Future of Lebanon murky

Aman Ali's view

Wednesday morning, I picked up my New York Times from my hideous doormat. A smile spread across my face as I read the headline “Last Syrian units pack to pull out of Lebanon.” Immediately, I dropped my scrumptious whipped yogurt that I was holding to break-dance in the middle of my apartment hallway. I haven’t found a moment appropriate enough to break-dance in public since 1993 when I found out “Perfect Strangers” was coming back to ABC for an encore season.

After 29 years of occupation, Syrian troops withdrew their final batch of soldiers from Lebanon Tuesday. Why was Syria there in the first place? Strategically, Lebanon is located between Syria and Israel. Therefore, Lebanon served as a strategic location for Syria to use proxy armies to confront Israel should any conflict occur. But as in any case of occupation, Syria had undermined the freedom of the Lebanese people — until the Lebanese people decided to stage some of the largest democratic protests coming out of the Middle East in more than a decade.

This wave of events was mainly sparked by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February. As tragic as al-Hariri’s death was, the world finally took attention to one of the world’s biggest hypocrisies.

Arabs are always quick to speak against Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the United States’ occupation of Iraq. But silent until now in the Arab world was the public outcry of fellow Arabs occupying other Arabs. I don’t claim to be a Middle Eastern affairs expert (except when I want to sound smart around girls), but I can’t think of a situation where Arab leaders like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak or Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke with Syria’s president Bashar al-Asad and told him to withdraw from Lebanon. More realistically, anytime these three knuckleheads ever met, they probably kicked back in plastic lawn chairs from Dollar General and bragged about how many political dissidents they tortured that year.

But halfway into break-dancing, I had to cut my pop-n-lock short after I realized the grim realities behind my optimism. Syria may be physically out of the country, but it still has a stronghold on Lebanese society, whether it be political or social.

Lebanon’s current president Emile Lahoud is notorious for bending toward Syria’s political agenda. Hezbollah’s political wing has a strong influence in Lebanon and has openly declared its staunch support for Syria. In addition, as long as Syria continues to speak out against Israel and the United States’ foreign policy, the Syrian rhetoric is bound to resonate with a significant chunk of the Lebanese people. Huge turnouts in pro-Syrian rallies in response to the ones I mentioned earlier are a prime example.

Militarily speaking, Syria has significant stockpiles of weapons supplied by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Syrian government is most likely to continue arming underground Lebanese security forces, such as militias stationed in refugee camps on the Palestine/Lebanon border.

Looks like I’m going to need some more progress from Syria before I can finish break-dancing.

Aman Ali is a junior information design major, president of the Muslim Students Association and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].