White House Consults Paris and London on Peacekeeping Force for Lebanon

Right of assembly can become a dangerous catalyst for dissidence when invoked in a dark dictatorship like Syria.

So Bashar Assad‘s advisers had mixed feelings when they gave the go-ahead for a Beirut-style demonstration in Damascus Wednesday, March 9, to show how popular the embattled Syrian leader was. They decided to take the risk although aware that images of any public demonstration in Syria could light opposition fires.

But this time, they knew their stage-managing had be subtle enough not to be caught out again as it was four days earlier, on Saturday, February 5, when they whipped up a “popular” gathering to “spontaneously” greet Assad’s Lebanon speech in parliament.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that certain intelligence agencies, including those of the United States and Israel, minutely scrutinized footage of that first street rally outside parliament. At first, they were puzzled by what they did not see, namely women and children. All of the demonstrators were men aged 22 to 26.

A quick comparison of some of the faces with mug shots of Syrian troops brought the truth to light: the cheering crowd was made up of an entire Syrian Republic Guard regiment imported to Damascus from its barracks in the northern city of Homs. The soldiers were given civilian clothes and Syrian flags and told to wave enthusiastically. After the rally, they went back to base.

A deluge of disturbing information then rained on the Assad parade.


Hopes for anti-Assad protest to become avalanche


The United States was discovered to have poured dozens of agents earlier in the week into Syria’s main cities, including Aleppo and Homs, to prod Assad’s opponents into taking to the streets against him. Iraqi Kurdish leaders ordered agents to infiltrate Syria and help organize protests and riots by their Syrian brothers in Kamishli, Efrin, Amuda and Haleb this coming Saturday, March 12, to mark the first anniversary of the Syrian Kurdish uprising against Damascus. The biggest demonstration of all is planned for the square outside parliament in Damascus. Kurds will also stand outside Syrian embassies in West European capitals with anti-Syrian banners.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, the White House hopes these rallies will kick off a wave of mass protests that eventually draw hundreds of thousands into the streets. Our Washington sources say the Bush administration believes Assad and his generals, fearing an international backlash, will balk at ordering troops and soldiers to fire on the demonstrators. And so an avalanche of protest will sweep the country unchecked.

The Americans are counting on these mass displays of popular hostility to the Syrian ruler on his home ground to act as a counterweight to the pro-Assad events planned in Lebanon.

Intelligence reaching Washington revealed that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has booked three large rallies in support of the Syrian president; one in Tripoli, the northern Lebanese bastion of the reinstated pro-Syrian prime minister Omar Karami, Friday, March 11, followed by Sidon in the South Monday, March 14 or Tuesday, March 15 and March 18 in Zakhle, Lebanon’s most pro-American city and stronghold of the Maronite Christian community.


US and France Together Again in Lebanon


Washington realizes that public rallies alone will not suffice to repair the damage wrought by the monster pro-Syrian Hizballah rally in Beirut Wednesday, March 9. Under its grim impact, Lebanese opposition parties began beating a retreat from their campaign to oust Syrian forces from Lebanon. The pro-Syrian president Emil Lahoud and pro-Syrian factions, cowed by popular outrage over the murder of Rafiq Hariri, regained the confidence to reinstate Karami as prime minister and begin persecuting Hariri’s family.

(See “Four Interlinked Terrorist Events in One Afternoon” in HOT POINTS below) Indeed, our political analysts see in Hizballah’s show of strength a strategic turning point for the radical forces of terror in the Middle East, with the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah taking the lead and ready to fill in for Syria as Lebanon’s senior power broker.

The White House is now scrambling to head off this development. In addition to steps for isolating Syria, Washington is planning to draft a UN Security Council Resolution setting up an international peacekeeping force, made up of US, British and French troops, for Lebanon.

This recalls a painful piece of history. Back in 1984, a string of deadly suicide bombings against American and French forces drove both out of Lebanon. As the troops departed, the USS Missouri, a battleship since mothballed, lobbed shells the size of small cars at Syrian Mt. Lebanon positions.

We have learned that the Bush administration has started sounding out London and Paris on a combined peacekeeping force and met with positive initial responses.

For Washington, the Lebanese crisis has an upside; it has brought the United States and France back into military cooperation for the first time since relations were soured by French disapproval of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

A US-French-British offensive against Hizballah that holds the potential of clashes also with Iranian forces stationed in Lebanon as an integral part of that group’s militia would reconstitute the transatlantic military alliance for war against terror.

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