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March 07, 2005



What are you talking about?

America has always been at war with the nefarious Syrians.


I think a lot of it depends on whose media - there has been a lot of variation within Lebanon on this, and I think "Syrian presence in Lebanon" and "Syrian relationship to Lebanon" have been more characteristic of both Muslim (especially Shi'a) and "non-aligned" sources. While I would not claim a comprehensive knowledge of Lebanese media, "ihtilal" was not in broad non-sectarian usage when I was there even in October and November, and there were pro-1559 and anti-1559 protests running pretty much back-to-back. I'm sure that the current developments have changed this somewhat, but I think Tuesday will be a telling moment on the salience of the occupation discourse.

Nur al-Cubicle

Wan't Michel Aoun allowed recently to return to Lebanon after his exile to France? Checking out occupation syrienne, they sure do like that term over that the Bachir Gemayel Foundation.

General Michel Aoun testified before the US House Subcommittee on International Relations on 18 Sept 03 in which he used the term, "Syrian occupation" and its impact on Lebanon. Check this out:

The syrian occupation of Lebanon is damaging and costly to both US nad Lebanese...First, the Syrian hegemony in Lebanon has transformed that country into fertile ground and a safe haven for terrorism. In the '70s and '80s, Lebanon became the first victim of Syrian terrorism. This is one of the main reasons why Syria was designated as one of the principal terrorist states on the list drafted by the US Dept. of State...Second, the Syrian occupation has transformed Lebanon into a puppet regime beholden to a dictatorship.

Now I get the feeling that Congress and US Fimk Tanques are swooning to this kind of message from characters like Aoun and have ponyed up the cash for high-visible anti-Syrian demonstrations, which in fact do repose on some legitimate sentiment among the population. I've seen reports of the prominence of orange-scarved "Aounistes" among the crowds, waving portraits of the General.

There is some perfume of Albright era rhetoric in all this, too.


In passing, no one on the far Left ever addressed the issue of an occupying army, with secret service apparatus (invited? sure) because only Israel was an "occupier." Difference? Israel occupies land taken in war while waiting for a settlement..there is NO state they have occupied. Lebanon seems to have an army of occupation that a pro-Syrian govt agreed to. Simple solution: let Syria simply annex the country and enlarge Syria and then there is no occupation, no matter what all those nasty demonstrators say. Or: take a vote to see who want Syria there and who wants Syria out. Or does that smell of democracy?

the aardvark

Stacy - thanks, that's useful.

freddie- thanks, that's totally incoherent.


Um, the center left Lebanese I know, no great lovers of the Syrian presence, say that Syria was INVITED by the Lebanese government to step in. Remember, the Taif agreement brought an end to a long and destructive civil war. Thanks to that agreement, my home village was restored and we were able to return to honor the graves of our ancestors and rebuild our family homes.

David Witt

when i visited Lebanon last summer/fall (without knowing much about the political situation), the vibe on 'the street' (at least to my western eyes) was the heavy hand of 'Brother Syria.' Soviet style portraits of Assads 41 and 43 (pardon my heavy-handed Bush allusion) and Lahoud were ubiquitous (Mousa al-Sadr was the popular alternative).

this was a visual allusion to what i felt and heard about the Syrian 'occupation' (or whatever semantic term) is that the people i talked to there were totally aware of being 'occupied'...and wondering why nobody else in the world seemed to care about this!

it's true that the Syrians aquitted themselves better than most during the civil war, and many Lebanese seem to understand and appreciate this,however, there was also the unmistakeable feeling of a guest who had made themselves too comfortable with the contents of the house...

i think the semantic difference is basically between the 'occupier' and the 'big brother'--take your pick, either way, they are in charge;>


It is best to just ignore "freddie" he suffers from some sort of mental illness, I think. He has spent the last week or so posting strange accusation and outright lies on a good number of anti-zionist blogs. He would post one message (usually one that has little to do with the topic of the blog entry he is commenting on) then a handful of people would then call him on his nonsense and instead of defending his initial post, he starts the same crap on the next blog entry.

Michael no.2

FWIW, I happen to have a collection of about 1500 stories from Annahar at hand, dating from 2001 and 2002. The only mention of a Syrian occupation occurs in a quote from Aoun.

Michael no. 2

Some other revealing searches:




David Faris

"Israel occupies land taken in war while waiting for a settlement..there is NO state they have occupied."

Yes Freddie, the Israelis are just waiting and waiting for the Syrians to make the exact same peace offer that's been on the table for 30 years, and then they'll get out of the Golan Heights, which they, of course, don't occupy(they're just staying on the couch!), and where I'm sure there are no Mossad agents whatsoever, just like in the West Bank.


As`ad AbuKhalil

Jumblat only briefly broke with Syria prior to the 2000 elections, in the hope of garnering Maronite votes in the mountains. Once he got that, he went back to submission to the Syrian regime.

Anna in Cairo

I am so impressed that you even came up with this question. I have to say that for a while, I really did try to understand the whole Lebanese scene, and felt like I was going to go totally insane. I think your attempt here ins nothing short of heroic, as I have long ago stopped trying to figure out Lebanese politics. On the down side, I think we could all start taking bets on how long it will take for you to give up to avoid your brain exploding.


Until recently, the pictures of Hafez Assad and BAshar Assad were the first thing to meet you in Beirut airport! I used to travel to Beirut quite often from 1994 to 1998, and most Lebanese I met were thiking of the Syrians as occupiers. They were really afraid of them: not being able to criticize anything Syrian when they could say anything they wanted about any LEbanese person.

the aardvark

This all sounds about right from my times in Lebanon too - both the impressions and the official word choice/discourse. I should have made clear that I wasn't asking whether or not Syria really *was* occupying Lebanon, just when this "tipped over" into becoming a consensus way of describing the Syrian presence. This is helping.

Nur al-Cubicle

Uh oh! Half million pro-Hizbollah demonstrators in the streets of Beirut.

David All

From everything that has occurred in Lebanon the last several weeks since Hariri's brutal murder, it is clear the majority of Lebanese want the Syrians to leave. Syria by its intervention and occupation did end Lebanon's civil war and made it possible for the Lebanese people to rebuild their country. However in the 15 years since the civil war ended, the continuing Syrian occupation has alienated most Lebanese who resent the heavy handed Syrian domination of their country. An example being the potraits of both Assads along with Lahoud's at Beirut Airport which is right out of the old Soviet Bloc setup!

Most Lebanese were scared of the Syrians and afraid they would be killed if they publicly opposed them. The combination of the Iraqi elections and Hairi's assaination changed that. The first inspired the Lebanese majority that peaceful change was possible in the Middle East, the second enraged them and moved them to protest and make that change happen. Whether the Syrians will withdraw completely from Lebanon and how much influence they will continue to have there is still up in the air. If Assad is smart, and so far unlike his father he has not been, he will withdraw all his military and his secret police while trying to show the Lebanese the value of continued cooperation economically wise and that Syria can still Lebanon's protector with out being a heavy handed occupier.

Anna in Cairo

A friend of mine came back from a weekend in Lebanon recently and told me a joke. It is not very funny but regarding attitudes towards Syria's role in L. it is kind of telling. A Lebanese guy has his Swiss watch stolen by a Syrian person. He goes to make a complaint at the local station, finds that the DA is Syrian, the policeman at the desk is Syrian, the officer is Syrian, everyone around him is Syrian - they say to him "What happened" and he says, "A Swiss man stole my Syrian watch."

Tom Scudder

Anna, there's another line or two after:

The DA says, "wait, don't you mean a syrian person stole your swiss watch?" And the guy says, "You said it, not me."

In terms of when "occupation" took hold, it really seemed (based on living in Lebanon but not having done any real study) to start having some national currency after the Israelis withdrew in 2000.

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