Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Syria regains strength in Lebanon, without troop presence .... Saudi, Western rapprochement with Syria sealed new reality

Via Friday-Lunch-Club

Reuters/ here

"Slowly but surely, Syria has regained influence in Lebanon, but wields it more diplomatically than in the era before the slaying of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri ..... with a green light from Hariri's regional ally Saudi Arabia, it has recovered its standing abroad, shrugging off Western efforts to isolate it and developing strong new ties with Turkey, a former enemy.

"There was not even the pretence of diplomacy and dignity," recalled Karim Makdisi, "It's not so much that Lebanon is now a sovereign country," he said, but a more normal relationship had been restored.....

The younger Hariri became prime minister after his Western- and Saudi-backed coalition narrowly won a June election against Hezbollah and other Syrian allies. But he heads a national unity government in which the minority enjoys significant power.

Lebanese politicians who had hoped the United States, France and Saudi Arabia would block any Syrian interference after the last Syrian troops left in April 2005 have trimmed their sails.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, once one of Syria's fieriest critics, left the Hariri-led coalition last year to take a more centrist stance -- and is expected to visit Damascus soon.

For Marwan Hamadeh, a Jumblatt aide who survived an attempt on his life in October 2004, the new relationship with Syria stops short of genuine reconciliation and cannot obstruct an international tribunal formed to prosecute Hariri's killers.

"I wouldn't say the Syrians are back," he told Reuters. "In political and intelligence terms they never left.....

Most Lebanese politicians now clear their lines with Syria.

President Michel Suleiman, a former army commander, holds a weekly call with Assad. Hariri has spoken by telephone to the Syrian leader several times since his trip to Damascus.

"Once the Syrians and Saudis got together, local politicians would always have to dance to their music," said Makdisi.

Anti-Syrian politicians had to compromise because they had realised that Lebanon was "not the centre of the universe" and Western leaders would not come to their rescue, he added.

Syria sees its influence in Lebanon as a trump card in any negotiations with the West and Israel, Hamadeh said. The West still wanted to keep Lebanon from coming under Syria's thumb again. "But everything in this world is now relative, especially independence and sovereignty," he shrugged....

But progress could be slow on measures that Hariri sees as vital to reinforce a normal state-to-state relationship.....

Hariri no longer publicly accuses Syria of orchestrating the huge seafront bomb blast that killed his father and 22 others, saying he will await the outcome of the U.N.-backed tribunal.

Investigators initially implicated Syrian and Lebanese security officials, but the tribunal has yet to indict any suspects and critics say it appears to have lost momentum.

Lebanese commentator Michael Young said the United States and France, both hostile to Syria at the time, had spearheaded efforts to set up the tribunal, but now had other priorities.

"Today there is no critical mass to see the tribunal accuse Syria or anybody else. For many in the international community, the tribunal is more a headache than anything else," he argued.

Makdisi, the academic, said the tribunal had a life of its own, but might never uncover the truth behind Hariri's killing.

Posted by G, Z, or B at 9:09 AM

River to Sea
Uprooted Palestinian

No comments: