A pro-Syria demonstration was staged in Beirut earlier today; the Associated Press headline says: “Shooting Erupts in Beirut Christian Sector”. But as the story makes clear, the shooting didn’t exactly “erupt”:
Volleys of gunfire were heard shortly after a convoy of cars carrying pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which had earlier demonstrated in Muslim south Beirut, headed later to the Christian sector of Ashrafieh, a center of anti-Syrian sentiment.
People in the cars exchanged insults with about a dozen men. Gunmen then opened fire from the cars as they drove around, the witnesses said. There appeared to be no casualties.
The shooting appears to be a clumsy attempt to provoke violence that would justify a continued Syrian presence in Lebanon. I thought this was interesting, too. This AP photo news story says: “A pro-Syrian protester fires into the air, in the Christian sector of Ashrafieh, Beirut, during a convoy of cars carrying pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad driving in Beirut, Lebanon.” Here’s the photo:
That’s not a protester. That’s a thug, and someone is paying him. These are protesters:
Today Syria’s Assad promised a phased withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon; first they withdraw toward the border, then, at some unspecified time, across the border. His announcement was reportedly greeted joyfully by the anti-Syrian protesters in Beirut. But it’s obviously inadequate. Let’s hope the anti-Syrian movement in Lebanon isn’t too easily satisfied. They, and we, need to keep the pressure on.
UPDATE: President Bush is on the case:
“There are no half-measures at all. When the United States and France say withdraw, we mean complete withdrawal, no halfhearted measures. Syria, Syrian troops, Syria’s intelligence services, must get out of Lebanon now. The world is beginning to speak with one voice. We want that democracy in Lebanon to succeed, and we know it cannot succeed so long as she is occupied by a foreign power and that power is Syria.”