Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"The point is the next few months"

Syrian Baathist President Bashar Assad tells Joe Klein of Time he's pulling his troops out of Lebanon in a matter of months:

"It's a technical issue, not political. I could not say we could do it in two months because I have not had the meeting with the army people. They may say it will take six months. You need to prepare when you bring your army back to your country. You need to prepare where you will put the troops.

"There are two factors. The first is security in Lebanon. The security in Lebanon is much better than before. They have an army, they have a state, they have institutions. The second thing, which is related to Syria, is that after withdrawing we have to protect our border. We need to talk about our borders, because when Israel invaded in 1982, they reached that point. It was very close to Damascus. So we will need [fortifications for the troops] along the border with Lebanon."

Assad is playing his cards correctly right now because he really has no other choice. The Lebanese people have told the Syrian puppet government and Syria to basically shove it, and with the Europeans, Americans and the UN all on the same page demanding Syria get out of Lebanon, it leaves "Boy Assad" little choice.

It is also quite remarkable we are hearing the following coming out of the Middle East:

"We will be here every day until the last Syrian soldier withdraws from our land," one activist said through a loudspeaker. The crowd, blowing whistles, chanted back: "Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence."

"They sang in rhyming Arabic: 'We are all, Muslims and Christians, against the Syrians.'"

We never thought, at least before 30 January, we'd be witnessing the dramatic changes taking place so fast. I believed change would come to the Arab-Muslim world eventually, but it is so heartening to see things developing at this rate.

The indispensable Mark Steyn writes in the London Telegraph today:

"Three years ago - April 6 2002, if you want to rummage through the old Spectators in the attic - I wrote: The stability junkies in the EU, UN and elsewhere have, as usual, missed the point. The Middle East is too stable. So, if you had to pick only one regime to topple, why not Iraq? Once you've got rid of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane polity. That's why the unravelling of the Middle East has to start not in the West Bank but in Baghdad.'

"I don't like to say I told you so. But, actually, I do like to say I told you so. What I don't like to do is the obligatory false self-deprecatory thing to mitigate against the insufferableness of my saying I told you so. But nevertheless I did.
...

"Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! - President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent. Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said the country would benefit from 'more freedom and democracy'. The state-run TV network hailed the president's speech as a 'historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy'. After 7,000 years on the march, they're barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the right direction.

He continues:

"Three years ago, those of us in favour of destabilising the Middle East didn't have to be far-sighted geniuses: it was a win/win proposition. As Sam Goldwyn said, I'm sick of the old clichés, bring me some new clichés. The old clichés - Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Islamism, Arafatism - brought us the sewer that led to September 11. The new clichés could hardly be worse. Even if the old thug-for-life had merely been replaced by a new thug-for-life, the latter would come to power in the wake of the cautionary tale of the former.

"But some of us - notably US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz - thought things would go a lot better than that. Wolfowitz was right, and so was Bush, and the Left, who were wrong about the Berlin Wall, were wrong again, the only difference being that this time they were joined in the dunce's corner of history by far too many British Tories. No surprise there. The EU's political establishment doesn't trust its own people, so why would they trust anybody else's? Bush trusts the American people, and he's happy to extend the same courtesy to the Iraqi people, the Syrian people, the Iranian people, etc.

"Prof Glenn Reynolds, America's Instapundit, observes that 'democratisation is a process, not an event'. Far too often, it's treated like an event: ship in the monitors, hold the election, get it approved by Jimmy Carter and the UN, and that's it. Doesn't work like that. What's happening in the Middle East is the start of a long-delayed process. Eight million Iraqis did more for the Arab world on January 30 than 7,000 years of Mubarak-pace marching."

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