Excellent article by Khaled Yacoub Oweis. Some highlights:
“They say they want the truth about Hariri but don’t care if their alliance with America ruins Syria.”
“They are the same Lebanese politicians who used to bow for our officials. They were agents then and are still agents now, but to Western and Zionist masters.”
“Forty years ago Syrians had many political parties and more expression but we did not abuse the freedom. We would not have used it to hurt Lebanon.”
Here’s the article…
Syrians turn back on hostile Lebanon rally
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Television sets in Damascus were tuned to football, dramas or the Koran on Tuesday, anything but a Beirut rally to mark the first anniversary of the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Although half a million people gathered 80 km (50 miles) west of Damascus demanding Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud step down, few Syrians cared, saying the Hariri issue has turned into a U.S.-backed campaign aimed at destabilizing Syria and blaming it for inherit divisions among the Lebanese.
“The people at the rally you talk about are being led by war criminals who turned Lebanon into hell for 15 years. Why should we be impressed?” said engineer Fares al-Baroud, sitting at the Havana cafe in central Damascus and watching a replay of an Italian football league game.
“They want to blame Syria if Lebanon turns into a banana republic. They say they want the truth about Hariri but don’t care if their alliance with America ruins Syria.”
Baroud was referring to tension between pro and anti U.S. players in Lebanon’s sectarian system and the fact that Shi’ite Muslims, who are the country’s largest sect, have largely stayed away from the rallies for Hariri, who was a Sunni.
Most Syrian popular anger was directed toward Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a warlord during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war and a former ally of Syria. Jumblatt was instrumental in the events that eventually led to Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon after the Hariri killing.
“AGENTS THEN, AGENTS NOW”
Jumblatt denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the “tyrant of Damascus” and called for revenge on him for alleged Syrian involvement in Hariri’s killing.
“Who is moving these people? They are the same Lebanese politicians who used to bow for our officials. They were agents then and are still agents now, but to Western and Zionist masters,” said Hussein Saleh, a government employee.
“They think they can create a future for America in the region?”
The United States, which imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, has been at the forefront of international pressure on Damascus for its alleged role in the assassination of Hariri.
Damascus denies involvement in the killing and has pledged to cooperate with a U.N. investigation into it. The ongoing inquiry has implicated senior Syrian officials in the murder.
Syria however has not recovered from economic pressure on it after the killing and the government on Monday switched state dealings to Euros from dollars as a precaution against disruption to foreign currency flows.
“Hariri was well liked by the majority here. But the Lebanese response to his killing has been emotional and we have not seen hard evidence on Syrian involvement,” said Mohammad al-Qahwaji, a retired French teacher.
“The Lebanese forget that we are really one family,” he said. “It is rare to see a Lebanese without relatives in Syria and vice versa. Forty years ago Syrians had many political parties and more expression but we did not abuse the freedom. We would not have used it to hurt Lebanon.”