President Michel Sleiman has appealed to rival political factions to establish “a national safety net” designed to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of turmoil in Syria and the region, said sources close to Baabda Palace.
The sources added that the Lebanese should realize there would be no losers or winners from a possible U.S. military strike on Syria, because linking the domestic situation, mainly the formation of a new Cabinet, to the ongoing battle in the region reflected a failed approach.
“The delicate circumstances through which we are passing call on us to establish a national safety net to protect Lebanon against evil acts,” visitors to Baabda Palace quoted Sleiman as saying.
The safety mechanism called for by Sleiman could be the formation of an “all-embracing” government which the president was the first to champion in his appeal to the Lebanese following last week’s deadly twin bombings in the northern city of Tripoli. Alternatively, it could be an enlarged dialogue table that would not exclude any of the components of Lebanon’s political and social fabric, the sources said.
The only aim of such an expanded dialogue table is to discuss ways to fortify the domestic arena against the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.
Also, the proposed safety net might take the form of a political and constitutional committee in which top political leaders are represented.
The Daily Star has learned that a meeting was held a few days ago between a high-ranking political leader and the ambassador of a major European state during which the situation in Lebanon and developments in the region were discussed.
The ambassador was reported to have told the Lebanese politician that the Western decision to launch a military strike on Syria from outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council had been made, boosted by the Russian stance that was spelled out by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Moscow would not intervene in any conflict over Syria.
The ambassador said the recent visit of Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Moscow and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin which carried a plan for a commercial and oil investment deal to the Russians was probably the “deciding factor” in any Western military strike on Syria.
He added that the Syrian opposition has been playing an important role in backing the Western powers to carry out a military strike against Syria in coordination with regional powers that support such a strike, particularly Turkey, where the Turkish town of Izmir is expected to be used as a major base for the military operations command against Syria.
According to the ambassador’s assessment, Iran’s warning that any Western attack on Syria would have dire consequences on the region would not deter the West from implementing its decision.
The European envoy urged Lebanese officials to be wary of the gravity of the situation and to shield the country with the highest degree of readiness. He ruled out any reaction from Hezbollah because the planned Western strike on Syria would be limited in both location and target.
But according to other Western diplomatic sources, Lebanon’s failure to announce a series of measures in anticipation of a strike on Syria is not reassuring.
According to a Lebanese diplomatic report, the potential Western strike will be very limited and will target sites in Syria that contain nonconventional materials.
The strike would target sites and positions that could pose a danger to Israel, the report said, and discounted the possibility that the Syrian regime would collapse as a result.
According to the report, Lebanon is expected to be affected by any Western strike on Syria as more Syrian refugees will flow into the tiny country. But it noted that the possibility of targeting U.S. or Western interests or Israel in response to any attack on Syria appeared to be nil.