Nasrallah Calls for Turkish, Pan-Arab Involvement in Solution to Syrian Crisis

Article Summary
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent proposal for Arab and Muslim states - including Turkey and Iran - to cooperate in resolving the Syrian crisis stands in stark contrast to the harsh criticism he has levelled against Turkey and Arab states in the past. Given the apparent failure of the Arab League observer mission currently underway in Syria, Sarkis Naoum explores the possible reasons for Nasrallah’s policy about-face.

Following the assassination of [former Lebanese Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri in February 2005, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah suggested entrusting the investigation to an Arab committee comprised of competent members known for their integrity. Nasrallah’s suggestion came after Hariri’s supporters demanded the formation of an international commission of investigation. Nasrallah realized [that such a demand] would pave the way for calls for an international tribunal.

At the time, both demands were achievable. The US and Europe - which had always been soft on Syria and its role in Lebanon - had begun to [harden their positions towards the Assad regime]. As a result, the internationalization of the Lebanese crisis and its regional extensions, especially in Syria and Iran, became possible. The "Party of God" [Hezbollah] saw it as a threat against the party and its ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and [Iran’s] project in the region. Certainly, the family of the "martyr" [Hariri] did not respond to Nasrallah’s proposal, and neither did [Hariri’s] allies and supporters.

Today, when [Hariri’s supporters] see the Arab League’s inability to tackle the dangerous crisis in Syria between the Assad regime and the majority of the population he rules, they thank God for not having accepted Nasrallah’s proposal. Arab League Secretary-General [Nabil al-Arabi] is confused, and his theories and practices seem to be very contradictory. Some appear to be keen to allow the [Syrian] regime a chance to escape the crisis, regardless of whether the reform it promises [to enact] is just superficial. Besides, the Arab League has no previous experience in conducting observer [missions] like the one underway for over two weeks now, lead by Arab citizens of states that have never undertaken, or even acknowledged [the idea of enacting] reform. Thus they do not know how to carry out their mission in Syria or any of its provisions. [They also have no experience in dealing with Syria’s] ruler, his entourage, or the rebels in order to understand what is really going on in Syria. Furthermore, the majority of the league’s members are openly biased toward the rebels and provide them with political and media support - which is unquestionable - and financial and military support - which is likely.

Given [the Arab observers’ biased] position [toward the Syrian rebels], will the Arab League mission achieve real success as expected? And given such a position, would the Syrian regime take the initiative to facilitate the task of observers, especially since the majority of Arab League members are awaiting the release of their report to denounce it, and [deem the mission] accomplished? However, the flexible position exhibited by some Arab League member states stems from their regimes’ fear of [a similar] fate in light of the negative [opinions] their peoples have of them. These [flexible positions] may become totally aligned with those of the majority of Arab League states, if the minority guarantees that it is no longer threatened  by popular anger and the risk of international prosecutions (like the Sudanese President, for example ...). This is despite the fact that the Arab peoples already know that the aforementioned “majority” see the Arab League’s role as temporary, and its aim as to [internationalize] the Syrian crisis and refer it to the Security Council, where [deliberations will focus on] how to end the Assad regime, rather than how to save it.

The Lebanese are quite well aware that Nasrallah knows all of these old and new [details] mentioned above. [But they also know] that his proposal regarding the assassination of Hariri was not a deliberate attempt to "cheat" [the former prime minister’s] family, allies, or supporters. He is definitely not that kind of person. By having done so, Nasrallah was trying to avoid a dangerous Lebanese internal crisis, and a disaster “heading toward” Assad’s Syria and then his own party, along with Islamic Iran. Nevertheless, last week Nasrallahput forward a similar proposal “to unite the efforts of Arab states with those of influential Muslim states like Islamic Iran and Turkey to help end the crisis,” although he knows before anybody else that the implementation [of such a proposal] would encounter several obstacles. Most Arab states have aligned themselves against the Assad regime for several reasons. Firstly, they consider Iran - the main source of threat against them - to be the sponsor, ally, protector, and supporter [of the Syrian regime] in its current ordeal. [The Arab states also see themselves] as having the same position on [Syria and Iran] as the United States and Europe. They even continuously urge the latter to do what is necessary to get rid of them [Syria and Iran] and the threat [they pose to other countries in the region]. Turkey’s policy [with regards to Iran] does not differ much from those held by the majority of Arabs, although it is more prudent, wise and firm and possesses strategic [aspects] which the Arab [policies] lack. That is exactly why Turkey will not clash with Iran, and may even reach an understanding with it on the management of regional affairs. If, that is, it succeeds in deterring a US military strike or avoids being dragged into a comprehensive regional war - in short, if it reaches an understanding with America.

Why did Nasrallah make his latest proposal, in spite of all his previous accusations against Turkey and the Arab countries? Perhaps he realizes how dangerous the current situation is, and the even more dangerous future awaiting Lebanon and its people - not to mention his own party, and its allies in the region.

Found in: turkish-iranian relations, turkey’s syria policy, syrian crisis, syrian, special tribunal for lebanon, sayyed hassan nasrallah, regional politics, rafik hariri, internationalization of the syrian conflict, hezbollah, foreign intervention, assad, arab league observer mission, arab league, arab

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