Several Lebanese analysts were encouraged by events that took place over the weekend in the northern and eastern regions of the country - near the town of Minia north of Tripoli, and in the vicinity of Baalbek, both regions under Syrian control.
A group of Lebanese citizens began attacking and burning the tents where Syrian workers live, demanding they leave Lebanese soil. At the same time, there has been a decrease in the number of people crossing the border between Syria and Lebanon since the murder of Rafiq Hariri, last week.
The popular opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon is not only being directed against the 15,000 Syrian soldiers; before the murder, it was voiced against the Syrian economic control in Lebanon, and this embodies perhaps the most important implication of the murder on Syrian policies in Lebanon. After all, there are close to 1 million Syrian laborers in Lebanon today who bring in close to $1 billion every year to Syria.
Likewise, this is not the first time Syrian workers have been physically attacked in Lebanon, but the incidence is likely to increase following the murder, and consequently lead to a mass exodus of Syrian laborers, causing a gigantic economic headache for the government.
This is the big dilemma of the Lebanese opposition movement, which has called for an intifada against the Syrian presence. More than a third of Lebanon's parliamentarians - supporters of Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and the Christian leadership - have joined in the call, which is aimed also against the present government of President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Omar Karame and parliamentary speaker Nabi Beri. They are considered Syrian appointments and responsible for allowing the Syrians to further their presence.
The fear is that a violent intifada could bring in its wake an even sharper Syrian reaction and possibly also an official Lebanese government "invitation" to Syria to stay put so as to prevent a new civil war.
The Syrians will now be hard-pressed to find "reliable" scapegoats, possibly a Syrian officer or group of officers who can be presented as conspirators who must be executed. Another solution would be to find "external terrorists," such as the organization that took responsibility on the day of the murder.
However, the Syrians may already have missed the boat. As one Lebanese analyst told Haaretz, "Lebanon will not accept any suspect other than the Syrian regime itself and its accomplices in Lebanon."
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