Soon after signing an “anti-imperialist” declaration with Venezualen president Hugo Chavez, who vowed from Damascus to ''dig the grave of imperialism'', Bashar Assad reportedly promised Kofi Annan he would implement a UN resolution he had previously labeled as a conspiracy.
Annan said Assad informed him that Syria would "take all necessary measures" to implement paragraph 15 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls on countries to prevent the sale or supply of weapons to entities in Lebanon without the consent of the Lebanese government or U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. chief also asked Syria to "use its influence" to win the release of three Israeli soldiers -- two captured by Hizbullah in a July 12 cross-border raid that started the war, and one captured by Hamas-linked militants in Gaza the previous month. Assad said he supported their release, but raised the issue of Syrian prisoners held in Israel, Annan said. "Syria is an important regional player, the international community is looking to Syria to play a constructive role in this crucial period," the U.N. chief said.
Assad probably reveled in these words, “important regional player”, after feeling increasingly isolated. Not so long ago, he took out his frustration on Siniora’s government (before he then invited him to visit Damascus), and claimed UNSC resolution 1701 was a Lebanese-Israeli conspiracy.
Mr Assad maintained that the continued deployment of the "resistance"--in other words, Hizbullah--in South Lebanon after Israel withdrew from the area in 2000 was essential as "a deterrent to Israeli aggression", and that the recent Israeli attacks had been prepared long in advance in order to neutralise this threat. He suggested that the May 17th group (a derogatory reference to the March 14th movement that emerged after the Ferbuary 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, linking them to the 1983 attempt by the Amin Gemayel government to signed a bilateral peace treaty with Israel) had colluded with Israel in its plans to seek the disarmament of Hizbullah by force. He also implied that certain Arab states had also been party to the conspiracy, whose latest manifestation was UN Security Council 1701, which was passed on August 8th and laid the basis for the eventual ceasefire. "Now we can establish the correlation between resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701, the assassination of Hariri and the last war, on the one hand, and the role of these Lebanese forces and certain Arab forces on the other," he said.
Walid Jumblatt saw right though Assad’s “promise” to Annan.
“These are nice, sugarcoated words,” Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, a virulently anti-Syrian politician, told Al-Arabiya television. “... (W)e know the Syrian double-talk. They say one thing to international envoys and implement another thing on the ground.”
Nicolas Nassif, an analyst with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, said he suspected Mr. Assad was just posturing. “If Assad was serious about responding to international resolutions, we would have seen Syria improving its relations with Lebanon a long time ago,” he said.
Of course, according to Bashar’s foreign minister, there are no weapons crossing into Lebanon, so what is Bashar promising?
According to his foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, Syria's foreign minister, later told reporters no weapons were crossing from his country to guerrillas in Lebanon: "No arms are being smuggled to the resistance [Hezbollah]."
Mouallem, as usual, is lying. And so is his master, who is an expert in promising cooperation to foreign dignitaries, and then doing some desperate neutralizing in hopes to create a few facts on the ground. After the March 14 demonstration, which hastened his humiliating withdrawal from the country, he embarked on a campaign of terror, which in its early phases killed Rafik Hariri on February 14, and evolved into sporadic targeted assassinations of prominent journalists and politicians who dared challenge his “word”.
When the killing campaign started to embarrass Hizbullah and other allies, especially after Aoun came on board, he switched to political terrorism. Faithful allies Nabih Berri and Hassan Nasrallah used the “National Dialogue” to buy time and sucker the insecure and weak March 14 coalition into believing that “consensus” and “dialogue” are an alternative to democracy (much like how now, there is talk of promoting national unity and national unity government, which can be read as more political bullying, given that neither Aoun nor Hizbullah in power would ever cede control in the name of consensus, especially not Hzibullah, whose unililateralism we have all experienced). Assad’s allies in Lebanon, backed by the Syrian “media”, would often speak of a “fictitious” or "imagined” parliament majority (a term coined by Michel Aoun after losing a few districts to Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri), while at the same time committing themselves in public to a "dialogue" with the same group.
There have been numerous times when the Lebanese blogosphere (or at least this blog) cried foul, realizing what was happening—a gradual emasculation and neutralization of March 14, and empowerment of Hizbullah, which climaxed on May 10, when Hizbullah and Aoun translated their “understanding” (euphemism for alliance) into street action. Affter months of threatening and bashing March 14 for taking to the streets and for democratically using people power (which to Aoun in pre-May 10 speeches was shameless, useless and meaningless), they staged a massive demonstration of a few hundreds of thousands to protest against the economic policy of the government-- an old Syrian intelligence trick used to bully Rafik Hariri whenever he disobeyed the master.
All that of course, in part, resulted from the failure of the March 14 leaders, and their shortsightedness. Had they not let the National Dialogue charade preempt the parliament, had they not felt intimidated by the “consensus” talk even when Hizbullah practiced no such thing, we would not be here today.
Needless to say, Hizbullah’s operation taught March 14 a painful lesson, and cost the country a lot. While this may be ground enough for their deposal, unfortunately for Lebanon, if they go, Assad and his friends will move in. (The tragic thing, it is not clear whether Hizbullah would continue to tolerate Aoun should that happen, but let’s hope this doesn’t happen.) For that has been the intention all along. And now that UNSC 1701 has given the Siniora government the upper hand, the need to topple it became a matter of life or death not only to March 14's opponents, but Assad.
Assad and co at first thought they could propagate the myth that Hizbullah won, in hopes that “victory” could turn the tables in Lebanon, and create a justification for a coup d’etat, disguised under “national unity government”. As one of my readers pointed out (Fubar), whoever controls the government, controls UNIFIL, but most importantly, controls the Lebanese army’s mission. And let us not forget the Hariri investigation, which this war could not kill (as I feared it would), and that is now approaching an important stage.
Citing high-level Arab sources, (possibly Saudi) Elaph outlined a 3-stage "Syrian" plan to topple the Lebanese government. The “plan”, according to Elaph, began with Bashar’s speech and will end with a massive demonstration after Ramadan, and possibly a sit-in in downtown Beirut until the government collapses.
This brings me to my point. Assad’s talk and promises are hollow. He may promise to do all kinds of things with the Lebanese government, but which Lebanese government? The one he wants to topple, or the one he wants to see in power?
Update. Across the Bay follows up on the issue.
Right after Annan left Syria, Bashar's pitbulls, FM Walid Moallem and Information Minister Mohsen Bilal, made public statements that made Annan, and anyone else stupid enough to believe Assad, look like a fool. The Lebanese press knew it all along, as they've become quite accustomed to Assad's tactics.
The ministers first repeated cliches we'd been hearing for months on all the issues of contention: 1- border demarcation. Syria offered nothing new. "No demarcation in Shebaa." 2- Exchanging diplomatic representation. "It's a matter to be settled between the two countries when the atmosphere is better." And so on and so forth.
Not only that, the two pitbulls made even more revealing statements. For instance, Moallem talked about willingness to help patrol the Syrian-Lebanese border, but only after the establishment of "joint security committees." Now for those new to the Syrian lexicon, let me remind you of what the Syrians tried to do back in January, when the misguided Saudis and Egyptians were trying to "patch things up" with Syria (only to fail miserably, and predictably). Back then, the Syrians slipped a condition into an initiative by the Saudis that demanded (you guessed it) "joint security coordination" between Lebanon and Syria. Back then, Walid Jumblat called this charade for what it is: an attempt to reestablish Syrian domination of the security apparatus of the Lebanese government. Needless to say, such "coordination" would virtually ensure that Hezbollah get their rockets delivered, with cherry on top. But more than that, it reveals Syria's undying intent to redominate Lebanon. That, not the Golan, is Assad's real goal.