THE SPINE AUGUST 6, 2010
It hasn't been much noticed in the American press--nor, for that matter, in the British press--that Bashar Assad has re-established his condominium over Lebanon. But the Middle Eastern papers have duly noted the development virtually without commenting on its importance.
Still, the meaning of the arrival in Beirut of the Syrian president and the monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, on one plane, Abdullah's jet, cannot be lost. The Custodian of the Holy Places, as he is almost universally called in the region, has placed his hands on the tyrant of Damascus. Which means Assad has now been blessed by the king of the Arabs, the Sunni Arabs, at least.
The question now is whether that blessing of Assad will curb his old ally Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah movement who are his fanatic followers as they face a U.N. judgement that it was they who killed the Sunni zillionaire prime minister Rafik Hariri in a Beirut square in 2005. Just about everybody actually knows that it was Assad's goons who committed the deed. But shifting responsibility to a few Hezbollah martinets is his price for presiding over Lebanon's calm. The truth does not matter in Arab capitals. Only the next few years...or maybe just a few months.
The question is whether President Obama had his hand in this sleazy peace deal. Frankly, I don't know. And we'll only know when Assad shows his hand in the American tug-of-war (it is nothing more right now) with Iran.