denominational resistance” is being concretised; thanks to Aoun’s stupidity (or is it?), Hezb can now claim it has a truly “national resistance”…

One thing is Different now; Lebanon is not completely passive in this game; it has made such a Faustian bargain all the harder since it uncovered the Syrian Terror ring (Finally!).

Still, the Syrians wait.


ghassan karam said...

For a staunch opponent of dictatorship and authoritarian rule my position on offering Bashar immunity in the Hariri case might strike some as problematic. Indeed I would ordinarily not agree to pffer anyone, including the heads of state, immunity from prosecution but the reality is that the world in its current form is not ready for such a step. We usually offer the head of state deniability in order to protect them against prosecution although we know that they are often the ones who issue the order, either implicitly or explicitly, to commit murder and all other kinds of illegal activities. Note for starters the boasts of the current occupant of the white house and also those of the previous president about their desire to kill OBL, mind you they want him dead and do not care about bringing him to justice. The same is true of Putin, Blair and others. As a result , in an imperfect world, to accept the cover of immunity to the Syrian dictator should not be seen as an extraordinary price to pay. What is important though, is to stop the compromise at that level and let the chips fall where they may.

As Jeha, has so ably explained, the interests of Bashar and the second tier of the Syrian Ba'ath leadership are so entwuned that it is difficult to decide where one starts and the other begins. Some have even argued that the real power does not reside with the top of the pyramid but with the ones who appear to be second tier leaders. That is why the Syrian resistance to any tribunal in the Hariri affair is understandable but what is not clear yet is the rationale that drives some of the Lebanese pols to place all their power and prestige to protect the Syrian position. I , for one, do not buy into the brief that the these Lebanese, including HA, are acting only out of a sense of duty and loyalty to those that had helped them in the past. If I am right then there is only one other explanation , these Lebanese pols must have played an important role in either the planning or the execution of this horrible tragedy. Beri is probably Mr. X, Suleiman might have been instrumental in arguing for the logic of elimination, HA might might have provided assets ...My hypothesis is that rational people act in order to protect themselves and by that logic HA and its allies must be very worried about what the investigation into the Hariri affair might discover.

Nonetheless, the above is not an acceptable excuse to have a cabinet in charge that is preoccupied with the form of the tribunal to the extent that it fails to do anything else. Follow the tribunal but at the same time take care of the pressing needs of the state. Life goes on and its concerns are not to be only an afterthought to the tribunal.

Anonymous said...

read this
(search for Lebanon) and maybe afterwards you could take your head out of your butt.

ghassan karam said...

Anon 7:07,
So you feel good that you have run across an interview about an article that has been widely discussed!!!
Are you suggesting that the instigators of actions that infringe on the rights of others, create instability, saw divisiveness and that are geared to serve foreign interests are to be commended for their nefarious activities but the government is not allowed to seek help in order to stop such destructive activities? This kind of logic/illogic can only flow from those whose butt is also their head.

Amos said...

Great post, Jeha. Also really liked your piece on the Syrian succession. We'll see what happens. Thanks also for your comments during the Angry deluge we had over on our blog.

BOB said...


it is a waiting game untill the US decide what to do with Iran.
Meanwhile Syria will never let an International Tribunal take place in its current state.

So if i had to bet i would say no deal in the near or medium future, and a possibility of more assassination...

yep i ain't an optimist!

Anonymous said...

Bloggers pay no attention to this I'm just using this site as a notepad, Jeha you can delete it in a minute.

Let me start by giving a big salute to all the freedom fighters that fought so everyone of us can drive from Saida to Beirut without being stopped by a terrorist zionist occupier.
First: I don't consider being gay as an insult. Personally I have nothing against gays.
You can't have a normal discussion and stick to facts with bloggers so you try to talk about them, say they belong to parties they don't belong to, talk about where they live, where they travel, who their wife or brothers in law are and how you hate them and want to ban them from your blog...
Nice example of democracy indeed!

Jeha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeha said...

Anon 20:20,

I would like first to note that your salute to "all the freedom fighters" overlooks a simple salient fact; while many were freedom fighters, many more were only beholden to another occupier. Being Syrian or Iranian does not make an occupation any more acceptable.

My main point, however, is that you cannot insult someone and then turn it around, claiming it as an example of "PC-ness". In the context they were made, your statements on Bob's were insulting.

If you still fail to understand that, there is little else I can say or do to convince you, and I will not try further.

Anonymous said...

I support all freedom fighters who fought Israel.
If you wanted to fight Syria during its presence in Lebanon, you were welcome to do so, I would've supported you to.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.