Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Do We Care About The Syrian Events?

By Husam Itani
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 22/04/2011
We are on the brink of nothing less than historical change in Syria. The events that took place last month provide enough evidence and data to reach two solid conclusions: the first is that the regime has not proven its ability to introduce useful reforms, before both the domestic and foreign arenas, while the second is that the popular action is continuing and escalating following the fall of the barrier of fear.

Indeed, the multitude of protests, the increase of the number of participants in them and their expansion to new cities and provinces, reveal – without the shadow of a doubt – that the regime is no longer in control over the street and that the initiative has gone beyond its control. However, this reality does not deny the fact that the power transition might be extremely difficult, while the experience reveals that change is not always seen the way it was imagined by those who induced it. More often than not, it is in the form of a choice between what is bad and what is worse.

The complication on the Syrian scene and the connection between its numerous elements and the situation and conflicts in the region, along with the violent oppression exercised by the authority, are slowing down the pace of the opposition. This is due to the fact that the authority’s heavy investment in foreign policy, from the close relations with Iran to the political and economic cooperation with Turkey and the engagement in Lebanese and Palestinian politics and their implications – in terms of the armament and support of the resistance movements – as well as the unhealthy sectarian internal relations that have been deteriorating since the eighties, all reveal that change will not be easy and that domestic violence or regional war are likely. In the meantime, the Syrian regime has numerous internal and external cards it has not yet used, and might help it turn the table in case it were to sense the imminence of its end.

Consequently, the Lebanese parties opposing the rule in Syria seem to be specifically required to distance themselves from the developments, considering that any interference could raise the regime’s sensitivity and prompt it to export its crisis. In this context, it has already accused some deputies from the Future Movement of having smuggled arms to Syria, and might push some of its allies to tense up the situation for purposes serving the regime and shifting the attention away from its predicaments.

What is interesting is that the Lebanese are as concerned as the Syrians about the revolution in Syria. Indeed, the long shared history between the two peoples, the thousands of intermarriages, and the general feeling prevailing over the Lebanese that Syria is the natural, social and political guardian of their country, go hand in hand with the suffering endured by the Lebanese – as well as the Syrians – from the practices of the current regime since the first days of the Lebanese civil war, which the Syrian authority decided to use as a means to enhance its foreign policy and evacuate the domestic tensions.

Therefore, the Lebanese interest does not seem odd and does not constitute an intrusion in Syrian affairs. As for the acute division among the Lebanese over the developments in the brotherly country, it is a mere reflection of their own domestic division. Consequently, the legitimate and obvious demands that are now being raised by the Syrians and are related to freedom, dignity and justice, mean nothing to those who have decided to support the regime and have turned a resolutely deaf ear to the calls to instate the sovereignty of the law and end tyranny, under the pretext of standing alongside President Bashar al-Assad and his government against the Israeli-American attack. In the meantime, the March 14 forces’ disregarding of the warnings talking about the threat which the collapse of the Syrian regime might pose over the security of the region - in the absence of a convincing alternative - might stem from the same source, i.e. popular and domestic hostility among the Lebanese.

It goes without saying that Syria’s future is not drawn up in Lebanon or in any other country. It is drawn up by the Syrians themselves, with their own blood and patience. On the other hand, and with the same clarity, one must say that the support of the regime in Syria by those who consider themselves part of the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance forces for specific reasons – some of which are known and public while others are still concealed – will have negative repercussions on the future relations between the new Syria and the latter forces.

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