Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chirac's Memoirs And The Syrian Crisis

By Randa Takieddine 

In the second part of his memoirs, which were published last week, President Jacques Chirac wrote the following:

"In June of 2000, I was the only Western president who took part in the funeral of Syrian President Hafez Assad. This decision can be ascribed, in the first place, to preserving the understanding with Syria that I believed was in the interest of peace in the Middle East, as it was in the interest of liberating Lebanon. This hope was shared by my friend, Rafiq al-Hariri…

However, Bashar Assad was demonstrating his determination to strengthen his hegemony over Lebanon, which allowed him and his people to obtain benefits on all fronts, taking advantage of the benefits of a political and economic occupation. At the time, nothing remained of any hope for openness and renewal, which Assad advocated upon becoming president, when he wanted to put forward the image of a young, progressive president, who had at his side a modern-looking wife. However, he became locked into a regime under his authority, paying attention to his personal and family private interests. The son of President Hafez Assad, who asked me to give his son advice and direct him in his early steps, quickly came to listen to opinions that did not contradict his policies, and did not move him away from the logic of authoritarianism and hegemony; this worked against any hope that the Syrian regime would develop."
This passage from Chirac's memoirs deserves to be read because it is a historic testimony by a French president who stood up to the United States during its war on Iraq; if he had not taken this decision, his country would be floundering today as it seeks to exit Iraq.

Chirac's expertise with the Syrian regime is affirmed by what is now taking place in Syria, where the demands of the people for reform and freedom are being met by tanks, a crack-down, and diplomatic maneuvers that involve asking the secretary general of the United Nations to help the regime against "extremist Islamist terrorists." This is part of the strategy of not listening to the voice of the people, who aspire to a better life and respect for their rights.
The brutal crack-down against the Syrian people requires strong control over the Lebanese arena, through a government of one political color; its shining stars include General Michel Aoun, who wants to fight corruption that only he defines. Those who lost in parliamentary elections take over ministerial portfolios, to punish the people who dared reject them, and dominate the government of a party that holds power over decisions of war and peace and security in the country, and is able to annul an international tribunal that no longer concerns it. What is needed today, first of all, is to stop the bloodshed in Syria and realize that the world has changed. It is no longer possible to continue with the logic of constant oppression, because it is a dead-end that leads only to wars and destruction.

-This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 15/06/2011
-The writer is al-Hayat correspondent in Paris

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