An Event and a Regional Trend

The US president George Bush’s statements which criticized internal issues in Syria coincided with the Israeli foreign minister Tzibi Levni’s speech at the annual meeting of the European Union which said Syria did not change it options concerning the support of the extremists (the forces which fight the Israeli occupation and defend Lebanese rights, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad).
Some analysts were quick in their assessments of these statements which refer to the dissipation of the atmospheres suggested recently by the transformations of the US policy and the retreat of what was called as "the Syrian bet" inside the Hebrew state and its decision making centers.
Experts and diplomats called for anticipation for the following reasons:
- Washington does not work to achieve compromises but to build a low ceiling for tensions in the files of the conflict through negotiations and dialogues some of them are direct and some through mediation. The escalation campaign will cover disputed complexes in order to overcome them. Therefore, the track of relations among Syria and the US and France will be governed by the progress but it will be necessarily slow.
- The Americans and the Israelis know very well that annexing Syria to Sharm esh-Sheik group is unreal in the shadow of Syria’s regional role and after its success in breaking the siege and building an active relation with Iran, Russia and Turkey and other states.
- The French dimension in the Syrian movement is christened, according to informed sources, with a network of important French interests in Syria which are not less important than the seductions of some Arab governments that the Americans send to Paris to make generous deals in an attempt to curb the development of the French-Syrian relations in a way that may surpass the American rhythm.
- Levni’s frank reference to the continuity of difference in the Syrian and Israeli approach to negotiations on the Golan and the condition on the Palestinian track. The Syrian stand which aims at restoring Palestinian unity represents for the Israelis and Americans a painful blow after the failure of Annapolis. They consider this a motive for firmness of the Palestinian authority and a failure of the attempt to change Abbas team to a proxy force against the resistance factions.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

Lebanon bid farewell to its martyr the brigadier general Francoise al-Hajj and his bodyguard in a big national funeral yesterday. It is anticipated that Beirut will witness a condensed political movement in the hours which precede the Monday electoral session:
- 1. The surprising stands of the loyalists focused on two points:
Refusing dialogue with general Aoun who is authorized by the opposition and who has a card that may accelerate the understanding.
The violent campaign of the Future Trend on the house speaker which led to harsh retaliations from the representatives of the bloc of development and liberation.
- 2. The anticipation of the arrival of assistant secretary of state David Welch to Beirut in a climate that raises questions on the content of the message which he will convey to the loyalists in the light of the loyalists’ betting on a change in the US-French stand towards Syria and in the light of the French press statements about the American disturbance from the political understandings that the French foreign minister considered as a topic which can be negotiated before the modification of the constitution and the election of the president.
- 3. The French stand which considered Monday as a last chance for electing the president while Paris will witness the conference of the donating countries on the Palestinian condition which will be attended by Syrian foreign minister and the US secretary of state.
- 4. The continuity of clinging to the nomination of general Suleiman on the internal and external level while loyal sources said the government’s resort to appointing ministers and moving to put its hand on the president’s authorities may happen if the opposition does not accept delaying the political understanding until after the presidential elections.

Arab and International Press

The Israeli paper Ma’ariv said the war between Israel and Gaza strip is inevitable and the crucial moment is very close.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial that the Lebanese army behaved yesterday as a knight when it called all the sides to offer concessions in order to achieve national conciliation.
Ian Bremer said in an article published in Los Angeles Times that Russia’s foreign policy reached to the highest degrees of self-confidence.
Al-Watan said in its editorial that tension and disputes dominate Lebanon in the shadow of the presidential vacuum.
The Emirate paper Al-Khalij said in its editorial that president Bush’s selection of Tony Blair as an envoy of the international quarter was not futile because Blair moves on the track of Bush’s policies.
The Qatari paper Al-Rayah said in its editorial that holding any political or economic conference to support Palestinians is demanded and Paris conference should provide financial support for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to confront the Israeli siege.

Satellite Stations’ Interviews

A special Statement
The leader in the national liberal trend Antoine Harb said brigadier general Francois Al-Hajj was a symbol for the unity of the military institution.

Lebanese Press

An-Nahar said the Lebanese are united again behind a new martyr in the funeral of Francois al-Hajj.
The paper added that the US assistant secretary of state David Welch arrives today in Beirut to hold talks with the house speaker, the prime minister and other officials.
As-Safir said the US decided to prolong its authorization of France to solve the Lebanese crisis while France announced that next Monday is the last chance for electing the president.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said some Lebanese sides did not respect the martyr al-Hajj and this was manifested in abstaining from announcing official mourning.
The NTV said the popular presence in the funeral of brigadier general al-Hajj was unprecedented.
The NBN said the Lebanese authority conspired against its army and people and resistance and an authority like this should fall or leave.
The OTV said the Phalangalists party’s conference talked about a historic compromise and the right of the Lebanese people to have a state in accordance with their own vision.
The LBC said Patriarch Sfeir said the nightmare threatens the country while the army called for achieving a national conciliation without conditions.
The Future said the atmospheres of mourning that dominated the country did not hide the sharpness of the political disputes.

Television Stations’ Interviews in Lebanon

The Hour’s Talk
The journalist Amer Mashmusi said there are big question marks on the crime that targeted al-Hajj and all the possibilities are open.
The journalist Joseph Abu Fadel said al-Siniora government threatens our future.
Representative Hadi Hubaish said the majority refuses dialogue with general Aoun before the presidential elections.
Representative Gazi Zaeter said we can not retaliate against the deputy house speaker with politics because he does not know politics.
Pier Raful, the coordinator of the national liberal trend, said we need Arab and international mediators to supervise any agreement with the loyalists.

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on in Arabic, English, French, German, and Spanish languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic, English and Spanish.