Lebanon goodbye to Syrian forces

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lebanon region map

As the last forces in the final Syrian pullout from Lebanon left, Bekaa Valley residents danced, waved flags, raised banners and cried tears of brotherhood in celebration. Tuesday afternoon’s Masnaa border crossing marked the exit from Lebanon of the last Syrian Army remnants, leaving 29 years of occupation behind.

A morning military gathering at Bekaa’s air base in Riyaq bid farewell to remaining troops and intelligence officers. Attended by military attachés and dignitaries from several countries, including the United States, France and North Korea, medals were exchanged and both Lebanonese and Syrian military bands played anthems. In the largely symbolic ceremony, commander of the Lebanese Army Gen. Michel Suleiman said, "Brothers in arms, thank you for your sacrifices. Together we shall always remain brothers in arms in the face of the Israeli enemy."

The Lebanese government led by Bashar al-Assad needs to make quick political reforms to ensure the survival of his regime. The once-dominant pro-Syrian intelligence and security services are disappearing as the new government holds them accountable for past actions. The leadership vacuum must be filled.

Yesterday, the powerful head of the General Security service Jamil Sayyed, announced his resignation due to "changing political developments". Raymond Azar, the chief of Lebanese military intelligence, reportedly fled with his family to France.

A former CIA operative in Lebanon and the Middle East, Bob Baer said, “They [the Syrians] are going to lose day-to-day control over Lebanon, once they don't have the T-72 tanks and the military there to back up the intelligence units." according to UPI.

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