A “Cedar Revolution” I

“We find ourselves in an era of monumental advancement for human rights and democracy,” Paula Dobriansky, the American Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, said on Monday.

She was releasing the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2004.

Dobriansky continued:

As the President noted in Bratislava just last week, there was a Rose Revolution in Georgia, an Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and most recently a Purple Revolution in Iraq. In Lebanon, we see growing momentum for a Cedar Revolution that is unifying the citizens of that nation to the cause of true democracy and freedom from foreign influence. Hopeful signs span the globe and that there should be no doubt that the years ahead will be great ones for the cause of freedom.

So: A “Cedar Revolution” is how the regime in Washington—or a public relations firm under contract to it, or a Non-Governmental Organization that sniffs a new mission, or a bright, young, Ivy-League-educated commentator working for the English-language media—or all of the above—has baptized the latest round of the contest over Lebanon. Following the “Purple,” the “Orange,” and the “Rose” elsewhere. And the “Velvet.” And……..Does anybody still recall what color Belgrade’s was in October 2000?

Here, then, is one for the record: The phrase ‘Cedar Revolution’ did not even turn up in the electronically-archived universe to which you are presently connected until Dobriansky’s news conference on February 28. Yep. Just four days ago: Monday, February 28. True, it already may feel like the phrase has been in circulation forever. But this is hardly the case. It was invented only this week.

Thus, as Associated Press reported from the scene of the Dobriansky news conference, the “State Department decided that the anti-Syria street demonstrations in Lebanon needed a name….Dobriansky’s formulation reflects Lebanon’s majestic trees that are celebrated in the Bible as a symbol of well-being and are the centerpiece of the national flag.” (“Revolution May Be Underway in Lebanon,” Barry Schweid, Feb. 28.)

The scenario—or, rather, the script—at work here is unmistakable. (I still recall John Laughland’s pellucid commentary on the last instantiation of the script: “The revolution televised,” The Guardian, Nov. 27, 2004. Also the mass mobilization on the script’s behalf within the English-language media. And the enforcers who pounced on Laughland for his deviationism.)

Anyway. The script works like this: There once was a regime that, for whatever reason, the Americans counted among their official enemies. (Again, as AP recounted it, way back in 1989, “Czechoslovak playwright Vaclav Havel led his Velvet Revolution and overthrew the country’s communist rulers mostly with protest marches. Democracy returned to Prague after a half-century of German and then Soviet control.”) Suddenly, this regime finds itself on the ropes. In its place, the Americans support freedom and democracy and an end to the foreign occupation of the country, and the like. Once a basic narrative such as this has been established, the media tsunami follows. Monday’s news conference by Paula Dobriansky at the State Department really was all that the English-language media needed.

Thus, the very next day, Voice of America News Service reported (“Lebanon Presents New Headaches for Neighboring Syria,” Gary Thomas, March 1):

Lebanon is in the throes of what some have labeled the Cedar Revolution. Fueling the popular discord there is anger at neighboring Syria, which has long maintained a role in Lebanese affairs, as well as garrisoning troops there. As VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, Syria finds itself under increasing international pressure.

For years, Syria has treated Lebanon as its back yard. Even after the 1989 agreement that ended 15 years of civil war, Syria kept some 15-thousand troops and a wide intelligence network in Lebanon, and wielded considerable clout over Lebanese political affairs.

Likewise, with very few exceptions, across the rest of the English-language media:

Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government abruptly resigned yesterday, bowing to the demands of thousands of demonstrators who hold it and its Syrian patrons responsible for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the country’s former prime minister.

The unexpected move followed a dramatic day of public protest in Martyrs’ Square – near Hariri’s burial site in Beirut – and a stormy parliamentary session in which opposition leaders lined up to denounce the government, some suggesting it had masterminded the assassination.

US officials hailed Beirut’s “cedar revolution”, as Omar Karameh, the prime minister who had refused to step down since the murder on February 14, announced his government’s resignation “out of concern that it does not become an obstacle to the good of the country”.

Lebanon’s popular rising has been taken by Washington as a fresh sign of Middle East democratisation. It comes after elections in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories, and Egypt’s weekend announcement that it would allow other candidates to challenge its president this year. (“Lebanon’s government quits,” Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, March 1.)

Elated Lebanese hailed Monday as a turning point.

“This is a new phenomenon in this part of the world — it was the people who gave the irresistible force of pressure that made the prime minister cave in,” said Jamil Mroue, publisher of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut. “As far as we’re concerned, this is the rebirth of Lebanon.”

In Washington, a State Department official extolled the developments as a “cedar revolution” — akin to recent political upheavals in Ukraine and Georgia. A deputy assistant secretary, David Satterfield, was in Lebanon on Monday to meet with the Lebanese foreign minister and to visit Hariri’s residence. Satterfield had no advance knowledge that the government would step down, department spokesman Adam Ereli said. (“Lebanon’s Government Falls Amid Surging Street Protests,” Megan K. Stack and Rania Abouzeid, Los Angeles Times, March 1.)

Mr. Hariri’s assassination on Feb. 14 turned the opposition movement, which initially began in 2001 and took shape in 2004, into a populist movement on the streets.

”It was unprecedented for the Syrians,” Dr. Khazen said. ”It is the first time in Lebanon we see such national unity on such a crucial issue.” Syria has faced fierce pressure in recent weeks. The Bush administration recalled its ambassador to Syria last week, and has demanded that Syria leave Lebanon completely.

United Nations investigators landed in Beirut on Friday to investigate the assassination, emphasizing the lack of confidence many Lebanese have in Lebanon’s Syrian-backed government. The international community, together with Lebanon’s growing opposition movement, has increased pressure on Syria. Arab leaders like the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, have also sent Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, messages to withdraw, warning of dire consequences otherwise.

Syrian officials described the resignation on Monday as a ”Lebanese issue.” ”We hope that a Lebanese government will emerge to lead Lebanon to what is best for Lebanon and for the rest of the region in this very delicate time,” an official of the Foreign Ministry said.

State Department officials, who have the called the fall of the government the cedar revolution — like Ukraine’s orange revolution — praised the opposition’s efforts. (“Lebanon’s Pro-Syria Government Quits After Protests,” Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, March 1.)

Omar Karami, Lebanon’s pro-Syrian Prime Minister, announced his resignation before a stunned parliament last night as tens of thousands of jubilant Lebanese vowed to continue a non-stop rally in central Beirut until Syria withdraws its troops from the country.

It was the most dramatic moment in two weeks of turmoil in Lebanon since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Prime Minister, in a bomb blast, and will be a serious blow to Syria, which faces intense international pressure to pull out its 14,000 troops.

In Washington, the US Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky, last night described what was happening in Lebanon as the Cedar Revolution. The name refers to Lebanon’s majestic trees that are mentioned in the Bible and feature on the national flag. (“Beirut joy as protests force pro-Syrian leader into resignation,” Nicholas Blanford, The Times, March 1.)

While on the same day (March 1), the American Secretary of State took up the torch during her news conference in London with France’s Foreign Minister:

[E]vents in Lebanon are moving in a very important direction. It is also the case that the Lebanese people are beginning to express their aspirations for democracy, their aspirations that they be able to carry out their political aspirations without foreign interference. This is something that we support very much. Resolution 1559, which was co-sponsored by France and the United States within the UN Security Council, calls very firmly for free elections, free and fair elections to take place in Lebanon, for foreign forces, both troops and intelligence forces, to withdraw and for the Lebanese people to be able to conduct their affairs, Lebanese for Lebanon, and not with foreign interference, and this is something on which we agreed very much.

We also want to make certain that we intensify our dialogue about Lebanon and have asked our political directors to meet later today, here in London, to talk about how we can further support the process of elections in Lebanon, how we can further support the removal of foreign elements of interference in Lebanese affairs and how we can move forward to the full implementation of Resolution 1559 within the UN framework.

Also the same day (March 1), at the White House, chief spokesman Scott McClellan opened his news conference:

The resignation of the Karami government represents an opportunity for the Lebanese people to have a new government that is truly representative of their country’s diversity. The new government will have the responsibility of implementing free and fair elections that the Lebanese people have clearly demonstrated they desire. We believe the process of a new government should proceed in accordance with the Lebanese constitution and should be free of all foreign interference. It is time for Syria to fully comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. That means Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country. That will help ensure the elections are free and fair.

Still. In case these comments failed to sufficiently wow them, then the American President’s comments the next day surely succeeded (March 2):

[F]reedom is on the march. It’s a profound period of time. (Applause.) Our Secretary of State is returning from her trip to Europe. I will visit with her tomorrow afternoon. I talked to her on the phone yesterday. I applauded the press conference she held with the Foreign Minister from France, where both of them stood up and said loud and clear to Syria, you get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon so that good democracy has a chance to flourish. (Applause.)

The world is working together for the sake of freedom and peace. The world is speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the greater Middle East. And when democracies take hold, the world becomes more peaceful; the world becomes a better place for our children and our grandchildren. So I look forward to continuing to work with friends and allies to advance freedom — not America’s freedom, but universal freedom, freedom granted by a Higher Being. (Applause.)

Higher Being or Higher Power—take your pick. “President Bush lashed out at Syria yesterday as his administration outlined a three-pronged strategy to increase pressure on Damascus to quickly pull its troops and intelligence services out of Lebanon,” the Washington Post reported this morning (March 3). “Lebanon has rapidly become a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s effort to promote democracy in the Middle East — as Syria has increasingly become the target of U.S. scorn and pressure. Stephen A. Seche, the deputy in charge of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, delivered a tough message to the Syrian government Tuesday, U.S. officials said.” The editorial voice of the Post carried this line further. An “emerging Arab movement of people power” is now sweeping across Lebanon, throwing not only the “crude and callow tyrant” in Damascus, but also the entire “dictator-dominated Arab League,” for a loop. “The potential payoff is a big one: another free election in the Arab world this spring, an independent Lebanon and, just possibly, a change in Syria. The old, corrupt order in Beirut, as in Baghdad, is crumbling.”

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Also this morning (March 3), Agence France Presse is reporting (“Youth of Lebanon at forefront of ‘Cedar Revolution’,” Henri Mamarbachi):

The youth of Lebanon have occupied the front line of the “Cedar Revolution” gripping the country since the February 14 assassination of popular former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

After starting out as a show of anger and grieving over the murder of Hariri in a huge bomb blast in central Beirut, the protests have taken on a festive air since they forced the resignation of prime minister Omar Karameh on Sunday.

Young Lebanese, both Christians and Muslims, have turned out in their tens of thousands for what has turned into an open-ended show of “people power”, a rarity in the Arab world.

It has also been dubbed the “Gucci revolution” after its trendy participants in fashion-conscious Lebanon.

Many of the participants are fearful for their prospects in Lebanon, and faced with the choice of unemployment or emigration. Most did not experience Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, a time when young people had no voice.

“What has surprised me the most is this forgotten youth which is retaking possession of their country,” said Roger Kayem, a Lebanese banker living in France who was in Beirut on holiday.

Veteran Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a former warlord from the civil war, said Wednesday that the youth were at the forefront of the movement.

“The youngsters of Lebanon are expecting more. We have to give the young people of Lebanon their rights. They want a free Lebanon, an independent Lebanon,” he said on CNN after an opposition meeting at his home.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Maronite Christian bishops paid tribute to the young demonstrators “who have come together, a mixture of all sects, away from politics, gathered around the Lebanese flag”.

In front of their tents, red banners show the crescent of Islam and the Christian cross.

The demonstrations — dubbed the Cedar Revolution by the US State Department, after the tree on the Lebanese flag which has been omnipresent at the protests — were partly inspired by the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine.

Under the rallying cry of “Syria out”, the stage for the drama over the past two weeks has been Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut, unofficially renamed “Freedom Square”.

With the red-white-green national flag as their banner, the “peaceful intifada for the independence of Lebanon” as the anti-Syrian camp in Lebanese politics terms it, has taken on a festival atmosphere.

On Monday, rather than preventing demonstrators from reaching Martyrs’ Square in compliance with a government ban, Lebanese army soldiers were accepting flowers from protesters as they climbed over barricades.

The demonstrators sang and danced in the square when Karameh announced the resignation of his pro-Syrian government. Anti-Syrian politicians have vowed the protests will continue until Syria pulls out its 14,000 troops in Lebanon.

The opposition blamed the Karameh government and its political masters in Syria for the murder of Hariri in a huge bomb blast in a seafront district of central Beirut that also killed 18 other people.

Throughout this entire sample (both above and below), there is an assumption at work: Not only that democracy is dawning in the Middle East. (Or in the “Arab World,” as so many commentators like to put it.)

But that the Americans really do want democracy to dawn there. (Or anywhere else, for that matter.)

Indeed. That a unique moment—or several unique but nevertheless overlapping moments—is presenting itself in the region. And that the Americans—or The West (chiefly the British, the French, and the Americans)—or the International Community (the British, the French, and the Americans—and whichever secondary states they manage to drag along with them, including the United Nations), must seize this moment, and make its promises happen.

But what are these promises? A Middle East free of conflict? A Middle East free of foreign interference?

Foreign occupation? Foreign domination?

Or an “Arab World” exactly where the Americans want it?

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

On-the-Record Briefing on the Release of the 2004 Annual Report on Human Rights,” Paula Dobriansky, U.S. Department of State, February 28, 2005
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2004, U.S. Department of State, 2005
Lebanon,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2004
Syria,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2004
Israel and the Occupied Territories,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2004

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, March 1, 2005
Remarks With French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier,” Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Department of State, March 1, 2004
President Participates in Job Training and Education Conversation,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, March 2, 2005

Revolution May Be Underway in Lebanon,” Barry Schweid, Associated Press, February 28, 2005
Lebanon’s Government Quits in Face of Mass Protest,” Lucy Fielder, Reuters, February 28, 2005
An Opportunity in Syria,” Rami G. Khouri, Boston Globe, February 28, 2005
New openings for Arab democracy,” Nicholas Blanford and Gretchen Peters, Christian Science Monitor, February 28, 2005
Syria Turns Over A Top Insurgent, Iraq Officials Say,” John F. Burns et al., New York Times, February 28, 2005
Beirut leaders face protests,” Nicholas Blanford, The Times, February 28, 2005
A Mideast Makeover?” Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, February 28, 2005

Pressure Mounts on Syria After Lebanon Govt Collapse,” Nadim Ladki, Reuters, March 1, 2005
Rice Offers Lebanon U.S. Election Help,” Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, March 1, 2005
Leaders driven to resign in Lebanon,” Craig Nelson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 1, 2005
Terror Pushes Syria to Breaking Point,” Nicolas Rothwell, The Australian, March 1, 2005
Lebanese Government Forced Out,” Evan Osnos, Chicago Tribune, March 1, 2005
Lebanon’s government quits as anti-Syria protests swell,” Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, March 1, 2005
People power brings down Lebanese government,” Tim Butcher, Daily Telegraph, March 1, 2005
Arab world squirms at impact of Bush’s call for freedom,” Anton La Guardia, Daily Telegraph, March 1, 2005
Syria courts disaster on two fronts,” Editorial, Daily Telegraph, March 1, 2005
The Arabs’ Berlin Wall has crumbled,” Mark Steyn, Daily Telegraph, March 1, 2005
Lebanon’s government quits,” Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, March 1, 2005
Protests force out Lebanese government,” Ewen MacAskill et al., The Guardian, March 1, 2005
Road Map to Damascus,” Editorial, The Guardian, March 1, 2005
“Jubilation in Beirut After Pro-Syrian Government Reigns,” Bassem Mroue, The Independent, March 1, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
“Pro-Syrian government steps down in Lebanon,” Michael Jansen, Irish Times, March 1, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
Lebanon’s Government Falls Amid Surging Street Protests,” Megan K. Stack and Rania Abouzeid, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2005
Winds of Change Stir in Mideast, but Their Direction Is Unclear,” Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2005
The Cedar Revolution,” Editorial, New York Sun, March 1, 2005
Lebanon’s Pro-Syria Government Quits After Protests,” Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, March 1, 2005
Mideast Mix: New Promise of Democracy and Threat of Instability,” Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, March 1, 2005
Resignations in Beirut,” Mohamad Bazzi, Newsday, March 1, 2005
Beirut joy as protests force pro-Syrian leader into resignation,” Nicholas Blanford, The Times, March 1, 2005
If you play it both ways, you must sometimes lose,” Bronwen Maddox, The Times, March 1, 2005
Lebanon Presents New Headaches for Neighboring Syria,” Gary Thomas, Voice of America News, March 1, 2005
Lebanese Premier Resigns As Street Protest Heats Up,” Scott Wilson, Washington Post, March 1, 2005

Rice presses Syria to leave Lebanon,” Don Melvin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 2, 2005
We want our freedom now,” Rania Abouzeid, The Australian, March 2, 2005
“People power stirs in the Middle East,” Editorial, The Australian, March 2, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
Lebanese democracy,” Editorial, Baltimore Sun, March 2, 2005
U.S. Role Questioned in Mideast Changes,” Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, March 2, 2005
Political tremors ripple through Middle East,” Evan Osnos, Chicago Tribune, March 2, 2005
Lebanon faces a critical week,” Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 2005
The Cedar Rebellion,” Editorial, Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 2005
The Cedar Revolution,” Editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 2, 2005
Lebanese protesters target heads of security,” Christopher Adams and Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, March 2, 2005
“Washington policy begins to pay dividends,” Guy Dinmore and Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, March 2, 2005 [see below]
Lebanon’s lesson for Arab leaders,” Dennis Ross, Financial Times, March 2, 2005
Time up for Syria,” Editorial, Financial Times, March 2, 2005
Syrian isolation grows as France and US demand Lebanon pullout,” Carolynne Wheeler et al., The Guardian, March 2, 2005
The war’s silver lining,” Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, March 2, 2005
“Syria Comes To Terms with the ‘Cedar Revolution,” Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 2, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
“Syria Must Heed the Voice of the Lebanese People,” Editorial, The Independent, March 2, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
“Protesters vow to stay until Syria leaves,” Lara Marlowe, Irish Times, March 2, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
Divided Lebanon Seeks an Interim Leader,” Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2005
U.S. and France Join to Urge Syria to Pull Out of Lebanon,” Joel Brinkley and Alan Cowell, New York Times, March 2, 2005
Don’t Rush on the Road to Damascus,” Flynt Leverett, New York Times, March 2, 2005
Syria Finds Itself on the Defensive,” Mohamad Bazzi, Newsday, March 2, 2005
Syria Steals Blair’s Thunder at Summit,” Richard Beeston, The Times, March 2, 2005
The Task? Keeping Lebanon’s 26 Parties United,” Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, March 2, 2005
U.S., France Tell Syria To Leave Lebanon,” Robin Wright, Washington Post, March 2, 2005
Lebanese Opposition Tries to Sustain Drive,” Scott Wilson, Washington Post, March 2, 2005
Managing A Mideast Revolution,” David Ignatius, Washington Post, March 2, 2005

In Lebanon, young adults are driving `Cedar’ revolt,” Evan Osnos, Chicago Tribune, March 3, 2005
And now the Syrians sniff freedom,” Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph, March 3, 2005
Beirut Protests Leave Hizbollah with a Dilemma,” Raoula Khalaf, Financial Times, March 3, 2005
Bush Piles Pressure on Syria to Quit Lebanon,” Raoula Khalaf, Financial Times, March 3, 2005
Bankers urge swift end to Lebanon crisis,” Roula Khalaf and Kim Ghattas, Financial Times, March 3, 2005
Saudis lean on Syria to quit Lebanon,” Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, March 3, 2005
Cedar revolution: Can the French and the Anglo-Saxons walk the road to Damascus together?” Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, March 3, 2005
“Lebanon Neews an End To All Foreign Interference,” Adrian Hamilton, The Independent, March 3, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
Vote Could Benefit Lebanese Militants, U.S. Official Warns,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2005
Neocons May Get the Last Laugh,” Max Boot, Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2005
‘Great democratic experiment’ ignited by U.S., analyst says,” Richard Foot, Montreal Gazette, March 3, 2005
Syria Under Pressure: Worse Trouble May Lie Ahead,” Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, March 3, 2005
A lesson in a new paradigm of war,” James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, March 3, 2005
Democracy dawns in Arab world,” Richard Beeston and Rana Sabbagh-Gargour, The Times, March 3, 2005
An opening in the Mideast,” Dennis Ross, USA Today, March 3, 2005
U.S. Turns Up Heat on Syria to Leave Lebanon,” Robin Wright, Washington Post, March 3, 2005
Lebanese Opposition To Meet With President,” Scott Wilson, Washington Post, March 3, 2005
A Tyrant Cornered,” Editorial, Washington Post, March 3, 2005

UNSC 1559: The Resolution Out of Nowhere, September 5, 2004
This Masquerade, October 22, 2004
Governments of Confrontation, October 26, 2004
“Quadrangle of Evil”? February 16, 2005

FYA (“For your archives”):

The Independent (London)
March 1, 2005, Tuesday
SECTION: First Edition; FOREIGN NEWS; Pg. 26

DRAWING HUGE cheers from 25,000 demonstrators demanding “Syria out!”, the pro-Syrian government of Lebanese Prime Minister, Omar Karami, resigned yesterday, two weeks after his predecessor’s assassination triggered unprecedented demands for Syria and its troops to go home.

President Emile Lahoud, the jubilant opposition’s newest target, quickly accepted the resignation and asked Mr Karami to continue in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed. The resignation was a huge victory for the opposition and the most dramatic moment yet in the series of protests and political maneuvers that have shaken Lebanon and its Syrian- backed government since the assassination of former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, on 14 February.

“I am keen that the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country. I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honour to head. May God preserve Lebanon,” Mr Karami said in remarks heard through loudspeakers by cheering throngs.

Demonstrators immediately demanded Mr Lahoud to step down next. But events also triggered fears of a power vacuum. And, in the northern port city of Tripoli – Mr Karami’s home town – about 50 supporters shot pistols in the air in anger at the resignation and blocked a street in front of his office. Opponents, however, drove around the city, honking their horns in joy.

While Mr Karami’s cabinet continues as a caretaker government, the president will consult with parliament then appoint a new prime minister. That person, in consultation with parliamentary blocs, will form a cabinet that must withstand a parliamentary vote of confidence.

“Today the government fell. Tomorrow, it’s the one huddled in Anjar,” the opposition leader, Elias Atallah, told the cheering crowd, referring to the Syrian intelligence chief based in the eastern Lebanese town of Anjar. He said the opposition will continue its actions until all demands are met.

The protesters went further, shouting: “Lahoud, your turn is coming!” mixed with chants of “Syria Out” and “freedom, sovereignty, independence.”

Mr Lahoud’s six-year term was renewed in September by Parliament, under apparent Syrian pressure, in defiance of a UN resolution, demanding Lebanon hold presidential elections, a pull-out of Syrian troops and an end to Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs.

“The battle is not over. It is just beginning. We want to know who killed Prime Minister Hariri,” Faris Saeed, an opposition legislator, said, addressing the crowd.

The crowd responded loudly and in unison: “Syria! Syria!”

Many Lebanese accuse Syria and Mr Karami’s government of involvement in the bombing that killed Mr Hariri and 16 others, pressing hard in the two weeks since his death for the government to resign and for Syria to withdraw its roughly 15,000 troops.

In scenes reminiscent of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution”, that swept opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko into power late last year, speakers urged demonstrators to stay put and push for more. Many Lebanese wore the red bandanas adopted by the opposition in what has been termed a peaceful “independence uprising”.

“The heads of security agencies are responsible for what happened in this country and they must pay,” said legislator Ghattas Khoury. “Do not leave this square before they resign.”

Analysts raised fears of a return to Lebanon’s dark days of the 1975- 90 civil war that ravaged the country and killed more than 150,000 people.

“This won’t be Ukraine of 2004, but maybe Lebanon of 1975,” said Abu Khalil, a Californian academic, referring to the days when Lebanon, sliding into war, was racked by constitutional crises and disputes.

Pushing for Lahoud’s resignation could anger Damascus, he warned: “Syria won’t support such a scenario, which I think could lead to chaos, particularly as Lahoud has strong support from Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, which is also very closely aligned with Syria.”

Mr Karami’s announcement was broadcast through loudspeakers to the demonstrators, who’d been handing red roses to soldiers and police throughout the day. A big-screen TV monitor in the square was dark at the time, not working much of the day. In his statement, Mr Karami said he had to bear “all the injustice and hurting” of the assault on his government in the morning’s parliamentary debate by opposition legislators. He said he made the decision after realising that “the vacuum that we were worried about is not a source of fear for anyone” and that the dialogue he had sought no longer interested any party.

“The Lebanese people have triumphed through a peaceful and democratic demonstration,” Walid Jumblatt, the Druse opposition leader said from his ancestral home in the mountains where he had been holed up for fear of assassination.

Speaking by telephone to Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television, he called for a “neutral government” and rejected a military one to organise parliamentary elections, urging demonstrators not to strike out against Syrian workers and soldiers.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Karami had asked the legislature to renew its confidence in his cabinet, which took power in October after Mr Hariri’s resignation amid a dispute with Syria.

Led by banking and business associations, much of Lebanon also had observed a one-day strike in memory of Mr Hariri, allowing lawyers in black robes and doctors in white gowns to join the demonstration. Protesters also prayed in front of candles at Hariri’s flower-covered grave, which lies at the edge of the square.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in remarks published yesterday that a Syrian troop withdrawal depended on a settlement with Israel.

“Under a technical point of view, the withdrawal can happen by the end of the year,” Assad told the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. “But under a strategic point of view, it will only happen if we obtain serious guarantees. In one word: peace.” (AP)

The Irish Times
March 1, 2005
SECTION: World; Pg. 9
HEADLINE: Pro-Syrian government steps down in Lebanon
BYLINE: Michael Jansen

MIDDLE EAST: Lebanese prime minister Omar Karami announced his pro-Syrian government’s resignation yesterday under pressure from Western powers and the parliamentary opposition, as protesters gathered at the centre of Beirut.

Mr Karami surprised deputies and public when he said: “I am keen that the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country. I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honour to head. May God preserve Lebanon.”

Minister of tourism Farid Khazen had already tendered his resignation and others had threatened to follow suit.

This was the first session dedicated to the assassination on February 14th of former premier Rafik Hariri, killed by a car bomb many Lebanese blame on Syria.

Deputies directed a barrage of criticism at Mr Karami, who assumed office last October on the resignation of Mr Hariri. His sister, Bahiya Hariri, a legislator, dressed in black, demanded the government’s resignation and called for a full inquiry into the assassination of her brother.

“All the Lebanese want to know their enemy, the enemy of Lebanon who killed the martyr Rafik Hariri, those who took the decision, planned and executed it, those who ignored and prevented the truth from coming out,” she said.

Two hundred metres from the parliament building, a wild cheer went up from tens of thousands of Lebanese watching the debate on huge television screens which had been erected in Martyrs’ Square, renamed Freedom Square, where Mr Hariri is buried.

Lebanese from all the country’s communities – Christians, Sunnis, Shias and Druze – waved red and green national flags and took up the chants, “Syrians out” and “Lahoud, it’s your turn”.

Their aim is to force Damascus to withdraw its 14,000 troops from the country and compel President Emile Lahoud to stand down.

Last autumn Syria pressurised parliament to amend the constitution to give Mr Lahoud, an ally of Damascus, a three-year extension of his single six-year term in office. Mr Hariri disagreed and resigned.

At the time he died he was set to hold talks in Damascus about the coming parliamentary election, his return to the premiership, and a redeployment of Syrian troops.

With the aim of pre-empting an order banning popular assemblies, due to come into effect from early morning, many of the protesters had camped out over night.

Others burst through army roadblocks to reach the square. Organisers of the campaign to oust the government modelled the effort on the recent demonstrations in Ukraine and provided red and white scarves, blankets, food, water and portable toilets for those who gathered on Sunday. But yesterday the Lebanese army blocked the delivery of supplies to make demonstrators go home.

Mr Karami’s resignation was the most dramatic outcome of sustained protests generated by the death of his predecessor. Official spokesmen in Damascus told The Irish Times that Mr Karami would be obliged to step down. However, they said the demand for Mr Lahoud’s resignation was a “red line” for Syria.

In an interview published yesterday, Syrian president Bashar Assad said: “From a technical point of view, the withdrawal can happen by the end of the year. But from a strategic point of view, it will only happen if we obtain serious guarantees. In one word: peace with Israel.”

He predicted that the US would make an armed attack on Syria. “I’ve seen it coming since the end of the war on Iraq,” he said. Syria said last week that it would redeploy its troops to eastern Lebanon, closer to its border, but not withdraw them.

Following a meeting with the caretaker Lebanese foreign minister, Mahmoud Hammoud, US State Department envoy David Satterfield demanded that Damascus withdraw its troops as soon as possible and end its political involvement in Lebanese affairs. “The time has come for the Lebanese people to be able to face their own national decisions,” Mr Satterfield said.

France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, and Britain have also been calling on Syria to leave promptly in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1559 adopted last autumn.

The Australian
March 2, 2005 Wednesday All-round Country Edition
HEADLINE: People power stirs in the Middle East

IT IS too early to assume the totalitarian regimes which rule in the Middle East, from Egypt to Iran and from Saudi Arabia to Syria, are doomed as their subjects discover democracy. But with a wind of democratic change beginning to blow, the clerics, monarchs and common-place dictators who rule in the region have ample reason to be fearful for their futures. In January, the Iraqi people defied thugs and religious zealots to vote in elections universally regarded as free and fair. Last month, the Saudi monarchy let its subjects, at least the male ones, vote in local government elections. This will not change who holds the keys to the kingdom, but it is a start. And yesterday in Lebanon the people asserted their authority when they forced the Syrian puppet government to resign. The revulsion and contempt for Syria and its local allies that has taken hold in Lebanon since the assassination of popular opposition leader Rafik Hariri will be especially scary for Middle Eastern rulers. Despite its denials, Syria is blamed by the Lebanese for the murder of Hariri, an opponent of Syrian influence. The Lebanese, having had enough of being bullied, took to the streets in protest. The comparison with the demonstrations that destroyed communism in eastern Europe, and led to free elections in Ukraine late last year, will be apparent to people throughout the Middle East.

Inevitably, the terrorists and autocrats will fight back. Last month the Syrians announced an alliance with Iran against “foreign threats” — code for US President George W. Bush’s statement of support for democracy around the world in his January State of the Union address. And the clerical rulers of Iranians are pressing on with their nuclear program, a direct threat to a broad Middle East peace. Nor are the terrorist allies of Syria and Iran likely to give up the bomb for the ballot box. Monday’s mass murder of 115 people in Baghdad, and the weekend bombing in Tel Aviv, make that clear. But there are signs Syria is losing its stomach for the fight. This week it has abandoned its puppet regime in Lebanon, and handed over Saddam Hussein’s half brother, who is implicated in terrorism, to Iraq. These are both excellent indications that the Syrian Government is joining the list of regimes that understand they face a much more dangerous threat than the US or Israel — ordinary people who have had enough of being governed by dictators.

Financial Times (London, England)
March 2, 2005 Wednesday
London Edition 1
HEADLINE: Washington policy begins to pay dividends: Events in Lebanon have been accompanied by a subtle change in the way people view the US, write Roula Khalaf andGuy Dinmore

As inmany Arab countries, some Lebanese havetended in the past to react to the appearance of President George W. Bush on television by switching channels, as if allergic to the image.

These days, though, many wait for the US president’s words and wonder whether they will be sufficiently damning of Syria, the powerful neighbour widely blamed for last month’s assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister.

It is such anecdotal evidence that leads analysts in Beirut to speak of a subtle change in perceptions of the US in a tiny country that had rarely received American attention, except to denounce Lebanon’s Hizbollah, the Shia movement seen in the US as a terrorist group but in the Arab world as a resistance movement.

But as Beirut has been swept by peaceful protests that, on Monday, contributed to the fall of the pro-Syrian government, Lebanon’s opposition parties have quietly welcomed US pressure on Syria to withdraw its 15,000 troops and secret services from the country, as stipulated by October’s United Nations resolution 1559.

“There is now less antagonism when it comes to this side of the story,” says Riad Tabbara, a former Lebanese ambassador to Washington who now heads Madma, a research company in Beirut. “If you ask people about Iraq or Palestine you won’t find a difference in their perspective, but now people make a separation and say ‘I appreciate what the US is doing here, but not there’.”

For Mr Tabbara, the lesson from the shifts in public opinion in Lebanon is that the animosity towards the US is related to policies. “It shows that a pro-active policy that doesn’t show bias immediately receives some kind of recognition.”

In Washington, images of flag-waving Lebanese youth demanding democracy and freedom from Syrian rule have provided an unexpected but welcome shot in the arm for the US’s stated strategy of democratising the Middle East.

One European diplomat this week described the fall of the Lebanese government as a “windfall profit” for the US. But he also warned that Washington should not overestimate the extent of its influence in a situation that had its own dynamics.

Indeed, the killing of Hariri provoked an unprecedented and unexpected wave of outrage that shattered people’s fear of Syria and united many Christians and Muslims in the country. The active role of Jacques Chirac, the French president who was a close friend of Hariri, in the pressure on Syria has given the international policy more credibility. But analysts warn that Washington’s departure from the international consensus would harm the improvement in perceptions in Lebanon.

Many Lebanese support the first part of UN resolution 1559, dealing with the Syrian presence in Lebanon, but are uneasy about the rest of the decision, which calls for the disarming of Hizbollah. Even France, which co-sponsored the resolution, has opposed US pressure to add the organisation to the European list of terrorist groups.

Walid Jumblatt, the prominent Lebanese opposition leader, told local television that the revolt in Lebanon was part of a new Middle East that had started to emerge from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. But he underlined that Beirut also had a long tradition of democracy.

The resignation of Omar Karameh, the prime minister, on Monday was shown on television across the Middle East and it came during a stormy parliamentary debate of a kind that is rare in other Arab countries.

In recent weeks, however, the US may have had more influence on the cautious internal reforms taking place in more autocratic parts of the region. At the weekend Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, announced that the constitution would be changed to allow multiple candidates to stand in the presidential elections.

Last month Saudi Arabia took the small step of holding the first phase of a nationwide municipal poll.

The US cautiously endorsed Mr Mubarak’s decision. But in a sign of uneven progress towards reform, administration officials complained strongly two weeks ago to Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, about the arrest of Ayman Nour, an opposition politician, as well as what the US regarded as inadequate preparations by Egypt for a conference on reform to be attended by Arab League and Group of Eight foreign ministers. Western foreign ministers indicated that they would not attend.

The next day, Egypt postponed the conference, explaining that Arab League participants wanted first to hold their summit in Algiers.

White House comments that “democracy and freedom are on the march”, most notably in the Middle East, appear exaggerated. But US officials are hoping that recent moves in the region will give a boost to the US’s so-called Broader Middle East and North Africa project, which Arab governments have largely turned into a platform for economic, rather than political, reforms. “(The initiative) was slipping through their fingers,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, of the US. “Now there is more clarity. That is beginning to make governments sit up and take notice.”

The Independent (London)
March 2, 2005, Wednesday
SECTION: First Edition; FOREIGN NEWS; Pg. 21

THEY SLEPT in tents. They slept on the pavements last night. Lebanon is cold in winter. Not as cold as Ukraine but the frost that has lain over Lebanon these past 29 years is without temperature. Never has the red, white and green Lebanese flag been used as so poignant a symbol of unity. Only a few hundred metres away from the encampment, Rafik Hariri was killed. And so, the Lebanese are supposed to believe, the murder of the former prime minister has unleashed the “Cedars Revolution”. The cedar tree stands at the centre of the Lebanese flag.

With the resignation of the pro-Syrian Lebanese government, the equally pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud was looking last night for a “caretaker” government – without much success. Hariri’s sister Bahiya, an MP in Sidon, was not interested in being Lebanon’s first woman prime minister, and the elderly Rashid el-Solh didn’t want the job, despite his Lebanese aristocratic origins. The dearth of contenders showed how tragic the Lebanese body politic has become.

It is still not clear whether the rubric “Cedars Revolution” started in Beirut or in the mouth of a US State Department spokesman but its implications are still clear enough: the Syrian army must go and – more important – the Syrian army’s intelligence service must leave Lebanon.

Hence everyone is waiting to see if a “caretaker” government will care for Lebanon or for Syria, whose protege, General Lahoud, is now the lonely man in the Baabda presidential palace in the hills above Beirut.

Today, the “opposition” – Christian Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze though not, to be frank, many Shia Muslims – will gather at the palace of the Jumblatt family in the Chouf mountains at Mukhtara where Walid Jumblatt, the new would-be tiger of Lebanese freedom, has ensconced himself for his own protection. No recent member of the Jumblatt family has died in his bed, indeed, it was Walid’s claim that the Syrian Baathists murdered his father, Kamal ,in 1977 that set off this unprecedented revolution in the Arab world.

The Lebanese people, according to Walid Jumblatt, have struck down the Syrian-sponsored Lebanese government. The Lebanese people want the truth: Who killed Rafik Hariri?

“One voice … one flag …” Mr Jumblatt said yesterday. He wanted “the removal of foreign elements (sic) from Lebanon” and the end of “foreign interference” in Lebanese affairs.

But neither Walid Jumblatt nor the Lebanese are naive. They know US support for Lebanese “democracy” is fuelled by Washington’s anger at Syria’s alleged support for the insurgency against US troops in Iraq.

Mr Jumblatt himself showed his own feelings about the US involvement in Iraq when he said last year that he wished a mortar fired at the hotel in which US Assistant Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying in Baghdad had hit Wolfowitz himself.

That remark cost Jumblatt a US visa. Mr Bush wants Hizbollah guerrillas to disarm. So do the Israelis. Indeed, the Israelis want the Syrian army and intelligence service to leave Lebanon.

So the Lebanese opposition are demanding the very same goals as the Israelis. But Mr Jumblatt wants to protect Hizbollah – which finally drove the Israeli army out of Lebanon in 2000: “We’ve got to engage with Hizbollah,” he said yesterday. “They are Lebanese.” And he also sent a message to Damascus: “We should speak frankly to the Syrians. We want them to leave Lebanon. But we want good relations with the Syrians.”

But here lies the problem. Syria will always be Lebanon’s larger Arab neighbour. Its Muslims and Christians live together today on the scales of a dark negative. The Christians will not demand control of a country if the Muslims do not claim to be part of an “Arab nation”. But if a liberated’ Lebanon – a la Washington – declared itself for “the West”, then the country could fall apart; as it did in the 1975-1990 civil war.

It is tempting for the Lebanese camping on “Liberation Square” as they call it, to believe they are part of a great movement for democracy. But Lebanon has always been betrayed by foreign cheerleaders.

Last night, even Selim el-Hoss, many times a former prime minister and one of the few truly honest politicians in Lebanon, made it known he did not want to lead a caretaker government. So here’s a question that no one asks too directly in Lebanon: What is the future of Rustum Ghazali?

“Amu Rustum” is the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon – he lives in the largely Armenian town of Aanjar in the Bekaa Valley and has remained silent these past three weeks, even though President Bashar Assad of Syria has condemned Rafik Hariri’s murder.

It would be good to hear from “Amu Rustum”. Mr Hariri, in the months before his death, received an abusive phone call from General Ghazali.

What was said?

The Independent (London)
March 2, 2005, Wednesday
SECTION: First Edition; COMMENT; Pg. 28

AFTER THE “orange revolution” in the Ukraine, the “lemon” revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the anti-IRA protests in Belfast, comes the “cedar” revolution in Lebanon.

The eruption of public anger at the assassination of the popular former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a week ago and the consequent demands that the Syrians leave Lebanon can only be applauded. While politicians temporise and diplomats equivocate, the Lebanese people have taken the issue into their own hands to demonstrate day after day – just as did the citizens of Kiev and, before that, of Belgrade, Prague and Bucharest – that they want real change, not just promises and procrastination.

Having forced the resignation of the pro-Syrian government, and boosted by the belated encouragement of the US and the UK and the confusion of Damascus, the protesters have set their sites on two fundamental objectives: a commitment by the Syrians to withdraw their 14,000 troops, and the holding of free and fair elections for Parliament and, quite possibly, for the position of president as well.

Lebanon is not a country without experience of democracy. It has had a series of elections over the past dozen years, most of them flawed by corruption and outside pressure, but nonetheless helping develop political parties and political skills. At the same time, it is a country with a genuine memory of former independence and considerable economic progress in the years since the civil war.

What the country now needs – and what the outside world should help it to achieve – is a stable, peaceful progression to self-determination and full democracy. For so long the victim of outside meddling, it no more needs the West now using it to further its Middle East aims than the Syrians continuing to control it from next door. Parliamentary elections were in any case planned for May of this year. These need to be made free and open. That, plus an independent investigation into the circumstances of Hariri’s assassination, are the first steps. The others are elections for the presidency and a firm date for the withdrawal of Syrian troops. It won’t be easy but, after half a century of civil war, invasion and violence, Lebanon has a right to a better future.

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