Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pulling out is the hardest thing in the world 

"The United States has criticised Syria's plan to withdraw gradually from Lebanon and called for the immediate removal of all troops... Assad said Syria would first pull back to the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon and then to the border area."
A two phased withdrawal might be a nice face-saving option for Syria but it's not a solution for all the other parties concerned. Key words: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon's Number 1 tourist destination if you're a a) terrorist (particularly of a Hizbollah variety), b) secret agent (mostly Iranian) c) drug dealer, or d) perhaps even want to store away some pesky WMDs (treat this last one with a grain of sarin). The other key words: the border area. Until 2000, Israel had maintained a militarized buffer zone along its border with Lebanon mostly in order to put its own border towns out of the range of Hizbollah rockets. Syria cannot justify hugging Lebanon's eastern border due to any actual or possible security threats to its own sovereign territory. No wonder the US is not impressed.

Meanwhile, Syria's Immigration Minister Bussaina Shaaban might know something we don't: "Asked if Mr Assad's pledge to pull back troops meant their complete departure from the country, she said: 'Absolutely, they will be on the Syrian side of the border'."


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