From the Desk of Dr. Walid
April 9th, 2001
Honorable General Colin Powell
Secretary Of State
2201 C Street, NW.
Washington, DC 20520
Re: Lebanon latest development
Dear Secretary Powell,
I am writing to you as a Professor in Middle East Studies and Ethnic Conflict, who was born in Lebanon and has been attempting to propose political solutions to the ongoing crisis striking my mother country, Lebanon. All media reports on Lebanon's political developments are noticing increasing demands by Lebanese civilian communities for an immediate and full withdrawal of the Syrian occupation Army from Lebanon. Those demands have been raised by the Maronite Patriarch-Cardinal and the Council of Maronite Bishops, acclaimed by the Lebanese American community and hailed by more then two hundred thousand demonstrators who were greeting the Cardinal's return last week.
Moreover, Druse leader Walid Joumblat, a number of Muslim intellectuals as well as political parties from conservative, liberal and left wing persuasions have expressed a similar desire to see the Syrian forces pulling out from some areas of Lebanon, as a first step. On the other hand, the main international, US and Lebanese Human Rights organizations have clearly reported that the Syrian security apparatus has been constantly
involved in political arrests and abuse.
The popular demand for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, either according to the Taif Agreement or even according to plain international law, has become a widely legitimate claim that the international community cannot avoid addressing anymore. The United States Government, one of the guarantors of the Taif Agreement and the leading international force in defending democratic rights around the world must address the situation with seriousness and responsibility.
Reports from Lebanon, which are certainly available to you, are projecting an escalation of tensions. Lebanon's civil society, its national Church, its student movement, parishes and the Human Rights protesters from various religious communities are organizing street demonstrations and rallies, to express their opposition to the military presence of the Syrians in their homeland, by democratic means.
Unfortunately, I am sad to report that according to the same media sources, radical fundamentalist organizations, pro-Syrian groups and the pro-Iranian militia Hizbollah, have openly declared that they are going to use violence against (the mostly Christian) peaceful demonstrators. Reports from inside Lebanon have indicated that attacks by pro-Syrian militiamen against Lebanese opposing the Syrian occupation will take place. More alarming reports are projecting sectarian attacks against Christian civilians and neighborhoods in retaliation against the anti-Syrian protest movement.
This dramatic situation reminds us of the East Timor crisis when pro-Indonesian militias persecuted and in some cases massacred pro-Independence demonstrators. The United States and the international community must act preventively in Lebanon to avoid an explosion of tensions and possible bloodshed.
At this stage, and in the absence of a discussion of the Lebanese crisis at the United Nations, and knowing that the Lebanese Government is influenced and in most cases dominated by Syrian power, it is recommendable that Washington and the international community would pressure Syrian to withdraw from all areas in Lebanon where those forces are not welcomed and accepted. At this stage, a rapid withdrawal of the Syrians from the Christian and Druse areas, and the international Airport is the only rational way to avoid an explosion.
The Lebanese Army, which is omnipresent in all the areas indicated above, and to be potentially evacuated by the Syrians, has enough resources to maintain order and stability. In few words, the Lebanese Army should take sole responsibility in the areas protesting against Syrian military presence, and the Syrian Army would redeploy temporarily into the areas dominated by the radical fundamentalists assisted by Lebanese regular troops. We suggest the United States Government and the International Community would send observers to report on the situation in the days to come.
I remain ready to assist you and the US Government in any consultation or expertise regarding the matter.
Walid Phares, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science
Ethnic and Religious Conflict
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
cc: Senator Sam Brownback, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser