Lebanon’s speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, was proud to say that he had a role, along with the president of the Republic, Michel Sleiman, and the prime minister, Najib Mikati, in adopting a policy of disassociating Lebanon from “the evils and repercussions of what is taking place in the region.” By this Berri was referring to, naturally, the Syrian crisis.
This new stance by Berri is very significant, irrespective of the justifications that he used. When he announced this, he was taking a jab at some groups in the March 14 coalition that had criticized this policy because they openly support the Syrian opposition to the regime, and the uprising of the Syrian people, and are asking the Lebanese authorities to support this movement, while the groups in the March 8 coalition are completely biased toward the regime because of its support for the resistance to Israel.
The importance of Berri's recent stance of considering the policy of disassociation a wise one lies in the fact that it was made by a chief figure in the group that supports the Assad regime. The members of this group have declared their clear bias toward this regime and have wagered on its victory over the opposition and its continuing in power in a stronger position.
In recent months, it has become customary for Mikati alone to openly declare the policy of disassociation, supported by Suleiman, while Berri's stance has fluctuated between warning about the conspiracy to which Syria is being subjected, and calling for a revival of dialogue between Syria and Saudi Arabia, to salvage the situation in Syria.
In fact, amid this internal division in Lebanon over the developments in the Syria crisis, the head of Lebanon's mission at the United Nations, Dr. Nawaf Salam, was the one who came up with the policy of disassociation. On 3 August of last year, he insisted that Lebanon disassociate itself from the vote on the Security Council statement that condemned "wide-scale human rights violations committed by the Syrian authorities against civilians." This permitted the issuing of the declaration at the time, because it would not have passed had Lebanon voted no.
Mikati armed himself with the threat by Salam to resign if the government insisted on the instructions of Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to vote no, following coordination with the leaders of the March 8 group, including Berri. Mikati agreed with Salam to disassociate Lebanon and informed the speaker of this stance. This is how it became a policy, which was violated when the government opposed the decision by the Arab League to suspend Syria's membership (on 2 November) until it submitted and halted the killing, withdrew its army and permitted peaceful protests. This violation caused a headache for Mikati in his relations with Arab and western countries; he then decided to adhere to the decision by the Arab League. Hezbollah attacked these countries, which were not safe from criticism by the camp of Berri himself. But Mikati quickly returned to the policy of Lebanon's disassociating itself from the Syria crisis, which earned him criticism of some of his partners in the government and allies of Syria, buttres
ed by Berri's implicit lack of opposition to adopting such an orientation.
Berri's open declaration of support for the policy of disassociation only means that there is a growing conviction among pro-Syrian groups, even though some of them have become more strident in their support for the regime, that it is no longer possible to tie their fate to that of the Assad regime. No matter how determined the Syrian regime appears in the face of the opposition, it is certainly not going to be the same. Its influence in Lebanon will certainly recede, not to mention the fact that relations with the Syrian people will remain, while regimes come and go. Most likely, Berri's other allies, led by the head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, General Michel Aoun, and the secretary general of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, sense the dangers in linking their fate with that of the regime, even if they are confident that the stances of Russia and China will play a key role in prolonging the life of the regime. Thus, they should think about the post-Assad era, and this is especially true of Hezbollah, even if the process of assessing their policies here takes place in a way that sometimes demonstrates embarrassment, arrogance, or confusion. This is because Nasrallah and Aoun believe that they still have some time.
However, Berri is the one most capable of claiming the position of chief interlocutor with the regime from among its allies, which were kept away from power because of the insistence of this regime. If Tehran is trying to forge a settlement with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, as announced by the deputy head of the Islamist group, Mohammed Tayfour in Al-Hayat, and if it hiding its willingness to negotiate on its nuclear program in Istanbul, amid Iran's escalation with regard to the Strait of Hormuz, isn't it natural for Syria's allies in Lebanon to follow these political developments by disassociating themselves from what is transpiring?