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February 23, 2005
Pressure Builds On Syria

President Bush kept the heat on Syria, Reuters reports, and he had plenty of help as well. Protests have continued in Beirut, calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the Mediterranean country, and France joined the chorus. Even Hosni Mubarak in Cairo gets the message:

President Bush demanded Wednesday that Syria pull its security services as well as its army out of Lebanon, echoing France's remarks that Syrian intelligence controlled the country. ...

In Beirut opposition deputies, riding high on mass protests against Hariri's killing over the past week, piled on the pressure, saying they would try to topple the Syrian-backed government in parliament and calling for a one-day national strike next week.

"Opposition MPs confirm that they will seek a no-confidence vote in the government during (the Feb. 28) general assembly meeting" called to discuss the assassination, they said in a statement after a meeting of 38 MPs.

The Lebanese sense something in the air in Beirut, and it has the aroma of collapse. The UN had demanded action from Syria but did nothing to ensure it, and Syria has long felt reasonably safe by claiming it needed to secure Lebanon as a bulwark against Israel and to keep a lid on the civil war. Those excuses were good enough for the Arabs, and no one else particularly cared about the Lebanese enough before now to make a bigger issue of it.

Now, however, two events have given the momentum to the democrats and nationalists in Lebanon. The first was the liberation of Iraq and their successful election, which showed the Lebanese that we meant business about transforming the region through democracy. The second was the insane assassination of pro-liberation and beloved statesman Rafik Hariri, who had planned on running for office on the issue of Syrian withdrawal.

Whether or not Bashar Assad had anything to do with that murder -- and it's hard to see how he couldn't -- the effect has been devastating. It eliminated the notion that Syria provides security for the Lebanese government to operate independently, and it gave all of the factions in Lebanon except Hezbollah (Syria's proxy terrorists) a martyr to Lebanese nationalism. That has driven Mubarak to send his most trusted "fixer" to Beirut to find a way out of Lebanon for Assad:

"Something has to happen because the situation is difficult now and (Syria) won't be able to stand against the pressures of the international community," Mubarak told reporters in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"But we must find solutions."

That message was meant for Assad, and translated it means -- your time is up. We'll do what we can to make it look good, but you're going to leave Lebanon one way or another, and PDQ.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 23, 2005 12:49 PM

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» Bush keeping heat on Syria from Commonwealth Conservative
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