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Lebanon and Syria: Slow Steps - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Despite all the preparations for [creating] Lebanese public opinion, the pictures coming out of Damascus remain in their dramatic place and full of diverse sentiments. The meanings embodied in the scenes that were replayed on the television screens from Damascus over the past few days will not die down quickly. Perhaps the most powerful scene was the one that showed the slow and hesitant steps taken by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to shake hands with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. These steps alone cannot turn a new page [in Syrian-Lebanese relations] before we understand what this page is all about and upon which basis that will take place.

But, inasmuch as there is a need for [giving] new meaning and a fundamentally different structure to Syrian-Lebanese ties, and inasmuch as it was stressful conditions that led to that meeting being held between Hariri and al Assad, caution and doubt will remain stronger feelings than any kind of reassurance, especially if that reassurance includes slogans from the history of the Lebanese who paid a heavy price.

What concerns us as citizens and in the media is that there are many reasons for caution, not least [with regards to] politics and its consequences, which are definitely bigger than Lebanon can handle.

As for the media, which appeared to be a center for control and [launching] attacks at present, it echoed the voices of people in Damascus and some in Lebanon (not missing a single moment of the Syrian embrace). These voices considered the visit a victory for the logic of “resistance” and “opposition” and said that the “Syrian embrace takes in even those who wronged it.” In fact it exaggerated greatly believing that the March 14 slogans have collapsed and what’s most dangerous is the semi-consensus among general commentators and writers themselves that the Lebanese Prime Minister must control those around him, his media and allies in a clear and precise manner. Some of them did not hesitate to use a direct cautionary tone with Saad Hariri if he does not take control of this media or part of it.

Today there are people who consider it easy to theorize about the results of the Hariri-al Assad meeting with the same set of slogans that controlled Syrian-Lebanese ties before 2005. There are those who returned with slogans from the archives such as “one nation in two countries,” and [slogans about] “the geography and history” and “brotherhood” and “excellent relations.”

What Lebanon achieved on March 14 and what it accomplished in spite of the bitterness and the heavy price the Lebanese paid for the Syrian army to leave Lebanon and to put a stop to political dependence on Damascus are gains that nobody can take away or destroy. Regardless of the visit, what follows it, and the need for it, it remains the case that what must be maintained is media control in an attempt to rectify any distortion that could harm the new Syrian-Lebanese ties and which, with no doubt, has a rocky path ahead. The possibilities of deviation in these relations do exist [and so do] the fears of the Lebanese of the return of Syrian influence to their country like the influence that dominated the country before 2005. The media’s role of control will not be part of an assumed battle over the new relations but rather to rectify any potential slip ups and cases of deviation.

Lebanese-Syrian relations should have been based on different foundations and post-2005 facts cannot be ignored, nor can we forget or conceal the facts pre-2005.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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