A Lebanese Abroad

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Urge to Merge, Syrian-Style

I see red flags all over the Syria-Lebanon communiqué which resulted from the meeting of the two Presidents on Monday March 7th, both in style and in substance.

The communiqué had all the makings of Syrian-style rushing in order to give it just enough appearance of legitimacy. The meeting was announced on Saturday by President Assad in response to international pressure and with a purpose to define a joint agreement for a pull-out schedule. Instead, it produced a hastily written agreement designed to cement political, economic, cultural and social links between the two countries without attaching much importance to the details of the expected withdrawal of Syrian troops.

First, on style, what a farce! The 2 presidents and their committees met quickly to give the appearance of a meeting resulting in a communiqué. But in reality, one President (the Lebanese one) went to the other one who summoned him there and told him: this is the communiqué we are signing, so let’s smile and make it happen. At least, if they wanted to fool a few more of us, they could have spent the entire day and evening behind closed doors to give the appearance of negotiations or give-and-take discussions. But this would have required too much effort. Instead, we get a bam-wham, thank you M’am.

On substance, here is what is troubling about this communiqué. It states that:

"The two sides stressed that this meeting, which comes during these difficult circumstances and in view of the challenges that face the two countries, emphasizes the determination of the two states to strengthen the march of co-operation and co-ordination between them and to continue implementing the articles of the treaty and the agreements signed within its framework accurately, with transparency, and in a manner that achieves the joint interests of the two countries.

The two sides pointed out their true determination to rectify any failure affecting this march within the framework of the joint establishments and services, which were established in accordance with this treaty, and which remains the sole legitimate and acceptable framework for handling difficulties and obstacles, and proposing visions on the future prospects for these relations, which should be translated on the ground through steps, projects, and conduct that reflect the historic, popular, social, economic, cultural, and political dimensions of these brotherly relations."

Meaning: We are in this thing together. We will sink or swim together, we will drag each other down until one of us drowns. My problem is your problem, we are chained and doomed together. And by the way, the aspirations of the Lebanese opposition do not mean anything, they are just a mood swing that will pass. Actually, let us get even closer together. Let’s get really cozy now and warm each other, because there has been some drafts of cold air circulating recently.

On the timetable aspect, the communiqué stated that the following was decided:

Item 1A. “Withdrawing the Syrian Arab forces stationed in Lebanon to the Bekaa region and the western entrance to Bekaa at Dahr al-Baydar and to the Hammana-Mdayrij-Ayn Dara line by the end of March 2005.”

Please check the location of Hammana on the map. Hammana and Mdayrij are not in the Bekaa. So, while the Syrians are letting the headlines state that their withdrawal is to the Bekaa, in reality, it is not. Hammana is a mere 30 kms away from Beirut, and in line of sight, on a nice day (i.e. 300 days of the year). It is indeed a very strategic, but a not well known placement where Syrian intelligence personnel has been already stationed there in abundance.

Items 1B and 1C are convoluted statements that are tied to Item1A. Basically, they say that the withdrawal is a 3-step process. First, we will withdraw towards the Bekaa, but not entirely to the Bekaa (by the end of March 2005). Second, within a month of the end of step 1, we will agree on how long we will stay there. Third, we will agree once more on when we will really leave. This sounds like someone who doesn’t really want to leave. In other words, the Syrians are saying- let us stay in your backyard for a while, then let us discuss how long we will stay there, and after that period is over, we can discuss when we will really leave. This basically means that this process could potentially end exactly where it started, but we are not sure and will not commit yet to where and when it ends.

Part 2, Items A, B, C and D refer to decisions already taken to accelerate and encourage further committee meetings at the ministerial levels between the two countries, specifically focusing on Foreign Affairs, Economic and Social affairs.

Part 4 requests a feasibility study for “establishing a unified customs wall within three months of approval”. I am impressed by the speed of implementation by these 2 government bureaucracies where it often takes that long to get a single document processed for its citizens.

Part 5 is about “Requesting the economic committee to submit its initial concept of the means and mechanisms of achieving an economic integration within three months for discussion.” This one really stunned me. “Economic integration” is such a big word. Can’t the Lebanese Parliament at least discuss it or approve it first? The communiqué clearly states that this will be done three months after discussions, i.e. whether you like it or not. Again, "economic integration" is such a big word, it’s bigger than free-trade. It is closer in meaning to the European Union’s economic integration, which means a single currency! Yikes… I am ready to throw-up my dinner now.

My corporate experience tells me that the above steps have all the ingredients and makings of pre-Merger & Acquisitions activities. Leaders flirt and meeting committees start to unify operations starting from the inside. On the outside, no one suspects a thing, until the final moment when they pull the curtain down, and surprise…there is an entirely new stage for the play.

Any Lebanese and any one interested in a sovereign Lebanon should read this short communiqué and judge for themselves whether it represents a real co-operation of equal partners or rather a subversion towards a fait accompli situation where Syria totally dominates Lebanon, and not just interferes in its affairs.


Blogger Mustapha said...

Hello thinking Man, i'm glad you're dedicated to presenting your clear analysis and contribute to the global Lebanese debate.
I did not forget you, you can find the hariri blue ribbon with the image and english text on the following URL: http://photos4.flickr.com/6250293_5f3f7a109e_o.png
you can link it to http://beirutspring.blogspot.com/2005/03/spring-flowers.html for other people who want to have a similar ribbon,

i think it would look nice on your website,



4:52 AM  
Blogger Doha said...

I really liked your analysis and posted a link to your entry in our The Lebanese Bloggers blog.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Doha said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Doha said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Brian H said...

Hammana sounds like an ideal target for saturation bombing. That would get things moving fast!

You're right, of course, about the communiqués; two forked tongues twining about each other. It's almost unbearable to read. (Actually, it was, so . . . ) ;)

10:11 PM  

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