He said that the price was not the Golan, but rather to get the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime Minister Rafiq Hariri called off, and to allow Syrian influence and involvement – although maybe not troops – in Lebanon.

“The Syrians are terrified by the prospect of the tribunal,” the official said, “and they want it called off. That is their top priority, and as a by-product they want to keep a hold on Lebanon.”

The Golan was “in no way” the top agenda item for Assad, he said, who was concerned that the tribunal could actually threaten his regime.

“Assad’s regime is a small Alawite clique, with some Sunni allies,” the official explained. “If some of the cornerstones of this very small and tight clique are taken out to be tried, judged and convicted, then the whole building may collapse and this is what Assad is worried about.”

The official said Assad knew who would be implicated and tried, and that – if not Assad himself – it was people “very, very close to him, the top officials of the regime.”

Hmm. But will Baker decide we should sell Lebanon to the Syrians in exchange for empty promises on Iraq? That would be the way to bet, I fear, but perhaps I’m wrong. (Thanks to reader Jim Brown for the link).

Meanwhile, Gemayel’s funeral turns into an anti-Syria rally.

UPDATE: More worries about Bush going wobbly: “The last two years of eight-year presidencies are historically difficult, particularly after a loss in the final midterm elections. Eisenhower in 1959-60 assumed a more aggressive conservative posture by firing off multiple vetoes of excessive spending legislation. During the Iran-contra scandal, Ronald Reagan in 1987-88 was steadfast in pursuing Cold War victory. But the way George W. Bush handled Rumsfeld was not a good sign for his concluding years as president.”