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Posted by on Mar 10, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Syria Wins A Political Battle In Lebanon — But Will It Fight A Civil War?

Just think what would have happened at the height of Watergate if there had been massive demonstrations calling for President Richard Nixon’s resignation and he had quit in disgrace….only to be followed by massive demonstrations in support of him…followed up by the GOP renominating him again or Congress making him Vice President under Ford.

Perhaps it isn’t the best comparison — but it gives you an idea of the ugly political train wreck now underway in Lebananon, where just 10 days after he resigned amid monster demonstrations Lebanese pro-Syrian legislator Omar Karami returned as prime minister.

The reason: the big demonstrations called by the militant Shiite Muslim party Hezbollah in FAVOR of Syria — demonstrations bigger than the ones held by the opposition.

Who said American politicos are the only ones who hold their finger up to see which way the winds are blowing?

In this case, pro-Lebanese legislators are holding up their middle fingers.

We repeat what we said in our post on March 9: May we use the phrase “civil war conditions” — or is it too extreme?

On the other hand, before doom-and-gloom scenarios take hold, it’s important to read this:

But Karami, returning to the post for the third time, suggested he would not form a new government unless opposition legislators agree to play a role in his cabinet. His announcement represented a conciliatory gesture toward the Lebanese opposition, which had celebrated Karami’s abrupt departure as the most notable achievement of its three-week uprising against the country’s pro-Syrian political leadership.

Hopeful? NOT! Opposition leaders are balking at joining a coalition — and Karami is making it clear he is now in the driver’s seat:

Although conciliatory at times, Karami also made clear that the political momentum had shifted since he resigned Feb. 28 after a heated no-confidence debate in parliament and hours of raucous protests in Martyrs’ Square marking the two-week anniversary of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination. The enormous pro-Syrian rally earlier this week in central Beirut had “shown that we are in the majority,” Karami said during the news conference.

“It was a massive demonstration that asserted our legitimacy in the Lebanese street,” Karami said.

In other words, he’s shoving a battering ram more than extending an olive branch.

Now the questions become:

  • What does this mean for U.S. policmakers?President George Bush has already insisted Syria pull totally out of Lebanon by May, rejecting the recent redeployment of troops to the border for withdrawal at a later date. Does this heighten the chances that the U.S. will impose some kind of sanctions or even launch a military operation at a future date?
  • How are other Arab nations going to react?
  • How will Europe react?

But the big question is what will happen to Lebanon itself. The stage seems set for a turbulent — perhaps bloody — future there.

UPDATE: The U.S. is arguing Karami might be ineffectual, and the

Arab League is saying it doesn’t plan to get involved:

The United States suggested Thursday that reinstated Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami might not be an effective force in restoring democracy, as Arab League chief Amr Moussa ruled out any role for the regional organization to help end Lebanon’s political paralysis.

Speaking shortly after Karami’s reappointment, deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said: “Prime Minister Karami said when he resigned the first time that he was resigning because he couldn’t be effective.”

He added: “If ever there was a time that Lebanon needed effective government, that time is now,” Ereli said.

Right now: stalemate.