Lebanon Round-Up

Everyone is positing and posturing in the wake of successful nonviolent protests (photos) in Beirut. Lebanese patriots hope that the assassination (photos) of former premier Rafiq Hariri will not be in vain. Syria and its Lebanese clients hope this will all go away.

While remaining as diplomatic as usual, the Daily Star makes it clear that the Syrians must give itself a timetable for withdrawing all troops, including secret service. The paper stops short of saying that the Syrians must actually withdraw.

Also in the Daily Star, editor Michael Young writes a rambling but instructive piece on the interaction between Syria and the rest of the Arab states over this crisis.

The Syrian regime...see[s] [its] army's presence in Lebanon as an existential necessity. "Out of Lebanon, out of power," might be Assad's motto, as he contemplates the wreckage of a policy born of contempt for his rebellious Lebanese possession. The irony, of course, is that if Assad, in order to hold on to Lebanon, further coalesces the world against Syria, his regime might conceivably be challenged from within by those who have much to lose and no desire to be buried in the collapsing edifice of Assad's rule...

This should make for an interesting Arab League summit in Algiers in the third week of March. While it's too early to determine what will be on the agenda, it would be a sign of catalepsy if the Arab states were to ignore Lebanon. Syria and the Lebanese government, in turn, will resist this if they feel the debate may harm their interests. The Arab League is a resilient bastion of state sovereignty, as becomes a confederacy of thugs. But Egypt and Saudi Arabia might be tempted to address the Lebanese issue so as not to be circumvented by the UN, the U.S. and France. And, to be effective, they will have to move beyond discussion of Taif, with its intimation of a Syrian redeployment, to include the full withdrawal demand of Resolution 1559.

The CSMonitor's commentary is a good overview of the subject, but stops short of making any predictions or recommendations.

In response to the outcry, the Syrian Foreign Ministry is making conciliatory noises, though until President al-Assad himself speaks, everything is hot air.

"Syria expresses its keen interest in cooperating with the envoy of the secretary-general of the United Nations to accomplish his mission in the best formula possible," Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed al-Mualem told reporters. "The important withdrawals that have been carried out so far and will be carried out later will be done in agreement with Lebanon against the backdrop of the Taif Accord and the mechanisms it entails."
At the same time, Lebanese officials are speaking more committally about the Syrians' intentions. This, of course, is easy to do since they bear no direct responsibility for Syria's actions or lack thereof. The Guardian reports:
Lebanese Defense Minister Abdul-Rahim Murad said the troops will be withdrawn to the eastern Bekaa Valley on the Syrian border, but he gave no timeframe. Lebanese and Syrian military officers have begun meetings to define "the dates and the way" the withdrawal will take place, Murad said, adding that the pullback was in line with the Arab-brokered Taif agreement that ended Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.
The international community is chiming in. Jordan, France, and the United States have all called for a complete withdrawal. This is, however, nothing new. I am firmly of the opinion that internal, not external, pressure will be the only way to budge the Syrians. Continued protests, civil disobedience, and cross-cutting vocal opposition to the Syrian presence will be the only way to convince the latter that they are truly unwelcome. What's more, the Lebanese need to prove that they can self-govern. This battle for liberation may ironically fulfill the Syrian's stated goal of bringing order and unity to their neighbor.

The Lebanese blogosphere chimes in as well. "Bob" has an emotive journal of the fallout from Hariri's death on a gut level. The first of his three entries details hearing the explosion from less than a kilometer away. His gripping account finally concludes:

On that day echoes of the churches bells from the Christian side mingled with the reverberation of the muezzin's chants from the Muslim side, above a square filled with Lebanese weeping for another slain national leader.

I am convinced that it is Bob, not Bush and Chirac, who can drive Syria out of Lebanon.

Posted by Chops at February 24, 2005 4:38 PM