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Raghida Dergham Headshot

Regional and International Conditions and Messages to Damascus

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The victory by the Lebanese Army over Fatah al-Islam is a victory for the state over the militias and states-within-a-state. The Lebanese Army crushed these "red lines," which the secretary-general of Hizbullah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, had set down when he stood, in practical terms, against the legitimate army, to prevent it first of all from exercising its authority throughout the country and up to the borders. Second, he said that the Army, in going to the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp to confront the terror of Fatah al-Islam, had crossed a red line. The group that has overstepped the state and repeatedly tried to hobble the Lebanese Army, under the pretext of the "resistance," is made up of Hizbullah and its comrades in loyalty to Syria and Iran. Therefore, these partners and comrades should not be allowed to "divide up" the victory, as some have dared. After the victory in Nahr al-Bared, the Lebanese defense minister, Elias Murr, did well to thank the people he did, beginning with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and western countries, which have supported and continue to support the Lebanese state and the Lebanese Army. Who should he have thanked? Those who adopted the strategy of using Lebanon for their own ends and interests? The fact is, the deserving party of thanks is the Lebanese Army, which struck down terrorism in Nahr al-Bared, and notified the world of the new formula in the war against sponsors of terror, organizations and militias. The prime minister, Fouad Siniora, also deserves thanks, along with the ministers in his government, and everyone who stood with him and the state, whether MPs, states, or international resolutions. What is happening in Lebanon is truly unique; coexisting are international resolutions, local legitimacy to bring down militias and their terror, and raise the flag of the Army and the state and its past and coming victories. What is happening in Lebanon is that rare march in the Arab region toward accountability and transparency, to end the types of avoiding punishment and international decisions. The international court established by the Security Council under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter has been launched, and further political assassinations or bombs by terrorist volunteers will not stop it. The train has left the station, and the international court won't be a bargaining chip or ammunition in deals that spare those implicated in the criminal and terrorist offenses from being tried before justice.

The Lebanese groups that are opposed to the state and the Lebanese government have only one option. If they want to prove their loyalty to Lebanon and its Army, and if they want to play a part in preventing the country from turning into an arena for terror wars, they have the option of recognizing the Lebanese Army, its sole authority over the entire country, and taking the decision to commit to this; with an initiative to dismantle Lebanese militias, give up weapons voluntarily and turn them over to the Lebanese Army. This is how Hizbullah, which has the biggest and most powerful militias, can prove that it stands with the Army and the state.

This is how Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah can take the decision of peace for Lebanon, instead of insisting on having the right of war for Lebanon. If he does so, the state-within-a-state will disappear, based on its own decision, and will become, also based on its own decision, an effective part of the state and the government, and will be welcomed and thanked by all of the Lebanese people and the international community. The real and profound problem in the Lebanese situation lies in Hizbullah's insistence on retaining its militias and obtaining weapons from other states, with the goal of destroying the Lebanese state and Army. This is the situation, simply put.

The pretext of the "resistance" is that the Shebaa Farms are occupied by Israel. If delineating the borders proves that these farms are Syrian, then the responsibility for liberating them will fall on Syria, and not the Lebanese resistance. If the demarcation proves that the farms are Lebanese, the responsibility for liberating them from Israel will be that of the Lebanese government and Army, and not Lebanese, Palestinian or al-Qaida militias and Arab and Muslim volunteers for a resistance that is out of place. This resistance, whose banner they raise, has a clear function, and that is the Syrian-Israeli front.

The Syrian government doesn't want any partners in the resistance. It promotes the resistance on the Palestinian and Lebanese fronts, exclusively. Syria's logic is based on "the logic of resistance in the face of the logic of negotiation," through permanently hindering Israeli-Palestinian peace or Israeli-Lebanese peace, and the policy suits both the Israelis and the Syrians.

The Syrian regime in Damascus wants to resume what it calls linking the negotiation tracks, particularly on the Lebanese-Syrian tracks, as this regime did when it controlled Lebanon. Thus, this regime rejects the international resolutions concerning Lebanon. Resolution 425 was imposed on Israel to end its occupation of Lebanon, and it was implemented when the Lebanese Army returned to the south and with the victory over Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared, proving that it was able to carry out its missions. Resolution 1559 remains alive, by itself, and as part of 1701, which includes all of the resolutions concerned with Lebanon. There is also Resolution 1595, and the later 1757, which established the track of justice and a trial for political assassinations of Lebanese figures, most prominently that of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and his comrades, in an international court that is unprecedented in the Arab region.

All of the attempts to frighten Lebanon and make it submit have failed, from assassinations, sit-ins, and storming the Government Serail, to smuggling in and using terror in Nahr al-Bared to create an Islamic emirate that would show Lebanon had failed in the absence of the Syrian regime. However, the Army's victory defeated this tactic.

The coming presidential election, scheduled to begin this month, will lead in turn to another failure in the series of failure by the axis dedicated to killing the state in Lebanon. This axis might enjoy reserves of "red lines" and "balance of terror," and reserves of militias whose primary missions are to defeat the Army and the state. However, all of these various types of ammunition will prove to be blanks.

The speaker of Lebanon's Parliament, Nabih Berri, speaks in the name of the opposition, which comprises Hizbullah and its comrades, such as President Emile Lahoud and General Michel Aoun. Berri is now trying to correct his positions, after it became apparent that the Lebanese Constitution and international resolutions can deliver a defeat to him and his tactics. He finally decided to take the key from his pocket and convene a session of Parliament to vote on a president of the Republic, with preemptive conditions, and set 25 September as the date for this event.

Setting a date for the sessions will not help the speaker, who began his rhetoric with a condemnation of Resolution 1559, which stipulates the fundamental principles of the state, namely the exit of foreign forces from Lebanon, the dismantling of the militias, a halt to intervention in Lebanon's domestic affairs, and attempts to amend the Constitution to appease neighboring states. The mere fact that the speaker condemned an international resolution that encourages the state's independence indicates self-condemnation and destroys his attempts to "save face" by finally taking the keys of Parliament from his pocket, even if he did this while speaking in the name of the opposition.

Berri's strategy involves preemption, and not a meaningful agreement. Everything that Berri and his friends are doing as part of selecting a president involves the utmost efforts to impose the selection of a president whose basic program consists of evading international resolutions and working against them.

What lies behind Berri's decision to accelerate the holding of an election session 20 days before the date of the election that he chose himself is a preemptive move to impose the two-thirds quorum for the election in violating the Constitution, in order to do away with the majority; based on the definition and specification of the Constitution. This attempt to outsmart the other side expresses the acknowledgement that day is coming in which it will be revealed that the opposition's alliance with the Syrian regime and the Iran's Revolutionary Guards at the expense of Lebanon is a bad one. The international situation indicates that this calculation was a poor one. Iran is a predicament, and so is Syria. Iran is isolated, as is Syria. There is popular Iranian anger against the president and the mullahs. The Syrian anger against the current domestic and regional situation is silent.

The European messages to Damascus are clear in their definition of the framework of Syrian-European relations and based on halting the Syrian regime's definition of its remaining to exert its influence beyond its borders. The regional message is one of welcoming Syria's return to the Arab fold, on the condition that its government stops working against Arab interests and bowing to Iranian interests, in the form of the alliance between Tehran and Damascus. The American message, which might surprise Damascus, might bring the Syrian regime something that it, as well as Israel, doesn't savor, despite the warm US-Israeli relationship and the Syrian-Israeli relationship. The message says that Lebanon will not return to Syrian control and hegemony, whatever happens.

The regional consensus on Syrian aspirations in Lebanon is clear, with a slight exception in the form of Qatar. The same is true regarding Iranian aspirations. The difference is that Iran views its interests from a sectarian strategic viewpoint, which leads to a different discussion regarding Lebanon, different from that regarding the Syrian regime's need to reassert its hegemony over its neighbor. Its scandalous exit from the Arab consensus, by clearly belonging to Iran and its objectives of regional domination, leave the Syrian regime open to serious accusations. This explains the deep differences and controversy with states like Saudi Arabia. The dispute might be suspended temporarily, if Syria proves some good intentions toward Lebanon, but it will not end as the result of cosmetic steps at reconciliation, agreement and reform.

France is also making offers to break Syria's isolation and begin a new chapter with the country, but its conditions are very clear and quite simple, if Damascus chooses to let Lebanon go. Paris' conditions are that Syria release Lebanon and halt its obstruction of its path to true independence by intervening in the presidential election, and its stubbornness in wagering on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

France, Europe, the US and the Arab countries that are very concerned about Lebanon, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, have no readiness to enter a bazaar of deal-making with Damascus about the Lebanese issue. The demands are obvious and they are that Damascus should stop intervening in Lebanon. After that, i.e. in the wake of this miracle by Damascus becoming a certainty, there would be room for talk about qualitative rewards.

Until then, the international and regional focus will be on two missions, which could involve another failure for the Lebanese-Syrian-Iranian alliance to bring down the state and promote the victory of militias in their war against the Lebanese Army. One mission involves the international preparations to guarantee a presidential election in Lebanon based on the Constitution, with no postponement or stalling. The second is to move forward with insistence and determination toward creating an international court for the political assassinations. All of those who fear accountability for all of their crimes should experiencing a quickening, and frightening, heartbeat due to this eventuality.