Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When Is External Interference Actual Interference?

By Elias Harfoush
It is a strange paradox that the Syrian regime – which had always prided itself for having an external “nationalistic” role that parallels the importance of its concern with “national” affairs and that perhaps even overcomes this concern to the extent of ignoring and dismissing it – is today the same regime that is complaining about the so-called external interference in its internal affairs.
Under the pretext of the “nationalistic” role, there was Syrian interference in Lebanon since 1976 with the aim of “protecting the Lebanese national unity and preventing partitioning” according to the oft-repeated litany. This “protection” stayed in place until the ability to differentiate between what is Lebanese and what is Syrian was lost. Furthermore, it did not cease through the decision of the Syrian regime itself, but rather when this regime lost every external cover that facilitated this interference over thirty years.
Also under the pretext of the “nationalistic” role and under the pretext that the Syrian regime is the “sole agent” of the Palestinian cause, there was interference in the Palestinian affairs and the position of one [Palestinian] side was given preference on the expense of another side without taking into consideration the positions and interests of the legitimate Palestinian institutions. Had the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, been among us, he would have provided several testimonies about the methods that the Syrian regime used in order to “protect” the Palestinian cause. Perhaps the fact that the Palestinian organizations – that were allowed to open offices in Damascus – hastened to carry out the reconciliation with the Fatah movement and with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, after a long estrangement and as the Damascus regime was busy with the “national” affairs, indicates the extent of the free decision that these organizations used to have and the extent of Damascus’ respect for the internal affairs of the neighboring countries!
The Syrian role in Iraq after its invasion and occupation can be placed in the same context as the Syrian borders turned into a passageway for the terrorist organizations that wreaked havoc in Iraq under the pretext of fighting the American occupier. That war resulted in the killing of much more Iraqis than American soldiers within eight years of sectarian wars. And when the role of those organizations or their remnants changed from the “nationalistic” to the “national” affairs, the Syrian media started to describe them as “terrorist armed gangs!”
The external roles consisted of enhancing the ability of the Syrian regime to hold the main cards in the region with the aim of exchanging them for the elements of external support at the expense of internal legitimacy. However, what Damascus is currently describing as an external interference in its affairs from the part of its Arab conuterparts, only aims at pushing the regime to follow a rational and wise behavior, to halt the killings, and to launch a reconciliation among the different constituents of the Syrian population. Indeed, its internal union has been rocked due to the role played by the security services in the face of the large protests that swept over the Syrian cities and regions. In other words, this is the same role that the Syrian forces claimed to have played in the “sister” country of Lebanon with the aim of protecting its unity and preventing its partitioning. However, the threat that is currently prevailing over Syria, and that is pushing the keen ones on raising their voice, is not a made-up threat aimed at justifying the military intrusion similarly to the case of 1976. It is rather a real threat against Syria. The methods of intervention in this case are limited to offering advices and cautioning based on the joint interests that bring the Arabs close together. Thus, these methods do not aspire for any kind of military intervention into Syrian affairs. They rather strongly oppose it the same way that the Syrian opposition figures do.
Are we not “one nation with an immortal message?” Is it possible, in light of this slogan brandished by the “leader of the state and society” that the people of a brotherly population be killed while the Arab rulers and their populaces remain in a state of surrender to ultimate silence?
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 09/08/2011

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