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Saturday, March 05, 2005 

UN Peacekeepers for Lebanon?

The UK has suggested that UN peacekeepers could be sent in to replace the Syrian troops in Lebanon. Bashar Al-Assad is expected to announce a date for their pullout tomorrow.

Syrian troops were sent in to end the civil war and keep the peace, with the gratitude of the international community which had given up on Lebanon seven years earlier. But now Lebanon is peaceful, the Syrians should get out, say the international community. But if that's the case, why send international forces in?

The last time international forces were in Lebanon they were massacred: the barracks of the US Marines was bombed in one of the first suicide bombings. Six months later the Americans 'redeployed'. Sending the internationals back in is a sure fire way to stir up hatred. But then Lebanese peace and freedom isn't really the motive is it?

Meanwhile, realising that a withdrawal is almost certain, Bush took the opportunity to turn the screw a little tighter. Now we want all your mukhabaraat (intelligence) out too. The problem is no matter what Syria says, Washington can continue accusing Syria of not completing the mukhabaraat pullout: i mean, they are 'secret'!

It's suggested that Bashar has been telling Arab leaders that he wants to keep 3000 troops in Lebanon, as well as early warning stations to warn of Israeli attacks. When Israel attacked Damascus in 2003, Israeli jets flew over Lebanon to enter Syrian airspace. Israel bombs Lebanon a couple of times a year. Israel's supersonic jets also fly low over Beirut to create a sonic boom which sounds like a bomb shattering windows and setting off car alarms.

It's too early to tell, but the 'UN peacekeeper' proposal comes from the UK. So just like the previous 'international force' in the early 80s, it'll be US/France dominated.

It's true that Lebanon's been used as the battleground for proxy wars, but Lebanon's been at peace for 15 years.

The Syrian troops should withdraw, slowly and calmly just like the UK's asked for and Syria's promised.

But that wont be enough for Bush, he wants an overnight pullout.

Just because foreigners wear Blue Caps doesn't make them any more legitimate.

I'm not so sure that Lebanon needs peace keepers. There are elements that want to foment civil unrest and perhaps warfare but possibly the overwhelming peace sentiment from citizenry may force civil agreements. And the political powers inside the country have already signed one agreement. I suspect the Lebanese are sick and tired of the disputes and want to create a civil democracy that provides for all to prosper. The Syrian concerns for the overflight of planes in possible attacks could easily be remedied with an agreement between Israel and Lebanon for a benign border in exchange for respect of its territory and air space.

And, the last thing America wants is to put troops into Lebanon and UN troops are impotent cowards that run if a goat farts.

All the Lebanese have too much to lose from war. And that goes for the elite just as much as the poor. Hariri made Lebanon the richest non-oil Arab country, and no-one will throw that away in a hurry.

But if Syria pulls out too fast, the Lebanese troops wont be able to fill the vacuum. The concern is lawlessness, not war. The Lebanese Army already have no-go towns: the Palestinian refugee camps.

But a phased withdrawal will make sure there are no power gaps. It's what the UK has called for. It's what Bashar has repeatdly promised.

As for the border. It's been very quiet since the Israeli pullout (despite Israeli fears). But Israel has consistently shown itself to be disinterested in a Syrian/Lebanese peace deal. That's despite Bashar's numerous attempts since the collapse of talks in 2000 when Ariel Sharon came to power.

Despite UN rebukes and a quiet border, Israel continues to bomb Lebanon. There's nothing to assume a bilateral deal will change that.

Lebanon's soverignty is a natural right. Its not something to be negotiated (I'm referring to Israel - but the same goes for Syria!).

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  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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