Gulf Prince Plays Deadly Regional Game

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Bahraini protesters chant slogans during an anti-government rally in the village of Abu Saiba, west of Manama, on 23 August 2013. (Photo: AFP- Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

By: Jean Aziz

Published Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What does it mean that more than a hundred innocent Lebanese civilians were killed, along with 600 injured, in the span of 50 days in Lebanon, with no breakthrough in the political crisis – not even a small opening in polarized attitudes and alignments?

In truth, two tragic messages can be inferred from the blood spilled in Dahiyeh and Tripoli: First, that the main Lebanese factions are now either hostages to their impotence or their liaisons; second, that all of Lebanon is now caught up in the “deadly overtime” in Syria.

In the first message, it is not insignificant for major incidents in Lebanon to take place successively in this manner, without any impact to speak of on the Lebanese political scene.

Unknown assailants fired rockets on four occasions; Israel conducted an airstrike in Lebanon; and three major bombings took place with hundreds of casualties. And yet, this did not prompt the caretaker government to once convene an extraordinary session. The tragedy did not even push Tammam Salam one inch, whether forward toward forming a government, or backward toward resigning.

What explains this deadlock amid dramatic developments that would otherwise be sufficient, each respectively, to overturn the entire situation of a given country? The first explanation is that events in Lebanon are now completely beyond the control of local actors.

Indeed, Lebanon is now a malleable card in the hands of regional players. Between the regional entanglements of Hezbollah, especially in Syria, and Saad Hariri’s full return to the Saudi bosom, Lebanon has become completely paralyzed given the absolute contradiction between the two sides over the conflict in Syria.

Furthermore, it now seems that the Lebanese factions realize that a solution of some kind to the Lebanese crisis is being “cooked” abroad. Even Washington and the West accept this, and are waiting for the Syrian chaos to end to implement it in parallel between Beirut and Damascus.

Subsequently, making any move at this time would be of little use. The matter is settled, and any additional effort would be wasting energy or even causing meaningless losses. This may help explain why all parties at home have been immobile, and why they have been attempting to compensate for their powerlessness by intensifying their language.

But in contrast to this political stalemate, there is movement with “iron and fire,” which is the subject of the second message written with the blood spilled in the bombings. Though in principle a US-Russian agreement on Syria has been reached, the parts of the settlement in question are moving in two different speeds, and between the two, the details of the final solution are crystallizing.

This settlement will be consensual, ranging from a minimum form that follows the Lebanese “confessional” system, and a maximum form that follows Iraq’s federal system. Both models are present in Syria’s vicinity; the choice will be easy, and no one is in hurry yet to implement the solution.

To be sure, Israel is reassured by the protracted negative “draw” in Syria, as the last remaining strong Arab entity on its border is being destroyed.

There, Assad is being exhausted without al-Nusra Front winning. There, Hezbollah is being implicated without Iran prevailing. Everyone is being exhausted in Syria, without losing a single Israeli or Western soldier, as had been case in the previous wars.

But an agreement is now a fait accompli. And just like it has two options to choose from – Beirut or Baghdad’s constitutional models – it also has two political red lines.

It was Michael Morell, deputy director of the CIA, who identified the first red line on August 7, saying that an al-Qaeda takeover of Syria would be the “biggest threat to US national security.”

Then, in a written letter to Congress on August 21, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, set the second red line. He wrote that the armed groups in Syria would not back US interests if they took power, and that any US military operation in Syria “would leave the US mired in another Middle Eastern war and offer little chance of peace in a country wracked by ethnic divisions.”

Against this backdrop, a certain ambitious prince from the Gulf came and proposed another deal to Washington. He said: Give me a grace period with a limited timeframe but a specific goal. I take it upon myself to topple both Assad and Hezbollah. If I succeed, you can reap the rewards without a cost. If I fail, I would still have managed to weaken Damascus and Dahiyeh, even if slightly, and then you can return to your agreement with the Russians, under the same balance of power, at the very worst.

The Americans studied the offer well. They found it very logical. It would cost them nothing. Its political worth was reasonable and had an equal chance for success or failure.

A green light was thus given. The international referee delayed the final whistle, and the bench player that recently went into the field was given overtime.

The ambitious player chose to keep pace with the rapid countdown he has by piling up body bags in Beirut and Damascus, reflecting his desperate bid to equalize in the deadly overtime, or the grace period, by means of more killings. Either he wins the game, or he qualifies to play in the finals for succession in the family ranch.

So, when will the overtime end? Some say by year’s end, or until Geneva II matures. Others say until Syria’s presidential elections are held, or until the king is dead … and no king lives after him.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


dear Jean Aziz,
maybe you didn't know it was not the US or Russia that started the sit downs in Syria.
it wasn't russia or the u.s. that caused outside forces to come to the aid of those that sat down and said enough is enough.
then it was iran sending in more weapons and advisers. then came oman uae turk's and saudi's with money.
then it was iran who "told" hezbollah to go into syria.

don't you think writing some facts about hezbollah crossing into syria was a major step causing the bombings in Lebanon?

when russia first started leaving. that meant the rebels were winning.
when hezbollah entered lebanon it meant iran knew the rebels were winning.
some gains were made by hezbollah - THAT'S - why the bombings now take place in lebanon.

let's yet hope assad leaves or their is an army coup.

just think about what the people who sat down in syria want. before going off on what the powers at be want.
just look at the people of egypt did when they come out strong. its not all that pretty. but look at the forming of a new country saying 'we the people want'.
its a beautiful struggle to watch a birth the a new nation.

Can we send them to a dungeon instead?

The situation in Lebanon is dire and in its current capacity with the current players, it is hopeless.
It is time for a major shakeup. It is time for the ARMY to take ownership of the situation. A soft takeover of the government. Round-up all the politicians, send them to a luxury island far far away, rewrite the constitution based on secular non-tribal non-religious doctrine.

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