Hanin Ghaddar

Time to think of Lebanon with no Assad

On September 11, 2001, almost 3,000 people died in the US in a terrorist attack targeting innocent civilians. By September 11, 2011, almost 3,000 people have died in Syria in terrorist attacks targeting innocent civilians committed by the government. Two acts of terrorism, separated by ten years, changed and will continue to change the political map of the region. 

In 2001, the US received condolences, support and promises of cooperation from almost all Arab leaders as it embarked on its war on terrorism. Today, not a single Arab leader has asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. How many more does Assad have to kill for an Arab state to react?

Assad and his family have been in power for more than 40 years, and neighboring countries are used to dealing with Syria as the Assads’ property. Now some, including Iran, are starting to think of Syria after Assad, except the Arabs, and mainly Lebanon.

This weekend, Arab League President Nabil Al-Arabi visited Damascus and came out with lame promises of a plan for reform agreed upon by Assad. Arabi, blinded by his ambition to secure a role for the Arab League in any negotiations over Syria, forgot that the Syrians and others across the Arab world long ago gave up on reforms. The people want to see Assad step down and appear at the International Criminal Court.

The Arab League’s position is not surprising, and many Arabs lost faith in the role and intentions of the institution long ago. It is not surprising either that Arab leaders haven’t asked Assad to step down yet. No one wants to feel that he is next. On the contrary, if Assad manages to maintain power in Syria, they believe, it might actually stop the domino effect of the uprisings, the nightmare of every Arab president and king.

This is the attitude here in Lebanon, too. March 8 leaders are worried that the fall of the Syrian regime will wipe away their dreams of controlling Lebanon and its institutions. Hezbollah and Syria’s other proxies in Lebanon will lose their only Arab ally, and the Party of God, which is becoming known as a backer of dictatorships in the region due to its staunch support of Assad, will also lose its access to arms smuggling routes if the Syrian regime falls.

This does not mean that Hezbollah will disappear from Lebanon as soon as Assad is ousted. It will still have its arsenal and will certainly use it to sustain the balance of power in Lebanon, as long as Iran wants this balance to stay.
Assad’s fall would also not mean that the March 14 coalition would come out a winner. Most of this camp’s leaders still see the uprising in Syria as an event taking place in a distant country, while the Lebanese people feel that their country is more like a district in Syria that may not be experiencing the action directly, but that is being greatly influenced by the uprising and the government’s bloody crackdown.

March 14 members are acting as if Lebanon is still the center of the region, while no one really cares anymore. Former PM Saad Hariri is hiding in Paris while his aides and MPs are reacting to the uprising in Syria as if it were a Sunni affair. Most of the March 14 Christian leaders are being cautious, noting that Assad might be necessary for the safety and preservation of the Christians and other minorities in both Syria and Lebanon. They seem to have forgotten that during its presence in Lebanon before being kicked out in 2005, the Syrian regime persecuted, tortured and killed Christians just as it did with Lebanese from other sects.

As for the leader of the Druze sect in Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt, he is still swinging between his fear of Hezbollah and his desire to see Assad fall. All that swinging left him little space for thinking about the Syrian people.

March 8 leaders lost their ability to react shrewdly because of their fears, while March 14 leaders lost their ability, if there was ever one, to strategize because they simply do not see the Syrian uprising as it is: a storm that will change politics in the region, and the key to doors that were closed for ages. When these doors open, they will let in revolutionary ideas that will change the way our politicians are forced to think and talk.

There will be no space for either March 8 or March 14 in the post-Assad era in Lebanon. They will be replaced by new, dynamic leaders who act as fitting counterparts to the new political breed in Syria. It will probably take a very long time before Lebanon comes up with a new political class that could meet the new standards in the region, but it is worth a shot. Isn’t it?

Hanin Ghaddar is the Managing Editor of NOW Lebanon

  • S 2

    Its high time we do. High time we don't invite people to interfere in our lives.. The problem is that Lebanon is like a dance floor. Every time we hear music coming from outside some will jump and dance..

    September 28, 2011

  • ali

    Majd. Just to let you know,I respect HB for liberating south Lebanon and for a lot of things, but do not be mistaken there is no political party in Lebanon who is perfectly right. I rather live protected by the Lebanese army in Lebanon rather than HB however till that happens I am contented w HB. Both 8&14 march should be able to put a transitional plan on how to evolute the Lebanese army to an army that can protect south Lebanon the way HB tactically dowing. As for b assad. Please u have to respect the average human being intelligence. Do not tell me that he is the most qualified in Syria after his dad to rule :) it is a comedy the way he rose to power. If u really love Syria then u should be more onest w ur analysis.his regiem is full of opportunistic liars. The only good thing they r doing was backing HB in lebanon but for his own reasons and not the good of Lebanon

    September 14, 2011

  • Bob Feck

    Seriously, where did you study journalism Hanin?? Reading your "comment" is a waste of time and energy..... It is crappy writing at best. Get a real job. ...

    September 14, 2011

  • ali daoud

    Hanin, no arab leader would dare to ask Bashar to step down, he is much better than all of them, he is incomparable to them. Hanin, you seem talking on behalf of all syrians, who gave you the right?! Hanin, you claim Hizbullah is a syrian proxy, dear, Hizbullah liberated south Lebanon, not south syria, your continious degrading of HA hurts your own image not his. Hanin, you claim Hizbullah is a backer of dictatorships, you are wrong, HA is a backer of all Resisting powers against the ugly so-called democracies who have shown us nothing but wars and deaths all in the aim of controlling the world resources and fate, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Palestine to Libya. Hanin, what new political breath are you expecting?! are you for real? one sane person should not expect anything different from what we saw in Iraq, why should syria be different? dear, syria will be worse than Iraq in case bashar was toppled, last, i assure you and Monica and Ali, there will be no Middle east without al Assad.

    September 13, 2011

  • Monika

    This will happen ,it will take a bit time.They wont be a middlle east with Assad.I hope those who glorify him will soon be disappointed for their lost benefits and interests and also for their stealing ,abusing and killing the innocent people of the region not only Syrians and look for a place where to refuge and spend the rest of their life there.believe me this will happen.Then the region will deeply breath the fresh air of liberty but the people should remember and learn from the bitter and painful 42 years led by the father and the horrible son that ever and never a clever and a free human being must not idolize a regime or a person. A nation should always keep its eyes open on the leader and the government .

    September 13, 2011

  • ali

    I agree w you Michelle. I am more pessimistic when it comes to Lebanon political future. Lebanese population has still a lot to learn on how much their vote is important in elections. We tend not to think objectively. I hope too that hanin is right and I am wrong because this gives me hope in a free Lebanon that I can return to one day. As for Saudi Arabia. Just bunch of decorators that relate nothing to 21 century except the need for the world for oil. I really pitty Arab countries situation that the biggest countries snd wealthiest among them are wiry no political will.

    September 13, 2011

  • michelle

    This analysis is more on the naive side! Hanin I like your articles yet this one seems to have missed the mark. There are a few missing pieces of the puzzle but maybe you are more optimistic that I am about Lebanon's future political system. I hope you are right and I am wrong yet I have my doubts.

    September 12, 2011

  • Farid Ghadry

    Good analysis.. Saudi Arabia stopped the Bahraini and the Yemeni uprising and they believe they can stop the Syrian Rebellion. This only shows how little they know about Syrians.

    September 12, 2011