WASHINGTON, April 14 (UPI) -- There are changes in the cards for the Middle East, predicts a Lebanese politician. Dory Chamoun, leader of the National Liberal Party, told this reporter that before there could be peace, there would be a new war between Israel and Syria; that Bashar al-Assad had a hand in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's assassination; and that Hezbollah's power in Lebanon -- already reduced to inducing traffic jams in downtown Beirut -- would suffer a new assault from Israel.
"The situation in the Middle East is not going to remain as it is," Chamoun said last week. "There is a peace process going on between Syria and Israel, which is on track. How to achieve it remains the question? It is a fact that the Golan Heights is to be divided. Israel wants part of the Golan Heights. This is something the old (former President Hafez) Assad refused."
Therefore, according to Chamoun, there will be a "mock-up war" between Syria and Israel. What exactly does he mean by a "mock-up war"? Chamoun explains: Syria will be allowed to reclaim, through this war, part of the Golan, while Israel continues to hold other parts. For the Syrians, it will be a great victory even though they would have to settle on less than the entire Golan.
And at the same time Israel will take advantage of the situation to hit Hezbollah once again; this time the Israelis will choose to fight in the Bekaa Valley, believes Chamoun. Israel hopes any peace deal with Syria includes a clause relating to Hezbollah and Hamas.
"Israel might like to make peace with Syria, but with a promise from Syria to put an end to Hezbollah," he said.
He added that Hezbollah is getting weaker by the day. All it has achieved is to congest Beirut city center with its tents. At Hezbollah's instigation, thousands of Shiites have been camping in the refurbished city, an area of town badly damaged during the civil war and that was rebuilt thanks to Hariri. A billionaire who made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, Hariri was assassinated Feb. 14, 2005.
Speaking of Hariri, when asked if he knew who might be responsible for killing the former prime minister, Chamoun replied without hesitation, "Definitely the Syrians." He added that given the way regime works in Syria, the order had to come from the president, or at least he would know. "I don't think that anything of that magnitude could take place without Bashar knowing," said Chamoun.
Dory Chamoun, the son of former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, said that dominating Lebanon is "a dream Syria has always had. All their regimes had an appetite to swallow up Lebanon. We are not going to allow it."
Syria, he said, tried making a deal during the first Gulf War, in 1990, when Hafez Assad, the father of the current Syrian president, saw an opportunity to conclude a deal with the Americans.
"The old fox," said Chamoun, referring to Hafez Assad, "found an opportunity to make a deal with the Americans. He told them, 'I will be your ally against Saddam Hussein but in return I want Lebanon. I want to be able to use my air force and my navy in order to beat the (Christian Lebanese) resistance."
Chamoun, one of a half-dozen top Lebanese political figures to have had talks with administration officials, says that this time the White House appears "serious" regarding Lebanon.
"The feedback is positive. Lebanon is on their agenda. They are earnest about wanting to help," said Chamoun.
"For once, the United States is not going to trade Lebanon against something else to achieve some sort of peace with Syria," said Chamoun.
So what happens next January if the Democrats are in the White House?
"I'm not worried because the policy on Lebanon is not guided by diplomacy; it is guided by security needs," Chamoun said.
And if the people in charge of the security of the United States decide that Lebanon must continue to be what it is today, then Lebanon must be safe and not fall into the hands of the Syrians.
"Remember what happened when it was in the hands of the Syrians? All the worldwide terrorist organizations mushroomed in Lebanon. Again, I don't think they (the U.S.) can take the risk after 9/11," he said.
"I think the whole strategy of the United States vis-a-vis our part of the world has changed 180 degrees. At one time the security frontiers of the United States used to be the oceans. Today the frontier goes all the way to Pakistan and Afghanistan. That sort of security policy, which the U.S. is following today, is going to be the guideline, whether they are Democrats or Republicans."
Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times.