A message posted today, February 17, 2005, to a leading al-Qaeda-frequented Jihadist message board, in the name of Sheikh Abu Baseer al-Tartusi [Abdul Menhem Mustafa Halima], discusses why, ?[d]espite all international and local voices demanding Syria?s withdrawal from Lebanon… Syria is still determined to maintain its presence in Lebanon.?
The message maintains ?that Syria?s determination not to leave Lebanon is a strategic option for the sectarian Baathi regime? for a number of reasons, including ?[t]o keep providing support and protection to the Shiite elements [groups - parties], especially the Shiite Hezbollah party…, [t]o protect the Christians? presence in the Lebanese villages throughout the Bekaa and other areas…, [t]o prevent the Syrian Islamic opposition [from benefiting] from Lebanese land adjacent to the Syrian borders…, [t]o strike the Lebanese Sunni groups and organizations regardless of their [political] orientation, for the fact that they could provide support to the Syrian Sunni entities opposed to the ruling sectarian Baathi regime…, [and] to keep Lebanon as a trump card in its hand, to control and do with it as it wishes.?
The message concludes that ?sooner or later, the Syrian Forces will be driven out of Lebanon,? and advises readers to see this as a positive development:
?Everyone will benefit from the withdrawal of the Syrian Forces and Intelligence from Lebanon, but the only losers will be the sectarian Christian Baathi ruling regime, and the Christian denomination in Northern Lebanon, and their Shiite collaborators inside and outside Lebanon. Hence, I recommend that you do not defend the presence of the Syrian Forces in Lebanon, and not be saddened by their withdrawal from it.?
A full translation of the message is provided to our Intel Service members.