As the five-month Cabinet deadlock lingers on without any solution in sight, a veteran politician summed up the political equation in Lebanon as follows: “No government before the dust of the military confrontations in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs settles. If you want to know the shape of the next government, the identity of its ministers and the contents of its policy statement, watch the progress of the battles in Syria and who is eventually the winner.”
This regrettable situation in which Lebanese interests are intermingled with regional interests is behind Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s hesitancy to present his Cabinet lineup to President Michel Sleiman.
Western diplomatic sources following up developments in Lebanon and the region said that a delay in a U.S.-led military strike on Syria until after Congress finishes debating President Barack Obama’s plan was aimed at averting a setback to the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.
Such a setback might derail the summit or put a strain on the American-Russian contacts seeking to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis by prodding the opposing sides to attend the proposed Geneva II conference, the sources said.
They said hopes were pinned on a meeting between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit to clarify the outlook of a political settlement in Syria.
Russia had previously promised the American side that it would present an initiative for a solution, which would include a transitional period led by an army general who is close to both Moscow and the West.
Reports said this figure could be former Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Ali Habib, whose name has emerged in Arab and Western circles.
Officials from the opposition Syrian National Coalition have said that Habib, a prominent member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, has defected and is now in Turkey.
The Russian initiative also calls for the restructuring of the Syrian military and security forces according to a new ideology that does not pledge loyalty to the Baath Party.
It would also rule out Assad appearing before the International Criminal Court for allegedly using chemical weapons against his people provided that he promise not to run again in the presidential elections when his term in office expires next year.
A Lebanese diplomat said the Americans and the Russians were in agreement on banning the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the entire Middle East.
“The fate of the Assad regime and fighting extremism will be a topic of discussion during the Obama-Putin meeting,” the diplomat told The Daily Star.
Meanwhile, ambassadors accredited in Lebanon are voicing their concerns over Israel’s mobilization of its army in anticipation of any confrontation in the occupied Golan Heights or on its northern border with Lebanon.
According to a report prepared by diplomats based in Lebanon, there are three events which Lebanese parties are waiting on before taking action to solve the Lebanese problems, the most pressing of which is the Cabinet crisis.
Lebanon’s political establishment thinks the U.S. decision on military strikes against Syria, the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly at the end of next month and the outcome of meetings this week in Russia could lead to key political, economic and financial decisions.
As part of a Western follow-up of the security situation in Lebanon, The Daily Star has learned from very reliable sources that the new U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale has appointed a new female head of the embassy’s security apparatus who had previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The move was interpreted as a means of preparing the American security crew in Lebanon, at the U.S. State Department’s instructions, to face increased challenges resulting from militant organizations’ increased activity.
Separately, Sleiman’s meeting Tuesday with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League confirmed a meeting of the International Group to Support Lebanon slated for Sept. 25.
According to a source who attended the meeting, Sleiman insisted that the Sept. 25 conference be successful.
Preparations are underway to draft recommendations that would support stability and peace in Lebanon; grant the legitimate forces, including the Lebanese Army, full confidence; back the national economy; and affirm that constitutional institutions, above all the presidency, are a point of reference, the source said.
He added that the recommendations would also address the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon by establishing “a special credit fund” for this purpose.