Syrian revolution spreads, with largest protests yet
Syrian protests, which reached unprecedented numbers today, have spread to the key cities of Aleppo and Hama. The unrest has begun to draw in Lebanon.
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Analyst and diplomats in Beirut say that Assad will soon face a stark choice: either he will act upon his repeated promises of reform to dampen the revolt and encourage those Syrians who still believe the president is a reformer at heart, or he will intensify the crackdown – a step that could lead to civil war.Skip to next paragraph
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Such a war could potentially be similar to the conflict in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, pitting different sects against each other with meddling from Syria's neighbors.
Hariri's plans for unseating Assad exposed
Meanwhile the Lebanese have been watching the growing unrest in Syria with some trepidation, fearing that any instability in its powerful neighbor almost certainly will spill over into Lebanon. Saad Hariri, the caretaker Lebanese prime minister, has taken on an increasingly tough stance toward Syria since his coalition government was toppled in January by Syria’s Lebanese allies. He also has been critical of Syria’s allies, Iran and the militant Shiite Hezbollah movement based in Lebanon.
On Friday, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily newspaper, which is supportive of Hezbollah, published a 2006 US diplomatic cable from the WikiLeaks trove in which Hariri is quoted as saying that the Assad regime should be replaced by a Muslim Brotherhood administration.
Hariri’s highly sensitive comments were aired amid an escalating war of words this week between Syria and the anti-Syrian Future Movement, which is headed by Hariri. The Syrian authorities have publicly blamed foreign “infiltrators” for stirring sectarian unrest. On Wednesday, Syria TV aired the alleged confessions of three men, one of whom claimed to have been instructed by Jamal Jarrah, a Lebanese member of parliament affiliated with the Future Movement, to incite protests and form armed groups.
Mr. Jarrah denied the accusations, saying “interfering in Syria’s internal affairs is out of the question.” But Ali Abdel Karim Ali, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, on Friday called on the Lebanese authorities to address the accusations against Jarrah.
Syria: Lebanon's well-being is tied up in ours
Mr. Ali additionally cautioned that Lebanon's well-being was directly tied to Syria's, a warning Syria has been seeking to drive home.
“If any harm comes to Syria, then Lebanon will be harmed. That is, if not more than [Syria],” he said.
In recent days, long lines of goods truck have built up at the Abboudiyah crossing on Lebanon’s northern border with Syria as part of heightened security measures by the Syrian security forces. Some 400 to 500 trucks were reported to be backed up as each vehicle was closely inspected before being permitted to enter Syria.
On Thursday, a vehicle carrying weapons was caught attempting to slip into Syria from northern Lebanon, according to Syrian television. The vehicle reportedly carried a number of shotguns. However, Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanon’s paramilitary Internal Security Forces, denied that the ISF had apprehended any vehicle smuggling arms into Syria, adding that he was unaware of any other Lebanese security agency having caught weapons smugglers.