Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A case of double talk

A saying goes, “You don’t need to be crazy to work here, but it helps!” and this perfectly applies to people who might be attempting to analyze the latest statements coming out of the Middle East.

Shortly after the cease fire in Lebanon took effect the Syrian President came out with a fiery speech essentially calling the leaders and government of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon’s March 14 alliance “half men” who held “half positions”. This was a bombshell in every sense of the word since no Syrian leader has ever come out punching that many Arab “brothers” at one time. This strategy, or so it seemed at the time, was to win the hearts of the Arab streets who were sick and tired of their incompetent and impotent leaders sitting idle while Lebanon is being bombed to the stone age. And possible veiled muscle flexing by advocating civil unrest in the mentioned countries. While most, even critics of the president, might have agreed with his actual comments. The move seemed risky to many since isolating Syria further did not seem like the prudent thing to do. Some suggested that the move was a firm stand against the US agenda and in support of HA. While that’s partly true I believe there were two main points to underline here.

First, criticizing Lebanese and regional leaders on behalf of Nasrallah as to give the latter the chance to use diplomacy later. One can say it was a version of the good-cup/bad-cop routine. We saw their March 14 counter-parts pull the same trick the next day with Hariri criticizing Assad and leaving the more sensitive criticism of Nasrallah to the more outspoken Jumblatt.

Second, I believe this was a public show of frustration by the president toward the regional/international powers for leaving Damascus high and dry without some sort of a deal as was expected (on a regional level at the very least).
But just a person’s temper got the better of him and later realized his/her actions were counter-productive. The Syrian government sent out these mending statements in the past few days. Obviously it’s too late.

Then we saw an even more extreme example coming out of Tel-Aviv the last few days. First there were reports of possible resumption of peace talks with Syria. And even the appointment of a Project Manager for the task. But a couple of days later we heard the same voices indicating the opposite. Can you spell... schizophrenia???