President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought Saudi King Abdullah a gift on his first visit to Riyadh last Saturday, Feb. 3: the Iranian government’s consent to signing off on Saudi Lebanon policy, thereby accepting two principles:
1. The three anti-Syrian faction leaders, Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the March 14 Party Saad Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jublatt would bow to the Saudi demand to double Hizballah strength in the government coalition to four cabinet seats..
2. In return, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah would drop his campaign to overthrow the government and withdraw his veto from the UN international tribunal for prosecuting those responsible for assassinating former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in Feb. 2005.
In other words, to buy more cabinet seats, Hizballah would be willing to ditch Bashar Assad, who has been fighting the tribunal tooth and nail to save his closest aides from prosecution for complicity in the assassination.
According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyassah of March 7, Assad took Ahmadinejad to task for his betrayal in a telephone conversation this week. He is described as launching an angry tirade and ended up roundly cursing the Iranians.
The message from Riyadh was not the only bad news reaching Damascus this week. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources report a grand get-together of the leaders of all Syrian opposition groups and high US officials took place at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, Washington DC on Feb. 28.
Among those present were Syrian ex-Vice President Khalim Haddam, Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni and several Kurdish leaders. High officials of the US State Department and National Security Council were there too.
They then went on to another, even more important, encounter that same day between the visiting Lebanese Druze minister Walid Jumblatt and the head of the Syrian opposition’s foreign desk Dr. Hussam Deeri.
This meeting ended in a cooperation pact between the Syrian opposition and the Lebanese government on the basis of the principles approved at the Ritz-Carlton conference:
First, the only solution to the internal crises in Syria and Lebanon lies with regime change in Damascus.
Two, the Syrian National Salvation Front (opposition) and the Lebanese government will join forces to defend Lebanese democracy and bring democracy to Syria.
No such extreme challenge has ever been posed by any Lebanese factor to the Assads’ dynastic rule in Damascus.
Our Middle East sources underscore some of the dramatic results from these events::
The participation of the Muslim Brotherhood leader al Bayanouni in this new front is the result of Saudi pressure on the Brotherhood movement in the Arab world at large to stand behind the Siniora government in Beirut.
The Druze leader’s participation is a call to arms for the Syrian Druze minority to join the campaign to topple Bashar Assad.
The presence of Syrian Kurdish leaders augments Sunni strength in the Syrian opposition front. It now encompasses most of Syria’s Sunni and Druze communities – altogether some 60 percent of the population.
With news like that it is no wonder that the Syrian president yelled at Ahmadinejad.