Monday, February 21, 2005

Lebanese Protests

It's starting to look like Syria's days in Lebanon are numbered. Al-Jazeera reports on massive protests in Beirut, protests which are striking as a show of national unity:
"Elsewhere, another woman walked as she held a small banner with a painting of a crescent and a cross beside each other and words that read: Together, in spite of them!'

"A visibly exhausted, partly paralysed man tried to catch up with the marching crowds with the support of his walker.

"'I couldn't tolerate myself sitting home doing nothing while a demonstration is being held calling for holding the killers of Hariri accountable,' Riyad Fakhuri, a Sunni from Beirut, said.

"Fakhuri expressed his joy at being able to walk alongside people from different sects and from different political affiliations.

"Walid Fliti, a leftist who came all the way from Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, couldn't help noticing the irony of marching in the same rally with rightwing party activists and former opponents: 'The stage of animosity between us is over. I have no problem to walk side by side with any Lebanese who calls for Lebanon's independence.'"

The Lebanese government has proposed talks with the opposition, but these have been rejected. Syria is promising to withdraw some troops, which they have done before, but Lebanese and Western leaders appear inclined to keep up the pressure for a complete withdrawal.

UPDATE: As Jonathan Edelstein points out, Hizbullah's moderate stance shows just how hot things have gotten for Syria:
"The combination of these events, driven by Lebanese public anger over the assassination, creates very nearly a perfect storm for Syria. If the removal of Syrian troops has become such a central nationalist issue that even Hizbullah must pay lip service to it, then Damascus' options - particularly those that involve working through Lebanese allies - are more limited. Also, with the Shi'ite organizations playing both sides of the street, the opposition has a greater chance of mobilizing the capital, which, as discussed previously, often makes the difference in the success or failure of popular revolutions."


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