Arabic media review

Lebanese media fear Syrian intervention

For Syria, Lebanon is ‘the weakest link,’ claims a Lebanese columnist

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Demonstrators chant slogans during a march to mark the second anniversary of the revolt against the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, in Paris, Saturday, March 16, 2013 (photo credit: Thibault Camus/AP)
Demonstrators chant slogans during a march to mark the second anniversary of the revolt against the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, in Paris, Saturday, March 16, 2013 (photo credit: Thibault Camus/AP)

As the Syrian opposition discusses the identity of its transitional government ministers, the Syrian regime is threatening to attack opposition forces inside Lebanon, Arab press reports on Sunday.

The opposition’s National Coalition is scheduled to meet in Istanbul on Monday to chose a prime minister for its new transitional government, Saudi-daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports. Unnamed sources tell the daily that economist Osama al-Qadhi and former agriculture minister As’ad Mustafa are the two leading candidates for the position.

According to the daily, such a government may lead to the resignation of the Syrian National Council head Moaz Khatib, who has supported dialogue with the Assad regime — a possibility that may be rejected by the new government.

Adib Shishkali, the National Council’s representative in the United Arab Emirates, told London-based daily Al-Hayat that the Istanbul meeting is meant to discuss the formation of the opposition’s new executive body, which may be referred to as a government or just as an authority empowered with administering the “liberated areas” of Syria.

Shishkali said the international community’s delay in intervening in the Syrian crisis has bred radical ideologies in some Syrian cities, but denied the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria.

An anonymous Arab diplomat in Cairo told Al-Hayat that Khatib is likely to represent Syria in the upcoming Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar.

Meanwhile, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads its news by reporting that Syria is accusing Jordan of opening its borders to jihadists headed for Syria, while threatening to strike at “armed gangs” inside Lebanon.

In response to the Syrian threat, Lebanese opposition member Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister, called for Lebanon to deploy its army along the border with Syria to confront any possible Syrian aggression.

“Lebanon: What kind of nonintervention?” wonders Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar in an op-ed Sunday. He claims that declarations by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman about Lebanon’s so-called neutrality on the Syrian issue are merely his personal view, indicating nothing about Lebanon’s policy in practice. In practice, it is Hezbollah which decides whether or not Lebanon will intervene in Syria.

“Some claim there is a ruling coalition in Lebanon, including various forces. But in reality… the government, regardless of its political colors or its confessional make-up, continues to subordinate its decisions to Hezbollah’s will,” writes Iskandar.

Rosana Bumansaf, writing for liberal Lebanese daily An-Nahar, claims in an op-ed Sunday that Syria considers Lebanon “the weakest link,” which is why it is threatening to strike Lebanon, which it has not dared to threaten Turkey or Jordan with, despite the fact that arms and fighters constantly enter Syria from those countries as well.

In its lead editorial, Lebanon’s opposition daily Al-Mustaqbal claims that Syria has already begun its military onslaught against Lebanon.

“It seems that the Assad regime has begun to implement its threatening message to Lebanon. It has turned the sporadic bombardments of Lebanese territories into a concerted and targeted shelling, aimed at the lives and livelihood of Lebanese,” writes the editor.

The editorial then lashes out at Prime Minister Najib Mikati, accusing him of spreading false promises to the residents of northern Lebanon.

“Even though the Lebanese have demanded that the Hezbollah government headed by Najib Miqati deploy the army along the border with Syria in order to safeguard their security and lives, nothing of the sort has happened. Mikati continues to mock their intelligence by spreading the story that he has instructed army chief Jean Qahwaji to ‘respond to the Syrian violations in the proper manner,'” continues the editorial.

“Apparently, for Mikati, this is the most appropriate answer… to reply with statements to the northerners in Wadi Khaled regarding the danger facing them, with fears of losing their homes, lives and livelihood,” ends the editorial.

“Instead of issuing statements Mikati must convene the government without delay and take the proper decisions to confront the Assad threats and violations.”  

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