If you Google News "Syria" today (December 13, 2005), you’ll get more than 1,400 stories. The overwhelming majority of these stories suggest that Syria was behind the murder of Rafik Hariri — the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon, a multi-billlionaire, and the fourth richest politician who ever lived. Hariri was killed with a 1,000 kilogram TNT bomb-ambush against his motorcade on Febrary 14, this year.
The US, of course, already attempting to deflect blame for its serial politico-military failures in Iraq on to Syria, and seeing Syria as the last vestige of secular Arab nationalism to be expunged from the region (a goal shared by local US ally, Israel), rushed to implicate the Syrian government as the architect of the assassination.
December 13, 2005
Syria — Cui Bono?
By Stan at 12:20 pm, 12/13/05
Sabra & Chatila
Tueni, a Lebanese legislator and newspaper tycoon, was killed yesterday
in a bombing. Before a shred of evidence has been evaluated, the
Syrians are already being blamed. This story requires the context of
Rafik Hariri’s assassination last February.
If you Google News
"Syria" today (December 13, 2005), you’ll get more than 1,400 stories.
The overwhelming majority of these stories suggest that Syria was
behind the murder of Rafik Hariri — the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon, a
multi-billlionaire, and the fourth richest politician who ever lived.
Hariri was killed with a 1,000 kilogram TNT bomb-ambush against his
motorcade on Febrary 14, this year.
The US, of course, already
attempting to deflect blame for its serial politico-military failures
in Iraq on to Syria, and seeing Syria as the last vestige of secular
Arab nationalism to be expunged from the region (a goal shared by local
US ally, Israel), rushed to implicate the Syrian government as the
architect of the assassination.
A whole script was written —
as is the wont of the US government’s PR contractors — transforming the
complexity of the situation between Syria and Lebanon into a TV
docu-drama, with Harari as the good-guy and the Syrians the bad guys. A
compliant investigator was hired by the UN, in accordance with that
body’s general subservience to the US, to find supporting evidence for
the Syrian assassination hypothesis, innuendos were liberally deployed,
and the whole script was eagerly lapped up by the capitalist press and
regurgitated to the somnabulent consumer as "news."
slightest bit of evidence had been collected or assessed in the
assassination, the US withdrew its diplomats from Syria, an obvious
grandstand play designed to focus suspision on Syria.
included Patrick Seale, of "The Guardian," who made the unwelcome point
in a February 23 article, "If Syria killed Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s
former prime minister and mastermind of its revival after the civil
war, it must be judged an act of political suicide. Syria is already
under great international pressure from the US, France and Israel. To
kill Hariri at this critical moment would be to destroy Syria’s
reputation once and for all and hand its enemies a weapon with which to
deliver the blow that could finally destabilise the Damascus regime,
and even possibly bring it down."
Syria’s President Bashar Assad has been called many things, but "stupid" is not one of them.
docu-drama version of events painted Hariri as a Lebanese patriot who
was strongly opposed to Syria’s strong influence in Lebanon, and
implicated Syria alone as an enemy of Hariri. This utterly ignored the
fact that Hariri worked closely and well with the Syrians throughout
his tenure for two terms as the Lebanese PM.
leading up to the "split" between Hariri and Syria were also more
nuanced than the breathless headlines about Syria’s "probable" handin
Syria pushed, unwisely, for a
constitutional change that would extend the mandate of pro-Syrian
Lebanese president Emile Lahoud. Hariri opposed this change.
military intelligence chief in Lebanon, General Rustum Ghazalah, was
reported to have threatened and insulted Hariri to force him to accept
the extension. This caused great exasperation among all communities in
Lebanon. Hariri resigned as prime minister in protest.
appears to have recognised its mistake. President Bashar al-Assad last
week sacked General Hassan Khalil, head of military intelligence, and
replaced him with his own brother-in-law, General Asaf Shawkat. A purge
of the military intelligence apparatus in Lebanon is expected to
follow." (Seale, February 23, 2005)
The fact is, Hariri was negotiating BETWEEN the US-financed and supported "Cedar Revolution"
opposition and Syria just days before the assassination. Putting this
context out there, the list of suspects grows quite wide, and includes
Israeli allies among Lebanese Christian Falangists, Israel, and the US
itself… because the only loser in this scenario IS Syria.
himself must be seen as a partisan of Saudi interests at least as much
as Lebanese. He was actually granted Saidi citizenship in the course of
his warm relations with the Royals. The Saudis, more than anything
else, want stability. The assassination of Hariri becomes a two-for-one
deal to anyone who wants his (and Saudi) influence curtailed, and at
the same time wants to undermine the position of Syria. Ask the
question: Who might that be?
Syria’s influence in Lebanon is
very powerful, but this too has to be placed in hisotricl context… a
history that has been incessantly rewritten by the Rendon-esque spin
operatives of the Bush-Cheney regime. The same people who decry the
Syrian presence in Lebanon were nowhere to be found when the much more
heavy-handed Israeli military presence was part of Lebanon’s virtual
destruction in the 1980s. This was, of course, when now PM Ariel Sharon
of Israel was the Defense Minister presiding over the cordon sanitaire
around the Sabra
and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps, while Israeli Falangist allies
massacred every man, woman, and child therein during two solid days of
The agreement that ended this externally influenced civil war in 1989, the Taif Agreement,
included the provision that allowed a Syrian military and political
presence in Lebanon as a counterweight to the Israeli allies there.
As explained in "Syria - The Rush to Judgement,"
by Chris Sanders, this agreement was the basis of the stability seen as
necessary for any forward motion on an Israeli-Palestinian accord.
retrospect his assassination should probably be less of a surprise than
the fact that he survived as long as he did. He and his patron [Saudi
Prince] Fahd symbolise an old equilibrium in the politics of the region
that became untenable once the United States decided on a global
offensive informed by the regional priorities of its client Israel. The
Taif Agreement of October 1989 legitimised the presence of Syrian
troops in Lebanon and committed Saudi largesse as part of a larger
strategic plan to stabilize the region under the aegis of the United
States, an important part of which was the commitment of the latter to
bring about a peace agreement between the Israelis and the
Palestinians. It was this basic framework that made possible the
coalition assembled by the US during the Gulf War in 1990, which, be it
not forgotten, included Syrian troops.
"The adoption by
Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld & Bush of a strategic plan that is
basically Israeli in origin and orientation swept away the basis for
the existing regional equilibrium. Indeed, sweeping away the
equilibrium is exactly what that plan is intended to do. The Taif
equilibrium bound Israel to find a settlement with the Palestinians
toward which Israel’s leadership was at best equivocal, because that
equilibrium neutralised Israeli freedom of action to unilaterally
define its role in the regional political economy. With the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the assumption of power by Binyamin
Netanyahu in the mid-90s, equivocation became open hostility. The
Israeli, or rather Zionist, dilemma was and is really quite simple. A
settlement with the Palestinians and regional peace means openness,
openness means Palestinian access to Saudi funding, and Saudi funding
plus the Palestinian birthrate spell the end, ultimately, of an Israeli
state defined by a Jewish as opposed to a national identity."
is, at least what is seen as, the nub of the matter… the perceived
necessity to secure the long term survival of Israel as a US aircraft
carrier in the region.
On the so-called UN investigation, overseen by Detlev Mehlis, his report was recently reviewed by Seymour Hersh
— who has the time and inclination that the rest of us don’t to look
into these things — and Hersh’s verdict is that "there is no there
"The report hangs on two witnesses that Mehlis in his
report debunks, and one of which, about a week ago, four or five days
ago, publicly admitted in Damascus – we, of course, don’t accept [that]
anything that’s said publicly there is true – one of the two witnesses
said he’d been paid off by the Saudis and been terrorized and been
forced to face some of the statements he made through the Mehlis
commission. So it’s a very, very less-than-persuasive report played to
a fare-thee-well by the United States. My old newspaper the New York
Times, I thought, did a terrible job reporting it. The night before the
report was officially made public, there was a leaked version, given to
the UN – Mehlis was doing this for the UN, the United Nations – and the
New York Times quoting a diplomat, not even an American diplomat, not
even a Western diplomat, just a diplomat who clearly was either John
Bolton or one of his aides, saying this report makes it clear that the
leadership of Syria was running a Murder Incorporated – this goes right
to the top. The report did nothing like that when it came out the next
day. The Times never apologized for the slanderous stuff
it wrote based on the sources they did not identify. You know, there is
nothing wrong with using anonymous sources as long as once it’s clear
they are misleading you, you take a second’s breath. Anyway, the
reality is there’s no empirical evidence of who killed him." (Hersh,
December 13, 2005)
The US wants to paint Syria a Lebanese
occupier, as a pretext for building a case to eventually attack Syria.
But Pepe Escobar, writing for Asia Times in October, pointed out that
the occupation of Iraq presents some deep difficulties in sellingh that
"Neo-cons widely praised the so-called "Cedar"
revolution, dubbed by cynics the Gucci Revolution. Before the latest
elections, a poll conducted by social science students from the
Lebanese University in Greater Beirut revealed that only 26% supported
UN Resolution 1559 ? which called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops -
while a whopping 68% were against it. And only 18% were in favor of
disarming Hezbollah, while 72 % were against it.
the question, why should the Syrians leave Lebanon when nobody says the
US must leave Iraq? This is even more nonsensical when one considers
that the majority of Iraqis want the US to leave, while only a relative
minority of Lebanese - according to the polls - wanted the Syrians to
The US and Israel are seen as too great a threat for
Lebanon to sever ties with a more well-armed and organized Arab ally.
This pan-Arab consciousness has also consolidated Assad’s populairty in
the face of a rightly perceived US threat. Assad’s most important
popular base in the internal politics of Syria is a minority. Yet
another gross political miscalculation by the Bush-Cheney clique.
And the beat goes on. Here are some sample lead lines from the obsequious press today:
latest United Nations report on the murder of former Lebanese Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri confirms that Syrian officials are key suspects.
investigator Detlev Mehlis, who wrote the second report by the UN,
criticizes Syrian cooperation and urges Damascus to arrest the
suspects, Reuters says." (AHN)
"A UN commission investigating
the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has
uncovered a new witness who reaffirms suspicions that Syria ordered his
"The unnamed person came forward two months ago with
evidence that, according to UN chief investigator Detlev Mehlis, points
to an organised plot to kill Hariri and efforts by Syrian and Lebanese
spies to recruit conspirators." (The Australian)
This is how it works. No one asks the simple question: Cui bono?