Lebanon’s future hinges on the outcome of polls in Iraq and Syria

The Arabic press reflects on the absurd theatre of Syria's presidential election and how interlinked the region is, according to the views of Ameer Taheri in Asharq Al Awsat and George Semaan in Al Hayat

What the Arabic press is saying about the region. Translated by Racha Makarem

In an opinion article in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, the columnist Ameer Taheri wrote: “When Syrian president Bashar Al Assad announced he would be standing for re-election, I was reminded of a passage from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, where Estragon, one of the main characters in the play, says: ‘It can’t get any worse than this’ and his friend, Vladimir, responds: ‘This is what you think!’”

The absurdity of the Syrian position didn’t stop at that. Soon afterwards, official news agencies in Tehran announced that Iran planned to send “monitors” to guarantee the “freedom and accuracy” of the Syrian elections, scheduled for next month.

The writer asked: “Can the ‘Mullah’ regime be seen as a guarantor of free elections?”

The Syrian revolution-turned-war has been raging for more than three years. What started as peaceful popular protests in a small Syrian town against dictatorship and corruption soon morphed into nationwide demonstrations calling on the Assad regime to step down.

By 2013, it was everyone’s objective to unseat Mr Al Assad. Most international efforts seeking to find a solution to the crisis have since hinged on the need to remove Mr Al Assad from power.

“Al Assad’s departure could pave the way for a transition that would be more or less peaceful. It would allow for the Syrian state structures to remain in place, thus preventing a total collapse of the system, and the Baath party – the party of Mr Al Assad – would be able to retain a part of the power within the framework of a new national deal,” the writer suggested. “More importantly, it would save Syrians from the plight that has befallen them due to hostility and paranoia-driven schisms within households, tribes and sects.”

Mr Al Assad’s decision to stand in the coming elections is bad news not only for Syrians, but for what remains of the Baath party, and Tehran and Moscow that have to continue financing the extended war, Taheri explained.

“As a matter of fact, Tehran and Moscow would be forced to financially support a friend that grows uglier and costlier day after day,” he noted.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Lebanon is facing the prospect of having a vacuum as the deadline to elect a new president for the republic will expire in two weeks.

“The prevailing political and sectarian divisions within the Lebanese parliament make it nearly impossible to provide the quorum required for the election of a new head of state,” observed the columnist George Semaan in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

For the time being, and almost nine years after Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon ending a 30-year occupation, the country’s fate continues to be susceptible to that of Damascus as well as to variables in Tehran, Washington, Iraq and other powers that be.

The Lebanese won’t be able to decide on their president internally since they can’t control external convergences and divergences. They would have to wait for the outcome of the Iraqi elections – in which Iraqis won’t be able to decide their new government themselves – and Syria’s regime supporters that won’t be able to control the outcome of presidential elections next month.

“The link between these three elections is undeniable and not to be undermined,” Semaan said.

“The Lebanese would probably need to wait for the outcome of the conflict in Baghdad following the last legislative elections, because that would reveal the new framework of regional and international agreements among relevant players.”

The various parties in Lebanon would have to wait for agreements among regional players and international powers before they could start looking for a president that would get the approval of the Sunni and Shiite blocs.

The country is part of the division in the region. As long as the situation in Syria deteriorates, Lebanon would remain in the heart of the problem and should be prepared for additional security and economic hardships, Semaan wrote.

rmakarem@thenational.ae

Published: May 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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