Friday, June 17, 2011

Lebanon: Government Cabinet Of The “Slave Of His Masters”

By Hassan Haidar

Najib Mikati appears to be the weakest member of his government cabinet. Indeed, he was equivocally designated to form it, on the basis of Syria’s desire to exclude Omar Karami, because such a choice did not meet with Damascus’s complete favor. He then remained waiting about five months until the second nod of the head came out of Syria for him to form the cabinet, after Nabih Berri took it upon himself to cancel out the last pretext of “Tripolitan sensitivity” he had. He was thus forced to give in to the balance of power and to come out with a lineup for a confrontational government, as revealed by the statements made by some of its sponsors, like MP Michel Aoun, who started to lecture on morals and to speak of holding to account and prosecuting heads of state and ministers.
This means that the Prime Minister’s talk of “moderation”, “centrism” and “a cabinet for all of Lebanon” will soon burst like bubbles of air, because those who have matters under their control have their own program, connected to the instructions and orders of the country’s closest neighbor.
But what was Damascus waiting for to form the cabinet? And why did it decide that it was necessary to announce it at this time in particular, pressuring its allies to facilitate overcoming the obstacles that had prevented its formation, even if this was in contradiction with their sectarian structure?
Those well-informed say that the Syrian regime, which had expected the world to yield to its threats of stability in the region being contingent on its remaining in power, is no longer able to breathe except from its Lebanese lung, after its air has become “polluted” internally and after the “pipelines” of Turkey, Iraq and Jordan have been closed to it.
Indeed, the protest movement being witnessed by Syria is likely to escalate despite the violent security response it has been confronted with, and there is news of restlessness within the ranks of the army and security forces amid increasing international condemnations and pressures. Meanwhile, its relationship with Ankara is at the threshold of further deterioration after the end of the elections in Turkey and Erdoğan’s insistence on an end to the repression and on Assad announcing a timetable for reform, asserting that he cannot remain idle when faced with a movement of migration from Syria across the border.
As for Baghdad, which received Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem a few days ago, it seems powerless to save Damascus, after news have surfaced of Syrian fundamentalists, for whom their country’s authorities had for years facilitated moving to Iraq to fight the Americans, beginning to return to their towns and villages, with Iraq itself being under threat from a new wave of violence as the US withdrawal draws near. Furthermore, Amman does not depart from the stance taken in the rest of the region, especially as Jordanian clans have powerful branches in the Syrian interior, particularly in Daraa, of which the army has crushed the uprising and humiliated the inhabitants.
Indeed, the Syrian regime, which is still convinced that the current wave of unrest is merely a “passing cloud” and that it will be able at the end of day to put an end to it by any means necessary and to restore its stability, has evidently decided, taking advantage of Russia and China’s obstruction at the Security Council, to confront the international community and its pressures to impose reform by retaliating with a move on the Lebanese scene, through completing the coup d’état led by Hezbollah under it s sponsorship and forming a government cabinet, about which the least that can be said is that it portends civil division and unrest, as well as a departure from both the Taif and Doha agreements, which had saved this country from the vicious circle of its intermittent civil war.
In Damascus’s view, returning to assert that it holds the strings of the situation in Lebanon represents the display of a trading card that has shown its effectiveness in the past – i.e. trading security in Lebanon for security for its regime, just as opening up to Syria by France, and later the US, was the price the West had to pay to stop the wave of assassinations that targeted Lebanese officials and politicians after the withdrawal of Syrian forces. Yet what was true in the past is no longer possible today, with the tidal wave of change taking over the Arab World, a wave which the regime in Damascus will not be able to stand against no matter what it does in Lebanon.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 16/06/2011

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