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Lebanon: Jumblatt shifts Syria line

27th Oct 2013

He is no longer enthusiastic about the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Today, the Progressive Socialist Party leader is back to his realism, or what parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)


By Firas Choufi


Al-Akhbar: Walid Jumblatt is not the same person who led the “Cedar Revolution” in 2005. He is no longer enthusiastic about the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Today, the Progressive Socialist Party leader is back to his realism, or what parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, calls “the patriotic line.” Berri says, “In serious times, Jumblatt does not stray from the line, and these are serious times.”

As the war in Syria intensified, Jumblatt went too far in his propaganda against the Syrian regime. He tried hard to instigate the Druze of Syria against Assad and to persuade soldiers to defect from the Syrian army and join the armed opposition. He provided shelter to several Syrian dissidents and deserting army officers in Chouf and Aley.

A source close to March 8 and Syrian security forces says, “Through close associates, Jumblatt attempted to play a security role inside Syria, especially in Suweida, the Damascus countryside, and even Raqaa.” Jumblatt’s efforts ultimately failed and it seems he became convinced that provoking Druze against the regime was a waste of time.

Gradually, Jumblatt’s rhetoric changed – from the inevitability of toppling Assad and the commending of al-Nusra Front, to the necessity of dialogue with the regime and participation in Geneva II.

“He leads a minority, which constantly feels anxiety in the middle of majority. He has to protect his neck and that of his sect when states go to war. The man thought that Assad would fall and stood with the winning side,” one of Jumblatt’s opponents says.

“He is aware that his verbal intervention in Syrian affairs will not make any difference. Therefore, he can escalate against Assad to make up for what he was unable to do internally in Lebanon, per the request of the US and Saudi Arabia.

From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Jumblatt did not hurt Assad’s regime as much as he did after the 2005 Cedar Revolution, which led to the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. On the contrary, Jumblatt helped provide political backing for Hezbollah and discouraged the party from resorting to arms when Saudi, the US, and March 14 tried to isolate it several times.

Over the past few months, Jumblatt remained dead set against March 14 proposals for a de facto government or any form of government that might isolate Hezbollah. Each time they promoted a suggestion that did not conform with the principle of traditional Lebanese partnership, he would nip it in the bud.

It would not be difficult for the person who, in August 2009, announced his famous “u-turn,” joining Syria and Hezbollah after years of animosity, to declare another sharp turn, two years after renewing the animosity with Syria. Although Assad is beginning to joke about meeting Jumblatt in Syria, and while Jumblatt does not hide his long-term hatred of its regime, senior security officials in Damascus maintain, “Despite the open wounds in Damascus, it is willing to accept him back, regardless of the manner and timing.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition


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Sectarianism in the Middle East and its rise in the UK, Standpoint, Sahar TV. Interview 29 May 2013 and aired on 12 June 2013

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