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March 04, 2003

Syria discreetly pulls 4,000 troops from Lebanon

This article suggests the move to placate the U.S. as that country moves toward war with Iraq. How many soldiers are now left to occupy its client state of Lebanon? I figure from what I have read at least 25,000 more. And Hezbullah? Of course those lads are allowed to operate in Southern Lebanon, protected by Syria, still shooting rockets into Israel. And this is called calming them down?
Beirut -- Syria has quietly pulled about 4,000 of its soldiers out of Lebanon in the past week, substantially reducing its 27-year troop presence in the country and sending a signal of moderation to the United States.

The withdrawal from isolated barracks, bases and checkpoints throughout northern Lebanon cuts Syria's troop level in the country to about 16,000 -- fewer than half the number of soldiers it maintained only a few years ago.

The partial pullout is the most significant step in a recent series of moves by Damascus to reduce tension within Lebanon, a strategic rearguard of the Syrian government that is viewed by many in Washington and Israel as a potential flash point if the United States invades Iraq.

"The Syrians are very intelligent in the timing of their steps," said Gen. Elias Farhat, spokesman for the Lebanese military. "You can consider the troop redeployment a message for the Lebanese people and the U.S. government."

In the past several months, the Syrians also have reined in Hezbollah, the radical Shiite Muslim militia in southern Lebanon that is considered a dangerous international terrorist group by the Bush administration. And Syria has carried out a series of discreet negotiations with U.S. diplomats to iron out problems [more]