The Syrians are in for a wild ride with their choice of embassy location. But Hamra could also provide rewards to Damascus.
Everyone loves Hamra (Reuters)
When countries choose locations for their embassies in other territories, one of the major factors deciding their choices is the level of hostility they could expect from that country in the future. This is why American embassies are isolated fortresses in the Arab world, while Swedish and Canadian embassies often occupy regular flats in big cities.
So when Syria chose Hamra, the bustling quasi-bohemian Beirut high street, to host its temporary embassy in Beirut, it wanted to send a strong, confident signal to the rest of the world: We are in friendly territory.
And yet, the location can be fraught with minefields for Damascus. Hamra is a walking distance from two American universities with a high concentration of anti-Syrian students. Anti Syrian demonstrations (say in the event of an assassination) and counter pro-Syrian ones would fill up the relatively narrow streets and bring the entire already-busy neighborhood to a standstill.
The Syrians could yet change the location if it proves too unbearable for comfort. The temporary nature of the Hamra location could prove to be a test balloon. But for now, Damascus is hopeful that the Lebanese will put the Syrian ambassador in their hearts. If not, then perhaps accept his presence in Beirut’s heart.
So what’s your take on this? Syrian embassy in Hamra: Good or Bad?