Monday, March 14, 2005

Freedom Strikes Back in Lebanon

Last week, efforts to push Syria's army and intelligence officers out of Lebanon took a setback when close to 500,000 Hezbollah supporters marched in Beirut to support the continued presence of Syria. There were doubts that anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon could match the fervor of Hezbollah. Based on what occurred today, it looks like the Hezbollah rally served to motivate the anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon. At least 800,000 people jammed the streets of Beirut (some estimated there was well over a million) to continue to protest the presence of Syria and the reappointment of pro-Syrian Prime minister Omar Karami. I was shocked by the number of people who participated in today's protest. I thought the opposition forces in Lebanon were strong, but not this strong. What was particular encouraging about today's rally was not only the number of people who participated, but also the diversity of those who participated in the rally. It was not just a crowd of mostly male Shiites like Hezbollah's rally last week. Instead there was a wide array of male and female Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druse participating today. The anti-Syrian forces may not have the guns, but it appears that they have the will of the people. I have to believe that after seeing today's protests, Syrian President Bashar Assad realizes that it is over in Lebanon. Not only will the U.S. or France not stand for Syria's continued meddling, neither will a majority of the people in Lebanon.