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French Version

Reflection : Winds of change in Lebanon

The Lebanese government of Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned this week following the daily public demonstrations that called for its resignation in response to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister.

Ever since the assassination, all parties in Lebanon opposed to the presence of Syrian troops on Lebanese soil amassed in force demanding the immediate withdrawal of those troops, the resignation of the government and lately that of the President whom they consider as Syria’s stooge.

It is heartwarming to finally witness the masses taking to the streets in an Arab capital and bringing down a government that does not fulfill their aspirations. But beware this euphoric moment of victory! Not all mass movements are necessarily for the benefit of the country on the long run.

There are many aspects to be considered. Momentarily, most Lebanese are united in demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from their country, and some go as far as calling it independence from Syria. In the heat of the moment, the latter has accepted to withdraw its army from Lebanon according to the Taef Agreement that stipulated the presence of Syrian troops which were invited to interfere and stop the civil war that rocked Lebanon for 15 years.

Today also, a democratically elected Lebanese leadership still demands the presence of Syrian troops to ensure stability in the country keeping in mind that Israel still has not concluded a peace treaty with either Syria or Lebanon. Certainly the assassination of Hariri has been an immaculate crime designed to throw the whole region again in turmoil and turn the table on Syria until it tows the American line. The hysteria that has engulfed the Lebanese arena threatens to spill over into other Arab capitals that are also demanding more freedoms from their rulers.

The scene is set to expect more demonstrations in Egypt after President Mubarak responded to demands for him not to run for presidency again and instead to leave the arena to other candidates. So he finally accepted to allow other candidates for the presidency and introduced new statute stipulating elections by secret ballot. Mubarak may have heeded the message coming from Washington since Bush called in his Inauguration Speech for democracy in the Middle East. Suddenly 2005 has become a year for democracy throughout our region.

Elections in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon in May, Egypt later this year, etc…Maybe Syria is envisaged as well within the plan; this explains the pressure being applied in Lebanon to extract concessions from Syria while keeping resolution 1559 looming in the background. No one expects bravados from Syria now especially that the lesson in Iraq has been well read throughout the region. The other Arab countries, while incapable of opposing Washington’s policies, are still attempting to mediate between Syria and the US in the hope of easing tensions; any worsening of the situation within the area is bound to have repercussions on them which they can ill afford now.

Syria has elected to deal soberly with the increasing international and regional threats. By reverting to the Taef Agreement, it has sought the help of Egypt and Saudi Arabia in bolstering its intention of redeploying its troops according to the Agreement; by giving itself months to withdraw rather than to be seen as capitulating to US pressure by withdrawing immediately. Furthermore it has vehemently denied any part in the assassination of Hariri and in the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last week. It has even gone further by handing over to the US-backed Iraqi government Sabaawi, the half brother of Saddam Hussein and whom the US considers to be a main operator in the Iraqi insurgency.

In the end, it is Lebanon that has to undergo a real upheaval if and when Syrian troops do leave. What will become of Hizbullah? Besides the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, resolution 1559 calls for the disarming of Hizbullah. This agenda has been put on hold presently; but no sooner than the last Syrian soldier leaves Lebanon, there would be a demand for deployment of Lebanese troops along the borders with Israel and Hizbullah will have to lay down its weapons, and turn into a social and political party that could well be the major force in Lebanese politics in years to come.

Amman,03 14 2005
Walid Kalaji
The Star
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