The Lebanese Crisis

Aftermath of Hariri’s murder

On 14 February, Rafiq Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister, a billionaire business man and much-respected figure, was assassinated in a massive car bomb explosion. Imperialism, especially US imperialism, its stooges in Lebanon and the blood-thirsty Israeli Zionist gangsters, seized upon the tragic killing of Hariri and blamed Syria for his murder and demanded that Syria withdraw its 14,000-strong security forces and intelligence agents from Lebanon. Many opposition groups in Lebanon, falling in line with the US imperialist crusade against Syria, organised street demonstrations as a kind of re-run of the demonstrations in Kiev which propelled Viktor Yushchenko, the defeated candidate in the Ukrainian elections, into office. The demonstrators in Beirut, too, blaming Syria for Hariri’s killing, demanded the resignation of the government, and the pull-out of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

US demands Syrian pull-out

Piling on the pressure on Syria, the US recalled its ambassador in Damascus, Margaret Scobey, for consultations in Washington on 28 February. Bush, the chief executive of US imperialism, which is occupying Iraq (across the border from Syria), torturing its people and murdering them on a gigantic scale, with characteristic Nazi cynicism told Syria: “You get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon so that good democracy has a chance to flourish”.

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, called Syria’s military presence in Lebanon a “destabilising force in the region”.

While in Brussels, during the third week of February, Bush again said that “Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon”, adding that the “shared commitment” of the US and Europe “to democratic progress was being tested in Lebanon”. He went on to say that “without Syrian interference”, Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in the spring could be “another milestone of liberty”.

Who benefits from Hariri’s murder?

As far as the murder of Hariri is concerned, it is inconceivable that Syria had anything to do with it, for Syria has nothing to gain from it, particularly in the current military and political developments in the Middle East. Just the contrary. Although Hariri too was in favour of a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, he enjoyed warm relations with Damascus.

On the other hand, US imperialism and its zionist agents, stood to gain everything from Hariri’s murder. Time will reveal that they were behind Hariri’s assassination – directly or indirectly.

It has long been the ambition of the US to partition Lebanon, help Israel to annex the southern part of that country up to the Litani river, and install a puppet regime in Beirut which would do the US-Israeli bidding. With this aim, the US and Israel instigated the Lebanese civil war, which lasted 15 years from 1975 to 1990. Finding that their aims could not be achieved through their local Maronite minions alone, Israel waged a brutal and barbarous war of aggression against the Lebanese people from 1982 until 2000, when she was forced into a humiliating withdrawal through the heroic and brilliant armed struggle waged by Hizbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement.

Braving 25 years of civil war and US-backed Israeli aggression, during which the Lebanese and Palestinian people were subjected to untold misery, massacres of the Sabra and Chatila notoriety, indiscriminate bombing and wholesale slaughter, the Lebanese resistance was able to defeat the US-Israeli schemes and liberate Lebanon , apart from the small enclave known as the Shebaa farms, prevent its Balkanisation and establish a system of government which ended the dominance hitherto exercised by the Maronites, who had usually acted as agents of French and US imperialism and enjoyed cosy relations with Israeli zionism. This outcome, frustrated as it has the US-Israeli designs in Lebanon, has never been accepted by, and is a sore point with, US imperialism and its Israeli agents. They are therefore out to cause trouble and yet again try to achieve the same old aims.

They believe that the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon would open the door for the dominance of Lebanon by the US and Israel. There is some logic to it. Syria, keen to liberate the Golan heights from Israeli occupation, is unable militarily to confront Israel. She therefore exercises a certain amount of military pressure on Israel through her alliance with the Lebanese resistance movement, the Hizbollah. Both Israel and the US are keen to put an end to that.

Strength of anti-imperialist forces

There is, however, no guarantee that even the departure of Syrian troops would enable the US and Israel to gain dominance in Lebanon, for the situation there is no longer what it was in 1975. Hizbollah, which drove the Israelis out of Lebanon in May 2000, is the best organised movement in that country; it has nine members in Parliament, runs a TV station, is hugely popular among a sizeable section of the population, and has a well-trained and equipped armed wing.

Quite correctly, Hizbollah has refused to back UN Resolution 1559, which on top of calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops, also demanded its own disarmament. Instead it backs the implementation of the 1989 Taif agreement, which called for the redeployment of Syrian troops to the Beka’a valley by 1992, followed by a timetable for their total withdrawal agreed between the Syrian and Lebanese governments.

In answer to the opposition’s demonstration, Hizbollah unleashed a huge demonstration into the streets of Beirut and Sayyed Hassan Nazrallah, Hizbollah’s leader, warned: “All of us can fill the streets, all of us can stage demonstrations”.

Furthermore, Hizbollah argues that it will not disarm until the whole of Lebanon, including the Shebaa farms, has been freed from Israeli occupation. The armed strength of Hisbollah terrifies the US, which has, along with Israel, lobbied hard to persuade the EU governments to include it on its list of terrorist organisations. Even the French government opposes this. In view of the French position and the need of the Lebanese opposition to win Hizbollah’s support, the US has now shifted to a policy of just demanding Syrian withdrawal rather than the implementation of Resolution 1559 in its entirety.

Syria agrees to redeploy

Meeting in Damascus on 7 March, Bashar al-Assad and Emile Lahoud, the Syrian and Lebanese presidents, agreed to a redeployment of Syrian forces to the Beka’a valley. This followed a speech by Mr Assad on 5 March in which he promised to move the Syrian forces to the Beka’a valley and then to the Syrian-Lebanese border. A meeting of the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council beginning 7 March would set the timetable for the withdrawal. In his 5 March speech to parliament, Mr Assad characterised some of the Lebanese as being ungrateful and went on to denounce last year’s UN Resolution 1559 as a US-Israeli ploy that could take Lebanon back to the days of the civil war. In the same speech, Mr Assad insisted that the removal of troops would not affect Syria’s strategic position or weaken Syria’s interests in Lebanon.

Hizbollah demonstrates its strength

Hizbollah, which had kept itself at a distance from the dispute between Syria and the Lebanese opposition, decided on 6 March to flex its muscles and throw its weight behind Syria. After meeting other sympathetic groups, Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah called for a massive demonstration in Beirut on 8 March to counter the opposition’s street demonstrations and to protest against imperialist intervention in the Lebanese-Syrian conflict. 1.6 million people packed into Riad al-Solh Square in the centre of Beirut, joined by Hizbollah militants and surrounded by Hizbollah security officers. The demonstrators, who flooded the streets of central Beirut, carried banners saying: “Thank you Syria” and “No to foreign [i.e. imperialist] intervention”. This outpouring of support for Syria easily dwarfed the anti-Syrian demonstrations in the nearby Martyrs Square, organised by the opposition.

Through this massive demonstration, Hizbollah has given Syria some respite and room to manoeuvre, while at the same time warning the anti-Syrian opposition and its imperialist backers that Hizbollah was no pushover. It reinforced the message of the Syrian president during his 5 March speech in which he told the Lebanese: “The new May 17 is looming, so be ready to foil it again as you did over two decades ago” – in a clear reference to the humiliating peace agreement Israel forced the Lebanese government to sign on 17 May 1983, a year after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but the ratification of which was prevented by an uprising of the pro-Syrian militias, and was later annulled by Lebanon. Hizbollah has given a clear warning that it will not tolerate a repeat of 17 May 1983, which is what the Israelis and US imperialism are after in the present crisis.

On the same day as the meeting between the Syrian and Lebanese presidents (7 March), Syrian troops began their redeployment, which is to be completed by the end of March. The Syrian move has punctured the anti-Damascus campaign orchestrated by Washington. While Bush characterised the Syrian move as a “half-hearted” measure and demanded a complete and immediate withdrawal, Russia and the EU appeared more satisfied, calling it a first step towards a complete withdrawal.

Exposure of imperialist hypocrisy

The Lebanese crisis, far from advancing US-Israeli designs on Lebanon, has merely served to reveal the cynical hypocrisy of US imperialism and further open the eyes of the masses of the Middle East as to the double standards it practises on such vital questions as the presence of one country’s troops on the territory of another, and the conditions in which such occupation takes place. If the presence of Syrian troops with the consent of the Lebanese government is a “destabilising force in the region”, why is the occupation by Anglo-American imperialism of Iraq, into which they stormed uninvited to wage a predatory war for domination, not a destabilising factor? If it is necessary for Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon in order that “good democracy may have a chance to flourish”, why is it not necessary for Anglo-American imperialist forces to leave Iraq immediately so that Iraqi “democracy may have a chance to flourish”? If without a Syrian military presence, Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in the coming spring could be a “milestone of liberty”, why could a similar milestone not be chalked up in Iraq where a mockery of an election has just been staged under the shadow of the guns of the occupation forces?

The truth is that imperialism seeks domination, not liberty. There is a deep chasm which separates its hypocritical concern for democracy, freedom, rule of law and human rights and its actions, which at every step trample underfoot these concepts, which are used as a cover for waging unceasing predatory wars for domination.

People all over the world, especially in the Middle East, understand this only too well.

US imperialism has a huge number of countries on its hit list. Syria and Iran are just two of these. Finding itself in the increasingly unwinnable war in Iraq, it blames other countries for the misfortunes brought upon it by its aggression against and occupation of Iraq. Enraged by the daily blows delivered against it by the Iraqi resistance, it may be tempted to attack Syria or Iran or both. If indeed it undertakes such a mad enterprise, it will only be lifting a rock to drop on its own feet. By its bullying, threats and never-ceasing wars, US imperialism has become the number one enemy of the people of the world. In this contest between US imperialism and the vast masses of humanity, the latter are bound to emerge victorious. No amount of sophisticated armaments, no amount of savagery on its part, can prevent its revolutionary destruction at the hands of progressive humanity, especially the peoples of the Middle East who are seething with hatred of this counter-revolutionary gendarme. The 21st century belongs to the forces of national liberation and proletarian revolution. The project for an American century, dreamed up by the mad representative of US monopoly capitalism, is increasingly turning into its opposite – a project for the final burial of all imperialist exploitation and brigandage.