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March 8, 2005
Hezbollah Sponsors Counterprotests In Beirut

True to their word, pro-Syrian Hezbollah leadership staged a protest in Beirut to counter the people power demonstrations creating so much pressure for a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. In the AP report, however, no mention is given on how many people Hezbollah attracted for their paean to foreign domination:

Pro-Syrian protesters gathered in a central Beirut square Tuesday, answering a nationwide call by the militant Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group for a demonstration to counter weeks of massive rallies demanding Syrian forces leave Lebanon.

Loudspeakers blared songs of resistance and organizers handed out Lebanese flags and directed the men and women to separate sections of the square. Black-clad Hezbollah guards handled security, lining the perimeter of the square and taking position on rooftops. Trained dogs sniffed for bombs.

Large cranes hoisted two giant white and red flags bearing Lebanon's cedar tree. On one, the words "Thank you Syria" were written in English; on the other, "No to foreign interference."

The latter message refers, of course, to international demands for a full withdrawal by Bashar Assad from Lebanon. Hezbollah characterizes it as American interference, but even Egypt and Saudi Arabia want Assad to completely withdraw, as does Russia, its primary arms provider. However, that message could just as easily refer to the Syrians themselves, an irony apparently lost on the Hezbollah organizers of the event.

One could possibly excuse them for their cluelessness, as they had other issues to face, such as attendance. The AP reports unconfirmed sources that Hezbollah had to bus in Syrians in order to boost the numbers, and democracy activists reported that the terror group had pressured local government officials and public schools to send people to the demonstration. Hezbollah denies it, but the AP's silence on the attendance appears to show a small turnout for cheering dictatorship and continued Syrian oppression.

Do you suppose this might worry Hezbollah even more than before?

UPDATE: The BBC now reports that the counterprotests have drawn "tens of thousands" to Beirut to proclaim their love of Syrian rule in Lebanon. The Beeb captions a tight-frame photograph of the demonstration with this:

Many Lebanese believe they share Syria's interests

Many Lebanese probably do. Hezbollah, collaborators, bureaucrats, Islamists ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 8, 2005 6:10 AM

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