International House of Dan: Syria Learns the Art of Spin

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Syria Learns the Art of Spin

I heard an NPR interview with Imad Mustapha, Syria's ambassador to the United States. He spoke about the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, which has been the subject of intense news coverage since the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri on February 14th. The 1989 Taef Agreement provides for the withdrawal of Syrian troops, stating in part that:

the Syrian Government and the Lebanese National Accord Government -- shall decide to redeploy the Syrian forces in Al-Biq'a area from Dahr al-Baydar to the Hammana-al-Mudayrij-'Ayn Darah line, and if necessary, at other points to be determined by a joint Lebanese-Syrian military committee. An agreement shall also be concluded by the two governments to determine the strength and duration of the presence of Syrian forces in the above-mentioned area and to define these forces' relationship with the Lebanese state authorities where the forces exist.

The agreement is reinforced by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted last September. Syria has accused the U.S. of hypocrisy, charging that Israel continues to occupy various areas in violation of U.N. resolutions. It is interesting to note that Resolution 1559 never specifically mentions Syria, only "foreign troops."

Here's where the interview got good. According to Mr. Mustapha, and I wish I had the transcript here, Syrian troops plan to leave, they are only there for the security of Syria and the Lebanese people, but they will not leave hastily, and their withdrawal will depend not on political pressures, but on the preparedness of Lebanese forces to take over security. Sound familiar? I thought so too...

The Syrian government has launched a brilliant P.R. campaign in recent days, with similar statements coming from ambassadors in London and Saudi Arabia. Not to be outdone, Mr. Bush briefly channeled the ghost of Ronald Reagan today, but his stern words to Syria, "you get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon so that good democracy has a chance to flourish" sounded a little silly, and not so much like Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, take down this wall." Come to think of it, he reminded me a bit of George McFly's sheepish "hey you... get your damn hands off her!" in Back to the Future.


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