The Arab world’s main problem since the 1970s has consisted of the fact that its regimes – which accessed power following coups – not only oppressed the people and set a low ceiling for any political and intellectual activities, thus confining such activities to political parties or the ruling class; but these regimes also expanded towards the outside world and granted themselves elaborate regional roles in order to compensate for the internal state of blockage. However, the revolutions of the Arab Spring caused most of these countries to become self-absorbed as the immensity of the domestic problems and concerns emerged and pushed the new regimes to be much more concerned about restructuring and reconstruction rather than playing the game of the outside world again. The revolutions had actually been launched to end this tendency at shying away from the search for solutions to the tough living conditions and unhealthy relations between society’s elements.
The Libya of Gaddafi abided by this equation. However, this situation applies to Syria more than anyone else. Egypt had relatively secluded itself since the signing of the Camp David accords with Israel. Thus, Damascus found a perfect chance in disregarding its political and economic impasse by expanding and enhancing its external interference in the two most fragile and most agitated arenas: Lebanon and Palestine. The Syrian regime, which has been facing since early last year a popular revolution that turned into an armed struggle and a severe civil division, is still fiercely fighting the inevitable fate of its external expansion.
On the other hand, the Arab Spring allowed those parties that were subjected to the foreign interventions to gradually break away. The Hamas movement left the Syrian cloak. This was followed by clashes between the pro-revolution Palestinian fighters and the fighters of the “General Command” at the Yarmouk Camp in the Damascus suburbs, thus signaling an attempt at either completing the Palestinian breaking away from Syria or halting it.
The clashes that took place in Aleppo between the Free Syrian Army and the PKK militia fall in the same context. Indeed, the regime has always used this militia in order to suppress the Kurds and blackmail Turkey, and it was forced to grant the Kurds in the north an “autonomous rule” because of the regime’s need for the forces stationed in that area.
However, Lebanon is the most important factor in ending the Syrian external expansion. Lebanon’s political leaders have grown bolder in expressing themselves because there is a general conviction that change is undoubtedly coming in Syria even if it takes some time. However, the Syrian regime – which considers its tiny neighbor as a main gauge for its power and a favorite leverage point to address the world – is making every effort to maintain its position and power in this country by dealing some painful blows such as the assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan who stood in the face of the Syrian power. The Syrian regime is also threatening all its opponents of meeting the same end as Al-Hassan.
The Lebanese opposition, on the other hand, is taking more radical positions to confront the Damascus regime and its internal allies by insisting on toppling the Mikati cabinet, which is based on a Syrian-Iranian agreement sponsored by Hezbollah. The Lebanese opposition is insisting that it will no longer keep silent vis-à-vis Damascus’ violation of the Lebanese political and security arenas under the cover of its allies especially now that the assassination of Al-Hassan has completely revoked the Doha agreement. Thus, the opposition’s battle to end the Syrian expansion in Lebanon is one of the logical outcomes of the Syrian revolution and the Arab Spring. This battle calls for Arab and international support.
There will of course be a price for this stand that the Lebanese opposition might have to pay in blood and perhaps in unity. However, the opposition’s leaders believe that they are paying the price of the Syrian regime’s near demise anyway.
Hassan Haidar is a columnist at al-Hayat. This article was published on Nov. 2, 2012