Marching to Damascus

It appears that the winds of change are blowing strongly in the Middle East. Major changes are underway that appear to support the cause of liberty for all of humanity. With Yasser Arafat’s death, Mahmoud Abbas took the reins of the Palestinian Authority, working quickly and effectively to institute a cease-fire with Israel that has now been in place for about three weeks. Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, announced this week that Egypt would begin to institutionalize democratic reforms and hold free elections free.The most noteworthy news in the Middle East, however, is coming out of Lebanon, where peaceful protestors have driven out the Prime Minister, a man with pro-Syria leanings. They are also trying to drive out nearly 15,000 Syrian troops. The protests began just days after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri had helped to reconstruct the Lebanese government after the civil war that raged in Beirut and the rest of Lebanon from 1975-1990, developing a working constitution for the new government. Hariri had been Prime Minister until his resignation last October, which followed a vote by the Lebanese Parliament to amend the constitution to allow the current President to extend his term by three years. Hariri was known for his dislike of Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon. This opposition to Syrian troops is believed to be the direct reason for his assassination on the streets of Beirut on February 14. Hariri’s death has sent public opinion in Lebanon and abroad into a whirling frenzy. Peaceful protestors have demanded that the pro-Syrian Lebanese government resign so that new elections can be held. Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union have pressured Syria to conform to UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Opponents of the Lebanese government have blamed these troops for the continued instability in Lebanon, even blaming them for the death of Hariri. . The Lebanese government has said that the withdrawal of Syrian troops would result in greater instability for the nation, but most do not believe this argument. Protestors hope that their efforts will eventually result not only in the resignation of the Lebanese government, but also in the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops. This past Monday, protestors rejoiced with a huge victory in their hopes for a fully autonomous and free Lebanon, when the pro-Syrian Prime Minister, Omar Karami, resigned from his post, saying that he did not want to be an obstacle to peace. Now is the time for the United States and the free world to act. We must continue to apply diplomatic pressure on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. By ridding Lebanon of its status as a satellite nation to Syria, Lebanon could lead the Middle East on the road to democracy with continued liberal reforms as are being seen throughout the Middle East. For American interests, this would be yet another major victory in the War on Terror, which cannot be won solely through military means, but also through winning the hearts and minds of the Arab world.