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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

 

500,000 rally for syria


in reading the western press over the last few weeks, one could easily have gotten the impression that freedom is on the march in lebanon and generally unopposed. certainly, many in the west are choosing to believe that a new season is dawning. but one must be very careful to paint with too broad a brush. the old ways are old for a reason, and are unlikely to change without resistance and quite probably much violence.

following hezbollah's statement of unabashed support for the syrian occupation of lebanon, beirut resounded yesterday with pro-syrian/anti-western demonstrations called by hezbollah.

There were no independent estimates of Tuesday's crowd, but at least 500,000 people crowded Riad Solh Square and nearby streets. The Lebanese army blocked the road between the two squares with an armored carrier.

"I ask our partners in the country or those looking at us from abroad: Are all these hundreds of thousands of people puppets? Is all this crowd agents for the Syrians and intelligence agencies?" Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said to cheers from the crowd.

Cabinet Minister Talal Erslan drew cheers Tuesday when he said the crowd came from all over Lebanon "to affirm our gratitude to Syrian president Bashar Assad."

"We have come here to affirm Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and unity ... and say no to the flagrant foreign interference in our affairs," he said.
the rise of a pro-syrian counterweight to the lebanese political opposition is developing against a backdrop of an investigation into rafiq hariri's assassination which is increasingly pointing away from the involvement of syrian hitmen -- and, as raimondo sees it, toward a suicide carbomb and possibly a link to zarqawi and al-qaeda.

a strike by anti-modern militants against one of the most modernist and pro-western of arab leaders is hardly implausible, but i've heard extremely little of that line of thought in the west despite the lack of evidence supporting the theory of syrian culpability.

in any case, while the west continues to hammer away at syria for its own political reasons and the paper-thin narrative of "democracy on the march" becomes popular delusion in the west, the observer should be aware that a large contingent of lebanese in fact oppose the departure of syria from lebanon and may take to the streets -- and worse -- to fight the lebanese opposition that finds its voice in men like walid jumblatt.


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