Because they are not masters in their own state, Lebanons politicians do not have the mettle of power. All issues that are discussed, from a change of government to an extension of the presidential term, from waste of public funds on cellular telephones to car inspection taxes, from land confiscation to a rejection of the settling (of Palestinian refugees) and the continuation of the resistance, all of these subjects are never discussed for the sake of the public good or based on the national interest. Far from it. The only driver behind Lebanons politicians and Lebanons issues is Syrias interests and her reactions to international political posturing on regional issues.
As a result, and because of the different affiliations of the people in power in Lebanon, it is safe to assume that the evolution of these issues and the disagreements over them are a direct reflection of changes in regional politics.
So consider French President Chiracs linkage of the maintenance of Syrian troops in Lebanon to a resolution of the Middle East problem. Then ponder the fact that Chirac was a leading figure in opposing America in its attack on Iraq. Finally, consider also that Prime Minister Hariri has known close ties to President Chirac. And you will understand why the primary intermediary between France and Syria and the most effective coordinator for their rapprochement and exchange of visits at the highest levels was no one else but Prime Minister Hariri, the irreplaceable head of successive Lebanese governments.
And no sooner had the French Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his countrys desire to see UN Resolution 520 implemented and Syrian troops withdraw from Lebanon that Mr. Hariris throne began shaking under his feet and his prerogatives melt away and his interests falter. It was also at the same time that the collaborator mouthpieces of the Syrians both from within and outside the Lebanese government began attacking Mr. Hariri. His ally Walid Jumblatt, for example, immediately declared his opposition to Hariri after visiting Anjar and Baabda, in spite of the millions he racked up from Hariri. Later, at a government meeting, the men of the General-President brandished in Hariris face the issues of waste in spending and the exploitation of hiring, confiscation, and privatization. They went on to publicly denounce Hariris desire to see the resistance cease its activities and his rejection of an amendment of the constitution, and so on.
Hariris supporters did respond, through Charles Ayoub, on television by directly attacking President Lahoud with a political courage that says much about whom is behind the attacks. Lahoud was accused of being a failure of a president and that there is no room for a renewal or an extension of his term as president. Which quickly shifted the battle from one of words to one with real rockets two of which - slamming Hariris Future Television station and destroying it so that he gets the message. And who knows whats next!
In closing the loop, one now wonders whether Mr. Hariri will exert pressure on his friend in Paris so that France changes its position about keeping Syria in Lebanon and Hezbollahs resistance ongoing, with weapons in the hands of Hezbollah and the armed gangs, and inside the Palestinian camps?
Perhaps it would be better for the young Lebanese billionaire to fade away by resigning from the Prime Ministership and taking a break from the mission impossible he set for himself. He would be better off waiting this one out and keeping his head on his shoulders while someone else pays the price.
Paris, 16 June 2003