It is Syria, with only one real ally left in the world, Iran, that is on the defensive. So are its Lebanese allies, inside and outside the regime. The conflict is an outgrowth of American strategies in the Middle East, from the war on terror to regime change, democratisation and the invasion of Iraq. Syria is not a member of President Bush’s “axis of evil”, but, with Iran, it is increasingly targeted as a villain. It is regularly charged, for example, with aiding and abetting the insurgency in Iraq, interfering with the Arab-Israel peace process and sponsoring the Hizbullah militia in Lebanon. The Hizbullah are in turn accused by Israel of aiding and abetting Hamas.
For decades now Syria has been losing card after card in a steadily weakening strategic hand. Its domination over Lebanon is one of the last and most vital of them. Ultimately it will perhaps be a bargaining counter in some grand deal to be struck with America that secures the Ba’athist regime’s future in the evolving new Middle East order.
Conversely, however, Lebanon, as a platform that Syria’s adversaries exploit against it, is liable to turn into a source of great weakness, if not an existential threat. The Ba’athists, now under siege in so many ways, feel that they are struggling desperately to keep their grip on Lebanon.
But the methods Syria uses, such as political intimidation and backstage manipulation by its intelligence services, seem, if anything, only to be backfiring against it….
Down the years the Lebanese have attributed many political assassinations to Syria, but never dared say so publicly. This time, they have.
The best way of dealing with Syria is to continue to put pressure on them politically and diplomatically – and the best way of doing that is to continue to support the Lebanese in their quest to be free from Syrian occupation. The joint Franco-American resolution demanding that Syria pull its 20,000 troops from Lebanese territory was a start. Supporting the Lebanese people in a truly free and fair election would be another.
The Syrian government knows they’re under pressure. Iraq and Palestine have had free elections. Iran has an active pro-democracy movement that could turn into another revolution overnight. Syria has been incriminated in helping fund, equip, and train the Ba’athist and terrorist forces in Iraq. They’re one of the single most prolific state sponsors of terrorism in the world, from Hamas to Hizb’Allah and others. Their occupation and subjugation of Lebanon must be ended, and we should give our full supports towards a free and democratic Lebanon. We have decided to embark upon a campaign to democratize the Middle East, and Lebanon would be a logical next step in that plan.