Surprised to see the Lebanese population rising up against Syria in the wake of the Hariri murder? You shouldn’t be – it’s cause and effect, as David Ignatius notes as he continues his tour of the region:
- “Enough!” That’s one of the simple slogans you see scrawled on the walls around Rafiq Hariri’s grave site here. And it sums up the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world.
….”It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution,” argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. “It’s the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change — Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor.”
The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria’s occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt’s mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus.
….”It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explains Jumblatt. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. “The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.” [Washington Post]
And hey, look at this:
- Beleaguered Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karameh said he was ready to quit in the face of intense pressure to end Syrian domination of his country and find the killers of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
Karameh spoke as US President George W. Bush kept up the heat, repeating a joint demand he and French President Jacques Chirac made earlier this week for Syria to withdraw its troops immediately.
….After a meeting in the home of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt later, opposition MPs announced they were demanding the “departure of the entire (pro-Syrian) regime.”
They called for the dismissal of Lebanon’s intelligence chiefs and an independent international inquiry into Hariri’s assassination.
They welcomed a call by business leaders for the country’s banking and commercial sectors to shut down for Monday’s debate to back opposition demands. [AFP]
- Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed al-Mualem said Damascus had a “keen interest” in implementing the 2004 UN resolution.
….Mr Mualem said a withdrawal would be carried out in line with the agreement which ended the Lebanese civil war.
The 1989 Taif Accord calls for a phased withdrawal of Syrian troops, beginning with redeployment to the Bekaa Valley, but leaves the timing to be decided by the Syrian and Lebanese governments. [BBC]
Even UN Kofi is getting bold:
- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday called on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon by April, when he is due to present a report on the issue to the Security Council, Al Arabiya television reported.
The satellite channel said Annan told it in an interview he was referring to a full withdrawal, not a redeployment of troops within Lebanon.
The United States and France sponsored a UN resolution adopted in September that demanded a Syrian pullout. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Terje Roed-Larsen as his special envoy to oversee implementation of the measure.
“He cautioned that the Security Council may take measures against Syria if it does not … comply with the resolution,” the television channel said. [Haaretz]
Good thing I’m not the type to say “I told you so” regarding the salubrious medium- and long-term effects for the region of enforced regime change in Iraq. Good thing.