A Lebanese Abroad

Opinions from an opinionated Lebanese abroad about Lebanon's politics, business and the future of a United Lebanon.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Turning up the Heat on Syria and Hezbollah: Good News-Bad News

Today’s headlines focus on increased U.S. suspicions that Syria is planning more politically motivated assassinations in Lebanon. These concerns were also echoed by Jumblatt in an interview here.

In addition, L’Orient-Le-Jour has reported in today’s edition that the U.S. Congress International Relations Commission is proposing a bill whereas it will remind Lebanon that UN Resolution 1559 must be applied in its entirety, including the disarmament of Hezbollah. This law is due for a vote at the end of June, and will apparently allow 120 days for its enactment, after which U.S. aid to Lebanon may be adversely affected.

These two events may have serious implications for Lebanon’s future and its relations with the United States.

First, the bad news.

This renewed call for implementing UN Resolution 1559 will probably be perceived by some Lebanese political circles as another heavy handed U.S. involvement. In addition, it might embolden Hezbollah who, feeling their back to the wall might overact and do something “stupid” in the South in order to gain sympathy from the population.

And with Syria, these U.S. accusations have some semblance of U.S. rhetoric against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It appears that a new “case against Syria” is being mounted, whereas the US is bent on proving that Syria is a destabilizing factor in the region and the last stumbling block to Middle-East peace. The evidence is part in Syria and part in Lebanon.

This has dramatic implications for Lebanon and only with an eventual Hezbollah disarmament will there be any good news.

The Lebanese political leaders will have to stop “dancing” around the Hezbollah issue and face it head-on with more logic, and less emotions. This will put pressure on the next Lebanese government who will have to take the Hezbollah case seriously and deal with it from a position of strength, not one of weakness. With Syria out of Lebanon, and with Iran facing even more international pressure, Hezbollah’s co-sponsors are being neutralized, therefore giving the group ample chance to save face by losing its arms, but keeping its identity.

It appears that the Hezbollah issue will be the first real test for the next Lebanese government. They will not be able to ignore it anymore. The Lebanese government will have to show real leadership and take the carrot that the U.S. is handing out. Not doing so would be irresponsible and might drive the country back into chaos while gravely discrediting the Cedar Revolution.

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