Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Syria Will Have to Withdraw from Lebanon

As Lebanon prepares for Hariri's funeral today, which will be marked by large demonstrations and an emotional outpouring, Syria has gone into a state of shock and is doing what little it can to defend its position. Life in Damascus is outwardly quite normal, but there is a widespread anticipation of the worst and a sense of impending attack and encirclement. I have yet to hear a Syrian who believes his government is behind this. Everyone suspects evil doing on the part of Syria's enemies.

Syrian opinions
A number of extended family members came to dinner last night. They watched a bit of the Walid Fares (Lebanese-Maronite) - Kandil (pro-Syrian, Lebanese parliamentary member) debate on al-Jazeera. Each accused the other's group of being behind Hariri's killing.

My father-in-law, who served as a (liwa') or general for ten years and was the number 2 man in the Syrian Navy was very direct when I asked him what Syria should do now.

He said,

Syria will have no choice but to withdraw from Lebanon. Everyone will turn against it. All the old cards – Lebanon, the Palestinians, and Hizballah – have turned into thorns in its side.

Mubarak will call a meeting of the Arab League and they will find a face-saving deal that will allow Asad to withdraw.

The Lebanese have had enough of Syria. The world will use the Hariri assassination against Syria even if it is innocent. Lebanon is finished for Syria.

The Syrian people won’t complain. Lebanon is not an emotional issue. It is an issue of high politics and geo-strategy. Syria will be weakened because now Israel will be able to poke at Syria through Lebanon.

The reality is that Syria is weak. The old strategy can no longer work. Russia is playing with Syria and cannot support it. There is only one path forward for Syria and that is to withdraw.

President Chirac is expected to fly to Beirut for Hariri's funeral on Wednesday and Arab kings and presidents will send senior representatives to see the assassinated ex-premier of Lebanon lowered into his last resting place at the courtyard of Al Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut.

Chirac called on Mrs. Nazek Hariri at the ex-premier's house in Paris, where she was staying in recent weeks. As the French head-of-state was offering his condolences, Gen. Aoun walked in to console Hariri's wife. Chirac and Aoun shook hands.

Mrs. Hariri flew to Beirut late Monday evening on her husband's private jet. She was accompanied by former Lebanese intelligence chief Johnny Abdo and his wife.

Hariri's widow withdrew to the Koreitem ward reserved for woman condolence rituals where she accepted condolences from a stream of sympathizers flanked by Hariri's sister Bahia and his daughter Hind.

The men's section was crowded by politicians, religious leaders and notables. Among them was Syria's vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam who stood next to Bahaa Hariri as condolers filed past. Mufti Rachid Kabbani stood on Bahaa's other side next to Hariri's second son Saad.

It was noted that Khaddam sat down when French ambassador Bernard Emie and U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman arrived to extend their condolences. They shook hands with Kabbani, the 2 sons and Walid Jumblat but both ignored Khaddam.

DAMASCUS, Feb 15 (AFP) - Syria went on the defensive Tuesday after the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who resigned just four months ago in protest at the dominant role of Damascus in his country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was among the first leaders to condemn the massive Beirut bomb blast that killed Hariri and another 14 people on Monday and brought back memories of the dark days of the Lebanese civil war.

The official press condemned the murder as an "odious crime," saying Hariri was a "welcome son" for Syria and accused arch-foe Israel of seeking to sabotage Lebanon's achievements since the 1975-1990 war.

"What happened was an attempt to shatter national unity in Lebanon, to sow anarchy and divisions which lead to a climate of civil war," said government newspaper Tishrin.

While the opposition to the pro-Syrian government in Beirut openly blamed Syria for the assassination, the official Damascus media in turn pointed a finger at Israel without even reporting the accusations against Syria.

Israel "continues to work to sabotage Lebanon's achievements to try to bring anarchy to the country and to be able to continue its occupation of the Shebaa Farms", a disputed strip of land along the Israeli border, said Tishrin.

Several Arab analysts stressed that Syria itself was also targeted by Hariri's assassination.

"Syria certainly did not need to complicate the situation, just when it is already in the firing line" over UN Resolution 1559, Rauf Ghoneim, a former Egyptian deputy foreign minister, said on the public station, Nile-TV.

The UN Security Council adopted the resolution in September calling for an end to foreign interference in Lebanon and the withdrawal of foreign troops, a direct message to Syria which still has 14,000 troops stationed there.

Political scientist Gamal Salama, also in Cairo, ruled out any Syrian link because the killing could not serve the interests of Damascus. It could signal "the prelude to action against Syria", said Salama.

"Something has been in the pipeline against Syria for a long time. "Nobody knows what or when, but something is being cooked up to target Damascus."

The editor-in-chief of Syria's official Ath-Thawra newspaper, Fayez Sayegh, said the attack on Hariri "targeted national unity and civil peace in Lebanon".

In the face of the accusations of Syrian involvement, Sayegh insisted that Damascus "always welcomed Hariri as one of its sons and as a major Lebanese figure".


At 2/16/2005 04:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leila at Dove's Eye View here. Thank you so much for your comments. I especially appreciate that you publish your relatives' personal remarks, since they do offer a fascinating inside look at Syrian opinion.

As a Lebanese American with close ties to my home village outside of Sidon, I am grief stricken and frightened, for Lebanon and for the region. Civil war is a nightmare possibility. The revival of the car bomb opens old wounds. I sincerely hope Syrians had nothing to do with it. At the same time I hope Syria does get out of Lebanon, sooner rather than later - whether or not they are complicit.

The only good that may come of this is a renewed sense of Lebanese unity.

I also feel for those good-hearted Syrians who are perplexed, saddened and frightened, as your family is now. I'll bet the majority feel this way. This tragedy is bad for all of us.

At 2/16/2005 05:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jashua,
Your in-law is right. The Syrians have to leave Lebanon but this was decided before Harari's assassination. Syrians were not defying 1559 or the US, and arrangements were in place to pull out by end of May. Whoever is responsible for this crime, did not want them to leave with dignity.

At 2/16/2005 05:29:00 AM, Blogger Joshua Landis said...

Dear Leila at Dove's Eye View. Many thanks for your kind words. The sympathy for Hariri is rather astonishing here and it is building in a strange way. As the enormity of the act and the importance of its meaning builds, everyone is begining to realize what a turning-point this is in Lebanese national life, and, of course, in Lebano-Syrian relations.

Everything will be different after this. There is genuine saddness for Lebanon here and even a bit of envy. Watching the demonstrations and real national fervor reminds Syrians how little they have of their own.

Every Syrian I have spoken with in the past several days has remarked how little idealism or even political consciousness there is among Syrians. Maybe the Lebanese will be an example to Syrians that it is possible to rise above sectarianism and division and to aspire to better things.

Do check out Leila's wonderful site:

At 2/16/2005 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

Leila... I mean, jeez. How many times have you repeated this now and you NEVER factor in any meaningful analysis! You just keep repeating that this might lead to civil war and that you hope it doesn't even when everyone, including Josh's own post, say that what this is doing is solidifying a national opposition to Syria which is probably the opposite effect the Syrians had hoped to achieve. Many analysts have weighed in with similar comments from Stacey Yadav to Eyal Zisser and others. The only people instigating violence in Lebanon are Syria and its cronies. But that doesn't really factor in for you. Why? Because you "sincerely hope" the Syrians didn't do it. And then BASED ON THAT, you start building other alternatives! In fact, you also mentioned in your comment on my blog that part of why you block your mind to particular readings is because of how you feel about neocons and right-wingers! I.e., you admit that your ideology (as well as your sentimentality) are in full control of your judgment and your analysis, rendering it rather useless.

Yes, indeed a sense of Lebanese unity would be a good thing that comes out of this, but it's not "renewed" and it had already been forming before the assassination!! That's the whole damn point! You NEVER factored that in in any of your comments anywhere.

I'm afraid that my "Arabist Hallmark card" characterization of your writing sticks like glue.

At 2/16/2005 11:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Josh,

Two remarks to your last comment and to all the analysts who are dismissing Syria's hand in the latest assassination.
First, it seems that the bomb was planted in the sewage system and was detonated mechanically. The bomb weighted around 1 ton or more. Only the Syrian secret services and their Lebanese counter parts can have access to the sewage system and move 1 ton or more of explosives in a city like Beirut.
Hariri was killed after an orchestrated campaign accusing him of being a traitor. This campaign was started by the Lebanese government that as everybody knows takes instructions from Syria.
Suspicion that Syria is behind this attack is bigger than ever. Just hear the crowd that attended the funerals qualifying Syria as the ennemy of God.

At 2/16/2005 03:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just hear the crowd! what a substantial evidence.. Countries with the most sophisticated intellegence agencies in the world had much more serious security breaches..does 9/11 ring a bell??!

At 2/17/2005 12:50:00 AM, Anonymous Ibn el Thawra said...

A3ysh el Souria al hurria ! Waqna el an

At 2/17/2005 05:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comparison between the security breach of 9/11 and the assassination of Hariri is irrelevant.
Hariri died after a big rift with Syria and NOT with Bin Laden or any other faction. Hariri is the only person who can lead the whole Sunni community against the Syrian occupation.
The crowd is not an evidence in itself. It simply tells you the mood in the street and how much Syria is disliked and distraught among Sunni muslims. It simply adds up to the othe points I raised.
Obviously and unfotunately you read what you liked and you skipped what you disliked.

At 2/17/2005 06:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comparison was between security breaches in terms of logistics, size, sophistication and the intelligence agencies who failed to discover it. If 9/11 does not seem like a fair comparison then try John Kennedy's assassination.

At 2/17/2005 08:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear all,
Having written my insight on the problems hindering Bashar's reforms I have a thought on the unfortunate event of the day.
I know it is not romantic at all to stay away from conspiracy theories, but at the risk of sounding naive, why can't it be Osama 's gang trying to destabilize the country as it goes well with their intentions. They are against the Syrian baath (can't blame them for that), they are against the Saudi (can't blame them for that either)(Hariri is their man in Lebanon), and they hate everyone who is slightly moderate calling for cross religious unity (Hariri was such a man). They may also want to see an American invasion in Syria so they can go at the Americans the way they do in Iraq. Killing Hariri will certainly get them closer to this objective. Afterall, they claimed responsibility but we found it so unromatic and decided thay it is not amusing enough for us.
100 years ago the anarchists were responsible for assassinating many world leaders including a president of the United States, and PM of France, a Tsar of Russia, a Kaiser's wife among others. Why can't the Bin Laden's movement be doing the same?
What is so clear at this time is that they are reaching their objective by having every interested party in the region trying to capitalize as much as possible on the poor (not in $$$ sense) guy's unfortunate death.
This is just a thought. What do you think Josh

At 12/06/2005 03:58:00 AM, Blogger HiiFii Webservices said...

Learn to earn 90000$/Month
For which you may also see my Personal Website
and for a Personal Education Career Tools
free Study Database.
This site is for seeing the
Hifi Electronics.
And this is for
World Class Gadgets

At 11/01/2006 03:23:00 PM, Blogger HiiFii Webservices said...

If you can learn some Search Engine Optimization then i guess you can study full time and make income too while working for few hours a day.Some sites like the Seo services can help you know what is seo and you can later making online directories which can help you make decent money too.
Good luck


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home