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Foreign Media Reaction

March 11, 2005

LEBANON: 'TRAPPED BETWEEN SYRIA AND THE U.S.'

KEY FINDINGS:

 

** Western papers demand President Assad "withdraw his troops forthwith" from Lebanon.

** As Syria's withdrawal could cause a "new period of instability," some media urge "caution."

** Conspiracy theorists see a "scheme" to "give Israel a chance to destroy the Arab world."

** Hezbollah's "massive pro-Syria" rally shows Lebanon rejects "democratization U.S.-style."

 

MAJOR THEMES

'Keep up the pressure on Damascus'--Opponents of Assad's "corrupt and oppressive military dictatorship" dismissed his withdrawal plan as "obviously a move to buy time." Britain's conservative Times cited Syria's "conspiratorial culture" of "delay, deception and backsliding" to demand that "international pressure...be applied" on Damascus, whose presence in Lebanon has consisted of "shameless economic expansion."The center-right Irish Independent concluded that Syria must "pull all of its troops all of the way out of Lebanon...the sooner the better." Saudi dailies added that it is in Syria's "best interest" to follow Riyadh's "wise and sound" advice to withdraw in order to avoid becoming the U.S.' "next target." Other papers opined that a Syrian withdrawal could "destroy Mr. Assad's fragile prestige and bring down his awful regime."India's left-of-center Deccan Herald interpreted the international "isolation and ostracism" as part of a U.S.-driven "push for a regime change in Syria."

Lebanon may again 'unravel into chaos and violence'--Cautious observers warned that Syria's departure could create a "security and governmental vacuum" that, Turkey's mass-appeal Milliyet said, could "pave the way for new conflicts and tensions." They called on the "jingoistic" U.S. to "refrain from pressuring" Assad.Washington should instead "assume a less belligerent posture," advised the elite Jordan Times.Lebanon's centrist Al-Anwar added it is "very important to think about the phase that will follow" any Syrian withdrawal, because the situation is "dangerous politically, financially and economically." Several dailies predicted that former PM Karami's return to power would "accelerate the crisis" and demonstrated the "height of political insolence" by Syria. Outlets in the developing world opposed any "external pressure and meddling." Beirut's moderate Daily Star stressed that the Lebanese "must be free to democratically govern themselves, without any foreign interference."

Reject all 'American Zionist schemes'--Many Muslim editorialists assailed U.S. support for the Lebanese opposition as part of a plan to "render Lebanon defenseless and make it easy prey" for Israel.Blaming "Israeli secret agencies" for the unrest in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Jazira alleged that Israel is "trying to weaken the Arab front and spread wars and destruction," while the pro-government Yemen Times called the "demonic state of Israel" the "most dangerous menace to peace." Several, like Syria's government-owned Tishreen, linked "America's intentions and schemes" to an effort to "impose Israel as a dominating force in the region." Others viewed the U.S. support for the Lebanese opposition as an element of its "greater Middle East project...designed to reshape the region."Jordan's center-left Al-Dustour called for Arabs everywhere to "stand up to the scheme of aggression that targets the entire [Arab] nation."

Hezbollah 'cannot be underestimated'--Hezbollah's "mass mobilization" in Beirut proved to commentators that it remains "very influential" in Lebanon and "able to play a central role in the struggle for power." Lebanon's independent Al-Balad argued that the rally "confirmed the popular power" of Hezbollah, whose Shia base is "now the most powerful and influential group" in the country. France's Catholic La Croix noted that "Lebanon's fate depends" on Hezbollah.Given the "importance of Hezbollah's internal political role," liberal and Arab analysts praised the U.S.' "more realistic attitude" towards the group; Beirut's Arab nationalist As Safir detected a distinct "U.S. change towards Hezbollah." Conservative papers remained critical of the help Hezbollah offers Damascus in its ongoing attempt to "consolidate its colonial grip on Lebanon."

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

 

EDITOR: Ben Goldberg

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 130 reports from 34 countries over 4 - 11 March 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.

MIDDLE EAST

LEBANON: "The Pace Of The Syrian Withdrawal To The Beqa' Is The Criteria For The Coming Phase"

Rosana bou-Monsef commented in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/11): "The issue of Hizballah has become a priority...following its latest rally. However, informed diplomatic sources believe that is still premature to discuss Hizballah whether negatively or positively...because the most fundamental concern at this time should, and will continue to be, a full and total Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. These sources noted that the issue of Hizballah is drawing attention away from Syria's activity, noting...that this is not the first time Hizballah proves its ability to gather such large crowds....The same sources noted that preparations for this latest rally have been ongoing for at least a week and were not the result of Asad's speech.... Hizballah planned to provide Syria with a trump card it would be able to use to convince Arab countries to give it an extra period of time to stay in the Beqa'....There are a lot of western doubts in Syria's intentions regarding its withdrawal from Lebanon.The west believes that Syria is trying to gain time hoping for regional or international developments that would draw the attention of the international community away from Syria's presence in the Beqa'.... For this reason, the most important issue now is a quick and total Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon because, there is no doubt, that the status of Hizballah will certainly change following a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon."

"The Dangerous Intersection"

Sahar Baasiri observed in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/11): "We understand the efforts of the Syrian Regime to protect itself behind the Ta'if Accord, in order to satisfy the international community, but we do not understand Syria's insistence on placing Lebanon and the Lebanese at a dangerous intersection of the Ta'if Accord and UNSCR 1559. Everyone knows that President Asad's decision to withdraw resulted from international pressure, and not because he wanted to implement the Ta'if Accord.... However, it appears that Syria is punishing Lebanon for implementing the Ta'if Accord by raising two explosive subjects: The issue of the May 17 agreement to unhinge the loyalists...and the issue of the U.S. to disarm Hizballah.... Basically, the opposition should not be accused of any of adopting any of those stances because another May 17 agreement is out of the question, and because the opposition always considers the Resistance an internal Lebanese issue and will protect it."

"The Last Stop"

Sateh Noureddine opined in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/11): "The U.S. change towards Hizballah did not happen yesterday...but it began when the UN delineated the blue line following the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in the year 2000.At the time, the UN and the international community recognized that Hizballah would respect the blue line.From that time on, Hizballah no longer remained a militia...despite the continuous U.S.characterization of the Party as terrorist.... Obviously, the American change towards Hizballah was...a product of the Party's performance and long march.... Contrary to circulating rumors, the next issue on the international agenda after Syrian withdrawal is not disarming Hizballah, but in fact maintaining internal Lebanese stability.... This prompts us to look at Hizballah from another angle and acknowledge the importance of its internal political role in Lebanon."

"It's High Time Lebanon's Needs Were Placed Ahead Of Old And Tired Tactics"

The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (3/11): "The people of Lebanon have reached a point of saturation....The various factions are over-using their tools of manipulation to try to gain an edge in the current power struggle. Instead of looking for ways to negotiate and compromise, the factions are resorting to tried-and-true tactics to press stubbornly ahead....Hizbullah is employing its weapon of an organized base of popular support to demonstrate to the world that it can use its massive backing to out-stage all previous street protests. In doing so, they are suggesting that the will of the people has given them a mandate to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, President Emile Lahoud and the Syrians are using their favorite weapon: time-buying tactics. While they put on all the appearances of progress, they are merely stalling.... And the opposition's weapon of choice--its stance of self-righteousness--has reached a point of obstinance, whereby they are proving themselves unwilling to communicate and hold a dialogue.... We must find a means of navigating our way out of this impasse that does not rely on tools of manipulation, but rather, on serious and sincere attempts at dialogue and compromise.... It seems clear at this point that there are areas of overlap that can be used to begin building a consensus on all national issues. Can we commit to these three issues as a starting point from which to proceed? We may not have any other alternative."

"Martyrs Square Towards A Renewed Intifada"

Fares Khasshan opined in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (3/10): "A number of Hizballah officials, who were all over television screens on the night of the loyalists demonstration, did not have to act so smug...because the ability of the Resistance to mobilize huge crowds of its supporters is not new....There is no need to change anything in the strategy of the opposition or the international community....The opposition supporters who defy the Lebanese political, military and judicial authorities in order to gather in the Martyrs Square cannot be defeated by a counter demonstration which enjoyed all types of facilities.... This is in addition to the fact that the real leaders of the opposition like General Aoun or Walid Junblatt cannot appear before their supporters because of security or other considerations.... In contrast, Nasrallah, who knows who the real enemy is, was able to appear before his supporters and raise their zeal, because he was protected by the Hizballah Security elements and Lebanese Army Helicopters."

"Karami's Destiny Is To Raise People's Anxiety"

Sarkis Naoum concluded in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/10): "The Lebanese will not be happy if ex-Prime Minister Karami is reappointed as Prime Minister...for several reasons: 1) Omar Karami's presence as prime minister has been linked twice to political and economic upheaval in spite of the fact that he was not totally responsible for these upheavals.... 2) Karami's reappointment after his resignation under public pressure is viewed as defying those who called for his resignation.It will also suggest that the Lebanese Authorities' insistence on a coalition government is only designed to hide its real intentions.... What do loyalists mean when they say that they will ask Karami to formulate a national unity Government?Are they serious?....Does the new government intend to steer the Lebanese ship outside the storm, or just maintain the current situation?"

"Karami's Return And Offended People"

Gebran Tueni stated in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/10): "The Lebanese Authorities are such a failure...and are completely under Syrian tutelage.These Authorities want to reappoint Karami as prime minister...but talk about dialogue and openness.They ignore the fact that reappointing Karami as Prime Minister is the height of political insolence....In any case, we were not waiting from such Lebanese Authorities for a different performance....The opposition's position is very clear.... But we ask Karami...to try to erase the negative points in his past...and start his new task by working on discovering the truth about Hariri's assassination, seek full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and work for free elections.... As for President Lahoud, we will not ask him for anything because nothing can be asked from a President...who did not even think that he should be addressing his people after all what happened....Perhaps he considered Asad's speech and the speech of the person who appointed himself as the leader of loyalists (Nasrallah)...as enough to express the opinion of the Lebanese authorities which are against their people."

"What Are The Choices Following This Flexing Of Muscles?"

Rafiq Khoury wrote in centrist Al-Anwar (3/9):"We are witnessing the following:A party that rejects Syrian interference in Lebanon's internal affairs, but is seen by others as it is counting on international intervention; and a party that rejects American and French interference but is seen by others as counting on Syrian intervention.What is stopping us from reaching a national consensus against all kinds of interference? Why isn't Lebanese sovereignty everyone's demand?....We are really in danger...and there is no need to look elsewhere to explain the rift in the country:There is no possibility of another May 17, so long as all Lebanese reject any unilateral settlement with Israel...The only way to protect Lebanon and the resistance it through national unity. The path towards national unity is well known.Any other path will take Lebanon towards danger."

"Nasrallah Sticks To Ta'if To Limit The Repercussions Of The Syrian Withdrawal"

An editorial by Ali Al-Amin in independent Al-Balad (3/9): "Yesterday's demonstration presented moral compensation for the Syrian leadership and people....At the same time, yesterday's demonstration was an apparent, yet legitimate attempt to confirm the popular power of the loyalists and the forces that support Syria in Lebanon....The demonstration also designated Secretary General Nasrallah as central figure to confront the opposition....Nasrallah rejected UNSCR 1559 again...because he knows that following the Syrian withdrawal, the next article in UNSCR 1559 is Hizballah and the Resistance weapons.... A big part of Nasrallah's speech yesterday was to provide the crowds with what they wanted, however, the essence of the speech was to extend his hand to the opposition, realizing that a consensus about the Resistance will make implementation of UNSCR 1559 more difficult."

"Global Calls For Freedom"

An unsigned editorial in the moderate English-language Daily Star read (3/9): "In a massive rally...Nasrallah issued two proposals for moving out of the impasse the country is facing. The first is form a national unity government that would begin tackling pressing national issues, including the investigation into the assassination of...Hariri.Second, Nasrallah urged all parties to discuss our differences so that we can decide together the future of Lebanon. At the same time that Nasrallah was speaking, U.S. President George W. Bush issued a call for freedom in Lebanon. But Bush also spoke of the need for the rule of law. This meshes well with what people are saying in Lebanon: We have a law that only needs to be implemented.We must implement all articles of the Ta'if Accord, not only the Syrian withdrawal. Ironically, despite our ideological differences, Nasrallah, the opposition, and the Americans are all saying the same thing at the same time: Give Lebanon its freedom, sovereignty, and independence.We hope we won't be led into another situation like 1990, when America's strategic interests outweighed Lebanese democratic aspirations, and Syria was given carte blanche in Lebanon in exchange for its support of the U.S.-led Gulf war.Lebanon must not fall prey to any outside agendas; the Lebanese must be free to democratically govern themselves, without any foreign interference. Can the Americans accept the concept that created the Israel-Lebanon cease-fire agreement of April 1996? Can it serve as an umbrella under which we can begin to sustain our quest for freedom? This is the only way for the Lebanese to move forward. We have all the right tools to form a national unity government that will address the demands of all factions in Lebanon. We need only the space and the freedom to do so."

"Confronting Pressure For Change By Rearranging The Status Quo"

Rafiq Khoury said in centrist Al-Anwar (3/8):"Had it not been for (Asad's) announcement of the withdrawal, we would have thought that the communiqu that was issued following the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council meeting yesterday was in fact the first communiqu that was issued by this Council.Confirmations on commitment to Ta'if, activation of the higher Council and the Brotherhood treaty should have been done many years ago. A first reading of this communiqu suggests that the only thing it did is rearrange the current status quo.... The question is, did we have to wait for this big accumulation of mistakes to reactivate this Council?.... In any case, there are two issues that are clear in the communiqu: It used the principle of withdrawal as a factor to solidify the brotherly relations between Lebanon and Syria...and, the beat of withdrawal is much slower than the beat of demonstrators at the Martyrs Square downtown Beirut, or the beat in Arab and international capitals....The U.S., France and other capitals want total withdrawal before May, however...the decisions of the Higher Council keep the Syrian troops in the Beqa' for an ambiguous period of time....Furthermore, it does not say where these troops will go when they move from the Beqa'....No one knows how things will develop.A comprehensive settlement is needed through implementing international resolutions. Pressure to implement total withdrawal is escalating, the situation in Lebanon is dangerous politically, financially, and economically...and it is very important to think about the phase that will follow the withdrawals."

"Hizballah's Demonstration"

Ali Hamade averred in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/8): "With all our respect, we should give two remarks to Hizballah:...Hizballah is a giant with fighting and resisting Israel...but when it has to respond to the Syrian presence and interference in Lebanon then the greatness of Hizballah party will undoubtedly collide with the position of a broad spectrum of Lebanese who reject Hizballah's attempt to impose its own agenda on the rest of the Lebanese.... Nasrallah should not accumulate burdens on his partners in Lebanon. We should not have to discuss the Syrian presence and interference in Lebanon on all levels. We ask Hizballah to be very careful, and try not to impose an unrealistic agenda by flexing its muscles today in Beirut. Hizballah should not forget that its real protection comes from the Lebanese from all other groups. Hizballah should not reject Syria's total withdrawal from Lebanon, because no Lebanese, whoever he is, has the right to impose a non-Lebanese presence on his fellow citizens.Secondly, we tell Hizballah that it has no right to accuse people of being Israeli agents....This is an unacceptable logic because no Lebanese is betting on Israel. If we want our sovereignty and independence, this does not mean that we want to exchange Syria's hegemony with another one.... Now, more than ever, Hizballah should realize the danger in the role it is playing.... The bottom line is as follows: You can keep your weapons as long as we are in a state of war with Israel, however, you cannot impose a non-Lebanese state on Lebanon. Furthermore, you cannot go to wars that are in line with the agenda of others.The Lebanese want to protect Hizballah, however, Hizballah has to remember that it is not alone in Lebanon."

"The Higher Council To Provide The Political Umbrella For The Withdrawals"

Nicolas Nassif opined in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/7): "A street...confronting a street. This is what is awaiting the Lebanese tomorrow. ...The Lebanese Army will be in the middle...In the next 48 hours, the Syrian Army will begin a broad and total redeployment plan which will include closing of all offices of Syrian intelligence located to the west of the Beqa' triangle in Ain-Darah, Hammana to include the central office in the Beau Rivage area in Beirut. As for the Anjar office, it will close when the Syrian Army withdraws totally from the Lebanese territories. The Higher Lebanese-Syrian council to meet in Damascus today will provide the political umbrella for a plan that will be the task of a joint Lebanese-Syrian military committee. In the next 48 hours, the parliamentary consultations will also begin.One of the four will be expected to become the next Prime Minister: Rashid Solh, Salim Hoss, Omar Karami, or Adnan Kassir.However, the next government will not be a national government because of the opposition's refusal to participate in it. It will have two tasks:supervise the parliamentary elections and uncover those involved in Hariri's murder.... UN envoy Terj Roed-Larsen is expected to come to Beirut at the end of this week.... Lebanon is getting ready to discuss the following two issues with him: To reach an understanding over the mechanism of Syrian withdrawal to the Syrian territories in light of Ta'if and UNSCR 1559. As for disarming Hizballah and the camps, Lebanon will tell Larsen that it will put the other demands in UNSCR 1559 on hold."

"Self Criticism As A Gateway Towards Redress"

An editorial by Talal Salman in Arab nationalist As-Safir opined (3/6): "In spite of the bitterness that was evident in several paragraphs in President Asad's speech...the speech is the foundation for a new phase in Lebanese-Syrian relations.... President Asad chose the correct and healthy approach with his self-criticism and examination of the distorted phase in Lebanese-Syrian relations.... His courage in self-criticism opens a gateway to amend and correct these relations.... If we remember the scene of people in both Beirut and Damascus while Asad delivered his speech, we would understand the size of the distortion and the mistakes in Syrian-Lebanese relations...as if the Syrian flag in Damascus were confronting the Syrian flag in Beirut.... There is no doubt that this distortion in relations is responsible for dangerous crimes that destroyed the two countries and gave foreign powers, particularly the U.S., France and Israel, the chance to take over politics and reach the street in Lebanon."

"Towards Clarity"

An editorial by Joseph Samaha in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/6): "Lebanon wakes up today to the beginning of a new phase in the history of the country....Asad's speech deserves deeper analysis, but we are going to give the following quick remarks:It is clear that President Asad calculated that the window for a peace settlement in the region has closed....Asad suggested a problem in the U.S. political direction.... President Asad developed a complex position on UNSCR 1559--a negative position.He dissected its different clauses and focused on those concerned with Syrian withdrawal, but, he sees these through the framework of the Ta'if Accord and characterized the already-completed withdrawals as proof that Syria had already begun to fulfill its commitments to the Ta'if Accord.... Asad did not hide his belief that the American campaign against Syria will continue....First, the U.S. will call for monitoring the implementation closely...and then it will deal with the issue of the resistance and the Palestinian presence. Asad characterized these two issues as American and Israeli issues.For this reason he noted that there might be a new May 17.... Asad...confirmed that withdrawing his army does not mean abdication of responsibilities....This was a warning to other countries that might try to fill the vacuum.... Asad acknowledged that mistakes that were committed...lead to negative impressions.... Asad did what he could to soothe the injured dignity of his people."

"Asad's Speech: What Is Important Is The Withdrawals And Rebuilding The Best Relations"

Ali Hamade said in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/6): "There is a positive issue in the speech which is acknowledgement of the principle of withdrawal from Lebanon, however, there are several observations:Talking about withdrawal to the Beqa' is closer to redeployment than withdrawal. This is why there is fear that Asad could have meant something different than what he actually said. Afterwards, Syrian Minister Sha'aban said that the withdrawal would be total and behind the Syrian border. We can assume then that there is credibility in the Syrian commitment. Asad did not announce a clear timetable for the withdrawals.He left this up to the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council which includes the Lebanese President whose term was extended by force through foreign interference, and to a government that lost its legitimacy in the Lebanese street. Asad did not indicate a withdrawal of his intelligence and did not talk about stopping Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs. In fact, he insisted that Syria's influence and role will be intensified following the withdrawal, as if he were threatening the Lebanese that the situation would return to the chaos that prevailed during the eighties...Asad raised two problems with UNSCR 1559: The destiny of the Lebanese resistance, which serves the issue of the Syrian-Israeli conflict...and Palestinian weapons.... Asad acknowledged UNSCR 1559...which is a positive step... He accused several Lebanese politicians of being ungrateful...He also said that the television cameras focused only on certain angles to make it look as if only a handful of Lebanese were against Syria. Asad said nothing that would address the desire of the Lebanese for information on who assassinated Hariri, despite the direct accusations against Damascus."

"Efforts To Crystallize Internal Agreements Between Sfeir, Nasrallah, and Junblatt"

An editorial by Ali Al-Amin in independent Al-Balad commented (3/4): "The opposition's efforts to reach out to Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah is coming in the shadow of a definite Syrian withdrawal to the Beqa'.These efforts are also coupled with Iranian efforts on international and regional levels seeking to limit the impact of the Syrian withdrawal on Hizballah's position and role...Iran is reaching out to Damascus and France and other European countries to help overcome any dangerous repercussions of the Syrian withdrawal to the Beqa'....As for Hizballah, it wants to find outlets that might help calm the situation...even if it has to reach some kind of an initial agreement with the opposition. Hizballah is trying to capitalize on the Lebanese consensus on implementing the Ta'if Accord...and is also trying to reach an agreement on a government that would include over one third of its members from opposition figures, (i.e. the one third that can stop any decision.)Hizballah is also trying to show that it is prepared to discuss formulas regarding Hizballah's resistance role...Meetings between Junblatt and Hizballah's SYG Nasrallah, and Maronite Patriarch Sfeir is an intensive effort to find a solution for this crisis."

ISRAEL: "The Eclipse Of Assad"

Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz wrote in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (3/10): "If Assad senior was always said to have kept Hizbullah on a tight rein, allowing it freedom of action only when he deemed the moment right, what we have now is an unmistakable instance of the tail wagging the dog.Indeed, at what has been widely but inaccurately depicted as a demonstration against pressure for Syria's military departure from Lebanon, Nasrallah made no call for the Syrians to stay and actually endorsed the1989 Taif accord--which provides for the Syrian troops' withdrawal. Watching from Jerusalem, it was discomfiting, to put it mildly, to see the ease with which Nasrallah whipped up his multitudes into a chorus of anti-Israeli hatred.Plainly, Hizbullah's determination, and capacity, to play a central role in the struggle for power in Lebanon constitute a major headache for Israel. Watching from Damascus, though, should not have been a much happier experience--if, that is, Assad has the nous to recognize what is transpiring.For Tuesday's rally was a blatant exhibition not of Assad's primacy but of Nasrallah's. Hizbullah's strength, and the despicable charisma of its leader, far from constituting Assad's salvation, more likely signal his eclipse."

"The Assad Family's Tricks Continue"

Guy Bechor observed in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/10): "Bearing in mind the series of Syrian ruses in Lebanon, including the one that is still to occur, the entire issue of negotiations with Israel appears under a different light. Many Israelis now understand that public Syrian declarations are not necessarily true and that, as in Lebanon, each Syrian move is only meant to protect regime and community interests at the most basic level--all the more so considering the fact that both countries--Israel and Lebanon--lack legitimacy in Damascus's eyes....As far as Syria is concerned, the same modus operandi apples to both countries: dispatching Syria-subordinated terrorists in order to impose dictates.... The U.S. has not yet decided what to do against Bashar Assad's defiant regime on the eve of the elections for the Lebanese parliament. But it would be fair to assume that should the Syrians pull out from Lebanon, they would still run their apparatus by remote control.This is what they do with the Palestinians. At this time, international pressure--including isolation and ostracism--should no doubt be applied to the Damascus regime. However, in the long range the problem can only be resolved in a real--apparently imposed--reform, including democratic elections that would return the Sunni majority to power [in Syria].... Only then will it be possible to reach a true cessation of Syria's involvement in Lebanon, the end of the support for the Palestinian terrorist organizations, and the creation of the first opportunity of a true Israeli-Syrian arrangement.It appears that the only things that can be expected until then are deceptions."

"What's the Choice?"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/9): "The Israeli right suffers from selective hearing. Its people cheer when Bush calls for democracy in the Arab world or a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.They ignore all the clauses about Israel, even when Bush declares a solution to the Israel-Palestinian dispute as the most burning issue on the international agenda. They prefer not to hear that. They forget that Israel is part of the Middle East, and that it also has to do its part to reshape it.... If Bush sticks to his line, and the regimes around Israel line up with the Americans and go through changes, Israel will be required to leave the West Bank and Golan Heights. The settlers understand this and presumably so does Sharon, even when he turns right, like he did last week, promising that [the West Bank settlements of] Hebron, Beit El and Shiloh will remain in Israel's hands. After all, just three years ago he was saying the exact same thing about Netzarim [in the Gaza Strip]."

"The United States Will Not Give Up"

Former ambassador to the U.S. Prof. Itamar Rabinovich wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/7):"U.S. pressure in recent days and the question of the Syrian withdrawal [from Lebanon] have focused international attention on the issue of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. But the U.S. has a broader agenda vis-a-vis Damascus. Washington has identified Lebanon as Syria's Achilles heel and has decided to concentrate its efforts on that issue.In fact, the U.S. is striving to obtain concessions from Syria on other matters and it views Syria as a target for political changes and the key to a regional transformation.... The U.S. now clearly wishes to take absolute advantage of Syria's vulnerability in Lebanon in order to extract concessions on other contentious issues, and perhaps to demolish Assad's regime completely.... Damascus wishes to convey a clear message to the Lebanese opposition: if you continue to demand a Syrian pullout, we will support a Shi'ite demand for a new balance of power in Lebanon in order to reflect the fact that the Shi'ites have become the largest community in the country."

"A Dangerous Situation For Israel"

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/6): "A security and governmental vacuum was created in Lebanon in the wake of the Hariri assassination, and this vacuum has been expanding with the passage of every day.... Hizbullah has gained the most from this situation.... Even if Assad sincerely intends to redeploy his 14,000 troops in Lebanon, he has absolutely no intention of releasing his grip on it.In the last four months the number of Syrian intelligence agents stationed in Beirut has risen from a few hundred to thousands. Now they are being joined by Hizbullah guerrillas, Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen and Lebanese intelligence agents, who long ago began taking orders from Damascus.These players could draw Israel into a very complex and dangerous situation."

"Hafez's Son"

Jackie Hoogie wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/6): "In his speech, [Bashar] Assad had a few objectives in sight. First he had to gain a little time until the Arab League Summit, which is due to gather in Algiers this month, and where he hopes to have the League endorse his presence in Lebanon with an official resolution.... A second objective is the splitting of the [Lebanese] opposition.... The Syrian President is now hoping to divide the world's powers -- America, which has already announced that his declaration was not enough, on one side, and all the European states, which will insist on waiting and seeing and on granting the guy some more time... In brief, this was Bashar Assad in the mold of Hafez Assad."

WEST BANK: "Bit By Bit: An Israeli Policy To Impose A Transitional Reality"

Rajab Abu Sariya contended in independent Al-Ayyam (3/11): "Perhaps the political developments and events in the region intended to re-arrange the internal situation, restore calm, spread democracy and end oppression, i.e., the policy that the U.S. is directing whether in Iraq or Lebanon, will find itself obligated sooner or later to put an end to both the Israeli and the American occupation, which in turn will increase international pressure on Israel.... This could be the reason why the tone of American remarks on the necessity and significance of establishing a contiguous Palestinian state is rising."

"Under American Policy, What Happens After Syria's Withdrawal?"

Talal 'Ukal asked in independent Al-Ayyam (3/10):"The press remarks that are made in the White House almost every day by Bush or his administration look a lot like a list of orders to other countries, which reflects the U.S.'s vision and policy toward the world and how it wants to take full control without any consideration to these countries' choices. We noticed, during the...campaign on the Syian-Lebanese affair following the assassination of Hariri, that the American administration doesn't leave these two countries any choice, flexibility or even time to implement Resolution 1559.... In any case, if President Bush is committed to international law and Resolution 1559 that considers Syria the occupier, all UN resolutions admit and assert that there is Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, where Palestinians are yearning to establish their own state.... The Syrian 'occupation' in Lebanon will end soon, while we will still be waiting for the next step concerning the Israeli occupation. We will probably wait longer."

"The End Of The Card-Collecting Strategy In Lebanon"

Muhannad Abdul Hamid opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/8): "The transformation [in Lebanon] did not result from a foreign conspiracy or a western American-Israeli plot. It did coincide with the American project to rebuild an under-control Middle East.To be more precise, the U.S. is trying to utilize the popular Lebanese movement for purposes other than Lebanese ones and different from what the U.S. announces about the restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty and freedom and spreading democracy there.While the popular Lebanese objective--getting rid of Syrian interference and its burden on the Lebanese leadership--is legitimate and justified, the American attempts to stand beside or link up with the popular movement's demand for the departure of Syrian troops neither nullify the legitimacy of Lebanese demands nor necessitate the postponement or withdrawal of these demands."

"Syria And The Lebanese Portfolio"

Samih Shubaib commented in independent Al-Ayyam (3/7):"Just as expected... Syrian President Bashar Assad announced to the Parliament that Syria intends to withdraw from Lebanon.. Perhaps it goes without saying that this withdrawal came under American-European pressure, after the removal of the official Arab cover, especially the Saudis', for the presence of these forces, and with the events that took place in Lebanon following the assassination of Hariri. Even though no time limit has been set for this pullout, there are indications that the Syrian response to pressures necessitates that it will take place before the upcoming Lebanese elections. Along with this official Syrian announcement, a question comes to mind: Is Syria going to close the Lebanese file?"

SAUDI ARABIA: "The Israeli Exploitation Of Developments"

Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/9):"The Lebanese are looking forward to the Syrian withdrawal. However, they are not planning to boycott Syria or consider it an enemy.Israeli jumped into the field and started to brag that it, Israel, is the provoker of the current developments.Israel is pretending that Lebanon and Israel share the same views and interests and Syria is their common enemy...It would be useful if we observe the Israeli movements in relation to the American reactions.Especially that the U.S. is trying to implement a law to punish Syria and to liberate Lebanon; eventually, all these laws serve Israeli interests. It also shows that the Zionist group is effective and has the ability to direct the American policies to serve its interests. Israel is trying to weaken the Arab front and spread wars and destruction."

"It Is Important That Lebanese Stay Calm"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (3/9):"So far, the Lebanese are expressing their objection in a peaceful way. Nevertheless, we are afraid that some parties might take advantage of the situation to ignite a civil war, especially since Israel is available to spread instability in the Arab world.... The Lebanese must not allow war traders to find their way and ignite another civil war. The logic says that Lebanese will not go back to the area of war again."

"The Urgency of a Complete Syrian Withdrawal"

Makkah's conservative Al-Nadwa editorialized (3/9):"The international community is keen to getting Syria out of Lebanon. The same effort must be devoted to preserving the peace and stability in Lebanon. The Lebanese people, who endured more than a decade of political turmoil, are definitely able to endure this crisis and emerge victorious."

"Take Care Of Israeli Intervention"

Abha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (3/7): "Israel's weeping over the sovereignty of Lebanon is completely rejected by the people of Lebanon, because this nation understands and is fully aware that Israel will never be accepted among its people.... The concept of sovereignty among the Lebanese people is completely different than that of Israel one, especially as related to Syria. Syria has made a lot of sacrifices in order to restore Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."

"Crisis Defused"

Makkah's conservative Al-Nadwa declared (3/7):"The announcement of the Syrian president that he will end his country's military presence in Lebanon was very clear. Those who described the Syrian move as insufficient perhaps want to exercise more pressure but the Syrian announcement showed no hesitation over the issue of withdrawal."

"Obligations Of The New Stage"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum stated (3/7):"The statement of the Syrian leader, Bashhar Al-Assad, put an end to speculation about the Syrian position....Syria and the Arab world need to ease the tension because any disturbance could give Israel a chance to destroy the Arab world.... The Lebanese opposition must not be driven by short-term victory. At the same time, Syria and its allies must not be vengeful."

"Solving The Crisis: A Wise Syrian Withdrawal"

Damam's moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (3/6): "In the Syrian-Lebanese issue, relations and alliances are intertwined and mixed.Therefore, solution seems difficult. However, if Beirut and Damascus give the Saudi-Egyptian-Syrian communications time, the issue could be solved easily... The Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is in compliance with Tife agreement.The withdrawal is not an insult to Syria.Actually, it is a bilateral agreement and the time has come to implement it regardless of international pressures.This is not a defeat of Syria.Syria has participated in restoring security to Lebanon for many years. The withdrawals, responding to UN resolution 1559 will strengthen Syria against Israel, which treats international solutions with disrespect and ignorance."

"Syria's Withdrawal From Lebanon"

Makkah's conservative Al-Nadwa editorialized (3/6):"Syria's friends in the region have advised it to withdraw its troops completely from Lebanon.It is in Syria's best interest to follow this advice. The international community has increased the pressure on Syria. This move should prevent the reoccurrence of the experience in Iraq. The lesson here is for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon regardless of the labels that have been attached to the process."

"Beyond the Syrian Withdrawal"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz editorialized (3/6):"The Syrian leadership will definitely deal wisely with current pressures and withdraw its troops before the deadline. The Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is in the best interest of the Syrian people. Complying with the international requirement should not be a difficult move for Syria. The question remains though, would Syria's compliance be sufficient to save it from becoming the next target in the war for change?"

JORDAN: "To Emulate"

The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (3/10): "The massive demonstrations orchestrated by Hizbollah and pro-Syrian factions drove the clear message that not all Lebanese are against Syria. Over a week ago, anti-Syrian factions and political parties staged a similarly massive demonstration showing determination for nothing less than full Syrian withdrawal....Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was behind the demonstration this time; the pro-Syrian factions went as far as rejecting UNSC Resolution 1559. Sure, the Lebanese have the right to organise demonstrations, spontaneous or orchestrated, but Nasrallah, or anybody else for that matter, is not invested with the authority to reject a resolution issued by the world body.He boasted that Lebanon is not Ukraine or Georgia, as if saying that the triumph of popular democracy in these two countries is something to avoid. The ability of the Ukrainians and Georgians to restore democracy to their countries is something to be proud of and emulated, not to shun. Hizbollah and the Lebanese who stood by the organisation have no right or authority to refuse a duly adopted UN resolution. This Islamic movement is not a state party vested with the power to pronounce itself on a UN resolution....UNSC resolutions...are binding on governments and states.... That said, the common denominator between the pro- and anti-Syrian factions is that they both reject the continued occupation of their country.... As long as this is understood and the Lebanese do not resort to internecine fighting, chances are that the country will witness a peaceful change beneficial to all. The Lebanese lesson...will thus become a model of change effected by popular willpower."

"Lebanon And Othman's Shirt!"

Rakan Majali contended in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (3/7): "It has become clear and without the shadow of a doubt that the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was part of the American scheme to start a confrontation between Syria and Lebanon.... At the same time, there is this demonstration that is happening today marking three weeks since Hariri's assassination, which means that there will be more demonstrations marking four, five, six, a hundred and even a thousand weeks since Hariri's assassination, until that time when America succeeds in achieving one of two things: a civil war or Lebanon's isolation from Syria and the Arab world.... It is clear that America has employed Hariri's killing to serve its political objectives.That explains why it was upset by Syria's decision to withdraw from Lebanon, calling it insufficient and casting doubt on Syrian's intentions.... The repercussions and changes that have occurred in Lebanon since the assassination indicate who the beneficiary is."

"America Between Principles And Practices"

Fahd Fanek noted in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (3/7): "The problem with the U.S. policy is that it has no credibility. It rejects the Syrian 'occupation' of Lebanon but allows itself to occupy Iraq; it calls for the freedom of people but takes the side of the occupying state of Israel; it raises the banner of international law but rebels against international legitimacy; it declares itself a defender of human rights but commits torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. What is wrong is not in the principles that the U.S. is calling for but rather U.S. practices that contradict those principles.Before the U.S. can promote these principles in the world, it must abide by them."

"Timid Step Needs Reciprocity"

The elite English-language Jordan Times editorializes (3/7): "Syrian President Bashar Asad may have bought his country some time and deflected some of the mounting pressure on his government when he announced that Syrian troops will withdraw to the Beqaa area and the to the Syrian -Lebanese border..Still, Damascus left major issues unattended to. To begin with, there was no mention of a timetable for the Syrian withdrawal.. Second, by announcing that troop withdrawal means redeployment to Syria's border with Lebanon, Damascus makes it understood that its armed forces will stay put within proximity of major cities in Lebanon, ready and able to reenter the neighboring country whenever it deems that its own security is threatened. At the same time, there was no mention of any withdrawal of the Syrian intelligence networks..The Syrian president's move, again, can be viewed as spectacular and dramatic. However, the ultimate move has not been made, and the results hinge on too many factors to enable clear assessment. The one thing that can convince the Arabs and the world at large of the altruistic intentions of the United States is for President George Bush to lend an ear to Syria and assume a less belligerent posture.It is a truism that democracy and the rule of law cannot be brought by the barrel of a gun."

"Syria's Withdrawal And The 1990 Iraqi Scenario"

Daily columnist Yaser Za'atreh writes on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour (3/7):"The Syrian President presented a new vision for dealing with the Lebanese issue. While it is clear that this was an attempt to get out of the crisis with the least damage, America's reaction and the position of some in the Lebanese opposition stress that this move is insufficient and that the hunt will continue. (This is) because amere Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon is not the objective. The objective is the full political and security withdrawal of Syria so that the military claws of Hizbollah will be clipped and its political presence eventually marginalized. Nothing can stop this hunt. The issue is open wide so Washington, which is living in crisis in Iraq, may look for another outlet.. What needs to be said in this context is that targeting Syria in this manner does not mean that the American chain is made up of only two links, Iraq and Syria.What is happening with the greater Middle East project that is designed to reshape the region?Do the leaders who are in collaboration with the targeting of Syria today really believe they are buying their safety?"

"The Syrian Army Pullout"

Columnist Kamal Rashid writes on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour (3/7):"The Syrian military withdrawal is a measure that brought joy in Syria and Lebanon and all around the Arab and Muslim world, which means that it is a wise and sound measure....No one exonerates the Syrians from their mistakes and unacceptable conduct in Lebanon and no one denies that Syria has borne a difficult load, exhausting itself and its army and those to whom it came originally to aid. But the Syrian presence was not without willing partners. It existed as a result of the Taif decisions and for the benefit of Lebanon. The Syrian presence in Lebanon was not an occupation, but rather it came about as a Lebanese, Syrian and Arab benefit. It existed to put out the discord in Lebanon and to protect the borders. It was an emergency situation that had to come to an end.If America, France and the Security Council are calling this presence an occupation and are saying that Lebanon needs to be liberated, then what do they say about the American presence in Iraq and the Israeli presence in Palestine?"

"Syria Withdraws From Lebanon"

Center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour editorialized (3/6): "The Syrian President set at date for the beginning of the end of a situation that lasted thirty years; a situation that had to come to an end one way or another after all the debate about the Syrian presence in Lebanon that followed the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the angry reaction it received from all parties. This makes us believe that this region is facing explicit and implicit pressures that force the smart leaders to understand the game and take the appropriate position in order to come out of it safely..President Bashar Assad knows very well what is going on around his country in Iraq and Palestine, and has the courage to make the right decision.He, of course, realizes that the Arab leaders, who advised him to thwart any opportunity for those with ill designs for this region, did so out of concern for Syria.The region has seen real disasters.Decision-makers therefore must learn a lesson from what happens as a result of miscalculations, because it is the duty of the leaders of the nation to preserve the security, stability and safety of our countries and our people. This does not mean giving in or collapsing before pressures, but rather deflating and defusing them and thwarting evil intentions.. We hope that Syria's decision to withdraw from Lebanon will bring to a close this matter, in which we see foreign schemes acting against the safety of all the Arab countries. We also hope that the Lebanese leadership will take the initiative towards maintaining Lebanon's unity and stability and undertake the necessary steps to reorganize its internal status and its relationship with Syria."

"Syria In The Bull's Eye: Why?"

Center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour opined (3/6): "The U.S. administration and its partners in the Zionist Entity view Syria's opposition to their project to control and tame the region and use its resources as an obstacle that must be removed by creating problems and lighting the fires of Lebanon so they burn Syria in the process, all the while thinking that this will weaken Syria and force it to succumb. National and pan-Arab opposition to American Zionist schemes that aim to eliminate the Palestinian cause and to strengthen the grip of the occupation of Iraq and then to take control of the region is the duty of all the Arabs and not just Syria. This requires Arabs to stand by Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements so they can stand up to the scheme of aggression that targets the entire nation before it becomes too late."

"America's Joy That Will Not Be Complete"

Yaser Abu Hilaleh held in independent Al-Ghad (3/6):"America wants an immediate Syrian pullout from Lebanon. Ok.But there are certain facts that should be remembered. Who brought the Syrian 'occupation' to Lebanon? Why was the American 'liberation' delayed? The Syrians would not have entered a country bordering Israel without Israel's approval first and America's approval second.. The Syrians entered Lebanon after they got the required approvals, because their presence aimed at supporting the Christian militia and standing up to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Lebanese nationalist forces. Indeed, the Syrians were more successful in reining in the Palestinians and those Syrians who fought the Israelis in the October (1973) war were the same soldiers who fought the Palestinians at Tel Za'tar and Tripoli.The Syrian army managed to tip the balance in favor of the Christian militia and marginalize the PLO, which had become the military arm of the Lebanese nationalist movement.And this was an Israeli and an American objective. However, the Americans' did not 'liberate' Lebanon from the Syrian occupation after the departure of the PLO and the defeat of the Lebanese nationalist movement for two reasons.The first was the blow they received from the Shiite Jihad movement when the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was attacked, and the second was the American need for the presence of the Syrian army to regulate the momentum of the Lebanese resistance against Israel..These facts are just reminders that the man in the White House is not the inheritor of the legacy of nationalist revolutionary movements but the ruler of a superpower with national interests, and he listens to the pulse of the people only when that pulse is in rhythm with his own interests, otherwise, he is ready to cooperate with the unjust ruler against the oppressed people.. The Syrian army is going to pull out of Lebanon and America is going to find itself face to face with the Lebanese people. What if the majority adheres to the right of Hizbollah to resistance?What if Hizbollah refuses to lay down their weapons, would the American army assume this task? Would America enter the game among the sects? On who's side?the Maronites, the Sunnis, the Shiites?The America that has experienced the resistance in Lebanon and in Iraq knows the seriousness of falling into the Lebanese quagmire, so it does not get involved with a direct military act, but will settle for economic and media pressures on Syria."

"American Salt In The Markets!"

Columnist and former Jordanian Minister of Industry and Trade Mohammad Halaiqah contended in independent Al-Ghad (3/6):"We have said before that all that is going on in the region is the aftershock of the Iraqi quake..Did we really need Saddam Hussein's departure by a military occupation for all this to happen?Did Lebanon need the assassination of a major political leader for resistance to evolve and for Syria to start thinking about withdrawal? Did we need all this bloodshed to be convinced of the need for reforms, democracy, freedom, civil society, transparency and good governance in the Arab world?Could we have listened to the voice of the people without an American recipe or a terrorist bomb?Strange is this that is happening in our Arab world! We have become observers of the event and its repercussions without having any tools to make the event or influence it. It is as if we have no choice but to act reactively."

"The Syrian Scene Post Lebanon"

Columnist Mohammad Kawash wrote in independent Al-Arab Al-Yawm (3/6): "We do not think that the American campaign [against Syria] will stop at Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.There are a great deal of accusations being leveled by President Bush and his administration against Damascus, foremost among them is support for terrorism through relations with opposition Palestinian factions, Hizbollah and Iraq and its lack of control over borders with Iraq. This means that the American President has in his pocket many different accusation cards to play against Syria and he will continue to escalate.. What is coming will be graver and more dangerous, because there is in America's intentions and schemes far more than effecting Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon."

MOROCCO: "Lesson Providers"

Ahmed Zaki held in socialist French-language Al Bayane (3/10): "Israel and the U.S. are the invaders imposing a true military occupation on the Palestinian and Iraqi people with scorn for international law. Israel and the U.S. are thus not in a position to give lessons on morality by demanding Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon. It is even the height of insolence to demand the end of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon while they themselves are occupying territories by force and against the concerned people's will. To be consistent with their moralizing rhetoric, the U.S. and Israel should begin by putting an end to their illegal occupations of Iraq and Palestine before trying to preach to Syria, whose territory is currently being colonized by Israel in flagrant violation of UN resolutions."

SYRIA: "What The Wishers Of Misfortune Did Not Say"

Ezzeddine Addarwish wrote in government-owned Tishreen (3/10): "As President Al-Asad expected, much ado continued about the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon even after all the decisions that were made at the Syrian-Lebanese Supreme Council meeting and the executive procedures that followed. All this doubtfulness makes us believe that Syria is facing a new phase and a plan that will impose 'Israel' as a dominating force in the region as part of the 'Big Middle East Project' as called by the American Administration.Yesterday's demonstration indicated that Lebanon is above all, and that Lebanese-Syrian relations are based on historical, geographical and spiritual bases that cannot be penetrated.It is advisable that some American officials read the History of Syria and Lebanon."

"Syria Is Not The Weakest Link"

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Muqalih maintained in government-owned Al-Baath (3/10): "It seems that Syria became the only one to blame for every mishap in the world! I think that the world became is smarter than that and it realizes that the purpose of all these accusations is to siege Syria and break this last resisting link.Syria's enemies are collapsing and the American administration itself is in a very bad shape because of the Iraqi status. As an American writer put it: 'This administration has become like a wounded lion who tries to ease his pains by biting everything that comes in his way whether it is a rock, a tree, an animal, and a human being'.... The investigation of the Hariri murder will continue, the truth will come out and the perpetrators, in all cases, will not be Arab."

"People And The Emperor's Dream"

Dr. Eid Abu Sika wrote in government-owned Al-Baath (3/9): "When French General Ghoro took over Damascus, he went to Salahaddin's grave, put his foot on it and said 'Here we come back Salahaddin.' It was a sad day for Damascenes, but a Syrian young man from a Lebanese mother responded to him and said 'but you will go back from where you came General Ghoro'....Whoever witnessed yesterday's demonstration would have noticed that this scene, which we have not seen for many years, would definitely confirm that the Arab nation with all its wounds and pains is still in good spirits. It is still immune to the Emporer's American Zionist project. A project that is suffering from a coma in Iraq; therefore a new intensive care unit was needed!Beirut said its word yesterday as Damascus did. The Emperor's American-Zionist project will not pass, and the dream will not be realized.It will fail while its creators think there are a step away from realizing it!"

"Loyalty"

Esaam Dari stated in government-owned Tishreen (3/9): "Yesterday's march was a day of loyalty to Syria from all Lebanese. Honorable Lebanese wanted to thank Syrians for their national positions and noble role, which put an end to the Lebanese civil war.They also participated with the Lebanese people to confront Israel's aggression and failed 17 May conspiracy.Today is the Loyalty march in Damascus.Loyalty for the Lebanese people who reassured goodness and stayed away from all misled and misleading people that bet on foreigners, therefore lost the bet."

"Syria's Readings Of The Status Quo"

Dr. Khalf Jarad, Editor-in-Chief, said in government-owned Tishreen (3/7): "As he is noted for, President Asad wisely analyzed current events and uncovered hostile schemes and pointed at the negative campaign of the targeting media.... He clarified that the most vital goal is to protect our national interest. He also stated that peace will not be achieved in the region unless we regain our occupied land and without Israel's commitment to a just peace.The president said:'Syria will implement resolution 1559 because it is concerned about the unity and stability of Lebanon and because Syria respects the role of the UN and the international legitimacy.'"

UAE: "A Unified Nation Divided Politically"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News held (3/11): "Let the rest of the world take note of Tuesday's huge Hezbollah rally in Beirut. It should look past the obvious facts of its size and that it was pro-Syrian. It underscored several important themes to have emerged in Lebanon since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.... The first of these is that the demonstration, like the smaller 'Syria out' ones that preceded it, embraced the spectrum of Lebanese politics.All of them brought together people from all sections of society.... This is a seismic shift from the grim days of civil war, when the country was shattered along religious and ethnic lines. Then there is the question about Lebanon's future relations with Syria. It would be simple and wrong to portray the protests that followed Hariri's murder as anti-Syrian. They were not. All the demonstrations including Tuesday's supported the Syrian withdrawal, but wished to continue the close relations between the countries. There is no question that what is emerging is a remarkable degree of consensus....A unified nation divided on political lines that is healthy. Lebanon is showing all the important aspects of the regional politics now emerging....Lebanon is exploring Lebanese solutions to Lebanese problems. So will Syria. The West, in particular, should refrain from lecturing and hectoring. It would do better to watch, listen and offer help when this is needed. The goal of a peaceful, prosperous, stable and safe Middle East cannot be derailed by ignorant outside meddling."

YEMEN: "Lebanon Does It Again"

Hassan Al-Haifi stated in the pro-government English-language Yemen Times (3/11): "An article...in Slate magazine...states that, for all practical purposes, the Arab Street is a nonexistent concoction that has no merit or significance.... On Tuesday...the Lebanese people, lock, stock and barrel went out on the street to belie this stupid supposition, undoubtedly written with the belief that it is all right for Israel and the U.S. to dictate to the Arabs how should they be governed.... On Tuesday...1.6 million Lebanese gathered together, in a magnificent display of civilized mass behavior and expression of political views, and told the world...the future of Lebanon is in the hands of the Lebanese and...the Lebanese who decide the fate of Lebanon.... Yes, the Arab Street is alive and well in Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli and it...does not have to wait for a signal or forebodings from Washington, Tel Aviv or Parris as to how to sustain its independence and ability to resist the most dangerous menace to peace and tranquility in the Middle East, the demonic State of Israel....Lebanon shall not be a sphere of influence for any hegemonious monster that insists on dictating its will on all the people of the area.... The people of Lebanon have made it clear that the views of the Arab masses have not nudged one bit from their long standing conceptualization of the...region: Israel and all her supporters are seeking to put the entire region under their submission.... Tuesday is an unforgettable day in the political history of the Arab World....The people of Lebanon reminded the rest of the Arabs that power lies in their hands if they organize it correctly and in a civilized manner.... The people of Lebanon on Tuesday the 8th of November echoed the cries of every Arab, whose hearts bleed for their brethren in Iraq and Palestine, while their leaders are content with succumbing to American dictates....One important point...is that Hezbollah of Lebanon has once again shown that it cannot be underestimated or for that matter removed from the arena in Lebanon. Its political muscle has now actually been strengthened rather than weakened by the latest folly of American Middle East policy."

EUROPE

 

BRITAIN: "Stand-off In Beirut"

The independent Financial Times commented (3/9):"After the fall of Syria's puppet government, and with Damascus's now complete regional and international isolation, this is a dangerous moment. But the danger lies less in Lebanon's still fractious but increasingly cohesive politics. It resides in how Syria and its local clients react to dispossession, and also in the risk that the US and Israel may overplay their hand in their wish to settle old scores with Hizbollah, the Shia Islamist movement."

"Playing For Time"

An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read (3/8): "Assad, who has proved almost as repressive at home as his late father, may be prepared to ease his isolation by cooperating with the west over Iraq, terrorism and even by talking to Israel. But he is playing for time by telling the Lebanese that they cannot manage without Syria's stabilising presence--meaning that May's elections cannot be free and fair. The US, France and others should carry on pressing Mr. Assad to go home. But they must take into account that losing Lebanon, especially before he has won back the Golan Heights from Israel, may mean him losing power in Damascus--and not underestimate how far he may be prepared to go to stop that happening."

"One Out, All Out: Syria Is Playing For Time And Must Leave Lebanon Now"

The conservative Times concluded (3/8):"The outside world should also keep up the pressure on Damascus; delay, deception and backsliding are an ingrained part of Syria's conspiratorial culture. Lebanon's Western and Arab supporters must insist that the elections due this spring are free and fair. Either indirectly or directly, through an additional ballot, they must be a referendum on Syria's role. If, as expected, they produce a mandate for the Syrians to leave, Mr. Assad will have no excuse for ignoring the consensus that he demanded."

FRANCE: "From Lebanon To Iran"

Jean-Christophe Ploquin asserted in Catholic La Croix (3/11): "Lebanon's fate depends to a large extent on Hezbollah.... The success of the 'Cedar revolution' will depend on the opposition's ability to convince Hezbollah to remain relatively neutral in the power struggle with Syria.... Walid Jumblatt said in Brussels that the Lebanese 'cannot get involved in the adventure of disarming Hezbollah'.... France is also convinced of this. It is now trying to bring around the U.S. to tone down its hostility towards a group, which it has blacklisted as a terrorist group....Any agreement with and about Hezbollah will necessarily involve Iran.... With Iran in the equation, the level of negotiations with the U.S. and the Europeans moves to a higher level, to include Iran's nuclear program, the end of terrorism against Israel, the stabilization process in Iraq and Afghanistan and the price of oil.... Negotiations with Hezbollah can redefine strategies in the Middle East. This is why the return of Omar Karame on the political scene is only a temporary incident. It proves that Syria has few trump cards when it comes to Lebanon."

"Jumblatt Playing Europe Against The U.S."

Alexandrine Bouihlet noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/10): "Walid Jumblat and his delegation are asking the EU to separate itself from America's policy in Lebanon.... He favors Syria's pullout, but not disarming Hezbollah.... The Lebanese opposition is asking Europe to show clemency towards Hezbollah.... The EU seems to have understood the message about the Taief agreement, which gives Damascus the opportunity to withdraw from Lebanon while saving face....After sharing Washington's stance on the Lebanese question, Europe is beginning to take its distance, including on the interpretation of Resolution 1559.... The U.S. wants to impose a new regime in Damascus. Europe just wants Lebanon to regain its sovereignty, not a crisis with Syria.Jumblatt hopes to be able to influence France's anti-Syria and pro-U.S. position when in Paris tomorrow."

"Slow Pullout"

Farid Aichoune asserted in left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (3/10): "What remains to be seen is whether the Americans and the Syrians are speaking only about Lebanon. And if Paris and Washington have the same reasons for re-activating Resolution 1559. A French diplomat believes that the Bush administration is more concerned with securing the Iraqi-Syrian border than with giving Lebanon back its sovereignty.... Will the Lebanese once again be hostage to the major powers and the victims of a fool's bargain?"

"Clarification On Lebanon"

Alexandre Adler observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/9): "In the space of a week, things have become much clearer, not only in Lebanon but in the Middle East in general. The most clear-cut decision is the irreversible one taken by Syria to evacuate Lebanon. in spite of Assad's tactics of a pullout in two phases. In effect, Lebanon is truly free to organize democratic elections, after Iraq and Palestine. One other important factor is that Iran, the new regional hegemony, is not really opposed to Lebanon's independence. UN Resolution 1559 includes not only Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, it demands the disarming of Hezbollah. But why change approaches, one for the Palestinian territories, another for Lebanon? Why not the same step-by-step policy for both: first truly free elections that will eradicate Syria's supporters, and later, much later, disarming Hezbollah completely."

"Hezbollah's Support For Damascus"

Renaud Girard wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/8): "For Hezbollah, Syria's presence in Lebanon has never been assimilated to a foreign presence....And for the national opposition, disarming Hezbollah is not a priority, because in the past fifteen years, Hezbollah has never turned its weapons against other Lebanese....In Beirut, the middle classes approve of the numerous social services Hezbollah has brought them....As opposed to the Americans, the Lebanese, whether they are Shiites or Druze, trust in Hezbollah for having only an aspiration to becoming a major Lebanese political party. This is why the Lebanese national opposition movement courts Hezbollah openly."

"The Hezbollah Threat"

Pierre Rousselin in right-of-center Le Figaro opined (3/7): "Syria has no other choice but to withdraw from Lebanon. Beirut is the stage where the future of democracy in the Arab world is being played. This is a good thing, because why should the Arab world stay out of the democratic wave gripping the western world? As in Kiev, in Beirut fear is changing sides. This is so true that from Riyadh to Cairo most Arab capitals have advised Damascus to give in. Still, we cannot afford to rejoice prematurely. The game being played out in Lebanon is very complex and cannot be disassociated from its regional context. Bachar el-Assad was convinced that the U.S. would be mired in Iraq and never imagined that France would side with Washington to demand Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon. Syria is now in the position of having to give in to growing pressure, but it has not uttered its final word. Hezbollah, which is the centerpiece of the alliance between Teheran and Damascus as well as the Islamic Republic's key instrument in the region, can still stand in the way of Lebanon's sovereignty."

"Bush Rejects Half-Measures"

Jean-Louis Turlin in right-of-center Le Figaro commented (3/7): "Politically speaking, Hezbollah, which the U.S. has placed on the list of terrorist organizations, may become a point of contention between Washington and the Europeans, who have emphasized that the organization, which has been condemned for its terrorist activities, also has elected representatives in the Lebanese Parliament."

GERMANY: "Lebanese Balances"

Tomas Avenarius said in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/11): "Demonstrations do not create political changes. That is why the question must be raised how the country can really be changed when 18 different religious communities co-exist in the country with the support of a complicated system.... In such a system slogans are not enough. The only thing that helps is the consensus among all denominations and parties.But the new candidate for the office of prime minister shows how difficult it is to achieve such a consensus.It is the same man whom the opposition pushed out of office.... It is now reassuring to see that the U.S., even though under great problems, is now considering seeing Hezbollah as no longer a terror organization but also a factor of power in Lebanon. This is not a bad compromise but is evidence of a more realistic attitude that is reflected in the UN resolution.... If Hezbollah is really considered an official partner in the game in the political arena, it may even be possible to resolve the disarmament question, for instance, by integrating Hezbollah into the Lebanese army later.... The problem of Resolution 1559 is that it aims less at a policy for Lebanon but more at a policy for Israel and the Palestinian territories.Like all other Arabs, the Lebanese consider the return of Palestinian refugees to be a precondition for a fair resolution of the Middle East conflict. It is understandable that Israel rejects this. If the refugees returned, there would be more Palestinians than Jews in Israel. This dilemma makes clear that the Lebanon resolution is in reality directed at Israel-Palestine.This resolution seems to be part of the U.S strategy to create peace in the Middle East, but under U.S-Israeli conditions.That is why the resolution is directed against Syria that does not make peace with Israel.That is why Damascus is put under pressure - via Lebanon. But even if Syria, in the end gives in, would new instability in Lebanon be worth this price?"

"Lebanon"

Michael Strmer noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/11): "[Even after the most recent demonstration] real power is still in the hands of the Syrian intelligence service and its killer instincts, in the armed forces and their blockades and in the hands of Bashir al-Assad, the half-strong man from Damascus. It will now be decisive to see on which side the leading Arab nations will enter the great game for Lebanon. It is not the only important question to find out what is at stake in Lebanon, but at issue is also the greater question what an Arab democracy means and who determines the form and the contents of this democracy. It is recommendable to take into consideration that democracy also needs democrats and, if possible, majorities."

"Beirut - Damascus"

Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger contended in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/10): "When the governments in Washington and Paris joined forces to initiate Resolution 1559 last year, they could not know how quickly one of its core demands was accepted; the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.Now this withdrawal is taking place and will include all units and not result in a mere regrouping.But this does not mean that all problems in Lebanon will be resolved now. What will be the power policy implications for the Assad regime in Damascus, whose regional ambitions have now greatly failed? And will the interests that were closely linked to Syria simply disappear? The Shiite Hezbollah made clear with its mass mobilization that it is not willing to accept the interests to disappear. It does not show any inclination to surrender its arms, another demand in Resolution 1559.But this is something it will have to do if the 'cedar revolution' is to be successful. The power struggle in Beirut is only just beginning."

"Majorities, We Do Not Like"

Sonja Hegasy opined in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (3/10): "The demonstration of Hezbollah supporters proves that there are majorities for the status quo in Lebanon. That is why a serious discussion about the interests of the pro-Assad, pro-Mubarak, and pro-Saddam supporters is necessary, and it is wrong to describe them as 'irrational' or 'remote-controlled.' The stagnations we see in the region is not the result of a helpless society against a omnipowerful state, but it is the result of the interests of social majorities in the country. In Beirut, a majority takes to the streets to demonstrate in favor of Bashir al-Assad....We may not like the political goals of these of these people, but they have numerous supporters.That is why the representatives of these majorities must be interlocutors for us. This also includes Hezbollah. The U.S. administration may celebrate the anti-Syrian rallies as a success of its policy in the region. But if it does not recognize what the majority thinks, its policy can only fail.Hezbollah leader Nasrallah said Lebanon is neither Somalia nor Ukraine or Georgia. This means that Lebanon is neither a state without a state, nor do the supporters of the 'cedar revolution'...have a majority like the people who staged a revolution in Ukraine and Georgia."

"The Power Of Hezbollah"

Tomas Avenarius commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/9): "The extremist Shiite organization managed to get hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets of Beirut for a demonstration against the opposition..The message of Hezbollah is clear:Without us nothing will change in Lebanon. The slogans of the Hezbollah followers were interesting. They chanted that America is a source of terror and they showed pictures of Syria's president. Those who believe after this demonstration that the situation in Lebanon will easily change, as the first demonstration suggested, are wrong. The Lebanese problem is more difficult and cannot be simply resolved by calling for democracy and the withdrawal of Syrian troops. For Hezbollah, which is supported by Syria and Iran, a Syrian pullout is not just a matter about Lebanon. The Shiites, who waged war against Israeli troops in southern Lebanon, see this an important element in the Israeli-Arab conflict. For them, a withdrawal of Syrian troops is not a solution.They fight for an end of the Israeli occupation, for instance in the Golan Heights and in Palestine.The idea that Hezbollah could be disarmed quickly is dangerous. The political and religious leaders of the party will not put down their weapons before there is a comprehensive peace solution for the Middle East.That is what the American and European strategists, who promote a democratization of the Middle East, must understand."

"The Risk Of Lebanonization"

Silke Mertins editorialized in business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (3/9): "The Syrians are not just painful occupiers, who treat Lebanon like a satellite state and now struggle to pack their bags.Damascus is also a protecting power and a guarantee for the absence of violence. It is not good enough if the international community simply calls for a withdrawal of Syrian troops. The U.S. and Europe must also make their mind up how they would respond to an escalation of the situation. Would they make threats by pointing their fingers at the parties like in Sudan? Would they call upon them like in Rwanda? Would they watch like in the last civil war? Or would the UN be ready to deploy powerful peacekeepers, if they were necessary? Syria has no interest in stabilizing Lebanon, because it would weaken Damascus' position against the archenemy Israel. Through Hezbollah, it can continue its pins and needles strategy against the Jewish state on a low level. It can therefore not be ruled out that Syria fuels the internal Lebanese tensions and Hezbollah is the only party that is still heavily armed. This makes it severely more powerful than other political forces.Hezbollah must now make up its mind whether it will stand with the Lebanese opposition or whether it will continue to act in Syria's shadow."

"Assad Tests The Limits"

Rudolph Chimelli commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/8): "The Syrians are packing their bags and make a move--but will they really go?Syrian leader Assad and his Lebanese protg Lahoud's joint decision falls short of the demands from the demonstrators on Beirut's streets.... Given the pressure on him, Assad could have barely made fewer concessions.He apparently hopes that at least the local situation will change. If hundred of thousands of Lebanese Shiites were to take the streets to back Syria, it could in fact change the political balance in the region.But it would not totally change the international opinion--and it would not at all affect the important U.S. view. Syria's President knows that neither Europeans, nor Russians, nor Israelis and least of all Arabs would wage war to oust him. However, all of them could not completely ignore the Lebanese disunity on Syria presence.Assad also believes he can survive economic sanctions or other U.S.-initiated punishments. For him, it is worthwhile to test the limits."

"Outside Pressure"

Centrist Suedwest Presse of Ulm said (3/8):"Assad is worried that he could be the next one to go, and he has good reasons to believe that.Against this background, the will of the majority of the Lebanese people to get rid of the Syrian occupiers is promising. The outside pressure and the one from Lebanon are multiplying themselves. Tactical maneuvering, such as keeping Syrian troops and intelligence service agents in the Bekaa Valley for an unpredictable time, will not help Damascus. It is now about the liberation of the Syrian people. They are suffering under the rotten structures of a corrupt and oppressive military dictatorship, which has been led by the Alawite minority for 35 years.Assad once promised reforms, but the structures his father built are overpowering everything. The old Syrian forces still have a severe potential to disrupt the Middle East, even when they are on the defensive."

"Changing Standstill"

Martin Gehlen commented in the centrist Der Tagesspiegel (3/7): "President Assad's announcement to withdraw Syrian troops is the second success of the Cedar Revolution. Damascus apparently means it--it least for the time being. For the Syrian leader, this appears to be the only way to calm the situation and to take a breather from the pressure. It remains to be seen whether he can dodge the danger, because whole buildings easily collapse after the first cracks. Assad Jr. got his father's throne because he promised stability to the military and bureaucratic elite of the country. Now, the family regime must give way to pressure from the street for the first time in three decades. This could become a model also at home."

"Assad's Move"

Andrea Nuesse opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/7): "Syria dangerously gambles for time and hopes for a divided Lebanese nation.The announcement to withdraw troops to the Bekaa Valley, a demand of the Taif Accord that put an end to the civil war in Lebanon in 1990, will no longer suffice, because the Lebanese opposition is calling for a complete withdrawal of the Syrian troops and intelligence service. The opposition fears that Syria will continue to influence Lebanon's affairs because Assad has not yet said anything about the powerful intelligence service and he has not given a date for the troops withdrawal. This is a great challenge for the Lebanese-Syrian committee.The situation will remain difficult if Syria insists on the Taif Accord."

"Syria Must Slowly Retreat"

Karim El-Ghawary noted in leftist Die Tageszeitung and centrist Badische Zeitung (3/7): "Assad's argument that only a well-organized withdrawal of the Syrian troops can solidify Lebanon's stabilization cannot totally be denied. The Lebanese civil war parties, who were once pacified by Syria, are not the most credible partners to take over from Syrians and lead Lebanon towards a democratic and peaceful future. Syria is not the only rigid country, where a son has taken over power from his father.Also in Lebanon, old clan leaders administrate the country based on an inflexible religious system, which is not very democratic. That some now want to copy the Orange Revolution should not deceive us. The bloody civil war of the past is still haunting people; there have already been clashes between followers of pro-Syrian Lebanese president and the anti-Syrian opposition."

"Damascus On The Defensive"

Tomas Avenarius argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung (3/5): "Syria's state leader is cornered; even during a visit to Saudi Arabia, he was told to quickly pull out his 14,000 troops from Lebanon. The Saudis as well as the Egyptians are standing with the U.S., Europe and the UN against him. Without the two Arab lead nations, Assad has barely a chance to win his gamble for time.He rather faces more sanctions, also by Europeans, who are important trade partners. Assad is isolated in the dispute over Lebanon's independence, in the conflict with Israel over a peace accord, and in the attempt to maintain its own corrupt regime. If Syria withdraws its troops and intelligence agents, the regime will suffer and the country will economically bleed to death. Everybody involved knows that. This means that Washington seeks regime change without using its military might."

ITALY: "The Tough Race Toward Sovereignty"

Ugo Tramballi maintained in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (3/11): "By imposing the prime minister of the old government, Omar Karami, to create a new one, the Syrians are once again showing their arrogance. They underscore their presence and show that they are more in control of the situation than the enthusiasm of the 'Cedar Revolution' had led us to believe. Lebanon's sovereignty will not be a short battle; and the threat will have to be wisely balanced with political dialogue."

"Lebanon, Karami's Return: Syria Mobilizes Its Protesters"

Fabio Scuto wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/10): "The Lebanese crisis is running the risk of entering a tunnel from which it will be difficult to come out. Former Premier Omar Karami is preparing to succeed himself nine days following his resignation, which was triggered by opposition protests for the slaying of Rafiq Hariri.... Karami's return to power...could further accelerate the crisis which was set off in Lebanon following the killing on February 14."

"One Million People Protest in Beirut: 'Long Live Syria'"

Roberto Bongiorni wrote in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (3/9): "The protest in Beirut is a slap at the White House and the Elysee, both of whom continued to insist yesterday that the country should begin a process of democratization in which the voice of the people prevails. The confrontation between Syrians and anti-Syrians denotes, at least momentarily, a clear imbalance in favor of Damascus.. Yesterday's event cannot be ignored."

"Russia Abandons Assad As Well: Withdraw"

Maurizio Molinari noted in centrist La Stampa (3/4):"Syrian President Bashar Assad is under a real diplomatic siege: Russia and Germany have joined international pressure for the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt suggests it should pull out quickly. The intervention of Moscow, Berlin, Riyadh and Cairo turn Damascus' problems into a dangerous solitude.. If Assad were to refuse the solution suggested by the Saudis and Egyptians [to leave Syria immediately], he would risk UN sanctions. According to Washington sources, this is what the State Department is working towards."

RUSSIA: "Velvet Revolution In Beirut"

Boris Yunanov said in reformist Moskovskiye Novosti (3/10): "There has been more evidence of Bashar Assad changing his tactics. Apparently, he has shelved the idea of an anti-American military alliance with Iran, forsaking his warlike stance in favor of peaceableness and good will, troop withdrawal from Lebanon, the settlement of a border dispute with Jordan, and the extradition of Saddam's stepbrother to Iraq. Damascus is desperate to get out of international isolation."

"The Syrians Must Stay"

A. Safarin noted in nationalist pro-opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (3/10): "A 1.5-million-strong demonstration in Beirut is more than convincing proof the Lebanese see the Syrian presence differently than the far-away White House does. The Syrian military presence was decisive in

stopping the fratricidal war and in disengaging warring factions in Lebanon. The Syrians came as peacemakers, not occupiers, in keeping with a decision by Arab heads of state and government. Now, with Lebanon in an uproar over the Hariri killing and the Syrian troops set to leave, as demanded by the United States, Israel and their friends, there is the danger of the civil war renewing.... The Beirut demonstration is a sign the Lebanese will resist 'democratization U.S.-style.'"

"Syria To Leave Anyway"

Valeriy Panyushkin argued in business-oriented Kommersant (3/10): "Even if their supporters on the street outnumber their opponents, the Syrians will have to leave because their supporters carry Lebanese national flags, and their troops occupy Lebanon. It is just a matter of time.Some things are clear to everyone.Even the most gullible of people understand what independence means--independent Lebanon must have a Lebanese government and a Lebanese army. Therefore, the Syrians will leave, whatever the outcome of the May elections.And the winner, as always, will be....Ah, you know who is going to be the winner."

"Russia Won't Profit From Ties With Syria"

Nataliya Gevorkyan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/4): "Unlike Iraq, Syria has been under attack from both the United States and Europe. On more than one occasion Russia was cautioned against selling arms to Syria and advised to choose partners carefully and plan ahead. (Defense Minister) Sergey Ivanov first lied that Russia held no talks with Syria and then claimed that, since Moscow violated no international bans, it would not stop negotiating with Damascus. At about the same time, Putin shook hands with and hugged Bush, who calls Syria a bad country. A few days later a Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister came to Moscow, hypothetically hoping that, with the West united against his country, Russia might help out. Moscow has thought up a new sport, opening its arms for everyone who has nowhere else to go and trying to make the most of the situation. It is odd geopolitics and it won't get Russia anywhere. From experience, Russia has never gained anything in similar situations politically or financially before. Its domain shrinking inexorably, the former Soviet empire trying to play its old self looks pathetic, indeed."

"Looking At The Axis Of Evil Anew"

Maksim Yusin said in reformist Izvestiya (3/4):"Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking in an interview with BBC, made a remarkable statement saying that Syria should withdraw from Lebanon.. It might be a desire to demonstrate solidarity with France, a key ally in the EU. Favors need to be repaid. Were Moscow to stand up for Syria, to the detriment of its 'special relations' with France, it would look like ingratitude and be against common sense."

"Syria Ready To Pull Out"

Andrey Pravov stated in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (3/4): "Without a doubt, Lebanon has a right to have only one army, its own, on its territory. But given the political setup and fragile peace among ethnic and religious groups in Lebanon, any change can explode the situation. That calls for extreme caution on the part of the Lebanese and those who are trying to help them 'gain true democracy.'"

AUSTRIA: "Spring in the Air Or Storm in the Cedar Woods?"

Foreign affairs writer Livia Klingl opined in mass-circulation Kurier (03/09): "With the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, according to Washington, a democratic spring can begin in Lebanon. The emphasis is on 'can.' For the situation cannot be reduced to the bad Hisbollah regime at one end and the democracy-hungry Syria opponents at the other.... What adds to the complications and antagonisms is the fact that the permanently-demonstrating opposition is not even a heterogeneous political group that could possibly run in the May elections and win them. They are individuals with a justified hunger for freedom. The politically relevant powers, however, are those old men who are responsible for the civil war. Foreign powers also interfere in the internally divided cedar state for their political gain:Syria (with bad cards), Israel (with very good cards despite historically negative experiences), the US with their freedom vision and France as former colonial power. These are circumstances that do not necessarily speedily lead to democracy."

"No Comfort For Syria"

Gudrun Harrer, foreign affairs editor for independent Der Standard, opined (3/7): "If the Syrians, who have fallen on hard times in Lebanon, had hoped to be able to take refuge in the comforting embrace of their Arab brothers, namely the Egyptians and the Saudis, they are being severely disappointed. The two political Arab heavyweights have joined the front that exerts pressure on Damascus....It remains to be seen how Syria's President Bashar al-Assad deals with the pressure: After his speech before parliament on Saturday, people will know. For some time now--even before Hariri's death--there has been no question that Syria will make a move. The question is just when and to what extent."

BELGIUM: "Middle East"

Hubert van Humbeeck commented in liberal weekly Knack (3/10):"The murder of popular former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Lebanon two weeks ago caused a chain reaction....Demonstrations against the Syrian presence...led to the fall of the Lebanese government and forced Al-Assad into the defensive. The son of the legendary Hafez Al-Assad is forced to be wary. He constantly runs the risk of becoming isolated and undergoing the same fate as Saddam Hussein. When French President Jacques Chirac, together with George W. Bush, urged for the withdrawal of the Syrian troops Al-Assad knew enough. During Bush's visit to Europe the Atlantic Alliance apparently decided not to be divided again. Chirac supported Bush in Syria and Washington is willing to give Europe's diplomatic strategy in Iran a chance. That does not mean that it is only a question of time for political freedom to develop everywhere in the Muslim world.... For the Americans democratization does not seem to be that important in countries that are well-disposed to them and obediently pump oil.Iraq continues to hold the key.If it becomes clear there that the American strategy can achieve more than shoot a country to pieces, we will really be heading into the right direction."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Lebanese Poker"

Adam Cerny argued in business-oriented Hospodarske noviny (3/8): "Syria is under unprecedented pressure.... France and the U.S. have joined forces in solving one of the problems in the Middle East.... The change in the international constellation is combined with a new factor on the internal Lebanese scene...it is revulsion over the presence of foreign troops in the country that unites the demonstrators in Martyrs Square in Beirut. The people are making it clear that they are not afraid....Just as with the fall of regimes in the late eighties, it is obvious that the protest of an individual or a group is possible to overcome by repression, but dealing with a crowded square is more difficult. Foreign troops in the country cannot intervene as they have before because Syria is under international pressure and without allies.... Despite the hopeful outlook, the success of the 'cedar revolution' is not certain.Damascus has not stepped back, and is simply stalling for time. Because of the problems in Iraq, it does not have to fear military intervention.As has happened so often in Middle East poker, only in the final hand will it become clear who had the strong cards and how they used them."

DENMARK: "Lebanon Could Be Model For Arab-state Revolution"

Centrist Kristeligt-Dagblad judged (3/7): "Many aspects of Lebanese society have long been the model for many of the other countries of the Middle East. During these days, our hope is that Lebanon could become the model democracy for the Middle East.The question is, who long will it be before the Lebanese model reaches the rest of the region."

HUNGARY: "Lebanon: End of Fear"

Foreign affairs writer Ferenc Kepecs pointed out in left-of-center Nepszava (3/9): "What is behind the current great courage [of Lebanon] is the wavering of Syria's position. For a long time now, the Syrians have not been able to count on Moscow, while the American army is deployed next door in Iraq. . Damascus is under immense international pressure. So why then does it still insist on Lebanon? Partly for simple power reasons, but more than that, for very tangible economic reasons. . The Lebanese anger is in a great part motivated by the decade-long, shameless economic exploitation. Syria, on the other hand, is in a great part kept alive by this exploitation. Therefore the supposition is obvious that in case the Damascus military elite loses Lebanon Syria will be lost for them as well. And that, among the regrettable local conditions, would definitely be more than just a simple change in government. The elite fear for their skin."

"Very Well. And What Next?"

Andras Sztankoczy held in liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap (3/8): "The Middle East is not Central Europe--here the story is not that the Soviet troops have left, and that's it, the democratization process, burdened with a variety of local specialties, may start. Horrible as it sounds, the Syrian regime has brought some sort of stability into the country [of Lebanon].... What has happened so far is the triumph of democracy. And, of course, of the U.S., which has continuously been talking about the importance of freedom in the region, although in the case of Lebanon--contrary to Iraq--Europe also stands alongside Washington. But the Syrian pullout is not the final goal, and the success of the current changes will be shown by what Lebanon will look like in one, five or ten years. In addition to celebration, taking advantage of this exceptional moment, the Lebanese as well as the international community ought to resolve as soon as possible how Lebanon is going to be stable even after Syria pulls out."

IRELAND: "No Room For Meddlers"

The center-right populist Irish Independent editorialized (3/8): "Yesterday the Syrian army began its withdrawal from Lebanon. Unfortunately the troops are going only as far as Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley and it will take until the end of the month to get them even that far. The final pullout will then follow later negotiations. But there is no timetable. George Bush is not impressed. He wants all the troops out without delay and he definitely wants them--and the multitude of Syrian security operatives in Lebanon--gone before the elections in May. More and more it looks like Mr Bush has been right about the Syrians all along. Angered by the way they have been aiding and abetting the insurgents in Iraq, he is unlikely to have much patience with them.With some hopeful signs of co-operation between Israel and the Palestinians, the last thing Mr Bush needs is the Syrians stirring things up in Lebanon. The sectarian divisions of the civil war are still just beneath the surface and could boil over.But it need not be like that. If the Syrians stop interfering, there is every chance that the Lebanese people will find their own path to a stable democracy. It is just three weeks since the assassination of the former Prime Minister which triggered the peaceful uprising. The huge crowd of protesters in Beirut yesterday, demanding that Syria leave immediately, indicates that George Bush is right. The sensible thing is for Syria to pull all of its troops all of the way out of Lebanon. And the sooner the better. "

PORTUGAL: "The Third Wave"

Pro U.S. center-right weekly Independente stated (3/4): "Since its invasion of Lebanon, Damascus has maintained that the survival of Assad's dictatorship depends on the continued occupation of Lebanon. It is possible that this is true, but it is highly probable that the withdrawal would lead to the end of the tyranny of the Assad family. Nevertheless, a third wave of democratization will arrive, sooner or later, to Damascus, putting an end to one of the most brutal regimes in the Middle East. [Although it has been] much vilified, the democratization strategy designed by the American neo-conservatives has started to bear fruit."

SPAIN: "The Syrian Withdrawal"

Centrist daily La Vanguardia noted (3/7):"The dynamics created after elections in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq has made...the Syrian presence in Lebanon a flagrant anachronism. After more than fifteen years since the end of the civil war, the former Switzerland of the Mediterranean is probably, apart from Israel, the most suitable culture/medium for democracy to take roots in the region, both due to its relatively low population...and its ethnic and religious diversity, because, after trying all other options, it seems that the democratic coexistence promised by the Cedar Revolution would impose itself. The Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is also a powerful incentive for Israel to leave the occupied territories in the West Bank and Syria itself."

"Storm Clouds Over Beirut"

Left-of-center El Pas maintained (3/7):"Even with all its ambiguity, the Syrian retreat, if it happens, could be a little revolution in Middle East.But there are many interests that want to avoid at all costs its inevitable consequence: the increase of US power in a critical region. For that reason, there is a powerful threat of war between Lebanese."

"Syria Cannot Only Partly Retreat"

Independent El Mundo noted (3/7):"The escalation of tension that has taken possession of Lebanon since Rafik Hariri's assassination continues after a turbulent weekend. The nebulous retreat of troops announced on Saturday by the Syrian President Bachar al Asad has not satisfied any expectations: The US considers it 'inadequate', the EU demands concrete calendar dates, and the Lebanese opposition is skeptical... Everything points to Bachar al Asad trying to win time, silence pressure from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Arab League, and maintaining a certain strategic control over a country that (Syria) still considers its own and that feeds the expansionist dreams of the 'Greater Syria'.... The international community can't lessen pressure to verify the retreat. In any case, no one involved can forget the lessons of the gory civil war that destroyed Lebanon for 15 years, whose wounds have not healed, and which could be opened again."

TURKEY: "The Peace Is Still Far Away"

Kenan Akin observed in the nationalist Ortadogu (3/9):"In May 2000, Israel ended its 22-year occupation of South Lebanon. This initiative has increased the pressure on Syria to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon as well. In June 2001, Syrian forces pulled out from large areas of the Beirut region.In September 2004, the UN Security Council demanded that Syria withdraw its military forces from Lebanon and refrain from interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. At the insistence of Syria, the Lebanese Parliament extended the term of the pro-Syrian President Lahud. Former Prime Minister Hariri was killed in an assassination on February 14.After this development, Syria started to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon, heeding a warning from the United States. But still, the winds of war in the region have not stopped. One danger is that the Syrian 'hawks' may use this withdrawal as a pretext to take action against the young President Assad. It is a well established custom that the Syrian military topples presidents who oppose it."

"Is The Problem Over?"

Sami Kohen commented in mass-appeal Milliyet (3/8):"Is it possible to believe that the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon will ease international concerns or end the problem? First, there needs to be a clear definition of what the problem is. At first glance, it seems rather simple: the people of Lebanon want Syrian military forces to leave the country, and the international community supports this. Syrian President Assad has agreed to pull out Syrian forces from Lebanon.Yet the issue is much more complicated than this. First of all, the Lebanese people are demanding an immediate and full withdrawal rather then a gradual or partial one. This increases the risk that Lebanon could be carried into a new period of instability.There is also a Syrian angle to the issue--is the decision to withdraw going to end the the international pressure on Damascus? Will the US, in particular, stop its efforts to effect a regime change in Syria?That possibility has the potential to create new tensions in the region. The agreement reached between Syria and Lebanon reflects the success of the Lebanese people and Lebanese democracy. But the US strategy appears to be an effort to wear down the Assad Administration. The Bush Administration now hopes that the winds of democracy will reach all the way to Damascus.Washington seems to be ready to manipulate this. But there is always the danger that this could pave the way for new conflicts and tensions in the region."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA: "Lebanon Reaches Out For Democracy"

The conservative national Australian observed (3/8): "While it is too early to hail a 'Beirut spring' or celebrate a 'cedar revolution' in Lebanon, events are moving in the right direction.... The developments in Lebanon indicate democracy is finally on the march in a region where it has never prospered. This is deeply inconvenient to those on the Left who dismissed President George W. Bush's vision of precisely such an outcome from the campaign to dislodge Saddam Hussein. But it is worth noting that democracy in the Middle East, if it spreads, could also pose great challenges for the US and its allies, including Australia. As we have seen in Iraq, suppressed radical and Islamist elements also get folded into democracy's mix. The fact Mr Bush seems genuinely prepared to take what comes marks out just how progressive he is and just how reactionary his 'progressive' critics are.... The US is pushing for sanctions if that does not happen, but there is an argument for exercising patience with Mr Assad, who has repeatedly hinted he wants to come in from the cold and join the community of civilized nations opposed to terrorism. If the pressure is released from the Lebanese crisis gradually, there is less chance of an explosion."

CHINA: "Why Syria And Lebanon May Join Hands To Fight The U.S.--Countries Enjoy Special Relationship"

Jin Gu commented in official international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (3/11): "Syria and Lebanon may join hands to fight against U.S. interference in Lebanon. For many years, Syria and Lebanon have had a special relationship--Syria certainly has an unusual influence on Lebanon.... Lebanon has been Syria's ally against Israel, and provides Syria with a front line of surveillance against Israel. From the nationality perspective, Syria and Lebanon have a common origin and a strong Shiite Muslim bond. After the Iraq war, the U.S. continues to promote its Greater Middle East Democracy plan.The U.S. has tried to lessen Syria's influence through a democratic revolution in Lebanon.The U.S. also intends to weaken Iran by attacking the Lebanese Hezbollah.... It is a decided trend that Syria will withdraw troops from Lebanon; however, its influence in Lebanon will still exist. U.S. control of Lebanon will not be an easy task."

JAPAN: "Stop Civil War In Lebanon"

Liberal Tokyo Shimbun maintained (3/8): "Syria has announced a partial withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon. The move came in the face of international pressure and mounting anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon, triggered by the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri. At present, Damascus effectively controls the domestic affairs of Lebanon, but the announcement of a partial withdrawal signals a possible end to Syrian rule. We must not allow the pullout to cause a power vacuum, which could result in a civil war and threaten stability in the entire Middle East region. The Bush administration and the international community must refrain from pressuring Syrian President Assad into ordering a complete pullout."

INDONESIA: "Lebanon And Days Of Vulnerability, Trapped Between Syria And The U.S."

Leading independent Kompas editorialized (3/10): "Observing the developments in Lebanon one still has to hold his breath because the situation there is really vulnerable. On one hand, Syria has demonstrated its willingness to pull out its troops, but this has not satisfied the U.S. and France and Lebanese opposition groups.In this regard, Syria's allies, Hezbollah in particular, become an important factor. Although the U.S. and European countries often refer to Hezbollah as terrorists, Arabs regard them as contributing to the expulsion of the Israelis from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah is very influential and able to mobilize the masses to counter anti-Syrian protesters.... Apparently, the Lebanese themselves have to work harder to fight for their sovereignty so that they will not again be trapped in the games of foreign forces."

"Behind Pressure For Syria's Withdrawal From Lebanon"

Muslim-intellectual Republika observed (3/11): "With the withdrawal of the Syrian troops, Lebanon will practically become an open front for Israel to track down bases of the groups that oppose the Zionist country.Meanwhile, under hard pressure from the West, led by the U.S., Syria is increasingly squeezed.This is evidenced in the stance of many Arab leaders who support its withdrawal from Lebanon.The stance of these Arab leaders clearly indicates that they do not wish to run against the U.S. desires....Surprisingly, their stance is not followed with the same demand to Israel, which has thus far occupied parts of Syria's and Palestinian territories. Their ambivalence clearly demonstrates their weak position vis--vis the U.S. and Israel."

"Death Of Lebanese PM Not Regarded Useless"

Leading independent Kompas commented (3/7): "The effect of the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Al Hariri was tremendous.The political crisis that resulted did not only bring PM Omar Karami down, but it also forced Syria to pull out its troops from Lebanon.[otherwise] it would have to pay a higher price. The U.S., the European Union and the Arab League have urged Syria to pull out.The U.S. and EU have even threatened to impose sanctions. Certainly, not only Lebanon feels relieved over the departure of the Syrian troops, but also Israel. Israel has thus far indicated that Syria was behind the security disturbances by the Lebanese-based Hizbollah. With the end of Syrian presence in Lebanon, [Israel] can now concentrate on the solution to Israel-Palestine and Israel-Syria conflicts."

MALAYSIA: "Appreciate The Value Of Syria's Positive Behavior"

Government-influenced, Malay-language Utusan Malaysia had the following opinion (3/9): "The readiness of Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, as promised by its President Bashar Assad, shows the open, positive attitude of Damascus. This country, which is facing great pressure from the U.S., will listen and acquiesce to the demands of the Arab world, to abide by the Taif Agreement. Even though the U.S. doesn't put much importance in Syria's action, let us respect Syria for its positive action. It is not surprising that the U.S. continues lambasting Syria with all sorts of allegations, it wants to put pressure on another Arab country, even though the withdrawal of Syrian troops puts to shame the U.S. crony Israel, who continue to illegally occupy Palestinian land. We are confident that Syria will play an important role among the Arab countries, and will be able to defend its sovereignty and freedom from U.S. pressure."

NEW ZEALAND: "The Battle To Nurture Democracy"

The Manawatu Standard editorialized (3/9):"The day the nasty crew who run Syria are forced out of their palaces will be the day George Bush, and the rest of us, will know his much-trumpeted campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East is making serious progress. The withdrawal, if it happens, of Syrian soldiers and intelligence operatives from next-door Lebanon would be a start, but it is in the nature of dictatorships to dissemble, of course, so even if the last uniform disappears over the border it will be a fair bet that the Syrian network within Lebanon will remain intact. To be fair, Syria does have some reasonable grievances and can point, for instance, to the hypocrisy of Washington insisting on some United Nations resolutions being obeyed while ignoring others that demand action of Israel, in particular. Some Syrian territory remains occupied by Israel, with the latter arguing, despite the UN's view of the matter, that it needs the buffer in light of Syria's unrelenting hostility toward the Jewish state. Israel, it must be remembered, is, for all its faults, a democracy, whereas the Syrian regime is a vicious and oppressive dictatorship, which has few qualms about murdering its opponents, whether they be inside or outside the country. Its disregard for elementary human rights is well-known, and nothing much seems to have changed since Bashar Assad took over from his father. However, being a democracy surely doesn't excuse Israel from behaving like a military conqueror and ignoring UN resolutions, a stance which it feels it can afford because the United States will always back it."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA: "Taking On Syria'

An editorial in the Kolkata-based centrist Telegraph read (3/10): "So it is imperative now for Syria to pull out of Lebanon, completely, as part of what the American President has described as a 'movement of conscience'. But will it be easy? Lebanon is a complicatedly divided polity and society. The assassination of the former President, Rafik Hariri...did lead to the overthrow of the pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami. And this was a peaceful coup, largely brought about by Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Druze.But on March 8, a visibly more populous counter-revolution was intimated in Beirut, in support of the Syrian regime and its President.... To these demonstrators, who must also be counted among the Lebanese, resisting 'foreign intervention' means fighting American, British and European interference. Syria, to them, is much less foreign. Saudi Arabia would agree, as would Palestine--all important neighbors. Remarkable too is the fact that America and France are united now in their concern for Lebanon, forcing other EU members to take a stand. If this stand is for democracy in west Asia, would that not automatically mean aligning themselves with Mr Bush?....So, what Mr Tony Blair calls, more gently, a 'ripple of change' affects relations between Syria and Lebanon, as well as those between America and Europe. But democracy remains a free for all."

"Historic Decision"

The Bangalore-based left-of-center Deccan Herald argued (3/8): " Syria's pullback of troops to the eastern Bekaa Valley is the beginning of a process that could culminate in the full withdrawal of its troops stationed in Lebanon for the last 30 years ... A Syrian pullout from Lebanon was unthinkable even a few weeks ago ... While US pressure on Syria to quit Lebanon would have been a factor that contributed to Syria's historic decision, it is more likely that with its traditional international backers - France, Russia and the Arab world - signaling that they too wanted it to consider withdrawing from Lebanon, Syria decided to respond to the writing on the wall. Syria's departure from Lebanon is a welcome development. However, it could plunge Lebanon and the region into some uncertainty in the coming months, especially if countries like the US or Israel seek to enhance their influence in Lebanon following the Syrian exit. Any such move by these powers could reverse the Syrian withdrawal. The US appears to be looking for an opening in the current crisis to push for a regime change in Syria. It is therefore seeking to step up pressure on Syria. Instead of welcoming Damascus' decision with cautious optimism and giving it time to implement its decision, it is insisting on the 'immediate and full withdrawal' of Syrian troops. This is provocative. The angry protests witnessed over the past month are not just anti-Syria; they are an articulation of public weariness with external meddling in Lebanese affairs. External pressure and meddling must therefore be avoided."

"Scope Of Keeping Word"

An editorial in independent Kolkata-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar Patrika read (3/8): "A sudden vacuum may be created both in Lebanon's state mechanism and society if any attempt is made to snap its relations with Syria while seeking to safeguard American interests. Maybe America itself wants to fill that void or rather get it done by Israel, its 'agent' in that region. That Israel is Lebanon's real aggressor cannot be forgotten.... It is important to keep Syria under pressure, but, it will be unwise to make haste in dislodging it from Lebanon.... The Middle East runs the risk of facing more unrest while paying the cost of Bush's reckless world view. Better, Syria should be given a breather. Let it be watched whether President Assad keeps his word, especially when the Lebanese defense minister too agrees to the proposed Syrian withdrawal. So why should there be any hurry in engaging the UN against Syria believing that it will not keep its promise? It should be kept in mind that...some 400,000 Palestinians also live in Lebanon's refugee camps."

"The Damascus Blade's Getting Blunt"

An editorial in the nationalist Hindustan Times read (3/7): "Syria's announcement that it will effect a partial troop withdrawal from Lebanon is obviously a move to buy time. Damascus is under mounting pressure to end its military presence in Lebanon following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Harari last month that sparked wide-spread public protests. With countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia joining the chorus demanding an end to Syria's involvement in Lebanon, Damascus has never been in such a tight situation.... In hindsight, public resentment in Lebanon was probably muffled by Syrian intelligence that projected Damascus's influence as crucial to the stability of the country.Thus, most Lebanese considered the Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia as a crucial counter balance to Israel which occurred southern Lebanon till 2000. But that era suddenly seems to be ending as Syria runs out of options as fast as it loses friends even in the Arab world. The trouble for President Assad, a respected reformist, is that his efforts to shake off the burden of history is hamstrung by the string of private empires, especially the intelligence services, which actually rule Syria. Perhaps a combination of American pressure and public protest will assist him in making necessary changes, even as it allows Lebanon to resume its role as the Paris of the East."

"Syria Under Pressure"

The centrist Hindu commented (3/7):"Syria is under increasing pressure to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after Saudi Arabia and Egypt joined the West and Russia in asking it to do so. Damascus had hoped the two leading Arab countries would mediate a compromise that would enable it to retain troops in the Beqa'a valley even as they were being pulled out from the rest of Lebanese territory.... With the Arab countries refusing to mediate with the West on this issue and Russia unlikely to exercise its veto, the Assad Government might soon face the prospect of UNSC sanctions. Syria has been able to withstand the sanctions imposed on it by the United States in 2004 since most of its trade is with the European Union ... The increased pressure that the West will exert in such a situation is bound to weaken Syria's hand when it tries to negotiate a return of the Golan Heights as the price for making a peace treaty with Israel ... Damascus does not of course cite just strategic reasons to justify its presence in Lebanon. Even those countries that are calling for a Syrian withdrawal acknowledge that the Government in Beirut will not be able to impose its writ over large parts of the country without assistance. Lebanese society has not fully recovered from the turmoil of the civil war.... In fact, the U.S. has suggested that an international peace-keeping force could be inserted as a necessary buffer. There is no guarantee that international peace-keepers will be able to reconcile the rifts between the various Lebanese groups. Indeed, the presence of such a force might exacerbate those differences since the equations of power between these groups have changed over the years.... The Shia parties, Hizbollah and Amal, did not join the anti-Syria campaign launched by the rest of the Lebanese political opposition after the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. Damascus will hope it can play a waiting game so long as the Shias, and sections of other communities, remain loyal."

PAKISTAN: "Where Is The U.S. Standing"

Sensationalist Urdu-language Ummat declared (3/10): "Despite all its military superiority and material might, where the U.S. is standing today in the international community could be gauged from the world media reports.The demonstration in Beirut is not only an open challenge for America and Israel but also for all the vicious countries and their leaderships. At present only the public in the Islamic world is resisting the military aggression against the Muslims. The moment Muslim rulers wake up from their slumber then all the might and resources of the big powers would be forced back on them."

"Pushing Lebanon Into 'Safety' Now?"

The centrist national English-language News stated (3/10): "The massive pro-Syria demonstration in Beirut on Tuesday, which dwarfed Monday's 70,000-strong protest against the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, proves the Middle East isn't divided into 'freedom' and 'slavery' in the way President Bush uses the terms.... What appears to be ignored by Mr. Bush and those allied with him on the subject, like President Chirac, is the possibility of chaos after a Syrian withdrawal.Not necessarily because Syria's presence is a stabilizing factor, but, forced out of Lebanon against its will, Damascus is almost certain to continue interference in the country--with help from allies like Hezbollah, which forced the Israelis to leave south Lebanon.Mr. Hariri's spectacular assassination is a foretaste of the violence that could be in store for Lebanon in the post-Syrian era. But, then, Mr. Bush has been insisting that the world is a safer place after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.Let us hope Lebanon is not headed for that kind of safety."

"Defenseless Lebanese Rally"

The Islamabad-based rightist English-language Pakistan Observer argued (3/10): "Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Lebanese staged a massive rally in central Beirut on Monday against Syrian troops' withdrawal from Lebanon.Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah, Chief of Hizbollah...said that Lebanese people reject the UN demand for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and his militia to disarm....The fact is that there is no moral basis for the U.S. demand for Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon.By forcing Syria to withdraw its troops from Beirut, the Bush administration is also consciously trying to render Lebanon defenseless and make it easy prey to Israeli designs.It's proven beyond any shadow of doubt over the decades that the presence of Syrian troops had restrained Israel from its expansionist designs against Lebanon. It's, therefore, desirable for the sake of regional stability that Lebanon should not be left at the mercy of the Jewish State.The UN ought to fill the vacuum.The UNSC must come forward and carve out formula to guarantee sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Lebanon against any external threat."

"Syrian Troops' Withdrawal From Lebanon"

Independent Urdu-language Din editorialized (3/9):"Although the international community has forced the Syrian troops to vacate Lebanon, the question remains as to whether the Lebanese society -- divided as it is along ethnic, linguistic and religious lines-- is prepared to live in peace? What guarantee is there that the society would not again fall into a conflict, especially when there is no powerful army to prevent that from happening? Although the U.S. has proposed that an international peacekeeping force be sent to the country, that force would be an alien to the mood of the locals, as well as local customs, and hence unable to control the situation.Moreover, the position of various groups is also not what it was 20 years ago. For instance, Maronite Christians formed a powerful group before the civil war, and the Shias were considered the weakest. But the arrival of the Syrian troops brought about a change, and Shias are now the most powerful and influential group in Lebanon. There is a possibility that the withdrawal of Syrian troops would take a turn for the worse and the international community would be compelled to call them back to Lebanon."

"Suggesting An Attack On Syria"

Populist Urdu-language Khabrain held (3/9):"In a taped conversation, Sam Johnson, Congressman from Texas, has been caught suggesting to President Bush in a White House meeting that the "only solution for the Syrian issue is to launch a nuclear attack on it, and I would launch this attack personally."The Congressman later said he was only joking. However, in a situation where the U.S. administration is making efforts to control nuclear proliferation such jokes must not be made. Also, if the Bush administration is desirous of peace (in the world) and urges other countries to resolve disputes through peaceful means, it must also practice what it preaches."

"Syrian Troops Exit From Lebanon"

Center-right Urdu-language Pakistan observed (3/7):"America had been insisting on Syrian troops withdrawal from Lebanon; the important question is that will it (U.S) agree to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.If 'Syrian military's hold on Lebanon' is not right then how could the American, British and allied hold on Afghanistan and Iraq be right.... A free hand to America and Israel for aggression would mean the destruction of world peace."

"Rapprochement Between Syria, Lebanon: Muslim World Should Fulfill Its Responsibilities"

Mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang opined (3/7):"The American and Israeli hand in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hareri to impair the relations between Syria and Lebanon could not be overlooked.Middle East analysts believe that the Israeli secret agencies had played this bloody game to provide a pretext to the U.S. to take aggressive action against Syria. As far as Syria is concerned, its response is positive despite all the U.S. and Israeli threats and accusations. It respects the UN resolution on the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. It has no pressure from Lebanon to withdraw its troops. This is in fact matter of two neighbors and the U.S., Israel and the United Nations should not poke their nose in it."

"Growing Pressure On Syria"

An editorial in the center-right national English-language Nation read (3/7): "Piling up one accusation on Syria after the other, hardly any of them substantiated by evidence, seems to suggest that the Bush administration is bent upon creating another center of instability in the Middle East....The fear is that U.S. policymakers might insist on instant withdrawal of troops, covertly work for a regime change, encourage Tel Aviv to execute its threats of attacking Syria, or make a direct bid to take over. The hope is that better sense prevails and the neocons desist from a rash course."

"Pressure On Syria"

An editorial in Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn held (3/6): "American pressure on Syria seems to be mounting by the day.On Friday, President George Bush gave Damascus a deadline for withdrawing its troops from Lebanon--May. This demand, he said, was non-negotiable. To this newly found urgency for a Syrian withdrawal, Britain's Labor Party government has added its voice. Speaking to the BBC, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Syria would become "a pariah" if it did not pull out of Lebanon. It should be news for all lovers of peace the world over that Mr. Straw considers an 'occupying power' a pariah.... There have also been darker hints from Washington and Tel Aviv about taking military action against Syria. Seen against similar threats being hurled at Iran, these jingoistic policies could throw the entire Middle East into turmoil. Instead of threatening Syria, the United States and Britain would do well to leave the withdrawal issue to be worked out by Lebanon and Syria. "

AFRICA

NIGERIA: "Lebanon Must Not Burn Again"

The Lagos-based independent Comet insisted (3/10):"In the best of times, Lebanon is a difficult place to govern. The country is a hodge-podge of ethnic and religious groups fighting for supremacy and dominance.... It can thus be seen that Lebanon is a complex political puzzle and the whole country may once again unravel into chaos and violence. Unfortunately the Americans and the French, who hardly agree on a common foreign policy do not have stomach for the kind of Middle Eastern violence that may erupt anytime. This...should be avoided at all cost. Beirut has just been rebuilt at the cost of billions of dollars, and the country has just settled down to a life of peaceful development with a thriving tourist business. It will be a pity if all these were to go up in flames. The only way out is for the ferment to be carefully and sensibly managed by all the interested parties."

"Cloud Over Lebanon"

The government-owned New Nigerian commented (3/5):"The U.S. has seized on the Hariri killing like a bone, and is using it to rally others to its side in its quest to achieve a set agenda, namely returning Lebanon to a Western outpost, at the same time keeping an eye on the rest of the Arab world that seem so impervious to Bush's policy of spreading democracy at gun point.Both the Syrian government and the outgoing Karami government in Lebanon have welcomed a UN investigation into Hariri's death. This is clearly the most responsible course of action to take in the circumstances.A thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Hariri's assasination should be carried out.We suspect a game of high stakes international politics being played out here, and we believe that only a competent body with a high degree of intergrity should be entrusted with the tsak of unravelling the truth behind this distardly act."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "Lebanon's Best Hope"

The liberal Toronto Star opined (3/11):"Despite the massive protests that have swept Lebanon, Syrian President Bashar Assad's grip on the country won't easily be broken, whatever democrats may hope. And the pro-Syrian Hezbollah party will be there to help him. It is increasingly clear that the United Nations and leading democracies will have to step up the pressure in order to bring about Lebanon's emancipation.... But since its rise in the 1980s, helped by Iran's Shia theocrats, Hezbollah has had split loyalties. It parades as a 'Lebanese' movement, but has a bigger agenda to destroy Israel. Also, it claims to be a 'Lebanese' party even as it looks to Damascus and Tehran for cues. Thus Hezbollah betrays Lebanon's independence, while professing to champion it. So what will Hezbollah be after elections in May? An influential player in a democratic Lebanon that has shaken off foreign tutelage? Or a stooge for Damascus and Tehran, tainted by terror and shunned and hunted by the democratic world? The Lebanese deserve to know."

"Why We Need To Keep Squeezing Syria"

Marcus Gee held in the leading Globe and Mail (3/9):"Have we all made a big mistake? Do people in Lebanon really love the Syrians after all? Is the international community erring by demanding a Syrian pullout? Have we exaggerated the significance of Lebanon's 'cedar revolution' and the potential for Arab democracy? The answer in each case is no. As impressive as yesterday's rally may have been, it is no reason to take the pressure off Syria. Hezbollah, whose agents carefully choreographed yesterday's protest, is officially listed as a terrorist organization by Canada and the United States. It is backed by the two most dangerous regimes in the Middle East: Iran...and Syria, which has used the group to consolidate its colonial grip on Lebanon....If Lebanon is to emerge as a independent, modern and democratic country, Syria must go. The international community has a strong interest in making sure that it does. If Lebanese 'people power' can eject a foreign occupier and pave the way for open elections this May, democrats all over the Middle East will take heart. And if the small democratic wave that is rolling across the region gains speed, and the Arab and wider Muslim world undergoes a political transformation, the poisonous ideologies that fuel terrorism should wane.... A Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon might even destroy Mr. Assad's fragile prestige and bring down his awful regime, freeing the Syrian people from the stifling hold of the Assad dynasty, robbing the insurgency in Iraq of an important source of support and raising hopes for an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. No doubt, that is the reason why Mr. Assad is fighting so hard to keep his purchase over Lebanon. Freedom for Lebanon could mean freedom for Syria, too--one more reason to keep the pressure on Damascus."

"Out, Syria, Out"

The leading Globe and Mail commented (3/5):"The chorus calling on Syria to pull out of Lebanon is growing louder. Syrian President Bashar Assad would be wise to listen and withdraw his troops forthwith. Mr. Assad now faces united international pressure, not just from Western leaders but from his own Arab brethren. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two opinion-leaders of the Arab world, are openly backing the U.S. call for a pullout.... The choice for Mr. Assad should be clear. If he stays in Lebanon, or delays the Syrian departure, his country will become an international pariah. It has been six months since the UNSC advised him to pull out, in a resolution sponsored by the U.S. and France. If he fails to comply, his country could face sanctions and other forms of ostracism. The world will be watching closely when he speaks to his country's parliament about the Lebanon issue today. If he announces only a partial pullout, the international community should step up the pressure.... As Mr. Bush was right to note, that should mean not just the 15,000 troops, but also the thousands of Syrian security agents in Lebanon.... On the streets of Beirut and in the capitals of the world, the demand is the same: Syria out. Mr. Assad would be a fool to close his ears."

BRAZIL: "Turnaround In Lebanon"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (3/11):"The question of whether democratic winds are blowing in the Middle East remains unanswered. If they are blowing, as some signals have already indicated, the fact that Omar Karami was reinstalled as the Lebanese prime minister represents a disturbing calm.... Karami's return to power is a coup against the aspirations of the Lebanese opposition and in addition has cooled off the enthusiasm of those who saw in the Lebanese situation the triumph of U.S. policies to make the Middle East democratic. The withdrawal of Syrian troops is necessary to give the Lebanese the opportunity of fully exerting their autonomy. It is not true, however, that everyone in Lebanon, except for a corrupt elite, oppose the Syrian troops' presence. An example of this was the pro-Damascus demonstration on Tuesday that made possible Karami's return.... Everything indicates that Syria will not abandon Lebanon easily. It seems willing to give up the military presence, but it wants to maintain some political control.... There are many analysts who see similarities between the current situation and the one of 1975, when the Lebanese civil war began and lasted 15 years producing 150,000 casualties."

"The Shiites' Answer"

An editorial in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo read (3/11): "The worsening of political tensions in Lebanon is everything Damascus and Hezbollah need to justify the permanence of 14,000 Syrian troops in that nation. Their argument is that a Lebanon in crisis and exposed to conflicts will give Israel the pretext it needs to invade the nation once again. But also according to that reasoning, Israel will not do so if the Syrians remain there. They ignore the fact that the Syrians were there already in 1982. If it is certain that sooner or later the Syrians will be gone--because the Middle East is no longer the same--it is also certain that the Lebanese opposition does not have the power to demand their withdrawal, especially now. The withdrawal will happen sooner rather than later if the Lebanese factions agree on the pace for it to take place.It should not be abrupt so as to prevent the risk of destabilization in Lebanon. The pursuit of such a consensus requires Hezbollah's participation."

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