Syria Recovers Lebanon not by War, But Diplomacy: TrendNews Commentator (video)

Politics Materials 27 August 2008 16:40 (UTC +04:00)

Ulviyya Sadigova, commentator of Near East Service of Trend

The voluntary cooperation of the Lebanese government with the pro-Syrian Hezbollah and restoration of relations with Damascus are probably results of the Beirut's surrender of its positions in the long-lasting struggle for the independent political life.

In 2005, Lebanon, while enjoying full support of its friends from Old World, openly accused Syria of the murder of the Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri. Damascus had to do nothing, but pull out its forces from Lebanon and gave up getting interfering in the political life of this country. At that time it was imminent for Syria as it also suffered from international isolation for decades.

Lebanon, once small province of Syria, feeling the long-expected freedom from the importunate neighbor, openly demonstrated its commitment to the western policy.

However, the current events in the Syrian-Lebanon frontier show that Damascus only granted a respite to Beirut by demonstrating its power over it.

Seeing US's seizing Near East regions one by one, Syria understands that the US forces will soon be quite near Lebanon.

Damascus once again fall back into its old ways and there was fierce fighting between the week pro-western government and well-armed Shiite groupings led by Hezbollah, right hand man of Syria in the region who established a government within a government.

Following Doha agreement in May and signing of ceasefire agreement within the Lebanon, Michel Suleiman became president of Lebanon. He understood that even if West was weaker than Hezbollah, he changed his attitude toward Damascus. Though earlier the ceasefire agreement between the parties was expected to be simple, the Syrian government felt the weakness and uncertainty of the Lebanese leader and began to take steps immediately. But this time Syria acted more accurate and not abruptly. The Mediterranean Union, which turned out to be favorable for Syria served as a good pretext for the new political game in Lebanon. Later, Presidents of Lebanon and Syria Michel Suleiman and Bashar Asad held a meeting. The Lebanese leader who could not find a reason to openly express his sympathy for Damascus, at last could find one to call Bashar Asad "his brother" and to accept truce plan offered by Syria and he could also mention that only diplomatic relations were restored.

Syria also took appropriate steps. With the help of its main leverage in Lebanon - Hezbollah it demonstrated pro-western Lebanese politicians that only "the party of Allah" can win over the common enemy in the region, that is Israel. The proof is the exchange of captives of war in unequal numbers between Hezbollah and Israel in July 2008. Lebanon marked a holiday, but not in honor of President of Prime Minister, but in honor of Hezbollah.

The fragile Lebanese government understands the correlation of powers and gives Hezbollah a right to get armed. In fact, it means shift of the armed forces in the country to the pro-Syrian groupings. In other words, Hezbollah can independently carry out military policy in the region where the presence of Damascus is not ruled out.

At the same time Syria understands that the open actions can frighten Lebanese politicians who strongly relied on West after 2005, therefore it acts carefully. Earlier Asad invited Suleiman to Damascus and offered to exchange ambassadors. The Lebanese President did not want to repeat the mistake of his predecessors and accepted this offer. The other reason for this can serve the fact that the government of Suleiman can be easily overthrown which will lead to the civil within the country. Therefore, the Lebanese President was obliged to accept truce with Damascus and to retain his post.

One can say that Syria gained the upper hand. But not with the help of arms and clashes, but by means of diplomacy in conformance with the current international policy.

On the other hand, the restoration of relations with Syria is favorable for Lebanon as well. Only in this case it can be sure that its security is in reliable hands, even if in not that of local government. Beirut made sure that it is weaker than Syria who has strong allies as Iran and Russia which can be proved by the last visit of Asad to Moscow and purchase of arms from Russia.

Moreover, if three years ago Syria did not have any relations with West, not it establishes relations with Europe even successfully. Therefore, one can not say that in case of truce with Syria, Lebanon will loss ties with West. On the contrary, Europe will wish Syrian presence in Lebanon where access was blocked earlier.

Therefore, Beirut has only two ways out: truce with Syria and calm life or constant political destabilization.

Now Damascus is not likely to openly interfere with the internal affairs of Lebanon.

Now Syria has gained a chance to repair an omission in its relations with West while not surrendering its positions in Near East.

The correspondent can be contacted at: [email protected]