Lebanon: Politicians Fight Over Syria On Live TV
(AP) -- Two prominent Lebanese politicians debating the unrest in neighboring Syria have exchanged blows on live television, in an indication of the deep divide between Lebanese factions over their relationship with Damascus.
Pro and anti-Syrian regime demonstrations are common in Lebanon, whose politics have long been heavily influenced by Damascus, now facing increasing isolation over its bloody crackdown on protestors.
The fight late Monday night broke out in a debate between anti-Syrian former legislator Mustafa Alloush and the head of the Lebanese branch of Syria's ruling Baath party Fayez Shukur.
According to AFP, the two clashed over Syrian President Bashar Assad's credibility:
"You don't listen. I wish you would listen to what Assad says," said Shukr, to which Alloush responded: "I heard him. I don't believe a word he says."
"Who are you to believe or not believe him?" Shukr said, prompting Alloush to call Assad a "liar."
According to Reuters, Shukur retorted with, "Your boss is a liar!"
The pro-Syrian Shukur then picked up a chair and tried to hit Alloush with it.
"If they had weapons they would have shot each other," a man on the streets of Beirut told Reuters. "And I wish they did."Below, a timeline of the Assad regime in Syria:
1971: Hafez Assad Elected President
Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, was elected president in a plebiscite in 1971 after decades of coups. Assad senior installed a repressive regime, characterized by a cult of personality. The Assads belong to the Islamic Allawites sect, a religious minority in mostly Sunni Syria.
1994: Assad Becomes Heir-Apparent
Hafez initially planned for his eldest son and security chief, Basil, to become Syria's future president. Yet in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/22/world/assad-s-son-killed-in-an-auto-crash.html" target="_hplink">January 1994,</a> flamboyant Basil died in a car crash outside Damascus. Bashar, studying in London, was summoned back to Syria and entered into a military academy.
2000: Assad Succeeds His Father
<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2000/jun/15/guardianweekly.guardianweekly1" target="_hplink">Hafez Assad died at the age of 69</a> after ruling Syria for over 20 years. <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/826400.stm" target="_hplink">Despite limited political experience, Bashar was elected president.</a>
<a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101030428-444974,00.html" target="_hplink">Assad started his presidency introducing modest progressive reforms</a>. He shut down Mazza prison, a notorious detention center, and released 600 detainees. However, human rights violations in the country quickly resumed as dissidents were arrested and persecuted. The new leader also maintained rocky relations with both Western and Middle Eastern countries.
2002: The Axis Of Evil
U.S. President George Bush names Syria as one of the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1988810.stm" target="_hplink">Axis Of Evil,</a> arguing that the country supported terrorism and Palestinian militants.
2005: Rafik Hariri Assassinated
When Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former PM, was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 2005, many believed Syria had a hand in the attack. Massive outcry forced Assad to withdraw the Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon.
In 2007, Assad secured a second seven-year term by winning 97 percent of the votes in a national referendum. He was the only candidate.
2008: Assad Meets Sarkozy
After the U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, Assad's relations with Western countries remained cool. His trip to Paris to meet Sarkozy as well as Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (R) <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/03/us-obama-syria-idUSTRE6425UW20100503?type=politicsNews" target="_hplink">marked the beginning of a warmer diplomatic period with the Western world</a>.
2011: Stirrings Of An Arab Spring
In the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian protesters demanded sweeping democratic reforms. Assad initially answered with modest concessions, yet quickly turned to a massive crackdown to battle the protesters.
2012: Assad Fights Back
Thousands of Syrians lost their lives as the conflict in the country intensified. Backed by Russia, Assad refused to leave power and vowed to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/bashar-assad-syira-unrest_n_1196039.html" target="_hplink">"hit the terrorists"</a> with an iron hand.