Saying "No" to Syria


Lebanon may rank very low in the preoccupations of most Reason readers (perhaps as Ukraine once did), but things are going on there, or here, that are well worth a stare. Yesterday, a broad multi-religious opposition front was formally established in Beirut, its main purposes being to demand a return of Lebanese sovereignty in the face of Syrian hegemony over the country; but also to challenge the leadership of the Lebanese president, Emile Lahoud, whose mandate was extended under Syrian pressure three months ago. Lahoud is heavily reliant on intelligence goons for his authority.

A leading light of the opposition front is the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who was once a close Syrian ally, but who has since become highly critical of Syria's ways in Lebanon (partly, no doubt, because a close friend and politician was almost killed in a car-bomb attack in which Syrian officials are widely believed to have played a role–an attack that was really a warning to Jumblatt). In recent days, before the front was established, Jumblatt was contacted by Syria's powerful intelligence chief in Lebanon to persuade him to pull out of the effort. He persisted, however, and yesterday said: "I won't have a dialogue with Syria through a security officer."

Last weekend, the authorities, as a warning, removed Jumblatt's state-provided security detail from his Beirut home (he's entitled to one as a former minister), and yesterday someone threw a stick of dynamite at one of the offices of his political party. Amusingly, a Jumblatt rival tried to pretend the dynamite was aimed at him. Subtle.