FoxNews reports: Pro-Syrian Protesters Rally in Beirut.
Nearly 500,000 pro-Syrian protesters and members of Hezbollah descended upon central Beirut on Tuesday, chanting anti-American slogans in an effort to counter weeks of huge rallies demanding the immediate exit of Syrian forces.
Coming just one day after Syrian and Lebanese leaders announced that Syrian forces would begin moving out of Lebanon, the protesters were answering a nationwide call by the militant Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group for the public demonstration.
Organizers handed out Lebanese flags and directed the men and women to separate sections of Riad Solh Square, which is near U.N. offices. Loudspeakers blared militant songs urging resistance to foreign interference. Demonstrators held up pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and signs saying, "Syria & Lebanon brothers forever."
Other placards read: "America is the source of terrorism"; "All our disasters are from America"; "No to American-Zionist intervention; Yes to Lebanese-Syrian brotherhood."
Black-clad Hezbollah guards handled security, lining the perimeter of the square and taking position on rooftops. Trained dogs sniffed for bombs.
Large cranes hoisted two giant red-and-white flags bearing Lebanon's cedar tree. On one, the words, "Thank you Syria," were written in English; on the other, "No to foreign interference."
Hezbollah, remember, is the 800-pound terrorist gorilla in the Lebanese living room. Heavily financed by Iran at its birth in the early 1980s, this guerrilla group is now thinly disguised as a political party and even has 13 members in the Lebanese Parliament.
But if you want to get some perspective on Hezbollah as a political party (or "Lebanese faction" as the New York Times called it), think Nazi party in the German Reichstag in the early 1930s.
Hezbollah is the only Lebanese political party that has 25,000 men under arms. This is a disciplined militia, heavily armed with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, some artillery and a little armor.
All the other "factions" in Lebanon, Christian, Druze or Muslim, were formally disarmed when Syria moved into Lebanon at the end of the bloody civil war.
But Hezbollah, under Syria's control, has been allowed to swagger around Lebanon, stage theatric marches of ski-masked fighters for bored TV newsmen, and continue its war of hatred against Israel with few restraints.
And Robert Tracinski comments on the "me-too" demonstrations in today's TIA Daily:
The Axis of Evil strikes back, though in a tame, weakened form. A decade ago, anti-Syrian demonstrations would have been put down by brute force. Now, the Syrians try to play by the rules of a whole new game, trying to show that they have broad popular support by getting their Hezbollah lackeys to stage a pro-Syria street rally -- in awkward, self-conscious imitation of the recent anti-Syria demonstrations.
The Hezbollah rally is big, but don't let that fool you: it is the product of an entrenched organization practiced at the old ruse of staging "spontaneous" mass demonstrations. The anti-Syria rallies are far more significant precisely because they are, in fact, spontaneous. Most important, the pro-freedom demonstrators are the ones setting the agenda, not just on the style of the demonstrations, but on the *substance*.
Hezbollah is a factional militia -- yet its supporters wave the Lebanese flag, a symbol of anti-factional "national unity." It is in favor of perpetuating Syrian tyranny -- yet its rent-a-mob holds up pictures of pro-independence leader Rafik Hariri, whom even they must know was assassinated by Syria. And Hezbollah is funded and controlled by Syria and Iran -- yet it steals the slogan of "no foreign interference."
Most of all, the Syrian-staged "me-too" demonstrations, by the very fact that they copy the style of the opposition's peaceful demonstrations, grant the premise that the desires of the Lebanese people ought to be consulted -- a premise no dictatorship or terrorist organization can accept if it wants to survive.
UPDATE I -- March 9: Being a direct supporter of Hezbollah, Iran is also feeling the pressure being placed on the terrorist group in Lebanon. From a sympathetic Middle East Online article: Iran worried about Hezbollah's future in Lebanon. (Via Free Thoughts)
"It should be noted that the pressures on Syria, using the pretext of pulling out of Lebanon, is apparently a predetermined plan by the Zionist regime in order to guarantee the expansionist policies of Israel," said foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.
A photo of the "no foreign interference" banner used at the pro-Syrian demonstration can be seen at Alicio i Underlandet.
UPDATE II -- March 10: Our thanks goes to David Harnasch for pointing out the "inteference" typo in the cartoon (now fixed).
Posted by Forkum at March 8, 2005 08:47 PM