CNN reports that the Lebanese Army has taken positions around the Syrian intelligence headquarters in Beirut, an ominous development in the Cedar Revolution:
Lebanese army troops and armored vehicles took up positions Saturday around the Syrian intelligence headquarters in Beirut.
The move comes ahead of an expected announcement from Syrian President Bashar Assad, within a few hours, that he will withdraw some troops from Lebanon and redeploy others within the country. …
Lebanon’s defense minister Abdul-Rahim Murad said he expected Assad to announce a pullback of troops to the Bekaa region in eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian border, but not a full withdrawal from the country, The Associated Press reported.
When asked whether the redeployment meant a full withdrawal, Murad answered, “No.”
This could mean one of two things. It could mean that the Lebanese Army plans on protecting Syrian intelligence assets as the Syrian Army pulls out, a scenario that appears most likely given the close nature of the Syrian and Lebanese military up to this point. It could, however, also mean that the Lebanese Army has decided to impose its own will on the Syrians to up the pressure on Bashar Assad to not only withdraw all of its army but their spies as well.
If the former is the case, the demonstrators in the streets of Beirut should redouble their peaceful efforts to remove the last vestiges of the collaborationist government and elect new leaders as soon as possible. They need to know if the Army can be trusted not to start taking orders from Syria’s Mukhabarat and attempt a military coup to put Assad back in the driver’s seat by proxy.
On the other hand, if this move by the Lebanese Army demonstrates that they intend to throw in with the Cedar Revolution, Assad and his Mukhabarat are finished, and not just in Lebanon. Getting chased out of Beirut in three weeks by a few thousand civilians and the Lebanese Army will destroy any credibility Assad has left, including domestically, leaving him vulnerable to enemies across the spectrum of Syrian and Arabian politics. There won’t be any more talk of a pullback or phased withdrawal — the Syrians will have to retreat, and retreat quickly, in order to avoid a military clash that would threaten to bring in the Americans from the east and possibly the French from the west, over the Mediterranean.
Either way, the situation has just about reached critical mass in Beirut. The rest of the weekend should provide some answers.