Sunday, July 22, 2007

Words against Deeds

“Revolutions accelerate the pace of history”… But in some cases, it makes it advance in slow motion. With all the “noise” surrounding us, it is useful to step away from it all, the better to watch from some “mental distance” as events unfold.

There was some lucidity on display on this week’s “Kalam El Nass” on LBC. I got an an eerie feeling of “déjà blogged”, as Marcel Ghanem’s three invitees were debating one another, you could see “between the words”, the outlines of the developing fight Lebanon has stepped in.

Comedia Syriana

Viewers had the usual dog and pony show, delivered artfully by a Syrian MP, “Doctor” Muhammad Habash. For all his rants about who’s the real terrorist or assassin, quite a lot of truth underlay all his lies, and revealed much on the Syrian thinking. Much of their strategy is based on two things;

1 – The Syrian regime feels it is winning, with the US in the Iraqi quagmire, the Lebanese divided, and the Saudis still too conciliatory. You can hear the ruffles of Mawiya’s Abaya in the background when the Syrian MP reminded viewers that next year’s Arab league talkathon will be held in Damascus, a first.

2 – Syria also counts on its “dialogue with congress”, which it thinks it can leverage against the White House. The regime misunderstands the complexities of American politics, and may soon be reminded that Americans, unlike the Lebanese, do not substitute their own narrow interests for their country’s long term security… Even if they did, the regime will remind them of what side is up… And this congress may not as “pro-Syrian” as the Syrians may like to think…

No matter the messages delivered, the Syrians will not divert from this track. They may pause for a while, but the long term needs remain the same.

Furore Saudiensis

The Saudi side was represented by Jamal Khashoggi, editor-in-chief of the Saudi al-Watan. He reminded the Syrians of this; in view of the larger US interests in the region and of their alignment with an increasingly assertive House of Saud, the Syrian strategy of “waiting for the democrats” may soon backfire…

The Saudi focus is simple. First, it wants an uninterrupted business corridor between Lebanon, on the Eastern Mediterranean Coast, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Second, it does not want Iran to be too powerful, and may even find and opportunity in the current regime’s divisions. This means three things;

1- With its current obstructionism, Syria is “in the way” of complex interests. For example, to Saudi/Gulf interests, the Syrian regime’s Iranian alignment is unacceptable, since it serves to give Iran too much leverage in the Persian Gulf, where it still occupies Arab territory.

2- They have given up talking to the Syrians. They prefer to address the Iranians directly; in the past, they talk to Syria to ensure their interests in Lebanon. Now they are talking to Iran to ensure their interests in Syrian and Lebanon… This, however, should not be construed as a tacit acceptance of Iran’s role in Lebanon on the long run; their “natural” sphere of influence is limited, and so are their means

3- Because of the nuclear issue, Iran is facing an economic blockade. It is far from a monolithic country, with much divisions of its own… Syria is even less monolithic, and could be facing an interesting predicament when the Indictments for the Hariri tribunal are in…

Pax Libanium

Nohad Mashnouq cautioned both that their goals will not be easy to reach… Enthralled by their passion for “their” side, each appears to misunderstand the real dynamics that animate the complex Arab psyche, and they could both misjudge the West’s and the Saudi’s real resolve and foresight in the face of determined threats.

Like him, I am not so sure that Lebanon will reach the New Year undivided. We may have been long time ago past the point of no return, with each side carping to their own supporters. New Year’s 2008 could be a hot rendez-vous indeed; this is the deadline by which Brammertz must submit his final findings.

Since the shooting did not start yet, there is still hope for us to “call the whole thing off”. According to Nohad Mashnouq, one way to sidestep this would be to expand the government, because it will be unable to deal with the looming presidential vacancy in its present shape.

To be sure, it will be no panacea, but it will postpone the reckoning till a more favourable climate develops in the wider “Muddle East”.

Comediante! Tragediante!

Marcel Ghanem was right when he complimented the Syrian MP on his gusto, stating that he would be a great anchor for a program on politics, or comedy, or both. A Dark comedy, to be sure; as Jamal Khashoggi cautioned, we’re in for an eventful 2 years in this fertile crescent of ours…

Interesting times, indeed….


ghassan karam said...

It is always so painful to have to be subjected to the ramblings of Bashar, Mualem, Shaba'an or even Habash. The simple fact of the matter is that there is so moral, ethical, logical or rational justification for the murderous policies of this Syrian regime. This is a bankrupt regime that is interested only in the survival of the ruling clan. Lest we forget, the self appointed guardians of Arabism and the self appointed tip of the spear of resistance against the "Zionist Entity" are the same people who have made sure that not a single shot is fired across the Golan in more than 33 years. My crystal ball tells me that the Golan will go the way of Iskandaron.

As for Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud craves as much legitimacy as the Syrian Baath. How ironic is it when one of these two governments is to lecture another about democracy and human rights. Saudi Arabia is nothing more than a fiefdom, is there any other country in the world names after its ruling family? The Saudi Royal family have appointed themselves as the guardians of Islam, the protectors of the Arabs and the rulers of the inhabitants of Saudi Arabia. But then they go around giving speeches about social justice, human rights and responsible governance. What they conveniently forget to tell us is that they are the final arbitors of what is just, decent or responsible.

That is in a nut shell the reason that the Lebanese democratic experiment cannot look to any of these regimes for guidance or genuine support. One can even argue that a modern democratic Lebanon is a historical necessity in the Arab world, an entity that we have to create , if it didn't exist in order to act as a model that the rest of the region can follow. This is not the place to deal with this issue at length but let me just remind you that the major reason for the relative lack of achievement of the Arab world is due to its obsolete political structure.

Lebanon can survive, in a sense has got to survive. Our way out of the current standoff , in my view, is not very different than the idea promoted by N. Mashnouk. The regular readers of this blog and B2B now that I have been advocating for some time a solution that rests on a new cabinet of technocrats or independent members similar to the Mikati cabinet. Such a cabinet will make sure that the presidential elections are held, The new president must above everything else be a firm believer in Lebanese sovereignty but must not belong to any of the two major political groups. Such a strong president will have the unenviable task of creating a Lebanese identity. A new cabinet will have to be formed by whoever can put together a ruling coalition with enough votes in the Chamber of Deputies.The new government must be guided only by Lebanese interests and thus has an obligation to disarm all mitias and spread the rule of law all over the country. This implies that HA will have to finally admit that there is no need to its military wing and that its rightful place is in the opposition. Once enough statutes that assure the protection of the rights of all citizens are adopted then even a political victory by HA should not prove to be disaterous to the country. I believe that ther is a way out of the current standoff and more importantly I believe that the final solution will occur along the rough outlines mentioned above and that we will because we must preserve Lebanon. A prosperous Lebanon is in the self interest of the whole region.

Lirun said...

very interesting blog.

re comment above - i dont know you can do so much leaning on the prospects of a competent leader.. the line between competence corruption and agenda in our region is so blurry..

Anonymous said...

Said Hazbani
All of us, or all of you, or all of them or what so ever can talk about Syria till the cows and the goats and the sheep & ewes & rams come home,f rom Sheba farms. But !!! after Somali and Iraq every normal thinking human body in the USA and Canada and Europe is going to do any thing possible and then some more to keep Syria intact. For one this assure any idiot rulling Syria that the USA will never ever allow Israel to hit Syria for the fear that the Syrian government will fall and then what? Somali ? Iraq? If and when this eye hakim pretending to be a lion will tell the powers that if he is not given Lebanon on silver plater he will leave Syria for Paris or Genf they will serve him Lebanon + the Golan in less than a minute. This is what this Flosi told Assad and Kushner will tell him next week. No body but no body want the Syrian Government to fall, for sure not Israel, she is dreading syria becoming even half Iraq. The rest is just empty talk.