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"I don't know how this is being spun elsewhere - I haven't read any news accounts yet - but I expect that this massive demonstration will convey to most Arabs watching that there are in fact real divisions in Lebanese opinion right now, and might well have a serious impact on Arab public opinion. It is not being portrayed - at least on al Jazeera - as a failed demonstration. It is being portrayed as equally as legitimate but not necessarily more legitimate than the anti-Syrian demonstrations."
"I also have to say, as someone who is completely opposed to the ideology and actions of Hizbullah, that I'm impressed with the responsibility it has shown thus far during the crisis. From reports on the ground, it seems that Hizbullah is taking crowd control seriously, searching for concealed weapons and keeping the demonstration peaceful. It has also maintained dialogue with the opposition even while rallying the streets against it. Much of the reason for this lies in self-interest - Hizbullah wants to maintain its privileges whoever wins, so it has to be simultaneously too strong to oppose and too valuable for either side to write off - but it's more than I would have looked for this time last year.
I've also noticed that Hizbullah didn't stage its pro-Syrian demo until after Syria announced its pullout timetable. Now that the Syrian and Lebanese governments have approved a staged pullback that will reportedly include intelligence agents, a Syrian departure has become the consensus position. The question isn't whether the Syrians will leave but how soon they will do so, whether any of them will stay in the Beka'a Valley and how much political influence they will have after the fact. The timetable isn't fast enough for the opposition (or for Bush), but the issue of whether a Syrian withdrawal will take place under Taif, Resolution 1559 or some other framework is on the table."
"I think this is an essential moment in the history of Hezbollah (the demonstration is no more than an effort to flex Shiite muscles), which has spend a decade and a half during Lebanon's postwar period setting itself above the fray of Lebanese society. Pumped up by conceit, but also by a remarkably adept leadership, the party successfully sold its resistance against Israel as a reflection of its being at the center of a national consensus. Even when the party engaged in the most partisan behavior, it would invariably regard itself as something of a supranational organization that was, somehow, too good for Lebanon.
Perhaps it was, but today Hezbollah has completely undermined that premise in the eyes of its fellow countrymen. There is little doubt that a majority of Lebanese--Christians, Druze, Sunni Muslims (particularly after the assassination of Rafik Hariri), and not a few Shiites (how I recall that the most violent postwar confrontations with Syria occurred between Syrian soldiers and Shiite soccer fans after matches in which Syrian and Lebanese teams competed)--want an end to Syrian domination. Today, the truth is clear: Hezbollah seeks to become the Praetorian Guard of a Syrian-dominated order in Lebanon for after Syrian soldiers withdraw. In that context, the killing of Hariri also becomes clearer: it was preparation for what Damascus understood would be an inevitable Syrian pullout, ensuring that a strong Sunni, with a national project for Lebanon (who could also have threatened the stability of the Alawite regime in Damascus), would be eliminated."
Throwing up lots of links - the lazy option.
Update, 3/9/2005, 1:12pm: Joshua Landis has a post about some of the reaction in Syria to the Hezbollah rally.
Update 2, 3/9/2005, 2:24pm: Slate has a round-up of the reaction in the American mainstream media.