Saudi Arabia, France, the United States and other political heavyweights have been keen to stress that the Lebanese presidential election is an issue for Lebanon alone, and that they wish to play no part in intervening.
But Syria has revealed itself to be characteristically removed from reality by insisting on having a role in the choice of a new Lebanese president.
In remarks to Lebanon’s pro-regime Al-Mayadeen TV channel, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Wednesday that anyone who thought Syria would keep out of the Lebanese election process was naive. Syria, he insisted, must be consulted, just as the rest of the world was.
Stressing that the choice would not happen in Damascus, he awarded Syria’s implicit support to Michel Aoun, in what was perhaps a death knell for the Free Patriotic Movement leader’s presidential bid. The remarks belie Aoun’s own attempts over the last few months to prove that he is a neutral candidate.
Mekdad’s comments came as Syria’s own election was being derided by most of the world as a non-event and a joke. It was welcomed only by Syria’s few remaining friends – Iran, China, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.
It is clear that in its wish to interfere with Lebanese politics, Syria aims to distract people from goings on at home. It also appears Damascus has not managed to wake up from its own nightmare of being thrown out of Lebanon in 2005. The sooner it does, the better for its own people, whose needs must be attended to, and the people of Lebanon, who need independence.