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memri
October 31, 2009 No.
2595

'Al-Riyadh' Editor: 'Why Shouldn't Lebanon Return to Syria?'

The Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh recently published two articles by editor-in-chief Turki Al-Sudairi; in them, Al-Sudairi suggested that the solution to the chronic unrest in Lebanon was to return it to Syria, from which it had been separated by the French following WWI. Also, in an interview with Alarabiya.net, Al-Sudairi defended this idea, while emphasizing that it was merely his personal opinion [1].

Following are summaries of and excerpts from the articles and the interview:

Al-Riyadh Editor Turki Al-Sudairi: "Why Shouldn't Lebanon Return to Syria?"

Al-Sudairi's first article, titled "Why Shouldn't Lebanon Return to Syria?" [2] was published a week after the Saudi-Syrian summit in Damascus. He wrote: "I know this is not a simple matter... I know that the difficulty, as far as Lebanon is concerned, lies in proposing an idea which is akin to advocating that the Gulf countries should be united into one state because there are many points of convergence among them, or suggesting that Sudan should become an extension of Egypt once again and reenter into the political and economic reality [that prevailed] before [it became an separate state]…

"However, Lebanon is different [from those other Arab countries] in one important way… The problem in Lebanon is that it is difficult to establish a government [there] capable of leading all the people within its boundaries, because the different groups in Lebanon have separate governments with unique attitudes and interests, which have inherited divisions [that have persisted] over many years. Through these divisions they have achieved unique gains that they would not have obtained had they subordinated themselves to one common government.

"When we review the history of Lebanon, we find that, over the last 40 years at least, peace has been nothing but a temporary truce [which has always been] followed by civil war, as though this were a legitimate act…

"We [therefore] say, 'Why shouldn’t Lebanon return to Syria?,' because Syria has a strong regime that is capable of dissolving the plurality of governments within Lebanon. As a matter of fact, Syria will not be the primary beneficiary of this difficult solution. Rather, it is Lebanon who will be the primary beneficiary, and also many Arab investors… and tourists…

"It was the Sykes-Picot agreement that separated Lebanon from Syria, [so] why shouldn’t it be returned to Syria based on its Arab identity?"

Al-Sudairi in Second Article: Peace in Lebanon Can Only Be Achieved By an Outside Force

The next day, Al-Sudairi published an article titled "This Is What I Meant About Syria and Lebanon," written, he said, in response to reactions from colleagues who had been puzzled by his first article. In it, he clarified that the article was meant to be a review of the situation in Lebanon, and did not mean to imply any particular developments on the ground. He also called the timing of the article's publication - a week after the Saudi-Syrian summit in Damascus - a "big mistake."

However, Al-Sudairi did not retract his opinion that Lebanon would be better off if it returned to Syria, but rather defended it. In support of this view, he mentioned the numerous assassinations of Lebanese figures, while ignoring the claim of the March 14 Forces regarding Syria's involvement in some of them. He also repeated his argument regarding the economic advantages, explaining that Lebanon's instability had caused it "to lose many Arab investors and many tourists." "Peace in Lebanon," he reiterated, "will not be realized unless it is enforced by an outside force." [3]

Al-Sudairi in Interview: "This is the Most Suitable Way to Restrain the Lebanese Leaders Who Are Causing [Their Country] To Disintegrate"

In an interview with Alarabiya.net, Al-Sudairi stressed that the October 13, 2009 article expressed only his own personal views. He stated that achieving peace in Lebanon was no easy task because the country's fate "was decided by no less than seven governments," and reiterated, "In light of the state of its leadership, Lebanon must be ruled from without."

He also stressed that establishing a new government in the country would not help: "Even if a government is established [in the near future], it will be fragile, because each group [within it] will control [only] its own supporters, and the government will remain [nothing more than] a general framework."

Al-Sudairi further said: "Lebanon is part of Al-Sham, [4] and it is known that, historically, Al-Sham included more than one country. All these countries - except Lebanon - managed to exist independently and to live in peace with others." He explained that he had mentioned Syria as the country that could control Lebanon because it was the only Arab state bordering it, not because he thought that Syria had first dibs on Lebanon.

"It is not Syria that interests me," he said. "However, this is the most suitable way to restrain the Lebanese leaders who are causing [their country] to disintegrate... I am not saying that Syria wants this role. On the contrary, it has suffered much and has incurred many problems and losses because of Lebanon." [5]

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sudairi has since published an article in which he retracted his statements about Lebanon and apologized for them. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2598, "'Al-Riyadh' Editor Retracts Call to Return Lebanon to Syria," October 15, 2009, 'Al-Riyadh' Editor Retracts Call to Return Lebanon to Syria.

[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), October 13, 2009. The next day, the article was republished in the Syrian daily Al-Watan.

[3] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), October 14, 2009.

[4] Al-Sham, or Greater Syria, historically included Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.

[5] www.alarabiya.net, October 13, 2009.