International Information Programs
April 29, 2005

April 29, 2005






**  Rightist dailies join Lebanese papers in a "sigh of relief" at the "lifting of the Syrian yoke."

**  Cautious outlets warn that Syria "will remain a threat" to Lebanese sovereignty.

**  The "ignominious end" to Syria's occupation weakens the government in Damascus.

**  Muslim analysts contrast Syria's departure with Israel's continuing "devilish" occupation.




'Most Lebanese are happy'--  Global dailies dubbed Syria's troop pullout a "dramatic" and "historic" milestone.  Beirut's moderate An-Nahar exulted that "Lebanon has regained its freedom, independence and sovereignty," while Britain's conservative Times asserted that Syria's "withdrawal has lifted a curtain of fear."  Skeptics warned it is "mistaken to assume" the country will have an "endless honeymoon."  They questioned if Lebanon's "rival groups" can coexist "productively and in peace."  Euro papers cautioned that Lebanon's "complex religious and political" situation meant the "threat of civil war" is still present. 


'Syria's influence' will remain strong--  Euro dailies cited the presence of "Syria's widespread intelligence apparatus" and the "terror-tainted armed Hizbullah movement" as proof Syria will "maintain its influence over Lebanon."  The liberal Toronto Star predicted that Damascus will "maneuver behind the scenes to ensure that pro-Syrian forces" win the May elections, while Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times added that Hizbullah is a "strategic asset that Syria can still use."  France's right-of-center Le Figaro urged Hizbullah to "join the Lebanese consensus for national unity and independence," but Lebanon's independent Ad-Diyar predicted that the integration of Hizbullah into the Lebanese polity would be "difficult and sensitive." 


Damascus stands 'at the brink of ruin'--  Outlets opined that the "unceremonious exit" of Syria's "interventionist forces" would prove a "serious setback" to President Assad's regime.  The pullout left Assad with "diminished credibility" and a "political-economic crisis" that, according to Japan's moderate Yomiuri, may "undermine his domestic leadership."  Observers pointed to domestic "economic misery" and Damascus' "isolation in the Arab world" as reasons why Assad could find it "difficult to survive."  Conservative papers hoped that Syrians, "having witnessed the democratic stirrings" in Lebanon, "will be the next to rise up."  Others urged Damascus to move toward a "more forward-looking, pluralistic society." 


Israel also 'must be compelled to comply'--  Many Muslim writers assailed the "double standards" by which UN resolutions are "ignored" by Israel but used to force Syria's withdrawal.  The elite Jordan Times asked why Israel can "flout international standards," labeling the UN "useless" if its decisions are not "applied consistently."  Bahrain's pro-government Daily Tribune held it "legitimate" that Israel "also be pressured to comply" with UN decisions.  Hardline Arab dailies saw pressure on Syria as the "practical application of neo-conservative and Israeli strategies" to back "Israel's quest for regional domination."  Syria's government-owned Tishreen blasted this "scheme that targets the Middle East."


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 interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 49 reports from 19 political entities over 26 - 29 April, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




LEBANON: "A Dream Come True, Lebanon Has Been Resurrected"


Gebran Tueni opined in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (4/27):  "Today, April 27, 2005 there is no longer any Syrian military or intelligence presence in Lebanon.  Today, Lebanon has regained its freedom, independence, and sovereignty....  President Lahoud, however, should permit us to tell him very frankly that the medals he presented to Syrian officers before they departed Lebanon, should have been presented to the Lebanese people who are heroes....  Is the President thanking those who hijacked our right to decide our destiny?....  The Lebanese cannot forget that Syria, which ruled Lebanon for the last 30 years and benefited from its fortunes...has also participated in fragmenting the...Lebanese....  Today Lebanon is back to free life....  Lebanon has been resurrected!”


"The Last Stop"


Sateh Noureddine observed in Arab nationalist As-Safir (4/27):  "The ceremony in Riyak airbase to bid farewell to the Syrian Army was not requested by the international community....  The Syrians suggested this ceremony....  Similarly Asad had asked the U. to dispatch a team to verify the withdrawal and take note of it at the UN....  These Syrian efforts to get the international community to acknowledge the withdrawal is a form of dialogue between Damascus and the countries that worked on issuing UNSCR 1559, but there efforts are not enough....  The international community will not declare its satisfaction with Damascus and Beirut before it verifies the Syrian withdrawal and makes sure that the Syrian-Lebanese bilateral relations are organized....  So far, neither Lebanon nor Syria indicated the pattern they will use in the future to organize their relations....  However, there is no doubt that establishing embassies and exchanging Ambassadors between the two countries is a clear international request.”


"The Lebanese Army Faces The Challenge Of Protecting Stability"


Johnny Munayyar noted in independent, non-sectarian Ad-Diyar (4/27):  "Beginning today, all Lebanese territories have returned to the protection of Lebanese security forces....  Far from the shameful statements that were issued by former Minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Murad about the Lebanese Army’s inability to fill the security vacuum...the Lebanese Army leadership has indeed proved the extent of its capabilities....  Now, following the Syrian withdrawal, the Army will have to face a very difficult and sensitive issue which is the disarmament of Hizballah and the Palestinian camps....  It is believed that the Army will not get involved in armed clashes with the Resistance...and will wait until this issue is solved politically....  There is a solution which is being contemplated, and was even mentioned by senior Hizballah officials--it is the revival of the law of 'The Army Supporters’ which was released in 1985.  This law aimed at providing Army cover the low number of Army personnel in South Lebanon at that time.  This brigade is practically under the Army command, but its personnel are not full time in the Army....  This solution might be discussed following the parliamentary elections."


"The Last Stop"


Sateh Noureddine said in Arab nationalist As-Safir (4/26):  "The official farewell organized today at the ‘Riyak’ Military base in Lebanon for the last Syrian soldier departing Lebanon, which will be attended by the military attaches of different Arab and foreign embassies, is a historic turning point in the Lebanese-Syrian bilateral relations....  This complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is an accurate Syrian compliance with UNSCR 1559...and is in complete harmony with Annan’s report which will be released today....  Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon was expected ever since the U.S. troops entered Iraq...but it was expected to take 2 to 3 years.  The international community’s anger over Hariri’s assassination, however, sped up this withdrawal and turned it into a reality in a very short time.  Syria tried to keep about 3000 soldiers in Eastern Beqa’, justifying its request by noting that this limited presence is to defend itself against a possible Israeli attack.  The international community rejected this request, however, and no one knows whether Israel gave guarantees not to exploit this change in the military equilibrium in the region....  Syria could not hide its feelings of failure...similarly, Washington could not hide its feelings of satisfaction with its victory over Syria....  This is an opportunity for both the Syrians and the Lebanese, though, to rebuild their relations without mafias, intelligence services and soldiers.  This means that a change is needed in the way the authorities think in both Beirut and Damascus.”


"Sources: Disarming The Palestinian Camps First"


Hussein Salameh argued in centrist Al-Anwar (4/26):  "Following the parliamentary elections, it is believed that the issue of disarming Hizballah as well as the Palestinian camps in Lebanon will be addressed....  The issue of disarming the camps is considered easier and will be tackled first.  Disarming Hizballah will be postponed until disarming the camps is completed....  Sources disclosed that the Palestinian factions in the camps are not influenced by the PA....  For this reason, the Lebanese Authorities might have to send the Lebanese Army inside the camps and disarm the Palestinians by force....  The same sources disclosed that...Hizballah also is preparing for the worst...and it has already reinforced its security around the its headquarters in what is known as Hizballah’s ‘security square’ in Beirut’s southern suburb.”


"Lebanon’s Economy Still Shackled By Syrian Occupation"


The English-language moderate Daily Star maintained (4/26):  "Today, as the last Syrian troops depart from the country they have occupied for 29 years, the Lebanese will likely breathe a sigh of relief....  During the course of Syrian occupation, Lebanese society has been deprived of the real experience of responsibility...A key concern now for the Lebanese is that the Syrian domination of Lebanon extended over not just security and political institutions, but also over the private sector, banking industrialists, trade unions and business associations.  The result is that a once vibrant Lebanese economy has slowly crumbled under Syrian mismanagement....  Now the Syrians have withdrawn, the Lebanese will have to break their habit of paralysis and start doing things a new way....  It is an urgent matter for the Lebanese to begin to address the problem of Syrian-inspired corruption....  It will take serious effort to guide public opinion and bring about a genuine change.”


ISRAEL:  "Good Morning Lebanon"


The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (4/29):  "Now, with Syria gone, Beirut must make the most of its American and French backing, and lose no time unleashing its famous economic zest.  However, even the morning after its upcoming election, Lebanon will not be able to immediately restore its role as a regional economic engine.  To accomplish that, Beirut will have to dispose of its invaders not only from without, but also from within....  For the first time in decades, [Lebanon's] destiny is its own to shape.  Plainly put, the Lebanese people's choice is between reaction and progress, poverty and prosperity, even life and death.  Hopefully, they will make the right choice, and gradually inspire more in the oppressive Middle East to follow in their footsteps."


"Withdrawal From Occupied Territory"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz declared (4/28):  "The Syrian evacuation [of troops from Lebanon] is the victory of a surprising and rare awakening of public opinion in the region, and the continuation of the reverberations being felt for the last two years in the region, ever since President George W. Bush launched a war that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq....  Lebanon will now face a triple challenge: electing a president, who for the first time in years will not be a Syrian puppet; putting an end to the military character of the Hizbullah and turning it into a political movement; and sending troops to the Lebanese-Israeli border to foil terror.  If Lebanon succeeds in these challenges, it will change the entire character of the northern arena.  If indeed the Hizbullah threat is removed and the policies--in effect, the regime--of Damascus change, Israel will have to prepare for negotiations with Syria on the basis of UNSC Resolution 242 for the return of the Golan Heights.  Even if there is some logic in the American position, which asks that Israel not save the shaky Damascus regime through negotiations, Israel cannot wait for foreign initiatives.  When there is a new regime in Damascus, Israel will be one country closer to completing the ring of peace around it--an external ring that will also require an end to the conflict with the Palestinians.  The spirit of the times sweeps aside all those who try to hold onto occupied territories."


"A New Hope In Lebanon"


Ofer Shelach opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (4/27):  "Five years after the last IDF soldier left the soil of Lebanon, Syria is completing its withdrawal from there after dozens of years of occupation and exploitation.  These are amazing sights, which would have been inconceivable one or two years ago....  First of all, one may hope that war-torn Lebanon, which during the past three decades has mostly known occupying forces that fought their wars on its soil, will be able to find the golden path despite ethnic and religious strife in its society....  What is really important is not the fact that the U.S. is just beyond [Syria's] border, and has already shown its resolve to forcefully intervene in countries whose regimes don't please it.  No less important is the enlistment of the entire international community, including countries on whose empathy Syria had counted, in the elimination of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon....  Israel can be happy about Assad's [eventual] downfall....  But it is not certain that those who are convinced that the U.S. administration--a half-ton gorilla that set the rules of the game as it wishes--will want (or be able) to ignore an occupation in a less easy spot for the U.S. than Lebanon.  The international coalition that joined the U.S. in its unequivocal demand for a Syrian pullout could now stare straight into President Bush's eyes and tell him that he should ask of Israel what he had requested from Assad."


"Troops Out, But U.S. Doesn't Trust Assad"


Nathan Guttman concluded in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (4/27):  "The Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, ostensibly completed yesterday and marked by a ceremony in the Bekaa, is far from being satisfactory to the U.S.  As far as Washington is concerned, Syrian President Bashar Assad remains a problematic and dangerous leader in the region, even if he obeyed the explicit American demand to withdraw his troops from Lebanon by the deadline.  The U.S. list of complaints against Syria is long and detailed, beginning with the issue of the Iraqi-Syrian border....  The terror issue makes up a major component on the American list of complaints....  Beyond those complaints, Washington simply does not trust Assad....  As far as the [U.S.] administration is concerned, Assad at best is unreliable, and at worst is an incorrigible conniver who should not be engaged until he has met all the U.S. demands.  And the U.S. says Assad is far from doing so.  The withdrawal from Lebanon only erases one article from the list of complaints.  Only when Assad erases each and every one of the complaints will it be possible to accept him as a legitimate partner for dialogue."


EGYPT:  "An Opportunity For Arabs"


Leading pro-government Al-Ahram declared (4/26):  "Syria's complete withdrawal came in the context of implementing UN Resolution 1559. This opens up an opportunity for Arabs to demand the implementation of UN resolutions on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied Arab territories, which include Syria and Lebanon. Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon is a national victory for all political forces over sectarianism."




Aggressive pro-government Al-Akhbar insisted (4/26):  "Years of Syrian presence will not end with its withdrawal or the disintegration of its secret services. Relations between Syria and Lebanon were not merely based on the presence of Syria's forces, but rather on the two countries' territorial coherence, nurtured by their co-operation on a single cause: Ending the Israeli occupation."


BAHRAIN:  "Time For Arabs To Break Silence"


The pro-government English-language Daily Tribune asserted (4/29):  "In a quiet end to an almost 30 years of military presence, Syria’s last soldier in Lebanon returned home on Tuesday after a modest farewell from the Lebanese.  Damascus has complied with international demands and resolutions by pulling out all its military and intelligence personnel....  But Syria has legitimate grievances...and it is entirely within its right to demand from the international community that others should also be pressured to comply with UN resolutions as well.  Israel occupies the Golan Heights in transgression of UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. Just like Syria has been pressured to comply with 1559, Israel must be compelled to comply with Resolutions 242 and 338....  If the international community is sincere and is really interested in peace in the Middle East, why is it that every time it mentions international legitimacy it fails to mention Israel? Israel is constantly allowed to disregard international laws.  All sides must be pushed into line with international legitimacy and Israel must be put on top of the list. The Jewish state still occupies land in Syria and Lebanon, in addition to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza....  We would like to see Kofi Annan use the same vigour in demanding Israel implement the 37-year-old Resolution 242 requiring its withdrawal from Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian lands....  The Syrians did everything they were required to do, but their own lands remain colonised and occupied. At this stage in the current developments, one cannot help but ask what in God’s name are the Arabs doing to draw the attention of the international community that they are the victims and Israel is the aggressor, not the other way around?....  It is time the Arabs broke their silence. What is left of the integrity of the Arab nation is at stake."


"West Must Change Its Syria Stance"


The pro-government English-language Daily Tribune editorialized (4/27):  "Yesterday marked the end of an era as the last Syrian soldiers left Lebanon. In a way, it symbolised the diplomatic victory of shrewd Bashar Al Assad in Syria’s tug-of-war with the West over its presence and influence in Lebanon....  A mature sense of Arab and Muslim brotherhood between both nations became absolutely clear when the head of Syrian intelligence, Gen. Rustom Ghazali, who left Lebanon with his unit on Monday, returned from Syria to take part in the farewell ceremony....  To the utter chagrin of the self-styled world policemen, the Lebanese army’s chief of Staff Michel Suleiman decorated Ghazali and other Syrian commanders....  Now when the Lebanese are completely on their own for their security and law and order after three decades, it is the duty of their neighbours to help Beirut....  The Syrians must be offered full support in order for them to safeguard their integrity, independence and sovereignty....  Syria’s compliance with UNSC Resolution 1559...must be rewarded by its traditional foes on the other side of Atlantic with the establishment of full diplomatic and trade ties. Syria must be brought back into the mainstream....  It is hoped that now the West would change its stance on demonised Damascus....  The Lebanese must show the world that they can work independently as now there will be no decisive Syrian say in Lebanese politics....  Now it is the turn of the international community and the UN to normalise ties with Damascus."


JORDAN:  "Applying Consistency"   


The elite English-language Jordan Times maintained (4/27):  "In the end it was an orderly withdrawal. The remainder of Syria's troops left Lebanon yesterday after 29 years and after popular Lebanese and international pressure to do so. And for all the stage management of the sending-off ceremony, under the circumstances, Syrian troops could not have left in a better way.  Across the Lebanese political spectrum voices have called for a new era in ties with Syria, ties that are imperative to both sides....  In Lebanon, the recent weeks and months of widespread popular but peaceful protests both for and against the Syrian presence, as well as the measured responses to the car bombings that have occurred are evidence that a political maturity above and beyond sectarianism has taken hold in the country. It bodes well....  It can only be hoped that promised elections will take place as soon and as orderly as possible to cement the new Lebanon.  Syria needs to find its balance both internally and on the international scene....  Internally, it must start a long-delayed reform programme....  It needs to open up to the outside and liberalise both its political system and its media.  Externally, the country still has legitimate grievances....  Just like Syria has been pressured to comply with UN resolution 1559, Israel must be compelled to comply with 242....  Israel is a thorn in the side of the Arab world. It is a wound that is exacerbated every time the international community talks of international legitimacy and fails to mention Israel. It is exacerbated every time Israel is allowed to flout international standards....  It is all very well to compel one set of foreign troops to leave, but useless if it is not a policy that is applied consistently. Israel still occupies land in Syria and Lebanon, in addition to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Let's see some concerted international efforts to end those occupations."


QATAR:  "Syrian Withdrawal Is Lesson For All"


The semi-official English-language Gulf Times held (4/26):  "Military intervention in a foreign country often leads to an unceremonial exit for the interventionist forces, Syria must have learnt this lesson in a hard way.  After dominating Lebanon militarily and politically for 29 years, Syrian troops left yesterday, bringing Damascus’ regional ambitions to an ignominious end. However, it is to the credit of the Syrian President Basher al-Assad that he kept his word....  Also the Lebanese people should remember that it was their own factional feud that forced the Syrians to intervene and the Syrian presence had been a stabilising factor....  The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri...and its political fallout have proven portentous developments for Syria....  There is no denying the fact that the withdrawal from Lebanon is a serious setback for the Ba’athist regime, which may find it difficult to survive such a display of perceived weakness.  As a result of the withdrawal, Syria will also have to face harsh economic realities.  According to an estimate, about 20% or more of the Syrian economy is based on Lebanese sources of revenue....  Losing its economic suzerainty over Lebanon could hit an already teetering Syrian economy.  Above all, Syria has lost strategic depth along its western frontier, a crucial buffer Damascus has relied upon to check its Israeli adversary. By losing Lebanon, Syria has lost its strongest negotiating card with Israel.  However, Damascus still maintains great influence over Hezbollah...a strategic asset that Syria can still use in its conflict with Israel.  Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. With the Syrians out, there will be others in the lookout for filling the void. Hence, the need for the Lebanese people to be wary of the regional power brokers."


SYRIA:  "Care Of The International Community"


Mohamed Khair Jamali commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (4/28):  "By fulfilling its withdrawal from Lebanon, Syria has proved by words and deeds that it has no greed in Lebanon and that if it has any interest it is a pan-Arab interest of strategic nature. Each Arab has to remember the conspiracy of sectarian sedition that targeted Lebanon...and Syria's dignified role in foiling it....  The crystal clear fact for all Arabs is that Israel, and those who support its devilish policies, is the side that has greed in Lebanon.  The most important fact which the world community should realize from Syria's implementation of resolution 1559 is its voluntary and intentional commitment to international legitimacy that should be a model for dealing with the UNSC resolutions. It is unreasonable that the UN issue a resolution demanding its implementation in a record time not exceeding seven months, while hundred of resolutions on the Palestinian right of return, full Israeli withdrawal, rejection of settlements and policies of Judaization remained hostage to Israeli refusal and unjustified US cover-up.  In order not to be accused of duplicity and selectivity in implementing resolutions that serve occupation and hegemony powers and ignoring resolutions that serve peoples' just causes, the world community should hasten to implement its paralyzed resolutions especially those pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict."


"Let's Stop This Cancer"


Isam Dari wrote in government-owned Tishreen (4/27):  "We don't claim that the campaign which Syria is being exposed to and the increasing pressure on Syria and Lebanon have stopped with the return of Syria troops from Lebanon. We don't claim that those who are trying to revive sedition in Lebanon, strike at Syria and redraw the map of the region will acknowledge surrender in front of the will the Syrian and Lebanese peoples. The scene is more dangerous.  We believe that what happened since the occupation of Iraq, the current gradual extermination of the Palestinian people and the assassination of Rafik Al-Hariri are just preludes for what is more dangerous, namely the so-called 'Greater Middle East' project which dictates fragmentation of the region....  One who accuses us today of still believing in the conspiracy theory... should review the schemes of neo-conservatives... mainly the theory of creative chaos just to be sure that all that has happened, from Afghanistan to Lebanon, is just the practical application of neo-conservative and Israeli strategies....  Though we are optimistic about the future of Syrian-Lebanese relations, but this is insufficient. All Arabs should be alert to the dimensions of this scheme that targets the Middle East, but is apt to expand into the rest of the Arab body like cancer."


"Solid Facts"


Omar Jaftaly commented in government-owned Tishreen (4/26):  "By accomplishing a full withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon, Syria has fulfilled its part on the Taif Accord and has refuted allegations of intruders on the Lebanese issue. Facts on political positions will prove by time who was with Lebanon and who was against it. Who served Lebanon's national and pan-Arab interests and who sought to fragment it and to legitimize intervention in its domestic affairs for well-known reasons and obvious intentions....  Now that Syria has accomplished its part in the Taif Accord and the UNSC resolution 1559, Syria and Arabs have the right to question the destiny of other ignored UNSC resolutions... and to charge those who violate international legitimacy and who adopt double standards away from the logic of righteousness, justice and law."


UAE:  "Surviving Syria"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times contended (4/27):  "At long last, last of the Syrian soldiers in Lebanon have gone home. It may take a while for the people of Lebanon to realise they are completely free and that the Syrians have indeed departed after 29 long years. And it may take a little longer to wake up to the reality that now they are on their own. Now that Damascus has retreated back, the Lebanese have to fend for themselves in every sense of the word.  The Syrian role in Lebanon was not limited to territorial defence and maintenance of law and order in the country.  The Syrian stranglehold went beyond strategic and political control and contributed to corruption in every sphere of public activity.  Most of Lebanon’s institutions are crumbling due to years of mismanagement and rampant corruption.  The Lebanese people, therefore, would be mistaken to assume that Syria’s exit will lead to all round happiness and endless honeymoon.  The real battle for survival has just begun.  Lebanon’s leaders and people must join hands to deal with the formidable challenges ahead. The choice is between sticking together to survive and sinking under the weight of their divisions."


"Small Scene In Big Act"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today declared (4/27):  "Syria has ended nearly 30 years of military presence in Lebanon, clearing the way for the Lebanese to assert themselves and gain control of their destiny without external intervention. At least that is the scenario on the surface.  However, it cannot be said that the Lebanese would be going to polls in May in an atmosphere free from foreign meddling. That external influence will be part of a broader strategy aimed at continued pressure on Syria and a dilution of the strength, if not outright elimination, of 'hardline' Lebanese groups like Hizbollah which pose a challenge to Israel.  Ironically, for the Arabs there is one thing in common in the Iraq and Lebanon situations....  We know that it was no great love for the people of Iraq or any great desire for demorcracy that was behind the invasion and occupation of that country two years ago. Similarly, we know that it was no great love for the Lebanese or any great desire for allowing Lebanon to assert itself...behind the international pressure that was applied against Syria....  Syrians benefited both politically and economically from their presence in Lebanon.  It was no secret that many Lebanese resented the Syrian presence but they were unable to do anything about it, and the Hariri assassination brought them together to demand that the Syrians leave.  Is that the end of the Lebanese-Syrian story, now that the Syrians have left Lebanon? No, by a long shot.  The powers that be are not done with Syria. They want to remove Syria--and indeed any country or group--as a hurdle in the way of Israel's quest for regional domination and the Syrian departure from Lebanon is only one small scene in a big act." 




BRITAIN:  "A Risk For Syria Offers A Chance For The Region"


An editorial in the center-left Independent read (4/27):  "The demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that followed the death of Mr. Hariri exposed also the continuing divide in Lebanon.  It was apparent then that the Syrian presence was losing what remained of its capacity to foster stability.  The question now is whether Lebanon's rival groups can find a way of coexisting productively and in peace."


"Syria's Writ Runs Out"


The conservative Daily Telegraph argued (4/27):  "Beirut was once the jewel of the Middle East.  The lifting of the Syrian yoke gives it a chance to regain its sparkle.  But that can come about only through a readiness to compromise that was tragically lacking in the 1970s and led to the agony of prolonged civil war."


"Syria's Long Goodbye"


The left-of-center Guardian opined (4/27):  "Is Lebanon a beneficiary of the 'ripple of change' claimed by those seeking to vindicate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, adding 'people power' and a 'Cedar Revolution' in Beirut to elections in Iraq and Palestine?  Up to a point.  But Syria had long outstayed its welcome, and it was, and remains, an easy target for a tyranny-targeting US."


"Good Riddance:  New Life For Lebanon As The Syrian Occupation Ends"


The conservative Times stated (4/26):  "Lebanon's liberation is dramatic, a lifting of an overwhelming presence.  The dancing in the villages of the Bekaa, where people have rushed to scrub hated Syrian slogans from their walls and hang out Lebanese flags, underlines how Syria's rapid withdrawal has lifted a curtain of fear that blanketed the country."


FRANCE;  "The Lebanese Puzzle"


Right-of-center Les Echos argued (4/29):  “While we can but rejoice in the fact that the last Syrian soldier has just left Lebanon, two things can still dampen our enthusiasm. The first is that the Syrians have left under protest....  Their departure is due to an evolution of Washington’s policy. Because this pullout is the result of pressure, we can fear that it will last only as long as Washington’s pressure continues. The second has to do with Lebanese society and economy. The country is weak, economically, and its society is founded on religious communities....  The question is how to make the different parts of this puzzle work out, pulled as the pieces are between the Shiite Iranian big brother, solidarity for the Palestinian cause, and the memory of Lebanon as a meeting point for East and West? This is the major challenge of the Lebanese elections....  The West would be well advised to help in the Lebanese reconstruction. The cost would be minimal but the gains in the equilibrium for peace would be great.”


"A New Future For Lebanon"


Jean-Christophe Ploquin asserted in Catholic La Croix (4/27):  “Syria’s influence in Lebanon will remain strong. Especially through Lebanon’s intelligence which Syria has infiltrated....  Competition for directing the country’s future will be operating between Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also France and the U.S....  The challenge facing Lebanon is daunting, particularly as a scenario for a shock between civilizations can still be fomented in the Middle East.”


"Hezbollah’s Dilemma"


Antoine Basbous wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (4/27):  “For Hezbollah, the moment of truth is fast approaching....  The dismantling of 'Hezbollah-land,’ which spreads across Lebanon, is not to the liking of Syria....  Until now, the Lebanese dared not call for the disarming of Hezbollah which they ardently want....  With the programmed fall of its number one supporter, Syria, Hezbollah faces a number of challenges for its survival...which includes a re-assessment of its ideology...and the disarming of the movement in order to accelerate its positioning as a political movement....  Hezbollah would be well inspired to re-asses the new regional balance of power to operate its mutation and join the Lebanese consensus for national unity and independence.”


"A New Start"


Gerard Dupuy noted in left-of-center Liberation (4/26):  “The Assad dynasty has based its influence, both inside and outside, on the unscrupulous use of power. But the system has broken down: caught in an economic semi-quagmire, concerned about its Kurdish minority’s awakening, destabilized since Saddam Hussein’s fall and Iraq’s outline for democracy, Damascus has finally reacted to pressure from America, belatedly helped by France....  The Lebanese opposition is united in its rejection of Syria, but has no unified plans. The country is in dire need of new institutions if it hopes to get a new start with lasting results....  With their departure, the Syrians are leaving behind many hidden landmines and uncertainties. But now the Lebanese are face to face with themselves and have no longer a pretext to continue to do nothing.”


GERMANY:  "Lebanese Castling"


Josef Joffe observed in center-left weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (4/28):  "Some things like the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon are to good to be true....  However, the army might be gone, but the power apparatus is still there.  Tens of thousands of Syrians were recently naturalized in Lebanon...among them were 5,000 intelligence agents.  That fits in quite well with the classic pattern.  When the army was still in Lebanon, Damascus infiltrated the institutions of the country with pro-Syrian forces, such as the current President, the interim Prime Minister and half of the members of parliament....  Also the defense pact between both countries, which basically entitles Syria to return one day, must be kept in mind.  However, the good news is that Europe and the U.S. can achieve a lot in the Middle East if they cooperate and do not work against each other.  After the Hariri assassination, the U.S. and France pushed through a resolution at the UN, which demanded free elections in Lebanon and the withdrawal of foreign troops.  Assad was suddenly isolated, also among Arab rulers.  The burden he will be for Lebanon in the future will depend on whether this [transatlantic] alliance remains active."




Matthias Arning observed in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (4/27):  "The assassination was supposed to intimidate the people and to solidify the position of the rulers, but the attack on the former Lebanese leader did not shake the self-confidence of the opposition.  On the contrary, the opposition remained firm in the name of Hariri.   Although the direction the Syrian forces took is not yet clear, the opposition forced the troops to leave the streets of Beirut."


"Lebanese On Their Own"


Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (4/27):  "At last, Syrians took down their flag and left the country.  Most Lebanese are happy about the end of thirty years of Syrian occupation, which had politically paralyzed the country at least since the end of the civil war in 1990.  However, we can be certain that parts of Syria's widespread intelligence apparatus will remain in the neighboring country.  Americans in particular will now insist that Damascus does not play a great role in the upcoming election campaign....  Given the existence of pro-Syrian groups like Hezbollah or parts of the Sunni leadership in Lebanon, Assad's regime will continue to bear some influence there, but--for the first time in decades--the Lebanese will be able to elect their political leaders without being under pressure from an armed occupation force.   We can only hope that the old conflicts between the leading families and ethnic groups will not break out again since they are on their own again."




Boris Kalnoky said in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (4/27):  "Have the Syrians really left the country?  There are many indications that the Shiite militia Hezbollah will now become the new Syrian power factor in Lebanon.  Syria will remain a threat in Lebanon with Hezbollah's political and military influence as well as that of the Syrian intelligence forces.  However, Syria and Hezbollah are also scared.  Syria is at the brink of ruin, given its economic misery and the political pressure from the United States.  Poor and oppressed Syrians could easily see Lebanon as an example and demand more freedom."


ITALY:  "In Lebanon Not All That Goes Is Gold, The Hezbollah Problem Remains"


Emanuele Ottolenghi advised in pro-government, elite Il Foglio (4/26):  “The withdrawal from Lebanon could now cost another important card: Syria's instrument of pressure, through Hezbollah, on Israel. More important than economic...or strategic reasons to remain in Lebanon, the international situation in particular works against Syria. While losing Lebanon is a tough blow to the Syrian regime, its possible isolation in the Arab world and the heightening clash with the U.S. are even greater risks. Syria’s current fragility accounts for its cautious attempts to resume the peace process with Israel....  Lebanon’s withdrawal doesn’t necessarily mean a  decrease in Syrian influence....  Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon gives way to a season of uncertainties, not of good auspices.”


BELGIUM:  "Lebanon"


Maroun Labaki warned in left-of-center Le Soir (4/27):  "In politics, it is sometimes like with tsunamis. Before February 14 and the deadly attack against former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, there were only small waves, but after that date, everything was swept away.  Political tensions are similar to tectonic tensions--they end up in earthquakes--but here George Bush entered into the game and set off a wave of change in Beirut and throughout Lebanon."




Foreign editor Gerald Papy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (4/26):  "What is paradoxical is that Syrians are being ousted from Lebanon by, among others, the Americans, who had almost given them an entry ticket in 1976 to protect Christian factions and in 1991 to thank them for their symbolic contribution to the anti-Saddam Hussein coalition that had been set up to liberate Kuwait.  It is useful to underline these facts at the moment when the U.S.--it is true with another Administration--has ambitions to democratize countries that it contributed to enslaving.”


POLAND:  "Lebanon’s Second Independence"


Dawid Warszawski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (4/27):  “The last Syrian troops left Lebanon on Tuesday. The country regained independence a second time....  But the threat of civil war is still in the air. It is also hard to assess whether Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime will manage the political-economic crisis that the troop withdrawal will cause. Its power, after all--in Lebanon as well as Syria--was based only on force, and the example of Lebanon also showed the Syrians that this power can be opposed.”


SPAIN: "The Syrian Goodbye"


Left-of-center El País asserted (4/27):  "The Lebanese emancipation from the oppressive Syrian embrace should occur at the end of next month, when the country holds elections....  There is as much hope as fear that the elections will derail in the final stage....  The (Syrian) retreat of troops and the most visible part of its formidable security machine weakens a bit more the isolated Syrian president, Basher Al Asad, who, after five years in power, has diminished credibility as the reach of his alleged reforms....  Time will see until what point Damascus will not consider Lebanon as its western appendix."


"Syria leaves Lebanon"


Independent El Mundo concluded (4/27):  "After the Israeli withdrawal (from Lebanon) in 2000, the Damascus regime has also retreated.  The weakness of its international position impeded its extended situation (in the neighboring country).  It's a tactical movement that ends a phase of the complex Middle East chess game, but that doesn't mean that Damascus is going to renounce having influence in the country, or that its secret services are not going to try to maneuver in Lebanon.  For this reason it is essential to rebuild the autonomy of the country under a democratic regime....  Full sovereignty, democratization, a constitution with the rule of law, and the control that can be obtained over Hezbollah’s actions, are essential to create the bases of understanding in the complex religious and political Lebanese puzzle.  Israel, for its own interest, must help to settle the stability in the neighboring country with which it still continues to confront."




CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Biggest Challenge Still Ahead For Lebanon"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (4/27):  "The Syrian forces, mainly through their feared military intelligence units, had a stranglehold on Lebanese politics.  It is therefore good to see that General Rustom Ghazaleh, who led the intelligence forces, has left with the troops.  The resignation of the pro-Syrian Lebanese security chief will also help the country make a fresh start.  Much now depends on the new Lebanese government, which still includes many Syrian sympathizers.  A fresh election is due to be held by the end of next month.  The opposition--riding a wave of anger over Hariri's death--is expected to sweep to power.  It is to be hoped that this election proceeds peacefully and that Lebanese people are able to make their choice freely.  After that, it will be up to the new government to try to unite Lebanon's different religious groups and to make the new era of self-reliance a reality.  Sorting out Lebanon's economy should be a priority. There is talk of a peace deal with Israel, although this is a sensitive issue that could disrupt Lebanon's relations with Syria.  The government will need to take things one step at a time.  Yesterday, crowds of Lebanese people threw flowers to celebrate the departure of the Syrian forces.  Today, the difficult job of setting Lebanon on a new course--one, it must be hoped, free from Syrian influence--will begin."


JAPAN:  "U.S. Takes Credit For Syrian Troop Pullout"


Liberal Mainichi observed (4/28):  "State Department spokesman Ereli expressed the view Tuesday that the recent withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon was possible because of enhanced international pressure on Damascus following last year's adoption of UN Resolution 1559, which was jointly sponsored by the U.S. and France.  Since Washington and Paris had agreed on the need to apply stronger pressure on Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon, international coordination on the Syrian front appears to have been a success.  With Secretary of State Rice stressing the importance of diplomacy, we are paying closer attention to see whether the Bush administration will continue taking a 'multilateral approach' in dealing with other foreign policy issues."  


"True Independence Still Far"


An editorial in conservative Sankei read (4/27):  "Amid the rapid decline in Syrian influence, the lack of political leadership by Lebanese politicians has become more pronounced.  Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Mikati is reportedly eager to hold a national election by the end of May, but a change in election laws, imperative to implement such a nationwide poll, has yet been realized because of conflicting views held by various religious political parties.  There are concerns that conflicts between religion-affiliated parties could be rekindled if Mikati fails to exercise strong leadership."     


"Beginning Of New Era?"


Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri editorialized (4/27):  "Syria has completely withdrawn its troops from Lebanon, with most Lebanese apparently celebrating 'independence' from the Syrian rule.  But, verification by the UN or another third party is imperative to determine whether the pullout represents Damascus' surrender of intervention into the domestic affairs of Lebanon....  As the ongoing sea change in the Middle East, triggered by the collapse of the Hussein regime in Iraq, appears to have prompted Syrian President Assad to decide on the pullout, the withdrawal could undermine his domestic leadership.  Because Syria has played a key role in major regional issues such as Israel-Palestine conflicts and the Iraq war, closer attention must be paid to future political developments in Damascus.  Lebanon is a mosaic state comprised of different religious and ethnic groups.  The political vacuum created by the Syrian withdrawal must not be replaced by civil war."


"End To Syrian Ambition"


An editorial in top-circulation moderate Yomiuri read (4/26):  "Syria's withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon brought an end to its 29-year control of its vulnerable neighbor.  The two nations appear to stand at a historic crossroad in their bilateral relations.  Syrian President Assad needs to establish a new alliance with Lebanon after his ambition to create a 'greater Syria' was blocked.  Since 1970, Damascus has claimed that Lebanon belongs to Syria from historic and strategic viewpoints.  The U.S. has overlooked Syria's assertion partly because of the nation's participation in the multinational force in the 1991 Gulf War.  However, the 'unusual' relationship between Syria and Lebanon finally came to an end following determined calls of the international community, including the Bush administration, for Syria's complete withdrawal from Lebanon.  President Assad seemed to understand that he had no other choice but to completely retreat from Lebanon.  The two Middle East nations would need to reestablish their relations fundamentally.  However, the 29 year-long distorted relations are likely to make it difficult for both Syria and Lebanon to immediately change their views toward their neighbors.  Damascus is likely to try to maintain its influence over Lebanon by supporting pro-Syrian elements in the dependent neighbor."


INDONESIA:  "Finally Syria Pulls Out from Lebanon"


Independent Suara Pembaruan observed (4/28):  "Finally Syria pulls out of Lebanon. Before leaving the country, Syrian troops held a farewell parade. They are welcomed warmly in their home country as heroes. On the other hand, Lebanese people witnessed the farewell parade in silence. The Syrian troop pullout was done due to international pressure....  The urgent things that Lebanon needs after the Syrian troop pullout is to conduct a free and fair election, as scheduled next May. The delay of the election will threaten security, stability and prosperity in Lebanon. If the election could be conducted successfully, this would change the domestic political map and establish an independent government. Reconciliation in the country between those pro and anti Syrians must be also implemented immediately....  Apart from that, the Syrian troop pullout has definitely brought fresh wind to the geopolitical map in the Middle East. We hope Lebanon will develop again. The country should be free from other countries' s intervention.”            


"After Syria Pulls Out From Lebanon"


Muslim-intellectual Republika commented (4/27):  "It was a historical day for the Lebanese people yesterday.  A farewell ceremony was held to mark the end of Syrian troop presence in the country....  Ever since Syrian troops entered Lebanon, the country has been relatively stable. Regime changes occurred smoothly.  The economic wheel rolled and Lebanon regained its ‘Paris from the East’ title....  But political and security stability began to be disturbed by geopolitical changes in the Middle East.  President Bush’s campaign against international terrorism greatly affected the country because the war against terrorism constituted more of an excuse. In fact, the real motive was efforts to weaken those countries that have the courage to defy U.S. policy....  With the Syrians pulling out, U.S. and Israeli influence [in Lebanon] will definitely become more dominant.  Southern Lebanon, which has always been the basis for attacking Israel, will certainly be paralyzed.  It is guessable that the ‘expulsion’ of the Syrian troops was part of the U.S. grand scenario in the Middle East.”     




CANADA:  "Reluctant Exit"


The centrist Winnipeg Free Press asserted (4/28): “Many Lebanese rejoice at the prospect of having their country back, but Syrian influence will continue. The troops may be gone but it is difficult to say if the Syrian intelligence apparatus has been completely dismantled. Hezbollah remains a strong military force in Lebanon and it takes its orders from Damascus. The Lebanese president and the government are no less Syrian puppets today than they were two months ago. Even so, it is an encouraging indication that change for the better is brewing in the region. Lebanon is setting up for an election that can now be held without direct Syrian interference for the first time in almost three decades. Coming after elections in Palestine and Iraq and the promise of elections in Egypt, it is an indication of how rapidly events are moving in the Middle East.”


"When Revolution Becomes Routine"


The conservative National Post opined (4/27):  "Who would have thought that Syria's three-decade-long occupation of Lebanon would end with such a whimper? This week, the last of Syria's troops were observed packing their bags and heading back to Damascus. Lebanese citizens have wasted no time taking down portraits and statues of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad--symbols of a quasi-colonial presence that the Arab and non-Arab worlds alike ignored for far too long. Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, which appeared to have stalled in recent months thanks to divisions within Lebanese society, has scored a major victory....  For years, Lebanon has been a pretend-democracy ruled from Damascus by Mr. Assad--and before him, by his father Hafez. What was it that suddenly made millions of Lebanese believe they could free their nation by marching in the streets? For this, much of the credit must go to U.S. President George W. Bush and his allies in the war on terror. Before Mr. Bush launched his much-maligned invasion of Iraq, the Arab world did not boast a single legitimate, multi-party democracy. That changed in January, when Iraq staged free and fair elections--those coming within months of an election in Afghanistan, another Muslim nation invaded and democratized by U.S. forces, as well as an equally historic vote in the PA.  It is a measure of how much Mr. Bush has changed the world for the better that news of Syria's evacuation from Lebanon is mostly being reported on newspapers' back pages. The spread of freedom, once virtually unthinkable in the Arab world, has now become an accepted part of the Middle East landscape. We can only hope that Syrians, having witnessed the democratic stirrings on three of their borders, will be the next to rise up."


"Syria's Lebanon Spring"


The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (4/26):  "It's early to be cheering for a 'Damascus spring' of democracy, although Syria's autocratic President Bashar Assad has been hinting at political and economic reform when his Baath party meets in June....  Still, Syria will become a more 'normal' Mideast state today, as Assad pulls the last of 15,000 occupation troops and secret police out of Lebanon after three decades. This is a victory for 4 million Lebanese. And it is good for 17 million Syrians if it heralds political change there as well. Certainly, it invites cautious optimism that Syria may go down the bumpy road to a more forward-looking, pluralistic society....  With Syria's pullout, Lebanese prime-minister-designate Najib Mikati has welcomed a UN probe of the Hariri murder and promises national elections May 29. No doubt Assad hopes to manoeuvre behind the scenes to ensure that pro-Syrian forces, including the terror-tainted armed Hezbollah movement, do well in the election. Still, the fact is that the Lebanese can now vote for the first time in 30 years without being in the shadow of Syrian tanks. Their first order of business must be to ask if Hezbollah intends to break with foreign sponsors in Damascus and Tehran, give up the gun and operate as a Lebanese political and social movement, or whether it will continue to serve as a proxy for those who want to keep Lebanon divided and weak, and hostile to Israel. Hezbollah's reply will tell the Lebanese whether it intends to work for their good, or against it. And it will speak volumes to Syrians about the prospects for a Damascus spring." 



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