Bashar Al Assad | Syrian President Image Credit: REUTERS

Beirut: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has lashed out at Lebanon over its disassociation policy approved in 2012, which ensured that Lebanon’s political factions did not take sides in Syria’s civil war.

The policy miraculously managed to save Lebanon from being dragged into the brutal war next door, despite the fact that Hezbollah ignored the policy as it openly fought alongside Al Assad forces in Syria.

In an interview with the Damascus daily Al Watan, the Syrian president said, “Lebanon cannot be dissociated from the fires flaring up [in the region] and [cannot] adopt the policy of no politics or what is called the disassociation policy.”

Observers believe it was a direct warning to recently elected president Michel Aoun not to forget that he has to answer to Damascus.

“As long as the [president] is a patriot and works in favour of the Lebanese, Lebanon will become stronger. And when Lebanon is strong, Syria will be at ease and stronger,” Al Assad said.

Aoun is an ally of Syria and previously declared his support for “the war on terror”, which was an implicit vote of confidence for Damascus and its ongoing confrontations against revolutionary elements fighting to topple the Al Assad government.

Notwithstanding his decades-old anti-Syrian positions until 2006, Aoun visited Syria in 2009 on a fence-mending trip, accepted to be a guest of the Syrian leader, and reconciled with a regime he had lambasted for decades.

Aoun reconciled with pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon too, especially Hezbollah, which chose to fight alongside the Ba’ath regime.

It remains unclear whether Aoun will now abolish or alter the 2012 “Baabda Declaration” that was approved by rival March 8 and March 14 leaders — including Hezbollah — to “keep Lebanon away from the policy of regional and international conflicts and sparing it the negative repercussions of regional tensions and crises”.

On Wednesday, Aoun received the pro-regime Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr Al Deen Hassoun, accompanied by Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim, which raised the ire of a leading pro-opposition journalist, Carol Maalouf.

Maalouf attacked the head-of-state and Cardinal Mar Bisharah Butros Al Ra‘i (who also welcomed the Mufti) on her Facebook page that mobilised supporters and opponents alike.

The exchanges were unusually harsh, which reflected existing divisions in the country, now further polarised by Al Assad’s latest comments.

Meanwhile, Druze leader Walid Junblatt accused the Syrian regime over a plot to assassinate him.

He told the pro-Hezbollah daily Al Safir on Thursday that Damascus stood to benefit the most if he was assassinated.

Junblatt admitted to spending most of his time secluded in the Druze stronghold of Al Mukhtarah, staying away from his Beirut residence.

The Druze leader admitted that Al Assad has “triumphed in Aleppo after taking advantage of the international community’s abandonment of the Syrian people”.

Al Assad, Jumblatt opined, will next “destroy Idlib, which means that his influence on Lebanon will grow and the Iranian-Syrian grip on the country will intensify”.