I agree with Doha's statement that we can not be overly optimistic about Syria's withdrawal and that TIME is required. Nevertheless, I was slightly idealistic in the thoughts that I sent to my classmates today that are shared below.
" Today marked a historical day for Lebanon. Syria has officially pulled out all its troops and intelligence apparatus after a "three decade reign"!
Although there had been pressure on the Syrians to leave since the end of the civil war in 1990 and in compliance with the Taif Accord, the agreement for national reconciliation that ended the war, only certain segments of the Lebanese population were vocal about this. The assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14th of this year, which public opinion blames Syria for, served as a catalyst to mobilize a significant representation of Lebanon's constituency. The Lebanese had had "Enough!" of political manipulation and economic exploitation by Syria, and stormed onto the streets in peaceful protests that were inspiring. For once in a long time, Christians, Druze and Muslims (mainly Sunni) were united in demanding Freedom, Solidarity, and Sovereignty, with the biggest gathering estimated at 1 million protesters - roughly a third of the population!
These are exciting times but Lebanon still faces many challenges. First, the current President is pro-Syrian and there is no guarantee that Syria's influence will be totally erased in the short run. Second, the Lebanese no longer have a scapegoat for their political woes and must take responsibility for shaping the future and restoring trust in the government and its institutions. The first opportunity to do this would be to vote responsibly in the May parliamentary elections. Lebanon's sectarian laws still stands (for example, Lebanon's President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament have to be Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shiite Muslim respectively) and it will take time and national dialogue to restore an efficient system of meritocracy. Many other complications remain including Hizbullah's disarmament.
There is tension ahead and the ensuing complexities would realistically present different setbacks for the Lebanese. But, more importantly, there is hope (!) that Lebanon will take its own reigns and steer itself to an even more properous future as a truly sovereign nation! "