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March 3, 2005
Arabs Tell Syria To Get Out Of Lebanon

In another signal that exasperation with the Assad regime may run closer to Damascus than Assad would prefer, members of the Arab League have joined the chorus telling Syria to get out of Lebanon at the earliest possible moment:

Arab leaders launched a flurry of diplomatic activity Thursday, including a trip by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Saudi Arabia, as they sought to control a political storm over Syria's role in neighboring Lebanon. ...

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday night after meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, that they had discussed how to "find a mechanism to implement" last year's U.N. Security Council resolution that called for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon.

"Egypt is encouraging Syria to settle the situation surrounding Lebanon as soon possible," Aboul Gheit said.

The League does not plan on putting the Cedar Revolution on its foreign-miniter agenda for this conference, and neither Syria's nor Lebanon's foreign ministers have been invited to attend. Still, having Eqypt and Saudi Arabia (indirectly) tell Assad that his time has run out has to come as a shock, and not just to Assad. Hosni Mubarak last week suddenly committed Egypt to multiparty elections for the first time in decades, a move that has received plenty of skepticism. This statement on behalf of the pro-democracy activists indicate Mubarak might be serious about leaving a legacy of freedom in the Middle East. Having Saudi Arabia join Egypt in demanding a withdrawal from Lebanon, even indirectly, is worse for Assad: even committed dictatorships don't support his expansionism any longer.

The calls from two Arab nations opposing Assad's policies amount to an amazing vote of no-confidence in the former optometrist, who may have some problems seeing the writing on the wall. His political opponents in Damascus, and perhaps even some of his followers, may have clearer political vision. If Assad can't get in front of this wave of democratization and liberalization in Southwest Asia to take ownership of it, as Mubarak obviously intends to do, then Assad's days are numbered -- and in Syria, that could well be literally.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 3, 2005 6:21 AM

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