The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

"A low-hanging fruit"

The backlash has begun:

In Hariri's hometown of Sidon on southern Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, dozens of demonstrators attacked Syrian workers Tuesday, slightly wounding five before police intervened. Hundreds of others marched in the streets. Black banners and pictures of the slain leader covered the streets as the country began three days of official mourning.

On Monday night, a mob attacked the offices of the Lebanese chapter of Syria's ruling Baath Party in Beirut with stones and set fire to shacks used to exchange money and sell cigarettes in front of it.

If someone wanted to get the ball moving on inspiring the Lebanese against Syria, this is working perfectly. In the next few days we're going to see four major players fight this out: the Lebanese, the Syrians, the French and the Americans. Of course, within the Lebanese there will be conflicting tendencies. This is when coalitions are formed, and I'm sure there will be some hesitation as to what should be done. It may be time for those who backed Syria to reconsider. Whatever happens and no matter did it, the Syrians are going to be the losers.

Below is an unorganized, quick run through some of the things I read today -- unfortunately I have no time to elaborate at the moment.

The Bush administration is rushing to blame Syria, and sends the signal by withdrawing the ambassador to Damascus. The NYT editorial board urges that the opportunity is taken to move against Syria. Iyad Allawi says that it will affect the situation in Iraq. Adel Darwish wrote an interesting obituary in the Independent. Le Figaro reminds us that Terje Rod-Larsen, the UN's special envoy to the Middle East and one of the architects of the Oslo peace process, had made considerable progress in the past few months with Bashar Al Assad and was to present a report to the UN on Resolution 1559. The French conservative daily also notes that this is really "an attempt to radically influence the peace process in the region." Joshua Landis looks at the Syrian reaction. Naharnet, as Praktike noted, is the place to go for news, including: the army taking over Beirut, which is being shut down for three days, and other cities; Saudi Arabia rejecting Jacques Chirac's call for an international investigation (so has Lebanon) that the UN is preparing to announce; Baha'uldin Hariri, Rafik's son, is being urged to take his father's place; Syrian Vice-President Khaddam, a close friend of Hariri, did not shake hands with the French and American ambassadors when they came to pay their condolences at the wake.