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March 8, 2005

Opposition, U.S. demand deadline on Syrian pullout

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

In an analysis piece today by staff writers of the Daily Star in Lebanon, the Damascus announcement that it is withdrawing it's troops is met with indifference and is implied to be anything but new. According to the writer's, a charitable interpretation of Monday's statement from the Lebanese Syrian Supreme Council would be that it raises more questions than answers, and an uncharitable, but seemingly more deserved interpretation, is that nothing new has been said and that is a clear indication that Damascus still hasn't woken up and smelt the coffee being brewed in America, France and Lebanon. I would further add to this list Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and others.

As a further example of the aroma not sensed by Syria:

Syria's announcement that it would shift its troops to eastern Lebanon this month has been dismissed by both the country's political opposition and the U.S. for failing to set a deadline for a full withdrawal. Following Monday's meeting of the Higher Lebanese Syrian Council in Damascus, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar Assad signed a first-step agreement stipulating the redeployment of Syrian troops from Northern and central Lebanon to the east by the end of March.

Both countries will then decide "within a month" the number of Syrian personnel and "the duration of stay for the remaining forces."

The United States, which has led global pressure on Damascus for a full withdrawal, slammed the announcement, insisting it wanted to see "action, not words" from Syria.

That brings us back to the aroma of coffee that just isn't there for Bashar Assad and the Lebanese Syrian Supreme Council. Our friends at the Daily Star ask if anyone can blame the opposition for insisting the that statement falls woefully short of their demands since it alludes to the 1989 Taif Accord. And since the Taif Accord envisaged a Syrian pullback to the Bekaa by 1992, yesterday's announcement is 13 years behind schedule. On that basis we can look forward to entertaining Syrian troops on Lebanese soil until around 2018.

Based on the reality of what was said, there is little chance that Syria will withdraw its troops or dismantle its intelligence apparatus before this spring's Lebanese elections. Further complicating the issue, at least according to the Daily Star writers with whom I am in total agreement, a lack of a clear commitment to a timetable for a pullout is likely to exacerbate Lebanon's current political paralysis since the country's opposition will not join consultations for a new government until an acceptable timetable is in place.

In other words, don't look for any real changes in Lebanon until President Bashar Assad and his archaic Baathist cohorts sniff the strong aroma of "Starbucks reality" in the morning - otherwise called the "Sadaam Hussein syndrome," of too late and many ideas short!

Posted by Hyscience at March 8, 2005 10:01 AM

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