If Israel sent the IDF three kilometers into Lebanon and started digging trenches and building bunkers it would make news all over the world. But Syria does it and everyone shrugs. Hardly anyone even knows it happened at all.
Syria can, apparently, get away with just about anything. I could hardly blame Assad at this point if he believes, after such an astonishing non-response, that he can reconquer Beirut. So far he can kill and terrorize and invade and destroy with impunity, at least up to a point. What is that point? Has anyone in the U.S., Israel, the Arab League, the European Union, or the United Nations even considered the question?
It’s longish, but take five minutes to read the MEMRI piece as it’s important background for the possibly impending war(s). Three events are coalescing here, all of them alarming for Assad and Syria: a new UN report on the tribunal to investigate the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri, which Syria was almost certainly responsible for; another UN report from Ban Ki-Moon himself about the implementation in southern Lebanon of Resolution 1701, which calls for Hezbollah’s disarmament and has been flouted repeatedly and egregiously since the war last summer with Israel; and, per the Counterterrorism Blog, the election of a new Lebanese president in September, with Syrian stooge Emile Lahoud being challenged by someone from the anti-Syrian faction. Walid Phares expects Hezbollah, with Assad’s help, to attempt a coup by refusing to recognize the new president and setting up a shadow government of its own. From MEMRI:
On June 25, 2007, Al-Akhbar reported that the opposition had already discussed plans to form a second government and to take over the government ministries, in the event that the Al-Siniora government continued to adhere to its current positions. The paper added that the opposition had even begun to name the individuals who will form the second government.
A senior member of the Lebanese opposition told Al-Akhbar that he believed that if the second government is established, the Lebanese army will adopt a neutral stance. He estimated that the regions that would be loyal to the second government would be larger than the ones remaining loyal to Al-Siniora’s government. He further said that people from the South, from the Beqa’ valley, and from a large part of the Mount Lebanon region, as well as in the North, would refuse to recognize Al-Siniora’s government. He added that UNIFIL would find itself facing a new reality when it discovered that Al-Siniora’s government was no longer able to support its activities or ensure its security.
Hence the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon as guarantors of the new government. Another recent Lebanese news report (again per the MEMRI piece) claims that Syria has called on its citizens to leave the country; anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt says he’s hearing the opposite, that Assad’s actually sending people in ostensibly as “tourists” even though the months-long standoff with Hezbollah and fighting with jihadis in the Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli has made the country an unlikely tourist destination.
Remember what Petraeus said the other day about a mini-Tet? It may not be just Iraqi jihadis who are looking to capitalize right now on the U.S.’s (and by extension, the west’s) immobilization in Iraq. Exit question one: If Assad tries a coup backed by military, what will the west do? Anything at all? Exit question two: If Syria pulls it off, can Israel afford not to act?