Monday, February 21, 2005

More on Hariri

The Syrian autocracy has been looking very shaky in the last few weeks, as Tom Friedman highlights again in his latest column today:
Throughout history, Beirut's streets have been reserved for the "defense of pan-Arab causes," wrote Mr. Kassir. But with the funeral for Rafik Hariri, Arab nationalism has taken on a new aim, he declared: "Today, the nationalist cause has shrunk into the single aim of getting rid of the regimes of terrorism and coups, and regaining the peoples' freedom as a prelude to a new Arab renaissance. Thus hundreds of thousands of free citizens walked in Rafik Hariri's funeral - while only a paltry cortege mobilized by the single party and its intelligence apparatuses walked in [former Syrian President] Hafez al-Assad's funeral a few years ago. [With the Hariri funeral] Beirut was the beating heart of a new Arab nationalism. ... This nationalism is based on the free will of citizens, male and female. And this is what the tyrannical [Syrian] regime should fear more than anything else if it tarries about ending its hegemony over Beirut and Lebanon."
I'm not so optimistic. Eeyore that I am, I'm not certain that any political change in Lebanon is likely to be an easy and bloodless one: The one people locked out of the coming together between the factions so far is Hezbollash and, from what I can make out, the Shia factions generally. Putting together their willingness to attack Israel and risk its becoming involved with the Syrian capacity to make mischief and you have a recipe for the same pre-Taif blood-letting that consumed the country up to 1990.

Furthermore, as bad as things are in Lebanon, I can't particularly see how political change in Syria, where the Sunni fundamentalists of the Muslim Brotherhood remain the only organised oppposition group with a mass following, would benefit either the US or any neighbouring state. More representative they may be, but they would almost certainly entusiastically and OVERTLY support terrorism in Lebanon, Iraq and against Israel.

Yours, pessimistically...