The government of Syria is announcing that they will remove the 14,000 troops currently stationed in neighboring Lebanon after the outrage following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Rariri.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese opposition supporters took to the streets today, shouting insults at Syria and demanding the resignation of Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government.
The demonstration in central Beirut marks a week since Mr Hariri’s murder in a massive car bomb attack on his motorcade. At least 15 other people died in the bombing, including seven of Mr Hariri’s bodyguards, and more than 100 were injured.
Beating drums and waving Lebanese flags, those of their own parties and portraits of past leaders assassinated during the 1975-90 civil war, the protesters gathered at the site where Hariri was killed on February 14.
“Syria out!” “We donâ€™t want a parliament that acts as a doorkeeper for the Syrians,” some yelled, competing with loud insults shouted against President Assad.
Undoubtedly Syria will continue to try to manipulate Lebanese affairs behind the scenese, but this is excellent news for the people of Lebanon and for the Middle East in general. Syria has been using Lebanon as a base for terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizb’Allah, allowing them to use the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon as a safe refuge. If the Lebanese are willing to get rid of these terrorist groups and embrace freedom and democracy for themselves, it will strike a major blow against the terrorists. Such a move would be a key step towards a freer more stable Middle East that no longer is a petri dish for terrorism.
The pressure mounting on Syria from both the east in Iraq and the west in Lebanon puts President Assad in a tough spot. The inorexable advanced of freedom in the Middle East begun with the fall of Saddam Hussein is indeed producing a kind of domino effect in the region. While Lebanon has a long way to go before it can return to the peace and prosperity it once had, the bravery of the Lebanese people in standing up to Syrian assassination and occupation is a welcome sign indeed.
UPDATE: Again in Beirut there were massive peaceful demonstrations against Syrian rule and more demands for a Syrian withdrawl.