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March 7, 2005

Assad offers defiance and compliance (Updated)

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

Rami G. Khouri, in an op-ed in today's Beirut Daily Star, calls Syrian President Bashar Assad's latest speech a "continuation of the classic political style of his late father," in his analysis of Assad's offer of a combination of defiance and compliance in response to intense regional and global pressures to get out of Lebanon. But Khouri rightly argues that the chances of success are far less today than they were in decades past because Syria is more isolated diplomatically now than it was during the cold war years, and it has fewer power levers to use in the current American-dominated regional and international context.

Khouri sees Assad's speech as the first salvo in round two of the current confrontation between Syria and its critics in Lebanon and the West. According to Khouri, round one, from the day of Rafik Hariri's assassination until Saturday, was dominated by the populist emotional sentiments and political force of the Lebanese opposition groups who have made good headway on their three key initial demands: a thorough and internationalized investigation of the Hariri murder, the resignation of the Lebanese government of Omar Karami, and movement toward a full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

Importantly, Khouri recognizes that the more difficult challenges are just now about to rise to the fore, at a time when the opposition to Syria may start to fragment over the next wave of demands, and Syria and its allies start to fight back politically. It is a time for the alignment of countries opposing Syria's occupation in Lebanon and it's support of terrorism to stand firm and strengthen their resolve rather than succomb to political in-fighting and a weakening in their resolve to force Syria to change it's spots, a very difficult task indeed!

Update: The US has demanded that Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon now, saying promises are not enough.

Posted by Hyscience at March 7, 2005 1:02 PM

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