There's every reason to be concerned for Syria's future when Assad finally goes, but for Syrian-controlled Lebanon at least there are grounds for optimism. Amir Taheri:
With Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad on his way out, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations may also be heading for trouble — Hezbollah, in Syrian-dominated Lebanon.
The clearest sign so far that Hezbollah may be losing its grip on Lebanese politics came Wednesday, as Lebanon marked the 67th anniversary of the foundation of its national army.
In his Army Day speech, President Michel Suleiman, an ex- general, rejected all three pillars of Hezbollah’s discourse:
* Hezbollah insists that it maintains an unofficial army to “resist Israeli aggression.”
Suleiman said: “Defending the nation and ensuring its sovereignty with the force of arms is the exclusive prerogative of the national army.”
* Hezbollah also claims to be part of a “Resistance Front,” along with the Islamic Republic in Tehran and the Assad regime in Damascus. This, it says, means waging “relentless war” against the United States and Israel until “the Islamic Revolution” triumphs worldwide.
Suleiman, by contrast, pointedly asserted that no one had the right to involve Lebanon in conflicts that have nothing to do with it.
“We will not be dragged into problems created by others,” he said.
* Hezbollah has turned southern Beirut, parts of the Bekaa Valley and parts of south Lebanon into no-go areas for the Lebanese national army and police.
In tones that would have been unimaginable even a month ago, Suleiman said the national army would assert its presence throughout the national territory:
“The state shall never accept that the army abandons its role in any parcel of national territory,” the president said. “No to mini-states and sectarian enclaves anywhere in national territory.”
Suleiman also raised the issue of disarming Hezbollah, a goal already enshrined in documents of national accord as well as three UN Security Council resolutions.
“We reject the chaotic spread of arms and are opposed to the use of weapons outside the national framework,” he said.
The Lebanese leader referred to the Arab Spring as a “historic quest for freedom, pluralism and justice.” Without naming Assad, he said the Syrian despotism was doomed because it had failed to respond to “aspirations for freedom and pluralist government.” ...
For the first time since its civil war of 30 years ago, Lebanon has a real chance to regain its sovereignty, shake off Syrian and Iranian domination and embark on the “democratic leap” that Suleiman has evoked.
[Via Michael J Totten]