Posted by Joshua on Thursday, March 20th, 2008
Here are the many trenchant and, I believe, representative views of both Syrians and Lebanese to the previous post, in which I wrote: "Syria needs to make a clear statement about its Lebanon policy, explaining on what terms it will normalize relations."
What a bunch of horse manure. Syria no more needs to articulate its long-term position on Lebanon than Egypt needs to articulate a long-term position on Sudan or Saudi Arabia on Qatar. As a Syrian, I reject the very notion, and refuse to continue to prove our innocence over and again. Syria has repeatedly expressed its recognition of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, and more recently, its willingness to establish diplomatic relations with Beirut once the current cloud is cleared. Why should Syria go any further? Indeed, she shouldn’t.
During the Lebanese civil war, Syria (unfortunately) intervened in Lebanon at the behest of the Lebanese, and with full diplomatic cover by the Arab League. During that time, Syria had every right to safeguard its national interest when there is a failed state whose war can easily extend to its own territory. It took a little longer for the Syrian government to pull its troops out (we now see the reason why). But, thankfully, we’re OUT now, and Syria is all the better for it – economically and politically.
Three years on, after repeated demands to leave Lebanon alone, Syria is now requested (indeed pressured) to actively intervene to influence one group (who is friendly to it) to vote for a President/Government/Agenda that is hostile to its own national interests. Does anyone see the irony and stupidity here?
In my opinion, Syria should:
1. Refuse ANY attempt to articulate a long-term position on Lebanon beyond the standard recognition of sovereignty when appropriate.
2. Reiterate its willingness to establish full diplomatic relationships, including opening of embassies once the current hostile government refrains from the constant accusations and attacks.
3. Reject any and all calls for intervention or influence with its friends in Lebanon to pass (or block) the vote on President Suleiman or any other agenda. This should be the free choice of the opposition alone. Let demographic (and other factors play out here). Syria can provide moral support based on the position taken by Lebanese players and their consistency with its own national interest.
4. Treat Lebanon as any other state with similar hostile political climate (as exists today), by cutting electricity and fuel subsidies, charging more competitive fees to trucks and transit passing through our territory, as well as reviewing contracts unduly awarded to Lebanese companies.
To me, this is pretty simple, straightforward, and surprisingly normal.
No matter how diplomatic we want to be about it and let no one fool himself,; Lebanese “Independence” stops where Syria’s National Security starts.
Enlightened one ,
These are my thoughts,
Lebanon has many problems , Syria only kept them under wrap during it’s stay , now that Syria is out everybody is trying to correct the wrong that is practiced in Lebanon , from Christians seeing their representatives elected by Muslims and Shia not having full representation and Sunnies hijacking the government and power and making the Christian presidency a joke ,
The government people try to use Syria as an scapegoat for the lack of political reform that will make the Lebanese feel that they are well represented.
The way i see a solution in Lebanon is to have small districts and have primaries to chose candidates from the opposition and a candidate from the ones in power then have an election to chose one of the two, redistricting could be done by an American university and no matter what the mix of people in these districts , with free movements and anti discrimination laws in housing and jobs , that mix will change having small districts will make it easier for people to elect people they know and like , each county in Lebanon can elect 4 senators to the upper house and like in the US , laws are made after passing by both houses .
The president would be elected by the total population after a primary that will chose the candidates for the opposition and the Government and can be of any religion , the time has come to have real democracy so the people can feel that they can be anything they want if they want to be in politics .
I think Syria just want Lebanon to stop being a tool to attack Syria,
We all know that Syria went into Lebanon because as Hafez Assad said that Jumblat did not want to eat grapes from the vainer he wanted to kill the keeper ( Christians ) and that he could not let happen , so the Lebanese of the government , they do not want to get rid of Syria’s influence in Lebanon they want to destroy Syria and that , the Syrian people will not allow to happen.
The realistically cynical view:
– Syria made a huge mistake in assassinating Hariri
– Tried to do damage control by withdrawing from Lebanon
– Tried to reclaim influence through HA
– Is scared beyond reason of the international tribunal convincingly implicating Senior Syrian leaders, and reaching or coming close to Bashar
– All maneuvering by Sryia is driven ultimately by this survival need to dissolve or at least diminish and deflect the tribunal
Hence the insistence on HA’s veto in the Lebanese government, refusal to recognize the tribunal, and all other Syrian positions.
I know I’ll be asked for “proof” etc., as I’ve read in so many posts here. Instead, I ask you to consider that there are 2 possibilities: (1) Syria did kill Hariri and (2) Syria did not kill Hariri.
If (1) is true, all my statements above are validated
If (2) is true, what a lousy defense by Syria to proclaim its innocence. In that case you really have a bumblingly incompetent regime.
When there is a peace settlement between Syria and Israel, Syria will not mind recognizing Lebanese borders and sending an ambassador …etc.
Syria has no secret plans to integrate Lebanon … Ausamma is right, Syrian national security is Syria’s priority … Syria will require guarantees that Lebanon will not be used by anyone against Syria. Syria will probably require a solid guarantee from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel, that none of them will interfere in Lebanon
The rest will fall in place naturally … Lebanese and Syrian business people will invest in the two neighboring countries almost as if they are one country … there will be a return to warm relations … and the Lebanese will find out that Syria really does not want to send its army back in, and really does not want to destroy their “democracy” … The Lebanese can also expect that “Syria will not be governed against Lebanon” … etc.
I never seen any Lebanese who likes Lebanon to be part of Syria, even the Hizballah people! Lebanon is an independent country and will never be part of Syria!
I agree with “TheOtherPointOfVieW” that Syria did a big mistake with killing Hariri and someone will pay the price.
Sooner or later the Syrian will wake up and overthrow its Asad Mafia regime. Then Lebanese and Syrian people will live in peace and harmony, and mutual respect.
I don’t think we need to philosophize much about Syria’s policy toward Lebanon. It’s too futile at this point of time, me thinks. Simply because Lebanon is changing dynamics. Hence, the Syrian short term policy will have to be dynamic and flexible. Otherwise we’d fall in the trap of committing our self to a plan and then getting trapped within its confinements.
Long term policy? ….. the Al Ba’th party charter says it very clear:
“Arab unity is the ultimate goal of the entire struggle for freedom and independence”
…and I totally agree with it!
Mr President said:
Lebanon is not a nation state. The Lebanese people know that. For you to know that you just have to pass by beautiful and rich Zahleh on your way to a ghetto called Balabek. the Sunnis and Christians robbed the so called Lebanon for so many years for their own self interests. They did that because they never thought and still never thinks that it is a country for everyone. it is really just a collection of warlords and their crowds. Also, economically it cannot sustain itself and survive on its own. It always needed the help of Syria in term of labor force, major food (grain,…), electricity, defense, law and order… also, Syria was and still the shopping center for all the poor people of Lebanon. Hence, Syria provides subsidies to Lebanese poor. That tells you that the two countries are so close and so interconnected. In fact, I have yet to find a Lebanese or Syrian family, yourself included, that does not have major extended networks of cousins and uncles in both countries. Syria is not interfering in Lebanon. It is the Saudis with the help of Bush and the king of Jordan the ones interfering in it. As always the warlords of Lebanon are asking outsiders to come and help them win, by force, against their own Lebanese brothers and sisters. This time the Druze and Sunni warlords of Lebanon ran to the Saudis/Bush to help them steal the country. In return, these warlords are offering to be the center for taking over Syria for the Saudi. …
The solution for Lebanon is One-man One-Vote democracy. Everything else will fall into place between Syria and Lebanon on its own. Just like everything else fell into place for the last couple of hundred years due the strong social, economical, and educational connections between the two areas.
I visited the new, ultra modern and beautiful Lebanese museum at the American University of Beirut recently and looked at the historical map of Lebanon from the early days of the Phoenicians.
What stuck with me is how the country was always reliant on trade to sustain itself and it’s only natural for Lebanon to have an interdependent relationship with the country that surrounds it the most. Let’s not forgot Lebanon until very recently was actually a nice part of Syria before the French decided to divide and concur the area and create a separate Lebanon as an independent state which is very romantic although pretty stupid and unpractical in retrospect. Surely easier to control. Imagine if an imperial Germany or a colonial force had a chance to cut off California from the rest of the union, manufacture false pride, nationalism and hunger for independence among the California population and then wonder why they can’t live in peace and be governed independently!
Cutting off Los Vegas from California is a very bad idea. Cutting off Lebanon from Syria is a far worse idea for both countries.
All this talk about Syria withholding the establishment of an embassy in Lebanon until some future event or development is precisely the kind of blatant evidence of Syria’s arrogant hegemony over its smaller neighbor.
“GEORGES” is a proud Syrian nationalist and should be commended for that. So is Norman. Commendation and respect for both. But the fact is that they are blinded by this pride to the point that they fail to have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the Lebanese. The Lebanese are just as proud and are asking for just as much respect.
“Mr. President” says “Lebanon is not a nation state.”
“Offended” spells it out frankly “Arab unity is the ultimate goal of the entire struggle for freedom and independence.”
You all probably mean well, but you unconsciously dismiss the inevitable momentum of the creation, through evolution, of a new Lebanon, completely severed from Syrian control. This does not mean a Lebanon that is the enemy of Syria, nor a Lebanon that will not deal with Syria. It simply means a Lebanon that will interact with Syria – cooperate, mutually support, jointly develop economic ties – from a position of mutual respect and complete independence.
Until and unless such respect is extended – including the establishment of an embassy and the halting of subversive actions of enabling illegal weapons flow through the border – Lebanon is and should be free to defend itself in the court of world opinion and claim the full airing and accounting of the true culprits in its assassination strings.
The US is treating Syria to no more than Syria is treating Lebanon. At least the US still has an embassy in Syria (even if the ambassador has been withdrawn) and periodic attempts are made by some US politicians (as well as Europeans) to re-connect with Syria. What has Syria done? Persistently insult the democratically elected government of Lebanon and call its Prime Minister a slave.
I am Syrian, and yes, I am proud. I also know and appreciate that a Lebanese (or a person from Mali or Denmark, for that matter) would also be proud of their country. This concept is not lost on me. So, I don’t appreciate you playing a psychologist to decipher what I may be “blinded by”, just because you may have read a couple of newspaper articles.
You got it wrong. I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with Lebanese independence, and I would offer my respect to ANY country and people, near or far, that respects itself. I didn’t want Syrian troops in Lebanon a long time before the assassination of Hariri and don’t want Syria to rule the Lebanese anymore than I want to be ruled by anyone else. That said, I do support a Syrian policy that actively supports those whose agendas and vision is shared by me and my country, particularly when they’re up against another group whose agenda is to spread chaos in my region.
So, I don’t “unconsciously dismiss” the blah blah blah. Please try to read before responding, and stop parroting the same thing. It is you and others who live in this endless paranoia about Syrian hidden designs on Lebanon. I know I speak for a lot of people in Syria who don’t give a damn. I actually mean this nicely. Since our troops’ withdrawal, Syria has adopted more (but not enough) of a Syria-first policy: With even the shy and inadequate reforms that have been made in the last 3 years, billions of dollars have been repatriated into Syrian banks from Lebanon, Syrians are now shopping in Damascus instead of Beirut….and foreign investment has been flowing.
If the Lebanese want my (and others’) respect, they need to demonstrate that they’re worthy of it…or at least that they’re not deserving of me withholding it. Over the last 3 years, they have failed to earn my respect…and I suspect that of so many others, in the region and elsewhere. Among the few characteristics that the Lebanese share with one another is mistrust, suspicion and agency to one foreign country or another against each other. I would not respect that – not in Lebanon…or Somalia!
Thank You! Nothing in what you just wrote is disputed. Nothing. The Lebanese do have a LOT of problems and a LOT of evolution to go through to get their house in order.
The specific policy actions from Syria are what’s at stake:
– arguing against establishing at this time an embassy (the arguments don’t hold water and lead to the suspicions and accusations I level, or more accurately, I forward)
– refraining from controlling the border and hence enabling illegal weapon transfers
– denigrating the government of Lebanon by insulting its Prime Minister
Isn’t that interference? Everyone applauds a Syria-first policy and a strong, competitive, advanced Syria. The re-emergence of Syria as a beacon for the Arab world and culture is celebrated by all except the rotten extremists or bigots on the other end of the spectrum. These will be drowned if/when objectively valid cases are made for Syria. The Syria cultural exposition in Canada a few years ago was a resounding success and lauded by all.
Therein does NOT lie the problem. The problem lies in the actions and positions of the Syrian government vis-a-vis Lebanon.
Qifa Nabki said:
In all seriousness, though, I would invite Georges to consider that almost EVERYTHING that has been said by our Syrian colleagues on this thread could have been said by a Jumblatt supporter on a M14 blog, substituting the word Syria for Lebanon.
The Lebanese aren’t paranoid about Syrian designs on Lebanon. Paranoia implies an undue anxiety about an external threat. These anxieties are not undue! You guys like to imagine that what the Lebanese are worried about are ancient Syrian tanks lumbering back into the Bekaa, and bored 21 year-old Syrian troopers standing guard at checkpoints in the Chouf. This is not the issue.
As Alex said very clearly:
When there is a peace settlement between Syria and Israel, Syria will not mind recognizing Lebanese borders and sending an ambassador …etc.
This is not a secret position, and so the anxiety about it is not undue, and so does not represent paranoia. What Alex is saying is that Syria will continue to exert its control over Lebanon via its proxies until its own objectives are met. Forgive me if I am not thrilled about this, given the track record of the past several decades.
If Syria is serious about peace and about establishing proper diplomatic relations with its neighbors in the context of mutual security guarantees, then it needs to be clear about its policy. Anything less than a stated policy which conforms to reality will not be good enough for the Lebanese. You see, we also have our national security to think about.
And unlike Syria’s national security [which depends overwhelmingly on a Lebanese resistance group], we don’t have anyone but ourselves looking out for our interests.
Anybody who accuses Lebanon of being disconnected from regional realities is completely insane. Lebanon is the epicenter of regional realities. It is also, ironically, the only semi-democractic country in the region. I would prefer that the rest of the region become more like us than the other way around.
And I think the millions of Syrians who work, study, get medical treatment, and go on vacation in Lebanon would agree, deep down.
1- Lebanon unfortunately does not have ONE national interest but at least two. Always had. The national interest of almost three quarters of the Lebanese is aligned with Syria’s and the overall Arab cause.
2- You claim:” we don’t have anyone but ourselves looking out for our interests.”
Ecexuse me, but what exactly do you call the continued support and interest of Bush, Olmert, Larsen, Koshner, and King Abdullah in supporting the Feb 14 gang? Not to mention the USS COLE and USS Philippines etc, etc? Unless you realise that they are just using part of the Lebanese chiftains and people to further their own interests which are not necessearily alligned with the intersts of the majority of the Lebanese in the long term.
BTW, since an Embassy is so important to Lebanon’s existance, why ddoesn'taudi have an Embassy in US Occupied Iraq yet? And Syria has repeatedly said an Embassy, a demarcation, and a… whatever would be done but not under pressure from the outside.Bashar al Assad made a State Visit to quell your imagined anexity early during his term, but even that is forgotten. You can not cherry pick what you want from Syria, actually, given the size and nature of both countries, reality dictates that the opposite should be the norm.
So please, realize the relative size and importance of Lebanon and act according to it, and do not keep counting on either drawing the outsiders in to counter-balance Syria’s weight, or to induce temporary additional ppressuresn Syria. It has not worked in the past, it is not working now, and it will not work in the future.
You first define what your policy towards Syria should be. Check it out with three quarters of the Lebanese and obtain their agreement, then take a taxi to DDamascus see what adjustments Syria requiers, integrate those into the plan and then implement a Lebaneses Syrian policy that benifit both. And be very Modest while you at it. Very!
The Prima Donas of the Arab World; Guess who fits this discription best?
Qifa Nabki said:
1- Lebanon unfortunately does not have ONE national interest but at least two. Always had.
The national interest of almost three quarters of the Lebanese is aligned with Syria’s and the overall Arab cause.
Disagree. (And by the way, you equate Syria’s cause with the overall Arab cause. But who’s in the dog house in the Arab world, allying with the Arabs’ current enemy? Yes, you guessed: it’s Syria!)
Excuse me, but what exactly do you call the continued support and interest of Bush, Olmert, Larsen, Koshner, and King Abdullah in supporting the Feb 14 gang?
Actually, amazingly, we agree on this point. Bush and co do not have Lebanon’s best interests at heart. Did he come to Lebanon’s defense while Israel was bombarding us? No. Did Syria? No again. (Syria was offering to sell Hizbullah out, if you believe Alon Liel).
There is no question that we are the prima donnas of the Arab World. Keep fawning secretly… it does wonders for our complexion.
This blog is suffering form a serious firehouse syndrom: the same 6 guys convincing each other of strange ideas. Some of my favorites are:
-”Lebanon” has always been part of “Syria” until the nasty Frenchies came along. Has any of you bothered to look at maps of the M-E before making such an elightening comment?
-Lebanon has always been a source of destabilization for Syria: Landis came up with 100 guys training in the Chouf in the 50’s. Any other insights you care to share?
Sorry for disturbing the self-congratulatory ciclejerk.
Qifa Nabki said:
It’s so refreshing to hear the female perspective on things. 🙂
I’m so ashamed.
Merci for bursting some limited circulation bubble here as Mars and Venus do speak different languages sometimes and I appreciate that.
If someone lied to me, and the French never meddled in Syrian/Lebanese politics, please feel free to reorient my views.