Tuesday, February 16, 2010

U.S. Marks Anniversary of Syrian Terrorist Act With Major Concession to Syria

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By Barry Rubin

Not all national disgraces appear in the headlines. February 14 was the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an event which led to a national peaceful uprising in non-Hizballah Lebanon that forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops and produced the short-lived Beirut Spring.

As a result, a moderate, independent-minded, pro-Western government came to power which wanted to minimize Iranian, Syrian, and Hizballah power in the country. That government was essentially betrayed—perhaps let down is a better phrase—by the United States and France, given little support until its enemies who, on contrast, were fully backed by their friends in Tehran and Damascus, made a comeback and are back in the government coalition with veto power. As a result, Lebanon has made a considerable move toward Iran’s orbit.

The investigation of Hariri’s murder has led straight to the highest levels of the Syrian government as having put out the contract on Hariri’’s life, along with other terrorist attacks in Lebanon that killed several members of parliament and dozens of bystanders. But the investigation has faltered due to lack of Western backing.

So while President Barack Obama called Hariri’s son to say the United States wants to find the murderers and encourage the investigation his policies have been the exact opposite. The U.S. refusal to send a new ambassador to Syria has been a key sign of American anger over the murders and leverage to press Syria toward cooperation with the investigation.

Now, however, a high-ranking U.S. official on that very anniversary has leaked that the United States has now made a significant concession to Syria by naming its first ambassador to Syria since that envoy was withdrawn after Hariri’s murder. A State Department official said that the Syrian government has accepted the U.S. candidate though we don’t yet know who is the choice.

True, this was not an official public announcement. But the fact is that everyone now knows that the decision has been made and the arrangements all put in place. Nobody in Washington will notice that this timing sends a signal to independent-minded Lebanese that the United States wants to forget about Hariri’s murder, accept Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah as holding Lebanon hostage and moving closer to making it a satellite.

Last autumn, the Obama Administration decided not to put defensive missiles into the Czech Republic and Poland on September 17, the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. This is a similar action.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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