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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How many more to go? The Syrian Strategy in Lebanon

Yet another minister and member of the March 14 group in Lebanon, Pierre Jemayel, has been assassinated. Lebanese bloggers have picked up on the story and there is an abundance of posts on the calamity (see for example Abu Kais's entry or Doha's entry...). In the meantime the cycle continues.

What I want to focus on -assuming the obvious, i.e., that perpetrators are agents working for the Syrian regime or for their stooges in Lebanon- is the strategy that Syria seems to employing in Lebanon. For those who have offhandedly previously dismissed the regime as merely bloody and stupid, I beg to differ. The claim that it is bloody is obviously true; on the other hand, they may deserve more credit for strategy and tactics. This should perhaps lead to the Lebanese anti-Syrians to rethink their own strategy...

In any case, I believe that the Syrians are playing a very cynical game in Lebanon and Iraq, whereby in their smaller neighbour they harvest a policy of assassinations to weaken their enemies. The idea is to decapitate, debilitate and demoralize their Lebanese foes. Simultaneously, this strategy delivers a message to the international community that they are willing - and able - to outlast the "internationals" in Lebanon. They will do whatever it takes, bloodletting included. All the while, they meddle in Iraq, exporting Jihadis to their already volatile larger neighbor in an attempt to destabilize it. The goal you might ask?

As long as the Americans are tangled up in Iraq, and as long as they can eventually understand that they will not accomplish anything in Iraq without the Syrians (and Iranians) cooperating, the Syrian regime can eventually extract a price from a future US administration for said cooperation. That price is domination of Lebanon and possibly less importantly retrieval of the Golan and peace with Israel. To achieve that goal, the regime reckons that all it needs to do is outlast the US (and French) administration in Lebanon by maintaining a healthy arsenal of allies while systematically picking off its foes. If they can bring the Americans to a breaking point in Iraq, whereby Syrian cooperation is a must, then they can force their hand in Lebanon, making the Hariri tribunal disappear. With only a bloodied anti-Syrian group with no international support in Lebanon to oppose them, they will be in prime position for re-establishing hegemony and perpetuating their regime.

Perhaps it is not that stupid after all ?


Ha Ana Za said...

Thanks for replying to my questions- you do have a very convincing argument and it's nice to see the argument from both perspectives.
I really like the blog- you've got some fantastic analysis on here. Keep up the good work

R said...

Thanks ha ana za,
I don't mind the questions and debate at all; in fact, its always better to see things from all perspectives.

Ha Ana Za said...

Well that's what i assumed the blogsphere was for but judging by some of the reactions I got it would seem that they prefer something more homogenous.
It's really sad that this man has died in vain, he stood for peace and dialogue and yet inevitabley violence will flare up in Beirut and even on the blogsphere!