Thousands of protestors in Beirut have defied a ban on public demonstrations to protest against the Syrian occupation and the Damascus-backed government:
Thousands of demonstrators massed in central Beirut overnight to defy a government ban on protests on Monday ahead of a fiery debate in parliament over the assassination of the country’s former prime minister.
Opposition groups have called a demonstration at central Martyrs Square and a one-day strike to coincide with the debate on Rafik al-Hariri’s killing on Feb. 14 that for many recalled Lebanon’s bitter 1975-90 civil war.
Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh called on security forces in a statement on Sunday “to take all necessary steps to preserve security and order and prevent demonstrations and gatherings on Monday.”
The Syrians still want to hang onto the illusion of control in Beirut, but they may wind up setting off another public-relations nightmare instead. US Deputy Secretary of State David Satterfield will visit Beirut to check on the status of Syria’s withdrawal, and the Syrians and their puppet government have planned their own “spontaneous” demonstrations in an attempt to sway world opinion back against democratization.
The two demonstrations have a good chance of coming together, with potentially disastrous results. The Syrians would like nothing better than to have a situation arise where they can justify a use of force, but if they think that will convince anyone outside of their Iranian allies, then Assad truly has lost his mind.
Lebanon has slipped away from the Assad regime, and no amount of force and diversions will get it back. They can try delaying the inevitable, but the American troops in Iraq will continue to trump all of Assad’s cockeyed political ploys. Eventually the Syrians will get forced out of Lebanon if they don’t leave on their own. Assad should emulate Hosni Mubarak and take the first opportunity to pretend it’s his idea if he plans on salvaging his international position.