Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Is Assad Defeated in Lebanon?

I've not been optimistic that Syria will be easily defeated in Lebanon. As long as Hezbollah will act as Syria's agent in Lebanon, it seems that a peaceful resolution will be vey hard. And although the army is out, are Syria's intelligence agents really out?

This article says that Assad is truly defeated and that the defeat could follow him into Syria:

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East mediator, said Syria's pullout "is the beginning of what is going to be a pressure for change, one way or the other."

"It could end up being a coup against the current regime," Ross said.

Or, he said, "It could end up being Bashar himself acting against others who he feels have held him back."

I hate to refuse to recognize victory when it is staring me in the face, but although Assad may be a babe in the woods, he's surrounded by pretty ruthless operatives who can't view threats to their minority rule without wanting to act.

I'll keep my fingers crossed and I think we need to keep the pressure on Syria, but I won't pop the champagne quite yet.

UPDATE: The Syrians have not removed all their intelligence assets from Lebanon:

"In the many years the Syrians have been there, they've inserted themselves pretty deeply in Lebanon, including in intermarriage," said a senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "They've abandoned their headquarters, but they're still integrated in Lebanese society in a way that can be difficult to detect. So even though their formal presence is over, there is still a significant residual presence we need to look at."

Refugee camps are suddenly bigger. Who are these new refugees?

And of course, as long as Hezbollah works for Damascus, Syria has considerable street muscle to influence and control events as much as they can.

We have a long way to go. Will the Lebanonese people be up to the challenge of standing up to the forces Damascus still controls?