February 21, 2005


Thousands rally against Syria
(Nayla Razzouk, February 21, 2005, AAP)

THOUSANDS of Lebanese HAVE massed on the Beirut seafront chanting "Syria out" as the pressure mounted on the government and its backers in Damascus a week after the killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The rally was called by Lebanon's Opposition, which is demanding an end to Syrian interference in the country's political affairs and a withdrawal of its estimated 14,000 troops.

Waving the red and white scarves of what the opposition is calling its "peaceful uprising for independence", demonstrators shouted "Syria out" and "Down with the Government" as they marched on the site where Mr Hariri was killed on February 14.

The Government, facing mounting calls to resign over the murder, has vowed to co-operate with UN investigators to find his killers but rejected a full international inquiry. [...]

Internationally, France and the US, which co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution last September demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon, have been the most vocal in insisting on a UN inquiry.

A UN team is due to arrive in Lebanon this week, headed by Ireland's deputy police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald.

Amid the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, Arab League chief Amr Mussa is visiting an increasingly isolated Syria, where he will hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara today.

The only question now is the pace at which Syria folds.

Apparently quite quickly, Syria to Pull Troops From Lebanon (AP, February 21, 2005)

In Damascus, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said Syria will "soon" take steps to withdraw its army from Lebanese areas in accordance with a 1989 agreement. It was not clear whether that meant Syria would completely leave Lebanon as demanded by the international community.

Moussa spoke after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria itself has made no announcements about troop withdrawals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2005 9:49 AM

'Soon' is another way of saying that they will do so when they are damn good and ready. The tired, old Ba'athist true believer, Moussa, is merely giving them cover. I guess we'll see Clovis Maksoud there any day now.

Posted by: Bart at February 21, 2005 12:06 PM

But the pronouncement provides a good excuse to start making trouble if they don't have their troops gone in a month.

At the same time, they may have been reading the various bloggers saying that the occupation of Lebanon is a great reason to make Syria the next Iraq, and decided that they prefer their lives to the occupation.

Posted by: Timothy at February 21, 2005 2:09 PM

This could just be a strategic pullback, something Arafat perfected over his 40 year battle with Israel. Take one step back and then wait for the positive PR about your maganamous action to come flowing in from the usual suspects, before taking a couple of steps forward (or in a slightly different direction) and hope everyone will have forgotten about your last violation by the time the next incident comes up.

At the same time, Assad may have already been passed a warning by the administration through back channels that either have your own troops come back for a visit to Damascus, or have U.S. troops and/or warplanes come for a visit. If you're looking to save your skin for a generation or so, the old saying, "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day" makes sense here.

Posted by: John at February 21, 2005 4:06 PM
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