March 01, 2005
Martyr's Square Rules
Mr. Karami, a Syria loyalist, announced his resignation in a terse statement as Parliament reconvened debate on the confidence measure. "Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead," he said.
"Lost confidence on the street." "Bowed to the street." Think about the import of these words. These certainly ain't the old Hama Rules (perhaps we'll come to call them Martyr's Square Rules)? In Hama, thousands were mowed down on the streets. Now an Arab leader will bow to the street? There's a word for that. It's called progress. And make no mistake about it, such words are partly a legacy of Baghdad. Yes, Hariri's assassination was a tipping point. Maybe he was too big to have been killed. Something definitely flipped in the Lebanese consciousness. Enough is enough! one could almost hear the Lebanese collectively emote. But Iraq emboldened too. Bush's call for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to democratize emboldened. Bush's comments that Syria was 'out of step' with broader Middle East trends emboldened. Yes, something new is in the air; and spring-time is beckoning...
In scenes reminiscent of protests in the United States in the 1960's, protestors rushed to get to the site of the demonstration, just yards away from Mr. Hariri's grave, and camped through the night, waving Lebanese flags as anthems played on. Many handed flowers to the soldiers and beseeched them to cooperate with them. Despite orders to prevent demonstrators from entering the area, soldiers eventually relented to the flood of largely young protestors on Monday, and the demonstration carried on peacefully.
Wow. Bonne chance Beirut! A personal note. I've probably been to Syria over half a dozen times. The souks of Damascus and Aleppo (particularly Aleppo's) are simply glorious. I harbor no animus towards the Syrian people who can be extremely hospitable indeed. I have Syrian friends. But the Baathist dictatorship has simply become too ossified and Bashar's decisions (particularly if Syrian intelligence was behind Hariri's assassination) highly unfortunate. Bashar bought himself some time with the turnover of Saddam's half-brother and is doubtless tightening up the border with Iraq (no, there is no Ho Chi Minh trail running between Damascus and Fallujah but the border was always a bit too porous). And Syria will always play a role in Lebanon, in some fashion. But Bashar must move his country forward towards new vistas. The antiquated continuance of Hafez al Asad's hardline rejectionist front vis-a-vis Israel is increasingly appearing a relic. Egypt is at peace (if a cold one) with Israel. Ditto Jordan. Perhaps the PA in the coming years. Millions of Iraqis have voted in free elections. Yes, Syria must come out of the cold. She has her legitimate national aspirations and security concerns--but she has been making too many bad decisions of late. It's not too late to get back in step in more positive vein and play a more constructive role in the neighborhood. But Bashar must seize the moment and act with real resolve. Nor should he think he can outlast the Americans in Iraq through some low-level support to insurgents. He won't.
P.S. Will Hariri have proven greater in death than in life? This, if nothing else, may prove a consolation to his bereaved family.
The anger simmering in this country since the unprecedented extension of President Emile Lahoud's term of office last September finally found a vocal and unstoppable expression that has toppled a government.
A female PM? Well, why the hell not?
Full article here.Posted by Gregory at March 1, 2005 04:40 AM | TrackBack (9)
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