Is Syria Losing Its Colony Lebanon?
Has another political Tsunami begun? Or has the “Orange Revolution” been exported from Ukraine to the “Broader Middle East?” We should be cautious with our euphoria. The game is not over yet. Without a doubt, though, the wind of change has reached this region.
Not too long ago, political pundits – especially in Western Europe – made jokes about US President George W. Bush and his fight for democracy and freedom in this “arc of instability.”
Now, the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who lead the opposition against the Syrian – dependent government might be seen as a historic turning point in Lebanon and beyond. There is no smoking gun to prove that Syria was involved in the assassination, but the majority of Lebanese are convinced that Syria launched this attack or – at least – did nothing to stop it.
The magnitude of this bomb attack was too big for an individual suicide bomber. The first victim of the “Lebanese intifada” is Prime Minister Omar Karameh. His supporters within Lebanon were also surprised to see that instead of fighting for his position, he chose to resign.
Will Lebanon's Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud be the next victim? Will the secret services – with support from Syria – strike back with police force? What will Hezbollah do, being afraid of losing their safe haven and platform for their attacks against Israel? Will Syria's President Bashar al-Assad be able to contain the dangerous developments in Lebanon at Syria’s border?
Any political system in Lebanon faces the challenge to balance the religious and ethnic groups. As stated in the Lebanese Constitution, the president must be Christian, the prime minister Sunni and the speaker of the parliament must be Shiite.
What are the next challenges?
- President Emile Lahoud must now form a “transition government”
- Parliamentary elections should take place in May 2005
The real litmus test will be whether or not Syria will be able to comply with UN Resolution 1559. This resolution asks for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanese territory, the dissolution of all militias in Lebanon and the election of a new president without external influence and pressure. Assad’s announcement to start the withdrawal within the next weeks was met with scepticism in Lebanon.
Our WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East", Manuela Paraipan, has done a lot of research to compile a newsletter on Syria. She was able to speak with a lot of people from in and outside Lebanon and Syria. Her analysis leads to clear conclusions and recommendations for action. We have two exclusive interviews to provide you with some insight.
This newsletter is not the final story about the developments in Lebanon and Syria. We will follow the events. Positive developments in Lebanon and Syria would send positive signals to the “Broader Middle East” - particularly to the hot spots: Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine.
The West should support the people in Lebanon to help them find their way to democracy and freedom.