Monday, March 7, 2005

Assad Makes His Move

A week after the exciting popular uprising in Beirut, the world and the movement for Lebanese independence from Syria heard from the Assad regime. In a message that at once was both predictable and indicative of the relative desperation felt by the boy optometrist, Assad issued a hollow offer to partially pull troops out of Lebanon, while his proxy militia in the southern part of the country, Hezbollah, announced that it was not supportive of the departure of Assad’s forces from the country.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah , the head of Hezbollah, announced that pro-Syrian demonstrations would be held on Tuesday, in Beirut, near Martyrs square, which can only be viewed as a provocative action, meant to intimidate the pro-democracy demonstrators. In a final shot across the bow of the forces of freedom in the Middle East, Assad specifically mentioned during his speech Sunday, that Syrian forces might have to stay in the country because of the increased threat of civil war. Of course nobody is talking about civil war and such a threat is only present because of Hezbollah’s intransigence in the face of historic change.

It’s a move we in Chicago are all too familiar with as it is a rehash of the Outfit’s old protection racket scheme. It went something like this:

“I dunno mister, dis here’s a very dangerous neighborhood. Maybe we should provide you with some pertecshun, cuz sumbudy might udderwise hurt you. It’ll cost ya, hardly nuttin.”

Assad’s actions are not surprising since they come directly from Daddy’s playbook. For years Syria has played the role of Lebanon’s arsonist and fire department, alternatively creating crises and then justifying their continued presence by the instability they created. This time, however, the lay of the land is different and Assad seems to recognize this. In a moment of unexpected, and possibly unintended, candor the boy optometrist pleaded that the U.S. not view him as another Hussein.

Similarly, Hezbollah has revealed the same level of desperation, not to mention an utter lack of creativity. Hezbollah has been building a political arm for years, in an effort to prepare itself for independence from its master to the east. Currently the group, which insists on being recognized as a “resistance group” holds 13 seats in the Lebanese Parliament. At a time that can only be viewed as a moment in history when the world threatens to change, Hezbollah reaffirmed its alliance with a weak and struggling dictator, when they could have chosen to join the independence movement and flex their political muscle. Allow me to provide the interpretation: Hezbollah recognizes that for all its efforts, they still are a marginal group, not trusted fully by their natural constituents, and hated by the rest of the country.

The next move now belongs with the loose coalition that has assembled to support the pro-democracy groups demonstrating in Beirut. Unlike in Iraq, the U.S. and France have joined in this effort and each made announcements today that indicate the seriousness with which they will continue to push the point with Syria. France has moved a relief ship into the region, with 200 commandos as a rapid reaction force, while the U.S. announced that Syria’s half measure is not nearly enough. The simple message is that we expect more and troops are moving to emphasize the point.

There can be no mistaking that Syria’s neighbors, who have also demanded their total withdrawal from Lebanon, are for now, solidly in lock step with the U.S. In the wake of the Iraq invasion and its relative success compared to decades of feckless diplomatic efforts, countries in the region are doing everything that they can to demonstrate their support real or otherwise, for democratic reform. The boy optometrist has unwittingly set his own trap and provided the region with a cost free means of promoting their cooperation with U.S. and its goals.

The revolution thusly continues with full momentum. Make no mistake; this is now our game to lose. Lack of will on behalf of the U.S. or our main ally in this effort, France would sink Lebanon, and this is a battle that we cannot lose. Win here, and it is almost certain that we have moved beyond the tipping point to one where democratic change has achieved a certain level of self sustainability. The people of Lebanon need us now more than ever.

Posted by Hello

No comments:

Post a Comment