Lebanon and Syria establish ties

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Tuesday that will pave the way for full diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon for the first time since their independence 60 years ago. The two countries will likely exchange ambassadors before the end of the year. The Syrian government has historically perceived Lebanon ...

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592102_081014_lebanon5.jpg

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Tuesday that will pave the way for full diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon for the first time since their independence 60 years ago. The two countries will likely exchange ambassadors before the end of the year. The Syrian government has historically perceived Lebanon as a territory illegitimately carved out of Syria by the French colonial presence, a fact which accounted for their past refusal to establish formal ties.

Lebanon’s anti-Syrian leaders deserve the lion’s share of the credit for forcing Syria to accede to reality. Certainly, if Syrian intelligence services still determined the course of Lebanese politics, as they did before 2005, the Syrian government would not have seen the need to make this concession. While the anti-Syrian movement has been faulted for not fundamentally changing Lebanon's sectarian and feudal political system, the exchange of embassies shows that Lebanon's political landscape has been significantly altered during the past three years.

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Tuesday that will pave the way for full diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon for the first time since their independence 60 years ago. The two countries will likely exchange ambassadors before the end of the year. The Syrian government has historically perceived Lebanon as a territory illegitimately carved out of Syria by the French colonial presence, a fact which accounted for their past refusal to establish formal ties.

Lebanon’s anti-Syrian leaders deserve the lion’s share of the credit for forcing Syria to accede to reality. Certainly, if Syrian intelligence services still determined the course of Lebanese politics, as they did before 2005, the Syrian government would not have seen the need to make this concession. While the anti-Syrian movement has been faulted for not fundamentally changing Lebanon’s sectarian and feudal political system, the exchange of embassies shows that Lebanon’s political landscape has been significantly altered during the past three years.

But rather than a sign of their success, some Lebanese commentators view the planned Syrian embassy as a threat. A Syrian embassy “would be an axis point for Syria’s allies in the country, a very useful means of allowing the Assad regime to exert its political influence in Beirut on a day-to-day basis in a way it cannot do so today,” writes Michael Young in Beirut’s Daily Star. While diplomatic recognition is a step in the right direction, it still does not mean that Syria is ready to respect the independence of its smaller neighbor.

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