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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pessimistic take

The situation might be a lot worse than we thought. Syria is reportedly preparing to stir things up in Lebanon in response to the inevitable arrest of some of its officials in Vienna. With Lebanon set to issue arrest warrants against the Syrian suspects upon the recommendation of the Hariri commission, the Syrians will find themselves "humiliated" and their standing as a major player in the region further weakened. Damascus has been struggling to regain its prestige in the region following the damage of the last few months through a series of unsuccessful televised attempts to discredit and derail the UN investigation. These attempts might prove successful (to some weak minds) in the short term but will not provide the Syrian regime with a way out of their rut.

Al-Seyassah Friday quoted a diplomat in New York as saying that the Algerian representative at the Security Council is pessimistic about the repercussions on the “Lebanese internal situation” should Mehlis recommend the arrest of the five suspects. The diplomat quoted “colleagues” at the UN Security Council as saying that Syria has been openly paving the way for the situation in Lebanon to explode, as evidenced by Bashar’s war declaration and threat to spread chaos from Lebanon and Syria to the entire region. This threat was repeated by Husam in his press conference Monday, when he warned that any indictment of Syria will be the spark that will “detonate the security and stability” of the entire Middle East region (Read the short article on Husam on the page I linked to. Note how it says he worked for the Syria army's tenth division in Lebanon. The same division that he said brought the white Mitsubishi van into Lebanon.)

The diplomats took notice of a recent speech by Assem Qanso (link anybody?), the chief of the Baath party in Lebanon, which predicted an imminent war in Lebanon at a time security forces found a booby-trapped-ready car with forged license plate and engine identification number in his apartment building. Citing Lebanese sources, the article accuses Qanso of running training camps for militants in Lebanon and preparing for an armed conflict. (Qanso might want to know that Assef Shawkat and co. are smuggling their dollars out of Syria, another demonstration of patriotism and evidence of the plot against Syrian regime innocence!)

This reading of the situation is consistent with what Jumblatt told al-Shiraa weekly on Thursday. He warned that the Syrian regime has weakened itself internally and might resort to following-up the Husam comedy “with something that is being put together in Lebanon”. He urged the purging of remaining “Ghazaleh mercenaries” in the Lebanese security forces.

The above is unfortunately consistent with an older post about Syria's plan of attack. The same source I used for that post, al-Watan al-Arabi, is today talking about a Hizbullah plan for a military coup in Lebanon. It's far fetched, I think, but who knows. I am only trying to present all the different possibilities so we're all aware.

Update: Read Jumblatt's full interview in Arabic here.


Syria's potential to wreak havoc in Lebanon has always been there, and it is a constant threat.

However, it seems like they have stopped for the time being for any number of reasons.

1) The Mehlis Commission learned a lot about the Hariri assassination from the subsequent bombings and assassination attempts. Jameh Jameh was directly fingered. The Syrians might not want to continue taking risks. They prefer information darkness. The light is now shining brightly in Lebanon. Any pro-Syrian party found threatening Lebanese stability will be dealt with mercilessly (as Saniora showed with Ahmad Jibreel). Assem Qanso will be arrested if he tries anything, as would Assad Hardan.

The only threat is Hezbollah, but it is doubtful they would start a war.

2) There is tacit pressure on Syria. We don't know what Prince Bandar is negotiating during his many trips to Syria. Saudi's care for Lebanon. We are their playground. We are the Las Vegas to their Utah.

And they do know that, to a limited extent, they could be threatened internally by Lebanese actors should they continue to mount attacks in our country.
I sincerely hope you're right, LP.
Here's for Qanso

How come Qanso has not been arrested?
He did not deny the ownership of the car
but claimed it was not a big deal.(ANB)
A former minister with a stolen booby-trapped
car in his garage!
Only in Lebanon.
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