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Monday, February 21, 2005

More Fallout from Hariri Bombing 

Jonathan Edelstein has an update on the consequences of the bombing that killed former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri last week:
As public and international pressure mounts in the wake of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has reportedly informed the Arab League's secretary-general that Syria is ready to quit Lebanon...

If Assad in fact said this, he is reacting to a rapidly unfolding succession of events. Today, the tens of thousands of demonstrators gathering daily in central Beirut were joined by a rare public protest from 35 Syrian human rights activists. In the meantime, responding to opposition threats of a parliamentary boycott, the Lebanese government has invited the opposition to talks without preconditions and has acquiesced to an international probe of Hariri's killing. Yet another development, and possibly the most significant of all, is the changing stance of the traditionally pro-Syrian Hizbullah, whose leader addressed popular demonstrators and urged a national dialogue to "discuss, calmly and rationally, the implementation of Resolution 1559 and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon."

The combination of these events, driven by Lebanese public anger over the assassination, creates very nearly a perfect storm for Syria. If the removal of Syrian troops has become such a central nationalist issue that even Hizbullah must pay lip service to it, then Damascus' options - particularly those that involve working through Lebanese allies - are more limited.
These are fascinating events. Keep your eye on this story.

UPDATE: University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis is blogging from Syria. Interesting (and optimistic) stuff.

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