Libano, Siria, Iran, M.O.
Il campo da gioco dei mullah
Tesi Amir Taheri, oppositore iraniano:
· Libano è specie di colonia siriana in compartecipazione con Iran;
· diviene paese libero, o sarà (di nuovo) guerra civile.
· In ottobre, su ingiunzione di Assad (Siria) premier e presidente parlamento libanesi accettarono di varare legge che proroga di tre anni il termine del presidente filosiriano Lahoud. Il premier diede le dimissioni.
· Il nuovo premier Karami, filosiriano, sta cercandodi imporre nuova legge elettorale per impedire l’emergere di maggioranza democratica anti-siriana.
· Il potere dei siriani consiste nei 40mila soldati e agenti segreti che tengono in Libano, oltre agli uomini che hanno nel governo.Negli ultimi 25 anni hanno assassinato 37 uomini di spicco, tra cui due presidenti e il leader druso Kamal Jumblatt.
· L’occupazione siriana è sostenuta dall’esercito dei 15mila Hezbollah, reclutati, addestrati, finanziati e armati dall’Iran,che tiene in Libano anche una squadra di 400 Guardie della Rivoluzione con ruolo di coordinamento. L’Iran ha già armato gli Hezbollah con circa 8mila missili Al Fajr e intende dar loro anche una forza aerea e navale.
L’Iran inoltre fornisce alla Siria petrolio a prezzo scontato e aiuti annui per 500m$.
· Dopo due decenni di occupazione il Libano, con 40MD$, è il paese col maggior incitamento estero procapite del mondo. Quasi un milione di persone, oltre un quarto della popolazione, sarebbe stata costretta all’esilio.
· Le amministrazioni USA fino a Bush GW hanno appoggiato l’occupazione siriana del Libano. Clinton ha visitato Damasco. Bush GW ha invece rifiutato un invito e fatto approvare all’ONU la risoluzione 1559 che chiede la fine dell’occupazione siriana e il disarmo delle milizie.
· Iran consigliò la Siria di tergiversare, in attesa di presidente americano. Data la rielezione di Bush, Siria cercherebbe di distogliere gli USA fomentandocaos in Iraq.
· La scorsa settimana Assad (il partito Baath di Siria e Libano, il Partito Nazionale Socialista ha indetto un amarcia di un milione in appoggio all’occupaizone siriana, contro la risoluzione 1559. Visto che non riuscivano a mobilitare più di tremila persone, l’intervento di Tehran all’ultimo minuto ha persuaso gli Hezbollah a partecipare: 22 mila dimostranti secondo la polizia.
· Si è formata una nuova alleanza di partiti di sinistra, centro e destra, cristiani, sciiti e drusi, che dal 22 novembre tiene manifestazioni quotidiane contro l’occupazione siriana.
· Lo status quo imposto dalla Siria quasi una generazione fa non è più sostenibile: o rinascita democratica o nuova guerra civile. USA devono dare maggiore priorità a Libano nella loro politica mediorientale.
The Mullahs’ Playground
By AMIR TAHERI
December 7, 2004
As the new Bush administration prepares to move on its democratization agenda in the Middle East, the first battleground may well be Lebanon. The smallest of Arab countries in size, Lebanon has made gigantic contributions to Arab politics, literature and culture. It is also the only Arab nation to have maintained a parliamentary tradition for more than half a century. With a long-established middle class and an intellectual elite representing a rich spectrum of traditions and sensibilities, Lebanon could, given a chance, become one of the first Arab states to join the global democratic mainstream.
Right now, however, Lebanon is facing extinction as a sovereign state, let alone a putative democracy. The government of Omar Karami is trying to impose a new electoral law designed to prevent the emergence of a democratic majority that might defy the Syrian hegemony.
The final vestiges of sovereignty were stripped from Lebanon in October. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad summoned Lebanon’s then-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to Damascus for a 12-minute audience in which he demanded that Lebanon’s constitution be amended to allow incumbent President Emil Lahoud’s term to be extended by three years. The two Lebanese politicians had no opportunity to argue against Assad’s “suggestion,” and Syria’s orders were fulfilled within 24 hours. All that Mr. Hariri could do was resign, allowing Assad to appoint Omar Karami, one of Syria’s longest-serving “special friends,” as prime minister.
Defying Syria is not easy for any Lebanese politician. The Syrians have some 40,000 troops and secret agents in Lebanon. Their agents are present in key slots within the Lebanese administration, including the cabinet. Syria also has a long history of having its Lebanese critics assassinated. Among Syria’s Lebanese victims over the past quarter-century are 37 leading politicians, academics and journalists, including two presidents, Bechir Gemayel and Rene Mouaouad, and the Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt.
Syria’s military occupation of Lebanon is backed by Iran through the 15,000-strong army of Hezbollah, a militia recruited, trained, financed and armed by Tehran. While Syria regards Iran as its strategic hinterland, the mullahs see Syria and Lebanon as a glacis for their Khomeinist state.
A 400-man team of Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen help pull the militia’s strings in Beirut and southern Lebanon. Tehran has already armed the Hezbollah with some 8,000 Al Fajr missiles and plans to give it an air force and a navy as well. Iran also supplies Syria with cut-price oil and an annual cash handout of $500 million, which helps finance the occupation of Lebanon.
Almost two decades of Syrian occupation have turned Lebanon, with a foreign debt approaching $40 billion, into the world’s most indebted nation relative to its population. It has forced almost one million Lebanese, more than a quarter of the population, into exile. For the first time in memory, an army of beggars and street urchins roams the center of Beirut and other big cities.
Before George W. Bush became president, successive U.S. administrations had endorsed the Syrian occupation of Lebanon — often in the hope of encourag
ing the despot of Damascus to join the so-called Middle East peace process. President Bill Clinton paid the late despot Hafez al-Assad the supreme tribute of visiting Damascus and praising Syria’s “constructive role in the region” which, presumably, included the effective annexation of Lebanon.
The first sign that Mr. Bush intended to change Washington’s policy vis-à-vis Damascus came in 2001 when the newly inaugurated president refused a Syrian invitation for a summit with the younger Assad, who had succeeded his father. Thus, he became the first U.S. president since Nixon to shun a Syrian leader.
Last summer the Bush administration moved onto the offensive by proposing U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which demanded an end to the Syrian and Iranian military presence in Lebanon and the disarming of militias, particularly Hezbollah.
Immediately after resolution 1559 was passed Assad hurried to Tehran, where the mullahs told him to prevaricate until after the U.S. presidential election. The mullahs hoped Mr. Bush would be defeated, thus removing pressure on them and their Syrian allies to leave Lebanon alone.
Once the president was re-elected, Tehran and Damascus agreed on a new stratagem: to foment enough trouble in Iraq to leave the U.S. and its coalition allies little appetite for opening a new front in Syria and Lebanon. This, they hoped, would bolster what Assad called “mass popular support” for Syrian presence in Lebanon.
Last week Assad tested his “mass popular support” strategy by calling for a “million-man march” in Beirut in support of Syrian occupation. The marchers were supposed to express Lebanon’s rejection of resolution 1559 with cries of “Death to America!” The march was co-sponsored by the Syrian and Lebanese branches of the Baath Party, the Syrian National Socialist Party and the Shiite group Amal. Syrian security chief General Rustam Ghazali bussed hundreds of his agents to Beirut for the demonstration. Hours before the march started, however, it became clear that the three sponsors would not be able to bring in more than 3,000 demonstrators. A last-minute intervention by Tehran persuaded Hezbollah to take part, swelling the ranks of the marchers to some 22,000, according to the police.
“We have seen the rebirth of Enver Hoxa’s Albania in Lebanon,” says Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. “We have just had our first march of the masses without the masses.”
Hopes of ending the Syrian and Iranian military occupation and putting Lebanon back on the road to democratization have already created a new alliance of Lebanese political forces that encompasses several parties and personalities of the left, center and right from the Christian, Shiite and Druze communities. Since Nov. 22, the Lebanese Independence Day, there have been daily demonstrations against Syrian occupation.
“Those who shout about the right of the Palestinian to self-determination should also say a few words about the right of the Lebanese to run their own house,” says Subhi Tufeili, a Shiite cleric who has broken with Hezbollah.
Many Lebanese from all communities echo the sentiment. They point to the fact that there are millions of successful Lebanese all over the world while inside Lebanon poverty, injustice and fear rule. They claim that as long as Syria maintains an army in Lebanon the country will not attract the level of investment it needs to rebuild its shattered economy.
What is certain is that the status quo imposed by Syria on Lebanon almost a generation ago is no longer tenable. Lebanon is entering a period of transition that could lead either to a democratic rebirth or, if Syria and Iran are allowed to dominate the situation, to another civil war with unforeseeable consequences for regional security as a whole. The new Bush administration must push Lebanon higher on its Middle East reform agenda.
Mr. Taheri is an Iranian political commentator based in Paris.