Syria is working covertly through a network of Lebanese operatives to ensure Damascus can still dominate its smaller neighbor even after it withdraws the last of 15,000 troops, in defiance of a U.N. resolution demanding an end to Syria's 29-year control over Lebanon, according to U.S., European and U.N. officials, and Lebanon's opposition.
Although Syria shut down its notorious intelligence headquarters in downtown Beirut, Damascus is establishing a new hidden presence in the capital's southern suburbs, bringing in officials who will not be recognized, say Lebanese opposition and Western sources. The move would contradict a pledge by President Bashar Assad to withdraw Syria's large intelligence operation from the Lebanese capital as of today.
U.S., European and U.N. officials also charge that Syria is using allies in Lebanon's government and agents in Lebanon's security services to stall Lebanon's spring elections for a new parliament, the key to political change. In the current government, the president, the acting prime minister and at least 70 of the 128 members of parliament are pro-Syrian.