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March 6, 2005

Syria pullout plan 'not enough': Assad continues his walk on a tightrope

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

On March 4 I posted on the Feb 22 Lebanon Wire article about  President Bashar al-Assad being faced with  Syria's worst crisis since he was hoisted to power in July 2000 after the death of his father Hafez al-Assad. I wrote that unlike his father who was a "a shrewd operator on the Middle East stage," Basher al-Assad rates, in comparison, as a rank amateur, and is now being faced with even Arab isolation. Further, Assad needs to continue to attempt a face-saving solution which could include withdrawing most of the Syrian military while maintaining a low-level presence in Lebanon. In his then upcoming speech, it was clear that he had to attempt to balance a perception of weakness with the opposition in Syria if he pulled his troops completely out of Lebanon, with the advancing isolation of not only the non-Arab world, but increasingly the Arab world also. Striking a face-saving balance that satisfies the Syrian street, the opposition, and the world community just might be an excercise in futility.

Now we are hearing from the U.S.:

"We have not heard the words: 'immediate and full withdrawal'."

The United States is leading continued pressure on Syria for a full withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon. Although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a phased redeployment to the Syrian border on Saturday, Washington says that this is insufficient and has been joined by Israel, France and Britain in calling for a complete pull-out.

Also in my previous post and perhaps even more applicable after today, in a further complication for Assad, a senior US official is reported to have warned Assad that he had to choose whether to follow in the path of reformed Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi or that of Saddam Hussein, toppled in the US-led invasion of Iraq in April 2003.

Time for President Bashar al-Assad as leader of Syria, could be limited, unless he finds someway to balance the loss of his tenuous hold in Lebanon with the need to maintain an image of strength at home and the continued isolation of the world community.

Posted by Hyscience at March 6, 2005 8:22 AM

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