Monday, February 14, 2005

Something Does Not Add Up in Lebanon

Today, the ex-premier of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, was murdered along with six of his bodyguards while driving down Beirut's waterfront. Many news outlets were quick to point out that before his death, Hariri was becoming increasingly vocal about Syria's role in Lebanon. The statement coming out of the White House today all but directly accused Syria for Hariri's murder. The conservative media and the hawks in Washington will likely seize on this opportunity to turn up the drum beat on Syria. President Bush had already stepped up his rhetoric against Syria recently and was able to join hands with the French last year and win a UN resolution condemning Syrian presence and interference in Lebanon. But something does not add up.

It is true that Rafiq Hariri resigned his post as PM because he refused to support the Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud, and that he also started to question Syria's meddling in Lebanese internal affairs. It is also true that Rafiq Hariri is well-liked in Western diplomatic circles. He is a very close friend of French President Jacques Chirac, and has many influential friends in the U.S. He was also a very successful businessman estimated to be worth around $4 Billion. So, at first glance, it would seem that Syria is the most logical suspect in his murder. But something does not add up.

The Syrian government is not that stupid. No one in their right mind in Damascus would order such a high-stakes assassination knowing that the US had just stepped up its criticism of Syria’s support for terrorism and interference in internal Lebanese politics. No one in their right mind in Damascus would do this only a few months after the UN voted to condemn ‘the presence of foreign troops’ on Lebanese soil and the passage of the Syrian Accountability Act in the US Congress. Rafiq Hariri had after all resigned his post as PM. Why would the Syrians take such an unbelievable risk at the worst possible time? Something simply does not add up.

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Blogger Ami Isseroff said...

Dear friend,
Sometimes regimes do stupid things. Did the US do a stupid thing going into Iraq? Did the USSR do a stupid thing going into Hungary in 1956? It would have been stupid if the US and Europe had reacted, but they simply didn't care. Syria or its puppets in Lebanon were sending a message. They warned they would silence the opposition more than once, and then they tried to do it. Given that Lebanese never raised any serious opposition to the "sister" occupation before, not even when "sister" changed the Lebanese constitution so that "sister's" candidate could remain president. So why would they think this would be any different??

What is the mystery?
While some other countries might have had the MOTIVE, only Syria or its puppets had the MEANS and OPPORTUNITY to kill Hariri under the watchfull eyes of the Syrian Mukhabarat.
See Assassination of Hariri and 1,2,3 Why assassinate Hariri?.

Ami Isseroff

February 22, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Thank you for your comment on this very difficult topic. I believe that if we were to exercise legal parameters to analyze Syrian involvement in the murder of Hariri, we would find, as you point out, plenty of motive. But motive alone is not sufficient to prove guilt in a court of law. You still have to show evidence linking the accused to the crime. Otherwise it is a largely circumstantial case.

But we are not in a court of law. This is the court of public opinion. Many of us despise tyrannical regimes like Syria. Because we despise them, we are never willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. That's also because we know what atrocities they are capable of.

Nonetheless, Syria, although it had the most motive in killing Hariri, also had the most to lose. Since the murder, the U.S. ambassador to Syria was recalled, tougher sanctions are on the way, and anti-Syrian demonstrations raged in Beirut forcing Assad to announce a partial withdrawal of Syrian troops in compliance with the Taif agreement. Not to forget that it is not just the U.S. that is speaking out against Syria as a result of Hariri's murder. Europe, especially France, is also on board and so are many Arab governments who had good relations with Hariri's government. So, Syria had a lot to lose in this.

You may turn out to be right. Syria may have just done one of the dumbest things it can do given the circumstances. Either way, the good news is that there is now international pressure on them to reform and free both their people and their neighbors.

February 23, 2005


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