Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Al Hariri's Assassination

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri has been assassinated by a suicide bomber. A Shia terrorist group calling itself “Victory and Jihad” has taken credit, and the Lebanese opposition is blaming Syria, of whom Hariri was a critic... Al-Jazeera showed a video of the terrorist organization taking credit for the assassination. The man, identified by Al-Hayat as Ahmad Abu Ads, a Palestinian, read from a written statement, stating that Hariri's killing was necessary to rid "Bilad al-Sham" - Greater Syria - of "unbelievers."

Kirh Sowell's Arab World Analysis

Kirk Sowell goes on further to suggest that this group may not be an external international terrorist as has been suggested by Lebanon but rather a branch of the Hizbollah. His analysis makes some sense considering Al Hariri's anti-Syrian stance - which is one of two Hizbollah sponsors - as well as the statements made against Saudi Arabia, a theological competitor to the Shiite Hizbollah. Hizbollah is the only major pro-Syrian Shiite terror organisation. The US took the opinion that Syria had a hand in this (which does not necessarily contradict the aforementioned thesis) and recalled its ambassador from Syria (NY Post's US YANKS ENVOY OVER LEB SLAY is unmatched in eloquence) while France is calling for an international inquiry on the matter. In fact, this seems to mark the first occsaion in recent history that the US and France see eye to eye on a major geopolitical event (See The Seatle Post on this).

Lebanon has a long history of political assassination and Syria seems to have a hand in most of them, including President-elect Bashir Gemayel in September 1982 which in turn sparks the Sabra & Shatila massacre by Christian Fallanja loyal to Gemayel, leading to a longer than anticipated Israeli entanglement in Lebanon and the escalation of a fierce civil war.

It would be interesting to learn what the modus operandi for the latest attack was. Early reports suggested a car bomb and this seems consistent with the level of damage caused. However, the latest reports from Lebanon suggest this is the act of a suicide bomber. As car bombs were typical of Syrian assassination while suicide bombings are a modus operandi that is atypical of Syria or even Hizbollah (which at one point condemned suicide bombings as un-Islamic), the distinction between the two methods has significant repercussions on the "who done it" analysis.

Al Hariri assasination bombing - Beirut 14.02.05

Hundreds of thousands of mourners swarmed the streets of Beirut in a sea of Lebanese flags, chanting slogans against Syria, as the funeral cortege made its way to Mr Hariri's final resting place at a mosque in the centre of the capital.

The murder of Mr Hariri, a billionaire businessman and five-time prime minister who resigned over the dominant role Damascus played in his country, stoked fears across the globe of a return to the dark days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr Hariri was killed on Monday with 14 other people, including seven of his bodyguards, when a huge explosion ripped through his motorcade in Beirut, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction not seen in the capital since the war.

"Beirut weeps for its martyr. Beirut salutes Rafiq Hariri," said of the many banners hung in streets in the capital along with black flags and posters of the man regarded as the father of the country post-war reconstruction.

Sowell suggests that this public dissent of Syria might spark the "Orange revolution" of Lebanon. I am not so optimistic, but my fingers are crossed (or tied up in a convoluted multi-ethnic sign - for the politically correct amongst us). Whatever happens, Syria is definitely caught between a rock and a hard place.

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