I was scared to death before hearing President Bashar AL-Assad’s speech earlier this month. The tragic scenario would have been for president Bashar to put forward a stern stance after listening to elements of the Syrian media and some Syrian officials who seem to live in an age other than ours and only speak a language of rhetoric fit for a poetic contest.
These voices do not seem to be aware that the world has evolved and that the world around Syria in particular has witnessed a great deal of change.
The Syrian president frustrated the hopes of extremists by unfolding his plan of withdrawal to Bekaa Valley as a primary step in the way to a complete pullout from Lebanon. It is a positive step that should be met by similar positive steps from the Lebanese side. Arab capitals must invest and foster this step in order to protect Syria against any possible dangers and so that the withdrawal plan can be completed.
This Syrian step extinguished many flames and dangers. It is an important step on a long road in which Syria has to exert much effort to assure all Lebanese political powers that Syria is dealing is transferred to Lebanon, the way two independent states should deal with each other, away from complexities and presupposed stances. This could be achieved through withdrawing from Lebanon according to a specific timeline that ends before the coming Lebanese elections.
The Lebanese need to sit on the bargaining table. It is not to anyone’s interest that this state of tension, conflict and mistrust continues. Of course, the Lebanese would not agree over everything and reach typical positions, as this is the nature of life. People naturally differ or disagree on things. Yet, they should at least reach a consensus over the central issues and reestablish a relationship based on trust with their Syrian neighbors. All this would work in the end for the interest of Syria as well as Lebanon.
Those that are suspicious about the Syrian withdrawal are dealing with intentions that no one can foresee. They miss the fact that the international community is now concerned with this issue. It is no longer a Lebanese demand liable for tactics and bargains. Syria itself realizes that withdrawal is for its best interest. It knows that a stable and independent Lebanon is a thousand times better than an unsettled one. The worst dangers facing Lebanon are the attitudes against Syria that aim at creating a state of animosity, along with the trend that aims at putting Syria on the edge so that whenever it rains in Damascus the umbrella is raised in Beirut.