Friday, July 21, 2006

189 vs. 3

Above is the cover of "The Independent". It speaks volume of who runs Middle East policy. 1 super power, 1 regional super power and 1 bitch (hint: the bitch is not the US or Israel ;)). Does anyone see the humor in the fact that this battle is one-sided in favor of the 3?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The waiting game

First I should mention that the BBC called me last Sunday to be part of their show Have Your Say (previously Talking Point) which I was part of on 4 different occasions last year. You can watch the whole show here. Or if you only want to hear my part you can click on the video link (right hand side) and forward to the 22nd minute and 40th second.

Now, back to blogging:

So!!! Hints have started flying right & left that Syria will be coming in from the cold to reign in Hizbullah. The Syrian president must be expecting the phone to go off the hook by now and the red carpet is probably at the dry cleaner getting ready to be stomped on by Arab and hopefully foreign dignitaries. A front page article about the subject has appeared on the WSJ (of all papers) discussing the issue. Here is an excerpt of the article which was sent to me by Ehsani2 (Thanks Ehsani).

But one of the key players in determining the success of any efforts will be Syrian President Bashar Assad, a diplomatic neophyte, whose decisions in the coming days could either escalate or defuse the crisis that has enveloped his country, neighboring Lebanon and Israel. It is a return to regional pre-eminence for Syria, which under President Assad's late father, Hafez el-Assad, was at the center of power politics in the Mideast for years

President Bush, in remarks unintentionally picked up by a nearby microphone during a lunch meeting Monday with other Group of Eight leaders, named Mr. Assad as a central factor in any ceasefire. He told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the most important development would be to "get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and then it's over." Mr. Bush also told Mr. Blair he wanted to tell United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan "to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen."

But I doubt things will go through so smoothly and immediate signs are in that direction. Even if the US would consider thawing their relations with Syria (which I doubt) it will come through on very modest means. Option can vary from the return of US ambassador to Damascus or pushing Riyadh and Cairo to bring Damascus back into the Arabic leadership triangle they were part of. But for now at least, time is on Damascus’s side. If the west doesn’t want to play ball they will have to solve this dilemma alone (the Israeli way). This will be counter-productive in the long term. So President Assad will continue to just sit and wait.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lebanese Requiem

Could this just be the beginning? There are reports of tanks gathering along Israel’s northern border in what appears to be a preparation for a land invasion. Not to be outdone by Nasrallah in keeping promises. Olmret seems to be on the verge of keeping his promise in “turning the clock 20 years” in Lebanon.

Hizballah and their Syrian allies are walking a very thin and dangerous line right now. They have taken the offensive after more than a year of being on the defensive in Lebanon and the region. Syria has seen its Middle East clout diminish, with its president excluded from what used to be the Saudi-Egyptian-Syrian Arab triangle. While the US and Europe has done well in isolating Syria on the international scene. So, much like an ignored and bullied school child, Syria and HA have come out punching. It so happened to be that they came out punching the biggest and toughest bully on the block. HA and Syria are betting that chaos with super-sized Israeli brutality will force the Americans and their Middle Eastern allies to invite, instead of blaming, both parties back to the discussion table and neutralize their Lebanese and regional foes. Short of an all out war with Israel this option will remain the best possible scenario for both players (especially Syria).

6 years ago the majority of Lebanese public opinion was split on HA between annoying but largely tolerated party to legitimate heroes. Today this view has become more polarized with the majority of civilians despising Nassrallah’s gamble with Lebanese lives for his party’s interest. But his latest adventure has gained him support on the Arabic street and Nassrallah still has enough internal support to take that risk.

There is no doubt that Israel will have to negotiate the soldiers release sooner or later (if they even care about releasing them), but not before utilizing this incident to its full potential. Long gone are the days when Israel would bomb Lebanese infrastructure just to incite hate toward HA in the Lebanese community. I was living in Beirut, when on two different occasions, these types of attacks occurred. But this time it’s different!!! Israel’s is going for the party’s military force head-on in the same manner it deals with Hamas in the Palestinian territories. This is where the real losers of this conflict shine: March 14 and their Arab patrons. Because this situation has shifted the attention and much of the power away from the majority leaders in Beirut which have shown how insignificant their weight can be with their new US ally. This explains the unprecedented blame on HA by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

Whatever this new potential war and back-channel bickering might bring. The Lebanese civilians, as always, will pay the highest price for its neighbors quarreling. I just hope that we will never read “Pity the Nation II”.

Breaking news - while writing this post Al Jazeera is reporting that Syrian military positions have been hit, as many have expected. This goes back to a comment i have made on syriacomment which i paste below.

At Friday, July 14, 2006, Innocent_Criminal said...
Just got a weird thought

What if the over-reaction by the israeli's will be followed by an attack on Syria which will require a response from Iran as promised today, which in turn will require a response by the US & Israel to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. could this be the end game?

Addendum: Syrian official deny any attack inside Syrian land. so which one is it???