March 3, 2005
MIDDLE EAST: LEBANON'S 'PEACEFUL INTIFADA' SOARS ON 'WIND OF CHANGE'
** Optimistic observers describe the region's "great transformation" as "astounding."
** Leftist skeptics stress that "democracies cannot be established overnight."
** Critics allege a U.S. strategy to rule the region is "disguised as democracy" promotion.
** Papers praise Lebanon's "velvet revolution" and demand Syrian withdrawal.
Reformers 'must praise Bush'-- Papers cited Lebanon's "democratic uprising" as proof the "virus of democracy is spreading" in the Middle East. They saw a "clear and direct line" between U.S. "attempts to bolster democracy" and the emergence of a "true democratic revolution" that is "resounding throughout the Arab world." France's right-of-center Le Figaro credited the "democratic potential offered by the U.S. victory in Iraq," and Holland's influential NRC Handelsblad agreed that "Bush's call for freedom has had an impact." Praising Lebanon's "shining example," the West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said events there could "very well be repeated in other Arab countries." Saudi Arabia's pro-government Arab News concluded that the "Middle East is ready for change."
Avoid 'smug optimism' and 'too high expectations'-- Cautious observers warned against "pushing the triumphalism." They found it "naive and irresponsible" to believe that representative governments could arise appear where there is, as Germany's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung put it, "no foundation for a functioning democracy." Brazil's liberal Folha de S. Paulo added that the region's "current dictators" would most likely be replaced by "U.S. puppet leaders" or "chaos." An Israeli daily argued that Arab democracy would lead to "radicalization and Islamism." Several noted the danger that Lebanon's "dangerous divisions" would force it back into "factional strife and even civil war." Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times predicted that the country's "internal differences will render it ungovernable."
An 'American-Israeli agenda'-- Hardline Muslim writers assailed the "media mobilization against Syria." They perceived the current "regional upheaval" as part of a U.S. campaign to "tame and suppress" Damascus. These writers asserted that Washington is "determined to eliminate Arab regimes that do not align themselves" with the U.S.; Morocco's independent L'Economiste saw a "noose...tightening around Syria." A few praised the regional "shift towards democracy" but emphasized that it "cannot and will not be imposed" by foreigners. Lebanon's moderate Daily Star added, "we need no intervention on the front of democracy."
'An extraordinary demonstration of people power'-- Papers focusing on Lebanon hailed how the "people's will has prevailed" over PM Karami's "pro-Syrian puppet government." Given the citizenry's "fiery resolve to free Lebanon," the UAE's expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times opined that Damascus must "announce a timetable for the withdrawal of its forces." Beirut's Arab nationalist As Safir added that a Syrian attempt to remain would be a "grave mistake that would crown a series of great mistakes." Several judged that Lebanon was on track to continue a "democratic process that should come to fruition" in the May elections. Canada's conservative National Post stated that "Lebanon possesses many of the ingredients conductive to democracy."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 73 reports from 31 countries over 1 - 3 March 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.
LEBANON: "Delaying Withdrawal Will Negate The Ta’if Mechanism And Dictate UNSCR 1559"
Rosana Bou-Monsef said in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/2): "If Damascus continues to delay taking steps...the international pressure will not only intensify, but it will no longer be able to depend on the help of its friends. Furthermore, it will no longer be able to withdraw in line with the Ta’if Accord. It will have to withdraw in accordance with UNSCR 1559.... Many diplomats in Beirut believe that Damascus is trying to stall. However, the adamant international position on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon confirms that stalling is no longer permissible, particularly as Damascus is already ten steps behind what is required of her.... Syria still has time, however, to take the initiative and implement Ta’if by setting up a specific mechanism for withdrawal from Lebanon. It would be easy for Syria, if it wants, to meet the Lebanese opposition half way. The opposition has extended its hand.”
"Leave Democracy To Us But Help Bring On The Peace."
The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (3/2): "After decades of drought, it seems it is raining democracy in the Middle East. There are clear signs of change around the region. However, joy and optimism alone can not sustain us. In order to achieve our dreams, we must achieve peace since it is the cornerstone of any true democracy. At this current high point, democrats across the region are looking to the US to deliver on its promise of peace. We need no intervention on the front of democracy, however, what we do need are the right conditions in which democracy can flourish and this is something the US can help us forge."
"Resistance And Elections"
Joseph Samaha noted in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/2): "The great transformation the region is witnessing is really astounding.... The U.S. demands of Syria are well known: They want it to dismantle its relationship with Iran, cooperate with the occupation in Iraq, not to reject any Israeli project with the Palestinians, withdraw from Lebanon immediately and leave Hizballah to face the destiny the Lebanese opposition wants...But it is noted that the U.S...does not feel that it has to move its democratic revolution to Damascus.... We can confirm today that Damascus committed two mistakes: It did not take into consideration the changes after September 11.... It continued to behave as if it could continue to play the same regional role by harboring Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese resistance.... Damascus continues under the illusion that the American and Israeli occupations of Iraq and Palestine are a crisis...and that both might need Damascus.... While Damascus placed its bet on resistance, Washington and Israel placed their bets on elections.... The second bet is definitely more successful.... Damascus also thought that it can separate the Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese files from one another.... It continued to think that the U.S. is interested in reaching stability through bargains.... As for Lebanon, the ongoing developments are nothing but the accumulation of grave mistakes that were committed over the years...and which are helping the U.S. to change Lebanese independence into a pressure tool against Syria."
"Karami Presented A Victory For The Opposition And Crisis For Authorities"
Nicolas Nassif observed in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/1): "There will be no third time. Like the first time, the street ousted Karami.... The revolution of tires burned his government on May 6, 1992...and, he was burnt by the intifada of independence that was led by the opposition on 28 February 2005. Both times Rafik Hariri, alive or dead, ousted him. Karami surprised everyone by his resignation but two--The President and Syria.... There are two results for Karami’s resignation: A victory for the opposition and a problem of the Lebanese Authorities.... He also created a new problem for Damascus at a time when it is being subjected to great pressures inside and outside Lebanon: The problem is as follows: What kind of government can Damascus get to manage the 2005 elections and help in bringing a parliamentary majority that would help Damascus maintain its control over Lebanon and stop implementation of UNSCR 1559? There are also other problems, such as the problem of agreeing on a Sunni personality that is respected and trusted to become the new Lebanese Prime Minister.... Damascus can no longer ignore the opposition when forming a government. Karami’s resignation will obligate the Lebanese authorities to acknowledge the opposition as its partner, particularly following its success in controlling the Lebanese street. And this is not all. A government which is not totally loyal to Damascus will deprive Damascus of a completely loyal parliament.”
"The Responsibility Of The Opposition After Ousting The Government"
Bechara Charbel commented in independent Al-Balad (3/1): "The opposition won yesterday, yes, but, their victory opens the door to new concerns.... This is the victory which does not allow for much happiness.... History will say that February 28 was the most dangerous day in the history of the Republic of Lebanon.... There is no doubt that those who shared in it were making history, because they were trying to change the political formula that had prevailed since 1990.... However, the opposition should not forget that we are living in the Middle East, which is full of violence. We are living in an area where there is no education of peace. The national unity that emerged following Hariri’s assassination needs a lot of serious work.... The opposition should keep its demands under a reasonable ceiling which is the common interests among all Lebanese. It should continue to use the Ta’if Accord, in text and in spirit, as an umbrella. It should cross out from its rhetoric any racist slogans against the Syrians. What we need is a neutral government.”
"The Last Stop"
Sateh Noureddine argued in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/1): "Syria continues to resist the international resolution asking it to withdraw from Lebanon. It is trying to search for an opportunity to stay in Lebanon.... The resolution is final...but it seems that the Syrian decision to resist (this resolution) is also final.... A Syrian decision to stay in Lebanon is a grave mistake that would crown a series of great mistakes that were committed by the Syrians during the last years. The last of these mistakes was extension of President Lahoud’s term in office.... Lahoud is no longer a symbol of Syria’s power in Lebanon. He has become its weak point.... If Washington and Paris feel that Lebanon has really changed into a fortress to defend Damascus...then they will have no qualms about confronting Damascus in Beirut.... So far, however, the international community is careful to give Damascus the chance to leave Lebanon calmly and peacefully...without asking Damascus to pay for the grave mistakes it committed in Lebanon. Damascus, on the other hand is sticking to the theory that the Europeans and the Americans are facing a crisis in Iraq and Palestine and they will eventually need her. Damascus believes that this is enough to assume that it can stay in Lebanon. Instead of complying with the will of the international community.... Damascus is insisting on changing Lebanon into a life or death issue, and is refusing to present even little concessions. Syria wants to negotiate with the international community on withdrawing from Lebanon, instead of negotiating with it following its withdrawal. This is a very bad interpretation of the position taken by the international community. Syria might pay a high price for its position.”
"Lebanon's Youth Electrifies Hope For A New Beginning"
The moderate English-language Daily Star opined (3/1): "Electricity is in the air. Beirut is a sea of excitement, and activity and turmoil. The word 'revolution' is on many lips. It began on Sunday night with thousands of people, mainly young people, heading to downtown Beirut to begin a vigil leading up to Monday's mass demonstration that was due to begin at 10 a.m. but yet was officially banned by the government. As the light of dawn illuminated Martyrs' Square and the surrounding precinct, an ocean of red and green flags could be seen ebbing and flowing and swelling. It was a momentous event, and it led to the resignation of the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami. What contributed to the historical nature of yesterday's events was the fact the protesters demonstrated exemplary behavior. Thankfully reciprocating, the army also demonstrated exemplary behavior - a wise policy that undoubtedly preserved national stability and gave the Lebanese youth who were risking so much a taste of political responsibility. It was a commitment and enthusiasm that should be recognized and respected by the opposition, by Hizbullah, by President Emile Lahoud, and by Damascus. There is no evil in these young people - only gross, criminal mismanagement of the 'security' situation could blacken what has otherwise been a day of hope for a new beginning. For the promise of this new beginning to be fulfilled, Hizbullah must join the opposition - the presence of this major Lebanese sociopolitical force in a transitional government is vital for the continuing development of the democratic process that should come to fruition with the elections scheduled for May. And Syria should consider what is happening in a sober manner and not thwart the ideals demonstrated by Lebanon's youth: It is, indeed, the time for change."
ISRAEL: "Refreshing Scenes In Beirut"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz stated (3/2): "The fall of the Lebanese government in the wake of mass protest demonstrations against the ongoing Syrian occupation was a refreshing surprise. Israel cannot be indifferent to the developments in the region, which could have an enormous influence on its national security. The developments over the northern border oblige Jerusalem to reconsider its policy of many years that silently agrees to Syrian control of Lebanon.... Bashar Assad's regime suffers from internal weakness and external isolation in terms of both the U.S. and Europe. Israel need not rescue it in its difficult hour. But Israel must make clear that its refusal to speak with an isolated, collapsing government that has allied itself with the elements most hostile to Israel--Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian rejectionist front--is not just an excuse to freeze the peace process and annex territories. The Golan Heights remain a 'deposit' for a future peace agreement, in which the final border between Israel and Syria will be determined and the two states will have normal relations. That would be Israel's contribution to the new order in the north."
"Let Us Be Wary Of Our Hopes"
Yaron London wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/3): "The transformations in Lebanon are giving Israelis rare hours of satisfaction.... [It looks as if] through the mediation of the global broadcasting networks, the democratic zeal in Lebanon already influences other Arab societies, and as if it is already possible to witness President Mubarak somewhat loosening the grip of his dictatorship--and some Syrian intellectuals encouraging their president to leave Lebanon. Israelis often recall that democratic states have never fought against each other. Thus, we conclude that democratization of the Arab world will create a New Middle East at peace with Israel. One had better cast doubts about all those assumptions. The power of Syria's fans in Lebanon has not yet become clear; neither has it become obvious whether the cohesion of the [Lebanese] opposition is a stable political phenomenon. Had Israel been in control of the agenda, it should have demanded that the Shi'ite militia [Hizbullah] be disarmed even before the Syrians complete their withdrawal. But the Americans are pressed for time. Let us conclude by saying that the developments in Lebanon conceal threats that are larger than the hopes."
"A Cautious Glance At The Independence Extravaganza In Lebanon"
Dov Kontorer observed in conservative Russian-language Vesty (3/3): "The latest events in Lebanon are a unique example of mass political protest of the citizens in the Arab world.... The mass demonstrations by the Lebanese opposition make Lebanon one of the most interesting arenas of current world politics...and are actually primarily connected to Bashar Assad's constraints and inability to use military power without the danger of a [subsequent] smashing American attack.... Bashar Assad is...passively observing the Lebanese developments, which are very unfavorable for Syria, and doesn't find a possibility of interfering.... If something endangers the Lebanese protest movement, it is not Syrian intervention, but the danger of an internal split and a...military confrontation among the different religious communities.... The possibility of the escalation of those internal contradictions will be unavoidably increase towards the Parliamentary elections scheduled for the second part of May 2005. Israel is staying away from the events in Lebanon for several reasons: first of all, [Israel's] public activity would be counterproductive; secondly, because of a natural fear that the democratic processes in the Arab countries would go in the direction of radicalization and Islamism.... At the same time involving Israel in the Lebanese events is actually one of the Syrian interests."
Gad Shimron opined in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/1): "A large poster of U.S. President George Bush was conspicuously absent in the sea of thousands of Lebanese flags that were raised in the central Beirut square. There is a clear and direct line that links between the resignation of Omar Karameh's pro-Syrian government and Bush's aggressive policy, which has set the establishment of democracy in the Middle East as one of its declared objectives.... In Beirut, on Monday, for the first time in the history of the Arab nation, a government resigned because of a mass demonstration. So anyone who wants to can keep right on mocking Bush and his abilities to lead the free world. But the wave that was created in April 2003 with the crash of the statue of Saddam Hussein in one of Baghdad's central squares is now arriving, with tsunami force. Ask Omar Karameh, Bashar Assad, Hosni Mubarak and others."
"Syria Is Losing Control"
Zvi Bar'el wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/1): "It turned out Monday that Syria can no longer avert the political collapse in Lebanon, and that there was no other choice but to make sacrifices. It is possible that the Karameh resignation last night is only the first in a series of steps Syria will take to satisfy tumultuous Lebanese public opinion--and to preserve what remains of its stature in Lebanon.... Assad is now in a new and dangerous situation, as far as Syria is concerned. He's been stripped of his exclusive control over Lebanese politics, and the government whose prime minister he appointed has resigned, leaving him with the somewhat nonsensical statement, 'the resignation of the Lebanese government is a domestic Lebanese issue'.... These are the twilight days of the Syrian political control over Lebanon. The next question will be whether the Syrian establishment will seek to punish the young president for losing Lebanon."
"The Tidings From Beirut"
Ofer Shelach contended in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/1): "Current events in Lebanon are the product of the 'zeitgeist': Al-Jazeera, for example, is thought of by the West as an Arab propaganda agent of sorts; but it brings into the Arabs' homes images that raise spirits in a way that dictatorial regimes are hard put to cope with. It is not clear yet how the crisis in Lebanon will be resolved. Whoever dares venture a prediction as to what will happen to the Syrians, Hizbullah and the Israeli interests does so at his own risk, and most of the people prophesizing have met in the past with stinging failure in their previous forecasts of these very same things. For the time being, we can only gaze on in marvel, perhaps even impressed, at a public that is prepared to act -- even at the price of facing a risk to life. Who would have believed that the road to the liberation of Lebanon would not be paved by international diplomacy but by masses of people who simply are fed up?"
Guy Bechor held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/1): "At first glance, this seems to be a 'velvet revolution,' similar to the earthquake that shook eastern Europe in 1989, with the people bringing down a tyrannical government. Indeed, there can be no doubt that the events currently under way in Lebanon are an earthquake in the Arab world. Mass demonstrations of this sort might yet topple the totalitarian regimes in other Arab countries--and that has elicited almost panicked reactions from Mubarak, Assad and their ilk.... But one needs to bear in mind that the pro-Syrian regime in Lebanon is still intact, and another pro-Syrian government is likely to be formed to replace the one that fell. As such, the turn of events is strongly redolent of a Syrian ploy, yet another Syrian ploy, in hope that the fall of the government in Beirut will appease the masses in the streets and quell the 'independence Intifada' that they declared.... Now that events are in full play and dictators are being hunted, one must not succumb to the temptation to believe in Middle Eastern style ploys of deception. The pressure on Syria and Iran needs to be maintained at full force. In what is an interesting and historic set of circumstances, for the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel, both Israel and the Lebanese street, which longs for a change, are party in a genuine but undeclared partnership. Time will tell whether this partnership will evolve in the future into an openly declared partnership."
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/1): "It is only Tuesday, but it is already a fabulous week for democracy. Yesterday, people power ousted the pro-Syrian puppet government in Beirut. Today, world leaders gather in London to discuss an agenda for Palestinian democratic reforms.... It was also not long ago that anyone predicting that the Lebanese people would oust their Syrian oppressors was a hopeless dreamer. The lesson here is that Palestinians and Lebanese, like Iraqis and Afghans, are not exempt from the human desire for freedom. It means that it is right to press Abbas to bring freedom of the press, assembly, and rule of law to his people, and that these rights will be the ultimate guarantor of any future peace with Israel."
WEST BANK: "Internal Reform Is American Too"
Fuad Abu Hijla noted in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/3): “The Lebanese experience proves that we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of the world. What is going on in Lebanon may very well be repeated in other Arab countries under different banners and slogans but certainly under the same motivation, namely, the people’s desire to live in freedom.... However, what is happening and is expected to happen in the region during this dark period will be an American harvest of fruits that have ripened off of the blood and tears of the oppressed Arab people.”
EGYPT: "Enthusiastic About Election"
Leading pro-government Al-Ahram stated (3/3): "Some people are quite enthusiastic about election plans and highlight that Egyptians will cast their votes at least twice in 2005. They urge the election of a strong and effective parliament. There should be careful study of all aspects of President Mubarak's call for amending the constitution instead of merely praising and hailing it. We urge legislators, political parties, and the people to participate positively and effectively in the amendment of the constitution and the election of the president...which turns a new page in Egyptian history."
"Amending The Constitution"
Pro-government small-circulation Al-Gomhuriya remarked (3/3): "Some opposition parties are facing a predicament due to the proposed constitutional amendment because they cannot field popular candidates in the presidential elections, and predict that the people would not vote for Nasserites or individuals sponsored by the United States.... President Mubarak's call for amending the constitution to allow for the direct election of the president as a crucial step on the path of political reform.... The election of the president should be done in a democratic and civilized way and candidates should be selected in accordance with certain criteria.... It is a historic step that it should be followed by other political reforms."
"The Proposed Constitutional Amendment"
Cairo-based independent Nahdat Misr opined (3/3): "More than 90 percent of the Egyptian people welcome this amendment and 80 percent of them intend to vote in the next presidential election..... Egyptian human rights organizations have decided to form a committee to monitor forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.... [There are useful] reports that sound out the views of journalists, political experts, and opposition figures on the proposed constitutional amendment, electoral reform and the possibility of finding candidates who can compete with President Mubarak."
"The Beginning Of The Road"
Salamah Ahmad Salamah remarked in leading pro-government Al-Ahram (3/2): "President Mubarak's decision to request a constitutional amendment to allow for the election of the president of the Republic through direct voting and among more than one candidate proves that any political reform must proceed from a political will that is aware and that knows what the circumstances surrounding it require, without finding pointless excuses.... The Constitution was turned into a sacred cow, and the mills of argument continued to turn for many years without any consensus forming between ruler and ruled with regard to the Constitution. The dialogue of the parties that was being held almost closed its doors without reaching a categorical decision on a number of the important points with respect to amending the Constitution. It became almost an established fact in the minds of the people that the special article related to the election of the president would not be touched before his fifth term was renewed. But it seems that President Mubarak's keen sense and feel for the pulse on the street before the demands of the parties is what expedited this decision.... It may also lead us to take a bolder step and elect a governor, rather than appoint one, and hold real local elections. Democracy can be revived on all levels in universities, unions, and institutions. It can then restore for the rising generations the hope that they have virtually lost in the future and give them their right to self-determination, rather than wait for things to be imposed on them by generations that have grown old and decrepit."
SAUDI ARABIA: "So That Hariri Is Not Killed Twice"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz editorialized (3/2): "It would be more devastating, and the anger would be even more severe, if the assassination of Hariri became an assassination of all that he stood for, and the peace that he achieved in his life. Hariri’s legacy will remain alive as long as peace is alive. If the chance for peace was killed, this means Hariri, his legacy, and everything he represented would die too. The opposition must follow the footsteps of Hariri so that Hariri is not killed twice."
"Wind Of Change"
The pro-government English-languae Arab News held (3/2): "People power has come to Lebanon.... The events on the streets of Beirut are comparable to the recent 'orange' revolution in Ukraine and earlier 'velvet' revolutions in Georgia and in Eastern Europe. They are not over yet, but are going to go down in the country’s history as a turning point as seminal as the civil war. Either they will spell the end of the old order of confessional-based politics or they may be the prelude to a new era of violence and chaos.... The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has created a revolutionary mood in the country that transcends the traditional confessional divides.... Events are not going to stop with Karami’s resignation. The protesters also want the resignations of President Emile Lahoud and the heads of the country’s intelligence services. Most of all, they want the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country.... Damascus...will resist a complete pullout.... To withdraw now would be seen as a humiliating cave-in to that pressure.... What is necessary now is that the rest of the world give the Lebanese the space to make up their own minds.... The only role the outside world has is in preventing a recurrence of violence, and the best way to do that is by keeping out.... Winds of change are blowing though the region: Elections in Iraq, a successful rebellion against the old establishment in the Palestinian Parliament, constitutional changes on the cards in Egypt and now people power in Lebanon. Until a few weeks ago, change was seen as driven from outside, by the Americans. Those who still think that are clearly wrong. The Americans may have done some of the initial driving but it is now being driven from within. The Middle East is ready for change."
IRAQ: "The Turning Point Of Democracy"
Legal scholar Tariq al-Ibrisam stated in Baghdad-based Sawt al-Ahali (3/1): "In modern Iraq, the call for national independence was associated with the call for the establishment of a constitutional democratic system. When we read the history of the independence movement, which was first preoccupied with ending the Turkish occupation, and later with liberating the country from the British occupation and removing the traces of colonization, we will find that the call for independence was directly associated with the call for modernizing the political system through the establishment of a constitutional and institutional system. No one called for postponing the democratic plan until after ending the occupation.... In fact, the United States developed its political system during resistance against the British colonization and the American independence wars. The anti-democracy forces in Iraq, supported by the international terrorist forces, are trying to spread this concept in society through relying on the existence of the public conviction of rejecting the occupation, in an attempt to destroy the political system that is being established in Iraq. Some people use the occupation as a pretext to adopt an anti-democracy position. However, delaying the establishment of a democratic system means further reliance on the occupation forces and prolongs the presence of these forces. There are also continuing attempts to use the diversity of the religious, sectarian, and ethnic groups in Iraq to fan the flames of internal conflicts for the purpose of destroying the social fabric and paving the way for partitioning Iraq. In contrast, the continuation of the democratic process, which is fundamentally based on recognizing those who hold opposing views, is the unifying factor that uses this diversity in favor of enriching the political process and providing it with the elements of strength. This is not a mere assumption, especially since the historical experiences of democracies had proved the possibility of coexistence among various ethnic groups and cultures to build societies that flourished and developed by using democratic systems."
JORDAN: "The People Speak"
The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (3/1): "In scenes reminiscent of bygone eras in Berlin and Bucharest, tens of thousands of Lebanese thronged the streets of Beirut in defiance of a ban on popular protests and in a display of massive popular will and mourning in the wake of the assassination of Rafik Hariri. The message was clear and the government led by Omar Karameh did not fail to heed it.... And so the first major peaceful blow for the future of Lebanon has been landed and the people's will has prevailed without a shot fired in anger. For it to stay so will depend on statesmanship in Syria, a continued insistence on the part of protesters to keep demonstrations non-violent and political maturity in Lebanon. The region is holding its breath. Democracy, as has been shown so clearly in Iraq, cannot and will not be imposed. Undoubtedly, neoconservatives in Washington will be falling over themselves to claim credit for developments in Lebanon, but no one should be fooled. It may take time, but ultimately everyone everywhere wants and will eventually demand responsible and accountable leadership that does not rule in contradiction to the will of the people. They will do so without prompting from foreign military powers. Indeed, in this region they will do so in spite of them. The Palestinians have demonstrated as much in Palestine in rejecting, peacefully and violently, the Israeli occupation, while at the same time holding elections to decide on its own leadership. That theirs is a continuing struggle only underlines the fact that the harder you are pushed, the harder and longer you are prepared to push back.... Elsewhere in the region, people are taking notice. Saudi Arabia held its first local elections; Egypt will soon hold its first contested presidential election. People must ask for their rights, and they must do so aware of what those rights are and unprompted by others with their own agendas. Enlightened leaders will know how to respond when the question is posed."
KUWAIT: "'Days Of Baghdad' Dawn In Damascus"
Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Jarallah maintained in in the English-language independent usually pro-American Arab Times (3/1): "What happened in Beirut yesterday will happen in several other Arab capitals in the future.... All political indications in Lebanon alert us to the sound of thunder and we see people boiling, especially because the assassination of Rafik Al-Hariri derailed Lebanon's development.... We expected the opposition in Lebanon to lead the show and the Lebanese to revolt against their government. The Lebanese regime has been caught between the decisions of Damascus and demands of its people, who want Syria to leave their soil taking the puppet regime along with it.... The people of Lebanon have made their demands clear. They want Syrians to leave their country along with its followers. The democratic uprising in Lebanon has the backing of the international community, which always supports freedom and human rights. The entire world has launched a war against terrorism and those who harbour sleeper cells. The outdated policies of Syria will neither work nor make that country eligible to sit on the negotiation table with Israel. Syria can't continue with its old policies because the whole scenario has changed. Political reforms, democracy, respect for human rights, and withdrawal from Lebanon will be the aces which will help Syria to participate in negotiations.... Syria...is under international isolation and its presence in Lebanon is despised by the Lebanese."
MOROCCO: "The Greater Middle East"
Abdelmouneim Dilami concluded in independent French-language L'Economiste (3/2): "The noose is tightening around Syria: the U.S. has (Syria) in its sights and no matter what happens in the area, Damascus will be blamed. In this affair, there are several elements. First...the United States is determined to eliminate Arab regimes that do not align themselves, in the strictest sense of the term, with a clear will to reform the Greater Middle East.... The second element is that the Syrian Baath party has always been Israel’s enemy and Israel believes there can be no peace in the region until Syria steps back in line. Finally...the Syrian regime is anachronistic and has proven itself incapable of finding a new path in the midst of regional upheaval. We will never know if Syria was actually involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, but the presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon is unjustifiable in the current context.”
QATAR: "Cedars Revolution’ Puts Syria’s Claim To The Test"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times declared (3/3): "The Lebanese opposition has succeeded in its bid to bring down the government headed by Omar Karami, who is seen as pro-Syrian.... Never before have the Lebanese people been so united.... The best outcome would be for a neutral caretaker government to take over and oversee the scheduled elections.... The Syrians, facing severe pressure from the international community and the US in particular, as well as from the protesters, have already announced that they are expecting to withdraw their troops from Lebanon.... Whether Lebanon’s internal differences will render it ungovernable again, plunging it into civil war, remains to be seen. Driving the Syrians from Lebanese soil may be a demand of many Lebanese but it is also in line with the American-Israeli agenda for the ‘new’ Middle East. In part, Syria is being punished for its longstanding hostility to Israel and for its perceived support for the insurgency in Iraq. It is debatable whether it was Hariri’s assassination, the UN resolution on Syrian withdrawal or US anger over the supposed cross-border infiltration into Iraq that set the current chain of events in motion. It is now up to the Lebanese to put their affairs in order.... One disturbing aspect of the ‘Cedars Revolution’ is that, unlike other recent ‘people power’ revolutions, in Serbia, Georgia or Ukraine, there is no generally accepted charismatic leader with the authority to take control of the situation. The absence of a single figurehead could easily allow dangerous divisions to emerge."
SYRIA: "Systematic Targeting"
Ahmad Hamada noted in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/2): "Planners of a media war launching anti-campaigns against our region, are no longer ashamed of the methods and tools used to tame and suppress our people. In order to pass their strategies that are disguised as democracy and human rights and wrapped by the most beautiful expressions of freedom, liberty and independence, they are not hesitant to script any scenario.... If one look deeply into the media mobilization against Syria after the Hariri assassination, one will notice that the scenario is going on track and that Syria is the accused, and according to Israeli press, that even if Syria is not the perpetrator, it would still have to pay the price. In order to finish up the episodes of this series, a follow up campaign was launched to accuse Syria of supporting the ‘so called’ terrorism in occupied Palestine and Iraq. Mufaz accused Syria of the Tel Aviv bombing. The propaganda machine started fabricating video clips that hint to a Syrian role of what is going on in Iraq."
"Syrian Children In Lebanon"
Yasin Rifa’iya held in government-owned Tishreen (3/2): "Many Syrian workers were attacked and insulted after the Hariri assassination, although they were underpaid, and deprived of social security, health coverage and any other compensation. What is more unfortunate is to find out that there are hundreds if not thousands of Syrian children under 12 years old working in Lebanon and being paid nothing. They work from 7 till 11 and under very hard conditions and, if lucky, they received minimal tips. As a Syrian living in Lebanon, I am very saddened by seeing citizens of my country whether children or adults, who came to this country just to have bread on their table, being treated so unjustly. One example of how badly these poor laborers were treated, fifteen of them had to share one room and were humiliated and beaten. Construction companies, gasoline stations, vegetable markets, and even small grocers were immensely affected because they were completely dependant on these boys and men to run their operation. A Lebanese journalist told me: ‘work is almost nonexistent since the Syrian labor went home. We are badly in need of them in many fields and I hope that the sky would clear and things would go back to normal.'”
UAE: "'People Power' Rules In Lebanon"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News maintained (3/2): "Syria shows signs of being wrong-footed over the recent developments.... In an extraordinary demonstration of 'people power' Lebanon's government quit on Monday. It was an historic first for the region.... Calls for Syria to leave Lebanon have become strident.... Those same demonstrators who succeeded in gaining the resignation of Lebanon's government have decided to stay on until the 15,000 Syrian troops leave Lebanese soil. For the moment, Syria is showing every sign of incomprehension and wrong-footedness. Its 30-year occupation of its neighbour...is no longer desired by...Lebanese.... However, the only purpose it now serves is to cause more unrest and calls for its departure. The Syrians never were welcome occupiers.... The shifts towards democracy in the region are becoming more noticeable, leaving Syria and Egypt and its one-party state out on a limb. Lebanon now has the opportunity to hold full-scale democratic elections involving all interested parties without Syrian backing."
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times held (3/2): "Rarely does the world see a true revolution in action. It saw one on Monday when people’s power brought down the government of Prime Minister Omar Karami.... Tens of thousands of demonstrators...spent the night on the icy streets of Beirut underscoring their fiery resolve to free Lebanon and have their country to themselves.... They ushered in one of the most peaceful revolutions in recent history.... What is being aptly described as the Cedar Revolution...has sent out a strong message to the world in general and Syria in particular that people of Lebanon are determined and ready to take reins of their destiny in their own hands. Now that it has managed to bring down the Damascus-backed government of Karami, the people’s movement, conscious of its power, is looking to drive the Syrian forces out of Lebanon.... Things can get out of control any moment particularly when there is no government in Lebanon. Consequences are too frightening to imagine. Damascus must...announce a timetable for the withdrawal of its forces sooner than later. It is in its own interest and in the interest of peace and stability in the region.... The political vacuum created by the exit of the Karami government is dangerous, to say the least. The first priority should be to fill the void by having an interim national government in place at the earliest.... In all likelihood, the May vote could see a truly independent and representative government reflecting the aspirations of Lebanese people in place. Lebanon is set for a better tomorrow. Only the people shouldn’t give up."
BRITAIN: "Syria Must Heed The Voice Of The Lebanese People"
The left-of-center Independent declared (3/2): "What the country now needs--and what the outside world should help it to achieve--is a stable, peaceful progression to self-determination and full democracy. For so long the victim of outside meddling, it no more needs the West now using it to further its Middle East aims than the Syrians continuing to control it from next door. Parliamentary elections were in any case planned for May of this year. These need to be made free and open. That, plus an independent investigation into the circumstances of Hariri's assassination, are the first steps. The others are elections for the presidency and a firm date for the withdrawal of Syrian troops. It won't be easy but, after half a century of civil war, invasion and violence, Lebanon has a right to a better future."
"Winds Of Change"
The conservative Times argued (3/2): "What brought thousands out on to the streets was the example of Iraq. Many Lebanese realised that all the denunciations of US attempts to bolster democracy were as self-serving as they were wrong. Iraqis understood the value of democracy; many of them seized the chance when it came. And it is not only Iraqis who have heard the message. President Bush mad thinly veiled criticisms of two key American regional allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in his State of the Union address; within weeks, the Saudis had held the first free municipal elections in their history and President Mubarak announced that this year's presidential election would be by popular ballot."
"Every Day Syria Stays In Lebanon Is A Day Too Many"
The conservative Daily Telegraph commented (3/2): "The lesson of Monday's demonstrations that toppled the pro-Syrian government is that the limits of cynicism have been reached.... For the first time in the country's history, the wider political climate in the region means that vox populi is vox Dei--or at least vox Washingtonia, which in current circumstances if nearly the same thing.... If anywhere is ripe for true democracy in the Middle East it is Lebanon.... It is Syria's presence that is the greatest threat to peace and security. From now on, every day that it remains in Lebanon is a day too long."
"Time Up For Syria"
An editorial in the independent Financial Times read (3/2): "Yesterday's joint statement of support for Lebanese freedom by Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, and Michael Barnier, French foreign minister, is...not only welcome but essential. The government of Bashar al-Assad must now comply with UNSC resolution 1559.... Damascus must withdraw not only its remaining troops but also the intelligence apparatus that gives it its iron grip on the country."
"Lebanon Needs An End To All Foreign Interference"
Adrian Hamilton maintained in the left-of-center Independent (3/3): "Whether this can be marked down as another victory in the great Bush-led march to Middle East democracy is doubtful. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was never going to miss this opportunity to put the boot in, although her characterisation of Syria as a country 'standing in the way of Lebanese, Iraqis, Palestinians and others in their aspirations for a better world' was pushing the triumphalism a bit. If the Lebanese were demonstrating against foreign occupation, the obvious parallel was just over the border in Iraq."
"Cedar Revolution: Can The French And The Anglo-Saxons Walk The Road To Damascus Together?"
Timothy Garton-Ash wondered in the left-of-center Guardian (3/3): "Triangulate the lessons of Baghdad, Bush in Brussels last week and the events in Beirut: what you get is an imperative for Europe to come up with its own proposals for enlarging liberty in the Middle East. It's not enough to say Iraq was the wrong way; we must go on to suggest the right one.... The necessary, though not sufficient, condition for any European foreign policy is that Britain and France...should agree. Lebanon and Palestine are good places to start thrashing out what should, in time, become a larger historical compromise between London and Paris."
FRANCE: "The Cedar Revolution Versus ‘Pax Syriana’"
Jacques Hubert-Rodier maintained in right-of-center Les Echos (3/2): “Syria is today in the eyes of the Lebanese opposition, of Washington and Paris, the main suspect behind Hariri’s death.... The first error of appreciation which el-Assad made was about the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the presence of the coalition troops at Syria’s door. Washington never denied that Syria was in its line of fire. And the opposition movement in Beirut may well become the symbol of Washington’s final objective of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Elections have taken place in Iraq and in Palestine.... Egypt is also on the move.... Another negative sign for Damascus is the alliance between Presidents Bush and Chirac against Damascus, in spite of their opposition on Iraq, and even if their motivations are not identical.... February 28, 2005 will be remembered as the first time an Arab regime has been toppled by the power of the street.”
Alexandre Adler noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/2): “The victory by the Lebanese opposition opens the door to resolving the crisis with Syria’s regime. Unknowingly, the U.S. and Iran find themselves on the same side.... The Lebanese revolution is the result of a chain reaction of events, which include the success of the elections in Afghanistan, due mostly to a convergence between U.S. and Iranian policies, to Iraq’s Shiites and Kurds making use of the democratic potential offered by the U.S. victory in Iraq...and to events in Palestine.... The double influence of the U.S. military threat and Iran’s pressure has led to a turnaround in Damascus and Syria abandoning the Lebanese regime.”
"El-Assad On The Defensive"
Sibylle Rizk wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/3): “One thing is certain: Damascus is today facing a conjunction of pressures without precedent. Before Hariri’s assassination, Syria was trying to play France and the U.S. against each other, because each had different priorities. For France, Lebanon was the main goal, while for Washington the point was to control Syria’s involvement in Iraq. Now France and the U.S. are more in tune. The ‘Cedar revolution’ comes just in time to illustrate the White House plans for the Greater Middle East.”
"A Wind Of Freedom"
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (3/1): “There is a temptation to see Lebanon’s peaceful Intifada as the domino effect of the 'democratic contagion’ which is transforming the Middle East.... Is this wind of freedom truly the result of the shockwave initiated by the U.S. intervention in Iraq, as President Bush says? U.S. determination...is encouraging national opponents to dictatorships everywhere.... Dictators are more hesitant to turn to repression.... The Europeans will not oppose the Americans wherever democratic movements arise. The French and the Americans are working hand in hand in Lebanon for Syria’s withdrawal.”
"Lebanon’s Velvet Revolution"
Renaud Girard asserted in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/1): “In Lebanese history yesterday will be remembered as a milestone of Lebanon’s velvet revolution. Freed from fear, the people in the streets as well as the politicians dared to openly oppose Lebanon’s hounded pro-Syrian government.”
GERMANY: "Arab Democracy"
Tomas Avenarius noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/2): "Americans are optimists. Wherever a non-democratic regime wavers in the world, they believe that freedom and democracy are around the corner, for instance in Lebanon.... Even greater optimists believe in an end of the regime in Damascus; the fall of a regime that violates the freedom of speech and the right of assembly, puts dissidents behind bars and oppresses the country.... This sounds great. This dramatic development in Beirut--which the U.S. media dubbed Cedar Revolution--is similar to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Tbilisi. If you believe in the domino theory, the advance of freedom cannot be halted in the Middle East.... But hold your horses. The societies in the Middle East are known for their steadfastness. Their rulers are not inhibited to reverse reforms they launched themselves.... Only naïve or irresponsible people can believe that Arab communities could adopt the western model of democracy overnight. If there were elections in the countries of that region today, Islamists would be voted into office almost everywhere. The Arab society is underdeveloped, conservative, ruled by clans, and is ethnically disrupted. There is simply no foundation for a functioning democracy. Religious and secular aspects are not separated, women are not equal, many people are poorly educated, and there is no civil society. All this must change. However, it will not happen in months, but maybe in years.... Given that Americans are optimists, we might skeptically add that two tenures will barely suffice for George W. Bush to democratize the Middle East, but it might be enough time to set it on fire with his democratic euphoria."
"Wind Of Change"
Dietrich Alexander observed in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/2): "The wind of change is blowing through the broader Middle East; the Lebanese government is its latest victim. Critics of U.S. President Bush, who accused him of being naïve and mistaken, when he announced his plan for a 'Greater Middle East' in 2003 and spoke of a desire to democratize the region, have become silent. It was a vision, and like many visions it sounded like wishful thinking and unreal. Bush might have instinctively felt that he raised silent hopes among Arab peoples and predicted a development with a still unclear end. Since Bush sketched his vision, there were free elections in Iraq and Palestinian territories as well as municipal elections in Saudi Arabia. Egyptian autocrat Mubarak called for a constitutional reform allowing a presidential election with several candidates. Libya's Qadhafi has seen the light and tens of thousands of bold Lebanese of all walks of life have commonly ousted a corrupt regime that was loyal to a foreign power. The wind of change is blowing through a whole region."
Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf editorialized (3/2): "Although the U.S. celebrates Karami's fall as a confirmation of the necessity promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East, it is at best a partial victory for the Lebanese opposition. It is not yet clear whether the country will embark on a process of renewal, whether Hezbollah will renounce violence against Israel, and whether a government independent from Syria can seize power. All this would be the condition for Lebanon's stabilization. However, the first move was made and Washington should not hesitate to promote the development as best as it can. At the same time, it must target a particular 'rogue state,' because the next move for Lebanon's sovereignty must come from Syria. As long as Syria does not withdraw its troops and intelligence, the opposition will struggle to successfully end the 'Cedar Revolution'.... The development in Lebanon raises hopes. The elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, Egyptian President Mubarak's willingness to allow more candidates to run in the next presidential elections, as well as a greater divergence of opinion in the Middle East make a mosaic: The Middle East is not resistant to reforms."
"The Power Of Freedom"
Christoph von Marschall noted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/3): "The countries in the Arab world are very diverse, unlike the countries in eastern Europe. Lebanon is almost like the West. Egypt and Syria are something similar to multiparty systems, which hark back to the block systems in former Eastern Europe. Women are allowed to cast their ballots there, but this is an exception in the Gulf monarchies. There has not been a revolution of thoughts and ideas in Islam that is similar to the Enlightenment in Europe, where relations between religion, state and society were modernized. However, these are not obstacles that cannot be overcome, but arguments against too high expectations. The Arab world will not become a democracy in three or five years."
"Heat On Assad"
Center-right Thueringer Allgemeine of Erfurt stated (3/3): "The heat is on Syrian President Assad. He feels that he must give in and would like to demonstrate his willingness to everybody by withdrawing his troops from Lebanon. Damascus has a finger in every pie and is a haven for terrorists. There was also a lead to Syria after Islamic Jihad's latest attack in Tel Aviv. However, the murderers of the Lebanese politician Hariri, who was opposed to Syria, overstepped the mark. There was no need for any evidence against the masterminds of the attack to cause weeks of protests, which ousted the pro-Syrian government in Beirut. It was the first time in this country of civil war that peaceful protests achieved a political goal."
ITALY: "The Wind That Blows In The Middle East"
Angelo Panebianco observed in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/2): "The war in Iraq set in motion strong forces that are shaking the area. The first free elections in Iraq and Palestine are creating a democratic wave, a contagious effect which is destined to last.... The road to the democratization of the Middle East will undoubtedly be long.... It’s hard to deny that behind all this was the vision of he who, following September 11, thought that the only way to dry up the sources of Islamic terrorism was to push the Middle East towards democracy.... Many of those who...called the Republican President Bush a ‘stupid cowboy’ are now forced to reconsider and to admit that the political face of the Middle East began to change with the war in Iraq.”
"It Is Not Only A Chain Reaction"
Marco Guidi asserted in Rome-based center-left Il Messaggero (3/2): “There’s no denying it, the Iraq-effect...is resounding throughout the Arab world, from Maghreb to Mashrek [Jordan-Lebanon-Syria], meaning from West to East.... A signal that things in the Middle East are not only changing, but that they will never be the same again. Is it an effect of the American intervention? Certainly, but also the effect of Iraqi elections and of American pressure on countries, including its allies.”
"The Wave That Disrupts Islam"
Cesare Martinetti asserted in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/3): “Two days ago, Le Figaro, the French daily closest to Chirac and therefore most contrary to the U.S. intervention in Iraq, asked: ‘What if Bush was right?’.... In the last month a...devastating tsunami-like wave hit the politically inert coasts of the Middle East. It was triggered by that 60 percent of Iraqis...who defied the suicide bombers to cast their votes.”
"The Arab People And The Challenge For Freedom"
Magdi Allam said in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/1): “A common thread runs through the horrific massacre of the 100 civilians in Hilla, a month after the first successful elections in Iraq, and the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami, two weeks after the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Despite appearances, these two events prove that terrorism the Middle East is on the ropes, and that just about everywhere strong popular reaction and the greater maturity of democratic and liberal political forces are emerging.... The Lebanese people, who are defying state-run terrorism and the Syrian military threat, have given a great lesson in democracy, as did 8 million Iraqis in successfully opposing terrorism and voting last January 30. In the Arab world, a true democratic revolution is under way. The time has come to acknowledge this and to lend a hand to the peoples who want to gain the freedom that they have been denied for much too long.”
RUSSIA: "A New Target For The U.S."
Yelena Suponina and Aleksandr Samokhotkin contended in reformist Vremya Novostey (3/3) : "The Middle East, still reeling from the Iraq war, has found itself in the middle of another dangerous game that can provoke a new armed conflict and is sure to cause a major shake-up. The U.S. is doing everything in its power to have that region changed beyond recognition three to four years from now. But changes are not always for the better, as proven by Iraq. Even so, the Americans picked Syria as a new target. As in the Iraq case, it all started with political pressure and threats of international sanctions.... Although protest actions are widespread, far from all Lebanese think the way the Americans assert they do. Some fear that the Syrian withdrawal will lead to factional strife and even civil war."
AUSTRIA: "Arabia's Autocrats Are Trembling"
Senior editor Helmut Muller commented in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (3/3): "People power makes Arabia's autocrats tremble. This is a new play on the political stage. Syria's vice regents in Damascus are on the defensive now and thus the regime in Damascus has its back against the wall.... The decisive factor for a successful 'cedar revolution' in Lebanon will be the question of whether the Shiites will join in against the Syrians. Last, but not least, it is important to 'civilize' the Hisbollah militia and include them in the political process. However, for President Assad, nothing less than his medium-term political survival is at stake.... Assad is afraid that, if he loses his influence on Lebanon and the Hisbollah, his only remaining trump card for negotiations with Israel will be gone. The man from Damascus must fear that the Syrian 'establishment' will punish him if he loses Lebanon. Reforms in Lebanon and Syria will weaken the radicals in the region and strengthen the moderates. This means potentially fewer disturbances for the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians--and more pressure on Egypt or Saudi-Arabia for democratization. That the wind of change is now sweeping through Arab region, President Bush can claim as confirmation of his mission of modernizing the Middle East."
Foreign affairs editor Livia Klingl noted in mass-circulation Kurier (3/1): "The Lebanese opposition is currently practicing 'Ukrainian' methods. Not only do the mass media loudly demand Syria's withdrawal, they actually achieved the resignation of pro-Syrian political heavyweights. Assad ought to know that he has nothing to hold against international pressure--nothing besides little tactical games and perhaps some more time on account of the security vacuum that people fear the anti-Israel Hizbollah could exploit. However, the situation has not become easier for western exporters of democracy either. Besides desolate Iraq, recalcitrant Iran, and the shaky, nonexistent peace between Israelis and Palestinians, more building sites were opened than were closed."
BELGIUM: "And If It Were The Arabs’ Berlin Wall That Fell?"
Chief editor Amid Faljaoui opined in business-oriented weekly Trends/Tendances (3/3): "Good news from the Middle East: the virus of democracy is spreading. First, in Iraq, where 8 million people had the courage to challenge those who were telling them in Arabic that ‘you vote, you die’.... Similarly, isn’t it reassuring to see that Mahmoud Abbas was democratically elected with 62 percent of the votes? Even better, his cabinet has just been put together and the 24 members include 17 newcomers who, for most of them, are doctors in science or in economy and not professional politicians. What a revolution for the Palestinian Authority! Let us also not forget the first elections in Saudi Arabia. Of course, these were local elections where women were not allowed to vote.... But for the first time in their life, Saudis heard words that did not belong to their vocabulary, such as elections, public opinion, debates, vote, ballot box, transparency, and reform.... Besides, in Lebanon, thirst for freedom prevailed over the fear of Syrians. Rafic Hariri’s assassination was clearly a murder too many. If the Syrians’ objective was to terrorize Lebanese politicians, it has not worked this time. Under French and American pressure, Syrian troops should soon pull out from Lebanon.... Lastly, the icing on the cake, Egyptian President Mubarak has asked that the Constitution be modified to allow other political parties to enter the Presidential race. Of course, it is only a very small step because, since the elections will take place in September, it will be hard for an opposition candidate to become popular in such a short period… But let us be positive: what a turnaround! It was enough for Bush to urge Egypt to show the way to democracy and for Condoleezza Rice to cancel a trip to Egypt at the last minute to make Mubarak move at last. Let us be clear and let us not fall into smug optimism: Mubarak will probably be reelected in September, but his son Gamal will not have as much elbow room as his father. That is good news: Pharaonic dynasties were only good in the past and for foreign tourists.”
DENMARK: "Middle East Spurred By U.S. To Be Resolute On Democracy"
Center-right Berlingske Tidende commented (3/3): "There is one good reason why the Middle East suddenly seems to be crying out for democracy, and that reason is the U.S. It is just as easy to identify an area that has very little to be proud of in light of its democratic principles and humanitarian ambitions, and that region is Europe. From Lebanon to Afghanistan, despots are on the retreat. We have seen a democratic election in Iraq, there are signs of breakthroughs for democracy in Jordan and Saudi-Arabia and Egypt seems to be ready to initiate democratic elections. And in Lebanon, the people have brought its occupiers to their knees. It is too early to talk of a sea change, but a movement seems to be taking place that could be difficult to stop.... We cannot give President Bush credit for the fact that the people of the Middle East want freedom...but we must praise President Bush for...his strategy of demanding democratic reform. President Bush has been ridiculed and described as stupid for suggesting that military action can be linked to the introduction of democracy. But (while Bush has acted), Europe cannot be said to have covered itself in much glory and has, in many ways, prevented things from developing in the Middle East. It is high time that Europe revisited its position on the Middle East and started living up to its responsibility to work for the spread of democracy."
"People Of The Middle East Want Freedom But Do Not Want The U.S."
Left-wing Information editorialized (3/3): "Judging by the events of the last few weeks, one thing is certain, regardless how unpopular the U.S. is in the Arab world, this has not lessened the people's desire for freedom."
HUNGARY: "Suspicious Issue In Lebanon"
Ferenc Kepes held in left-of-center Nepszava (3/3): “The events taking place in Lebanon these days could remain an internal issue for the Lebanese and would not necessarily become an issue of world interest. But everything is interconnected in the world nowadays, especially as far as the Middle East is concerned. The ongoing peace process in the region is by no means to the liking of the governments of Teheran and Damascus. If, Allah forbid, a miracle took place and the Israelis and the Arabs would reconcile with each other, both these dictatorships would lose their most important point of reference. So they have to rely on their traditional means of annihilating the experiment for peace by terror. The road connecting Teheran and Damascus with the terrorist organizations goes via Lebanon, and within that most importantly via the fundamentalist terrorist organization of Hezbollah. This is why Lebanon has to remain a Syrian protectorate. Syria justifies its presence in Lebanon by the fact that a civil war would break out immediately if it were to withdraw its troops. However, it has not yet withdrawn and violence has already broken out in Tripoli. It raises suspicions, but very much coincides with the interests of Damascus.”
IRELAND: "Pro-Syrian Government Steps Down In Lebanon"
Michael Jansen stated in the center-left Irish Times (3/1): "Lebanese prime minister Omar Karami announced his pro-Syrian government's resignation yesterday under pressure from Western powers and the parliamentary opposition, as protesters gathered at the centre of Beirut.... Mr Karami's resignation was the most dramatic outcome of sustained protests generated by the death of his predecessor.... In an interview published yesterday, Syrian president Bashar Assad...predicted that the U.S. would make an armed attack on Syria.... Syria said last week that it would redeploy its troops to eastern Lebanon, closer to its border, but not withdraw them."
MALTA: “Another Expression Of People Power"
The English-language independent Times declared (3/1): "This anguished nation...has joined that elite group of companies that at some stage or another of their history have declared: Enough! We wish to be free and independent!.... One cannot help recalling what President George W. Bush said during his European tour. It was the turn of the Middle East to experience its 1989. The Velvet Revolution overcame the might of the Soviet Union. The Yellow Revolution overthrew the might of President Ferdinand Marcos. The Orange Revolution returned the Ukraine to the rule of a democratically elected government. A similar occurrence of people's power has now taken place in Lebanon, which is now in a position to contribute to a New Middle East Order. The days of the Syrian presence in that country may not be numbered--yet--but that they will be over is a matter of time."
NETHERLANDS: "Genie Out Of The Bottle For Arabic Opposition"
Influential liberal De Volkskrant contended (3/2): "The genie is out of the bottle. Lebanon can become a shining example for democratic forces.... Even those opposed to the U.S. intervention in Iraq acknowledge that the fall of Saddam Hussein has had an impact on the surrounding region."
"Lebanon As Test Case"
Influential independent NRC Handelsblad editorialized (3/1): "The demonstrations in Beirut remind us of the other mass protests, those in Kiev several months ago. The determination of the people led to a political change.... However, that does not mean that the protests in Lebanon will have the same impact. Mass demonstrations in the Middle East are not unique and rarely result in major political facts...but it is very clear that there is something happening--the Ukranian example and President Bush's call for freedom have had an impact.... The international community needs to join efforts in putting pressure on Syria. It is important that the U.S. and Europe work together and implement the promises abot closer cooperation made last week in Brussels."
NORWAY: "The Cedar Tree Revolution"
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten observed (3/2): "We have seen it before, but hardly ever before in an Arabic country: the strength of a peaceful, popular demonstration forcing the resignation of a parliament.... A systematic withdrawal [of Syrian soldiers from Lebanon] is way overdue, and we hope it will happen without it turning into a new and bloody dispute. We also still have to remember that a Syrian withdrawal will not by far solve all problems. Lebanon’s tragedy is that the country through decades has been used in a power play much larger than the country itself. Palestinians, Israelis and Syrians have all abused Lebanon to serve their own cause. Additionally, internal opposition groups with separate religious directions marks the country. The past few days we have seen that many of these hereditary oppositions have been toned down. Demonstrators from different groups have stood together under Lebanon’s national symbol, the red and white flag with the cedar tree. We hope the ‘Cedar Tree Revolution’ that we have seen over the past few days is the beginning of a new, national will. The Lebanese are in definite need of one.”
TURKEY: "The Winds Of Democracy In The Middle East"
Sami Kohen opined in mass-appeal Milliyet (3/2): “For some time, the winds of reform in the Middle East have blown in the direction of democracy. The desire for freedom spreads from one country to the other--Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine--then in limited measures in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and, recently, Lebanon. In fact, these initiatives in the Middle East remind one of the rapid progress of democracy in the Eastern European countries at the end of the Cold War. Similar changes were seen in Georgia last year and lately in the Ukraine. And now a new ‘spring’ is beginning in the Middle East. Of course, the dictatorial regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq were toppled by foreign intervention. And the elections were realized while under occupation.... In Lebanon, the power of the people forced the government to resign. In short, whether these changes come from across borders or from the streets, it is obvious that an awakening among the people of these countries has begun. Critics should remember that democracies cannot be established overnight.... The important thing is to take the first steps with determination. The countries in the Middle East are taking these steps a half century after Turkey. We should be happy about these steps and support them.”
AUSTRALIA: "People Power Stirs In The Middle East"
The national conservative Australian contended (3/2): "It is too early to assume the totalitarian regimes which rule in the Middle East, from Egypt to Iran and from Saudi Arabia to Syria, are doomed as their subjects discover democracy. But with a wind of democratic change beginning to blow, the clerics, monarchs and common-place dictators who rule in the region have ample reason to be fearful for their futures. In January, the Iraqi people defied thugs and religious zealots to vote in elections universally regarded as free and fair. Last month, the Saudi monarchy let its subjects, at least the male ones, vote in local government elections. This will not change who holds the keys to the kingdom, but it is a start. And yesterday in Lebanon the people asserted their authority when they forced the Syrian puppet government to resign.... There are signs Syria is losing its stomach for the fight. This week it has abandoned its puppet regime in Lebanon, and handed over Saddam Hussein's half brother, who is implicated in terrorism, to Iraq. These are both excellent indications that the Syrian Government is joining the list of regimes that understand they face a much more dangerous threat than the US or Israel--ordinary people who have had enough of being governed by dictators.”
JAPAN: "U.S. To Place Further Pressure On Syria"
An editorial in liberal Asahi read (3/3): "The U.S. is intensifying pressure on Syria and calling for the immediate withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Secretary of State Rice has successfully established a network to 'contain' Syria in cooperation with France. She has stressed that the U.S. is ready to make every possible effort to support Beirut. The democratization of Lebanon would be a good example for the Bush administration, which plans to spread democracy throughout the region. Washington appears to think that curbing the influence of Damascus, which is known for its support of terrorists, would have a positive impact on the Middle East peace process and on the restoration of security in Iraq. The U.S. is likely to place further pressure on Syria if the nation fails to respond to international calls to withdraw its troops from Lebanon."
IRAN: "A Pretext"
The conservative, English-language Tehran Times asserted (3/2): "Karami's resignation, the rise of anti-government groups, and the intervention of the U.S. and other Western countries in the internal affairs of Syria and Lebanon are some of the developments in the past month, particularly since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri last February. The assassination of Hariri has given Israel and the United States a pretext to target Lebanese parties, and especially Hizbollah, in retaliation. They also aim to foster more division in the Lebanese political scene. The immediate withdrawal of Syrian forces would not only not boost security in Lebanon but could catapult Lebanon back into the mid 1970s. Since, under the current circumstances, Lebanon is unable to establish security without the help of its neighbor Syria, any swift, thoughtless change would cause a security vacuum which would only serve the interests of Israel."
CANADA: "The Democratic Spirit In Lebanon's Crowds"
The leading Globe and Mail opined (3/1): "When Lebanon's Prime Minister Omar Karameh announced yesterday that his government would resign, the crowd gathered outside parliament in a great roar of triumph. It was a sound that will be heard, and perhaps soon echoed, around the Middle East. The success of Lebanon's red-and-white revolution, as its flag-waving supporters are calling it, is just the latest sign that something is stirring in the region.... While Lebanon's democrats may have a long and dangerous road ahead of them, they have already done wonders, not only for their country but for all of the Middle East. Yesterday's scenes of elation will be broadcast and talked about all over the region. Just as the scenes of the Berlin Wall being breached caused an upheaval in the Communist world 16 years ago, yesterday's events may spur change in the Arab world. Is this the Arab 1989? The democratic bug is contagious, and Arabs are as susceptible as any group. The Lebanese have proved that in the past two, heady weeks. Now, let the contagion spread."
"New Dawn In Beirut"
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen editorialized (3/1): "It's important...that other democracies make it clear that they support the Lebanese people's effort to get out from under Syrian domination.... Managing any transition won't be easy, especially when other peoples in other places are asserting their rights and may need help, too. Demonstrations in Egypt have led President Hosni Mubarak to promise multi-candidate elections. In the PA, the old guard of Yasser Arafat's cronies were forced out of the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia by a legislators' revolt. These events come amid suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq and a nuclear-materials deal between Russia and Iran. Syria's president, sensing the growing pressure on him, handed over some high-ranking former Iraqi officials over the weekend, but there's no sign he'll give up power any time soon. Mr. Bush's project to democratize the Middle East is far from finished. But there are, at last, signs of hope."
"Admit It: Bush Aids Democracy"
Marcus Gee commented in the leading Globe and Mail (3/2): "For those who seek a democratic Middle East, the past weeks have been the most exciting and hopeful in decades.... It would be pleasing to think that all of this came about through spontaneous combustion, a natural flaring of the human spirit. In fact, it has been made possible by the exercise of sheer American power. Much as opponents of the Iraq war may hate to admit it, overthrowing Saddam Hussein and putting a representative Arab government in his place is doing just what George Bush said it would: showing the Arab world that there is an alternative to tyranny.... Now, people all over the Arab world are feeling the wind of change. Instead of erupting in rage at the U.S. imperialism, as many said it would when the Hussein regime fell, the much-feared 'Arab street' is putting a scare into homegrown oppressors.... Now people in Iran and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are asking, 'What about us?' It used to be Washington that worried about the 'Al-Jazeera effect,' the danger that television pictures of Iraqi war dead would inflame Muslim opinion against the U.S. Now it's Arab dictators who worry as TV shows Iraqis at polling stations waving fingers daubed purple or Lebanese dressed in red and white roaring their defiance of Syria. Does anyone think all this tumult would have happened if Saddam were still in office? American power made the Mideast's democratic awakening possible and American power sustains it.... Those who believe that the exercise of raw power leads only to conflict and bloodshed will find all this disturbing.... The democratic spirit unleashed is a wonderful thing, as the brave Lebanese are showing. But sometimes it needs a little help."
The conservative National Post declared (3/2): "Recent developments in Lebanon--the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, followed by sustained anti-Syria protests, and then the surprise resignation of the pro-Syrian Lebanese government--invite lofty comparisons. Are we witnessing the Arab version of Ukraine's orange revolution, Poland's Solidarity movement or the German destruction of the Berlin Wall? Such analogies are likely premature.... Still, the remarkable pro-freedom protests that have been taking place in Beirut are a sign of good things to come. Unlike other Middle East countries, Lebanon possesses many of the ingredients conducive to democracy--including an educated and pro-Western elite, a burgeoning middle class and a thriving financial community (albeit one that is also implicated in moving money for terrorists and other black market operators).... Syria's withdrawal from the country should be regarded as a necessary but not sufficient condition for Lebanon to become politically rehabilitated. As in Iraq and the PA, the West must lay the groundwork for democracy in Lebanon even as the land in question remains under occupation. Otherwise, Lebanon's revolution may end in blood and tears."
BRAZIL: "Bush’s Second Victory"
Clovis Rossi asserted in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (3/3): "Many people may cry and protest, but the fact is that the dissemination of democracy that President Bush announced as one of the goals for the invasion of Iraq is slowly progressing. Paradoxically, it is not advancing in the Afghanistan and Iraq, where there are U.S. troops.... It is obvious that without the U.S. determination to depose Saddam Hussein and threat to do the same with other dictators in the region the change in the status quo would hardly have begun. It is bad that such positive facts have emerged following an illegal action such as the occupation of Iraq. But once they have happened, let’s us wish that the moves towards democracy are consolidated, and that current dictators are not replaced by U.S. puppet leaders or by other dictators who were in the opposition and, only because of that, pretended to be democrats. In Afghanistan, an election that was not carried out according to acceptable patterns gave power to warlords who are not democrats. In Iraq, the chaos created by the U.s. invasion is everything but an advance towards democracy.”
"A New ‘Arab Street’"
An editorial in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo read (3/2): "Washington’s reactions to Rafik Hariri’s murder--calling back its ambassador in Damascus and threatening Syria with further economic sanctions--have had much less impact in the region than the increasing anti-Syrian protests in Beirut. It is the first time that the so-called ‘Arab street’ demonstrates spontaneously not against the U.S., but against an Arab nation.... One thing seems to be certain: the Syrian withdrawal, following a negotiation between Beirut and Damascus must happen so that such a withdrawal neither occurs too slowly so as to appear a provocation, nor too quickly so as to seem cowardice--and in this case cause a coup in Syria.... What remains to be known is whether, after the Syrians are gone, the new Lebanon in the new Arab world being outlined will have room for a militarized Islamic party.”
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