Eric, there is just one problem with your analysis about Syria and Lebanon. Why would Syria’s formal recognition of Lebanon represent its de facto conquest of the cedar state? Throughout its history, Syria has never been willing to conceded Lebanese sovereignty. There are whole swaths of territory in Lebanon that Syria claims for its own, areas that make the Shabaa Farms look like a vegetable garden. In Arab terms, this looks much more like a capitulation than a victory.
One middle east expert I heard a few days ago on Israel radio, quoting intelligence sources, offered a very different reading: Assad’s regime is in trouble. It’s not just the (reportedly) Israeli attacks on its nuclear reactor project and on Ismail Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s number 2. There’s another foreign power in this mess, as well: Saudi Arabia, which is adamantly opposed to the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, and which apparently has been behind a spate of mass bombings both within Syria and against pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon. Just a couple of weeks ago, Syria reportedly amassed about ten thousand troops along the Lebanon border, prompting the U.S .to warn the Syrians to stand down. I for one do not know what it all means, but it’s way too easy to bewail the advent of the new emboldened Syria. Recognition of Lebanon seems more like some kind of tactical retreat, and I would caution all of us to stay tuned for further developments.