Canada Should Play Its Part In Isolating Syria

First, we could withdraw our Syrian ambassador until Syria withdraws.

In September of last year, the Security Council of the United Nations passed Resolution 1559, which declared support for a free, fair presidential election in Lebanon and called for withdrawal of foreign (for which read, Syrian) forces there.

For over twenty years, Damascus has, by means of this large army of occupation, prevented the free expression of Lebanese opinion, keeping alive the gangster-politicians and the terrorists who in turn keep in line the legislators.

On Thursday, Feb. 17, our prime minister, all by himself, sank Security Resolution 1559 with these incredible words, uttered on Parliament Hill: “While it is terrible to have to see this loss of life of the former prime minister, a man whom I knew: it is clear that if the Syrians are there, it is because somebody has to keep the peace.”

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew, dropped into Syria during his recent whirlwind tour and remained long enough to hail Syria as “a very significant country in this region.”

“Significant” indeed!

Months ago, the president of Syria blatantly announced his intention to prevent the election and installation of a president who might be less than wholly compliant.

In this light, we have to understand the assassination on February 14 (2005) of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik al-Hariri, a politician long identified with the effort to unite the major parties in defence of their sovereignty, an attitude which made him an obstacle to Syria ‘s dominion.

While all the facts behind this atrocity will likely not emerge for some time, the Lebanese people know what they are meant to conclude. President Assad is trying, in the days before the coming presidential election in Lebanon, to do what Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tried and failed to do in the days before the recent elections in Iraq .

The United States and France, who voted for Resolution 1559, have spoken out about another (but closely related) transgression of the Syrian president, namely his funding and overt encouragement of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations which have operated openly in Syria for at least twenty years.

These are the organizations that have perpetrated terror upon Israel and that are trying to destroy the authority of the democratically elected President of the Palestinian authority.

Meanwhile, the regimes of Iran and Syria have announced what amounts to a mutual defence agreement; and now, in this same week, the president of Russia announces his intention to sell advanced missiles to Syria.

It occurs to France as it does to the Americans, and as it should do to our own policy-makers, that re-entry of Russia as a player in the Middle East is a truly retrograde occurrence.

These circumstances, taken together, have persuaded the government of the United States to withdraw its ambassador for Damascus. Canada should also withdraw its ambassador; in doing so, it would align itself with the cause of free elections and the national self-determination of Lebanon.

Canada should take the following measures to correct the grievous message (mistakenly?) sent by the PM on that Thursday and to align itself with the cause of Lebanon ‘s elections and its national self-determination.

First, we could withdraw our Syrian ambassador until Syria withdraws. We could then offer our public support to France which is seeking to rally support for SC Resolution 1559 among European nations.

The French Republic recalls with pride the contribution which France made to the establishment of the constitutional arrangements which, for a few decades prior to the 1970s, enabled Christian and Muslim populations to submerge their sectarian difference behind a common national purpose.

There is reason to believe that France has some moral capital to apply to the stabilization of Lebanon that the Americans do not have, not least (ironically) because France so conspicuously refused to align herself with the Americans at the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Canada was also a member of that very same club, and has the same qualifications, the same opportunity, and indeed the same obligation to rally our own population for the defense of Lebanon. And to do its best to rally other nations which continue to have difficulties distinguishing the cause of Arab democracy from support of U.S. military intervention.

Stockwell Day is the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, and is Official Opposition Foreign Affairs Critic.

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  1. A good story, these days it is good to read something nice! Lifts our spirits. Hugh Yeomans Kelowna BC

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