Michael Totten

Waiting for Assad

By Abu Kais

More details have emerged about the Sudanese envoy’s trip to Syria, during which he announced Damascus’s alleged support for the Arab initiative.

According to the National News Agency, and an interview Voice of Lebanon conducted with Marwan Hamadeh, the envoy had obtained a tentative agreement on a set of points from Siniora, Nasrallah and Berri. But Berri and Nasrallah asked him to visit Damascus to get the regime’s take on the proposed settlement–especially in what concerns the Hariri tribunal.

As was reported, Ismail went to Damascus and then came the announcement of Syrian support. Lo and behold, the Sudanese received a call after his visit from a Hizbullah official informing him that the opposition’s approval was only on the "principle" and that his proposal or "working paper" needs a "deep discussion".

This "deep discussion" is really about the Hariri tribunal. Insignificant and self-marginalizing I-want-early-parliamentary-elections-or-I-take-Siniora-hostage Aoun apart, there seems to be a glimmer of hope in reaching a settlement by linking the formation of a national unity government to holding early presidential elections (we can all opine on this once more details emerge).  But the sticking point, and this is according to An-Nahar, is the tribunal, which still "needs negotiations between the opposition and Damascus, which has not given its final word on the issue."

So until the Assad regime releases the "opposition" and allows them to reach a settlement, expect the occupation of downtown Beirut to continue.

The jury is divided on whose side time is on right now. There should no doubt in anybody’s mind that it is not on the side of Lebanon and its economy. Some in my comments section have said it’s on Hizbullah’s side, and others said it was on March 14’s.

Here’s something to support the second camp’s argument:

The "opposition" is quickly losing the support of pro-Syrian Sunnis. Former Prime Minister Omar Karami had refused to address the Hizbullah hordes on Sunday, following Nasrallah’s anti-Sunni speech last Thursday. Fathi Yakan, also a pro-Syrian, has publicly disassociated himself from Aoun’s plan to storm the Serail and replace the Sunni PM with another one more to Hizbullah’s and Aoun’s liking.

And today, one of Aoun’s allies in Zahle, Elias Skaf, visited Bkirki and announced he was in full support of the Maronite Church and against street protests.

Finally, the sixth UNIIIC report was released on Tuesday, and it looks like Brammertz will keep playing Clue until the tribunal is formed. Speaking of which, the Lebanese cabinet has met and confirmed the tribunal’s plan after receiving it from Lahoud, who had sent it back "for a review by another, constitutional, cabinet". It is now on its way to parliament.

Theoretically, the ball is in Berri’s court.

But for Berri and Hizbullah, it’s in Bashar’s court, and has always been.