«

»

Putin’s Plans for Ukraine are Hafiz Assad’s Old Playbook in Lebanon

Putin's invasion of Ukraine in 2014 seems to be borrowing heavily from the playbook Hafiz Assad used in his 1976 occupation of Lebanon.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 seems to be borrowing heavily from the playbook Hafiz Assad used in his 1976 occupation of Lebanon.

The Russia Today website recently published two news items, the substance of which revealed a great deal about Vladimir Putin’s intentions and plans for Ukraine. According to RT, Russia’s narrative on recent events in its western neighbor is one of a coup by an opposition dominated by Neo-Nazis, which culminated in the overthrow of the “legitimate” government of President Viktor Yanukovich, who then proceeded to request a massive Russian military invasion of his country.

Any Syrian or Lebanese hearing the Russian Foreign Ministry’s version of events can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, and an equally powerful feeling of contempt for a Russian narrative that apparently couldn’t do any better than to borrow wholesale from the 1970s playbook of one Hafiz Assad, a playbook Assad applied to justify and sustain his army’s occupation of Lebanon. By studying the similar pretexts used by both Putin and Assad to invade their western neighbors, clues can be gleaned as to what Putin’s intentions are for Ukraine.

The Syrian army entered Lebanon in 1976, ostensibly at the request of the country’s beleaguered Maronite and Muslim communities, who at the time were losing a war to the PLO. For the next 29 years, Syria would continue to dominate much of the country. Hafiz Assad’s influence in Lebanon survived numerous military setbacks, the most damaging being Israel’s punishing destruction of the Syrian forces in Lebanon in 1982.

But where Israel failed to maintain a friendly proxy government in Beirut, Hafiz would succeed time and time again in creating and shaping Lebanese governments, even in the face of fierce opposition from some of Lebanon’s diverse communities. Over the years, numerous former foes would switch sides and join Hafiz Assad’s camp in exchange for power and prestige under the occupation. It was a bargain that would repeatedly doom any efforts by the Lebanese to throw off the yoke of the occupation.

Syria’s political domination of Lebanon seemed to have been dealt a lethal blow in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Implicated in the murder, an act that outraged even the normally acquiescent Arab League, Bashar Assad was forced into a humiliating withdrawal of his army from Lebanon, which after 29 years had seemingly finally won its political independence from its larger neighbor.

Talk about unwarranted optimism. While the Syrian army and mukhabarat may indeed have been forced to withdraw from the country, they left behind Lebanese allies still all too eager to trade their country’s political independence for whatever influence and power could be gained by an alliance with the Assad regime. Old allies like the terrorist organization Hizbollah, the Amal movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and Arab Socialist Baath Party all continued to do Assad’s bidding in the country.

Indeed, Assad even found new Lebanese allies with the return to the country of former Lebanese President and Army head Michelle Aoun, who despite having waged a “War of Lebanese Liberation” against Assad senior, threw in his lot with the younger Assad and his Lebanese allies. The former “liberator” of Lebanon quickly became one of the Assad regime’s most loyal shabihas in the country. Assad’s domination of Lebanon remained so complete and total that Arab League resolutions passed in 2012 to punish the regime for its bloody crackdown in the revolution sweeping the country, provided Lebanon with special “exceptions” from having to impose diplomatic and economic sanctions on the Assad regime, due to the “reality of the Lebanese situation”.

It became painfully obvious that as long as the leaders of Lebanon’s assorted communities continued to sell out their country for personal influence, Lebanon would continue to be dominated by its larger neighbor, even without the presence of a single Syrian soldier on its soil. Indeed, so successful has the Assad tyranny’s playbook been in Lebanon, that apparently Vladimir Putin has lifted pages from it wholesale in dealing with the crisis in Ukraine.

A friendly regime faced with the prospect of losing power? Have said president invite his “fraternal neighbor” to send in the army to deal with “elements backed by foreign powers intent on sowing instability”. Also, it would help to apply the most vicious terms and labels to anyone opposing your domination of their country. Whereas from the very beginning the Assad regime claimed that the rebellion it faced in Syria was fomented by foreign backed Salafis, the Kremlin has been quick to peddle the narrative that anti-Russian demonstrations were dominated by “neo-Nazis”.

Putin seems determined to milk the “Neo-Nazi” angle for all it’s worth. Seeing the effectiveness of the lie that any Western military intervention against Assad would in effect make NATO “Al-Qaeda’s airforce”, the Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to accuse the EU of “siding with Neo-Nazis”.

If Putin continues to go by the Assad playbook, expect to see a treaty of “Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination” signed between the Kremlin and whatever proxy it sets up in Ukraine, thus institutionalizing  Russia’s occupation and domination of Ukraine.

Expect to see the Kremlin attempt to change the demographics of Ukraine, by doing in Ukraine what the Assad regime did in Lebanon in the 1990s; granting Lebanese citizenship to its non-Lebanese supporters in the country.

Expect to see the very public murder of journalists and politicians who come out against the occupation. In Lebanon, the regime favored car bombings as a way of getting rid of its detractors.

Expect to see the distribution of Parliamentary seats and assignment of important positions such as the presidency, prime ministership and speaker of parliament, permanently skewed in favor of the occupying power. While Lebanon’s confessional system preceded the Syrian occupation, after the war it was further tweaked to favor Assad’s allies.

Expect to see the occupied country’s major landmarks renamed in honor of its occupiers. The road leading into North Lebanon from the Telkelakh crossing was named “Basel Assad Street”. A highway leading to Beirut’s airport was named Hafez Assad Road (a consolation prize, after attempts to rename a famous Beirut boulevard were scrapped as a result of outraged French protests).

It is a peculiar irony of modern Middle Eastern history that the Eye Doctor Bashar has been more successful in maintaining his regime’s influence in neighboring Lebanon, than in reasserting his control over the parts of Syria in revolt against him. As long as the Lebanese people continue to support political entities willing to curry favor with foreign dictatorships in exchange for support and backing, Lebanon will continue pretty much as it has; a place that even wartime Tartous beats in quality of infrastructure and services.

History has proven that even the most dominant occupying military power cannot maintain its occupation if a political domination cannot be established. Syria managed to sustain its domination of Lebanon despite repeated disastrous military defeats. In the difficult days to come, the best thing Ukrainians can do is to avoid the mistakes of the Lebanese people, and avoid throwing their support behind any political movement or party that would brazenly sell out the country to curry favor with the occupying Russian forces. Nazi Germany’s occupation of France was only made possible by the collaboration of the Vichy government. As long as the people of Ukraine refuse to work with the Russian occupiers, Putin will find it impossible to reap the rewards of his invasion of the country, no matter how deeply he borrows from Hafiz Assad’s playbook.

Aboud Dandachi is an activist from the city of Homs, currently residing in Istanbul. He is the author of “The Doctor, the Eye Doctor and Me”, a free eBook on the analogies and parallels between the world of Doctor Who and the Syrian Conflict.

1 ping

  1. Blue Marble Times | Putin’s Plans for Ukraine are Hafiz Assad’s Old Playbook in Lebanon

    […] adandachi.com – Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 seems to be borrowing heavily from the playbook Hafiz Assad used in his 1976 occupation of Lebanon. The Russia Today website recently published two news items, the substance of which revealed a great deal about Vladimir Putin’s intentions and plans for Ukraine. According to RT, Russia’s narrative on recent events in its western neighbor is one of a coup by an opposition dominated by Neo-Nazis , which culminated in the overthrow of the “legitimate” government of President Viktor Yanukovich, who then proceeded to request a massive Russian military invasion of his country . […]

Comments have been disabled.