The battle for Lebanon

Syria either wishes to renew Lebanon's civil war or revive its domination of the country.

pierre gemayel 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
pierre gemayel 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The assassination of Pierre Gemayel is a reminder, if any was needed, of whom the West is dealing with. This was a classic Mafia-style hit to accompany Syria's standard criminal tactics: spread murder and mayhem in the hopes of extorting support for dictatorial rule. According to the Economist, Syria would be pleased to accede to calls from some, such as James Baker, to "engage" with the US, and already has its list of demands prepared: an end to the Hariri investigation, a US guarantee not to undermine the Assad regime, a return of Syrian influence in Lebanon, and Israel handing over the Golan Heights. In exchange, presumably, Syria would pledge to stop fomenting terrorism in Iraq. The shakedown, then, has already started. The choice before the US and Europe is straightforward: fight or submit. In truth, there is no choice, because only someone ignorant of history would fall for the notion that submission to such blackmail will buy quiet, rather than spurring more murders, terrorism and demands. The latest Gemayel assassination, following the murders of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, prominent journalists Samir Kassir and Gibran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel's uncle Bashir, and many other anti-Syrian figures, shows that Syria wishes to renew Lebanon's civil war, revive its domination of the country, or both. The recent resignation of Syrian-backed ministers in the Lebanese government also illustrates the lengths Syria will go to attempt to block the UN tribunal being organized to try suspects in the Hariri assassination. Obviously, this trial should go forward with even greater determination and urgency, but this is not enough. Now is the time to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701, rather than standing by as it is added to the pile of tattered resolutions defending Lebanese independence. Since the war in Lebanon ended in August, Syria has been rearming Hizbullah in direct violation of the embargo imposed in Resolution 1701. That embargo lacks minimal monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, which should now be created - better late than never. For example, the resolution stipulates that UNIFIL can only deploy on the Lebanese-Syrian border if Lebanon so requests. The weapons that are flowing across that border directly threaten the Lebanese government, yet that government does not feel it is strong enough to defy Syria and request UNIFIL's presence and other enforcement mechanisms. The US, France and other countries should start sounding the alarm about Syrian smuggling and request to deploy UNIFIL forces along that border to stop it. Even if the smuggling cannot be completely stopped, UN monitors could report, triggering sanctions on Damascus. A side benefit of such a new commitment to enforcement would be the rendering of Israeli overflights monitoring that border unnecessary. In general, both Syria and Iran need to be shown that every atrocity committed by their proxies and agents will not spur Western submission to blackmail, but tougher measures against both regimes. The current trend of Western retreat must be reversed. On the contrary, rogue regimes must be put on the defensive with the ample means that free nations have to defend themselves. What may seem like increasing boldness of Syria and Iran, as shown by events in Lebanon and Iran's defiant acceleration of its uranium enrichment efforts, may actually reveal that these regimes regard Western sanctions as more potent than the West does itself. If they were as impervious to sanctions as defeatists in the West often claim, why are they working so hard to intimidate the West into abandoning the effort? On Wednesday, Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt said, "It seems the Syrian regime will continue with the assassinations. I expect more assassinations, but no matter what they do, we are here and we will be victorious." On the same day, Lebanese independence celebrations were cancelled in mourning for the slain Christian leader. The millions of Lebanese and some of their leaders are showing considerable bravery in asserting their independence from Syrian and Iranian predations. The question is whether the nations which claim to defend their cause will show similar determination, and will take concrete actions to repel the onslaught of rogue regimes.