International Information Programs
March 18, 2005

March 18, 2005






**  Optimists give a "big thank you to America" for "spreading" democracy in the region.

**  Euro papers assert the Damascus regime is in "mortal danger."

**  Skeptics warn that Hizballah's "breathtaking show of strength" confirms its "crucial" role.

**  Muslim hardliners allege a U.S. plan to "impose Israel" as the region's "only master."




'Was George Bush right after all?'--  Western media hailed Lebanon's "unprecedented cry for democracy" as the clearest example of the "fresh breeze of peaceful democratic self-government...blowing through" the Mideast.  One French paper said it would be "viscerally anti-American not to see the role played by Washington" in pushing the Syrians out of Lebanon; Canada's conservative Montreal Gazette added "there's no progress to be made" in bringing democracy to the region "without U.S. leadership."  Holland's centrist HP/De Tijd saw a "domino effect...comparable to the revolts in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall."   


'Assad faces difficult times'--  Observers agreed that Syria's pullout not only signals the end of Damascus's "omnipotence in Lebanon" but also "weakens Assad's position and...Syria's Baath regime."  A Chinese observer foresaw "implications for Assad's grip on power," while the center-left Irish Times described Assad's rule as "tenuous at best."  But liberal and Arab outlets doubted that "democracy will soon flourish" in Syria.  Beirut's moderate An-Nahar warned, "if regime change takes place...the Muslim brotherhood might take over."  Many predicted the "success of fundamentalism" if rulers like Assad fall; a Saudi paper opined that the U.S. will be "shocked" if "real democracies...emerge" in the region. 


Hizballah 'is a force to reckon with'--  The March 8 demonstration in Beirut spurred commentators to state that Hizballah "must figure prominently in any long-term solution" in Lebanon.  Russia's reformist Novyye Izvestiya noted that "Lebanon's Shiites are powerful" and Hizballah enjoys "nearly total control in the south."  Such recognition of Hizballah's power led to agreement that Lebanon remains "fragmented around political, ethnic and religious loyalties."  Lebanon's Arab nationalist As Safir decried the "deeper and more dangerous" divisions within the country, with several papers warning of potential clashes between Shiites and Christians "or even a civil war" if Syria's withdrawal creates a "power vacuum."


An 'immense conspiracy'--  Skeptical Muslim observers assailed Washington's "schemes" against Syria and Lebanon, alleging an agenda to put in place in Lebanon a regime that "serves Israel's interests."  The "ominous" threats to Syria show it is the "immediate target" of the project to create a "Broader Middle East void of those who say no" to U.S. plans.  Algeria's small-circulation El Bilad argued that these democratization plans merely aim to "eliminate old, incompetent regimes that no longer satisfy the U.S.' new interests."  Syria's government-owned Al-Thawra rejected the U.S. "slogans of freedom, democracy, and human rights" as "nothing but plans for subjugation."


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


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 66 reports from 27 countries over 11 - 18 March 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Syria Must Get Its Act Together Before It Is Too Late"


Anton La Guardia wrote in the conservative Daily Telegraph (3/14):  “The unanswered question is whether Bashar is his own boss, or a puppet of his father's old Ba'athist consiglieri….  Amer Salem, a friend from the days when he presided over the Syrian Computer Society, insists that 'Bashar is a reformist', but is being led astray because 'he listens to the garbage of his father's advisers'....  A few days ago, he called on Bashar to transform his regime before it is too late....  Bashar should heed this advice.  It may endanger his power base, or even his life, but his regime is already in mortal danger.  Small steps will now be seen as Saddam-like playing for time.  Bashar needs to make a dramatic leap if he is to regain the initiative.  Look at Libya's Gaddafi. By giving up his nuclear programme, he has quickly changed from Reagan's 'mad dog' into a friend of the West--and nobody is asking him to become a democrat."


FRANCE:  "2005, A Decisive Year For Iraq"


Gerard Chaliand observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/16):  “Washington is convinced that its strategy of expanding the realm of regional dynamics brings about results.  It is indisputable that such a strategy has resulted in positive effects in Ukraine and Georgia....  But in the Greater Middle East, the U.S. image is not as positive as it is in the former communist world....  The policy of the Bush administration (in the Middle East) must be credited with having provoked a certain dynamic, but things are still happening.  The results are more obvious in the Russian periphery than in the greater Middle East where nothing decisive has happened yet, except for the toppling of Iraq’s Baath regime.”


"Internal Borders"


Gerard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Liberation (3/15):  “Last week’s counter demonstration by Hezbollah has changed nothing. It is clear today where the hearts of the Lebanese people lie. This new majority seems to indicate that the Lebanese have finally acknowledged the fact that to push the occupier outside its boundaries, they also needed to bring down the internal borders separating them. If Syria cannot divide, it cannot reign. But the Hezbollah demonstration also shows that this minority must have its place in Lebanese society. The opprobrium which the U.S. has heaped on Hezbollah in the name of its fight against terrorism, will not make this easy. But how can Lebanon be rebuilt while excluding a fourth or a third of its population? A mobilization of this magnitude anywhere else would be a cause for concern. But in Lebanon, this peaceful movement gives one the feeling that a new future is possible, which is neither war nor occupation.” 


"An Arab Springtime"


Pierre Rousselin said in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/14):  “Syria’s decision to pull out from Lebanon must be applauded....  It marks the success of international pressure on Syria and emphasizes the role played by the Lebanese people....  Syria’s pullout will not resolve everything, if only because Bachar el-Assad has not given up on continuing to influence Lebanon’s political process. Similarly, the Americans will not be done with him. They suspect he facilitates border crossing into Iraq for armed men whose purpose is to fight against the coalition....  Whether this is a coincidence or a consequence, Syria’s decision is coming on the heels of a war in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein....  So much so that Washington is predicting an ‘Arab springtime’…as a consequence of its strategy and the confirmation that the virus of democracy has spread, all of which marks the beginning of Bush’s Greater Middle East....  It would be viscerally anti-American not to see the role played by Washington in this progress....  All the signals are encouraging, including Washington’s larger role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....  But nothing proves that the democrats will come out winning. They are not the only ones that can benefit from these changes. So can the Islamists. The worst would be if this democratic improvement led to the success of fundamentalism.”




Patrick Sabatier held in left-of-center Liberation (3/12):  “For too long western powers, with France in the lead, have given their support to the status quo in the Arab world....  Ben Laden has opened the eyes of the world to the perils of political immobility and the corruption which spur Islamic terrorism. This is why we must rejoice in the movement that is taking place, from Iraq to Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Palestine and which President Bush salutes as a ‘wind of freedom.’ It is totally different to say that this announces an ‘Arab springtime’....  The domino theory would be dangerous if it were used in reverse to legitimize the war in Iraq....  Nothing guarantees that democracy will soon flourish in the Arab world. It can just as well give some bitter fruit. In the Middle East it opens the door to certain Shiite minorities, and to the proponents of an Islamization of society. This means that democratic governments may not do any better in terms of liberties and development....  An election does not make a democracy.”


GERMANY:  "A Flexible Term"


Center-right Neue Westfälische of Bielefeld argued (3/17):  "Democratization is an extremely flexible term.  This is particularly true for Islamic societies.  Afghanistan was also freed and the people took part in free elections.  But we cannot speak of a western-style democracy in the country.  Let's be delighted at the progress in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians, at the Lebanese urge for freedom, at the elections in Iraq and the Hindu Kush.  But we should not make the mistake of thinking that democracy develops with the help of bombs.  It is necessary to differentiate between wish and reality."


"Winds Of Change"


Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/16):  "An unexpected level of progress has been made in the policy of the Middle East....  This movement can be captured under the headline of 'winds of change.'  But it cannot be predicted where and how powerful these winds are blowing and whether they will pave the way for democracy, as the U.S. president believes.  However, one thing can be said:  for a long time, the opportunity for overcoming the regional system of repression, backwardness and lack of peace has not been so promising as today.  Those who desire this are called upon to do their part, including Israel....  The military ousting of Saddam might be the beginning of a political transformation in the region between the Mediterranean and the Near East.  It has destabilized the policy of many rulers in the region.  But the relaxation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has different causes.  It is also true that the terrorism in Iraq has not yet been defeated, that the Palestinian truce is also a strategy, and that the pro-Syrian supporters in Lebanon are strong, numerous and unpredictable.  But if we are not completely mistaken, a time of realism has begun."


"Time Pressure"


Matthias Arning noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/16):  "The time of ignorance is over.  Damascus pretended for months that there was no UN resolution 1559 that called for a withdrawal of Syria's troops from Lebanon.  Only when the unrest in Lebanon began, President Assad reluctantly realized that he could not continue his policy, unless he wants to risk his power.  The situation is fragile in Lebanon and other Arab countries.  President Mubarak of Egypt also feels the heat.  With his visit to Damascus, the 76-year-old tries to make an effort to maintain his self-chosen role as broker in the Middle East....  The Syrians must avoid a rushed withdrawal and successively hand over stabilizing institutions to the Lebanese in order to prevent a power vacuum in Beirut.  This is understandable, but both leaders talked about more important issues as well.  They examined their leeway in the process, because Mubarak does not want to be caught in the suction of democratic movements."




Hans-Christian Roessler argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/14):  "With the rapid withdrawal, President Assad risks to lose his greatest asset in the peace negotiations with Israel as well as his face--at home and in the whole region.  Since the death of his father he has not managed to launch the reforms he promised when he came into office.  The political spring in its neighboring country makes it even clearer for Syrians that they live under an authoritarian regime.  With Lebanon, Damascus loses the last country where it could still influence politics.  Syria's decline in foreign policy can no longer be revealed, but schadenfreude about Assad's needs does not help.  Damascus will continue to play a role in Lebanon also after the pullout.  Hezbollah and Amal's pro-Syrian rallies made this clear.  The democratic new beginning in Beirut can only succeed if Damascus plays a constructive role.   To achieve this Damascus must not just be seen as a loser."


"The End Of Control"


Tomas Avenarius concluded in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/14):  "The Lebanese crises has weakened Assad's regime.  Diplomatic phrases cannot conceal that Syria's soldiers were driven away.  The forced withdrawal is the end of a policy that began in 1976, when Syrians moved in on request of Lebanese Christians to put an end the civil war.  They stayed after the end of the war and strengthened Syria's position in the Middle East conflict.  The withdrawal therefore weakens Assad's position and that of Syria's Baath regime.  With the Lebanon disaster, Damascus loses an important means in the conflict with Israel.  It looks likely that the Lebanese Shiite organization will now strive for independence.  The U.S. pressure will not cease, because the Iraq war provides Washington with many reasons to make demands.  Regardless of whether many insurgents cross the Syrian-Iraqi border, no one believes Assad.  His domestic prospect is also sinister.  Assad attempted reforms, but a few modern ministers are not enough given the high level of corruption and mismanagement of the rigid Baath regime.  The economy is not growing and the withdrawal from Lebanon will cause further damages.  Millions of Syrian guest workers are in Lebanon and Lebanese banks administer Syrian capital.  If new U.S. sanctions were imposed things would get even tougher.  The young leader will come under domestic criticism.  He plays his bad cards well, but Syria remains isolated in the Arab world, not to speak of the West.  Assad faces difficult times."




Boris Kalnoky opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/14):  "That the democratic opposition has forgotten to mention the fate of hundreds of Lebanese who have been secretly kept, tortured and sometimes killed in Syrian prisons for 30 years shows Syria's omnipotence in Lebanon.  Everybody knew about it, but nobody dared say it aloud....  Especially now as the regime in Damascus wavers, the prisoners' lives are in extreme danger.  Remember the ousting of Saddam--the political prisoners in Abu Ghraib were executed shortly before the Iraq war began.  The prisoners in Syria are in the same danger, if the Damascus regime begins to fall.  It is very important that the Lebanese opposition and international organizations now come out and say aloud that one knows about these people and their pain and that everybody will be punished who kills them.  The UN, Europeans and Americans must call upon Damascus to reveal this issue completely, if the Lebanese are not doing it themselves.  The regime must disclose all names of people who were imprisoned since 1976 and must explain what happened to them."


"Cedars Grow Slowly"


Gerd Appenzeller asserted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/14):  "The announced withdrawal of Syrian troops will not turn Lebanon into 'the Switzerland of the Middle East,' which it once was, because the contradictions between the political objectives of Muslim groups on the one side and Druse as well as Christians on the other side are too huge, although the civil war was a long time ago.  However, the fear that Syria might return should unite the country.  The Middle East conflict no longer threatens Lebanon's territorial integrity since Israel pulled out from the south of the country...Hezbollah will play a vital role in Lebanon.  If it did not renounce its armed fight against Israel, Lebanon will not find peace.  The regime in Damascus is the second source of insecurity.  Thousands of Syrians based in Lebanon lived from the richness of the occupied country.  Assad will have to subsidize them to keep them happy and calm.  This is also a question of patience.  Cedars grow slowly."


"At The Moment"


Matthias Arning contended in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/14):  "Assad is under extreme pressure, because Washington apparently believes that the condition for reaching peace between Israelis and Palestinians are so favorable at the moment that there is no reason to stick to former agreements with Syria.  At the beginning of the 1990ies, Syria and Washington agreed to maintain the status quo as long as one can expect peace between Arabs and Israelis.  The U.S. administration must know that more pressure on Damascus will shove the country closer to Teheran.  The prospect of peace in the Middle East would just be the impression of a short moment."


ITALY:  "Damascus, Forget Beirut"


Alberto Stabile noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/18):  “From Baramke taxi station [in Damascus], the Lebanese Spring has already produced a small Syrian drama....  A taxi station manager, Mazen Dabbas, said that since...former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed, the traffic to Lebanon decreased by 70%.  Therefore, Beirut, which was always considered Damascus’ appendix, is slowly coming out of the Syrian sphere....  Caught by surprise by the rapid developments, the Syrian regime is trying to control its political consequences, if it can, but without impeding the writing on walls.”


"Beirut, One Million Protesters"


Giuseppe Romagnoli from Beirut in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/15):  “One month has gone by since Rafik Hariri’s assassination...but an entire geological era has gone by in the life of Lebanon: it’s gone from the stone age to the protesters’ age...  Today hundreds of thousands of people are yelling “Syria out,’ and what counts more is that they’ve started to get it. There are three great defeats: The first is the power system imposed on Lebanon by Syria. One month has (almost) entirely cancelled 29 years in which anything was possible and therefore everything happened with impunity....  Rumors saying that they will open respective embassies is the formal sign of a new era....  President Lahoud has emerged weakened in image and strength. Dumped by a large part of Christians, forgotten by Western leaders (who are talking to the opposition) and Arabs (who have always spoken with Assad), [he] runs the risk of living his three-year extension as a sentence for his original sin. If they succeed in isolating him, by obtaining the resignation of key army and secret service officials, he will be a lame duck”


RUSSIA:  "Opposition Can Provoke Civil War"


Andrey Pravov wrote in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (3/16):  "Lebanon's Shiites are powerful, indeed.  Hezbollah is in nearly total control in the south.  It is quite capable of strong action, too.  As of now, the opinion there is that the Syrian withdrawal is bad for the Shiites.  Advocates of the Syrian military presence want the Syrians to stay.  So Hezbollah, observers say, can well try something untoward to cause trouble.  Big trouble, some fear, may escalate into clashes between Shiites and Christians or even a civil war."


"Aggressive Democracy"


Aleksey Ventslovskiy held in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (3/16):  "Promoting U.S.-type democracy throughout the world is what the United States' foreign policy is all about.  From the latest events in CIS countries, it is clear that Washington has developed a 'non-violent revolution' concept.  The Americans claim that violation of the basic principles of democracy and human rights in one country automatically gives cause for other countries to offer assistance to advocates of democracy fighting against the authoritarian regime.  Practical recommendations on how to overthrow unwanted regimes are more important than theory....  Well-known, mostly American non-government organizations...assist 'democratic revolutions' organizationally and financially....  Aside from openly flouting the norms of international law, 'non-violent revolutions' badly hurt the current world order, posing a serious threat to the sovereignty, security and stability of states."


TURKEY:  "Sezer’s Trip To Syria"


Mustafa Balbay wrote in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet (3/17):  "What do you say the following scenario?  Syria pulls out of Lebanon, but the US decides this isn’t enough.  Syria stays out, and Lebanon becomes unstable.  Israel intervenes to fix this situation, while the US goes in to ‘clean up’ in Syria.  In this way, Turkey’s southern neighbors become the US and Israel!  But these neighbors then need the water from their northern neighbor, so a joint US-Israeli initiative is launched to take the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.  Like I said, it’s only a hypothetical scenario....  Turkey’s relations with Syria have followed a zigzag path....  In 1998 when Ocalan was kicked out of Syria, a new period began.  By the end of 1998 this period reached a new stage with the signing of the Adana Agreement.  Syria began to support Turkey on every issue, including terrorism.  Relations are improving--or at least they were....  Sezer’s trip to Syria brings to the forefront once again Turkey’s new role in the region.  There are two options for Turkey in defining its stance toward the U.S.--it can be a satellite country, or it can oppose the US.  Neiter option is in the interest of Turkey.  The sensible course would be to maintain a good relationship without resorting to any kind of dissimulation.  Our neighbors are the US, Russia, Iran, and Syria – this is certainly not easy, especially along with being in the middle of the EU.  It all brings to my mind what Napoleon once said: ‘geography determines the fate of nations.’”          


AUSTRIA:  "Hot-Cold Multilateralism"


Foreign affairs editor for independent daily Der Standard Gudrun Harrer opined (3/13):  "According to the New York Times, the US administration has made up its mind that the Hezbollah is no longer to be ignored as a political factor in Lebanon and that nothing is to be gained in dismissing the entire organization as being terrorist in nature – although its armed wing is clearly that. Equally, Washington is now supporting European negotiations with Iran. However, in both cases the Europeans also made concessions:  In the case of Lebanon, they adopted an uncompromising attitude towards Syria, and with regard to Iran, they have now threatened to turn the case over to the UN Security Council.”


BELGIUM:  "Long Live George W. Bush And A Big Thank You To America!"


Lebanese-born Maroun Labaki opined in a column in left-of-center Le Soir (3/16):  “The reality is very clear:  without George Bush, Lebanon would still be militarily occupied by Syria.  Whatever its motives, it is U.S. pressure that ousted the Syrians and enabled Lebanese people to get to the streets and to demand Syria’s departure.  A kind of June 6, 1944, but without Operation Overlord....  George, you now need to confirm throughout the region, and first and foremost rebuke Ariel Sharon and force him to sign the peace with the Palestinians.  Thanks again and best regards.”


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Contagious Freedom"


Daniel Anyz suggested in leading, centrist MF Dnes (3/16):  "The current events in the Middle East--renewed Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, attempts at democracy in Saudi Arabia, demonstrations in Lebanon...are not taking place out of time and space but in the neighborhood of Iraq where people went to free elections after decades--under conditions in which the cultivated European world would not stick its nose out.  The spark has been lit and the ice is cracking.  And therefore a sentence would be appropriate, which would probably surprise the questioners [understand Europeans] the most: Wasn't George Bush right after all?  Whether 'after all,' we do not know yet.  But let's believe his ideals.  They are contagious and they work."


IRELAND:  "US Plans To Keep The Heat On Assad"


The center-left Irish Times carried a piece by commentator Tom Clonan observing (3/14):  “The US military has been increasingly making the case for air strikes against Syria. Despite President Assad's announcement at the weekend of a partial timetable for withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, the US will continue to put pressure on Syria to withdraw all of its forces, including its intelligence apparatus. The US will also insist that Syria's proxy forces in Lebanon--including an estimated 25,000 Hizbullah armed volunteers--disarm prior to Lebanon's May elections....  Sources in the US defense and intelligence community indicate that Lebanon is being used to lever Ba'athist leader Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria. Insiders say that a change of regime in Syria is seen by both the Pentagon and the White House as crucial to defeating the Sunni-led insurgency in neighboring Iraq. Earlier this year, US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld said he believed that Syria was partially to blame for the bloody resistance in Iraq....  However, unlike in Iraq, a large-scale US ground operation or intervention in Syria will most likely not trigger a change of regime. Rather, a twin-track approach is being used to squeeze President Assad from power. Along with political demands to quit Lebanon, the US military is increasingly making the case for air strikes on Syria....  Bashar al-Assad's grip on power within Syria is tenuous at best. His authority in Damascus is predicated on his perceived status as a hard man underpinned by support from the predominantly Allawite Syrian military leadership.”


LUXEMBOURG:  "A Call From The Street"


Editor in Chief Denis Berche commented in left-of-center Le Quotidien (3/15):  "They came from Shiite, Christian Sunni and Druze areas....  For the first time in almost 30 years of Syrian military domination.  No one could remember Beirut living up to such a gathering.  In a country of 3.5 million inhabitants, yesterday's demonstration had up to one million participants....  Like the orange revolution in Ukraine, a red and white tide will exist from now on in Lebanon.  An unprecedented cry for democracy and its associated values.  While Ukrainians were clamoring for Viktor Yushchenko's victory in presidential elections, Lebanese cry out for the truth....  This demonstration consolidates and reinforces the position of the anti-Syrian opposition. It expresses an all too long-contained anger, as well as an incredible and disinterested love.  All united, Muslims and Christians, for a country previously devastated by war.  As in Ukraine, Lebanese demonstrators have committed themselves to relentlessly return until Syria gives up.  Because they want to live in freedom and independence, Lebanese's 'cry out without end' deserves to be heard."


NETHERLANDS: "Arab Spring"


Harm Ede Botje and Ko Colijn wrote in left-of-center weekly Vrij Nederland (3/12):  “It appears as though in the Middle East democratic reforms are on the way.  Condoleezza Rice recently warned Israel--and that is new--that, ‘The Israelis must help with the creation of a viable Palestinian state.’  Before 9/11 Bush had never mentioned democratizing the rest of the world.  That type of ‘Clinton talk’ had never occurred to him, but now it has become the new doctrine.  The Syrian troops leaving Lebanon may be Bush’s next--unintended--achievement.  The least you can say about this ‘Arab Spring’ is that ‘the people’ are not suffering from agoraphobia.  Not in Beirut, not in Baghdad and not in Kabul.  A little democracy begins with courage."


 "A Window Towards The West"


Dirk-Jan van Baar commented in centrist weekly HP/De Tijd (3/11):  “The Bush government hopes for a domino effect in the Middle East comparable to the revolts in Eastern Europe after the fall of Berlin wall.  A diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East is no reason for al-Qaida fighters to give up.  But if Syria, after Iraq, also gives in, ‘ordinary’ terror movements will lose influence and the mullahs in Iran will be further isolated.  That will give Israel room to make some concessions.  Even if ‘democracy’ in the Middle East is just decorum, movements like Hezbollah and Hamas will have to show their social face instead of only inspiring fear.  If that is the result of the war on terror, America may consider it has won that war--even if Osama bin Laden has not been arrested."


SPAIN:  "Hezbollah’s Dilemma"


Left-of-center El País editorialized (3/15):  "Lebanon runs the risk of succumbing to the agitation in the streets, pacific until now but worrying in a country so fragmented around political, ethnic and religious loyalties....  But Hariri's assassination has changed everything and Hezbollah now appears as the last bastion of Syrian rule.  The Party of God, military and economically supported by Syria and Iran, pursues a theocracy in Lebanon and Israel's destruction.  But now it's time (for Hezbollah) to decide between arms and the rules of democratic play.  In this crossroads it would be a mistake if Paris and Washington, sponsors of the Security Council resolution that calls for the disbanding of the Lebanese militia as well as a Syrian retreat, aspire (to the adoption to democratic rules) immediately.  It would be more opportune, under the evident risks, to motivate the political aspects of the integrist groups while looking forward to the predicted elections in May.  Hezbollah’s premature cornering...could entail the disintegration of the fragile experiment that...calm Lebanon represents today."


TURKEY:  "Through The Window Of Lebanon"


Cengiz Candar commented in conservative DB Tercuman (3/18):  “Visiting Lebanon gives a very clear picture about the current situation.  The Lebanese reality is about Syria, plain and simple.  Despite some skepticism about Syrian involvement in the Hariri assassination--skepticism seen even among certain Turkish government leaders including Foreign Minister Gul--the people of Lebanon are absolutely sure on this point.  If you happen to be in Beirut, it is easy to obtain a list of details regarding Syrian involvement, including the identity of the responsible organizations, from Lebanese politicians or journalists.  And the name of Bassar Assad, who will be visited by the Turkish President, is at the top of the list....  Given the circumstances, Lebanon has become the main route for those who want to take a leadership position on Middle East policy.  Lebanon has long been considered the backyard of Syria, but that is now history.  Turkish leaders, both the President and Prime Minister, on the other hand, seem to me so much preoccupied with Syria.  Turkey has tended always to misread developments in the Middle East.  So I guess there is nothing here to be surprised about.”


"Sezer’s Inclination"


Fikret Bila opined in the mass-appeal Milliyet (3/16):  “It is obvious that the U.S. administration was disturbed by President Sezer’s plans to visit Syria.  This visit was planned a long time ago in return for Assad’s visit to Turkey....  It would be wrong to say that Ankara is acting against the international consensus.  On March 7, Turkey stressed in a Foreign Ministry statement its support for the UN Security Council resolution and urged Syria to withdraw from Lebanon.  Therefore the implication in [U.S.] Ambassador Edelman’s remarks that Turkey is acting differently from the international community has caused a reaction in Ankara.  The U.S. should remember that Ankara had recently improved its relations with Syria and supported Syria’s reform process.  It is neither possible nor realistic for Turkey to end its good relations with Syria in line with U.S. demands.  Turkey is encouraging countries in the region to implement reforms without the need for foreign pressure.  On this issue, Turkey is far ahead of the U.S. and the EU.  Turkey is the first country that voiced the importance of democratization and reforms to secure gender equality and the rule of law.  It is a very big mistake for the U.S. to expect Turkey, which is an important country in this region, to just stand aside.”


"Damascus, Tehran And The World"


Yasemin Congar wrote in mass-appeal Milliyet (3/14):  “A correct interpretation of current events in the Middle East requires a clear eye, free from ideological blinders.  Developments concerning Syria and Iran since the day of the Hariri assassination indicate that the international policy focus on the Middle East has increased its tempo and intensity over the past month....  UN resolution 1559 provided an international basis for for a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.  If that happens, and if Lebanon goes through a free election process, we can expect rapid steps toward peace and democratization in the region.  Turkey should support this process with full enthusiasm.  The US and the EU are now on the same page regarding Iran, which should be pleasing to Ankara....  As President Bush has noted, the US and its European friends are now speaking with a single voice.  Interestingly enough, Syria and Iran announced a joint front four weeks ago, and today each of them is trying to meet the demands of a united international community.  Preventing a war in this region requires being a part of the international front against Syria and Iran, not establishing an anti-US solidarity with those countries.”




ISRAEL:  "The Pullout And Its Significance"


Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe contended (3/14):  "The heaviest pressure that was applied on Assad came from the European states, which are not that moved by the presence of the Syria army in Lebanon and the fact that the Lebanese government is Assad's puppet cabinet.  Europe is interested in making use of the withdrawal of the Syrian forces in order to set up as broad a front as possible, so that Israel's withdrawal from the territories is accelerated, and the establishment of a Palestinian state made possible.  European leaders still have to express that context, but it will be clearly and loudly enunciated  when Assad starts pulling out his troops from Lebanon in significant numbers.  Israel will be presented in the Middle East and the world as a country that hanging on to its conquests.  Thus, a cycle of threats of sanctions and more would begin."


"Don't Sanitize Nasrallah"


The conservative, independent English-language Jerusalem Post maintained (3/13):  "From Europe come wan, belated, non-binding references to the terrorist nature of Hezbollah.  Simultaneously, worrying reports from across the ocean point to a possible regression in American policy toward Hezbollah and to its quasi-legitimization as a political component in the Lebanese equation....  Hezbollah may indeed be a powerful player on the Lebanese arena, but it is not the type of player who should be tolerated, primarily because it will wreck the democratic process, not promote it.  Hezbollah is not a political party, it is a ruthless and heavily armed militia with political ambitions.  It is by nature inimical to democracy and an antithesis to what the U.S.  claims to advocate....  The rehabilitation of Nasrallah would be a signal victory for the global forces of terror.  As tempting as it might be to view his transformation into a peaceful politician as a victory for the West, there is a simple test for who is fooling whom: does Hezbollah disarm or not?  So long as Hezbollah remains armed to the teeth, it will threaten the nascent Lebanese democratic movement, Israel and the prospects for further democratization in the region.  Just as the U.S. couldn't accept an Afghan democracy with al-Qaida as a major political participant therein, or an Iraqi democracy in which Saddam's Ba'ath is regarded as a normative party, so it is unthinkable that it consent to Hezbollah as a feature of the Lebanese body politic."


WEST BANK:  "Arabs Blown By The Wind Of Foreign Policy"


Atef Ghumri commented in independent Al-Quds (3/17):  "We’re now in confrontation with a new, untraditional American policy that has announced itself several times without equivocation.  There is no disagreement among American specialists and those interested in it that this policy has been an aggressive one at all levels ever since the announcement of the Bush Doctrine, or the new national security strategy, on Sept.20th, 2002....  American standards of dealing with the Arab world have changed.  The mechanisms of implementing reform within the framework of the Broader Middle East Initiative became effective following the political announcement of the detailed work plan at the G8 summit in Georgia in June 2004, which establishes connections with individuals and groups in the region...making them effective elements in monitoring the internal reform process....  In his State of the Union address, Bush re-affirmed this policy, and he was specifically addressing this region with his talk of democracy.  He warned that democracy is the system that America’s friends must adopt.  Then he clarified the priorities of his foreign policy during his second term, describing undemocratic rule as the enemy of freedom and saying that spreading freedom is not merely a goal we must work toward, but rather one that America’s very existence depends upon....  It’s obvious that current American policy in the region is not content with putting regimes in confrontation with the outside [world], but also is pushing them into a situation where they find themselves surrounded by this policy’s external demands as well as domestic demands....  This policy is no longer hiding anything; rather it’s becoming more aggressive and revealing that the domestic [scene of countries in the region] is its playing field as long as this field is empty or contains a vacuum it can break into to play its game."


"Threat Not Against Lebanon, But Syria”


Mohammad Shakir Abdallah opined in independent Al-Quds (3/16):  “Even though the opposition is pointing the finger at the Lebanese government, and behind it Syria, the killing of Hariri is still a mystery and the perpetrator is unknown.  In the meantime the [Lebanese] government is accusing Israel and the U.S. of using the assassination to exert pressure on Syria and its supporters in Lebanon to implement Resolution 1559, particularly the article on the withdrawal of Syrian troops....  Due to its firmly established history of democracy, Lebanon might be able to overcome the threats of the current phase and avoid...a bloody civil war.  Syria, on the other hand, is truly under threat from the American-Israeli pressures.  It needs the wisdom and skills of the best captains of the political seas to reach the shore safely.”


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Democracy Is Not Like Flu Vaccine" 


Editor Turki Al-Sedeiri contended in Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh (3/15):  "Democracy is not a flu medicine you can promote by advertisements....  Who said that the Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan elections were normal a healthy process?...  Does Karzai control all of Afghanistan?  He is the ruler of Kabul only.  On the other hand, the Palestinians only want to spare what they could of their blood, which is shed with the blessing of America....  Who is willing to sacrifice the unity of Saudi society and its Islamic values just because there is an American reform program for the Middle East, which failed to prove itself in dealing with Israel?"


"Arabs In History"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Eqtisadiah editorialized (3/15):  "For the last 20 years U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East has aimed to support a mosaic composition of religious, racial, and sectarian trends....  Theoretically these movements were supposed to support America’s positions on democracy, reform, and the fight for human rights.  Arabs do not disagree with Americans on the need to achieve these ideals.  In fact we see them fight, sometimes with their bare hands to achieve these objectives.  But Arabs have different motives for achieving their goals.  An observer of recent history in the Middle East will realize that there is great sensitivity, and greater hate for the U.S. policies among all Arabs.  But there exists an equal admiration and appreciation of the American people, and American culture.  The hatred towards America is not a psychological condition among Arabs.  It is a reaction to America’s policies in the Middle East.  Arab democracies and reform initiatives, if and when they materialize, will not be a clone of other democracies, as the Bush administration believes.  Bush and his radical right-wing administration, which thought that Arabs would be fooled by this game of tailored democracies, will be shocked when they see the real democracies that will emerge.  In the end, America will realize that Arabs have entered history from where it had planned for them to exit."


"The Two Groups in Lebanon Are Equal In Number, And Share The Same Goal"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (3/15):  The number of people from the opposition who participated in demonstrations in Lebanon was equal to the number of people in the supportive demonstrations.  Both parties agree in principle on objectives, but disagree on methods.  The quest for truth regarding the assassination of Hariri, and the unwillingness to disarm the resistance is common among all Lebanese. The Lebanese do not disagree on the core issue despite the noise that has been made by the demonstrators.  Both parties must realize that Israel is setting traps for Lebanon.  The uniting factor among Lebanese is that they have two different visions of how to achieve the same goal." 


"Lebanese Lessons To Israel"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan stated (3/13):  "What is taking place now in Lebanon is not mutually exclusive from the development of events in the entire region.  In fact, since the assassination of Hariri on Feb 14 of this year, everything that has happened can be related to the Arab-Israeli struggle....  The Lebanese people went back down memory lane to Sabra and Shatila, and they revised their positions.  They have concluded that Israel is their only enemy.  Not just an enemy of the Lebanese, but an enemy of all Arabs.  Lebanon’s solidarity against Israel does not undermine their internal differences.  There are still many question marks that surround the assassination of Hariri.  The future will unravel that mystery.  The days will show that Lebanon, Syria, or any Arab country had no interest in killing Hariri.  Israel alone and its security agencies are the only group capable of committing such crimes."


ALGERIA:  "Use Of Arab League To Implement Greater Middle East Initiative"


Small-circulation El Bilad took this view (3/15):  “In a week from now and on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Arab League, the 17th summit of leaders from the Arab world will be held in an Arabic atmosphere subject to unlimited U.S. pressures, whose intent is to eliminate old, incompetent regimes that no longer satisfy the U.S.' new interests....  It may seem that the 17th Arab League Summit--or this meeting in which the Arabs wish to modernize and reform mechanisms of the decision-making process--does not have to face an American veto of its agenda this time, but it has turned out that reform will be supported by the U.S. for various reasons.  The most important reason is that the past decade witnessed uniformity on the official Arab scene.”


LEBANON:  "Deeper Divisions"


Arab nationalist As-Safir concluded (3/18):  "Security Minister Jamil Sayyed’s attack is only an announcement that the division within the Lebanese society has become deeper and more dangerous.”


"The Patriarch’s Trip In Changing Times"


Rafiq Khoury stated in centrist Al-Anwar (3/17):  "The world has changed between Patriarch Sfeir’s first and second trip to the U.S....  What really changed is the American strategy towards Lebanon and the Middle East....  During the first visit, the U.S. only wanted to hear the official Lebanese voice.  Lebanon was only a security issue for the U.S....  However, this time Patriarch Sfeir was invited by the President of the U.S....  The Middle East is now a priority on the U.S. agenda...and Lebanon has become a daily issue on the agenda of the U.S. President....  We should never underestimate the fact that Lebanon has become a priority on President Bush’s agenda.  President Bush...did not receive Sfeir as the Maronite Patriarch only, but as a symbol for democracy and dialogue....  On the other hand, it is clear that the Patriarch did not talk about the aspirations of the Maronite sect, but that of all the Lebanese.”


"Political Analysis For Lebanese-Syrian Relations"


Nizar Abdel-Kader opined in independent, non-sectarian Ad-Diyar (3/17):  "Syrian diplomacy never understood U.S. policy...and the pressure it will face in Lebanon....  Syria dealt with Lebanon with over confidence, thinking that it will always be able to dictate its will...and come up with solutions that serve its interests and the interests of its political allies in Lebanon....  The Syrians thought that they could depend on the presence of their intelligence services in Lebanon, on Lebanese popular support, on the military alliance with Lebanon, and on the Resistance....  Both the Syrians and the Lebanese competed in making mistakes, and in underestimating the impact of UNSCR 1559 on Lebanon....  Now, in the shadow of the escalating developments...Syria had to withdraw from Lebanon...and can no longer depend on all the elements that were listed above....  The only remaining pillar is the Resistance....  The issue of the Resistance should only be discussed among the Lebanese themselves....  Lebanon is between our hands now and we are responsible for drawing its future.”


"Is There A Beginning Of A Collision With Hizballah?"


Tarek Tarshishi noted in independent Al-Balad (3/17):  "Any internal/local attempt to target Hizballah...will not only shake stability in Lebanon, but also in the region....  Everyone should deal with the Hizballah issue with flexibility and cleverness....  Hizballah is studying seriously the possibility of joining a national unity government if formulated....  The Resistance’s mission is not only related to liberating the Sheba’a Farms, but is related to defending Lebanon against Israeli dangers.”


"Large Squares And Narrow Authorities"


An editorial by Rafik Khoury in centrist Al-Anwar read (3/15):  “The people overcame three problems at the Martyrs Square: The policy of intimidation, the game of numbers, and fear of division....  This was the first step towards sovereignty, independence and democracy....  Intimidating the Lebanese by the game of numbers in order to protect the prevailing status quo has failed and collided with the same number if not more....  The Lebanese Authority’s warnings that the Lebanese could divide have also failed....  As for the efforts to intimidate people, it only exposed the Lebanese Authorities’ isolation....  In contrast, the massive demonstration united the Lebanese martyrs and united the Lebanese who are still living....  As for the people...they confirmed that they are as courageous as the Ukrainians who sought change....  What is more important than numbers in this massive the diversity and plurality of those who participated....  No one can stand in the face of Lebanon’s resurrection.”


"Regaining Balance And Placing Dialogue On The Right Path"


An editorial by Naseer Al-Asaad in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (3/15) asserted:  “There are several dimensions for yesterday’s rally....  On one hand, it is a response to Tuesday’s rally...which was displayed as if it expresses the will of the majority of the Lebanese people....  The organizers of the Hizballah rally wanted to end the scene of demonstrations in Beirut with an image of a giant who is confronting the opposition in Beirut....  Yesterday's rally, however, rectified the image of the public mood...and is an indicator that the move towards the phase that will follow Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon has already started....  It will be possible for yesterday’s rally to complement the pro-Syrian rally, if Syria and Hizballah’s supporters deal with the changes objectively and realize that the move towards change will definitely continue.”


"Syria And The Muslim Brotherhood"


Sarkis Naoum opined in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/14):  “Information from Washington indicates...that the Bush Administration might push towards destabilizing the situation inside Syria if the political leadership does not totally implement UNSCR 1559....  In the past, Washington refrained from destabilizing the situation inside Syria because it feared that Sunni fundamentalists would take over....  However, this fear is no longer there...because the U.S. is frustrated with the current regime in addition to the fact that it is no longer sure that the replacement for this regime would be Islamic fundamentalists.  Obviously, no American official talks about regime change in Syria publicly...but this does not mean that the Syrian leadership should feel at ease.  Anyone who understands how the U.S. operates realizes that when information of this type starts leaking to U.S. media outlets...this means that the likelihood of changing the regime of a certain state is possible....  Researchers and think tanks...believe that if regime change takes place in Syria, the Muslim brotherhood might take over....  However, they do not believe that the Muslim brotherhood will be able to fill the vacuum because the Syria regime has already weakened them considerably.”


"Larsen Advises International Supervision Over Parliamentary Elections"


Ibrahim Al-Amin concluded in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/14):  "The issue of the Syrian withdrawal is ongoing and Larsen will be able to confirm in his upcoming report to Annan that Syria has withdrawn from Lebanon.  Larsen informed Lebanese officials that he will delay his report until the last two weeks of April.  This means that he is giving those concerned more time to implement UNSCR 1559.  It was no surprise when he informed Lebanese officials that the article related to disarming the Resistance and the Palestinian camps was not on his agenda now.  He also said that the Hariri’s investigation is not his brief...this means that he will have to supervise a total and expeditious Syrian withdrawal...and the parliamentary elections.”


"The Last Stop"


Sateh Noureddine commented in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/12):  "The opportunity that was given by the international community to the Lebanese to...reproduce their state without Syrian interference will not be open forever....  Ever since the international community decided to separate Lebanon from Syria, the Americans were careful to stay out of Lebanon’s internal affairs.  They just praised the Cedar Revolution from afar...and asked the Israelis not to interfere in Lebanon’s internal affairs....  Similarly, the French and the Germans also insisted on Syrian withdrawal, but kept away...from interfering in Lebanon’s affairs....  Now, the Lebanese should get their act together and work on saving their country....  If not, then only a few weeks will pass before foreign countries...or Syria interfere again in Lebanon’s internal affairs.”


QATAR:  "Stopping Their Plans"


Abdul Hady Al Tamemy commented in Arabic-language investigative Al-Sharq (3/13):  "The Syrian decision to withdraw from Lebanon paralysed American and the Israeli plans against Syria....  The US is using double standards in the region, as it refuses to implement international laws and the UN resolutions pertinent to Israel, and does not apply pressure on the Jewish state to comply with the resolutions regarding the Palestinian cause.  That the U.S. considers the Syrian presence in Lebanon an illegal occupation, while American troops occupy Iraq without the UN or the international community's backing is another case of double standards....  There are several reasons that make the US maintain such policies, such as the absence of any opposing power in the world, whether in militarily or economic terms.  Moreover, the achievements of the US-Israel axis in the region are due to several reasons, mainly the readiness of some Arab regimes to assist the American project in the area. There are two goals from the U.S. pressure on destroy any trace of Arab nationalism, which Damascus now displays, and the Israeli aim to get rid of the Syrian regime--the only Arab regime that backs the Palestinian people's resistance--which threatens the American interests in the region."


SYRIA:  "State And Sovereignty More Important Than Karami's Failure Or Success"


Khalid al-Ashhab observed in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/17):  "Why the Lebanese opposition does not want to join a national unity government and work from within the institutions to achieve its demands?  If Prime Minister Karami succeeds in forming a national unity government, the opposition will have succeeded in blocking foreign interference, or the mass of honey-coated tar, and in realizing its slogans of freedom and sovereignty. If Karami fails in his mission, the opposition will also have succeeded, but in taking Lebanon to the unknown and chaos, and in preparing the country for the attack of the bears after removing the fence of state and law."


"The Clear Message"


Mohamed Agha commented in the English-language government-owned Syria Times (3/15):  "From the very first moment following the vicious act of [Hariri's] assassination, Washington and Tel Aviv directed their accusations towards Syria on the one hand, and ignited the spark of the so-called opposition inside Lebanon on the other.  The two sides have so far stepped up their crusade hiding their hostile campaign under the cover of resolution 1559....  The U.S. and Israeli pretexts are groundless.  Syria has confirmed her will to withdraw from Lebanon and the Lebanese people have showed their firm stand with Syria through the 1.6 million demonstration in Beirut last Tuesday....  This is the answer to all U.S.-Israeli lies and allegations and a clear message to the world!"


"America Is Not A Charity Organization"


Muhammad Ali Buzah wrote in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/15):  "The U.S., under its current administration and through its involvement in the Zionist plan and its efforts to serve Israel's interests, continues to deliberately and determinedly adhere to America's aggressive face and proves to the region and the whole world that its values, principles, and slogans of freedom, democracy, and human rights are nothing but plans for subjugation, slavery, interference, and assassination of the will of the nations that reject subservience to and involvement in the American-Zionist project....  So those who assume good intentions, try to promote and beautify the image of the U.S., and draw strength from it and portray it as a savior or a charity organization offering gifts and free assistance for the freedom and development of nations are making wrong and fatal assumptions.  These are illusions refuted by the facts of the Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese situations."


"Annan's Call And Washington's Message"


Ali Nasrallah observed in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/14):  "Annan called for taking Hizballah into consideration in the implementation of resolution 1559 and confirmed that the Lebanese government, not the UN, is responsible for defining relations with Hizballah. Annan's call reflected a realistic viewpoint for developments in the region....  The US Administration's recent exposure that public statements by Israeli officials on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon have harmed its interests and plans in the region, demonstrates an immense conspiracy being brewed against Syria and Lebanon by US circles controlled by neo-conservatives....  The US Administration's demand from Israelis to stop their statements and to hide their happiness proves not only, Washington's intentions, but also to Washington's involvement with detonate the situation in Lebanon. Will the world community consider Annan's call and endeavors to save the region and the world from Washington's schemes?"


"Washington And The Law Of The Jungle"


Eyad Mahfoud noted in government-owned Al-Ba'th (3/14):  "Undoubtedly the Beirut demonstration on March 8 should make Washington reconsider its calculations in Lebanon....  So far we have only witnessed double standards, bias and remoteness from truth in the in the US positions....  Why all this campaign against Syria? Why Syria's role in achieving civil peace and stability in Lebanon was ignored? The US military has so far failed in cementing security and stability in Iraq where chaos has become unbearable. Is this anti-Syria campaign caused by the US military failure in Iraq and by Washington's failure to achieve in Iraq what Syria achieved in Lebanon?....  Is what are witnessing in the Middle East is a wind of democracy or Washington's law of might and interests? Is Washington's overlooking of Israeli occupation of Syrian and Lebanese territories and increasing pressure on Syria is part of an honest peace effort in the region or is it full bias towards Israel? Until when the US Administration will continue to depend on the principle of unfair might in the Middle East and the world?"


"All This Much Ado"


Ezzedin Darwish asserted in government-owned Tishreen (3/13):  "Larsen described his meeting with President Asad in relation to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon as very constructive.  Everyone knows that Syria started executing a programmed withdrawal plan from Lebanon since year 2000.  Most the mission was completed before this entire unpleasant row started.  It was even possible that the withdrawal would have been completed without the necessity of issuing resolution 1559....  The Syrian presence in Lebanon was never a goal.  It was a Lebanese need. What Syria did in Lebanon proves that Syria went there with the intension of returning and not staying.  Why are there so many rows about resolution 1559?  Why do we have to pant after foreigners who where so content during the Lebanese crisis?  The problem could have been solved between the two countries without any international involvement.  They want a separated Syria and Lebanon, and they want a ‘Broader Middle East’ void of those who say no to plans imposing Israel as the only master and finishing the Palestinian issue according to its own will.  They want to destroy the legal right of the Palestinian people to return home and settle the refugees where they are living.  Syria knows all these facts and warns against their results.  Many observers believe that bilateral relations will be stronger and firmer after the troops return home.”


UAE:  "Lebanon At Crossroads"


The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times declared (3/13):  "At last, the first convoy of Syrian troops has quit Lebanon. Ironically, however, the exit--forced by weeks of popular protests coupled with the Western pressure--has brought little cheer to the people of Lebanon. Caught in a dangerous tussle of global players and manipulative forces, Lebanon finds itself at a crossroads uneasily pondering an uncertain future....  The country appears more divided and gloomier than it had been before demonstrations forced Syria to leave.  This week’s breathtaking show of strength organised by Hezbullah seems to have accentuated the political divide in the country....  The organisation managed to demonstrate that ‘people power’ is not a monopoly of anti-Syria forces....  In fact, the Hezbullah rally, biggest in Lebanon’s history, drove home the message that numbers are on Hezbullah’s side. More important, it reminded the West (read US) that notwithstanding the organisation’s image in Western media, it’s crucial in finding a solution to Lebanon....  The party is a force to reckon with in Lebanon.  The Beirut rally was more of Hezbullah’s own show of strength than a pro-Syria demonstration.  And the message appears to have hit the target. Soon after the rally, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan called for involving Hezbullah in the post-Syria political process....  There’s a growing realisation in Washington that Hezbullah should be roped into political mainstream. If that’s true, it is nothing short of a tectonic shift. However, this fits in rather nicely with Washington’s engagement with Shia political power in the region....  It is time for all players including Hezbullah to come together regardless of their political and ideological differences in the interest of Lebanon....  It would be a monumental tragedy if Syria’s exit from Lebanon is followed up by similar interference from other foreign forces....  Lebanon is best left to Lebanese people."


"A Threat To Lebanon's Destiny"


Ahmad Amoraby wondered in Dubai-based business-oriented Al Bayan (3/13):  "Regarding the Lebanese opposition leaders' statements against Syria, are they aware that the political circumstances surrounding Lebanon are a threat to the country's destiny, requiring strategic cooperation between Syria and Lebanon in order to face these dangers?....  The departure of the Syrian army from Lebanon isn't a significant strategic issue but a negotiable issue. However, that withdrawal mustn't end the strategic alliance between the two countries and therefore, the Syrian pullout from Lebanon mustn't pave the way for the Lebanese government to sign a peace treaty with Israel....  Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah stated that Lebanon and Syria are still in a state of war with Israel. He added that the U.S. and Israel's demands wouldn't end with the Syrian withdrawal, as their agenda is to put in place in Lebanon a regime that collaborates with it and serves Israel's interests in the region....  There are some in the Lebanese opposition who follow an Israeli-American agenda rather than a Lebanese one. If the US succeeded in establishing a puppet regime in Lebanon, civil war may take place." 




CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Lebanon's Task Is To Create A New Democratic Order"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post argued (3/14):  "Growing international pressure is apparently behind Syria's commitment to withdraw completely its troops from Lebanon, where they have been stationed since 1976.  But dominance of neighboring Lebanon is still crucial to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his country's prestige in the Middle East.  Any moves that diminish that influence also have implications for Mr. Assad's grip on power at home.  The protracted negotiations and continued international co-ordination needed to see that the promised withdrawal actually happens should not be underestimated....  UN negotiators and the world's diplomats are correct to be focusing their attention first on extracting a withdrawal timetable from Damascus.  May's parliamentary elections, which will be credible only if they are held in a Lebanon that is free from military occupation, should influence the schedule.  After a withdrawal has been accomplished, however, the Lebanese will still face some daunting challenges.  Ensuring that the power vacuum left by a departing Syria is filled by a new democratic order, and not sectarian chaos, will be the main one."


JAPAN:  "High TimeTo Devise Exit Strategy"


Liberal Mainichi observed (3/18):  "Although we welcome the emerging shift toward democracy in some Middle East states, it is still premature to say that a 'democracy domino' is taking place.  The popularity of the Bush administration abroad still remains at a low level....  Deep distrust of the U.S. following the Iraq war still runs deep."




INDIA:  "Selective Demand"


An editorial in the centrist Asian Age read (3/15):  "Under intense American pressure, Syria has finally begun withdrawing its troops from Lebanon. The manner in which the United States exploited the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to force Syria to toe its line, produced a sense of déjà vu. Just as in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush had accused Saddam Hussein of possessing WMD, without a shred of evidence, he virtually indicted Syria for Hariri’s killing by recalling the US ambassador from Damascus, again without any proof. Then began the chorus demanding the end of Syrian occupation of Lebanon....  Syria, which was already the target of US sanctions under the 'Syria Accountability Act,' earned further US wrath when the latter’s troops failed to tame the growing resistance in Iraq.  Bush directly blamed Syria for this. It is true that the Christians and even Sunnis resent the continued Syrian presence in Lebanon. It is not desirable that a country should meddle in the internal affairs of another sovereign country and therefore the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon should be welcomed. But why this selective demand for the end of foreign occupation? Why is the US not pressing Israel to end its four-decade long illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights? More pertinently, why does not Mr. Bush practice what he is preaching? Is it not the height of hypocrisy that Bush who is vociferously demanding the withdrawal of 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon, has no intention of pulling out the 140,000 US troops from neighboring Iraq?”


"Assad's Decision More To Do With Ground Reality"


An editorial in the centrist Times of India read (3/14):  "It is much too early to characterize the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon as yet another milestone in the US-sponsored peace in West Asia. Just as President Bush and his advisors were about to pop the champagne, nearly half-a-million people on Tuesday took to the streets of Beirut to show their solidarity with Syria....  Two days later, Omar Karami was reappointed prime minister of Lebanon by President Emile Lahoud....  The twin events make Bush's claim that 'freedom will prevail in Lebanon' ring hollow.  Just like the Sunni militants in Iraq, Hezbollah has been cashing in on anti-American sentiments....  Hence, Hezbollah must figure prominently in any long-term solution in Lebanon....  The situation in Lebanon gives the lie to the Bush regime's claims that winds of democracy are sweeping across West Asia. Indeed, it can be argued that notwithstanding the relatively successful elections in Iraq, the US presence in the region is likely to foment more violence.”


BANGLADESH:  "Fight Against Jihadis And Crusaders Alike"


The independent English-language New Age remarked (3/16):  "The Bush administration’s primary foreign policy goal in its second term seems to be ‘regime change’ in Syria, as follow-up to the regime change in Iraq....  Because Washington’s prime objective in the Middle East region is to secure Israel’s political and strategic interests....  It is the United State’s official policies towards Muslims that allows people like Daniel Pipes to even create and run so-called think tanks to perpetually malign the Muslims."


"Syria: In The Line of Fire"


The independent English-language Daily Star editorialized (3/14):  "When in the wake of the Oslo process...Israel's Arab neighbors fell in line with the US-Israeli designs one after another, Syria stood defiant to the fake peace process initiated and brokered by Israel's western patrons led by the U.S.  It was obviously a disappointment for a sullen superpower intoxicated with unparalleled power as well as a roadblock to her scheme to turn Israel into a regional hegemon....   Ever since Washington's neo conservatives wanted to enact their favorite gambit--a regime change in Syria--to find a compliant leader before they put in their game plan in one of the endgames in redrawing the region's politico strategic map....  Now Mr. Rafik Hariri's killing in Lebanon has come as a Godsend opportunity for the hawks in the US administration in increasing pressure on Syria whose inveterate opposition to Israel has earned her the distinction of 'unusual and extraordinary threat'.  The blatant manner in which president Bush is exploiting Hariri's assassination leaves one in no doubt that he regards it as an opportunity for him to act as a judge, jury and an executioner. More so when Syria has 15,000 of her troops stationed in Lebanon....  Syria is suddenly in the dock facing the accusations of supporting terrorism, pursuing WMD, being in complicity with Iran, supporting Iraqi insurgents and now of the assassination of Mr. Hariri....  The ominous developments with regard to Syria clearly suggest that neocons have Syria as their immediate target.  Bush's reelection is regarded by the cabal surrounding him as an endorsement of their policy of truculent unilateralism and in the right of Israel to their Biblical boundaries, which they are keen to redraw."




CANADA:  "Was Bush Right?"


L. Ian MacDonald commented in the conservative Montreal Gazette (3/16):  "What if turns out George W. Bush was right, for the wrong reasons, about Iraq and the Middle East? His rationale for invading Iraq two years ago this week has since been entirely discredited....  [However,] the election on Jan. 30 was clearly a seminal event not only for Iraq, but for the entire Middle East. The election changed the story line from insurgency to democracy....  The Iraqi election occurred only three weeks after the election of the moderate Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA....  Since the Iraqi election, and the onset of 'the Baghdad Spring,' the germ of democracy appears to be spreading throughout the region. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak has announced multi-party elections for the presidency in a country he has ruled unopposed for nearly a quarter-century. In Saudi Arabia, the ruling princes are permitting elections at the municipal level. But the most breathtaking development is in Lebanon, where the Cedar Revolution is under way. One million people took to the streets of Beirut on Monday, telling the Syrians to get out of their country. The demonstration followed one organized by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, when half a million people turned out asking the Syrians to stay. What else was Nasrallah to do, when the Syrians pay his bills? But he has also sent a signal to the Americans he wants a seat at the table, rather than to blow it up, and the U.S. appears willing to consider giving him one. Whether the Syrians were behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the killing began the process of the Lebanese taking back their country. The Syrians, in light of overwhelming international opposition to their continued presence in Lebanon, will eventually have no choice but to leave. The U.S. and France, the two major powers in the region, actually agree on this, as do the Egyptians and the Saudis. There's no progress to be made on any of these fronts, peace in the Middle East or democracy across the entire region, without U.S. leadership."


"People Power In Lebanon"


The conservative Montreal Gazette editorialized (3/16):  "Democracy moves in mysterious ways. In the exact opposite of a secret ballot, the people of Lebanon are using competing public demonstrations to help determine the future of their country. On Monday, more than 800,000 opponents of Syrian occupation...flooded Beirut's Place des Martyrs to bid good riddance to Syrian troops and agents. In a country with 3.7 million people, that turnout takes your breath away. Last week, the Hezbollah movement, which has supported Syria's presence, got...500,000 people out to a rival demo....  Well, nobody ever said democracy was tranquil. But the people of Lebanon, who endured 15 years of civil war until 1990, seem willing so far to fight this round by peaceful, if high-decibel, means. What happens next? Elections are due this spring, and the new National Assembly will be a lively place.  Hezbollah, backed by the Shia Muslims who are the country's largest single group, take a hard line toward Israel. At last week's Hezbollah demonstration, the common sentiment was that it's better to be a Syrian puppet state than to be dominated by the U.S. and Israel, as if these were the only choices. As a campaign strategy, fear and hatred still have power.  But the sea of red, white, and green flags in Beirut on Monday might well have more. A fresh breeze of peaceful democratic self-government is blowing through the whole Middle East, and Lebanon now has a good chance to be one of the first clear winners from it. Is there a chance for genuine national democracy? A true rule of law? Peaceful times? The poor, long-suffering Lebanese people--and other peoples in the region--are entitled now to hope for these things, and to work toward them."


ARGENTINA:  "Signs Of Unity In A Country Torn By Divisions"


Oscar Raul Cardoso said in leading Clarin (3/15):  "The huge anti-Syrian demonstration...was something more than the biggest one in Lebanon's history, but there were signs of unity among factions that have been hard to imagine until recently in a society with a clear past of violent divisions....  It could be a symptom that Lebanon is really in a position to survive the power vacuum that will inevitably come if Syria implements its promised withdrawal of 14,000 soldiers and five hundred intelligence agents stationed in the country since 1976....  It is advisable to avoid certain empty triumphant tone with which the situation is promoted, particularly by George W. Bush, who is eager to exhibit the victory of his thesis on the expansion of democracy and partly hide the Iraqi 'marsh.' There are hard concessions to be made, more difficult for the US than for Europe, which also has interests in Lebanon. For instance, Washington is asking for the full honoring of Resolution 1559 of the UN Security Council, which calls for the end of the Syrian occupation...and the disarmament of Hezbollah, Syria's main support and declared enemy of Israel. Furthermore, Bush is pressuring the EU to agree to label this organization as 'terrorist.' It is not as easy as it looks like. Disarming Hezbollah will perhaps call for more time unless one wants to run the risk of creating a feeling of lack of protection and rebelliousness among the Shiites....  Hezbollah is very likely to prove its political luck in the parliamentary elections to be held in May and it could well obtain positive results, an uncomfortable reality that Washington will have to accept."


MEXICO:   "Bush And Liberty Again"


Former Foreign Minister Rosario Green wrote in nationalist El Universal (3/17):  "Bush demanded that Syrian troops immediately pull out of Lebanon and he's right....  How much is the U.S. willing to invest in peace, liberty and democracy? Despite the fact that the political climate is indispensable for a sound economy, the truth is that both are closely linked so it is very difficult to vote when you are hungry....  Without sufficient resources for efficient projects, without policies that distribute income and wealth, democracy will be difficult to project farther than the polls."



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