Foreign Policy Blogs

Pity the Nation

Interested in knowing why Lebanon frequently has the difficulties it does?  Pay attention to the last sentence excerpted here.

From The Daily Star

Iranian official to meet Assad to discuss Lebanon

Saturday, January 05, 2008

ROME: Ali Larijani, member of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council and adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will visit Damascus on Saturday to discuss with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the situation in Lebanon, according to a report published by the Italian news Agency AKI on Friday. “The visit also aims to formulate coordinating stances between Syria and Teheran in this regard,” AKI said. Larijani is also set to meet with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and some Palestinian officials. “He may also meet with some Lebanese officials who might travel to Damascus for this purpose,” the agency added. – Agencies

If one is rooting for Lebanon to get past the scars and divisions of its past- a difficult goal under any circumstances- one could note with bitter cynicism the decency, the sheer graciousness that Larijani might meet with some representatives of the country about which he is co-ordinating policy. 

 But Syria isn't dealing only with Iran.  The Arab League is meeting on Sunday, and Lebanon will be at the top of the agenda, according to the Daily Star.   It will be interesting to see what their statement- which, anyway, carries little wieght- will be.  On the one hand the Arab League is generally reluctant to criticize another Arab state, but despite some thawing the Arab states are still leery of Iran, so might be in a bind on how to treat Syria.  A decent hint though comes from Arab league Secretary Amr Moussa, who “told Al-Arabiyya television Thursday that solving Lebanon's problem was a Lebanese, an Arab, a regional and an international responsibility. ‘While we acknowledge there are conflicting interests and foreign [involvement], Lebanese politicians bear the responsibility first [for their country] before Arab, regional and international politicians.'”

 This of course is taking a large burden off of Syria and punting the issue down the road, which does nothing to help Lebanon.   The country is basing itself for a large march by the opposition, led by Hassan Nasrallah's Hezbollah.  Tony Bey at Beirut2Bayside discusses it thusly:

It's very clear that this is the Syrian order of operations, as it was the Syrian regime's orphaned pitbulls — Naser Qandil, Wi’am Wahhab, Suleiman Frangieh and the mukhabarat rag al-Diyar — who were enthusiastically announcing the marching orders.

It was interesting to hear that clown Qandil (who will likely end up in jail for his role in the Hariri assassination) try to base this on Nasrallah's latest imbecilic and pitiful interview. This point was accurately noted in the NOW editorial:

Is it us, or did you also sense that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in his interview on Wednesday night, was walking a fine line between Syrian priorities and Iran's apparent desire to avoid a breakdown in Lebanon? If we are right, Nasrallah's threat to take to the streets is a sop to Syria…

In other words, the order is Syrian par excellence. But Qandil laying this at Nasrallah's feet, aside from showing just how much they need his cover to have any weight at all in the country, shows just how much Syria is pressuring Nasrallah to blow up the place. His lame balancing act in his interview was a reflection of this.

Bey, as always, uses delightfully strident language, but the point is there: Syria and Iran most likely want different things with Lebanon, as do the other Arab countries (as does the US and EU).   It seems that Lebanon is no closer to ending its run as political testing ground than the heady days after Hariri was killed. 



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.