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The latest demonstrations of people power in Beirut may have convinced the Syrians to keep packing. Military intelligence units around the city began dismantling outposts and packing to leave under the careful watch of Lebanese security officers, the AP reports this morning:
A day after the country's biggest opposition demonstration, Syrian military intelligence on Tuesday was vacating an office in Beirut, moving furniture into trucks protected by Lebanese police.
Police blocked the road in the Hamra district of Beirut in the morning as three trucks started loading the furniture from the office. Two agents sat at the entrance of the building amid the chairs and tables. A policeman at the scene said some Syrian agents had already left and others were on their way out.
However, Syrian agents remained at their main office for the Lebanese capital, located at Ramlet el-Baida on the edge of the city.
Despite Syria's troop withdrawal last week from northern and central Lebanon to positions in eastern Lebanon closer to their country's border, most intelligence offices, the widely resented arm through which Syria has controlled many aspects of Lebanese life, remained. But intelligence agents closed offices in two northern towns and dismantled two checkpoints in the area.
The Syrian Army had the highest profile of the occupation, but the secret police generated the most resentment among the Lebanese. The question of withdrawal always centered on whether these mukhabarat would follow the army out of Lebanon or stay behind to help prop up a pro-Syrian government, or even work with Hezbollah to foment another civil war for a pretense of extending the military occupation. It appears that Assad realizes that notion won't fly, and since the Lebanese know full well who the mukhabarat are, they won't be safe without the army to protect them.
Most of Assad's army has now pulled back to Bekaa, and the rest have gone all the way back to Syria. The latest word has the complete withdrawal completed by June, after the Lebanese elections in May, where Assad hopes to reach an accommodation with a new government. His secret police probably also hoped to determine the outcome of those elections, but the spontaneous demonstrations for freedom since the assassination of Rafik Hariri have made Assad see the writing on the wall.
The days of economic exploitation and political domination of Lebanon are over for Assad, and the loss of both -- especually the economic loss -- will threaten his own survival. He might need that army to keep his domestic enemies from seizing power, or even worse, to deal with a Syrian uproar for democracy to match that of their eastern and western neighbors.
UPDATE and BUMP, 17:00 CT: Reuters now reports that all Syrian mukhabarat offices in Beirut have been evacuated:
Syrian intelligence agents moved out of their Beirut headquarters early on Wednesday, witnesses said ... The witnesses said a bulldozer demolished two guard posts, trucks loaded with office equipment drove away and the last intelligence officers left the headquarters in the seafront Ramlet al-Baida district.
The Syrians had also removed pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his late father Hafez from around the building before driving away.
Apparently, the Syrians understand that the portraits of the Dear Leaders won't be terribly popular after the Syrian exit. And note that Nadim Ladki's poor writing makes it into this report as well.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Lebanon's Hidden Dangers from Outside The Beltway
Georgetown national security analyst Dan Byman warns of "Lebanon's Hidden Dangers" in an online exclusive for Foreign Policy magazine. Lebanon was an island of democracy in the Middle East until its civil war began in 1975. The war had many cause... [Read More]
Tracked on March 15, 2005 9:20 AM
» Syria Withdrawing from Lebanon from RightPundit
Syria has begun to move not only their troops but their intelligence agents out of Lebanon: Syrian intelligence agents moved out of their Beirut headquarters early on Wednesday, witnesses said, a step toward meeting U.S. and Lebanese opposition dema... [Read More]
Tracked on March 15, 2005 11:03 PM
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