Assad's gain is a loss for all of usLebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - a man he once accused of 'trading in blood' - on Saturday, in a stunning victory for the Syrian and a loss for the West.
In Lebanon, the Hezbollah-led “resistance camp” indeed lost the elections, but who even remembers the results by now? Hezbollah is a full partner in the unity government, it maintained its military power, and it holds a veto power – in practice if not officially.All of this goes on despite Syria's housing just about every terror organization under the sun, its support for Iran, and its obdurate insistence on gaining every last inch of the Golan in return for nothing. And the dhimmis in Washington and Paris (in particular) act is if nothing has happened.
Another step in the warming up ties between Syrian and the Lebanese anti-Syrian camp took place in recent days, after the death of Bashar’s brother, Majd Assad. Messages of condolence were pouring to Damascus, including some on behalf of al-Hariri himself. Finally, al-Hariri did what many previous PMs and presidents in Lebanon did before him – he traveled to the palace in Damascus in order to receive its blessing.
If we take into account al-Hariri’s personal circumstances, the visit constitutes true capitulation to Assad. Al-Hariri embarked on his political career immediately upon his father’s assasination while uniting his camp against the presidential palace in Damascus. He spoke out against Assad and accused him of “trading in blood” – Hariri’s political allies referred to the Syrian president as a “mafia don.”
Ever since the assassination, the al-Hariri camp was greatly expecting the international report on the killing to convict Assad. Yet just after he took power in Lebanon, Hariri now chose to travel to Damascus himself – not even send an envoy, as previous PM Fouad Siniora did. In fact, by doing so Hariri pledged allegiance to Assad and granted Syria the kosher stamp allowing it to again rule Lebanon.
What could go wrong?
UPDATE 11:45 AM
At Contentions, Jonathan Tobin adds:
According to the New York Times, the failure of Harriri to maintain his country’s independence is due to one major difference between 2005 and 2009: “since then, the United States and the West have chosen to engage with Syria, not isolate it.” As a result, those who thought they had the West’s backing for resisting the thugs of Damascus have been forced to swallow their pride and swear loyalty to Assad in order to save their lives.Indeed.
All of which means that we can chalk up another defeat for the United States that can be put at the feet of Barack Obama’s fetish for diplomacy for its own sake. Like the opposition in Iran, the pro-independence Lebanese have been left in the lurch while Washington fecklessly pursues deals with dictators who have no intention of playing ball. And why should they, given the administration’s distaste for confrontations and its inability to rally international support for action on behalf of either a nuclear-free Iran or a free Lebanon?
It is worth recalling that back in the fall of 2008, when Joe Biden and Sarah Palin met for the vice-presidential nominees’ debate, Biden committed a gaffe when he claimed that Hezbollah had already been kicked out of Lebanon. Palin didn’t pick up on this blooper, and Biden escaped the derision he deserved for a passage in which he claimed that the best solution for Lebanon was a NATO intervention (had Palin committed such a blunder, she would never have heard the end of it). Biden probably meant Syria when he said Hezbollah, and his intention was to claim that Bush’s policies had failed in Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s revival. But as much as it should be conceded that Bush failed to sufficiently follow up on the Cedar Revolution, we now see what a year of the Obama-Biden administration has achieved in the region.
Their blind belief in engagement, as well as increased pressure on Israel, has emboldened both Syria and Iran. Those wishing to see what kind of difference Obama has made in the Middle East need only regard the wince-inducing spectacle of Saad Harriri bowing to Assad. The consequences of American engagement are not a pretty sight.