Syrians Say Lebanese Would Be at War Without Them
Wed Feb 16, 2005 08:38 AM ET
By Inal Ersan
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syrians said the Lebanese, who
chanted anti-Syrian protests at the funeral of their
murdered former prime minister on Wednesday, would
tear each other apart if Syrian troops left.
"If they feel this way, then I say we should withdraw
and let them break each other like falling water
melons," said a student in Damascus who gave his name
Syria became a dominant player in Lebanon during the
1975-1990 civil war and took much of the credit for
quelling the violence that set Lebanese religious and
political factions at each other's throats. It still
has 14,000 troops in Lebanon.
Syrians said they were not much bothered by Washington
recalling its ambassador from Damascus in reaction to
Monday's assassination of former prime minister Rafik
But many voiced dismay at Lebanese opposition charges
that their country was behind the car bomb blast that
killed him. Syria has condemned the assassination and
Once a Syrian ally, the Sunni Muslim billionaire
joined opposition calls for the withdrawal of Syrian
troops from Lebanon after he resigned as prime
minister in October.
"Am I supposed to expect that the Americans will not
use this opportunity and any opportunity to harm
Syria?" Samer Abdel-Karim, a civil servant, said of
the recall for consultations of U.S. ambassador
"Do you think I care if they ban Cadillacs? I don't
have a car and if I had the money I would buy a
Japanese one," said Abdel-Karim, referring to U.S.
sanctions imposed on Syria last year for supporting
what Washington calls terrorist groups.
The Bush administration has not accused Syria of
killing Hariri, but has said the Syrian military and
political presence in Lebanon is a destabilizing force
and must end.
"What I find strange is not what the Americans do or
did, what I find strange is the accusations by the
Lebanese, Arab Lebanese," said Abdel-Karim, whose
pained words echoed a common Syrian reaction to the
outspoken charges leveled by Lebanese opposition
politicians after Hariri's assassination.
U.S. officials said they were considering new
sanctions on Syria, under pressure for months over
U.S. accusations that it lets Palestinian and Iraqi
militants operate on its soil.
Syria denies that it backs terrorism and says its
troops, in Lebanon since a 1976 civil war
intervention, remain there at the Beirut government's
A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in
September demands that foreign troops leave, a stance
Syrian officials often criticize as intervention in
"There is a feeling that they want to turn anything
into a pretext," said analyst Ahmad Samir al-Taqi of
the latest U.S. move. "The recalling of the ambassador
is a form of escalation in the direction of resolution
1559," he added.
Lebanese opposition figures such as Druze politician
Walid Jumblat and exiled Christian general Michel Aoun
were quick to point the finger at Damascus after
Hariri's killing, provoking anger in Syria.
"They are shameless, absolutely shameless," raged Um
Said, an elderly woman shopper waving a lettuce.
"Now we are no good? Now Syrians are their enemy?
Don't they remember our sons who ran to help them?"