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March 8, 2005
Syria: Withdrawal Includes Intelligence Services

Syria clarified its position on the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon this morning, assuring the international community that their withdrawal will include their espionage agents as well as military personnel:

Syria's promised troop pullout from Lebanon will include intelligence and security personnel, a Syrian official source said Tuesday.

The source gave no timetable for the second phase of the pullout announced Monday, but said: "This doesn't mean it won't be soon."

"The fact that security forces were not mentioned in the statement is merely because they move along with the armed forces. It is a given. The withdrawal is of all Syrian forces," the source told Reuters. ...

A statement after the talks did not mention Syrian security services. The United States, which has demanded that intelligence agents leave along with the troops, has dismissed the plan for failing to set a deadline for a full pullout.

That may take some doing. By some accounts, the security presence in Lebanon may comprise hundreds of thousands of outright spies, bureaucrats, functionaries, and Lebanese collaborators. Just as in other tightly-controlled societies with omnipresent state police -- think Gestapo -- the lines blur between the agency itself and all the secondary players that allow it to function with such ruthless efficiency. Pulling the official mukhabarat out of Lebanon may wind up having only a small impact on Lebanese life, at least at first. Of course, the flip side comes if the Lebanese gain control of the intelligence files, an unlikely event if the Syrians manage an orderly retreat back home. If the Lebanese saw the files, the recriminations and the revenge could destabilize the entire country.

No one, so far, has mentioned the role of Hezbollah. Given their now-overt efforts to keep Syria in Lebanon, the armed auxiliary to Syria's occupation should either be disarmed or sent off to Damascus with the rest of the occupiers. That may also prove rather tricky, as the terrorists don't show any inclination to do either. However, they've undeniably acted as agents of both the military and the mukhabarat, and the Lebanese will have to do something to neutralize the terrorists if they want to achieve true sovereignty.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 8, 2005 7:31 AM

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