McClatchy Newspapers via Common Dreams:
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators piled into downtown Beirut Sunday, demanding that the U.S.-backed government step down immediately or face an escalation in a siege on the prime minister’s headquarters being coordinated by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia.
While accounts vary of what the heightened tactics could consist of - a government worker’s strike and a storming of the headquarters have both been mentioned - it’s clear that the nation is headed toward a breaking point. Hezbollah and its allies have been camped in the center of the capital for more than a week, demanding that Sunni Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and his Cabinet step down.
The implications are profound for U.S. efforts to counter Syrian and Iranian influence in the Middle East.
The Bush administration counts the massive “Cedar Revolution” protests that expelled Syrian forces from Lebanon last year as a key victory for pro-western democracy. But now, as U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan face significant setbacks, it is Syrian and Iranian ally Hezbollah that is filling the streets of Beirut and calling for revolution.
Speaking in front of the crowd on Sunday, Hezbollah’s second in command, Naim Qassim, said in a message to Saniora: “Have a press conference tonight or tomorrow to tell the Lebanese people that you are resigning. ... If you resign today, it would be a positive step, but if you don’t it will be negative for the future” of Lebanon.