Friday, June 24, 2005

Damascus to Washington: A Clear Message

The blast that killed former Lebanese Communist Party leader, George Hawi, left many wondering “Why him?” True Hawi had been a critic of the Syrian and Lebanese security services, yet he recently kept a low profile and was not at the forefront of Lebanon’s “Cedar Revolution.”

The inaccuracy of such an analysis lies in the assumption that Hawi himself was the objective of the assassination, while in fact he was merely the vessel. The principle target of George Hawi’s assassination is the U.S. policymaker.

Since the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February, debate regarding a policy of “regime change” towards Syria picked up steam amongst U.S. policymakers. Setting a precedent, Department of State officials even conferred with Syrian dissident groups and discussed possible future scenarios.

Others in Washington policy circles, including Brookings’ Flynt Leverett (Former Senior National Security Director on Middle East Affairs), advocated for a return to the traditional “carrot and stick” policy with Damascus. They continue to argue that no viable alternative exists to the current Syrian regime and therefore the U.S. might as well do business with them.

Such are the stakes for Syria that its ambassador to Washington recently took the time to author and publish a lengthy two part praise of Leveret’s new book. The recent assassinations in Lebanon must be viewed in light of the current debate in Washington. The message is loud and clear: “deal with us or else turmoil in Lebanon and Iraq will continue.”

Therefore, in shaping Syria policy, the U.S. must first understand the Syrian message, and then develop the necessary policy tools.

With the withdrawal of Syria’s overt forces from Lebanon, U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 no longer offers the U.S. any leverage. This development has allowed Damascus to act with impunity in Lebanon, targeting opponents at will.

Thought must now be given to a new U.N. Security Council resolution. Perhaps floating the idea of a U.N. stabilization force for Lebanon would cause Damascus to pause, think and reconsider before delivering its next message.


Doha said...


When you say UN stabilization force, you mean the UN sending troops to Lebanon? If so, then I believe such strategy is doomed to failure; just look at the history of peacekeeping troops in our country, especially the UNFIL.

Doha said...

...And good to have you onboard :)

Raja said...


sending in UN troops with no support from the local leadership is a definite formula for failure, and even making things worse off than they were before. But, if you have a consensus among the political elite that supports such a move, then the outcome of such a force (or any other multi-national force) might be different.

In Lebanon's case, a move like that might have even more value given that at least a segment of the security apparatus appears to be in a state of open mutiny against what are supposed to be their political masters. Therefore, a UN force might give the politicians some teeth (depending on the mandate, of course).

Let's hope events don't drag us down that path however, because consensus does not seem to be a likely possibility. The last thing we need is another reason for the different parties in Lebanon to get on each others' throats.

Doha said...

In a way, the UN is present in Lebanon through the UN investigative team which exerts pressure on Damascus, but my question to Firas is: What would be the mandate of this UN stabilization force? Depending on the mandate you can sort of anticipate the reaction of the Lebnanese towards such intervention.

Firas said...

A more careful reading of the article would show that it did not propose sending a UN force, but simply floating the idea of sending one. This in itself can serve as a detterent.

In any event, I hope in the future articles wont be posted without my prior consent.

Raja said...

sometimes, a little nudge is called for my man.... anyhow, I'm sure visitors will attest to the fact that your words added value to the current discussion - as they do to most discussions. ;)