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By Dr Walid Phares
Feb 18, 2005 - 8:28:00 PM

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"Effectively, once an occupier-regime starts devouring his past allies, the end is near, even though it would stretch its destiny further in time. Alea jacta est, (what is done is done) by assassinating the most influential politician in Lebanon today, Bashar’s future in the neighboring country is set: It won’t have one anymore"

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February 18, 2005

What is inside the mind of Syrian Baath
Walid Phares

When the blasts rocked Beirut, massacring former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and his companions, history was taking a new turn in Lebanon: On the one hand, Damascus’ regime has decided to choose the path of Saddam, while the majority of the Lebanese opted for regime change. In the following hours after the barbaric killing, the dice were rolling already. Nothing was to stop the Muslim Sunnis from breaking away from Assad’s control, and nothing will stop a Sunni- Druze-Christians alliance from reaching out to the Shiite community. How is it that the Syrian regime, known to be a shrewd planner and a long term strategist, would commit a political suicide? To execute Rafiq Hariri in the middle of the day, and sit back in Damascus waiting for the funerals to take place and for the international community to react, is not at all an Assad smart move. How come the regime’s elite allow such a gigantic mistake to be perpetrated?

All students of Syrian and Lebanese politics, and I have been one since 1975, would concur that something of an apocalyptic nature has occurred inside the Baath Party nomenclature for such a junun(folly) to happen. No one in the Sunni Lebanese community is awaiting any judicial evidence to point the finger towards the East of the Bekaa . And very few among the Christians and Druze have a shred of doubt about the perpetrators, having suffered identical losses from Kamal Jumblat to Bashir Gemayel, both assassinated by the Syrian Baathists over the past couple decades. Even clairvoyant Lebanese Shiites have read the signs in the sands: Syria’s command is out of control..

Effectively, once an occupier-regime starts devouring his past allies, the end is near, even though it would stretch its destiny further in time. Alea jacta est, (what is done is done) by assassinating the most influential politician in Lebanon today, Bashar’s future in the neighboring country is set: It won’t have one anymore. The Syrian Baathist legacy in Lebanon is three decades long. Assad the father ordered his troops to invade the small nation back in 1976. He gradually devoured its communities and provinces, one at a time, till the final onslaught of the 1990s. The end of the cold war didn’t end the Syrian Anchluss in Lebanon. A relic from the Soviet era, the Assad regime systematically annihilated its Christian-Lebanese opponents and bound Muslim-Lebanese politicians between his Terror and Hizbollah’s terrorism. As in Iraq and Syria, a “Republic of Fear” was thriving in Lebanon till 9/11. With America waking up to the Terror threat worldwide, Baathist Syria tried to dodge the new era. It was a Terror regime protecting Terrorist organizations, but wasn’t upgraded to the axis of evil yet. It was given a chance to change, reform, and withdraw from Lebanon.

It didn’t. It maintained its occupation of Lebanon, further oppressing its people, and widening the repression to Sunni and Druze. It kept the Terror organizations in Damascus and opened its borders to the anti-Democracy Terror in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. But the world around Damascus was changing as Saddam was removed, his Baath dismantled and 8 million Iraqis colored their fingers in blue a month ago. With the death of Arafat, Palestinians moved away from Assad’s diktat, and elected their own President, Mahmoud Abbas. The last Baath was left with his last two victims: The peoples of occupied Lebanon and oppressed Syria.

Last September, while the idea was suggested by a free and vigorous Lebanese Diaspora, both Washington and Paris introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council calling on Syria to withdraw its troops from its neighbor’s territories. Rafiq Hariri saw the opportunity to get loose from the grip. So did Walid Jumblat the Druze leader. Hariri resigned, signaling to French President Chirac, that Lebanon’s civil society has basically given the green light for the international community to help. Hence, UNSCR 1559 was born in New York, the city of 9/11. The Syrian Baath saw it in red, the color of blood.

In the fall, a car bomb almost killed Marawn Hamade, a former minister, close-ally to Jumblat. The Druze political rebellion was on. Along with the already embattled Christians, the widening opposition reached out to Hariri, the Sunni tycoon. The troika was forming slowly, and heading towards Lebanon’s upcoming legislative elections in May. Damascus saw farther than the Lebanese opposition. It predicted a decisive victory for the “allies,” and saw the nightmare of a returning Hariri with a national unity cabinet. Reading well in the future, the Baathist mind knew that such a Government of independence would visit France and the US and ask the Security Council to pull Syria, by force if needed. The Baath cannot leave the Lebanese prey, because it would subsequently collapse inside the “Reich” itself.

Hence the Baathist mind had made its choice, implacably, to eliminate the pillars of Lebanese liberation as the international campaign was building at the horizon. That is pre-emptive strike. They knew that the killing of Hariri would be bad for them, but his freedom was worse on the short run. Damascus’ plan is rough and apocalyptic. If they go down, they will take everyone with them, or so they plan. Beirut used to be called the Paris of the Middle East. But in contrast with the survival of the French capital as the Nazis withdrew, the Baathists wants chaos and blood to spread if their forces are compelled to flee. They don’t want to see reconstruction after their departure, but Hizbollah’s wrath, and an endless violence. They want the Lebanese and the world to regret their “iron presence.”

That’s why they eliminated Hariri on Valentine day and declared an alliance of the doom with the Khumanist republic the next day. From Damascus to Tehran, the Baathists and the Mullah have drawn the last frontiers of the evil empire. But from Baghdad to Beirut, freedom is marching forward.

Phares' remarks were also made on al Jazeera and al Hurra this week

Walid Phares is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington and a Professor of Middle East Studies. Phares is the Secretary General of the World Lebanese Cultural Union WLCU. Dr. Phares contributed this article to LEBANONWIRE. He can be reached at

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