Photo: AP
Anti-Syrian protest
Photo: AP
Photo: AP
Bashar Assad: Between a rock and a hard place
Photo: AP

Bashar, Lebanon and golden eggs

Hard to believe Damascus will surrender political, military and economic influence in Lebanon; five years since his father’s death, the young Assad is abandoning his properties; what will Nasrallah do?

TEL AVIV - It’s hard to diminish the significance of Tuesday’s ceremony at the Rayak Air Force Base, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The ceremony was meticulous and replete with the handing out of medals, but it could not hide the truth: Syria was reluctantly leaving Lebanon.


The chiefs of staff of the two armies spoke of their appreciation for Syria and Bashar Assad for service “on behalf of Lebanon” - and, of course, promised to continue to stand against Israel. But the fear and shame on the face of General Rustom Ghazali, the infamous Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, said it all.


Will Syria really give up on Lebanon, its goose that laid the golden egg? It’s hard to imagine it would do so of its own free will. It’s even harder to imagine that it will be able to influence the country as effectively as it once did.


“Syria will definitely try to continue to rule Lebanon. The thing is that Syria is on the defensive, and when its protecting its home, its not exactly in proper form to rule Lebanon,” said Prof. Eyal Zisser, a Syria and Lebanon expert at Tel Aviv University.


Zisser noted that the United States is still pressuring Damascus on its aid to Hizbullah and Iraqi insurgents.


'Hizbullah abductions unlikely'


According to Arab news reports, Syria is sending plainclothes intelligence agents back into Beirut, but Zisser is skeptical of these stories - especially since the U.N. plans to oversee the withdrawal and to investigate the assassination of ex-prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.


In fact, pro-Syrian intelligence officers are quitting their jobs while others are pulling money out of their bank accounts.


“It’s more likely that Syria will try to maintain influence through old standbys - read: President Emile Lahoud, Hizbullah, the Shiites and allies within the Maronite community,” said Zisser.


And what of Hizbullah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah? Zisser said that the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the group is unlikely: “Nasrallah does not want to heat up the situation but to play by the old rules of the game... he doesn’t want to bring pressure on his group to disarm.”


פרסום ראשון: 04.27.05, 10:25
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