Tuesday, June 15, 2004

For Chirac, Lebanon and Syrian politics are personal

Would one of our readers explain how Bashar spurned Chirac? (go to the comments button at the bottom of this post.) What is the relationship between Chirac and Bashar? In today's Daily Star, Zeina Abu Rizk argues that Chirac does not like Bashar and is angry at him for spurning France's early effort's to take the young Syrian president under its wing. Abu Risk writes of last weeks meeting between Bush and Chirac:

These meetings have also revealed Chirac's rather negative perception of his Syrian counterpart, the source said. This tense relation between the two men goes back to the time when Assad was elected Syrian president. At that time, Chirac tried to play the role of the young president's godfather, trying to orient him in his political choices, but the Syrian leader refused to be tutored. Ever since, their relations have become more or less tense.

In general, there seems to be a French-US understanding on two main points with respect to Lebanon: First, the necessity for a full implementation of the Taif Accord in text and in spirit. In this context, the two sides agree that the time has come for a Syrian pullout from Lebanon. And second, a commitment to the constitutional mechanism and norms in Lebanon which should eventually lead to the election of a new president next fall.

However, for the time being, the US administration has no executive measures to propose in order to put these beliefs into effect itself, the lack of tangible means to implement these beliefs is an indication that the Lebanese issue is hardly a top US priority. Indeed, whoever is elected US president next November is unlikely to change this policy.

As for France, it might not feel that now is the time to pressure the US about a Syrian pullout or other issues concerning Lebanon. However, Paris is unlikely to close this course, at least not as long as Chirac is in power.

In the meantime, Syria is free to act in Lebanon, particularly in regard to the election of a Lebanese president.
Can it be true, as Abu Rizk implies, that Chirac is more eager than Bush to push for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon at this time? Yes, France has a long and close relationship with Lebanon, which is more important than its Syria connection. All the same, France was not one of the three EU countries that insisted on stalling the EU trade agreement with Syria. France has been the most aggressive EU country in opposing US policy in the Middle East, especially when it comes to throwing around its weight, imposing sanctions, and seeming to act in Israel's interests. France led the way in saving Iran from the direct wrath of the US last year when the neoconservative were seeking to mobilize Europe to sanction Iran over the development of Nuclear facilities. Anyway, I am curious to know if any of our kind readers can flesh out the Franco-Syrian relationship further than Abu Rizk has. Without France in its corner, Syria will face many difficulties in the future.


At 6/15/2004 05:04:00 PM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

I don't have time to elaborate or speculate now, but I'll try to come back to it later. In the meantime, I thought maybe these articles might be of help, if not in clarifying things, at least in showing the utter hypocrisy of France.

This article discusses the recent arms deal between France and Israel, which az-Zaman qualified as the largest since 1967.

But back to the immediate topic, An-Nahar had run the story of Chirac and Bush's meeting as well as their comments on Syria. I wanted to discuss it on my blog but haven't had the time. Perhaps then I'll incorporate this discussion to mine when I do get the chance. When I read the An-Nahar piece I was as surprised as Joshua, as I didn't expect Chirac saying what he said. But Abu Rizk might be right in that the two leaders, however surreal, are actually in agreement on Syria's role in Lebanon.

At 6/15/2004 06:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reinforces the fact that France is not motivated by altruism or conviction. It is a mere participant in world politics, a participant that is quickly becoming irrelevant. More than that, maneuvers such as this one, its close military relationship with Israel (as Tony just showed) and the fact that it was the prime military resource for Saddam’s regime in its heyday are quickly draining its credibility.

At 6/15/2004 08:26:00 PM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

I just wanted to add an English translation of some of the Bush-Chirac statements in the An-Nahar story I refered to for those who don't read Arabic. You'll find them at the end of the comment.

Also, I forgot to mention in my previous post the Hariri factor. What I mean by that is the close relationship between Chirac and (Lebanon's Prime Minister and multi-millionaire businessman) Hariri, and the power struggle in Lebanon between Hariri and (Lebanon's president) Lahoud (Syria's and Hizbullah's guy).

Take this story for instance on Syria's caution not to appear as having anything to do with Lahoud's bid to (unconstitutionally) extend his stay in office.

An-Nahar (my English translation):

Chirac: "We did not forget the Syrian-Israeli and the Lebanese-Israeli sides of the conflict."

(To me this is a direct blow to the carefully nursed Syrian discourse, which is spoon fed to Syria's cronies in Lebanon. The mantra was of the "unity of track and destiny" (wiHdat al-masaar wal-maSiir). It was anathema to talk of two separate negotiation tracks with Israel. Syria controlled everything, and Lebanon was assumed within that framework to be Syria's domain.)

Chirac: "We have renewed our conviction of the need for Lebanon to have its sovereignty and independence secured."

Bush: "The Lebanese people deserve to get to determine their future without the interference of foreign forces."

Bush and Chirac both agreed on: "Lebanon's freedom and sovereignty."

(All this talk about freedom, independence, and sovereignty mirror the discourse of the Christian opposition, namely the Maronite Church, in the same way that the "unity of track and destiny" is characteristic of Syria's cronies.)

At 8/17/2007 01:18:00 AM, Blogger Maldives Islands said...

Syria related internet resources at Web Directory


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