UPI International editor
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Is Syria living in the past, trying to
emulate the tactics of a now defunct power that was once called the
"Evil Empire" by President Reagan?
With high-ranking officials defecting to the West, others "committing
suicide," or "suicided," as many people believe, and the regime
suspected of eliminating those who dare speak out against it, the
pattern, so far, follows much the same tactics of the old KGB -- the
former Soviet secret police.
At least one Syrian feels strongly enough about what is going on in his
country to risk his life by putting his thoughts to paper.
Michel Kilo is a Syrian intellectual who recently published an article
in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Kilo, who lives in
Damascus, attacked the Syrian regime, comparing it to the Soviet Union,
and hinted Damascus was responsible for the assassination of Lebanese
public figures -- politicians and journalists.
Speaking at a Cairo news conference, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq
al-Shara announced a new principle of modern Arab diplomacy.
it "the Shara principle," writes the newspaper, which was translated by
the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Shara's main function in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Syrian
forces from Lebanon writes Kilo, is to limit Lebanese sovereignty. The
Syrians want to keep Lebanon's sovereignty linked to the Syrian regime.
Syria, for its part, sees a free and independent Lebanon as a base for
plots against it.
" Shara's principle is closely copied on one put in place years ago by
Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, which outlined the relationship between
various socialist satellite states and the limited sovereignty (each
had) vis-à-vis the Soviet Union."
Under the Brezhnev principle, the member countries of the Warsaw Pact
were prevented from acting independently. Priority had to be given, not
to their national security, but instead to the interests and security of
their master -- the Soviet bloc.
Brezhnev saw to it "the Soviets had the right to take over internal
affairs of the socialist states." Any military intervention was
legitimized, as was the case in Budapest and Prague.
Shara's principle is practically a mirror of Brezhnev's. According to
the newspaper article, the Syrian regime, much like the Soviet one
before it, thinks Lebanon should formulate its policy according to
Syrian interests. Moreover, "the Syrian regime requires (Lebanon) to
coordinate all matters, great or small, with Syria, since the minute
Beirut becomes independent (of Damascus), the situation in Lebanon
becomes an international affair. And in such a case, (Syria believes
that it) has the right to intervene (in Lebanese matters) in order... to
prevent Lebanon from becoming a center for conspiracies against it."
"What is the meaning of Shara principle, and where might its
implementation lead the two countries?" the newspaper asks. "As a rule,
Syria treats Lebanon as a marginal (party) while the Syrian regime (is
perceived) as central. (This means) the center will take the decisions
and the periphery will obey, or else (pay the price)."
Secondly, the paper notes, "As the Syrian regime has taken control of
Lebanon," it seems determined to adopt the Soviet model, taking military
and political control of Lebanon."
The newspaper accuses Syria of having tried to "usurp the Palestine
Liberation Organization's authority in taking decisions regarding
"In addition, it has forced Jordan to respect (Syrian) hegemony and
control over the Arab East, and has compelled Saudi Arabia to accept a
division of labor in which Saudi Arabia's role is to provide the funds
and Syria's role is to call the shots, intimidate the neighboring
countries, and keep them quiet."
"Another implication (of the Shara principle) is that nobody may
reprimand Syria for performing (what is sees as) its national duty
toward Lebanon. ... Syria has an obligation to liberate Lebanon from
subordination to foreigners, which is very dangerous (for Syria, since)
it is aimed against (Syria), and against its role as the last bastion
standing fast against America and Israel."
The article stipulates Syria leaves Lebanon with only two options: "To
accept the return of Syrian Forces, or to risk constant escalation of
the situation. This will be achieved either by the return of Syrian
forces to Lebanon, or by bringing Lebanon to the point where it agrees
to (Syrian) limitations on its sovereignty, and accepts (Syria's) right
to determine (Lebanon's) policy and interests, and even to control
The article ends of a gloomy note saying one should "not expect any
breakthrough or improvement of relations between Lebanon and Syria."
When trying to copy history, it may be worth noting that the
heavy-handed tactics employed by the Soviets didn't work out too well
for them in the long run. Why then do some Syrian officials -- those
trying to stem the unavoidable march toward democratic reforms --
believe Soviet-era methods will hold up any better today?