Lebanon Beats Syria
A major shift in regional politics, though not in the direction desired by Uncle Obama…
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There is no doubt that Western countries are interfering in Syria’s inner politics in a fashion similar to the one implemented in Libya last year. The ongoing violent protests started in January 2011 and led, on March 29 that year, to the resignation of the Syrian government by request of President Bashar al-Assad. Beyond that, it is very difficult to find reliable facts regarding the protests and the government answers to them. As in Libya, there are reliable proofs that much of what is being reported by Western media is rigged. Venezuela’s teleSUR showed on several occasions how American CNN has reported pro-government rallies in Syria as if they were protesters against the regime. It broadcast also wide-angle images that clearly showed that events belonging to real protesters were almost void of participants; the CNN showed exclusively the narrow-angle of the same protests. Can Western media be allowed to broadcast propaganda? Can the people that never get tired of bragging about having defeated Hitler, adopt Goebbels’ propaganda methods with no shame? Can the people who never tired of commenting on Soviet media repression be doing the same? Can they purposely publish made-up events and photographs for the sake of advancing military goals not sanctioned even by their own people? Oddly enough, the West is now being openly criticized on this. Moreover, we may be witnessing a major shift in regional politics, though not in the direction desired by the USA and its allies.
The Arab League is attempting to get involved in the solution of the Syrian conflict, but the results until now are almost nil. Given Syria’s position in the Arab world, this is unlikely to change easily. Syrian relations with the Arab world since the 1963 Baathist seizure of power in Damascus are complex. Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar Assad have ruled it since 1970, creating another level of complexity since they belong to the Shia related Alawis, and not to the majority Sunni population. A Shia-Baath government is unique in the Arab world. Yet, Syria has formidable military and intelligence capabilities, and has become one of the pillars of the Arab world. Its complex social and religious reality places it in an ideal position to be considered as an acceptable leader in this area, and as such an unlikely target for the Arab League’s criticism. However, exactly the same reasons make it a desirable target for Israel, the USA, NATO and their allies. Can the Syrian government prevail?
In contrast to Syria, Lebanon had been unstable for a long period of time, with a civil war that took place between 1975 and 1990. The Syrian army occupied large parts of Lebanon between 1975 and 2005. Israel violently occupied much of its south from 1982 to 2000. Overall, it seemed that prosperity and political prominence could not be created under these conditions. Yet, Lebanon is gaining them by the day. In the recently published Greece’s Fadeaway: Iran and Israel Battle over Cyprus, I analyzed the new regional alliances fighting over the large reservoirs of gas (and more, see Gas, Oil … Uranium) in the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. In November 2011, Cyprus announced it would explore its undersea natural gas wells in cooperation with Israel; this was the trigger for Netanyahu’s visit to the island in February. The agreements announced between the countries—including military ones—indicate that Israel has shifted its main ally in the area from Turkey to Cyprus. Turkey has announced that it would not allow underwater drills in Cypriot waters, clearly citing military preventative actions. The Turkish intervention is the result of Cyprus being divided between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Thus, two clear bands had been created around the gas field issue: Turkey-Lebanon-Northern Cyprus-Iran, and Israel-Cyprus. That’s not all, on September 5, 2011, Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansor, sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, rejecting Israeli claims on the maritime border between the two countries. Lebanon has warned that it will go to war to defend its claim to the gas fields. This is enough to ensure record audiences to any military event in the area.
Syria has been ignored by Lebanon and the other members of this new alliance. Traditionally, Syria was Lebanon’s closest ally, but with the Assad regime wobbling badly, it seems Iran is trying to replace Syria as Lebanon’s closest ally. This tiny, former almost-Syrian-colony is now the center of an alliance that brings together Iran and Turkey against Israel. How is that possible? Why didn’t the Western-backed Arab Spring spread into Lebanon? Why can’t the formidable Syrian government apparatus end the Syrian protests?
I am aware most of my readers care little about theological arguments; thus, I’ll put on my scientific hat and make a “reductio ad absurdum” approach to a sick aspect of modern societies. Unbelievably, organizations are now recognized as legal persons; the soul is utterly ignored by human law. “Burger King” is a juristic personality (a.k.a. “judiciary person”) in most countries. Does that mean that whenever I eat one of their hamburgers I could technically be accused of cannibalism? Being accused of cannibalizing Burger King may sound funny, but it is a serious issue. Simply, this is nonsense. Without a soul, there is no personality. The legal definition depends on human acceptance; without it, it has no value. The American Constitution begins with “We, the people” because state sovereignty begins from us, the people. Imagine a world without states: we could still exist. During most of human history, countries didn’t exist. Now imagine the opposite: without people, countries cannot exist. Countries are organizations subjugated to their people’s will and needs. As such, they depend on our recognition of their sovereignty. Without our recognition, they lose legitimacy.
This is valid also for Syria and Lebanon. In order to exist, they depend on the support of their people. Following the disastrous 1982 war, the IDF was beaten by Lebanese Hezbollah in 2006 (see Running South). Shocked Israelis in Haifa were bombed from Lebanon; to get the picture, imagine Kansas being hit by the Canadians. Now, Lebanon is proudly standing against Israel on the issue of the new gas field. With the newly acquired pride, Lebanese are—against all odds—becoming a regional power.
Syria is in a different situation. On June 5, 2011, was commemorated the Naksa Day, on the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War. The events included demonstrations on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, mainly near the destroyed city of Quneitra and near the Druze village of Majdal Sham. Syria said afterwards that 23 people were killed by the IDF in the rally. Official Syrian news agency SANA quoted Health Minister Wael al-Halki saying that the death toll included a woman and a child, and that another 350 people suffered gunshot wounds. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said live Israeli fire had caused casualties, and that UN monitors were seeking to confirm facts. The IDF said that since all the casualties were on the Syrian side of the border it was unable to provide an exact count. The IDF, Syria and the UN agreed that Israeli soldiers shot Syrian citizens demonstrating on the Syrian side of the border (see Casus Belli). This was a casus belli event, i.e. a formal reason for Syria opening a legitimate war on Israel. The UN Charter prohibits signatory countries from engaging in war except as a means of defending themselves against aggression, or unless the UN as a body has given prior approval to the operation. In this case the first clause could be clearly activated. Yet, Bashar al-Assad did nothing. That equals to supporting the violator, namely Israel. The Syrian president let Syrian citizens be massacred by a formal enemy and took no action. Eventually, since the 1973 war, Syria was rather complacent towards Israel (even its reaction to the 1982 war was rather mild, despite its air force being destroyed). Syrians have now understood that. They cannot relate to a government that not only humiliated them, but also let them being massacred by others. Bashar al-Assad failed on that. Even if he defeats the rebel Syrian National Council (not to be confounded with the equally Western-funded Libyan National Council), Syria is bound to change. Lebanon beats Syria.
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