Thursday, June 01, 2006

Patrick Seale on the The secret state

New Statesman - The secret state: "One of the greatest tests that Assad as a leader and Syria as a nation now face is the attempt to strip Damascus of its remaining influence in Lebanon. The challenge has been mounted by the US and France, which have jointly sponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution (number 1680, of 17 May) calling on Syria to establish full diplomatic relations with Lebanon 'as a significant step towards asserting Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence'.

Temporarily allied but in reality in competition, France and the US are hoping to step into the vacuum in Lebanon that Syria's ejection would create. Syria has rejected the UN resolution as interference in its internal affairs, signalling that it will not give in without a fight.

This is no mere sideshow to the bigger regional contest. Lebanon is of immense importance to Syria. With Damascus less than 20 kilometres from the Lebanese border and the heart of Syria vulnerable to a thrust up the Beka'a Valley, a basic principle of Syrian policy has for decades been to prevent any hostile power establishing itself in Lebanon, or mounting hostile operations against it from Lebanese soil. "

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