It is natural for the “great settlement” over the Lebanese crisis, resulting from the dispute over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, to be subject to tension between the parties concerned, whether domestic or foreign. Each side is striving to see that this settlement serves its interest, while everyone is agreed that it will involve compromises by both groups. The outlines of these compromises are gradually beginning to appear, amid strict secrecy about the details of this settlement.
This secrecy is allowing the sides, especially local players, to give free rein to their imaginations, as some envision the aspects of this settlement. This is despite the fact that some figures and parties are issuing information about the settlement and discussing its contents; they lack the minimum level of credibility, which would require them to acknowledge that they are unaware of what the settlement contains. Going too far in predicting what it entails will result in disappointment, when this settlement is eventually announced.
However, the discussion of its broad outlines, and denying the rumors of what the settlement contains, is believable, amid the heavy confusion that surrounds the circulation of information about the settlement. The circulation of this information is due more to desires than facts, and attempts to hint at things without speaking candidly.
However, the reliable information about the settlement permits one to say that it has been completed. If the time remaining before the announcement of the settlement is being used to make contacts to fortify the settlement internationally, to allow Syria to obtain guarantees about its relations with western countries, especially the United States, in exchange for its “engagement” in achieving the urgent western demand to preserve stability in Lebanon through the settlement, whose provisions are being prepared with Saudi Arabia, then calling the Saudi-Syrian understanding the “Great Settlement” is something that conforms to the reality.
Leaving behind the narrow Lebanese maneuvering, the news about efforts to secure American guarantees that satisfy Syria impart even more seriousness to this settlement, irrespective of what these efforts lead to in the end. The important thing is to see that Washington’s failure to satisfy Syria with these guarantees does not cause a setback for these efforts, and to see the White House deal realistically with Syria’s desire for these guarantees, in line with the former’s affirmation of intent to preserve stability in Lebanon. This is especially because this settlement will likely be based on separating the track of the STL from that of Lebanese domestic relations, in order to guarantee civil peace, without giving in to the demand by the tribunal’s opponents to abolish it or obstruct its work. This is what concerns the American administration and Western countries.
In the promised settlement, there is enough to create the foundation of a discussion between Syria and the United States. This discussion would tackle the so-called guarantees for Syria, as Damascus fears continued US pressure, or at the least a decision by US President Barack Obama to ignore the policy of engagement with Syria. Meanwhile, Syria would wait for what Washington will offer, due to the Syrian belief that the failure of US policy in the region means Washington should embrace openness with Damascus, with nothing in return.
The Saudi-Syrian settlement offers a window by which Damascus would obtain these guarantees, if the matter is approached with a bit of modesty. If Washington has adopted a rule of exchanging one step for another in its engagement with Syria, which Washington believes to have been a disappointment, some items in the settlement will require seeing what Damascus has done as a step that should generate a step in return by the Americans.
The Saudi-Syrian settlement might refer to setting down a mechanism to treat the decision to remove Palestinian arms outside the camps (even though no one knows how solid the item is in the settlement). If this happens, a policy such as this, in exchange for Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s absorbing the repercussions of the likely indictment by the STL, deserves attention. The seriousness in treating this issue signals an implementation of one of the items in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which Washington continues to insist on; it appears in the provision related to disarming non-Lebanese militias. Even if Damascus adheres to this item in the settlement without returning to the text of the resolution, and seeks with its Lebanese allies to implement it, then it is an implementation – in such a case, the only pending item will be the disarming of Lebanese militias. This is something that the Lebanese have decided to refer to the National Dialogue sessions among their leaders, and the White House earlier understood this move.
In the end, it is in Washington’s power to come up with a step that it can take, in return for a step by Damascus to implement an international resolution, as part of the latter’s quest for guarantees…