Thursday marked the eighth anniversary of the uprising of 14 March in Lebanon, which convinced the Great Powers that a popular revolution deserved to see a people’s aspirations for independence and sovereignty met. These countries exerted pressure to end the west's authorization of Syrian rule over Lebanon through oppression, dictatorship and intelligence services. Had it not been for that uprising, the west would not have ended this situation in decisive fashion.
Friday, meanwhile, is 15 March, and the second anniversary of the Syrian uprising against a dictatorial regime that has oppressed Syria and its people, committing the ugliest types of terror and oppression over the last four decades. This regime has turned a country that was rich in various areas into an arena of plunder of its resources. This has been carried out by a handful of rulers who have mastered the game of playing on contradictions and igniting areas in the region to play the role of the firefighter, capable of putting out blazes that it deliberately set to begin with.
In both cases, the Great Powers neither expected nor waited for the popular uprisings. They did not believe that Lebanon had a civil society that could bring about change, in parallel to the rising dissatisfaction of Lebanon’s political class and society with the grip of the ruling regime in Damascus, and its influence over Lebanon's very sensitive internal political make-up. Just as western states were surprised by the eruption of the Arab Spring at the end of 2010, they did not expect Syrians to slip from the iron grasp of their rulers and take to the streets. Western states, just like the Syrian regime itself, gave no importance to the collapse of the wall of fear among Arab peoples, after Tunisians took to the streets and demanded the departure of the regime of Zein al-Abidine bin Ali, followed by Egyptians demanding the ouster of Husni Mubarak. This virus then appeared in Syria, as people confronted a regime that believed, along with western regimes, that it could put out any such fires.
Ever since the Lebanese and Syrian uprisings broke out there have been counter-attacks to abort them by regional and international powers. The Assad regime, along with Iran, realized that the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon would weaken the regime in Syria; this is why the regime, along with its allies in Lebanon and in the region, launched a counter-attack against the Cedar Revolution and its consequences. They did this through a string of assassinations and bombings that have yet to cease, and will likely continue in the short term, as long as the Assad regime is still around. Could anything else be believed, since the regime is committing the ugliest types of massacres and most atrocious types of murder against the Syrian people, helped by Iran and Hezbollah?
If the blood of Syrians and their steadfastness in confronting the killing machine proves anything, it is the saying of the late Samir Kassir, who maintained that the Arab Spring would not be complete without a Syrian Spring. The same insistence prompted Iran to help the Assad regime in the wake of 14 March 2005, to prevent any weakening of Tehran’s presence in the Levant. This insistence is even greater as Iran implicates itself deeply in the fighting alongside the Syrian regime in the wake of 15 March 2011, based on the notion of “if we lose Syria, we lose Tehran.” The counterattack against the Lebanese intifada on 7 May 2008 and on other occasions has spread to Syria, although there are differences in the magnitude and scope, and the damage incurred, when comparing the small country to its neighbor, a central player in the region. The entire region will be affected by what a new political formula in Syria brings with it.
The magnitude of the Syrian crisis and its linkages to regional and international factors work to hide many of the connections between 14 March and 15 March. Perhaps the hard-line Russian stance of support for the regime in Damascus, and the Kremlin’s fear that Islamists will emerge triumphant in Syria – which will have an impact on Muslims in Russia – are factors that have rendered the Syrian crisis an arena of international conflict, whose repercussions are more important than the conflict that has raged in Lebanon since 2005.
However, in both the Lebanese and Syrian cases, one can say that the American and western positions are still governed by pragmatism, experimentation and hesitation. The supporters of 14 March insist, between set-backs and recoveries, on remaining steadfast despite the blows they have sustained, and this has prompted this "experimentation" to change the positions of Washington and Europe several times. Didn't these countries try openness toward the Assad regime in 2008 and 2009 in a policy of engagement in dialogue, and then change their stances after the Saudi Arabia-Syria initiative was tried, and failed?
And hasn't the epic steadfastness of the rebels in Syria prompt the experimentation of the Americans to move toward dialogue with Iran, in parallel with tasking Moscow with coming up with a political solution, and dialogue, while ignoring Britain and France’s move toward arming the Syrian opposition?
Just as western experimentation means avoiding military intervention after the experience of Iraq, and under conditions of economic crisis, it also means that the balance of power in Syria is playing a role in modifying the policies of these countries.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.