Analyze This: The 'Al-Shara principle' in action

Beirut blast is Syrian message to Lebanon and the world.

farouk al-shara 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
farouk al-shara 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Last year, the Syrian human rights activist Michel Kilo published an article in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on what he termed the "Al-Shara Principle," after a speech given by Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara on the subject of Lebanon. According to the article (as translated by MEMRI-The Middle East Research Institute): "The "Al-Shara Principle" limits Lebanese sovereignty, links this sovereignty to the Syrian regime, and states that a free and independent Lebanon is necessarily a center and a base for plots against Syria. Lebanon, peripheral and marginal, is required to keep in its place even after the Syrian army has withdrawn from its territory, and if it forgets, there are a thousand ways to remind it - either through dialogue or through operations in the field. Another implication [of the Al-Shara principle] is that it leaves the Lebanese with only two options: either to [accept] Syria's return to the land, or to be subjected to a variety of ever-escalating measures." For writing such articles, Kilo was sentenced earlier this year in a Damascus court to 12 years imprisonment. As for al-Shara, in remarks reported just Tuesday, he declared that Syrian connections to Lebanon are as strong as ever and issued a stern warning to anyone, in Lebanon or outside it, who threatened those ties. Another message - or maybe the same one - was delivered Wednesday, with the assassination of top Lebanese army commander Brig.-Gen. Francois Hajj, killed in the same manner, with a powerful car bomb, as several anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmakers over the past two years. As in those attacks, no responsibility has been claimed. But members of the ruling March 14 coalition that helped free Lebanon from Syrian occupation in the Cedar Revolution are in no doubt that Damascus was behind the attack. Neither is "Beshara," a resident of the Beirut suburb of Baabda where the bombing took place, who immediately afterward spoke with the South African news site, and gave her own interpretation of the Al-Shara principle. "Didn't you hear what Farouk al-Shara said yesterday? His declaration has been translated today? They want to destabilize Lebanon. There has been no president for three weeks now, the government hardly works, and parliament is paralyzed. They want to target the army because it is the one institution that remains united and functioning." Hajj was instrumental in suppressing the revolt of the radical Islamic terrorist group Fatah al-Islam last summer in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, a victory that was a great source of national pride for those who believe in an independent Lebanon, and in the army as its best protector. Some analysts have speculated that elements or supporters of Fatah al-Islam may have struck back Wednesday - although it's odd that they wouldn't proudly take credit for such a successful revenge, if this was indeed the case. It's true that Hajj had no connection to the anti-Syria coalition - if anything, according to reports, he was closer to Michel Aoun, the Christian former army leader who brokered an alliance with Hizbullah last year and who until recently enjoyed their support in the efforts to choose a new Lebanese president. But Aoun has lately demonstrated what must be disturbing signs of independence to his partners/masters in Damascus and Teheran, by meeting with March 14 leader Saad Hariri for a series of political discussions in Paris last month. The killing of Hajj could be designed to send a sharp message to Aoun not to stray too far from the line dictated by Syria and Iran. It also delivers a warning to the Lebanese army - whose current chief, Gen. Michel Suleiman, is now a front-runner to take the vacant presidency - that they will not enjoy any immunity from the kind of retribution Syria and its allies in Lebanon have meted out in recent years to the politicians who have stood in their way. And the killing of Francois Hajj should tell the rest of the world, especially Washington and Paris, that while Syria may have attended the Annapolis conference, what Kilo called the Al-Shara principle, that Lebanon must either submit to Syria or face "escalating measures," is as valid today as it was in the past.